Monday, March 31, 2008

Preferential mating

Maggie says:
Gene's right... it's totally time to bring back the discussion of how we mate (or most likely don't) through our preferences in books, movies, eating, and the like. Put on the fond memory music and stoke the conversational fires, because to facilitate our fun I'm going to link to an oldie-but-goodie: the much-loved "taquito moment" article.

Our original post (remember m-pyrical?) is here, with some of our taquito moments from '05 and '06 included in the post and comments. And since then... well, one M is married and another fled the state for a boy (cue eye-roll), so life is a lot different now.

And yet, discussions of attraction and repulsion never cease to be a good time, however hypothetical they may be.

The fascinating question that rises to the top of all of these articles is not about what we like, but actually about what we detest. The logic goes, if we can eliminate prospective mates by things they possess that we hate, will we eventually land on the person who has it all? Or does not possessing any inoffensive qualities simply give us a bland candidate, rather than one who might embody qualities we both love and love hating? And is it obnoxiously post-modern to maintain that our best matches will love our loves of books, movies, art, music, poetry, food, etc.... or is that just common sense? Is our luxury of having the time and confidence and freedom to endlessly choose actually more harmful to us in the end? Do the best of us just fall early and figure it all out later, happily rolling our eyes at their DVD collection for the next fifty years? Or can time give us the luxury of finding that person who also has sentence twelve on page 149 of our favorite book underlined, and does that give us more in the end?

Let the debate begin continue.

The Original: Picky, Picky. In the Outlet Mall of Love, Finding a Good Fit Can Mean a lot of Returns. "The Taquito Moment comes to represent a moment of clarity, the thing you fasten onto later when explaining why you could never go out with that person again."

Books: It's Not You, It's Your Books. "If you’re a person who loves Alice Munro and you’re going out with someone whose favorite book is ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ perhaps the flags of incompatibility were there prior to the big reveal."

Food: I Love You, but You Love Meat. "He had no problem searing her vegan burgers alongside his beef patties, but she found the practice unenlightened and disturbing."

The State of Politics

Mikaela says:
Sorry about my extended absence here on m-pyre. I won't go into the whole thing, but it has to do with world weariness and personal changes and a fundamental questioning of whether it makes sense to share thoughts in a public sphere when I'm not a journalist and don't want to be.

After a talk with Marjorie, I've drawn the line for myself that those bloggers who try to make a living at this -- drawing revenue from ads, etc. -- incur the added responsibility for fact-checking. Those of us, like the ms on m-pyre, who are merely lay commentators, must trust our secondary sources. When we find them to be untrustworthy, we have to temper our reliance on them. And that's about it. Otherwise, I think we just have to call 'em as we see 'em from our limited, but sometimes helpful and sometimes more wide-angle lens, perspectives.

That being said, here's four tidbits that have me hopping today.

The first two come via Democracy Now's headlines:

Bush Jeered at Baseball Game

President Bush was met by jeers and cheers last night as he threw out the first pitch of the Washington Nationals baseball season. The Washington Nationals opened their season in a new $600 million stadium that was financed almost entirely by government subsidies.

Man do I want to see this footage! You can do that here. The two highlights are at about 35 seconds into the clip, when the boos first start and about 55 seconds, when Bush appears to GLARE at the crowd. The announcers don't say a WORD about the jeering. They just compliment his throw and move on... Not sure that counts as announcing so much as editing, but oh well.

80-Year-Old Deacon Arrested at Mall for Antiwar T-Shirt

In Long Island, New York, an eighty-year-old church deacon was removed from a shopping mall Saturday and arrested after he refused to remove a t-shirt protesting the Iraq war. Deacon Don Zirkel was handing out antiwar pamphlets when he was approached by security guards at the Smith Haven Mall. The guards placed him under citizen’s arrest after he refused orders to turn his t-shirt inside out. When the local police arrived they charged him with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest.

How awful is this? It brings to mind all the hoopla about anti-"gang" rules that malls adopted so they could harass and throw out youth, who misguidedly assumed, as most of us did, that malls are public space. Not so, apparently. They're entirely private, and they can mess with whomever they wish, unfortunately. In the planning sphere, this has huge implications about who actually "owns" the spaces where they public interacts, and what that implies about civic life. This latest story takes this to whole new and scary levels. What's next?

By the way, via another website, here's a description of the t-shirt at-issue:

Zirkel, a deacon at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Wyandanch, said his shirt had the death tolls of American military personnel and Iraqis -- 4,000 and 1 million -- and the words "Dead" and "Enough." The shirt also has three blotches resembling blood splatters.

The third is from my ever-beloved This American Life, who this week took on the Bush Administration's abuse of power and perhaps lasting corruption of the executive office and its bureaucratic minions across our governmental system.

The Audacity of Government
Stories of the Bush Administration, its unique style of asserting presidential authority, and its quest to redefine the limits of presidential power.

We've noticed a trend in a number of actions taken lately by the United States government. Tiny things, things you probably haven't heard of, but with big implications. Harassing widows. Defying a century-old and utterly benign treaty—with Canada! So we've decided to spend an hour talking about the unrelenting, combative style of this Administration.

The show includes an interview with Charlie Savage, who single-handedly educated our nation about Bush's use of signing statements to by-pass Congress, which has significantly called our system of checks and balance into question. One interesting portion of the interview is hearing what the current Presidential candidates said their positions were on signing statements (McCain vowed not to use them; Obama and Clinton said they would) and indefinite holding of "enemy combatants" -- an entirely new designation created by Bush to get around the Constitutional requirement of habeas corpus and other international laws (I think all said they didn't agree the President had that power, even though the Supreme Court ruled otherwise for Bush).

The show also tells the story of how Immigration has bucked the law in order to deport widows of U.S. citizens. Even the interviewee can't quite figure out what's at stake for the government to fight so hard, and perhaps illegally, to do this, but it doesn't bode well, whatever the reason. The neat legal noose they use should scare us all, as it has implications for many levels of government, and it could signal the doorway to huge abuses of power that affect us all.

The last is via Dan Froomkin's White House Watch, my perennial favorite source for all things Bush related.

Brazilian Tells Off Bush

AFP reports: "Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Thursday he told US President George W. Bush to fix his country's economic problems before they spill over and harm other economies.

"'Son, here's the problem,' Lula said he told Bush in a telephone call. 'We've had 26 years with no growth. And now that we're growing, you want to complicate things? Fix your own crisis!'

Doesn't that just speak for itself? Way to go, Lula!

The "Invisible Hand" sure is looking feeble these days

marjorie says...

From a Wall Street Journal Q&A with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, regarding recommendations for addressing the current mortgage lending induced Wall Street crisis:

WSJ: Would this new framework have prevented the current credit-market turmoil?

PAULSON: I don’t mean to imply that we aren’t going to keep having these periods every five to ten years. I don’t think any regulatory system is going to change that. I think we rely very, very heavily on market discipline. Mistakes are made. Having said that, I still think we need a system that is more efficient and gives us a better chance, gives us more tools to try to solve problems.

What we just saw the Fed do was not something that happens every five to ten years. The Fed doesn't periodically bail out Wall Street investment firms that are about to implode due to rampant speculation.

The primary issue, to my mind, is that during the 90's the final nail was put in the coffin of what is called the Glass-Steagull Act. Glass-Steagull was one of the measures stemming from the Great Depression. It separated speculation (underwriting of stocks & bonds) activities from commercial lending to consumers. In other words, commercial banks that hold everyday people's money, and lend to us, were insured through a new agency, the FDIC. These commercial banks could not engage in "brokerage" in effect, they had to make a choice. The intention was to ensure the safety and viability of the American banking system, while letting the "free market" go about its speculative business on Wall Street. In the late 90's, this historic separation of commercial banks and brokerage firms was eliminated through an Act of Congress that Bill Clinton signed into law.

In the new era this means, practically speaking, that the federal government insures Wall Street in addition to Commercial banks. And we just saw a great example of this in action. Bear Stearns was bailed out because of the fear of a domino effect since the regulatory separation between banks and investment firms has been eliminated. Think: Citigroup.

Paulson says that we're in a new era, that the old regulatory framework doesn't fit anymore. He's right. But the proposal put forward by the Treasury Department this week doesn't really regulate the new mega-firms that are now mixing it up. Instead, it shifts agencies around, provides for numerous reporting mechanisms (basically bringing greater transparency to licensing and state-based regulation of the mortgage lending industry) and expands the power of the Fed to step in during a crisis, such as what happened with Bear Stearns. Frankly, I want to avoid a crisis. Regulation means that industries are "regulated." They have actual rules they have to follow.

The sub-prime mortgage lending disaster didn't have to happen. Paulson says there are oversight gaps that need to be closed so that these types of situations can be predicted with more accuracy. Well, it seems to me that the average Joe and Janice on the street were able to predict it well in advance. The problem is a lack of regulation. Our system is too complex to spin on a dime. Our ideological splits often require a lot of dialog to reach consensus, and due to the nature of a representative democracy the impetus for real bi-partisan political action often only occurs when there is a real crisis. This is why the time is ripe, right now, to implement real controls on a system that needs it. The feeble "invisible hand" of the market is not enough.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Workclothes Quilts

marjorie says...

One of the defining features of vintage quilts made for use (versus those made to show off) is that they usually hold a wide variety of fabric from all kinds of sources. Women used scraps of left over fabric, feedsack material and just straight up old clothes. These two quilts are made from denim and khaki work clothes. I have a number of these now, and these are probably my two favorites.

This quilt is very old. It has an older quilt on the inside, and its thick and heavy. The center strip is a very rustic burlap material. It's from a farming family in Cleveland, Tennessee.

My mother picked this up in East Texas and gave it to me (yes, the best possible gift for me...thanks mom!). I love that it has both denim and khaki work clothes. While many people think of denim as the fabric of rural America, all the pictures show that my farming great-greats wore khaki. This one has a soft flannel back and is hand-tied. It's quite heavy--I use it on the foot of my bed in the winter and it's just perfect.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saturday stress reliever

Maggie says:
Hey gang. I've been busy in the strangest ways lately. I've tried to separate that strangeness from m-pyre, and in that vein am not quite ready to discuss here, among other things, insanity stemming from good 'ol Texas Caucus Night, random lawsuits with my name attached, and outrageously untrue assertions about our loyal NM Obama volunteers. (For a little taste, check this out - all 155 comments worth, it gets worse as it goes along - and you'll see what I mean.)

At this moment, the Democratic Senate District conventions are taking place to select delegates for the state convention in June. Folks are fighting out what happened in their precincts, and as we know it wasn't all fun and games that night. Neither is today. Let's hope the drama ends by nightfall. And while I hear that cops are being called out to our beleaguered District 23 (sigh), I'm nervously pacing and trying to plan a big dinner (for 2/3 Alterdestiny!) and run around town and not think about how bad things could get there.

So in the meantime, I just did a charming "What Book Are You?" quiz to take my mind off things. Any guesses? (Hmmm... that choice isn't exactly bright and cheery. Although I do adore the book.) What book are you?

Maggie is One Hundred Years of Solitude!
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Lonely and struggling, she's been around for a very long time. Conflict has filled most of her life and torn apart nearly everyone she knows. Yet there is something majestic and even epic about her presence in the world. She loves life all the more for having seen its decimation. After all, it takes a village.

Take the Book Quiz.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Regarding the Economy: Does John McCain have a clue?

marjorie says...

Paul Krugman has a good point today about John McCain:

Mr. McCain is often referred to as a “maverick” and a “moderate,” assessments based mainly on his engaging manner. But his speech on the economy was that of an orthodox, hard-line right-winger.

It’s true that the speech was more about what Mr. McCain wouldn’t do than about what he would. His main action proposal, as far as I can tell, was a call for a national summit of accountants. The whole tone of the speech, however, indicated that Mr. McCain has purged himself of any maverick tendencies he may once have had.

This is in response to John McCain's statements on Wednesday that while he would "examine proposals" to help home-owners in danger of losing their homes, he generally does not support any government assistance to "...reward people who were irresponsible at the expense of those who weren’t.”

But he also says that the crisis is a result of "rampant speculation," and a "profusion of complicated and recently devised financial instruments “that weren’t particularly well understood by even the most sophisticated banks, lenders and hedge funds.”

So rather than recognize that a lot of lower-income people were duped or misled by the speculators, he writes them off as "irresponsible," lumping them right in with the speculators. He does, however, think bailing out Bear Stearns was a good move on the part of the Fed. This says a lot about John McCain.

He recognizes the necessity of ensuring that one investment firm doesn't take down our financial sector (which allows all those rich guys to keep on being rich) but does not recognize the drag on the economy that will occur if a significant portion of the population defaults on their loans (and he doesn't really care that letting them default will kick many first-time homeowners back down the economic ladder).

This seems to me a classic difference between R's and D's (generally speaking). R's think all individuals have the ability to act independently of the institutions and structures that order our when they get in trouble its their fault alone. D's recognize that there is a complex inter-relation between individuals and institutions...and that individuals rely on the advice and information provided by institutions, particularly banks.

McCain offers nothing to mitigate the bad advice given out to 1000s upon 1000s of the American middle class by banks. And on the question of fixing the mortgage lending induced national financial crisis as a whole, McCain simply says we should "...eliminate obstacles to the ability of financial institutions to raise more capital."

Is it just me, or doesn't the current mess have a lot to do with the lack of "obstacles" in the first place? Isn't the lack of regulation and oversight one of the reasons for the rampant speculation? Does John McCain even have a clue?

Krugman is right. McCain is completely orthodox...rigidly so. And this is the last thing we need, particularly now when we are stuck in a bloody war and have a teetering economy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tackle Global Warming with 1Sky New Mexico

marjorie says...

Thanks to the folks at New Mexico Youth Organized, I have just been turned on to a great New Mexico collaboration to solve our climate change crisis: 1Sky New Mexico. I was immediately inspired ...and then ten times more because it is action oriented (and what a great team!).

In the words of Juan Reynosa in his blog on Clearly New Mexico, 1Sky New Mexico seeks to:

  • Create new jobs and new opportunities by developing high-paying clean energy jobs in urban and rural New Mexico, and
  • Invest in a new energy future by cutting global warming emissions and improving the efficiency of our homes, vehicles, and communities.

New Mexico is a state invested heavily in fossil fuels...but we're also a leader in the quest to develop critical alternative energy sources. We can turn the tide here, without question. Sometimes all it takes is just a few minutes on the part of just a few people.

This week, we are being asked to sign a pledge, which will then be delivered to Heather Wilson during a Rally at her office on Friday morning, to draw attention to her environmental record. This is a "B.Y.O.Blue" action--folks are asked to wear blue in solidarity with blue skies, and a moratorium on coal power plants in New Mexico.

Let's ensure that our political representatives develop the Political Will necessary to solve our global warming crisis and create a sustainable future.

si se puede!

"Design the Bush Library" protest win

Maggie says:
I just love student contests. Does it get any better than this?

The Chronicle for Higher Education sponsored a contest to design the Bush library, which is unfortunately slated for construction about a mile north of where I sleep at night. In an ingenious twist, entries had to be sketched on the backs of envelopes; tongue was firmly in cheek.

The winner, Lew Calver, is a medical illustrator and grad student from Dallas. His winning design, "Hole in the Ground," takes inspiration from Molly Ivins and Ann Richards, who as Calver puts it, "would have gotten a kick out of" the design.

Calver's creation employs a fake White House façade propped up on stilts to face the street. As Calver explains,

"I liked the idea of a false façade showing the White House so people who still believe in his presidency can at least have some kind of inspiration, even if it’s false inspiration."

The design also features a reflecting pool. “When people look down, they will see reflections of themselves and be reminded that the ones who voted for him were ultimately responsible,” he says. “I’ve always felt that as much as you might want to blame George Bush or Karl Rove or anyone else for the disaster of the presidency, the real people to blame were the voters who were duped.” The design includes an “Iraqi Freedom Military Cemetery” on the front lawn.

See all the top entries here. Congrats, Lew! (And props to Unfair Park for keeping tabs on the contest.)

Click the image to see his brilliant descriptions in full:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sublime Spring Salads

Maggie says:
Nothing says spring to me like the return of eating light and green. Ever since it got warm enough to leave my coat behind, I've been craving fresh salads and tiptoeing out of my winter cooking rut. The latest salads I've stumbled upon are truly new classics for me; they're that good. So here, in honor of spring and all things fresh, are two yummy salads you should make with a smile, and I'm dedicating them to Sasha and MaryBeth.

Spring Lettuce Salad with Roasted Asparagus
If the smell of roasted asparagus and fresh lemon zest doesn't make you close your eyes and smile, I don't know what's wrong with you. A classic lemony, mustardy dressing with fresh parmesan harkens spring like nobody's business. I could eat this one for days. In fact, I ignored a second helping of gumbo to polish off the platter the other night.

Citrus Parmesan Farro Salad
These seemingly disparate ingredients come together in a massive blast of hearty goodness that's as fresh and invigorating as it is seriously nutritious. The substance of the farro is lightened by bright citrus and crunchy greens in a beautiful way. Splurge on the best local goat cheese you can find and it'll add a luxurious creaminess you won't believe.

Super-Delegate Marty's Constituents Went for Obama

marjorie says...

LP makes an excellent point today over at NM FBIHOP that I hadn't considered. Marty Chavez has never said (to my knowledge) that he agrees with previous remarks made by Bill Richardson that super-delegates should vote the way their constituents voted. If he has, please point me to it. But he is using this point to take Bill to task for his endorsement of Barack Obama:

"The governor is making a play for himself," Chávez said, noting that Clinton carried New Mexico in the state's Feb. 5 caucus. "Otherwise, he would do what he said all superdelegates should do, which is vote the way their constituents voted."

From LP today:

"...Though I could not find splits for Albuquerque itself, Bernalillo County went for Obama by a slight margin. Obama had "27,720 votes to Clinton's 25,825" in the February 5 primaries. I assume Chavez will now change his superdelegate vote to Obama to "vote the way [his] constituents voted."

Well Marty? Should Super-Delegates vote based on how the majority of their constituents voted?

Marjorie Asked: Trashy Novels?

Maggie says:
I'm going to blame it on all the cold medicine I've been taking, because I completely missed Marjorie's burning question yesterday in the middle of her Goodreads endorsement:

Believe me, there's been a lot of trashy potboiler reading over the years. ... So what's your all-time favorite trashy novel? Come on, tell me. I'll probably decide on what mine is by the end of the day.

Ooh, ooh, tell us!!! I could use some trashy novel-talk this morning.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tangents of the Moment

marjorie says...

You know, tangents. Those things keeping me from doing my actual work.

  • I've been flipping out over Goodreads. Geez, don't I have enough ways to waste my time online? Seriously. (but, hey, are any of you on Goodreads? Look me up!) I've eschewed a minimalist in the moment approach to using the site in favor of a gluttonous virtual recreation of my life history of reading. It's nothing systematic, just an outpouring from my memory. I feel exposed, and it's possible this won't last long, so if you're at all interested check it out now. (Yes, this is a total case of navel-gazing. How weird that so many of the books I currently have are not being included in my goodreads bookshelf. Nor is the trash. Believe me, there's been a lot of trashy potboiler reading over the years. Can I really bring myself to include the bodice rippers? Funny thing about these kinds of sites is that so many of us don't include those. :-) So what's your all-time favorite trashy novel? Come on, tell me. I'll probably decide on what mine is by the end of the day.)
  • Are we in a recession? Is it worse than that?
  • Is the snow going to be worth a trip to Wolf Creek in early April?
  • Is it even remotely possible that Texas will go Democrat in November? This question popped into my head last night...
  • Does any of this matter, at all, when we have this new milestone to contemplate?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Richardson's endorsement is right on time

marjorie says...

The speculation about why Richardson endorsed Obama is running rampant. Many think he did it because he wants the heck out of New Mexico (why anyone would want that I don't know), and he thinks Obama is his ticket. One fellow thinking along these lines called him a Judas, but I think that particular guy is simply making himself look really bad. Last I checked, the Clintons were busy as bees telling super-delegates they can vote for whomever they please…so surely Bill can choose as he pleases without being a Judas.

It’s probably true that the Governor would like to make a move, but I tend to believe him when he explains his endorsement. It’s entirely plausible…he stuck his finger up to test the wind and saw that it had begun to pick up. Maybe it's time for the Democrats to move, and Bill is simply trying to persuade us along. Isn’t persuasion one of the things he enjoys?

Another aspect that came to mind when I heard about the endorsement was the simple possibility that it was propelled by solidarity. I know that political animals rarely act based in such things, but I still want to believe that it originates there in some small part. Obama’s speech is in many ways cathartic and fresh, but it’s also potentially dangerous for him. It makes him more vulnerable to reactionaries, none of whom base their arguments in any of the critiques I made the other day. In this respect, Bill Richardson offered his endorsement at the perfect moment. It reassured a lot of people that Obama is better than good, and that the Democrats can unify and win in November.

On that note, no one who is getting all bent about this race should forget that either of these candidates are leaps and bounds ahead of John McCain. The last thing we need is another term of war-mongering Republicans of his ilk, and the continual demonization of Hillary by the left doesn’t serve us well in this regard. She’s running a campaign, and regardless of your dislike of negativity, last time I checked it was pretty standard operating procedure for candidates on the downward slope. We don’t do ourselves any favors by turning her into evil incarnate. So we better get a grip and buckle up because countering them is never pleasant.

PS. Hillary Clinton's campaign is spinning the endorsement as meaningless, holding little sway since states with large Hispanic populations have already voted. Is it just me, or does this imply that Bill Richardson only has influence with Hispanics? Let me tell you a little anecdote. When I told my dad I was moving to New Mexico it didn’t take him long to bring up international diplomacy, and baseball, a la Richardson. My dad isn’t Hispanic, and he doesn’t live in New Mexico, but he knew about and liked Bill long before I moved here.

Friday, March 21, 2008

In the woods with Bear Stearns

marjorie says...

I love the way the words "socialized" and "socialism" are being bandied about regarding the Wall Street Bail-Out by the Fed. As if those words are bad things. Well, I guess they kind of are if they're only used to benefit the richest among us, as the NYT editorializes today:

The ongoing bailout of the financial system by the Federal Reserve underscores the extent to which financial barons socialize the costs of private bets gone bad. Not a week goes by that the Fed doesn’t inaugurate a new way to provide liquidity — meaning money — to the financial system.

Compared to the cold shoulder given to struggling homeowners, the cash and attention lavished by the government on the nation’s financial titans provides telling insight into the priorities of the Bush administration.

The NYT goes on to describe the current system as "lopsided" in a way that encourages risk on the part of bankers by ensuring that they ultimately won't lose everything, and calls for "fundamental correctives" to curb financier's excesses. I couldn't agree more.

Some people think we should let Bear Stearns go under as a lesson to all the others who play the game of financial roulette. I can feel the sentiment, but the fact is that since what we have is a capitalist system the possible domino effect of such a collapse is potentially greater than the lesson.

Instead we need much deeper regulation and oversight. The big question is whether or not this lesson is learned. And, of course, we have yet to see if this is over. The unfortunate reality is that while most of us don't get to vacation with the big boys, we certainly get to check out the woods with them, don't we?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Free Taos

marjorie says...

" coordinator and another third-generation Blake, Alejandro Blake, doesn't believe the addition of snowboarding at Taos will change that much in the long run.

"Today is the exception," he said. "We'll have more snowboards on the hill today than we ever will again. When it all shakes itself out— we're thinking about an average of about 15 percent ratio of snowboarders— everyone will find that the changes aren't that dramatic."

Well, we can only hope.

Thankfully, I did manage to have a couple sublime days this season before the fateful day. Not that I'm all that upset...I understand the positive reasons for the cave-in. But it was nice to not have the annoyance factor of shaved bumps and pajama parties in the middle of the runs at Taos.

On the other hand, I recently spoke with a fellow who is 10 years older than me (hi mel) who said he took up snowboarding at my age, and that it's a lot easier on the joints. Here I was thinking I was too old to get started...but now, who knows? Maybe I'll cave-in. :-)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Red Sox Solidarity

Maggie says:
Spring is here, and baseball season is about to start in full. Have I mentioned lately how happy I am to be a Red Sox fan? I love Boston and Fenway Park and all the misery and history and (shocker!) recent celebrations that go along with that... But today I love being a Red Sox fan because of the solidarity of the players toward the team staff.

The Red Sox players just voted unanimously to boycott their season-opening trip to Japan because Major League Baseball backed out of their promise to pay a stipend to the team staff in addition to the players for the trip. The Sox refused to take the field today for their final spring training game in Florida, and announced that Japan was off until the staff gets their promised pay.

No other teams have taken such strong measures against MLB, by the way. Go Sox!

Update: Effective tactic - looks like MLB caved quickly. Nicely done.

Update 2: Looks like the deal was actually struck this way: MLB is going to pay half of the stipend that was originally promised to the staff, and the Red Sox players are splitting the other half so the staff gets the full amount.

An Obama Critique

marjorie says...

Part of me doesn't want to post this, because I honor the sentiments made here yesterday (I was still entertaining folks from out of town so wasn't able to weigh in). And, in general I really loved the core of Obama's speech, which exhorted the white American public to open their hearts and really see the root of racism (which he primarily presents in black and white terms).

Having said this, there are some glaring omissions, and significant points of disagreement I have with what he said:

  • The original sin of this country was not slavery, it was the genocide of the native people. To hear him speak, this was an empty place when Europeans arrived. This is an example of what is easy for a politician to gloss over, but in fact it's profoundly important that we find a way as a nation to truly acknowledge our history in this regard, rather than perpetuate the myth we currently learn in elementary school.
  • Obama toes the Middle East geo-political line, and this disappoints me greatly. The issues in the Middle East are much deeper and broader than radical Islam. What he says in his speech is scape-goating of the highest order that leaves the United States and Israel, not to mention the entire Western colonial past, off the hook.
  • Following on these two points, there is a strong current of American exceptionalism present in his speech. I understand “love of country” but this tendency parallels in a disturbing way the white exceptionalism that is at the root of racism in the first place.
  • Where in his comments regarding Wright does he acknowledge that while Hillary Clinton may not know what it is to be called the N-word (as Wright said), she certainly knows what it’s like to be called a Bitch, along with numerous other, much worse gender specific words?
  • Obama situates the black men and women in prison as examples of people who lack opportunity due to race. In this respect, he places the blame for the monstrosity we have constructed on them. This is a tricky area to wade into because in our efforts to achieve just social change there is a balance we have to find between individual action and social responsibility. But in this country, the prison system is a monstrosity and it is irresponsible to mention it in the way that he did.
  • His final story is about the elderly black man recognizing his commonalities with Ashley, the young white woman. He says that is where the new beginning starts. While I admire and respect the sentiment, and feel that in many respects its quite true, I do believe it’s twisted backwards. The overwhelming need is for white people to recognize the young black woman or man. Black folks recognize us just fine and have done so for many generations.

These are points that have to be made, and frankly, I could probably make more. But the greater significance of his speech transcends the many points of disagreement I (clearly) have with Barack Obama. A lot of people have been debating whether or not he should have made a speech about race at all. And let me point out here that I would have preferred to have first heard Clinton address race given the comments of Steinem and Ferraro in the past couple of months. But, perhaps in the end Clinton simply isn't capable of making a speech of this nature.

That Obama had to give the speech in the first place to counter what his Pastor said in youtube clips making the rounds shows the entrenched racism that exists here. He could have taken the safe route and disowned Wright entirely, but instead he demonstrated very clearly that he has quite a lot of integrity, and is quite loyal to his community. And, by the way, while I might not have made the comments using the same manner or words of Pastor Wright, for the most part I agree with his sentiments.

I love that Obama described the complexity and lack of homogeneity that exists within the African American world (situated in this case within the church):

“The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.”

It’s an acknowledgment of nuance seldom heard from politicians, or for that matter within our own microcosms of the world. No, Obama can’t forsake his Reverend, a man full of contradictions. I’m sure many of you understand the feelings of love you can have for people who at times do or say things you vehemently disagree with. What he described above is certainly true within the white community. The world is indeed full of contradictions and we can’t sweep them under the rug. I appreciate that he didn't disavow his minister or his church, both of which are entirely admirable, while reaching out to white America.

I greatly respect Obama's effort in his speech to situate working class white folks within the struggle. This is one of the central factors that makes him appealing to so many, and we can see why here. As we know, one of the hallmarks of our racist past was the elevation of the white working class above people of color as a way to sow disunity, ultimately leading to the horrendously racist structure of our country. In his speech, Obama recognizes the history while acknowledging the current reality of the white working class. He makes a clear and strong distinction between those in power and all the rest of us. In this regard he strays into radical territory, at the same time he says racism isn't endemic. This is akin to saying that cancer can actually be cured in our lifetime. And you know what? We want to believe it can even if time and again we tell ourselves it's impossible. I appreciate greatly his desire to forge reconciliation in this way without silencing the anger that legitimately exists, and for this he deserves major brownie points. Let's hope the media and the pundits lead the way toward a thoughtful discussion of what Obama had to say, rather than a sensationalistic and/or reactionary one.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's speech

Maggie says:
That was a truly masterful speech by Obama. His instinct to tackle race head-on, to tackle the pastor "scandal" head-on, is exactly what is needed for political reasons. But his ability to see beyond politics - his recognizance of his own ability to inspire and bring people together - is what he rejuvenated in his campaign here. By being upfront about anger, rather than hinting about fear or glossing over the issue of race at all, he set himself apart from the way every other candidate has spoken about race in modern American politics. This speech is why so many new voters are coming out to the polls for him, why 20,000 people showed up at the Reunion Arena in Dallas, why his name on the ballot could mean everything come November, if he can make it. Obama offers the threads of a truly new beginning for our country, a way to heal, a way to start a new chapter where we can at least say that we are trying to do right by each other, finally. Here are some of the pieces that resonated with me the most:


Okay, scratch that. I started pasting passages and before long I had pasted nearly the entire thing here. Please read this speech. Obama is so poignant and of the moment here, capturing why race matters in this election, what race means to a man raised by a white grandmother from Kansas who found his black identity through the church, why not supporting Reverend Wright's comments is different than not supporting the man himself. He talks about the role of the church, especially to the black community, and the importance of anger being allowed there. He talks about the legacy of discrimination and how it plays out today in the everyday lives of African-Americans. He parallels that with the dissatisfaction of working class white Americans who have also been locked out of privilege. He talks about the way forward, how it's Americans of all races who are standing together in emergency room lines because they have no health insurance, who are together holding pink slips, who are together taking their kids to deteriorating schools. He talks about the responsibility we all share in giving this new chapter a time and place.

"In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well."

Read the entire speech or watch the video, really. I have chills.

Monday, March 17, 2008


marjorie says...

Definitions of Welfare, from various online dictionaries:

  • benefit: something that aids or promotes well-being; "for the common good"
  • Welfare is financial assistance paid by taxpayers to certain entities or groups of people who are unable to support themselves, and determined to be able to function more effectively with financial assistance. ...
  • Aid in the form of money or necessities that are distributed those in need by a governmental agency or program.
  • Welfare, the good fortune, health, happiness, prosperity, etc., of a person, group, or organization
  • social welfare: governmental provision of economic assistance to persons in need

Funny, I didn't see any reference to "corporate welfare."

But since the public bail-out of Wall Street this week clearly shows that it exists, maybe now we can all get on board with social welfare.

Rather than constantly having to fight the free-marketeers to just keep the bare essentials, maybe our legislators will get on board with universal health care now. What do you think the chances are?

Or perhaps we can convince them to expand social security...make it a system that really provides a quality life for seniors. Social security? You know, the federal program "they" want to privatize. As in, give to Wall Street.

Puncturing the ideological "free market" veil

marjorie says...

From the New York Times this morning, regarding the massive bail-out of Wall Street the federal government (as in, "all of us") is currently making:

"Mr. Paulson, the Treasury secretary, vigorously endorsed the Fed’s rescue efforts on Sunday and made it clear he was much less worried about the “moral hazard” of bailing out a Wall Street firm than he was about a chain reaction of defaults if Bear Stearns were to abruptly collapse."

And what would the "moral hazard" be? The fact that reality is coming out from behind of the ideological veil of the "free market" broad daylight for all of the world to see?

Clearly, the economy is embedded within our society. It doesn't exist outside of it, operating with some kind of quasi-mystical "invisible hand." We are all in this together.

More on this later. I hope everyone is paying attention...what we're witnessing is amazing, and highly instructive. I'll try to keep from veering into didactic excess about it all.

Friday, March 14, 2008

M-Pyre Wishes Mikaela a Happy Belated Honeymoon

And wonders why in the world she is checking in on the blog from her romantic train trip... ;-)

Have fun, you two!

Quick hits... off to NC!

Maggie says:
I'm going home this afternoon for a much-needed weekend with the fam. Here's what I'm noticing on my way out today:

  • If Celebs Moved to Oklahoma. Perfect Friday fodder. So bad, I know. And I feel kinda bad for Oklahoma, even though it's the state where I saw a vending machine for "Freedom Ticklers - Pleasure Her The Patriotic Way!" in an I-40 gas station restroom a few years ago.
  • SNL parodying Project Runway's Christian Siriano. I fell for Project Runway this year in a big way - it was the first season I followed it, and I'm now a total Tim Gunn devotee. I can't link to the actual video with this (work) computer, but search for the You Tube clip if you haven't seen it already. Classic! How much do I want someone in my life to offhandedly mention "fierce tallness and walks for days"? So, so much. And as much as I agree with Christian winning, how much do I still want a closet full of Jillian's clothes? Oh so much.
As you can see, I can't be serious today - although I was musing on my favorite Democratic National Convention speeches of years past on the way to work today. It'll be nice to get a sense of where people are at on the Dems in NC. And in the meantime, I have a 9-month-old niece to love, my parents' Tanzania photos to exclaim over, yummy food to eat, old friends and sibs to laugh(drink) with, and ACC basketball in the mix.

See you all Monday!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Bilingual Production of THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES--March 20!

marjorie says...


Please join me on Thursday evening, March 20, for a special bilingual production of THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES.

This event is a fund-raiser for Enlace Comunitario. Enlace is the only organization in our area that offers direct Spanish language services to immigrant women suffering from domestic violence. Enlace is unique in that they combine direct services with an empowerment/organizing approach to bettering the lives of immigrant women. It should go without saying that the demand outstrips their capacity, and resources are always in short supply. Let's give them a hand!


A Bilingual Production of
Eve Ensler's



South Broadway Cultural Center

1025 Broadway SE

Thursday, March 20, 2008 / 7:00 pm

Reception to follow.

All Proceeds Benefit Enlace Comunitario /

Tickets $15.00 thru Enlace Comunitario / 246-8972

Tickets purchased thru SBCC $1.00 surcharge / 848-1320

Co-Sponsored by UNM Women's Resource Center

Being schooled in Race, 2008

marjorie says...

Geraldine Ferraro's comments about Barack Obama show a disturbing lack of clarity on her part about the reality of being black in America (not that I know much about it). In reaction to her, I had the interesting experience last night of a black male friend of mine who generally steadfastly maintains an apolitical stance telling me that this country never let's him forget who he his. He's a person who refuses to engage in any nerdy policy debates, and who loves nothing more than pushing me out of my serious self with a decidedly politically incorrect joke. Not to mention, he's from a military family and thinks the American flag is a beacon of freedom. I tell you these things just to get across that he's not really the type of person who's been "schooled" politically in leftist ideas. But his remarks on race and Geraldine Ferraro last night to me could have been right out of our anti-racist playbook.

I was schooled in Race on the spot, from someone who never went to any of the workshops I've been to. It was a good reminder of, well, *reality*. In a nutshell, Power and Privilege are white prerogatives in this country, and no one needs to tell him that, because he's a black man and it is simply completely obvious. So why is Ferraro trying to tell us that those two things belong to a man because he is black? Obama is right: it is absurd to suggest it given the history of this country.

I don't care how Ferraro tries to spin her comments, or even if they were indeed taken out of context. As Karlos likes to say, nothing is by chance in this campaign, and both sides jump on these opportunities. So why give such opportunities in the first place? Ferraro and Gloria Steinem need to do some soul searching. I don't really care for the "post-racial" terminology, and certainly would not be on board if the "post-gender" term also had emerged in this campaign. We clearly do not live in a world that we can typify as either. But the last thing we need to do is pit race and gender against each other, and it's horrifying that it is being done by these two bastions of the 60's feminist movement.

I also want to comment on the analysis I've seen here and there about the Mississippi results. I've heard it said that Obama only won because he got 90% of the black vote, and that this kind of support from the black community is pushing some whites to vote for Clinton. Let's be very clear: Obama got 30% of the white vote in Mississippi because the white community in Mississippi is overwhelmingly RACIST. And perhaps, just perhaps, he got 90% of the black vote because this campaign has truly galvanized some black folks for the first time in a long while, like my friend. That's a good thing.

That the analysis takes a different direction shows just how poor the national dialog about Race is in this campaign. Mississippi is arguably the most racist and reactionary state in this nation. Just like Democrats usually have to rule out certain Republican strongholds, the vast majority of us have to rule out certain enclaves of reactionaries when a candidate like Obama comes along. And it isn't a loss.

At this point, we can clearly see that Obama enjoys the support of a massive number of white voters. In other words, a decisive number of white voters in the Democratic primaries are saying they are good to go with black leadership. In terms of Race, I would say that is the salient point, and most certainly the one that is the most remarkable. That he is black does not matter. All of us, but in particular us white folks, should recognize what this represents and push back at divisive comments and actions, like those of Geraldine Ferraro, regardless of who we voted for in the primary.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Gender-splitting Spitzer

Maggie laughs:
There's a million things to discuss r.e. the Spitzer case: pure politics; the fact that we now have two black governors in the Northeast, one of whom is blind; the Wall Street angle; hypocrisy and all it entails... But here's a little sofa conversation from my homestead last night, where gender splits came out in all their funny glory:

Man: "Did you see how much those prostitutes were going for?! Up to $5,000!"

Woman: "No, I didn't notice that. Did you notice that the prostitute only weighed 105 pounds? What does that say about his relationship with his daughters?"

Tackling the Prison Industrial Complex

marjorie says...

Every time Bill Richardson does something to tick me off, he turns around and does something that pleases me to no end. I’ve noticed this time and again. Is this why he’s so popular you think?

In this case, he’s decided to take up the issue of prison reform. I hope he means it, because this would be one of the more just acts he could undertake during his tenure as Governor. From my perspective, actually, perhaps it would be the most just outcome of his governorship. Even if his motivations are entirely different from my own.

Maybe he read the Pew Center Report on our prison population, just released last week.

The Pew Center didn’t tell us anything new, it just updated us on what has been the case for awhile: the United States houses more prisoners than any other country in the world, both per capita and in total number. And we do it in an overwhelmingly racist manner, also nothing new to point out.

In the words of Glenn Loury, “…the current American prison system, is a leviathan unmatched in human history.” When you consider the degree to which it's privatized, and the contract labor prisoners provide for some of our mega-corporations, a better description might be American gulag.

Glenn Loury wrote a piece in the Boston Review last summer that I can not recommend enough, in which he documents the punitive trend (and its link to race) that led to increasing incarceration rates in the 1990s. And while the annual incarceration numbers have declined through the 2000s, the problem is that we release people from prison at a lower rate than we lock them up, so the numbers keep climbing.

The percentage at which we imprison black men is astounding, showing more clearly than anything else the institutional racism of our society:

Black males in their late twenties incarcerated at higher rates than other groups

At midyear 2006 more black men (836,800) were in custody in State or Federal prison or local jail than white men (718,100) or Hispanic men (426,900) (table 13). Black men comprised 41% of the more than 2 million men in custody, and black men age 20 to 29 comprised 15.5% of all men in custody on June 30, 2006. Relative to their numbers in the general population, about 4.8% of all black men were in custody at midyear 2006, compared to about 0.7% of white men and 1.9% of Hispanic men. Overall, black men were incarcerated at 6.5 times the rate of white men. The incarceration rate for black men was highest among black men age 25 to 29. About 11.7% of black males in this age group were incarcerated on June 30, 2006. Across age groups black men were between 5.7 and 8.5 times more likely than white men to be incarcerated.

The New Mexico numbers, in case you were wondering, appear to mirror the national stats. But the black men are replaced by brown men in our state.

Loury makes a compelling case that our American gulag is simply the next manifestation of our long racist history as a nation, with a criminal justice approach emerging in the wake of the civil rights movement as a mechanism through which the African American community is kept in a subordinate position. When you look at the numbers, the ramifications for the greater African American community, in terms of family and social cohesion, boggle the mind.

As with most institutional injustices, the truth is often hard to discern from a mountain of data. A blog like this becomes boring because of the litany of statistics it begs for. But I'd suggest the basic demographic numbers shown so clearly in these criminal justice reports tell us all we need to know. Despite the prevalent rhetoric, our country is not color-blind, nor are we by any stretch of the imagination "post-racial."

Loury continues:

"Whatever the number, analysts of all political stripes now agree that we have long ago entered the zone of diminishing returns. The conservative scholar John DiIulio, who coined the term “super-predator” in the early 1990s, was by the end of that decade declaring in The Wall Street Journal that “Two Million Prisoners Are Enough.” But there was no political movement for getting America out of the mass-incarceration business. The throttle was stuck.”

As I said in the comment section of one of my posts last week, about 20% of those in prison are there for non-violent drug offenses. Another 20% are there for other non-violent crimes. A little over 50% seek help for drug addiction once in prison. The recidivism rate however, is incredibly high. I can’t help but wonder how different our world would be if we funneled all the money we currently spend to imprison those with health problems into rehab and health care facilities instead.

There is a nascent political movement for change (see the Sentencing Project website) and Governor Richardson's signal that he will pursue prison reform is most definitely a step further in the right direction. Let's hope his effort bears fruit.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Maggie says:
Life is feeling very fragile today. The morning broke in a fog so thick it looked like our patio was out at sea. Telling, that fog. All day I've been sending my love out to Connecticut, where a service was held this morning for the saddest of reasons. And here in Dallas, a high-profile political couple just ended their lives, and each breaking detail feels more heartbreaking than the last, especially when I recall that each time I encountered Lynn Flint Shaw, she was always laughing and smiling. No more.

So I don't have the appetite for politics today - I haven't since the March 4 primary, actually. My opinions differ strongly from many expressed here regarding the benefits of a prolonged Democratic primary process, and that's half political reality, half gut-level emotion talking. Every bit of me knows that it's time to move forward; we've been in this moment too long, and the longer we're here the shakier a Democratic future becomes. That's not a small thing to me. And yet, on days when drama doesn't involve a splashy headline and instead touches on life and death, I remember that pausing just to sit, and to check in with folks you love, is such a blessing.

So today, I'm pausing and doing just that. And Switters and Fanny completely sum up my emotional state. Big hug, everyone.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spare me the spousal support

Maggie asks:

What's more cliché than the prosecutor-turned-politician cited for prostitution involvement? How about his wife standing beside him during the press conference?

Poor woman. I'm so tired of these spousal parades for public consumption. Every time this happens, we get a press conference featuring the guilty one and his wife. Or worse, his wife and the kids. Do any of us believe that she wants to be there? Does it do anyone any good for her to "stand by him" in that moment, rather than being out of the limelight smashing the hell out of something?

None of us know what goes on within relationships, true. But can't we all agree that in the aftermath of a public humiliation like this one, it's not fair to have to submit to your every expression being blasted across CNN, just because of who your husband is?

Spotted in Dallas

Maggie spies: The Protruding Chestbone!

At a fancy-pants event this weekend, where fun food and drinks were spiked with spectacular people-watching, I spotted a look that was new to me. But given its noticeable sprinkling amongt the 250 attendees, I'm apparently the last to know. Here's a gal's guide to recreating it at home for your next black tie event:

  • Begin your workout addiction as soon as possible. A drunkorexia mindset is recommended.
  • Tanning. Lots of it.
  • Breast implants. Everyone's doing it!
  • A low-cut gown to set off the look.
  • The result? Kind of like a skinny 14-year-old boy chest... caved-in and bony, but then bronzed and emblazoned with unnatural D-cups. Hot, right?

And yes, I'm being pretty snarky, but really... who knew that look is desirable? And the vast majority of the women and their gowns were so lovely that it made the awful "I'm so ready for my reality show" chestbone look all the worse.

On a positive note: To the 8-months-pregnant brunette in the short flowy dress and four-inch heels... you are my hero.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Log Cabin Quilt

marjorie says...

This is one of a handful of what I call my "dark" quilts. They are all just incredibly one of a kind, special quilts. This is the first quilt I ever really splurged on, and I have it hanging in my house. I thought I was spending a lot of money at the time, but now I've gone well past that. sigh. What a slippery slope. And what a deal I got on this quilt. It was one of seven, all made of darker wool material, a lot of it suit material. All one of a kind variations on the log cabin quilt. All in mint condition...found in a trunk at a Colorado estate. That's all I know about it...what a shame that this woman's quilts got disconnected from her name, and so dispersed. Click on it to really see it. I love it, it's one of a handful I'll probably always have.

Happy Monday folks!

What was the catalyst for death?

marjorie says...

of the word "catalyst":

  1. Chemistry. A substance, usually used in small amounts relative to the reactants, that modifies and increases the rate of a reaction without being consumed in the process.
  2. One that precipitates a process or event, especially without being involved in or changed by the consequences: “A free press … has remained … a vital catalyst to an informed and responsible electorate” (Robert O'Neal).

The Journal headline this morning:

"Ex-Con's Cocaine Habit Catalyst in Run-In With Vet"

Personally, given that this story is primarily about the shooting death of a would-be robber as he fled for his life, I think this headline could have been written in a number of better ways, given the actual content of this story. Here are a few:

"Love of Guns Catalyst in Shooting Death of Father of Four by Overzealous Man"

"Machismo Catalyst in Shooting Death of Man Fleeing for Life"

"Man Struggling with Substance Abuse Gunned Down by Man Struggling with PTSD" ??

"Two Public Health Problems Catalyst for Tragic Death" ??

The problem with drug abuse that this man had was the catalyst for the robbery. Once he was running for his life that ceased to be the case.

What was the catalyst for his killer to grab his gun and chase him a quarter mile? That is the better question. And an even better one: What value do we place on life?

I am like a dog with a bone, I know it.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

MSM reports on TX voting chaos... and Crenshaw!

Maggie says:
Lots of media goodies this a.m. about the local voting controversy:

  • DMN: Police get involved in dispute at Dallas precinct caucus. (with quotes from Mario!) "Election volunteers trailed former Dallas City Council member Sandra Crenshaw, who was serving as a precinct chairwoman, through Oak Cliff late Tuesday. They allege that she sent away hundreds of angry convention-goers and told them she was taking sign-in documents favoring Barack Obama home to 'correct them.' Ms. Crenshaw, who supports Hillary Rodham Clinton, paints a different picture – of a mob of Obama supporters from other states who were so unruly that she had to seek refuge at a police substation." But read on for drama like this: "Chairwoman Darlene Ewing said she rolled into the station just before 1 a.m. and found Ms. Crenshaw and a dozen Obama supporters in a standoff."
In other news, I would kill for a Bloody Mary right about now.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Journalism and the Blogosphere

marjorie says...

Have a look at Heath Haussamen taking us all to task for a (non) story.

His piece is angry, conjuring images of a father figure (the real journalist) taking to task all the children (bloggers) for their irresponsibility. But there's a bit of irony in the matter as well. Heath's detailing why he believes its a (non) story adds a lot to the (non) story. It's a nice piece of investigative journalism, albeit forced upon him it seems.

Heath's point that we should be careful about the charges we make is well taken. As I said in my blog, we don't know the facts, and perhaps I should have reiterated that. Maybe my priorities are just distorted...I found the KKOB memo more interesting than anything (!). Maybe because I tend to forget about the internal machinations of the Republican party...they don't cross my mind much. And I like media criticism.

So let's touch on the media a little. Perhaps Heath's post in reaction to the blogosphere in this case is an actual story in itself...

Heath says we get no respect in the blogosphere. I agree that we get very little...from "real journalists" (although they seem to like to check out our blogs to find their stories). But Heath is trying to change that he says: "As a journalist who is working hard to try to bring some integrity to the blogosphere, it makes me furious," (regarding the "shameful" bloggers in this case).

So is Heath a journalist or a blogger? A journalist who is blogging? A blogger who is doing "real journalism"? Was the blogosphere simply lacking in integrity before he started his site?

To be clear, I like Heath's revenue generating news-site and read it regularly. I think it could use some improvements in a few areas (women columnists? people of color columnists?), but in general I appreciate the site a lot. I appreciate that journalists like Heath are moving online and applying their training to this medium. I think it does improve the blogging world we inhabit, and his stories point us in interesting directions.

But is it fair for him to denigrate the blogosphere the way he does (which is not all liberal, by the way)? I think not. He and others should offer their critiques, and accept the just as valid pressure they get in return. The media landscape has been too centralized, too restricted to just a few voices for too long. There are multiple ways of interpreting the world, not all of which are learned in Journalism school. Training is a good thing, of course. But it also can lead to what many refer to as the (stifling) "cult of expertise."

In the extensive world of media criticism, one of the central notions debated is whether or not objectivity can really exist. When one goes to journalism school, one of the things supposedly learned is how to present a story in an un-biased, objective manner. Having such official training in "objectivity" is one of the primary things that makes one an "expert"...or, "real journalist" in our blogging world. I think most journalists really believe they can do this. I do not believe it. I fall in the camp that says you can give it a good shot, but real objectivity can't exist. And in fact I think my position is bolstered by the rigorous rule of law approach found in this country. Without the availability of true objectivity, we fall back on law and the countless court cases that have refined for us as a society how we are and are not to act.

When it comes to journalism, biases show easily in decisions that are made about what stories to cover, from what perspective to cover them, what is included and what is left out. Sometimes, just one simple word or turn of phrase makes biases apparent. In a market based system in which the vast majority of journalism is for profit, journalism becomes particularly problematic. Who even gets a job in the first place, or promotions, becomes suspect in a corporate model that has its eye on the bottom line. In this type of model, entire sectors of our society are sorely under-represented. "Rules" of journalism have been developed to mitigate some of these contradictions but the essential problem remains.

For this reason, not only should there exist a fourth estate keeping a rigorous eye on government, but there should be a "fifth estate" keeping an eye on the press. Because the press is powerful. Often, you will find this fifth estate in the blogosphere, not only critiquing the media but filling in gaps, as Barb commented on Heath's post: "Blogs can fill the gap on stories that the mainstream media and journalistic bloggers don't or won't run. There's always an opportunity to respond by those being mentioned and opinion has its place in political discourse last time I looked."

We are in a changing media landscape...and we have no idea how it will look in the future. We don't know how it will be funded, and we don't know whether it will be more restricted or more open to diverse voices. As it stands, the blogosphere offers an unprecedented space for dialogue, and for under-represented voices and perspectives to be expressed. It's a contested space, and I hold out hopes that what evolves out of it will be a new and improved media landscape in which diverse voices flourish...not just those deriving from the flawed media structure that currently exists.

I think we should all rue the day that space shrinks for the type of blogging that happens today, because what is blossoming now is vibrant. It should not be shut down. Rather than castigate the shameful bloggers, and proclaim his crusade to bring integrity to the blogosphere, Haussamen might instead consider how he can serve as a resource for pushing us all in a better direction.

Renegade Precinct Chair Sandra Crenshaw

As photographed by Laura E. Sanchez. Here we see Sandra Crenshaw leaving the Singing Hills Rec Center with the entire voter packet - including all the delegate sheets - and taking them home with her to "correct" them. No word yet on what that precinct ended up reporting. The actual vote was 100% Obama, remember?

[Photos removed.]

The Super Primary...and a little etiquette reminder

marjorie says...

The analysts are busy cutting up the electorate in a myriad different ways, to tell us who has what base of support within the Democratic party. But in the end, last night boils down to the fact that Clinton just won two significant contests. It was an overwhelming victory in Ohio, which many people point to as being all about the economy. Let's face it, the 90s are seen as good years and Clinton is associated with that decade. And in Texas it was an overwhelming rural versus urban contest. Only urban centers, sans San Antonio (I think), went for Obama. The urban/rural divide, as ever, continues to bemuse.

I agree with much of Erik's sentiment when he says the following in his post-election comments:

"The continued battle for the nomination doesn't really hurt the Democrats. Rather, it keeps media attention focused squarely on health care, the economy, and Iraq. This is a really great thing. McCain is in the background, almost forgotten about. Plus, isn't it a great thing that Democrats across the nation are playing a role in choosing the party's nominee? This can only help build infrastructure for state races in the fall. If Rick Noriega beats John Cornyn for the Texas Senate seat, one might look to the huge mobilization of Democrats here as the reason."

In addition to media attention on health care, the economy, and Iraq, this election also continues to highlight that the Democratic party is where those who think diversity is not only good, but imperative, hang their hats.

But as much as I agree that this is still a good thing at the moment, I also agree with many who don't want to see this contest go all the way to the convention. Having the super-delegates make the final decision would be damaging to the morale of the large chunk of the electorate that voted for the un-anointed. It could cause many to pack it up and simply go home. Accordingly, it would put all those super-Democrats in a tricky spot as well. I hope both candidates along with the rest of the big-wigs take this very seriously and find a solution...sooner rather than later. We need time to shift our allegiances and coalesce behind one candidate.

On a final note...I've not been a Clinton hater like so many I know have been. In fact, I like her and think that as far as Presidents go she'd be a good one. Regardless of who wins this primary, we need to like both her and Obama in the end. But in order for me to maintain my goodwill, she needs to remember that the vast majority of the electorate is not personal friends with John McCain. What she says about Obama during this primary matters to the chances of Democrats winning in November. The rest of this primary season should be about what she has to offer, not what strengths she supposedly shares with McCain vis-a-vis Obama.