Please weigh in, agree or disagree, thoughtfully and respectfully. Ferocity and passion are encouraged; disrespect is not. Thank you for reading, and seeing this as a conversation rather than a monologue.

June 30, 2010

Taking on Tolle

"The most common ego identifications have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special abilities, relationships, personal and family history, belief systems, and often political, nationalistic, racial, religious, and other collective identifications. None of these is you." ~Eckhart Tolle

I've not read Tolle – this quotation was sent to me as is – so I don't know the context. Taken as is, this statement is both true and not true. If none of those are me, do I still have responsibility for them? Cannot others describe me accurately, if incompletely, by referring to them? It's true that none of the qualities, singly or in aggregate, are a complete definition of us, but they do serve a function in knowing who we are, so they are not useless or entirely false.

Our Job Description

The Obama campaign asked Americans to write about what the Inauguration meant to us. My response was as follows:

On Inauguration Day, Barack Obama will stand as proxy for every American: as he takes the oath of office, every one of us must renew our dedication to the work that gave our nation its life. President Obama will face challenges that he will only be able to meet if Americans continue and build on the work begun by our forefathers.
We are the children and grandchildren of the “tired, poor, huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.” They did not want and would not tolerate life without the freedoms needed to do good work, raise loving families, and build vibrant communities. Refusing to acquiesce to a government that curtailed their dreams, they fought instead to design one that would protect our freedoms, check our baser instincts, and further our aspirations.

June 29, 2010

On American Torture

My friend Tom got me started on this when he said, apropos my letter to Obama about torture, that "I only wish we had done to them what they did to Nick Berg and Daniel Pearl." You may recall that both of these men were beheaded.

Before I get to torture, let me take a short digression to fanaticism.

On Marriage Equality

I wrote this on the New Mexican's web site in a discussion responding to the article about NM Dems including marriage equality in their platform. (I go by a pseudonym on some blogs.) This is in response to Mary Lou, who said, in part

How are you not treated equal? [. . .] Why do you gay and lesbians think you're owed something different. Marriage for last time is between a man and woman. get it through that thick skull of yours. (sic throughout)

On the Response to "Bombing" the Moon

I've been a part of three discussions on FB with the same basic theme: bombing the moon is not only a boondoggle, it is profoundly, epically immoral. I'd like to summarize the two points of view which oppose this mission, and then invite discussion.

How to Improve America, Part One

1) Whenever a politician or media person appears in public, they must wear patches, a la NASCAR drivers, identifying their top 5 corporate "sponsors". In print or on TV they must be identified as follows: "Rep. Smith (D-NM; BAC, GS, XOM)" or "Glenn Beck (Fox; AIG, C, PFE)" citing the stock symbol for each major contributor/advertiser. On radio, this information should be read by way of introduction. This should include major contributors by industry, e.g., pharmaceuticals, carbon-based energy, churches, etc.

Dear Mr. President

January 19, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

I’ve often said that, when we were remembering September 11, we were remembering the wrong day. September 12, 2001, was the day we all stood united in compassion for each other. While September 11th was the day when so many loved ones died, September 12th was the day when we showed how resilient are our hearts – a greater tribute to our dead than all the fretting over tributes and monuments and security strategies.

I am writing this on the observance of Martin Luther King’s birthday, which you have made a day of national service this year in anticipation of your inauguration. Today I feel that America is returning to the heart we showed on September 12th. Today I feel hope that we might meet the challenges that face us as a nation and a species.

Do It Yourself Revolution

There is an e-mail that circulates every year that tells people not to buy gas on May 15th. It dubiously claims that a similar protest against gas prices in 1997 resulted in a 30-cent drop in the price of gas "overnight". A version of this e-mail has been going around since e-mail was invented.
There are three problems with this suggestion, the least of which is that it won't work.

Dolphins and Repentance

(In response to a conversation begun by Mary Trainor-Brigham, author of Deep Cinema: Film as Shamanic Initiation, on Facebook. Edited.)

Fascinating, seeing Ric O’Barry’s film, The Cove, as a kind of hero’s journey. I have chosen not to see the film, as I have difficulty processing scenes of graphic violence. I felt like I had seen all I needed or wanted to when I saw the trailer.

What strikes me, though, is how complex it all is, this living and making sense of living – especially for those who attempt to live mindfully and do good in the world.

June 28, 2010

Energy: Should We Buy It, or Grow Our Own?

"Economies of scale" is not a phrase often heard around Farmers' Markets, but perhaps it should be, once it's been stood on its head. It is an idea that has been used to justify and support the dominance of large, national or multi-national operations of all kinds. It's often used in discussions about efficiency and avoiding waste, and it must be said that there ARE efficiencies to large operations. But there are costs – not so much hidden as not discussed – as recent experience with banks insurance companies and oil companies has proven.
Though global agribusiness provides blueberries in winter, the costs are compelling: lack of freshness and nutritional content, chemical and genetic alterations that many find less appealing than the benefits promised, and the gigantic carbon footprint from transportation, deforestation and fertilizers. A global agricultural infrastructure does have upsides – if you simply must have blueberries on your cereal in winter – but the downsides are giving rise to discussions about organics, family farms, foodsheds and locavores: all about economies of a smaller scale.
Massive producers of meat can put a chicken in every pot, and a burger on every Weber grill. They do it so cheaply that the food of choice for the poor is now fast food meat accompanied by a soft drink that is sweetened by (government-subsidized) corn derivatives. To get meat this cheap, we have to set aside any semblance of humane treatment of these animals, either during their lives or in their deaths. We have to give them hormones to get them ready for market much more quickly than Nature could do it, and antibiotics because they are living, in the case of chickens, literally right on top of each other, and illness would decimate their population without drugs. Cheap meat has a downside, especially for the animals, but also for us. (Author Isaac Bashevis Singer said he became a vegetarian, not for his own health, but for that of the chickens.) Most meat found at Farmers' Markets, from local or regional ranchers, avoids at least some of these problems, and some ranchers are exemplary.
The changes we are making in the way we grow food can provide a model for improving the way we generate energy.
For generations we have enjoyed the benefits of a cheap, centralized, carbon-based economy. Gasoline, natural gas, coal and oil have given us the gifts of fertilizers, home heating without a lot of smoke and soot, the freedom to "drive around and think," as I did when I was a new driver and gas was nineteen cents a gallon, the convenience of plastics. Honestly, it's been a blast. No wonder a lot of people want to deny that the solutions to earlier problems have themselves become a problem. You can't blame them, really, except the ones who know better. "It is difficult to get a man to understand something," said Upton Sinclair, "when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."
Like Food, Inc., however, Carbon, Inc.'s downsides are eclipsing its benefits: asthma at epidemic levels, landscapes ruined for generations, fouled air, climate changes of uncertain severity, wars for oil, a blight on ecology and economy alike.
Consider these consequences of our continuing reliance on carbon fuels:
  • Americans spend $1 billion every single day on imported fuel.
  • Much of this money goes to regimes with which we are at war.
  • So we finance armies, and then spend more money (and lives) fighting them . . .
  • while they control our fuel lines.
  • Sending this kind of money abroad costs us about 2 million jobs at home . . .
  • and buries us under massive trade deficits and debt . . .
  • while our fuel and our money literally go up in smoke.
We haven't always been painted into this corner, but we're here now, and it's time to get out. Past time. According to The Breakthrough Institute's November 2009 report, "Rising Tigers," China, Japan and South Korea are all already ahead of us in developing clean energy technologies. They are investing at a level three times that of the U.S., even counting the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act's dramatic increase in funding. Allowing our competitors to gain this early lead is madness, when we have it within our power to end our dependence on other nations for our energy. We're dependent on OPEC now: why not sell clean energy in the new economy, instead of buying it?
The good news is, thirty-three states, including New Mexico, began the transition to clean energy over the last decade. It's already generating jobs. A Pew Charitable Trust study in June found that the clean energy economy grew at more than double the rate of the rest of the economy: 9.1%, compared to 3.7%. In New Mexico the contrast was breathtaking: 50.1% compared to 1.9%.
Clean energy also attracts investment: one company with operations in New Mexico has made jet fuel from algae: they have received almost $250 million from private and government sources in just the last two years. At an Investor Summit on Climate Risk, hosted by the UN this year, investors representing $22 trillion (that's with a T, yes) in potential investments are waiting on governments to show resolve before they invest. The money is there. Will we let it go to China, Japan and South Korea?
Call your state and national representatives. Tell them you want us, not just to compete, but to lead. Tell them you're tired of seeing our economy and our environment mired in oil and up in smoke. The really good news is that, as the truth has come out about big banks and big food conglomerates, it is coming out about the deficits of a carbon-based economy. New technologies are on their way: whether we have a hand in creating them is up to us.

Christian Nation?

The following is a response to an article bemoaning the fact that this country, a majority of whose citizens are Christian, is not defined as a Christian nation. His column is at

The author's line of inquiry is utterly befuddling, because it leaves so many obvious questions unasked, as well as unanswered. Are not Christians free to practice their Christianity, whichever form they practice, here? Yes, unequivocally. So what is missing? Is there a point to defining this as a Christian nation? Is it not enough to know that one can practice and believe as one wants, and to know that more of our citizens are Christians of some kind than any of the minority faiths? Doesn't the author's desire to ask candidates if they would uphold this as a Christian nation go against the spirit, if not the letter, of Article VI of the Constitution?

Because I Need to Know If McAndrew Is Full Of It