Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Escaped Chili Recipe

2 or 3 cans of hominy, drained (I think 15 oz.)
2 cans of cannelini beans, drained and rinsed (I think 13 oz.)
3 or 4 chicken thighs
16 to 32 oz. chicken broth
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2+ cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp chili powder

On the side:
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 onion, chopped
2 tomatillos, chopped
leaves from 20 sprigs of coriander, chopped

Brown chicken thighs on medium high in olive oil. Remove chicken from pan and drain off most the fat. Chop chicken into bite-size pieces. Saute onion, garlic, and spices in olive oil. Deglaze pan with chicken broth. Add chicken and beans and bring to boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Add hominy and cook another 10 minutes. Serve with lime slices and chopped onions, tomatillos, and cilantro.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Quilting and Sewing Plans

Last count, I was in the midst of or planning to complete eight quilting and sewing projects. Let's see if I can enumerate them all:
  • Ladybug quilt for Annabel's bed (pieced)
  • Curtains for Annabel's bedroom (fabric purchased)
  • Pillowcases for Annabel's floor pillows (fabric purchased)
  • Curtains for master bedroom (2 of 4 finished)
  • Blind for living room window (3 of 4 finished)
  • Chenille scarf for Carol (fabric purchased)
  • Guitar quilt for Greg (fabric purchased, some cut)
  • Baby quilt for Ashley (not started, EDD April 2005)
  • Quilt or duvet cover for master bedroom (not started)

Yep. That's all of 'em. Plus, I've just decided that rather than paint murals in Annabel's room, I'm going to quilt them. A big tree quilt, a big garden quilt...ladybugs everywhere. And I want to get it all done by Christmas.

Spong on the Christian Roots of His Political Depression

My friend Martha emailed this essay from retired Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong. I don't consider myself a Christian, though the peaceful and compassionate message of Jesus Christ, like the messages of other great teachers, does inform my personal beliefs. I found this essay, in which Spong describes how the Bush Dynasty uses and distorts the message of Christ to gain political power which they wield in most un-Christian manner, incredibly moving. He sums up my own feelings about the current adminstration more eloquently and with far less cussin' than I ever seem to manage.

By Bishop John Shelby Spong, Retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark

The Republican Convention in New York City forced me to face the fact that my feelings about the Bush Administration have reached a visceral negativity, the intensity of which surprises even me. So I decided to search introspectively to identify its source. Is it simply runaway partisanship? That is certainly how it sounds to many who make that charge publicly, but that has not been my history. I did not react this way to other Republican presidents like Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford or Reagan. My feelings are quite specifically Bush related.

I first became aware of them in 1988 when George H. W. Bush's campaign employed the Willie Horton ad against Michael Dukakis. This dirty trick was successful and the insinuation entered the body politic that to be the governor of a multi-racial state where all were treated fairly meant that you favored freeing black criminals to commit murder. Lee Atwater, mentor of Karl Rove, devised that campaign. The Willie Horton episode said to me that these people believed that no dishonest tactic was to be avoided if it helped your candidate to victory.

The next manifestation of this mentality came in the South Carolina primary in George W. Bush's campaign in 2000, when the patriotism of John McCain was viciously attacked. It appeared those five years, as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam was not sufficient to prove one's loyalty to America. The third episode came when the operatives of this administration destroyed Georgia's Senator Max Cleland in 2002, by accusing him of being soft on national security, despite the fact that this veteran had lost three of his limbs in the service of his country. Each of these attacks brought defeat to its victims but they also brought defeat to truth and integrity.

In 2004 we have seen the pattern repeated. John Kerry, a veteran who served with honor and distinction in Vietnam was told in countless surrogate ads that his service was not worthy and that his three purple hearts and his Silver Star for heroism were cheaply won. For a candidate who ducked military service by securing a preferential appointment to the Texas National Guard, part of which was served in Alabama, this takes gall indeed.

Then Senator Zell Miller, his face contorted with anger, recited a litany of weapons systems that he said Senator Kerry had opposed. What he failed to say was that most of these military cuts were recommended by a Secretary of Defense named Richard Cheney in the first Bush Administration! The last time I looked, the Ten Commandments still included an injunction against bearing false witness.

Yes, other campaigns bend the truth but these tactics go beyond just bending, they assassinate character and suggest traitorous behavior. When that is combined with the fact that this party does this while proclaiming itself the party of religion, cultural values and faith-based initiatives is the final straw for me. I experience the religious right as a deeply racist enterprise that seeks to hide its intolerance under the rhetoric of super patriotism and "family values." For those who think that this is too strong a charge or too out of bounds politically, I invite you to look at the record.

It was George H. W. Bush who gave us Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court, calling him "the most qualified person in America." Thomas replaced Thurgood Marshall, who had been the legal hero to black Americans during the struggle over segregation. Clarence Thomas, the opponent of every governmental program that made his own life possible, is today an embarrassment to blacks in America. To appoint a black man to do the racist work against black people is demonic.

Consistent with that pattern, this administration entered an amicus brief against the University of Michigan's Law School because in the quest for a representative student body that Law School used race as one factor in determining admissions. The strange 'Orwellian' rhetoric again was deceiving. "We want America to be a nation where race is not counted for anything and all are to be judged on merit alone." Those are fair sounding words until one factors in centuries of slavery and segregation, or the quality of public education in urban America which just happens to be predominantly black. Next one cannot help noticing the concerted Republican effort to limit black suffrage in many states like Florida where it has been most overt, and to deny the power of the ballot to all the citizens of Washington, D.C.

Does anyone doubt that the people of Washington have no vote for any other reason than that they are overwhelmingly black?

Only when I touched these wells of resentment, did I discover how deeply personal my feelings are about the Bushes. I grew up in the southern, religious world they seek to exploit. I went to a church that combined piety with segregation, quoted the Bible to keep women in secondary positions, and encouraged me to hate both my enemies and other religions, especially Jews. It taught me that homosexual people choose their lifestyle because they are either mentally sick or morally depraved. I hear these same definitions echoed in the pious phrases of those who want to "defend marriage against the gay onslaught." Are the leaders of this party the only educated people who seem not to know that their attitudes about homosexuality are uninformed? People no more choose their sexual orientation than they choose to be left-handed! To play on both ignorance and fear for political gain is a page lifted right out of the racial struggle that shaped my region. Racism simply hides today under new pseudonyms.

I lived in Lynchburg, Virginia, before Jerry Falwell rose to national prominence. He was a race baiting segregationist to his core. Liberty Baptist College began as a segregation academy. Super patriot Falwell condemned Nelson Mandela as a 'communist' and praised the apartheid regime in South Africa as a 'bulwark for Christian civilization.' I have heard Pat Robertson attack the movement to give equality to women by referring to feminists as Lesbians who want to destroy the family, while quoting the Bible to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. The homophobic rhetoric that spews so frequently out of the mouths of these "Jesus preaching" right-wingers has been mentioned time and again as factors that encourage hate crimes.

I am aware that the former Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama, famous for his attempt to place a three-ton monument of the Ten Commandments in his Montgomery courthouse to the delight of southern preachers, is on record as saying that "homosexuality is inherently evil."

I lived through the brutality that greeted the civil rights movement in the South during its early days. Congressman John Lewis of Atlanta can tell you what it means to be beaten into unconsciousness on a "freedom ride." I remember the names of Southerners who covered their hate-filled racism with the blanket of religion to enable them to win the governors' mansions in the deep South: John Patterson and George Wallace in Alabama, Ross Barnett in Mississippi, Orville Faubus in Arkansas, Mills Godwin in Virginia and Strom Thurmond in South Carolina. I know the religious dimensions of North Carolina that kept Jesse Helms in the Senate for five terms. Now we have learned that Strom Thurmond, who protected segregation in the Senate when he could not impose it by winning the presidency in 1948, also fathered a daughter by an underage black girl. I know that Congressman Robert Barr of Georgia, who introduced the Defense of Marriage Act in 1988, has been married three times. ! I know that Pat Robertson's Congressman in Norfolk, Ed Schrock, courted religious votes while condemning homosexual people until he was outed as a gay man and was forced to resign his seat.

I know that the bulk of the voters from the Religious Right today are the George Wallace voters of yesterday, who simply transformed their racial prejudices and called them "family values." That mentality is now present in this administration. It starts with the President, embraces the Attorney General John Ashcroft and spreads out in every direction.

I have known Southern mobs that have acted in violence against black people while couching that violence in the sweetness of Evangelical Christianity. I abhor that kind of religion. I resent more than I can express the fact that my Christ has been employed in the service of this mentality. My Christ, who refused to condemn the woman taken in the act of adultery; my Christ who embraced the lepers, the most feared social outcasts of his day; my Christ who implored us to see the face of God in the faces of "the least of these our brothers and sisters;" my Christ who opposed the prejudice being expressed against the racially impure Samaritans, is today being used politically to dehumanize others by those who play on base instincts.

David Halberstam, in his book on the Civil Rights movement entitled The Children, quotes Lyndon Johnson talking with Bill Moyers right after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had passed by large margins in the Congress of the United States. This positive vote followed the arousing of the public's consciousness by the Abu Ghraib-like use of dogs and fire hoses on black citizens in Alabama. Klan groups, under the direct protection of Southern State Troopers and local police, had also attacked blacks with baseball bats and lead pipes in public places, which had been seen on national television. Moyers expected to find President Johnson jubilant over this legislative victory. Instead he found the President strangely silent. When Moyers enquired as to the reason, Johnson said rather prophetically, "Bill, I've just handed the South to the Republicans for fifty years, certainly for the rest of our life times." That is surely correct. Bush's polls popped after his convention. It is now his election to lose. The combination of super patriotism with piety, used in the service of fear to elicit votes while suppressing equality works, but it is lethal for America and lethal for Christianity. It may be a winning formula but it has no integrity and it feels dreadful to this particular Christian.

-- John Shelby Spong

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Ban Straight Marriage (on TV)!

Would someone please point me to the study that shows how in the world the marriage of a loving gay couple hurts other marriages and families? A more sensible movement would be to ban TV shows like "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire" that essentially pay people to wed strangers. Have any of these unions lasted even six months? Does anyone really believe these people married for love or intend to start families together? What sort of message about marriage do these shows send to kids? For that matter, what message do they send to adults?

Home School Manifesto

To the Concerned Citizen Who Made It Her Business to Question My Decision to Home School My Daughter:

First of all, I cannot imagine that if the situation were reversed, and you had happened to mention that you were going to be sending your child to public school, that I would dare to approach you and not only question you about why, but then try to persuade you that your thinking about the matter was wrong. Secondly, thank you for prompting me to ponder once again the myriad reasons why I will educate my children at home. When I returned home after our conversation, I began to write my personal Home School Manifesto. I’ll carry copies of it with me from now on and pass it out to folks like you who believe they know better than me what’s best for my kid.

Why Home School?
My primary reason is academic success. I believe that my husband and I can give our daughter a better education, in less time, than any public school and at far less cost than any private school. We will teach her in the classical manner: providing her with a strong foundation in reading, writing, and math; systematic, integrated instruction in science, history, art, and music; as well as lessons in Latin and German. I believe we will do a far better job helping her to become a moral and thinking citizen of the world than any institutional education system.

Studies of standardized test scores have repeatedly demonstrated that home schooled students are far better prepared for college than their institutionally schooled peers. Here’s a quote from a paper that appeared in “Education Policy Analysis Archives.”
Even with a conservative analysis of the data, the achievement levels of the home school students in the study were exceptional. Within each grade level and each skill area, the median scores for home school students fell between the 70th and 80th percentile of students nationwide and between the 60th and 70th percentile of Catholic/Private school students. For younger students, this is a one year lead. By the time home school students are in 8th grade, they are four years ahead of their public/private school counterparts.
Four years ahead! How can I deny my daughter such an opportunity?

Since I enjoy spending time with my daughter, watching her learn and grow, I don’t want to send her off to school so that some strangers can enjoy (or more likely, NOT enjoy) spending time with this wonderful little person. She's truly one of my favorite people on the planet. If I believed it was in her best interest to go to school, I'd let her go, but if not, why send her away?

More concerned folks raise the “socialization” issue with me than any other. School does a horrendous job socializing children and seems designed to grind down the unique and elevate the average. Children should spend time with other children. School, however, is total immersion in the peer group, six to eight hours of the day at least, throughout a highly impressionable time of life. I think an couple hours a day with a group of peers is as much as a kid needs before age 10 or so, except on supervised group outings like camping, museum visits, sports meets, etc. Children are best socialized by loving parents and other trusted adults who can model kind, responsible behavior and by playing with friends one-on-one or in small groups. Some have argued that experiencing the trial-by-fire that is school builds character and while I can't disagree that trauma does shape one's character, I don't believe it improves it. Where in adult life do we consider teasing, bullying, or sexual harrassment just something we have to experience in order to get along better in life?

How have people come to so wholeheartedly accept the shifting of children from the home to institutions of a thousand or more that home schoolers are continually asked to justify themselves? For most of human history, parents have educated their children at home and human culture evolved to a remarkable level of sophistication. Schools do provide an opportunity for literacy to many who might have otherwise remained illiterate, but it is not in the least bit necessary to prepare for the “real” world or college and comes with so many costs.

So, thanks, kindly intrusive lady who tried to convince me to send my kid to public school, but no thanks.

C'est moi, Le Musser.  Posted by Hello

Feast Your Eyes "Exhibit"

I went to Feast Your Eyes: The Unexpected Beauty of the Vegetable Garden at the Museum of the Oregon Territory in Oregon City this morning with virtually no expectations, yet still found myself a bit disappointed. To call this Smithsonian Institution (!) display an "exhibit" is an exaggeration. It was, sadly, a collection of boards with text and reproductions of a fraction of the images included in the 142-page Feast Your Eyes book I bought at the gift shop. Not a single original image or artifact was on display. Nonetheless, the 10 or so mostly locally crafted vegetable quilts on display with the exhibit were well worth trekking 20 minutes south and paying $5 to see. My favorite, Tossed Salad, consists of log cabin blocks set on point in mostly chartruese batiks with dashes of purple and yellow. I also appreciated the quilting on an asparagus wall quilt. A third quilt, made up of puzzle blocks in vegetable prints looked fun and not to difficult to piece. Very inspiring...and I can now add vegetable and fruit fabric to my already lengthy list of thread-related obsessions. Anyone ever seen asparagus fabric? The exhibit closes this weekend.