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the mission

notes, humor, stories, satire, and thoughts on God, life, sports, and politics from the mind of dave miller...

Updated: 2017-07-07T00:15:22.966-07:00


the mission is now closed...


Sometimes you need to say, "Enough is enough!"  Sometimes it is time to say cue the finale and ed the show.Today is that day and I wanted to let all 12 of my dedicated readers know that.  Okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but you get the point.I started blogging in May of 2005 as a creative release and to have a place to share my sometimes outside of the box thoughts on life, God, politics and sports.  Now my life is going in another direction and I need to free up the time to make things fit.I'm still passionate about politics.  As recently as this weekend, I thought we should offer Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) who said on Saturday that Obamacare should be repealed because it "...shows a disregard for the will of the people" a deal.  Here's the deal I'd offer since he seems to believe it is the job of our political leaders to follow the will of the people.Pass the gun control initiative that was defeated in Congress.  The people overwhelmingly support it.Raise taxes on those making more than $150,000.00 a year.  Again, the people overwhelmingly support it.End all this talk and pass the debt limit extension and a continuing resolution to fund the government so even more people do not lose their jobs.Finally Mr. Stutzman, if you feel strongly that we should follow the will of the people regarding Obamacare, fine, repeal it, but then replace it with a single payer government backed system for all Americans since that would truly reflect the will of the people.Of course I am still passionate about God and in fact, my time serving in Mexico as a host receiver for short-term teams increases every year.  I will continue to write about that over at Notes from Dave, where my latest post is about American Exceptionalism and Mission.  I also send out a weekly Monday Mission Moment that you can subscribe to through my ministry, Adventures in Life.I still love sports and will continue to follow my teams, albeit not as fanatically and I will still be thinking and writing about life, just in another context.  After over 20 years of living, working and traveling in Mexico, I've decided to dedicate the majority of my writing time to that great country.  I'll be writing about the people, the culture, the art, the food and the beauty that can be found not just in the normal tourist areas, but off the trail as well.To that end, along with my good friend Joe Ramirez, who will providing most of our top level photography, I have started a new WordPress blog dedicated totally to my experiences in and around Mexico and her culture.It's up now, has a few posts and I'd love you to visit, give us a look.  If you like it, please take the next step to subscribe and recommend it to your family and friends, asking them to also subscribe.  We want to win a few awards next year for our work and no matter how good your blog is, you need readers, so please, come on over to Dave Miller's Mexico and follow me on the journey to My Mexico!Blessing to all of you.  I'll still be commenting here and there when something catches my fancy or gets my goat, but this will be my last post here at the mission.(All material posted on this blog is the sole property of Dave Miller (c) and represents his personal views.  This blog is in no way, nor has it ever been officially associated with Adventures in Life Ministry, for whom Dave has worked for over 20 years.)[...]

Lila Downs Wows in Las Vegas


While many people hunkered down avoiding black cats, ladders and broken mirrors on the night of Friday the 13th, a small group of about a thousand people braved the odds and were rewarded with a wonderful night of music at the House of Blues in Las Vegas.From my seat at one of the tables close to the stage, I had the perfect perch from which to not only see the show on stage unimpeded, but also to experience the feel of this wonderfully designed showroom.There, backed by a seven piece band, and a great multimedia program, Grammy award winning Mexican born singer Lila Downs thrilled the audience with her unique interpretations of the heart, soul, and unique battles of what is means to be from Mexico. Read more...[...]

Syria is not our issue... Heed your own words President Obama...


News is breaking everywhere that a military strike on Syria from the United States is imminent.  If news reports are to be believed, our President and Secretary of Defense Hagel are knee deep in preparations to bomb Syria, perhaps as early as this weekend.Much less certain is what President Obama hopes to accomplish by bombing another sovereign nation that has not attacked the United States and is not planning to do so.It seems like a million years ago that a young junior senator from Illinois named Barack Obama launched his bid to become President of the United States.  Here is what he said in a 2002 speech condemning potential military involvement in Iraq.  It would soon become the basis of his campaign for the presidency.“Now let me be clear: I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power.... The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him. But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors...and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history. I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.”Those were strong words back then... and they should be heeded today. The parallels are surprisingly similar.  Hussein was in fact a brutal man, just as Assad in Syria is.  Hussein did in fact butcher his own people, even using gas in Halabja to secure his power, just as we allege President Assad has done in his country.But also like Hussein before him, Assad does not pose an imminent or direct threat to the United States or his neighbors, and in the end, will ultimately go the way of all “petty dictators into the dustbin of history” to quote the man that is now our President.Senator Obama opposed military action in Iraq because, in his opinion, it lacked a clear rational and strong international support and would “ the flames of the Middle East and encourage the worst...”  Mr. President, what will be different in Syria?The American people are not with you in this.You have presented no clear rational for our impending attacks.  Is it simply to punish the current regime?  You have not made your case to the American people as to why we should offer up our most treasured resources of life, limb and blood in yet another war, or military action of choice, and not of necessity.There is no international consensus whether we should attack Syria, as there was for the first Gulf War in 1991 and you’ve offered no reasons why an attack from the US will not, as you so eloquently stated in 2002, encourage the worst of the Arab world and strengthen the recruitment of al-Qaeda.This is not our war.If the leaders in the Middle East are uncomfortable with Mr. Assad and his brutality, let them handle him.  Until our president tells us why it is in our national interest to start bombing a country that has never attacked us and is presenting no clear and present danger to the United States of America, our pilots, soldiers and sailors should not be sent into harms way.A mythical line in the sand is not sufficient justification for risking the lives of Americans halfway around the world.  State Senator Barack Obama of Illinois would never have approved and President Obama should not either.[...]

Trayvon Martin... are we honoring Christ in how we respond?


I’m not even going to try and wade into the legal mumbo jumbo of the recently decided Trayvon Martin case.  Better, and in some cases, lesser minds than mine, have already said probably too much regarding this tragic situation.No matter which way the jury decided, a significant part of our country was going to be upset.  Sadly, it is where we are as a country that when there is a significant case that revolves, even tangentially around race, we will not agree.But it is not that disagreement that has me wishing there was another way.It is how we have decided to disagree.I have seen good friends call each other idiots, fools, racists, stupid and ignorant.  And this is just what I can print.  If you look across the blogosphere, from both liberals and conservatives, you will see an amount of vitriol that surpasses anything in recent memory.Not only does there not seem to be a way to disagree agreeably, there is a surprising lack of interest in either side to consider the point of view of the other.This would not be so unnerving to me were it not for the fact that a great majority of the people of whom I am speaking claim to either love God, follow in the steps of Jesus, or be Christians.If you know me, you know I’ve always struggled to connect the teachings of Jesus and Paul to where we live our daily lives.  Some days are better than others for me in this regard.  Like many, I too often lose my temper, especially when driving and will let lose with an indignant dry of “Throckmorton” or worse when someone cuts me off or is not driving as I think he or she should.It’s a bad habit and I know it, but I try to keep my indignation confined to my car and my unlucky companions at that moment.However with the Martin case, people have decided to publicly let loose with all sorts of venom.  Facebook, twitter and any other social sites are full of contempt for anyone who dares to have a different outlook on this case.  It seems as if both sides have dug in, decided the other is wrong, and have thrown caution to wind, confident in the strength of their position.This is no holds barred trench warfare and let the loudest voice win, regardless of the impact on friendships, or how it makes the family of God look.  Leonard Sweet once asked the question “Would we rather be right, or in relationship?”  Clearly it seems many have chosen to be right.Is it any wonder people look at Christians and ask why anyone would want to be part of such a loving bunch.I doubt the angels are rejoicing today in heaven at how we are conducting ourselves.[...]

¡Mezcal! Entendamos la bebida más de onda en los EE.UU.


Yo miraba mientras el joven, quién quería ser un mezcalero maestro, esperaba nerviosamente.  Aquél joven vino a In Situ... la meca de mezcalerías... en dónde Ulises Torrentera, el Don de mezcal en Oaxaca, dedica cada día a su búsqueda para los mezcales más perfectos de Oaxaca.El joven le ofrecía una prueba a aquél romántico moderno, quién le parece mucho a Diego Rivera.  Mientras probaba, el Don hacía unas preguntas antes de pronunciar un veredicto.Para muchos americanos, pensar en mezcal es pensar en imágenes del actor Clint Eastwood en una de sus películas de vaquero con un cigarrillo en una mano y una botella de bebida con gusano en la otra.  Sin embargo, como lo explica Ulises, ya no es así: el mezcal ya está ganando lugar entre los grandes licores del mundo, saliendo de las sombra de su hermano mayor, el tequila.El mezcal, un licor embriagador que puede transportarte a un lugar de memorias increíbles, se está convirtiendo rápidamente en uno de los licores de onda en ciudades estadounidenses como Seattle y Chicago.  Parte de ésta nueva popularidad es la gran variedad de mezcales que se producen en México, principalmente en el estado de Oaxaca.Ulises, David y su Amigo Paco GarciaRecientemente, visité con Ulises con el propósito de aprender cómo piensa él y de aprender de ésta bebida fabulosa.  Como dice mi amigo Paco Garcia, “Oaxaca es mezcal y mezcal es Oaxaca”, o, en otras palabras, “David, no se puede comprender Oaxaca a menos que se comprenda el mezcal!”En una entrevista que cubría desde terroir [es integralmente importante] hasta su deseo como niño de ser escritor, empezamos con la historia vieja del mezcal.Mezcal . . . un repasoEl mezcal como lo reconocemos hoy tiene ya más de 400 años de edad, a pesar de la insistencia de algunas personas que es un éxito nuevo  Descubierto y destilado por la gente indígena de México, el mezcal tiene una historia compleja.Por cierto tiempo, el mezcal sufría una persecución más común en los Estados Unidos.  Acusado de ser responsable para todo tipo de maldad, su peor pecado fue que era la bebida preferida de las clases bajas para sus fiestas y sus celebraciones.  La clase alta de México (la gran mayoría de ella siendo europea) lo echaba la culpa por el crimen, las enfermedades de niños, la violencia y la corrupción.  Naturalmente, esto contribuyó a su prohibición.Llegamos a la primera mitad del siglo veinte y la industrialización de la producción de la tequila.  México, con su cultura de machismo, aceptó a la tequila y tiró a un lado el mezcal, siendo que el mezcal tenía la reputación de ser algo bajo y primitivo.Pasando a la segunda mitad del siglo veinte, vemos que la versión moderna del mezcal tomaba forma en Matatlán, la Cuña del Mezcal, una región al este de la Ciudad de Oaxaca. El Maguey y el ProcesoUlises, el Don de Mezcal en OaxacaCocinado en ollas de barro y cobre en palenques locales, el mezcal era preparado por mezcaleros locales utilizando los métodos de destilar que ocupaban sus antepasados hace muchos siglos cuando la gente indígena de México descubrió que se podía hacer un alcohol fuerte por destilar la pulpa y los jugos del maguey y el agave.Después de cosechar el maguey, se lo concina en un horno volcánico invertido.  Se lo muele con un muela antes de echarlo en tinas de madera para fermentar.  Dependiendo del mezcalero, se lo puedo destilar varias veces y ponerlo en botellas para vender.Como dice Ulises, este proceso no se ha cambiado mucho a través de los siglos.  El cambio más grande será las ollas de cobre, aunque algunos palenques siguen usando las ollas de barro.Hay tres tipos de magueys que se usan en la mayoría de los mezcales que vienen de Oaxaca.  El más popular es el espadín.  Alto con ramas que llegan a ser hasta dos metros, el espadín se madura en siete años.  Aunque lleva años en madur[...]

Faux Mexican? Five ways to know your food may be great, but not Mexican...


An old friend who was raised in Mexico told me about the day his dad came to him after they had lived in the states for many years.  “Octavio” he said, “Tonight we are going out to dinner to a Mexican restaurant.  The food will not be Mexican, but it will be delicious.”So off Octavio went with his family years ago in the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles to get some “Mexican” food.  When he told me the story, Octavio told me his dad was 100% correct.  The food was wonderful, but it was not Mexican.Gustavo Arellano, in his excellent book “Tacos USA, How Mexican Food Conquered America” would argue with the assessment that it was not Mexican.  He celebrates all the variations of Mexican food, from mission style burritos to the famous combination plate laden with rice, beans and fried tacos as he explains in this great interview.All of this came back to me last night after a visit to Wahoo’s Tacos here in Las Vegas.  The food was indeed delicious, but Mexican? Not a chance.  A burrito with lettuce?  Cajun beans?  Seriously guys, simply serving food centered around tortillas and Modelo Negro beer doesn’t get you into the panteon of quality Mexican Restaurants now spreading around the country.With that experience close at hand, as a public service, I’d like to offer five clues you’ll see if your local taco shack is more Taco Bell than what we’ll find south of the border, down Mexico way...1. If the beans on that combo plate you ordered are covered in triangles of yellow cheese or the grated four cheese blend you can get at your corner market, you won’t find it south of the border.I have never seen a Mexican variety of yellow cheese.  Cheese in Mexico is usually white and if it is served on beans, tends to the crumbly queso fresco type.2. If your tacos come with any of the following, ground beef, lettuce, tomato slices, grated cheese, yellow wax paper or even turkey, you are not in Mexico.Tacos come with onions and cilantro in Mexico.  They are also made with steak and all the other parts of the cow or pig, but never have I seen a taco filled with ground beef.3. If you can order shrimp, chicken, steak or any other type of fajitas, you won’t be finding that plate in too many taco stands or restaurants in Mexico.Sorry folks, as wonderful as fajitas can be, I’ve never seen fajitas in Mexico.  I’m sure they are served somewhere in that great country, but this is a dish popularized by the Orange County restaurant chain El Torito in the 1980’s.4. When you ask for salsa and the spiciest option you get is Amor or Tapatio bottled sauce, you certainly are not ordering your food in Guadalajara.In Mexico, we love our chiles.  Habañeros, jalapeños, serranos and chiles de agua, we love them all, and expect to experience these tastes in our food.  Unfortunately, the American palette is not ready for this type of experience so we mostly get a tomato blend spiced up with a little bit of pepper.5. Finally, when you walk in the door, if the first thing that greets you is a wall of mariachi hats or a chile in a beach chair, you can bet you’re gonna get a lot of that yellow cheese covered stuff.The derivative here is that if you see folks getting drunk wearing mariachi hats and dancing like loons, you are more likely in Papas-n-Beer or the old Carlos Murphy’s than an authentic Mexican restaurant.So there you have it.  My top five ways to know you are not in an authentic Mexican restaurant, at least as I’ve experienced it in my 20 years in Mexico.[...]

Spring is in the air... and so is FEMA


Please tell me why.I'll preface this by saying what I am talking about is not likely to be popular.But please tell me why people continue to live in areas that are so vulnerable to extreme weather disasters?  And while you are at it, please tell me why the people that choose to live in those areas are entitled to continued government aid from those of us who have made better choices as to where to live.Now before you stop reading and send me a note that this is a symptom of the liberal mindset, a few facts.FEMA was started in 1979 by Executive Order under Democratic President Carter.  But the roots of government aid in the face of national disasters go all the way back to the 1930's under Republican President Hoover.  Programs were expanded, contracted, improved, or let to languish under administrations of both parties.  Additionally, congressional leaders of both parties have been critics and boosters of this type government aid, depending on whether or not their citizens, or better said, political constituents were affected.  In short, the history of federal aid to states, localities, and individual citizens, in the face of tragedy has been truly bipartisan. There is no other way to honestly characterize this reality, so let's not go there.  Instead, let's ask some tough questions.For hundreds of years the mighty Mississippi has flooded, sending waves of water into cities and homes up and down the banks of this important river.  And for years, government has been paying to help rebuild peoples homes, renovate farms, and bail out businesses that have chosen to live in a place where almost annually, the river floods.New Orleans is a city sitting on a powder keg, or rather, under that powder keg given its below sea level status.  Due to the risk of flooding, dikes and sea walls are maintained at a huge cost to tax payers so that people can live in an area of almost constant risk.Across the midwest, people live in what is called Tornado Alley, so named because almost every year, tornados rip into this area like what we have seen in the last few weeks.Recently, President Obama and Governor Chris Christie celebrated the continued rebuilding of the Jersey Shore, devastated by Hurricane Sandy, largely on the dime of the federal government.  Soon you can bet that our President will be standing beside Governor Brown in California pledging support for people whose homes were lost in yet another forest fire raging in that state.Year after year, time after time, people in places like Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, California and Missouri swamp the government with requests for aid, help and relief from their poor decisions to live in areas of risk.  It is as if we have forgotten the old real estate maxim of caveat emptor, or buyer beware.I am not against government giving immediate aid and relief to people who have been devasted by things like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, intense flooding like what we saw recently in San Antonio and the recent spate of tornados that have moved across our great country.  When people are in immediate peril, our governments, state, local and national should spring to action to help those get to safety.  Our goal should be to do all we can to save lives and get people out of harms way.What I am against is the constant paying for, in some cases time and time again, the rebuilding of homes and businesses in known disaster prone areas.  You want to live in a forest or or on the coast?  You cannot imagine giving up your view of the Oklahoma Plain?  Fine, but you should accept the risk and the consequences of your decision, because disaster in those areas is fairly common and predictable.Why should someone like me, who lives in a relatively safe state, but pays for that with extreme summer heat, have to effectively subsidize those who choose to live on the Jersey Shore, Gulf Coa[...]

Give the Gift of Water... literally!


$100.00.One Benjamin.  A C-note.  One bill.What if I told you that by giving just $100.00, you could change a family’s life?  Would you do it?What if I told you that $100.00 could be the single most important ministry gift you make this year because it could save someones life?  Would you make that donation?And what if I told you that by giving one C-note, you might save a little boy or girl from dying of dehydration?  Would you empty your change jar and instead of turning it into Coinstar, give it to Adventures in Life Ministry?Here’s the newsflash... it’s all true!That’s right.  A single donation of $100.00 to Adventures in Life Ministry, in response to this appeal will literally save lives.Let me explain.More than 10% of all babies born to indigenous women in Mexico will die before they reach five years old.  I have personally heard from many parents that one of the reasons they have so many kids is that they assume at least one child will die young.One of the main reasons for these early deaths is lack of quality water.  Many rural parents lack an ability to buy clean water and often, they are living in an area with no potable water source or sewer system.  That means two things... one, outhouses and two, water from polluted wells near those outhouses.Taken together, this is a recipe for disaster, especially mixed with a lack of quality medical care when your baby does get sick.So, how can you help?With a Sawyer Water Filter. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" src="" width="500"> It really is as simple as that.  A $100.00 donation will help a family in our little corner of Oaxaca, Mexico have a water filter that will literally change their life.  Pastor Chable, with whom I’ve worked for many years told me in March that his family has not been sick since they got their filter in August.  It is the first time in all his life that his family has ever gone 6 months without being sick!Incredible isn’t it?In an age when almost everything we want is at our fingertips here in the United States, our neighbors just to the south are needlessly dying for need of quality water.  And we have within our grasp the ability to change that equation for less than the cost of a few Vente Mochas at Starbucks.Think about it.  Every $100.00 will give us one filter to put into the hands of a family in Oaxaca and help support the ongoing ministry of Adventures in Life and Pastor Chable in this challenging area.Are you able to help us save a life today so that we will have the opportunity tomorrow to share about an eternity with Jesus?  If so, follow this link to our support page and then drop me a line to let us know you are on board.[...]

Through the Looking Glass as Americans Celebrate Up as Down and Down as Up


One mans trash is another mans treasure.  Or, to put it another way, if I like a policy, it's good, if you do, and your politics clash with mine, you're an idiot.That about sums up the mess we call Washington these days.  Especially in regards to the current kerfuffle over Benghazi.It used to be that certain tragedies were just that, tragedies and not some partisan cudgel to be wielded for future political gain.  Administration officials were generally given the benefit of the doubt about “fog of war” incidents and responses.The nation came together under President Reagan when our Marines were bombed in Lebanon in 1983 resulting in 241 deaths.  Even though President Reagan’s Sec. Def. Casper Weinberger warned against putting the Marines on the ground in Lebanon, there was no call for impeachment and no charges of incompetence.No one was calling the incident, and our retreat, a giant government scandal even though this happened in the run up to the 1984 presidential elections.In response to the brutal act of terror that took the lives of our Marines, President Reagan relocated the remaining soldiers off shore on ships to keep them safe and then within a few short months, withdrew them totally.Did we hear a peep from anyone denigrating the quintessential conservative president for retreating even though in a February 1984 radio broadcast days before withdrawing our troops, he stated that Americans “never cut and run” right before we did just that?Did we hear people expressing anger for negotiating with Iranian terrorists when in fact President Reagan did just that, even personally admitting it later?  How about when the Bush Admin was actively negotiating with the Taliban?  Was that scandalous?  Of course not.  It was sound government policy based in the Kissinger model of realpolitik.Up until Barack Obama was elected president, our Commander in Chief was given wide latitude by his political opponents in the areas of foreign policy and leadership of the military.Even when those policies led to unspeakable human tragedy, as was the case in Lebanon, Vietnam and later Afghanistan and Iraq, partisanship was generally left at waters edge or engaged in at your perilWhen Jane Fonda mounted a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft battery in 1972 and was critical of her president and US foreign policy, she was pilloried for being anti-American.  When Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks was critical of the pre war run up to the invasion of Iraq, her career was decimated by Americans demanding to know why she was not being patriotic and supporting our president.And yet when entertainers like Ted Nugent call our president a Nazi and Hank WIlliams Jr. says President Obama hates Americans and essentially state that he is unAmerican, we hear nary a peep from the same voices that slammed people like Fonda and Maines.Clearly, there is a double standard in operation and it looks like this.When it happened on a previous presidents watch, no matter the party, it was a tragedy.  When it happens on President Obama’s watch, it’s because he is, choose one, or all, incompetent, a liar, a communist, a socialist, or just plain stupid.When people were critical of past presidents, they were anti-American, now in some Alice in Wonderland twist of logic, they’ve become patriots.I said earlier that we had not seen this type of behavior before in recent American politics.  I fear that we have left that age behind.  Sadly, the Democrats will be hard pressed to withstand the pressure to respond in kind if and when the GOP finally gets one of their own in the White House again.  Even sadder will be the defense that Dems will mount on behalf of their actions by partisans angered by the foul treatment President Obama received at the hands of the political right.We are a sor[...]

Feliz Cinco de Mayo


(image) Every year as we approach Cinco de Mayo, friends seek me out to ask about Mexican Independence Day and the what Mexicans do to celebrate.   They almost feel let down when I tell them Cinco de Mayo is not about Independence and that most Mexicans will be working.  When I see the what you talkin' about Willis look in their eyes, I take the time to explain.

Cinco de Mayo is the day the Mexican Army, under the direction of General Ignacio Zaragoza defeated the French troops in the Battle of Puebla.  In Mexico, unless you are in Puebla, the day is hardly even mentioned.  It seems as if the hoopla generated by the day here in the US is more a creation of Budweiser than anything else.


The Trashing of America... Is Iron Eyes shedding tears again?


Is it just me?Today I was walking out of Starbucks, a common off site office for me because of their free WiFi.  I had finished my drink and as I exited I started looking for the trash can.And that is when it hit me.There weren’t any!I was reminded of a recent stop at an interstate McDonald’s.  On my way in to use the restroom and pick up another $1.00 soda, I wanted to throw away some trash.  Again, there was no trashcan to be found anywhere near the entrance or in the parking lot.I’ve been looking around lately and asking my friends about this in a sort of unscientific research.  Here’s what I am seeing.Some of America’s largest food retailers are slowly but surely eliminating outside trashcans.  Years ago I managed in the fast food business.  As a young guy working for Carl’s Jr, I emptied many of those giant outside trashcans.  It was not fun nor was it easy.  But Carl, yes that Carl, I knew him and his kids, insisted that we empty them everyday to keep the parking lot clean and inviting for our guests.All I can figure out is that today’s generation of food retailer big shots have loaded in some kind of algorithm and determined that they can save a buck a day in labor costs for every trashcan eliminated from outside their stores.Pretty short-sighted if you ask me. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420">Many folks of my generation will remember Iron Eyes Cody in the old commercial saying we can stop pollution.  One of the biggest helps in that battle was easy access to places where we could dump our trash.Are we moving away from that ideal in an effort to save a few dollars?Sadly, I am afraid it looks like we are.  But hey, those companies will see a better bottom line and Americans will too in their stocks, mutual funds and retirement accounts.Even if we are once again shedding tears at the sight of trash blowing across the American landscape.[...]

Spring in Oaxaca... while teachers protest, kids are left behind...


Scene from 2006 teacher protestsIf it is spring, it must be time for the annual teacher strikes in Oaxaca.  This year instead of descending on the city center, thousands of teachers have made a pilgrimage to Mexico City to voice their displeasure and share their plight.  Others have taken up the call to block highways and generally disrupt life in their attempt to publicize their cause.Each year, as surely as the swallows return to Capistrano or the monarch butterflies descend on Pacific Grove, teachers in Oaxaca organize strikes, marches, demonstrations and protests, disrupting life across the state.And each year, thousands of children in one of the most impoverished states in the country are deprived of good quality education as these teachers leave their communities and classrooms to take part in the annual protests.Yet you will never hear that from the teachers.They will never tell you about parents that must leave kids alone at home because class has been canceled.  They will never tell you how far behind Roberto and Julia are in their studies because their teachers decided to take another day or week off of classes to protest.  And they will never tell you that many teachers in Oaxaca have never received any formal training to be a teacher.They won’t tell you these things because it does not serve their purpose.If you travel, as I have, in the villages of Oaxaca and talk to the parents, they are fed up with the powerful teachers unions.  How, they ask, can their kids get an education if you never know when a teacher will show up?  The frequency of the teacher strikes and the demands of the union leadership for participation in those strikes are not helping solve the education challenges in Oaxaca.  They are exacerbating it.Teaching in Oaxaca is not easy and at some point, people reach a boiling point as they did in 2006, almost bringing down the state government of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz.  For a good look at that fateful time, watch the documentary "Un Poquito de Tanto Verdad."  I was there and can tell you, while this movie has a bias, it rings true and is pretty accurate. I get that wages are low for teachers.  I understand that many of the schools are pretty crappy.  I’ve been in some of those tin walled rooms on hot days in Oaxaca and it isn’t pretty.  I can tell you from experience how hard it is for a family to buy the necessary uniforms and supplies for their kids to attend school.Many of the schools in Oaxaca are miles away from the people or, if they are close by, lack the basic necessities like electricity and running water.  In some areas school is taught by video satellite and discipline is enforced by a different untrained parent each day.  The challenges that are faced with educating population groups that grow up speaking indigenous languages and have no written alphabet are legion.But teachers walking out of classes to get the attention of the government officials is not the solution.  The only people hurt by this shortsighted strategy are the children the teachers claim to be helping.The teachers union, known locally in Oaxaca as Seccion 22, APPO, and the government of Gabino Cue must find a way to solve the educational crisis in Oaxaca in a way that benefits everyone.  Ignoring the teachers, refusing to negotiate and walking out on classes and leaving thousands of children behind to somehow educate themselves is not the answer.  Grow up people, Oaxaca, her children and her future are depending on you![...]

Mezcal! Understanding the new hippest drink in America…


I watched as the young man, hoping to one day be called a maestro mezcalero waited nervously.  He’d come to In Situ, the mecca of mezcalerias where Ulises Torrentera, the Godfather of Mezcal in Oaxaca, holds court daily in his quest to show off the finest mezcals in Oaxaca.Ulises Torrentera at In Situ, OaxacaAnd here he was offering a taste to this modern day romantic and Diego Rivera lookalike.  As Ulises tasted, he asked questions before offering his verdict.For many Americans, the idea of mezcal conjures up images of Clint Eastwood in one of those old spaghetti westerns with a cigarette in one hand and a worm-laden bottle in the other.  But as Ulises explains, those days are long gone as mezcal is starting to take its rightful place among the worlds great spirits as it emerges from the shadows of its cousin, the better known tequila.Mezcal, an intoxicating drink that can immediately transport you to a place of incredible memories is quickly becoming a spirit trend-setter in United States cities like Seattle and Chicago.  Part of the reason for this is the wide variety of mezcal that is being distilled across Mexico, but primarily in the southern state of Oaxaca.I recently sat down with Ulises to learn what makes him tick and see what I could learn about this great drink, for as my friend Paco Garcia says “Oaxaca is mezcal and mezcal is Oaxaca”, or as he explained it, “David, you cannot understand Oaxaca until you understand mezcal!”In a wide ranging interview that went from terroir [it’s vitally important] to his desire as a young child to be a writer we started with the early history of mezcal.Mezcal… a look backMezcal as we know it has existed for over 400 years despite the insistence of some that it has become an overnight success.  Discovered and distilled originally by the indigenous people of Mexico, mezcal has lived a checkered past.L to R: Ulises Torrentera, Dave Miller and Paco GarciaFor a while mezcal suffered the type of persecution more familiar to spirits in the neighbor to the north. Accused of being responsible for all types of evil, perhaps its biggest sin was that it was the favored elixir of the poorer classes for their fiestas and celebrations.  The Spanish ruling elite of Mexico laid the blame for everything from childhood ills to local crime, violence and corruption at the feet of mezcal, which naturally led to its prohibition.Fast forward to the mid 1940’s and the industrialization of tequila. Mexico, steeped in its macho culture embraced tequila, tossing aside the poorer cousin mezcal that was often seen as an unrefined drink for the lower classes.It wasn’t until the mid 1950’s that we started to see the modern version of mezcal begin to take shape in an area east of Oaxaca City, known as Matatlán, the Cradle of Mezcal. Brewed in clay and copper pots at local palenques, local mezcaleros the same methods handed down by their forefathers hundreds of years ago when  used then, and still do today, the same methods of distillation used hundreds of years ago by their ancestors.The maguey and processBrewed in clay and copper pots at local palenques, local mezcaleros use the same methods handed down by their forefathers hundreds of years ago when the indigenous people of Mexico discovered that if you distilled the pulp and juices of the maquey and agave cactus you could make a powerful elixir.Once that maguey is harvested it is cooked in essentially an inverted volcanic oven.  It is then treaded out under a millstone before going into wooden vats to ferment.  Next, depending on the mezcalaro, it is distilled a number of times and the bottled for delivery.As Ulises said, this process has remained mostly unchanged over[...]

It's Friday, but Sunday's Comin...


I think I was 19 years old when it happened.I was up at a Christian Camp in the mountains, with my soon to be wife and hundreds of my closest friends.  The place was packed because that particular year, we had someone speaking to us who was unlike anyone else we had ever heard way back in 1978.His name was Tony Campolo and he was to become a larger than life figure for me.Throughout the weekend Tony weaved a call to serve the poor with Jesus call on our lives, admonishing us to do something great for God with our lives.I remember one person shared with him that she wanted to be a doctor in the nice suburban area where she had grown up.  Tony looked right at her and asked why she would want to do that when she could serve the poor and make a real difference.  "There will always be plenty of doctors to serve the haves" he said, "why not help those who can't get to a doctor?"She was devastated by his challenge.I was stunned.For the first time in my young life, the Gospel made practical sense and I made the decision that weekend to give my life to missions and serving the poor.Almost 15 years later, in 1992, along with a friend, I founded Adventures in Life Ministry to do mission work in Mexico.  Add another 20 years on that, and today, the majority of our work in Mexico is centered in the state of Oaxaca, the second poorest state in the country.There is no other way to say this... I am a missionary because God used Tony that weekend and over the years to touch and call me in ways I never expected.At the end of that conference where I first met Tony, he shared his now famous "It's Friday, but Sunday's Comin'" sermon.I think it's appropriate today on Good Friday to take a listen and reflect... allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420">[...]

5 Mezcals Everyone Should Experience... from La Niña de Mezcal...


Most people can't tell the difference between a single malt scotch and some Kentucky bourbons, let alone differentiate between tequila and mezcal, two of the most popular spirits to come out of Mexico.

I recently sat down with La Niña de Mezcal, Master Mezcalera, Cecilia Rios and asked her to give me five mezcals everyone should try... besides her own Award Winning Mezcal from Matalán, Oaxaca.

After a lot of cajoling, here's her list, in no particular order...

Tosba Espadin... made from 10 year old maguey espadin, this is the classic mezcal...

Siete Misterios Arroqueño... partly made in clay pots giving the mezcal a more earthy flavor...

Fidencio Classico... another espadin mezcal from Santiago Matalán...

Marca Negra... from San Luis Del Rio, Oaxaca, Marca Negra makes the list for one of the best bottles in the business...

Finally, number five is a pick 'em... try a shot of mezcal pechuga... for those that speak Spanish, you'll know we are talking chicken breast here... still confused? Follow the link that explains this rare, expensive and as Cecilia told me, required mezcal for anyone serious about understanding this wonderful spirit.

Coffee in a Barrio? Of course... in Oaxaca!


The Church of Saint Matthias in the Barrio JalatlacoCoffee in the barrio? Yes please… When I am in Oaxaca, inevitably, I will be spending time in El Barrio Jalatlaco, the oldest neighborhood in the city.  When I first started coming here back in 1999, good coffee was something desired, but seldom found.Thankfully as this area of the city has started to find it’s personality, it has left behind the vestiges of years of coffee abuse at the hands of Nestle and their ubiquotis brand Nescafé Classico, or as it is known here, No es Café!Now we are seeing a growing coffee and culture in Jalatlaco anchored by Café El Agora, owned by Arnel Cruz, longtime owner of Casa Arnel, a wonderfully quaint bed and breakfast hotel that has been in the area for years.  (Full disclosure, I have stayed at Casa Arnel many times and count the owner Arnel as a friend.]Think of Café El Agora as the gathering place.  Holding court at the corner of Aldama and Hidalgo, Café El Agora has been open a little over two years.  In that time it has gradually increased its menu and is now offering baguettes and breakfast alongside the typical coffee house menu of frappes, lattes and cappuccinos.  Weekends also give you live music in this beautifully designed shop.If an up and coming crowd, live music, coffee and a snack is what you are seeking, this place is for you.Next up is Café Xiguela, located a block away in the shadow of the Church of San Matias.  This is the anti-hip option in Jalatlaco.  It serves up organic coffee and has an extensive tea list.  Small and friendly, Xiguela is only open until the afternoon.The coffee is good, fresh and strong, the way I like it.  Xiguela is quiet and they also offer free Wi Fi, not an option at Café El Agora.With lots of tables, clean restrooms and plenty of snacks to munch on, it’s a great addition to this part of Oaxaca, and if you need to work and connect, it’s perfect.Finally, we take a look at Café Blasón, located kitty corner to Xiguela in Jalatlaco.  This is a small place and it is more like a coffee bar.  In fact with only four tables, their bar is actually filled most nights with people talking to the baristas like they might talk to their local bartender.Now if you’ve been in Mexico for any length of time, you will recognize the Blasón name as one of the more famous Mexican coffee brands.  For years you could only find this brand in local tienditas and supermarkets.  The trouble was, what you found then was not what you would want to drink.  Think dry, bitter and old.But the product that this company store is offering here was remarkably smooth.  I ordered a latte and it was strong, but not overpowering.  Just like I wanted it.  The barista even added a nice little touch of latte art.I went back a few days later and ordered a half kilo of their coffee and it made a great, smooth pot of coffee.So here’s the deal… you just want coffee?  Go to Café Blasón.  Looking for a quiet place to work while getting some great organic Oaxacan coffee? Head over to Café Xiguela.  And if you are on a date or maybe want a late night snack for cena, you can’t go wrong at Café El Agora.All three are within a block of each other in the Barrio Jalatlaco, the oldest corner of Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, Mexico.  And all three are, in their own right, adding a few distinctive touches to the growing reputation of Oaxacan gastronomy and cuisine.[...]

The Republican Party... 2013


When is enough enough?

After Barack Obama was elected president, we were treated to a barrage of e-mails of black face pictures, caricatures of the president and his wife as monkeys and many other assorted veiled racially tinged attempts at humor.

The common thread in all of these was that the people sending them were associated with the Republican Party at either federal, state or local levels.

What was also common was that we never heard from our nationally elected GOP leaders a word of real condemnation. Never once did we hear them step to a bank of microphones and declare what most people knew... that these attacks were not politically motivated, but rather racially motivated.

Put simply, President Barack Obama and his wife were not being caricatured because of their political stances, but because of the color of their skin.

You don't like a politicians stance on an issue, that's fair game, but in 2013, we should not be seeing the kinds of racial political stunts that were common in a less enlightened era.  But perhaps that is to be expected in a country that has a rich history of racial tension and animus.

Which brings us to todays little ditty, pictured above... courtesy of the Chairperson of the Republican Party of Yellowstone County in Montana, Jennifer Olsen.  Now I am certain that in a day or two Ms. olsen will make a heartfelt apology, claiming she is not racist and was just passing along what she thought was a funny little joke.

But really, would this picture have tickled her fancy if the president was white?

And so I ask, at what point will the national leaders of the GOP step up to the plate and publicly condemn this type of behavior? At what point will they go beyond the "It's a local issue" and "I would not have done that" boilerplate responses and call this what it is... a pure and blatant example of racial politics from a Republican leader?

For weeks since the election last November, we've heard GOP leaders saying they will not win elections being, as Bobby Jindal put it, the party of stupid.  And for weeks, the rank and file state and local leaders have kept right on going, with nary a word from John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Linsey Graham or anyone else.

After the US was attacked on 9/11, many in the GOP dominated Congress and Senate asked why moderate Muslims remained silent as the more militant branches of Islam struck time and time again in cowardly terroristic attacks across Afghanistan and Iraq.

Right-wing bloggers joined in the chorus along with many FOX television personalities to say that a reluctance of moderates to be critical of extremist Islam signaled acceptance and agreement with what the terrorists were doing.

To them, there were no moderate Muslims.

Isn't it fair to judge the current national Republican Party by the same standards?

You tell me?

Remembering my Dad...


My son Joseph, me, my dad and my oldest brother GlennHe was a hard man to get to know.Stories and information never came easily to him.  He kept his own counsel and preferred to not look back, come hell or high water.  One of his favorite sayings when I was a kid.If you asked the right questions, you got the answer you so desperately were seeking, but that was the tricky part with him.  Knowing what to ask.  Maybe that’s where I got it from.He was a classic from his era.  I remember him at the barbecue years ago.  It was one of those brazier types.  You know the type... round grill, mottled silver wind shade.  He would cook in his khaki colored pants and a white undershirt.  Burgers usually, but every once in a while, steak.He was World War Two vet, a veteran of the tanker wars, on which he sailed.  After the war those Merchant Marine sailors were not considered real vets.  They sailed in service of our country, took fire, and in many cases died for the cause at the hands of Hitler’s U-Boats, but it was not until the Clinton Administration that our government righted a wrong and conferred veteran status on these brave men, but you had to apply for it.He never did.  Too much work, besides, he knew what he did as a bridge officer on those massive ships and didn’t want a fuss made.  Seems old fashioned these days.He wasn’t real good in marriage, probably because he wasn’t a real open guy.  Maybe you have to see the opening of Saving Private Ryan to know why.  Some people have seen stuff so bad they prefer to keep the doors to emotions closed.  It’s safer that way.In all my life I saw him cry only once, when his grandmother died and his brother sang How Great Thou Art at her funeral.But he made me cry a lot.  He was a hard man, sometimes awfully so.  He was from another era.  In his day if you behaved badly, you weren’t sent to time out, you got the crap beat out you... literally, and that was how he raised his kids.  That was how he raised me.  But he had a heart.I remember when he told me he and mom were getting a divorce.  That didn’t happen alot back in the early 1970’s.  I was really broken up and couldn’t stop crying.  As a 13 year old boy, my world was crumbling.  He took me in his arms and held me for hours as I cried, telling me it would be alright.  It was one of the best moments of my life with my dad.Early this morning my dad passed away, on his terms, just as he lived his life.  He was in his house, in his own bed, having avoided the dreaded hospital, nursing home, care center and countless unnecessary doctor bills.As he aged, he mellowed, becoming more reflective and the stories started to come out.Diving from the deck of his tanker off the coast of Iran to cool off in 110 degree days.  Getting his jobs at Union Oil and later the Los Angeles Times.  Working as a candy salesman for his father-in-law.  Fishing trips to the Salton Sea or the Colorado River.  He would sit in his chair and just tell me stuff.  I didn’t even have to ask anymore.  Maybe sensing the end was near, he had no reason to hold back.  But we could also just sit quietly together, content to be in each others company.  That I’ll miss.  Rest in Peace DadDonald Treat MillerJune 9, 1924 - January 31, 2013[...]

Tlayudas Done Right... San Jacinto Amalpas, Oaxaca


The tlayuda sometimes spelled clayuda, is a handmade traditional Mexican dish consisting of a large, thin, crunchy, partially fried or toasted tortilla covered with a spread of refried beans, asiento, lettuce or cabbage, avocado, meat, Oaxacan cheese and salsa. But the above description from Wikipedia is like saying Willie Mays was just a baseball player, Josh Grobin just a singer or Michael Phelps just a swimmer.  They are all technically true, but woefully miss the mark in explaining true greatness.You see, when it’s done right, the traditional tlayuda is more than just a Mexican dish, it is one of the anchors of the gastronomical galaxy known as Oaxaca.The tlayuda is an all star baseball player, an award winning singer and a multiple Olympic gold medal winner all in one.  And if you ever find yourself in Oaxaca, you need to get a taxi right away and head over to Tlayudas San Jacinto.When you arrive the outside is going to worry you if you don’t typically eat off the beaten track in Mexico.  It’s just an opening in a residential area with blue steel doors and a banner that tells you the place has a good, clean atmosphere.  Yet, as soon as you walk in, you realize you are somewhere special, like an enchanted garden.  Lots of greenery, bamboo like plants, umbrellas and a rich almost tropical feel.  It is as if you could sit there all day, and you can because once you walk in, you are treated like family.  There’s even a playground if you bring the kids.The menu is simple and hangs from the ceiling.  Tlayudas.  Pick your topping.  Beef, pork, ribs, skirt steak or eggs from the grill.  Add your drink, soda or beer, and you’re all set.Once we ordered, it took about 15 minutes for our food to arrive.And here’s what you get.  A gigantic fired roasted quesadilla like creation stuffed with cheese, black beans and finished with your desired topping.  I had the eggs, which came perfectly fried hard.  Now, I’ve had lots of tlayudas around Oaxaca, but this one was different, because the tortilla was cooked to perfection.When I picked it up, there was no sag at all.  This wonderful creation was crispy through and through, the result of just the right amount of time over the coals.  The beans were not over the top and there was just the right amount of that great Oaxaca string like cheese, quesillo.Once I added avocado, chepiche, a Oaxacan herb, and a some roasted chile de aqua, it was off the charts wonderful.Now, I’ve got to tell you, this place can be hard to find.  It’s in the Colonia San Jacinto but it is not along the row of the other locations that sell tlayudas.  Look for the San Jacinto signs that call you to this little slice of heaven in Oaxaca and prepare yourself to fall in love with this all star of Oaxacan cuisine, maybe for the first time, or all over again.Tlayudas San JacintoColonia San Jacinto AmilpasCalle Benito Juarez #11 Tlayuda and a soda... $6.00 con una cerveza… $8.00[...]

Government Socialism... I'm shocked, shocked I tell ya...


When is Socialism bad?Apparently when it’s the other guys Socialism.Here’s what I mean.Since the day he was elected, President Obama has been pilloried by center right partisans as hell-bent on making America a socialistic third world country, as opposed to the free market capitalistic juggernaut our founding fathers supposedly envisioned.Obama the logic goes, wants to see everyone dependent on government so that the government can control them and save them from their inability to make good and right decisions.  It is his desire, unsaid, but certainly evident as some claim, to crush the rugged individualistic spirit that has defined America for many years and replace it with a governmental “nanny state.”We have been told that if government gets too involved in the lives of the people, freedom will evaporate, we will cease to work hard and then we’ll just take up a chair on the front porch waiting for the next subsidy check to come via the US Mail.When government intervenes fiscally on behalf of the people, instead of the people accepting responsibility for their own lives, this is socialism.  Or so we have been told by many on the conservative right.  We should, at every turn, reject this socialism, because it is bad.But let me ask this… if government aid for the individual, who can just get a job and work hard is socialism, what is government aid to corporations that are reaping record profits at a time when America’s deficit is bursting?If a government handout to an individual causes him or her to not accept the reality of bad decisions in life, don’t corporate subsidies shield businesses across America from the same responsibilities of bad decisions?Why is it that when it comes to defining who is the evil socialist in the room, seemingly only President Barack Obama is guilty?Is it because he, along with President George Bush ordered the US government to intervene on behalf of two corporations, Chrysler and GM, saving them from near certain bankruptcy?Because if subsidizing poorly run corporations is evidence of evil socialism, then surely all of the politicians and Americans decrying the potential end of US Government subsidies for the dairy, farm and petroleum industries would qualify too, wouldn’t they?You see, Americans love socialism, when it benefits them, or more accurately, us.In the recently past Presidential elections, candidate Romney was partially derailed by his famous 47% comments that implied a high percentage of Americans had become takers.My fear is that the percentage is closer to 100% than we care to admit. To demonize one politician or another, or one class of people over another with the charge of socialism, is just our discomfort with admitting that reality and blatant partisanship, devoid of an attitude that is truly seeking solutions. [...]

A New Look at Some Classic Scripture... the twisted mind of James Martin...


From Jesuit priest James Martin...Enjoy...The Smart Samaritan1. Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 2. Jesus said to him, "What is written in the Law? What do you read there?" He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." 3. And Jesus said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live." 4. But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"5. Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers. Fortunately, the man from Jerusalem was no fool and was carrying a big wooden club. So he beat the robbers senseless. Just then, a Samaritan came by to help him. 6. The man said to the Samaritan, "Don't worry. They got what they deserved." Later, though, the robbers' friends waylaid the man. Together they had four clubs, so they beat up the man from Jerusalem. 7. Immediately the Samaritan, who had now learned a lesson, ran away, and sold his field, and with the money he purchased ten clubs. 8. The Samaritan armed his entire family, including his wives, his sons, his slaves and all his cattle and sheep. Among his heavily armed family was his elder son, who was angry at his father for not treating him as well his younger brother, who had spent all his money on loose living and had returned and was given a feast." 9. "Lord, I'm getting confused," said the lawyer. "Weren't we talking about being a good neighbor?"10. "Let me finish," said Jesus. "The father knew that his son was angry, and potentially dangerous, so the father purchased an even bigger club that he hid under his bed. 11. That night, when father was asleep, the son came to father to apologize for being envious. The father, thinking it was a robber, hit him over the head. 12. Now which of these three, do you think, was a wise person?" said Jesus. 13. The lawyer said, "Actually, none of them. If the father hadn't brought those weapons into his house, then no one would have gotten hurt." Jesus was grieved at the lawyer's blindness. 14. "You're missing the point." Jesus said. "It's a violent world out there, and my advice is to purchase as many clubs as you can." The lawyer was sad, for he was a peaceful man. 15. "Lord," he said, "are you saying I should be like the Samaritan who has a houseful of weapons?" "Yes," said Jesus. "Go and do likewise. And while you're at it, buy me a club too."Read the rest of his re-imagined parables...[...]

GOP Whiffs... is the conservative movement in collapse?


The last month or so has not been kind to the Republican Party.Starting with an election they could have won, the GOP has had as much political competence as Barney Fife did with his one bullet in the fictional setting of Mayberry USA.All they had to do to defeat President Barack Obama was nominate a candidate who could seem at ease with common folk and was not afraid to be critical of some of the ways the party has treated minorities in the past.Instead, they put forth an auto-matron who was about as comfortable in his own skin as one of those guys in Disney’s Hall of Presidents.  Come to think of, most of those robots seem more life like than did Mitt Romney.This, along with some less than stellar Senate and Congressional candidates got them spanked pretty hard on November 6.Elections.  Strike 1.As we inched closer to the so-called fiscal cliff, essentially a self-imposed deadline to come up with a plan to address a growing federal deficit, they dropped the ball again.Mitch McConnell, trying to embarrass the Dems, as opposed to actually trying to legislate, decided to hold a vote on the pending debt ceiling.  This was a naked political stunt, and everybody knew it, but that did not dissuade McConnell, who is forever looking for ways to legislate gotchas, instead of actual policy. allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420"> But a funny thing happened on the way to the vote.  Apparently Senator Mitch missed an episode of School House Rock.  If he had seen it, he would have known you needed a majority to get a bill passed.  Seemingly unfazed, or unaware of this little requirement, he forged ahead, only to find out late he did not have the votes.So what does Senator Mitch do?  Does he admit defeat?  No. He filibusters [a polite way of saying thanks, but no thanks to a bill] his own bill.  That’s right, he uses a stall tactic to essentially kill his own bill because he cannot get it passed.But Senator McConnell is small potatoes compared to the debacle Republican House Speaker John Boehner presided over last night.  Boehner you might recall has been “locked” in negotiations with President Obama over this fiscal cliff issue.  At some point he got frustrated and decided he, and the House of Representatives needed a backup plan, should those negotiations fail.  A sort of Plan B, if you will.Sadly, it appears our Speaker was with Senator McConnell when they ditched the showing of that School House Rock video, because he too forgot that you need a majority of votes to pass a bill.And so last night, Speaker Boehner, after his Plan B failed in his own party, turned out the lights on Congress and sent everyone home for the holidays, because the GOP would not support raising taxes on a few, to benefit the great majority of Americans.Legislating. Strike 2.Which brings us to this morning and the amazing press conference by NRA President and spokesman Wayne LaPierre.Mr. LaPierre said earlier this week, after the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut that the NRA was ready to offer “meaning contributions” to the ongoing dialogue about gun control and gun access in the United States.After numerous other shootings around the country, the NRA has typically followed a strategic formula that called for lying low a few days and then issuing a statement that said essentially that “now was not the time for any type of discus[...]

The Susan Rice Nomination... another failing grade for Washington...


Finally a grownup has emerged in Washington.  Too bad she isn’t part of Congress and as such, is unable to help us avoid the fast approaching fiscal cliff.  No, the person I am talking about is not some powerful Senator or Congressman.The person I am talking about is UN Ambassador Susan Rice.Susan Rice for those of you who don’t live for politics as a hobby, was President Obama’s first choice to become Secretary of State when Hillary Clinton steps down in a few weeks.I say was because yesterday Susan Rice stepped up and did what a diplomat should do.  She analyzed the situation before her and made a decision that was based on what she thought was in the best interests of the United States.She took her name out of the running for the position, saying her nomination would lead to a battle royale in the politics of the Senate, where she must be confirmed, and in so doing, proved that she is clearly a better person than either President Barack Obama or the John McCain cabal that was clearly out to get her.Here’s the back-story.On Tuesday, September 11, one of our diplomatic outposts, in Libya, was attacked by what we now know to be terrorists.  In the attack and the aftermath, 4 Americans were tragically killed.On the following Sunday, five days later, UN Ambassador Susan Rice went on national television and told the American people what the intelligence community believed was correct about the attack at that time.  It turns out, the information she was given, and that she repeated, was wrong. And because of this, because she said on national television something that was later found to be incorrect, she was deemed unqualified by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham.What was Susan Rice’s response to this?  She has said that she was sharing the assessment of the intelligence community, which included the CIA and the Director of National Security.  In effect, she was stating on all of those Sunday political talk shows what the intelligence community believed to be true.And for that, the political right has vilified her.But let’s not leave President Barack Obama out of this.  If he believed she was being treated unfairly, and judging from his post election presser that he did, he should have defended her.  Instead, without a formal nomination, and the administration behind her, Rice was hung out to dry by her friend, President Obama and left to twist in the wind.    Ambassador Rice saw the writing on the wall.  She correctly ascertained that President Obama was not going to wage a fight for her, and that Sens. McCain and Graham were prepared to block her nomination.  She was in a no win position and she knew it.Despite the fact that Susan Rice has been one of our best leaders in the State Department, serving two administrations, despite her having served on the National Security Council, and despite a sterling education that includes a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford, Susan Rice had been deemed unqualified to be Secretary of State.It was only a few years back that Secretary Powell, Secretary Rumsfeld and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice told us that we had to attack Iraq and Saddam Hussein because that country had amassed a cache of WMD’s that made America vulnerable.We soon learned, after thousands of Americans died in that war that in fact the intelligence was wrong.  We believed it to be right, as did many others around the wo[...]

2012... Marking the death of three great musical innovators...


They say it comes in threes.  If that's true, then the death this week of Indian music legend Ravi Shankar ends the trend, at least for this year.You see, 2012 will go down as the year that the music world lost not just three talented gifted performers, because many more were lost that fit that category.  No, 2012 will forever be known as the year that we lost three of the greatest innovators ever in music.The deaths this year not only of Ravi Shankar but last week of jazz legend Dave Brubeck and earlier this year of bluegrass pioneer Earl Scruggs are the marks of the end of an age.Each of these three, in their own way, forever changed the music scene.If you like listening to world music, thank Ravi Shankar, who along with former Beatle George Harrison did much to show that there was a lot of great music that was not just centered around guitars, drums, rock and roll, the US and Britain.  Shankar, the father of Norah Jones played the sitar, an instrument foreign to the west before he came along and made it popular. Dave Brubeck was a master of time.  A great jazz pianist, Brubeck was not content to rest on the status quo.  At a time when most music followed a certain beat and time, think 4/4 or 3/4, Brubeck wasted that idea and soon we had music being played in 6/4, 7/8 and even 9/8 time.  Trust me here, if you've never played music, you have no idea how hard those beats are.  He was a genius.Finally, Earl Scruggs was beyond compare.  I heard one of his contemporaries state that after Earl, there is nothing to learn about the banjo.  And no one will ever play it the same.  Earl Scruggs made the banjo cool with his distinctive three finger picking style.  Perhaps best known for The Ballad of Jed Clampett, Earl Scruggs brought bluegrass music into the mainstream when he joined Lester Flatt and the Foggy Mountain Boys.Each of these men were great musicians.  But the mark of an innovator is a legacy that lives on.  Shankar, Brubeck and Scruggs can all lay claim to being forces that changed music for generations.Who knows when we will see a trio of innovators such as these again who have meant so much musically to so many people around the world.Here are performances by each of these great artists... Earl Scruggs, Dave Brubeck and Ravi Shankar.Enjoy... allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420"> allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420"> allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420">[...]

Pass me a taco... getting my fill at The Taste of Mexico in Los Angeles...


I was recently in Los Angeles helping a friend of mine who is an executive with the MultiCultural Cooking Network.

Our "job" was to cover The Taste of Mexico event held at Vibiana's, a wonderful old church that has been converted to an event space in downtown Los Angeles.  This is an annual event that brings together some of the best Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles for a night of incredible gastronomy.

Tacos, tortas, mole, sopes, chiles en nogada, seafood and even kosher Mexican food from Chef Katsuji Tanabe of Mexikosher... it was all on display here, held together by some great mariachi music, and of course tequila.

This was Mexican food Los Angeles style where authenticity is king.  No Tex-Mex or yellow cheese here covering up the wonderful tastes of the chiles, spices and flavors of Mexico.  All of the founders of this event, each of them from Mexico and who return home frequently to spot new trends and recipes, are aiming for that "authentic" taste you'll find only as you travel in Mexico.

Take it from me, as one who spends considerable time visiting our neighbors to the south, if you can't get there, the restaurants represented at The Taste are the next best thing.

Here are a couple of videos from the event, you can't taste the food, but hopefully you'll get the flavor!

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