Friday, March 30, 2007

Violent kids

I used to think that the idea that people, even kids, would ever transfer extreme violence from tv or a movie into real life was crazy - surely people understand that entertainment is fiction, containing no true consequences. But when 10-year-olds are accused of assaulting a homeless man with a concrete block, beating him so badly that he needed reconstructive surgery, I have to finally give in and believe that the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the rest of the organizations listing the detrimental effects of viewing violence must be onto something.

My sister recently pointed out that even during kids shows, commercials for the news depict graphic violence, made all the more frightening for children by the fact that it's local - happening in their very city. I'm not sure what to do about the ads but I'd love some ideas.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Educated electorate

The truth of politics is probably unfortunately like electing homecoming queen where popularity is the most important factor. But what if, instead of letting the media decipher our elected representatives for us, we looked at the meat of the matter - their voting records? It's oh, so easy (just be sure to look at the synopsis of the bill - titles often don't accurately represent content):

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Fast Slow Food

In a rare but recurring series, I'm trying to note times when I eat something that could be considered Slow Food but took no time to prepare. Last night, I got home late from a class (Excel - really exciting stuff) and toasted a couple of slices of whole wheat bread from a loaf my mom made, topped them with a couple of slivers of blue cheese and ate them with slices of pear.

Granted, little of this is local but the cheese is from a small dairy so I count it, and the whole meal was light, healthful and fast.

Obama on C-Span

I never think to listen to C-Span so it was pure luck that I happened to tune in today just as Obama was speaking. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a clip of it on C-Span's Web site - too bad because he summed up the anti-war movement perfectly with his tone and approach.

Obama was speaking on an amendment that would increase funding for veteran affairs to achieve a variety of goals, particularly reducing the ratio of advocates to vets and providing better mental health care to our vets.

Apparently, the current ratio of advocates to vets is 50:1. This means that one advocate is responsible for ushering 50 vets through the red tape maze that is our government's system for "helping" vets. The discussion about Walter Reed has certainly brought to light the tremendous loads of paperwork our vets have to complete in order to receive treatment and the many hoops they have to jump through in order to locate the correct paperwork - and all of this on top of whatever maladies they suffered due to their time at war, be it post traumatic stress disorder or an amputated body part.

Walter Reed has also amplified the discussion of mental health care for vets. Anyone who has had less than stellar mental health at any point in their lives can tell you that "sucking it up" just doesn't work. While that's fine for plenty of minor physical ills, our brains are incredibly powerful and once they're out of whack, brains start to work against themselves, making the road to recovery even more difficult. And yes, I do speak from experience - I spent many years in therapy and on anti-depressants after being attacked more than 10 years ago - and this was in America, with family and friends who did everything they could to support my healing, and parents who were willing to pay out-of-pocket for all my mental healthcare needs. I can't imagine the added trauma of having to battle the system on top of needing to recover.

Obama also pointed out that though women are performing incredibly dangerous missions in Iraq (his example was driving a truck in Baghdad), their role is marginalized and therefore their post-service treatment is also marginalized. The same PTSD treatment that works for men may not work for women and yet we're treating them identically.

Obama said all this with the interjection that he hopes our Congress does its work to get us out of Iraq as soon as possible - a beautiful juxtaposition demonstrating how supporting the troops goes hand-in-hand with opposing the war.

No one's spitting on soldiers...

... at least for the reason you might think. Rob sent me this link last week and I just kept forgetting to post it, but now seems like a great time in light of the below post. Apparently, a Syracuse woman spit on a soldier and everyone got their panties in a wad thinking (understandably) that it was some Vietnam-throwback horrible anti-war gesture. But in her court statement, she said the spitting came from a more personal place. Apparently a friend of hers stationed at nearby Fort Drum was rude to her on the phone so she lashed out at the closest Fort Drum G.I. she could find...
She deserves whatever punishment 2nd degree harassment charges bring but this is one way the parallels between Vietnam and the Iraq war just don't line up.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Counter-protester piece in the N&R

I am a level-headed enough person to know a couple of things: 1) The truth most often lies in the gray areas between extremes 2) There are extremists in every movement.

That said, I can't argue that Kevin Farris' account of the March on the Pentagon was factually incorrect. It's theoretically possible that some idiot on the anti-war side yelled something as horrible as "baby killer". It is likely that another moron wrote something on his/her blog about defacing the Vietnam Wall.

But I neither witnessed any such behaviors and every mention of any member of the military, currently and in the past, was spoken with respect.

I also stood side-by-side with a man in his '60s and bemoaned the few extremist anti-war protesters who carried riot shields and confronted the police on the bridge to the Pentagon, just past the March's ending point. "That's not what this is supposed to be about," he said. Everyone else I spoke with would have said the same.

See points 1 and 2.

Roanoke's food spy

Masoud, of Zaytoon fame, was kind enough to point David Tenzer out to me when he was scouting a piece for The Roanoker. As it turns out, David is an attorney by day, food writer by weekend. When I ran into him, he was sampling his way through the Greensboro Farmers' Curb Market. It seems he found a lot to like in the Greensboro food scene - read his glowing review here.

Ed and isms

I have written a time or two about how taboo can stifle problem solving and general discourse about domestic abuse. In his column yesterday, The last taboo in politics, Ed Cone points out some more reasons why maintaining taboos stifles discourse - in this case, as they pertain to religion in politics.

While Ed makes some great points about limiting our knowledge of religions other than our own (or our own lack thereof), it was his look at atheism that really caught my eye - talk about a final frontier in politics! I'd be willing to bet that if a candidate of a religion considered fringy by much of mainstream America - a category which could include anything from Mormonism to Scientology - were pitted against an atheist, the person of religion would win.

The reason sounds silly when spelled out but mainstream America seems to believe that a person cannot have a moral guideline without one being provided by religion. I know, it's silly. To think that most of us (barring sociopaths who, by definition, have no moral compass) couldn't figure out that murder, infidelity, stealing or any of the other big 10 sins are wrong for the simple reason that they are just wrong, with no fear of supernatural punishment or even disappointment, is just silly.

Versions of the Golden Rule - do unto others as you would have done unto you - appear in virtually every major religion not because the gods of each religion had a chat and decided to share but because people throughout time and across cultures have been able to deduce that treating people with kindness and consideration is just good policy.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Reader mail

I expected some people to respond angrily to my last column, but got a special treat when Charles Davenport, Sr., who I can only assume is the father of our esteemed columnist Charles Davenport, Jr., wrote me this scathing email:

Sarah Beth,

Perhaps you should stick to baking cookies.

Google Tokyo Rose, Hanoi Jame, Ramsey Clark, Benedict Arnold and other traitors. "Demonstrating" against the troops during a time of war is called giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Treason. Back before the fatal illness of political correctness took over this nation, we had ways of dealing with traitors. Again, see Tokyo Rose.

My Country, Right or Wrong, but My Country.
Generally, I don't post reader mail but this was just too good. The apple certainly didn't fall far from the tree in that family. In fairness, my response:


You may be willing to let a corrupt administration destroy all that makes America the greatest country in the world. You may be willing to kiss your liberties goodbye, to see our good reputation tarnished by a moral-free war, to see America go from compassionate to bully, all in the name of “My country, right or wrong.” In this, you are putting the president, a transitory figure in America’s history, above the good of the country itself; you are putting partisan, fundamentalist politics over the good of our democracy! And you call yourself a patriot?

As I said in my column, the demonstration in which I participated was led by Iraqi vets. Men and women who served our country in this farce of a war are standing up to say, “Our lives are more important than the president’s quest for oil and ongoing revenue,” and I stand with those vets. And I will march with them wherever they go.

Back before the “illness of political correctness,” we lived in a country with “separate but equal” schools for people of color, women couldn’t vote and polio was crippling our children. You may long for the good old days; I am more interested in America’s future and our progress toward the ideals our founders set forth in the Constitution.

At a time like this, with an administration as corrupt at the Bush administration, dissent is the highest of patriotic acts. In the face of this terrifying administration, your barely-veiled threat means nothing to me.

But hey, that's part of why this country rocks: he can spew his vitriol just as I do mine. Of course I believe I'm right - but I also believe it is his right to be wrong as loudly as he wants, on whatever platform he chooses.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

We, the people

This piece was first published in the News & Record on March 21, 2007 in what is the first Jones & Jones creative endeavor - Rob took the accompanying photo. For more of his photos, from the march and beyond, visit his blog, Life through the Rectangle.

For most of my life, I believed that patriotism was at best an American flag bumper sticker on a Suburban and at worst a concept people like Oliver North wrap themselves in to defend indefensible actions.

But I have watched President Bush dismantle our civil rights in the name of security and I have attempted the perplexing math in which billions of dollars are spent on the war each week though our troops have neither the equipment they need on the battleground nor the services they deserve upon their return. And I have come to realize that patriotism, at least as it applies to the United States, means being willing to defend the Constitution when those elected to do so seem more inclined to shred it.

In that way, I suppose I should thank the President for helping me understand that the rights of American citizenship are not just a privilege but also a responsibility. “We, the people” is not simply a pretty turn of phrase but a reminder that the ultimate check to the power of our three branches of government lies with you and me and our willingness to tell our elected officials, even the President, when enough is enough.

This past Saturday, my husband, Rob, and I drove through the snow as it piled on the shoulders of Virginia’s highways to join tens of thousands of protesters in saying that enough has long been enough, echoing the sentiment written on so many picket signs: I love my country but I am ashamed of my government.

We walked past the White House en route to the meeting spot at Constitution Gardens. There, a stage was constructed with the loudspeakers pointed away from the Vietnam Wall in order to maintain the solemnity of the memorial. Still, from where we stood the sounds of America were clear: reggae, Mamba, hip-hop and Vietnam-era protest songs, music that reflected the diversity of those who took to the streets chanting “This is what democracy looks like,” and “Support our troops. Bring them home.”

Also assembled were hundreds of counter-protesters, most in black bikers’ leathers, many wearing the insignia of Vietnam veterans. Rob and I marveled that a population so abused by our government would continue to defend it, even as it repeats the same mistreatment with a new generation of military men and women. The counter-protesters held signs that read “Peace through strength,” and “Al-Qaida appeasers on parade.” They took pot-shots at our patriotism without seeming to realize that each step we took toward the Pentagon was in support of the Iraqi vets and their families who led the march, as well as the many members of the military who continue to risk their lives overseas for a war we know to be founded on lies, a war that has inspired, not diminished, worldwide terrorism.

Like many of the people who drove hundreds of miles to exercise their Constitutional rights, neither Rob nor I are pacifists. But we do believe that war should be a last resort, never embarked upon lightly or with frivolity, and never, ever for the sole purpose of profit.

What does democracy look like? The Constitution held aloft by thousands of angry citizens; 12-year-olds holding signs that read “Teens for Peace”; black-hooded protesters in orange jumpsuits defending the rights of detainees they will likely never meet; Vietnam vets fighting on opposite sides of a picket line but for the same men and women of our military.

This is what democracy looks like.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Support our troop, the legislative version

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has released its 2007 Legislative Agenda and sure enough, there's no mention of distributing yellow magnetic ribbons in the plan. No, this agenda is filled with items that would actually help our troops like a mandated mental health evaluation within 90 days of leaving combat and a new G.I. Bill so that vets can find their futures through education.

Read more about the issues and how you can help move them forward at the IAVA Web site.

This is how we can honor our troops.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Echoes of the march

Though I tried to pay as little attention to the counter-protesters as I could, one moment does continue to echo in my mind. Walking in front of us was an anti-war protester wearing army fatigues - he could easily have been a vet - I didn't ask. A counter-protester heckled him, questioning his manhood... "Do you even know what balls are?" the man said.

But it's not the insult to the protester that bothers me so much. It's that the counter-protester would say such a thing, supposedly in defense of the troops in Iraq, when medical teams on the ground in the Middle East are performing an average of two genital amputations a day on our troops. I wonder how the guys on the tragic end of that scalpel feel about being defended in such a way.

On a lighter note, Rob has posted a bunch more pictures from the march on his blog, Life Through the Rectangle.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

March on the Pentagon

The march today was inspiring and beautiful and full of the best things about America - I don't even begrudge the hundreds of counter-protesters because they were also exercising their constitutional right to gather in public in accordance to their beliefs.

I'm still wrapping my head around the event and uncertain of how to write about it - so much to say but where to begin?!? In the meantime, I'll leave you with a few pictures Rob took today (I'll post a link when he puts more up on his blog). Long live democracy!!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

"Survivor" comments

A woman with the handle "survivor" posted a comment with my December article about the murder of Rebbecca Ann Wilson; I think when a person is brave enough to tell their story, even in this anonymous forum, it's worth bringing to the front of the pack. Survivor wrote:

I never knew her rebecca either but unfortunatley, I knew del ray. about 10 years ago we were a couple for a little over a year. at first he was seemed to be a nice person we had known eachother for a long time. after a few months of dating it was like jekyl and hyde. but i thought i was in love and he was the one (i was young and stupid) i took out a restraining order on him after he beat me and tried to break into my house. he then followed me around for months going to my place of work, school and home and calling all the time and threatening me in ways i dont want to describe. i was in great fear for my life at this time. the system does not take responsiblility for crimes like this. no matter what we try to do to protect ourselves we never really feel safe. i have been watching my back b/c him for years (he didnt stop callig and following me til around 2000 or 2001)and when this terrible tragedy occured my heart broke for this girl and her family. i cant help but wonder if the cops and the judge i spoke to and his probation officer too about what a danger to society he really is (back in 1997-98) if this could have been prevented of they had just locked him up and threw away the key. they should have kept him locked up for violating the order so many time that may have saved this womans life. i wish they would wake up and pay attention to domestic violence! now that he may face execution, i feel that justice, for once, is finally being served. this happens too often to too many innocent women and it needs to stop! god bless rebecca and her children and family. i hope she can rest peacefully knowing that he wont harm any other women or the children involved. but i hope he gets the worst punishment possible for what he did. he is not a sane individual and hasnt been for many years. though i do feel sorry for his parents to a certain degree, they should have got him the help he needed a long time ago. just my opinion. i speak from personal experience (unfortunatley)

Firstly, I'd like to congratulate her for taking the handle "survivor." I think there are plenty of true victims in the world but I also think there are tons of people who choose to be victims because it is easier than the very hard work of healing and because "victim" brings its own twisted kind of attention. But even the act of thinking of oneself as a survivor is a powerful and bold move.

I'd also like to point out that Survivor's story is unfortunately common: the sweet guy turns into a monster then becomes even more erratic and violent once the abusee leaves. In my case, he started by dramatically trying to kill himself in front of me so I had to rush him to the hospital, then he gave me a black eye, then he broke into my house to kill me. The entire time this was going on, he was calling in and checking my phone messages to monitor my life.

The N&R reports that there were 79 domestic violence-related homicide in NC last year. The only good news, the sole silver lining, is that the horrible, preventable deaths have brought the topic to the foreground again and it is from there that we can work toward a solution.

I invite all survivors to tell their story, here, to your friends and coworkers, or anywhere you find a forum: there is power in telling it - power in aiding your own healing and power in keeping the topic in the spotlight in the hopes that someday, there will be no violence left to talk about.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison spoke to a packed house at War Memorial Auditorium last night. Thanks to some finagling from a friend at the N&R, I got into the reception prior to the talk. I love the idea of going to meet-and-greets but always freeze up during the "greet" part... at least, ever since meeting Koko Taylor.

I know, I know: who's Koko Taylor? None other than the Queen Bee of the blues - a favorite of mine for years. She played at the Triad Blues Festival (or whatever it's called) eight or nine years ago, coincidentally when the step-mother of my then-girlfriend was on the board of the Blues Preservation Society. That's how we got backstage passes and that's how I was able to have a conversation with Koko Taylor that went something like:

Me: I think you're wonderful!
Koko: That's nice.

Granted, it was a straight-forward, no irony "that's nice" but it has been a constant reminder that there's really no point in saying anything unless I have something to say. Since then, I have bypassed opportunities to speak with elected officials, a rocker or two and even Gregory Hines shortly before he died - and now Toni Morrison...

Be that as it may, it was a wonderful event. While I'm guessing most of us were expecting a talk about her journey and process as a writer, she instead spoke about Grendel, the monster from Beowulf as a metaphor for why violence is bad, even when directed at evil. She spoke of Beowulf's slaying of Grendel and his mother, the way their blood melted the sword he used, a moment in literature that is often interpreted to mean that they were so evil even their blood was toxic. But Morrison suggested that perhaps the sword melted because killing, even killing them, is such an atrocious act.

Though Morrison offered this as a generally anti-violence message, I couldn't help but wonder how much of it was inspired by Iraq or even the beating at Guilford College, particularly after GC President Kent Chabotar gave a moving opening speech about the ongoing impact of the attack including their renewed dedication to "tolerance and diversity."

Monday, March 12, 2007

Jones Family Renion

... not to be confused with Jones Fambly Reunion... though we are vying for a spot on their next album cover...

Guess which one is our straight-edge nephew Jason...

Friday, March 09, 2007


Prompted by science fiction and Disney Land's World of Tomorrow, we've all come to believe that what lies in store for us is a more refined society with less war, more technology and, of course, bubble gum that tastes like anything you want.

Idiocracy offers an alternative view... Rob swears this was in the theaters briefly and he's probably right - he usually is about this kind of stuff - but I certainly don't remember it. While we tend to think of natural selection favoring the strongest, most able elements of a species, it truly is only guided by the species members who are most able to procreate... which once were the most fit and able...

Mike Judge, of Office Space (and, yes, Beavis and Butt-head) fame directed Idiocracy, and imagines an unfortunately possible future scenario where natural selection bites us in the ass; where smart people have been so cautious in reproducing and thoughtless people have reproduced so... ah... promiscuously, that in 500 years there is actually a dramatic devolution - the median IQ has sunk so low that people don't know how to get rid of the mounds of waste they create; they kill crops by watering them with a sports drink because the manufacturer bought the regulatory agencies. It's one of those hilarious movies that made me a little sick to my stomach even as I was laughing.

The ACLU imagines an even more immediate slide down the slipper slope this administration has created. This video shows a pizza delivery order taking place only a few years down the road, where data integration has gone from being useful to being terrifying.

All I'm saying is that it'll be a lot easier to protect our country and our civil liberties if we take up the fight before they're gone.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Gender parity in the boardroom

In the course of doing research for my job at Lede PR, I often stumble across interesting Web sites or statistics which I then email to myself to peruse later... which of course means they drift to the bottom of my inbox...

Much like this statistic from, a human resources best practices/info site. According to them, if progress (if that's even the right word at this snail's pace) continues at its current rate, it could take nearly half a century for women to reach parity with men as corporate officers at Fortune 500 companies.

The study found that women held 15.6 percent of Fortune 500 corporate officer positions, down from 16.4 percent in 2005. The number of companies with three or more women corporate officers also decreased.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

In good company: empowered businesswomen

This piece was originally published in the News & Record on March 7, 2007.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It’s not often that the proceedings of a business meeting cause me to fight tears unrelated to boredom but during a trip to Washington, D.C. to attend the National Association of Women Business Owners’ Public Policy Days conference last week, I found myself doing just that.

On the podium stood D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton; she arrived a few minutes late due to the snow that continued to fall upon those who tried to out-shovel it, taking her place at the microphone with an understated confidence and casually-held cup of coffee. Surrounding me sat nearly 200 women business owners representing industries from trucking to cosmetics, accounting to IT - women who had to ask their fathers or husbands to cosign their first business loans in the years before equal opportunity lending, and women like me who have always taken for granted the theme of the conference: Women Mean Business.

Please ignore the trite cuteness that comes part and parcel with such word play; though conference attendees inhabited every point on the scale from tom boy to girly girl, there was neither a trite nor a cute woman in the room. Nor were there sessions on accessorizing for the board room or easy weeknight dinners.

Truly, Congresswoman Holmes Norton’s tone, lacking the pretense and plume-presenting that characterizes much of the business world, proved to be the rule rather than the exception as women respectfully but forcefully questioned Jovita Carranza, deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration; as we discussed the economic – and human – consequences of U.S. immigration policies with Eliseo Medina, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union; and as we considered the political futures of ourselves and our sisters in business while a panel of speakers addressed the building blocks for campaigning.

The national membership of NAWBO, well-represented by the Winston-Salem/Greensboro chapter, is comprised of women who do, indeed, mean business – on our own terms and with a firm understanding that no amount of financial success can replace integrity. Of course it is about the bottom-line, but it is also about laying the groundwork for the next generation of women business owners and creating a better world for ourselves, our colleagues and our employees in the meantime – the human capital without which entrepreneurship would not be worth risking.

As I sat amid these women, I was reminded that our success is foremost dictated by our willingness to boldly and confidently pursue our goals. The tears that I fought were borne of pride in being surrounded by - and being part of - empowered, world-changing, economy-boosting women, in the capitol of a county with limitless potential.

Tamara McLendon, my local NAWBO sister (a descriptor that doesn’t begin to explain the depth of our camaraderie), and I left the conference the first night after dark, the snow piled into slushy dunes by the sides of the roads, uncertain of how to return to the family home in which we stayed. Turning a corner, we found ourselves driving along Arlington Cemetery, the symmetrical rows of headstones bleached like the snow. One needn’t read a single headstone to be reminded that our capitalistic democracy is less expensive in dollars and cents than in the lives of those who protected it – and that this isn’t a capital that should be spent frivolously.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Scanning intention

Scientists in Germany are using MRI to locate the electrical patterns in the brain that indicate a person's intention even before they perform a given action. Has a creepy air of Minority Report (incidentally the last movie I have and will see with Tom Cruise), doesn't it?

I suppose the potential to corrupt and misuse information is present in most innovation but it's nice to know that psychology and psychiatry (I assume this is also, or particularly, true in Germany) follows strict ethical guidelines in pursuing knowledge... which isn't to say if these scientists achieve their goal, someone, even our fearsome leader, wouldn't misuse the end product...

Maybe it's like Nirvana said: Just because you're paranoid, don't mean they're not after you...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Drugged cattle

The Washington Post reported yesterday that despite warnings from health groups, including the American Medical Association, and the FDA's own advisers, the FDA is likely moving forward with approving a new antibiotic for cattle, cefquinome. Currently, cefquinome is a last defense drug used on humans for whom most other resources have been spent.

According to new FDA guidelines, the risks of using such a potent drug in the animals humans will eventually eat have been documented and deemed not alarming enough in the FDA document "Guidance for Industry #152." Of course, the key phrase is "not alarming enough," meaning it has yet to be proven to cause mortality among humans. Forget about the fact that cefquinome is almost certain to encourage the development of supermicrobes, which will, in turn, send scientists scrambling for an even more powerful antibiotic. Meanwhile, people are eating what they've been assured is safe...

I can't encourage you enough to read Michael Pollan's smash success, The Omnivore's Dilemma. While most of the information can be gathered elsewhere, his approach is readable, fair and leaves few questions unanswered.

But until then, let me spoil a plot point: we have created the system that necessitates drugging our meat animals. The vast majority of the beef we eat, from the tiny percentage of fast food burgers that are actually beef to the steaks shrink wrapped at the grocery store, were animals raised in CAFOs or Confined Animal Feeding Operations. Though I have never had the displeasure of visiting a CAFO, the descriptions I have read lead me to believe that they are even more horrific than the name implies. Tens of thousands of animals crammed together, standing in their own waste, fed corn, animal byproducts and other substances that are totally foreign to their digestive systems. In a nutshell, these living slabs of entree are raised in a way that minimizes the effectiveness of their immune systems while cramming them so closely together that any disease can travel effectively.

The slaughter itself compounds the problems and though I won't spoil your breakfast with a description, trust me when I say that it is amazing we don't get food-borne illness every single time we eat conventional meat.

Of course, we could thank the antibiotics lacing every scoop of feed for our happy eating. Or we could patronize small farms and ranches all over the country who raise animals in such a way that antibiotics are never needed. By feeding cows according to their natural biology, i.e. grass, their immune systems are maximized and (this part is really cool) the fat more closely resembles the great fat found in fish: packed with Omega 3s. The beef-fat doctors warn us away from is yet another unfortunate side effect of feeding cows corn and other products their bodies don't know how to digest.

Moreover, cows fed grass, even if for only a week before slaughter, have been show to carry dramatically fewer microbes causing food-borne illness like e-coli. Of course, farms and ranches that go to the trouble to feed their cows grass throughout their lives and give them an appropriate amount of space to graze, roam and do whatever cows do when they're off the clock, are the same people who are finding small slaughterhouses to ensure that the same amount of care goes into their slaughter as went into their growth.

So, we can fix the antibiotic problem by continuously developing more powerful drugs with even more nebulous side effects, or we can fix the problem by spending a little more money on our meat to vote for better practices in farming and ranching.

As an interesting side note, when I began reading about the horrors of cattle feed and CAFOs, I asked our local beef rancher if their cows were grass-fed. She said that though their cows were fed grass for the majority of their lives, they had to finish them on corn because consumers have grown so accustomed to the muted beef flavors of corn-fed beef that the natural flavor was a turn-off.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Beets with Yogurt

Understandably, the farmers' market tends to taper off through the winter with a reduced showing of both vendors and patrons. But this winter has been an exception; the market never had the ghost town feel of winters past. In fact, today there were enough patrons that we parked on the street, something that's usually completely unnecessary from December through late March or April.

Optimists like me see full aisles at the market as a sign that people are thinking more about what kind of food they choose to consume and to what part of the economy they'd like for their money to support.

Eating from the market doesn't have to involve strenuous preparation. One of my favorite new dishes is from one of my favorite new cookbooks, Arabesque. It's not a good beginners cookbook - the recipes assume a certain level of comfort in the kitchen. But if you pick it up and have prep questions, feel free to send me an email or post a comment.

On this recipe, the roasting takes time but the rest of the work is relatively quick and simple - you could easily store the yogurt and prepped, dressed beets separately and eat the dish throughout the week.

Beets with Yogurt

2 lb beets, scrubbed and stems trimmed to 1/4 inch
2 clove garlic; crushed
2 cup Greek-style yogurt; strained (Some grocery stores carry this now - it's less tangy than traditional yogurt but any kind will do).
2 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh is best)
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup parsley; chopped

Preheat oven to 400.

Put scrubbed beets in foil packet and roast until tender, one to three hours depending on size.

When cool enough to handle and wearing gloves (unless you love having pink hands), rub beets with a paper towel to remove the peel, then slice into 1/2 inch-thick rounds or half-moons.

Beat garlic into yogurt and spread on serving plate. Top with beets. Beat
together juice, oil and a little salt and drizzle on top. Sprinkle with

**For a Lebanese variation, beat 1 1/2 Tb tahini into yogurt.

Yield: 8 servings

Friday, March 02, 2007

The week in review

Though I intended to blog the NAWBO Public Policy Conference, the three day passed as though hours and I'm still wrapping my head around all that I learned... Though I don't think of myself as an easily star-struck person, I had a couple of moments of status-related heart fluttering, first as I listened to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) who was straight-forward, casual but commanding, inspiring. The second was with Eliseo Medina, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union - he spoke on immigration including ideas for how to incentivize legal immigration and I tried really hard to look like a big kid when I went to speak with him after his presentation.

Despite being awed by the company, the most important take-away from the event was an feeling of transparency as it relates to our elected officials. While last week they felt far away and inaccessible, I now feel as though calling and requesting an appointment is not only acceptable but well within my reach. One political consultant (a woman who works exclusively with woman candidates out of a belief that the political structure should match the population: 52% women) suggested making ourselves useful to politicians, a la "If you ever need the insight of a woman entrepreneur..."

Of course, I will post as I test these theories of accessibility and there will be a little more about the event in my column next Wednesday. Meanwhile, thanks for continuing to tune in!