Free Upcoming Concerts

Who doesn’t like free? Next week, there are a couple concerts here in the Grand Canyon state that may be worth checking out.

Though I by no means wish ExDeserto to be local in scope, from time to time, I will highlight certain events, statutes, or happenings on a related to my geographic backyard. Plus forgive (or indulge) me.

That said, there they are:

What: CREATION FESTIVAL: THE TOUR featuring JARS OF CLAY, Thousand Foot Krutch, Audio Unplugged, featuring Mark & Will from Audio Adrenaline with
special guests B. Reith, This Beautiful Republic and FM Static

Where: Arizona State Fair, Phoenix AZ
When: October 31, 2009
Comment: So, reserved seats are $15 – but if you’re at the Fair, you’ll be able to listen for free. (It does cost money to enter the fairgrounds, and parking… but the concert itself is free). I am a fan of all of these bands.

What: Newsboys
: Pima County Fairgrounds, Tucson AZ
When: October 31, 2009
Comment: I grew up listening to Newsboys. They were in Tucson last year, but I wasn’t able to make it. There is a suggested donation of $10 (not sure if this is an “or” – but possibly “$10 or non-perishable food donation”). You can still enter without paying so if money as an issue, don’t worry about it. (Still, the Newsboys are easily worth a $10 ticket).

I’ll probably have something of general relevance later this week about Justice Scalia. He’ll be speaking tomorrow with Justice Breyer. Look for it!

Fa(s)t Food and Healthcare

The Tucson Citizen published a great article critiquing the nutritional content of fast food. It’s right on point. It can be a bit of a shocker when one learns that the double cheeseburger from McDonald’s contains 47% fat – or the “healthy” salad with dressing weighs in at 37% fat (daily recommended is 35%). So what’s the point? Am I just rehashing mindless statistics? There are countless studies that critique the nutritional content of food. Is there anything new?

No. There is nothing new in finding that fast food is unhealthy. Unfortunately though, many Americans sadly cannot seem to truly grasp this concept to the point of actually changing eating habits.

I was talking to a classmate in law school yesterday, and he remarked that businesses reduce its offerings to the lowest denominator that will make a profit. Sad, but true. There is a certain irony to this. The very things we crave can be the very things detrimental to our well being.

So where does this leave us?

I’m certainly no advocate of creating food police. The idea is largely untenable anyway. American’s love choices: Burger King or McDonalds? Wendy’s or Carl’s Jr.? Home cooked meals or going out? Changes in lifestyle come down to personal discipline. And while I don’t think it’s the government’s duty to protect us from ourselves, I am not opposed to modest regulations to channel us in the right direction.

Should Taxpayers Front the Cost for Inmate Abortion?

In a dig I suspect Sheriff Joe takes personally, Judge Robert Oberbillig sided with the ACLU and struck down the policy requiring inmates to pay up front for transportation and security to obtain an abortion.

Of course, viewing abortion as a fundamental right, any law will limiting it will be subject to strict scrutiny.

So, instead of requiring inmates to pay for their own abortions, the state must do it. Not to worry, Judge Oberbillig suggests, bill for services rendered can be passed to the inmate.

Can I get a show of hands – how many people actually think inmates will pay? Even Tim Montgomery, the former 100m world record holder (and drug cheat) in prison rakes in a whopping $44/month. In other words, the tax payers will be the ones footing the bill on this one.

If Sheriff Joe is known for anything, it’s for aggressiveness (among many other things). I’m sure we can (and should) expect a timely appeal. Be sure to follow this one.

For those interested, the case is: Doe v. Arpaio, CV2004-009286

Read the rest of the of story here.

Fever Nation: Taking the Temperature on America’s Cinematic Morality

With all this talk about health care and coverage, I can’t help but write about of America’s moral thermometer as shown on the silver screen. First, I’m not the type to spend gobs of money to see the latest and greatest motion picture masterpieces. When I began contributing to this blog I never imagined writing posts commenting on Hollywood productions. If I happened to only watch the blockbuster “greats” – The Dark Knight or Harry Potter or some other hundred million dollar budget production, little doubt exists that I would post on the topic of “movies.” The purpose of Ex Deserto is to foster discussion about the law, public policy, and issues that affect our culture and society. While it would be a stretch to post that some aspect of conservatism could best be understood by an in depth analysis of Batman, no doubt exists that movies are directly relevant in understanding American culture and morality.

Americans love movies. Last year, nearly ten billion dollars was spent at the domestic box office. Our choice of viewings reflect, at least in part, our views toward ourselves, the world, and our social, cultural and political norms. Though beyond the scope of this post, just think about what Sex and the City, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, or What Happens in Vegas says about our view toward sexuality or monogamy.

Culture is relevant. To change the law one must change the culture; as what happens in culture become ingrained in law. The sexual revolution of the 1960s illustrates this; cases like Griswold, Roe, Casey, Romer, Lawrence are its aftermath. Over the next 40 years, America’s tolerance level regarding acceptable views of morality has increased dramatically. Consequently, for the nation to regain a centered, principled, and moral outlook, culture – and media – must not be ignored.

While I enjoy movies as much as the next person, I am routinely disappointed by licentiousness portrayed as compliance with social mores. Sadly, many people find such films quite humorous. Borat anyone? Films tug at our emotions; they play to hope, fear, love, abandonment, betrayal, and kindness. They often strike a cord with us because we can relate in some way. But while these pictures play at legitimate feelings, they reflect a broken morality.

How many times has Hollywood played some variation of a plot that involves an unmarried lover’s dilemma? Answer: Too often. I scrolled down the movies from the top hits of 2008 and recognized five of the top ten movies than encountered this type of situation to one degree or another (The Dark Knight, Indiana Jones, Hancock, Twilight, Quantum of Solace). Worse yet, I haven’t even seen every top ten movie.

Topics once taboo became fad. Hollywood’s statement: traditional family values do not garner ticket sales, but sexual passion, struggles, and “liberty” do. And Americans buy into it – literally.

One of the problems is the glorification of the broken at the expense of the ideal. Too often movies not only depict divorce, premarital sex, homosexuality, rebelliousness – they portray it as normal. And since the 1960s, a great portion of America does view this as “normal.” No doubt, the depictions and plots certainly promote these ideas as acceptable – not stigmatized.

That being said, not everything that is released on the silver screen ought to be avoided. I’m not so anti-culture as to boycott every film that enters big screen. And like I’ve mentioned before, I do enjoy movies from time to time. However, I recommend caution after visiting the theatre concession stand and before having ones eyes glaze over during the previews. Conservatives, and particularly the evangelical right, must realize that a battle over culture does exist. Every year it seems, the envelope is pushed to the extreme: violence, sex, and “love.”

Still, while yet grassroots, there are counter majoritarian films that do promote social values and refuse to bow to the clamor wanton liberality. Religious-based films did not begin or end with The Passion of the Christ. C.S. Lewis’ series, The Chronicles of Narnia are also in production. But others exist. Most recently, and one that I tentatively recommend (tentatively – because I haven’t seen it) is Tyler Perry’s latest released last month: “I Can Do Bad All By Myself.” Such movies tackle issues of alcoholism, abuse, but they also show faith and redemption. Tyler Perry’s movies, such as the Madea Goes to Jail, like other Hollywood blockbusters, touches on humor, love and the spectrum of human emotions. However, noticeably lacking is the gratuitousness.

Movies are not an end in themselves; they are a form of entertainment and beyond that – they are a mirror into our culture. After taking the temperature of cultural morality, conservatives and Christians must realize not only that hope exists, but a good dose of actionable medicine is needed to bring back down America’s feverish state.

Prenuptial Agreements: Brief Thoughts On Community Property

In my community property class today, the topic of discussion centered on prenuptial agreements and whether a couple should sign one.

The basic fact pattern was as follows: one spouse has more assets and won’t marry without it, but also strongly desires to be married. The person with fewer assets doesn’t care at all, and is happy to agree to a prenuptial and to marry if it will make the other person happy.

Our group of four diverged sharply on whether a couple should sign a prenuptial. One argument, in favor of the agreement, was that careful negotiation could balance the equities. If we plan for death and other significant events, it only makes sense to prepare the just-in-case scenario. On the other hand, prenuptials do seem selfish and sets the marriage off to a rocky foundation. In essence, one spouse is saying, “I love you BUT, if we can’t work out difficulties, I want to keep everything that I’ve made.” I’m of the opinion that prenuptial agreements are antithetical to the institution of marriage. Essentially, the wedding vows “until death do us part” becomes only aspirational language as opposed to a binding covenant. Going into a marriage with an escape clause precludes a spouse from giving himself/herself completely to the marriage.

The problem I have with the fact patter is that one of the spouses strongly desires to be married, but refuses to marry without out. This is inherently selfish. Rephrased, it sounds like this: “I want the benefits of marriage, and I really like you however sometimes things get tough and if we can’t make it work, then let’s keep our assets separately like we were never married in the first place.” Enforcing these agreements creates a perverse incentive to protect oneself to the maximum extent possible in the event of a divorce.

Like it or not, by enforcing these agreements at least one spouse is taking advantage of the other. Even with attorney representation, these agreements never put parties on equal footing; the marriage partnership remains unbalanced and allows one spouse to hold back from committing completely to the relationship.

Photographed Human, Photoshoped In-Human – Ralph Lauren’s Brand Marketing

With advent of Photoshop, Final Cut Pro and the bevy of computer programs designed to alter, enhance and correct photos and films, it’s no challenging feat to blur the line between reality and irreality.

Indeed, the discrepancies between the two make for an entangling dilemma.

Amazingly, Ralph Lauren took the picture of 21-year-old Filippa Hamilton (left) and gave her a serious digital makeover. First, they condensed her waist from a size eight to a size zero (I’m not familiar enough with womens’ sizes to know if there is a smaller size than that). Then, they virtually zapped all the muscle from her arms (they were at least careful enough to make sure no bone was showing). Finally, they airbrushed any blemish, blurred any wrinkle, and then attached its copyright to the photo (right).

When all was said and done, it was pushed through the marketing department, mass produced and intended to represent Ralph Lauren’s brand image.

When the company was called out on it, a spokesman quickly apologized for the “poor image and retouching.”

This advertising bespeaks a bigger issue though. Dr. Kimberly Dennis, M.D., medical director at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center summarizes it succinctly:

“The standards society as a whole projects to our young women are unfair, unrealistic, dangerous and even deadly. Advertisements like this most recent ad by Ralph Lauren are blatantly irresponsible and send damaging and deadly messages to girls and young women across the nation.”

She continues, “The continued importance and pressure society places on being thin, especially for women, can take a toll on someone already susceptible to life threatening illnesses, like eating disorders or depression, and can also trigger feelings in someone who has never struggled before. While we recognize a small number of magazines and fashion shows have already taken a positive step in addressing the ‘skinny model’ problem, we urge the fashion industry as a whole to re-evaluate the inhuman images they continue to promote.”

I commend the company for pulling the image, but I question how it was even deemed acceptable to begin with.

Nobel Prize Committee Defends Obama’s Award

The running joke is that President Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize for one reason: he wasn’t George W. Bush.

But even more humorous, the Nobel Prize Committee defended its award claiming that Barrack Obama’s accomplishments merited it.

Let’s give the award some context though. The Nobel Peace Prize is meant to be awarded for recognition of accomplishments made “during the preceding year.” Nominations for the Prize end on February 1 at which point the candidates are vetted, names are whittled down until a handful remain, and then one is chosen.

So, let’s fill in the blanks. What did Obama do prior to February 1? Let’s see… He ascended to the Presidency two weeks earlier. Before that he was a junior senator from Illinois. Does that about cover it?

The Norwegian Nobel Peace committee apparently saw it differently:

To those who say a Nobel is too much too soon in Obama’s young presidency, “We simply disagree … He got the prize for what he has done,” committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland told The Associated Press by telephone from Strasbourg, France, where he was attending meetings of the Council of Europe.

Jagland singled out Obama’s efforts to heal the divide between the West and the Muslim world and scale down a Bush-era proposal for an anti-missile shield in Europe.

“All these things have contributed to — I wouldn’t say a safer world — but a world with less tension,” he said.

Read that last sentence again. Okay, never mind that the world is not safer – there is less tension. Currently America is engaged in Iraq and 13,000 more troops are being deployed to Afghanistan. North Korea is developing nuclear capabilities and Honduras is in its own little world. Less tension? For relaxing a Bush policy?

I’m not sure what was in the Committee’s happy-juice:

“Alfred Nobel wrote that the prize should go to the person who has contributed most to the development of peace in the previous year,” Jagland said.

“Who has done more for that than Barack Obama?”

Good question Mr. Jagland. Maybe you should have reviewed the other candidates on your list first.

What Is True Beauty?

If a picture is a thousand words, what sort of story do the faces on Glamor, Vogue, and Redbook tell?

Those faces might be characters from a fantasy-land replete with idealistic images, wishful thinking, and thinly veiled smiles masking the lofty and unattainable goals of external beauty. And these periodicals with pretty pictures – tempting men, challenging women – can be had at any grocery store or magazine rack for the low price of a Starbucks latte – even cheaper with a yearlong subscription.

Tragically, not only has the marketing industry has tapped into some of the very things that makes us “tick,” it has exploited society and encouraged it to yearn toward these unreachable heights of beauty.

I temper this post with the understand that altering pictures is not inherently wrong. Amateurs and professionals alike adjust light, hue, and saturation to obtain the optimum image. Many even use blur tools to refine pictures to make them perfect.

Clearly, advertisers have a vested interest in promoting products with attractive-looking individuals; consumers respond positively to this.

The danger lies at the flash point – the instant where models-images cease promoting the brand and instead raise a Siren’s song to motivate individuals to reach an impossible beauty.

I’m not sure where this flash point is. I’m sure it varies from individual to individual. And I’m curious – where do you, reader, witness this flash point? When do billboard models cease advertising a brand and instead become a catalyst for young teenage women to sink to bulimia or anorexia? Should we even apportion blame to advertisers? Perhaps parents should serve as more stalwart gatekeepers. But does placing the culpability on parents release the social responsibility of advertisers?

Below, I’ve included a YouTube video of one billboard model. I’ll have more to comment Ralph Lauren’s most recent debacle later this week.

What Can The Judiciary Expect In the Next Three Years

With the newest addition to the Arizona Supreme Court, Justice John Pelander, (a University of Arizona alumni) having his investiture ceremony last week, I couldn’t help but think toward the future of the United States Supreme Court.

Obama has already placed one Justice on the Court – Justice Sotomayor. Before his term ends, at least two more will secure his judicial legacy. Justice Stevens, already 89, will likely be the next one to retire. This year, he only hired one law clerk rather than the four he has customarily taken. Stevens is also considered to be the most liberal justice on the bench.

But if Stevens remains, the next probable candidate is Ginsburg. Nominated by Clinton in 1993, Ginsburg has been plagued with health issues – colorectal cancer in 1999, pancreatic cancer in 2009 and a brief hospitalization this past September.

The retirement of these two justice will not affect the dichotomy of the Court. Both Ginsburg and Stevens form part of the liberal-leaning block and Obama will certainly appoint two more with younger judges with similar ideologies.

However, the court still remains in delicate balance between conservatives and liberals.

Government Healthcare – DMV Style

A friend recently forwarded me this video and I wanted to pass it on here.

Brought to you by, the video is a satirical public service announcement explaining government heath care as promoted by many Hollywood celebrities.

Who wouldn’t want the government to run health care the same way it does the DMV? Think of the short lines and cleanliness at the DMV; it’s a role model of efficiency. Why shouldn’t big government run health care?