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The blog's banner shows, in the main photo in the center, a view of La Finca Ladera Frutal, viewed from the canyon bottom below. That is our house in the space between the two blocks of yellow text that describe what the blog is (mainly) about. A bit farther up the slope, and visible at the very end of the text about fruit-growing, is what I refer to as LF HQ: the on-site office (a guest house for the original owners of the finca). To the east (rightward in the photo) from the office is our avocado grove. If it looks like some trees are rather brown, it is because this photo was taken shortly after the freeze of 2007.

Yes, the peak visible in the main banner photo, farther up the hill from LF HQ, is indeed Mt. Ararat. The avocado trees on this slope, other than the small grove that I already mentioned, belong to other property owners. One of the reasons for using a photo from the aftermath of the freeze is that it shows pretty dramatically one of the themes I write about frequently in the FRUITS domain of the blog: the importance of microclimates. The damage to our grove, and lack of same farther up the hill, shows the way that cold air drains down a slope. Farther down is colder, and so even lower on the slope (out of view in the photo) is where I have planted the higher-chill deciduous trees, in the corralito. I also discuss taking advantage of microclimates in my discussion of "scientific farming" (a term from James Madison's experiments at Monpellier) in the mission statement.

The reference, in the yellow text over the main photo, to "neo-Madisonian perspectives" is explained in the blog's mission statement; or just read the VOTES domain of the blog--or much of my own research--to get an idea of what that means.

The panel on the left, contains one of my favorite biblical passages (Micah 4:4), preceded by a quotation regarding the fruit trees of Montpellier. The Micah quote appears frequently in Jewish liturgy, and is also loved by many Christians (different interpretations of its meaning notwithstanding). It expresses, in the passage immediately before, the longing for Days to Come in which the peoples "shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Micah 4:3). I especially love the imagery that sitting under fruit trees and vines is the ultimate symbolism of the Messianic era of peace and goodwill (which, as a progressive Jew, I believe is the age we work towards by our acts of Tikkun Olam (the Jewish mandate to "repair the world"), which for me include working towards the fuller realization of democracy, and environmental sustainability through promotion of organic farming and supporting local producers).

As for the quotation, also on the left panel, regarding Madison's "authority" over his two crops of figs every summer and his arbors of grapes, of course, I like the connection between Madison, authority, democracy, and the Messianic vision. I am sure it was not meant precisely that way; it is just my synthesis! The connection to Micah is, however, surely no coincidence. The imagery of the biblical vision of pursuing a "pastoral ideal" in the New World was very much current in Madison's day, as well as among the earlier settlers.

The photo in the left panel over which these quotations are superimposed is one of my own fig trees. It has to grow quite a bit before it will be big enough to sit under and not be afraid. (Alas, I suspect there remains plenty of time.)

Now, let's turn to the right panel. The quotation about most voters being interested more in good governance than in political disputes between the leading parties is from Henry Droop. In the extension of the passage quoted, Droop articulates how proportional voting would better permit the more "moderate non-partisan section" of the electorate to be represented. While Droop wrote these words in 1869 and mainly with respect to England, they are more relevant to America today than ever. I always consider the enfranchisement of the median voter, rather than the representation of small ideological parties, per se, to be the best argument for democratic political reform--that is, the adoption of some form of PR. I develop this argument in more detail in my page devoted to Droop, and in the block of plantings (posts) devoted to American Political Reform (and even more specifically, PR-USA).

The photo over which the Droop quote is superimposed is one I took while in Pereira, Colombia, to conduct research on the elections of March, 1990. The people in the photo are a young woman and a boy, preparing the Séptima Papeleta (seventh slip of paper), which was an unoficial ballot that a student movement was encouraging Colombian voters to deposit (along with the six official ballots for various offices) into their ballot envelopes. The Séptima Papeleta expressed popular support for a Constituent Assembly to amend and democratize Colombia's constitution. In other words, a group of the "moderate nonpartisan section" of the electorate forced a democratizing change upon a reluctant bipartisan political leadership--"neo-Droopianism" in action! The constitution was indeed replaced with a far more democratic one in 1991, though the Constituent Assembly neglected to do anything about the archaic and personalistic quasi-SNTV electoral system for congress. Only in 2003 would another constitutional-reform process--this time within congress--mandate the establishment of a list-proportional electoral system. I was somewhat involved, as an advisor in the process of creating this electoral reform, and based on my own research on Colombia. My small role long will remain my proudest professional achievement as both a political scientist and political engineer, helping put into practice my neo-Madisonian and neo-Droopian principles. I discussed the electoral system's use in the 2006 congressional elections in several plantings in the Colombia block (in March-April, 2006).

The paths from democratic electoral reform, and from organic sustainable agriculture, to the age when all shall sit under their vine and fig tree, unafraid, may be very indirect, but at least, I believe, those paths point us in the right direction!

Last updated: 3 January 2008/ 25 Tevet 5768

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