Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Struck dumb

Mikaela says:
Today's headlines absolutely floor me. I'm so blown away, the only comment I can offer is !#%^*&:

VP Cheney "Offended" By Comparison of Guantanamo to a "gulag"
Vice President Dick Cheney told CNN that he was "offended" by Amnesty's description of Guantanamo Bay as "the gulag of our times". Cheney said "For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don't take them seriously." Cheney also attempted to dismiss the widespread reports of mistreatment of detainees. He said "Occasionally there are allegations of mistreatment. But if you trace those back -- in nearly every case -- it turns out to come from somebody who had been inside and been released to their home country and now are peddling lies about how they were treated." Condoleezza Rice also weighed in on Amnesty's report - describing the group's findings as ''absurd."

[He's offended by a report that shows American mistreatment of 68,000 prisoners held since 9-11? I'm offended at the treatment. Classic manipulation and misdirection. Unbelieveable.]

CIA Creates Front Groups to Fly Suspects Around the World
The New York Times is reporting today that the CIA has created a new generation of shell companies to make it easier for the Bush administration to secretly fly suspects around the world. . . .The CIA appears to own 26 planes all of which are owned by a web of seven shell corporations that appear to have no employees. The planes are then operated by real companies that are either controlled by or tied to the CIA.

[We'll transport whoever we want however we want, covering our tracks with classic accounting fraud, while at the same time, we refuse to hand over known terrorists in our control to countries we don't happen to like. That's freedom American-style.]

Report: U.S. & UK Increased Bombing Raids Over Iraq in 2002
The Sunday Times of London is reporting that it has uncovered new evidence that the U.S. and British governments significantly intensified bombing raids over Iraq in the year before the 2003 invasion in an attempt to provoke Saddam Hussin into giving the allies an excuse to attack. By August 2002 - seven months before the invasion began -- the strikes were so frequent that the Times described it as a full air offensive. At the time, the U.S. and British governments justified the bombings by claiming they were simply enforcing the no-fly zones.

[This report comes on the heals of the Downing Street memo. See our post below from May 10...What will Bush & Co. say about this? Hmmm, let me guess: nothing. How will they get away with it? Most likely because our media won't pick this one up, either. See today's Sirota post for more.]

Three-Star General Demoted For Warning of Overstretched Military
A group of 40 retired military personnel - including many retired generals - are campaigning for the Pentagon to reverse last year's demotion of General John Riggs. The three-star general was demoted after he warned that the U.S. military was overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan. In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, he said that the Army would need to be substantially increased in order to meet its global commitments. This made him the first senior active-duty officer to publicly urge for a larger Army. Within months he was demoted. According to the Pentagon, he was demoted because he allowed outside contractors to perform work they were not supposed to do. But many believe the motivation behind his demotion was politics and the fact that he publicly disagreed with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The Baltimore Sun points out that a senior officer's loss of a star is a punishment seldom used, and then usually only for the most serious offenses. In recent years generals and admirals faced with far more serious official findings including the scandals at the Navy's Tailhook Convention, the Air Force Academy and Abu Ghraib prison have continued in their careers or retired with no loss of rank.
[More on this outrage from truthout.org]

Army Analysts Receive Awards Despite Errors in Iraq Analysis
Meanwhile the Washington Post is reporting two Army analysts who played a key role in the intelligence failure on Iraq have received job performance awards in each of the past three years. The analysts had inaccurately concluded that Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy aluminum tubes in order to bolster the country's alleged nuclear weapons program. The tubes turned out to be for ordinary rockets. But the Bush administration used the nuclear claim as a justification of war. No major reprimand or penalty has been announced publicly in connection with the intelligence failures on Iraq. George Tenet resigned as CIA director but was later awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Bush.

[Ditto the Cheney playbook above. How many times will this little ploy work?]

U.S. Refuses To Extradie Luis Posada Carriles
The United States has officially refused to extradite a Cuban man to Venezuela to face terrorism charges. The man -- Luis Posada Carriles -- is wanted to stand trial for the 1976 bombing of a commercial airliner that killed 73 people. Posada is a U.S.-trained Cuban exile who has been trying to violently overthrow Fidel Castro's government for the past 40 years. He snuck into the United States two months ago and is seeking political asylum. The Cuban and Venezuelan government have accused the Bush administration of harboring a terrorist.
[I don't even know what to say about this one. I'll leave it for Marjorie. This brings to mind one of m-pyre's most prolific commentors, who asked me why I seem to hate America so much. This would be one reason. Our hypocrisy. Plain and simple.]

Wages Fall But Number of Millionaire Homes Soars
New studies show that the number of households in the country with a net worth of one million dollars rose by about 20 percent last year. There are now 7.5 million so-called millionaire households in the country. Meanwhile the Economic Policy Institute is reporting that real wages for non-management employees are falling at their fastest rate in 14 years. The last time salaries fell this steeply was at the start of 1991.

[Woo-hoo. Let's throw a party. Ooops. Wait a minute. Party's not for us. And our house isn't big enough. And we pay taxes on it. Yep, that takes us out of the running for THIS celebration. Maybe next millenium.]

Possessing the Land in Arkansas

Maggie says:
I spent Saturday and Sunday driving 1,700 miles back and forth to Little Rock, Arkansas (don't ask). Some reflections from the road:

- When you drive I-40 across the country, you see beautiful sights in New Mexico and not much of anything else until eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas, when the land starts getting green and lakes are on either side of you. My dad and grandpa had the better half of the trip: the green just gets better in Tennessee, plus you get to drive through Memphis, one of my favorite places, and then you end up in my beloved home state of North Carolina. But Panhandle Texas and Western Oklahoma? No thanks. (Amarillo is particularly depressing.)

- The worst restaurant name I've ever seen is in Oklahoma City, right off the highway beckoning travelers. Enter "Toby Keith's 'I Love This Bar and Grill.'" For the full effect, imagine a neon guitar-shaped sign covered in a red, white and blue American flag with the logo written on top of it. How American! How authentic! Gosh, I bet I would love that bar and grill, too!

- American Idol winner Carrie Underwood should quit while she's ahead and run for governor of Oklahoma. She's everywhere! Her hometown of Checotah is blanketed with Carrie paraphernalia. I imagine it's the most excitement to hit that place... ever.

- A convenience store in western Arkansas was selling IBM Thinkpads for $600. $600! Mine cost three times that. What is going on there?

- Finally, the award for the worst billboard of the road trip goes to the Church of the Assembly of God in Pottsville, AK. The billboard features a picture of Jesus and the slogan "Possessing the Land for Christ." Imagine the blogging opus that could come just from interpreting that slogan and its implications for politics and planning (lucky for you all I'm still too tired to pump it out right now). "Possessing the Land?" Wow. Yikes. YIKES.

Many thanks to Dad, Grandpa, little guy Jack, and of course Joe for making our never-ending expedition possible. 1,700 miles? We can break that record another weekend no problem. :-)

Friday, May 27, 2005

An Albuquerque Poem

Mikaela offers:

"Out on a Limb"

We grow slow –
not quite like rock into sand
but slower than tumbleweeds
blowing away like seasons
down Albuquerque roads
we all avoid together.

We three branching on this
cultural tree –
our bark grows thicker
than our bite
when what we can sink our teeth into now
tastes like water from our entwined roots.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

APS Elementary Students on "Culture"

Mikaela says:
You want to talk culture war? Can you define culture? Follow this link to read how students at one Albuquerque elementary school defined what culture means to them:

Peter Diaz—"Culture means to me as a tribe, like when people live together, and how they work as one for one another, how they do favors, like a family that works together, how they make a tool -- they don’t just make it for themselves; they share with each other. What a culture also means to me is that the ideas are very amazing. The skills are very smart, and how their arts are, and how the tools are used. "

Spare me

Maggie says:

Dear New York Times,

It's bad enough that you only employ one woman to write for your Op-Ed page. But now that Maureen Dowd is on leave to write a book, why in the world couldn't you find another woman - since you now have zero of them - to write in her absence?

Oh, I know why! You don't have to hire women when you can just have men write about women. It's the same thing, isn't it?

Um, no. To understand What Women Want, try asking a woman instead of John Tierney. And while Listen to My Wife sounds promising, I'd like Matt Miller a whole lot better if he wasn't trying to pass himself off as a feminist to Times readers while talking about his "unreasonable" wife.

Get a clue, Times editors. And spare me this condescending gender talk from your Op-Ed pages. What has happened to you?

- A Disgusted Reader

Turning Tide?

Mikaela says:
Despite evidence shown in the LA Times news story about the lack of photographs showing the true cost of the Iraq war, the American people soon may have a new medium for learning the dark side of this "war for Iraqi freedom": Congress. Democracy Now reports that North Carolina's own Walter Jones, Republican congressman, has come out in opposition to the war.

Backer of 'Freedom Fries' Now Opposes the War in Iraq
But also on Capitol Hill -- a surprising critic of the war has emerged -- Republican Walter Jones. The Congressman from North Carolina recently told a local newspaper that the US went to war "with no justification."

Jones made international headlines three years ago when he lashed out at France for not supporting the war effort. In March 2003 he demanded that three Congressional cafeterias ban the word French from the menus. French fries soon became freedom fries. While the ban is still in force, Jones' current view on the war appears to be closer to France's than President Bush's.

Jones said "If we were given misinformation intentionally by people in this administration, to commit the authority to send boys, and in some instances girls, to go into Iraq, that is wrong. Congress must be told the truth."

Will Congress use the Downing Street memo to force the Bush administration to start coughing up the truth? Will that eventually lead to a plan to withdraw troops, and if so, will Bush be able to blame Congress for the pull-out from Iraq, which everyone admits is problematic at best and morally reprehensible -- given the chaos we'll be leaving -- at worst? Cynically, I speculate that no matter how it all plays out, Rove will find a way to justify getting us out of the quagmire Bush currently has us stuck in and glorify Bush in the process. If it saves human lives, I'm almost prepared to say it would still be worth it.

So there's hope for Iraq, but what about Syria? An article in yesterday's LA Times seems to contradict recent reports that Bush is "warming up the old horrors" for a showdown with Syria. Army colonels in the Iraqi border region with Syria report that the Pentagon is ignoring pleas for more troops and instead, quietly withdrawing forces from this area, which has become the new "epicenter of the Iraqi resistance."

"[Commanders] can't use the word, but we're withdrawing," said one U.S. military official in Al Anbar province, who asked not to be identified because it is the Pentagon that usually speaks publicly about troop levels. "Slowly, that's what we're doing."

These stories, coupled with the latest report from London thinktank estimating US troops will be needed in Iraq for at least 5 years, raise the question of Bush's exit strategy -- not from Iraq -- but from the White House.

Polls have shown that Americans vote for Republicans in times of war, but recent polls have indicated that Americans no longer support the Iraq war -- or at least the current Republican president's (mis)handling of it. If Bush can get us into a war with Syria before he leaves office, Americans might take the bait-and-switch and vote in the next tough-minded Republican. In this kind of election, the Democratic candidate would have to either go out on a limb and oppose war altogether (which recent history has shown Democratic presidential candidates unwilling to do) or go with the old "we'll win and then get out as soon as possible" and risk the "flip-flop" label perhaps rightly affixed to candidates with such waffling positions.

What's the other option? Admit he was wrong and leave the mess for the next guy? That will only work if he's ready to be shunned by the Republican party, and something tells me Bush will find that hard to swallow. He only ran for President because of his monomaniacal need to prove himself worthy of his family to history. You think he's ready to take the fall in the history books? I don't think so.

It's time for us to start figuring out how the Republicans are going to spin the damage control and be ready with our own strategy -- either to elect a decent Democratic candidate -- or to leverage the desire for change in order to force some serious re-tooling of the Democratic party itself, both needed outcomes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Searching ourselves

Maggie says:
Notice two new additions to the m-pyre sidebar: a search box and a group e-mail address. Both seemed needed for a variety of reasons, so there they are. Now you can search us or e-mail us to your heart's content.

Or more likely... we can search ourselves. It's pretty fun. I found the following statistics contrasting the number of times we've written posts containing certain words. Check it out:

Women – 21
Men – 16 (Including the classic Marjorie phrase “Men with guns who think they have a right to play God”)

Poor – 18
Rich – 0

Poverty – 4
Wealth – 2

Love – 19
Hate – 9

And what are we doing in our free time? Well, the handy search box tells us that we're:
Planning – 15
Reading – 13
Organizing - 6 (that's community organizing, not organizing our... lives or anything)

What do we talk about?
Bush - 59
Albuquerque - 27
Politics – 19

C'mon, what else?

Mysogyny and Women's Health Policy

Maggie says:
Pick up a copy of The Nation at your favorite local bookstore this week and settle in for the most entertaining issue they’ve published in a while.

First off, the cover story is this absolutely incendiary piece on Dr. W. David Hager, poster boy for women’s health under Bush&Co. (I know, I know – the phrase “poster boy for women’s health” is not only an obvious contradiction, it perfectly sums up how patriarchal and off-the-mark Bush policy on women’s health really is.)

For those not following the latest drama at the Food & Drug Administration, Hager is the guy who single-handedly prevented Plan B emergency contraceptive from being sold over-the-counter at pharmacies. Right now Senators Clinton and Murray are holding up the nomination of the current FDA director until the agency revisits its decision about Plan B, but since that decision, Dr. Hager has been a fixture on the Christian circuit touting his record of “doing God’s work” to make Plan B less available. This article is incendiary because in contrast to Dr. Hager’s holier-than-thou record (the most paternalistic book title I’ve ever seen? Hager’s own As Jesus Cared for Women), Nation reporter Ayelish McGarvey explores how he treated his former wife in their blessed untion. A hint? Hager's holy vows apparently included a little something called marital rape.

The always razor-sharp Katha Pollitt has a great column on women’s health in this issue, too. In Virginity or Death!, she writes about the existence of a human papilloma virus vaccine that could wipe out the existence of this STD and the some 70% percent of cervical cancer cases it’s responsible for. Great, right? Not to the Christian right. (As Pollitt writes, “Not so fast: We’re living in God’s country now.”) So why is “living in God’s country” bad for women’s health? Because according to the Family Research Council, young girls may see the HPV vaccine as “a license to engage in premarital sex.” As if the threat of getting cervical cancer late in life makes girls abstain today.

Pollitt: “No matter what the consequences of sex – pregnancy, disease, death – abstinence for singles is the only answer [to groups like the FRC]. Just as it’s better for gays to get AIDS than use condoms, it’s better for women to get cancer than have sex before marriage. It’s honor killing on the installment plan.”

What’s at work here is not just conservative politics as usual, not just the religious right cashing in on election favors. We’re seeing a major shift in how women are viewed by a presidency, a shift that has lasting and very dangerous effects on the lives of women today and tomorrow. This isn’t just religious politics, it’s misogyny. This administration would rather see women dead than having sex outside of a marriage. Think about that: They’d rather us be dead.

Pollitt sums this up beautifully: “As they flex their political muscle, right-wing Christians increasingly reveal their condescending view of women as moral children who need to be kept in line sexually by fear. That’s why antichoicers will never answer the call of prochoicers to join them in reducing abortions by making birth control more widely available: They want it to be less available. Their real interest goes way beyond protecting fetuses – it’s in keeping sex tied to reproduction to keep women in their place. If preventing abortion was what they cared about, they’d be giving birth control and emergency contraception away on street corners instead of supporting pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions and hospitals that don’t tell rape victims about the existence of emergency contraception.”

Finally, Pollitt notes that “Antichoicers may pooh-pooh the effectiveness of condoms, but they aren’t calling to restrict their sale in order to keep boys chaste.” In other words, let our boys have condoms for when they go out on the town, but make sure the girl they bring home to marry is a virgin. To the Family Research Council, males can be boys on the town, husbands, fathers, and everything in between. Their lives have space for that. But as women, we can either be the girl they use the condom with or the one they bring home to marry. Nothing in between, and no space for anything outside those definitions.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Summer Movie Wars

Mikaela says:
A pleasant (and rather gruesome) surprise, but ... Posted by Hello

what will the future hold? Posted by Hello

Bumper-sticker Sighting

Saw this little gem on the back of a NM state senator's car (alongside a Christians for Kerry bumpersticker):

"When Jesus said, 'Love thy neighbors,' he probably meant don't kill them."

Monday, May 23, 2005

Monsanto's Own Study Finds Danger in GM Crops

Mikaela posts from Democracy Now:
Secret Report Raises Fears Over GM Crops
The Independent of London is reporting that a new scientific study carried out by Monsantao raises new fears over the safety of genetically modified corn. The study -- which the company has tried to keep secret -- found that rats fed genetically modified corn developed abnormalities to internal organs and changes to the composition of their blood.

Books, small Green Built Bungalows, and Tender Mercies

marjorie says...

Mikaela and I finally went to Bound to be Read yesterday. I just have to say, I was mighty impressed by the quantity and quality of Mikaela's book purchases. I'll let her divulge the actual figure (or not) but suffice it to say that I didn't realize I was about to witness a shopping spree. I did enjoy living through her credit card vicariously, I have to admit. For myself, well, I got a beautiful large book on vintage quilts, as well as two more pedestrian hobbyist books on quilts and bottle collecting. Yes, I am a nerd.

Before we went to the bookstore, we spent the day visiting the private homes on the Green built tour, which was quite interesting. We particularly enjoyed Ted Owen's small bungalow in Corrales, which Mikaela likened to a gingerbread house. Take a look.

Finally, I watched Tender Mercies last night, a movie that I've loved for a long time. Horton Foote apparently wrote the screenplay for Robert Duvall, and I think they both deserve the oscars they got for the effort. I particularly love it because it depicts people I feel like I know so well...small town Texans, close with their words but loving each other so much. I wish more movies like this were made.

Let's do a philosophy quiz...

marjorie says...

Good Morning friends. Let's do a philosophy quiz this morning, shall we? Here are my results:

You scored as Existentialism.

Your life is guided by the concept of Existentialism: You choose the meaning and purpose of your life.

“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.” “It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.” --Jean-Paul Sartre

“It is man's natural sickness to believe that he possesses the Truth.” --Blaise Pascal

Existentialism 65%
Utilitarianism 60%
Justice (Fairness) 45%
Hedonism 35%
Apathy 35%
Kantianism 25%
Strong Egoism 25%
Nihilism 20%
Divine Command 0%

We love you too, Pika

Maggie says:
Nothing could beat the Monday morning blues quite like logging onto to Duke City Fix and reading that none other than yours truly, along with my lovely and brilliant partners in crime Marjorie and Mikaela, are deemed worthy of hooking up with local blogger Pika Brittlebush.

That's right, readers - the m-pyre girls managed a fourth-place finish on Pika's "I'd Be a Lesbian For" list. What can we say, Pika? We're honored!
This at least deserves a meet-up over coffee, yes?

Friday, May 20, 2005

Competition's On! Get the word out!

Albuquerque Poetry Competition
Submissions accepted May 13 – June 17

City of Albuquerque
Attn: ABQ Ride, Marketing Division
100 First Street SW
Albuquerque, NM 87102

Poems must be 75 words or less and relate creatively to the theme “300 Years of Albuquerque” in honor of the upcoming Tricentennial (1706-2006).

§ Download and fill-out application available at www.nhccnm.org
§ Attach four (4) copies of each poem submitted (limit 3 poems per poet).
§ DO NOT put your name on your poems. (Poems will be judged in a blind jury process.)

Winning poems will be displayed inside ABQ Rapid Ride Buses for three-week cycles from August 2005 to April 2006. Winners will receive prizes, a book of winning entries, and a poster-sized copy of their poem as displayed on the bus! Poets of ALL AGES encouraged to enter.

Sponsored by the City of Albuquerque, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, and the Albuquerque Slam Poetry Council.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

What Wal-Mart Will Waffle On

Mikaela says:
Wal-Mart just gave in to urban design requirements in Ottowa. I guess it didn't affect their bottom line so much. Here's the link to the news story: http://www.canoe.ca/NewsStand/OttawaSun/News/2005/05/17/1042909-sun.html

Excerpts below:
The site in question is located south of the Ottawa Train Station between Terminal Ave. and Industrial Ave. and was rezoned by the former city of Ottawa to allow for a new type of development with a "main street" feel.

The city wanted the area to have a unique landscape and architectural design that fostered a pedestrian environment. The new building will have an earth-tone colour and some architectural highlights designed to break up the view of its exterior walls.

"It's a really great victory for the city," said Coun. Peter Hume, chairman of the planning committee. "When you get 99% of what you're asking for ... the only thing you can say about that is 'we win' and we won big."

[Or, perhaps you could say that they aren't asking for the right things...say, I don't know, high-wage jobs or perhaps a store that not only LOOKS pedestrian-friendly (which I still have my doubts about) but actually SUPPORTS the main street it's on..]

"I think both sides came out ahead on this one," said John Smit, a planning manager for the central area of Ottawa.

[Boy does he make planners sound stupid! What's he going to be saying in 3 years when Wal-Mart pulls out or builds a bigger store 5 miles away without the stupid color and landscaping changes?]

The city did give up a provision that the building have more access doors, he said. Those demands have proven unenforceable in the past when retailers built extra doors as required but never opened them to the public.

"We have combined a well-conceived site plan with an attractive store to create a Wal-Mart development that is in keeping with the pedestrian-friendly focus of the site," said Wal-Mart Canada spokesman Kevin Groh. "We share the city's vision of an attractive and well-designed site, and we're pleased to have found common ground on how the store will look."

[And then he threw his head back and cackled like the monomaniacal mouthpiece to the evil empire that he really is.]

Wow, another victory for the little guys, for good community planning, and for landscape design everywhere! See, that wasn't so hard, was it? Just ask Wal-Mart for stupid, pointless, token gestures of community focus and local government collaboration, and viola! You get a brown Wal-Mart that faces south. Go Main Street!

Let's Debate Class!

Mikaela says:
No, not "Debate Class." I mean the verb: to debate.

Why now? Good question. One I pondered, myself, when I saw, in a tiny little text box off in the desert of the NY Times sidebar, a new, three-week series on class in America. No, really. The New York Times is running a whole series on class in America ("Class Matters" -- oofda).

You mean, there are stories to tell? It's a fact to be reported? There are different classes in America? Imagine! The very idea!

Not too auspiciously, the series webpage list is headed by an article on how tough it is to have an inter-class marriage. Yep, that's the most pressing problem with class in America, and it's the problem most of us face: How to deal with the rich in-laws. Bastards. Okay, okay, I haven't actually read the article, but with a title like "When Richer Weds Poorer, Money Isn't the Only Difference," can you really blame me for not wanting to peak inside the box?

Still, I'm dying to know what the NY Times will make of class. And I'm even more curious to know what Marjorie and Eric will make of the NY Times' analysis of class.

Come on, people. It's NEWS!

On the light side...

Mikaela says:
The New York Times today treats us into the latest debate over who's on the "light" or "dark" side a la Star Wars: the right or the left? Pretty funny stuff. Way to go Lucas for not shying away from comparing this movie to Farenheit 9-11's attempts to draw attention to the Iraq war!

For sheer lack of subtlety, the light-saber-wielding forces of good and evil in George Lucas's "Star Wars" movies can't hold a candle to the blogging, advertising and boycotting forces of the right and left. (Or left and right.)

More a measure of the nation's apparently permanent political warfare than of a filmmaker's intent, the heroes and antiheroes of Mr. Lucas's final entry, "Episode III - Revenge of the Sith," were on their way to becoming the stock characters of partisan debate by mid-Wednesday, hours before the film's opening just after midnight:

The liberal advocacy group Moveon.org was preparing to spend $150,000 to run advertisements on CNN over the next few days - and to spread leaflets among audiences in line at multiplexes - comparing Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, to the movie's power-grabbing, evil Chancellor Palpatine, for Dr. Frist's role in the Senate's showdown over the confirmation of federal judges.

Conservative Web logs were lacerating Mr. Lucas over the film's perceived jabs at President Bush - as when Anakin Skywalker, on his way to becoming the evil Darth Vader, warns, "If you're not with me, you're my enemy," in an echo of Mr. Bush's post-9/11 ultimatum, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

A little-trafficked conservative Web site about film, Pabaah.com - for "Patriotic Americans Boycotting Anti-American Hollywood" - added Mr. Lucas to its list of boycotted entertainers, along with more than 200 others, including Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn and the Dixie Chicks.

Even the Drudge Report Web site got into the act: beneath a picture of Darth Vader, it compared the White House press corps to the vengeful Sith, after reporters peppered a press secretary for pressing Newsweek magazine to "repair the damage" in the Muslim world caused by a retracted report about desecration of the Koran.
All of which calls into question Mr. Lucas's decision to have the premiere of the "Star Wars" finale at the Cannes Film Festival. France is sometimes called the biggest blue state of all, after all. And just what was Mr. Lucas - who could not be reached for comment Wednesday - thinking when he told a Cannes audience that he had not realized in plotting the film years ago that fact might so closely track his fiction?

Alluding to Michael Moore's remarks about "Fahrenheit 9/11" at Cannes a year earlier, Mr. Lucas joked, "Maybe the film will waken people to the situation."

Apparently in all seriousness, though, he went on to say that he had first devised the "Star Wars" story during the Vietnam War. "The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we're doing in Iraq now are unbelievable," he told an appreciative audience.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Loving 'Threadbared'

Maggie says:
If anyone out there is in need of a huge belly-aching fit of laughter today (and really, who isn't?) then please, please check out Threadbared, M3's new favorite blog.

Props to Marjorie for finding this gem of hilarity. And unabashed envy goes out to Kimberly and Mary, Threadbared creators, who have more wit in their sleep than I'll ever have in all my days combined. Those Atlanta girls are genuises!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Nice, Wal-Mart. Nice.

Maggie says:
I know, do we really need another reason to hate Wal-Mart? (And if for some crazy reason you do, Mikaela and I can send you our academic opus that we wrote last year.)

Check this out:

Wal-Mart To Apologize For Ad in Newspaper
By Amy Joyce, Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 14, 2005; Page E01

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said yesterday that it made a "terrible" mistake in approving a recent newspaper advertisement that equated a proposed Arizona zoning ordinance with Nazi book-burning.

The full-page advertisement included a 1933 photo of people throwing books on a pyre at Berlin's Opernplatz. It was run as part of a campaign against a Flagstaff ballot proposal that would restrict Wal-Mart from expanding a local store to include a grocery.

The accompanying text read "Should we let government tell us what we can read? Of course not . . . So why should we allow local government to limit where we shop?" The bottom of the advertisement announced that the ad was "Paid for by Protect Flagstaff's Future-Major Funding by Wal-Mart (Bentonville, AR)."

The ad, which ran May 8 in the Arizona Daily Sun, was "reviewed and approved by Wal-Mart, but we did not know what the photo was from. We obviously should have asked more questions," said Daphne Moore, Wal-Mart's director of community affairs. She said the company will also issue a letter of apology to the Arizona Anti-Defamation League.
The ADL, members of Congress and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union criticized the company for the advertisement.

"It's not the imagery itself. It trivializes the Nazis and what they did. And to try to attach that imagery to a municipal election goes beyond distasteful," said Bill Straus, Arizona regional director for the ADL.

Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, has given about $300,000 to Protect Flagstaff's Future to help defeat Proposition 100, a local ordinance that would restrict stores of more than 75,000 square feet that devote more than 8 percent of their floor area to groceries. The proposal is one of a number around the country to regulate the size and design of big-box stores, particularly Wal-Marts. The vote on Proposition 100 is scheduled for Tuesday.

After a decade of near silence in the face of criticism and lawsuits, Wal-Mart is mounting a public relations counteroffensive to regain control of its image. In keeping with the public relations push, Wal-Mart will run a full-page apology in this weekend's Arizona Daily Sun to respond to the negative reaction to the book-burning ad.

Though the ad includes no apparent Nazi insignia or imagery, Straus said it's a well-known image among people "with any kind of knowledge of the Holocaust." It was bought to his attention by a Flagstaff college professor who Straus said was "extremely upset" at its use in a campaign about shopping.

Straus contacted Wal-Mart on Friday, and Moore told him an apology would be issued.

The advertisement also spurred action by Wake Up Wal-Mart, a campaign funded by the UFCW. The group contacted the Anti-Defamation League on Thursday, and wrote a letter to Wal-Mart chief executive H. Lee Scott Jr. urging the company to "immediately end the company's support for this group and its media campaign. You must publicly condemn this group and you should offer a public apology on behalf of Wal-Mart making clear you would never support -- directly or indirectly -- a media campaign that uses Nazi imagery." Wake Up Wal-Mart also contacted members of Congress.

The group that created the advertisement said the ad was one of a series opposing Proposition 100. Other ads included a picture of a child praying and a person with duct tape over her mouth. "We wanted people to think about the freedoms we enjoy in America. The intent was wholly honorable and good," said Chuck Coughlin, president of Highground Inc., a Phoenix consulting company that created the advertisement. "We will not back away from substance of the ads . . . We will apologize for the use of imagery."

"People make mistakes. They move on," he said.

Another Monday morning quiz: What is Your World View?

Maggie says:
I like this Monday tradition. Let's see if this one captures people's interest more than How Republican Are We? from last week. This week:

What is Your World View?

You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.

Cultural Creative
















Friday, May 13, 2005

Bush finally asked the tough questions

Mikaela says:
Of course it's gotta be STUDENTS!!!!

From the L.A. Times:
During Bush's latest trip to Russia, he apparently stopped in to say hi to the Netherlands, where a quick PR session for students was okayed by the President's advisors. Surely FOREIGN kids won't be as disrespectful and revolutionary as our own college kids here in America, right?

So of course, not knowing that Bush NEVER gets asked tough questions, for his own safety, they launched right in: "You made many laws after 9/11, many — many laws and many measures. And I’m wondering, will there be a time when you drop those laws and when you decrease the measures?”

Bush's slimy and scary response: "“Look a free society such as ours, obviously, must balance the government’s most important duty, which is to protect the American people from harm, with the civil liberties of our citizens. And every law we passed that was aimed to protect us in this new era of threats from abroad and the willingness for people to kill without mercy has been scrutinized and, of course, balanced by our Constitution.”

Notice it was a yes or no question. And reading behind the lies, his answer: NO.

TheDutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, co-host of the event, asked the young woman questioner, "You're convinced by the president?"

The audience laughed, and Bush said (in what must have been a very strained joking voice -- you know the one!) "Don't put her on the spot."

The next question came from another woman, who had received a brochure seeking donations for poor people in the United States. She said since the US has been involved in "a lot of wars," she wonders about the impact on Americans at home. "What's the balance between the responsibility to the world and the responsibility to your own people?"

That's when Bush's bubble team asked the reporters to leave the room, even though the event went on for another half hour.

Way to show the world how we value the balance between freedom and government control! He's a class act, that one. To top it all off, he ended his trip to the Netherlands with this little douzy to the Dutch press:
"Holland is a free country," Bush said in an interview with a Dutch TV journalist last week. "If that's what the people of Holland want, that's what the government should reflect."

Didn't they brief him on the damn country's NAME? It hasn't been "Holland" for a while now.

(Thanks to Avedon for the tip to this news story. She had this to say: "Bush's little unscripted news conference with kids in a foreign country who asked Bush better questions than our Stepford Press ever does, and apparently freaked Team Bush all to pieces. And tricked him into a near-admission that he doesn't seem to have any plans to restore our Constitutional rights."

Patting ourselves on the back

Maggie says:
In the "better late than never" category of breaking news, I just discovered that in December m-pyre was named (in a tie) Best Undiscovered Blog by LIFE... or something like it. Very cool!

The Nuclear Option

Mikaela says:
If you haven't already read it, Salon.com has a great primer on the Nuclear Option that demonstrates clearly the congressional dangers we're facing and just how divisive this issue is in the increasingly ultra-tense Washington atmosphere.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Bush Lies: Evidence from across the Atlantic

Mikaela says:
Not that you would know this from the NY Times or the Washington Post, but the story's all over the blogosphere:

A secret memo leaked from England exposes Bush's plan to attack Iraq without provocation, and "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Prime Minister Blair, several of his cabinet members, and the Attorney General met in July of 2002 to discuss whether England could support the U.S. in its invasion. Blair clearly wanted to, but the Attorney General cautioned that the justification was "thin" (“Saddam was not threatening his neighbours and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran”) and then suggested they push the UN to force weapons inspectors on Iraq, hoping that Saddam would resist and therefore give them the justification for the invasion.

What's clear in the memo is that Bush knew he was going to war and was open that he was going to pin it on "terrorism and WMD."

In the meantime, he was claiming publicly that no decisions had been made. I guess he needed more time to ramp up the rhetoric.

This story is potentially bigger and more actionable than Watergate, but it has yet to reach the pages of our country's "free media," i.e. the mainstream press.

Check it out at http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0506-01.htm
Friday, May 6: "British Memo Indicates Bush Made Intelligence Fit Iraq Policy"

The original memo was printed in full in London's Times On-Line:
"The secret Downing Street memo"

The original is even better and more damning than the stories coming out suggest.

If this one gets covered up or ignored, too, I won't know what to think about the future of our country.

Despite what detractors have said recently, the ire that I reserve for this administration is in direct proportion to how much I love this country. Would I be this upset if I really hated America? I have to admit, I do hate what America seems to have become lately, that's for sure. More than one blogger has made the point that we are force-fed Michael Jackson and the Runaway Bride as news and entertainment, while this potentially admististration-shattering, life-and-death information about Bush and the Iraq invasion goes unreported.

Paying attention, Marty?

Maggie says:
As further evidence that most cool planning news comes out of California, the city of Murrieta just recalled Mayor Jack van Haaster because of the city's rapid development. Last year, citizens formed a group called Rescue Murrieta in response to several controversial project approvals that they disagreed with. According to the citizen group, growth in Murrieta (cited as one of California's fastest growing cities) has been too rapid and resulted in major traffic congestion, a loss of open space, and other problems. This kick-ass group then targeted three officials (two councilors and the mayor) who they cited as being beholden to developers, started the recall process, and low and behold, their development-hungry mayor is now out of a job.

Other tidbits: Murrieta has grown 92% in just five years. And guess who backed the three officials (and outspent Rescue Murrieta 60-to-1, by the way)? Two branches of the Building Industry Association and at least four other development interests capable of writing five-figure checks to save their mayor.

What could this mean for Albuquerque, struggling with the same problems of massive growth without adequate planning and a mayor who's owned by developers? First, people really need to stop saying that Marty will win re-election "just because of the money." I hear this a lot. The Murrieta case is almost parallel to what we have happening here in town, and look at the results. Second, voters aren't dumb. So Marty, next time you're going on about how you really do care about the entire city, not just the West Side, and about how it's perfectly fine for the rest of the city to crumble while new subdivisions spring up daily out west, think of Murrieta and how those voters outsmarted their mayor. We can and will do the same. Denying the very real traffic, infrastructure, environmental, and quality of life problems that your policies are causing won't work any more. Third, other officials need to take note. I'm thinking of the legislators behind the push to destroy the Planned Growth Strategy in particular. Again, this city is full of very smart people who are perfectly capable of connecting the dots between politics and who's footing the bill (that's you, NAIOP). And for progressives who are out there doing good work, publicize it. Albuquerque is ready for a real discussion about its planning problems, and we're looking to you to make some major changes. (P.S. to David Steele: Running for mayor as a "planner" but saying you want to repeal the PGS in favor of something "more realistic" is not progress, it's Marty Lite and no one buys it.)

The Worst Kind of Paternalism

Mikaela says:
This latest news from Democracy Now provides more insight into just how much "freedom" we want Iraq to have. Despite our lack of planning and our constant surprise at how much we've underestimated the Iraqi people and their capacity for resistance and strength of will, we STILL maintain that we know what's best -- for them. We're withholding intelligence, for god's sake.

It goes to show that information is more powerful and to be more closely guarded than governmental agency. Sure, they can have their own parliament. Who cares? What can they do, anyway? But actual information that may allow them to act in ways not under strict US control? Umm, no. Better let us handle that. Trust us. We know better.

CIA Retains Control Of Iraq's Intelligence Service
Meanwhile the CIA is refusing to hand over control of Iraq's intelligence service to the newly elected Iraqi government. This according to a report by the Knight Ridder News Agency. Iraq's secret police remains essentially an arm of the United States. The director was picked by the Bush administration, the agency is funded by the U.S. government and reports directly to the CIA. In addition the U.S. has barred the new government from looking at the sensitive national intelligence archives which are being stored inside the U.S. headquarters in Baghdad. One Iraqi politician told Knight Ridder "I prefer to call it the American Intelligence of Iraq, not the Iraqi Intelligence Service. If they insist on keeping it to themselves, we'll have to form another one." The U.S. has defended the set-up saying the measures are needed to protect Iraq's secrets from being given to neighboring Iran [emphasis added].

Monday, May 09, 2005

How Republican are we?

Maggie says:
Pretty funny, perfect for Monday. Let's track the combined Republican-ness of m-pyre readers. Here's mine:

I am:


"You're a damn Commie! Where's Tailgunner Joe when we need him?"

Are You A Republican?

Friday, May 06, 2005

Careful what you ask for

Mikaela says:
The US sure knows who to back in global conflicts! Our track record is soooooo wonderful. We wanted to be a world superpower, right? Wanted to have our gun barrels in lots of different pies? You get what you sow? Well, we're reaping bombs now.

From Democracy Now on Wednesday:

Report: Insurgents Aided By Old U.S. Army Manual

"The Washington Post is reporting that the Iraqi resistance likely learned some of their bomb-making techniques indirectly from the U.S. Army. In 1965 the Army issued a detailed booklet on how to build and hide booby traps. The manual included detailed diagrams illustrating various means of wiring detonators to explosives. It also gave advice on the best locations for concealing deadly bombs. In 1987, Saddam Hussein distributed an Arabic version of the manual to the Iraqi military. The manual was translated at a time when the Reagan administration was supplying Iraq with military assistance in its war against Iran [emphasis added]. One U.S. official estimated that ten percent of the bombs planted in Iraq use the pressure-detonation techniques detailed in the U.S. document. "

The Post story is no longer available on its website (citing temporary technical problems), but today's story about the heating up of violence between Sunnis and Shiites forebodes the earnest beginnings of Iraq's civil war. If this continues, American soldiers in Iraq will literally be caught in the crosshairs of two indigenous religious groups that our government will choose between. And we all know how successful that scenario is bound to be. What are we doing there again?

Persistent Violence Plagues Iraq
Bombings in Tikrit and Baghdad Kill 23
By Omar Fekeiki and Fred Barbash
May 6, 2005

"Against a backdrop of rising sectarian tension between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, groups of unidentified bodies have been found at least twice in recent weeks.

Last month, the bodies of 19 Iraqi soldiers were found piled in a soccer stadium in western Iraq after they had been captured by insurgents.

Separately, police announced the discovery of 58 corpses floating in the Tigris River near a village where Shiite Muslim leaders earlier had reported that civilians were being abducted by Sunni Muslim extremists. There has been no confirmation of how the 58 died."

Update: Mexico City Takes Left Turn

Mikaela says:
Following up on Maggie's post from Wednesday, April 20th (Fighting for democracy in Mexico), this latest news from Democracy Now

Charges Dropped Against Mexican Presidential Candidate
In Mexico -- authorities have announced that criminal charges will not be pressed against Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. The federal government has threatened to charge the popular mayor on minor charges that would have blocked him from running next year.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Military "justice" serves no one

Maggie says:
Today's news that a military judge threw out Army Pfc. Lynndie England's guilty plea regarding Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse marks the lack of logic and commitment to justice exemplified by the U.S. military.

Consider this: when England pleaded guilty yesterday, she was informed that her plea would be revoked if any evidence during the punishment phase of her trial contradicted her plea of guilt. That's exactly what happened, because Charles Graner testified today that England should be treated with compassion given that she was just following orders. Judge Col. James Pohl exploded at England's defense team, saying that Graner's testimony contradicted England's guilty plea and that if she was just following orders, according to Pohl, she should not be pleading guilty at all.

In effect, Pohl is issuing judgement from a vacuum. On the one hand, he's telling England that she is innocent and it's the entire military that should be put on trial, not her. Yet everyone on earth knows that the U.S. military will not be put on trial for prisoner abuse. The system will never have to account as a whole for what it let happen; it will continue to finger certain individuals to take the fall for everyone. And given that, England is effectively prevented from truly defending herself at all. The military is basically telling her that she should've acted with 100% free will, when the first thing men and women are forced to do upon entering the military is to give up their free will.

This ruling pleases no one, and is bound to piss off just about everybody. Personally, I'd like to see England try and put the military on trial, but knowing how hard that would be, I can understand her desire to put this behind her, especially given how crippled any real attempt at defense would be. Her guilty plea should be accepted in the scheme of things and her punishment correspond to an organizational culture that not just allows but encourages people to do terrible things to others. What's clear is that the insular, back-room nature of the military courts does no one justice, especially when judges are entrenched in military culture but ruling as if it doesn't exist.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Post's Stupidest Headline

This from today's Washington Post:

"Pentagon: Wars Strain Military"

Mikaela says:
Is it just me, or is that absolutely, unbelievably stupid?

Thanks for today's "Duh" moment, Post.

"A senior military official said, for example, that it is obvious that if another conflict arises while the United States does battle in Iraq and Afghanistan and fights the global war on terrorism, it would not be as easily accomplished as if the other three conflicts did not exist.

'It wouldn't be as pretty,' the official said."

Since when is war "pretty," even on a conceptual, strategic level?

The way Democracy Now reported this story made it sound like this report was the Army's way of protesting the Iraq war and its extended engagement. If so, what kind of argument is that? "Take us out of this unjust and deadly war so that we can spread ourselves more evenly over the rest of the planet." Really? Well that's an argument to get behind! Has anyone else wondered at the irony of the Army (specifically the War College) becoming a tool for anti-war protest? These are strange times, indeed.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Thanks, Councilor Heinrich

Maggie says:
Kudos to Martin Heinrich for proposing a living wage ordinance in Albuquerque. This is one to watch closely; I expect the politics will be much more contentious here than they were in Santa Fe last year. Martin's getting attention all over the place: check out what David Sirota has to say about Martin's role in proposing an Albuquerque living wage.

And speaking of Martins, we all know how Mayor Marty Chavez will react to this: badly. Maybe watching this issue play out will finally prove to those progressive national organizations that they contributed to the wrong mayoral candidate this year. Has anyone else noticed (with disgust, if you're like me) how many national contributions Marty received compared to Eric Griego? Marty should've sent them back marked "Not interested in your values." Why didn't those orgs do their homework? It should have been obvious that a Democrat endorsed by Republicans is no progressive. On the other hand, why didn't Griego make their job easier for them by connecting the dots so he could get the contributions instead?

Boy Scouts to the rescue!

Maggie says:
I never imagined myself saying this, but Boy Scouts rock! Courtesy of The Real Side, the story goes like this:

Boy Scouts Occupy Valle Vidal to Block Drilling
by Cisco Murphy, Real Side Radio News Network

About three dozen Boy Scouts have seized Valle Vidal in protest of plans to open the area to coal bed methane drilling. The Scouts belong to Troop 1063 of the Kiowa Council in Raton, New Mexico. They are reportedly being led by the oldest boy in the troop, Eagle Scout Danny Aguilar.

The Scouts have set up road blocks across entry ways to areas being explored for future gas drilling. They sent out a message last evening stating they hoped to draw national attention to the issue.

Valle Vidal is dear to tens of thousands of Scouts across the nation who hike and camp in what is known as "The Yellowstone of the Southwest" as part of the famous Philmont Scout Ranch experience. Boy Scouts of America national headquarters in Washington, D.C. said it is studying the situation and presently has no comment. BSA officials are also withholding a decision on whether the boys' time in protesting drilling plans for Valle Vidal may count towards earning a conservation merit badge.

National Guardsmen have been called out to back up U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers and a small contingent from the Albuquerque office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Anti-Terrorism Task Force. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson so far has declined to order State Police to the scene. Richardson is on record as opposing energy development in the Valle Vidal.

Federal authorities have no plans for taking action, other than establishing a protective cordon around the Scouts' encampment. Forest Service Regional Law Enforcement Chief Mack Houston predicts the boys will eventually give up when their food runs out. He says the government is content to wait for that moment to avoid any unnecessary confrontation.

Learning from the Past

Mikaela says:
Carlos Cortez, the so-called "Soapbox Artist" from Chicago -- famous for his pro-union posters -- created this print during the Vietnam War. The image formed a powerful anti-war statement that managed to honor those who gave their lives for their country while still raising the question of why this country sent them to die. The government learned a lesson: It is precisely these kinds of questions that the Pentagon hopes to avoid by banning all photos of Iraqi soldiers killed in action coming home. If the Pentagon believes in "historical accounting," why are they banning us from learning a different lesson from history? Posted by Hello

Poetry of War

Mikaela says:
The following poem was written by a high-school student in the Voces program last summer, when the decision not to release photos was first in the news. Graciela saw the Carlos Cortez print in the museum at the National Hispanic Cultural Center and wrote this poem in response.

Emotions That Come With Death and War

by Graciela Gonzales
June 2004

A box comes home warm
red white and blue
cloth keeping in middle east heat

the family knows that sand
not dirt
is still
under the fingernails

they are not soldiers
but soil-ders
because American soil is sacred
and they chose to protect the grains

if it was their freedom of choice
then why do I feel I should be with the family
in print?

maybe because bodies kept warm
by star spangled banners
makes me feel cold

like the families

maybe because I recognize
the grains of sand
under their nails as
the same soil I stand on

it only takes images like these
for me to understand
the newscasters’ numerical death reports
on the morning news

This print is from the 1960s
but we’re not in that century anymore
and pictures of red white and blue covered coffins
are no longer
in print

"Freedom" of Information

Mikaela says:
Last week, the Pentagon was forced to release photos of American soldiers killed in action being sent home. Until recently, the US government refused to make these photos public, citing security reasons. Now, they claim it is to protect families. While some photos will still be taken "for historical accounting," new photos will still not be released, and just in case someone else goes to court to force the issue, the Pentagon will keep picture-taking to a minimum. Posted by Hello