Friday, September 30, 2005

krqe mayoral web poll

marjorie says...

Hey folks: Go to and vote in their webpoll at the bottom of the page for your mayoral choice. They are airing a Mayoral forum on Sunday and will be giving the webpoll results as well.

Three News Stories that Don't Bode Well

Mikaela says:
Quick news flashes:

The Arctic icecap has shrunk this summer past what could normally be expected from seasonal trends. The climate experts studying the change say that shift is hard to explain without attributing it in part to human-caused global warming. I'm sure the Bushies will try.

Paxil has been found to increase the likelihood of birth defects if taken in the FIRST TRIMESTER of pregnancy. I don't know about you, but this makes me incredibly nervous. It is all too easy to not even know you're pregnant for the first 6 weeks. Think about that: Six weeks of ingesting a drug known to cause birth defects! As though you weren't depressed enough before, you're gonna be even more depressed when you find out what you've done to welcome your child into the world. Yet the same conservatives who believe life begins the second the egg is fertilized will NOT support a ban on the drug that could cause harm to the very same fetus. And they certainly wouldn't approve of terminating the pregnancy if one did find out too late. That's good logic, isn't it?

A drug commonly prescribed for youth to treat the dubitable attention deficicit disorder actually causes suicidal thinking in children and adolescents.

We know the drug industry has a powerful lobby, and we know that these corporations will fare well with a White House, Congress, and Supreme Court all controlled by a conservative party that sides with business against the consumer, business against the global environment. In the case of these drugs, they'll be siding with profit over the health, safety, and wellbeing of pregnant mothers and children.

Please be advised.

I think we need to add THAT to the drugs' warning labels.

On Refuge and Language – Suheir Hammad

I do not wish
To place words in living mouths
Or bury the dead dishonorably

I am not deaf to cries escaping shelters
That citizens are not refugees
Refugees are not Americans

I will not use language
One way or another
To accommodate my comfort

I will not look away

All I know is this

No peoples ever choose to claim status of dispossessed
No peoples want pity above compassion
No enslaved peoples ever called themselves slaves

What do we pledge allegiance to?

A government that leaves its old
To die of thirst surrounded by water
Is a foreign government

People who are streaming
Illiterate into paperwork
Have long ago been abandoned

I think of coded language
And all that words carry on their backs

I think of how it is always the poor
Who are tagged and boxed with labels
Not of their own choosing

I think of my grandparents
And how some called them refugees
Others called them non-existent
They called themselves landless
Which means homeless

Before the hurricane
No tents were prepared for the fleeing
Because Americans do not live in tents
Tents are for Haiti for Bosnia for Rwanda

Refugees are the rest of the world

Those left to defend their human decency
Against conditions the rich keep their animals from
Those who have too many children
Those who always have open hands and empty bellies
Those whose numbers are massive
Those who seek refuge
From nature's currents and man's resources

Those who are forgotten in the mean times

Those who remember

Ahmad from Guinea makes my falafel sandwich and says
So this is your country
Yes Amadou this my country
And these my people

Evacuated as if criminal
Rescued by neighbors
Shot by soldiers

Adamant they belong

The rest of the world can now see
What I have seen

Do not look away

The rest of the world lives here too
In America

Thursday, September 29, 2005

"Teaching" community

Maggie says:
Fresh from my last class, I'm sitting here thinking community and education and organizing and empowerment. Even better, I'm feeling hopeful about all of these things.

I've been co-teaching an undergraduate planning course this semester - my first-ever stint at teaching. It was one of those, "I'm scared of this so I should try it" whims, and much to my surprise, I love it. We have great students, great minds, great hearts, people that I hope will stick with planning and stick to fighting for their communities. This group can do things, and I hope they see that about themselves as much as I see it as an outsider.

The best thing about teaching is when the students challenge you, think critically about your words. I'm most certainly not a lecturer, and I think they appreciate that. A couple of weeks ago they told us that this class was different than any they'd taken because they're not being talked down to; we sit in a circle and chat and throw questions and critiques back and forth. We tell them to think critically about what's around them and who's saying what, about how to see through "expertise" and really look at underlying values. And we get gems as a result - like when a student suggested we take a break from planning to work on overthrowing capitalism, or when another brilliantly concluded that "If it's messy, you're probably doing it right."

Today our friend James Aranda came to class. The students were just captivated by his passion and commitment to his community. James brought with him two very important lessons: 1) Loss of cultural identity isn't just in history books, it's happening today, just across the river, everywhere, and 2) Education and organizing are always the answer.

I told the students that I believe the value of what James is doing - and he's working his ass off with the Westland fight, make no mistake - is in reminding us of our own agency, our own power, our own ability to create change. If my measly little planning class of fourteen undergrads comes away with a sense of their own ability to do great things and to fight for what they believe in, how much could the world be a better place as a result?

Revolutions start small. In whatever tiny way, I feel good that I'm doing something to start one of my own.

Suggested reading for Karen Hughes

Maggie says:
Too good not to reprint in full. Via Salon.

Suggested reading for Karen Hughes

The London Daily Telegraph is reporting that a Spanish judge has ordered an imam who wrote a book on how to beat one's wife without leaving marks to study Spain's constitution. Perhaps a similar sentence -- we mean the studying-the-constitution part -- would be appropriate for Karen Hughes, George W. Bush's former communications director and current undersecretary of state for public diplomacy.

As Sidney Blumenthal notes today in Salon, Hughes boasted this week in Turkey that she'd set an Egyptian opposition leader straight when he complained about Bush's constant invocations of God. "I had one person at one lunch raise the issue of the president mentioning God in his speeches," Hughes said. "And I asked whether he was aware that previous American presidents have also cited God, and that our Constitution cites 'one nation under God.' He said, 'Well, never mind,' and went on to something else."

Which is all well and good, we suppose, but the U.S. Constitution doesn't say anything about "one nation under God." Indeed, unlike the president, the U.S. Constitution never mentions the word "God" at all. The phrase "one nation under God" appears in the Pledge of Allegiance, to which it was added in 1954.

-- Tim Grieve

Green Makes Green

Mikaela says:
Good news for environmental conservation...maybe.

Green building is finally being picked up by developers and utilities as a good idea. Why? Because it's finally financially beneficial.

Great story in today's L.A. Times. I won't copy the whole thing (I know, I know, I do a lot of that!), but here's a telling quote by a utility company rep on why the sudden embrace of green technology:

"We've changed our mind-set. Conserving water was an oxymoron for us five years ago. But as water has become more political, we've changed our thinking. Now we see ourselves as stewards. And we need to get serious and put our money where our mouths are."

And one from a developer: ""I'm not doing [green developments] because I'm a tree hugger. I'm doing them because, first of all, there are economic benefits. The fact that there are also environmental and social benefits makes it just that much more logical."

Oh, good. As long as he knows where his values are!!! Doing the right thing is just a nice little side-bennie. What a kicker.

Mortgage Watch

Mikaela says:
Remember that houses are by far the most common form of investment and retirement income for the vast majority of Americans. The fact that there is structural racism in the banking industry means that we are SYSTEMATICALLY divesting minorites of their primary source for wealth.

This from L.A. Times:
Racial Gap in Loans is High in California
A study finds that borrowers in minority communities in the L.A. area are more than nine times more likely to get higher-cost mortgages

A study by an advocacy group for the poor, looked at the percentage of higher-cost loans issued in minority communities compared with nonminority neighborhoods in the same metropolitan area.

Residents of predominantly minority districts in the Los Angeles metro area were more than nine times more likely to get high-cost loans to refinance their homes than residents of predominantly white communities — the largest gap, proportionally, in all of the 125 metropolitan areas studied.

Nationally, residents of minority communities were 1.7 times more likely to have such loans than borrowers in nearby white neighborhoods.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Judicial Watch

Mikaela says:
The furor over the foregone conclusion that was Justice Roberts' confirmation has all but died down, but lest we think it wasn't important, here are a few things to remember.

Don't care about judicial nominees or much about the judicial branch of our government altogether? Well you should, and here's why.

Sirtotablog has a great post today about a case going before the Supreme Court that will decide the future direction of "free" trade and how/when subsidies can be used -- and for whom. This has HUGE implications not only for corporations within the U.S. but the potential positioning of the U.S. to the rest of the world as an economic bully. Any wonder that Roberts was nominated, what with his ties to Big Corporate America? Guess which way THAT one will be decided? All of a sudden, the Supreme Court is a for-profit organization. Great.

And Alberto Gonzales name keeps coming up in reference to Bush's second Supreme Court nominee. No one expects Bush to try it; in fact, some senators on the Judicial Committee as well as conservative and liberal groups have sent letters specifically requesting that he NOT send them Gonzales as a nominee. But you just know Bush wants to. And what has old Alberto been up to as Attorney General? Well, alienating the FBI for one and promoting a right-wing Christian agenda by calling for a new war against pornography. Thanks to an m-pyre reader for forwarding this amazing article from the Washington Post (buried on A21, by the way) about the one new and exciting direction of the FBI (added emphases courtesy yours truly):

Recruits Sought for Porn Squad
The FBI is joining the Bush administration's War on Porn. And it's looking for a few good agents.

Early last month, the bureau's Washington Field Office began recruiting for a new anti-obscenity squad ... as "one of the top priorities" of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and, by extension, of the FBI Director.


The new squad will divert eight agents ... to gather evidence against "manufacturers and purveyors" of pornography -- not the kind exploiting children, but the kind that depicts, and is marketed to, consenting adults.

"I guess this means we've won the war on terror," said one exasperated FBI agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity because poking fun at headquarters is not regarded as career-enhancing. "We must not need any more resources for espionage."

Among friends and trusted colleagues, an experienced national security analyst said, "it's a running joke for us."

  • "Things I Don't Want On My Resume, Volume Four."
  • "Honestly, most of the guys would have to recuse themselves."

Federal obscenity prosecutions ... do "encounter many legal issues, including First Amendment claims," [an]FBI headquarters memo noted.

Applicants for the porn squad should therefore have a stomach for the kind of material that tends to be most offensive to local juries. Community standards -- along with a prurient purpose and absence of artistic merit -- define criminal obscenity under current Supreme Court doctrine.

Gonzales endorses the rationale ... that adult pornography is a threat to families and children. Christian conservatives, long skeptical of Gonzales, greeted the pornography initiative with what the Family Research Council called "a growing sense of confidence in our new attorney general."

Congress began funding the obscenity initiative in fiscal 2005 and specified that the FBI must devote 10 agents to adult pornography. The bureau decided to create a dedicated squad only in the Washington Field Office. "All other field offices may investigate obscenity cases pursuant to this initiative if resources are available," the directive from headquarters said. "Field offices should not, however, divert resources from higher priority matters, such as public corruption."

Public corruption, officially, is fourth on the FBI's priority list, after protecting the United States from terrorist attack, foreign espionage and cyber-based attacks. Just below those priorities are civil rights, organized crime, white-collar crime and "significant violent crime."

FBI field office spokeswoman expressed disappointment that some of her colleagues find grist for humor in the new campaign. "The adult obscenity squad . . . stems from an attorney general mandate, funded by Congress," she said. "The personnel assigned to this initiative take the responsibility of this assignment very seriously and are dedicated to the success of this program."

Uh-huh. Sure they are.

And lastly, this breaking news:
Delay Indicted in Campaign Finance Probe

A Texas grand jury today indicted Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) on a criminal count of conspiring with two political associates to violate state campaign finance law, and DeLay announced he would temporarily step down as House majority leader.

Yep, the courts matter alright. How else do we petition our government for a redress of grievances. I read somewhere we have the right to do that.

This is Progress?

Mikaela says:
So everyone loves a Hummer, right?

Can't afford to pay $110,000, or perhaps you have a problem getting 10 miles to the gallon? Have no fear! You, too, can drive an outlandishly overweight scaled-down military vehicle! Woo hoo!

Introducing H3. Even the New York Times likes it! Of course, the article claims the drawback is that it's not quite AS BIG AS IT LOOKS, but hey, it's "in your price range" at a measley $30,000. Pocket change, people!

And the best thing about it? (Remember this is being written in New York, now, for a primarily New Yorker audience...) As opposed to the H1, in which "Everyone sits in a personal cubicle, isolated from fellow travelers by a center console as wide and long as a New Mexican mesa" the H3's "interior is far more intimate, but hardly claustrophobic. Because of the boxy design, space for heads, legs and shoulders is beyond ample and closer to ludicrous." Sounds like a reason to buy for me!!!

Still not convinced? What about being "taken back" to all those "good times" you had in Baghdad? Remember that waiter? What was his name again? "Personally, I was delighted to start the engine and hear the rushing of the fans, which reminded me of the combat version, the H.M.M.W.V. M1114, that I drove recently while reporting from Baghdad. While I took the noise as a reassuring sign that I was in a true Hummer, others might find the roar less endearing." Perhaps. Less endearing. Yes.

Go forth and buy: "Even with all those extras, the H3 carries a sticker price of about $36,000. Finally, then, here is a Hummer that not only fits in a garage, it may also fit in your budget." Finally! A hummer we can all get behind. Fuck the environment. Fuck the oil shortage. We'll just make more H1s -- with armor this time -- and invade more countries with oil if we run out.

Let the good times, roll, baby. At least, for other people. In a Hummer, no one rolls! That's the beauty. Ultimate stability. Come on! It's totally worth the cost -- to your wallet and to the world. Selfish? Americans? Hardly. Party on, dude.

From one long New Mexican mesa,

Hummer lover, signing out.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Progressive Planners on Rebuilding NOLa

marjorie says...

New Orleans: Plan for Racial Equality and Environmental Justice
Statement by the Planners Network Steering Committee* - 9/27/05

Planning in the New Orleans region before Katrina left many people, mostly Black and poor, vulnerable to a natural disaster. They were left behind in the evacuation plans, and many who sought to flee had insufficient resources; in some cases, they were harassed and prevented from fleeing by heavily-armed police and military. They were exposed to environmental hazards and blamed and scape-goated in the media.

Planning for the future of New Orleans is a major concern to progressive urban planners. However, the discussion already unleashed at a national level does not adequately address the basic issues of racial inequality and environmental justice. The following principles should guide the planning process.

1. All those who were displaced by Katrina should have an opportunity to participate in making decisions about the future of the city and region. They should be empowered to decide whether and how the city is rebuilt.

2. Given the toxic contamination of flood waters, a full and complete environmental analysis should be done before people move back to New Orleans, and the expediency of getting back to “business as usual” should not take precedence over public health.

3. The racial divide between New Orleans’ central city and suburbs, and among city neighborhoods, should be a central issue in the planning process. Katrina should not become an excuse for a massive removal of blacks and poor from the city, nor should a rebuilt city re-create ghettoes vulnerable to future disasters. Environmental justice concerns should prevent the concentration of hazardous facilities in and near low-income communities of color.

4. Need should be the main criterion for distributing compensation to victims. Those who are in greatest need include the poor, tenants without property, children and the elderly with limited assets. Businesses and property owners, especially those who have insurance, should not be the primary beneficiaries of government relief. Efforts should be made to reach out and assist immigrants without exposing them to punitive action by immigration authorities.

5. The federal government’s temporary housing for victims should be of the highest quality possible given the circumstances, and adequate physical and social infrastructure must be provided so that these are viable communities. These temporary communities may well last for many years and become permanent.

6. Public rebuilding initiatives should promote local economic development by contracting with local businesses and organizations when possible and requiring that workers are paid living wages. The rebuilding effort should not be used as an excuse for corporate profiteering, exploitation of workers, or the downsizing of social programs.

7. As the experience of the Netherlands has shown us, it is possible to build cities in coastal areas below sea level and protect them from flooding. However, this is only possible when there is a substantial commitment of resources by national government, strong regional planning, and strict local land use regulations. Land use planning in the future New Orleans should preserve wetlands, protect housing, and control the location of industries.

*Tom Angotti, Lee Deuben, Josh Lerner, Richard Milgrom, Norma Rantisi, Alex Schafran, Amy Siciliano. Planners Network is an organization of urban planners, activists and academics.

First World Cocaine Users

marjorie says...

I have to admit that I've followed the Kate Moss cocaine drama as it's played out. Sure, there's all the lurid aspects: drugs, sex, rich and famous pretty people. But there's also the whole issue of female sexuality--about super skinny models held up as the ideal feminine form. This is such an amazing moment for the reality to bleed through: staying that skinny often requires destructive habits, namely drugs (including smoking) or eating disorders.

I've had a tendency to nod my head in agreement with her supporters, who've also condemned the hypocrisy of holding her up as evil in a climate in which drug use is rampant. And, this episode has also drawn out my "that poor girl" tendencies. I admit it. But, still, I haven't been able to be real public about this stuff...because, really, how can we really feel sorry for Kate Moss? The super privileged Kate Moss? Sure, she's human but she's also...hmmm...what is it exactly? I haven't been able to put my finger on it *exactly*.

Thank goodness there are others to cut through the fog for me. From the blogger La Pistola over on the myspace website:

"yeah, so everyone has seen by now that Kate Moss has lost something like $27 million in modeling contracts due to those dandy pictures of her snorting up four lines at the random party.

"Sorry, Katie. But I mean, where do I get off being such a snob about the white powder? Doesn't Pistola know that this is part of the glamorous life for those who are in the public eye (or wish they were)?

"Well, sure I know that. I've worked for attorneys, remember? And I went to college at a jazz school, I've modeled, I know lots of musicians. Yeah, I know that people who blow the white powder think it's part of their birthright to do that more or less publicly and not give a rat's ass.

"For me personally, however, the reason I don't blow coke is the same reason I don't shop at Wal-Mart.

"You know, I just don't get off on the reality of poor women being forced to swallow condoms full of coke and to serve as transport mules across international borders.

"I don't like the reality of women and children and old people being killed with guerrilla guns bought with coke money.

"I don't like looking at pictures of civilian Colombians starving to death while the people who produce coke fly private jets over the countryside and take whatever they want.

"I don't like the idea of giving money that I worked for to some drug dealer here, in this country, who is probably less than a stellar human being full of concern for his fellow man.

"Call it moralistic if you like. But what you're really putting up your nose is concentrated human misery, suffering, death, and injustice. Every last gram of it. There are drugs (peyote, mushrooms, marijuana) that can be locally produced and cultivated with no significant harm to large groups of people, and which can even be used within contexts that can be considered helpful. Cocaine, however, is not one of those drugs.

"If people want that kind of karma, they can do whatever they like, but I personally choose to pass.

"I'll get my fun elsewhere.

"And I ain't sorry for Kate Moss."

mmmm hmmmm

Yes, I agree with La Pistola. First world cocaine markets are responsible for a lot of misery in cocaine producing regions (a la "men with guns" including the U.S. military) ... it ain't the other way around. And of course, this goes for all of us not just Kate Moss. Don't use the white powder, if not because it ruins your health (which is reason enough) then because the production of it hurts so many people.

Grim Reaping

Mikaela says:
Watching BBC last night, I was disturbed to hear about a typhoon now threatening Japan. This morning on NPR, they warned that the growing number of disasters around the world are part of a 20-year cycle just beginning. My first instinct is to be infuriated that we've let things get this bad and that we're so surprised that the seeds we've sewn are blossoming so terribly and with such destructive fruit.

But looking around and re-reading Robinson Jeffers, a California poet never very well known and now dead, I was reminded of the bigger picture
that we must remember (perspective, people, perspective is everything!). Structural injustice or no, our civilization is locked into a relationship with nature that we cannot control. We can certainly do better than currently to achieve a balance that won't wipe us out.

The following is what Jeffers might have said about the Katrina and growing number of other disasters. I do not advocate his fatalism or pessimism, although I think his observation of our inextricable ecological tie to nature is correct.

What he doesn't discuss is that we feel the effects of our actions disproportionately. Some of us are still protected to a certain extent by wealth, power, education, and the opportunity to "choose" options that not all of us have. We saw that in the color and class of those affected more and less by the hurricanes in our country. Nature will come for us all, but some of us will last longer than others due to an unequal distribution of resources and options.

The lesson Jeffers offers is the terrible beauty of man as a natural part of the world, caught up in the net of our cities and destined to being periodically subject to nature's fearsome power. Even so, we can work toward doing our best to lessen the negative impact of our actions on our own environments and being sure that when the storm hits, we all have equal choices and chances for survival. At the very least, we can work toward having a community and a culture that can comfort each other as the worst comes and dance together as the rain falls. And in the end (feeling pessimistic today, I guess), perhaps we can pray together as we bury our dead and plant seeds for renewal.

The Purse-Seine

Robinson Jeffers
(please forgive the reformatting & punctuation -- Blogger is not well-suited for poetry!)

Our sardine fishermen work at night in the dark of the moon; daylight or moonlight they could not tell where to spread the net, unable to see the phosphorescence of the shoals of fish.

The look-out man will see some lakes of milk-color light on the sea's night-purple; he points, and the helmsman turns the dark prow, the motorboat circles the gleaming shoal and drifts out her seine-net.

They close the circle
and purse the bottom of the net, then with great labor haul it in.

I cannot tell you how beautiful the scene is, and a little terrible, then, when the crowded fish know they are caught, and wildly beat from one wall to the other of their closing destiny the phosphorescent water to a pool of flame, each beautiful slender body sheeted with flame, like a live rocket, a comet's tail wake of clear yellow flame; while outside the narrowing floats and cordage of the net great sea-lions come up to watch, sighing in the dark; the vast walls of night stand erect to the stars.

Lately I was looking from a night mountain-top on a wide city, the colored splendor, galaxies of light: how could I help but recall the seine-net gathering the luminous fish?

I cannot tell you how
beautiful the city appeared, and a little terrible. I thought, We have geared the machines and locked all together into inter-dependence; we have built the great cities; now there is no escape.

We have gathered vast populations incapable
of free survival, insulated from the strong earth, each person in himself helpless, on all dependent. The circle is closed, and the net is being hauled in. They hardly feel the cords drawing, yet they shine already.

The inevitable mass-disasters
will not come in our time nor in our children's, but we and our children must watch the net draw narrower, government take all powers--or revolution, and the new government take more than all, add to kept bodies kept souls--or anarchy, the mass-disasters.

These things are Progress
... but they are quite wrong. There is no reason for amazement: surely one always knew that cultures decay, and life's end is death.

Monday, September 26, 2005

This isn't the first time

Mikaela says:
I guess I'm on a quest for perspective these days, starting with a plea to keep a global perspective in assessing the Katrina tragedy, to a family challenge to keep my mom from losing it over having her identity stolen (long story, that), to most recently, trying to remember that I'm not the first person in the history of the world to feel challenged over writing a thesis. Ahem.

Last night, during a much-deserved thesis break, Marjorie and I turned on the ole boob-tube and caught the tail-end of American Experience's documentary on RFK. I'll go ahead and admit my ignorance. The extent of my historical knowledge of this man extended to a fuzzy awareness that the Kennedys had multiple family members killed and that now the family legacy is one of political aristocracy. I admit that their very mystique (what's with the whole Camelot thing, anyway?) has turned me off from wanting to know any more in the past (People's History and all that). And I'm a bit fuzzy on presidential history in general. As much as I care about our current president, I just haven't given the others much thought.

But as the documentary explains the ins and outs for RFKs bid for the presidency, I was caught unaware because of his riveting energy. This man was AMAZING. I got all excited and energized. I would have voted for him in a heartbeat! A politician? With good ideas? With passion? With a sense of responsibility to and for and with the people??? At one point, he's running against McCarthy (Eugene, not the famous Joseph McCarthy of Red fear fame, I found out) for the democratic nomination. I can't stand the tension! I'm dying to know how this story ends! I ask Marjorie, "Who eventually wins this election?" Nixon.

I look back at the t.v. Nixon! This guy or NIXON? "Why didn't he win?" I ask, blankfaced (but with a twinge of, oh boy, I think I should know this one, seeing how great he is and was never President). "He got assassinated."

Oh. Right.

Then the documentary described RFK being told en route to a black community rally that Martin Luther King, Jr. had just been assassinated. His advisors told him not to go on to the rally: might be violence, might be danger. But he goes. His speechwriter jots some notes on a napkin, but RFK already knows what he will say.

He stands before a sea of people -- "his people" he said -- many of whom have not yet heard the terrible news. When he says it out loud, there's an audible wail that ripples through the audience. And he begins to speak. In his own words. Quoting the obscure Greek philosopher and poet Aeschylus:

Ladies and Gentlemen - I'm only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening. Because...

I have some very sad news for all of you, and I think sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it's perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in.

For those of you who are black - considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible - you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.

We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization - black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love.

For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote:
"Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, yeah that's true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love - a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke. We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We've had difficult times in the past. And we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it's not the end of disorder.

But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.

Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people. Thank you very much.

Indianapolis - April 4, 1968

And I think to myself, how easily could this speech apply to Katrina? How well did our President measure up against this impromptu speech, even given the fact that as a Kennedy RFK was steeped in education, policy, debate, and opportunity? Couldn't the same thing be said for George W. Bush of Bush legacy? So what's the difference?

RFK spoke from the brain and the heart straight to a community that yes, supported him, but was still different from him and his privileged upbringing. And yet, he saw that the structural injustice in America had to be changed because it was racism and not laziness that held back an entire community of people. And he dedicated his life -- and his death -- to improving the situation, the opportunity, the access to power for folks that weren't the same color as he was.

How many politicians these days, democratic or republican, can really say that and have us believe them? Because that was the most powerful thing that hit me while watching this documentary: you could feel his sincerity, his passion, the weight of his terrible dedication, the same way you can see the toll it took on Lincoln to take on the fight against injustice that tore our country apart. That still tears us silently apart.

Like many Americans, I look around and see how bad things are and think to myself, "This is the worst it's ever been." But the 1960s may still have us beat. How many more thousands of lives were lost in Vietnam every day? We got attacked on our soil, but the 1960s had its spiritual, cultural, and political leaders mowed down one by one. Strange that radicals are still labeled the dangerous ones. The FBI's watching anti-war groups, but presidents and prominent public leaders have been shot by white men acting alone. Were they on the watch list? Are they now?

Recent talk about assassinating Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, may signal that they're "warming up all the old horrors" as one of my favorite poets Robinson Jeffers writes. Let us hope for the same spirit of resiliency and resolve that a whole movement of people showed in stopping the war and continuing to fight for civil rights for everyone. Today we fight not only for human rights but for economic and environmental justice for all communities. We still have so far to march.

The Soul's Desert -- Robinson Jeffers

August 30, 1939

They are warming up the old horrors; and all that they say is echoes of echoes.
Beware of taking sides; only watch.
These are not criminals, nor hucksters and little journalists, but the governments
Of the great nations; men favorably
Representative of massed humanity. Observe them. Wrath and laughter
Are quite irrelevant. Clearly it is time
To become disillusioned, each person to enter his own soul's desert
And look for God--having seen man.

RB Winning

Identity fills my table,
words strewn in greasy spots
across green mesh metal
filled with holes
holding up my latest
gargantuan effort
at perfection.

My place setting
half full
half empty
stares at me
with incomplete eye.

Christian comes,
unable to go home,
Mom having sold
the ancestral house
too close to the flood plain
but on higher ground
than 9th ward homes
whose washed-out residents
bought it from under her
still-dry feet.

In the face
of his homelessness
my writing about place
my fear of writing place
seems out-of-place
and small.

When the ethno-botanist arrives
and Christian suggests drugs
to get me through,
it seems almost worth it
and besides,
counsels EB,
drugs work.

Still, whose homes
will I write about now
when what I need to know
is whose voice fills my pages
when only Winning
feels like home.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Mystery music - sorry!

It's come to our attention that for some unknown reason, if you read m-pyre using Internet Explorer (because Firefox blocks it), then a rap song keeps playing continuously. We have no idea why this is happening and definitely didn't plan for it to happen, so we're sorry if this has been annoying people, as we didn't even know it was happening at all!

We're trying to get to the bottom of this and fix it. In the meantime, if anyone knows a reason this might be happening or how we could fix it, let us know. Thanks to m-pyre reader Michelle for clueing us in!

Our apologies!

UPDATE : Problem solved! Saleem saves the day... again.

Rebuilding: I hate to say I told you so...

Maggie says:
A week ago I wrote an overly long, rambling post that read like a stream-of-consciousness outpouring of all my frustrations and worries about the New Orleans rebuilding efforts. I don't blame you for not reading the whole thing. It was kind of like therapy writing, really.

But for professional, succint writing, let's look to Newsweek. They've been doing an excellent job covering the rebuilding process. Last week, they took a look at the three, $100 million+ no-bid rebuilding contracts that went to Shaw, Fleur, and Bechtel. This week, we have an inside look at the real plans for New Orleans. And sadly, they reek of my biggest fears: that developers - helped by huge corporations favored by the administration - are planning on turning New Orleans into a gentrified paradise. In other words: no former low-income residents welcome back.

Read this for the horrifying proof:

Over regular dinners in Baton Rouge restaurants like Gino's, an Italian eatery featuring recently transplanted musicians from the Big Easy, the heads of law firms and tourist businesses and conservation groups have been meeting with big real-estate developers. These men have started to outline a vision of a smaller, more upscale Crescent City.

One of the most ambitious plans, called Operation Rebirth, is aimed at creating a "vital center" of New Orleans. Pres Kabacoff, a well-known local developer, spoke to NEWSWEEK about re-creating New Orleans as "an Afro-Caribbean Paris." In addition to building a movie studio, new museums and a light-rail line, he wants to tear down the poor and almost entirely black Iberville housing project (situated close to the French Quarter) and replace it with low-rise, mixed-income, racially diverse housing. Such plans are "very sensitive politically," he readily acknowledges...

Make levees, not war

Maggie says:
What's great about this picture? First, m-pyre's inspirations, The Raging Grannies, are at it again. Second, check out the kick-ass tee shirt this Raging Granny is wearing:

Nicholas Kamm / AFP - Getty Images

So you want one of those awesome shirts for yourself? I did, too. Check out what I just ordered:

Visit Cafe Press for several more styles and even a coffee mug.

Being dramatic in dramatic times

Maggie says:
Usually when folks say things like, "The world is punishing the U.S. for being such assholes for so long," I shrug it off and figure there's a fine balance to everything. Yes, we're assholes. But there is a thing as bad luck. For instance, I can't really believe that last year's hurricanes in Florida (conveniently targeting conservative enclaves) was a punishment for Bush/Gore 2000. And yes, Katrina did point out some obvious shortcomings to being poor in the richest country in the world, like being left to die in a flooding city and ignored by everyone who could help you, when our country likes to think of itself as the savior of the world. But I try to keep perspective, not think of domestic tragedies as karma, especially since those hurt the most are usually the ones our country is hurting already.

But when something happens like a bus explosion that killed 24 elderly Houston evacuees escaping Hurricane Rita, I can't help myself from thinking that we're at the mercy of some universal payback-to-Americans plan. I can't help but think, "What is happening here?" I can't help but wonder how much worse things can get, and if this isn't reckoning for our insensitivity and abuse of other countries and other people. Things have been bad enough without 24 seniors dying as they tried to do the right thing. Why in the world did that have to happen? And how much has to happen before our country radically changes course and we start taking care of each other again?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Ernesto Sirolli in ABQ! (irresistible accent included)

Maggie says:
Imagine my shock this afternoon when: (A) I actually learned something from, and (B) was pleased with what I read. Such are the afternoon delights that accompany a day off of my regular job to work on a side writing project at Flying Star, but actually doing more coffee-drinking and people-watching than writing.

Who is Ernesto Sirolli? Well, let me fill you in. He's only the most charming Italian man ever (Lenti family excluded, of course). He's only the star of the community-building consultant world. He's only the mustached, irresistible man behind the Sirolli Institute, the place for enterprise facilitation and community development that actually works. And yes, this man is coming to Albuquerque, to the Southeast Heights, actually, on October 5, to launch a Sirolli Institite enterprise facilitation project here. This is great news for ABQ. Here's why:

The Sirolli Institute is all about discovering untapped resources in communities that are struggling, and then re-building local economies from within. The Sirolli philosophy isn't to plop down a one-size-fits-all community development program onto a community it knows nothing about. Instead, they spend time in communities. They find out what makes that community unique, how it's different than any other place. According to the Sirolli Institute, "the future of every community lies in capturing the passion, intelligence, imagination, and resources of its people." I coudn't agree more. After spending real time in a place, Sirolli&Co identify and help community members who have brilliant ideas and a vision for change get jumpstarted to make their dreams possible.

More from Sirolli:

Enterprise Facilitation is a dynamic tool in the hands of economic development practitioners and civic leaders who wish to grow their economies from within.

Faced with empty industrial development parks and lose /lose incentive packages designed to lure away a large employer from another community, more leaders are turning to Enterprise Facilitation as a relatively inexpensive way to create jobs and businesses with people who have already made the decision to “bloom where they are planted.”

As one professional put it – “When it comes to rural economic development we have two choices: Buffalo Hunting where you go out in search of the “big kill” (a.k.a the major employer who can provide 200 jobs) or the Gardening Economy where you nurture those small, but loyal and deeply rooted local entrepreneurs.”

Enterprise Facilitation favors the gardening economy, but in doing so it makes the pastures greener for all sorts of macro-economic development to occur.

I met Ernesto Sirolli a couple of years ago at the City Council-initiated progessive economic development retreat, Building a World Class City: Albuquerque's Economic Future (hi Javi!). Marjorie and I listened to this guy - and prepare yourself if you go to the Southeast Heights kick-off, because I'm telling you, this man is charming - and something just clicked for me. Listening to his stories of success in communities that many had written off as un-helpable or had targeted for gentrification projects, I thought he'd be perfect for Barelas or the South Valley. And now he's really here, starting work in an ABQ neighborhood in need of some jumpstarting. So Ernesto, welcome back. Ladies, beware. And Southeast Heights, congratulations. Your future is looking bright. says:
You are invited to the Southeast Heights Sirolli Project launch on October 5th, at 6:30pm in the African American Pavilion at the NM Expo State Fair. Come listen to a lively discussion on how the Southeast Heights community can take charge of its own future, and meet the players in the community who are helping this effort. Ernesto Sirolli will be the keynote speaker.

Protesting War, Debating Cindy Sheehan

marjorie says...

Hi folks. There's an Anti-War march and rally tomorrow, September 24. The march starts at 11am at the Truman Gate of Kirtland Airforce Base, ending at the rally on Jackson St., just east of Highland High School. To get in the mood, here's a great interchange between Donohue & O'Reilly:

Debating Cindy Sheehan

Bill O'Reilly vs. Phil Donahue

By CounterPunch News Service, September 16

Transcript from the O'Reilly Factor, FoxNews

O'REILLY: In the past Miss [Cindy] Sheehan has criticized Israel, saying it is occupying Palestine, has called Iraqi insurgents "freedom fighters," has accused Americans of killing people ever since we stepped on this continent, has threatened Hillary Clinton with the loss her job unless she calls for a pullout of US troops from Iraq and has called the US action against Afghanistan a failure. Quite a resume and with us now is Phil Donahue, who supports Miss Sheehan's "dissent." So, I'm assuming you don't - you don't support all her positions that I just chronicled.

DONAHUE: Let's understand what's happening here. Once again we have a woman who got to be just a little too famous for the people who support this war, a minority of the American population, by the way, and so the effort to marginalize this woman is underway and you're helping out.

O'REILLY: I'm the leader of the pack!

DONAHUE: You're suggesting ...

O'REILLY: I'm the leader of the pack!

DONAHUE: First of all, Cindy Sheehan is one tough mother and nothing you say or anyone else is gonna slow her down.

O'REILLY: That's fine. She has a right to ...

DONAHUE: You can't hurt her. She's already taken the biggest punch in the nose that a woman can take.


DONAHUE: She lost a son.


DONAHUE: She's lost a child.

O'REILLY: But look - I'm not puttin' words in her mouth ...

DONAHUE: And by the way, she is going to be at the center of one of the largest rallies since the Vietnam War. Proud, patriotic Americans who will show up in Washington this week for one of the most massive, largest demonstrations - protest demonstrations ...

O'REILLY: OK. And we'll cover it.

DONAHUE: ... right outside the President's window.

O'REILLY: And we'll cover it.

DONAHUE: And FOX is in the business of saying that this woman is somehow saying un-American things - hyperbole.

O'REILLY (getting angry): No. No. No. No.

DONAHUE: Listen to what she's saying.

O'REILLY (checking his notes): Nobody said she said anything un-American. We say that her positions are radical. And they are radical!

DONAHUE: Let me tell you what's radical. (getting a little angry himself) What's radical is to send more Americans to die in this war, which is a monumental blunder by a President ...

O'REILLY (under his breath): Alright.

DONAHUE: ... who swaggered us into it with - by the way - the at least tacit approval of the Democratic Party.

O'REILLY (shifts in his chair, upset): You know what's radical ...

DONAHUE: There's a lot of sin to go around here!

O'REILLY (angry, wags finger at Donahue): What's radical for this -

DONAHUE (won't let O'Reilly finish sentence): Do you want to send more people to this war?

O'REILY: Hey listen ...

DONAHUE: Is that your postiion?

O'REILLY: If we cut and run outta there, like you wanna do, we would be putting every American in a thousand times more jeopardy than they're in now.

DONAHUE (forcefully): We're going to cut and run anyway, Bill.

O'REILLY: Well, that's your opinion. I don't think we are.

DONAHUE: It's not my opinion. American military leaders have said we're gonna draw down beginning next year. The reason they've said that ...

O'REILLY(angry now): There's a difference between drawin' down and cuttin' and runnin'!

DONAHUE: Alright....

O'REILLY (angry, jabs finger at Donahue): You're a cut and run guy and I don't want my family in danger because of you ...

DONAHUE: You wanna stay the course, don't ya'?


DONAHUE: You don't ...

O'REILLY (getting angrier): Here's what I want to do. I want to give the Iraqis a chance to train their army so they can defeat these people who are tryin' to turn it into a terror state.

DONAHUE (calmly): Bill

O'REILLY: That's what I want to do! Go!

DONAHUE: Bill. This - Iraq was not a terrorist state.

O'REILLY (exasperated): Oh, no!

DONAHUE: I hope I don't patronize you for saying ...

O'REILLY (dismissive hand gesture) : Saddam was a swell guy!!

DONAUME: Saddam ...

O'REILLY (loudly, sarcastically): He was just a great guy!!

DONAHUE (louder): Saddam - Saddam was a bastard, but he was our bastard!!

O'REILLY: He wasn't anybody's ...

DONAHUE: Donald Rumsfeld shook his hand in the 80s.

O'REILLY: Alright. Well that's great.

DONAHUE: You saw the pictures! (reasonable tone of voice) Now listen - listen. You wouldn't send your children to this war, Bill.

O'REILLY (very angry, pointing): My nephew just enlisted in the Army. You don't know what the hell you're talkin' about!!!

DONAHUE: Very good. Very good. Congratulations! You should be proud ..

O'REILLY (starts to lose it, shouting, pointing finger, hand shaking): And he's a patriot, so don't denigrate his service or I'll boot you right off the set!!!

DONAHUE: I'm not ... I'm not ...

O'REILLY (very, very loud): That boy made a decision to serve his country!!! Do not denigrate him or you're outta here!!!

DONAHUE (calmly): I'm not Jeremy Glick, Billy.

O'REILLY: That's right!!

DONAHUE: You can't intimidate me!!

O'REILLY: You're a little bit more intelligent that he is!!

DONAHUE: I'm not somebody you can come and just spew all your ...

O'REILLY: Don't tell me I wouldn't send my kids.

DONAHUE: Loud doesn't mean right!

O'REILLY: My nephew just enlisted. You don't know what you're talkin' about!!

DONAHUE: Your nephew is not your kid. You are like ...

O'REILLY: He's my blood!

DONAHUE: You are part of a loud group of people who wanna prove they're tough ...

O'REILLY (shifts angrily in his chair, under his breath): Aw fer ...

DONAHUE: ... and send other people's kids to war to make the case.

O'REILLY (very loud): You have no clue ...

DONAHUE: This ..

O'REILLY: ... about how to fight a war on terror or how to defend your country. You are clueless! So is Miss Sheehan and for Miss Sheehan to say that the insurgents have a right to kill Americans and you're shakin' her hand! You oughta just walk away.

DONHUE (quieter): How many more young men and women are you gonna send to have their arms and legs blown off ...

O'REILY: Hey, this is a war on terror!

DONAHUE: ... so that you can be tough (points his finger at O'Reilly) and point at people in a kind of cowardly way..

O'REILLY (disgusted, under his breath): Oh, yeah.

DONHUE: Take people like Jeremy Glick who comes on to - in memory of his parents ...

O'REILLY: Oh bull.

DONAHUE: ... and you go off on him.

O'REILLY: Jeremy Glick accu ...

DONAHUE: ... like a big bully.


DOAHUE: Billy, you hafta be - you hafta feel sorry ...

O'REILLY: Mr. Donahue, with all due respect ...

DONAHUE: Have you apologized to him for that?

O'REILLY: Baloney!

DONAHUE: Do you know ...

O'REILLY: Jeremy Glick came on this program ...

DONAHUE: Do you know what I'm talking about?

O'REILLY: ... and accused the President of the United States ...

DONAHUE (sarcastically): Oh, and you had to ..

O'REILLY: ... of orchestrating 9/11. That's what he did. Right after 9/11!! Do you know what the pain that brought the families who lost people in 9/11?

DONAHUE: This war ...

O'REILLY: You buy into left-wing propaganda ...

DONAHUE: This war ..

O'REILLY: ... and you're a mouthpiece for it. (shifts in seat, clenched mouth) Go ahead.

DONAHUE: This war is not fair to the American troops. This war is unconstitutional. This war turned its back on the people who framed the most fabulous document in the history of civilization. I speak of the United States Constitution.

O'REILLY: Alright. Why ...

DONAHUE: This ... By the way ...

O'REILLY: Why isn't the Democratic party speaking that way?

DONAHUE: I'm sorry that it isn't. I am. But let's understand something ...

O'REILLY: Are we all ...

DONAHUE: Excuse me.

O'REILLY: Are well so misguided ...

DONAHUE: Excuse me. Twenty-one Democrats in the Senate voted against this war as well as Jeffords, an Independent, and- may the Lord shine His blessings down upon Lincoln Chaffee ...

O'REILLY: Alright. I'm gonna say something and I'm gonna ...

DONAHUE (louder, refuses to be stopped): I'm almost finished, Billy!!

O'REILLY: I'm gonna give ya' the last word.

DONAHUE: I'm almost finished!

O'REILLY: Alright.

DONAHUE: Lincoln Chaffee, the only Republican in the Senate to vote against this war. We should be building statues to all these people. October 2002 ...

O'REILLY: Alright;

DONAHUE: ... they stood up to as President and they knew that, first of all, only Congress can declare war. Why is that unimportant to you, Billy?

O'REILLY: Listen. It's not - I'm not ...

DONAHUE: Become the patriot that your loud voice proclaims you to be ...

O'REILLY: The loud voice ...

DONAHUE: ... and stand behind the Constitution and insist that we never go to war again without the approval and the consent of the United States Congress.

O'REILLY: Alright . That's why we have the Congress. If they want to take action, they can take action. Now I'm gonna say somethin' then I'll give you the last word. The Iraq War is not something I embrace.

DONAHUE makes surprised sound.

O'REILLY: It absolutely could be a tactical error.

DONAHUE: Well you should ...

O'REILLY (louder): Just listen.

DONAHUE: It's hard to know this.

O'REILLY (louder): Listen ta' me ..

DONAHUE: It's hard to know this.

O'REILLY: ... and I'll give you the last word. Not something they embrace. Could be a tactical error and we have not waged it the way I had hoped we would wage it.

DONAHUE: But, what?

O'REILLY: But ,,,

DONAHUE: You want to send more kids ...

O'REILLY: The war on terror ...

DONAHUE: ... to die.

O'REILLY: We're in a war on terror. Our cause is noble.

DONAHUE: It has nothing to do with the war on terror.

O'REILLY (louder again): Yes, it does. And if you don't understand geopolitics, if you don't understand Iraq would be a terrorist state if we pulled outta there...

DONAHUE (loudly): It's a mistake.

O'REILLY: ... then you don't know anything. Go ahead.

DONAHUE: It was poorly planned ...

O'REILLY: Go ahead.

DONAHUE: ... and poorly executed but Bill O'Reilly wants to send more kids to fight and die. We've already had two thou - almost thousand - (gestures for O'Reilly to hold off) - just let me have the last word. In the last year two things have doubled. The number of dead American troops in Iraq has doubled and you know what else doubled, Billy? The price of Halliburton stock.

O'REILLY (upset): Alright.

DONAHUE: From $33 to $66. That doesn't shame you? That doesn't make you wonder ...

O'REILLY: I'm not upset by Halliburton stock.

DONAHUE: ... whether this is an enterprise that is worth the support of the American people. We need you at this rally on Saturday, Billy..

O'REILLY: OK. I'm not gonna be at your rally.

DONAHUE: We need you out there in front of it to protest.

O'REILLY: I'm not gonna be at your rally.

DONAHUE: There is no democracy without dissent.

O'REILLY: I'm not gonna protest.

DONHUE: You should be proud of people who stand up and dissent.

O'REILLY: I am. I respect your ...

DONAHUE: A lot of fine men died to give me that freedom.

O'REILLY: You got. You got it. I respect your dissent. I think you're way off in your analysis of the war on terror.

DONAHUE: You want to send more people to die? Is that your position?

O'REILLY: I wanna win the war in Iraq.

DONABHUE: Win. What does "win" mean?

O'REILLY: Means ...

DONAHUE: Tell me what "win" means?

O'REILLY: Means those people have a chance at democracy.

DOPNAHUE: How long's that gonna take.

O'REILLY: I gotta go. I gotta go.

DONAHUE: How long's that gonna take?

O'REILLY: Those people deserve a chance at freedom.