Saturday, December 31, 2005

Wrapping up New York

m&m update:

Our trip is coming to a close. Since our last post, we've walked a lot. We've taken the bus, ridden in taxis, and hopped on the subway a LOT.

It's incredibly easy to get around in New York. Subways live up to their reputations. Ironic that density makes subways both possible and necessary.

We found the Triangle shirtwaist factory after some effort to discover the actual address. When the search wasn't looking good, Marjorie was ready to stand in the corner store of a nearby building and just feel that it was the one. Mikaela pushed for more historical accuracy.

Gabe consulted the silver box -- which we grew to grudgingly admire and which garnered our increasing reliance as the days went on. We found a cryptic address and after a few hair-raising minutes of searching, Gabe found the historical plaque. There were two, actually. One on one corner of the building commemorating the fire, one on the other commemorating the building itself, which was designed by a prominent New York architect at the time.

The building is now on the National Historic Register. Both plaques highlighted the importance of women in the labor movement, both before and after the fire. We took pictures and paid homage.

Then we continued our day of happily making Marjorie happy and went to an AMAZING vegetarian restaurant called Zen Palate.

"All in all it was a great day," Marjorie says. "I got to see the shirtwaist factory and eat in the best vegetarian restaurant in New York City. Then I got to spend the evening with a good old friend from East Texas who happens to be a labor guy. It doesn't get better than that."

It's been a good trip for reconnecting with old friends in general. Gabe (back and hat pictured above) has been a rock-star tour guide. With us for almost every step, he's been cruise director, question-answerer, transportation director, and major subsidizer of our shoe-string vacation. And the sweetest part of all is how much he seems to enjoy it. We were at an anglophile bar -- The Red Telephone (or something) -- and Gabe wanted a term for the people in your life -- sometimes ex's but not always -- who become family. Mikaela offered les etoiles -- the stars. Marjorie offered companeros. Gabe said, maybe they're just family.

It's been great doing these walking tours in these neighborhoods we've always heard about. We walked through Harlem and saw posters of Che and major black civil rights leaders, which is the only area of town we've seen them on the street. We also saw a lot of disinvestment.

Despite that, Harlem lives. People on the street seemed busy and friendly. One man greeted us warmly from the doorway of a barbershop with Bob Marley playing loudly into the street.

Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge was a major milestone. "Walking over the fricking Brooklyn Bridge," Marjorie says in disbelief. We took about a million pictures over there.

We saw the New York Stock Exchange draped with the American flag in lights, a gigantic Christmas tree, and men with heavy military armor and weaponry guarding this bastion of capital freedom. The guy with the helmet, flak jacket, and AK-47 was especially reminiscent of our free society and made Mikaela's little patriotic heart flutter in defiance.

(Gabe laughs and says, "What did you say that was? That's not an AK-47. That would be a Russian soldier. I personally saw it as a true sign of freedom. And I would guess it was an M-16.")

The World Trade Center site, on the other hand, just blocks away, had a sign asking tourists not to buy or sell anything directly in front of the pit, out of respect for the dead. Flags lit and flying, a timeline of the event, and a history of the building's design and construction were prominently displayed.

Marjorie looked at the utter destruction and thought, "My feet hurt." No really, she says, she was impressed by the size of it but didn't really reflect a lot. "I didn't want to think about it, really. I did think about people jumping to their deaths."

Looking back, there is an eerie historical echo of the shirtwaist factory, but one seems to have served the purpose of rights and freedoms, while the other has led to multiple wars and more unbridled capitalist expansion of global empire. Hmmm.

Mikaela reflects, "Two seconds after leaving the World Trade Center site, we ducked into a nearby shop to try on sweaters and some boots. Ahh, America."

New York is so big that in a few short days, all you can really do is get a survey of the neighborhoods and get a general idea of what it's like. The next trip will have to be much more detailed and focused in on the things we want to know more about. Marjorie says one whole trip could be graveyards and churches. Mikaela says architecture could fill her days for a week.

Apparently, there's a book on Radical Walking Tours of New York City. That would be a trip in and of itself.

Here is a partial list of all the things we didn't get to see that would make our list next time:

  • All the cool cemetaries
  • Riker's island
  • Astoria
  • Walking around in the burroughs more and areas other than Manhattan
  • Gabe adds the Sex museum
  • The Empire State Builing
  • The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
  • The Staten Island Ferry
  • The A Train
  • More of Central Park, perhaps even going so far as to ice skate
  • Central Station
  • The New York City Museum
  • Punkrock Karaoke at Arlene's Grocery
  • Burlesque at Galapagos
  • Pizza at Fornino's and John's (2 places, not a NY couple)
  • Gabe adds, a tour of the NBC building
  • The Guggenheim (We only went in the lobby. Too crowded! We'd been museumed out already, and Mikaela was put out that the famous exterior is under renovation and looks like CRAP.)
(Gabe interrupts the list to object to some of these being attributed to him and some not. He asks, am I just attributing the things I don't like. Duh! Of course! For the record, he helped with the entire list. So there. Happy? "Oh," he says, "It's going to be a silly list.")

Gabe's List of Things Other People Should Not Miss in New York:

  • Museum of the Moving Image
  • Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre
  • The Comedy Cellar
  • The Blue Note, Village Vanguard, maybe Iridium
  • Le Bernardin
  • The North Six
  • Paul Auster's house
  • Coney Island
  • Open mic at the Sidewalk Cafe
  • Go back in time to see transvestites impersonating the stars at Bar d'Oh
  • The Angelica

We did walk past the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. We spotted the Empire State Building on multiple occasions. I took a picture of the Flatiron Building from the 5th Avenue bus (pictured right) and saw the Chippendale building and the New York Public Library lions.

We went to a really cool burlesque -- not a cabaret -- in the East Village with women who were real women. And talented. And smart. And funny! Our hands-down favorite was the last dancer who performed to "I Want Candy" with little dots on white paper covering her breasts. She was one of two ladies who produce and mother the show. They rock! Gabe especially liked the woman who performed to the song from David Lynch's still photography show to music from the soundtrack to the Lost Highway. See? Smart and hot.

Tonight is New Year's eve. We contemplated going to Times' Square, but they're estimating a million people, and to get anywhere close, you have to go and hang out starting at 6 pm. That's not going to happen. There's also a costume parade and midnight run at Central Park that looks fun, but we'll probably just toast and bring in the New Year at some bar. New Year in New York is good enough entertainment!

All in all, a great trip. We'll be home soon enough... (And then/now we'll [have] add [ed] pictures...way too slow from here, sorry! Good to leave it up to your imaginations, though!)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

ABQ Represents at the Nuyorican

Mikaela says:
News flash not-quite-so-hot off the not-quite-presses:

Hakim Bellamy, Albuquerque's city champion, has taken the Nuyorican by storm. That's right, our adopted son won his first poetry slam at the preeminent poetry venue in the biggest of big American cities.

He'll go on to compete Friday against the big boys and powerful girls in what I have to hope is a real competition.

The shocking thing for me was that the rest of the contestants last night were soooooooooo bad. ABQ, I'm telling you, most of your talent could have come here and won last night, which is not to detract from Sir Bellamy, cause he rocked the house. But ... there was some baaaaaaaaaad shit last night. Not sure if it was an off night or what, but Jesus. I know I'm an opinionated bitch, but holy bad metaphor, bat man. Horrible!

On the upside, it was totally cool that by a major fluke, Hakim just happened to decide to descend from New Jersey to try his hand at some poetry NY style. And here I am, innocently on vacation in the big apple seeing the sites, of which the Nuyorican is an indispensable part.

I'll try to go back and see our boy on Friday and tell you how he does. Let's all keep our fingers crossed and send him our best love, with the spicy hot that only our chile love can send.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

New York Minutiae

m&m say:

Greetings and most happy holidays to you all. Here we are, thankfully not embroiled in a transit strike. We touched down, expecting to be overwhelmed. Instead, under. Cab to Manhattan -- any minute now it will REALLY hit us. Any minute it didn't. Maybe once we walk around. Walking, walking, walking. Nope. Instead, this hits us: IT'S JUST A BIG CITY. Shocking.

Yesterday we walked a lot around the city (by choice), and per Maggie's request here are some impressions:

Times Square: Corporate mega-neon welcome to New York, with a mobile "Bringing Mitzvah to People on the Go" truck rolling by. Globalism embraced with greedy, consuming arms. Rumor Has It on the 5th Floor of the moviehouse.

Chelsea: A hot-spot for super-cool. Spying on a couple eating candlelit dinner in sunken apartment. Window into a little world of intimate peace.

Soho: Beautiful place with beautiful people buying beautiful things.

Brooklyn: Marjorie's place of choice were she ever to live in New York. Industrial aesthetic reigns. Squatters in buildings zoned commercial. Loft apartments above manufacturing businesses. Sun and steely blue wind.

Little Italy: Eateries and historic photos only remain.

Chinatown: Thrives. Living culture. They'll take your money, but they won't pretend they like it.

Strand bookstore: 3 stories of discounted bliss.

Everywhere: Architecture, architecture, architecture.

In General...

8th is our byway of choice. 6 times and counting.

There are a lot of poor people in the midst of the splendor, which is to be expected in one of the world's mega-capital centers. On 6th Street in particular, there are people with varying maladies hobbling around. Not asking for help. Just hobbling. Getting by. Getting through. Surving the best they can.

There are a lot of mixed-color couples. Streets are a panopoly of languages and accents. Tolerance level seems necessarily high.

Mikaela keeps reminding herself of probabilities and statistics. Multiply any fraction by 7 million, and you're bound to see a lot of it. Everywhere.

Much of what is good here was a public intervention in the capitalist system. Central Park. Washington Square. Subways. Go planners.

Mikaela was out later than ever before in her life. 4 am eating at a Kabob-ery. Cabbing it back for 4:30 am giggles between the bestest of friends.

Eating so far: Italian and Thai. Tonight, perhaps French. This morning: bagels and COFFEE. Mikaela is suprised that great restaurants aren't visibly omnipresent. Vegetarian places more than in Albuquerque for sure, but fewer than you might otherwise expect. Coffeeshops ditto. Internet cafes ditto. There's so much that you see so little.

Trash in bags piled up everywhere, picked up once a week, sometimes twice. Recycling, too (for motivation, see 7 million above). Good reminder of what it takes to support this many people in this little space. Our host, Gabe, thinks trash trains are the next big idea. Dump your bags down the subway vents. Why not? They have money trains and every other kind of train. Why not trash trains? The infrastructure possibilities abound.

Today: museums, bus tour, Nuyorican Cafe for poetry slam.

Too tired for verbs.

m&m, signing off

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

m-pyre EAST

Maggie says:
I'm fresh from a tour of liveable, urban Raleigh neighborhoods graciously given by my hometown best friend in the hopes that she can entice me away from ABQ (gotta admit, she showed me some damn enticing neighborhoods...). I've also just finished an Eastern NC barbecue sandwich (which is entirely different than Western NC BBQ, and worlds away from Texas BBQ), meaning I've just eaten home in one bite. So things are good, all about familiar comforts accented with the intrigue of new possibilities.

Yet my days are nothing compared to the excitement being had by Marjorie and Mikaela, who are spending the entire week in New York City. Not sure how much blogging they'll be doing, but M&M, if you see this: check in and tell us about your trip! For every walking neighborhood tour you mention, I'll go green with envy that I'm not there beside you. We want the scoop!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

NYC Transit Workers are Right On

marjorie says...

I've been sitting here in East Texas for days now watching the news about the NY transit strike on television. Perhaps it all seems incredibly lopsided because I've been mainly getting snippets here and there from Fox (bleck!), but I've gotten some from CNN too. I kind of figure its pretty bad all over the corporate media.

Well, first, let me say that I am *very* happy the strike is over, for selfish reasons. I'll be going there next week for a little R&R (with a fellow m-gal) and wasn't relishing the idea of hoofing it all over the city. But I can assure all of you, our gentle m-pyre readers, that you would not have heard me saying the transit workers shouldn't strike. In fact, I applaud them for striking, and I don't even need to know all the ins and outs to say that. Why? Because I am PRO-UNION, and I do not think that such unity would have been displayed by 33,000 union employees if the stakes weren't high.

Watching the god-awful corporate media you'd think labor was evil incarnate--selfish bastards who couldn't care less about making sure the poor people of NYC get their Christmas shopping done. Which brings up another issue...the fact that our economy turns on things such as spending droves of money to commemorate the birth of Sweet Baby Jesus. Frankly, as much as I like giving gifts, I more and more think we should ban Christmas shopping--it epitomizes the subversion of spiritual life and social communion in our culture, not to mention most of the stuff is made in sweatshops. Which brings us back to the point: Labor.

If you listen to the corporate media, all you hear is that the transit workers were violating the Taylor Law, which is a law in New York banning strikes by public workers. What you *never* hear in the media, and I presume neither the Mayor (one of the wealthiest men on the planet btw) nor the Governor said it either, is that the Taylor Law also prohibits dealing with public employee pension plans during contract negotiations. Changes to pension plans are proposed to the state legislature and in the past they have been jointly crafted by the union and the MTA. In this case, essentially, the MTA was trying to cram rollbacks in the pension plan down the throat of the union in contract negotiations, which caused the breakdown. Meanwhile, the workers have been without a contract.

What we hear overwhelmingly in the media and from these rich white men running New York is how awful the strike is for New York. Rarely a word about the value of labor, although that is something that has been amply demonstrated. We hear a lot about the outrage of everyday New Yorkers, but very little from the rank and file, other than highlights of the "heroic" few with hearts of gold who crossed the picket line. In other words, the scabs. That's my perspective anyhow, from over here in East Texas, watching the news. But let's think about what really happened. A 33,000 person strong union decided to walk off the job during a week in which they surely knew they would be subject to heightened anger and condemnation. As I said, in my mind this shows the stakes are high and it shows incredible unity.

The strike is over and the pension point is unresolved. It could be that the workers go out on strike again. If it comes down to it, I hope that they do.

We live in a country with an increasingly decimated manufacturing base and a huge and growing gap between massive amounts of low-wage service workers and a well-to-do professional and entrepreneurial class. It would serve us all well to remember that our middle class is founded on a strong and unified labor movement. We owe labor a lot and in these moments we all owe them our loyalty. As a movement, labor is under attack. Despite all the faults and misplaced energy we might point to in union leadership, it still remains essential that we protect and enhance the right to organize, to have organized labor.

As for the corporate, for-profit media (Fox, CNN, etc.)...don't forget that Corporations by their very nature despise organize labor. Again, Corporate bosses are the enemies of organized labor. Plain and simple. It is simply outlandish to expect balanced and objective reporting from corporations when it comes to labor unions. That's just all there is to it.

Parking: When Main Street and Suburbia Collide

Maggie says:
A dinner conversation tonight came back to the same issue planners, shoppers, and business folks have been debating for ages: what to do about parking? No easy answers here in the “The Peak of Good Living,” but lots of the same circling ‘round. See, my little town finds itself in a modern pinch these days. For decades now, “progress” in Apex has been touted as new shopping centers and residential subdivisions, entities built for the auto at any cost. Yet downtown on Salem Street, true business revitalization is taking place. Boarded-up buildings are becoming shops, cafes, a great Mexican restaurant, and now a full-blown fine dining restaurant, which was where we were tonight.

Salem Street epitomizes our notion of the small town “Main Street.” Picture a narrow street where buildings sit right on the sidewalks. Picture parallel parking. Picture rocking chairs in front of shops. Picture folks waving across the street at each other. All of that’s happening on Salem Street. But these days, so is the traffic.

Small towns that have become suburbs are now facing a really interesting dilemma when it comes to promoting their long-neglected Main Streets. When shoppers are used to parking lots the size of football fields and shopping centers so vast one must drive from big box store to big box store, what will it take to make them realize that suburban expectations will not only never be satisfied by a “Main Street” experience, but that bending to the suburban lifestyle is exactly what destroyed Main Streets in the past, and can do it again in a heartbeat.

The story goes like this: a downtown shopper is frustrated that parking’s hard to come by and complains about it with friends the next day. But the reality is that the frustrated shopper didn’t drive off in a rage when she didn’t see a spot right away. Instead, she calmly found a spot that wasn’t right in front of the store, then she took a tiny little walk into the store. It probably took her longer to park than at Best Buy, but she did it because of the unique offerings at that particular shop. And while she’s parked, chances are really great that she’ll poke into the other shops downtown, maybe grab a cup of coffee and a slice of cheesecake, maybe run into a friend unexpectedly and end up devouring enchiladas a few doors down.

When we’ve parked near a street full of interesting options, anything is possible, and everything’s open to us. In the opposite scenario, the woman goes into Best Buy, comes out and gets back into her car, and drives home. Nothing unexpected, and everything very corporate-minded. Efficiency, right? What’s that bumper sticker? Oh yeah: “Efficiency=Death.”

“Business advocates” talk tough about parking and the need for shops to be easily accessible for their customers, but they forget this simple notion: we like the hard-to-get-to. You know: the one we can’t have, the impossible dream. Now don’t get me wrong; I’ve said parking is far easier downtown than people might have us believe. But the little shops in downtown Apex are doing amazingly well. People are crammed into those prime spots because they want to be downtown. Downtown offers different, unique, local. And people will do what they can to get it.

And let’s not even begin to talk about how a tearing down one of our great, railroad-era buildings in Apex to make room for a parking lot is going to solve anything…

In the South Valley, these same issues are going on, with exciting proposals being considered. A recent survey done by the Resource Center for Raza Planning showed that when it comes to consumer choices, South Valley residents prefer local options to cheap ones. That’s the magic answer for community development enthusiasts like myself, who see strong, truly local economies as the only way we can reconnect with our neighbors and where we live. Another effort that I know a little something about – the Isleta Boulevard and Village Centers Sector Development Plan – will drastically rethink parking guidelines if it’s passed. It's about getting away from those 3-acre lots, and toward shared parking that promotes connection, thinking smaller, and living more in scale with reality instead of day-after-Christmas shopping traffic.

Planning is everything and everywhere; that’s why it’s so much fun. What seems mundane can actually be the lifeblood, the heart, the identity of a place. And who wouldn’t want to work on that stuff?

Coming soon: Is being able to order $18 salmon really the answer for downtown Apex? A tribute to balance.

What Scotty Wants to Talk About

Mikaela says:
Great story today in Washington Post on Scott McClellan, robot spokesman for Bush. I will be the first to hold his lying tongue to the fire when the time comes, but he does allude to a break in loyalty because of the fracturing of the implacable White House by some lawbreakers, leading to the outting of a CIA agenda.

The story starts with this rather illuminating Bush quote:

On the Thursday morning after his reelection in November 2004, President Bush bounded unexpectedly into the Roosevelt Room of the White House, where about 15 members of his communications team were celebrating. He just wanted to thank everyone for their hard work on the campaign, he said, before singling someone out.

"Is Scotty here? Where's Scotty?" Bush asked, half-grinning ....

"I want to especially thank Scotty," the president said, looking at his aide. "I want to thank Scotty for saying" -- and he paused for effect. . . .

" Nothing ."

The story then turns to McClellan's role as the blocker of information, making sure reporters learn nothing but the lies the White House endorses:

Last Friday reporters battered McClellan over a New York Times report that the president had authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop without warrants on people in the United States. Over several minutes, McClellan emphasized that:

  • The president is doing all he can to protect the American people from terrorists (10 times);
  • The administration is committed to protecting civil liberties and upholding the Constitution (seven times);
  • Congress has an important oversight role, and the administration is committed to working with it on these difficult matters (five times); and
  • He would not discuss ongoing intelligence activities (five times).

What about PlameGate?

Colleagues (on-message) say McClellan has held up well in these difficult months. Others (off-message) say he's had a tough time, has lost hair, gained jowls and looks stressed, especially over the Plame case, which made a return to the briefing room Thursday after an absence of a few weeks.

What about Bush declaring DeLay innocent when he refuses to comment on his own White House aides' invovlement in PlameGate?

NBC's David Gregory ... declar[ed] the administration to be "inconsistent," then "hypocritical."

"You have a policy for some investigations and not others, when it's a political ally who you need to get work done?" Gregory asked.

McClellan: "Call it presidential prerogative; he responded to that question. But the White House established a policy. ...You can get all dramatic about it, but you know what our policy is."

What does McClellan think of Bush?

McClellan says that he is "honored" to serve George W. Bush, that he will "vigorously defend the president and his agenda," that there are "a lot of bright people working in the White House," that ... he's merely "part of a team." And that: "It's a good team."
Yeah, except for those lying lawbreakers, a great team!

What does he think about his job as Spokesman/Deflector?

"Sometimes the nature of this job will put you in a tough spot," McClellan says. He is speaking about the Plame investigation....

He has anguished that his credibility has been harmed by his statements in 2003 that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby "have assured me they were not involved in this," this being the outing of Plame as a covert CIA agent.

Today Libby is under indictment, Rove's involvement has become apparent and McClellan's public statements haunt him.

He says, repeatedly, that he would like to say more about the investigation, and in time he will, "hopefully sooner rather than later."

McClellan assur[es] the reporter he just ate with that he said more than he usually does. "I think I talked about how badly I wanted to talk about it," McClellan says by phone a few days later, referring to the thing he can't talk about.

Time for Pajamas

Mikaela scolds:
Did you ignore my ardent plea? Did you miss Love and Beauty? I shake my head at your folly.

And offer a second chance at redemption: For the last time in a long while, take the time tonight to see the Pajama Men this Dirty Thursday.

Native sons Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen perform their hearts out -- all improv, all the time. Get ready to guffaw.

Tonight only!

Pajama Men Dirty Thursday
Tricklock Performance Space
118 Washington Avenue (1/2 block south of Central)
(505) 254-8393
8 pm, 10 measley bucks

Call for reservations! See you there!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Beating around Bush

Mikaeala quotes:

From Washington Post transcript of Monday's press conference with Bush:

Washington Post reporter Peter Baker: Thank you, Mr. President. I wonder if you can tell us today, sir, what, if any, limits you believe there are or should be on the powers of a President during a war, at wartime? And if the global war on terror is going to last for decades, as has been forecast, does that mean that we're going to see, therefore, a more or less permanent expansion of the unchecked power of the executive in American society?

Bush: First of all, I disagree with your assertion of "unchecked power. ... There is the check of people being sworn to uphold the law, for starters. There is oversight. We're talking to Congress all the time, and on this program, to suggest there's unchecked power is not listening to what I'm telling you. I'm telling you, we have briefed the United States Congress on this program a dozen times.

But keep this in mind...Meanwhile, in another room at the White House...

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales says the administration discussed introducing legislation explicitly permitting such domestic spying but decided against it because it 'would be difficult, if not impossible' to pass."

So they did it anyway and just told Congress they did it. Kinda sounds unchecked, no?

Reminds me of that old joke that Emo Phillips uses. When he was a little boy, he prayed and prayed for a bike, but then he realized God didn't work that way. So he just stole one and asked God to forgive him.

Baker and Charles Babington wrote "Bush's remarks left many critics unassuaged .... Nor did he explain why the current system is not quick enough to meet the needs of the fight against terrorism. Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the NSA in urgent situations can already eavesdrop on international telephone calls for 72 hours without a warrant, as long as it goes to a secret intelligence court by the end of that period for retroactive permission. Since the law was passed in 1978 after intelligence scandals, the court has rejected just five of 18,748 requests for wiretaps and search warrants, according to the government. . . .

Why is that not good enough for these guys? Sounds like they just don't like being subject to checks at all. SCARY.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Thoughts from Thesis Hell

Mikaela whines:
Here at Flying Star slaving away while I imagine my compatriot m's enjoying their families and watching movies!

No time to ponder the crushing weight of the news (although holy god, are you following the latest Bush administration crisis? Are they seriously trying to justify the wholesale dismantling of our civil liberties? Really? Despite the fact that each and every justification they offer has holes the size of galaxies?), so instead I offer a little light pondering regarding the spatial effect of globalization on our cities and social movements. Ahem.

This from David Harvey's Spaces of Hope:

How has the conception of globalization been used politically? Has adoption of the term signaled a confession of powerlessness on the part of national, regional, and local working-class or other anti-capitalist movements? Has belief in the term operated as a powerful deterrent to localized and even national political action? Has the form of solidarity hitherto represented by the nation state become ‘hollowed out’ as some now claim? Are all oppositional movements to capitalism within nation states and localities such insignificant cogs in the vast infernal global machine of the international market place that there is no room for political maneuver anywhere?
Well, what do we think?

Welcome to the new American century. I heard the protestors outside the WTO chanted, "This is what democracy looks like!" -- one of my personal favorites at demonstrations.

I just gotta ask, looking at our own country: Is this what democracy looks like?

Suburban creation myths

Maggie says:
In North Carolina for the holidays since Thursday, and it feels like I've been here forever. Home is funny that way. It immediately becomes what it always has been, so visits home feel not like a respite from my everyday life, but like the place I've been headed back toward all along, without even knowing it.

Home means family, friends, warmth, and routines. Yet in the suburbs of Raleigh, NC, home has also come to mean traffic, shopping malls, and sprawl, all of which are at their worst during the holidays. Check out these figures: in 1990, my parents' little town of Apex, NC had 5,476 residents. By 2000, it had grown to 20,212 residents - an increase of 269%! But it hasn't stopped there. A town population estimate from 2004 figured the towns' residents to be 27,509 - another 36% increase in just four years. This place is growing, alright. But growing smartly? Not exactly...

It's funny how the suburban experience unites people. Us children of suburbs know each other right away. We know the symbolism of the cul-de-sac, the bored Saturdays at the mall, the trapped nature of life as a suburban teenager without a car. Cars come to represent freedom to suburban kids - freedom to meet new people, see new places, get the hell out of suburbia. As a teenager, as soon as I had access to wheels, I'd be flying down the highway to someplace else as fast as I could. Without a plan for the night, but feeling like the whole world was in front of me, I went to where people and unexpected encounters were. In my case, that meant to Raleigh, either Hillsborough Street to sit in a dingy coffeeshop called Cup 'O Joe or a cool neighborhood called Five Points, where I'd hang out in a coffeeshop called The Third Place after seeing independent movies at the Rialto. Or I'd head to Chapel Hill and camp out in a booth at Pepper's Pizza and imagine how glamorous college life would be. Excitement was the unexpected, the different. And that just wasn't happening in Apex. Not then, and not really now, either.

So much about finding yourself as you grow up is figuring out how you're different, which is next to impossible in placeless locales like the suburbs, where the shops can also be found in Kansas, the restaurants the same as in Arizona, and people are moving in as fast as they can from all over the country. In the quest for growth-growth-growth, so many towns in NC and everywhere else lost sight of what was important: a true sense of place, a uniqueness that makes that place like no place else.

I had a conversation with one of my oldest friends yesterday. Saleem is in town from Japan, where he's been teaching English. Before Japan, he lived in New York. Like me, he's a local expatriate, the type that fellow high school graduates mention at parties and wonder where we are and what in the world we're doing these days. We're seen as aimless, unexpected, full of strange choices. Saleem mentioned that this trip home is the first that really feels to him like he's been gone a long time. The distance, the time, makes everything here seem absolutely absurd to him. "I wonder," Saleem said, "how did this place create me? How do I possibly come from here?"

It's a fair question. To those of us full of quirks and personality and individuality and independence, it's strange to think that the same suburbs bred us and the people who never leave town, who are perfectly happy shopping at Wal-Mart, never traveling, and never doing anything new. The way the suburbs trap so many people is the same way they expel the others: conform and be forever satisfied here, be different and never be satisfied here. Of course, the most haunting notion is this: if those of us who could bring something different to these places never come back to help change them, aren't we part of the problem, too?

As Apex revitalizes its downtown (I had my first ever unexpected encounter with a friend outside the local shops downtown over Thanksgiving), I'd like to think it's reevaluating itself as a unique destination, a place for locals to be proud of, a whole place instead of just a convenient commuting stop. But I'm almost afraid to feel optimistic. Sprawl is such a pervasive force, so deadening to everything I cherish about place, that this is one time I may just take the cynical route and assume the worst. As much as it pains me to be cynical, time has tricked me into believing that nothing truly great can come out of places like this anymore. And that makes me sad.

I'll end this with a line from one of my all-time favorite teen flicks, a movie that shored up my stance that I had to get out and get out as fast as I could when I did live here. The movie is Pump up the Volume. Mark Hunter (aka Hard Harry), love of many a smart teenage girl's fantasy life, sums up suburban angst so perfectly: "Doesn't this blend of blindness and blandness make you wanna do something crazy?!"

Monday, December 19, 2005

Social Mobilization Victory

Mikaela says:
Believe in power to the people? The strength of community? Democracy?

Then you should be cheering the historic victory of indigenous leader Evo Morales in Bolivia. Who knows how effective this community-supported leadership will be when confronted by the powers that be on the world stage, but dammit, it's a start.

The people of Bolivia have shown tremendous strength and bravery in opposing efforts to privatize their most basic resources, to the point of taking to the streets when a private company (the always-on-the-wrong-side Bechtel) took over access to their water, threatening to price out the country's poorest citizens. From their own water. They've won that war several times over.

They have recognized the danger of the global pressure to from organizations like the IMF and World Bank, and they've voted in a leader who understands and opposes them as a matter of survival and in the interest of protecting and enhancing the quality of life of all citizens, not just the rich and powerful few.

We can only hope that their kind of revolution catches on and outsources itself throughout the Americas and finds a home here. I'm ready!

From Democracy Now:

Indigenous Leader Evo Morales Wins Stunning Election in Bolivia
In Bolivia, union leader Evo Morales has claimed a stunning victory in Sunday's presidential elections. Exit polls show Morales won just over 50 percent of the vote - giving him the greatest political mandate that any Bolivian president has had in decades. Morales will become the country's first indigenous head of state. He gave a victory speech Sunday night in Cochabamba.

  • Evo Morales: "The indigenous movement, since its inception, is not exclusive, it's inclusive. That is what we live by. Through our government, we will end discrimination, xenophobia will end, hate will end, and so will the scorn to which we have been submitted historically. We want to live together in the so-called diversity, changing the neo-liberal model and finishing off the colonial state."

Friday, December 16, 2005

Where he belongs

Maggie says:
Robert Novak is leaving CNN to become a commentator on Fox News. Surprised, anyone?

I think what I'll miss most about Novak is his sputtering self-righteousness during on-air arguments and his steadfast repulsion of all things logical and factual.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Novak. I hope Fox gives you a big 'ol mistletoe wet one on your first day. You've certainly been kissing their asses long enough.

Talk about deserving each other...

Fight for Immigration Rights

Mikaela says:

This from our friends at the Center for Economic Justice:

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Chair of the House Judicial Committee which oversees immigration legislation, has put together several bills into a new bill HR 4437. Two of the most repressive "enforcement" provisions would:

  • Make undocumented immigration a federal felony. (Currently, unauthorized entry is a misdemeanor.) This bill targets about 11 million people currently in the U.S., including 1.6 million children, and about 5% of the U.S. workforce.
  • Deny due process rights to undocumented immigrants (and others), including mandatory and extended detention, as well as deportation, without access to legal counsel or notification to families.

The bill has been introduced to the House, and will probably come up for vote on Wednesday or Thursday. The bill is likely to pass!

Legislators have been overwhelmingly hearing from the voices of hate and repression to back up their "enforcement" approach to immigration. As a result, most are not considering the causes of immigration, like U.S. international policies, and so repressive policies will not stop unauthorized immigration. They are also not considering the significant economic and social contributions immigrants make to our communities, which benefit us all. Is this the kind of America you want us to be? Are they hearing from you?

If not, contact your U.S. Representatives and let them know:

  • You oppose HR 4437 and all other "enforcement-only" legislation.
  • You support comprehensive immigration reform, that provides for legal residency for undocumented immigrants, family reunification, and full civil and labor rights.

It is important for organizations that represent segments of the community who are constituents to speak out, particularly faith, labor, justice, business, and other groups concerned with the impacts of repressive policies on our society.

To find how to contact your U.S. Representative, go to, and type in your ZIP code.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Guess Who Gets to Rebuild in New Orleans?

Mikaela says:
Not poor people!

Here's Democracy Now's summary of the NY Times article:

Over 77,000 Katrina Home Loan Applications Rejected
The New York Times is reporting hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast families are being denied government loans to rebuild homes lost or damaged in Hurricane Katrina. According to the Times, the Small Business Administration -- the federal agency in charge of the main disaster recovery program for businesses and homeowners -- has processed only a third of the 276,000 loan applications it has received. Of those that have been reviewed, the government has rejected 82 percent of home loan applications – over 77,000 rejections. In New Orleans, approved loans appear to be heavily tilted towards wealthy neighborhoods over poor ones. Herbert Mitchell, director of the Small Business Administration’s disaster assistance program, told the Times the government could not risk taxpayer money by lending to people with low incomes or poor credit history. Mitchell said: "We're just dealing with the demographics in the area."

Sounds bad, doesn't it?

Here's what the NY Times article is headlined:

Loans to Homeowners Along Gulf Coast Lag

Lag? Lag? 82% rejection rate is a "lag"? Lag for whom? Not for upper income people! Talk about burying your lead! Talk about blatant whitewashing!

Here's quotes from the actual story that garnered that oh-so-benign headline:

And [the Small Business Administration (S.B.A.)] has rejected 82 percent of those it has reviewed, a higher percentage than in most previous disasters, saying that many would-be borrowers did not have incomes high enough, or credit ratings good enough, to qualify. The rejections came even though the Federal Emergency Management Agency has referred more than two million people, many of them with low incomes, to the S.B.A. to get the loans.

To a large degree, that high rejection rate appears to reflect a mismatch between existing government aid programs and the large number of low-income people affected by this year's hurricanes. Despite the widespread poverty in the most damaged regions, the Small Business Administration has not adjusted its creditworthiness standards, which are roughly comparable to a bank's.

In fact, the loans that have been approved appear to be flowing to wealthy neighborhoods in New Orleans but not to poor ones, according to a list of loans released by the government and mapped by The New York Times.

Remember what the government's own report found about bank funding: It's racist.

Sounds like a good model for the SBA!

To read alternative ways to rebuild, remember m-pyre's suggestions here and here and here and here. Needless to say, it ain't lookin' good! Uh, Congress? Can we do something? Quickly?

P.S. Bush just asked for another $1.5 billion. He says it's for rebuilding the levees. Who do you think that's really for? I'm guessing not poor, black homeowners. I'm thinking business owners. Safe bet, no? I bet you anything New Orleans is going to get a whole slew of new sports stadiums and a new downtown harbor a la Boston.

What Bush Will Be Remembered For: Unbelievable Hypocrisy

Mikaela says:

Bush was asked in an interview what he hopes to be remembered for.

BUSH: You mean, just kind of a blanket statement?

Fox's HUME: Yes.

BUSH: I hope that first, as a person, I'll be remembered as a fellow who had his priorities straight: his faith, his family and his friends are a central part of his life.

Secondly, I hope to be remembered, from a personal perspective, as a fellow who had lived life to the fullest and gave it his all. And thirdly, I'd like to be remembered as the president who used American influence for the good of the world: bastioning freedom and fighting disease and poverty, by recognizing to whom much is given, much is required and that -- that I wasn't afraid to make a decision.

He's President of the most powerful country in the world (although he's doing his damndest to undermine this), and his top priorities are faith, family, and friends? Is that why he goes on vacation so often?

And LASTLY he wants to be remembered as someone who makes decisions, right or wrong?

Yep, that about sums it up, doesn't it?

But really, what Bush will be remembered for is the deadly hypocrisy that led to a war in Iraq, the undermining of public education, massive corporate takeover of government, and the spread of dictatorships and terror around the globe. Woo-hoo! Go America.

I mean, really. We go to Iraq to spread freedom and end up imprisoning thousands of Iraqis with no system of justice and torture them by directive of our Secretary of Defense. No hypocrisy there. We defame torture and then kidnap and fly citizens of other countries to countries where we know they will be tortured? Hmmm... We say torture is not acceptable and then add an Army training manual for how to torture within international law? We say no torture ever, except for our CIA? Really?

Here are some of the latest tidbits of hypocrisy.

Bush on Cheney:

And the good thing about Dick Cheney is when he discusses a topic with me and he gives me his advice, I never read about it in the newspaper the next day. And that's why our relationship is so close and his advice is so valued.

This depite the fact that Cheney's office is embroiled in the CIA operative leak scandal that led to Libby being indicted and forced to resign!

Bush on Rove:

[W]e're still as close as we've ever been. We've been through a lot. When I look back at the presidency and my time in politics, uh, no question Karl had a lot to do with me getting here.

Only, where's HERE, exactly? The lowest approval rating of an incumbent President? At war in two countries? In the midst of White House scandal? Maybe Bush is really telling us who the leaker really is. It's an admission of Rove's guilt! Finally!

Last night, Bush declared Tom Delay innocent of money-laundering charges. This, despite Bush's insistence that he can't comment about on-going investigations, which has been his reason for NOT commenting on scandal in his own White House about his closest (and the country's top) advisors.

But it's okay for a Texas buddy? What the hell!

Bush on Iraq:

We will not leave until victory has been achieved.

As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.

Peter Baker: "What he did not do was reconcile those two ideas. Will U.S. soldiers withdraw from Iraq only after the insurgency has been vanquished? Or will they withdraw when Iraqi security forces become adequately trained to take over the battle themselves? Or somewhere in between?

Seeing straight...past the propaganda

marjorie says...

We are so propagandized in this country we can hardly see straight…it takes a supreme effort at times. What brings this up for me this morning? An article a friend emailed me about Hugo Chavez winning the UNESCO’s José Martí Prize, which is a prize awarded for contributions to “unity and integration of Latin America and the Carib-bean.” And the award was made in Havana no less.

Hmmm…could it truly be that the United Nations is honoring a despot at an awards ceremony in a totalitarian country that tortures its citizens??

Well, if you listen to the relentless U.S. media characterization of both Chavez and Cuba you’d probably think that.

But to the rest of the world we’re a bunch of nuts. After all, our Vice President is at this very moment lobbying Congress hard to *not* ban torture…

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Enviro Justice

Mikaela says:
Environmental injustice is alive and well. Katrina ripped open a window to expose conditions all along the polluted Mississippi where communities of color disproportionately share in hosting noxious industries.

From Democracy Now:

African Americans 80 Percent More Likely Than Whites To Live in Polluted Areas
[G]overnment records analyzed by the Associated Press show that African-Americans are nearly 80 percent more likely than whites to live in neighborhoods subjected to dangerous industrial pollution. Carol Browner, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration, said: "Poor communities, frequently communities of color but not exclusively, suffer disproportionately. If you look at where our industrialized facilities tend to be located, they're not in the upper middle class neighborhoods."

We're facing this issue right here in Albuquerque in the South Valley's Mountain View community, which compared to the rest of the County is poorer and less educated and has a higher percentage of Hispanic families. Mountain View houses the vast majority of the County's industrial businesses, from auto recyclers to petroleum farms, often right next to residential neighborhoods. There have been so many spills and accidents, residents can no longer drink water from their own wells. Businesses are pushing back against efforts to regulate dumping and require safe business practices to protect nearby residents.

What are we willing to do to create livable communities for all residents? How much are we as a society prepared to see environmental injustice for what it is and take steps to change it?

To read more about environmental racism in general:
Annotated Bibliography

To do something about it here:
Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP)

To work toward environmental justice regionally:
Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice

NM supports privatizing the Space Age

Mikaela says:
Now millionaires can launch themselves into space from New Mexico!

Hmmm... a different version of outsourcing. I wonder how long it will take Bush and Co. to set up an illegal goulag on Mars? Talk about harsh extradition!

NM and a private concern from London will build a $225 million spaceport near White Sands. From NY Times:

38,000 people from 126 countries had paid a deposit for a seat on one of its commercial spaceflights, including a core group of 100 "founders" who have already paid the full $200,000 for a ticket. It plans to begin flights in late 2008 or early 2009, using the base in Mojave, Calif., from which the first manned private rockets reached space last year.

Virgin Galactic said it had chosen New Mexico as the site for its headquarters because of its steady climate, free airspace, low population density and high altitude. All those factors can significantly reduce the cost of the spaceflight program.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Lack of Info

Mikaela warns:
I feel a rant of unsubstantiated claims about media coming on. Read no further if you want ACTUAL justification for gut-level disgust about the state of things.

I'm a quick peruser of four news sources, as I'm sure my entries make clear. First and foremost, I scan Democracy Now to digest what to look for in the big papers. Then I click first on NY Times -- cause it's the New York Times! (Although, I've been consistently disappointed and downright disgusted with its vapid reporting lately. These days, I check Washington Post first.) Then I check out Washington Post. Then, if I'm still dissatisfied, I go to the LA Times. I'll admit it; I'm doing this during work before settling into my work day. I need news fast! I read more than one paper to minimize myopia and to gain a broader survey of what's on the radar for respected media outlets. That's the idea, anyway.

You wonder why m-pyre's postings have been a bit thin lately (okay, damn near comatose)? Yes, we're all busy, and yes, our lives are changing tectonically as some of us finish degrees (hurray!) and some of us search for new direction and one of us (okay, me!) try desperately to keep my nose to the thesis grindstone. But on my part, it's also a dearth in news coverage of the stories I'm hungry to know about. Sure, the newspapers are still filled with all kinds of stories. But the ones that I want to know about? Silence.

Dan Froomkin from the Washington Post has been the only one consistently remembering to ask, "Where's Rove? Why isn't Bush talking? Why isn't anyone dissatisfied with the silence enough to force them to talk or at least offer up more satisfying (i.e. more truthful) answers?"

His stuff's buried, though. I never can find him if I'm looking for him, and I usually only read him when there's a link displayed under the Opinion heading on the main page. Otherwise? Hard to find. Maybe I'm just an idiot.

But shouldn't it be easier? Shouldn't there be more stories?

What happened to the information that the Bush administration has been waging a propaganda war in Arab countries much like the propaganda he paid for here in our very own country? (NY Times very much comes through on this story documenting the extent of the propoganda but misses the opportunity to explore why this is deeply unethical, or even report that criticism.) Where's the outrage? Or the analysis?

What happened to the Downing Street memos?

Why is the heading "Fitzgerald Watch" when the story is all about Rove and Novak?

Can someone with more objectivity and wisdom, maybe more time to think about this carefully and critically, please explain all this to me?

That said, here's the link to Froomkin's amazing run-down of all things Bush related.

And here's his White House Briefing, which is fast becoming my main source of the news I care about:

  • Bush on plans to attack Iran and Syria: "The long run in this war is going to require a change of governments in parts of the world," Bush told the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, a nonpartisan educational group, on Monday. He didn't name names but noted that Iran and Syria have become obstacles to freedom in 'a tough neighborhood.' "
  • Bush on Katrina and racism: "Somebody I heard -- you know, a couple of people said -- you know, said, 'Bush didn't respond because of race, because he's a racist.' That is absolutely wrong. And I reject that. Frankly, that's the kind of thing that -- you can call me anything you want -- but do not call me a racist. Secondly, this storm hit all up and down. It hit New Orleans. It hit down in Mississippi too. And people should not forget the damage done in Mississippi."
  • Bush on where he gets his news: "I don't see a lot of the news. Every morning I look at the newspaper. I can't say I've read every single article in the newspaper. But I definitely know what's in the news. Occasionally, I watch television. ... But I'm very aware of what's in the news. I'm aware because I see clips. I see summaries. I have people on my staff that walk in every morning and say, 'This is what's -- this is how I see it. This is what's brewing today,' on both the domestic and international side. Frankly, it is probably part of my own fault for needling people, but it's a myth to think I don't know what's going on. And it's a myth to think that I'm not aware that there is opinions that don't agree with mine. Because I'm fully aware of that. . . .

    I read the newspaper. I mean, I can tell you what the headlines are. I must confess, if I think the story is, like, not a fair appraisal, I'll move on. But I know what the story's about."

  • Bush on whether or not he's in a bubble: "Look, I, I, uh, I feel like I'm getting really good advice from very capable people, and that people from all walks of life inform me and inform those who advise me. And I feel very comfortable that, that I'm very aware of what's going on. ... I'm interested in the news, I'm not all that interested in the opinions."

NM at the Nation's Capitol

Mikaela says:
New Mexico's holiday tree was selected to be placed in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Do you think this was about our governor? Or because we're still considered "exotic"?

Or because they figure they should do this now before all vestiges of our living cultures are polluted to death by natural gas interests increasingly gaining power within New Mexico and nationally as the rhetoric moves to vilify oil and foreign dependence and valorize national resources (without a concomitant understanding or acknowledgement or moves to mitigate of the pollution this will cause for our own communities)?

Granted, all energy production pollutes the communities whose resources we use. Even solar panels cause pollution because of the highly toxic chemicals used to produce them.

Still, it's a beautiful tree. And it's nice to know that maybe a few more people will discover the state that's usually missing from the panopoly of 50.

I have to wince a little at the "decorative" use of culture imported for holiday viewing. It rankles a little in the same way that the Mardi Gras discussion hits me as a massive co-optation of the living culture of vibrant people who are not being compensated (or even considered worthy of planning efforts to mitigate impacts caused by the dominant cultures that take from them) for this "celebration" taking.

Yeah, happy holidays, New Mexico. You make a beautiful tree. Keep that gas and coal coming! Thanks for ornamenting our capitol.


Maggie says:
Stanley Tookie Williams was executed last night by the State of California. Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Terminator, indeed.

I can't think of much of anything to feel except absolutely terrible. Were Tookie's victims more honored through his own death than they were by his anti-gang work that actually prevented gang violence? In the wake of his nominations for a Nobel Peace Prize, Tookie's state-sanctioned murder only makes him a martyr. And us, murderers no better than him in his youth.

Look at those eyes. Just look at them.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Happy bumpers

Maggie says:
Thanks to CafePress, my car's now the proud owner of a bumper sticker that couldn't be more perfect for my obnoxious, look-on-the-bright-side self. For all you other glass-half-fullers, I highly recommend some self-affirmation with this little number:

While I was there I ran into another sticker so cute, so nerdy, so perfect for three Ms I know, that I ordered, well, three of them. So wave if you see us m-pyre gals tooling around town with these on our bumpers:

Riveted by "The Agronomist"

Maggie says:
I watched "The Agronomist" this weekend. Actually, I experienced "The Agronomist" this weekend. It seeped into my bones and took me to another place. Do watch it.

For those not in the know, "The Agronomist" tells the story of Jean Dominique, legendary independent radio journalist and founder of Radio Haiti, who was assassinated in April 2000 outside his studio. The film also tells the story of Michele Montas, Jean's widow and partner at Radio Haiti until the end. Jean Dominique was an amazing man, a true loss to humankind. A Paris-trained agronomist, he returned to his country commited to using his knowledge to advocate for peasant farmers, a commitment he maintained throughout his life. He transformed Radio Haiti from a little-known radio station into a bastion of independent news and connection for Haitians in periods of intense disconnection from each other and the rest of the world. Radio Haiti broadcast in Creole (the first station to ever broadcast in the "uneducated language" of Haiti rather than in French) in order to better communicate to the people, and it steadfastly provided independent news to Haitians from within the country and from the rest of the world, another very new practice.

"The Agronomist" celebrates the importance of a free and independent media in the most serious of ways: by portraying what a threat free thought is in countries of oppression. Radio Haiti was a station run by and for the people of Haiti. It refused to be a mouthpiece for various administrations, despite the murders, tortures, bombings, shootings, and periods of exile experienced by its staff members. Radio Haiti was always seen as a problem by various dictators or US-backed administrations because at the helm of Dominique and Montas, it simply would not give in to pressure to change its way of operating. The station became a symbol for Haitian people - a symbol of freedom, of success in hard times, and of dogged persistence. The station's slogan - "we have stumbled but not fallen" - embodied the struggles of all Haitians to remain free through generations of oppression. When Jean and Michele returned to Haiti after their first exile during the last of the Duvaliers' reign (they were notoriously known as Papa Doc and Baby Doc, as many of you know), 70,000 Haitians arrived at the airport to greet them. 70,000 people.

U.S. guilt is woven throughout this documentary. We see so clearly - and I hope like hell that people who are completely unaware of our guilt in Haiti along with many, many other countries will see this - that when our country involves itself in another with less-than-democratic intent, absolute chaos erupts. In Haiti, our country turned the Army into murderers, the provisional government into dictators. We take bad and make it worse, and for what? No where, at no time, will the U.S. admit to the profiteering on our hands, the blood spilled because we muddled and interfered with what was not ours.

Some of the most heartbreaking scenes in this film show boats filled with would-be Haitian refugees, desperately trying to reach the U.S. and escape the brutality and oppression of their country. We watch the Coast Guard turn them away in international waters and the point hits home: our country is responsible for creating unimaginable circumstances in the lives of Haitians, yet they still choose to believe we will help them, take them in, save them from the horror that is on our hands. If only our country actually lived up to the country they thought we were. But no. We are terribly unfair, unabashedly indifferent. As damning as the evidence about the School of the Americas and the CIA is, what's most damning is still those boats, those people, desperately wanting to believe that we will help them.

Jean Dominique was a man more democratic than his country, a voice for the people and no one else. His unwavering demand for human rights lives on. So does our unwavering guilt.

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Mayor's Monomaniacal All-Ages, Some Venues, Prohibition

Mikaela says:
Joe Anderson posted a letter about the Mayor's proposal to ban all alcohol sales from all-ages shows here. Although that effort by the mayor failed, rest assured he's still got tricks up his sleeves.

A cyber-friend in Albuquerque's own Unit 7 Drain, who plays often at the Lauchpad, posted this to his blog in October:

So yesterday, I was jogging down Central, and I noticed Chavez's campaign HQ, I went in and asked if I could speak to someone about this "no alcohol at all ages proposal" , they directed me to the campaign manager's office.

I asked what this proposal was about, the guy said "the mayor whats to keep alcohol away from kids" I said "so this applies to the Journal Pavillion and State Fair too, right?" He said, "no just places where there is a bar atmosphere". I responded "kids have gotten alcohol lots of times at the Jounal, they have been cited many times, my underage sister has had beer handed to her several times @ the Fair. Why are you picking on the Launchpad?" He said "it is the adults with alcohol, not the Launchpad. We just want the kids to be away from the adults with alcohol" I said "but there are adults with alcohol around all the kids @ the Journal and State Fair, why is that OK?" He said "we just don't want anywhere where there is a bar atmosphere"

It was like talking to a robot. (a robot with very limited understanding and poor programming) I could see in his eyes that he knew it was BS. But he was following his programming. There were two teen-aged girls in his office while he and I were having this conversation. They knew it was BS also. It is strange how someone can go against what they know is right. It is like these people are in a really big, socially accepted CULT. It was just interesting to see someone spewing bullshit right to my face, and maintaing their own straight face while they do it. "

-ride captain ride
-little bobby

It is one thing to want our children to be safe; it is another to use our children as the justification for our own selfish goals. The Mayor needs to come clean about why he's really so interested in this issue. The fact that he's not doing more to keep alcohol sales to minors from happening EVERYWHERE, starting first with the places where it happens the MOST completely undermines his credibility on this issue.

My first guess: he's politically and monetarily connected to the Journal Pavilion and can't/won't screw with them.

Second: he's politically and monetarily at odd with Launchpad/Sunshine owner Joe Anderson, who's on the opposite side of development issues that Mayor Marty's moneycrew falls on.

It's okay, Marty. You can admit it. Let's just all be honest and have a conversation about what we want to do together. That's democracy, right? Is that idea really so scary to you that you have to hide behind teenagers?

Come on out. Let's talk about this. Our community has the right to make a decision together, knowing where each of us stands and why.

Like New Orleans, Albuquerque teeters on a development decision-point. The more we can force all the players to be transparent about their own stakes in these decisions, the better informed our decisions can be. Them's the rules of the game. Let's all remember that. Even if the power does lie with the moneyed, the community can re-balance the power by banding together to demand accountability. That's how it works.

As Marjorie says, democracy humanizes capitalism. That's the role and power of community.

Anybody got the skinny on Marty's latest?

Friday, December 09, 2005

To Mardi or Not to Mardi

Mikaela pontificates:
That's New Orlean's question.

The businesses want the show to go on. They say, 40% of New Orlean's budget comes from Mardi Gras. Throwing the party means more money to help return city services and get residents home.

But whose Mardi Gras is it? Tourism is based on culture, yes? But many of the rightful owners of this culture -- those who can authentically lay claim to it -- were bused and flown other places, and they haven't been asked to return.

On NPR, when they were interviewing the President of the Marketing and Convention Visitors Bureau, he was very deliberate when he said tourist industry businesses were the first to step up and help residents, and now they want Mardi Gras to continue to recuperate funds that can bring "some" of them home. I wonder if he includes poor black residents in that "some" or not. I have my suspicions. The some in this case is not even as much as its parts.

He made it out as though tourist industry supports the people. But whose culture supports the tourist industry? Can there be an industry without them? Should there be?

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Katrina Response: race & class *were* factors

marjorie says...

There are congressional hearings happening on the role of race and class in the response to Hurricane Katrina. Democracy Now has excerpts that are fascinating.

In this transcript, community members argue that they WERE held in concentration camps:

REP. JEFF MILLER: May I ask you a question? You mention -- you talked about the parishes. And this is something that I have heard people talk about. Is it true that some parishes are refusing to allow temporary housing of certain peoples within their parishes?

LEAH HODGES: Very true. Very true. Particularly true of [inaudible] and Jefferson Parish. Jefferson Parish is where the Causeway concentration camp was housed, where we experienced the Gestapo-type oppression, as opposed to being rescued. We were three minutes away from the airport. They could have taken us to the airport. Those military vehicles could have taken us to any dry, safe city in America. Instead, they dumped us at a dumping ground, sealed us in there, and they backed up all their authority with military M-16s.

And there were thousands and thousands of people. On the last day we were in there -- and let me tell you something -- they hand-picked the white people to ride out first. Yes, racism was very much involved. They hand-picked the white people to ride out first. Every day, the crowd got darker and darker and darker until finally there were only – there were 95% people of color in that place.

REP. JEFF MILLER: Miss Hodges, would you be offended if I respectfully asked you not to call the Causeway area a concentration camp?

LEAH HODGES: I am going to call it what it is. If I put a dress on a pig, a pig is still a pig.

REP. JEFF MILLER: Are you familiar with the history?

LEAH HODGES: Yes, sir, I am. And that is the only thing I could compare what we went through to: a concentration camp.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And that's the truth.

LEAH HODGES: And everybody in the place with me, the lady sitting next to me was there, my mother was there, my younger brother was there, my two sisters; we ran into others. That is the point, that they broke up families and dispersed us.


LEAH HODGES: And they stood over us with guns and enforced their authority, and yes, they tortured us. And then they used various forms of torture. And yes, I know what a concentration camp is. I'm a college-educated woman.

REP. JEFF MILLER: Not a single --

LEAH HODGES: And I love the study of history.

REP. JEFF MILLER: Not a single person was marched into a gas chamber and killed.

LEAH HODGES: They died from abject neglect. We left body bags behind. Pregnant women lost their babies.

In this transcript, Cynthia McKinney takes the Democractic Party to task:

AMY GOODMAN: Harry Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. After three hours of moving testimony, the hearing came to a close. The Republican chair of the committee was about to end the proceedings before he was interrupted by Congress member Cynthia McKinney.

    REP. TOM DAVIS: Let me just thank this panel. Thanks for your patience and sitting through it. Thank you for the dialogue, and we very much appreciate this information.

    REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Mr. Chairman, don't bang the gavel yet, because I would like to have concluding words.

    REP. TOM DAVIS: Ah, yeah. Ms. McKinney.

    REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: I would like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for allowing us to have this day.

    REP. TOM DAVIS: You can take as much time as you want on that comment.


    REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Because were it left up to—I'll get in trouble now—but were it left up to the Democratic leadership, we would not have had this day, because we wouldn't be here. The Democratic leadership has instructed us to boycott this panel, because we can't trust the results or the report of this panel. But if we participate as our constituents voted us to do up here, we can at least insure that there's more integrity than by boycotting it.

    And so I would like to thank my chairman for giving us the opportunity to invite people who don't have the opportunity to come and testify before Congress, except for Barbara, of course, she comes up here a lot. But, we’ve heard from people for whom getting here has been a struggle, whether it's just because they are Katrina survivors at the armory, and it was a struggle for them to get to the armory, or if they are Katrina survivors living in New Orleans still, determined to stay there and maybe every once in a while get a glimpse of their member of Congress.

    We are here to serve all of the people of this country, and too rarely do we hear from all of the people. But thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Shays, for staying here throughout the entirety of this hearing to hear what my people—my people—have to say. Because the road that we walk is not paved. Or as some great poet said, life for us ain’t been no crystal stair.

    REP. TOM DAVIS: Thank you. Cynthia, thank you very much.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia thanking Democratic Congressmember Cynthia McKinney, who called for the hearing on race and class as it relates to Hurricane Katrina.

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