Monday, February 28, 2005

The left? What left?

marjorie says...

Here is a satire written by a Professor at UNM. It's in response to the economist Albert Fishlow, who spoke at the Latin America Institute at UNM recently. When Fishlow made the comment that there was no longer a left in Latin America, many professors in the audience apparently were nodding their heads in agreement.

02/26/05 - Dredge NewsFlash - Rapture Takes Leftists!(04:00AM EST)

Last night, the Argentine government announced that it successfully transformed its foreign debt from $81 to 40 billion dollars. Thirty minutes later conservative political leaders and religious fundamentalists around the globe were baffled by the news that began to come in from south of the border: the abrupt disappearance of Latin American leftists.

Theology of liberation priests and nuns could not be found anywhere; even Brazilian and Peruvian bishops could not be accounted for. The mayors of Mexico City and Bogota had disappeared into thin air, as well as their staffs. Similar reports indicated that entire governments of provincial capitals and local cities have banished. Oddly, the very buildings serving as the headquarters of the Cuban Communist Party, the Movimiento al Socialismo in Bolivia, the Frente Amplio in Uruguay, the Piqueteros and the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires dissipated as well. Only vacant lots are found where shanty towns stood in every working class neighborhood throughout Latin America. The CIA station chief in Lima, Peru -using his cell phone - told the Associated Press - "it is a miracle, the poor have disappeared!." Traffic flows crossing into San Diego or El Paso had dwindled to just one lane and no begging children were found at the bridge crossings.

Because of the absence of leftists, Brazil, Argentina,Venezuela, Panama, Guyana, Cuba and the smaller islands of the Caribbean no longer have governments. "We have no comments until we can talk to someone down there" declared Richard Boucher at the State Department.

The Dredge learned that former General Rios Montt of Guatemala, a born again Christian, has suggested that the Rapture has already taken place, as expected. But he does not understand why leftists were the ones snatched by God to go to Heaven. Similar rumors have spread throughout the Southern Baptist Convention but fundamentalist leaders are saying that it could not be true. A spokesman fromLynchburg, Virginia who wanted to remain anonymous charged that "this is a rapture alright, it is the devil's rapture trying to confuse God fearing Americans." He stressed that liberal wire services were collaborating with Lucifer.

Demographers at the US Census Bureau estimate that the population pressure in Latin America will be eased since approximately 70-75% of the population is poor and indigent. According to Census analysts the populations most affected by the "disapperance" have been the poor. However, neighborhoods such as Miraflores in Caracas, and the ABC [American, Canadian, British] communities throughout Latin America do not report anyone missing.

The people most affected appear to be those who were members of, or identified with, left parties, radical populism, socialists, anarchists, labor unions, peasant organizations, civil rights, solidarity, women's liberation, the disabled, the unemployed and students.

According to the Associated Press, the director of the Latin American Missionary Training Institute in North Carolina said all of their people doing missionary work in Latin America are accounted for. The Christian Democracy International with headquarters in Brussels also informed AP that they have called about 30% of Latin American Christian Democratic party presidents and they did not report any problems. An unusual development, though, is that all the native staff at US embassies throughout the region apparently were raptured.

Elliott Abrams at the National Security Council has been meeting since 1 AM (EST) with the Treasury Department officials when the news began to filter in. The lights at the White House continued to show some activity as people from the Pentagon and Wall Street gathered. It has been rumored that the demise of leftists throughout the continent will constitute a very serious problem to the economic policies of the United States (who will work for us?) and will have budgetary implications (how to justify Pentagon monies).

The first American analyst to notice the disappearance of the leftists in Latin America was economist AlbertFishlow, director of the Latin American Center at ColumbiaUniversity. In a presentation at the University of NewMexico on February 21, he declared that the left was gone in Latin America. Although the statement seemed odd at the time (the rapture took place 8 hours later), the statement was accepted in a cheerful sort of way by a portion of the audience, particularly by some LatinAmericanist professors who nodded their heads in agreeement. Students, as usual, were not yet sufficiently informed of such a momentous event and questioned the statement.

The phones at the World Bank, the Inter American Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, ChaseManhattan and other important money centers seemed pleased. They projected that globalization will advance much faster. However, some expressed surprise and dissapointment with God. "I had no idea that God did not understand the laws of nature. How could He take leftists to heaven?" Some have promised to re-read Matthew.

Torture & Wal-Mart

Mikaela says:
Just when I thought I would have a light day (yes, an analysis of the social justice of the Oscars is light fare for M-Pyre!!), the New York Times had a banner day for editorials. Dammit, man!

First up, Bob Herbert wrote a scathing indictment of Bush's hypocrisy in touring Europe to lecture them about freedom and democracy while we're still shipping suspected terrorists back to countries that we know will accept them with open arms -- brutal, torture-loving, armed open arms. Very well-written with plenty to think about.

Second, and a subject closer to M-Pyre's planning little hearts, Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary, castigates us as consumers for allowing Wal-Mart to undermine workers and communities by shopping for the lowest prices. His impetus for the piece (illuminatingly titled "Don't Blame Wal-Mart") comes from New York City's recent rejection of a downtown Wal-Mart, to be the first worm in the Big Apple. While I agree with his main point that consumers do have power to vote with their wallets for fair employment and business practices, he seems to forget that there is another option to asking consumers to bear the cost of fair wages and health care: take it out of corporate profits and salaries at the top. I'm not advocating socialism here, people, I'm saying -- why squeeze the middle and lower classes who can barely afford to SHOP at Wal-Mart when 6 people at the top rank among the RICHEST PEOPLE IN THE WOLRD? Come on, they can afford to pay for worker health care and STILL be the richest people in the world. As consumers, we can choose to buy local and support unions in order to pressure corporations to "do the right thing," but wouldn't legislation help a bit? This is still government of the people for the people, right?

Oscar Thoughts

Mikaela says:
So Kudos to the Academy for being brave enough to have Chris Rock host this year's Award Show. I thought his commentary on how "white" the movies that make the Academy nomination really are was prescient and brave -- and important to point out. He interviewed people at California's Magic Johnson (I think) theatres -- mostly black people -- who had never seen any of the movies up for awards. Their favorite movies were blockbuster action flicks and black comedy pieces that Rock pointed out were all named for locations and not real movie titles at all.

That being said, after his opening monologue, Chris Rock was sidelined -- literally and figuratively. He didn't say another interesting thing all night, except for a brief verbal scuffle with Sean Penn, who stood up for Jude Law, whose omnipresence in movies lately Rock humorously maligned.

The Academy's herculean effort to broaden its inclusion to Black America was painfully evident as the camera's desperately panned the audience and zoomed in on each and every black face when Chris Rock told a "black joke" to see how they liked it and to cue the home audience in on how to take the humor.

To be fair, the Academy wasn't just trying for black/white diversity. Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek got to present several awards -- together as a stunning and well-endowed Hispanic set. And the Academy nominated and awarded its first foreign-language song as Best Original Song from the Motorcycle Diaries.

I applaud the effort toward inclusion, but it was so self-conscious that I found it incredibly uncomfortable. My feeling is that the effort must be made, and the discomfort must be trudged through until it stops feeling like an effort. After all, the acting talent seems to know no color lines, even if quality leading parts for people of color are still few and far between. Jamie Foxx won a well-deserved best actor for Ray, and Morgan Freeman won his first (!?!) Oscar for his supporting role in Million Dollar Baby. The all-white cast of Aviator did not manage to pull off a Best Picture sweep.

The last frontier that seemed painfully obvious to me last night was the technical aspects of movie making. Editing, sound, special effects, etc. lined up the nominees on stage and almost to a MAN, they were white and male. How often do women direct movies these days? How often do women who do direct movies get nominated for Best Director? Sophia Coppola was the last I remember, and even her considerable achievement for Lost in Translation, her first ever film, was downplayed with sour-grape whisperings of nepotism.

So, mixed reviews on social justice at the Oscars.

As for political commentary...there was none. Sean Combs made a vague reference to all the bad things going on in the world, and Chris Rock alluded to how on earth Bush got re-elected when Farenheit 911 showed just how bad a job he's done as President. He quickly (and without pretense of transition) went on to say how everyone there supports are troops and salutes the job they're doing and left it at that.

The whole ceremony can be summed up this way: it ended fifteen minutes early.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Here's to W

Maggie says:
Words of wisdom from our commander in chief:

"The United States and the U.S. stand together in support of the Iraqi people and the new Iraqi government, which will soon come into action."—Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 22, 2005

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Destroying the social New Mexico

marjorie says...

Is it rocket science to understand that our society should take care of the health and wellbeing of our elders, our children, our sick and infirm? *At the very least?* As Mikaela has rightly pointed out, our communities are under attack by an onslaught of rightwing ideology that seeks to destroy our social safety nets along with the wellbeing of those who don't toe the line of God-Fearing Christianity.

Here, from our friends at New Mexico Voices for Children is a very concise description of a Very Bad Tax Bill to be heard tomorrow, Thursday the 24th. The numbers of the committee members are at the end:

HJR 10 is set for hearing in the House Government and Urban Affairs Committee (HGUAC) tomorrow morning (Thursday). The hearing will start at 8:00 in Room 324.

HJR 10 calls for an amendment to the NM Constitution to limit state spending each year to the amount of expenditures from the previous year adjusted only by the rate of inflation and the increase in the state's population.

Such an amendment (known as a Tax Expenditure Limit) would limit state spending in ways that would be disastrous for programs that are important to New Mexicans. The purpose of the measure is to shrink government and force cuts in spending.

For example, inflation in the cost of health care is higher than the general inflation rate, and health care needs are increasing as the elderly and disabled populations grow. HJR 10 would make it impossible for the state to keep pace with the rising cost of health care and would force reductions in Medicaid and other state health care programs.

Although it appears to allow spending growth each year, HJR 10 would actually reduce state expenditures despite the adjustments for inflation and population growth. Revenues do not increase at a steady rate -- the amount rises and falls. (For example, despite a good revenue picture this year, new revenues next year are projected to be almost nonexistent.) Years of slow revenue growth would lock in reduced expenditures that could not be increased even when revenues rose again. There would be no way to recover from an economic downturn.

A similar measure (known as TABOR, for Taxpayer Bill of Rights) was put in place in Colorado, with disastrous results. Although it's one of the wealthiest states in the country, Colorado has been forced by TABOR to cut services across the board: state support for public education as well as colleges and universities plummeted, and so did graduation rates; Medicaid services for pregnant women were terminated; and the number of children without health insurance has almost doubled (at the same time that the rate was declining nationally).

The TEL measure would be bad for New Mexico. Please ask HGUAC members to defeat HJM 10, and try to attend the hearing in HGUAC tomorrow morning to speak against it.

Rep. Mimi Stewart, Chairman: 986-4341
Rep. Dona Irwin, Vice Chairman: 986-4242
Rep. Larry Larranaga: 986-4215
Rep. Fred Luna: 986-4329
Rep. Lucky Varela: 986-4320
Rep. Jeannette Wallace: 986-4452
Rep. Dub Williams: 986-4454

Any legislator can be reached through the Capitol switchboard at 986-4300.

Youth Curfews are *not* a good idea

marjorie says...

Yesterday I listened to a call-in radio show about House Bill 471, also known as The Curfew Enforcement Act, which would amend the NM Children’s Code to allow cities to pass youth curfews.

Here are a few of the arguments (in a nutshell) that callers on the radio show made in support of youth curfews, along with my response:

"Kids have no rights under the law until they’ve earned it, and a curfew would help us better control them."

This is the most nonsense I’ve heard in a long time. Yes, youth have fewer rights under law, and we should change that ASAP. The lack of youth rights in this society often traps young people in dangerous situations at home and deprives them of a voice in important debates that affect their future.

"There should be a curfew because thugs roam the streets and wreak havoc after midnight."

Alrighty then..."thugs" roam the street. This is how we want to characterize teenagers? As thugs? Think about this for a moment, about the extreme lack of generosity in this characterization. Also, create a mental picture of who these "thugs" might be – real quick. Was it a person of a different race, ethnicity, or income class than you? Probably.

"There should be a curfew because kids can’t take care of themselves."

Lots of young people are forced to take care of themselves at a very young age – they live on their own and work for a living, often at more than one job. Are we going to criminalize these young people by saying they can’t be out after midnight, when they have all of the responsibilities and pressures of adult life?

"There should be a curfew because it helps parents keep their kids in line."

This was the argument of a woman who thought she needed help keeping her kids in line. She thought a curfew would be a good tool to hold over her kids heads, to make them behave. Great – let’s criminalize young people because this lady has a hard time communicating effectively with her kids.

As y’all can see, I am opposed to the idea of a youth curfew, for several reasons:

-- It’s another way to make it easy for police officers to pull over anyone they choose and question them about who they are and what they are doing. I do believe that racial profiling is a common occurrence, and a curfew would be one way to provide cover for it. Think about this for a moment. How would the police enforce such a law? Would they question every young looking person after midnight? No, they wouldn’t because there are too many, many who are in their twenties but look pretty young. Rather, they would be selective, based on other factors. I’m not suggesting that there are a lot of “bad” cops out there, with evil intent. Rather, we live in a system that is racist (and classist) in and of itself, which is why racial profiling is common.

-- Some teenagers might be out after midnight because they have a sorry home life due to abusive parents. Maybe we should increase the options for kids who need to get out of these situations rather than turn them into criminals or forcing them to stay in their house.

-- Other teenagers might be out after midnight because, well, they’re teenagers – in other words, they are becoming adults, seeking independence, and beginning to make their own decisions. While I understand the worry that parents have about their children, I don’t think criminalizing young people is going to change this behavior.

-- It is probably true that some teenagers commit crimes after midnight. I also think these particular young people commit crimes during the day, along with their adult counterparts in crime. I don’t believe we should penalize all young people for the actions of a few.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

What FDA approves let no man take...

Ahhhh, government oversight. Isn't it nice to know that with full knowledge of public harm and ample evidence of responsibility for 50,000 (that's right -- THOUSAND) deaths, the federal agency tasked with protecting our health used a democratic process to keep you in harms' way?

(Meanwhile we can't get studies funded for natural and homeopathic substances because drug companies can't patent vitamins and minerals, so the FDA won't vet the efficacy of things like VITAMIN C, GARLIC, or BLUEBERRIES, which have been found in studies done by forward-looking countries like China, to have significant benefits with no side effects in all kinds of wide-ranging health conditions.)

The system's working, alright, and we all know who it's working for. (It ain't you.)

This from Democracy Now:

FDA Oks Sale Of Vioxx Despite Dangers
A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel has voted to allow doctors to keep prescribing the popular painkillers Vioxx, Celebrex and Bextra even though the panel overwhelmingly agreed that the drugs significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular problems in patients. The panel proposed that the drugs be sold with an FDA "black box" warning. Vioxx is now expected to return to the market even though nearly half the FDA panel voted against it being sold. Its manufacturer Merck voluntarily withdrew the painkiller drug in the fall. The FDA panel decided whether a drug should be allowed to be sold on a straight majority vote. The vote for Vioxx was 17 to 15. For Bextra, 17 panelists vote for the drug and 13 voted to ban it. The panel nearly unanimously recommended Celebrex remaining available. Last year FDA whistleblower Dr. David Graham publicly estimated that 139,000 Americans who took Vioxx suffered serious side effects. Of these users he estimated that the drug killed between 26,000 and 55,000 people. Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen said the FDA's decision "defies common sense." Public Citizen has warned that if Merck starts selling Vioxx again that the watchdog group would immediately petition the government to have it taken off the market.

So much for being a world leader... At least we're finally honest about being nothing but world spoilers... If only it were still true that to the victors go the spoils. Now everyone shares in the spoilage. Posted by Hello

From Tom Toles of the Washington Post. Posted by Hello

Monday, February 21, 2005

Argue like a conservative

Maggie says:
I can't resist posting more This Modern World - it's so good! I'm off to Taos and Durango to relax and build momentum. Hopefully general life inspiration (and maybe some blogging inspiration, too) will strike. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Making big boxes pay (literally) for their low-paid workers

Maggie says:
Looks like Montana is joining California in the ranks of states doing innovative policy work in response to big boxes and the public costs associated with them.

Next week, Montana legislators will debate a bill that targets retailers earning at least $20 million in sales who pay their workers very low wages. If the bill passes, these retailers would be responsible for paying the welfare costs that the state spends to meet the gap between their measly paychecks and a living wage.

"When you don't pay workers, they get public assistance," says State Sen. Ken Toole from Helena. "Guess who pays for that?"

He's exacty right. But not surprisingly, big boxes in Montana are freaking out. The special tax levy would apply to stores with part-time employees making up at least a quarter of the workforce and whose full-time workers earn less than $22,000 a year.

Wal-Mart spokesman Nate Hurst says that "It's not the government's job to pick winners or losers in a competitive marketplace."

But what he doesn't get - and never will in order to live with himself - is that in a system where profits are made on the inability of workers to pay their rent or their children's medical bills, his company's contributions to a system where there are "losers in a competitive marketplace" is perpetuating a heartbreaking way of life that no one deserves. Paying people little to nothing for what they do, denying them benefits that no one should be without, and firing them if they begin organizing for better conditions is not worth the 50 cents consumers might save by buying socks there.

So thank you, Sen. Ken Toole of Montana. But for real change to happen, we need to see not only innovative actions from state and local governments (which are crucial, don't get me wrong). We also need to see a massive shift in consumer choices that starts with consumer education and ends with consumers shopping with their conscience.

Yes, justice is sweet

marjorie says...

Remember the McLibel case? McDonald’s sued a group of London activists in 1990 for distributing pamphlets outside one of their stores that charged the company with environmental destruction, cruelty to animals, paying low wages to workers, and exploiting children through their advertising. Two of the activists decided to not back down from the company and went to trial with no legal representation, which they couldn’t afford. The trial lasted for almost a year. You can imagine – McDonald’s had a huge team of attorneys arrayed against these two broke activists. The judge ultimately agreed with the information in the pamphlets but found them guilty of libeling the company anyway! They were slapped with a huge (by their standards) judgement in favor of McDonalds. Apparently, England is notorious for its stringent libel laws.

Essentially, you have a behemoth like McDonalds threatening to sue activists in order to shut them up, or else. They can do this because they have enormous resources, a legion of attorneys at their beck and call, and they don’t like criticism. Lot’s of corporations act like this.

Well, the two activists didn’t give up the fight, taking the case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, charging that their human rights were violated because England doesn’t provide legal aid in these sorts of cases, depriving them of a fair trial. They were awarded a judgment from the government, and still haven’t paid McDonalds.

Of course, ultimately, McDonalds probably wished it hadn’t sued these activists because the company’s practices were scrutinized in detail in court. The publicity for them in the end was pretty bad. Still, it was an outrageous example of corporate bullying and I’m glad this European Court has chastised the English government for allowing it to happen.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Justice is so sweet

Maggie says:
Daughter of conservative Republican calls herself 'liberal queer'

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland (AP) -- The daughter of conservative Republican Alan Keyes referred to herself Monday as a "liberal queer" and urged support for gay and lesbian young people who have been deserted by their families.

Maya Marcel-Keyes, 19, addressed a rally sponsored by the gay-rights group Equality Maryland, saying she was motivated to speak out because of her rocky relationship with her parents and the recent death of a friend who had fallen ill after being thrown out of the house by his family.

Marcel-Keyes told several hundred supporters that her sexuality had created a rift in her relationship with her parents.

"Things just came to a head. Liberal queer plus conservative Republican just doesn't mesh well," she said. "That was making my life a little bit turbulent."

Later, Marcel-Keyes told CNN her parents "were not too pleased" when they learned she was a lesbian, but she said she loves them "very much, and they love me. They can't support my activities."

Her father, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Illinois last year, created a stir in August when he said during an interview that homosexuality was "selfish hedonism" and that Vice President Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter was a sinner.

In a statement issued Monday night, Keyes said: "My daughter is an adult, and she is responsible for her own actions. What she chooses to do has nothing to do with my work or political activities."

Marcel-Keyes said she received an outpouring of support when disclosing her sexual orientation, but her friend did not.

"Like me, he grew up queer in a conservative household," she said. But where she got hundreds of e-mails, offers of a place to stay and a college scholarship, "he'd been out there two years and had gotten nothing."

"And the worst part is, he isn't the only one," Marcel-Keyes said.

The Onion weighs in on the media controversy of journalists prostituting themselves for propaganda... Posted by Hello

Monday, February 14, 2005

Jose Canseco's tell-all

Maggie says:
What's the most surprising - that Jose Canseco of all people just wrote a bestseller, or that he's sounding really credible as he names players on steroids?

Hard to put my finger on a single reason, but I believe him. I mean, what does he have to lose? And while he stands to make a lot of money from this book, the fact that he actually believes steroids aren't that bad - and therefore those who take them shouldn't be punished - makes me think he has no reason to lie.

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out as spring training begins. Imagine if a book by the biggest meathead to ever play professional sports was what inspired the league to finally crack down on steroids for real, and not just for press releases?

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Heartbreaking 'Hotel Rwanda' haunts us with guilt

Maggie says:
Last night I finally got around to seeing 'Hotel Rwanda' and this next afternoon, can't seem to get it out of my head. Too often I tend to not exactly avoid - but not exactly rush into, either - movies that I know up front are going to be tough to watch and process. This was one of them, but I'm really glad I went. And you should, too.

As an overly-political high school newspaper reporter, I once wrote a column imploring students studying the Holocaust not to say that the world would never let genocide happen again. My point was that we were letting it happen, that it was happening at that moment in Rwanda, but no one was paying attention or worse, didn't care. (This morning I dug through boxes of old stuff looking for that column. I wanted to read what my naive seventeen-year-old self had to say about a place I couldn't imagine and events beyond my comprehension. But it's gone forever, I guess.)

What's most powerful about "Hotel Rwanda" is the gap between how the Rwandan people expected the world to come to their rescue and how little we cared about their plight at all. The most powerful line in the movie comes not from a Rwandan (Don Cheadle is fantastic, by the way) but from an American photographer played by Joaquin Phoenix who, when being evacuated with the rest of the white tourists/aidworkers/newspeople, won't let a Rwandan hotel employee hold an umbrella over his head on the way to the bus that will take him to safety. "Don't do that," he says, pushing the man away. "I feel so fucking ashamed."

Without question, this is a movie that should shame us. We deserve to be shamed. Every day, we ignore at our convenience global tragedies an ocean away and neighborhood tragedies just down the street. The weight of events that should crush us with their heaviness and our own sense of responsibility is too easy to shrug off. And then there's the guilt factor. Sometimes it seems incomprehensible to enjoy simple routines like a good cup of coffee with breakfast when there is literally madness going on everywhere around us that no one is doing anything about. And I note the irony that choosing to see "Hotel Rwanda" over something else isn't exactly a moral victory - it is, after all, only a movie. Ten years after the world stood by and did nothing for Rwanda, guilt-ridden progressives are seeing the cinematic portrayal of this genocide and thinking how terrible, how appropriate that they saw "Hotel Rwanda" instead of "Hitch." And that's pretty sad, too.

I suppose this is where progressives in America are today. We call ourselves aware but really, we don't know anything. We call ourselves activists but it's hard to look at what we actually do versus all that we don't. And in America, we have everything within our reach but can barely see outside the bias of our own privilege.

As a friend suggested recently - "maybe ignorance really is bliss." When I'm depressed about everything that's terrible, I picture those who really don't care about events outside of their small world. The smug expressions carried around by way too many Americans usually infuriate me, but think about it: their internal dialogue must be so much simpler and happier than ours. Through their blindness to everything but themselves, they don't even realize what there is to be upset about.

Since I'm reminiscing, here's a link courtesy of my brilliantly smart and funny old friend Saleem: check out The Ten Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2004 for more guilt-ridden progressive internal conflict.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Marty Shows His Colors

marjorie says...

Did any of you see the story in the Journal last Friday about our illustrious Mayor's remarks to the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP, or, you know, just plain "developers")? No?

He said, as quoted in the Journal:

" I think it's important that there be a better understanding in City Hall of the dynamics of the free enterprise system," and he also said the group should "work with me to modify the composition of the council and modify policies of the city so we can have an effective structure."

Hmmm....anyone remember "Citizens for Greater Albuquerque" in 2003, funded largely by big business types, with a war-chest to elect their favored candidates to the council? I sure do. They had a lot of money, these "citizens". And they were trounced! I think that means that the much larger group of "citizens" in Albuquerque has a perfectly good understanding of how an economic system SHOULD work, as part and parcel of a social environment.

Albuquerque Impact Fees -- The Real Cost of Development

marjorie says...

Are folk’s paying attention to the debate about Impact Fees in Albuquerque? The Albuquerque City Council passed a new system of Impact Fees last November that would more accurately reflect the costs of development. These fees would replace the current system of “exactions” which are negotiated payments between the developer and the city. The new system provides for lower fees on new development in areas that already have necessary infrastructure (such as roads, water and sewer lines) and higher fees in areas that have little existing infrastructure, such as the West Side. This system will clarify the actual costs of that sprawling development, and perhaps even contribute to a more planned approach to how Albuquerque grows. At the same time it will make it easier for developers to estimate their costs early on.

Interestingly, those opposed to this new system, which was developed over a two year process with public input, have decided to take a hierarchical approach to getting their way – they want to outlaw it via the State Legislature! Three state reps (Dan Silva, Kiki Saavedra, and Greg Payne) are proposing state legislation that says impact fees should be uniform across the city. I don’t know about the rest of you but this seems a little authoritarian to me.

Here is an excellent Albuquerque Journal Op/Ed by two of our City Councilors, Eric Griego and Martin Heinrich, explaining why these impact fees are a good idea.

Albuquerque Journal
Thursday, February 3, 2005

Planned Growth, Impact Fees Help Everyone
By Eric Griego and Martin Heinrich, Albuquerque City Councilors

Recent newspaper coverage suggests that higher development impact fees at the urban fringe would "explode sprawl into a three-county area beyond the city limits."

Impact fees do not "penalize" growth at the fringe, as stated. It would be a violation of state law if impact fees were set at higher than the cost of growth. Higher impact fees at the fringe simply reflect higher infrastructure costs to serve growth at the fringe.

Far from driving away growth, research shows that higher impact fees benefit the community as a whole and developers. They do this by making needed infrastructure available in a more timely and predictable way.

As an example, the Southwest Mesa received very little funding for new roads in past years. Under the impact fee system, the Southwest Mesa would receive more than $26 million for new roads during eight years of impact fees charged at 100 percent.

This is $26 million that cannot be moved for political reasons to other parts of Albuquerque. The fees collected for streets on the Southwest Mesa must be used for new streets there only.

In general under the new impact fee system, growth at Albuquerque's urban fringe would still be substantially subsidized— just not as much as it was previously. The new street impact fees will raise only 45 percent of the total public dollars to build needed roadways. The remainder comes from general property taxes, gross receipts taxes and state funds. Moreover, there are no impact fees for schools, and current water and sewer fees are probably half or less than cost.

The reality is that the cost of growth, even under higher impact fees, still is shared between developers and the community as a whole.

What did Albuquerque's past growth-friendly practices produce? Here are some things that other communities should consider:

 When PGS was adopted, there was a backlog of nearly $1 billion in city streets, parks, water, sewer, storm drainage rehabilitation and deficiency needs.

 A substantial portion of housing development on Albuquerque's fringe is not based on population growth, but on existing residents moving from one place to another.

 People moving from one part of the city to another create many inefficiencies. New infrastructure needs to be built despite the fact that service capacity exists elsewhere. New services such as police, fire, libraries, community centers are needed in new areas, but the city has been very reluctant to reduce these services in older areas as the population decreases. This reality of new residential development without population growth causes continual government budget crises, higher taxes, and results in many services being stretched wafer thin.

 As an example, the Albuquerque Public Schools system currently has little enrollment growth, but is planning to spend more than $120 million dollars for new schools at the urban fringe over the next five years. At the same time, there are 4,500 empty seats in schools in older neighborhoods.

Where else has the old system gotten Albuquerque? The critical issue is that Albuquerque needs higher quality economic development, but Albuquerque has had a "low-paying jobs / low-cost housing" approach to development.

What are the results of this strategy? A University of New Mexico study in 2000 showed that while the number of local jobs has been growing faster than the national average, the average earnings per job rose 2.7 times faster in other metro areas compared to us.

Can Albuquerque ultimately compete with the movement of low-wage jobs to Mexico, China or India? We hazard a guess that the residents of our metropolitan area do not want this approach to growth. Moreover, they do not deserve it.

There is a different path for the metropolitan area in the future. It is a new regionalism based on respected planning, healthy and vital neighborhoods, high quality mixed-use office and industrial parks, a true economic development strategy, stewardship over public facilities, and protection of the environment.

These are the objectives of the Planned Growth Strategy and we will achieve them! We invite other communities, their citizens and leaders, to join in our efforts to manage urban growth for the benefit of all our residents.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Canadian Wal-Mart employees, unite!

Maggie says:
The latest Wal-Mart development should surprise no one involved in the constant battle against the mega-chain. Wal-Mart executives just announced they will shut down a store in Quebec, Canada. The problem with this particular store? Slow sales, too many boycotts, not enough local workers to exploit? Nope. The Quebec Wal-Mart had a store full of exploited workers already. The problem was that those pesky Canadian laborers decided they’d had enough – six months ago, they became North America’s first unionized Wal-Mart.

There’s reams of evidence as to Wal-Mart’s despicable record with labor. Most of us (or at least, M3 and probably most m-pyre visitors) could recite these in our sleep. But while Wal-Mart succeeded in shutting down the Quebec store, they may not be so successful in the future. One other Canadian Wal-Mart has union certification, and at least two other Canadian Wal-Marts have submitted proposals for union certification under Canada’s labor laws. Wal-Mart executives have already said that they do not plan on closing down the remaining unionized store, continuing the test case for organized labor within the labor movement’s most-hated chain of stores.

Those of us rooting for this store may be disappointed – the newly unionized employees have a tough road ahead. They follow this experience: In 2000, a Jacksonville, TX store was the closest organized labor came to beating Wal-Mart. Eleven meatpackers voted to be represented by the UFCW (the same union representing the Canadian cases here). Wal-Mart’s response shows the lengths they’ll go to win at any cost. In opposition to their eleven unionized meatcutters at a single store in Texas, Wal-Mart decided to completely eliminate the job of meatcutters throughout their 5,170 worldwide stores, laying off thousands of deli workers. Their legacy lives on: today, fresh deli meat can’t be found in any Wal-Mart store. They'd rather sell only pre-packaged meat than offer decent pay and benefits to the men and women who could slice it fresh.

Good luck, Canada. Your workers will need it.

PS: Take a close look at our Raging Grannies. They’re protesting Wal-Mart, too!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

You get what you pay for (and vote for, unfortunately)

Mikaela says:
It's what I've been saying all along! I guess it's clear this is my new pet theme, but I think it's of deadly importance to stay focused and diligent about the strategic perspective of each and every policy that issues forth from our White-hope House.

Most of the articles I've seen on Bush's budget have been sure to include how social programs will be decimated, and most quote the fact that one of every three proposed cuts deal with education. Fewer mention the disproportionate effect on lower-income and inner-city minority communities -- the strategic intiative Bush is calling with Orwellian lack of irony "Strengthening America's Communities Initiative." This might be true if it in fact dealt referred to the effects of this budget on corporate communities. But of course, it doesn't.

Instead, it lays out in cold, deadly detail the elimination of Community Block Grants, which have played such a key part in turning around many slip-sliding communities and empowered them to imagine and resurrect a vision of healthy, vital neighborhoods.

As if that's not enough to pull the rug out from struggling inner-city and low-income communities, he's cutting the Perkins loan program, too, which specifically targets aid to smart, motivated low-income and minority students to help them get the college education even Bush admits they need to enter the wealthy, robust corporate welfare community.

How does this tie into the hoopla about privatizing social security?

Paul Krugman nails it in his column today(link and full text below) :
The attempt to "jab a spear" through Social Security complements the strategy of "starve the beast," long advocated by right-wing intellectuals: cut taxes, then use the resulting deficits as an excuse for cuts in social spending. The spearing doesn't seem to be going too well at the moment, but the starving was on full display in the budget released yesterday.

And why? You know that's what he's after because you put your money where your values are, right? So where are his values? What's he after?

I won't go so far as to say Bush is an out-and-out racist (not that I rule that out), but I will say he and his right-wing idealogue buddies are out-and-should-be-more-outted classists. They're economic Calvanists. Those who make it are fated to make it (and what more evidence do you need of their status than the fact that they've made it??), and those who don't ... well ... aren't. (Just look at where they live!)

This may explain why corporate welfare fits in with his agenda, while universal health-care is anathema. Give money to those who deserve it -- the chosen. Don't waste the taxpayer's money on just anyone. If Bush believes that those with money and power are really morally and in all other ways superior, then it makes sense not to fund education and health-care. Let those chosen born among the rabble claw their own, individual way out of the mire. That will prove their worth to those above. Everyone else, well, go to church. Why else funnel all social welfare through "faith-based" initiatives? Bush is trying to make sure money only goes to those trying to better themselves spiritually. That way, no aid goes to those who don't deserve it. See? It's all so ... calculated.

People voted for Bush because of his moral values, right? Is it really within the moral values of this country that those without access to the system -- no matter how hard they work at multiple jobs -- should remain locked in destitute and crumbling neighborhoods without access to health care or education? Is it a shared value that their children should suffer the fate of their parents because they were born in the wrong place to the wrong families? Since when is Wall Street the heroic savior, bringing prosperity to all who believe?

I know Americans aren't much on history, but let's all try to remember that the social welfare safety net that's universally vilified these days was a result of a (cyclical?) failure in the capitalist system. It was a stock market crash, for god's sake. Now, the answer to everything is to transfer money from the government to that same stock market? That strikes me as not just an oversight but insane.

But you don't have to take my (shrill, panicked!) word for it. The following is a great (and, I think, dead-on) strategic analysis of Bush's latest budget and social security proposals from the New York Times' Paul Krugman.

Spearing the Beast
February 8, 2005
President Bush isn't trying to reform Social Security. He isn't even trying to "partially privatize" it. His plan is, in essence, to dismantle the program, replacing it with a system that may be social but doesn't provide security. And the goal, as with his tax cuts, is to undermine the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt.

Why do I say that the Bush plan would dismantle Social Security? Because for Americans who entered the work force after the plan went into effect and who chose to open private accounts, guaranteed benefits - income you receive after retirement even if everything else goes wrong - would be nearly eliminated.

Here's how it would work. First, workers with private accounts would be subject to a "clawback": in effect, they would have to mortgage their future benefits in order to put money into their accounts.

Second, since private accounts would do nothing to improve Social Security's finances - something the administration has finally admitted - there would be large benefit cuts in addition to the clawback.

Jason Furman of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the guaranteed benefits left to an average worker born in 1990, after the clawback and the additional cuts, would be only 8 percent of that worker's prior earnings, compared with 35 percent today. This means that under Mr. Bush's plan, workers with private accounts that fared poorly would find themselves destitute.

Why expose workers to that much risk? Ideology. "Social Security is the soft underbelly of the welfare state," declares Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth and the Cato Institute. "If you can jab your spear through that, you can undermine the whole welfare state."

By the welfare state, Mr. Moore means Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - social insurance programs whose purpose, above all, is to protect Americans against the extreme economic insecurity that prevailed before the New Deal. The hard right has never forgiven F.D.R. (and later L.B.J.) for his efforts to reduce that insecurity, and now that the right is running Washington, it's trying to turn the clock back to 1932.

Medicaid is also in the cross hairs. And if Mr. Bush can take down Social Security, Medicare will be next.

The attempt to "jab a spear" through Social Security complements the strategy of "starve the beast," long advocated by right-wing intellectuals: cut taxes, then use the resulting deficits as an excuse for cuts in social spending. The spearing doesn't seem to be going too well at the moment, but the starving was on full display in the budget released yesterday.

To put that budget into perspective, let's look at the causes of the federal budget deficit. In spite of the expense of the Iraq war, federal spending as a share of G.D.P. isn't high by historical standards - in fact, it's slightly below its average over the past 20 years. But federal revenue as a share of G.D.P. has plunged to levels not seen since the 1950's.

Almost all of this plunge came from a sharp decline in receipts from the personal income tax and the corporate profits tax. These are the taxes that fall primarily on people with high incomes - and in 2003 and 2004, their combined take as a share of G.D.P. was at its lowest level since 1942. On the other hand, the payroll tax, which is the main federal tax paid by middle-class and working-class Americans, remains at near-record levels.

You might think, given these facts, that a plan to reduce the deficit would include major efforts to increase revenue, starting with a rollback of recent huge tax cuts for the wealthy. In fact, the budget contains new upper-income tax breaks.

Any deficit reduction will come from spending cuts. Many of those cuts won't make it through Congress, but Mr. Bush may well succeed in imposing cuts in child care assistance and food stamps for low-income workers. He may also succeed in severely squeezing Medicaid - the only one of the three great social insurance programs specifically intended for the poor and near-poor, and therefore the most politically vulnerable.

All of this explains why it's foolish to imagine some sort of widely acceptable compromise with Mr. Bush about Social Security. Moderates and liberals want to preserve the America F.D.R. built. Mr. Bush and the ideological movement he leads, although they may use F.D.R.'s image in ads, want to destroy it.

Happy Birthday, Nancy Drew

Maggie says:
Check out this great Salon tribute to mystery-solving heroine Nancy Drew, who turns 75 this month. I grew up obsessed with the old yellow hardcover Nancy Drew mysteries – and today every one is safely boxed away in the attic for any future Adams girls (thanks Mom!).

Nancy was the best role model any young girl could have had – she was smart, brave, level-headed, and a great friend to Bess and George, her female sidekicks. Her boyfriend Ned Nickerson figured less prominently in the original novels – he’d show up for dances but would end up getting kidnapped by the villain and need to be saved by his girlfriend, really featuring Nancy as the first feminist icon for young girls. Nancy and Ned had the perfect relationship – he was there and she enjoyed his company, but he wasn’t at all her top priority, she was her own self. And her friend Bess made a striking contrast, too – Bess was the pretty blonde one who was shy and boy-crazy, but ended up in trouble because she trusted the wrong person or had a broken heel and was caught by the bad guy. Nancy was the thinking girl’s heroine – I guess that’s why she was mine.

The new Nancy Drews are updated for modern readers: they’re written in the first-person and make her less perfect and more human – she has doubts and an interior dialogue now that shows her weaknesses. The publishers believe today’s girl readers would be put off by such a model of perfection, they’d be intimidated by her strength and force of will. Growing up on the old Nancy Drew, though, I saw her as what girls could grow up to be – anything and everything we wanted to.

So happy birthday, Nancy Drew. May you inspire as many girls of today and tomorrow as you did yesterday. This girl reader says thanks.

Covering up the cover-ups

Mikaela says:
An article in the Washington Post today lays out a cover-up by a Montana asbestos mining company of the deadly effect of asbestos on its employees and town residents. The company that bought out the company that perpetrated the cover-up is now being taken to court -- by federal prosecutors with the help of the EPA.

What is not mentioned in the article is that this story represents the exact kind of environmental justice that Bush & Co. want to deny the American people under the guise of "tort reform" and efforts to outlaw class-action suits. The truth of the matter is that without government assistance, the residents of this town would have to simply die in agony unaided by health assistance from the very company that caused it. How can Bush still claim to want accountability? Does he even know what that word means? Maybe someone should mention it's not just an accounting term and that its meaning goes beyond spreadsheets and bottom lines.

Md. Firm Accused Of Asbestos Coverup
Contamination Scars Montana Town
By Carrie Johnson and Dina ElBoghdady
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, February 8, 2005; Page A01

Federal prosecutors yesterday charged W.R. Grace & Co. with exposing mine workers and residents in a small mountain community in Montana to deadly asbestos and covering up the danger.

The Columbia-based chemical manufacturer stands accused of breaking environmental laws and obstructing justice by misleading government officials probing the widespread contamination. The company allegedly buried a paper trail dating back to 1976 that traced how asbestos dust from its mine had permeated the lungs of workers, their family members and even residents who jogged on the high school running track in Libby, Mont.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Bush as God's right-hand avenger

Mikaela says:

How does a movie about good & evil, figuring an androgynous archeangel Gabriel, turn into a contemporary political commentary on Bush's righteousness as justification of all policy? Here's Tilda Swenson's take from today's interview in the New York Times (heavily abridged by yours truly) about her role in the upcoming Constantine with Keanu Reeves:

Gabriel becomes insane because he starts to think that if you wrap yourself in God's clothes you can do anything you want, and it ain't true. There is something insane about a lack of doubt. Doubt, to me anyway, is what makes you human, and without doubt even the righteous lose their grip not only on reality but also on their humanity. ...

[T]he attitude of righteousness is a reason for pretty much anything now. What's shocking is how easily that's peddled today. ... Gabriel's rationale is essentially, "My job is to get as many souls as possible to heaven, and I have noticed that you are at your most spiritually open when the place is in flames, so I'm going to torch the joint."

There is all sorts of religious extremism all over the place, but the reason for this partly has to do with the fascist attitudes and language of absolutism coming from Washington. It's challenging for people outside of America that Bush was re-elected. It means we're all going to have to work a lot harder to understand what so many more Americans than we thought really want. It's an identity shift in our minds about America and maybe for many Americans as well.

We're not only preaching to the converted, but we also want to speak to those people who think they know what righteousness is.

Have we underestimated evangelicals?

Maggie says:
The connection between evangelical beliefs and corresponding right-wing policy is pretty concrete. So is the notion that since evangelicals believe the end of the world is eminent, they don't feel environmmental regulations are necessary, since those could only prolong the end of the world. But a closer look at the environmental beliefs of envangelicals adds more dimension - and a possible rethinking - to what we thought we knew.

From the Center for American Progress: "Times have changed since James G. Watt, the conservative interior secretary under President Reagan, argued that the imminent return of Jesus made environmentalism unnecessary. 'God gave us these things to use. After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back,' Watt told Congress in 1981. These days, the Washington Post reports, evidence in polling and in public statements of church leaders shows that a 'growing number of evangelicals view stewardship of the environment as a responsibility mandated by God in the Bible.' Though evangelicals sometimes rely on different terms – 'creation care' instead of 'environmentalism' – and emphasize particular environmental ills – for example, the health effects of mercury pollution on developing fetuses – the basic progressive principles are the same. 'The environment is a values issue,' says the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals, whose members will meet in March to develop a position on global warming."

The Greening of Evangelicals (login required) is the original article spotlighting this shift. It draws from the "Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility" adopted in October, which states that "We affirm that God-given dominion is a sacred responsibility to steward the earth and not a license to abuse the creation of which we are a part. Because clean air, pure water, and adequate resources are crucial to public health and civic order, government has an obligation to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation." This sounds pretty basic to us, but considering the end-of-the-world faction of their group, it's actually pretty revolutionary.

So we all know that evangelicals are pretty solidly Republican. And so far, there's not much to suggest that their newfound concern for the environment would sway their vote to the other side. But according to the Post, major environmental groups are studying "how to talk to evangelicals" to convince them to vote with their (slightly) green hearts. Given that there's a HUGE divide between hemp-wearing earth-lovers and cardigan-wearing church-lovers, could the gap be bridged? Are we seeing a new movement of environmentalism (or as the evangelicals prefer to call it - conservationism) being born?

And so Bush's onslaught continues...

Mikaela says:

Bush's agenda for slashing social programs and diverting funds to his military arsonal and legions of mercenary soldiers will be codified in his federal budget, which he's sending to Congress today. What Bush puts asunder, let no man restore.

The following from Democracy Now details his proposed cuts and re-allocations :

Bush Submits $2.5 Trillion Budget to Congress
President Bush is expected to send a $2.5 trillion budget to Congress later today. Bush is seeking a $19 billion increase in defense spending while proposing cutbacks in a wide range of domestic programs. Faced with a record deficit, Bush is calling for the elimination of some 150 governmental programs. One out of every three of the targeted programs concerns education. Public housing residents, Medicaid recipients and farmers will all suffer from cutbacks. In addition Bush is proposing to cut the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency by $450 million; to cut $100 million from a Bureau of Indian Affairs program that helps build schools and to cut $200 million for home-heating aid for the poor. Meanwhile Bush is calling for the Pentagon's budget to increase by nearly 5 percent to $419 billion. However that total does not include the cost of the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Out of touch and not listening anyway

Maggie says:
From today's Washington Post, covering a Bush event in Nebraska meant to sell his Social Security plan:

"In Omaha on Friday, a divorced single mother named Mary Mornin tells the president, 'I have one child, Robbie, who is mentally challenged, and I have two daughters.'

'Fantastic,' the president exclaims, and he tells her she has 'the hardest job in America, being a single mom.'

Later, the 57-year old Mornin tells Bush that she works three jobs, which the president deems 'uniquely American' and 'fantastic.' He asks her if she gets any sleep."

Friday, February 04, 2005

John Edwards moves on

Maggie says:
News from my homefront: John Edwards will head the new Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at UNC-Chapel Hill. Fittingly, this new job will allow him to further his populist "Two Americas" message that points out how Americans have become victims of their own government's flawed trade and tax policies.

Coincidentally, David Sirota has a piece out today that examines how John Edwards' views on trade set him apart from the Democratic pack when looking ahead to 2008. "Trade and economic inequality can be major issues if a high-profile politician is willing to persist and make them major issues," writes Sirota. "This is where Edwards' opportunity lies. Though he gave up his Senate platform, he has an economic one. And as long he has that important stage all to himself, there will be an audience outside the beltway eager to listen."

Looks like Edwards has found his stage.

Listen up, Connecticut

Maggie says:
I’ve been ranting about Lieberman for a week now, but it just keeps getting worse. Let’s count down his latest offenses:
1. Not only voting to confirm Condoleeza Rice as Secretary of State…
2. … but pleading with Democrats to do the same, lecturing that Rice “will serve in the national interest.”
3. Hugging Bush after the State of the Union
4. Letting Bush kiss him after their hug (If you haven't seen the footage yet, no, I'm not making this up.)
5. Voting to confirm Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General, one of only six Democrats to do so, and…
6. …delivering yet another rousing speech against his party’s values while doing it, calling prison treatment at Guantanamo “progressive” and “remarkably just.”

I’m not sure what happened to Lieberman. He’s never been progressive - always moderate at best - but I think that FCC nonsense a year ago provoked the zealot in him. Since then, he’s been taking pains to promote himself as the Dems’ conservative voice of wisdom. Certainly the primary forced him to set himself apart - his stump speeches about "radical Democrats" losing touch with Middle America were as backward as they were boring.

Whatever the reason, this is unacceptable. Even more mind-boggling is that we’re talking about a senator from Connecticut here – not exactly Republican territory, so I'm confident that the good residents of that state can elect someone to better serve the Democratic party. So listen up, Constitution State: find yourself a real progressive to kick Lieberman’s ass in the primary. There’s no reason we have to put up with this kind of voting record – and worse, the moral lectures that come with it – from one of our own. Strike three happened a long time ago.

Our ever-expanding blog list

Maggie says:
We did a little updating to our links section recently. Notice that we've separated basic links (news and organizational sites, etc.) from blogs. M3 Blogs are growing all the time - we keep discovering new favorites. So check back to see what's new and what we're currently reading.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Confirming American dissent

Maggie says:
Consider the recent confirmations of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Obviously, they're terrible candidates bent on further destroying U.S. credibility in the world and wreaking havoc on civil liberties at home. It is beyond me why any self-respecting Democrat would vote yes on their confirmations. So what if the majority would give them the vote, anyway? Isn't it worth anything to stand up for your beliefs and record your dissent?

So while I have nothing good to say about the Dems who confirmed these individuals (and am flat-out bewildered by Joe Biden, who railed against Rice during the hearings and then voted for her anyway...), here's some heartening news, however small and footnote-ish it is:

Condoleeza Rice was confirmed with an 85-13 vote, marking her as the Secretary of State with the most No votes in our country's history. Alberto Gonzales has the same distinction: his confirmation vote of 60-36 makes him the least-confirmed Attorney General ever. He broke John Ashcroft's record to do it.

What should we do in Iraq?

At breakfast this morning, M3 were talking about an internal debate that progressives have about what the best course of action is for the U.S. in Iraq. We have plenty of criticisms and denouncements for the Bushites but what do we think should be done now, since we're there? Rather than answer this question, we thought we would pose the question and perhaps some of you would give us your opinion, along with your rationale. We've posed a few options here, but there may be others.

Possible options:

1. Continue on the current course of occupation and control.

2. Withdraw completely and let the Iraqi people decide their own fate. Be done with it.

3. Withdraw and channel all of our resources through the United Nations, letting the international community as a whole take control of how to aid Iraq.

Need Religion? Try Burning Bush's Ficus of Faith.

Mikaela says:

My nomination for quote of the day comes from a New York Times editorial by Maureen Dowd about the recent evolution revolution toward creationism:

"So much for the Tree of Knowledge. Mr. Bush gives us the Ficus of Faith."

P.S. I just received my order from CafePress for a new tote bag with a picture of Bush and Cheney behind bars, with the quote, "I have a dream..." above. You, too, can own this icon of dissent. Just visit I can't wait to go shopping at Wild Oats!!! My little liberal heart bleed-ith over!

Local Politics

Mikaela says:

M-pyre was recently asked why we don't cover local politics. Here are my initial thoughts about why this tends to be the case:

1. We think big here at M-pyre, and national politics are big gorilla issues that scream out for comment because they will affect so many of us on profound levels.

2. We like good journalism, and we seek it out. This tends to mean we're getting our news from national newspapers and websites. Local news is hard to get! Local tv news is not an option; newspapers are ... so twentieth century. Alibi and Crosswinds are ... of limited use. I know much more about what's happening in Congress than the City Council. Anyone out there ready to take on progressive reporting for ABQ?

3. Local politics are more fine-grained and therefore harder to 1) understand and 2) attack in a blog-rant. It takes more time and attention to know where you stand on local issues, or where anyone stands on local issues, for that matter, than it does to read that Democratic senator so and so did such and such, which stimulates an immediate visceral reaction.

But I'm just a local ABQ girl. What do I know?