Friday, April 29, 2005

Hypocrisy in action, Schwarzenegger style

Maggie says:
So why shouldn't Arnold Schwarzenegger support the Minutement? Well, off the top of my head, here's a few reasons:
1. Schwarzenegger himself is an immigrant
2. Schwarzenegger is also an alleged Visa violator
3. If the U.S. "closed the borders," as he suggested last week, Schwarzenegger never would've been able to come into the country, much less become governor of California

But on second thought, here's a couple of reasons why I'm not surprised at all:
1. Schwarzenegger is nothing if not an opportunist, and he's polling badly in California
2. As David Sirota smartly points out, "Scapegoating and immigrant-bashing is the last refuge of a wounded politician"

Presidential press conferences, UK v. US

Maggie says:
Did anyone see "Nightline" last night? (By the way, let's have a moment of silence for the last stand of this great program, scheduled to give way to something mediocre and pop culture-driven next year.)

Ted Koppel compared two press conferences that took place yesterday, the one here that Bush gave and one in England featuring Tony Blair. The differences were amazing, and watching them I was left with such a visual example of why our mainstream media SUCKS. A typical question from the Bush press conference was a softball like "So Mr. President, what is your impression of how the economy is doing?" A typical question from the Blair press conference involved name-calling, uncomfortable pauses, tough questions, and a pretty awesome "We're not as dumb as you think and we're not taking any bullshit answers" attitude. And guess what? Blair was forced to answer some uncomfortable questions and people were given a much more real assessment of the state of things than we're spoonfed on this side of the Atlantic.

Seeing the British media doing their job and comparing their results with the questions asked and answers given to our reporters makes me so angry. There are lots of great books out there about the declining access and freedom of the American media (which goes hand in hand with increasing corporate ownership), and all of this escalates when we're engaged in conflicts around the world. But beyond the huge problems with the American media, here are the little things that could - should - be changed immediately:

- Reporters should not be afraid to ask tough questions during a press conference because of retaliation. Access is everything, and it's horribly unfair that reporters will basically never be called on again if they ask something that makes the president uncomfortable. The White House Press Corps status quo is an outrage.
- What is the point of even having a press conference when the president has been relentlessly coached on likely topics he'll be asked - and then what a surprise, those are exactly the questions that really are asked!
- Reporters should be allowed a follow-up question during these press conferences. Especially when in almost all cases it would be something like, "You didn't that answer my question at all. Why don't you try again?"
- Why can't reporters work together to actually try and get something real from him? Screw whoever gets the best quote, becuase in reality none of them are getting real quotes or anything real at all. So how about going back to some legendary journalism for inspiration and show up that day ready to actually do their job?

I could rant about this all day. But instead I'll close with a quote Eric Alterman includes in his great Nation cover story this week In Your Face: Bush's War on the Press. It's from an unnamed Bush advisor who was asked why the administration doesn't respect reporters: "Let me clue you in," the advisor answered. "We don't care. You see, you're outnumbered two to one by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don't read the New York Times or Washington Post or the LA Times."

So given the blatant lack of respect that exists for these reporters and the so-called Fourth Estate in general, why don't mainstream reporters just say screw it and really do their jobs again?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Race for Mayor Heats Up

Mikaela says:
More hats lie strewn in the mayoral ring.

Former ABQ assistant planning director David Steele has announced his candidacy, as has Eric Griego. Steele plans (of course he plans!) on running primarily on the issue of urban sprawl. Not sure what his ideas are to "solve the problem" are, but I hope he can at least engage us in a lively discussion!

Other likely candidates will be Bernalillo County Commission Chairman Alan Armijo, former NM Senate Majority Leader Richard Romero, and Margaret Aragon de Chavez – the current mayor’s ex wife.

I'd like some help finding out about everyone's positions on various m-pyre topics. Who's got the skinny? Javi?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Infiltrating Albuquerque

So we're not all talk here at m-pyre. When we say we're community organizers, we mean it.

A lot can be said about Albuquerque, both good and bad. One of the best things is how accessible the city is for change. You can still make a difference with not a lot of effort. With that said, it's amazing how many people don't even put out the little it would take to insert themselves in the process.

But enough finger wagging! Actually, I want to announce a new city/NHCC/ABQ Slam Poetry Council partnership: Poetry-in-Motion, a city-wide, yearly contest to get poetry on the Rapid Ride Buses.

Marty Mayor will announce it tomorrow at his little PR event for Tingley Beach & newly opened Rapid Ride stop.

The contest will run May 15-June 15, with winners announced by August. Poetry will be up and running (every 10 minutes!) for the National Poetry Slam Competition August 8-15 (which everyone should go to!) and will continue until next April.

The theme (of course) is Albuquerque itself, in honor of next year's Tricentennial celebration.

Hurray!

Send up to 3 poems (limit 250 words) to:
City of Albuquerque
ATTN: ABQ Ride -- Marketing Division
100 First Street SW
Albuquerque, NM 87102

In a few days, you can check out more details at the website for the National Hispanic Cultural Center (http://www.nhccnm.org/).

Monday, April 25, 2005

illegal humans?

marjorie says...

I had a conversation with a woman today who is very upset by the possibility that these armed border vigilantes in Arizona might potentially form a similar group in New Mexico. As we continued our discussion I began to realize that she in fact doesn’t think Mexican citizens (or illegal aliens as she termed them) ought to be able to cross over to find work here, that they in fact take away jobs from people like her. But, in her own words, no rednecks are coming into this state telling us how to deal with immigration…and she wants to be there facing off with them if they do come. hmmm...she sounds pretty conflicted to me.

I shared with her my perspective, that from the very beginning our country has existed on a foundation of stratified labor - slave labor, immigrant labor, sharecropping labor, no-union labor, temp labor, part-time labor - all labor pitted one against the other to drive down wages, and divert our attention from the underlying reason for the constant struggle to make a decent living, namely, the bottom line pursuit of profit. We live in a society that is continually challenged by significant polarities: individual rights vs. collective responsibility; private property vs. social welfare. How are we to balance our rights as individuals (that we deeply cherish) with the collective responsibility we share for the outcomes of our democracy, here and elsewhere? How are we to balance survival in our economic system (that enshrines private property) with providing for the social welfare? It's a hard one, but we’re all implicated in this system that thrives on extremely low wage labor, which means we are responsible for the creation of what Roberto Rodriguez in the article below terms illegal human populations. It’s not the other way around.


COLUMN OF THE AMERICAS

BY ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ & PATRISIA GONZALES
RELEASE DATE APRIL 25, 2005
Militias: Another face of terrorism
By Roberto Rodriguez

The introduction of extremist and armed militias on the Arizona-Mexico border is sending shockwaves worldwide. The message: that extremist anti-Mexican militias, supported by other racial supremacists, are welcome there.

And it's not that these extremists are saying anything unusual. They're actually just echoing the administration's rhetoric about the border having something to do with “the war on terror”… as if the 911 terrorists had all come from, or through, Mexico.

Something isn't right. This is the same administration that goes to war, and calls for permanent war, under false pretenses, sanctions torture and military “targeted assassinations” and schemes to consolidate all power in the hands of the president, minus any checks and balances.

If the presence of these extremist militias isn't violating state or national laws, then perhaps the tacit governmental support of these militias may be placing the United States in violation of several international human rights conventions, including possibly the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. They are supposed to protect the human rights of all people, including migrants, while the treaty - which is still in force today -- is supposed to guarantee the rights and safety of Mexican citizens.


If their concern is terrorism, why aren't they on the Canadian border? And it's not as if these militias are overgrown boy scouts. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the American Friends Service Committee have tracked vigilante violence along the border for decades. So why then is the administration allowing this new militia effort - heavily supported by other known supremacists - to “take the law into their own hands?” Beyond the law, it's the message.

Since 1848, there have been untold deaths along the border by Texas Rangers, U.S. Border Patrol agents and vigilantes alike. And we're not talking ancient history. Every year, migrants turn up dead on the border as a result of drownings, exposure or vigilante violence. Court cases against vigilantes are not unusual. What's unusual is justice. Rare is the punishment for the death of a Mexican.

What's also unusual is to somehow link terrorism with Mexicans.

What seems to be at work is that these militias are providing cover, or better yet, leverage for an administration that is using fear to balloon the military and “homeland security” budgets. A death at the hands of one of these extremists will trigger an international outcry… but the administration will cleverly parlay it into a call for the further militarization of an already highly militarized border.

A death at the hands of one of these extremists will also be parlayed into passing the president's proposal to create a massive “guest worker” program that will result in a permanent subclass (subhuman) of workers, without the basic rights afforded all human beings. For instance, these workers will not be placed on track for legalization, much less U.S. citizenship. Nor will they will be allowed to bring over their families nor the right to unionization.

This inhumane scheme is in complete contradistinction to practices in Europe. There, workers from member nations of the European Community can work in any other member nation - without a loss of rights, citizenship or humanity. Here, with a trilateral agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico, the government pretends that “illegal aliens” are sneaking in to take peoples' jobs. (Best right wing excuse is that they are taking jobs from African Americans. The question is, who awarded a patent for the worst U.S. jobs to African Americans?). The truth is, big business and government have always been in cahoots. The existence of “illegal aliens” means exploitable non-unionized labor - one that is forced to live in fear and in shadows - always with the threat of economic and sexual exploitation and deportation.

Can the United States adopt an EC labor-type arrangement with Mexico? Absolutely. Will it? Of course not. (The border patrol would be unemployed and multinational corporations would not be able to enjoy the fruits of extreme exploitation).

Militias on the border? That's but a manifestation of a larger problem - the systematic creation of legal and illegal human populations. If we want to get rid of these extremist kooks on the border, the first step is to eliminate the greatest source of dehumanization; the existence of legal and illegal human populations. Failure to do so will lay the groundwork for a future society based largely on hunter and hunted populations.


Column of the Americas 2005
The writers can be reached at XColumn@aol.com.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Jeffords is out - who's in?

Maggie says:
Today's news tells us that Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont, once a Republican and now an Independent, will not be running for reelection. Some thoughts:

1. I remember the morning four years ago when he announced he was leaving the Republican party. I was getting ready for work in Boston and couldn't believe the news - it meant the Republicans would lose their majority. I walked to work listening to his speech on my Walkman just thrilled that the tide was turning. If I only I knew how much worse things would get! (By the way, I realize that telling this story reveals the true extent of my nerdiness, but really, is that such a surprise?) That morning Jeffords showed just how much courageousness he had, and he's exemplified that since. He hasn't always voted with the Democrats, but he has always voted with his conscience, and I'll take that over politicized voting any day. He will be missed, especially on environmental issues.

2. What does this mean for Howard Dean? I know he's in as DNC chair, but he'd be a sure thing in a Senate race, and that would be great for the Democrats. I'm conflicted. I wish there was another great DNC person there and then Dean could run. Ideas?

3. New England Republicans are an interesting group. They're really alone in their party. Jeffords was the first to get the hell of out of Dodge, and Collins, Snowe, and Chafee are constantly being called upon to do the same. They must feel very lonely, even more so since Jeffords rightfully abandoned them years ago. John Kerry's recent targeting of Chafee as a key swing vote on these nominations is another sign that these senators should not be forgotten by Democrats (because they sure as hell are by the Republicans). I need to do my research, but how about a Snowe-Chafee-Collins party trade for Joe Lieberman?

Fighting for democracy in Mexico

Maggie says:
In case you haven’t noticed, major happenings are going down in Mexico, where old-school politics are at work once more. Cronies of current president Vicente Fox are trying to destroy Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel López Obrador’s chances to run for president through a pretty public intimidation campaign threatening him with prosecution. López Obrador’s offense was overlooking a court order related to road construction in Mexico City – a pretty big deal when compared with major human rights violations in Mexico’s past that went unprosecuted, right?

The real crime here is that López Obrador is extremely popular – he’s polling at triple the numbers of the other parties heading toward the 2006 presidential election. Fox is pushing for a desafuero against López Obrador, which would bar him from running for the presidency (Fox himself is barred from running due to term limits). Fox justifies his political maneuvering by touting a respect for law and order in Mexico, a pretty empty sentiment given past abuses by Mexican officials that have never been punished, much less admitted.

Mexico is fascinating politically – a country where democracy has been dubious at best, yet in a moment’s notice thousands of citizens will fill the Zócalo holding signs and chanting slogans, as they did for López Obrador last week. What a powerful testament to democracy against the entrenched corruption of the past. Many think Fox’s moves will backfire, the Zócalo demonstrations ("No al desafuero!") will keep growing, and Fox may have unintentionally handed López Obrador the presidency.

(I know some m-pyre readers know lots more about Mexican politics than me, so please fill us in as this story unfolds. Who is López Obrador, really? And what does this scandal say about democracy in Mexico today?)

Dark Days for "No Child Left Behind"

Maggie says:
So... tired of children being left behind by our esteemed president's "No Child Left Behind" law, the National Education Association (representing 2.7 million union members), nine school districts in Michigan, Texas, and Vermont, and 10 NEA chapters in a handful of other states are suing the federal government in the single biggest challenge yet to Bush education policy. In addition, the New York Times cites a dozen states that are considering anti-No Child Left Behind legislation this year.

Taken together, this is huge. Huge. One to watch for how the courts handle this (the lawsuit was filed in Michigan, it's called Pontiac v. Spellings), how the Bush administration reacts, and how other school districts react. I can imagine more and more jumping on board, and then how in the world can the Republicans save face? I hope this gets good - I'm in the mood for a good fight.

New local blog

Maggie says:
One of our favorite local blogs, Quirky Burque, is no longer. But QB blogger Pika is on to bigger and better things: a new group blog called Duke City Fix to which she's a regular contributor.

Duke City Fix covers tons of cool local things: planning, politics, events, art, and random musings. It's updated really regularly and m-pyre is one of many on their great list of local blogs. So check them out!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Wealth Ratio

Mikaela says:
I've been hearing little snippets here and there about instituting a wealth ratio. How cool would it be to have a cap on how much a CEO could earn over a worker? I'm not so radical that I believe everyone in the company should make the same amount. There's something to be said for the idea people (gulp, I originally wrote "men" -- yikes, gotta watch every second!). But I do think something must be done to curb the ever-increasing squeeze on worker salaries, when management still needs to make their exorbitant profit.

Profit-sharing is one way, but I don't hold much stock (pardon the capitalist pun!) in the goodness of management's heart or proclivity to share. A federal cap on the ratio of salaries that ties workers to managment's desire for more takehome? Yeah, that's a good idea!

Many small companies, such as this food distributor (a great website! check out all their progressive innovations!) have declared a 4:1 ratio, so the CEO can only make 4 times what the lowest-paid worker makes (which happens to be twice California's minimum wage). That way, if the CEO wants to make more (and really, who doesn't want to make more?) they will find ways, but instead of reducing worker salaries to increase profit, whatever they do will have to increase worker salaries, too. That's the way to ensure the incentive!

Think what the implications of this would be on the Wal-Marts (where the ratio is in the neighborhood of 450:1) and the Wall Street darlings!

It's still capitalism, and Marjorie and I can have a good long debate about that one, but it's reigned in and humanized.

I think it's doable!

Congress?

"Lefty" Values

Mikaela asks:

Which White House radical named the basic human rights we all have to fight to get back, having lost them to Baby Boy Bush?

From the Op-Ed page in the NY Times:

"The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.

"The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.

"The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.

"The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.

"The right of every family to a decent home.

"The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.

"The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment.

"The right to a good education."

When someone says that Democrats don't stand for anything anymore, that may be true. We don't stand much anymore. But it's time to get off our asses and rally around the heart and soul of democracy that "Democrats" used to stand for -- march for -- vote for.

Thank god for history that can remind us of what we used to have -- the vaules we still should embrace. I wish we could trip these values about basic human rights off our tongues at a moment's notice. I wish they were closer to the top of our priority lists. I wish they seemed more familiar and less distant. I wish our politicians would stand for these vaules so that I could vote for them!

Monday, April 18, 2005

disaster capitalism

marjorie says...

A friend recently pointed me in the direction of an excellent essay by Naomi Klein, titled The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. She highlights the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (how’s that for an Orwellian moniker??), which was created last summer by Bush to prepare plans for rebuilding post-conflict areas. Klein refers to this office as part and parcel of the ascendance of “Disaster Capitalism.” In Klein’s words, “Fittingly, a government devoted to perpetual pre-emptive deconstruction now has a standing office of perpetual pre-emptive reconstruction.”

The mission of the OCRS is to: lead, coordinate and institutionalize U.S. Government civilian capacity to prevent or prepare for post-conflict situations, and to help stabilize and reconstruct societies in transition from conflict or civil strife, so they can reach a sustainable path toward peace, democracy and a market economy. Let’s not forget the market economy folks!

Klein does a great job describing how well the different strands of first-world intervention and at times seeming cooperation and collaboration fit together in a way that benefits global capital, not to mention the global professional class working through NGO’s, International Financial Institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF, universities, government agencies and private companies. We all know the drill -- the propaganda mills work overtime spewing forth statements about “democracy” and “freedom” while the actual decisions are made by foreign functionaries and professionals out to make a reputation and a buck.

Klein notes how reconstruction dollars are being used to transform societies into privatized, market driven states with little to no opportunities for the actual citizens of these nations to give meaningful input. Her examples range from Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq, to the aftermath of natural disasters such as the Tsunami and Hurricane Mitch. And, she points out what we’ve already suggested on this blog…that Wolfowitz is actually quite well-suited for the World Bank:

“Deputy Defense Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz designed and oversaw a strikingly similar project in Iraq: The fires were still burning in Baghdad when US occupation officials rewrote the investment laws and announced that the country's state-owned companies would be privatized. Some have pointed to this track record to argue that Wolfowitz is unfit to lead the World Bank; in fact, nothing could have prepared him better for his new job. In Iraq, Wolfowitz was just doing what the World Bank is already doing in virtually every war-torn and disaster-struck country in the world--albeit with fewer bureaucratic niceties and more ideological bravado.”

Thinking in terms of perpetual pre-emptive deconstruction and perpetual pre-emptive reconstruction, the overwhelming bureaucracy of the state and the increasing amount of doublespeak we encounter on a daily basis…brings to mind visions of a global fascist state…manifesting itself with words such as democracy, freedom, and liberty -- words and words with increasingly little meaning.

Nature? What's that??


marjorie says…

I’ve often wondered what was so appealing about going on a cruise on a mammoth ship with 1000’s of other people. Surely it can’t be about nature -- after all, the size of the ship alone pretty much removes one from any contact with the water. And the activities on the ship could just as easily be undertaken at a nice resort in the Caribbean somewhere. Right? Well, folks have told me over the years that they have had excellent vacations on cruise ships, so who am I to judge? But, I can’t help but reflect on the absolute absurdity of these large cruises.

The absurdity of these cruises, and many of the people who take them, has been reinforced for me today, as I read in the news about a cruise ship limping back to shore after being hit by a seven-story wave during a storm.

“Passenger Robert Clark said he was trying not to be angry about the cruise but had one question: "Why would you go through a storm?"”

or, in other words…
How DARE they go through a storm?? After all, this is a cruise right?? We didn’t pay for no storm!!

Another passenger described it as a SURREAL experience. Folks, what is so surreal about a big storm out in the ocean…that you’ve chosen to put yourself in the middle of along with 2000 other people? Well, if you’re divorced from nature…

But, lucky for the passengers, the cruise line is giving each passenger a refund of half the cost of the cruise, and a voucher for half of the cost of a future cruise. So they all get another cruise in the future at no cost...and the company most likely suggests to them that a storm occurring is highly doubtful…

Friday, April 15, 2005

Andrea Dworkin, 1946-2005

Maggie says:
Feminist icon Andrea Dworkin died last weekend. In the wake of her death, there've been some great pieces written about her life and her work, some complementary but many pretty stinging.

Personally, Andrea Dworkin was not my icon. She represented an extreme view of sex, one that to me has no room for women who have healthy experiences and (gasp!) actually like it. For all her rhetoric on heterosexual intercourse (she saw it as rape and colonization, however consensual) and pornography ("an instruction manual for rape"), she really had little to no impact at all on the very real issues facing women every day (unequal pay, sexual harrassment, domestic violence, etc.). And to me, that was her biggest failure: not that lots of women, including me, disagreed with her views on sex, because she at least gave us something to react to and in that reaction form our own personal feminist philosophies. But the problem with Dworkin was that she never touched the women who couldn't care less about feminist theorists - she was never real enough to really make a difference for anyone, and certainly not the women in emergency rooms or in checkout lines with their kids and their food stamps. And sure, how many theorists actually do make a difference to everyday folks? Well, I'd offer that valuable rhetoric shines lights on problems and offers solutions, but Dworkin mostly just isolated and infuriated people to the point where each side became so extreme the debate literally worsened as soon as she entered.

Watching the reaction to her death has been pretty interesting, but I'd like to see more articles debating the state of feminism today. And it goes without saying that I'd like that debate to allow me to take part in it, not call me a betrayal to my gender for my bedroom preferences. So with all due respect to the late Andrea Dworkin, I hope her legacy is that we never regress to her level of debate again.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Marjorie's Time-Wasting Responses to the Chainblog Book Meme

marjorie says... ok - erik - but do I have to be erudite? and...in the interests of protecting my A.D.D. addled brain, I have limited my responses to fiction.

If you were stuck inside Farenheit 451, which book do you want to be?
If I were a fireman: Anything by Ayn Rand
If I were an underground book priestess: Beloved

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
No, although I have been turned on.

The last book you bought is?
The Twenty Seventh City by Jonathan Franzen

What are you currently reading?
Stories by Doris Lessing
Daughter of Earth by Agnes Smedley

Five books you would take to a deserted island?
Ha! Mikaela, I was writing this while you were posting. Here is my editorial comment: Ok - Imagine the objections to this question and picture them written in this space - you all know them. So, that out of the way, if I had to pick some books to read during a period (?) of uninterrupted time, I would surely pick one or two on my unread books list. But, in the interest of answering this question, and in the interest of categorizing - here are five books I have read one time, that were intense experiences (of various sorts) for me at the time, and which I would like to revisit in the interest of seeing how time has passed, perhaps on a deserted island:

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby
All Men are Mortal by Simone de Beauvoir
Another Country by James Baldwin
Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

So…if you would like to know what books are in my own personal canon -- that I find myself picking up again and again, send a message and I’ll share, across genres. But, please, don’t make me pick five.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?
Probably nobody. But…if any of our dear readers are feeling it, it would be, of course, great to read your replies to the questions and/or comments about mine.

Mikaela's Chainmail Book Post

Mikaela responds to the alterdestiny challenge:
If you were stuck inside Farenheit 451, which book do you want to be?
I don't understand this question. I admit it: I never read Farenheit 451.

Have I ever had a crush on a fictional character?
Oh yeah. Sully from Nobody's Fool. The Harrison Ford character in the Mosquito Coast (even before the movie came out!). The teenage love interest in Middlesex.

The last book I bought was Procrastination: Why You Do It and What You Can Do About It? Goes without saying that I haven't read it! Next on my list is Adrienne Rich's Art of the Possible.

What am I currently reading? m-pyre (duh!) and How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend by the Monks of New Skete. Who isn't reading this classic???? Come on! Oh, and I skimmed (pardon the pun) French Women Don't Get Fat. Can you tell it's a down-time for my reading lately?

The desert island question I find to be needless hyperbole. More realistic are the five books that I've read over and over and over and over and over and over. Who needs to be stuck on a desert island to have a reason to return to old favorite friends? It's like visiting your favorite cities and places and spending time with old friends. That editorial comment made, here they are:

1. John Irving: A Prayer for Owen Meany. One of the best-written books of all time and so endlessly surprising and amazing and plumbable.

2. Brady Udall: The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint. One of the most tragic, hysterically funny books I've ever read. Gets you from the opening line: "If I could tell you only one thing about my life, it would be this: when I was seven years old a mailman ran over my head. As formative events go, nothing else even comes close..." It just gets better from there.

3. Alice Walker: Temple of My Familiar. All you could ever need to know about love and friendship and identity and racism.

4. Richard Russo: Nobody's Fool. This is a total immersion kind of book. You just get sucked into a whole town life that is so real and so funny. Most memorable line to the smelliest character: "Rub, you smell like a pussy finger."

5. Mary Doria Russel: The Sparrow. Chilling from the prologue: "They meant no harm" -- you know from the beginning of this anthropological/religious sci-fi novel that all but one of the first visitors to a newly discovered planet die. The novel artfully weaves back in forth in time, playing with what you know and what you don't and haunting you with information. At the end, knowing everything does not help. It is not until the second novel (and maybe not even then) that all becomes clear. Like good science-fiction, this novel reveals us to ourselves and our relationship to god (the second novel is called Children of God).

And lastly, I will pass this on to no one else, cause I hate the pressure of chain-mail progeny. But I had fun thinking about it! Sadly, this is the weak link, signing off...

Time-Wasting Book Quiz

Maggie says:
This was passed along to me by Erik Loomis. Apparently it's quite blog-worthy lately. It's full of pretention and abstraction – my favorite!

If you were stuck inside Farenheit 451, which book do you want to be?
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
Of course! I'm into Holden Caulfield's innocent cynicism, Raskolnikov's tragic seriousness, and Pedro Tercero's passion.

The last book you bought is?
2 books of poetry at the same time: Alice Walker’s Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth : New Poems and Demetria Martinez’s The Devil’s Workshop.

What are you currently reading?
Between Eminence and Notoriety: Four Decades of Radical Urban Planning, by legendary progressive planner Chester Hartman.

Five books you would take to a deserted island?
1. Barbara Kingsolver: The Poisonwood Bible
2. Isabel Allende: Paula
3. Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
4. J. Anthony Lukas: Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families
5. Fyodor Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?
1. The incomparable Saleem Reshamwala of Apex High and now Kid Ethic fame
2&3. Marjorie and Mikaela - although already invited by Erik, I'm seconding his request for their answers.
* Why? Because when it comes down to it, no one's more fascinating to me than Saleem, Marjorie, and Mikaela (or as entertaining).

Rush Limbaugh on American youth

Maggie says:
Rush on his radio show Tuesday:

"What the hell is the point of view of young people? Blow jobs, that's what they're doing out there. They're out there getting oral sex all day long, that's what they're talking about."

Some points to ponder:
1. Rush is really, really creepy. And really ridiculous.
2. Who exactly are these oral sex-addicted youth? And where were they in my youth?
3. It is amazing that this man continues to have a loyal audience. And scary.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

meeting hate with humanity

marjorie says...

Have folks followed the Eric Rudolph case? I’m alternately repulsed and compelled by this guy, and this case brings up all sorts of things for me.

On the repulsive side, he’s a self-righteous hate-monger. Remember our recent thread on the hate crime designation? Rudolph’s bombing of a gay bar is clearly a hate crime, if we accept this designation for crimes committed against a person due to intrinsic or cultural traits that make them members of a particular group. What’s the value, ultimately, of such a designation? I think a big part of it is creating consciousness within our society about human rights. If the Germans had had public debates and legislation about hate crimes pre-Nazi era, perhaps the Nazi’s never would have been able to induce the population to passively go along with genocide…as one example.

What else? Reading through the media accounts today, I notice that survivors of his bombings are calling him a coward for pleading guilty in exchange for life sentences. The implication is that the brave thing for him to do would be to lie, stand trial and let the state kill him. Surely this stems from revenge impulses, the desire to prove that Rudolph did it, and to kill him. I don’t know why it always surprises me to hear ordinary people wanting the state to kill a person, because it seems that a great many U.S. citizens think that the death penalty is perfectly ok. Personally, I think this is the best conclusion - the guy admits he did it, thereby saving us a lot of money at trial, and he gets life with no parole. Killing him is not humane, and it only reinforces our incredibly violent tendencies as a society. I don't understand why we can't rise above it, and meet hate with humanity. Not for him but for us.

And what's compelling? It’s fascinating to me that a person can still hide out in the United States, living off the land for five years -- and not in the great western wilderness areas but in North Carolina no less. It's amazing.

'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in Iraq

Maggie says:
Only in the U.S. is it possible to have a military policy that simultaneously asks men and women to sacrifice their lives for their country but also to deny basic truths about themselves or not be allowed to make that sacrifice.

Sgt. Robert Stout, a 23-year old soldier from Ohio, may become the new face of the movement demanding an end to the backward “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that tells military men and women – not to mention the rest of us – that raping female soldiers (or being raped if you’re a woman) is a more acceptable expression of sexuality than is being gay.

Stout was awarded the Purple Heart after being injured in Iraq last year, when a grenade sent shrapnel into his arm, face, and legs. After he was given the award, Stout disclosed that he was gay. Today, his biggest desire would be to remain in the Army as an openly gay soldier.

“I know a ton of gay men that would be more than willing to stay in the Army if they could just be open,” Stout said. “But if we have to stay here and hide our lives all the time, it’s just not worth it.”

It’s especially not worth it when the consequences are so severe. Although Army spokesperson Martha Rudd says that soldiers discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” typically receive honorable discharges, anecdotal evidence says otherwise. As a recipient of the most revered award a soldier can receive, one might expect Stout to be treated with respect despite his admission (and because of it, given the consequences). But he has no rosy visions of his future and expects discharge (likely dishonorable) and jail time, even though he’s a Purple Heart recipient.

Let’s pause for a minute here and consider what he just said: despite being awarded a Purple Heart for his combat wounds from Iraq, he expects to go to jail just because he’s gay and dared to admit it.

Stout is reflective on what his case means in the scope of military history. “We can’t keep hiding the fact that there’s gay people in the military and they aren’t causing any harm. The old armchair thought that gay people destroy unit camaraderie and cohesion is just wrong. They said the same things when they tried to integrate African-Americans and women into the military.”

A Miami Republican Congresswoman with a great record on gay rights is coming to Stout’s defense and leading the rallying cry to reverse “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:” “We’ve tried the policy. I don’t think it works,” said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. "And we’ve spent a lot of money enforcing it. We investigate people… basically wreck their lives. People who’ve signed up to serve our country. We should be thanking them.”

She’s right. And she’s joined by two other Republicans (Christopher Shays, CT, and Jim Kolbe, AZ, the only openly gay Republican in Congress) and 72 Democrats is supporting the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Those in the know don’t expect the bill will get past the House Committee on Armed Services, but the fact that it’s there at all is pretty monumental. And timely.

In February, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report saying that the U.S. policy on gays in the military was responsible for $200 million on replacing service members lost under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” According to the GAO study, the U.S. military has lost 9,488 service men and women because of the policy – 757 of them in critical occupations like interpreting and intelligence analysis. Of those 757 discharged men and women, 322 of them had proficiency in critical languages that the Pentagon desperately needs, like Arabic and Farsi.

This issue is so critical right now, within the military and outside of it. It’s a basic human rights issue. This is the worst time the military can be choosy about who it accepts as a soldier, and incredibly condescending to deny someone’s record of service because of their sexual orientation. It’s a case I’ll be following closely.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Restoring my faith in humankind

Maggie says:
Yesterday as I was leaving Wild Oats, a short man (maybe 5 feet tall at most and probably around 40 years old) left the store shortly after I did. As I was loading my groceries into the car, I watched him cross the parking lot and get into his truck. Only when he backed out to leave did I notice that he has the best bumper sticker of all time on his vehicle:


HOBBITS AGAINST BUSH

You know the saying that we have to laugh at ourselves, because we'd cry if we didn't? This guy sums that philosophy up perfectly. Thanks, local hobbit - you made my afternoon.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Banner News Day

Several important stories in the news today.

First, good news for pro-choice activists and developing countries across the globe:

Senate Votes to Repeal Bush Abortion PolicyThis news from Capitol Hill.

The Senate has voted to repeal President Bush's ban on international family planning organizations that engage in abortion-related activities from receiving U.S. foreign aid funds. Bush threatened to veto a two-year $34 billion bill authorizing State Department and foreign aid programs if it tried to override the policy that bars U.S. funds going to nongovernmental organizations that give counseling or referrals on abortions, or lobby against other governments' restrictive abortion laws.
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And not-so-good news about new cuts to public housing services:

U.S. Plans New, Deep Cuts in Housing Aid

[A] new cost-cutting proposal by the Bush administration could force dozens of housing agencies nationwide to fire maintenance workers, reduce services or close buildings.

If the changes sought by the administration take effect, they will result in one of the biggest cuts since Washington first began subsidizing housing: as much as $480 million, or 14 percent, of the $3.4 billion federal budget for day-to-day operations, including labor, maintenance, insurance and utilities, at the nation's 3,100 housing authorities.

"I've never seen anything this devastating occur in public housing," said Stephanie W. Cowart, executive director of the Niagara Falls Housing Authority, which would lose nearly half of its $3.6 million subsidy, according to an analysis of spending data by two housing authority trade groups.

The administration has for several years advocated a new formula that would redistribute billions of housing dollars toward rural and southern areas and away from older urban areas in the Northeast and Midwest.
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Third, interesting news on a proposal by tribes in Oklahoma to open a casino near Denver. This could have huge implications for off-reservation economic opportunities for tribes. I know Zuni is looking at proposals in the Town of Bernalillo.

Indians' Wish List: Big-City Sites for Casinos
The Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians have not had land in Colorado since many of their women and children were massacred in their sleep by soldiers at Sand Creek in 1864. Driven out of the state, they live today in poor rural areas scattered around Oklahoma.

But the tribes are now offering Colorado a gift of $1 billion and are willing to give up their ancestral claims to nearly half of the state, all in exchange for a 500-acre piece of land near Denver on which they hope to build one of the world's largest casinos, complete with a five-star hotel, a golf course, a mall and an Indian cultural center.

"This would be more than a casino for us," said Clara Bushyhead, a spokeswoman for the tribes. "It is the dream of our elders to complete our life cycle, to come back to our homeland in Colorado from which we were driven. Oklahoma was never our home."

Their campaign for a casino in Denver reflects the latest trend in the explosive growth of Indian gambling: tribes in remote areas, some of them without reservations, trying to acquire land near cities for lucrative casinos. It is a practice known as off-reservation gambling. Its critics use a harsher phrase, reservation shopping.
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And lastly, on the public education horizon:

Facing State Protests, U.S. Offers More Flexibility on School Rules
The secretary of education gave a speech that tried to simultaneously support No Child Left Behind while trying to placate several states threatening to sue the feds for "mandates" that federal money does not cover. After delivering this little address, she left the podium without taking questions. That's education!

Absence

Maggie says:
I’ve been absent from m-pyre. Absent from the blog and absent from the news and current events. For me, this is major. Not a common happening. But the effect is interesting – I sit here in the decisions that have kept me so preoccupied and I feel the news wash over me. I don’t really pay attention to the news, but I recollect bits and pieces of it, I taste their aftertaste. And what’s been most striking about the last few weeks is that the news tastes bad. It tastes like artificial sweetener; it’s not real. To an admitted news junkie, this is watershed stuff: the news is not real.

Terry Shiavo coverage, Michael Jackson coverage, Tom DeLay coverage, it’s all terribly over-hyped and over-simplified, politicized and dumbed-down for the masses, but the masses aren’t that dumb. We’re not too stupid to understand that a situation like Terry Shiavo dying isn’t about the president’s midnight flight to sign a bill for her, it’s about our loved ones who could be her, or were her. It’s about life and death, not about rallies and proclamations.

I think in times when we are making intensely personal choices, we interpret life and all of its details with that same intense personal-ness. And I feel offended by newspaper headlines and TV proclamations and even Amy Goodman right now. Where is the personal connection between life outside of our home and the world? Why are things so loud? And so glossed over? And why is the gulf between politics and the personal so damn large?

Sometimes, I imagine us getting our daily news in a small circle of friends and family. There, we could process things on our own, talk quietly, not be fed how we’re supposed to feel. Sometimes, I wish the media would have more respect for what makes us all human, and what could make the news humane. But their attempts to appeal to us just make things worse. And today, I continue to choose to turn off the radio, not buy the newspaper, and curl up with a good book and a good cup of coffee.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Poetry of Place

Mikaela says:
Marjorie has these "leftist" refrigerator magnets -- an update on the idea of refrigerator poetry, but she's dismayed that they're all negative -- name-calling and so on, which goes to show what "leftists" have been reduced to. As our fellow blog-friend Erik Loomis and others have pointed out, we're good critiquers but haven't always done a good job keeping our building tools to make something better.

Where to look for solutions? I think m-pyre looks to community for answers, and one place where community building has been really successful is through poetry programs, like Seattle's Poetry on the Buses. Check out the link: http://transit.metrokc.gov/prog/poetry/poetry.html

Their program dates back to 1997. Each year has a theme, and local poets submit poems, a few are selected, graphics are added, and each one goes up on the bus routes, a few per month. Think about this: it's promoting local involvement, thinking about place, enriching transit experiences, literacy, community... Talk about a positive force!

Don't take my word for it. Here's an excerpt from a 2001 poem called "Bedding Planes, Zion Canyon" by Sharon Carter:

“In the struggle to retain
separate lives, our boundaries are much the same –
in truth we seldom stand alone.
We’ve learned to lean a little for support –
the faults and folds of ingrained habits mean
our edges sometimes aren’t a perfect fit.
Though years of wind and rain distort
the matrix of our lives, the mortar in between
the cracks is where our strength exists."

I think a similar program should be started here in ABQ, especially with the recent interest in RapidRide commuter buses and the upcoming commuter rail stations from Belen to Bernalillo. Albuquerque will be hosting this year's National Poetry Slam competition in August. What better reason to enrich our lives through words?

Because words are never just words -- unless they're coming from a politician...

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

m-pyre hits hit 2,000

Mikaela says:

Congrats to the girls for being interesting enough to merit 2,000 site visits since January.

Thanks to all our visitors who help keep it interesting. Keep those comments coming! We love it.

Happy April.

Monday, April 04, 2005

m-pyre

New Mexico makes the news. Now why isn't this being called a hate crime?

Courtesy of Democracy Now:
Mexican-Born Man Dragged From Truck in New Mexico
In New Mexico, a 32-year-old man remains hospitalized in critical condition after being dragged from a truck on Easter Sunday. The Mexican-born man, Fausto Arellano, suffered burn-like abrasions over half his body after he was bound by the ankles and dragged from a truck 4,000 feet through the streets of Gallup New Mexico. Police arrested one suspect on Friday and charged him with kidnapping, aggravated battery and assault with intent to commit a violent felony. Police have not yet described the incident as a hate crime.