Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Shameless, just shameless

Maggie says:
The reports of Bush's speech last night (
no, I didn't watch it because A)I can't watch Bush without wanting to vomit, so tend to choose not to and B)I was out celebrating Marjorie's birthday at Pearl's) are just gross. Gross. The audacity of this administration to continually link 9/11 with Iraq not only dishonors the memory of the 9/11 victims, it dishonors the memory of the men and women killed in Iraq and the men and women still stationed in Iraq fighting a war that is just plain dishonorable.

When Bush tells the country in a televised address, "The war reached our shores on September the 11th, 2001," he is being
shameless, and we should be outraged that he thinks we're stupid enough to blindly listen to him. When he says, "Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war," he thinks we actually believe him and that we've forgotten about Afghanistan, a country now destroyed by our thoughtless invasion and prompt exit to another country with oil, leaving them in shambles. When Bush says that despite the deaths of more than 1,700 Americans and 12,000 Iraqis, this war "is worth it," he thinks we'll just accept that he has no plan and is offering no way out. He assumes that we don't care about people dying because like him, we're so far removed from the people who are actually over there that the numbers are too abstract for us to really feel them, to really care.

But he's wrong. I think the poll numbers are showing this, that people have just had it with his lies and presumptions. When Bush asks us to remember "the lessons of September 11," I hope that we all will. Here are what I consider those lessons to be: assume the worst from your president; assume that even in a painful time of unimaginable loss, your president will try and strategically connect that loss with an oil-rich country ripe for American corporate exploitation; assume that your president thinks you are dumb as bricks and will believe anything as long as it's draped in red, white, and blue. Assume the worst from Bush&Co. Assume the worst and hope like hell that people know to expect more, and will fight for it once they realize all they've lost.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Mobilizing in Mountain View

Mikaela says:
A cement-batching company has its hands full trying to locate a new plant across the street from the Community Center in Mountain View. The neighborhood, which has disproportionately beared the fall-out from industries in Bernalillo County for the last 50 years -- largely because they're majority low-income and Hispanic -- has organized quickly, efficiently, and strategically.

Last Thursday night was a public hearing for the company to get an air quality emissions permit (to emit the maximum amount of pollution 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Residents called 800 households, and approximately 150 people showed up. Universally, they testified against the plant. The testimony ran the gamut from angry to scientific. A woman from the North Valley testified about conditions at the company's other location. Her daughter has had severe asthma problems that only worsened when she started going to school, just downwind of the plant. She testified to the affect on traffic and safety of pedestrians and drivers in the area. An expert on public health testified that the South Valley has the highest rates of hospitalization and death in the County, especially for asthma-related symptoms. Other residents talked about how many children walk and ride bikes to the Community Center, where they play games outside. The traffic and pollution from the plant will pose a significant risk to all of these children.

A lawyer for the company told one resident on his way out the door that he had never seen a community fight like this against what is normally a forgone conclusion.

A neighborhood that is normally not heard spoke loud and clear. They were supported by their NM state senator, U.S. Congresswoman Heather Wilson (believe it or not -- although she just sent a letter read by a lackey that asked the air quality board to give the proper weight to residents' testimony although the company "is a good neighbor" and she's sure that "it would do nothing to hurt its neighbors" which seems to be the conservative party line about corporate pollution -- why would they do it when they know it's bad?), and County Commissioner Teresa Cordova, who, as always, spoke eloquently and passionately to champion the community's efforts to determine its own best future.

The best part, though, was seeing how competently this community battled big money -- with an organized effort that we can only hope will pay off for them in the long run. Although an unfortunate economic metaphor, the payoff in this case will be clean air to breathe and water to drink and the kind of economic development that brings vitality -- in health, in sociability, and in money -- for the community as a whole.

Remember: Cheney's a leader of the free world -- and not-so-free world

Mikaela quotes Democracy Now:
Cheney on Gitmo Detainees: "They've Got Everything They Could Possibly Want"
Vice President Dick Cheney has again defended the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo. He told CNN last night "They're living in the tropics. They're well fed. They've got everything they could possibly want."

[Except maybe, freedom. Access to a lawyer. The right to be treated as human beings without being tortured. The ability to talk to their families. Yep -- just about everything they could want. Except all the important stuff.]

Tick one major win for the coming-soon-to-a-neighborhood-near-you new wave of urban renewal

Mikaela says:
Way to go Supreme Court -- fighting to pave the way for justice for ... the moneyed and empowered.

Cities Given Ok to Seize Homes To Spur Economic Development
The Supreme Court has issued a major ruling on property rights. A split court ruled Thursday that cities may seize and demolish private homes - even in non-blighted areas -- to make way for shopping malls and other private development. Writing for the majority Justice John Paul Stevens wrote "Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted function of government." But Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote a scathing dissent saying "Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall or any farm with a factory." Joining O'Connor in opposing the ruling were Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Land use experts are predicting the ruling is likely to encourage more cities to clear land for office complexes or big-box retailers.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Race doesn't exist for Tom Cruise

marjorie says...

Ok, yes, I did watch a rerun of the infamous Tom Cruise appearance on Oprah yesterday. Hopefully most of you stand in grocery store checkout lines enough to know why it’s so infamous. Well, after watching it I have to say that I don’t think he was that off the wall, any more than Oprah herself was, about his new love-affair. In general, the whole audience and Oprah herself were acting hysterical about the guy.

Anyhow, what is most interesting to me is the complete lack of commentary about a short conversation between Tom and Oprah about his mixed race child. It really shows the sensationalism of the press that this doesn’t get mentioned. Here is a transcript that I found on another website of this rather serious moment among the general hilarity:

WINFREY: I meant to ask you this and also Steven Spielberg. You have a biracial son. Steven has biracial children. It never seems to be–you never have mentioned it. You never mention race. You never say anything about it. Yet your son is obviously of a different race. How did you…
CRUISE: We’re–he’s from the human race. He’s from mankind. I don’t see color. I–you know? I don’t…
WINFREY: Was that ever discussed in the family, though? Did you have a conversation? Did you have a conversation with him about it? Nothing–never even discussed in the family?
CRUISE: I mean, it’s–what’s there to talk about? He’s my son.
WINFREY: Yeah.
Mr. CRUISE #1: It’s a point of–I just–listen, that’s how I feel about it.
WINFREY: Really.
Mr. CRUISE #1: It’s something–he’s my son.
WINFREY: Yeah.
CRUISE: And I love him, and I’ve never–I just never thought about color. I’ve never thought about that at all.
WINFREY: Really? Really?
Mr. CRUISE #1: Race–I just have not thought about that at all.
WINFREY: No, well, listen, obviously, I know you haven’t thought about it. It’s not an issue for you because…
CRUISE: But not even for him, and it’s not a point of–I just–I don’t believe in that. We’re all here together. And we’ve got to work it out together, OK?
WINFREY: Together.
CRUISE: And it’s…
WINFREY: You know, it’s so funny.
CRUISE: That’s what brings about understanding.


MARJORIE: OH MY GOD!

Yeah, Tom, it’s not really surprising that you’ve never thought about race, given your subject position. Let’s hope for your son’s sake that it isn’t something he’ll have to deal with…but I wouldn’t lay bets on it given how racist the world is. It would be smart, probably, for you to, you know, be in discussion about it with him since, afterall, you *are* his *father*!

Also, these comments demonstrate pretty clearly why it is that Hollywood continues to be so racist...the guys running the show there just, you know, "never thought about color." This, friends, was structural racism being clearly voiced by a powerful white man.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Rally for the ABQ living wage

Maggie says:
Looks like I'll be bringing back some of North Carolina with me next week. On Tuesday (6/28), former NC Senator and Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards will be leading a rally in support of raising the minimum wage in Albuquerque. It's at 4:15 downtown at the Civic Plaza.

Don't forget to get your petitions signed, too. There's a link on the m-pyre sidebar where you can download one today!

Unrelated PS: How's this for provocative local political writing? I'm intrigued!

eminent domain for private development projects??

marjorie says...

wow. I can’t believe I am actually in agreement with the ultra conservatives on the Supreme Court. The decision handed down today agreeing with municipalities that they should have the right to condemn people’s homes and property for private development projects is completely wrongheaded. In the name of job growth and economic prosperity, the majority on the court stated that cities know what is best for their local economies and should have the right to condemn private property for economic development projects. According to press reports, the case was brought by residents of a working class neighborhood in New London, Connecticut who the city wants to buy out of their homes to make way for a private office building, hotel, and other commercial purposes.

As we all know simply from following our local politics, the mantra of job growth is rolled out to justify every development in existence. We also know that politicians are up to their eyeballs in developer’s money. And we know that certain types of neighborhoods -- working class and communities of color -- are quite undervalued across the political spectrum, making them easy targets for mowing down in the name of “urban renewal”.

The issue of balancing private property rights with the social good is in my view of profound importance. I generally think private property is too revered in our culture, to the point of a large number of people thinking that our social safety net programs should be abolished. I am all for redistribution and the power of eminent domain to be used for the public welfare.

But, I can not agree with John Paul Stevens when he says that: "Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted governmental function, and there is no principled way of distinguishing it from the other public purposes the court has recognized."


It is certainly clearly distinguishable. It's distinguishable because economic development is generally always considered a private market function, whereas other projects are mostly infrastructure related or for the building of public institutions.

When governments "promote" economic development they are usually engaging in what many of us call "corporate welfare" -- tax subsidies, land and capital giveaways, and job training subsidies. These projects are often undertaken without any clear cost/benefit analysis, and without accountability mechanisms put into place. And they often favor large companies over small businesses.

I completely agree with Sandra Day O’Connor’s dissenting statement that: "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

If we lived in another world where public control of assets was a core value this question might be entirely different. But, we don't. Instead we live in a world shaped by private capitalist land development that is motivated by profit.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Clear evidence of terror - U.S. documents on Luis Posada Carriles

marjorie says...

This website at George Washington University provides links to recently declassified CIA, FBI and State Department files showing the connection between Luis Posada Carriles and the bombing of a Cuban jetliner in 1976 that killed 73 people. These documents clearly place Posada's anti-Cuba terrorist planning in Caracas, specifically in the Anuaco Hilton Hotel. Clearly, the Venezuelan government has the right to try Posada for his actions in Venezuela.

In addition to these documents, which are damning, the website summarizes Posada’s subsequent history thusly:

“In 1985, Posada escaped from prison in Venezuela where he had been incarcerated after the plane bombing and remains a fugitive from justice. He went directly to El Salvador, where he worked, using the alias "Ramon Medina," on the illegal contra resupply program being run by Lt. Col. Oliver North in the Reagan National Security Council. In 1998 he was interviewed by Ann Louise Bardach for the New York Times at a secret location in Aruba, and claimed responsibility for a string of hotel bombings in Havana during which eleven people were injured and one Italian businessman was killed. Most recently he was imprisoned in Panama for trying to assassinate Fidel Castro in December 2000 with 33 pounds of C-4 explosives. In September 2004, he and three co-conspirators were suddenly pardoned, and Posada went to Honduras. Venezuela is now preparing to submit an official extradition request to the United States for his return.”

Well, Venezuela has submitted an official extradition request and we have an obligation to turn Posada over. This is not an immigration issue -- Posada is a known terrorist as our declassified government records show. If Osama bin Laden snuck into another country demanding shelter, do you think we’d be happy if that country called it an immigration issue and refused to extradite him? Just as Mississippi this week dished out delayed justice to Edgar Ray Killen for his terrorist acts, Venezuela has the right to dish out justice to someone who used Caracas as a base for mass terror in the 70s.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The US as an agent of liberty and human rights?

marjorie says...

On her visit to the Middle East, Condi Rice made this statement to an audience at the American University in Cairo: "for 60 years, my county, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region . . . and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people."

It’s the kind of statement that probably makes most liberal spirits soar. Ok, forgive me for being flip. But, really, we have such a problem with amnesia in this country. So, let’s recap. Here we have a stated commitment to liberty while at the same time we are occupying Iraq and instituting a capitalist system that favors foreign control of natural resources. And does anyone really believe that the U.S. is simply providing security while the Iraqis construct their own versions of state institutions?

Many liberals state that we can’t withdraw from Iraq right now - that it would be a heinous abandonment of the Iraqi people in their hour of need. Yes, they say, it was wrong in the first place to take over the country, but now that we’re there they need us.

Why do they need us?

Here is the gist I get from a lot of liberals about Iraq, but we could almost cut and paste onto other U.S. interventions around the world: there would be violent and bloody chaos without us. You know, some of those crazy Islamic militants or terrorists, or god forbid, Iran might take over! Yes, we might have had a lot to do with it in the first place but now that we’re there we have a responsibility to stay. We can’t have those other types in there! And women would not be assured their human rights, either!

This is essentially sneering at other people’s ability to figure out their own problems. Violent and bloody civil wars? We’ve caused so much violence and bloodiness the world over that this one really gets me. And, frankly, I think non-intervention is better than imposing a foreign value system on a country, not to mention the gross profiteering that the US brings with it. Let’s face it, multinationals are vultures feeding on the carrion of nations that we shoot down for them. Our withdrawal creating instability? If instability exists we and our allies surely have a lot to do with it.

The larger question I hear from liberals concerns the role of the U.S. military. Erik over at Alterdestiny pretty much encapsulates this inquiry. Here is his question: “Answer me, progressives of the world--are you willing to do anything at all that involves the use of the military to ensure that our basic values take hold around the world?”

Here is my answer: No, because I don’t believe in a manifest destiny, I don’t believe we are righteous, and I know we are plenty capable of doing great harm.

In these arguments, seldom do we get the history or the context, and most of the time we hear nothing about the United Nations. If we do hear about the UN, it’s that its an ineffective institution. Well, maybe it wouldn’t be so ineffective if the US subsumed itself along with everyone else and gave it real power, if we would actually pay our dues.

Finally, do I believe that there are universal values? I do believe that universal values can exist. But they are built over time through a process, not at the point of a gun. And I don't think our values are necessarily the best ones available. That would be pretty arrogant wouldn't it?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Political expression on the beach

Maggie says:

In Duck, NC, planes regularly carry messages across the sky.

This one? Not advertising a new restaurant or shop. Instead: "Build the Mid Currituck Bridge Now!" Planning is truly everywhere. :-)

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Political Tide Turning?

Mikaela says:
So I've been buried under 10 teenagers for the last 2 weeks and only able to get snippets of the news. Even so, is it just me, or is there something building?

Excerpts from Democracy Now help build a happy picture for us left-of-liberals:

Rep. Conyers Convenes Hearings on Downing Street Memo
Representative John Conyers says the Downing Street Minutes and other recently released British documents confirm that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence and facts to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Among those testifying in the hearing are former US ambassador to Iraq Joe Wilson and longtime CIA analyst Ray McGovern. Conyers says that every major news network is sending cameras except FOX News. Immediately following the hearing, there will be a mass rally across the street from the White House and Conyers will deliver a petition signed by more than half a million people calling on President Bush to answer questions on the documents.

[It's about time. Thank god for the "cyberlegs" of this story. Something better come of it. It did convince me to finally put the "Why am I not on trial?" bumper sticker of Bush's face on my car. That and: "Need religion? Try Burning Bush." Let's hope I don't go to prison for that one.]

Congress May Intervene on Guantanamo
Amid growing calls for the Guantanamo prison camp to be shut down, the Senate Judiciary Committee recommended yesterday that Congress intervene to resolve the fate of the more than 500 prisoners. In a heated hearing on Wednesday, lawmakers sparred with each other and Justice Department officials who asserted that Washington could hold prisoners for the rest of their lives if it wished. Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions argued that some of the prisoners "need to be executed," while Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont called the prison a "international embarrassment."

Patrick Leahy: "Let's get real. These people have been locked up for three years-- no end in sight and no process to lead us out of there. Guantanamo Bay is causing immeasurable damage to our reputation as a defender of Democracy and a beacon of human rights around the world. I'm proud of what our nation has accomplished. I want us to be that beacon of human rights. But we're not being it with Guantanamo."

Durban Defends Guantanamo ‘Nazi’ Comments
Meanwhile, Dick Durbin, the number 2 Democrat in the Senate is under fire for comments he made earlier this week on the Senate floor blasting the conduct of US forces at Guantanamo. Durbin quoted from an FBI agent's report describing prisoners being chained to the floor without food or water in extreme temperatures. He said "If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings." Republicans have called on Durbin to apologize for the comments but last night Durbin released a statement saying, "This administration should apologize to the American people for abandoning the Geneva Conventions and authorizing torture techniques that put our troops at risk and make Americans less secure."

[A Democrat who doesn't back down? Who actually gets the stakes and stakes his claim? Come on! You have to admit that's news these days!]

Pentagon Docs Show Officials Feared Prison Over Gitmo Tactics
ABC News is reporting that the interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo in 2002 triggered concerns among senior Pentagon officials that they could face criminal prosecution under U.S. anti-torture laws. ABC obtained notes from a series of meetings at the Pentagon in early 2003 showing that Alberto Mora, General Counsel of the Navy, warned his superiors that they might be breaking the law. During a January 2003 meeting involving top Pentagon lawyer William Haynes and other officials, the memo shows that Mora warned that the "use of coercive techniques ... has military, legal, and political implication ... has international implication ... and exposes us to liability and criminal prosecution." Mora's concerns about interrogations at Guantanamo have been known, but not his warning that top officials could go to prison. In another meeting held March 8, 2003, the group of top Pentagon lawyers concluded "we need a presidential letter approving the use of the controversial interrogation to cover those who may be called upon to use them." No such letter was issued.

[Bush stick his neck out for his own beliefs? No way, man. Let those Pentagon officials doing his dirty work fend for themselves.]

House Votes to Block Provisions of USA PATRIOT Act
The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to block the Justice Department and the FBI from using the USA Patriot Act to obtain library records and bookstore sales slips. The vote reversed a narrow loss last year. It still would allow the government to continue to seek out records of Internet use at libraries. Thirty-eight Republicans joined with Democrats in the vote. President Bush has threatened to veto any bill that bars the government from going after library and bookstore records. Many librarians have defied the government by disposing of records quickly in an effort to protect people's privacy.

[I always did love librarians. Add this last big reason to my list! And way to go, House of Representatives. Who would have guessed 6 months ago this could happen? Standing against the President? Hmmm... what could be next?]

Friday, June 17, 2005

USSF in Albuquerque?

marjorie says...

Check out the post on swopblogger about whether or not Albuquerque should host the U.S. Social Forum next summer. The U.S. Social Forum next summer will be the first time for a nationwide social forum in the U.S. There have been citywide social forums here and there in the past couple of years. Don't know what I'm talking about? The World Social Forum (WSF) was started in Porto Alegro Brazil five years ago and attracts almost 100,000 people from social and labor movements throughout the world. It is held in January at nearly the same time as the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland, which is an annual summit attended by the world capitalist elites and government and non-profit elites to discuss what to do next to the planet. The WSF is envisioned as a democratic space open to the world's social movements to come together, counter to Davos. It has been held in Brazil each year, except for 2004 when it was in Mumbai India. In 2006, it was decided to not hold a WSF and to encourage regional and nation-state social forums.

anyhow... SWOP put in a proposal to the USSF site selection committee to host the event here next summer. Other contenders are Atlanta and San Francisco. Go to the SWOP blog and vote on their webpoll about whether or not you think we should host a gathering of approximately 15-20,000 social and labor activists and organizations in Albuquerque. .

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Science is in the word -- and the water

Mikaela writes:

Science is beginning to confirm the power of the word. Mystics have known for as long as man has been speaking that words have the power to literally change the air we breathe, the water we drink, the experiences we can have. Now, a scientist in Japan has shown that words – written or spoken – shape water molecules. Words with good connotations create symmetrical patterns in the water molecules. Words like hate spawn asymmetry. This only works with unpolluted water.

I.
What cannot be purified
cannot be transformed

what can be transformed
is pure

thus is born a morality
of molecules

holy water
of a weighted hand

our words
at the center

or maybe the crystalline edge
of the great unknown

where what we can control
and what we cannot fathom

dance together to the beat
of vibrating cosmic strings

Moses parting the water
not with holy staff

but with a plea
a command?

human voice
urging rearrangement

water obeys
responds?

interprets the energy of his voice
into action

miracle
made science

law
suggestion

II.
One Jewish sect asserts the Torah itself is just the name of God. One word that calls forth – embodies – inhabits creation.

Defaming that book
means calling forth darkness

chaos
nothingness

known only to so-called
producers of terror

who now sit praying
in American-run jails

we torture terror
and believe in freedom

we protect our interests
without blaming our banks

we call in darkness
create terror

our words forming asymmetrical structures
in pools of pure blood

what will tranform this evil?
what purification is possible for twisting lies?

most cleanliness
is removal of debris:

first
we jail the jailors

sop up the blood
tend to the wounds

speak kindly to the hurt
free the innocent

burn the prison
and pray

that our words will fall silent
that our prayers for peace will rise

part the waters
connect what has been too-long divided

let fall what may
the heavy fruit of justice

hanging
in the tree of knowledge

we must all bite
and swallow.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

In honor of the New Mexico Minutemen

Maggie says:
An excerpt from the commencement speech at Spellman College given by Howard Zinn this year:

--------------------
Recently I saw a photo on the front page of the New York Times which I cannot get out of my mind. It showed ordinary Americans sitting on chairs on the southern border of Arizona, facing Mexico. They were holding guns and they were looking for Mexicans who might be trying to cross the border into the United States. This was horrifying to me -- the realization that, in this twenty-first century of what we call "civilization," we have carved up what we claim is one world into two hundred artificially created entities we call "nations" and are ready to kill anyone who crosses a boundary.

Is not nationalism -- that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary, so fierce it leads to murder -- one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred? These ways of thinking, cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on, have been useful to those in power, deadly for those out of power.

Here in the United States, we are brought up to believe that our nation is different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral; that we expand into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy. But if you know some history you know that's not true. If you know some history, you know we massacred Indians on this continent, invaded Mexico, sent armies into Cuba, and the Philippines. We killed huge numbers of people, and we did not bring them democracy or liberty. We did not go into Vietnam to bring democracy; we did not invade Panama to stop the drug trade; we did not invade Afghanistan and Iraq to stop terrorism. Our aims were the aims of all the other empires of world history -- more profit for corporations, more power for politicians.

The poets and artists among us seem to have a clearer understanding of the disease of nationalism. Perhaps the black poets especially are less enthralled with the virtues of American "liberty" and "democracy," their people having enjoyed so little of it. The great African-American poet Langston Hughes addressed his country as follows:

You really haven't been a virgin for so long.
It's ludicrous to keep up the pretext…
You've slept with all the big powers

In military uniforms,
And you've taken the sweet life
Of all the little brown fellows…

Being one of the world's big vampires,
Why don't you come on out and say so
Like Japan, and England, and France,
And all the other nymphomaniacs of power.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

'Circus Maximus' in Albuquerque

Maggie says:
In today's Times, John Tierney writes about the "Circus Maximus syndrome," in which "a leader's prime civic responsibility is to build entertainment palaces for the masses." This is an affliction Albuquerque residents should easily recognize - a look downtown is all the proof we need that Mayor Marty is a big time victim of Circus Maximus syndrome.

Tierney: They've endowed downtowns with stadiums, arenas, theaters, concert halls, museums and aquariums. They imagine drawing hordes of out-of-towners to the new convention center, and when the visitors don't materialize, the mayors' solution is to build an even bigger convention center with a subsidized hotel next door. The mayors hire consultants to project grand economic benefits from their projects, but these dreams virtually never come true.

So how does this relate to Albuquerque? Let's see: We have a mayor who is against the Planned Growth Strategy, totally beholden to developers, and all about increasing his voter base with massive sprawl on the Westside. Incidentally, he's also trying to get a new arena built downtown.

Meanwhile, we have pockets of neighborhoods downtown crying out for investment - real planning and development in their interests, not more circus tents. In these neighborhoods you can almost always see one of two extremes: either massive gentrification or major disrepair. Nothing Marty's administration is doing addresses these two problems. We see nothing to protect long-time residents from losing their homes due to price increases and we see nothing to keep other residents from moving to, say, the Westside because they can't get the amenities they expect and deserve as residents of downtown Albuquerque.

What are Marty's answers? In line with Circus Maximus, it's high-dollar development. The new arena. New lofts. A new sports bar. What doesn't investment include? A local grocery store. A local bookstore. Protection against gentrification. Attention - at least recognition - that downtown is more than just a nightspot for college students and young professionals - it's home to about a dozen neighborhoods that have been here for forever. It's home to families, to voters. It's home to me, to Marjorie, and to Mikaela.

I'll let Tierney finish up here. Think of our fair city and who's lining Marty's pockets as you read this:

Those neighborhoods are hurt by grand public buildings that take up valuable real estate and must be paid for with higher taxes, which drive businesses and the middle class to the suburbs. Older cities have made comebacks the past decade by getting back to that core function of protecting people's lives, but most still haven't figured out how to restore their commercial marketplaces.

Instead, their leaders build projects whose economic benefits go to the Circus Maximus industrial complex: real estate developers, construction workers, bond traders, owners of hotels and sports teams. Aside from the thanks of these groups, politicians also get a pleasant distraction from their mundane duties.

It's more fun to pose next to a model of a new stadium than a new water main. Announcing plans for the Olympics gets better coverage than announcing plans for bridge repairs. If you want immediate gratification, there is nothing like a circus, as a moralist named Salvian observed in the fifth century.

By then Rome bore certain resemblances to a lot of American cities. While emperors were investing in monuments, commerce and manufacturing suffered. The population declined along with the port, the roads, the bridges and the water system, but the circuses went on. "The Roman people," Salvian wrote, "are dying and laughing."

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Introducing m-pyrical

So who are we, anyway?

That's a burning question lately. And while none of the three of us professes to being mysterious in the least, apparently this whole blogging thing creates an online identity that is not exactly who you are, but not exactly who you're not, either. We're three friends who have lots in common, but we're different in lots of ways too, and those samenesses and differences show up here pretty often.

On m-pyre, we tend to come across as political, serious, sarcastic, engaged, angry, reflective, action-oriented, and hungry for debate. But in our real lives, we're much more than that and not always so... on. In our free time together, we mostly just hang out and talk -- not really about politics as much as you'd expect, but everyday stuff. Girl talk. Book talk. Movie talk. Music talk. Food talk. Dog talk. You get the gist: kind of our "normal people" sides. But it turns out we don't really write about these things on m-pyre that much. Sometimes we do. But mostly we're too busy commenting on and critiquing this sometimes crazy and always interesting world around us to get around to mentioning the great novel we just read.

To the three of us, though, these other things are vital, the stuff of life. Sitting around with friends, reading fiction or poetry, seeing a great movie, listening to an incredible song, enjoying nature: these are areas that make our lives complete... mixed in with some old-fashioned organizing and agitation, of course!

Enter m-pyrical. It's new and kind of the flip side to m-pyre. Think of it as the blog version of Marjorie and Mikaela's front porch, where we sit and talk about fun stuff that has nothing to do with globalization or Bush or Marty.

So continue keeping tabs on what we think at m-pyre (and telling us what you think about what we think at m-pyre), but do check out our more interior selves on m-pyrical as well.

So who are we, you're still asking? We're m-pyre. And all things m-pyrical.

Get m-pyrical: the stuff of m-pyre

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Fair wage fight ends bitterly

Maggie says:
Last night's City Council decision was so disappointing and so completely frustrating. Local politics can be so damn... disappointing and frustrating here sometimes.

The best commentary I've seen so far comes from Democracy for New Mexico, who call out Michael Cadigan for the "Darth Vader" that he is. But thank you, DfNM, for ending your piece with a positive look forward: "This was a defeat in name only. The Council's narrow rejection of the Fair Wage was so outrageous that it is sure to ignite the ballot petition campaign that concludes on July 18. The community is energized, and the pale, nervous countenances now belong to the Gang of Five and their corporate sponsors at the Chamber of Commerce."

Before I read that, the only positive thing related to the vote for me was that a favorite friend of m-pyre, the one and only Javier Benavidez (left), had his picture on the Albuquerque Tribune website all day for us to admire. The Trib quoted Javier as saying, "I have a hard time understanding why somebody would disagree with a democratic proposition." Us too, Javi, us too.

Monday, June 06, 2005

planning and the growth machine

marjorie says...

Here’s what Marty Chavez had to say over the weekend regarding Eric Griego’s suggestion that we may need a moratorium on subdivision development on the West Side:

“It would devastate families. Every bricklayer, every cement contractor, roofer, plumber and electrician who currently works construction on the West Side would be without work. How would throwing thousands of people out of work change traffic on the West Side?”

Let’s think about these comments for a second.

First, do we really believe that Marty champions west side development so that working class people have jobs? I don’t. I’m pretty sure Marty is fast buddies with the speculating developer crowd. So, what’s really going on here is pandering to the building trades folks -- after all, it is an election year and Marty wants union support. This is pure election year propaganda aimed at labor unions that are hand-in-hand with the growth machine.

Second, and most important in my book, is what these comments reveal about how our land-based market economies work. Think about the logic in what he says -- basically, that we need never-ending sprawl in order to maintain these jobs. Notice I said sprawl, not growth. Because growth can occur that creates jobs that doesn't create sprawl. Speculators in the real-estate market push land development -- and the political tug-of-war about where that development occurs reflects in large part who owns what. Marty has obviously aligned himself with those who stand to make a bundle on the West Side. Of course, we also have land speculators and developers who are invested in other areas of the city -- we often think of the downtown developers as “good” because they supposedly buy into the notion of planned growth, and then there are those folks with their eye on the South Valley as the next big thing.

The heart of the planned growth struggle in this city is between those who believe in unhindered speculation vs. those who believe in a planned framework for speculation. We live in a capitalist economy that needs to constantly reproduce itself, through the development and expansion of markets. Where does this leave folks who want to plan for their communities through a non-market lens? In a tough spot I’d say. What interests lie behind every process, every seemingly organized community? Is it possible to have true consensus in a geographically bounded community, given the range of private-property interests in that area? Is power distributed evenly in any given planning process? These questions are at the heart of planning, in my book, and they define our approach to community.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Can someone destroy this woman, please?

Maggie says:
I've said it before and I'll continue to say it: nothing irks me (okay, infuriates me) quite like Republican women. Voting against your own interests is mind-blowing to me, but while I see low-income Republicans as votes we should be out there changing, I consider Republican women the epitomy of hypocrisy and frankly would rather just ignore them. Getting that angry just isn't worth it to me; I prefer my mellow sensibility to stay mellow.

But then someone like Kansas State Senator Kay O'Connor comes along, and man if she doesn't make me want to drive to Kansas and strangle her myself. O'Connor just announced she is running for Secretary of State in Kansas, against the wishes of many women in her home state who are still, oh, a little bit pissed that O'Connor proclaimed herself just a few years ago to be a "women's suffrage opponent."

What, you're asking? A woman in public office who came out saying she was against a woman's right to vote? In this century? I couldn't make this up if I tried:

"I think the 19th Amendment, while it's not an evil in and of itself, is a symptom of something I don't approve of. The 19th Amendment is around because men weren't doing their jobs, and I think that's sad. I believe the man should be the head of the family. The woman should be the heart of the family." - O'Connor in 2001

Apparently after O'Connor made these remarks, women in Kansas organized to try and push her from office, but O'Connor held on. Since then she's only referred to the incident as "silliness," adding that "I am who I am. You don't have to agree with everything I say."

This woman is either a complete idiot or completely evil: it's hard to tell which. Either she thinks women shouldn't be allowed to vote but should be allowed to run for office, or she thinks she's exempt from the rest of the "heart of the family" women in her state who don't have enough brains to think politically, or she has absolutely no self-respect at all, or she's extremely, dangerously arrogant, or she's trying to get the misogynist vote among men and fit in as "one of the boys,"or she's just the biggest danger to women when she is also a woman to hit the radar screen since... well, she'd probably be the worst.

Please, please, please to everyone out there in Kansas: find someone to run against this woman, rip her to shreds, and kick her ass at the polls. PLEASE.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Local politics revisited

Maggie says:
Now that we have a real registered Republican running for mayor (instead of the fake one currently holding down the job), I think this obviously changes the local political landscape quite a bit. Luckily for anyone who cares about the quality of life in Albuquerque, I see Marty being left out in the cold, without the support of the Republicans who would've voted for him had Winter not been in the race and losing the run-off to Eric Griego. I hope the Griego campaign can build on the push to get a minimum wage increase on the ballot and focus on rallying the progressive base in Albuquerque and appealing to voters Marty's policies have ignored and/or harmed.

So that said, the race for Griego's city council seat bugs me. I know lots of good folks give Diana Dorn-Jones credit for her community work in South Broadway and excuse her dealings with the Marty administration, but I'd like to see a much more progressive candidate there; in fact, I think we should demand one. This is the district to do that: we're talking downtown, not the Heights. Organizers are busy enough in this town to not always have to worry about how Dorn-Jones will vote and do an eleventh hour push to get her support for every issue. And as someone more in the know than me (and apparently much more in the know than Dorn-Jones apologists) recently said, "Don't kid yourself - Diana Dorn-Jones is in Marty's pocket just as much as Tina Cummings."

So this leaves me to wonder: why couldn't Judy Espinosa have run for Eric's seat instead of running for mayor? She's a great choice for that district: she has the right amount of name recognition to do well in a district, but getting votes citywide will be an uphill battle; she'd be in a winnable race were she running for Eric's seat, unlike the minefield of running for mayor in a crowded field; and most importantly we need her there. So I know this is too little too late (I believe Espinosa is announcing her candidacy for mayor today), but for what it's worth: Judy, why not take a shot at the City Council instead? Help us maintain our progressive city council. We need you!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

m-pyre loves Pearl's

Maggie says:
Recently is was noted that some people find the ladies of m-pyre to be "mysterious." And I just discovered that M3 's favorite watering hole has a website. Enter Pearl's Dive, simply the best bar in Albuquerque if you're anything like the three of us, which means you like to drink, talk, eat good food, and hang out with great friends close to home.

And not to completely spoil our mysterious appeal, but M3 spends a lot of time at Pearl's. Like, ahem, the last two nights in a row. And our favorite waiter is curly-haired Ian, who made up an M3 gang sign for us and puts up with Mikaela's outrageous demands for specific glassware. Marjorie drinks wine, I drink Bass, and Mikaela drinks cider. And we love black bean dip and the portabello quesadillas.

So now that you don't have to sit around wondering about the mysteries of m-pyre, get yourselves over to Pearl's with your free time, local readers. Good drinks, great food, a kick-ass back patio perfect for summer nights, and good conversation await you.

NY Times Headline and Photo -- Front Page


"At Least 33 Killed in Iraq in Day of Blasts and Shootings" Posted by Hello

Mikaela says:
As a snapshot of what the best newspaper in the country presents as news, today's NY Times on-line first page is incredibly disturbing.

This just validates the LA Times news story critiquing the lack of images from Iraq. See post from May 26.

KUNM Grumblings

Maggie says:
As an admitted news junkie (and one who's struggling lately without cable news or the internet at home), a fixture of my mornings for ten years now has involved two things: listening to the NPR morning news and reading the newspaper. Since moving to Albuquerque three years ago, both of these have presented problems for me, since getting morning headlines from KUNM is often a dubious prospect and the Journal leaves me... wanting.

But the KUNM thing really bugs me. It's probably a lot harder to change an entire newspaper's philosophical stance and upgrade their writing quality than it is for a public radio station to tweak their programming schedule a little. So in the vein of WBUR and WUNC, great public radio stations that served my last two addresses, I offer the following simple suggestions:

- Respect my need for morning news! This is big, because being disappointed with KUNM in the mornings SUCKS, since I'm usually really wanting to hear headlines and almost always haven't had coffee yet. And sure, the call-in shows that seem to be on every other morning are sometimes interesting (like when callers bitch out Marty or Richardson), but the fact is they are not news, and I need news first thing in the morning!

- If not all news, at least five minutes of headlines. If KUNM insists on keeping programming like the morning call-in shows instead of broadcasting Morning Edition, then why can't they do what other public stations do when programming is coming on: start it five minutes after the hour and fill those first five minutes with NPR feeds of the day's top headlines? It just makes sense. It would appease me a little to at least hear something in the way of news before long-winded discussions like this morning's on youth involvement or the really long-winded broadcasts of speeches from random conferences that really piss me off when I'm hoping to get some news.

- Why not an all-news format? I know a lot of people love KUNM's music programming, and sure, why not keep some of it, but I think of news when I think of public radio, so that's what I expect. WUNC went to an all-news format a couple of years ago and it's been a huge success - there are so many good shows to syndicate (like Fresh Air and The Connection) and doing this would give KUNM time to adjust their programming schedule so that things like the speech broadcasts and the call-in shows could happen in mid-morning, or mid-afternoon, or the evening: just not when all I need are some headlines before my coffee.

- Something positive: Democracy Now! is awesome. The fact that KUNM broadcasts Amy Goodman's brilliance is great. And vital. And just great. So there, I said something positive.

Community Planning

Mikaela ponders:
So the issue is always: how do you know what the community wants?

We're supposed to be helping communities to realize their visions, right? Make the things they want to change or improve or protect better in the ways they identify. That's the idea behind this whole "community planning" endeavor.

In order for us to engage in this process, we ask people to come to community meetings; we do surveys; we spend time in community places; we talk to people -- all in the interest of finding the range of desires and visions and motives of people in the community. At the end of the day, we try to hear the things said the most often, balanced with the things said the most vehemently & the things we may know (whether learned from a community member or from separate investigations) will have huge impacts or implications for a particular place.

And at the end of the day, whether we're optimistic or idealistic or cynical or practical or political, we take a leap of faith that involves several rather large steps 1) that there is something called community -- even if there are competing ideas and interests within it, 2) that we can know what/who it is, and 3) that we can be involved in a helpful way.

Planning theory spends a lot of time finding the indicators for community, because really, how do you know when you know who the community even is, much less what they want? Very quickly and easily, fingers can be pointed at planners because they don't "really know" the community or they don't "really know" what the community wants. And invariably, the person pointing the finger has a different idea of community and community vision.

All of a sudden, we're talking about representation. Who can say they know the community? Let's be frank: there is no perfect planning process out there that ensures community involvement. There is no magic "enough." There is no end. There is no object called community that can be known.

The best we can do is engage community members that want to be engaged or that are willing to be goaded into engaging. And then we have to be careful not to give false hopes of what is really possible while working to expand what's possible.

In the best of worlds, communities would not need planners at all. There would be enough interaction on a daily basis that visions and goals and necessary steps would already be clear, and communities could approach municipal offices and obtain the resources they need to make things happen.

But that's not the way our communities work anymore. I'm hard pressed to come up with a single example. Even the ones that come close -- Sawmill, Pajarito Mesa, etc. -- can come under the same critique that it's only a fraction of the community members working toward a goal. Can they really be said to represent the community -- even when what they want will benefit everyone?

It gets back to the failings of our culture. It literally does not pay to organize your neighborhood. There are few pay-offs. I believe in community more than I believe in most things, and I still don't take an active role in my neighborhood. I say hi to my neighbors, but when it comes time to borrow a saw or a step-ladder, I call a friend. That's modern life in the U.S.

And where does that leave us community planners -- all optimistic and pessimistic and cynical and practical and political and all the rest?

1) We must have more faith in communities than in our own professions. This is not about planning but about place. This means that it must be more important for communities to organize than it is to achieve any one "goal."

2) We must have faith in our professions, because if we really think that nothing can be done or that communities can't fight the market or that it all comes down to politics, then we should be acting on those values that run contrary to those necessary to engage in planning. Scrap the planning job and be a developer or a stock broker or a politician.

3) We must acknowledge and embrace that planning is at its heart radical. All kinds of planning are predicated on interrupting the market -- for whatever aim, even if that aim is to aid the market. The best kind of planning believes in protecting and preserving and enhancing communities -- ensuring that the kinds of things communities want -- and individuals within those communities -- remain viable options. This does not mean preserving culture for the sake of preservation but preserving a way of life because the community values it. Planning helps to add value to those lifestyles in order to balance the value the market places on the alternatives. We validate; we don't prescribe.

If we're good community planners -- working at listening and learning and helping -- maybe the effort is enough. Our approximation of community involvement gives us a place to start and a certain plan of action.

While we engage in this active process, I think it should be more explicit that our aims are nothing short of revolutionary: strong communities, distinctive places, and the potential for each person to choose and pursue an ideal way life.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Books that scare conservatives

Maggie says:
Via Lawyers, Guns and Money, here's the list that Human Events, "The National Conservative Weekly," compiled of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries:
1. The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx
2. Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler
3. Quotations from Chairman Mao, Mao Zedong
4. The Kinsey Report, Alfred Kinsey
5. Democracy and Education, John Dewey
6. Das Kapital, Karl Marx
7. The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan
8. The Course of Positive Philosophy, Auguste Comte
9. Beyond Good and Evil, Friederich Nietzsche
10. General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, John Maynard Keynes

The commentary at the Human Events link is classic. For The Feminine Mystique, the group dismisses Friedan as a Marxist and says that "Her original vocation, tellingly, was not stay-at-home motherhood but left-wing journalism."

The commentary for General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money is great, too: "The book is a recipe for ever-expanding government. When the business cycle threatens a contraction of industry, and thus of jobs, he argued, the government should run up deficits, borrowing and spending money to spur economic activity. FDR adopted the idea as U.S. policy, and the U.S. government now has a $2.6-trillion annual budget and an $8-trillion dollar debt." Hmmm... sounds to me that according to their own analysis, Human Events should be appalled at the fiscal policies of Bush&Co instead of supporting the war in Iraq and everything that comes out of Bush's mouth. I'd say that's the bigger outrage, not FDR leading the country through an economic crisis.

And for all you fellow book nerds out there, here are the honorable mentions (although without the amusing commentary). This stuff is so interesting:
11. The Population Bomb, Paul Ehrlich
12. What is to be Done, V.I. Lenin
13. Authoritarian Personality, Theodor Adorno
14. On Liberty, John Stuart Mill
15. Beyond Freedom and Dignity, B.F. Skinner
16. Reflections on Violence, Georges Sorel
17. The Promise of American Life, Herbert Croly
18. Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin
19. Madness and Civilization, Michel Foucault
20. Soviet Communism: A New Civilization, Sidney and Beatrice Webb
21. Coming of Age in Samoa, Margaret Mead
22. Unsafe at Any Speed, Ralph Nader
23. Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir
24. Prison Notebooks, Antonio Gramsci
25. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
26. Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon
27. Introduction to Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud
28. The Greening of America, Charles Reich
29. The Limits to Growth, Club of Rome
30. Descent of Man, Charles Darwin

Historical Footnote

Maggie says:
Now that we know who Deep Throat is, here's another tidbit buried in this Times article about mystery man W. Mark Felt:

Felt "was convicted in 1980 on unrelated charges of authorizing government agents to break into homes secretly, without warrants, in a search for anti-Vietnam War bombing suspects from the radical Weather Underground in 1972 and 1973. Five months later, President Ronald Reagan pardoned him on the grounds that he had 'acted on high principle to bring an end to the terrorism that was threatening our nation.'"

By the way, if anyone out there hasn't seen the documentary The Weather Underground, get yourself to your local video store immediately. It's pretty incredible stuff, very well done.