Wednesday, August 31, 2005

"Looters" and "Finders"

"Looter" with sodas...

Caption from the AP:
A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. Flood waters continue to rise in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina did extensive damage when it made landfall on Monday. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Since when did the taking of food and beverages from grocery stores during catastrophic natural disasters become "looting"?
The press ought to be ashamed of themselves.

And look, here are some white "finders":

Caption from the AP:
Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans, Louisiana.(AFP/Getty Images/Chris Graythen)


Thanks to Justin for sending these my way.

9/1 UPDATE: I just noticed on a CNN slideshow that the caption of the top photo reads: "A young man drags groceries through chest-deep water in New Orleans on Tuesday."

Who knows? Maybe that's because the above comparison is literally *all over* the blogosphere.


9/2 UPDATE:


See below what Yahoo has to say about the two pictures I (along with a katrillion other bloggers) posted on Wednesday. It's interesting to note the concern of AFP, a French News Service--they have asked that the "Finders" photo be removed and have released a fairly lengthy explanation for why the caption reads the way it does. Contrast this to the AP statement that their photographers say exactly what they see, and if they see someone taking something out of store then it is called "looting", plain and simple. Does the wholesale application of this term in New Orleans demonstrate the inability to grasp nuance, to apply correct connotative values to words, or does it demonstrate deep-seated unthinking bias?

To Yahoo! News readers:

News photos are an especially popular section of Yahoo! News. In part, this is because we present thousands of news photos from some of the leading news services, including The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France Press. To make this volume of photos available in a timely manner, we present the photos and their captions as written, edited and distributed by the news services with no additional editing at Yahoo! News.

In recent days, a number of readers of Yahoo! News have commented on differences in the language in two Hurricane Katrina-related photo captions (from two news services). Since the controversy began, the supplier of one of the photos – AFP – has asked all its clients to remove the photo from their databases. Yahoo! News has complied with the AFP request.

Here are a few of the postings that have commented on the photo caption language:

Flickr

Salon

Romenesko

Gothamist

You can comment on the issue on this message board.

Yahoo! News regrets that these photos and captions, viewed together, may have suggested a racial bias on our part. We remain committed to bringing our readers the full collection of photos as transmitted by our wire service partners.

Neil Budde
General Manager
Yahoo! News



"That could be me" is only human

Maggie says:
Like Marjorie, I was commenting on Mikaela's post and it got so long that I'll just put it here instead:

I agree that a global perspective is a good thing. And people being reminded of how many other people are dying around the world daily is a good thing. Being able to shrug away hundreds or thousands of deaths in another country should never happen.

But... this is home. There's no way around it. I grew up in hurricane culture. I think in New Mexico it might be easier for everyone to still feel very distant, very "them" about the devastation in Louisiana and Mississippi, about rain and water that can ruin lives in an hour. But I don't feel that. To be perfectly honest, I feel devastated by the Katrina damage in a way I did not about the tsunami. I'm emotional anyway - CNN can make me cry sometimes, and I was shell-shocked watching tsunami coverage - but I think it's only human for us to feel worse about tragedies that are closer, that we know.

And I know what life can look like after a hurricane. I know what it's like for falling trees to destroy the house next door but miraculously, not yours. I know what it's like to wait in lines for gas and batteries and water like everyone else around you. I know what it's like to sit in your dark house huddled with your family, listening to the wind and wondering what in the world it looks like outside, but being too scared to peek. I know about the morning after - seeing people just leveled with grief, being left with nothing, whole towns wiped away and water just everywhere.

But here is what (thankfully) I do not know: a hurricane like Katrina, devastation as bad as that, so many deaths, so many places destroyed, so many people left without hope or a way out. Rather than focusing on how people should've been upset by a worse tragedy that happened across the world, I think of this time as an opportunity to see the best in people, to notice how people will reach out beyond themselves and their comfort zones to help those who need it.

We should always be reaching out beyond our own safety and luxury; we should always be empathetic when tragedy strikes and when deaths are too much to bear. I agree with that. But I know that people respond most when they think, "That could be me." When they imagine their family hanging onto rooftops for safety, their family begging for drinking water in a disaster area, their family left without a home, without a place to work, without a community to call home. Yes, it's subjective. Maybe it's even selfish. But it's human. And we all are.

We use words like "unimaginable" not because we don't sympathize with faraway tragedies, but because they seem so foreign to what we know in our everyday lives that we can't picture ourselves suffering from them. Most of us in the U.S. can't really imagine a wave large enough to kill 21,000 people in an instant. We just can't. But a storm like Katrina, families like ours on TV, people like our neighbors or grandparents or coworkers or friends overcome with grief and loss - that seems very close. That is imaginable. And so we cry harder and we try to help, probably more than we did when a wave brought terrible, terrible destruction to a faraway place.

Helping other people in their time of tragedy opens our hearts. Each time our heart breaks with someone else's grief, we're better able to empathize every time something terrible happens. And however selfish the reason, having our heart opened is good no matter what, no matter how close to home rather than across the world. People feeling rather than shutting off makes great things happen. It makes us more human. It creates connections. And thinking of something like Katrina this way, rather than dismissing a perhaps biased U.S. response, is to me the only way to move forward.

Katrina and U.S. inequity

marjorie says...

My comment in reply to Mikaela’s got kind of long so I thought I’d just make it a post.

How am I supposed to wrap my mind around one *moment* in Bagdad in which 650 people, primarily women and children, died in a stampede--because of fear due to a burgeoning civil war? The reality of that loss of life is unfathomable really--from over here, all I can do is think about the reasons for it. I'm pretty good at that. And I’m pretty good at laying the blame at the feet of the U.S.

How am I supposed to wrap my mind around the devastation that just happened in the American south, the loss of entire communities? Well, it’s a lot easier--because I know that place. I can picture it.

The thing is, the closer something is to home the more real it is for folks. Personally, what's happening in New Orleans is distressing the hell out of me. It's an overwhelming event for the United States.

To see a million people streaming out was pretty amazing.

To see the poor, primarily African-Americans, remain stuck there is damning to us all.

As someone who loves New Orleans, I think it will be tragic if that city is wiped out.

I agree that comparing this catastrophe to the Tsunami or Hiroshima is misguided. Nonetheless, I understand the passion and the heartbreak behind those words.

There are certainly some interesting observations to be made in the end. Here are a few that I think are important:

  1. Race and Poverty: I got an email today that described what happened on Sunday as a “laissez-faire” evacuation. In my mind this is quite accurate. Those who had the resources were able to leave. Those who didn’t had to remain--the state did nothing to evacuate poor people with no transportation. There is a heartbreaking story in today’s paper about a couple who couldn’t find a way out. The man’s life depended on a supply of oxygen and when it ran out he died. Almost needless to say, they were black. If anyone of you has seen even one picture of a group of white people left behind in New Orleans please send it my way. In a city that has turned into a disease ridden toxic soup bowl, it's black folk who are left behind. Nothing could be clearer than this catastrophe to show the structure of our society in terms of how race and wealth coincide, and the consequences of being poor. It is a clear demonstration of who gets to leave and who has to stay.

  1. Infrastructure: In my mind the primary thing that makes this catastrophe different from others that have happened recently around the world is that we live in a first-world country with excellent infrastructure. The majority of the people of New Orleans were able to get out because of our infrastructure. And the response after the fact has been incredibly large due to the infrastructure available in this country, both human and physical. Much of New Orleans itself could possibly be destroyed at this point, but its ultimate survival as a city will be largely due to the ability of this country to respond due to our enormous wealth.

  1. Climate Change: As noted by many outside of the mainstream media, climate change is wreaking havoc on our natural systems. We can only hope that this natural disaster will be a wake-up call for our elected officials in terms of needing to get on board with the international consensus on this topic. Our consumption of the world’s resources is shameful, and it is deadly.

Conscience Tsunami

Mikaela says:
Here's hoping for a tsunami of conscience from inside the belly of the beast...

F.D.A. Aide Quits in Protest of Morning-After Pill Decision

WASHINGTON -- A high-ranking Food and Drug Administration official resigned Wednesday in protest over the agency's refusal to allow over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception.

Susan Wood, director of FDA's Office of Women's Health, announced her resignation in an e-mail to colleagues at the agency.

The FDA last Friday postponed indefinitely its decision on whether to allow the morning-after pill, called Plan B, to be sold without a prescription. The agency said it was safe for adults to use without a doctor's guidance but was unable to decide how to keep it out of the hands of young teenagers without a prescription -- a decision contrary to the advice of its own scientific advisers.

"I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled," wrote Wood, who also was assistant commissioner for women's health. "The recent decision announced by the Commissioner about emergency contraception, which continues to limit women's access to a product that would reduce unintended pregnancies and reduce abortions, is contrary to my core commitment to improving and advancing women's health."

Plan B's maker has been trying for two years to begin nonprescription sales, and the FDA's latest postponement of its fate was a surprise: Commissioner Lester Crawford won Senate confirmation to take his job only after promising members of Congress to make a final decision by Sept. 1.

Hurricane Perspective

Mikaela says:
The recent hurricane in Lousisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama is being called the worst disaster to ever hit the U.S. It's being compared to Hurrican Andrew, which hit Florida and cost upwards of $10 billion in insurance payouts. Adjusted for inflation, that's about $21 billion in today's dollars. This one is set to ... well ... blow that away.

The governor of Mississippi went on the news and said the damage was "unimaginable."

The liberal media, Democracy Now first and foremost, is doing a good job pointing out the correlation among this hurricane, the steadily intensifying power and frequency of tropical storms, and global warming.

The only comparison I haven't heard yet, much to my surprise and political chagrine, is to the devastation of December's tsunami in Asia. CNN made the comparison, which I only caught second-hand off the web. Maybe the comparison hasn't come up because it's such a bad one. We're talking here about 100s of deaths, maybe more in the upcoming weeks from lack of water and disease. Sri Lanka lost 21,000 people instantly, and hundreds more every day after.








But how can the governor of Mississippi say the damage is "unimaginable" when we all saw much worse devastation not even a year ago? Oh, right. That was another country. That was them. This is now.

[Update: LA Times ran a story I just with the link from the first page calling it, ahem, "This is Our Tsunami" They reported the Mississippi governor likening the devastation to Hiroshima. I don't know what to make of that one.]

And did we even really see that devastation? How many pictures were there? How much coverage, really? I'd guess about as much as we're going to see in the very first days of OUR American tragedy.

I'm not saying that what has befallen us is not worth reporting or that it isn't truly devastating. It is. It's horrible, especially for the region's poor, sick, elderly, and youth, who disproportionately will feel the impact in the coming weeks and years (Democracy Now did a good job yesterday talking about the toxic sludge that the delta will become now that all those chemical plants will be literally sitting in their own waste and leaching it to surrounding communities -- mostly black and poor, go figure. Talk about environmental justice!).

I'm just admonishing us to keep a global perspective (we're all about globalism, aren't we? Until tragedy strikes US!) and remember that what has happened here is part and parcel of what's happening to the rest of the world. There's a common tie, a common problem, and a common solution. We should look very close to home for someone to blame.

Strange that we can be so inwardly focused and still be blind to our own participation in the climate-changing effects of our industry that has made us so very very rich.

A doubleblind double-bind. Charming. Double double, toil and ... what's that next line again?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Whiteboy Revolution

"whiteboy" clothing company mission statement


I'm so relieved! I've been waiting for Whiteboy to start the revolution.

What?? All I have to do is consume? Who knew?

Monday, August 29, 2005

sanctioned terrorists

marjorie says...

Pat Robertson and Luis Posada Carriles have at least one thing in common: both reap the benefits of their work in favor of neo-conservative objectives that promote direct foreign intervention in the affairs of other countries. One works to disseminate and push ideas among the public considered beyond the pale and the other has a long history of terrorist acts employed to destabilize the Cuban government.

By the standards of the Bush administration’s pronouncements, both should be considered terrorists. Instead, one is given the verbal equivalent of a slap on the wrist and the other may very well receive U.S. residency this week.

Additionally, both cases illustrate the symbiotic relationship between mainstream media and the U.S. government. The media in this country serve to validate U.S. foreign policy through nominal critiques that rarely get at deeper underlying issues at hand.

see the rest of this essay i wrote on Znet...

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Visitor

In Spanish he whispers there is no time left.
It is the sound of scythes arcing in wheat,
the ache of some field song in Salvador.
The wind along the prison, cautious
as Francisco’s hands on the inside, touching
the walls as he walks, it is his wife’s breath
slipping into his cell each night while he
imagines his hand to be hers. It is a small country.

There is nothing one man will not do to another.


Carolyn Forché, 1979
(Human rights worker in El Salvador during the death squads that the U.S. helped to support with aid, arms, and training.)

Mikaela says:
Sound familiar at all? Couldn’t she be talking about political prisoners in Guantanamo or in Iraq? Only these days, we’re the jailers. Does this administration consider that progress?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

What Rio Rancho Really Needs

City Councilman Unearths Magical Zoning Amulet

ROCHESTER, NY—After years spent poring over mysterious and arcane plat sheets and deciphering long-forgotten building codes, city councilmember Mike LaMere unearthed the mysterious City Zoning Amulet Friday.

"Behold!" LaMere said, holding aloft the solid-gold amulet, which is emblazoned with the Ever-Evaluating Eye of Surr-Vey, Lord Of Demarcation, He Who Measures And Assesses. "With this sigil, the power of zoning comes. Through me, the power of zoning flows! All will behold my power, and I shall bow to no man when designating matter-of-right developments for major retail and office spaces to a maximum lot occupancy of 75 percent for residential use!"

LaMere held the glowing amulet aloft and transmuted a neighborhood of low-income apartments into a semi-wooded, single-family, residential district with an adjoining riverside park.

Mikaela says:
GodDAMN that Onion's funny!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Call for Help: ABQ Downtown Music Scene Needs You!

Mikaela says:
The following message is from Joe Anderson, owner of the Launchpad and part-owner of the Sunshine Theatre downtown.

A few months ago (my how time passes) our lovely Mayor railed against all-age shows and said, with no evidence, that venues who serve alcohol were threatening our under-age youth. Or some such schlock. There was no real reason for the attack, but the Mayor and his people have moved on it and proposed legislation to end liquor sales at all-age shows. No problem, right? You can forego a little of the wet stuff for a good show? Well, you may be able to, but venues can't. They need your rum-soaked dollar to keep the doors open.

Do you hate how chain retailers and restaurants take over downtowns with the first whiff of gentrification? Do you love hole-in-the-wall local businesses? Ever wonder how the "creative class" paves the way for "revitalization" that ends up putting money in the hands of local politicians who magically know where to invest at just the right time before things take off? Does that piss you off?

Answer yes to any of these, and Joe's following message is for you. How can you help? Let Joe explain.

(And can I just say again how much I love Joe Anderson? We all owe him a debt of gratitude for literally putting Albuquerque on the map for contemporary music. Most bands passed us by before Joe came on the scene. And yes, I dated him. Best boyfriend ever. Don't get me started about the great dates we went on!)

Hello everyone.

We could use your help if you have some time you could donate. This Friday morning at 9am, the state is holding a hearing regarding the proposed legislation for minors on licensed premises. We need people to been seen and heard.


We hope to persuade the Alcohol and Gaming Division to at least postpone signing this unfair legislation into the regs until further, more in-depth research can be done. If this legislation becomes law (regulation), there would be devastating and possibly irreparable damage done to Albuquerque's steady and growing live music scene.

What you can do:

Show up as early as possible. We will be at Civic Plaza by 7am with 104.7 The Edge. They will be doing their entire morning broadcast from the plaza (tune in for the play-by-play). The hearing begins at 9am at City Council chambers at One Civic Plaza (5th & Marquette, Downtown).

Things you should know:

1. Mayor Martin Chavez hastily made claims months ago that downtown venues with liquor licenses hosting all ages events were a main cause of violence or the perception of violence in the downtown area. Coupled by an attack on downtown cruising, Chavez began his grossly under-researched and over-hyped crusade to put an end to all ages events hosted at these venues. A proposal was written up in the mayor's office and sent up to state. That original proposal was found to be unlawful and unjust, so the state rewrote the proposed legislation.

2. The proposed legislation basically amounts to this: Any venue which generates more than 50% of its gross annual revenue through alcohol sales is strictly prohibited to sell alcohol during all ages events.

FAQs

Q. Can't these venues just do all ages events without the sale of alcohol?
What is the problem?

A. We could, but eventually, we couldn't afford to. What most people do not understand is that we pay for the band's guarantee and our show production / promotion costs from the ticket sales, and pay for in-house expenses using revenue from bar sales. Our entire overhead is quite high. We would eventually lose money and ultimately, either close or open a PF Chang's or Popeye's.

Q. What did you guys do to cause this to happen? Did you anger the mayor?
Is there something crammed in his ass? Did you have too many violations? Are you bad?

A. We have no idea why we are in the middle of this. We've been told by members of the SID (Special Investigations Division), public officials and local organizations that we are NOT a problem venue and that our record is exemplary. I don't even know the mayor. I have no idea what he has in his ass. Since Launchpad opened its doors 8 years ago, the venue has been served 2 administrative fines. One was given on opening week when the staff was caught having beers after hours while they were cleaning. One was issued for serving a minor during an event that was NOT all ages. This happened during a sting set up by the AGD (Alcohol and Gaming Division) several years ago. During the past two and a half years, we have not received a single citation, regardless of what you have heard from the Albuquerque Journal. And we are not bad (I was a boy scout and an altar boy).

Q. What will happen to venues like Journal Pavilion and Isotopes Park?
Don't they get more citations than you?

A. It is very likely that their ticket sales and merchandise/food sales will exempt them from the new legislation. Although it is my strong belief that they would not be interested in operating if they did not have the steady stream of revenue from their $7.00 domestic draft sales. Of course they have more citations than we do. Nineteen citations were written on one day this summer (Megadeth), but I guess that's not a problem. These venues don't even separate their service areas. Sunshine Theater and Launchpad have inner "beer gardens". Young adults cannot even get next to any alcohol. The explanation given from a representative at the Pavilion was that since they are a larger venue, they can't be expected to have the kind of control that the smaller venues have. What? Who hired that dude? What are his job qualifications?

Q. Are there any situations that the mayor has obviously overlooked, Launchpad?

A. Why yes, we believe so. There are about 30 liquor licenses in the downtown area. If we were to remove alcohol and host all ages shows, I am very sure that the over 21 clientele would first meet at a neighboring bar to have a beer or two before coming to the event. Then, in between acts, the over 21 patrons could go back to that neighboring bar for another drink or two. If we've already established that under 21 patrons cannot get alcohol from our bar, what makes this any different, other than the fact that a neighboring bar is
making alcohol revenue off a crowd that my advertised event has brought downtown?
We could use that revenue to pay expenses incurred at our venue.

Q. Doesn't the mayor have a plan to "save the music scene"? He says he has no intention of ending all ages shows. He loves the Ramones!

A. Do you think the mayor is qualified to book bands? The mayor's office is emitting a smoke screen to keep you at bay. If your idea of entertainment is showings of Free Willy at the park, just blow this off. Do we need a fund set up to support music in our state? Yes. Do we need the mayor to mess with the process of free market? No. Isn't he a conservative democrat anyway? Didn't the Ramones play all ages shows in venues which served alcohol? Do you think the Ramones would have liked our mayor?

Q. Are there any unfounded theories that you did not create yourself, but are being passed around by everyone and their moms?

A. That is a crazy way to ask a question, but yes there are. There are rumors out there that the mayor has money invested in the residential buildup of downtown. Property development companies have made liberal donations to his re election campaign. Perhaps the live music venues downtown are considered riff raff in his eyes. Maybe this is step one to commercializing downtown. Who needs Launchpad when you can have Bennigan's? Won't residential properties be worth more without the weirdness?

Q. Is Launchpad about the music?

A. Saying Launchpad is not about music is like saying church is not about religion. I swear on my life that Launchpad is ALL about the music.

Thanks. Please help. This is a serious situation for anyone who loves music.

Joe Anderson
Troop 383

Pat has a poor memory

marjorie says...

Pat Robertson says today that he was simply misinterpreted--that his phrase "take him out" could mean lots of things, such as kidnapping for instance (oh, okay, Pat--what a relief--only kidnapping???). hmmm....

Really?

Well, just in case any one out there is confused, you can go back and watch his comments directly. The video is linked right here on Mediamatters.org.

Not only does Robertson urge that U.S. special forces assassinate Hugo Chavez, he directly links his concerns to the mass amount of Venezuelan oil reserves. Interesting that this little tidbit didn't show up in any of the quotes in mainstream press outlets.

What could be more blatant?

Update! Christian Right Assassination Lust


‘ole Pat finally remembered he called for the assassination of the Venezuelan president just 2 days ago on live television.

And then he apologized.

Pat, I just want to say THANKS for making more friends for Hugo Chavez--he deserves them!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hugo Chavez & Pat Robertson’s Morality

marjorie says...

Could there be a more blatant example of how *immoral* representatives of the Christian Right can be? Pat Robertson of the 700 Club has bluntly called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, the democratically elected president of Venezuela.

Not only is Chavez democratically elected, he was democratically affirmed half-way through his term last summer in a nationwide referendum.

He also was restored to the presidency after a coup in 2002, through mass mobilization of the people in the streets and a loyal military.

In effect, Hugo Chavez’s presidency has been ratified more thoroughly by the people of Venezuela than any U.S. president can ever claim to have been.

And yet, U.S. government representatives and U.S. media outlets consistently refer to him as a “strong-arm” leader who threatens democracy in Venezuela and Latin America more broadly. Frankly, this attitude shows the corrupt mentality of the governing elite in this country. Democracy is paid lip service but it has no real meaning--because when democracy brings in people who don’t toe the U.S. line, well, it just isn’t acceptable. Whatever happened to national autonomy, the right of people to determine their own destiny?

And Pat Robertson, Christian Right Patriarch and former Presidential Candidate? There may be many in the media who write him off as a quack. And *we* may agree that he is one. But the fact is that he represents a broad swath of people who put themselves forward as the MORAL center in this country. Clearly, their definition of morality is incredibly *different* from ours--and we need to be front and center about that. Just because they have out organized us to a large extent in electioneering doesn’t mean that they have a Just Morality--in fact, their morality is bankrupt, it’s mean and dirty, uncompassionate and hypocritical.

His statements show that they are also lock-step with Neo-Conservative ideology, which promotes ruthless U.S. intervention throughout the world in support of our national interests--and heaven help who gets in the way.

Donald Rumsfeld said today that "Our department doesn't do that kind of thing. It's against the law. He's a private citizen. Private citizens say all kinds of things all the time." Well, you know Donald, Robertson isn’t just a citizen. He represents staunch allies of you and the rest of your fellow neo-con crazies. The fact that he can be so blatant in his call for assassination shows how much the political and media climate in this country has bought into that ideology. And this will be our downfall in the end.

Postscript

from the NYT:

The Rev. Jesse Jackson called for an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission, just as it did when Janet Jackson's breast was exposed during a Superbowl broadcast. "This is even more threatening to hemispheric stability than the flash of a breast on television during a ball game," he said.

No Kidding Jesse!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Peels of Onion Laughter

Mikaela says:
The genius of the Onion is taking what's deadly serious and making you laugh at it anyway. Such was the case with this "latest headline":

"Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity
With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory"


We haven't really talked about it much on m-pyre, but one of the scariest trends gaining momentum is the recasting of educational science curriculum throughout the country to legitimize the "intelligent design" theory. Not only can evolution not be taught as a "law," some states are requiring that "intelligent design" be given equal airtime in the classroom.

Separation of church and state? Not so much in Kansas.

And it's spreading.

We should be worried.

If something doesn't change soon, it won't be so much survival of the fittest so much as survival of the most vocal and closest to "God."

When people wonder why the left is SO frantic about the creeping influence of the Christian Right into the highest echelons of political power, the sea change in SCIENCE EDUCATION is one. The underlying religious explanation of U.S. support for Israel is another.

Watching a documentary on the First Amendment last night (yes, for fun!) made the connection between the Christian Right and Israeli Jews spookily clear. In order to set the stage for the Second Coming of Christ, the apocalypse to be dreaded by all us sinners and embraced by all those good Christians out there, all Jews (God's Chosen People) must be returned to the Holy Land. Then all but 1,000 of them get wiped out; then Jesus comes. Woo-hoo!

As a fervent leftist, I believe fervently that everyone's faith and ability to worship should be protected by our constitution. This predicates the separation of church and state, which demands that PUBLIC SCHOOL must not be beholden to religious ideology. Evolution is not a religious tenet, much to the contrary of recent rhetoric from the Right. Intelligent Design, despite the new casting in scientific garb, is just the Emperor in no clothes. It must not be paraded around our classrooms as real.

And Israel? I always wondered at the resistance to exploring the situation from the Palestinian perspective. I assumed that the horrors of World War II were enough of an explanation as to our guilt-ridden behaviour. Now? Now I see the importance of exposing our one-sided support of the worst of human dilemmas, when there truly is no one solution, and the best that can be done is to minimize pain in the short-term and maximize benefit to both sides in the future.

And what will that take? A constitutional mantra. Chant with me now: separation of church and state, separation of church and state, separation ...

For more on the evolution/intelligent design debate, see an article from yesterday's NY Times: "Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive."

Note to Eric Griego (and YOU)

Maggie says:
Dear Eric,
So yesterday's Journal shows that you're way behind Mayor Marty, he who would turn our town into one big sprawl wasteland while his cronies reap in the profits. You're WAY behind, Eric. Marty has 40% and you have 13%. Undecided? 30%. Go and get them. Campaign hard and fast, because guess what? There's not much time left, and lots of us are counting on you to get Marty the hell out of office. You're lucky that we despise Marty as much as we do, you know - that's a major uniter of all of us. Plus, your City Council record is a good one, and there's lots going on in this town that could benefit from some progressive leadership. But we're worried, because 13% means there's a long way to go. Are you ready for it?

In other news that I hope lit a fire under your desk chair today, the Journal says that 61% of Albuquerque voters are planning on supporting the minimum wage ballot initiative. 61% is a lot. Pretty shocking, I'm sure, to the Chamber types who thought they could ride out this election with a Marty win and a wage increase defeat without too much sweat or money on their part.

The fact that there's already a clear majority supporting the minimum wage increase is a great sign for you, and I hope you capitalize on it. Those are your voters. Those are that undecided 30%. And the issues need to be made very clear. What's at stake in this election is huge. Do you understand how clearly we see that? So please don't let us down. Please work your ass off. Please, please, please win.

61% are already natural supporters of your candidacy. Make sure they realize that before Election Day, or we're all in trouble.

PS: And to the YOU that this letter was also addressed to, really I mean US. We need to do our part, too. That means volunteering. Marjorie and I had a blast door-knocking for Commissioner Córdova, and are planning on doing the same for Griego. Go to his website and sign up. Because this challenge is one that we need to meet, too.

Jason Kerns: poster boy of tomorrow?

Maggie says:
What a violent week in Albuquerque. For those of you out of town, we had eight murders in the last week - five of them by the same man. John Hyde, who went on a killing spree Friday, was a mentally troubled man with a history of not taking his medication regularly. In one day, he murdered a long-time Department of Transportation worker, a high school student, a new father, and two police officers. Jesus. It reminded me of an officer shooting a couple of years ago, when another mental patient nearly killed a police officer very close to my then-home. Mental health is the big connector for so many crimes here. The lessons seem to scream out from the headlines: when we don't take care of the sick around us, we pay tenfold in the end.

But the crime that keeps coming up for me isn't one from last week. A little over two weeks ago, a Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department helicopter was shot down in a Westside neighborhood. On Friday, Jason Kerns, 29, was indicted on five charges for the shooting that miraculously didn't seriously injure anyone.

If Dickens were writing this drama, Kerns would be the Ghost of Christmas Future. Consider this:

Kerns describes himself as a "trained sniper" from the Marines. He had been stationed in Afghanistan before being honorably discharged in late 2001. After being discharged, he was in and out of vet hospitals with a spinal cord injury, one that still plagues him today. But the kicker? According to his parents, Kerns has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder since his departure from the Marines.

He's been unable to hold down a job. He's been in and out of hospitals seeking treatment. He lives with his parents. And now: using his sniper training to shoot down a helicopter because it was "annoying" him. Don't get me wrong: Kerns is no hero; what he allegedly did easily could have killed the two men aboard and who knows how many more on the ground. But he may well be a symbol of what's to come.

Right now, the U.S. has some 138,000 troops stationed in Iraq. Suicide rates are at an all-time high. Troop morale is at an all-time low. Reports abound of troops making their own protective gear out of scrap metal because our government won't provide it for them. Families are turning on Bush. We're seeing more anger, less blind mourning.

And at home? Our homeless shelters are full of Vietnam veterans. We see them on street corners every day. A couple of months ago I saw a guy holding a sign on San Mateo saying he was a Gulf War vet. He was twitching and his eyes were completely vacant. He was absolutely haunting. Is he our future?

Compensation to dead soldier's families is shockingly low. And what about the benefits to those who manage to stay alive? Thousands will come home shell-shocked, angry, and lost. We need to be ready for them. We have to realize what's around the corner. We can't be surprised if they lack bravado and a happy face. Suburban moms and shirt-and-tie managers with yellow magnets on their SUVs must have compassion for them, must want to help them, must not look away when they're standing on the corner holding a sign:

"Iraq Vet. Hungry. Homeless."

And those not holding signs? That was Jason Kerns, wasn't it?

A Simple Letter

Mikaela says:
The power of mothers is growing at Camp Casey. If nothing else, their rhetoric is gaining in power of persuasion.

Two mothers walked up to the barriers blocking the entrance to Bush's vacation home in Crawford, Texas. They tried to give the letter to a secret service agent, but he would not accept it. Instead, they dropped it on the ground and covered it in flowers.

They asked the agent to relay a message to the President:

BEATRIZ SALDIVAR: I want to say to President Bush one thing, okay, and in the name of Cindy and all the mothers, that letter that's laying there with those precious flowers on top is laying there. Our soldiers when they killed -- get killed in Iraq, the men next to them, the other fellow soldiers, picks up their body, their pieces. Sometimes the bodies are not recognized. Sometimes they come back in one piece, and sometimes they have their eyes open and they're dead. We ask you, President, to have the courage to pick up that letter. It’s just a simple letter. We cannot pick up our sons and daughters and husbands and nephews, but you can -- we cannot bring them back alive, but you can have the courage to pick up that letter and talk to this nation and the world. The whole world is listening.

A complete transcript can be found at Democracy Now.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Conscience check-in

Maggie says:
How very interesting. According to CNN, a top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell calls Powell's presentation to the UN regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq "the lowest point" of his life.

"I wish I had not been involved in it," says Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, a longtime Powell adviser who served as his chief of staff from 2002 through 2005. "I look back on it, and I still say it was the lowest point in my life."
According to the article, Powell walked into Wilkerson's office and handed him a stack of papers from the White House, saying "This is what I've got to present at the United Nations according to the White House, and you need to look at it." Wilkerson recalls "It was anything but an intelligence document. It was, as some people characterized it later, sort of a Chinese menu from which you could pick and choose."

Wilkerson goes on to describe the breakdown between Powell and then-CIA director George Tenet after much of the "Chinese menu" was found to be fabricated.

The Wilkerson interview was leaked from an upcoming CNN documentary called "Dead Wrong -- Inside an Intelligence Meltdown." According to CNN, the documentary "will piece together the events leading up to the mistaken WMD intelligence that was presented to the public. A presidential commission that investigated the pre-war WMD intelligence found much of it to be 'dead wrong.'"

Wish I had cable for that one. I also wish I could see a window into Colin Powell's conscience.

Just ahead: more planning nightmares!!!

Maggie says:
Take a look at the first paragraph of this Journal article from today and see if something (okay, two things) make you cringe:

"New City in Works Near Rio Rancho"
A Phoenix-area developer wants to build a community of more than 70,000 people about 10 miles west of Rio Rancho in Sandoval County.
Cringe #1: "Phoenix-area developer." You know, since Phoenix (pictured above) is such a nice place to live and all, without sprawl or water issues or infrastructure problems and with so much local character, local economic development, and sustainable development... Perfect! A Phoenix-area developer sounds like just the thing for the Albuquerque area!

Cringe #2: "more than 70,000 people." 70,000 people! Someone fill me in with exact numbers here, but with the thousands upon thousands of people expected with Mesa del Sol and now the Zacate development, plus this one, we're talking huge change to this area, one that is already over-burdened with rapid growth and improper planning and infrastructure development. And by the way, where in the world is the water for all these people going to come from?

Call me a crazy anti-capitalist, but will a time ever come when people will stop looking for ways to make moneymoneymoneymoneymoney through ill-conceived new developments and just focus on what we have? Because there is lots of work already here that needs to be done - there are neighborhoods needing investment, places that should be more livable than they are, and how about some local jobs for all those West-siders who are surrounded only by homes just like theirs and big box stores with chain restaurants attached? The Westside and Rio Rancho are just a nightmare. And so we have a few developers who can still profit from developing more nightmares and regional leadership that's beholden to them, but we are all losing.

So get ready, locals: hang on to your homes and favorite spots in downtown, Nob Hill, the South Valley, the North Valley, and the East Mountains. Every place around you is going to start looking more and more like Phoenix. And when everyone realizes what's been lost, guess whose neighborhoods they're going to come after because of their character and uniqueness? That's right: yours.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Celebrate 25 years with SWOP!

The SouthWest Organizing Project:

25 Years of Empowering Disenfranchised Communities and Fighting Injustice!

Celebrate with us at the
Party of the Millenium

featuring
direct from East LA
Quetzal
&

direct from San Diego
The B-Side Players


Plus Graffiti Art Battle, Breakdancing and more



Friday, September 9

8:00pm ‘til we shut it down
in the

El Rey Theater and Golden West Saloon
7th & Central – Downtown Albuquerque

Tickets
$15 in advance
$20 at the door
Gets you into both venues

Advance tickets available from SWOP members and at the following locations

In Albuquerque
SW Organizing Project • 211 10th SW • 247-8832 UNM Centro de la Raza • UNM Campus • 277-5020 Burning Paradise • 800 Central SW • 244-1161 Natural Sound • 3422 Central SE in Nob Hill • 255-8295 Bookworks • 4022 Rio Grande Blvd NW in the North Valley • 344-8139

In Santa Fe
Candyman • 851 Saint Michaels Drive • 983-9309

21 and over

Sponsored by:

SouthWest Organizing Project
Raices Collective of KUNM
Ceiba Productions Southwest
KUNM 89.9 FM

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Side by Side

Mikaela says:
So it appears that our newspapers' reticence to show any actual violence or pain extends beyond Iraq to other hot spots in the world. Most notably today: Israel, where settlers and soldiers are locked in struggle over the remaining moments of occupation of the Gaza Strip.

This from today's Washington Post:

The headline: Hundreds of Settlers Evacuated From Gaza
Police and soldiers slowly but methodically begin removing settlers in emotionally charged scenes played out in homes and streets in Gaza Strip.

The photo:
"It becomes an extension of you. It's like a window to your soul," says Jason Berkowitz of his iPod. (Lucian Perkins/Post) The iPod Love Story

To iPodders, the irresistible, indispensable, irreplaceable iPod is a personal memory bank.
– Jose Antonio Vargas

The missing quote:
"Nope, there's nothing wrong with the culture of consumption in the U.S. Oblivious to the world's problems? How can you say that? The bands I listen to are totally political. "

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Poetry in pictures

Maggie says:
I know, maybe you out-of-towners are saying, "What in the world? Has m-pyre been completely sucked in by poetry? Isn't that more an m-pyrical topic?" Well, yes and no. That's kind of our point. Albuquerque was overtaken with this incredible spirit of change last week - Pika summed it up beautifully here - and now we're full of restlessness wanting to harness all that energy and excitement. But maybe our words haven't captured how moving the week was - how it actually was all about movement. Maybe these photos (all from this LostWays Gallery) can help explain.



















The Providence team in Robinson Park. This team was really powerful. So is their message.




















Every venue looked like this inside - it was amazing!




















And downtown looked like THIS.





















I love this picture - it captures so much of what last week was about.




















More action on the streets. They were ALIVE with energy!

Saving "political capital"

Mikaela says:
I haven’t been this angry in a long time. It’s been at least a week!

What are Democrats thinking? What are they fucking waiting for? If now is not the time to fight for our country, when is, exactly? Does Bush have to actually come out and ANNOUNCE that he’s a fascist religious fanatic who aims to deny the freedoms this country is based on? Isn’t it enough that he has strategically done everything in his considerable power to make that happen???

Okay, here’s what I’m talking about.

This news from Democracy Now (thank the liberal/lefty god for Democracy Now):

Papers Show John Roberts to be "Forceful Conservative"
More papers have been released from Supreme Court nominee John Roberts days working in the Reagan White House. The Wall Street Journal reports the papers depict him as a "forceful conservative." In one paper, Roberts wrote that a controversial memorial service for aborted fetuses was "an entirely appropriate means of calling attention to the abortion tragedy." He also approved a telegram written by President Reagan that compared Roe vs. Wade to the Dred Scott decision of 1857, which upheld slavery. In another paper, Roberts defended prayer in public schools.

And then THIS news from the Washington Post: (all added emphases my personal outrage & edited for space)

Roberts Unlikely To Face Big Fight
Many Democrats See Battle as Futile
By Mike Allen and Dana Milbank
Tuesday, August 16, 2005; A01

Democrats have decided that unless there is an unexpected development in the weeks ahead, they will not launch a major fight to block the Supreme Court nomination of John G. Roberts Jr.

(!!!!)

Democratic senators and aides who are intimately involved in deliberations about strategy said that they see no evidence that most Democratic senators are prepared to expend political capital in what is widely seen as a futile effort to derail the nomination.

Although they expect to subject President Bush's nominee to tough questioning at confirmation hearings next month (woopdedoo), members of the minority party said they do not plan to marshal any concerted campaign against Roberts because they have concluded that he is likely to get at least 70 votes -- enough to overrule parliamentary tactics such as a filibuster that could block the nominee.

"No one's planning all-out warfare," said a Senate Democratic aide closely involved in caucus strategy on Roberts. For now, the aide said, Democratic strategy is to make it clear Roberts is subject to fair scrutiny while avoiding a pointless conflagration that could backfire on the party. "We're going to come out of this looking dignified and will show we took the constitutional process seriously," the aide said. (Seriously but not bravely.)

The Democrats' decision to hold their fire -- less a formal strategy than an emerging consensus -- has allowed conservatives to husband their resources for future battles. (Dems waiting for all out dissolution of Congress, I guess.) Progress for America, a political group working closely with the White House, had planned to spend $18 million to promote the confirmation of Roberts but now may spend less than half that, according to Republican aides. (Why they thought it would cost that much to defeat a playing-dead party, I don't know.)

Democrats said that instead of mounting a headlong assault on Roberts, they plan to use the hearings and the surrounding attention by the news media to remind voters of their party's values, including the protection of rights for individual Americans. (Values like, never fight for what you believe -- especially when the price is high and the cost is higher.) The plan calls for emphasizing rights beyond abortion in an effort to appeal to a broader swath of the electorate. (You know, the broader swath that's going to vote for them against Bush because the Democrats stand behind everything Bush does.)

Without question, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee will subject Roberts to intense grilling -- and the discovery of new and damaging information about Roberts could dramatically change the strategy. (I'm sure he's shaking in his boots. "Questioning? But, but ... I'm a lawyer! Wait a minute, I'm a lawyer! Ask me any goddamn question you want!") But for now, Democratic lawmakers say they are less interested in opposing Roberts than in serving notice to Bush that they would react very differently if a more overtly conservative choice were made for a future Supreme Court vacancy. (They gotta stop serving those notices! Get a runner to do it. Servants will never be masters. Bush knows that!)

Democrats say they do not dispute that the selection of Roberts did not present them with obvious ammunition against the White House. (Can you believe this shit? Corporate sell out, prayer in schools, individual rights? Nope, nothin!)

"There were some potential candidates with a record of hostility to fundamental rights who would have been opposed flat out by a majority of the Democratic caucus from Day One. Judge Roberts was not on that list," said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). "It doesn't mean he's getting a free pass. ("Hey, Tom, check this list. This guy sounds awful! No? You sure? Check again? Not even toward the bottom? Okay, guess he's alright then. Go ahead, fella. Step to the front of the line. Would you like a cocktail while you're waiting?")

"There's nothing the White House would rather have seen than having us come out reflexively swinging at a nominee in order to accuse us of politicizing the debate," Manley added. "There was a strategic decision to keep our powder dry, to reserve judgment until the committee does its work. We want Democrats to be able to fight on principles, not politics." (Okay now wait a minute... Aren't politics ABOUT principles? Have they forgotten even THAT? Do they remember that we WANT them to fight for politics because we CHOOSE our politics based on, oh, I don't know PRINCIPLES????)

The Democratic consensus not to mount a major fight comes in part from a calculation that the party would be in a stronger position to oppose a future -- and perhaps more clearly conservative -- nominee if it did not mount a full-scale and likely fruitless assault on Roberts. (Who calculates this shit, and can we buy them a new slide rule? Seriously. Since when did sitting on the bench every goddamn minute of every game help to win anything? Haven't they watched any good underdog movies this summer? Bad News Bears? Anything? No memory of how people rally around the people fighting hardest for what's about to be lost? No? Okay, well. That's cool. Whatever. Rest up, fellas. I'm sure there's something you can do NEXT fascist presidency.)

No Democrat has announced opposition to Roberts. The toughest remarks so far were by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) last week at the Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco, where she said she must know whether Roberts would support abortion rights and privacy. "If I don't believe he will, I won't vote for him," Boxer said. "I can use all the parliamentary rules I have as a senator to stand up and fight for you." (Alone. Did I mention fight for you ALONE?)

Some Democrats would like to see more of a fight. Lanny Davis, a former Clinton legal aide and party official, complained that Democrats are avoiding a showdown with Roberts over ideology by fighting over whether documents will be released from Roberts's time in government. "If they wanted to have a fight on substance they wouldn't be talking about process," Davis said. Democrats, he said, have "either folded or procrastinated to the point where it [opposition] won't have any effect." (Yeah. Understatement. Fuck an A.)

Poets Passing

Thanks to everyone for all the support during the National Poetry Slam.

We did it! We really did it! This was far and away the biggest event I've ever been involved with. Days and days long. And loooooooooonnnnnnnnggggg days. Anyone can tell you, especially my poor dog -- who actually barked at me coming home one night. She's never done THAT before...

Here's my partner in crime, Hilary Lipton, Volunteer Visionary. I was the grunt; she was the power. It's true! It's true!

The poets had an amazing time. They loved Albuquerque, and they could really feel all the community support that just grew and grew over the course of the week.

We started with very little press coverage -- Alibi withstanding -- and eventually hit every media outlet that heard the buzz. The Jurinal wasn't even going to cover it at all until we got so many people out Wednesday night. Wednesday night! Poetry!

The owner of OPM now wants to host a poetry slam once a month. The owners of Flying Star LOVED how many people now know where they are downtown. We kept Gorilla Tango in the black for another month at least.

All in all, this poetry event gave back to Albuquerque as much as it took. Mostly what it took is every single ounce of my energy and shred of free time! Everyone else's, too, for that matter.

And the poetry itself? Well, what I got to hear of it was ... incredible. Best of the best of the best. I loved hearing how many people had never seen performance poetry before who were just BLOWN away. They're hooked. They kept asking, "Do we have this kind of talent here in Albuquerque?" And then our boys proved that we do by WINNING the entire thing.

Little ole Albuquerque beat out every single other city for ... poetry. Despite the hoopla at finals night, what was clear during the competition was how tight our team was. We may not have been the best writers (although we were among the best for sure), but we had the best team. I think that's what the audience really responded to. And the fact that they performed on their home turf? Probably helped, but it could just as easily have hurt them, as there were plenty of judges that did NOT want to see them win.

So... it's anyone's guess, really.

For me, I was just overwhelmed again and again with the energy and passion sweeping downtown -- from the poets, the audience, and also the volunteers, who poured sweat and guts into everything they did.

I loved the feeling of solidarity, knowing we were all working together to make this impossible thing happen.

The most tense moment for me was standing outside of the El Rey before individual semi-finals. We'd already turned 100 people away from NHCC; all the venues were sold out. We could easily see 1200 people show up any minute trying to get into an 800 person venue. We were looking at trying to control 400 disappointed/angry people on the sidewalk.

I walked up to 2 guys that I've met through friends -- friends of friends, if you will -- and told them I was nervous and asked them to help in whatever way they could just to keep things calm. Damned if they didn't end up working the door ALL NIGHT. That's solidarity. They got my back, and they didn't really know me from Eve.

Community, man. I swear to god.

Monday, August 15, 2005

More on Sheehan

Maggie says:
Last week I wrote about Cindy Sheehan, a story getting lots of press now, much to my delight. Here's a follow-up.

In response to Sheehan's presence outside of his Crawford ranch, Bush recently noted:

"...Whether it be here or in Washington or anywhere else, there's somebody who has got something to say to the president, that's part of the job," Bush said on the ranch. "And I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say."

"But," he added, "I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life."
Can you imagine a less sensitive statement? To a woman mourning her son who was killed as a direct result of his decisions, Bush wishes she would just go away so he can get on with his life? What about her son not being able to get on with his life? What about Cindy Sheehan trying to get on with her life in a meaningful way, one that Bush refuses to acknowledge?

What happened to a real understanding of loss of life and what that means? What happened to personal responsibility? What happened to decency? This man makes me so ashamed.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Welcome to the world, Diego

And while we were consumed by the poetry slams, another momentous event was happening over at University Hospital.

The M-Pyre gals say WELCOME TO THE WORLD to little Diego Bejar.

Jo Ann and Fernando --- we love you and could not be happier for you!

Friday, August 12, 2005

The backstory on U.S. job creation

marjorie says...

Check out Paul Krugman's op-ed in the Times today about job creation in this country. I'm posting the entire piece because it's succinct, excellent and...I'm short on time:

August 12, 2005

Safe as Houses

I used to live next door to a Russian émigré. One day he asked me to explain something that puzzled him about his new country. "This place seems very rich," he said, "but I never see anyone making anything. How does the country earn its money?"

The answer, these days, is that we make a living by selling each other houses. Since December 2000 employment in U.S. manufacturing has fallen 17 percent, but membership in the National Association of Realtors has risen 58 percent.

The housing boom has created jobs in two ways. Many jobs have been created, directly and indirectly, by a surge in housing construction. And rising home values have fueled a simultaneous surge in consumer spending.

Let's start with home building. Between 1980 and 2000, which was before the housing boom, spending on the construction of new homes averaged 4.25 percent of G.D.P. In the most recent quarter, however, the figure was 5.98 percent. That difference is equivalent to about $200 billion a year in additional spending, generating roughly two million extra jobs.

Then there's the jump in house prices. Over the past five years housing prices have grown much faster than the overall cost of living, adding about $5 trillion to the public's wealth. Typical estimates say that each additional dollar of housing wealth adds about 3 cents to annual consumer spending, as families reduce their savings and borrow against their newly valuable homes. So we're talking about an additional $150 billion in spending, and roughly 1.5 million more jobs.

Does anything else in the U.S. economy rival housing as a source of job creation? Well, there's also the military buildup. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that increased military spending over the past four years has created 1.3 million private-sector jobs.

And, yes, there are the Bush tax cuts, which the administration insists are the source of everything good in the economy. And it's true that some portion of the tax cuts, which amounted to $225 billion this year, must have been spent in ways that created jobs. Given reasonable estimates of the effect of tax cuts on spending, however, they were probably a smaller force for job creation than the military buildup, and dwarfed by the housing boom.

So it's an economy driven by real estate. What's wrong with that?

One answer is that it has been a pretty disappointing recovery. Two new reports, one from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and one from the Congressional Budget Office, compare the current economic expansion with other postwar recoveries. By any measure except corporate profits, which have done very well, this one comes up short.

Even the good months would have been considered subpar in the past: the administration hailed last month's job growth as something wondrous to behold, yet there were 68 months during the Clinton years when employment grew faster.

Still, the economy is expanding. But because that expansion depends so much on real estate - without the housing boom, the economic picture would look dismal indeed - you have to wonder how much to trust it.

I've written before about the reasons to believe that current house prices in much of the country represent a bubble. When that bubble begins to deflate, so will housing-related employment.

Beyond that, there's the disturbing point that we're paying for the housing boom (and the military buildup and tax cuts) with money borrowed from foreigners.

Now, any economics textbook will tell you that it's fine to borrow from abroad if the money is used to expand the economy's productive capacity. When 19th-century America borrowed from Europe to build railroads, it was also enhancing its ability to repay its debts later. But we aren't borrowing to build productive capacity. As a share of G.D.P., investment other than housing construction is below its average between 1980 and 2000, and way below its level at the end of the 1990's.

In other words, a fuller answer to my former neighbor would be that these days, Americans make a living selling each other houses, paid for with money borrowed from the Chinese. Somehow, that doesn't seem like a sustainable lifestyle.

How solid, then, is America's economic recovery? The British have a phrase that applies: "safe as houses." Our economy is as safe as houses. Unfortunately, given current prices and our dependence on foreign lenders, houses aren't safe at all.

what determines liberalism for a city? Race & Income

marjorie says...

The Center for Voting Research at Berkeley just released a report ranking cities of over 100,000 in terms of liberalism and conservatism. To derive the lists, the researchers examined the 2004 election results.

Here are the top ten:

Rank

City

State

1

Detroit

Michigan

2

Gary

Indiana

3

Berkeley

California

4

District of Columbia


5

Oakland

California

6

Inglewood

California

7

Newark

New Jersey

8

Cambridge

Massachusetts

9

San Francisco

California

10

Flint

Michigan


The Center went on to explain the results by correlating the election results with demographic data from the 2000 census, such as the city’s median age, race composition, levels of education, marriage percentages, household income, and percentage below the poverty line. The strongest identifying factor in a cities rank is race. The most liberal cities have strong working-class African-American populations and the most conservative cities are white and middle-class.


From the Center’s press release:

“The great political divide in America today is not red vs. blue, north vs. south, costal vs. interior or even rich vs. poor – it is now clearly black vs. white,” said Phil Reiff, a BACVR director.

“While there are a few liberal cities without large African American populations, these wind up being the exceptions. College towns like Berkeley and Cambridge have modest black populations but remain bastions of upper middle-class, white, intellectual liberalism. These liberal white communities, however, are more reminiscent of penguins clustering together around a shrinking iceberg than of a vibrant and growing political movement,” Reif said.

The study also finds that income and marital status are major factors in the rankings. Cities with larger poor populations tend towards liberal candidates, and cities with higher percentages of married people tend to be conservative. Which explains why Provo, Utah is at the top of that list.