Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Show Your Support -- Freedom of Speech for Criticizers

Mikaela says:
A psychiatric nurse at the VA hospital right here in Albuquerque wrote a letter to the editor of the Alibi, sharing her concerns for our veterens and questioning Bush's leadership.

Her bosses seized her computer and had her investigated for sedition.

The ACLU has taken on her case. Bloggers are taking on the cause.

You can read more about it here. Better yet, you can do something about it by attending a benefit for her defense. Proceeds raised go to ACLU-NM and ABQ Peace and Justice Center.

ACLU-NM and the ABQ Peace and Justice Center present:

Rock for Our Rights

WHEN: Sat. March 4th, 7:30 til 10:30pm (Doors Open @ 6 pm)
WHERE: Air Dance Art Space, 3030 Isleta SW
(3 blocks North of Rio Bravo off of I-25)

For more information, call Kimi 553-5010 or Io 268-7303

Music featuring TATHATA and the LOST TRIBES OF MARDI GRAS. Hopefully THE NEW PATRIOTS will open plus amazing FRACTALS & projections by Jonathan Wolfe. Poetry & music before 7.

Bring potluck food and beverage to share (light alcohol ok, if consumed moderately),
kids, family, neighbors! (bring own plates cups & silverware)

Volunteers needed.

To contribute directly, contact ACLU-NM: 505-266-5915
or ABQ Peace and Justice: 505-268-9557.

UPDATE: Democracy Now interviews VA Nurse Laura Berg.

Statement of Faith -- and Policy

Mikaela says:
We've talked often on m-pyre (for example here ) that progressives need to talk more about their values -- not simply rail against everything we hate.

Maggie's post below, in particular in the comments discussion, begins to question what values underlie the pro-choice position. To be pro-choice is NOT to be pro-abortion, but rather pro-women and pro-children, as Marjorie points out.

This week, religious Democratic legislators are releasing a position statment that explains how their faith informs their politics. This signals a recognition that Democrats have been sorely lacking in leadership and bravery in talking about spiritual matters and values in general and also that Democrats are unwilling to cede the "moral" ground as the purview of Republican politicians only.

It's a welcome shift of power and purpose.

From the Washington Post: Statement of Principles By Fifty-Five Catholic Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"As Catholic Democrats in Congress, we are proud to be part of the living Catholic tradition -- a tradition that promotes the common good, expresses a consistent moral framework for life and highlights the need to provide a collective safety net to those individuals in society who are most in need. As legislators, in the U.S. House of Representatives, we work every day to advance respect for life and the dignity of every human being. We believe that government has moral purpose."

After a paragraph on Catholic social teaching about the obligations to "the poor and disadvantaged," the writers insist that "each of us is committed to reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies and creating an environment with policies that encourage pregnancies to be carried to term."

"In all these issues, we seek the church's guidance and assistance but believe also in the primacy of conscience. In recognizing the church's role in providing moral leadership, we acknowledge and accept the tension that comes from being in disagreement with the church in some areas."

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Only here, only now...

Maggie says:
Only here, only now, would the following things happen:

1. A powdery white substance found in a dorm room is assumed to be ricin and not cocaine

2. Church politics get more Albuquerque Journal coverage than planning issues

3. A political appointee to work a plum university job never graduated from college himself

4. Private management of U.S. ports are under fire not because they're privately managed, but because of who's managing them (way to catch on waaaaay too late, America!)

5. It'd take the Winter Olympics and a handful of embarrassing athletes - and not our foreign policy record - for the country to realize, finally, how the rest of the world sees us

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Natalee Holloway and the whore/saint dichotomy

Maggie says:
Since I haven't had cable for a year, I mercifully missed the cable "news" onslaught about the disappearance of Natalee Holloway. You know, the cute blonde Alabaman with the lookalike mom who went missing in Aruba?

Enter "Primetime" the other night and me getting bored with one of the Olympic sports and intermittently tuning in. The interview was hyped as the first time Dutch teen Joran Van der Sloot spoke about being the last to see Natalee alive. This guy has some ethical issues, don't get me wrong. Namely, he says he left Natalee alone and drunk on a beach at three in the morning. Even the most block-headed frat boy knows that's just wrong. There's no telling what really happened that night, but my gut says this kid is scum but he didn't kill her, nor did his friends. I think she passed out on a beach and an evil person stumbled upon her, end of story.

But here's what bugs me: the crux of the ABC interview wasn't Van der Sloot's story, and isn't the "bombshell" detail that Natalee described her mother to Joran as "Hitler's sister." The problem for me is that ABC framed the story in such a way that "shocking details" of Natalee's sexual and drinking behavior became the pinnacle of the broadcast.

Among other things, Joran describes how drunk Natalee was that night, that she had him take a jello shot off her stomach while lying on the bar, that she wanted to have sex with him, that they made out on the beach, that they went pretty far with each other but didn't have sex because Joran didn't have a condom, and that Natalee talked the whole night about not wanting to go back to her hotel, to Alabama, and to her normal life.

The day after the ABC program, Natalee's mother appeared on television outraged not at the fact that her daughter supposedly described her as "Hitler's sister," but that Joran alleged that her daughter was a "loose wild child," according to her mother. In other words, this mother would rather have a daughter think she's a Nazi than for her to be sexually active. Her reaction is telling here, because it's all about gender politics.

Natalee was portrayed as a great student, a promising girl, a teen queen who got taken advantage of by Aruba's dark side. That both is and isn't true. Having good grades, a life plan, and being a good person are not incompatible with having fun at night, being a teenager in the truest sense of the word, and making some irresponsible choices. That's what teenagers do. But in the media's hype to tell a story of a perfect girl gone missing, the larger story they're telling is that perfect girls don't deserve to disappear. We're shocked by Joran's sex stories not because they're outrageous, but because perfect girls don't do those things. To every middle America cable TV-watcher who thought they were praying for the safe return of a blond, pure girl, they likely feel slapped in the face with the truth, that Natalee had too much to drink and let a guy put his hands in her pants.

We've got to get beyond the pure stereotypes we all obsess over. It's okay to pray for the safe return of a girl who had premarital sex. It's okay to hope a terrible person didn't murder a girl who also happened to be drunk. Those things don't matter. What matters are the disappearance and likely murder of a person, not the package used to tell the story. However "all-American" she is, however blonde, however smart, however nice, however "perfect," we should still hope for her safety in the same we do for the women of Juarez and the local murdered prostitute.

Getting beyond "but this girl could've been my daughter!" means recognizing that daughters do everything that Natalee did that night. And like daughters, this girl should be loved no less for it.

Technorati tag:

Friday, February 24, 2006

Hope you're not a handmaid in South Dakota

Maggie says:
Ready, everyone? Our worst nightmares are beginning.

South Dakota OKs ban on most abortions
. Test case for Roe v. Wade coming up. Newly confirmed conservative judges on tap.

This is just appalling.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

the victory is in the struggle

marjorie says...

Of the three m-pyre gals, I’m probably the least likely to get into full on Bush bashing. In general, I figure that while the Republicans are the worse of the two parties, they both pander to the interests of segments of our political economy that are, in a nutshell, vile. How’s that for blunt?

I don’t have a positive perspective on government at the same time that I embrace it for what it could be. Just like Grandpa Munster, I know that we are up against incredible power and can only organize when and where we can to move the house we all live in just a bit at a time. I don’t expect that I will win, but the historic challenge to power that I place myself within can win, and has shifted the spectrum over time. Democrats? Republicans? Well, I figure the Democrats are a little more sane, but let’s face it, as a party they are part and parcel of the problem, and we see it at all levels of government.

Having said all that, I’d like to comment on Bush. I hope you are all following the Dubai ports deal. A once impregnable president has had his credibility so damaged that his own party has turned against him, not once but twice. Remember Harriet Miers? That was shameful. But this time it’s most instructive for showing how power works. When the weakness shows, the battle for position begins. The Republicans are in-fighting, capitalizing on a case that has somehow gained traction to jockey for position. And the Democrats? Well, I think its all gross politicking.

But what makes Bush so weak? That weakness derives from a loss of credibility with the American public, due to more than a few things. Here are some that come to mind:

1. Bush says "people don't need to worry about security"but we saw in its entire horrific splendor just how untrustworthy our government is last year during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Trust Bush? No way. But the bigger issue is that we can’t trust government. I think this is a profound thing to realize. That moment when we all realized that our vaunted superstructure, our glorious wealth, our “opportunity for all” promised land, couldn’t step in during a crisis of that magnitude. We have serious problems and we can’t unquestioningly count on our government to take care of us, during an attack or during a natural disaster. Along with September 11, I think this instance will go down in history for causing a sea change in our country. Ultimately, we will only have a government we can trust when we realize that we are government and make the necessary changes that give more people a say in how things work. We have to devolve government.

2. Bush asks us to trust him, but over time the fact that his administration has lied to the public in order to justify attacking and occupying another country has finally begun to seep into the mainstream of the American public. Sure, these same folks may think being in Iraq is the right thing to do ultimately, but they generally think that for their own reasons--not the reasons that Bush gave for being there in the first place. He lied about that and people know it. He says: "The more people learn about the transaction that has been scrutinized and approved by my government, the more they'll be comforted that our ports will be secure." Um, well, firstly it’s not your government, George, it’s ours. And, no, we probably won’t be comforted... if history tells us anything.

3. Bush promoted Harriet Miers to be the next judge on the Supreme Court. And in a glaringly public debacle showed just how weak he really is when revolted against by a small segment of the public. For many of us who are acquainted with the history of Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al, this was pretty much understood. But I think millions more know it now.

These are the things that are going through my mind when I read about the Dubai ports deal. These are the things that give the Democrats and the Republicans in Congress a huge opportunity to revolt together against the President. The only real bi-partisan action in years is threatened with a veto!

Many commentators point to racism as the real culprit behind the current congressional revolt. I would be the last person to dispute that--of course there’s racism going on. I think it’s perfectly clear that by and large there is real prejudice against Arab peoples in this country. Our history is rife with it. Our history is rife with racism period. It’s so rampant that it’s almost just a matter of course. Now, Bush labels all of Congress as racist as if he somehow isn’t part and parcel of the racist fabric of our society. What did the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina show us if not that we have a racist structure in place, a structure that strongly correlates race with income, that turns a blind eye to the desperate lives of the poorest among us?

If we got rid of Bush tomorrow, would these things change? Well, some of them might. But fundamentally things would remain the same. The only real change will come in bits and pieces, with a lot of lost battles thrown in. As Grandpa said, it isn’t about winning. The victory is in the struggle.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Grandpa was a Radical

marjorie says...

Ever wonder where the 8-hour work day (which some of us take for granted) came from? Health benefits? Safety standards on the job? Well, in a nutshell, a lot of it came from commies, anarchists, and miscellaneous radicals, who were incredibly committed to making their world a more equitable and humane place--largely through union organizing. And who were those people? Well, some of them might be lurking in your family tree. Others we know about from history books, and the scant mention of them in our classrooms. Many famous people were committed people, even if its never mentioned in the mainstream stories--such as Helen Keller.

Someone recently brought to my attention a great interview with the recently deceased Al Lewis, better known to many of us as Grandpa Munster. What do you know? Grandpa was mighty committed. Know any others, public or otherwise, who lived these unheralded lives?

Here are a few choice excerpts from the interview with a NYC underground paper called The Shadow. You can read the entire interview here.

SHADOW: What was it like being a labor organizer in the 1930's?

LEWIS: Depends where you were. In the South? You faced death at any moment.

SHADOW: The Ku Klux Klan?...

LEWIS: You'd get shot at. Not the Ku Klux Klan -- the poor people there who had no jobs. They were hired by the boss, they gave them a gun -- "You see this son of a bitch? Blow his head off."

SHADOW: What industry was this?

LEWIS: Food, Agricultural, Tobacco Workers Union. Fayetteville, North Carolina.

SHADOW: What about the National Maritime Union? What was it like organizing among seamen back in those days?

LEWIS: You were more on home ground on the port than organizing in the south, even to this day. Even John L. Lewis, who organized the United Mine Workers. He didn't get very many Southern mine workers. American history -- people don't know it. You know who his organizers were? Communists from the North. He writes about it. Went down south to Harlan County Kentucky, Hazard Kentucky. Many of them got blown away. Just step off the train, they blow your head off. You don't know what fear is. (Laughs)

(Marjorie says: For a great movie telling the story of a "red" labor organizer in just such a situation, see Matewan by John Sayles)

SHADOW: So what kept you going?

LEWIS: Who knows? I don't know. Maybe stupidity! (Laughs). He (John L. Lewis) was smart enough. He knew that the most dedicated ones -- he wasn't interested in their politics, whether they supported Russia and Stalin, nothin' -- "I gotta get this local organized." He got Communists, young men from the north, and many of them paid with their lives.

SHADOW: So what motivated you, what politicized your life? Some people say they want to make a lot of money, other people say "I'm gonna change the world," other people say "I don't give a shit about anybody"

LEWIS: Those are full of shit statements. That's shit. What motivated me? My mother. My mother was an immigrant woman, a peasant woman, struggled all her life, worked in the garment center. Understood what the struggle was about. My mother. Couldn't read or write, but she had more sense than many a graduate from Harvard.

SHADOW: Was she also an organizer?

LEWIS: No, my mother was a worker, a floor lady, a shop lady in the garment center here in New York.

Then, skipping down the page...

SHADOW: In the demonstrations back in those days were there ever problems with the police? Did they try to attack people?

LEWIS: Did you just come to this country? (Laughs) What are you talking about? The police are here to protect property. They're not here to protect the public! So, what the fuck are you asking me? Of course! Name me a period when the police...(laughs)

SHADOW: So these demonstrations for Tom Mooney, and labor demonstrations...

LEWIS: Warren K. Billings, organizing the CIO, and
District 65, and the UE, and NMU. All that was going on and the police were there to see that you didn't do it. And if they could get away with it, they'd beat the shit out of you.

SHADOW: And people would resist?

LEWIS: Well obviously. And unions were created. We used to have a saying: "If you don't get the asses of the masses out in the street, forget it." And you get enough of them out there, the ruling class gets scared. That's the only thing they're afraid of, is numbers. Numbers! See, one thing you have to understand. There's very few people understand, especially people who deal in outlaw newspapers and magazines. The ruling class is smarter than you, and they're more creative. And if you forget that lesson, you go down the drain. Because if they weren't, they wouldn't be around as long as they have been and as strong as they have been. It's not an accident. Not an accident. Never underestimate your opponent. They'll tell you that if you're a fighter. Never underestimate. You can poke fun at 'em, you can do satire, but they work 24 hours a day. It's like Lord Acton said: "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." I say that power works 24 hours to remain in power. Throughout history. Go back to kings, feudal times. The same thing. While you and I, here we're bullshitting, and then we go out: "Tompkins Square, blah, blah, blah..." Their fucking machine works 24 hours a day, man. It grinds, it grinds. Otherwise they don't stay in power, they topple.

SHADOW: So what do you think people can do in response to that power?

LEWIS: First of all, (laughs) you have to agree that these people shouldn't have the power. Go on Eighth Avenue and 35th Street and ask what the junkies do. They're looking for a fix. What do they do? You see, a junkie once told me an unanswerable question. He said: "I take this junk so the shit that's in front of me and the shit that I smell disappears. What are you gonna replace it with?" What do you replace it with? A tract? "Jesus loves you?" What? "Socialism is your answer?" The guy's looking for $15 to hit you and I on the head with a lead pipe to meet the man to get the fix. I have no answer for that. He has to find that answer. I can deal with somebody who's not in that kind of position and try to talk, and I do the best I can. You see, the thing is, and I don't mean this in a denigrating way, but you're "Johnny-Come-Latelies." Like in the Sixties, there was a thousand underground papers. I read them all. I used to have them all sent to me in California. Everybody in this society wants the quick fix, like the junkie that we just talked about. So do the radicals, whatever you want to call them, a bumper sticker. Put it on your car. "I'm a radical," "I'm a lefty," "I'm a progressive," "I'm left of center." Its all bullshit. I learned a long time ago -- I've been in the struggle over seventy years -- it doesn't bother me I may not win.

Best book cover ever

Maggie says:
Gotta love The Onion.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

In Española, corruption breeds indifference

Maggie says:
In a noteworthy expose for a small newspaper in a town long known for political corruption, the Rio Grande Sun has published allegations of vote-buying in Española. While these charges probably seem shocking to outsiders, they are run-of-the-mill to locals, who credit the outcome of many an election throughout the town's history to purchased votes.

The allegations, explored meticulously by staff writer Nick Wilkinson, center on the current mayoral election, where in-person early voting just began. But according to nearly everyone in town - public officials included - the tales of vote-buying in town are nothing new. In the story, Wilkinson's sources explain how vote-buying is a way of life in Espa
ñola, particularly in the public housing complex where all the sources live. For up to $20 a vote (or less regularly, gifts of beer or firewood) and a ride to the polls, one source even calls an accused man "Santa Claus," because his appearance once a year at her doorstep is as predicatable as the bearded man himself.

While many public officials admit to the
Sun that stories of vote-buying are rife throughout the town's history, claims have never been proveable because no one in town would talk. The importance of the Sun expose rests upon the sources who share details of how their votes were purchased. Although they are anonymous in the story, each source agreed to cooperate using their full names if charges were filed against the two men in question.

As we'll see, the vote-buyers take advantage of a provision in the law aimed at helping the disabled. Current state law allows someone to accompany voters into the voting booth as long as the voters request their presence, presumably for help with the machine. However, vote-buying and selling are fourth-degree felonies.

The allegations center around three local men: Eppie Martinez, Steve Sanchez, and a man only known as "Tommy." Martinez and Sanchez are both consultants to various elected officials, but appear to have close ties to current mayoral candidate Floyd Archuleta. According to residents of the Espa
ñola public housing complex, Martinez and Sanchez have been buying votes in town for years.

Each documented vote buy begins with Martinez or Sanchez offering a "ride" to the polls, usually for $15.

The SUN witnessed Martinez taking voters into city hall. He has done so repeatedly since the in-person early voting began Feb. 8, according Española City Clerk Jeanette Beesley.

Martinez stayed in a hallway outside the voting both while Sanchez was out picking people up in Martinez's white Toyota truck. When they arrived, Sanchez escorted a voter inside and said he was there to assist the voter. Sanchez and the voter then went into the voting booth together.

During one such incident, Beesley tried to tell Sanchez that he could only accompany the man into the booth if the voter was blind, physically disabled or unable to read or write.

But she relented and Sanchez went into the booth with the voter. The voter later said Sanchez filled in the ballot.

Precinct judge Santiago Madrid stood and watched the incident, but did nothing else.
"That's not my job," he said later. "If I was God, I could pay attention to everything. (Eppie's) never done anything in front of me but I hear stories."

Stories, indeed. One woman notes that Martinez has escorted her to the polls every election cycle for the last 12 years. "We go with [Eppie] every year," she said. "I've always known him as Santa Claus."

Mayoral candidate Floyd Archuleta admits working with Martinez.
"I believe he's a supporter of our campaign," Archuleta said. "I believe he's talked to people for us. He's one that is available to give people rides to the polls."

Residents who've been approached by Martinez and Sanchez come to different conclusions about the value of their vote. Many express that for "a hamburger and a coffee," selling their vote is worth it. Another who sold his vote proclaimed, "I'm just doing my patriotic duty in a free democracy."

But two residents who chose
not to sell their vote provide poignant reminders of the severity of these allegations.

"No, I didn't [sell my vote]," he said. "I just didn't feel it was right. I know about politics and how everything works around here but I just don't think it's right. To come up and offer money to people on a fixed income that need it is terrible. I think it's crap because people should be able to make up their own minds. It's taking away your choice."

Another source shows us what's lost when politics are played on the bottom line:

"To me, it sounds like dirty politics no matter what," he said. "I can't stand any of these politicians. That's why I don't vote."

To me - an outsider to New Mexico politics if there ever was one - these stories are pretty gut-wrenching. This story is more than politics-as-usual in a corrupt town, more than a couple of guys offering money and rides, more than a potentially corrupt candidate who probably shouldn't be on the ballot. It's about dignity and responsibility and fairness. The source has it right - it's not fair to buy votes from folks who desperately need the cash. It doesn't matter that they probably wouldn't vote anyway.

Democracy isn't a stagnant certainty; it's a living and breathing notion constantly fighting a vicious struggle between modern realities. Low turnout is one of those realities. So is corruption. So is power. The balance is a tenuous one, hardly ever even. Actions like these tip it irrevocably off-course.

The Attorney General has begun an investigation into the Sun's claims. Chances seem good that Martinez and Sanchez will go down for this. But what about the bigger picture? We're talking a town where corruption is bred into its backbone, where a new Martinez and Sanchez (or perhaps the graduation of "Tommy") will mean more of the same. In a society where corruption is increasingly expected, how much can really change? In a political atmosphere where our president lets his minions hang out to dry for dirty deeds on behalf of them all, can we really ever get it right?

From the dirtiest kind of Santa Claus to an attitude that's anything but "the buck stops here," this optimist is scared to hope for the best.

Secret Society: The End of Freedom of Information?

Mikaela says:
Intelligence agencies with the support of the Bush administration have been reclassifying previously de-classified documents. These are documents that were sitting on open shelves in the National Archives -- available to all and photocopied freely by historians for years. Some documents were even published in histories by the State Department! As a rule, documents are to be declassified after 25 years unless they pose a significant risk to national safety.

Now, 9,500 documents (8,000 of them just since Bush took office) have been "disappeared."

When Clinton took office, he issued an order to declassify a massive amount of previously secret material in the interest of an open society. Transparent government. Accountability, some might call it. John Podesta was personally involved with this effort, and you can hear him talk about it in a story aired on This American Life.

When Bush took over, he issued a contradictory executive order to re-classify many documents, and as a whole, his administration has balked at providing information -- even to Congress -- requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

Information is power. Clinton knew it and gave it to the people. Bush knew it and kept it for himself. Strange days, indeed.

From today's New York Times:

The program's critics do not question the notion that wrongly declassified material should be withdrawn. ...

But the historians say the program is removing material that can do no conceivable harm to national security. They say it is part of a marked trend toward greater secrecy under the Bush administration, which has increased the pace of classifying documents, slowed declassification and discouraged the release of some material under the Freedom of Information Act.

Experts on government secrecy believe the C.I.A. and other spy agencies, not the White House, are the driving force behind the reclassification program.

"I think it's driven by the individual agencies, which have bureaucratic sensitivities to protect," said Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, editor of the online weekly Secrecy News. "But it was clearly encouraged by the administration's overall embrace of secrecy."

"I think this is a travesty," said Dr. Nelson, who said she believed that some reclassified material was in her files. "I think the public is being deprived of what history is really about: facts."

Monday, February 20, 2006

And so it begins...

Mikaela says:
In a case we should all watch carefully, developers are queuing up to start challenging environmental regulations hard-fought and hard-won in the 1970s. This one's about Clean Water. What's next?

The Supreme Court has been stacked with the last Bush nominees toward supporters of private business and corporations against the public good and welfare.

Let's see how this unfolds.

Reach of Clean Water Act Is at Issue in 2 Supreme Court Cases

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 — More than half of the nation's streams and wetlands could be removed from the protections of the federal Clean Water Act if two legal challenges started more than a decade ago by two Michigan developers are supported by a majority of the newly remade Supreme Court.

One case involves a developer who wanted to sell a wetland for a shopping center and in preparation filled it with sand without applying for a permit, in defiance of the authorities. The second was brought by a would-be condominium developer who applied to the Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to fill a wetland and was denied.

Oral arguments in the cases ... will pit developers and a phalanx of their industrial, agricultural and ideological allies against both the solicitor general and a who's who of environmental lawyers in an argument over the scope of one of the country's fundamental environmental laws.

The central question is where federal authority ends along the network of rivers, streams, canals and ditches.

(Wetland types collage courtesy EPA)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Joey Cheek!

Maggie gushes:
Am I the only one completely head over heels for Olympic speedskater Joey Cheek?

Olympic athlete... whatever. Gold medal winner, silver medal winner, and still more races to go? Very nice.


donating all of his prize money to Darfur refugees? I am SOLD!

That's $40,000 and counting.

"What would I do with it?," he said during an NBC interview. "Probably just spend it on something stupid."

Cue the self-effacing grin. Cue the fluttering hearts of many a female Olympic fan. Cue the "What's going on in Darfur and where the heck is that, anyway?" conversations around many an American dinner table.

And did I mention that this guy's a North Carolinian?

When Women Pursue Justice

Maggie raves:
A mural in Brooklyn dedicated to activist women portrays Shirley Chisolm, Emma Goldman, Clara Lemlich, Sojourner Truth, Dorothy Day, Audre Lord, Angela Davis, Dolores Huerta, Amy Goodman, and Cindy Sheehan.

"When Women Pursue Justice" was made possible by an organization called Artsmakers, who say: "Painted images cannot stop wars or win the struggle for justice, but they are not irrelevant. They fortify and enrich the spirit of those who are committed to the struggle and help educate those who are unaware."

I absolutely adore murals, and I'm glad we have so many in town. It'd be great to have an organization like Artsmakers in town (although I knew several individuals and organizations already focus on murals in part).

Let's brainstorm. Who should be featured on these hypothetical murals:
  • When Albuquerqueans Pursue Justice
  • When Albuquerque Women Pursue Justice

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Fascinating Rhetoric: Unconscious Parallels

Mikaela asks:
Anyone hear Republican Chris Smith's statement to corporate heads of tech. companies raked over the coals yesterday for their collaboration with China?

"Are you gentlemen aware of just how widespread torture really is in China? Propoganda and secret police are the two main pillars of any dictatorship anywhere in the world."

Here's the thing: I agree, and if all Republicans agreed, I'd have much less fear about the direction we're heading in this country.

Meanwhile, in the news about the U.S.:
  1. More evidence of widespread torture by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib and Guatanamo
  2. GAO report finds unprecedented spending for propaganda -- polite, PC term is public relations -- by our government under the Bush Adminstration (to the tune of $1.6 billion), including controversial use of covert propaganda by the Pentagon in Iraq.
  3. Domestic spying by our secret NSA agents, which, coupled with the new Orwellian designation "enemy combatant" means they can pick up any one of us at any time and hold us without charges, without legal recourse, forever. Okay, that's an exaggeration. For the duration of the "war," but since this "war against terrorism" has no end date, much like the "war on drugs" and "war on poverty" before it, it amounts to the same thing: indefinitely.

Anyone? Anyone?

Yet members of the same party denouncing Google get angry at librarians refusing to cough up and hand over information under the so-called "Patriot Act." Unbelievable, hypocritical, and SCARY.

Can't someone connect the dots here and rally Democrats and conservative Republicans who believe in freedom to get rid of the anti-Patriot Act once and for all?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Ligety Split!

marjorie says...

I'm feeling you, Mikaela...but DAMN!!!!!

That was some Ligety Split!

I hope you all got to see him completely own the final slalom in tonight's combined event--it was outstanding.

Confession: I'm enjoying the Olympics...

Mikaela starts with:

An important caveat

I'm a proud critic of our country. I question the way we bully people -- and/or kill them. The way we strut around and never question ourselves on the world stage. The way we supress dissent while still claiming to love democracy. The way we spy on our own citizens, etc.

How a nerd watches the Olympics
In the past, I've avoided watching the Olympics because it makes me slightly ill to see American flags everywhere, presented in such an unconscious way as unquestionably "good." It's also slightly sickening to understand that the U.S. is a top contender in so many sports because we're rich enough to support such a leisure class. Elite athletes, indeed.

This year -- maybe it's just a good excuse to avoid working on my thesis -- I'm sucked in. I find myself cheering for countries that are doing really well, despite usually being hammered by the big, bad, dominating U.S. I mean, really, how long has it been since the U.S. was NOT a big part of ice skating competitions??? It's fascinating! Russia, China, China, China finish for pairs skating? Are you kidding me? China -- the country whose athletes snooty ice-skaing commentators always dismiss by saying, "Well technically, they're amazing. So strong! But they just don't have that artistic choreography that's SO important in these competitions!" The Asian countries always get shafted at the Olympics, where racism really has a place to shine. Even last night, Bob Costas explained away China, saying something about how China dominates anything when they put all their resources behind it: They've dominated the world market, why not skating? Oof. I can't even begin. Talk about your own perspective making you blind!

From my earliest memory, the Olympics has had the strong undercurrent -- sometimes a tsunami -- of competition between economic ideologies. The Cold War commentaries, when it just ate us up that Russia was so strong in so many arenas when they should be grovelling in a muddy cave somewhere. And now China. They should be robots! Yet, here they are, winning two metals for pair skating, which has always been predominantly about artistry. (Some would argue the new cheat-proof judging explains this one away...partly because it emphasizes technical ability and partly because it makes it harder for judges to be racist -- I mean -- subjective.) It's fascinating stuff.

And sure, the U.S. created and now dominates skateboarding -- oops -- snowboarding as a ... sport. They still had to struggle this year! And I know the Olympics is really all about drama, or at least, that's how they sell it to us to make us watch. But I have to believe the Olympics has always been that way. I mean, come on. It was, afterall, invented by the Greeks, and who loves a good soap opera more than the Pantheon-worshipping Greeks?

I'm unabashedly embracing the Olympics. I feel so ... patriotic. A global citizen extraordinaire.

Go athletes! May the best win! Or at least, may the commentators give us good fodder for ideological analysis!

Bad News for Cheney

Mikaela says:
Uh-oh. Cheney's got to be sweating a little harder now!

Man Cheney shot has heart attack

Good lord. As much as I dislike our Vice President, I don't wish this on him. I really don't.

The German word: schadenfreude -- pleasure in others' difficulties -- is exactly what I don't have in this case.

I'm actually praying for this man Whittington to pull through. To be brought down by this... I just can't wish it on Cheney. I want to nail him on Plame.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Side by side (for your bitchy pleasure)

Maggie continues to laugh at:

As my pal points out, it's all about the hair, the glasses, and especially the Nehru jacket.

Don't know what I'm talking about? See here.

Friday, February 10, 2006

THAT's News I Want to Hear!

Mikaela says:
Democracy Now just made my morning. I'm in the first blush of triumph, so forgive the lack of digest.

Libby Testifies “Superiors” Ordered Leak of Classified Information
New evidence has emerged linking Vice President Dick Cheney to the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Investigative journalist Murray Waas has revealed testimony from Lewis “Scooter” Libby – Cheney’s indicted former chief of staff -- before a federal grand jury. Libby testified he had been “authorized” by Cheney and other White House “superiors” to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration’s use of prewar intelligence in making the case to invade Iraq. Larry Johnson, a former intelligence official and colleague of Plame's said: "This was not some rogue operation, but was directed at the highest levels, and specifically by Dick Cheney. Libby was definitely a man with a mission, but a man who was given a mission."

Bush Administration Told of Levee Breach Earlier Than Claimed
Back in the United States, the New York Times is reporting the White House was told Hurricane Katrina had overrun a levee in New Orleans almost twelve hours earlier than the Bush administration has claimed. The White House has maintained it was first informed of the levee breaches the morning of Tuesday, August 30th 2005. But documents show the Bush administration was first informed at midnight the night before.

are we being spied on?

marjorie says...

I'll just post this in its entirety and all of you can decide for yourself.

Bush Is Spying on His Political Opponents

by Matt Stoller, Mon Feb 06, 2006 at 01:06:28 AM EST Direct Democracy website

To say that Bush spies on Democrats and dissidents is not hyperbole, it is a fact. Here are six examples of overt spying on political opponents or cases where there is clear evasion on questions about whether his government is doing so:

Bush Administration uses U.S. Army to spy on war critics. The Bush Administration used top-secret U.S. Army spying capabilities to spy on domestic war critics such as Quakers, Students Against the War, People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and Greenpeace. An internal review forced the Pentagon to admit it had "improperly stored" information on potentially thousands of people because there was no "reasonable belief" they had any link to terrorism. (Newsweek, 1/30/06)

Bush Administration uses FBI to spy on war critics. The Bush administration is using the FBI to "collect extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators," causing the California Attorney General to declare that Bush Administration policy violates the state constitution prohibition on spying on political and religious groups without evidence of criminal activity. (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/23/03)

Bush Administration forced to turn over records revealing FBI is spying on Bush critics. A Freedom of Information Act request revealed the FBI "collected at least 3,500 pages of internal documents in the last several years on a handful of civil rights and antiwar protest groups" that are leading Bush critics "in what the groups charge is an attempt to stifle political opposition to the Bush administration." (New York Times, 7/18/05)

Bush Administration uses Pentagon to spy on Bush critics. NBC obtained a 400-page Pentagon document outlining the Bush administration's surveillance of war critics.1,500 different events (aka. anti-war protests) in just a 10-month period. "I think Americans should be concerned that the military, in fact, has reached too far," says NBC News military analyst Bill Arkin. "It means that they're actually collecting information about who's at those protests, the descriptions of vehicles at those protests.On the domestic level, this is unprecedented." (NBC News, 12/14/05)

The Bush Administration may have wiretapped a CNN reporter. In January, NBC published a transcript in which James Risen, the New York Times reporter who broke the NSA wiretap story, was asked if CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour's phone was wiretapped. After a surge of interest, NBC deleted that line - saying the transcript was "released prematurely." Amanpour is married to James Rubin, a top Clinton Administration foreign policy strategist and an advisor to John Kerry's presidential campaign. (CNN, 1/6/06)

Gen. Michael Hayden refused to answer question about spying on political enemies at National Press Club. At a public appearance, Bush's pointman in the Office of National Intelligence was asked if the NSA was wiretapping Bush's political enemies. When Hayden dodged the question, the questioner repeated, "No, I asked, are you targeting us and people who politically oppose the Bush government, the Bush administration? Not a fishing net, but are you targeting specifically political opponents of the Bush administration?" Hayden looked at the questioner, and after a silence called on a different questioner. (Hayden National Press Club remarks, 1/23/06) (video ) (audio )

Bush must prove that these six examples are not part of a larger pattern, but are isolated. He must prove it, since he circumvented the FISA courts and Gonzales lied to the Senate, and these are the ordinary checks on the system. Anything less than him proving that he is not using his powers to spy on political opposition and journalists is evidence that his aims are tyrannical and that this controversy has nothing to do with terrorism.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Evangelical Environmentalists, Part II

Maggie says:
A year ago on m-pyre, I asked the question Have We Underestimated Evangelicals? I pointed to some online chatter about a growing fundamentalist concern for the environment and hypothesized on the unlikely pairing of mainstream environmentalists and the Christian right. It seemed like nothing more than a far-off possibility at the time (and as Erik pointed out in comments, potentially explosive at that), and I put it out of my head until... last night.

Imagine my surprise when I was watching the news and Brian Williams began reporting about the new Evangelical Climate Initiative, a group of 86 evangelical leaders who have split with Bush to call for the passage of national CO2-emission reductions. Backed up by scripture, of course.

The same love for God and neighbor that compels us to preach salvation through Jesus Christ, protect the unborn, preserve the family and the sanctity of marriage, and take the whole Gospel to a hurting world, also compels us to recognize that human-induced climate change is a serious Christian issue requiring action now.

...Poor nations and poor individuals have fewer resources available to cope with major challenges and threats. The consequences of global warming will therefore hit the poor the hardest, in part because those areas likely to be significantly affected first are in the poorest regions of the world. Millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors.

"An Evangelical Call to Action" contains four main claims:
  • Claim 1: Human-Induced Climate Change is Real
  • Claim 2: The Consequences of Climate Change will be Significant, and it will Hit the Poor Hardest
  • Claim 3: Christian Moral Convictions Demand our Response to the Climate Change Problem
  • Claim 4: The Need to Act Now is Urgent. Governments, businesses, churches, and individuals all have a role to play in addressing climate changestarting now.

Make no mistake; for evangelicals, these "claims" are nothing short of revolutionary. What seems obvious to us is nothing short of groundbreaking for them. Fittingly, the primary organized evangelical force in America, the National Association of Evangelicals, is not endorsing the Evangelical Climate Initiative. That means that this move represents not just a break with Bush&Co, but a chasm within the right as well.

As the right continues to crumble in the face of what they see as Bush's betrayals (big spending, big government, lackluster policies), this split could represent a potential watershed moment in modern politics.

Continuing my no-more-politics-as-usual rant (heated up by a feisty political debate at Milton's of all places the other morning), I say, bring it on.

Since we're being bitchy anyway...

Maggie unapologetically says:
Hey, what can we say? That time of year, strange pressures, allergies, not enough caffeine... So Benson, this bitchy anecdote is for you:

This morning, looking through the Journal with a friend, he does a massive double-take inside the front section and starts roaring with laughter.

Me, laughing: What?
Him, cracking up: I swear I thought this was an old photo of John Lennon.

He hands me the paper, and who's pictured on the offending page? None other than everyone's favorite congresswoman, Heather Wilson.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Oh no he didn't!

Maggie says:
But oh yes, he did, according to Tim McGivern. I'm talking Marty. Trying to run for a third term.

Read Quarter Mile Radius and A) weep, or B) get fired up.

But do something. As the great Dude once said, "This aggression will not stand, man."

Latin America News Review

marjorie says...

We occasionally highlight other people's blogs that we like...so today I want to point you all to our friend Justin Delacour's Latin America News Review. We've had a link to his site on our sidebar since he first created it, but for awhile he wasn't doing much updating. But now he's finally kicked it in and is updating on a regular basis.

Yes, it's not really a blog with daily commentary by Justin. But if you know Justin you realize what a great service this blog is. Justin is famous among his friends for finding the best news sources and sending them on. He saves us all a lot of work. If you get frustrated with how much wading through the corporate press you have to do to find good analysis about Latin America, this is definitely the blog for you. And, even better, Justin on occasion will post his own articles. Just in case you've missed his writing in the past, here are links to some of what he's had to say over the years:

Printed in FAIR's Magazine, Extra, at the end of 2005, this article succintly describes U.S. media bias against Hugo Chavez.

From the Narcosphere, a compendium of essays from 2003-2005.

On Znet, in 2004 Justin describes how an Echo Chamber works--great stuff.

On Counterpunch in 2004, Justin goes after shady pollsters.

On Znet, an essay in 2002 about the triumphant return of Hugo Chavez from a failed coup attempt.

From Common Dreams in 2000, here is a great essay opposing Plan Colombia, a plan that ramped up U.S. military intervention in that country.

And in Eat the State back in 2000, more commentary on Plan Colombia.

Keep writing Justin--and we'll definitely keep reading!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Mourning Betty

Maggie says:
Betty Friedan, founding mother of modern feminism, has died. I am moved and saddened and rushing out to read classic Friedan.

Without Betty, we might still think our only value lies in the productive potential of our uterus.

Without Betty, we might think all we can hope for is mastering a recipe or cleaning a floor to perfection.

Without Betty, we might still walk around completely unfulfilled but unable to figure out what exactly our problem is.

The problem is that we cannot build our lives simply as a support system to another person. No one else can complete us; no one else should.

Thanks to Betty, we appreciate our potential as humans, not just wives or mothers; we stand as women, strong on our own; we live our lives as great vessels of opportunity and ability to change the world.

We are more than the kitchen, more than a delivery room. Thank you, Betty, for helping us see how beautiful choice is, and how fulfilling it is to create the life we dream about, whatever that may be.

"A woman has got to be able to say, and not feel guilty, `Who am I, and what do I want out of life?' She mustn't feel selfish and neurotic if she wants goals of her own, outside of husband and children."

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

What they don't tell you could kill you... and they know it

Mikaela says:
The following is yet another example of why we need government oversight of corporations. This is why we need to separate Congress from lobbyists. This is why we need to be skeptical of Presidents with ties to Big Business.

Because Big Business lies and hides and poisons us when no one is watching. And EPA is more and more eviscerated with each passing day. Woo-hoo!

This from Democracy Now:
Independent Review Finds DuPont Chemical A “Likely” Carcinogenic In other news, the chemical giant DuPont continues to draw scrutiny over its use of a controversial chemical in the manufacture of materials used for food packaging. On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced an independent scientific review had concluded the chemical, known as Zonyl, should be considered a “likely” carcinogen. Zonyl is used in the manufacture of hundreds of types of food containers and appliances. Studies have shown it can rub off of packaging and contaminate food with a potentially carcinogenic compound known as PFOA. In November, a former DuPont chemical engineer revealed the company had hidden studies showing that the human body absorbs the chemical at three times the permitted level.

To read more about Dupont's flagrant and negligent hiding of health effects of its toxic chemicals, read (or listen) here: from Living on Earth -- Dupont in Sticky Situation over Teflon chemical. It's actually an amazing story about ranchers fighting back after they lease their land to Dupont for waste and subsequently lose most of their cows to madness and unexplained bleeding to death. They start a class-action suit and get yelled at for their trouble by the town, who worries about losing the Dupont plant and all the associated jobs -- even though women working in the plant keep having babies with birth defects! It's as though Marx never warned us...