Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Honoring Molly Ivins

Maggie says:
Molly Ivins died today after a long struggle with cancer. Hearing the news on NPR tonight, stuck in traffic making my way up to Bernalillo, I started crying. It was an emotional day already, but in the cold air with brake lights reflecting all around me, the news of her passing struck me to the bone. I was inconsolable, because just knowing Molly was in our world was always a comfort. She was proof that talking back is always a good idea, proof that real smarts come from the heart, proof that positive change could and would come one day. And it will.

I became hooked on Molly Ivins in high school, an ultra-serious girl who saw that Molly's true power was not in how fast she could make my head spin, but in just how hard she could make me laugh. And oh, she made me laugh. She was a firecracker with a red-hot brain, a gracious lady with compassion for miles, a down-home woman who could take me back home with her expressions in a second, a no-nonsense stalwart who could tell you before you knew it was happening that you're full of shit and here's why...

I liked to imagine that Molly and my Grandma Jessie Mae were cut from the same cloth, women who could burst in from the fields and put fresh coffee on while dismissing the administration-sponsored newscast playing in the kitchen with a shrug and slice of wit. Guests in their kitchens were leveled with their signature blends of gravitas and ease, a mix that made you feel comfortable but left no question whose home you were in, whose table you were sitting at. Molly's words sat me right down at her kitchen table, offered up a seat in her Austin office, and maybe even a glass of sweet tea on the front porch if I was lucky enough. Molly was the kind of writer whose words came straight from her heart, who didn't want to believe the realities she was writing about, if only they weren't so predictable. After all, this is the old boys' club at work again; this is a system that rewards the most uncreative and unrewarding men alive with the most powerful job in the world...

As I've been lucky enough to see at countless points throughout my life, there is no power like that of a formidable woman who can make you feel at home. Molly took us home in every column.

Today's populist tinge of activism and local roots politics is Molly Ivins through and through. Molly always spoke truth to power. She always identified with the underdog, and she didn't stop at the party line to do that. Right was right and wrong was wrong, no matter who was bombing innocent civilians or cutting single mothers off of the government aid that was their lifeblood. Molly Ivins' politics ran deeper than the current election cycle, her reach much farther than a city whose favorite pastime is patting itself on the back.

As Molly proved, the biggest influence you can have has nothing to do with Capitol Hill. It's in the appeal that grabs us where our hearts are, in the places we shape our lives.

Thank you, Molly, more than you will ever know. Maybe one day we'll meet to talk and laugh over grits and eggs. I'll make the coffee. Grandma Jessie Mae will handle the grits, cooked in the same pan as the sausage in that way that only she knows how. You and Ann Richards can decide who's in charge of the eggs.

And oh, how we will laugh.

Student Loans - Too little, who cares?

Mikaela says:
The Onion once again nailed with humor the bottom line on Congress' recent efforts to cut the student loan interest rate.

Georgia Cummings, Systems Analyst
"But the only excitement I have in my life is the cat-and-mouse game I play with my student loan officer."

Jeffrey Cain, Referee
"I can't wait to tell my loan officer that I'll be paying back my loan two weeks earlier than my previously stated goal date of never."

Robert Loehman, Body Piercer
"As this will inevitably entice many to purchase more education than they can afford, please let me know when I can buy one of those fancy educated brains at foreclosure."

What aggravates me about the student loan rate cut is this:

Congress gets credit for doing something about making education more affordable without actually doing anything to make education more affordable.

I don't know about you, but I'm on the 30 year payback plan. Basically I have a house mortgage supporting my education to date. Like a little tick sucking my lifeblood every month, the government will take a little from my every paycheck for the rest of my earning career. That's just the way it is. Over the next 30 years, a cut to the interest rate will save me around $4,000. That's $4,000 over the next 30 years, or approximately $11 a month.

Now, maybe this interest rate cut will actually persuade those who might not otherwise consider taking out a loan that it's okay. Somehow, I doubt it. Those who wouldn't consider borrowing when the interest rate is 6% probably won't if the interest rate is 3% either. Some people, bless them, just don't like borrowing money in an official capacity.

From my perspective, student loans are already a blessing. What I'd like to see is the government stop trying to pawn the loans to private banks. Maybe it's not as sinister as it seems, but ... there's something not quite right about it. I prefer to have my loans held by good ole Uncle Sam. As long as my student loan interest rate is lower than the one I could get for a car or at just any ole bank, I'm a happy borrower - for the rest of my life.

I think Congress should focus its efforts and political capital on the real education issues: giving grants and subsidized loans to those who really can't afford college, as well as making sure that public education at all levels prepares students -- particularly minorities whom our current system fails to serve -- to succeed in college. Now that might make a difference.

Immunize All Girls Against Cervical Cancer...Now!

marjorie says...

The fact that Merck & Co. is funding a massive lobbying effort to make immunization against cervical cancer mandatory for young girls is in no way an argument against making that a law. The fact that Merck & Co. stands to make billions of dollars from the sale of Gardasil, a drug that prevents cervical cancer is, well, kind of gross. But if their lobbying effort seems crass to you, even makes you angry, then do something about changing how medical research is conducted and how medical care is delivered.

What is really gross to me, actually, is how this Cathie Adams, president of the rightwing Texas Eagle Forum, is using the lobbying of Merck to push her organization's own agenda to prevent the immunizations from becoming mandatory. Why? Because to make them mandatory takes "...precedence over the authorities of parents."

Then there's this lady Linda Klepacki, of "Colorado-based evangelical organization" Focus on the Family. She says that even if opt-out provisions are put into bills, such laws interfere with the rights of parents to make medical decisions for their children. Her group says that "...the vaccine should be available for parents who want it, but not forced on those who don't."

Then here come the Republicans, these being from Kansas (go figure):

Rep. Jeff Colyer, a physician who leads the House Health Task Force, and says his kids will get the vaccine, says “...we do need to respect parents’ rights to make that decision.”

Rep. Brenda Landwehr says “there is the concern it (the vaccine) could lead to promiscuity.”

Shall I continue? I am pretty confident I could find more of this drivel. That a vaccine with such promise for eliminating a cancer that kills 100's upon 1000's of women could be trivialized in terms of sexual promiscuity and parental rights by these people really exposes their ideological rigidity and lack of any sense whatsoever.

Immunizing young girls with this drug should absolutely not be left up to parents.

It should be considered a human right of girls now that we have it (drug company billions notwithstanding) and any adult that tries to stand in the way of its delivery should be put in jail.

Monday, January 29, 2007

And now for a public service announcement...

Mikaela advocates:
Let me start by saying I can't go to this meeting because I'll be leading another community meeting. Otherwise, I'd drag myself, even though it doesn't sound like fun. It is, however, incredibly important.

How many times have you complained about traffic? About the lack of planning in this town? About growth? More than once, I'm guessing, based on who we are and who reads our little blog.

So buck up. Finally you can do something about it -- or at least complain to the right people in a forum where you can be assured they're really listening.

What: Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) Forum
When: TOMORROW, Tuesday, January 30th, 7-9 pm
Where: First Unitarian Church (3701 Carlisle NE)
Who: 1000 Friends and ABQ Alliance for Active Living

What you can expect to hear:
  • Recommendation for a Walkable Neighborhoods Program
  • Expert & pedestrian/bicycle advocate Mark Fenton's take on the health benefits of a good MTP
  • Next steps & how to stay involved!
Other Big Shots on the Response Panel:
  • City Councilor Debbie O'Malley
  • BernCo Rep.
  • Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG) Rep.
  • Claude Morelli, Walk ABQ
  • Gabriel Nims, 1000 Friends

Why go? Because this, like the U.S. Census, is the kind of seminal government action that shapes our lives in ways we almost can't perceive because it's all-pervasive.

We want to complain about government and about planning, but too often we're not willing to do the simplest little thing that can have a huge impact -- GO TO A MEETING, SIT AND LISTEN, PERHAPS RAISE YOUR HAND TO ASK A QUESTION OR SHARE AN OPINION. That's it. That's all that's required.

Pretend you're from Athens and feel really good that you're performing one of the oldest civic duties in this our long tradition of democracy. So much better than voting, I promise!

Whoever sucks it up and attends, could you let me know? And if I hear any feedback from the meeting, I promise to share it with you. Dammit, That's America! (Can you hear the patriotic music swell as we zoom in on our waving flag? Yeah, me too.)

Need a map? Click here

Suggested Donation: $5

Vote to Commemorate Navajo Code Talkers on Arizona's Official Quarter

Mikaela says:
I love that I got this e-mail from a former student of mine who I have no doubt will continue to do amazing things to support her community.

Your vote is needed. Stand proud and vote for QUARTER 5, "Navajo Code Talkers." There's a deadline, so HURRY! The state of Arizona's quarter will come out in the year 2008. Vote here.

It'll be about time Native Americans get recognized for something GOOD!

The Governor has the ultimate decision, but she's indicated she'll abide by the people's choice.

(Here's a hint -- the votes are among the following quarters:
  • three a-political, stereotypical landscapes,
  • one celebration of white guy explorers, or
  • the one commemorating Native American war heroes whose language proved to be an unbreakable code that helped us win World War II (in just 4 years, by the way, something Bush can't accomplish in Iraq).
P.S. The Code Talkers are winning by a vast majority. Add your vote!

Those Pesky Royals

marjorie says...

Sometimes I stumble across a news article that throws me into commentary overload, not to mention one chuckle after another. Such was this article about the British royals visit to Philadelphia. Prince Charles was in Philadelphia for a visit before going to NYC to accept an environmental award.

"My ancestor fought with Washington in the revolutionary war," said Sarah Mitchell, 56, who came by the International House in West Philadelphia Saturday afternoon before the royals were supposed to make a visit. "So we fought against the British. I'm probably not going to stay."

Thanks, Sarah Mitchell, for making me laugh. Those sorry Brits! Well, the fact is, if we refused to be in the same room with people from every country we've either out right fought with or just militarily intervened in, we wouldn't have too many friends...would we?

"The prince has been under attack by environmentalists in Britain for flying over here to receive the award - and reserving the entire first-class section of a plane for his entourage - given that he has pledged to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide caused by his travels.

"British environmental activist Joss Garman told London newspaper The Independent: 'If the prince was serious about dealing with carbon emissions, he wouldn't be flying all that way to receive an award for environmentalism in the first place. It is a form of eco-insanity to expend so much energy for such meagre reasons.'"

This one made me laugh at the same time I couldn't help but acknowledge how completely right on this fellow is. Individual actions don't make real change, only collective actions do. So this guy comes across as rather petty. But at the same time, he's completely right. It's absurd that there's a class of people that just hop on these metal contraptions and fly around the globe to congratulate one another.

"We came to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall and kind of got stuck," said Donna Mitchell, 33, of Florence, Ala., who was in Philly for the weekend with her husband. "We might as well [stay]. We've got a cousin that grew up in Britain, so we'll send the pictures to her."

That's the spirit Donna! It all works out in the end!

"Inside at the Liberty Bell, fifth-graders from the Loesche School, in Northeast Philadelphia, worked on projects for Charles and Camilla to observe.

"Their teacher, Susan Anmuth, said the class had been learning about the monarchy.

"We've been working for two weeks," she said.

"They still have trouble understanding he's prince just because his mother's the queen."

Well, Susan, just give the Bush analogy.

"Over at the Constitution Center, Philly's elite gathered, garbed in fur wraps and big hats, for a lunchtime reception."

See, class? We have them too.

"The royal couple's Saturday fashion choices were conservative, but elegant. Camilla spent the day in a brown tweed fur-trimmed coat over a periwinkle cashmere dress, and changed into a long brown velvet dress at night.

"Charles wore a navy double breasted coat and blue double-breasted suit with a red, blue and gold tie for day, and wore a white tie and tails with an assortment of military medals at night."

And of course I had to wait until the very end practically to get to the real information.

"I would imagine it had to be a difficult day for him," said radio personality Jerry Blavat, who met Charles at the Academy."

I imagine it was! It's not everyday you have to eat two hundred year old crow. But something tells me it was all very collegial crow.

Friday, January 26, 2007

DIY, or heck, just be homeless

marjorie says...

I went to see The Pursuit of Happyness with at best a wary hope that it wouldn’t be completely reactionary about homeless people. I was prepared to be highly critical of the message, and indeed in some respects I am.

The subject of the movie, Chris Gardner, struggles against tremendous odds to become a successful businessman, odds that at one point force him into homelessness. He’s an intelligent and energetic person who has high aspirations to make it rich as an entrepreneur. In the pursuit of that, he invests all his money into medical equipment that in fact is not something he can sell easily. His dogged pursuit to sell his goods rather than go punch a clock somewhere places enormous strain on his hard working wife, eventually leading to the end of their marriage. Ultimately he runs out of money and gets evicted from his apartment. Rather than go look for a job, he enters into an unpaid stockbroker internship on the gamble that he will be the one selected to fill a very lucrative job at the end, which he was. But it caused him to live a precarious life with his son, barely able to thread the financial pieces together at times, ultimately having to live in a homeless shelter.

This is a movie about the entrepreneurial spirit. It is not a movie about homelessness. It’s a movie about a certain type of person with a certain type of ability. It is not about the ability of all people. Chris Gardner had assets and skills that he could rely on ultimately, which is why he would never have been homeless for long. Likewise, this is what makes me middle class and not living on the edge. Yes, I might one day be out of a job with no money, but I have a marketable set of attributes (not to mention a big family) on which I can rely. Many people do not.

So why is it that we see these screenings for homeless people here and there, as if they need to see it? As if all homeless people are like Chris Gardner. They are not. There are some like Chris Gardner. And then there are the chronically homeless…those who will never, ever by like Chris Gardner. It's not the homeless that need to see this movie. The ones who need to see it are the rest of us, who either don't see or forget about homelessness or go around disparaging homeless people.

Instead of showing it to organized groups of homeless people in order to inspire “hope,” it should be shown to the elite sectors in this country to illustrate the stress, anxiety, and inhumanity of poverty.

I was surprised at how well this movie got across that on edge feeling of not knowing what you’re going to do next. The desperation. Gardner's wife wasn't just a selfish woman who won't stand by her man. She is a desperate woman living on the financial edge. It comes across in the movie incredibly well. And the scenes showing the inhumanity of many homeless shelters... the forced religious dogma pushed down these people’s throats just so they can get a bed and meal, the lights out as if they are in jail, the having to leave and then line back up every night and fight for their bed…are spot on.

This is what I liked about this movie. It really stressed me out...I could feel what it was like to be on the edge, to experience how the domino effect of financial hard knocks eventually lead to homelessness. It’s something rarely, if ever shown in American movies. This is what we need to see more of, not simply one more pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps piece of dogma. Homelessness is a real problem for us, and all of us are responsible for fixing it.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ummm... No.

Maggie says:
Sorry Journal, but Jennifer Wilbanks is no "wide-eyed ingenue." And make no mistake, the proposed Runaway Bride "rock opera" is not likely to be too friendly to the Duke City.

Can you imagine the horrific set design meant to capture an "authentic New Mexican" look? Perhaps a blessing that they're taking the hometown angle on this one...

I do, however, applaud the Journal for the "Waiting for Guffman" reference.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Civility is Over Rated

Marjorie says…

I enjoyed our classic approach to the State of the Union tonight…Mikaela gave her angry shout-outs, Lisa shook her head in appalled disbelief, and I just rolled my eyes and snickered. Leading off with an acknowledgement of the first female speaker of the house, Bush appealed to a thing that strikes most of us deeply…our desire for equality regardless of our gender, race, or class. It would be remiss to not point out that the real path to power in terms of political office in this country, as limited as it continues to be, clearly lies with the Democrats. Nancy Pelosi is a Democrat, and the 2008 Democratic contenders include an African American, a Latino, a Woman, and a liberal Anglo man. I like this evolvement of the Democrats, even though I find them hopeless much of the time, and even though their path to power continues to be an entrenched individual one rather than an attack on the seemingly unsolvable problem of poverty and its profound intersection with race and gender. If it were solvable, wouldn’t we have done it already? Yes, sometimes even I have these resigned, fatalistic attitudes. Tonight I am particularly feeling that way for some reason. Perhaps I should just call it the Bush effect. Please…DEMOCRATS! I want to shout…stand up and give this guy the boot! Boo him! But I know that isn’t going to happen...our parties simply aren’t that far apart. What is required in this country lies outside of the party system. As ever, let me remind my dear m-pyre readers of one of my favorite maxims: electoral politics are only one aspect of our political lives. On that note, if you’re in Albuquerque I encourage you all to join the anti-war march this Saturday. George W. doesn’t think public opinion matters, but it’s important to show the world that there are many American people who disagree with his policies.

Anti-War March Saturday, January 27th in Albuquerque


Albuquerque March and Rally
Saturday, January 27th 2007

11:00: Meet at 2nd and Copper (Galleria) for a march to three congressional offices
12:30: Rally at Robinson Park with the Raging Grannies (8th and Central)

State of the Union: Led by a Sick Man

Tom Toles

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Southern Methodist University to Bush: Not so fast!

Mikaela says:
Two theology professors at SMU have caused a groundswell of discontent among faculty and students at the idea of offering the university as home to Bush's Library.

Here's what Bill McElvaney and Susanne Johnson said in their editorial for the University newspaper:

"Do we want SMU to benefit financially from a legacy of massive violence, destruction, and death brought about by the Bush presidency in dismissal of broad international opinion?

"What moral justification supports SMU's providing a haven for a legacy of environmental predation and denial of global warming, shameful exploitation of gay rights, and the most critical erosion of habeas corpus in memory?

"Given the secrecy of the Bush administration and its virtual refusal to engage with those holding contrary opinions, what confidence could be had in the selection of presidential papers made available to the library? Unless the Bush library philosophy is radically different from the already proven track record of insulation, the library will be little more than a center for the preservation and protection of privileged presidential papers. What would that mean for academic integrity based on open inquiry?"

NY Times :

"Many professors, including some who want the library on campus, are concerned about the relationship between a proposed Bush policy institute and the library and the effects the institute might have on the university's academic independence."

Ralph Blumenthal wrote in the New York Times last week:

"Intimates of President Bush have singled out Southern Methodist University as the likely site of his presidential library, but faculty members, complaining of being bypassed, are raising sharp questions about the school's identification with his presidency."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

MLK, one day later

Maggie, in tribute:

"When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bait & Switch: How the war in Iraq becomes all-out war in the Middle East

Mikaela says:
Not sure what to think about the President's strategy to escalate the war in Iraq? Not sure what to make of his raid on an Iranian office in an Iraq town, his capture of personnel and computers? His movement of aircraft carriers into the region?

Many are speculating that we consumers are experiencing the classic bait and switch. Think we're going in to stop weapons of mass destruction in Iraq under Saddam Hussein? Okay, we'll bite. Then we get there, depose the dictator we put in power, then switch our rhetoric to spreading freedom and democracy. When that doesn't work, we pull the biggest magic trick of them all -- keeping us focused on Iraq while with sleight of hand, we pull a gun (or airforce carrier, take your pick) on Iran. I'm sure Iran will then cover our invasion of Syria.

Think this is all hyperbole? Think the Bush administration can't be that cynical, can't be that messianic, can't be that bloody? Think again. It's coming, people, and we only have 2 years to stop it.

Here's a range of voices on the latest Bush doctrine, courtesy White House Briefing:

Robin Wright and Nancy Trejos:

"While the public focus is on Iraq, the administration is now spending as much time on plans to contain Iran as on a strategy to end Iraq's violence, U.S. officials said."

Dana Milbank:

"'I have to say, Madam Secretary,' a seething Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) told Rice, 'that I think this speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.'

"'Madam Secretary,' added Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, a moderate Democrat, 'I have supported you and the administration on the war, and I cannot continue to support the administration's position. . . . I have not been told the truth over and over again.'"

Sudarsan Raghavan writes in The Washington Post that Baghdad-based Spec. Daniel Caldwell "echoed a sentiment shared by many in his squad:

'They're kicking a dead horse here. The Iraqi army can't stand up on their own.'"

Carter administration national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski outlines five flaws in Bush's plan, in a Washington Post op-ed. Among them:

"The decision to escalate the level of the U.S. military involvement while imposing 'benchmarks' on the 'sovereign' Iraqi regime, and to emphasize the external threat posed by Syria and Iran, leaves the administration with two options once it becomes clear -- as it almost certainly will -- that the benchmarks are not being met. One option is to adopt the policy of 'blame and run': i.e., to withdraw because the Iraqi government failed to deliver. That would not provide a remedy for the dubious 'falling dominoes' scenario, which the president so often has outlined as the inevitable, horrific consequence of U.S. withdrawal. The other alternative, perhaps already lurking in the back of Bush's mind, is to widen the conflict by taking military action against Syria or Iran. It is a safe bet that some of the neocons around the president and outside the White House will be pushing for that. Others, such as Sen. Joseph Lieberman, may also favor it."

The Financial Times editorial board writes:

"It may be one last heave. It may be a cover for US withdrawal. . . . [T]his policy will not succeed in fixing an Iraq traumatised by tyranny and war and then broken by invasion and occupation. But it may end with the US 'surging' into Iran -- and taking the Middle East to a new level of mayhem that will spill into nearby regions and western capitals."

Eugene Robinson, writing in his Washington Post opinion column, worries that Bush is trying to change the subject to Iran.

"As cynical as I am about this administration, it's hard for me to imagine that at this point, with all the push-back he's getting from Congress and the public about escalating American involvement in Iraq, George W. Bush would even think about launching a new military adventure in Iran. But you have to worry about a president who talks so much about the judgment of history and who has such a Manichaean view of the world."

Keith Olberman has another 'special comment' on MSNBC:

"Only this president, only in this time, only with this dangerous, even messianic certitude, could answer a country demanding an exit strategy from Iraq, by offering an entrance strategy for Iran."

Jay Leno, via US News:

"It was nothing but reruns on TV last night. But enough about President Bush's speech......

"Actually, the good news last night, President Bush finally admitted he made some mistakes in Iraq. The bad news, he's planning on making the same mistakes again."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The legacy of MLK

marjorie says...

I'm fortunate to be able to spend this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in Memphis. Tomás and I are here as representatives of SWOP at the National Conference on Media Reform--you can see our critique of the conference itself, and a good definition of what we think an effective grassroots approach to social change is, here.

Memphis is where MLK was murdered while supporting striking sanitation workers, seen in this famous photo. That particular struggle symbolizes MLK's little celebrated linking of racial justice with worker's rights. It also symbolizes why MLK was emerging as a greater threat to the American status quo leading up to his death. He was a dynamic civil rights leader who was increasingly speaking out against the Vietnam war and for the rights of workers. In this way, he was becoming an incredibly powerful voice that connected the dots between the most profound and problematic social issues we've struggled with throughout the years, decades, and centuries. I think this is one of his greatest legacies. Real social change will not happen if we don't connect these dots, moving beyond single issue advocacy and reformist agendas that trap us in narrow disparate boxes. On that note, I hope you all pause for a moment this weekend and reflect on the Civil Rights Movement, which we commemorate with this holiday. Its a movement that benefited each and every one of us, and continues to inform our lives today.

Connect the Dots

[I just had to post this in response to Marjorie’s excellent post about MLK, Jr.]

Mikaela says in 2003:

Connect the dots




Cultivate the will

the fortitude

the stomach

to call shit as you see it

name it

change it

arrange it

Complicit in the world-as-it-is

is our silence

We trade “solace” for “privacy”

“community” for “solitude”

hide our gifts

not to feel powerless

close our eyes

not to feel blind

believe stories

not to feel lied to

Our ears wither

with disuse

Our fears grow

with exercise

Our hands

severed with knives of our own creation

search by themselves

for the necks of our oppressors

And we

all of us children

learn what it is

we don’t want to know.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Bush Balloon

marjorie says...

I asked a friend over email yesterday if he ever watched things like presidential addresses with his two young children. Here is how he replied:

No I never watch things with them like that. I prefer them think there is no such thing as war for now.....Santa Claus is real, Jerry Springer is not.......the tooth fairy gives you money when your tooth falls out, not ...’hey! you need a root canal!’........inflation is what happens when you blow up a balloon, not something that happens and all of a sudden your allowance doesn't go as far as it used to.........they will get enough of reality to deal with in their lives. It doesn't have to start at three and five....”

How can I argue with that? It brought to mind the icebreaker we had in our recent staff retreat. In pairs we were asked to articulate the things we would do in the first 100 days if we were president. The resulting butcher paper covering the wall listed a smorgasbord of pragmatic initiatives to make the world a better place mixed in with utopian visions of what our world would look like. Indeed, inflation in our world would be what happens when you blow up a balloon.

Over the years I’ve noticed a few phrases that are identical coming out of the mouths of people, regardless of age, race, gender, class, or religion. One of these is “It’s the best we can do…there is nothing better” when the question of capitalism surfaces. I often wonder when I hear this…so we can go to the moon but we can’t come up with a political economy better than what we have now? One that would actually ensure equity, that inflation only happens when you blow up a balloon?

Where is the imagination?

The next part of that particular conversation about capitalism has often been the moment in which I am challenged to articulate my own plan to replace capitalism. As if one person could do that. Before there can ever be a plan, there has to be a shift in public consciousness about capitalism, thereby creating the necessary space within which to change it.

I think this will happen, is happening, but it’s so large and complex that we each in our own relatively small lives can’t really see it. Unlike the shift in public consciousness about our self-created Iraq problem which became profoundly evident by the Democrat ascension to the Congressional throne this month.

No one should question for one second that the sweep of the Democrats last November was a reflection of widespread and profound disagreement in this country with the Iraq war. It was a remarkable example of the public making their voice heard. And Bush, in his presidential address last night, embodied what I think Wall Street would be like in the face of a shift in public consciousness about capitalism. He flipped us all off.

The problem with Bush is that he is happy to remain in an ideological box created for him by others. He has no imagination. He doesn’t stop for one minute and ask himself what it would be like to embrace what the public is telling him, to open up his world to outsiders, to acknowledge that there is a different way. But in fact, there is always a different way.

In his speech, he carefully constructed a couple of boxes. The first box was Failure. Failure, in Bush speak, is government in Iraq being constructed in a way different from that imposed by American architects. The second box was Consequences. Consequences, in Bush speak, are that Islamic extremists grow in strength and Iran is emboldened. In sum, he suggested that the American way of life would be in peril. As long as these versions of reality are embraced, our hands are tied.

And he challenged Democrats to come up with a better plan.

No, George, you come up with a better plan. You are, after all, the Commander in Chief. The public along with your very own Iraq Study Group has told you to not escalate the war in
Iraq. There is another way to inflate this balloon.

There is another way that we can find, in which American youth are not sacrificed to the geo-political and economic ambitions of certain people. A way that immediately lifts the burden of reality off of the countless children in Iraq who are beset with the stress and anxiety of war-making.

Ultimately, we want to live in a world in which the question of having to shelter our children during a presidential address never comes up. That’s another world…but I believe it is possible.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Two preambles to Bush's speech tonight

Maggie says:
First, from the brilliant Molly Ivins:

It's up to us to stop this war

This war is being prosecuted in our names, with our money, with our blood, against our will. Polls consistently show that less than 30 percent of the people want to maintain current troop levels. It is obscene and wrong for the president to go against the people in this fashion. And it's doubly wrong for him to send 20,000 more soldiers into this hellhole...

Second, a pissed-off Pelosi and an admonishment that Bush didn't meet with them before this morning, and that the meeting was "notification, not consultation."

Time for a plan, folks. Time for action. This is it. Make no mistake, Bush is blatantly disregarding the clear message sent by voters around the country, in overwhelming fashion, in November. Add to that message the countless words of caution and protest sounded by former military strategists and foreign policy experts, all of whom are horrified by what our country has gotten into and know there is no way out except retreat. Sending over 20,000 troops into combat at this time is not just unconscionable, it is deeply unethical. The new Congress must act at once to put a stop to this madness, this display of stubbornness so immense that not even unnecessary bloodshed makes it waver.

Stop, stop, stop, before things get even worse.

Bush Tries the Same New Thing All Over Again

Pat Oliphant says:
Jay Leno says:

"President Bush is expected to announce that he is now sending more troops to Iraq -- despite the fact that his generals, his military analysts, members of Congress and most of the American people are against the idea. The reason he is doing it? To give Iraq a government that responds to the will of the people."

Monday, January 08, 2007

New Orleans Violence is a Post-Katrina Endemic Problem

marjorie says...

Many of you may have read the news lately about the rash of murders in New Orleans. It has become so bad that city leaders have proposed a curfew.

Reflecting back on the Katrina catastrophe, I remember the incredible outrage and upset so many of us felt. That disaster reflected back to all of us in horrific clarity the incredible problems we have in our society dealing with structural poverty. I call it structural because that is what it is: a condition present due to the economic and political structure that orders our society. A capitalist economy demands that poor people exist. And our political system mitigates this reality enough through social programs to allow for the survival of capitalism. I believe one of the reasons so many people don't want to confront the problem of racism is that to do so clearly shows this structural problem with capitalism, because there is a clear correlation between poverty (class) and race. To truly change that requires fundamental change. Hard fundamental change.

During the Katrina weeks, there was an enormous outpouring of grief, rage, confusion, not to mention charity and support to those in need, from across the United States. And when the crisis lessened there were a lot of calls to not forget and to not abandon the poor people of New Orleans to an uncertain future, who were overwhelmingly African American. But, really, that is what happened. The media dropped it. And the planners, developers, and political bureaucrats have swooped in to change the face of the city. Some of that might be good, but plenty of it is resulting in displacement. Violence is endemic because the plight of the poor in that city has remained, their already tenuous hold on stability incredibly strained by an unresponsive monolithic government and a profit driven land development system.

The violence is so bad that it is now spilling over into the lives of those who are normally more insulated from it...that may be one reason we are all finally hearing about it. I'd like to share an email I received from a friend and co-worker, Rosina Roibal, who lived in New Orleans for five years. In her email, Rosina talks about her friend who was shot and killed last week...mentioned in this newspaper article. I hope it will personalize this issue for more m-pyre readers, and I hope that we all can take some time to communicate with our congresspeople about this issue...because its an issue that belongs to all of us. There are other ways to help as well...for one, doing fundraisers in your homes to send money to community organizing groups working on the ground in New Orleans.

But in the bigger scheme of things, we all need to really examine how our system works. The plight in New Orleans is extraordinary in some ways, but there are struggling people throughout this country, many of them homeless. That isn't because they're lazy or don't want to help themselves. Its because they live in an economic system that requires them to exist. The only solution is a social response, which means us.

Dear Friends/family,

If you don't know, I went to college in New Orleans, lived there for 5 years.

I feel that you should know what New Orleans is like, and the devastation that has resulted due to the government’s lack of action to help it. Yesterday, my friend Teresa (who lives there now) called me to say that our friend Paul and Helen were shot in their home, and Helen died. There were 6 shootings in the same day around New Orleans. Paul was the leader of our band the “Troublemakers.” They have both been extremely active in making New Orleans a better place for poor people, like Food not Bombs (bringing free food to the community), a medical clinic for poor people, animal rights work. They were anarchist, atheist, and vegan with a 2 year old daughter and a pet pig named Rosie. If you had a chance to meet them, they were the happiest most energetic fun people I’ve ever met. Helen made films. There is a protest tomorrow to end the violence.

Just one week before, I was in New Orleans staying with my friends Ben, Teresa, and Chester. One day we heard 8 gun shots two doors down. A 17 year old boy was shot and died. His aunt was shot in the head 3 weeks before. They were into crack.

There is a film by Spike Lee, called “When the Levees Broke.” You should see it when it comes out on dvd, it was on HBO, and is great. However, most people don’t realize the long lasting problems that the people of New Orleans are facing. I don’t know if people like you and me can help change things in New Orleans. Poor people in New Orleans don’t have homes, they are not being given rights, they are not allowed to move back into their past homes, which are now being turned into condominiums for the rich. They’ve lost their families and friends and jobs and belongings. They’re depressed. They get into drugs to help the pain. Crack is all they can afford. Then they crack. They shoot someone for just a little money, for something to eat or just to buy some more crack. My friends living there say it’s so bad, they have to leave, even the ones who’ve lived there their entire lives. Teachers are stuck with huge class sizes, no supplies. The poverty and violence is overwhelming. We could go on and on about the horrible conditions and issues in New Orleans, but the bottom line is that our government doesn’t care about the poor people of New Orleans or the poor people of our country or the world for that matter.

George, how many more of my friends have to be shot? How many more people in New Orleans have to live without homes or help? How many more times will you allow levees to break? How many more thousands of people and animals will you leave stuck in a disaster? George, I don’t trust you, and I hate you and your posse.

I don't know what to do and feel scared and helpless. New Orleans was already behind in terms of social justice and being progressive. I give my friends in New Orleans all of my power and know you will fight till the death.

Rosina Roibal

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Viva las mujeres!

Maggie says:
Lots to do, lots to fix, lots to debate... But before all of that, we do need to take a moment and celebrate. And smile. And toast women everywhere this weekend with your favorite girls at your favorite watering hole.

To our Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi: Thank you.

"When my colleagues elect me as speaker on Jan. 4, we will not just break through a glass ceiling, we will break through a marble ceiling.... In more than 200 years of history, there was an established pecking order - and I cut in line."

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Ready for the Revolution?

Mikaela says:
It's almost that time!

Tricklock, Albuquerque's best theatre troupe, is once again ready to throw a month-long party, full of button-pushing theatre from all over the world, for the Revolutions Festival. Traveling artists will perform at venues throughout the Q. Check for the full schedule of where and when and what. (Hint: look for the never-disappointing Reptilian Lounge late-night cabaret)

As for me, I am breathlessly awaiting CityBeats, a collaborative effort between a troupe from Germany and the Tricklock gang itself in a piece that will examine the culture of immigration from the European and border-state perspectives. Look for this event to happen outside the traditional theatre. Rumor has it that Amy Biehl will host the piece in its courtroom. Community! Schools! Culture! What could be more exciting? (Nerd alert! Nerd alert! Nerd alert!)

So, if you're excited, too, but dread shelling out the hundreds of dollars it would cost you to attend all you want to see, contact Tricklock now to volunteer to help with the 7th annual Revolutions Festival. One volunteer job earns you one free show. Five volunteer jobs earns you an all-access pass (or the closest thing to it), including parties and discounts at local restaurants and bars supporting the festival (like Il Vicino, Raw, etc. ). Even without all these great perks, do you really need a reason to hang out with some of the coolest cats in the Q and all their world-traveling friends? Didn't think so.

See you there!

Ready for Change

Mikaela says:
While I'm feeling more and more like a career professional these days, complete with no internet surfing and little interest in being on the computer at night, rest assured that I'm still managing to be outraged by several recent news stories.

  • The ongoing abuse of the constitutional balance of powers by our President through signing statements ... the latest one claiming the right to open YOUR MAIL anytime they want. Uh-oh. This one affects everyone.

  • The death of the first elected Black mayor of Louisiana days before his swearing in. Coroners have ruled it a suicide, but it sure doesn't feel like that to me!

  • The rushed hanging of Saddam Hussein for minor crimes before he could be put on trial for the larger crimes he perpetrated with support and knowledge of the U.S. government. Convenient, no? And now our government won't even condemn the taunting of this man moments before he was put to death. We're one of the only "civilized" countries that still puts people to death, despite the fact that each method of capital punishment eventually is ruled "cruel and unusual punishment" when it's discovered to torment the dying. Maybe it's just me, but the evidence pointing to a lack of "painless" executions may lead to the conclusion that execution itself is cruel and unusual... and not really a punishment at all.

Despite the bellweather news out of D.C. today with Democrats taking over Congress, I'm still left with a dreadful sense of foreboding and simmering rage. If Bush submits a "balanced budget" cutting federal programs like Social Security and medicare without even mentioning the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I just don't know what I will do.

There's just so much to do, where do you even start? Congress has got to come out swinging and take these first weeks to change the ballgame. Forget the past issues. Claim new ground. Name new rules. Remind this country what's at stake and why things like social programs, environmental protections, and efficient use of goverment benefit us all.

I am so ready for signs of change.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Back in business, hopefully

Maggie says:

I arrived back in Albuquerque this afternoon after ten days away to find hundreds of suitcases piled up in baggage claim and a true Winter Wonderland all over town. Flying over New Mexico was absolutely breathtaking, yet here’s what I miss anyway:

Holden Beach, North Carolina
December 29, 2006

I couldn’t be happier for all you snowbirds who got to play in the white stuff this week. I don’t think Albuquerque has ever looked more beautiful.

As I try and get back into the swing of blogging again, let’s hope I’m not too distracted by all the snow to be serious. This homesickness stuff is a bad enough distraction already.

Happy 2007!

marjorie says...

HAPPY 2007 m-pyre friends!

I can't believe it's already 2007. It seems just yesterday that we all thought Y2K was going to be the end of the universe. Do you all remember that? Instead we got the WTO protests in Seattle. That occurred right before I moved to Albuquerque from Seattle. I'll forever feel fortunate to have been there during that event because it was a big turning point for me. Being part of a 50,000+ strong crowd that is willing to bring a city to a standstill over economic policies demonstrated in real time two important things for me that before had always been simply hearsay from older people in this country, or things that happened elsewhere but never here, in the belly of the beast:

1. People really will make a stand. Apathy in the land of plenty does not in fact rule the day even though it challenges us greatly.

2. There is strength in numbers. Undeniable strength is to be found when we work together. For all our fantasies, lone hero's aren't our saving grace. We are...working with our neighbors.

I have a tendency to get sentimental when a New Year begins. Maybe because its a collective marking of time passing, plain and a birthday for all of us on the same day at the same time. Since those late days in 1999, every New Year's has found me reflecting on how I spend my time, and inevitably I get around to thinking about those two real life lessons. It was exhilarating to be in that crowd demonstrating against something, that then became a demonstration of something even more profound for my own life. I needed it. And I still need reminders. As time flows, my energy ebbs and flows, sometimes I'm not as productive as I would like to be. But I know that as long as I am contributing in some way to a collective effort for positive social change in 2007 I will have a positive assessment one year from today...even if all the personal things I want to accomplish are only 50/50.

And what are those personal things you might ask? Well, I do have a few that I'd never mention here. But I can say that I have a goal to READ actual books. I'm a lifelong reader...but it seems with the advent of the internet I make less and less time to read actual books. So my resolution is to make a list of 12 novels and read them by the end of the year. Of course, in addition to these will be the novels and potboilers recommended by friends or that I stumble across. But the actual list will be predetermined and I will read all those books. I refuse to look back on my life 20 years from now and see that I quit reading during the early years of the internet. Would love to hear any resolutions that any of you have...hint, hint.

Again, Happy New Year to you all! I hope you all have a safe, happy, productive year...and find time to drop us a line here now and then. We love your comments!

ps. feel free to check out my travel pictures over on m-pyrical.