Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 reflections

marjorie says...

These past couple of weeks it’s been interesting to read all the 2008 Year in Review pieces. They’re everywhere: Top political stories, the biggest scandals, the best romances, the saddest tragedies, the fashion trends…
Thinking about my own “year in review,” given the many lists out there I figured I would just make a few comments about my impressions of the year, and thoughts moving forward:
2008 will go down in history, which I don’t need to point out, for the election of an African American to the presidency. I’ve heard young people (under 30 or so) say they figured this day would come in their lifetime, and I’ve heard older people (over 60 or so) say they didn’t think they’d live to see this day. Being in the middle, I’ve spent some time pondering this—did I think I would see this day?
Like so many things, the possibility of it has always been present for me. I hadn’t ruled it out, but I also can’t say that I ever thought I’d live to see it. I always want to believe but don’t always quite make it there. To me, the election of Obama has been a demonstration that social change is possible…and that is very gratifying.
Along with that election came the most intense primary election that I can remember. Beginning with the surprising diversity of our final choices, then barreling through intense arguments and spent feelings regarding who to choose, to those final weeks of coalescing when it was clear Hillary would finally concede--it was simply amazing. You know, I don’t think after watching Hillary all those months that any woman should ever let the descriptor “intense” signify something undesirable.
In the end, the instinct that it was okay for Hillary to stay in to the very end was right. It paved the way for Obama’s final ground game, and it showed her grit and determination. Sadly, it seems that’s something women have to demonstrate overtly to be taken seriously much of the time. We have a long way to go on the gender front, and I was glad--even if pained--that the primary exposed the rifts that riddle the feminist movement. Yes, sexism was on rampant display in the media, as was the racism and classism that riddles the white feminist world itself. Nonetheless, for people on the left side of the equation, it was a primary election tailor made for debating the issues they hold dear. And I thought it was good for progress.
On the New Mexico front, a lot has been written elsewhere that gives a run-down on the political year. Heath Haussamen has a great Top 10 list that you should check out. I’ll just give you the few things that made an impression on me.
For one, I was both moved and impressed when Bill Richardson endorsed Barack Obama right after Obama gave his speech on race. Interpret it how you will—all the cynics and skeptics (you know who you are) love to tell me I’m too idealistic. Regardless, if you’re a political hound who thinks every single thing is calculated to its N-th degree, then be impressed because it certainly had an effect--I believe it got him a cabinet seat. If you are an idealist, consider it an act of solidarity and be moved by it. I suppose I have a little bit of both in me, and I figure Richardson does also.
When it comes to the Senate race, the Steve Pearce/Heather Wilson primary was very instructive. It didn’t seem to matter to primary voters that Pearce would have a much harder time winning against Udall than Wilson would have. They just wanted a conservative who is solidly not in the middle. I think I have to respect them for that, even though it left them no seat in the congressional delegation.
The “progressive sweep” that so many talk about was inspiring. Not because I think progressive energy is sweeping New Mexico, but because it shows that the large amount of progressive energy that has always existed in this state can be harnessed to achieve real political representation. And in this case the effort manifested at both the federal level with Martin Heinrich’s win, and at the state level with a number of highly progressive people elected to the legislature. Yes, it had something to do with Obama’s ground game…but that wasn’t the whole story by a long shot.
Moving along…
Is it the economic crisis that has caused corruption to all of a sudden be so visible? In the case of Bernie Madoff—a situation that perfectly symbolizes the financial house of cards that has imploded around us—yes. But with the rest—no, not so much.
The depth and breadth of it is astounding. Perhaps we should just thank U.S. Attorneys for the fact that we know a pretty clear thing these days...corruption is simply everywhere. Ethics reform anyone?
Something to be very optimistic about is the increasing consensus about the need to shift away from fossil fuels. The run-up in gasoline prices during the first half of 2008 freaked the American public out...in a major way. And the result was a serious boost to the movement to go green and clean with cars as well as the energy sector as a whole. Many wonder if we'll see a repeat of the 1970s this go round--after oil prices dropped, everything went back to business as usual. But I don't think it'll happen this time. People get that the oil days are going to end eventually.
Another point to make about 2008, is about the emergence of gay and lesbian rights as a more mainstream issue. The move by the California Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage and the subsequent marriage of over 18,000 couples had a real impact on the American psyche. The passage of Proposition 8, which rolled that gain back just a few short months later at the polls, caused a significant percentage of Americans to pay serious attention to this issue for the first time. And I think ultimately more straight Americans are on board the GLBT justice train than ever before.
All the rest aside, for a huge percentage of Americans 2008 was a painful year. That gasoline shock only added to a rapidly escalating economic crisis--vast numbers of the normal people in this country are in serious financial straits. I say “normal” people to differentiate all of us from the one class that leads the high life at the expense of everyone else.
The images of the CEO's of these giant corporations receiving bail-out money while still living their excessive lifestyles of private jets and high-priced resorts, not to mention huge salaries, simply amaze me. Do they have no humility, or sense of mutual aid in times like these?
Well, the answer is obvious--the capitalist system, of which they are giants, doesn't foster those traits.
Bernie Madoff's scheme is emblematic of everything that is wrong with our financial system. There he was sucking out people’s money to pay off other people, just moving it around and feeding off the top while he was at it. But when his scheme couldn’t sustain itself anymore, the outcome was highly destructive to the people who trusted him.
This is very similar to the mortgage crisis itself. All the mortgage holders who were persuaded they could have the "American dream," too, did what they were told they needed to do: "Just get yourself a house, no problem." But when the scheme began to tank they're the first ones out on the street, while those in power are methodically trying to save their accumulated largesse.
You know, if building houses is the engine of growth for so many of our cities, as many seem to think given the sprawling subdivisions that are literally everywhere, and if home ownership is seen as the one necessary aspect, really, of middle class status, then don't you think something is seriously out of whack? From the looks of things, a heck of a lot of people just can't afford a house.
And, really, what's wrong with renting anyway? If we had a secure safety net in place for our senior citizens...there wouldn't be anything wrong with it.
I’m hoping that the Obama administration will seriously reform how we conduct business. I have to admit I'm skeptical. He may be all for a big government spending project to jump-start the economy, but will he push for serious structural reforms that will mitigate the worst aspects of our economic system? Or is his stimulus package about restoring the status quo? Just like his own election…I hold out hope that he means it when he talks up such things as universal health care, but I also can’t say I really believe deep down that I’ll see it.
But, as we have seen, social change is possible…so I'm prepared to be optimistic.
Happy New Year. See you all tomorrow, in 2009.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Journal--Patronage in the era of Richardson? Or a big smear job?

marjorie says...
While generally just a touch checked out this past holiday week, I couldn't help but read with great interest a couple of pieces in the Albuquerque Journal over the past few days.

First, there was this: Gov. Generous With Your Money ... Thomas J. Cole's detailing of an extensive expansion of the cadre--and payscales--of paid political appointees in the state.

As I was reading, know what I was thinking? It went sort of like this...

Whoa!...DANG!!...jeez, holy mackerel...sigh.

Cole pulled no punches:
"That growth in the patronage, or spoils, system of state government is one of the legacies of Richardson as he prepares to vacate the Governor's Mansion for a slot in Barack Obama's Cabinet."

Then along comes Bill Hume, formerly with the Journal until he was scooped up by the Guv in 2002.
To say that Hume is ticked off in his Journal Op-Ed would be an understatement. He says it's Unfair To Tar Staff With 'Spoils' Brush, and that this piece is obviously an opinion piece--and a smear job at that--which doesn't belong on the front page as "news."

(I think Hume has missed the concept of these "Upfront" pieces on the Journal's front page. It's my understanding that they are opinion pieces.)

Most interesting to me, though, is that he doesn't actually address the question everyone has after reading that piece: what justifies that kind of expansion and increase in pay of state political appointees?

His outrage obscures the fact that we want to know the answer to that. He should give the public more respect, and answer it. It deserves a full airing given the corruption that keeps rearing its very ugly head.

And who knows, we might just agree with his perspective--if he were to share it.

Moving along...there's another op-ed by Gilbert Gallegos, Richardson's Deputy Chief of Staff:

Governor's Appointees Working Hard To Improve New Mexico. Gallegos comes a little closer to explaining why that big expansion is A-Okay: Richardson's tenure has brought great things to New Mexico (Rail Runner, Spaceport, Film Industry), and all of those people on the list provided by Cole are very accomplished, hard working professionals who could make a lot more in the private sector.

Taken together, these two op-eds say that because these are all good people, this expansion of the pool of exempt employees at the top is just fine. That's the argument. But it isn't a structural argument...it instead treads the path so often trod, based in personality and individual merit. It's reminiscent of the odd lack of understanding on the part of many when Jim Noel was given the job of state elections director.

Noel is the son-in-law of Tom Udall, and that position was one that oversaw the elections process in the state--during an election period when Udall was running for Senate. "But Noel's expertise and professionalism, not to mention integrity, are indisputable" was the seeming response to those who pointed out that such a position just wasn't quite right. As though those who pointed it out were impugning Noel's character. Nothing could be further from the truth. Noel rightly withdrew from that job in the end.

I'm sure Gallegos is right--the three examples he cites as evidence of what Richardson has done for the state are good ones. Especially the Rail Runner. But he still doesn't really answer the question...and perhaps there is no answer other than the obvious one that Cole presented: one of Richardson's legacies will also be a huge expansion of the cadre of paid state political appointees at the top--making big salaries in a poor state in which inequality continues to grow.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays

marjorie says...

Happy Holidays, m-pyre readers!

Graphic from 1Sky--it's an E-Card. Hat Tip to DfNM!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bush: we can get rid of the principles but keep the system

marjorie says...

George W. Bush on CNN:

"I've abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system."

So what does a system look like if its principles are abandoned, i.e.--tossed to the side?

It's somewhat amazing to me that he can say this with a straight face.

Bush went on to lay our economic crisis at the feet of greed and says he hopes people learn the lesson without dismantling the "free market." What does "free" mean, exactly, to George Bush?
Let's get real. If there were such a thing as "free trade" then NAFTA would not require twenty two chapters that fill two thick volumes.

There is no "free-market" and one thing Bush ought to abandon ASAP is that euphemism, which is code for global corporate capitalism--a system that requires a lot of negotiation and regulation.

Auto Bailout Humor

Mikaela says:
You've probably already seen this in your junk mail folder. It's making the rounds. Still pretty funny! The fine print is particularly good. Click on it to get a bigger image.

"You probably thought it was smart to buy a foreign import of superior quality, with better mileage and resale value. Maybe you even thought that years of market share loss might prod us into rethinking our process and redesigning our products with better quality in mind. But you forgot one thing: We spend a shitload of money on lobbyists. So now you’re out $25 billion, plus the cost of your Subaru. Maybe next time you’ll buy American like a real man. Either way, we’re cool."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Enlace Comunitario

marjorie says...

You guys might enjoy the Q&A I did with Claudia Medina, Enlace Comunitario's Executive Director. I think the work of Enlace is really important.

NMI Q&A with... Claudia Medina

To kick-off the Independent’s new feature highlighting New Mexicans from all walks of life, I connected with Claudia Medina — founder and executive director of Enlace Comunitario, which provides comprehensive domestic violence services to immigrant women.

Claudia, a Colombian immigrant who has lived in New Mexico for almost 20 years, received her Master’s degree in Latin American Studies, with a specialization in Community and Regional Planning, from the University of New Mexico in 1993.

Her work since then has led to the creation of three important projects in support of immigrant families in New Mexico: Enlace, El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos—an immigrant rights organization—and Mujeres en Accion, which is a cooperative that sells tamalas.

NMI: What led you to the creation of Enlace Comunitario?

CM: In 1994 I began working for UNM in the family planning program as a community planner in the South Broadway area of Albuquerque. I soon realized that domestic violence was a serious problem for the immigrant women I was encountering. I brought in volunteers and organized a training process that 13 women signed up for. Then, during that period one of the women was killed by her husband in a case of domestic violence. That changed my perception of what I needed to do. I realized I needed to do more–that this community really needed help.

To read the full interview, click here.

tortured for throwing shoes?

marjorie says...

You know the shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist, Muntader Al Zaida? Proxy for so many the world over? Siun at Firedoglake is speculating that he might be undergoing torture: credible Arabic news reports say he has a broken hand, broken ribs, and signs of torture on his thighs. He's been transferred to Camp Cropper, the U.S.-run detention center.

hat tip to Spencer Ackerman at the Washington Independent

Friday, December 12, 2008

Republicans and their utter anti-union bias

marjorie says...

Barb at Democracy for NM has an excellent point today.

The Republicans are more than willing to demand that union workers pay and benefits are slashed in Detroit before saving these 1000's upon 1000's of working class jobs, while not a peep about the enormous sums of money paid to the rank and file of AIG and other corporate titans of the financial and insurance world. Why is it just the CEO and top execs at those companies that the Republicans spout off about if they're so concerned about what workers get paid?

I'll tell you why.

It's because Republicans are solidly anti-union and they see an opportunity to destroy some of our last remaining union manufacturing jobs. And they're willing to let Detroit crash and burn over it.

The problem with GM, Chrysler and Ford is their staunch refusal to get on board with fuel economy vehicles. It's the top of the chain where that fault lies, not with the workers.

SunCal on the loose

I got a second mailer from SunCal Corporation promoting TIDDs this week, and it seems that just about everyone I know in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County did as well. This direct-mail promotional effort must have cost SunCal a bundle.

The mailers are promoting the use of tax increment development districts as a source of jobs. “Tidds create jobs,” the mailers say.

Actually, TIDDs don’t create jobs. They simply allow developers to draw down future tax revenue generated from the places they develop to pay off bond proceeds that were used to build their infrastructure. Technically speaking.

Tax increment financing is actually a simple concept. Imagine a circle drawn around a given geographic area. A TIDD is created and at that time the current tax base is measured. What’s promised to the developer is a percentage, or increment, of the increase in taxes over that tax base in the future. The premise is that the development — and the upfront infrastructure the TIDD funds — is going to spur desirable growth in that area.

SunCal’s 55,000 acres adjacent to Albuquerque’s West Side are largely undeveloped, so the company would get a huge chunk of the taxes generated there for about 25 years. It’s got a handful of TIDDs covering about 4,000 acres of that 55,000-acre spread right now — and are just waiting for legislative approval to sell bonds supported by that promise of future tax revenue. For just those 4,000 acres, that sum would be about $629 million.

Hence the promotional pieces. SunCal will be at the Roundhouse in force when the Legislature convenes in January, and it is attempting to neutralize the public.

SunCal is a massive real estate company that builds planned communities and housing developments throughout the West. The company bought 55,000 acres of undeveloped land on Albuquerque’s western fringe in 2006. On its Web site, you can see the huge expanse of green grassland the firm is hoping to build on.

There is a potential problem for SunCal, though. Between last year’s session — when the Legislature failed to approve the TIDD bonds — and now, at least 20 SunCal projects in other Western states have declared bankruptcy. To my knowledge, they’re all companies that were financed by Lehman Brothers, the financial company that went belly-up last summer.

SunCal representatives have claimed that the New Mexico project is solid — that it didn’t get financing from Lehman. As we previously pointed out, however, Lehman Brother’s had a 20-percent stake in D.E. Shaw, which is the principal investor in the New Mexico SunCal subsidiary — also known as Westland.

Given the current state of the financial sector — not to mention that the country seems to be teetering on the brink of cascading bankruptcies across the board — this is not very reassuring.

The TIDD statute, as far as I can tell, doesn’t address what happens if the company that gets the TIDD goes belly-up. TIDD proponents say there is no liability on the part of government to the bond holders if the company doesn’t complete the project and therefore does not have the tax revenue funds to pay off the bond holders.

But would government really let that happen? Or would another developer buy the property dirt cheap, put in crappy, sprawling housing developments and then use the tax revenue from the area to pay off those bonds that were meant for “good” infrastructure — not to mention “jobs”?

Interested taxpayers want to know.

Cross-posted on NMI.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Art of Newspapers

Mikaela says:
Such a fun time reading the newspapers today -- with just a twinge of guilt for doing it so happily online, as the Tribune files for Ch. 11 because it can't figure out how to make money with the changing habits of people like me...

First there was the charming editorial in the Washington Post exploring the fairytale idea of Caroline Kennedy replacing Hillary in the Senate ... complete with matching uneasiness about political dynasties that I heartily share. I loved this piece's ping-pong logic that echoed my own misgivings about the subject.

Then a plea for social connection via physical urban and suburban pattern from David Brooks! Really! No more bowling alone, people! It's time to put Obama's $ where your hearts are: community activity centers! A very well-written and sensible piece, if rather pessimistic about the chances of it actually happening.

I had to laugh when I got to the end, though. It was another one of those "can you believe the synchronicity of the world?" kind of moments. I watched Peter Seller's Being There this weekend, which I'd never seen. It was slow if charming, or maybe the other way around.

It features a rather vacuous but good gardener who is taken for a political and economic genius when he happens to be in the right place at the right time and stays true to who he is and what he knows (hat tip, Marjorie!). Here's the pivotal, and timely, scene:

President "Bobby": Mr. Gardner, do you agree with Ben, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives?
[Long pause]
Chance the Gardener: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.
President "Bobby": In the garden.
Chance the Gardener: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.
President "Bobby": Spring and summer.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
President "Bobby": Then fall and winter.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we're upset by the seasons of our economy.
Chance the Gardener: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!
Benjamin Rand: Hmm!
Chance the Gardener: Hmm!
President "Bobby": Hm. Well, Mr. Gardner, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I've heard in a very, very long time.
[Benjamin Rand applauds]
President "Bobby": I admire your good, solid sense. That's precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.

And here's David Brooks, ending his own charming version of common sensical plain-speak:

Social change has a natural rhythm. The season of prosperity gives way to the season of economic scarcity, and out of the winter of recession, new growth has room to emerge. A stimulus package may be necessary, but unless designed with care, its main effect will be to prop up the drying husks of the fall.

Too good. Sometimes, life is just too good. Life imitates art, indeed.

knowing what we know, and don't

marjorie says...

The headline of John Fleck's Upfront piece in the Albuquerque Journal is a pretty simple maxim: We know so much, Yet so little. Fleck talks about "the smartest person I know," which is a moniker he only bestows on a few people--in this case physicist Carlton Cave. What makes Cave so smart?

...only a few get the label "smartest person I know." Caves is one.

They share an important characteristic. In addition to knowing a lot, understanding it deeply and explaining it well, they are especially careful about understanding what they don't know.

Given the 58-year-old Caves' chosen profession — the strange world of theoretical quantum physics — that is a good thing. Serious conversation with members of his tribe eventually runs aground on the shoals of the things we don't know.

I like that last bit..."the shoals of the things we don't know." I agree with Fleck. To know what you don't know has got to be one of the things that makes a person truly smart. When it comes to "smart people" who run the world, I tend to think the actual application of this maxim --knowing what you don't know-- could make someone not only smart but maybe truly great. What gets a person to greatness, big or small, is when the outcome of their efforts incorporates not just what they know, but also what they don't know. You know, the "what ifs."

Monday, December 08, 2008

Getting into the car business

marjorie says...

Yes, I stole from the Huffington Post, which leads this morning with "Getting into the car business." The NYT mentions a "car czar." Senators are saying GM's CEO has to go. Well, that's what you get when you go looking for money--someone becomes your boss if it's a big enough chunk of change. I don't know if you guys have noticed, but the newspaper industry is having a moment also. I think the government is right to take a hard line with the auto companies given that those very same companies have stood in the way of more fuel-efficient cars for so long. At the same time, we need to save our automobile industry if the problem ultimately is a domino effect from the credit crisis. Too many jobs are on the line.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Commerce Sec. Richardson & Trade

marjorie says...

I know you guys religiously read the NMI, but just in case you missed my bit about Richardson here it is (the second half, about trade, is the most interesting. free trade discussion, anyone?).

Commerce post will test Richardson's free-trade reputation

When the news that Bill Richardson would be named commerce secretary came out, political pundits immediately starting characterizing it as a “demotion.” His impressive resume was referenced as proof that such a gig just isn’t good enough. An angered Latino punditry claimed that the Latino community was being slighted by Obama’s Cabinet choices, compounded by the delay in announcing Richardson for the Commerce gig. Ruben Navarrette Jr. encapsulates these views by calling Richardson’s appointment not only a “snub” but being “slapped again” because many believe Richardson was second choice for the position.

As though joining the Cabinet is a personality contest. As though Richardson isn’t assuming a position of considerable power.

Richardson is probably getting exactly what he wants, short of secretary of state. As any cursory examination of Richardson’s activities during his years as governor shows, he has a significant interest in economic development. And the goal of the U.S. Commerce Department is to foster and promote U.S. industry, both at home and abroad. This is probably the reason its such a gargantuan department, with innumerable “bureaus” in what Politico describes as a “sprawling bureaucratic fiefdom.”

Richardson will be the head honcho in charge of the next U.S. Census — the one that sets the stage for a decade of statistical wrangling. In fact, Commerce accumulates, synthesizes, and spits back out a huge amount of data about the U.S. economy and population. It also administers the Patent and Trademark office, not to mention the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. You know, the “Internet.” The list goes on.

The point is that the Commerce Department is a grab-bag that ultimately makes sense. It’s about keeping the economy cranking — data and infrastructure are a big part of that, as is trade. And it’s a place that some think is well-suited for Richardson’s next move.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Savoring Saying Goodbye to Bush

Mikaela says:
Gotta give props to the Onion for nailing the humor here in this satirical goodbye letter from Bush to us. I just wish they'd gone even farther to mention what he actually DID accomplish to mess everything up almost irrevocably (we hope for the best...).

I'm Really Gonna Miss Systematically Destroying This Place

Oh, America. Eight years went by so fast, didn't they? I feel like I hardly got to know you and methodically undermine everything you once stood for. But I guess all good things must come to an end, and even though you know I would love to stick around for another year or four—maybe privatize Social Security or get us into Iran—I'm afraid it's time to go. But before I leave, let me say, from the bottom of my heart: I can't think of another country I would've rather led to the brink of collapse.
The worst part about leaving is knowing I can never screw up anything this big again. Don't get me wrong, I'm only 62. I could still bankrupt an oil company, or become the next MLB commissioner and ruin baseball. But I'll never get the opportunity to fuck up on this massive of a scale again. Even if you put me back in charge for another term, I could only take the U.S. from a rapidly declining world power to not a world power at all. I don't mean to gloat, but I think it's safe to say that no one can ever unseat the American empire like I unseated the American empire.

The real Bush lines that are really getting me these days are his attempts to re-write yet again the origins of the Iraq War. In his recent interview with Charlie Gibson, Bush said a few things that just cannot be true based on what we know (or used to know before all the administration's efforts to swap out what we know with what they want us to believe):

Gibson: "What were you most unprepared for?"

Bush: "Well, I think I was unprepared for war. In other words, I didn't campaign and say, 'Please vote for me, I'll be able to handle an attack.' In other words, I didn't anticipate war. Presidents -- one of the things about the modern presidency is that the unexpected will happen."

No one talks about this anymore, but doesn't anyone remember the Project for a New American Century? It was the global manifest destiny version of Karl Rove's intention to plant the Republican flag on a generation of politics for a lasting majority. Remember this?

"Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor."
Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century,
The Project for the New American Century
September 2000

This report was prepared for Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush, and Scotter Libby -- all part of the PNAC, the group that said explicitly that America could exploit a new "Pearl Harbor" to catapult our efforts to be a dominating power for this new century.

From Wikipedia's entry of signatories on documents or statements from this group, these are the names I recognize as close to the resulting Bush Administration (also has table with a lot more names that also explains their roles - love Wikipedia!):

You don't think Bush knew they picked him as a presidential candidate (and Cheney as running mate) precisely with this ultimate goal? And they picked him and supported him because he wouldn't ever be prepared, which means they could manipulate him exactly the way the wanted to. It's such pretzel logic to say now that he didn't know this was coming. They went into the White House gunning for exactly this opportunity!

Gibson: "You've always said there's no do-overs as President. If you had one?"

Bush: "I don't know -- the biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq. A lot of people put their reputations on the line and said the weapons of mass destruction is a reason to remove Saddam Hussein. It wasn't just people in my administration; a lot of members in Congress, prior to my arrival in Washington D.C., during the debate on Iraq, a lot of leaders of nations around the world were all looking at the same intelligence. And, you know, that's not a do-over, but I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess."

Except that the intelligence was different. See below.

Gibson: "If the intelligence had been right, would there have been an Iraq war?"

Bush: "Yes, because Saddam Hussein was unwilling to let the inspectors go in to determine whether or not the U.N. resolutions were being upheld. In other words, if he had had weapons of mass destruction, would there have been a war? Absolutely."

Except that Saddam actually DID let inspectors go in, but when they didn't find anything, Bush claimed falsely that it was because Saddam was hiding things and not cooperating. Click and scroll down for "Inspectors Redux."

Gibson: "No, if you had known he didn't."

Bush: "Oh, I see what you're saying. You know, that's an interesting question. That is a do-over that I can't do. It's hard for me to speculate."

But Bush DID know. It just wasn't what he wanted to know. Very inconvienient to his plans to invade regardless.

I understand that every President, and for that matter, every person, wants to believe and promote the best version of events to shed good light on their actions. But letting Bush get away with this wanton revisionist history in clear refutation of facts drives me nuts! We're so lazy and forgetful as a people about events that have changed the world for the worse possibly forever. Can't we try to keep the facts straight and not treat bald-face lies with straight-faced acceptance?

Giannini bitten by the gossip game

marjorie says...

Gwyneth Doland quite accurately points out over at the Independent that the "news" a la Monahan alligators isn't always the actual bona fide news.

In this case, its regarding an email sent by District 30 State Rep.-elect Karen Giannini to a few friends about the pickle she's in with her job. As it turns out, Honeywell won't give her a 60-day leave of absence, or hasn't so far. Giannini told Doland the email wasn't meant for distribution, that she sent it to a small group of people she thought she could trust, and that she was sorry to see it leaked to the press because she was still hoping her employer would compromise with her:

When contacted last night by the Independent, Giannini was shocked that the message had made it beyond its intended recipients. She asked that we not publish anything about the situation because she was working hard to negotiate a compromise at work and feared that any attention would hamper those efforts — maybe even get her fired.

But one of Monahan's alligators whispered in his ear about it so here we are. It makes me think of the gossip game. You know the one...you whisper a sentence in someone's ear, who then whispers it into the next persons, and so on...and you see how the sentence comes out on the other side. If you've ever played the game, you know it's usually not quite accurate.

Just like Monahan's reporting this morning, when he mentions the email and says that in it, Giannini is looking for a new job:

They say she sent out an e-mail to supporters asking for help in finding a new gig so she can serve.

"They"--by the way--are the "alligators."

Way to go, Joe.

I saw Giannini's email myself--yep, it made the rounds. No, it didn't say Karen needed a new job.

There are a few lessons here:

1. Never, ever send sensitive emails. As much as I write, I don't put much in mine that might come back to bite me. This is an inculcated trait from my years living on the street (just kidding, sort of).

2. Take Monahan's gossip game with a big fat grain of salt. It's sometimes on the mark, but just as we see here--sometimes not. That's what you get with anonymity.

3. Not everyone can actually serve in our volunteer state legislature due to the enormous commitment of time required. This is something to keep in mind when considering the outcomes each year.

Sexist crap

marjorie says...


What does he know about whether or not she has a family? Much less her "life"?

Campbell Brown is too nice--I don't know what Rendell meant to say. Maybe he should spell it out a little bit more.

hat tip to Gwyneth.

Watch out...the TIDD campaign is on!

marjorie says...

I thought about scanning the SunCal direct mail piece I got the other day, but Coco did it for me. In her piece, which I hope you read in its entirety, she reminds us that we've already subsidized sprawling real estate development on the west side:

...while developers fund many improvements, a major contribution to the sprawl infrastructure of Albuquerque's westside has come from public tax dollars - namely:

What about the river crossings at Alameda, Paseo del Norte and Montano? Freeway interchanges at Coors, Unser and Paseo del Vulcan? Extension of Paseo and Unser through the escarpment? That water and sewer line extension all the way out to Double Eagle and the mattress factory?

In other words, we've already spent a lot of money helping those developers out. So why do we need to subsidize a massive, sprawling private real estate investment, again? I mean, beyond the usual suspect argument..."jobs."

Last I checked, job creation is already happening in Albuquerque without the SunCal development. Sometimes I imagine these people are robots. Otherwise, I don't get how a real estate company can send out direct mail pieces during the great recession, which is directly related to housing mortgages, asking for public money to support their new housing developments.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Road tripping...pretty trippy

marjorie says...

From the NYT comes this description of three road trips to Congress [emphasis mine]:

Mr. Wagoner [CEO of General Motors] is scheduled to drive to Washington in a Chevrolet Malibu hybrid vehicle, a concession to criticism from lawmakers who chided the Detroit executives for flying on private aircraft to last month’s hearings.

Mr. Mulally was en route to Washington on Tuesday in a Ford Escape hybrid, and Mr. Nardelli was set to leave drive in one of Chrysler’s hybrid S.U.V.’s.

The criticism from Congress about jet travel and big executive paychecks hit home, Mr. Mulally said during a telephone interview from the road, as he was traveling through the state of Ohio.

“Its all part of a learning experience for me,” he said. “I think it’s really important that I drive to Washington to show that Ford gets what Congress is saying.”

I just want to say...welcome, fellows. Welcome to the world of road trips.

I can't help but wonder if Wagoner and Mulally played the counting game on their drives. In this case, it could be the one about how many Ford trucks one passes compared to Chevy's.

More seriously, I'm glad to see the union is not being scapegoated, by much anyway. The road trips in their hybrids seem to signify that they recognize their folly and that they know they won't be let off the hook this time when it comes to making a shift to competitive fuel efficient vehicles.

Or will they?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Labor's Employee Free Choice Act

marjorie says...

Here's an article I wrote for the NM Independent last week, about the Employee Free Choice Act:

As Obama promises union push, business promises to push back

“It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when.”

These are the words President-elect Barack Obama used in March 2007 about organized labor’s top priority for the next administration: the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it much easier for workers to organize and gain first-time contracts with their employers.

A common refrain Obama used on the campaign trail was that it was “time we had a President who didn’t choke saying the word ‘union.’” Not only would he sign the bill, he promised, but he would work to make sure it got to his desk.

At the time, the House of Representatives had voted for the bill by a comfortable margin. Obama co-sponsored it in the Senate, but Democrats couldn’t muster the 60 votes necessary to override a Republican filibuster and move it to a vote in June of that year.

Since then, Obama has been elected president, and the Senate is just a hair’s breadth away from a 60-vote Democratic majority. So far the Democrats have 58 seats — including two independents who caucus with the party — with two still in the balance. If Democrats win two remaining seats in Georgia and Minnesota, the bill will have virtually assured prospects for passage.

Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, was expressing confidence about the bill’s prospects even before the Democratic gains on Nov. 4.

“Without a doubt - the Senate Democrats will be there,” he said in an interview with the Independent in Albuquerque last month. “They understand the importance of this act, that unions are good for the country. The union worker makes 30 percent more than non-union — and if the union worker is an ethnic minority or a woman, that percentage goes up even higher. The distribution problem starts to go away. When workers have a union contract they’re vastly more likely to have health care and pensions.”

But it won’t be easy. Randel Johnson, vice president of labor policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, characterized the coming battle as a “firestorm.”

Proponents of the act say it will help prevent employers from bullying workers to vote against joining unions, while opponents say it would allow union organizers to bully workers into unionizing.

Read the rest here.

oh, and Check.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Adding a Fourth Year

Mikaela says:
It is a time of thanksgiving at m-pyre, but also one of birthdays. This year we celebrate our fourth year together on this blog, and we anticipate another birth in the spring: the addition of another m-pyre girl -- my first kid.

This blog continues to do what it was born for: to keep three Ms in conversation, even as their lives have moved apart -- Maggie's taking her to a new city, Mikaela's moving her out of Marjorie's house and a block away from Forrester Street, Marjorie's bringing her a new car and a slew of new jobs to add to her pile.

Of all the places I call home, m-pyre remains here waiting for my political mind, my critique, my interest, my worries, and lots of time my anger. It's had to wait more this year than any before, as my priorities have actively reshuffled themselves to make room for a new lifemate, new house, and now new baby. But among all those changes, the constancy of m-pyre, the comfort of opening the page to see the intelligence and activeness of my fellow Ms, has kept a lifeline open to my "higher brain." The breadcrumbs are there to guide my way back from maternity land. This next year may be a kinder, gentler post kind of year for me. We'll see what engages my attention once there's a new girl to think about, watch out for, and eventually discuss this crazy world with.

In the spirit of sharing our womenly wisdom, my fellow m-pyricists have agreed to impart their advice to the newest little M, making her way into the world. Afterward, we've got a little "How well do you know us, and how well do we know each other?" quiz for you. Share your guesses in the comments, and we'll follow up with answers next week. And finally, we've got requests for posts we'd like to see here on m-pyre in the coming year.

Maggie says:
My first piece of advice to you, little one, is to soak in all the hugs from your mom that you can, because those are some great hugs. Hugs are an underappreciated art form, and your mama is an artiste. Speaking of your mama (and the gals that she surrounds herself with), know just how lucky you are to be born in a moment where anything is possible for girls like you. More than ever before, you can be anything and everything you want to be – your own Supergirl. As you’re figuring out exactly what kind of Supergirl you want to be, the three of us are going to be making noise about things that you deserve, like the same pay as Superboy and the right to make your own decisions and pave your own way. Paving your own way is important, and with a mom like yours, you’ll learn all about the values that can make our world a better place. But just as important, and something your mom knows better than anyone, are all the things that can make our world a more beautiful place, a more expressive place, and a more connected place. Watch her do those things, and take notes. Because expressing yourself with values? That sounds like a Supergirl to me. Also, little one, and this is important: when your mom gets worried, you should always give her the biggest grin that you can. She’s a softie when it comes to big smiles (and they’re good for getting out of trouble, too… shhhhhh....). One more thing, Supergirl, since I already know how smart and strong you’re going to be: laugh as loud and as hard as you can, as often as possible. It’s the secret to happiness, and no one will deserve more happiness than you.

Marjorie says:
It shouldn’t surprise folks that what on first glance seems like a relatively straightforward task—giving “advice” to the newest m-girl—quickly gets made difficult by me. For every encouragement there’s a caveat; for every admonishment an exception. And what advice does one give to a new person regarding life, when it's such a singular experience? But perhaps I can transcend my habits for this new person, because after all she is quite special. So here is my advice, as close to simple noun-verb constructions as I could get them: Balance everything. Do right by yourself, while making room for others. Take a position and act on it. Read a lot. Do your homework. Don’t take no for an answer. And don’t hesitate to ask the question in the first place. Indulge your curiosity. Listen to your intuition. Enjoy your life. Be kind and cultivate empathy. Leave the spaces you enter in a better condition than you found them. Have respect for yourself. Learn what that actually is. Brush your teeth and sit up straight, but embrace your inner tomboy also. Something tells me you’re going to be a blondie—pray that you inherit your father’s hair. Love your mother and your father. Listen to them even when you're sixteen--they're pretty smart.

After four years: Ms Matrix Minutiae

The Ms ask:

  1. Can you guess which M is described in each category?
  2. For bonus points and eternal credit for EQ, can you guess which M volunteered the description?
  3. Place your bets in the comments; answers posted next week! (Sample answer sheet provided below.)
Note: Every row is in a different order - no one is all "A," "B," or "C"... I know, I know, we're tough like that. Can anyone fill out the entire board?

(click for full-size!)

4th Birthday: M Requests...

The Ms ask:
What's in store for the next year on m-pyre? Here's what each of us are hoping to learn from each other in new posts throughout the year:

Mikaela would like to see posts from Maggie on:

  • What the latest economic crisis will do to affordable housing in our cities... and what we should do about it
  • Pairing up (pardon the pun) her favorite celebrities with her favorite shoes... Who looks like which shoes and why?
Mikaela wants to see Marjorie post about:
  • The new political landscape for the Mormon church... and the subtleties of how that may play out for its members
  • A play-by-play of movie-watching with her family... who thinks what and when?
Maggie thinks Mikaela should take a stab at:
  • How to reconcile the loads of pale pink baby clothes she's bound to receive with modern notions of girlhood and motherhood. I will need guidance!
  • Can a brilliant mind watch dumb tv without hearing that inner "you're too smart for this" monologue? If not, how to shut it off? If so, what's the filter like? Discuss!
Maggie wants Marjorie to detail:
  • The future of labor in the landscape of a Democratic Washington and a decidedly new economy, where nothing is what it was.
  • The imaginary dinner party she would host with special guests Emma Goldman, Gram Parsons, Jane Austen, and Lyndon B. Johnson, and just what they would discuss.
Marjorie wants to hear from Maggie about:
  • The urban planning landscape of Dallas, from her vantage point in a private sector planning practice. How does the city stack up when it comes to transit, is there a community-based planning world in the big D, what are the power nodes? Please, do tell.
  • A reflection about the life transitions of a mobile, young professional in the United States--juggling the freedom to pursue career moves with the pull of a highly rooted family.
Marjorie wants Mikaela to tell us:
  • How faith and politics intersect on the left, and where are the commonalities between her faith based community and those evangelical groups we hear so much about on the right.
  • Is it possible for a mile-a-minute, high achieving woman to "have it all"? Regarding this perennial question, I'd like to hear about the challenges, through the lens of Mikaela.

What about our readers? Do you have requests for us? What would you like to read here in the next year?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Move over Missouri...

Mikaela says:
Got to thinking about Missouri's status as bellwether state - picking the president in all but one presidential election since 1952 (exception: Adlai Stevenson). Since Missouri went for McCain by the slimmest of margins (49.4 vs. 49.3%), they've lost exclusive title to their predictive hat.

And guess who was right behind their record, with 2 slips since Presidential voting started in the state? That's right - good ole NM.

As one reporter put it about losing Missouri's not-so-much-vaunted position:

"Well, whatever. There wasn't a lot of glory in being the bellwether, except that reporters and news crews from places like Washington, London and Germany came to interview us in election season."
You know what? We'll take it! We need the tourist, even if they are news crews! Get ready, Missouri. We'll go head-to-head in 2012 and see who goes home with the bellwether title.

Image: "Bellwether States and Counties - 1960 through 1996"

Friday, November 21, 2008

Today's Chuckle: Why Did Bush Cross the Low Road?

Mikaela reposts from Dan Froomkin:

In May, White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten issued a memo announcing that, as far as last-minute regulations were concerned, the Bush Administration would take the high road.

Agency heads were instructed to "resist the historical tendency of administrations to increase regulatory activity in their final months." Bolten set a June 1 deadline for proposing new regulations, and ordered that none be issued after November 1, except in "extraordinary circumstances."

But Bolten's deadlines came and went without anyone paying much notice, and the real deadline is now upon us. Rules published by tomorrow go into effect before President-elect Obama takes office, making them much more difficult to reverse.

As a result, the low road is bumper-to-bumper today.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Happy early Thanksgiving **Updated!**

marjorie says...

Ever wanted to see the execution of a turkey? Hit the play button.

This is really a classic.

Huffington Post says Sarah Palin had just pardoned a turkey in Wasilla in anticipation of Thanksgiving. Then she proceeded to give an interview, completely oblivious to the fact that the fellow behind her was guillotining turkeys.

I'm sorry, I just don't really know what to say about this. I know you all want me to criticize Sarah Palin for it. But hey, most of you eat turkey too. And just because you don't give interviews while seemingly oblivious to the execution of the poor animals behind you, doesn't mean that the saran-wrapped meat you buy in the grocery store isn't the same exact thing.

What can I say? Going on my third vegetarian decade here...sometimes I just can't refrain. Poor turkeys. Isn't pretty, is it?

ps: It dawned on me what Palin's biggest problem is while watching this. She talks *way* too much.

**Just in case some of you think this isn't real, here is the actual tv spot in which she pardons a turkey. This subsequent interview is really just the perfect follow-up to the whole thing, if you ask me. It shows that, yeah, that was one lucky turkey!

Wonkery of the Week

Maggie says:
This week, we layer the 2008 electoral map on top of an 1860 map of cotton production in the U.S. South. Notice how strongly the counties that voted for Obama correlate with 1860 cotton production.

Source: From Pickin' Cotton to Pickin' Presidents

What does this tell us?

First, we see that by and large, the folks who produced that cotton - by force, as we know - still maintain a presence in the area once known as the "Black Belt," both for its soil and for its forced labor. That density patterns of African-Americans in the South still reflect the same geographical pattern of 150 years ago is interesting, but probably no surprise to any of us. Today, the cotton counties are still largely rural, with small towns sprinkled throughout, and have a strong enough African-American presence to turn blue in a sea of red.

The layering of the cottom map with the electoral map provides, for me, an opportunity to reflect on race and change in our country. Like many of you, I see the election of Barack Obama as a reckoning a sorts, a statement of hope, a turning of a new leaf. In the context of last week's wonkery, this map is a powerful testament to me of a new way forward for the South. That the nation's choice for president is the same choice that Southern blacks made is progress in and of itself. By throwing out our old notions of Southern politics, it's possible to interpret that the South has spoken again, only this time, with different voices doing the speaking. This other population of the South - those victims of hate and structural oppression in the name of color - have not only spoken, they have been heard. 150 years later, who exactly is 'backward?'

To me, this map looks like a wave of blue hope. What do you see?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chantal unplugging from the Fix? Yep, it's official.

marjorie says...

Chantal is handing over the reins to Sophie over at the Duke City Fix. From her farewell post:

What a wild unexpected ride it's been! After five years as a local blogger including four at the helm of Duke City Fix, I'm retiring from blogging and officially turning over management of this site to Sophie Martin who's been running things on a day-to-day level for months now... and swimmingly so.

Many may not know that Chantal was quite supportive of m-pyre in the early days...of course, this was pre-Fix, and we didn't know her as Chantal yet. Yep, always quite the mysterious one, she is.

Many thanks for your great work fostering the blog-o-rama Chantal. What a fabulous job.

Oh, and we'll be on the look-out for any pink haired bloggers making an appearance in the future as well. ;-)

Sophie...Onward! The Fix couldn't be in better hands.

Democrats should be ashamed of themselves.

Maggie says:
That is all. Too angry + busy to deal right now.

Non-profits and the A.G.'s blogging buddy

marjorie says...

I've been wondering when Joe Monahan would get back to what always seem to me to be quite biased takes on the dispute between non-profits and the AG. Just check out his language today: "veil of secrecy," "hit list," "blatantly political,"...the list goes on. Joe seems to really believe that a mailer sent to a candidates district at least two months prior to a primary election can swing that election.

Later in his blog, he touches on public financing for the Mayor's race. Pointing out that the rules prohibit self-financed candidates from taking donations from corporations, he says that Marty Chavez is sure to go with public financing if he runs again.

"Unless a wealthy self-financed candidate surfaces, the public finance playing field stands to benefit the well-known and incumbent Chavez. How ironic," Monahan says.

What's ironic about it?

An incumbent always has the advantage of being well-known. That's one of the main reasons incumbents are hard to beat. While leveling the money makes it much more doable for relatively unknown challengers--winning requires a lot more. But it's as though only money is at play in an election, in Joe's mind. What about the nuts and bolts work of knocking on doors and going to community meetings, to actually getting to know people?

If a level playing field when it comes to money still gives a long-time incumbent the advantage, to the point of it being "ironic," then surely Joe can admit that the three incumbents who lost to challengers during the primary last spring had big advantages. And at least in one case--if campaign finance reports are any indication--there was a big money advantage as well. The challengers didn't have established donors or name recognition to lean on for raising money. But they did have strong field campaigns that had a lot of volunteers slogging away for months on the doors. The idea that a mailer months before an election can swing that election is a little ridiculous to me.

Speaking of, has anyone noticed that Joe hasn't pointed out that the lawsuit filed against the winners and a laundry list of non-profits by the three incumbents was tossed out of court because it had no merit? Where's that blog? I keep looking for it.

Another blog I keep looking for is one explaining why its a problem to point out to the public who gives money to legislators and how those legislators vote on issues important to those donors.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

What more can you say?

Mikaela says:
He's a man of history. A man of destiny. Maybe global manifest destiny. Not in a good way. In the good ole fashioned decimating way...

Folks are wondering now how much we'll ever know about the constitutional, legal, and world relations havoc wreaked by our current (and outgoing, thank god) President.

  • Will Bush pardon Libby to protect Cheney's secret legacy?
  • Will he issue a blanket pardon for all involved in the illegal torture he okayed with an Executive memo, as he's considering?
  • Will Obama take the path of "fact-finding" in order to discover atrocities and right them, as his advisors recommend, or will there be bipartisan "commissions" aimed at prosecution, sure to blow all the goodwill and harmony we feel in America right now, or ... [shuddering here ...] will he do what most Presidents do, and sweep everything under the rug, signaling once and for all that laws do not pertain to those at the top?
And then there's this little tidbit. CBS's Mark Knolls has released his latest tally of days Bush has vacationed in Crawford, at Camp David, or in Kennebunkport.

Grand Total = 987 days off
Total days in office = 2920 days
Percent on vacation = 33.8 percent

Holy crap.

Let's take a look at that again.

Days Off / Total Days? That looks like this. Talk about American Pie!

  1. Man do I wish my job had that much paid time off.
  2. If only he could have spent MORE time out of the White House, dragging Cheney with him, maybe some of the worst disasters under his "watch" would never have happened!

Not only has he broken the record of the previous vacationing-est president, Reagan, but it coincides with his record for lowest rating President ever in the polls. Way to make history, Bush! Glad you're history, you clever little cowboy!

Nick Anderson
Houston Chronicle
Nov 13, 2008

Have a say about Prop 8 this Saturday

marjorie says...

If you thought the passage of Prop 8 in California, which reversed the legalization of gay marriage there, was wrong, there's a protest happening on Albuquerque's Civic Plaza this Saturday (tomorrow) beginning at 11:30am. It's part of a national day of protest.

If you wonder why people in Albuquerque would want to protest the passage of a California initiative, consider how much New Mexico money flowed in support or opposition to it. Here is the searchable database created by a reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle--you can see where the money came from nationwide. There was a lot of it. On top of the national money that flowed into that campaign, there were also organized phone-banks set up outside the state (by Mormons primarily) to support it. It's a national issue, and it was a national campaign.

I think it's completely wrong to deny people the right to marry, when marriage is the institution that defines so much about how two people join their estates in this society. Plus, in addition to pragmatic considerations it's a highly symbolic institution, and it's not good enough to do it without an official legal contract.

I'll write more later (am a little under the weather this week) about Mormons and their unprecedented foray into the political realm, but in the meantime you can check out what I wrote earlier this year about gay marriage and Mormons here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wonkery of the Week

Maggie says:
I'm going to try and keep up with a little something I'm going to call "Wonkery of the Week" here on m-pyre. (By the way, I like alliteration, so even if I don't make it every week, I'm keeping the name. And sure, 'wonkery' may not be in the dictionary, but I'm going to consider it a parting tribute to W. Gotta get them in while we still can!)

Wonkery of the Week is going to feature the pieces I find myself nerding out to with the most excitement each week. Enter last night, finishing a pile of work I brought home, and finally being able to dig into this article and its corresponding maps and charts under the covers at midnight. So worth the wait!

Nerdiness out of my system, let's take a look:

NYT: For South, a Waning Hold on National Politics

In the last week of the election, we heard various analysts warn the Republicans that their party was increasingly becoming a white, regional, "Southernized" party only. This article makes those claims impossible to refute, as it details how the South effectively Red-voted themselves out of relevancy last week by supporting McCain in such high numbers, making race the only explanation.

By voting so emphatically for Senator John McCain over Mr. Obama — supporting him in some areas in even greater numbers than they did President Bush — voters from Texas to South Carolina and Kentucky may have marginalized their region for some time to come, political experts say.

The region’s absence from Mr. Obama’s winning formula means it “is becoming distinctly less important,” said Wayne Parent, a political scientist at Louisiana State University. “The South has moved from being the center of the political universe to being an outside player in presidential politics.”

The significance here is that the South ceded their claim to being the center of national politics and colored the much-lauded "Southern Strategy" irrelevant. A Democrat proved he could win without having a Southern accent, and the mid-Atlantic South (Virginia and North Carolina) went with him. In the Deep South, black turnout was higher than in previous years, but not high enough to match the overwhelming support of McCain by Deep South white voters - nearly 9 in 10 whites in Alabama, for example. According to the NYT analysis, "Southern counties that voted more heavily Republican this year than in 2004 tended to be poorer, less educated and whiter." Check the charts in the article for all the numbers; they're truly worth taking a look at.

What, then, for the future of the Republican Party? They are scrambling, no doubt. Their brand is maxed out. The Republican Governor's Conference is taking place right now, and you can be sure they're discussing how to revive their brand after last week's repudiation (see Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal emerging as free of the Bush/Iraq taint and embodying the only Republican biography that comes close to matching our president-elect). As the party scrambles to save face, how will they de-regionalize their message? How do they maintain relevancy, and what does the Deep South do in response?

The rest of the electoral map (Midwest! Mountain West!) breathes easier this week, basking in the glow of its newfound attention. I, for one, am thrilled about that.

Go wonk out yourself to the article, electoral maps, and charts!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Parallels on race in the White House

My inbox is flooded with discussion about a Washington Post piece from last week, originally sent to me by my friend Saleem. In separate discussions resulting from that piece, it's clear that none of us can stop exclaiming - or tearing up - over how poignant it is. See for yourself:

A Butler Well Served by this Election

For those of you in Albuquerque, I hope you were able to attend Electoral Dysfunctions: The Vortex Theatre's Political Playfest while it was running. Longtime friend Gene Grant wrote a piece titled "Enter on the Execution" that won the event's top prize. Without revealing too much, I'll offer that the play is set in a restroom, just before Barack Obama will give the oath of office. Inside, he meets a bathroom attendant who, as a black man who's worked for decades in the White House, has an interesting perspective on just what Obama is about to take on, and just what it means.

In "A Butler Well Served...," the butler in question is Mr. Eugene Allen, 88, an African-American who served the White House for thirty years. His stories and perspective are remarkable, and like Gene's hero, he in many ways represents the moment of change we now find ourselves in with regard to race in America.

Both of these pieces - fact and fiction - are remarkable at this moment in time. Maybe if we're lucky, Gene will tell us a bit about his play and his thoughts about Eugene Allen.

Bonus: A slideshow of Eugene Allen's life in the White House

Bipartisan Hope

Mikaela says:
There's been a lot of admonishment not to gloat about the outcome of the election from many different sources. I'm okay with that. As long as we continue to see signs of progress toward freedom, accountability, and transparency, I'm okay with low-key waiting and watching for change.

Not only does the minister of our very liberal, very blue Unitarian Universalist congregation wish we were more diverse in order to maintain more debate and dialog and our connection to the rest of the country, but her pastoral prayer on Sunday included a request to the powers of healing and renewal to forgive us our doubts and fears about the election. That got me!

She also shared this fantastic cartogram of the 2008 election results, adjusted for population density and the gradient of votes in each county - showing a true representation of the mix of red and blue votes in most places to result in "purple america."

So I have hope for the future and pride in my country, but I'm not harboring any wishes for payback for the last Republican era of excess, greed, and power-mongering (ahem). I'm ready to move on - happily, intentionally, and thoughtfully.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Book of Love

Maggie says:
Something crazy's going on these days, because Keith Olbermann is talking about love. Love. Watch.

I feel ashamed that in the midst of such glorious victory, we're left with Proposition 8. And I feel ashamed that my position in this world allows me to forget that. I'm planning a wedding with no legal constraints, no court orders, no protest signs. Just my heterosexual self who can get married whenever I want, as many times as I want, if that's what I choose.

I do believe that one day we will look back on the struggles for same-sex marriage equality and shake our heads that there was ever a question, ever a raised legal eyebrow, at that right. Just as we do today with interracial marriage and basic civil rights. But we are not there yet. Not yet.

I leave you with two of my favorite images I've stumbled upon in the world of wedding blogging. The emotion of these unions are always so evident to me in photographs. Take a minute and really look at these. What do you see?

I see happiness. And we all deserve a shot at it, each one of us.

(Photography by Jessamyn Harris)