Wednesday, December 17, 2008

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."

Friday, December 12, 2008

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.

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?

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

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

Democrats should be ashamed of themselves.

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

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

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)

While we're not looking

Maggie says:
Busy morning here, so I offer in full from The Progress Report (who do such a great job with links and atribution):

Having promised to "sprint to the finish" of his second term and "to remain focused on the goals ahead," President Bush is "working to enact a wide array of federal regulations, many of which would weaken government rules" aimed at protecting workers, consumers and the environment, the Washington Post reports. "The administration wants to leave a legacy," said Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, "but across the board it means less protection for the public." Indeed, the Bush administration is implementing over 90 new regulations which "would be among the most controversial deregulatory steps of the Bush era and could be difficult for his successor to undo." The wide array of new regulations includes proposals to undercut outpatient Medicaid services, weaken the Endangered Species Act, and allow increased emissions from older power plants. In some instances, the administration has allowed federal agencies to circumvent public feedback methods by limiting the period for public comment, "not allowing e-mailed or faxed comments or scheduling public hearings." Transition advisers to President-elect Barack Obama, meanwhile, "have compiled a list of about 200 Bush administration actions and executive orders that could be swiftly undone to reverse White House policies." The kind of regulations they are looking at are those imposed by Bush for "overtly political" reasons, said Dan Mendelson, a former associate administrator for health in the Clinton administration's Office of Management and Budget.

My girl Rachel Maddow's been looking at Bush's quiet shenanigans in her daily Lame Duck Watch, too. (As if you need another reason to watch RM.)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Insidery goodness

Maggie says:
I've been absolutely obsessed with Newsweek's "Secrets of the 2008 Campaign," installments of which have been released throughout the day. (Bated breath for Chapter 7 right now!)

Every year, Newsweek puts full-access reporters on each campaign, with the promise that they won't publish a word until after the election. The results are always good. In fact, the 2004 compilation remains Trevor's favorite book about that election, for those of you who know my fellow politics-frenzied sidekick.

Go check it out. Some of my favorite insights, incidentally, come from the Democratic primary. And I continue to swoon over the state of the Obama marriage. Such good stuff there, seriously.


Maggie says:
It's real, folks:

Parsing the Win

Mikaela says:
Anxious, for some reason, to see more analysis of voter turnout and slicing and dicing the vote.

First in, from NPR's PlanetMoney, is a chart showing McCain's loss of support compared to Bush in 2004 in suburban areas.

Anyone seen a good chart of voter turnout?

Maybe I don't believe it yet. Maybe I want even more reasons to feel proud and happy and ... grateful to the voters in this country.

Everywhere I go, people are just so stunned to have a president they really admire.


Maggie boasts:

My home state turned blue!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That's 15 electoral votes, bringing Obama up to 364. And that's also an exorcism of a whole lotta political angst over the years. WHOO HOO!!!!!!

Chicago streets

Maggie offers:

City congratulates Obama

Banners congratulating president-elect Barack Obama hang Wednesday outside of City Hall and the Cook County Building in downtown Chicago.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Go Listen

Maggie says:
Bill Moyers fans out there, you've got to listen to his interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air today. Moyers' thoughts on race, the South, modern politics, and Obama are just right-on. And if you're already a Bill Moyers fan, you know the man knows how to spin a phrase.

I love take-no-prisoners analysis of the racist South from a Southerner. As Moyers puts it: "a stone has lifted," whether the Deep South likes it or not.

Oh my. Go listen: Bill Moyers' View of Contemporary America.

Victory dinner

Maggie says:
Just me and my deadlines, home alone, trying not to write up my fantasy cabinet instead of the transit funding application I'm supposed to be doing. You know, the usual... :-)

Here's the view from where I sit tonight. Back soon.

I Miss You, New Mexico: ancho chile stew + blue corn green chile muffins

November 5: Next Phase

marjorie says...

m-pyre has been around for a long time now. So long that I can refer back to a blog from the morning after the 2004 presidential election, the one in which Americans picked George W. Bush for a second term. On that morning, I was depressed and felt very much on the outside of power. Interestingly, while not depressed this morning, I find that I am still outside power. I like the company I’m keeping also.

I want to thank Mikaela for reminding us yesterday of Bush. I don’t view the choice we all made last night as a rejection of the current president, although that sentiment certainly helped. If it had been a different candidate, maybe I’d be saying last night was an indictment.

But Obama’s campaign transcended the immense displeasure with the Bush years. It reached deep into our collective psyche, challenging us to believe in our country, to embrace diversity and multiculturalism, and to become engaged.

Nice words. But not meaningless. Too many of us want to believe, but don't quite. We want to embrace diversity, but still gravitate to our clan. And to become engaged, to assume a share of the responsibility for our collective welfare, really does require belief and at least the willingness to step outside one's comfort zone of family and culture.

Many of us often say that most Americans actually share left of center values, which I’ll sum up with the simple maxim that we are our brother’s keeper. Yes, before Che there was Jesus. I will claim both to symbolize the two sides of our politics.

Who can forget the neglect we witnessed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? The impotent rage so many of us felt toward a government that let the poor--overwhelmingly African American--perish in New Orleans has been somewhat salved by this election.

The majority who deeply believe that we are our brothers and sisters keepers came out and voted last night. Obama has been delivered a mandate by the people outside the construct of power. It wasn’t just a landslide of those who always vote. They were joined by an enormous number of first-time voters, many of whom are well into their adult years.

Will this mandate, stemming from an unprecedented engagement among people long disempowered by the system, be squandered?

As I do periodically here, let me remind folks about something. Obama said last night that this election isn’t about him, it’s about us. He's right. He is a flesh and blood man who has a heavy burden. He can pick all the experts in the world to advise him, but none of it will be a magic bullet. If real change is to happen—universal health care, good education and nutrition for all the children in this country, decriminalization of the poor, a clean and healthy environment—it has to happen by the continued engagement of the people who delivered the mandate in the first place.

I never thought I'd say this in relation to presidential politics--because I rarely am inspired by anyone at that level and generally think the best politics are local--but I believe we have just entered into a "next phase." I promise to stay positive and to venture out into uncomfortable terrain, if you guys will.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Where are we?

In the same town, but not together right now!

Mikaela: Holding down her homestead, taking it all in!!!

Marjorie: Surveying the scene with SWOP and joining the NM Dem party later on.

Me: Holed up in a hotel room, too obsessed with the news to join the NM Dem party next door just yet. Twittering through the night via Web or phone.


Mikaela says:
My compatriots doing their civic and patriotic duties in the field, it's left to me, corporate slave, to keep the lights on here at m-pyre.

  1. Take your neighbor and/or your office-mate and Go Vote. Find out where here (note English or Spanish toggle choice to the right) or here (includes GoogleMap) or here (includes a check to see if you're registered). NM sample ballot and polling places here.
  2. Be sure to file a report of voting irregularites AT YOUR POLLING LOCATION. Get names of witnesses (poll workers) if possible. Follow up with a call to your Secretary of State. In NM, that's Mary Herrera: 505.827.3600 or 800.477.3632 or email
  3. Call 1-866-Our-Vote (1-866-687-8683), a nation-wide voter protection service, staffed by lawyers who can give state-specific support to those experiencing voter suppression or any other problem. Then call in/text voting irregularities here or here (data collection ONLY - not official).
  4. Find a party to watch the election returns tonight. As Marjorie told me, no one should be alone to witness this historic event. You know you've been invited somewhere... just go! If not, join a local organization watching at your favorite watering hole, or your family, or your political party of choice.
  5. Keep your thoughts and comments flowing on m-pyre. You know we love to get snarky and starry-eyed!
  6. No matter who you voted for, remember to say goodbye to Bush. Maybe now is the time to jot down a few memories. Then burn them outside in a special ceremony.
Here are some thoughts from a few American writers to get your creative juices flowing via Dan Froomkin:
Tobias Wolf writes about get-togethers with friends: "When we meet for dinner we do our best to take up other subjects - books, gossip, movies, our children - but then, like the addicts we've become, we sneak back to the drug of outrage, shooting up the latest barefaced lie and squalid revelation, not forgetting to list yet again the national and global catastrophes brought about by the incompetence, hypocrisy, muddleheadedness, venality, truculence, mendacity, callousness, zealotry, machismo, lawlessness, cynicism, wishful thinking, and occasional downright evil of the administration of George W Bush. Our economy is in freefall, our public school system a disgrace, our military exhausted, the wounded and traumatised dying of neglect, yea, the very earth groaning for relief - and he's optimistic! Yessiree! Looking forward to it! Leaning toward us over the podium with that exasperated little squint and that impatient, dentist-drill voice, utterly at a loss as to how he got saddled with a nation of such gloomy Guses and crybabies.

"Eddying around our own indignation again and again, as if caught in some Bermuda Triangle of complaint, we are unable not to remind each other of the fatal character of George Bush's incomprehension, the thousands upon thousands who have died by his blithe actions and inactions, and his inability to understand at any level - political, moral, emotional - the terrible damage he has done...

"There - I've stepped in the trap again. I can't help it. And for many of us that has been a defining condition of life in George W Bush's reign, this unanswerable need to register anew and aloud our shock and dismay, indeed our disbelief, at finding him at the wheel as we wake each morning."

Or this little gem:

Joseph L. Galloway writes in his McClatchy Newspapers opinion column: "They played on our fears like a mighty Wurlitzer Organ, frightening us with lies into an unnecessary war in Iraq. Frightening us into re-electing George Bush, even after we knew that he was anything but presidential, anything but intelligent, anything but a worthy, effective leader.

"They frightened us so badly that we voluntarily surrendered the precious rights that a million American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and others bought for us with their lives during two centuries of freedom and democracy.

"They used fear to violate international law, to torture and imprison thousands of suspected enemies without charges or trials. They used fear and invoked national security to suspend the right of habeas corpus, the foundation of our freedoms.

"For these and far too many other sins and transgressions to list in so short a space as this, we the people have every right, and perhaps a duty, to cast them aside, and with them their only hope of avoiding justice and judgment -- John McCain, who voted with them 90 percent of the time."

So long Bush! May you be perpetually embalmed in the legacy you deserve. May you be haunted with the success of all you tried to do.

Monday, November 03, 2008

(Updated) Alire Garcia explains Journal endorsement: It's an "Opinion of One"

marjorie says...

Update: Former Abq. Journal Writer & Editorial Board member Denise Tessier has now also added her description of Journal editorial decisions, which you can read here. Tessier also included a description of the 2004 endorsement of G.W. Bush--as it turns out, the recommendation from the editorial board at that time was to endorse Kerry or to decline to endorse. But the "corner office" went with Bush.

Before I dash back out to the doors this afternoon, here are a couple of things for you to read.

First, NMI Managing Director David Alire Garcia explains the Abq. Journal endorsement of John McCain. David was on the Journal editorial board for many years, as it turns out, and makes a strong case that the endorsement is the "Opinion of One" -- that of Abq. Journal owner Tom Lang. Truly, it's a must read.

Then, if you're interested in my meager offerings, please check out the story I put together about Salvador Montes, who voted for the first time this year. I've known Salvador for years, and really enjoyed chatting with him about why he became a citizen this year. And I was surprised by what he said...that it was due to an increasing sense of insecurity and fear of deportation--even though he's held a permanent green card since the 1980s.

Eve a.m. check-in

Maggie says:
I woke up feeling positive today. The time change meant it was bright and sunny, and I actually got out of bed when the alarm went off for a change. There's stuff to do. An election to win. Several elections to win, actually. But it feels right to me this morning.

How are you all feeling?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Forrester Halloween 2008: Villaraigosa & Heinrich pay us a visit

marjorie says...

Another Halloween on Forrester has come and gone. As ever it was a madhouse!
Here are some pictures:

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Democratic Congressional candidate Martin Heinrich came knocking early. Martin's two boys got some candy and Eric & Mindy got their picture taken. That's me, Mikaela and Eric paying attention to the kids in the background.

Here's Mikaela manning the candy--those are the pumpkins she and Eric carved. And on the right is one of the neighbors houses. Lot's of lights on Halloween, and it's always a party.

One of my neighbors likes to pull out these spooky dolls in a highchair.
It freaks me out so I can only imagine how the children feel.

Here's Rick and Bernadette Miera's house (the Mieras are the Halloween ringleaders on the street). If you look closely, you can see Rick on the porch. You can also see the books that one of our County Commissioners, Alan Armijo, was handing out. One of our other County Commissioners, Teresa Cordova, was also on hand. Teresa comes to Forrester every year for Halloween, and she usually dresses up in a way spooky outfit. This year was no different--why didn't I get a picture?!

Yep, this was pretty predictable!

View from the street of my house.

Mindy and Mikaela handing out candy to the hordes.
Thanks to everyone who came and helped out!

Mr. November

Maggie says:
I've been looking for an excuse to play The National on m-pyre for years. Then it hit me: the first of November! "Mr. November!" I love this song. So enjoy our house fave, and have a happy Saturday. And a happy November. FOUR MORE DAYS, folks!!!!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ooooo... bama!

Mikaela says:
Loving all the Barack O'Lanterns. Thanks, Maggie, for the heads up.

See more fun pumpkins here:

They've got lots of fun stencils, too. Woo-hoo!

New entry in the NC tradition

Maggie says:
My home state of North Carolina is known for a few things: barbecue, college basketball, and... horrific political advertising? Yep.

Back in 1990, Jesse Helms famously skewered challenger Harvey Gantt in the infamous "White Hands" ad. That ad is now the classic example of an egregious racist ad, and is largely credited with helping Helms win.

Enter incumbent Senator Elizabeth Dole, who's not nearly so lucky this year. The economy sucks, much of NC's industries have been shipped off thanks to trade policies, more folks are moving to NC all the time, Dole barely spends time in NC anyway, and Barack Obama could pull off a major upset there on Tuesday. Dole has been trailing her challenger, state senator Kay Hagan, for months. Dole's strategy to gain a last-minute edge? She went straight to the tried-and-true NC playbook with an unfair attack ad. (From Hagan's website: "Somewhere, Jesse Helms is laughing and clapping in glee.")

Watch the new standard-bearer for NC attack ads, "Godless," and a skewering courtesy of CNN's Campbell Brown:

Hagan fought back with a direct repudiation of Dole's claims in a new ad of her own, demanded that Dole remove "Godless," and filed a defamation suit. Dole has refused to budge on "Godless," even as the largest newspapers in NC have both condemned it in editorials. The Charlotte Observer wrote, "It has no place in N.C. politics. Unless she admits this egregious, shameful mistake and acts appropriately, Elizabeth Dole has no place in N.C. politics, either."

Right now, Hagan's up by 2-6 points in the latest polls. Obama's in a nail-biter - the poll average is just +2.6. Over 1/3 of all registered voters have already voted early. There are 15 electoral votes at stake.

Time (tick tock tick tock tick tock, running out) will tell.

All together now, one more time...

Maggie chants:

"Google, we love you!!!"

Again, and again, and again.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Maggie says:
I must confess, I am absolutely incapable of coherent writing right now, as this blog currently attests. My brain is so full of what's about to happen that it's consuming me. Nothing productive is happening in that head space, and certainly not at this work desk, either. So while I'm pretending to do real work and tapping my feet for November 4 (and getting back to Albuquerque!!!), here are the other random things going on:

  • Bethany included me in her fun "Know Your Blogger" series... thanks, Bethany! You all know Bethany from her brilliant participation in our debate live-blogs this fall. We love Bethany.

  • My Halloween costume. Enough said.

  • For a kind of non-TV girl, I'm really loving quality television right now. The second season of Mad Men just wrapped, and I'm hooked. I'm also obsessed with True Blood and its Alan Ball-esque take on the politics of a vampire society, plus the bigger dramas happening between everyday people. Finally, the third season of Dexter continues to feel new, as it digs down into the violence of humanity that we inflict every day, either by design or just by being who we are.

  • I'm afraid my Rachel Maddow crush is a cliche now that everyone loves Rachel Maddow. But you know what? I don't care. I want everyone to love this dorky, cheerful policy wonk like I do!

  • I could not stop laughing at clips of McCain's rally yesterday where he thought Joe the Plumber was in the crowd and kept calling out for him... awkward. Also: I think Palin's voice now activates something painful in my brain. She must be muted.

  • Speaking of: I know three Halloween Sarah Palins!

  • M&M: Will you guys take photos of the Forrester madness tonight and share?! It's my favorite Halloween tradition ever!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

WooHoo, Comments are Back!

...because we just know you all were going to go all out commenting yesterday when you were denied. :-)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Change is coming

marjorie says...

Let's give the bickering a rest and go read Heath's column today. It's a fabulous read on non-partisanship and the importance of young people and the grassroots to social change.

Here's an excerpt:

Most Americans want us to reach the same goals, such as reducing the number of abortions and increasing the number of people with health care. We just disagree about how to get there. We’re all trying to find our way through this life with different perspectives based on our unique experiences. We’re all human, which means we’re capable of both horrible mistakes and great deeds. We all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. When we sit down at the same table and honestly try to resolve our differences, we are capable of great accomplishments.

Change comes from the bottom up

Beginning with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the last several years have already led to dramatic changes in America. We’re shifting from a focus on building institutions of great power -- whether they be megachurches, political organizations or huge corporations -- to building relationships, which are the true foundation of any effort to solve the world’s problems.

Comments sick today :-)

Apparently Haloscan is mad at us, because we can't get our comments to show up today. Sorry, folks! Back up as soon as we're forgiven, apparently.

Obama odds and ends

Maggie says:
I'm not very wordy today - I'm anxious and we're getting close. And... breaking!... I decided to spend Election Day in New Mexico working for Martin and Obama there. As exciting as Texas' returns will be compared to Election Nights past, I had to get outta Dodge for this one. So I'll see many of you around town getting out the vote!

I was so struck by the photo of Obama on the cover of the NY Times this morning. Here's a similar one from the Guardian.

Campaigning in the rain

Chester, PA

On a random note, watching Recount a week before the election is bad for Democratic nerves. Man, did that movie take me back. I'd forgotten so many of the details surrounding Florida in 2000. Watch with caution until Florida, Ohio, New Mexico, and others have turned in their results with confidence next week.

But... Staying strong! Feeling optimistic!

So optimistic, in fact, that I'm also spending the morning perusing the fashion choices of Michelle Obama, who is as accessible fashion-wise as potential First Ladies can be. In other words, when the national party isn't spending a fortune to give you a makeover and you have to buy your own clothes, you head to J. Crew. Just like some of us do. :-)

See Mrs. O for the lowdown on what Michelle is wearing and where to get it.

Also, frequent m-pyre commenter MaryBeth is standing outside in downtown Raleigh right now amidst thousands for the Obama rally there. She'll have a full report and pictures soon!

Loving being from NC this year. Let's bring it home for Obama, Tarheels! That's 15 electoral votes!

Monday, October 27, 2008's the Fist Bump indoctrination! grab your kids & run!

marjorie says...

Oh, but wait. Is that the Wall Street Journal he's holding?

whew! I was getting a little worried there for a minute (she says with a slightly shaky voice).

(many thx you guys, for sending your tips my way)

McCain's Rejected Robo-Call Scripts

Maggie points to:

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha............

A study in contrasts

Maggie says:
I couldn't help but marvel at two items I saw online at the same time this afternoon. They are not related in any way, but seem to me to represent the spectrum of politics we're facing right now. Out of one paradigm and into the other...

  1. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) guilty on seven counts. An 84-year-old legend in Alaska finds out that times have changed. Speaking of...

  2. Take your Election Day off and volunteer for Obama! The campaign's organization just continues to blow me away. All the practices local campaigns and initiatives have perfected for years and years, applied effectively to the national level?! Never would've thought it possible, not to this level of effectiveness, anyway. And wait: you're not actually going to your (non-political) job on Election Day, are you? Barring a really great excuse, I hope no one reading this is sitting behind their desk in eight days.

What is un-American?

marjorie says...

Jim Scarantino is calling Obama supporters "un-American." Here is the reply I gave to his commentary about the large Obama rally over the weekend, which you might want to read for context.

Come on, Jim. First, the marketing of Che's image is as American as you can get, as is wearing t-shirts emblazoned with our mottos, beliefs, and, not least, our mockeries. Your own column in the Alibi about the presidential gear on sale (which was quite amusing) gets at this. Beyond that, having large crowds show up at rally's conducted by charismatic and compelling leaders is actually as American as Apple Pie. Just go back in time and look at our history. If anything, Obama has cut through the marketing B.S. and appealed to the public on that level, which in this era of hyper-managed political campaigns isn't an easy thing to do. What's sad--in actuality--is that we don't have more leaders who are able to spur such political engagement. On any side.

But all this aside, it's disturbing to me that you're now taking up the "un-American" charge. You are seriously implying that all those people who showed up at the rally are un-American. Jeez. I guess I could seriously engage on this...I'd start by asking you who gets to decide what's "American" versus "un-American." And does calling large segments of the American public "un-American" qualify as an "American" thing to do?