Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Monahan and his buddies...going after free speech

marjorie says...

Hidden campaign? Back up buddy. Just who's campaign is that? Looking around the blogosphere lately, you kind of have to wonder.

It's interesting to see a certain blogger lockstep with a group of upset incumbent state legislators. You have to wonder, do some of these incumbents have the (somewhat overblown) status of "alligator"? It does cross one's mind.

Not to mention, that particular blogger has a pretty obvious position on the topic at hand, which is "ethics reform." Come on, let’s be real.

So, let's jump right in…since the water is cold.

Are state legislators not allowed to be spoken publicly about during election years? Even powerful ones who've been in office for decades? Even when summer special sessions are called to debate important things like health care, and to divvy up 400 million dollars at the same time?

If one of the most highly contested issues in the state is ethics reform, don't these go together? And isn't ethics reform an issue that permeates just about every other issue? How a person votes vis a vis campaign contributions is salient to all issues.

If they can be spoken about, during what periods of time this year can 501c3 organizations talk about the legislative record and the campaign contributions of specific legislators?

To hear some of these long-time powerful incumbents speak, 501c3 organizations can't speak about them at all in 2008. And boy are the crocodile tears flowing.

You know,

if you only read the press, you might sometimes get the impression that elections are decided solely based on mail and advertising. But that is decidedly not true.

Something tells me that had actual on the ground relationships been built in some of the Albuquerque districts with losing incumbents last spring, we'd have had a different outcome. But these guys would rather blame a few ethics reform mailers that went out months before the primary election. And now, one is complaining about a similar mailer sent out ahead of the special session…over three months before the general.

Its as though incumbency is sacred in and of some people's minds.

Regarding the mailers, 501c3s are barred from interfering in elections--as in, trying to get one candidate to win over another.

Following from this, the IRS code gives some the question has also been litigated in court, and addressed through federal legislation. In light of all of these, its reasonable for non-profits to believe these mailers constitute protected free speech. For one, they don't mention anything at all having to do with any election. Plus, there's no way to ascertain motivation even if it were relevant, which its not according to case law. Then there's timing.

In its plain-language 21-example fact sheet, the IRS discusses the permissibility of 21 cases. The document repeatedly uses the word "shortly" when discussing the timing of issues advocacy before an election. My general understanding from non-profit attorneys is that a rule of thumb for what “shortly” means is 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general.

That rule of thumb was actually made into federal law in 2002 regarding just the sort of issues advocacy in question: Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.

But then, interestingly, the Supreme Court in 2007 struck down the 30/60 day provision of that Reform Act, in a case regarding anti-abortion advocacy, saying that it was "...unconstitutional as applied to ads susceptible of a reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate."

In the spring, the last mailer in question was sent two months before the primary. If anything, the timeline in question more than accommodated concerns over timing of issues ads, as reflected in the 2002 federal law.

So, hypothetically: if 501c3’s aren't allowed to get their message out about issues, and the politicians who wield decision making power regarding those issues, before what has been interpreted up to now as an election period almost across the board, then are we to assume the entire year in New Mexico counts as an election period?

To infringe on free speech like these incumbents and their coterie would have state government do would be an infringement writ large across the 501c3 landscape.

Ps I work for one of those pesky non-profits. Feel free to ask me anything you like. I know you're curious. But since I'm not seeking to represent the public in very important decision making bodies, you can't in all serious honesty equate me with such people. Although the spin can try to go there.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Words (and remaining ME)

Maggie says:
(Cross-posted from the wedding blog.)

Last night I had a huge girl moment courtesy of IndieBride Kvetch's vows forum page, specifically their "giant ceremony readings repository." I was completely teary reading some of the most beautiful words about love and marriage. It struck me: getting all our logistical/attire things out of the way early means that I'll have months and months to think about words and the meaning of what we're doing, and I love that idea.

The IndieBride forum, by the way, ROCKS. I love the community there talking about weddings from the perspective of intelligent, progressive, feminist, aware, independent women. It's the opposite of how I feel logging onto The Knot message boards from time to time, looking for vendor-related stuff or just peeking in. I feel like a complete outcast among those girls, although admittedly, an outcast by design. The attitude so prevalent in the wedding industry is that life begins and ends with that walk down the aisle, and I couldn't feel more opposed to that concept. I know that so many of us are opposed to that concept, but the industry built to feed us that line is insanely dominant. Staying real and true to ourselves becomes a conscious decision when tradition dictates that some lame DJ will announce us as Mrs. HisFirstName HisLastName, as if our identity was erased the minute we said "I do."

Some of the forums active on IndieBride right now are topics that are incredibly relevant to me: "Marriage and Feminism," "The Bouquet Toss... And Other Antiquated Traditions," "Changing Your Name," and "Ridiculous Bridal Ads and Articles." The threads and discussion in each is fantastic. All of these concepts are things I'm going to break down here over the next few months, as I find that perfect balance of frill and depth about this whole getting married thing. Actually, I think a balance of frill and depth pretty much sums up exactly who I am. ;-)

I'll leave you with one of my favorite Rumi excerpts, which gets me every time.

When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you're not here, I can't go to sleep.

Praise God for these two insomnias!
And the difference between them.

The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.

Lovers don't finally meet somewhere.
They're in each other all along.


My reasons for being a bad blogger

Maggie whines:

1. Too hot outside - It's like the 20th day of 100-degree weather or something, and I feel lazy and sluggish even in the air conditioning

2. Travel exhaustion - I'm back up to the Northeast later this week for a mini-vaca in New York and Connecticut.

3. News overload - Nerdy workouts to 'Countdown' notwithstanding, I can't seem to go there right now

4. Books and movies - I've been sinking into novels like crazy, and am back in a good movie space again (now that I think about it, this is probably what I should write about on m-pyre right now)

5. Beach Blanket Nuptials - This is what my college friend Amy calls our wedding, and I think it's hilarious. I started a little wedding planning blog to forever log how funny (to me) and weird this process is, btw - e-mail me if you want a peek, because it's invite-only

6. The usual - Family stuff, work stuff, friend stuff, just... stuff.

But it's the dog days of summer... aren't we all feeling this way?

Monday, July 28, 2008

water rights, the gray wolf, and running from violence

marjorie says...

I have to point out some fabulous in-depth stories over at the Independent. I know its not necessary with m-pyre readers because you all read the NMI religiously. Nonetheless.

Joel Gay has a kick-ass story about water rights last week, highlighting how market forces are causing a huge shift of our water resources to large private entities. The impact on our environment not to mention New Mexico farmers could be pretty profound. The water wars are only going to continue to heat up.

The reintroduction of the gray wolf continues to stir passions, as Gwyneth Doland's story about lawsuits and dead wolves shows--just look at the comment section. Ranchers versus environmentalists. Will it never end?

And then today Benito Aragon tells us that violence in Mexico is creating a new group of people who are seeking asylum here: those who don't think the Mexican government can protect them. But thats not a reason for which the U.S. grants asylum.


Saab Story

Maggie says:
My car isn't quite sure how to feel this morning with its new Texas license plate. It's kind of having an identity crisis, actually. So I decided to do a complete backside makeover since the angst had already begun.

Before: New Mexico license plate, "01.20.09" bumper sticker

After: Texas license plate, "Obama '08" bumper sticker

I feel like a completely different person now. ;-)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

V.B. Price: false equation of wealth with virtue

marjorie says...

V.B. Price's column today in the Independent is a must read.

Hidden Oligarchy

by V.B Price

Is the American economy undergoing a historic readjustment from powerhouse to a ne’er-do-well nation down at the heel, on the brink of social trouble with a financial aristocracy thumbing its nose at vast legions of the working poor?

It may well be.

And if it is, this decline stems in large part from one simple source – what I like to call holier-than-thou-art economics, a false notion in which the rich are seen as unfailingly good and the not-so-rich and poor are suspects of unworthiness, or as one politician put it recently, “whiners.”

The false equation of wealth with virtue emanates from the self-importance of those who have lobbied Congress for decades to let them go to any extremes to make higher profits. Their logic runs that those who make money are smarter, wiser, better than those who do not.

Continue reading here.

Jazz fan?

marjorie says...

It's a slow week here at m-pyre...because it's a pretty hectic one everywhere else for the three m's. But I wanted to point you all to something that'll keep you busy, if you're a jazz lover anyway.

Check out this radio series that aired in 2006 on KUNM that has an amazing collection of interviews and music clips of jazz musicians living in New Mexico.

I found that while checking out the NPR website that featured Albuquerque's jazz scene Monday night, describing the New Mexico Jazz Workshop, and the Outpost Performance Space.

The Jazz Workshop is the non-profit behind the two week New Mexico Jazz Festival, which is underway right now, plus a summer-long music series that happens every year.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dave'ism: musings about punching a clock

marjorie says...

"...anytime someone is telling me what to do, where to be, and when i can and cannot leave is a waste of my limited life time allowance."


Friday, July 18, 2008

I've had how many abortions?

marjorie says...

Does Bush really think because I've used contraception successfully that I've had innumerable abortions?

Apparently so.

He's really going out with idiot emblazoned on his forehead isn't he?

Or just plain old woman hater.

I'm waiting to see how many male Senators take a stand on this along with Clinton, Pelosi, and Murray.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

If only Elizabeth Dole had a sense of humor...

...I might laugh. Instead, she is quite obviously the dumbest woman alive.

(via Huffington Post)

Elizabeth Dole Tries To Name AIDS Bill After Jesse Helms

NC Republican Senator Dole introduced an amendment to name an HIV/AIDS relief bill after the recently deceased Jesse Helms. Helms, of course, was a strident foe of HIV/AIDS prevention, research and treatment. The blog Joe.My.God recalls some of Helms' notable moments in AIDS relief:

- Jesse Helms, the man who in 1987 described AIDS prevention literature as "so obscene, so revolting, I may throw up."

- Jesse Helms, the man who in 1988 vigorously opposed the Kennedy-Hatch AIDS research bill, saying, "There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy."

- Jesse Helms, the man who in 1995 said (in opposition to refunding the Ryan White Act) that the government should spend less on people with AIDS because they got sick due to their "deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct."

- Jesse Helms, the man who in 2002 announced that he'd changed his mind about AIDS funding for Africa, but not for American gays, because homosexuality "is the primary cause of the doubling and redoubling of AIDS cases in the United States."

In fact, in 1991 seven activists from the group ACT UP put a giant condom on Helms' Arlington home that said "Helms Is Deadlier Than A Virus."

The bill passed, btw. But without Helms' name attached. DUH.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Texas road trip nostalgia

marjorie says...

Check out Barb's post about her Texas road trip on the way to Netroots Nation in Austin. She's taken the route I've driven not to mention photographed too many times to count. Love it!

ps. If you politely ask I'll turn you on to my flickr page. (I know, how enticing!)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Albuquerque Downtown Arena, issues

marjorie says...

I received an email last week from a person who was scheduled to speak at NM First's town hall about the Downtown Arena this Thursday, informing me that he was not going to attend:

"...the program is not intended to seriously inform Albuquerque citizens about the realities of these projects, their (quite modest) impact on downtown revitalization, their (numerous) problems in other cities, or their public cost and risk."

He must have seen the short NMI blog I did about the town hall a few weeks ago. I followed up with NM First to get their perspective, and also talked to Debbie O'Malley and Claudia Isaac about the project. O'Malley expressed firm support for the project, but Isaac said the city needs to seriously consider the gentrifying effects on the downtown neighborhoods as planning for the project moves forward.

See the full article, Contrary View, over on the NMI.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Three cultural impossibilities on the way home from work today

Maggie reports:

1. My so-essential-to-my-life-I-have-one-everywhere-I-go tinted chapstick inexplicably being discontinued?!

2. Line of folks still wrapping the block outside my neighborhood Apple store. It's been 100 degrees since that damn phone came out, and the waiting... and camping, even!... never stops.

3. Girl calling me "ma'm" in the elevator.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

This just made me jump and scream

Maggie cheers:

Democrats Prepare to Boot Lieberman Out of Caucus

"Despite assurances to the contrary from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democratic insiders are certain that Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) will be kicked out of the party's caucus next year and lose his Senate chairmanship if he addresses the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., as planned," Robert Novak reports.

"After his 2006 election, the Senate Democratic leadership agreed to give Lieberman the Homeland Security Committee chairmanship if he provided the decisive vote to make the Democrats a 51-49 Senate majority. However, with additional Democratic senators likely to be elected this year, that agreement is expected to be null and void in the new Congress."

Saturday, July 12, 2008

McCain: caught in the headlights on women's rights

marjorie says...

"I don't know enough about it to give you an informed answer."

Well maybe John McCain ought to get informed about it. It being: Women.

Thanks to Mike Lillis of the Washington Independent for pointing me to this clip, and his excellent article on the subject. Here's an excerpt:

...many Americans tend to treat birth control as a lifestyle choice, not a health-care issue. Indeed, many conservatives tend to treat the issue as a personal choice falling outside the realm of public health.

But statistics point to a different reality. The average woman, for example, spends roughly five years of her life being pregnant or trying to get there, and nearly 30 years trying to avoid pregnancy, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America, a reproductive rights group.

Suzanne Novak, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, said that existing federal anti-discrimination laws should make it clear that health plans must include birth control.

"In comprehensive health plans, they cover all men's needs," she said. "But for women, they've got this carve-out."

The article goes on to note that McCain has twice in the last decade voted against legislation that would require insurance companies to cover birth control along with other prescription drugs. So maybe he does have an opinion and just doesn't want to come clean about it, his "straight-talk express" not withstanding.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Boy-pal shoutout!

Maggie says:
YAY! My high school buddy Richard, whose writing I've mentioned on m-pyre from time to time, just did a piece for Details that's classic subversive Richard: The Birth Control Extremist. Just your standard young-guys-getting-vasectomies-as-birth-control stuff, combined with some awesome all-women-try-to-trick-guys-into-marrying-them-via-pregnancy quotes. You know, the usual. ;-)

Excitingly, my favorite girl-blog Jezebel just picked up Richard's piece and are taking him (or, at least, the guys he quoted) on: Dudes Frightened of Duplicitous, Kid-Coveting Women are Opting for Vasectomies.

They pretty much call Richard out as not exactly seeing things from the female perspective. Agreed. But that's not really Richard's perspective, or his audience... it was Details, after all.

I adore Jezebel. And I adore Richard. So here's what I'm wondering: since they use his name repeatedly, I think that means via Richard, I'm only one step away from being quoted on Jezebel. Right?

Serious sidenote: Let's ask Richard to write a serious article about the lack of birth control options outside of condoms and vasectomies for men, shall we? And the pressure that puts on men and women in different ways? K?

Obama discovers Texas

marjorie says...

Yes, this is m-pyre news.

From a New York Times article on Obama's travels during the campaign:

“A place that I’ve come to love, which I did not expect until this campaign, is Texas,” he said in an interview the other day aboard his campaign plane, a patchwork of the countryside passing below him. “I ended up loving Texas! I’ve been struck by how many beautiful places there are in the country that you don’t necessarily think of as beautiful. Pittsburgh, for example, is a really handsome town with the rivers and the hills.”

Hello! and Thank you!

And in perhaps a more interesting observation for the rest of you, here's what he says about regional distinctions:

Many of the regional distinctions in the United States, he said, “in terms of culture, politics, attitudes, people,” have been muted. After 18 months of traveling extensively across the country, he said, “the biggest differences have more to do with rural, suburban, urban, as opposed to north, south, east or west.”

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Sirota on 'The Diane Rehm Show'

Maggie tips off:
Pssssst.... m-pyre crush David Sirota is appearing on "The Diane Rehm Show" today to discuss his book The Uprising. Listen live starting at 11 a.m. EST at, or download the podcast from Diane Rehm's page at any time.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Into the Light (Jesse Helms 1921-2008)

Maggie says:
For progressive folks in North Carolina, it was best not to let Jesse Helms get under your skin if you could help it. The alternative could be too much. This is a man, after all, affectionately known as “Uncle Jesse,” which was almost always said with a shrug and a smile. Some voters actually believed in his brand of base instinct politics. Many more disagreed with some of his views, yet voted him back into office time and time again anyway, with that same shrug and smile. It was tradition, after all. For those of us who cared enough to vote against Jesse, or to work for the opposition, or to protest his existence on this planet, much less in North Carolina, the sight of those casual shrugs from otherwise reasonable voters was blood-boiling. After all, how could anyone be casual about a man who proudly drawled, "The Negro cannot count forever on the kind of restraint that's thus far left him free to clog the streets, disrupt traffic, and interfere with other men's rights"? Worse, how could anyone think that man deserved to be a Senator?

So no, Jesse wasn’t casual to me. The backside of my car was a testament to that. So was my inability to do the Jesse Shrug and Smile, a trait that persists to this day. Politics aren't light enough for me to laugh about at dinner parties, although it'd be easier if I could. I blame Jesse for that. The festering sore of Jesse Helms persisted well after I left NC. I was a girl from a state I loved despite its public face, a girl with politics squarely opposite those of the only NC politician everyone knew, the one who had to answer for Jesse about three sentences in after someone heard where she was from, every single time. So no, no Jesse Shrug and Smile for me. That festering sore smarted even when it wasn't personal, too – like during AIDS funding debates, federal arts funding debates, or pretty much any discussion related to Martin Luther King, Jr. Those civil rights heroes, after all, were “moral degenerates.” Or didn’t you hear?

What comes up for me throughout the fanfare of Jesse’s death is what great lengths people will go to excuse away evil in the name of charm or nostalgia. As if being a good conversationalist makes it okay to truly believe that African-Americans are lesser human beings than white folks. I want to counter every colorful story told about Jesse this week and present another one instead. Like when he sang “Dixie” to African-American Senator Carol Mosely Braun after bragging to Orrin Hatch that he could make her cry. Is that what they mean by colorful? I'd like to counter his drippy sentences about good barbecue with the finer points of his 1990 “White Hands” ad, the one that suggested whites were losing jobs to “lesser qualified minorities." To Jesse's credit, though, I suppose that ad was a step forward from one of his first productions, which simply stated, “White people, wake up before it is too late.”

Worse than the lauding of Jesse’s charm though, for me, is the suggestion that he was simply a product of his time, and therefore should also be given a pass. Jesse Helms was not and never would have stood for simply being a product of the times. He led his times with a lightening bolt of fear-mongering hatred, and his story is in fact the story of the Republican Party, post-desegregation through this very moment. That historic shift was explicitly racial, and Jesse led that charge to fight equality and justice for everyone but himself. He spewed hate. So did his party. He thought nothing of interfering in foreign democracies all in the name of “freedom.” So did his party. He appealed to the worst instincts a human can have. So did his party. He was rewarded for it, time and time again. So was his party. So let’s go ahead and give him credit for leading the way, shall we?

I spent some quiet moments this Fourth of July feeling, for the first time in as long as I can remember, vaguely optimistic about the state of things to come. Along with many of you, I’m readying myself for Obama’s move to center, as much as I hope it doesn’t come. Yet the bigger picture we’re confronted with right now is a hopeful one. It’s a humbling one, an awe-inspiring one. We are on the verge of being able to vote as a country, in record numbers, for a black man to be our president. For a black woman to be our First Lady. For two little black girls to grow up in the White House. We’re on the verge of presenting a new face to the world, literally and figuratively, one that’s respectful and apologetic and less narcissistic than the face we've worn. We’re stepping away from the bowels of fear and hate, where Jesse lived, and into the light that we can all share together. All of us.

We’re a better country now that Jesse Helms isn’t with us anymore. And we’re about to be even better.

Back up

marjorie says...

There are some great quotes in todays Journal.

Marty Chavez, regarding the economic crisis and his intention to push mass transit as a solution to $4 gasoline:

“We know we've got tough economic challenges,” he said. “We cannot simply build or pump our way out of this.”

Frankly, given Marty's friends I think this is a pretty eyebrow raising statement. Maybe the pickle we're in is just too hard to escape, across the board. I agree with him, we can't build, build, build, just like we can't drill, drill, drill...our way out of this.

Then, on another note...

The Post Office on why they won't share a report by the Investigator General's Office about a dispute between APS Board member Robert Lucero and the USPS over late campaign mailers:

“Yes, it is a public document, but it is our policy not to give it to you,” Wood told the Journal, adding that a request under the federal Freedom of Information Act — which takes up to 28 business days for even a response — would be the only way to get a copy of the document.

That statement makes me want to take my business (and I do a fair amount) to UPS. They're union too, afterall.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Lists of what's not written

Maggie lists:

Things I'd blog about if not for being too @#$(*)(#&@&R) stressed out about work:

1. Jesse Helms dying, DUH. So. Not. Mourned.

2. My inner sports fan. Baseball and tennis right now, and Olympics on the way, woo-hoo! Tangent: The Sonics being moved to Oklahoma = pathetic.

3. This book I'm almost done with that I've purposely been reading as slowly as possible because I never want it to end.

Things I'd blog about if I had an ultra-personal blog:
1. Career angst. For the person who could've gone a ton of different directions, when do you know it's time to pull the chute and do something radically different?

2. Motivation. Lately it's like I need a fire under my ass to actually get stuff done.

3. The hilarious fake bio my "f-word," as we affectionately call each other, just wrote for a certain project of ours.

Our fuel pickle...a "bi-partisan failure"

marjorie says...

The New York Times published a great retrospective/indictment over the holiday weekend that chronicles the unchecked "voracious consumption" of oil by the American public, due in large part to the failure of our politicians over the last couple of decades to force increased fuel economy standards for the automobile industry.

Check it out if for nothing more than the chart showing how dismally poor the standards in the United States are compared to other industrialized nations.

The Times at the outset reminds us that we already knew this was coming a long time ago:

Over the last 25 years, opportunities to head off the current crisis were ignored, missed or deliberately blocked, according to analysts, politicians and veterans of the oil and automobile industries. What’s more, for all the surprise at just how high oil prices have climbed, and fears for the future, this is one crisis we were warned about. Ever since the oil shortages of the 1970s, one report after another has cautioned against America’s oil addiction.

They're right, we were warned. I don't know about you, but I remember just about every moment described in this article.

The Times gives it to us straight: our problem is our love for the automobile, which is responsible for 70% of the oil our nation consumes. As a nation, we're addicted to driving big gas-guzzling vehicles.

"Although the road to $4 gasoline and increased oil dependence has been paved in places like Detroit, Houston and Riyadh, it runs through Washington as well, where policy makers have let the problem make lengthy pit stops," notes the Times. And Pete Domenici is then quoted saying it was a bi-partisan failure to act:

“Much of what we’re seeing today could have been prevented or ameliorated had we chosen to act differently,” says Pete V. Domenici, the ranking Republican member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a 36-year veteran of the Senate. “It was a bipartisan failure to act.”

And while our leaders insist over and over again that our problem today has much to do with rising global demand for oil in countries like China and India, the Times reminds us that we are the primary gluttons:

Home to only 4 percent of the world’s population, the nation slurps up about a quarter of the planet’s oil — and Americans’ daily use is nearly twice the combined consumption of the Chinese and Indians, according to an annual energy survey published by BP, the British oil giant.

Regarding the need for higher fuel economy standards, Pete Domenici gives a dire warning:

“We’ve got to fix it or our standard of living will change within a decade,” says Senator Domenici, who is retiring this year. “Oil was too damn cheap, it’s too high now and it’s going even higher. I hope I’m wrong, but the problem is, we can’t catch up soon enough.”

The article then gives a detailed overview of the failure of the federal government during the first Bush administration as well as that of the Clinton years to continue increasing fuel economy standards, which from 1975 through the late 80s had doubled. It was a bi-partisan failure, as Domenici notes, in the face of "furious opposition" from automakers in Detroit.

Incredibly, though, Michigan's Representative John Dingell, blames it all on the American public:

“The American auto industry has sold the cars people wanted,” he says. “You’re going to blame the auto industry for that or the American consumer? He likes it sitting in his driveway, he likes it big, he likes it safe.”

But as the article goes on to note, any attempts to raise fuel economy standards from the early 1990s straight through to 2005 were heavily lobbied against by domestic automakers.

And our own Pete Domenici, bless his oil-drilling heart, is pretty angry, giving it to Detroit straight:

“They all said to us: ‘Don’t change CAFE. It’ll come when it’s supposed to.’ That’s baloney,” he said.

UNTIL last year’s vote, Mr. Domenici was an opponent of new fuel-efficiency standards, a stance he now regards as a mistake. “We were like everybody else,” he says. “We should have been more active on CAFE sooner.”

With Detroit again seeing profits collapse as sales of big cars plunge, Mr. Domenici says he is worried about the survival of the domestic automakers.

“They talked a good research game,” he says. “But let’s face it, little was being done. They are suffering the consequences and could go broke just like the airlines.”

The Times continues:

What Congress didn’t or couldn’t do, the free market is now doing in the form of higher gas prices: forcing Americans into more fuel-efficient cars. Ms. Cischke of Ford says that in the last two months, “We have seen more of a shift in the market than in 20 years of CAFE. People are buying what they need.”

Very true. However, I would have preferred a better selection of fuel efficient cars to choose from when the market came calling.

cross-posted at the NMI

Friday, July 04, 2008

Dissent is Patriotic, the FISA bill is not

marjorie says...

Happy Red, White and Blue day.

In the spirit of the 4th, I want to direct you all to Tracy Dingman's column at the NMI, in which she discusses the patriotism embodied in the act of dissent.

In his own way, Barack Obama says a similar thing, when he allows a group that opposes his positions to become the largest group on his social networking site. He also responded publicly to the group yesterday, saying that dissenting activists among his base are responsible for making the FISA compromise bill better, even if it isn't perfect.

And then Obama says he'll vote for the bill even though it grants immunity to telecommunications companies that helped George Bush spy on us.

Yes, they spied on "us."

When one U.S. citizen is spied on by it's own government--it's a collective infringement on all of us. We should take it very seriously. Obama should not vote for a bill that grants such immunity to large corporations holding the key to our private communications. To do so sends a very dangerous message that such actions will be shrugged off.

This is very serious. How much are we willing to give up?

Obama puts a lie to his own words that dissent is patriotic when he then indicates he'll sign a bill that lets those who spy off the hook.

And there are alternatives.

Having said all that about Obama...

Obama is the 2008 nominee and he's under a lot of scrutiny. He needs to win.

Sure, on the issue of immunity for those telecom companies, we can't help ourselves...we want him to lead the Dems *now*...

But let's get real. This is about the Democratic Party. Last time I checked, they were in the majority.

The rest of the Dems aren't off the hook if they pass that bill with immunity intact. It will be a shameful day for the Democrats as a whole.

And I don't get what the problem is...pass a good bill and put the onus on Bush, where it belongs.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

$200K yamminess

marjorie says...

Many long time m-pyre readers know that I go home for the Yamboree every year, and you'll also be acquainted with the long-standing tradition of our small-town festival to pick its "Yam Queen" based on tickets sales.

In other words, the richest girl in town is always the queen, and the less wealthy girls become her "princess" and her "ladies-in-waiting."

Usually, there are six clubs that sponsor a girl in the contest. In principle, the girl sells tickets to support the Yamboree, and I'm sure that they do actually go out and sell. But we all know that the parents also kick in. This isn't anything unknown in town--everyone knows it.

People predict every year which of a small group of families will be successful at buying their daughter the crown. It's kind of a game. And most don't really have a problem with it, even though this practice has pretty much ensured that there has never once been an African-American queen, despite the significant presence of that community in northeast Texas. Not to mention the vast numbers of rural lower-income girls, in general, who will never get the opportunity to reign supreme on a big float parading through town, in a massive dress that in itself costs $1000s upon $1000s.

Alas. The festival, which is enjoyed by at least 100,000 people every year, does have to paid for somehow. And it is a great time every year. know, the rich will be rich, after all. Is it really too much to ask that we watch their young daughters, in all their sequined finery, roll by us briefly amid all the marching bands?

Shrug a little, roll eyes, give a tiny smirk, let's go get a turkey leg...

The winner of this year's contest was just announced: Queen Stephanie it is. But wait, back up, something's a little different this year.

From the Gilmer Mirror: "Ticket sales to this year's Coronation and Barn Dances raised $292,710."

Holy Moly.

Yeah, the tops for the winning family is usually at most $100,000ish.

Word on the street is that the mama called the club and said if they picked her daughter to sponsor, she'd kick in $200k.

...hmm...big question: what's an extra $200k gonna get us this year?

Bias dressed in headline clothing

Maggie says:
Did anyone happen to see the front page of USA Today? A lunch spot near my office has them hanging to read while you wait for your order, and I couldn't help but choke on my iced tea when I spotted the subhead to the top story.

Tell me, what in the world does McCain have to do with the Columbian hostage rescue? Nothing.

So let's review this front page's keywords: Celebrate, America, Grandly, Flag, McCain. Hmmm... Biased, anyone?

The correct way to cover this story would have be a final sentence at the end of the article that read something like this: "Coincidentally, John McCain was in Colombia at the time on a three-day trip through Central and South America." Which is pretty much how NPR covered it, by the way...

But putting him in the headline? An outrage.

Can we just go ahead and call it the long weekend already?

Maggie says:
I'm antsy over here in my office, totally on vacation already in my head. Correspondingly:

  • The Bizarre Origins of 8 Wedding Traditions
    No surprise at all that most "traditional" wedding customs are hopelessly chauvinistic. While I've ruled most (although not as many as Mikaela did) of these out, I still love the stories. For example: "The best man stands guard next to the groom right up through the exchange of vows (and later, outside the newlyweds’ bedroom door), just in case anyone should attack or if a non-acquiescent bride should try to make a run for it." Lovely!
  • One Angry Man
    A fantastic New Yorker profile of Keith Olbermann, as meaty with insider Olbermann stuff as it is with insider media stuff. "Phil Griffin, the senior vice-president in charge of MSNBC ('Phil thinks he’s my boss,' Olbermann says), raised the matter of tone. Why did Olbermann need to end his commentary by telling the President of the United States to 'shut the hell up'? 'Because I can’t say, ‘Shut the fuck up,’ that’s why, frankly,' Olbermann responded. The line stayed in."
  • For the Sake of the Girl with the Beautiful Swing
    Garrison Keillor issuing the pre-Independence Day call as only he can, with soothing words of baseball, parenthood, vacations, and the black hole this presidency has created for Little Leaguers everywhere.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Obama and the NRA

marjorie says...

The U.S. Supreme Court last week turned up the heat on the gun control debate when it ruled that individuals have a constitutional right to own handguns. The case, District of Columbia v Heller, challenged Washington D.C.'s 32-year-old ban on handgun ownership, which many say was the strictest in the nation. It barred most residents from owning handguns and required that legal firearms be kept unloaded and under trigger lock if not disassembled.

The majority opinion of the court was unequivocal, saying it had "no doubt, on the basis of both text and history, that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms.''

Barack Obama says he thinks the Supreme Court made the right decision, going so far as to characterize it as an endorsement of views he holds:

"I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures. The Supreme Court has now endorsed that view, and while it ruled that the D.C. gun ban went too far, Justice Scalia himself acknowledged that this right is not absolute and subject to reasonable regulations enacted by local communities to keep their streets safe. Today's ruling, the first clear statement on this issue in 127 years, will provide much-needed guidance to local jurisdictions across the country.

As President, I will uphold the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun-owners, hunters, and sportsmen. I know that what works in Chicago may not work in Cheyenne. We can work together to enact common-sense laws, like closing the gun show loophole and improving our background check system, so that guns do not fall into the hands of terrorists or criminals. Today's decision reinforces that if we act responsibly, we can both protect the constitutional right to bear arms and keep our communities and our children safe."

But that's not enough for the National Rifle Association. It still think he's a threat when it comes to the type of judge he'd nominate to the Supreme Court. Chris Cox, head of the NRA's political arm, told Politico that the organization would spend at least $40 million to influence the fall election, with $15 million of that targeted directly at Obama. According to Politico:

This fall, NRA members will get automated phone calls, mail pieces and pre-election editions of the group’s three magazines making the case against Obama. More broadly, the group will use an independent expenditure effort to hammer the Democratic nominee via TV, radio and newspaper ads in some of about 15 battleground states in the Midwest and Mountain West.

Cox also sounds a little bitter about Obama: “We look forward to showing him ‘bitter,” Cox told Politico, later adding that if the NRA has its way, there will be plenty of "moderates" who are "stuck on bitter."

At the same time, Cox agreed that McCain wasn't all that great either, from the perspective of the NRA. McCain is in favor of background checks at gun shows, according to Politico. Nor is McCain a hunter.

Here in New Mexico it's legal for an individual to own a handgun. And before the Supreme Court decision, our Attorney General, Gary King, joined 30 other AG's in filing an amicus brief supporting the effort to strike down the D.C. ban. An amicus brief is essentially a position paper filed with the court, in this case outlining why they thought Washington D.C.'s handgun ban went too far.

The Attorney Generals made the case that the second amendment text protected the individual's right to bear arms. "Because the Second Amendment’s text recognizes a “right,” not a “power,” and guarantees that right to “the people” and not “the States,” the AG's argued, "it necessarily secures an individual right to keep and bear arms."

They stopped short, though, of saying the amendment conferred an absolute right not subject to regulation. "Reasonable minds," they said, "can differ about the Second Amendment’s scope—that is, about which government regulations are permissible. And subsequent cases may well present difficult questions about where precisely to draw that line."

In the wake of the Heller decision just last week, it seems we're about to enter into a rejuvenated, and most likely prolonged, debate on what that scope actually is. Because the NRA isn't just targeting Obama.

The organization along with other anti-gun control groups are taking aim at gun control laws across the nation. For instance, the NRA filed suit last Thursday to overturn handgun laws in Chicago. And in Georgia, which allows citizens to carry concealed weapons, a gun rights group has even filed suit challenging a ban on guns in Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport.

Cross-posted at the New Mexico Independent.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Good News

Mikaela says:
I may be buried, but at least the stars are lined up to help! Gene, take note & take heart, in case your "summer" is as crazy as mine...

VIRGO: Get ready for a sharp increase in the pace of your life, as fiery Mars is heating up your cool sign for the next several weeks. But this isn't a license to go overboard with your newfound energy. Use your strength of purpose judiciously and you should be able to make this summer one of the most productive ones ever.

Speaking of birthdays... a little birdie told me one of our Ms just celebrated a little something! Happy June, Marjorie! Your horoscope is less-than-exciting, I fear...

Maintaining a daily calendar is a smart way to handle how much is on your plate for the next few weeks. Although you may want to take a bit of time off for yourself, it could be challenging to actually get away now. The alternative is to build some alone time into your daily schedule so you don't burn yourself out.

Then again, maybe it's just the medium. This Rick Levine guy seems kinda preoccupied about work! Even Maggie's perpetually tempestuous horoscope is rather sedate...

A shift in your daily patterns is in the making as Mars enters your 6th House of Routine, prompting you to improve your overall efficiency. One way to do this is to limit the amount of distractions in your immediate environment. Although this may be difficult today, your current intentions set the stage for you to follow through with specific actions over the days ahead.

Obama Iconography

Maggie says:
I came across a fascinating gallery on today showing graphical depictions of Obama. There's no question - the iconography of Obama brings home just how many Americans are desperate to anoint him our political savior. We see him wearing halos, exuding superpowers, morphing into Lincoln, and taking advantage of a lot of fantastic shadowing.

I'm a huge fan of political iconography, no question about it. How images are used, expressed, and produced is fun brain-stuff for me. Last weekend in a Virginia airport I had to stop and grin at the sight of two large African-American men wearing great hats and flashy, air-brushed Obama shirts. Those shirts were loud, and wonderful. (On a side note: Virginia's going to be thrilling come November.)

Slowly but surely, some powerful Obama iconography has seeped into our political consciousness. While it provokes fun forays for me back into campaign imagery of decades past, I do wonder this: is there a price for proclaiming Obama's omnipotence with such graphic fervor? Are we setting ourselves up for the sugar crash of the century if we can actually do this thing? What happens after that, besides the fact that we all have better-looking political t-shirts?

a warm smile and an iron fist...are hard to reconcile

marjorie says...

The week is flying by and its already Tuesday. I would be remiss though if I didn't point out the talking-to that our favorite Abq Journal columnist gave the APD yesterday. The subject is one of our faves: the party patrol! We've weighed in before, as has the general public extensively in the past. So I'm pleased to see it come up again.

When you read the example Gene gives, especially those of you out of town, you may think--wait, No Way! But, um, yeah.

The big picture is the "refusal to obey" ordinance that the APD uses to arrest people who they say don't do what they're told. According to an analysis by the Journal, about 70% of these arrests are dismissed in court. But APD Chief of Police Ray Schultz says the ordinance is a good one, that the police apply it correctly in general, and that the court system can handle any instances in which they overstep, just fine.

Regarding this perspective, Gene says, "I'm truly shocked by that because the ordinance Chief Schultz is protecting is, among other things, in conflict with the community-policing directive he adopted a few years ago. You can't have a warm smile and an iron fist, both."

I couldn't agree more.