Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Wish for Peace

Mikaela says:
Apologies for the re-posting here, but I was so touched by this sermon of peace that I had to share it here.

One of the messages of Christmas that gets me every year is the longing for peace on earth.

This year, Rev. Christine Robinson shared the story of a Unitarian minister who authored the carol “It Came upon the Midnight Clear.” It's not one of my favorite carols, and I'd never paid much attention to the words. It deserves our attention, though. Read on.

Here are the first 2 verses. The rest come after Christine calls for them.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold!
"Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From heaven's all gracious King!
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing.
And ever o'er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

"Although this is one of the beloved carols of Christians, you’ll note that this is not a carol about Christ. It is a carol about peace....

Edmund Hamilton Sears, Unitarian minister, was a man who longed for peace. His longing was very personal; that is one of the reasons he could write such a beautiful hymn. He longed for peace inside himself, he longed for peace in his community, and he longed for an end of war. He wanted those things so much because he didn’t have them.

Sears was apparently a high-strung man, verging always on a nervous breakdown, haunted by a sense of inadequacy as a minister. Indeed, he never really carried a full workload as a minister; his wife did most of what we would call the pastoral work—the calling, the meetings, the counseling. Edmund couldn’t handle those things. If he lived today, he would probably be diagnosed as clinically depressed, as having some imbalance of brain chemistry that made it hard for him to concentrate, to rest, and to work. These days, he would have medicine to help him lead a normal life, but he lived before such things. So he had to always husband his strength and tranquility by long walks in the country, by working in his garden, and by writing.

Inner peace came hard to Sears, and yet, out of a rare experience of inner peace, he wrote a beautiful carol that now the world enjoys, and enjoys all the more because it is such a peaceful song to sing in a hectic season.

Sears also longed for peace in his community, and he didn’t have much there, either. The people in his community were embroiled in arguments over two important things: over slavery and over the rights of women. Sears was an abolitionist and spoke out for women’s suffrage. His congregation did not all appreciate his stands.

Now, Sears had his own handicaps and problems to think about, and perhaps another man would have said to himself, “I am just not strong enough to argue with my neighbors about national issues.” But he didn’t. He wrote and spoke and preached his conviction that slavery degraded human beings—slaves and owners alike—and degraded nations that allowed it. Sears longed for peace, but not at any price. He was willing to argue for what he believed, even when it caused conflict in his community. Sears spent his small strength fighting for abolition of slavery, knowing, perhaps, that sweeping the conflict among people under the rug does not bring peace, and that only justice can be the basis of lasting harmony.

Finally, Sears longed for peace in his world, which is to say, for an absence of war. And he didn’t have that either, I’m afraid. The Mexican War was going on. Sears thought it was an immoral war and wrote articles trying to convince others of his convictions. If you read the third verse of “It Came upon the Midnight Clear,” you can hear how discouraged he became about peace on earth.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world hath suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love song which they bring:
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When, with the ever-circling years,
Shall come the Age of Gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And all the world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Edmund Hamilton Sears, Unitarian minister, didn’t see much peace in his time, but the Christmas hymn he wrote about peace was an important force in making peace on Earth one of the messages of Christmas. And probably, more than anything else he wrote in his life, “It Came upon the Midnight Clear” has been a force for peace in our world. For, when enough people hope for peace, then peace can come.

This longing for peace was underlined for me while listening to Performance Today yesterday. There's a classical chorale piece written in honor of the true story about the Christmas truce between German and British soldiers during World War I. From their trenches - just meters apart - the soldiers sang Christmas carols to each other.

Silent Night, holy night.
All is calm, all is bright.
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Oh for a day of peace for all us all: A truce. Can you imagine it? A suspension of disagreement to feel the resonance of our similarities, the haunting familiarity of oneness, the power of our combined intention for peace: May this instinct continue to guide us toward the generosity of spirit that true calm requires.

Un-Merry Christmas Blocks

Mikaela says:
It's been a strange holiday season so far. I've been feeling the most Christmas spirit I've ever conjured up, predominantly because it's my little one's very first Christmas. (See the preview of Christmas morning present extravaganza to the left...)

At the same time, I keep tripping over the most un-Christmasy roadblocks to holiday cheer.

Example #1:
While listening to the classical radio station, which has brought so many bright holiday moments this season, an ad came on that starts with the admonition from a young woman to throw away the cookbook and just make dinner however you're inspired. You can hear the sizzling of what must be meat right about the moment the woman reveals that this is a funeral home ad. So ... cooking meat and dead bodies. Ugh. Methinks this gruesome juxtaposition is not what they intended. Perhaps the tiniest bit Dicksonian, but largely ... a Christmas spirit killer.

Example #2:
The healthcare bill rigmarole. Enough said.

Example #3:
For some reason, my husband and I, not normally horror film afficianados, cannot seem to get in or out of the holiday season without watching horror movies. Last year, we watched What Lies Beneath on Christmas morning as I finished the last of the gift wrapping before heading to my mother's for the day's main events.

This year, with a new HD television combined with Netflix instant watching, we've consumed not one, not two, but three horror movies so far, despite my request that we bar horror from our Christmas festivities this year.
  • Let the Right One In - a dark little holiday charmer about a kid vampire and her little buddy and all the hijinks they get into - killing people, infecting people, beating up bullies
  • House of Voices - a spirited morality tale about war orphans, abuse, murder, and motherhood.
  • Haunted - a Christmas classic about a haunted house and the havoc it wreaks on a weak-minded, youngish spinster.

With the majority of my Christmas gifts purchased; my first year of holiday cookie baking almost complete; our real, live Christmas tree decorated; seasonal dish towels, mugs, and appetizer plates purchased; it's time to reap the Christmas spirit I've endeavored to sew.

If only the universe would stop making that quite so difficult...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Economics & Social Justice

Mikaela says:
You've got to go listen to NPR's Planet Money blog from today, which covers both the contributions of recently-deceased Paul Samuelson and a re-situating of Adam Smith in the dialog about governments' role in advocating for the poor in world markets by Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics, in his new book, The Idea of Justice.

Samuelson on PBS Newshour interviewed by Paul Solman:

INTERVIEWER: [Y]our student, Robert Merton ...said, look, innovation always brings with it certain risks. You don't kill innovation as a result.

PAUL SAMUELSON: I'm not speaking in favor of killing innovation. I'm speaking in favor of centrist use of the market, which involves necessarily a considerable degree of regulation. Markets by themselves will get themselves inevitably into inequality and into their own destruction. It will happen again and again.

INTERVIEWER: You're a lifelong Democrat.

PAUL SAMUELSON: I'm an incurable centrist.

INTERVIEWER: Do you feel that there was simply an ideological shift towards free-market fundamentalism, some people have called it, that got us inevitably onto this track?

PAUL SAMUELSON: Since 1980, yes.

INTERVIEWER: And that's your explanation for what happened?

PAUL SAMUELSON: Yes. And not only that, the economics profession, the guys I have lunch with and love, have, generally speaking, moved greatly rightward. I'm not sure that all of the fiendish stuff could have been picked up by centrist regulators, but you don't have to be perfect in anything in economic life. If you spent 70 years in economics, you'll understand that.

INTERVIEWER: So things could have been a lot less bad?


Sen on Adam Smith as the advocate of the Invisible Hand:

Sen: That's a complete caricature of Smith. [T]he invisible hand is not one of Adam Smith's theories. He uses the term three times in all of his entire corpus of work, twice as caricature. One is referring to the bloody and invisible hand, from Macbeth if I remember right. The later construction of this "story" that you have been sold from good economists is based on about 16 lines of Wealth of Nations, in which he discusses why people want exchange. For that, you don't need a big theory of morality, because they want each other's commodities.
How can you make these trades survive? Then you need mutual trust and understanding of each other. If you end up in a society with a lot of poor, what do you do? Then you need a concept of justice, you have to have transfer of rich to the poor.

This is from Wealth of Nations: Nearly all intervention in the interest of the rich, is almost invariably counterproductive, whereas all intervention of the state in the interest of the poor is almost always successful and achieves good results.

Smith is one of the heroes of my book - the real Smith not the manufactured Smith put together, totally different from the caricature of Smith.

Interviewer: So you're saying the Wealth of Nations was a tract advocating the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor?


Sen: His criticism is always in the interest of the underdogs of society. ... The thing implied about racism ... In one state, he's very angry with Italy about the white supremacy argument. ... He says there isn't a negro anywhere in the North of Africa, with which he's familiar, who does not have a superior concept of justice which his sordid master is scarcely cable of understanding. He was a totally radical figure.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

m-pyre birthday: recession edition

Mikaela says:
The m's thought it would be fun -- okay, bad word choice -- to write about how the recession has affected us as our birthday reflection this year.

So with my daughter screaming herself to sleep in the next room, heaters blaring in all the rooms, typing with fear of breaking a circuit any minute, I'll share a bit of what this recession has meant to me.

The biggest effect by far has been the impetus to quit my job. That's right, quit my full-time with great benefits job for an uncertain future as a consultant doing all manner of odd, small jobs.

You know the saying, "It's always darkest before dawn?" Here in the balloon fiesta city, we all know it's also the coldest right before dawn. It also translates into screaming baby, actually. The biggest scream is often the last one, right before she drifts away to sleep, oddly and miraculously enough.

And so it was that it took the biggest recession of my lifetime to push me to do the thing I knew I was supposed to do all along, which is ... not get pigeon-holed into a job for the sake of security. I'm a virgo and not a big risk-taker anyway. I don't like being out on a limb, but I also know that my skills will support a number of endeavors, and so I should assemble the odd jobs that make up a life that supports me, challenges me, and makes me happy. Did I mention they also need to be flexible enough to allow time to raise a little girl? Well, there's that, too.

My mom worked from the time I was two. She was a realtor, and her work was never done. She struggled to make ends meet, so there was little she could do to make time for extra commitments with us - organized sports, concerts, etc.? Not so much. But she raised us, and we never went hungry. And her efforts were enough.

Here I am, a generation later, and I can see that I may have chosen a path that allows me to take her to daycare and pick her up every day, but it's also the path that means I'm checking my email all hours of the day, and working late and once even pulling an all-nighter to shoehorn the work I need to get done into the shrinking available time to do it.

This recession has simultaneously given me the biggest freedom since going to school full-time (which most of us remember was not all that "free" to begin with) and the most stress I've ever had about work. I have five jobs at the moment - one of them full-time with flex hours and the rest very sporadic but still time-consuming. I'm lucky to have them all, even if I honestly don't know how I will find the time to complete them all.

In the meantime, Eric's job at UNM is looking increasingly grim, even as he personally struggles more and more to find meaning in his efforts there. He's been "keeping an eye out" for a while now, with no good options revealing themselves. Even with all his good connections and friends in high places, there's no positions to be had. If he can't find work, I really worry about everyone else in the job market. Yikes.

We can pay our bills for one more month on our savings, and then I pray that my consulting gigs start paying. It will be close, but I'm sure it will all be fine.

As the people who have coached me about money in my life say to do, I'm focusing on the abundance in the universe and the feeling of being buoyed by all the gifts and blessings I know to be my life. Life will provide.

In the meantime, I work, listen to NPR, drink coffee, and do yoga -- chanting T.S. Eliot's invocation (quoting an English mystic Julian of Norwich, author of the first book written in English by a woman): "All shall be well. All manner of things shall be well."

Maybe in the next year, I can add blogging to that daily list.

Maybe in the spring...

A little more from my pal T.S. Eliot, excerpting (and updating, where needed) from his fourth Quartet, Little Gidding:

In the dark time of the year. Between melting and freezing
The soul's sap quivers.
[W]hat you thought you came for
Is only a shell, a husk of meaning
From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled
If at all. Either you had no purpose
Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured
And is altered in fulfilment.

In the uncertain hour before the morning
Near the ending of interminable night
At the recurrent end of the unending

... I said: 'The wonder that I feel is easy,
Yet ease is cause of wonder.
[L]ast year's words belong to last year's language And next year's words await another voice.
I find words I never thought to speak
In streets I never thought I should revisit

All shall be well, and
All manner of thing shall be well.
...I think, again, of this place,
And of people, not wholly commendable,
Of no immediate kin or kindness,
But of some peculiar genius,
All touched by a common genius,
United in the strife which divided them

The only hope, or else despair Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre— To be redeemed from fire by fire
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph.

A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter's afternoon, in a secluded [website]
History is now and [the Internet].

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Buying Good (?) Health (Insurance)

Mikaela says:
So a little tidbit on the radio got me to thinking about how little we're hearing about who's most in the pockets of the health care industry. We hear a lot about this congressperson or that congressperson being for or against the bill and a lot about Republicans want this versus Democrats want that, but how does that map to the money?

Bad news: I haven't found much that directly answers that question.
Good news: There is some info out there.
Good news & bad news: I've barely scratched the surface.

Here's a quick snapshot of what I could scrape together in a fairly short amount of time.


Top Industries Giving to Members of Congress, 2010 Cycle


% Received
(of 50)
IndustryTotal ContributionsDemsRepubsTop Individual Recipient
2Health Professionals $13,611,257 63%37%Harry Reid (D-Nev)
6Insurance $8,405,172 58%42%Charles E Schumer (D-NY)
10Pharm/Health Prod $5,434,796 61%39%Richard Burr (R-NC)
19Hospitals/Nurs Homes $3,872,639 74%26%Charles E Schumer (D-NY)
37Health Services $2,249,688 69%31%Charles E Schumer (D-NY)

Industry No. of Lobbyists
Health Professionals 781
Health Services/HMOs 988
Hospitals/Nursing Homes 1,172
Misc Health 165
Pharmaceuticals/Health Products 1,659

Senate Finance Committee Members Receiving the Most Contributions from Top 25 Healthcare Industry Orgs. 2007-2009

Recipient From Clients From Lobbyists Overall Total
John McCain (R-Ariz.) $427,530 $473,400 $900,930
Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) $276,050 $237,722 $513,772
Max Baucus (D-Mont.) $252,750 $200,899 $453,649
Arlen Specter (D-Penn.) $116,750 $108,778 $225,528
Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) $56,950 $130,808 $187,758
Mark Udall (D-Colo.) $76,025 $79,150 $155,175
Mark Warner (D-Va.) $46,650 $84,450 $131,100
Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) $47,200 $83,420 $130,620
Mary Landrieu (D-La.) $35,800 $67,000 $102,800
Patty Murray (D-Wa.) $32,800 $59,500 $92,300
Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) $22,500 $55,950 $78,450
Susan Collins (R-Maine) $28,300 $40,916 $69,216

Here's another great article that breaks down individual recipients. It also provides a link to download two awesome pivot tables in Excel here, one for the health insurance companies and one for big pharma:

Happy hunting!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Mexico compared to Chernobyl

marjorie says...

“Ground Zero. In some ways, New Mexico comes a close second to Chernobyl.”

So begins a review, published this week in the Akron Beacon Journal, of an exhibit of photographs of Patrick Nagatani. The New Mexico photographer’s work is on display at the Akron Art Museum for the next few months, in an exhibition titled “Nuclear Enchantment.” Nagatani’s work is “…all about questioning society’s blind faith in the so-called experts, in particular the expertise of science.” Nagatani’s work not only questions that faith but ridicules it, the piece states.

It then labels the New Mexico moniker “Land of Enchantment” as more accurately our “Better Business Bureau nickname.”

Known by its Better Business Bureau nickname as ”Land of Enchantment,” New Mexico is also the birthplace of the nuclear age. It has sites linked to research and development, weapon stockpiles, uranium mines, test sites and reactors alarmingly close not only to large population areas, but also to the tribal lands of the Hopi and Pueblo Indians, the oldest continuous culture in our country.

While the piece doesn’t show the actual pictures, it has great descriptions of the work. Here’s an example:

Uranium Tailings, Anaconda Minerals Corporation, Laguna Pueblo Reservation, New Mexico is a 1990 lifocolor print that illustrates a common misconception.

”If you’re on the right side of a Southwest Airlines 737 heading west and look down [if you're not over the wing],” Nagatani noted, ”you see beautiful white deposits below that make a striking contrast with the gray-brown landscape.

”I have to laugh to myself when I hear people around me admiring these ‘natural’ formations. They’re uranium tailings deposits, acres and acres of them.

”They’re all hot, they’re all radioactive.” And they’re mostly on the Laguna Pueblo Reservation, believed to have been settled in 1699.

It doesn’t stop there. Nagatani has chronicled mishap upon mishap, outrage upon outrage, presented often as bucolic landscapes layered with symbols of benign authority.

The entire piece is worth a read, especially if you can’t get to Akron to see the photographs. We can hope that the exhibition will make it to New Mexico in 2010.

Reading about Nagatani’s exhibit brought to mind a 2006 feature length piece in the Los Angeles Times that details the history of uranium mining and its human consequences in the Navajo Nation, and describes how the mines led to high cancer rates in a place where the disease had previously barely existed.

The U.S. government hasn’t done a systematic study of the human impacts of its nuclear industry on the communities in which it located it’s mines, mills, and experiments during the cold war, but various academic and individual scientific studies combined with oral histories and community based assessments over the years don’t make the comparison to Chernobyl a stretch.

A contentious debate over the future of uranium mining in New Mexico is currently underway. The Navajo Nation in 2005 banned uranium mining on its land, but mining companies are pursuing the development of new mines on the public and private land that snakes into and around Navajo land due to an expectation that a new uranium boom is looming.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

NPR, my beacon of sanity

I can't remember a time I didn't listen to National Public Radio. My fierce fandom is nearly entirely due to my father, who is as hardcore an NPR listener as they come. When my dad is home alone, he'll either have NPR playing on every radio in the house or have it playing on his hand-held radio, which he carries around the house with him. Now that is a fan. The voices - recognizable and reassuring - are instantly calming and grounding to me. The conversation is relevant and piquant, refreshingly free of the mindless chatter or shrieking stereotypes that clutter up television. And if pressed, I must admit that no jingle makes me happier than the chords announcing "Morning Edition." NPR is how I begin my day, how I like to fill my day, and how I like to make the transition from work to me-time. NPR even made it into our wedding vows. Is that more or less fanatical than carrying around a hand-held radio?

It's NPR pledge week this week, as all of you regular listeners are already aware. As much as we always know that NPR only exists with listener (and not government or commercial) support, we also know this: more than ever, NPR rises above the fray of broadcast journalism. So put your money where your ears, head, and heart are. Every dollar counts.

Have you pledged your local NPR station yet?

Pumping Horror 2: Traveling

Mikaela says:
What's worse than trying to pump at the workplace? Trying to pump on a business trip! Not only are you at the mercy of other people's schedules, you also have virtually no control over the spaces you inhabit, which means you're going to end up pumping in public restrooms - asking wary strangers for the nearest family room and praying it has a working power outlet.

If you're on a car trip - you're invariably carpooling with three guys, one of whom is your boss, and the other two you've worked hard to make them believe you weren't going to quit after having a baby as they automatically assume, no matter what you say.

The last car trip I went on with three guys, I had to excuse myself from our presentation practice 15 minutes before we were scheduled to leave on our 2-hour drive so that I could pump, then worry that they were waiting for me, badmouthing me for ducking out, and talking about what I was up to, anyway. We stopped for lunch before our presentation, and I inhaled my food so that I could sprint ahead to the car to pump again. Instead of waiting a reasonable amount of time (read: longer than 5 minutes, people), two of the guys decided to come on back to the car. I had hopped into the passenger seat to be nearer the car power adapter, and the guy who'd ridden up in the seat actually came to the door to give me grief, not really understanding what I was doing! The other just hopped on in the back and proceeded to talk to me like nothing was happening. I've never been so glad that he was a little deaf! Both guys now installed in the backseat, I've got to figure out how to unhook myself and put everything away discreetly - and quickly - before my boss comes back to take the wheel. He comes back just as I'm putting the last of my things away. He looks at me to ask if we're all set and ready to go. Redfaced but relieved, I say yes.

After the interview (2 hours later), I'm praying that someone wants to stop for soda or chips or something so I can hook myself back up again in relative privacy, even if they come back to the car right away. No such luck. I sit in the backseat, calculating the hours in my head to see if I can wait until we get back and still have time to fit one more pump in before it's time to go home and feed my kid directly, as nature intended. But no. I have to do this in the next hour or my daughter's going to go hungry - either tonight or tomorrow when she runs out of food! Now praying that neither of the guys in front clue in or -- god forbid -- turn around, I surreptitiously get out my supplies one at a time - modesty cape first. I'm all set to go but have to ask the guy in front to plug me in. He acts put out, and I just have to hope that he doesn't make a big enough deal out of it that I have to explain why it's important! And then there I am, surrounded by men I work with, as I'm hooked up like a cow at a dairy, hoping against hope that the whirring and buzzing is much less audible and embarrassing than I think. And 15 tortured minutes later, I have to risk further exposure by unhooking and putting it all away once again. As unlikely as it probably is, I don't think those guys even figured it all out. Or at least they had the decency to act clueless!

The last trip, I got to experience the joy of pumping in airports. Thank goodness for family bathrooms. Damn those family bathrooms with broken outlets! In the second bathroom, the outlet worked, but there was an entire outfit in the trash that smelled like unspeakable body fluids, and the only place to put the pump was a sink that I would normally not touch for any reason. I was beyond all this and covering my mouth with my little girl's pajamas, imagining the phermones "letting my milk down" when the janitor started knocking. He'd wait a minute and then knock again. And again. And again. More and more annoyed. I yelled each time for him to wait, but I didn't really want to announce to all the passers-by the real reason why. When I finally emerged, he looked at me accusingly, knowing I was in there shooting up or getting off or worse. I looked him right back and said, "I was trying to pump in there."

Flustered, he said gruffly, "Someone said there was broken glass in there."

"I didn't see any glass," I said, walking quickly away.

Of all the things to be surprised about in being a new mom, it's the little indignities that are the worst. I thought they'd end with pregancy, then with recovery after the birth. But I think they're just going to continue. Next comes the stage where your kids puke in public places, then when they act badly, and finally when they end up needing public assistance or something.


At least the benefits of motherhood more than makes up for the rest!

Monday, October 19, 2009

What it comes down to

Mikaela says:
Oh to be a mom brave enough to order one of these for my new office door!

Today is the first real day in an honest-to-god office, with a lock on the door and blinds on the windows. I can leave the pump out, meaning pumping now takes 15 minutes instead of 20 because of set up and take down time, every time, every 2 hours.

You have no idea how annoying that is, not to mention the stress of fearing a work mate, or god forbid boss, will ignore the Do Not Disturb sign and the locked door and just come on in. You think this is unlikely? Think again. Happened to me. Happened with the big boss.

This was the third office they moved me to (and here I can only whine a little bit, because at least they were trying to provide a private place other than the bathroom to pump), but I'd just been informed I'd have to move again because the big boss was moving floors. It would be a few days, the office manager told me. So I readied myself and gathered my things but still went to pump at my regularly scheduled 10 am "de-canting" as one workmate called it. I'd gotten a bit lax about using the cover-up. I did have a locked office, after all, but thankfully I'd used the modesty cape that time, when I heard a key in the lock. Yep, my boss walks in, sees me, apologizes ... AND THEN CONTINUES TO CHAT WITH ME FOR A GOOD TWO MINUTES before backing out, locking the door behind him. He just wanted to check out his new office; he had no idea he'd be checking out just so much!

Then they moved me to a different floor, saying this room would turn into a conference room in a few weeks, but it was mine until then. There was a bookcase and a chair, so I set myself up in the corner, back to one wall of windows. Oh right, did I mention that this room was floor to ceiling windows on two sides? These windows faced one office to the northwest and one bank of cubicles to the southeast. Fun times! I picked my poison and faced the one office. Now, I thought the windows were reflective and no one could see in. I didn't really think to check that until I walked in one day (about a week or two after using this room at least 3 times a day) there was a window washer outside. I figured before I bared all, I should make sure just how reflective that glass was. To my horror, not only could I see into the bank of cubicles, I could see right into the office I'd been facing all that time, even to the desk where the head of Civil Engineering was sitting and had been sitting. No wonder his face got red every time he and I shared an elevator! I fled to share my embarrassment with my closest work girls. But the crazy thing? I had to go back to that room 2 more times that day, and every day thereafter! I learned to close the blinds, believe me! But as time went on, people started using the room for meetings. I'd run up on a break to pump only to find a room full of people, some of them facing my pump artfully draped with my modesty cape but still plugged suggestively into the wall. So horrifying...

Now you can imagine my relief to be sitting, trying to work on a contract job, in my very own office, where I can close the blinds, lock the door, strap on my boob shields, and pump away, SVU playing on one screen while I page through pictures of my beautiful baby on the other.

Ah, the modern world of a working mom!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Markets aren't everything...? (!)

marjorie says...

A fabulously straight delivery given to us on the insightful news that "Markets Aren't Everything"--, about the work of the duo who won the Nobel for Economics (parenthetical commentary belongs to me):

The common theme underlying the prize this year is that markets do not solve all problems of resource allocation and incentives well or even at all. That is not a new idea. (!) What is important is that people and societies find ways through organizational structures and arrangements, political and other institutions, values, incentives and recognition, and the careful management of information, to solve these problems. Professors Ostrom and Williamson have led the development of this increasingly important part of economics. In reading their work, you are impressed that economics is not really fundamentally about markets, but about resource allocation and distribution problems. Markets appear because they operate effectively to handle a subset of these resource allocation challenges. Alternative creative institutional arrangements have been devised and refined over time to deal with those that markets handle imperfectly.

Isn't this another way of saying that capitalism has to be mitigated through the government or other social formations?

Now that economists have won the Nobel for confirming this, can we stop having that debate?

Something tells me, no.

Hat Tip to John Fleck.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Marty Chavez: Mayorship isn't a football game, it's a relay race

marjorie says...

Mayor Martin Chavez said this last night as he was conceding the race.

"I believe in my heart these races and the mayorship, it is not a football game, it’s not a baseball game, with a winner and a loser...It’...s a relay race. And each mayor has to move that baton, have to move that team forward. And I am proud we’ve moved the city of Albuquerque forward immeasurably."

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Note to Self: Do Your Research

Mikaela says:
Damn. I am a bad voter! I did not look at the sample ballot or read the League's guide, so I was unprepared to vote on the proposed amendments to the City Charter, all of which passed with or without my uneducated vote.

(All the bonds passed, too, including affordable housing - yay! Does this surprise anyone else? I hear all the bonds typically pass, but when I vote, I picture all those pinched Republicans saying, "More money for libraries, community centers? Why I should I pay for those?")

Google leads me to believe no one's blogged about the story behind the charter amendments in depth, either. It's up a planning student's alley (hint, hint, kids), but I feel like there's a story there that I want to know, so maybe I should get off my you-know-what and have a little look-sie.

Here's where the trail is leading...

Phew! That was exhausting. I'm out of shape! Did I miss something? Please, god, let someone have done this already... Links, anyone?

A down and dirty summary (still looking for the dirt behind these... who's for them? who's against? who pays? who benefits?):
  1. Elections - adds a summary of where to find policy on elections in the charter, since it's scattered throughout.
  2. Salaries - creates an independent salary commission to determine Mayoral and Councilor salaries, which then get voted on by the public, to start with the next term after an election. [This was the subject of lots of debate - is this self-serving? an end-run around the voters? Umm... No!]
  3. City Clerk - makes the position coincide w/ the Mayor's term & subject to approval of 2/3 of the Council, which also gets the authority to remove the Clerk w/ the same majority vote.
  4. Petitions - clarifies how amendments can be made to the Charter and allows the City Clerk (with approval from the City Attorney and City Council) to fix clerical errors and delete outlawed sections.
  5. Budget - attaches dates to the current budget process for accountability.
  6. Ethics - changes the authority for election ethics from the City Attorney (criminal charges) to the Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices (civil process).
  7. Zoning - adds an article clarifying the legislative role of the Council as the "ultimate planning and zoning authority (including adoption and interpretation of Plans, ordinances, and individual cases) versus the Mayor's role for implementation, enforcement, and administration of plans. [This is a big deal, and we'll see how it shakes out inside the Planning Departments... the Mayor's and the Council's!]
  8. Disputes - establishes a 3-person arbitration committee (1 appointed by the Council, 1 by the Mayor, 1 jointly) to resolve disputes about duties under the Charter. [Also very interesting! How often will this committee get used? All the time? Never?]
  9. Signatures - changes the signatures needed on a petition from a percentage to a number - 3,000 - to become a candidate for Mayor and 500 to become a candidate for City Council (making this equal across districts of different sizes).
  10. Attorney - changes the City Attorney's term to coincide with the Mayor, similar to the change to the City Clerk above, w/ the same approval & removal provisions by the Council.

Well, what do we think? Voters think they look okay...

(Incidentally, what's the knee-jerk response from voters on charter amendments? Is it, "They're fixing something that's broken, which is always a good idea!" Or, "They're *&^%$ing with our constitution, which is always a bad idea!" The approvals across the board seem to indicate the first instinct. Yikes!)

ABQ to Mayor Marty: No to Unprecedented 3 Terms!

Mikaela says:
Well, this may be a disaster, but the people have spoken (at least those who cared enough to go the polls this election), and they've all said, "More Marty? Not again!"

They couldn't quite go all the way to the left to vote for Romero, so it appears many people chose the box marked "Other," or in this case, Berry, sadly a Republican, yes, it's true. But I have to say, having heard all the candidates on KUNM's calling show on subsequent weeks, this guy said a lot of things that I was shocked to agree with. For the moment, he seems, well ... reasonable. And that's a breath of fresh air compared to Mayor Marty's childish and petulant grudge-keeping dictatorship.

Eric says the worst that can happen is he'll cut all the social programs, so when we elect a Democratic in the next mayoral election, then it will seem like Christmas again, or maybe a chance to re-assess our values and put money where our hearts are. That's what I'm hoping for, anyway.

This was a tough call. I knew I couldn't vote for bubble butt (there's a reason you never see him filmed or photographed from the back, don't you know!), but Richard Romero agonized me with his picking on the Council Service Planning Department, which I think is a really good idea when the Planning Department is inextricably linked to the Mayor's office, no matter who's in it. I think it's an important check-and-balance for our local government. And he also denigrated hiring outside architects and planners (something Maggie and I have both talked about) for city projects, and okay, he has a point, but what's his solution? The city does NOT have the capacity in its planning program, and won't if it doesn't offer competitive wages, which it can't in a budget crisis and hasn't, anyway.

So Berry's advantage? He's not the other guys, and he seems, to quote the Hitchhiker's Guide, "Mostly Harmless." We'll see if that bears out. It's fitting that it's balloon week. Just picture us all holding our breath while a new pilot gears up to blow hot air at us!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Go vote people

marjorie says...

It's October 5th, 7:30pm. Reed is playing his guitar. Kiki just had a bath, and is moping in his room because I won't let him go roll in the dirt until he's dry. I'm not going to check my email again tonight. If I do, there might be something else I want to put up in a blog. But this portion has come to an end. Albuquerque's municipal election is tomorrow.

Having written about the race since the first of the year, I can honestly say I'll feel some regret for any of the three candidates for mayor who doesn't make it into a run-off. They each have things to recommend.

Not gonna tell you who I'm voting for though ;-)

Go here to find out where you vote:

The polls are open from 7 to 7, tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Barb Wold at DfNM has endorsed Marty Chavez for Mayor

marjorie says...
I've read Barb's blog for a really long time, and I think it's notable that she endorsed Marty Chavez for mayor on her blog last night.

She's pretty much sat out the mayor's race this year, which is a fact I've been paying attention to in and of itself. I actually was not surprised by this development.

Barb is sharp, and a great polemicist. Not to mention she's the doyenne of New Mexico's Democratic netroots. I'll be checking out the comments section over there--I suspect it'll be an interesting way to pass the time today (since I simply have nothing else to do).

Monday, September 28, 2009

Interesting day in the Duke City for the left

marjorie says...

My title speaks for itself.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Van Jones: "Green jobs, not jails."

marjorie says...

Van on Van before he resigned from the Obama White House gig, from Politico in early August:

“I didn’t start out as an environmentalist. I started out helping urban kids in trouble and I burned out, going to way too many funerals and court cases that turned out badly,” Jones said in an interview. “I was just trying to get my own health back.”

“I went to these retreat Centers in Marin County, and it was a different world. They had all this organic food and solar panels and hybrid cars, and I was like -- why don’t they have this in my neighborhood?” Jones said. “I thought, if we had these kind of jobs and services in Oakland, we’d probably have less violence. So I came up with a slogan: Green jobs, not jails.”

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Congrats to the residents of Pajarito Mesa

marjorie says...

The many years of struggle and long hours of hard work between SWOP and the Pajarito Mesa Water Association to develop a safe, clean, dependable source of water for the residents of Pajarito Mesa is finally bearing fruit.

This Wednesday morning we met with TLC, the company that was awarded the contract for this project, and other engineers, and we saw for ourselves the construction in action. The project is just beginning but by early December the residents of Pajarito Mesa should start getting water from this filling station.

Bringing water to the Mesa has taken a long time, but as the saying goes, “la perseverancia siempre gana.”

-Sandra Montes

This was originally published on SWOPblogger.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Marjorie on

Did you see Marjorie over on

Marjorie: Dems should use health care reform

Go read!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Cancer and cannabis

marjorie says...

Here's a piece I wrote for the NMI last week, about the one medical marijuana non-profit in the state running out of its product. The person who've I've written about before here clued me into the fact that they had run out, and he also elaborated a little on why cannabis is seen as a medicine by so many. I was aware of the mitigating effect on nausea, pain and lack of appetite, but had not considered the issue with anxiety before...

New Mexico’s one medical marijuana producer is all sold out

According to a medical marijuana patient who has access to the secure Web site of the one nonprofit in the state producing marijuana for patients, the nonprofit has run out of its product and won’t have more available until October.

From the Santa Fe Institute for Natural Medicine (SFINM) Web site:


We are currently sold out of our inventory. Not knowing what members would like, our first crop was 50/50 indica dominant/sativa dominant. And although we are so sorry to run out, we now know that members prefer sativa dominant. We will try and adjust our proportions accordingly so this does not happen again. Also, please keep in mind that it takes 12-18 months for a smooth running ongoing production. This is especially tricky when it is a pilot project and mother nature is involved. We very much appreciate your patience.

Come October, we hope to introduce Big Buddha’s Cheese, Chocolope, and Kandy Kush to the menu. More details will come in September.

The source for this story, who wished to remain unidentified, told the Independent that if he didn’t have a producers license he’d have to risk buying it on the street — which is legal for him under state law, but dangerous because it forces him to purchase from people working in an underground economy.

“It’s not safe. You could be ripped off or killed, not to mention, it’s still a federal crime. So, say you bought some in front of a post office, you could be prosecuted by the feds,” he explained.

Still, he’s come to rely on medical marijuana as he makes his way through a debilitating chemotherapy cancer treatment regime, so figures most of the state’s medical marijuana patients are taking those kinds of risks.

“It significantly helps all of the serious side effects I’ve told you about… like relentless nausea, extreme anxiety, and loss of appetite. It also helps me sleep, which is good,” he said.

He doesn’t blame the dispensary for running out, though, saying its the state’s fault for not devising a better system for producing marijuana that meets the demand.

“Why are they limiting the ability of people to produce when its clear so many people in the state really need it,” he asked rhetorically.

You can read the rest here, including information about the prices of medical marijuana in NM. I'll have a follow-up piece soon I hope.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Fouratt does a disservice to Richardson

marjorie says...

By now, many of you will have read or heard the news that Governor Bill Richardson will not be indicted by the grand jury that spent a year investigating whether an investment services company won a big state contract after making contributions to two of Richardson's political action committees in 2004.

This is the investigation that caused Richardson to withdraw from his nomination to the position of commerce secretary.

The news that he wouldn't be indicted was quickly followed last week by details pulled from a letter that U.S. Attorney Greg Fouratt wrote to defense attorney's letting them know there would be no investigation.

You can see the letter for yourself here.

Fouratt said in the letter that while there would be no indictment, the investigation "revealed that pressure from the governor's office resulted in the corruption of the procurement process so that CDR would be awarded the work."

He further said that the lack of indictments shouldn't be considered an exoneration.

That the letter, which is dated August 27, quickly made its way into the hands of the press bolsters the assertion made by a former Republican U.S. Attorney, Joseph diGenova, that the letter is blatantly political.

I tend to agree.

Here's why it seems so political, to me.

Fouratt's statement in the letter that the procurement process was corrupted by pressure from the Governor's office begs the question: why, then, was there no indictment?

It could be that Fouratt wants us to believe that the decision to not indict Richardson was itself political.

But in order to believe that, we'd have to believe that the Justice Department with all of its career prosecutors colluded together to decide to let a crime of that magnitude go unpunished.

After a year long investigation by a grand jury, and a Justice Department under major scrutiny for letting decisions be swayed by politics during the Bush years, that's a bit of a stretch.

We need prosecutors who take to heart the bedrock principle that people in this country are innocent until proven guilty. If his grand jury didn't lead to a simple indictment--which is simply a greenlight to go to trial--then Fouratt needs to let the people he pursued in this case be innocent rather than further damage their reputations.

Instead, he issues a letter casting further aspersions on them, after they've been subjected to relentless public suspicion since last year. He must know such a letter would play out in the press, and that it would impact public opinion about the governor. That's political.

The governor's spokesperson called it "sour grapes." To me, its more like a threat, an unwarranted one.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy, 1932-2009

Like so many Americans, I woke up completely heartbroken this morning to the news that Senator Ted Kennedy, standard-bearer for liberalism, Lion of the Senate, had passed away.

It's overwhelming to take in all that Kennedy did to fight for justice over nearly fifty years of service, all the ways in which he championed the cause of those without desks in the Senate chambers, all that legislation - an entire generation's worth of legislation - that bore his mark in some way.

More often than not, Kennedy served as a barometer for that single, highest measure of importance: are we treating others the way that we'd like to be treated? Are those who are ignored and forgotten helped by what we are doing? Are those who have been wronged a little more righted by our efforts? Is it enough? What more can we do?

Over the years, here on m-pyre and in a hundred conversations, Marjorie and Mikaela have lovingly teased me that my heroes tend to be dead white men. This is true to an extent, the reason being that our structure of government lies at the center of my own experience. (And that structure, as we know, has historically enabled one demographic more than others.) I've always felt strongly that there is a time and a place to work within that system, as flawed as it may be. Like it or not, it is the arena that translates activism into policy. If ground-up, community-based action is the heart of any movement (and I believe it is), we need instruments of change inside the power structure to harness that passion and translate it into law. Progress is easier when there are allies on the inside. And there was no stronger ally, or more knowledgeable figure about the legislative process, than Senator Kennedy.

I began here by pondering the overwhelming scope of Kennedy's legacy. So, too, is the thought of a future without him. I look around and don't see that new standard-bearer in wait. Paul Wellstone was taken away from us too soon. Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State. Barack Obama became President. Whereas Kennedy's failed bid for the presidency freed him to dedicate himself to the Senate, I fear that "ambition or bust" is more common today. We cannot all become a Lion of the Senate, after all. Nor should we. There can only be one.

I'm remembering this morning that voice looming over debates on the Senate floor. I'm thinking about my own lifetime of being invested in politics, as defined in large part by Senator Kennedy. I'm remembering working in politics in Massachusetts, and seeing the senior senator here, there, everywhere, his hands in everything that mattered. And since I'm traveling back anyway, I'm thinking too of that childhood concept wherein it's impossible to believe that certain people will ever leave this world, because they are in so many ways the center of it. That girl wishes beyond hope that Senator Kennedy could've lived forever.

From the greatest senator of our lifetime, his most quoted pronouncement:

"For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why the rest of the bloggers shake their head at a certain blogger

marjorie says...

Ever wonder about the occasional upheaval among writers in the blogosphere? Well, the following example should clue you in.

From Heath Haussamen's original story yesterday:

"For example, according to the indictments, a $2 million voucher from the state treasury was deposited in the account of Gutierrez between Sept. 29 and Oct. 5, 2004. That voucher was based on a false invoice, the indictment states.

"Then, between Oct. 1 and Oct. 7, 2004, a $140,000 check from Gutierrez was deposited in the account of the Kupfers. Similar transactions occurred several times between 2004 and 2006, according to the indictment."

From Joe Monahan's blog this morning, uncredited, eerily almost exactly the same:

"For example, the indictment asserts that a $2 million voucher from the state treasury was deposited in Gutierrez's account between Sept. 29 and Oct. 5, 2004 and that the voucher was based on a false invoice. Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 7, 2004, a $140,000 check from Gutierrez was deposited in the Kupfers account. Such activity happened several more times from 2004 to 2006."

A fellow blogger questioned me about this a little more, so here's some additional information:

The issue being written about is a 50 count indictment covered in 21 pages of legal language.

Heath wrote two paragraphs letting readers know what Count 3 and 4 say, in his own words. You can compare how he wrote it with the indictment:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Swopistas make me happy

Maggie says...

You guys rock!

Palin Poetry

Mikaela says:
Thanks to Maggie Mae, the Freckled Citizen, for posting this. It was too good not to throw on the old m-pyre.

As a dabbler in poetry myself, I thought I could recognize a good poem when I heard one, but apparently not. Leave it to Conan O'Brien and William Shatner to uncover the poetic heart in Palin's dumbass farewell speech.

Verbatim transcript provided below for you to follow along!

"[S]oaring through nature's finest show. Denali, the great one, soaring under the midnight sun. And then the extremes. In the winter time it's the frozen road that is competing with the view of ice fogged frigid beauty. The cold, though, doesn't it split the Cheechakos from the Sourdoughs? And then in the summertime, such extreme summertime, about a hundred and fifty degrees hotter than just some months ago, than just some months from now, with fireweed blooming along the frost heaves and merciless rivers that are rushing and carving and reminding us that here, Mother Nature wins. It is as throughout all Alaska, that big, wild, good life teeming along the road that is north to the future."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Funny

Mikaela says:
I work at a Native-American owned company, and one of the things I love is the paradigm shift that occurs here, where white is NOT the norm and shouldn't be.

My coworker, who happens to be part Navajo and part Cochiti, sent me this Top 10 List of Things Native people should say or ask white folks. It's funny because it's true!

  1. How much white are you?
  2. I'm part white myself, you know.
  3. I learned all your people's ways in the Boy Scouts.
  4. My great-great-grandmother was a full-blooded white American Princess..
  5. Funny, you don't look white.
  6. Where's your powdered wig and knickers?
  7. Do you live in a covered wagon?
  8. What's the meaning behind the square dance?
  9. What's your feeling about Las Vegas casinos? Do they really help your people, or are they just a short-term fix?
  10. Hey, can I take your picture?

(This also reminds me of a similar list of things people ask when you say you're from New Mexico... Maybe I'll share that next Friday!)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

...watching the advent of medical marijuana...

--> -->

marjorie says...

A friend of mine has qualified for a medical marijuana license, or maybe it's called a prescription. He recently got his official card in the mail. The email from the non-profit that he'll be able to purchase marijuana from sent an email with program details, and signed off, "we look forward to serving you."

He was rather incredulous when showing it to me, noting that he'll be in on the first crop produced by the non-profit.

It is rather eyebrow-raising to see it in action up close and personal. For so many people who have illegally medicated themselves with pot for years, there must be a significant element of relief involved with the state no longer treating them like criminals.

I've been on board with pot legalization forever, frankly, but seeing this up close and personal drives home for me how important it is for many who have serious illnesses.

There are a lot of advocates in the state who deserve credit, but I still chuckle when I recall the simple one-liner uttered by Gov. Richardson back in 2007 on the topic. "My God, let's be reasonable," he said. Indeed.