Contents, April 2012
As far back in social history as you care to look, the pervasive social conflict has been between haves and have-nots. Kings and vassals, gentry and peasants, nobility and bourgeois, landed and serfs, rich and poor. We have not today, early in the 21st century, evolved much beyond that kind of social differentiation, if at all, with the 1 percent and the 99 percent gulf. In spite of a wide array of attempts to ensure political accountability and social equality, the social contract has been and continues to be relentlessly undermined by greed. Greed for money, power, property, possessions, notoriety/fame, sanctimony—you name it, and there are people hungry for it. There being no such thing as “enough” for some people, it is, for them, an unremitting obsession.
Since we live in a finite world, it is a given that there is just so much of everything to go around; it follows then that the more some have, the less there is for others to have. As Adam Smith, the 18th-century Scot social philosopher, put it, “Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality … Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.”
Obviously, in a competitive world with limited resources, there must be winners and losers, and in this contemporary American society it seems losers worship winners and despise fellow losers—a neat trick of brainwashing in which losers more identify with winners and which, paradoxically, impels them to act against their own best interests. Winners take more and more, leaving less and less for the majority and with disregard for the social consequences thereof. Sadly, what is taken includes the future of young people. This then is the essence of the 1 percent / 99 percent conundrum, #occupywallstreet, and the basis for claims and denials of class warfare.
It used to be the case that the 1 percent didn’t seem to feel any need to be subtle or discreet, but that seems to be changing as public awareness of the disparities increases. Conspicuous consumption seems to be on the wane, and is now increasingly replaced by denial of disparity, and that is all the more disingenuous and dangerous. Politicians who identify with and are themselves members of the 1 percent have stood before television cameras to bald-face declare there is no such thing as class warfare, as did the current speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives not so long ago. Perhaps these folks sense something dangerous may be afoot. As an aside, one must wonder just who the House of “Representatives” represents; I’m certain it isn’t me or anyone I know. Contemporary American politics is probably the strongest worst-case example of how money and power are at the root of every civil law and regulation proposed and passed. It’s all about money and power and, increasingly, about religion—Christian religion.
Is there a Republican war on the separation of church and state? The founders of our American democracy so cherished that freedom they left England in opposition to a state religion. On March 26, 2012, on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, presidential candidate Rick Santorum declared, “Rights come from our creator, they are protected by the Constitution of this country. Rights should not and cannot be created by a government because anytime a government creates a right, they can take that right away.” Now there’s a declaration for you, and I’ll bet the framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are rolling over in their graves. The framers, it is clear, were not deities, they were, well, guys, and they created the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Santorum recently sat through a Louisiana Christian preacher’s sermon during which the preacher shouted out for anyone who wasn’t a Christian to “get out” of the country. We are truly on the outer fringes of sanity and civilization. We could be losing our balance and heading for an Inquisition if someone like Santorum becomes president.
Is there a Republican war on women? In Idaho, State Rep. Chuck Winder questioned whether or not women understand that they have been raped. A woman in Texas described how she was required to listen to a physician describe a “gravely ill fetus” before she could abort it. Then we have Georgia State Rep. Terry England who, in matters of abortion, compared women to pigs and cows before his legislature. England was speaking in favor of a bill that would require women to carry to term a dead or dying fetus. In Mississippi, Rennie Gibbs has become the first woman to be charged with murder following the stillbirth of her baby. In Arizona lawmakers are moving a bill through their legislature that would allow an employer to fire a woman using birth control as a contraceptive.
Is there a Republican war on the poor and disadvantaged? Republican Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan is proposing a budget that would, in the words of The Huffington Post, ravage “programs for the poor, elderly, disabled, young, veterans, jobless, and students” because, he says, programs such as food stamps, health insurance, Pell Grants, and veterans’ hospitals are “demeaning.” Incidentally, Ryan, himself, is not a veteran but he was an Oscar Meyer Wienermobile driver.
Among the casualties of Ryan’s proposed reforms and budget cuts would be Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; in addition, veterans’ care would be cut by 13 percent. Ryan’s claim is that a social safety net “lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency, which drains them of their very will and incentive to make the most of their lives. It’s demeaning.” When a veteran comes back from Afghanistan without his legs and can’t get adequate medical care, knowing of Ryan’s concern for his dignity will certainly make a difference. Half of the savings Ryan is claiming for his budget come from health insurance programs. Ryan himself, as a U.S. Congressperson, has health care paid for by the taxpayers that exceeds any other government health program.
What about money and politics? David Koch, one of the two billionaire Koch brothers, has stated publicly that he will spend $60 million, a bit more than chump change, to defeat President Obama in the 2012 elections. The Koch brothers also gave generously to the current governor of New Mexico during her election campaign in 2010. Another of their protégés, Scott Walker, current governor of Wisconsin, is now facing a recall election following his first year in office. Walker recently stated rather disingenuously that he should have “anticipated there would be money and resources brought in from other places” to defeat him. Of course he didn’t mention where his own money comes from. Not to worry, bubby, the Koch boys have your back, as their greatest fear, in David’s words, is that, “If unions win the recall, there will be no stopping union power.” Imagine that! One of Walker’s first acts as governor was to disenfranchise public employee unions, including teachers. The same agenda has taken place in many other states as well.
So now what? We are, I believe, at a defining moment in the history of the United States. In all of my 74 years on the planet I cannot recall anything quite like what is going on now. Even during the most virulent period of the anti-Vietnam war protests there was a sense of one country, one people disagreeing. No, I’m not forgetting outrages like Kent State or the bombing of the Army Math building on the campus of the University of Wisconsin -Madison (I was there, I heard the blast). We have certainly had our moments as a society, as a country, as a people. Somehow each moment segued into the next with a better situation than what preceded it. Those were times, however, when the media were not so entirely pervasive and when any nut case with an anti-social agenda could not so readily spew venomous hatred over the airwaves or Internet as do Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Fox “News.” Glenn Beck in a recent Internet post declared the possibility that the unarmed young man who was shot to death in Florida a few weeks ago was the attacker. Beck supports the claim of self-defense by the self-appointed vigilante who killed the young man. Beck used his web site to slime a dead kid with insinuations that the kid may have smoked marijuana at one time.
What can we do to stem this gruesome sociopathic red tide of hatred and disinformation? The narrative has been, as you can see from the foregoing, largely in the hands of right-wing sociopaths and political opportunists funded by billionaires with an anti-democratic, dystopian agenda. With some politicians it seems not a matter of what will they say next but of what won’t they say next. The right-wing agitators are getting most of the media attention right now, and it’s time for the voices of humanity, intelligence, and reason to speak up and occupy the narrative. This is a difficult assignment; it is too easy to get angry and vituperative in response to such outrage. Instead it is necessary to become quietly deliberate and persuasive without making people feel talked down to or patronized. It will take patience and truthfulness. The future is being constrained by greed, and when there is nothing attainable to aspire to but joblessness or low-paying survival wages the future is foreclosed. A Las Cruces newspaper recently ran an opinion piece by a right-wing academic whose opinion was that New Mexico needs lower wages and lower taxes on corporations. This guy preached the gospel according to ALEC at a church in Las Cruces and sponsored by the so-called Rio Grande Foundation. Nuff said!
The public must be educated. The public must understand we are all in this together, that the divide-and-conquer tactics being employed to pit social groups against each other is a deliberate, well-financed strategy. The opposition is wealthy, influential and powerful. Right now they own the space we need to occupy. Occupying the narrative, you will be educators and skilled warriors whose task it will be to help the enemy destroy themselves. Teach about ALEC and its sponsors. Teach about legislators who introduce and pass legislation written for and by international corporations for their own benefit. Teach about the corrosive influence of money and religiosity in politics and the public space. Teach about politicians who will sell themselves for a trip to a vacation resort or even for a cheesy banquet. How little are they selling themselves for? Aren’t their constituents supposed to have first dibs on their loyalty? Did we elect ALEC or them? Do constituents have to ply their elected officials with resort trips and cheesy banquets to have public interests represented? These are the lessons you can teach, the questions you can ask. It’s a dialectic; it becomes a narrative joined by all who want an equitable political future—who want a future.
Emanuele Corso has been a New Mexico resident for over 30 years. Prior to that he taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Department of Educational Policy Studies, where he received his doctorate in education policy studies. He is currently working on a book, Belief Systems and the Social Contract, which he started when he was teaching at Wisconsin.
Ranch files notice of appeal after OSE dismisses water application as vague
Attorneys for the Augustin Plains Ranch filed a notice of appeal April 5 in state District Court in Socorro against State Engineer Scott Verhines’ dismissal of the ranch owners’ application to pump 17.5 billion gallons of water a year from the San Augustin Basin and pipe most of it to other parts of the state.
In a press release dated April 2, Verhines said the ranch owners’ application was “vague, over-broad, lacked specificity and the effects of granting it cannot reasonably be evaluated, problems which are contrary to public policy.”
In dismissing the application, Verhines accepted the recommended decision issued by Office of the State Engineer hearing examiner Andrew Core, who heard oral arguments on a motion to dismiss the application at hearing in Socorro Feb. 7. On that day the courtroom was packed with area farmers, ranchers and small landholders, some of the many in the area who protested the application to the OSE.
According to the OSE more than 900 people, state and federal agencies, and Native American tribes originally sent letters of protest, although the number of official protestants dwindled over time, since many failed to pay the required fee.
Among the reasons for denial listed in Core’s finding, is that the application “requests almost all possible uses of water, both at the Ranch location and at various unnamed locations…but does not identify a purpose of use at any one location with sufficient specificity to allow for reasonable evaluation of whether the proposed appropriation would impair existing rights or would not be contrary to the conservation of water within the state or would not be detrimental to the public welfare of the state.”
Ranch spokesman Tom Carroll, the president of Carroll Strategies, an Albuquerque public relations and advertising firm, said Verhines’ decision denied the project a chance to be heard on its merits.
“We think if we had the chance to explain the hydrology, they would see there is so much water and so much recharge that we could take the water and they would not see any impairment to their wells,” he said.
Attorneys for the protestants, Samantha Barncastle and Bruce Frederick, said they hadn’t yet received their copies of the notice of appeal when The Light called them for comment April 9. Barncastle noted that any party in the case had the right to file a notice of appeal.
“That they filed a notice of appeal is not surprising, but we don’t know what to expect, given that we don’t know what the legal basis of their appeal is,” she said. “We’ll probably use the same argument against it that we used in the motion to dismiss—that the application is insufficient on its face.”
Frederick, an attorney with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, who represented about 80 of the protestants, was more blunt. “The appeal has no merit and should be dismissed,” he said.
But, whether or not it is dismissed, he said, the sheer volume of water the ranch owners claim is available in the San Augustin Basin will continue to lure would-be investors.
“If the water is there, in the quantities they say it is, people are going to continue to go after it. Although, any application has got to meet the criteria of the statute,” he said.
Frederick said the best resolution to the pressure to develop the San Augustin Basin might be for the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission to intervene. The commission could survey the basin to determine how much water is actually there and what connections the basin has to other water courses in the state. Then it could file an application to put the water in a strategic water reserve and hold it until it’s needed.
“That actually would be a good scenario,” he said. “I think if there is a bunch of water there, if it’s going to be utilized, it’s going to have to be the government that does it or at least a public utility. I just don’t think a private corporation like the ranch can develop it consistent with the state constitution.”
Las Cruces attorney Steve Hernandez is Barncastle’s co-counsel in the case. They represent the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District in this case and represented the Carlsbad Irrigation District in the Berrendo application, a similar water case in eastern New Mexico. He said he, too, doubts the Augustin Ranch case will settle anything. Instead, it opens up an urgent debate that other Southwestern states are also facing.
“The fact that most water projects in New Mexico involve a governmental entity on one end or the other has always allowed the public to voice their opinion on whether or not they agree with what’s being done. So it allows public participation, and checks and balances, in the process,” he said.
“What the legal counsel for the Augustin Ranch proposes is that we’re at a stage in the development of New Mexico where we have to literally push these projects through, but instead of there being a government entity that’s doing it, it needs to be private enterprise. Not speaking on behalf of MRGCD, but personally, I disagree. If you do that, you’re headed down the path where water only goes to those people who can pay for it,” he said.
Hernandez said one good thing the state Legislature could do is pass an “area of origin” statute similar to laws in California and Arizona. Area of origin statutes provide protections for residents of the areas from which water is transported. The protections vary from state to state. In California, the law states the appropriation of water for export cannot deprive potential users in the area of origin of sufficient water for future use.
“Most recently, the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which has moved to import water from outlying counties, has made a commitment to provide infrastructure and water for a period of time to those counties,” he said.
In the April 2 press release announcing his decision, Verhines said, “I’ve approached this appropriation with a thorough eye for the overall impacts this would have on New Mexicans. As our society becomes increasingly dense in urban areas, we remain encouraging to innovations in water movement around the state. However, reasonable applications are those that identify a clear purpose for the use of the water, include reasonable design plans, and include specifics as to the end user of the water. All applications demand intense scrutiny with all decisions made based on sound science, reason and caution, as it is our obligation to New Mexico to effectively and transparently manage, allocate and protect its water resources. Along with the proof of clear demand for the water in one area, and an absence of harm to those in the basin area from which the water is taken, a commitment to proper backing and contractual arrangements must also be in place.”
Some water activists have called this statement an attempt to straddle both sides of the issue, and a recipe telling future water capitalists how to write an application for transferring water from powerless rural areas to thirsty cities. But, both Frederick and Hernandez said this is the wrong way to see it. Instead, the statement is a careful recitation of current water law. Such water rights transfers are not illegal and every application has to be considered on its own merits, they said.
“I think what he said is consistent with the law of prior appropriation and his mission, which is to consider the applications and to protect existing water rights, conserve water and protect the public welfare,” Frederick said.
Jack King is a veteran New Mexico reporter who frequently writes about water issues.
Is health reform headed back to the drawing board?
Jerry Ortiz y Pino
I was thoroughly depressed in late March after watching television coverage of the Supreme Court’s three-day hearing into key constitutional issues raised by Republican opponents of the Affordable Care Act. We won’t know the verdict until mid-June when the Court hands down its decision on each of those points, but after listening to Justices Scalia, Alito, et. al., chew away gleefully on its bones, it sure feels like the chances of Obamacare surviving in its entirety are dismal. Talk about your basic “death panel”!
It isn’t automatic that even if the Court strikes the individual mandate provision (the most tempting target for the conservative jurists who comprise the majority) that the complete remainder of the law would have to be junked. So going “back to the drawing board” might not entail a full overhaul. Nevertheless, the engine and drive train seem destined to be “totaled,” and if you take out those parts, why not seize the opportunity to do some genuine reworking of the whole vehicle.
I find myself clutching at one nugget of hopeful information gleaned from those hours of bleak viewing: Even the most conservative of the Justices are in agreement that while requiring citizens to buy insurance might turn out to be unconstitutional, the alternative approach of providing access to health care for everyone through a payroll tax mechanism (as is done with Medicare) is certainly constitutional.
Let that sink in for a moment. Medicare for all would pass Supreme Court muster. A single-payer plan could not be ruled out constitutionally.
President Obama was roundly criticized by progressives (and I at my shrillest was in that number) when the Affordable Care Act was being constructed, for permitting the big insurance companies to play such an active role in drafting it. “Keep them out of the room,” many of us pleaded. “They can’t be trusted.”
But he gave them a seat at the table, one they used to demand compulsory insurance mandates for all as the price for their grudging agreement for ending some of their most perverse (and profit-protecting) practices: pre-existing conditions; lifetime limits; recoupment of benefits already-paid. Thus, when the bill was signed, it didn’t exactly elicit victory parades and jubilation among progressives.
Instead of the simple elegance and ease of operation of a single-payer plan, Obamacare substitutes a complex system of 50 state-operated insurance exchanges, incentives, subsidies and enforcement—all of which come crashing down if the individual mandate is chopped.
And believing that the new Health Reform Act would actually control the spiraling cost of health care while providing greater access for 30 million newly-covered lives required a great deal of blind faith.
Or perhaps it is “hope” that is the relevant virtue: a confident trust in the operation of the law’s intricate economic mechanisms through which patients would be incentivized to live more healthily; doctors would be incentivized to work more effectively and hospitals and pharmaceutical companies would somehow be incentivized to relinquish short-term profits for longer-term improved outcomes (yes, that does mean fewer hospitalizations and fewer high-priced prescriptions).
Thus, it is not actually Obamacare (I don’t consider that label a pejorative) which I will mourn if it has a stake driven through its heart by the Roberts Court. It would instead be the failure its death would signify; yet again, this country will not have grappled creatively and realistically with an ominous social threat.
Twice now I have introduced in the New Mexico Legislature a constitutional amendment that would put into our state Constitution as one of its basic principles that every citizen has the right to health care. That is not a revolutionary idea. Most people, when queried about it, agree. Most of the rest of the world has adopted that principle in the construction of health delivery systems. A lot of my constituents thought it was already an established human right.
Yet, each time it has failed to garner enough support to get onto the floor of the Senate (where it would pass, I’m sure), let alone the House (where its prospects are dimmer, given the decided Tea Party coloration that body has taken on after the 2010 elections). If we could get it onto the ballot for the consideration of the voters of the state, I believe it would handily be ratified.
The reason it stalls is the same reason why the president two years ago took a look at the political prospects for single-payer health reform and chose instead to try to entice the insurance industry into lining-up behind the approach the Supreme Court is now considering: the clout of the insurance industry. There’s a lot of money to be made if corporate America gets to choose who gets health care and who doesn’t. Insurance’s financial muscle squelches all other options.
If health care were to be declared a right of all citizens, that industry-based rationing of care (the one we have now) would disappear. The key issue for all our consideration of reforms to health care, the issue that has to be resolved first if we are ever going to solve the dilemma of 35 million Americans having no way to pay for medical care, is one no other nation on the globe has heartburn about: All for-profit insurance plans should be permitted only as supplements to basic health services.
By trashing Obamacare, the Supreme Court might actually be opening the door to finally eliminating the biggest barrier to true health reform—Big Insurance. But that will only happen if the Congress and the president get the message clearly: Take the profit motive out of health care.
Jerry Ortiz y Pino is a New Mexico state senator (Dist. 12, Albuquerque, Dem.). A former social worker, he sought the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor in 2010.
No margin for error
After a contentious political winter in which the American police state gained more traction while Republicans doubled down in their attacks on women, workers and social programs, activists on the left are regrouping and refocusing. Their success will depend on several things, including their willingness to put aside differences and their ability to mobilize legions of complacent or brainwashed Americans.
First the bad stuff: coordinated and often brutal police raids on Occupy encampments; a National Defense Authorization Act that sanctions military intervention and indefinite detention of any citizen with a perceived connection to terrorism; continuing efforts by states to use ALEC-based laws to bust unions, privatize education, suppress voting rights and encourage armed vigilantism; accelerated efforts to ban abortion and contraception; another House budget that would slash social spending and exacerbate poverty; an activist Supreme Court that seems poised to overturn the Affordable Care Act even as it sanctioned the legality of subjecting anyone arrested to strip searches; a flood of corporate campaign money to boost right-wing candidates; growing threats to communities and the environment from aggressive expansion of oil and gas extraction; unabated efforts to undermine net neutrality—in short, an incremental and relentless assault on democracy by the forces of plutocracy, corporatism, faith-based fanaticism and sociopaths of every ilk.
As usual, the mainstream media steered clear of probing beneath the surface, connecting dots that would point to fundamental dynamics, and instead heightened their pandering to well-conditioned public appetites for superficiality—mostly coverage ad nauseum of the Republican presidential campaign.
But there were hopeful signs as well. The Trayvon Martin case awakened millions not only to continuing deep racial inequalities in this country but to the role of ALEC and its partners, such as the NRA, in cranking out laws such as the Stand Your Ground law in Florida. At least half a dozen major companies have announced they will sever ties with ALEC, and the list is growing; and thanks to public pressure George Zimmerman was finally arrested in Florida.
Across the country, in an inspiring grassroots movement to assert the essential rights of communities and individuals to clean air, water and local rights to ban fracking, over a hundred municipalities have passed community rights ordinances, based on model bills from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF).
Las Vegas, NM was the first city in the Southwest to pass such an ordinance on April 2, against great resistance from oil and gas interests and fearful or co-opted public officials, intimidated by threatened lawsuits or other retaliation. Going beyond the Constitution to the Declaration of Independence and the UN Constitution of Human Rights to assert a more fundamental bill or rights, these local communities are enacting laws that have withstood several court challenges already and that resonate with many of the goals and objectives of the Occupy movement in this country and worldwide.
Speaking of the Occupy movement, after growing pains this winter, it is re-emerging with numerous initiatives as the weather warms and the thinking evolves, from Wall Street to Oakland, about how best to effect change and advance the interests of the 99 percent. While occupying public space has not been abandoned, other strategies continue to emerge to carry the movement further.
On May 1, communities across the nation will observe the traditional May Day labor holiday by participating in a General Strike. In larger cities, this may mean massive boycotts of work, school, shopping, banking and other activities to show the 1 percent their system is wholly dependent on the rest of us. In Santa Fe, Occupy members are staging a community event at the Railyard Park, site of the fall occupation, and inviting the public to share food, music, discussion and celebration. A general assembly will be part of the activities, but instead of a structured schedule, the emphasis will be on spontaneity and individual responsibility.
Other Occupy initiatives here and elsewhere include measures to resist home foreclosure, efforts to bring down Bank of America, continued scrutiny of LANL and a major Hiroshima commemoration in August, opposition to a pre-emptive strike against Iran, and more.
All these efforts show resolve and determination that will be sorely tested by public indifference and distraction, as families struggle to meet basic needs, while forces on the right race against demographic trends to consolidate their power.
Above all, the grassroots groups must find unity and eschew elements of anarchism and violence that would undermine support from the public they must win over to launch a successful American Spring.
Steve Klinger is editor of The Light of New Mexico, [email protected]
Join the people’s general strike
Bruce M. Berlin
Momentum is building for the May 1 People’s General Strike. On December 19, 2011, the Occupy Los Angeles General Assembly announced:
“Occupy LA supports in principle a General Strike on May 1, 2012, for migrant rights, jobs for all, a moratorium on foreclosures, and peace—and to recognize housing, education and health care as human rights, and calls for the building of a broad coalition to make that a reality.”
Since then, hundreds of Occupy groups in the United States and around the world have joined the May 1 strike initiative. Occupy Santa Fe is organizing an event at the Railyard Park for 12 noon on May 1, with a General Assembly beginning at 2 p.m. It is calling May 1, a “day without the 99 percent,” a day of no work, no shopping, no school, no banking and no chores. Occupy groups in Albuquerque and other cities around the state will probably participate in the general strike as well.
At last, people are not just angry; they are doing something about it. According to OccupyMay1st.org, people will be striking “[i]n protest against the corruption of the worldwide marketplace, which has led to illegal foreclosures, mass unemployment, low wages, high taxes and a penalization of all those who do not own the ’99 percent’ of the world’s resources….”
I have a feeling this could spread like wild fire. We may even be witnessing the beginning of the 21st-century equivalent of the French Revolution. The parallels are striking. Like the United States today, France suffered from massive debt problems prior to its 1789 revolution. France’s involvement in two wars, the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolution, as well as its maintenance of a large military force, placed a heavy financial burden on the country. Sound familiar? The French aristocracy, like America’s plutocracy, was mired in corruption and excess. While French commoners, known as the Third Estate, were heavily taxed, they had no input into the governance of their country. Though currently average Americans may not be as overly taxed as the French people were then and most of us can vote, the truth is we pay more than our fair share in taxes and have no meaningful voice in our government.
Like America’s 99 percent, the Third Estate varied greatly in socioeconomic status. The disparities among members of the Third Estate resulted in internal divisions. While a segment of the Third Estate, the “bourgeoisie,” the wealthier, educated commoners, objected to the gross unfairness in French society, the peasants and laborers suffered in silence under the feudal system. Similarly in the United States today, those leading the charge for reform for the most part come from the educated middle class, be they college students, professional people or senior citizens. This country’s poor and working class are too preoccupied with feeding their families and paying the rent to rise up against the plutocracy.
When the Third Estate finally overcame its differences and united, the sheer size of it overwhelmed the aristocracy and brought down the French government. Therein lies the lesson America’s 99 percent needs to learn from the French Revolution. Numerous interest groups from the Sierra Club to NOW to Veterans for Peace have been working for many years on issues of peace, social and economic justice and environmental protection. While these groups have made some progress in their areas of concern, the super rich and big business still control public policy through lobbying and campaign contributions. This quite small, but very powerful element of our country exerts tremendous influence over the politicians and government officials that enact our laws, make regulations and implement policy. Consequently, our country’s laws and policies decidedly favor this elite class at the expense of most Americans and the wellbeing of our nation.
One of the main reasons for the limited success of public interest groups is that they are divided against themselves, just like the French Third Estate was prior to the Revolution. As separate entities, the hundreds of public interests groups contending for the support of policy makers have little influence compared to that of the very wealthy, the mega-corporations and their lobbyists. But what if all the progressive non-profit organizations stopped competing for public support for their individual interests and joined together in common cause to overturn the plutocracy, the rule by the elite
United for Peace and Justice is a coalition of hundreds of groups from around the world that has had some success in building this kind of movement over the last decade. In Santa Fe, We Are People Here! has been working to build such a movement for the last year. MoveOn.org is another group that has successfully brought millions of people together on a broad range of issues.
But today it is the Occupy movement that is capturing the public’s attention. And, the May Day General Strike just may be the catalyst that mobilizes the American people. It is a call for people of all interests to unite in common cause to reclaim the control of our government from the “top 1 percent.”
There is power in numbers. The French people, the Third Estate, succeeded in their struggle against their government and the ruling class when they came together with a single purpose. Today, the Occupy movement offers that same opportunity. It’s time we all came together to take back our country from the top 1 percent. On May 1, don’t work, don’t shop, don’t go to school and don’t bank. Join the People’s General Strike!
Bruce Berlin is a Santa Fe attorney who has been a political activist most of his life. For ways to help take back America, go to MoveOn.org; DemocracyAtTheCrossroadsSF.org; or moneyouttapolitics.org.
Occupy’s spring renaissance starts with May Day event
Occupy 2.0 has arrived.
The movement that took the nation by storm last summer and fall has recalibrated after a winter that saw it lose most of its occupation encampments, often under brutal police assault, and deal with challenges both internal and external.
But in a season of rebirth, both the mother ship in New York City and groups across the country are launching ambitious plans of action, including a widely publicized General Strike on May Day, the traditional labor holiday. Intended to forge a spirit of solidarity among the 99 percent and show the 1 percent how dependent the plutocracy is on the great preponderance of the population, the General Strike will have different manifestations in different communities, depending on their size and economic basis, as well as local organizers and participants.
Planned and recommended actions include urging Americans to refrain from shopping, school, banking, work and other activities that propel the success of the 1 percent and have perpetuated the social, economic and political injustice which gave rise to the movement last year.
In Santa Fe, Occupy members have produced and circulated a poster fashioned after the Occupy Wall Street graphic. It calls for a mass gathering in Railyard Park, site of the former OSF encampment, and urges residents to “bring talent, bring food, celebrate, eat learn, play, read, sing, meet, create.”
OSF member Denny Cormier wrote in a group email he described as “not an official announcement” in early April, “Actions in New York and Oakland and other cities will likely be huge events with thousands participating. Smaller cities are also planning their own actions in Solidarity. Occupy Santa Fe is planning a ‘Day without the 99%’ here in the City Different.
Cormier continued, “It has been pretty much agreed by organizers nationwide that any form
of participation is a good form of participation—but participation is the key.
“For some, that may mean not going to work on the first. Others may choose not to bank or to shop on that day. Others may work and then gather together with friends and neighbors to celebrate a day where the 1 percent will just have to do without us for most of 24 hours.
“Think of it as a General Strike against the system—and you get to set the terms.
“This is absolutely a peaceful, non-violent day of action—and we’ll be creating this action together on May 1.”
Contacted last week, Cormier said, “We are not planning to organize a major General Strike in Santa Fe. That call is probably more appropriate for cities where much larger actions are planned.”
He added, “Certainly individual people in Santa Fe may choose not to work on May 1 in solidarity with the national call, and I personally plan not to shop, or bank or work on that day.
“But we plan a very different event in Santa Fe to show our solidarity with what other Occupations are planning.”
OSF member Sheridan Phillips said, “There aren’t real defined plans as such, the idea being personal responsibility of showing up, bring food to share, presentations/entertainment/events to share, but I expect that more of a schedule will evolve at GA over the next couple of weeks.”
In addition to the May Day event, OSF has been busy organizing a variety of actions and initiatives. Several members have been working on a resolution to present for consideration by the Santa Fe City Council, in connection with a possible attack on Iran. According to sources, it will make a presentation to the council on May 9 to introduce a resolution calling for the city to petition the President and Congress of the United States to say no to war with Iran, no to any preemptive strike on Iran, and no to U. S. weapons used in an attack on Iran.
For additional details, and to sign the petition visit:
Another OSF group the LANL Working Group, has been meeting for several months, planning NukeFreeNow, a four-day Hiroshima commemoration August 3-6 to highlight concerns about the Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory (LANL) and all such facilities and nuclear power plants across the globe. Group coordinator Michelle Victoria says, “We have numerous committees that are starting to get some serious work done,” and urges those interested to visit the group’s web site, http://nukefreenow.org . The group meets every other week on Tuesdays at 5:30 pm at The Commons, 2300 W. Alameda.
Steve Klinger is editor of The Light of New Mexico. [email protected]
Community bill of rights bans fracking
A victory for nature, human rights and democracy was celebrated in Las Vegas, New Mexico, on April 2, when the city council passed an historic law that exerts protective rights to all residents, natural communities, ecosystems and its watersheds—and bans fracking within the City of Las Vegas.
The process to enact the Las Vegas Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance has proven to be a roller coaster ride from one council meeting to another, beginning in February. Opposition was voiced extensively by the Las Vegas city administration at the 11th hour, with both the mayor and city attorney claiming illegalities and predicting lawsuits, as they tried to equate balancing budgets and guarding the city from legal action with protecting life and nature.
The new law for the city of Las Vegas is not just a fracking ordinance, as the media have portrayed it, but asserts a basic community bill of rights, declaring the right of all residents, natural communities and ecosystems to water from natural sources, the right of residents to unpolluted water for use in agriculture, the rights of natural ecosystems to exist and flourish, and the rights of residents to protect their environment by enforcing these rights.
Also enumerated is the right to a sustainable energy future and the right to local self-government. To protect these rights, the law would make it unlawful for corporations to “engage in the extraction of oil, natural gas, or other hydrocarbons within the City of Las Vegas and its watersheds.” It legislates that corporations shall not have the rights of persons afforded by the U.S. and N.M. constitutions, nor afforded rights under the 1st or 5th Amendments to the United States Constitution or corresponding sections of the New Mexico Constitution, nor protection under the commerce or contracts clauses of the constitutions.
Las Vegas is not new to the struggle over the lack of abundant clean water for citizens. Its drinking water supplies depend upon snow and rainfall, and the recent drought has diminished its available water (mostly in Gallenas watershed and Storey Lake Reservoir) to just a matter of days for the residents, according to the Las Vegas Optic reports on water for the city.
The arrival of interested oil companies in San Miguel County prompted the city council in 2011 to unanimously pass a temporary ban on drilling through a moratorium. Even without leases within the city limits, they agreed on the necessity to take this strong stand to show their solidarity with the county and neighboring counties, whose oil and gas leases total over a half-million acres. Many Vegas citizens understand the impact drilling in the county could have on their own fragile ecosystem should drilling begin in the nearby Las Vegas basin. Recent EPA water test results from Pavillion, Wyo. strongly link aquifer contamination to natural gas fracking and drillingThe unsustainable extraction of fossil fuels will not stop until communities take a stand to change the very laws that were “established to protect production and commerce at all costs,” says Thomas Linzey, senior legal counsel for Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), whose nonprofit law group works with citizens to help protect their communities from corporate threats.
The current regulatory structure, coupled with the 2005 U.S. Energy Bill, gives the oil industry a free ride by allowing drilling and fracking without liability to the corporations for the consequences of their contamination. They are exempt from the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, for example. When the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division issues permits for drilling in San Miguel County, industry will not only be legally “permitted,” but above the law should any harm result from their drilling.
“The permeable nature of the rock would lead to aquifer contamination in time,” stated Councilor Andrew Feldman, a geologist, during a presentation about the Las Vegas basin. Under this system of regulatory law neither the community nor the individual can say “no.” In fact, they can do nothing to protect their communities or families from the harm by the oil companies due to the rights afforded to corporations through the Constitution and especially by court interpretation of these laws.
This system of law that gives rights to corporations to do harm within municipal communities is the very reason Las Vegas citizens began working with CELDF. Las Vegas activist Miguel Pacheco took the lead, along with the late civil rights attorney Larry Hill, to refine and customize the CELDF Pittsburgh Ordinance to reflect the regional issues that define the city of Las Vegas and its culture. “This ordinance was put together very finely to protect all life—it’s defensible and it’s unique. And it’s revolutionary,” said Pacheco. “This is a time we have to stand up and take a stand. This is not going to be easy, but it is the right thing to do.”
Once the ordinance was fully vetted by CELDF, Pacheco approached both Mayor Alfonso Ortiz and Councilman Feldman for their review and support. “This ordinance is a new area of law, and as such it draws its authority and power from the federal and state constitutions and the Declaration of Independence,” Feldman said when presenting his support and sponsorship of this ordinance at the city council meeting. “Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed,” he added.
During the February meeting, Mayor Ortiz spoke out strongly in support of the ordinance: “This ordinance sends out a message that we really care about our environment and that water and our environment mean more to the people who live here than money or oil. I support this, and support bringing it to a final vote.” It was a position from which he would retreat between February and April.
City Attorney David Romero took grave issue with this ordinance during the April meeting, stating that he had “serious, serious concerns about the constitutionality and the legality of this document. It violates, in my opinion, the Constitution of the U.S. and the Constitution of New Mexico. . . . 14th and 5th Amendments, which provide due process and equal protection, and prevents government from taking any rights away without due process or without just compensation.”
In response, Feldman stated, “This ordinance is not illegal, nor is it unconstitutional. The ordinance is a frontal and direct challenge to existing laws, and attorneys are sworn to uphold that [existing] law, and so they reject it by calling it illegal and unconstitutional. Passage of the ordinance, however, is not a legal question but a political one. We can adhere to existing law and leave ourselves open to fracking and loss of our water, or we can seek to change the law to prevent those damages from happening to our precious water resources.”
Attorney Romero objected: “And there is a second part—community rights—bill of rights. And that section is just out of bounds with the laws, as we know it. This ordinance extends rights to people who have never had them before.” Many citizens found Romero’s reasoning astonishing. After all, the rights-based Suffragist and Abolitionist movements pushed back against similarly unjust laws under constitutions that did not afford them rights to vote or to be considered “persons” according to the law of the land.
Attorney Romero at one point in the meeting threatened to sue the city for its actions if the council voted to pass the ordinance. “I feel so strongly about this that if it is passed by the council, under my oath as city attorney, I may have to challenge the issue myself as part of my duties,” he said. But before he was able to complete his sentence, the standing-room-only crowd drowned out his words by shouting “Resign, resign, resign!”
Mayor Ortiz backpedaled from his strong support at the February and March meetings as he asserted his preferences for more lengthy review and the modifications as presented by attorney Romero. “I think the majority of the people are in favor of it, but there’s little flaws, little clues in there that can be read in different ways,” he said.
The discussion was contentious, with attorney Romero clearly representing his client, the municipal corporation of the city of Las Vegas, rather than the residents of the city. At one point his voice crackled as he said, “Yes! It’s an unpopular position to stand here in front of you with nearly everyone disagreeing with me, but as your attorney it is my duty to advise the council.”
At a time of such contention, some expected to hear opposition in the crowd, but with few exceptions, the room was strongly in favor of the ordinance. A rather small subdued group who appeared to be representatives of the oil companies sat furiously taking notes from the second row.
Despite the mayor and city attorney’s insistence upon slowing down and postponing the vote, the council voted 3-1 to adopt of the ordinance. Voting in favor were Andrew Feldman, Tonita Gurule-Giron and David Romero. (The mayor only votes in the event of a tie.) After the meeting, as Gurule-Giron was leaving, she stated, “It was the right thing to do.” Gurule-Giron is running for mayor against Ortiz in an April 17 runoff. Feldman will be stepping down as councilman at the end of April. The lone vote against came from new councilman Vince Howell.
Immediately upon the passage of the ordinance, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association informed the city attorney the group would file suit against the city—a move that surprised few, given that this is the first community in the Southwest to stand boldly for the rights of citizens and nature against those of corporations. NMOGA’s hope is no doubt to frighten the city of Las Vegas and other communities into submission in order to keep this movement from spreading like wildfire. Attorney Romero indicated that the municipality’s insurer may pull its insurance coverage. The next day the mayor, at a citizen meeting, threatened to find a way to not sign the ordinance, which according to its own terms, becomes law in five days after the vote.
This new voice for rights for the people and nature challenges 200 years of entrenched government law and court interpretation that has given corporations personhood as well as carte blanche to drill at will. Corporate power has been so profound that even with the threat of the contamination and depletion of communities’ water, there has been no legal recourse the citizens could use within the current structure of law to stop industry from drilling.
“We’re in such a deteriorating state, we have to pass laws to protect life,” said Miguel Pacheco.
Feldman summed up his passionate support for this rights-based law in his final statement during the council meeting: “Revolutions always start small—we know that. The Abolitionists started with 12 kids in the 1840s. This one has started small as well, with a handful of communities intent on turning the existing system upside down. Hopefully, if we move forward, it will make it OK for others to follow in the path. And we must make that path by actually walking it.”
Kathleen Dudley is co-founder, Drilling Mora County, www.drillingmoracounty.blogspot.com
What a tangled web we weave…
Community rights ordinance is political football
The city of Las Vegas, NM was considering passage of a popular ordinance shortly before a runoff election between the seated mayor, Alfonso Ortiz, and city council member Tonita Gurule-Giron. Opposing the ordinance publicly would cost votes in a close electoral race. What to do? The answer, apparently, was to publicly support the ordinance while working behind the scenes to kill it, or at least postpone the vote for passage until after the April 17th election—even if that meant quietly violating the directives of the city council.
The Community Rights Ordinance first came up for public hearing on Feb. 15, 2012. The mayor himself waxed eloquent in his support of the ordinance for roughly 10 minutes, telling the crowd of supporters that the city could not wait for the state and federal government to ban the practice of fracking. When public input concluded, the city council voted unanimously to publish the ordinance and, at the next regular city council meeting, hold another public hearing followed by a vote on the ordinance’s passage.
Despite the council’s unanimous vote, supporters discovered only a day prior to the meeting that the ordinance was on the agenda, but for public hearing and a second publication, not for a vote as the city council had unanimously ruled.
Because the skullduggery was discovered less than 24 hours before the city council meeting, the agenda could not be changed without violating the Open Meetings Act, and the city council had no choice but to hear public input a second time without voting on the ordinance. Council did, however, unanimously vote at that time to have a final public hearing and vote on the ordinance at a special meeting within two weeks. The city attorney, David Romero, took responsibility for the change in the agenda. It is the city’s mayor, however, who has signatory authority over the agenda. The mayor, once again, spoke in support of the proposed ordinance.
Ordinance supporters soon discovered that the special meeting had been scheduled, not within two weeks as unanimously decided by the city council, but three weeks out. Supporters notified Andrew Feldman, the city councilman who had introduced the proposed ordinance, and the special meeting was rescheduled for April 2, the last possible day falling within two weeks.
At this special meeting, the mayor emphasized that he supported the ordinance in principle, but expressed concern that (despite three separate sessions of public input) the city might be acting in haste and that certain provisions of the ordinance should be reconsidered. Despite the mayor’s new tone of agonizing reappraisal and the strident protest of the city attorney, the council voted 3-1 to enact the ordinance as written. Supporters were jubilant, and news of the ordinance’s passage made state and even national news. It was the first legislation of its kind to be enacted in the Southwest.
But the mayor’s passive-aggressive non-compliance with the directives of the city council continues. Despite the measure’s passage, the mayor has quietly refused to sign the ordinance, and told members of the public the day after the vote that he was seeking to have the city council’s vote nullified on the grounds that the ordinance was “illegal.”
As of the date of this writing (April 11), the mayor has still not signed the ordinance, despite his having no veto power over the decisions of the governing body. City councilman Feldman said when asked about the mayor’s deliberate inaction, “It’s the mayors duty to sign ordinances that are democratically passed. Regardless of his opinion of the ordinance. In my opinion, the mayor is derelict in his duties. ”
The instructions regarding signing of ordinances are found in city code.
“All laws of the municipality shall be enacted by the passage of ordinances, all of which shall be reviewed by the City Attorney. Ordinances shall be numbered consecutively and shall bear a title which shall set forth in general terms its subject matter; shall contain an enacting clause; and shall bear the date, signatures of the Mayor and attesting officer, and the Seal of the City. The City Clerk shall keep a permanent log book in which the original of each ordinance considered, whether or not adopted, shall be kept. ”
Nowhere in city code or city charter is the mayor given veto power over a decision of the governing body.
Lee Einer is a permaculturist and writer living in Las Vegas, New Mexico.
Las Vegas poked the beast…
And the beast reacted the only way it knows, with threats and intimidation. “We will sue!” said the beast’s servants. “Little human communities must not stand in our way!”
The beast has a very, very voracious appetite and, since it is not actually alive, it has an insatiable capacity to consume all of our oil along with our earth, our water, our elected officials, and even our climate. The beast is very mean, and so hideously ugly that it never, ever lets human beings see its face.
The beast had the highest court in the land bestow personhood upon it with all of the rights that brings. Before then, people kept the beast in a very strong cage with armed guards, because they saw how scary it was, and how badly it could hurt their communities.
This beast was created 150 ago in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In those days the beast’s food would burst out of the ground in huge oily gushers that the beast could drink to its heart’s content. But there was little use for this crude oil then, and it was smelly and offensive to humans, and poisoned their waters. Then the beast found men who could refine this crude so that it worked for humans. The beast saw that this was good and that the whole world contained vast amounts of this oily crude crud and, if it could trick humans into getting hooked on refined crud, then the whole world would belong to the beast. But in a short time, since the beast has an insatiable appetite, and since it always eats dessert first, the beast had eaten all of the world’s easy supplies of crud. It then had to dig deeper and deeper into the earth and the oceans, or it would die!
The beast is very much like a cosmically huge meth addict . The beast’s engineers saw the beast was scared about not having enough crude food, so they thought very hard and invented a great and beastly process called “fracking.” This way, the beast could relieve its painful hunger by fracturing the very bones of the earth with huge jets of pressure laced with deadly poison and get its crud from places it had never drilled before. And the beast liked this. It is a very violent beast, after all.
One problem was that human beings did not like having their water catch on fire, and they did not like the damage that the beast’s armies wreaked on their communities. But they had no power, because the beast had already taken that away at the people’s own Supreme Court!
The beast is also very deviant and clever. And the beast is also very, very rich and owns lawyers and newspapers and television stations and politicians, and even the people’s President, who do the beast’s bidding. One thing the beast did not have was control over free human beings who still loved their communities and their pure water and clean, fresh air and their beautiful land. These human beings did not like the destructive nature of the beast. Finally, after many fruitless battles with the beast on its home court, they declared, “We are the true sovereigns of this country!”
With that statement ringing in their hearts and minds, they began to fight the beast on their terms, with their laws, written by their local elected officials. They simply declared the basic rights that are outlined in their national and state constitutions. And then they did a wonderful thing—they applied those rights to their own communities, where they had never been applied before. And then they did one more amazing thing—they declared the beast to be powerless within their own political boundaries. They did not allow non-living creatures to control their democracy.
Well, this drove the beast into a frenzy of outraged fury. The beast has very delicate feelings for such a hungry and violent (non) being and, after all, it had not seen these puny humans rise up like this since they rebelled against the beast’s dear, dear Monarch in 1776. This was a very troubling development since it involved local declarations of human rights! And not only that, but declarations of the supreme status of the natural elements of a community, which meant the beast could no longer consume and poison the people’s water, earth, and air.
The first community of free and responsible human beings to declare their democratic rights in New Mexico is the small but feisty municipality of Las Vegas. Just a couple of weeks ago, they joined other brave and responsible communities throughout America like Pittsburgh and Buffalo, which had enacted the same declarations of human rights. This made the New Mexico beast furious—how dare these little communities declare that they have rights!—and its servants at NMOGA, New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, immediately threatened to sue. It is very scary to have the beast threaten to sue because the beast is rich and powerful and non-human. Will the people of Las Vegas stand strong? Will other communities in New Mexico stand with Las Vegas? Or will they cower at the beast’s wrath (and the media’s scoffing) and go back to being good little colonized places where the beast can feed with impunity? One thing is for certain in this tale—we shall see.
David Bacon hosts a weekly radio program, Living on the Edge, on KSFR 101.1FM, Santa Fe Public Radio, along with Xubi Wilson, each Thursday at 6:30 pm. Next week, on April 19, the guest will be Andrew Feldman, Las Vegas city councilman who sponsored the Community Rights Ordinance enacted on April 2. Check the program guide at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/ksfr/guide for late-breaking details.
District 25 sees changes, but no opposition for incumbent
March 20th was filing day for the New Mexico Legislature, and we received some very good news: no Democratic opposition in the primary election or Republican opposition in the general. This is truly a tribute to all of the hard work we have done together for Senate District 25, and I want to thank each of you.
Our message of tax fairness and helping New Mexico businesses is resonating. The vast majority of people I talk to were outraged by the governor’s decision to veto Senate Bill 9 and continue tax breaks for out-of-state retailers. The argument that these “big-box” stores would leave New Mexico if this law were passed did not pass the basic smell test. And, to claim this was a tax increase when the revenue generated was used to lower the top corporate tax rate? Wow. Be assured the fight for tax fairness is one I will continue in future legislative sessions.
I also will reintroduce a bill to require disclosure of all campaign donations. Enormous amounts of anonymous corporate money will flow into New Mexico this election cycle. While the U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily tied our hands by allowing unlimited contribution amounts to independent expenditure committees, we can require donor disclosure at the state level if we pass legislation to do so. The last two sessions I carried a bill to require such disclosure, which passed the state Senate but died on the House floor. Democrats and Republicans need to work together to pass this legislation.
The push for new jobs cannot stop. Under the prior administration we did some great work to expand the film and renewable energy industries in New Mexico. I am committed to stop further rollbacks of film and green energy incentives. Moving New Mexico forward requires a sustainable economy, with jobs that are attractive to younger New Mexicans. Film and green energy are a solid foundation on which to build.
Finally, we have to give our public schools the resources and support needed to educate our children. Retention and accountability are part of the discussion, but not to the exclusion of creating a learning environment that respects the teaching profession and allows kids to thrive.
Senate District 25 has changed; it contains six new precincts:
Tesuque Pueblo (precinct 6)
Chupadero (precinct 7)
Las Campanas area (precinct 82)
the Railyard (precinct 27)
Lamy (precinct 63)
Glorieta (precinct 57)
To those of you living in these precincts, welcome. Unfortunately, I have to say goodbye to those of you in precincts 78 and 77 along Rodeo Road and to precinct 42, where the old Kaune school is located.
It is a real honor and privilege to serve. Your input and support is always appreciated and I look forward to representing you in future legislative sessions.
Sen. Peter Wirth represents District 25 in the New Mexico Legislature.
Public financing of judicial elections under fire
Victor S. Lopez
The Republican Party of Bernalillo County recently filed a lawsuit in federal court aimed at invalidating a key aspect of New Mexico’s Voter Action Act, a law that established public financing for Court of Appeals and the Public Regulatory Commission races.
In 2007, the New Mexico Legislature amended the Voter Action Act to address the potentially corrupting influence of large-money contributions in appellate judge elections. This legislative action represents an important recognition that judicial elections are particularly subject to direct special interest influence. I decided to pursue the public financing option in my bid for the New Mexico Court of Appeals in 2012 to avoid the unfortunate appearance that special interest campaign contributions can corrupt judicial races and the judicial selection process.
This Act discourages large-money contributions by limiting contributions to the Public Election Fund to $5. It also equalizes the publicly financed candidate to the level of campaign funds raised by the privately funded opponent. In my race for the New Mexico Court of Appeals, the candidate’s finance committee early in the campaign may collect $100 from individuals, but not from corporations, associations, partnerships or labor unions, but these combined contributions from all contributors may not exceed a total of $5,000.
After qualifying for public financing by turning in $5 contributions from over 1,600 enthusiastic voters, my campaign received a distribution from the Public Election Fund of approximately $85,000 for the June 5th primary election. If my privately funded opponent raises more than $85,000 in private donations, then the Secretary of State would be required by law to equalize the election by giving the publicly-financed candidate a check for the difference. This process tends to level the playing field by discouraging large-money contributions, but more importantly it gets judges out of the business of soliciting money from attorneys through their committees.
The challenge to the current law seeks to limit the matching funds provision that puts publicly-financed candidates on equal footing with their privately-funded opponents. The court will need to determine whether judicial races are so unique in our political system that they require different legal treatment, and whether the Voter Action Act appropriately addresses the compelling governmental interest of reducing corruption and the appearance of corruption in judge races.
After practicing law for 28 years and serving as a workers’ compensation judge for nearly five years, I have seen how the system works. You will hear that judges are not supposed to know whether and how much money attorneys contribute to their campaigns. In fact, the Code of Judicial Conduct, which controls judges’ ethics and behavior, prohibits judges from knowing about the contributions.
But judges who pursue privately funded campaigns do not wear blindfolds when they attend their own fundraisers, or at least I have never seen this happen. Nevertheless, the usual attendees to these fundraisers are attorneys, and often they are very same attorneys who appear before the judge. So with a wink and a handshake we pretend that judges are “legally” shielded from the knowledge that anyone who attended their fundraiser actually gave a contribution. This situation leads to a negative public perception.
The Voter Action Act addresses the critical concern that an attorney may appear in front of the judge for a trial in the morning, while just the night before, that attorney might have attended the judge’s fundraiser. Because these events are “fundraisers,” it does not take much imagination for the judge to conclude that money was contributed to the campaign during the event by some or all of those attorneys, although the actual amounts given and identities of contributors are shielded from the judge.
In previous election cycles in appellate court races, some of the larger private contributions have ranged from several hundred to tens of thousands of dollars. Even under current law, statewide judge candidates utilizing private-financing may receive as much as $5,000 per contributor for the primary, with no upper limits on the number of contributions that may be given. This is our current process, and it is perfectly legal. But continuing this practice does little to instill confidence among the public that judicial elections are free of big-money influence.
I have spoken with many New Mexico voters during my campaign. I have seen people breathe a sigh of relief that someone is finally using the public financing option to address the perceived problem of special interest influence in judicial elections. It is my plan to be the first statewide candidate to run and win a publicly funded campaign. We need to restore public confidence that neither judicial office nor justice is available to the highest bidder.
The public financing option deserves to receive a fair hearing before our courts.
Victor S. Lopez is a candidate for 2012 New Mexico Court of Appeals Judge.
Two illusions of capital
Any social order based on the economic exploitation of the many by the few is enforced by the twin mechanisms of coercion and consent. The latter is often more important than the former and is always more sophisticated and more difficult to penetrate. Unless the privileged few maintain their privileged status by outright repression, the nature of the exploitation must be hidden from view. That is to say, exploitative societies are shrouded in layers of mystification, the sum total of which can be called ideology.
Only a small part of ideology is expressed in systems of ideas; the bulk of it is grounded in social practices, activities whose apparent obviousness renders their true nature all but invisible to everyday perception. It is precisely the illusory character of these activities that maintains the legitimacy of the system and generates the willing consent of the exploited. I would like, in this brief article, to expose two of these illusions as they figure in capitalist societies.
First illusion: An employer pays his employees. What can be more obvious than this? Each week an employee receives a paycheck from his employer. The check bears the name of the company at the top and is signed by the company’s treasurer at the bottom. Who can argue with the fact that the employee is paid by his or her employer? Yet the posing of a simple question reveals something quite different. The question is: How is the value represented by that paycheck created? To raise the question is at once to answer it: The value is created by the labor of the workers, or employees, and by no one else.
To see this, let us focus on a manufacturing business. Picture a manufacturing plant filled with the raw materials that enter into the final product, together with the machines by which the finished product is produced from those raw materials. All of these have a value: it is the market value, or price, that the employer paid to bring them together under one roof. Now if these machines and raw materials sit idle in the plant, their collective value tomorrow will be the same as it was yesterday. Not a dollar of additional value is created by their inert existence. It is only by the expenditure of human labor, using the machines to forge the finished product from the raw materials, that value is created.
Put another way, what makes the end product worth more than the raw materials that go into it, including the cost of depreciation to the machines caused by their use, is the labor that transforms those materials into the finished product. This added worth, or value creation, is realized upon the sale of the product. And it is this created value that is partially represented in the workers’ paycheck. I say “partially represented” because another part of the value created by the workers’ labor is kept by the employer as profit. So in reality the employer does not pay his employees, his workers. Rather, the workers, through their labor, pay themselves, and what’s more, “pay” their employer that part of the value realized upon sale of the product that is known as profit.
Two common rejoinders: (1) The employer’s profit comes from his providing the machines and the raw materials, i.e., from laying out the capital necessary for the production process. But ask yourself: Where did these machines and materials come from? Did they not come from the labor of other workers, in the employ of other employers? They no more come from our employer than they did from the employer of those other workers. To think otherwise is to be blinded by an ideological illusion, an illusion grounded in a set of social practices informing the labor process in capitalist society. (2) The employer’s profit is his just desert for organizing production. First point: in large companies the production manager is a salaried employee, not a capitalist/employer to whom profits accrue. And in those small and medium-size enterprises where the capitalist/owner does manage production, he receives a salary for his work, just like any other employee. Do not confuse the salary that a capitalist/owner may receive from working in the plant with the profit he collects from his ownership of the plant. Which brings us to the second point: In worker-owned companies it is the workers who organize production. Which is to say that production can be, and in some cases is, organized by the workers themselves, without need of a capitalist boss. In essence, the capitalist, qua capitalist, is superfluous to production.
So in fact the “obvious” proposition that employers pay their employees is an illusion, an illusion created by the social practice that, come week’s end, a worker receives a paycheck with the name of the company imprinted on its top. Imagine instead if all the value received upon sale of the product went to the workers, and that each Friday they surrendered part of that value to the employer. That would be in keeping with the reality, and that would demystify the relationship between worker and employer, and thus shatter the illusion.
Second illusion: Capitalists, i.e., employers, create jobs. This illusion has immediate policy implications, for under its veil the capitalist state finds justification in encouraging the nation’s “job creators” through such policies as tax breaks, industrial deregulation, undermining collective bargaining, holding down the minimum wage, etc. But is it true that capitalists create jobs?
To answer this, let us pose the following question: What do capitalists do when they invest in (say) a manufacturing business? They purchase the raw materials and machinery of production and hire workers to create a finished product from the raw material using the necessary machinery. But as we’ve seen, these so-called “capital goods” were produced by other workers working for other capitalists. “Creating jobs,” then, is in reality no more than granting access to workers to the machines and material created by other workers. In a capitalist economy, where the machinery and materials of production are owned by a tiny few, the only way that workers can gain access to this machinery, and thus to the means of their livelihood, is by “agreeing” to accept in wages less monetary value than they produce. In a sense workers are forced to pay the owner of capital a rent in order to gain access to the resources and machinery by which they reproduce their material existence.
But all this is hidden behind the ideology of an employer giving someone a job. In reality, if anyone gives our worker a job, it is the collective of other workers who built the machines and mined the raw materials on which our worker labors. The capitalist is not a “job creator.” His “job” is to siphon off and capture the surplus, the market value that is created by the worker’s labor but which is not paid out to the worker in a wage. The capitalist class is thus a capture class, pure and simple. Therefore it is true what Proudhon said: Property, meaning the private ownership of productive property, is theft. Only an ideological illusion keeps us from seeing this.
Fred Goldberg has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Brandeis University and has taught philosophy at M.I.T., San Jose State University, Montana State University and the University of California at Santa Cruz. Over the past several years he has taught philosophy courses at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
Arlo and clan bring Guthrie legacy to New Mexico
By Steve Klinger
In times like these, to borrow the title of an Arlo Guthrie song, it is refreshing to hear some authentic, roots-inspired music that has something to say about the world and doesn’t just follow a formula for pop-chart success or random electrified cacophony.
AMP Concerts, Albuquerque’s non-profit purveyor of world, folk and eclectic music, brought Arlo Guthrie to town on April 3, in the suitably historic and eclectic KiMo Theatre, for an evening titled Boys Night Out. This was Arlo’s third appearance in Albuquerque, after one solo and one with the Guthrie Family, a more fleshed-out ensemble including some of his daughters. The new tour features Arlo with son Abe on keyboard and Abe’s son Krishna on electric guitar, along with Arlo’s longtime buddy and drummer, Terry A La Berry.
Any way you slice it, the Guthrie legacy is strong, with frequent references to Arlo’s iconic father, Woody, who would have been 100 years old this year. Although this Brooklyn-born kid sometimes lays on the folksiness a little thick, it is fascinating to observe how this talented child of the ‘60s bridges the gap between Woody’s hard-hitting, no-frills social protest music, the hippie-tinged era of weed-laced counterculturalism and all that has come since.
Arlo weaves anecdotes from his childhood and youth seamlessly into a set list that ranges from his father’s songs (This Land is Your Land, Deportees) to his own early hits (Motorcycle Song, Highway in the Wind, and a fragment of his breakthrough epic, Alice’s Restaurant) to more contemporary tunes he’s penned or likes to cover. The band is very tight, with Arlo’s guitar and keyboard complemented but never overpowered. Abe is full of riffs and trills ranging from honky-tonk piano to Al Kooper-style organ, and Krishna and Terry ramp it up just enough to rock out without sending the baby boomer crowd running for the earplugs.
I’ve always found it ironic how Arlo, born in 1947, hit the folk scene a few years after Dylan, who famously got his start trying to sound and write like Woody. With a similar voice and taste, Arlo wound up sounding more like Dylan than like his father. (Then there’s the influence of Rambin’ Jack Elliott, another Woody wannabe who lived in the Guthrie home for a couple of years, but let’s not go there.) And now, as Dylan’s voice has deserted him almost entirely, Arlo sounds more like Dylan than Dylan. This is reflected in some great tunes as well, including Darkest Hour, which the band performed early in the concert. With an enigmatic heroine bedecked in jewels and perfume, a power-hungry family and an obligatory metaphoric tower, this haunting song is both opaque and evocative, and seems channeled from a ‘70s Dylan album. The moving When A Soldier Makes it Home (describing the reception of returning Vietnam-era GIs) packs a still-resonant political punch, but the melody is a dead ringer for Dylan’s My Back Pages.
Guthrie’s politics aren’t a major component of his shows (though Alice’s Restaurant launched his career with a satiric indictment of conformity, stupidity and the Vietnam-era draft), but he scattered a few telltale musical and anecdotal gems. In introducing Deportees, his father’s poignant retelling of the plane wreck at Los Gatos that killed dozens of unnamed Mexican migrant workers from the Bracero program, Arlo notes that some songs remain timely for decades, in this case over 60 years. That’s because our immigration policy hasn’t changed a lot in the interim, he pointed out, adding, “It’s too bad the world still sucks.”
When he talked about his father’s widely loved anthem, This Land is Your Land, and current grassroots movements he drew loud applause after saying, “I won’t be satisfied till the whole world’s occupied.”
Arlo closed the show with a song about peace, written by Woody, encouraging the audience to join in on the refrain, “My peace is all I’ve got that I can give.”
Arlo and his generation-spanning band gave us not only a message for peace but the musical language to summon and proliferate it. Not bad for a folksy kid from Brooklyn.
To view the schedule of upcoming concerts from AMP Concerts, including Buffy St. Marie in August, go to http://www.ampconcerts.org
Letters to the Editor
Transparent corporate political spending
The legalized corruption of our nation’s campaign financing system has always been a national disgrace. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has made it more plain than ever that political office is now up for corporate auction. That is why I successfully sponsored SM 3 during the 2012 legislative session, urging Congress to pursue a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.
While a constitutional amendment is a tall order, statements of principle such as SM 3 help create fertile political ground for other reform efforts. One effort that is gaining momentum targets Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations. There is no legal requirement for public companies to disclose political spending, and most corporations choose to leave their shareholders in the dark. Shareholders deserve to know how their investment is being spent on political causes, and the SEC has the authority to require such disclosure.
Please join me in signing a petition asking the SEC to require corporate disclosure of political spending. You can find the petition and interesting information on campaign finance at www.saveourelections.com.
I appreciate your help in taking this simple step to help restore integrity in our democracy.
State Senator for District 37, Doña Ana and Sierra counties
New Torture Memo Cover Up, No Excuse not to Indict
New memos from the Office of Legal Counsel have come to light (http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/04/secret-torture-memo/,
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20120403/), offering a countervailing account to the Bush and Obama administrations’ narrative that at the time, the new interrogation methods that were being used, including water-boarding, and other coercive, abusive techniques, did not meet the standards of torture. The memo, written in 2006 by Philip Zelikow, counselor to then-Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice, states in a conclusion near the end of the memo, “It therefore appears to us that several of these techniques, singly or in combination, should be considered ‘cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment’ within the meaning of Article 16 (of the Convention Against Torture).”
In a footnote, the memo also states “OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] did not review domestic practice of police and prison authorities. OLC did argue that national security interests could justify more invasive practices than might perhaps be justifiable only by law enforcement interests. This may be a valid argument where the technique might be close to their line, domestically. But if the technique, or techniques, would violate domestic constitutional standards, it is nonetheless forbidden. The Senate pointed to domestic constitutional law as the source for defining this international treaty obligation.”
According to the author of this memo, Zelikow, an effort was made by the Bush administration to destroy all copies of said memo. He stated in a “contentious” Senate hearing that “I later heard the memo was not considered appropriate for further discussion and that copies of my memo should be collected and destroyed.”
The cover-up of this memo by the Bush administration, the destruction of evidence of dissent, that there were differing opinions on the legality of their decisions to authorize such interrogation techniques, appears to be, to this writer, an egregious abuse of power. This is something that cannot be ignored. Hopefully, Eric Holder will proceed with his duty to investigate, and indict criminal conduct, wherever it may be found. All public servants take an oath, to protect our Constitution, from enemies, foreign and domestic. Hopefully, this is too clear a case of abuse of authority, contempt for the rule of law, for Obama to sweep under the rug.
I, personally, will not be satisfied until the proper individuals face Justice in a Court of Law. No Justice, No Peace. Where is it that it says, “with Justice for All”? We will not let the leaders of this country feel safe in their bastions of non-accountability. They are citizens, just like us, not immune to prosecution by the privileges of any office they held. They have a higher duty to uphold their oaths of office, and to not abuse their powers. When they do, we must not, as a country, blind ourselves to the past in the interests of looking forward.
NM News Briefs
NukeWatch files FOIA suit for nuclear profits documents
Nuclear Watch New Mexico has filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act in the federal district court of New Mexico. The group seeks to compel the government to release its scorecards for awarding tens of millions of dollars to nuclear weapons contractors, while at the same time these contractors are becoming less and less accountable.
Specifically, NukeWatch launched litigation to obtain the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) “Performance Evaluation Report” that awarded Los Alamos National Security $72.1 million in profit for fiscal year 2009. Through this action we are also seeking to compel the government to release its FY 2011 Performance Evaluation Reports for all eight NNSA nuclear weapons sites.
Los Alamos National Security (LANS) is the for-profit limited liability corporation that runs the world’s premier nuclear weapons site, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in northern New Mexico. Its two dominant partners are the University of California (UC) and Bechtel, one of the world’s largest privately held corporations. Through a parallel consortium UC and Bechtel also run LANL’s sister nuclear weapons lab, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
LANS’ profits continue to rise every year. The NNSA awarded it $83.7 million for FY 2011, but the limited liability corporation is now planning to cut some 600 Lab jobs in order to minimize labor costs (and therefore arguably maximize profits). However, NukeWatch says corporate accountability has decreased because the NNSA has refused to release all Performance Evaluation Reports since 2009. In contrast, the non-profit University of California was typically awarded around $8 million when it was the Lab’s only manager until 2006, and its performance appraisals were routinely made public.
Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act
Santa Feans, among the best water conservers in the state and the Southwest, can show the rest of the nation just how good they are by joining the national Mayor’s Water Conservation Challenge.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act and to increase awareness about water conservation, Mayor Coss and the City Council announced today Santa Fe’s participation in a national challenge to see whose city can do the best to conserve water.
The National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation is a friendly community service competition among cities across the nation to see who can be the most ”water-wise” through a series of informative, easy-to-use online pledges. Residents can enter by making water conservation pledges at www.mywaterpledge.com
All individual pledges will count toward the city’s overall water saving and pollution reductions. Cities are divided into four regions (West, Midwest, South and Northeast) and categorized by population. Residents in winning cities are eligible to win more than $50,000 in prizes, including the grand prize of a Toyota Prius Hybrid.
Santa Fe’s long-standing water conservation and drought management programs are the best in the Southwest with respect to both comprehensiveness and effectiveness. City water customers reduced their water use by 38 percent from 1995 to 2010, from 168 gallons to 104 gallons per capita per day. Santa Fe’s average daily use is substantially lower than the national average of about 150 gallons or that of Albuquerque, also about 150 gallons.
Santa Fe has achieved its low use numbers through the implementation of a comprehensive set of ordinances that require Santa Fe’s citizens and businesses comply with water conservation requirements designed to provide financial incentives to conserve water.
For more information about water conservation in Santa Fe, including the Drought Water Management plan, residential and commercial rebate programs, and outdoor/indoor water use requirements, please visit www.santafenm
Report: Nearly 50,000 pounds of toxins dumped into NM’s waterways
Industrial facilities dumped 49,786 pounds of toxic chemicals into New Mexico’s waterways,” according to a new report released by Environment New Mexico. Wasting Our Waterways: Industrial Toxic Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act also found that 226 million pounds of toxic chemicals were discharged into 1,400 waterways across the country.
“New Mexico’s waterways are a polluter’s paradise right now. Polluters dump nearly 50,000 pounds of toxic chemicals into New Mexico’s lakes, rivers and streams every year,” said Maxine Paul, preservation associate with Environment New Mexico. “We must turn the tide of toxic pollution by restoring Clean Water Act protections to our waterways.”
The Environment New Mexico report documents and analyzes the dangerous levels of pollutants discharged to America’s waters by compiling toxic chemical releases reported to the U.S. EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory for 2010, the most recent data available.
Major findings of the report include:
• The biggest polluter in the state was the Department of Defense, releasing over 46,000 pounds of toxics at the Holloman Air Force base near Alamogordo within one year.
• Over 1,000 pounds of toxics were discharged into the Chamas Creek in the Apache National Forest and Morgan Lake, near Farmington.
• Industrial facilities discharged approximately 181 pounds of chemicals linked to cancer, and 140 pounds of chemicals linked to developmental and reproductive harm into our waterways.
Environment New Mexico’s report summarizes discharges of cancer-causing chemicals, chemicals that persist in the environment, and chemicals with the potential to cause reproductive problems ranging from birth defects to reduced fertility. Among the toxic chemicals discharged by facilities are arsenic, mercury, and benzene. Exposure to these chemicals is linked to cancer, developmental disorders, and reproductive disorders.
“There are common-sense steps that we can take to turn the tide against toxic pollution of our waters,” added ENM’s Paul.
In order to curb the toxic pollution threatening 88 percent of New Mexico’s miles of waterways, Environment New Mexico recommends the following:
1. Pollution Prevention: Industrial facilities should reduce their toxic discharges to waterways by switching from hazardous chemicals to safer alternatives.
2. Protect all waters: The Obama administration should finalize guidelines and conduct a rulemaking to clarify that the Clean Water Act applies to all of our waterways—including the 95,611 miles of streams in New Mexico and New Mexicans’ drinking water for which jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act has been called into question as a result of two polluter-driven Supreme Court decisions in the last decade.
3. Tough permitting and enforcement: EPA and state agencies should issue permits with tough, numeric limits for each type of toxic pollution discharged, ratchet down those limits over time, and enforce those limits with credible penalties, not just warning letters.
Animal protection group announces program on horse overpopulation
In the midst of headlines and unbearable images of horses suffering at New Mexico’s racetracks and livestock auctions, Animal Protection of New Mexico (APNM) has announced a new program aimed at helping address unacceptable cruelty inflicted on the state’s equines. The Equine Protection Fund (Fund)—a partnership between APNM and New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF)—is introducing a program to specifically address horse overpopulation in the state. The Fund’s Gelding Assistance program, in coordination with licensed veterinarians, will provide sterilization (gelding) services on stallions and colts for low-income families.
The program reimburses licensed veterinarians to perform on-site gelding procedures and is available to individuals, veterinarians, law enforcement agencies identifying a need and equine shelters. Unchecked breeding, both careless and deliberate, has overwhelmingly contributed to an overpopulation of horses, donkeys, and mules in New Mexico. With overpopulation comes neglect, abandonment and misery for thousands of horses for whom there are no adoptive homes. Dumped at auctions and sale barns with ghastly, inhumane conditions, their final destination is often a Mexican slaughter facility. Further, to address widespread equine care issues, APNM recently released its Equine Care Guide, a free, bilingual (English/Spanish) publication filled with practical information on proper feeding, shelter, veterinary care, grooming and emergency planning. Its creation was prompted by a request from a law enforcement official looking for information to distribute to the public to help reduce mistreatment of horses from faulty or nonexistent information. The sturdy guides are designed to be kept in barns and tack rooms as a reference tool.
“The Gelding Assistance program is just the latest in a whole suite of program services the Equine Protection Fund offers to directly reduce equine suffering and support the entire community,” said Phil Carter, Equine Campaign Manager for APNM. Existing Equine Protection Fund (www.EquineProtectionFund.org) programs now include the following comprehensive services that offer on-the-ground solutions for needy equines and their families:
• Emergency Feed Assistance (up to two months feed for up to four equines for qualified applicants) ;
• Gelding Assistance (subsidized gelding of a stallion or colt) ;
• Trail’s End (subsidized, veterinarian-administered euthanasia and disposal for a suffering equine) ;
• Volunteer Network (skilled, compassionate individuals who can help families with horses in need by providing equipment, transportation, etc.) ;
• Equine Care Guides (basic equine care brochures in English and Spanish).
“Humane solutions for equines are available, and could easily be expanded, but it requires a willingness by our leaders and policy-makers,” Carter said. For more information on the Equine Protection Fund or to order Equine Care Guides, contact Phil Carter at 505-265-2322 x45; [email protected]
Trying to find the voice of the earth
Bella Coola: The Rain Forest Brought Them Home
By Earl D. James
Review by Claire Ayraud
He begins in the ancient heart of the rainforest with a man whose love of the natural environment exceeds his love of his partner in life. His obsession with healing “the human-made gash across the face of the earth” leads him into altercations that threaten his life, and in this he is fulfilled. Most people would recoil from a near-death experience, but Peter is only more certain that he is doing the right thing.
But this book is not just about Peter; equally important are Ted and Sarah, Norval, Roy and Duran, and the author handles each one as if they are just as vital to the story. Author Earl James said in an interview last week, “There is no one central character. I was trying to find the voice of the earth through the characters.”
His treatment of each character comes across as very real and authentic, especially the women. There were times while reading that I grew angry with his portrayal of female characters. Then looking back I realized that this was because they were reminding me of myself (in the past of course, before I evolved) and character traits that I despise in women, and that’s why I was angry. James said that his editor, Cindy Green, also was angry at the female characters, that they were not stronger, and yet this dependence on the men we love is part of life. I resolved my anger by going back and rereading the sections and coming to the conclusion that there is power in a novel that elicits such strong emotion.
The native men and women James portrays are from the Nuhalk (Nuxalk) tribe in Vancouver, and Bella Coola is their ancestral home. James was working in Washington DC in 1998 for Global Solutions.org as an activist for the International Criminal Court system. He followed the history and events of the Forest Action Network from the beginning of their efforts to stop the logging of the rainforest and then went to Vancouver to see for himself. He met the people and traveled with them into the rainforest, and this is where the inspiration for his novel began.
As I sat and talked with Earl at the Travel Bug, across the street machines were scraping the earth and beeping so that I almost couldn’t hear what he was saying. It took all my powers of meditation to focus on the ideas that came pouring out. He said, “Things arise from what’s within and then [are] modified by experience.”
The scraping, dragging of a backhoe bucket intruded and I thought that it was a perfect backdrop to our conversation about a novel dealing with machines cutting a gash into the environment.
James added, “Instead of trying to control the characters, I let them lead with their own authentic voices.” And I couldn’t believe that he could summon up these words amid the noise and chaos, but that is exactly what the activists had done. Amid the chaos, confusion and fear of the loggers and the powerful company behind them, they were able to focus their energy and fight for the trees, the environment and their very existence. In an excerpt from a piece about the Nuxalk that James sent me, they have this to say about themselves: “Subsistence activities on these lands…has always been central to the Nuxalk way of life. We are salmon people of the rainforest and without healthy and abundant lands and water, our very existence is seriously threatened.”
And then there is another part of the novel that deals with a man and his aging father, who moves to New Mexico to spend his last days in the beauty of the desert. I told James that it resonated with me, as I didn’t know how to handle end-of-life decisions when my mother was passing. The son doesn’t understand, worries about his father’s safety and tries to control the situation to no avail. There are many other diversions in this novel, and yet they are not divisions, just other pathways, other connections to the universe, equally as powerful.
Earl James moved to Santa Fe in 2000 to work for the NM Environmental Law Center, all the while gathering information and stories and creating characters for his novel.
The machines continued scraping and beeping, and just when I thought it had stopped, the noise came back even louder, harsher, more insistent. James went on, “This novel is a base camp. The writing is an exercise of stretching what I’m made of.”
I look forward to his next novel to see what that stretching looks like and where the journey will continue.
A reading and book signing will be held Wednesday, May 9th, 6 pm at Op Cit Books, 930-C Baca Street, Santa Fe (right next to Counter Culture).
Bella Coola: The Rain Forest Brought Them Home, a novel by Earl James, is now for sale as a paperback or ebook at http://www.earldjames.com/news.html, where you can also read excerpts. Look for James’ Facebook Fan Page which he’ll have up and running by May (www.facebook.com/bellanovel)
APRIL – MAY CALENDAR
Thursday, April 19
The Forum, SF University of Art & Design
1600 St. Michael’s Drive
Speaker: Professor Nathan Brown of George Washington University
Egypt is one of the most important, if not the most important Arab country in the world, but we know very little about the new and confusing mix of forces and politics that has emerged following the removal of Mubarak. Will the future see anything like a genuine democratization of the country or will Egypt become a new Iran? Cost of the lectures, is $20 for non-members and $15 for CIR members. There is no charge for qualified students. For more information on registering for the lectures, go to the Council’s website at www.sfcir.org or telephone the office at 505 982-4931.
Saturday, April 21
Teatro Paraguas Studio
3205 Calle Marie
(new location! two blocks east of Henry Lynch Rd. and Agua Fria)
Teatro Paraguas presents a staged reading of The Way of Water,
a play by Caridad Svich about the BP Gulf oil spill April 2010
Over 40 readings are scheduled around the U.S. in April directed by Fran Martone, with Eumie Stroukoff, Shawn Wayne King, Rick Vargas and Nicole Phelps. Donation appreciated.
Info: 505 424-1601, www.teatroparaguas.org
Caridad Svich’s new play The Way of Water marks the two-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill this April with multiple readings across the US and abroad. The project was created by NoPassport theatre alliance, an unincorporated collective dedicated to the advocacy, production and publication of works expressive of cross-cultural and aesthetic diversity in the arts. Teatro Paraguas’ reading focuses on the two couples who make a living by fishing and haplessly watch as their way of life and sense of purpose begin to disintegrate. The very core of their mutual love and respect are challenged in this gritty drama.
Saturday, April 21
2 – 3 pm
Garcia Street Books
376 Garcia Street
Reading and signing of Pulling up Stakes: Stepping into Freedom by Harriet Kimble Wrye.
“Atop Mt. Kilimanjaro, psychologist Harriet Wrye felt a millenial call to ‘pull up stakes’ in her life, as she did with tent and llama stakes each day whenever she and her husband backpacked in the high Sierras with their llamas. Inspired, she closed her Los Angeles psychoanalytic practice of thirty years, they leased their house at the beach and set out on an odyssey into the ‘back of beyond.’ Creating a sabbatical away from the familiar, her journey became a life-changing spiritual pilgrimage that led to a deep practice of letting go of assumptions, habits and patterns, and stepping into freedom.” About the Author: “Harriet Kimble Wrye, Ph.D. is a training and Supervising Psychoanalyst Emerita as the Los Angeles Institute and Society for Psychoanalytic Studies. She has been ordained by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh as a Member of the Order of Interbeing. Dr. Wrye, co-author of The Narration of Desire and more than 25 articles, lives with her husband, Jim Wheeler, their five llamas, two horses and two dogs in Santa Cruz, California, where she practices mindfulness and psychotherapy.”
Saturday, April 21
8 am – 1 pm
Farmer’s Market Pavilion
1607 Paseo de Peralta (&Guadalupe)
Spring Farmers’ Market
Dynamic Northern New Mexico farmers and ranchers bring you fresh
greenhouse tomatoes, greens, root veggies, cheese, grass-fed meats,
teas, herbs, spices, honey, baked goods, Southwestern body care, and
so much more. Come check us out every Saturday.
Sunday April 22
7 – 9 pm,
109 Caminito Montano
Rare Bird Lit
A Discussion Group is getting together to read and then talk about the book
The Righteous Mind, by Jonathan Haidt. This group will meet to talk about the philosophy and
psychology behind the book, which can be ordered at any local bookstore or
from Amazon too. For directions to the house call 505 474-1457.
Sunday, April 22
Madrid’s Oscar Huber Memorial Ballpark
Madrid Earth Day Arts and Crafts Festival
Join former Congressman and environmentalist, Pete McCloskey, co-founder of Earth Day and co-author of the Endangered Species Act and our Earth Day guest speaker. The event will celebrate Earth Day with music, art & craft vendors, sustainable building demonstrations, a mural competition for New Mexico school students, and more. Free Admission, $5 parking. madridculturalprojects.info
Wednesday, April 25
211 West San Francisco Street
The Future of Wild – Elephants and Wolves
at The Lensic. The Lensic and WildEarth Guardians present a screening of the short documentary, Lysander’s Song, an exploration of the unique relationships between the indigenous people of Kenya and the disappearing elephant. $7 – 10. Call (505) 988-1234 for tickets. Or stop by The Lensic, 211 W. San Francisco St. Buy online at TicketsSantaFe.org
Thursday, April 26
Collected Works Bookstore
202 Galisteo Street
Harley Shaw and Mara Weisenberger – Twelve Hundred Miles by Horse and Burro
Collected Works Bookstore introduces biologists Harley Shaw and Mara Weisenberger for a presentation on their book, Twelve Hundred Miles by Horse and Burro: J. Stokely Ligon and New Mexico’s First Breeding Bird Survey. While the infamous naturalist J. Stokely Ligon’s work in bird conservation, habitat protection, and wildlife legislation during the mid-20th century is well-documented, hovering in the background are rumors of a trip he made as a young man in 1913 through New Mexico on horseback. As it turns out, the trip was Ligon’s first job with the United States Biological Survey, and it did not go entirely undocumented. Using his original itinerary and handwritten report, Shaw and Weisenberger have pieced together a seminal piece of New Mexico conservational history.
Saturday, April 28
Registration 7 – 9 am
1142 Siler Road
Great American Cleanup Day
Keep Santa Fe Beautiful
Trash bags, gloves and T-shirts will be distributed
For more info call 505 955-2215
Wednesday, May 2
Noon – 5 pm
State Records Center and Archives
1209 Camino Carlos Rey
Centennial Open House
In honor of New Mexico’s Centennial year, the State Records Center and Archives will host an Open House to commemorate the drafting and adoption of the 1910 New Mexico Constitution. The public will be able to view the Constitution and other important documents of statehood. 505 476-7902
Sunday, May 6
Travel Bug Books
839 Paseo de Peralta
Lecture: UNICOPIA : Green building by Faren Dancer
Presented by Journey Santa Fe www.journeysantafe.com
Wednesday, May 9
Op Cit Books
930-C Baca Street, Santa Fe
Bella Coola: The Rainforest Brought Them Home, a novel by Earl James
From the British Columbia Rainforest to the hills of Kentucky, the waters of the Rio Grande and the power centers of New York, Washington and Rome, Bella Coola: The Rainforest Brought Them Home probes the spiritual fault lines of our civilization in crisis. This novel by Earl James, is now for sale as a paperback or ebook at http://www.earldjames.com/news.html, where you can also read excerpts.
Friday, May 11
211 West San Francisco Street
New Mexico School for the Arts Gala & Live Auction
Presented by New Mexico School for the Arts, an evening of dance, music, theater and visual arts from NMSA’s talented students. Sweet Treats, Champagne and a quick Live Auction. Proceeds from tickets sales, and the live auction directly support NMSA’s rigorous mastery arts programing. NMSA is a public/private partnership comprised of the NMSA-Art Institute, a nonprofit art educational institution, and NMSA-Charter School, a New Mexico state charter high school. $100 includes Gala Reception and preferred seating . $50 includes preferred seating. $15 reserved seating. Call (505) 988-1234 for tickets. Or stop by The Lensic 211 W. San Francisco St. Location and Seating Chart Buy Online at TicketsSantaFe.org
Sunday, May 13
Travel Bug Books
839 Paseo de Peralta
Lecture: New World Economy: America and the transnational corporations. Fred Goldberg
Presented by Journey Santa Fe. www.journeysantafe.com
Thursday, April 19
10 am – 2 pm
UNM campus at Cornell Mall (just east of the Student Union Building)
Come celebrate Earth Day
at the University of New Mexico 4th Annual Sustainability Expo and LOBO Growers’ Market! The LOBO Growers’ Market will feature local growers, prepared food vendors, as well as arts and crafts. There will also be an Alternative Transportation Fair and general sustainability displays and activities. This is a great opportunity to pick up your weekly produce, score some lunch, or simply enjoy the fun, energetic atmosphere and learn about sustainability. Bring your reusable shopping bags, and don’t forget your cash! Love Red, Live Green!
Contact Info: Jessica Rowland, 505 277-3431 [email protected]
Web info – http://abqstew.wordpress.com/lobo-growers-market/
Sunday, April 22
2 – 4 pm
St. Michael & All the Angels Episcopal Church
601 Montano Road NW
NORTHERN NEW MEXICO
Saturday, May 5
Santa Cruz, NM
Camino de Paz School & Farm
6th Annual Camino de Paz Food for Thought Brunch
Joel Salatin is an innovative farmer and acclaimed author who has inspired a new generation of family farmers, including our students, through his many books and articles. His 550-acre farm was featured in Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, the movie, Food, Inc., and The New York Times. He is a witty, down-to-earth and thought-provoking speaker. Join us for this spring celebration with good food, entertaining and thought-provoking words and lively music. Dishes prepared by Joe’s Dining, Rancho de Chimayo and our parents from food raised or produced at Camino de Paz: vegetables, eggs, cheese, lamb and goat. Marimba music by our students. You won’t want to miss this! To reserve your place today go to www.caminodepaz.net
Proceeds benefit the Camino de Paz financial aid fund. Sponsors: Embudo Valley Organics, McCune Charitable Foundation, Steven R. Pantano.
by Chuck Shepherd
FROM UNIVERSAL UCLICK
FOR RELEASE: WEEK OF APRIL 8, 2012
CHUCK SHEPHERD’S NEWS OF THE WEIRD by Chuck Shepherd
WEEK OF APRIL 8, 2012
LEAD STORY — Body Piercing: So Safe and Easy, Anyone Can Do It
Like most states with active trade associations of barbers and beauticians, Iowa strictly regulates those professions, requiring 2,100 hours of training plus continuing education — but also like many other states, Iowa does not regulate body piercers at all (though it forbids minors from getting tattoos). Thus, the puncturing of body parts and insertion of jewelry or other objects under the skin can be done by anyone, with or without formal training, under no one’s watchful eye except the customer’s. (A few cities’ ordinances require a minimum age to get pierced.) Said one professional piercer to the Des Moines Register for a March report, “The lack of education in this industry is scary.”
** ** **
Government in Action
— Controlling the Waters: (1) A February bill in the Wyoming legislature to prepare the state for possible secession authorized a task force to consider establishing a state army, navy, marine corps and air force, and one amendment added the consideration of purchasing an aircraft carrier. Wyoming is, of course, landlocked, but it does have the 136-square-mile Yellowstone Lake, though that body of water is high up in the Teton mountains. (The aircraft- carrier amendment was defeated even though 27 representatives voted for it.) (2) Texas announced in February that it would deploy six gunboats to patrol the Mexican border’s Rio Grande river. Said a state Department of Safety official, “It sends a message: Don’t mess with Texas.”
— With a National Institute of Justice grant, the Houston Police Department was able to learn precisely how embarrassingly bad it had been in investigating rape cases. In February it conceded that, as of December, it had on hand 6,663 untested rape kits (some from the 1980s) taken from rape victims at the time of the crime but then apparently ignored. (Not all are significant: In some rapes, a perpetrator has already confessed or been convicted, and still other victims recanted, and in still others, the statute of limitations has run out.)
— After every snowfall in recent years, Doug Rochow of Ottawa, Ontario, has routinely taken his shovel and cleared two paths in a park near his home (since the park is apparently a low priority for municipal snow-clearing), but in March, the city ordered him to stop. Rochow said his aim was to keep people from hurting themselves on uncleared paths (thus perhaps saving the city money on lawsuits). The city’s reverse-logic position, according to a Toronto Star report, was that if Rochow cleared the paths, more people would be encouraged to use them, increasing the city’s exposure to lawsuits.
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— It wasn’t on a scale with an infinite number of orangutans using an infinite number of iPads, but the conservation group Orangutan Outreach has begun to supply certain zoos with iPads, hoping to encourage apes’ creativity and social networking. At the Milwaukee Zoo, a handler holds the device while an orangutan operates a painting app with its fingers. (“Orangutans like to paint, and they’re capable of using this (tablet),” he said, adding the benefit that “there’s no paint to eat.”) At the Memphis Zoo recently, said an Outreach official, the apes seem happy when they recognize images of other apes on the iPad. The Toronto Zoo’s iPad is expected soon.
— In March came word from Taiwan that the prominent Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts had awarded a prize worth the equivalent of $13,500 to student Wong Tin Cheung for creating the face of a man by using the artist’s own urine. His piece, “Blood Urine Man,” presented to judges in a toilet bowl, used urine of different colors, supposedly to match the pigments of the Marvel Comics superhero Iron Man.
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— Difficult Fact-Check: According to the Utah Highway Patrol, a one-car crash in February left the following injured in serious condition: Ms. Me Htwe and Mr. Hsar Kpaw Doh and Mr. W.T. Htoo, along with the driver, Mr. Tar Eh. (Ms. Mula Er, 14, died of her injuries.) All were from Heber City, Utah.
— “(E)very single cop in the state has done this. Chiefs on down.” That practice, referred to by the unidentified Minnesota law enforcement officer, is the personal use of the police database that is supposedly off-limits for all except official business. According to an imminent lawsuit (reported by the weekly City Pages in Minneapolis), former officer (and apparently still a “hottie”) Anne Marie Rasmusson, 37, learned that 104 officers in 18 different agencies in Minnesota had accessed her driver’s license record 425 times. Rasmusson’s lawyer said the reality is that officers tend to treat the confidential database more like a “Facebook for cops.”
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Hot Commodity in Pennsylvania
(1) In January, police in Bridgeville, Pa., investigated a series of vehicle break-ins, including one of a car belonging to Kathy Saunoras, who reported that only her dentures were taken. (2) Two weeks later, health worker Marlene Dupert, 44, was charged with yanking dentures out of the mouth of one of her charges at a nursing home in Selinsgrove, Pa. (3) Also in February, Evelyn Fuller, 49, was charged with robbing the First National Bank in Waynesburg, Pa. — a crime necessitated, she told a police officer, because she needed money for new dentures.
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People With Issues
Only the Lonely: Adrian Baltierra, 51, was charged with solicitation in February in Bradenton, Fla., after, according to police, he approached an undercover female officer, who was posing as a prostitute, and agreed to a transaction. In exchange for $15, Baltierra would be accorded the opportunity to take a whiff of the “prostitute’s” genital aroma (although street slang was used in the negotiation).
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Least Competent Criminals
(1) Didn’t See It Coming: Canadian Jasmin Klair pleaded guilty in federal court in Seattle in March to smuggling nearly 11kg of cocaine into the U.S. She had been arrested upon arrival at a bed and breakfast called the Smuggler’s Inn, located about 100 feet from the border in Blaine, Wash. (2) Greedy: According to police in Lake Ariel, Pa., alleged burglar Christopher Wallace had loaded his van with goodies from a home’s first floor, but instead of calling it a night, he re-entered to check out the second floor. Wallace was later rushed to the hospital after accidentally falling out a second-floor window, resulting in a broken back, hip and arm.
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Fathers of Our Country: News of the Weird has reported on several prolific men who sell their sperm to sperm banks, to be selected from catalogs by multiple mothers-to-be seeking high-quality breeding (and also one case of a middle-aged physician who collected women’s money to find donors but then decided to self-supply his clients). Fremont, Calif., computer-security worker Trent Arsenault, 36, is America’s most notorious “rogue” donor, offering his output absolutely free to same-sex and low-income clients who have difficulty procuring through sperm banks. He is so far the father of at least 15 children. Since 2010, the federal Food and Drug Administration has been trying to shut him down as an unregistered “manufacturer” of body tissue who must therefore adhere to federal safety regulations. Arsenault, according to a profile in New York magazine in February, is the son of disapproving parents (father, a Pentecostal minister), and in addition, is a virgin.
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On March 3, police in Kantale, Sri Lanka, found the body of Janaka Basnayake, 24, who with the help of friends had buried himself in a 10-foot-deep trench for an attempt to set a “world record” for the longest time buried alive. Clearly, his 6 1/2 hours underground was too ambitious. An Associated Press report noted that it was “unclear” whether an “official” record exists in this category. [Associated Press via Huffington Post, 3-5-2012]
(And for the accomplished and joyous cynic, try News of the Weird Pro Edition, at http://NewsoftheWeird.blogspot.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2012 CHUCK SHEPHERD
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1999 Darwin Award Nominee
Confirmed True by Darwin
“Airhead Extends Principle to Abdomen”
Breatharianism 1999 Darwin Award Nominee Confirmed True by Darwin “Airhead Extends Principle to Abdomen” (22 September 1999, Scotland) A Scottish follower of Breatharianism demonstrated a comprehensive misunderstanding of biology during her recent attempt to “Live with Light” in the Scottish Highlands.
Verity, 48, was adhering to a 21-day spiritual cleansing course, wherein followers of Breatharianism eschew all food and drink for seven days. They continue to abstain, fourteen more days, from all but sips of water.
During Verity’s brief stay in the Scottish Highlands, she endeavor to master the art of “pranic feeding,” surviving on inhaled carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen.
Guru Jasmuheen, an Australian formerly known as Ellen Greve, boasts 5000 followers worldwide, though she does not disclose whether they are always the same followers. She points out that ‘breatharianism’ is the perfect cure for anorexia, and world hunger, as adherents need never eat nor drink again.
Anorexia sufferers, and hunger victims, have already attempted this course of action, with known results. Nutritionists say a human can survive without fluid for six days, at most. These research results did not deter Verity, who took to the wilds with only a tent and her grit and determination.
She died from hypothermia and dehydration, aggravated by lack of food.
Jasmuheen, whose dress size was not disclosed, claims to have survived on “liquid air” since 1993, although she does allow herself cups of herbal tea and chocolate biscuits. The founder of the cult said that Verity’s death was not due to physical need for food. Rather, it was a failure to satisfy spiritual needs brought about by a battle with her own ego.
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Reference: The Scotsman, The UK Independent, the London Guardian, GILLIAN HARRIS of the London Times, Australia Sun Herald
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