Contents, December 2011
faces of occupy
The vocabulary of destruction
That public education is a vital component of a civil and just society is inarguable. The education of children in any society is the means by which social values are projected into the future. Education has been and remains an integral and defining aspect of our community and our social contract. What we now are witnessing is a widespread assault on public education and by extension, the community, being waged by a spectrum of business and political interests. David M. Steiner, whose work is admired by the current U.S. Secretary of Education, was asked in 2007 about public education as a public good and responded to the interviewer: “Social justice promotes hatred. Hatred for the established order.” The “established order” comment immediately called to mind George Orwell’s 1949 novel, 1984.
Throughout, a song recurs in Winston’s mind:
Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me—
Orwell described a world in which people sold each other out in a dystopian society overseen by “Big Brother.” The overseers spoke in what Orwell called “newspeak,” a reconstruction of language in which normal usage and understanding are inverted and subverted to undermine reasoning, perception and community. Newspeak required the use of “doublethink” as part of its methodology to reinforce the established order.
To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies—all this is indispensably necessary.1
The distortion of language is a frequent and favored tool of demagoguery. What more deceitful and despicable form of thought control than the destruction of the common language of a society and thus its collective understanding and commitment to social justice? Under this scheme, common vocabulary is recast and redefined to, among other purposes, deliberately isolate and ultimately demonize troublesome minority groups such as racial and ethnic minorities, political activists, labor unions and teachers. The aim is to isolate and then pit these groups and social strata against each other—a form of class warfare. Those in charge must of course deny this as class warfare lest the natives begin to suspect something other than what they are saying is going on.
I was again reminded of 1984 recently as I read a web post in which the author referred to public education as “government education.” Ominous sounding? Sinister even? You bet, and it was intended to be. “Government education” sounds a lot like the former Maoist system of re-education camps, where those who resisted intimidation and sheep-like following of orders were sent to have their thinking adjusted: Government as the big bad boogie-man, enslaving the country with taxes, regulatory agencies and public education. This use of language to discredit public education and, for that matter, public service and the common polis, is sociopathic, a selling-out of the common good. Calling things what they are not is one of the means employed to destroy the social contract that has held this society together from its beginnings—to divide and thus recast the society to an end in which everyone and everything is owned by a few. A few as in 1 percent.
In 1984, the Ministry of Peace is concerned with war, the Ministry of Love is concerned with torture, and the Ministry of Plenty is concerned with starvation. The three slogans of the Party: War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength. And now we are given another Orwellian re-construction: Public education becomes “government education.” Newspeak – doublethink.
We are presently seeing a sinister display of deliberately deceptive language, not only in recasting and demeaning democratic social practices and institutions, but most artfully in the naming of political action committees as “foundations” and “institutes.” The monikers are sprinkled with sweet-sounding words such as “Freedom,” “Open,” “National Committee” or “National Council,” “Choice,” “Transformation,” “Liberty,” “Democracy,” “Family,” “Open,” “Prosperity,” “Values”; I have collected a list of over 250 of these outfits and, when reading the titles, I can almost hear strains of patriotic music in the background and the snap of Old Glory in the breeze. So deceitful, so cleverly designed to mask their ultimate purposes: to sow cognitive dissonance and cover their tracks.
And why this barrage of deceptive language? Public education, instead of being held as the community’s common commitment to the education of the young, is now seen as a potential income stream by people like the Koch brothers and Rupert Murdoch, who has claimed a stake in what he recently assessed as a $500 billion opportunity.2 Rupert is joined by numbers of private, for-profit corporations with noble-sounding names that cleverly direct attention away from their objective of privatizing and “profitizing” public education. Billionaires “donate” millions to the campaigns of political hopefuls and in return expect the skids to be greased for the eventual replacement of public education with privatized and industrialized schooling from which they will profit. Those IOUs are coming due; teachers and students beware.
No matter what the topic, newspeak and doublethink dominate our public narrative on a daily basis. A web site titled “obamamustgo.org” recounts Speaker of the House John Boehner’s response to President Obama’s and the Occupy Wall Street movement’s calls for higher taxes for the wealthy:
Listen, I understand people’s frustrations. I understand their concerns, and I frankly understand that we have differences in America. We are not going to engage in class warfare. The president is out there doing it every day. I frankly think it’s unfortunate, because our job is to help all Americans, not to pit one set of Americans against another.3
My take on this is that Boehner sincerely believes the class war is over and his side has won. The Occupy movement is giving him and his friends and donors some wobbles. Boehner and friends don’t like to be challenged by the underclass, and they especially don’t like it when the underclass presumptuously resists being an underclass. This is the great awakening the Occupy movement is causing among the non-existent underclass across the country: “We exist!”
Of course, Boehner was one of the architects of the tax laws that gave the wealthy their lucrative tax breaks, and his language is clearly intended to obscure and confuse. I see this as a case of what Theodor Adorno meant when, in his essay “Education After Auschwitz,”4 he commented on Freud’s observation in Civilization and its Discontents, “… that civilization itself produces anti-civilization and increasingly reinforces it.” Adorno goes on to say, “A pattern that has been conformed throughout the entire history of persecutions is that the fury against the weak chooses for its target especially those who are perceived as weak …” In the war to privatize schools and what Adorno characterized as the “fetishization of technology,” teachers are considered as the weak. The propaganda campaign called No Child Left Behind is a perfect example of using language to divert attention from the real agenda, which, in this case, is clearly to discredit teachers and public schools. Diane Ravitch, a former assistant secretary of education under George H.W. Bush, called it a “well-funded, well-coordinated campaign to privatize as many schools as possible.” Ravitch went further to characterize the No Child Left Behind Act as “the death star of American education.” 5
At a retreat in October 2011, Patricia Levesque, a former advisor to Jeb Bush and former Florida colleague of New Mexico’s secretary-designate of Education, urged attendees whose interests were to mechanize and privatize public education to “spread” the teachers’ unions, to “play offense” by introducing “decoy” legislation and to instigate other union-busting measures that would allow bills favoring charter schools to “fly under the radar.”5 Levesque’s business, Meridian Strategies, LLC, lobbies for several education-technology businesses and pushes for new laws to facilitate charter schools, academies and virtual learning. At this “retreat” for philanthropists and groups such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, all of which have an interest in education reform to privatize and mechanize learning, Levesque stated that she is fighting to “advance policies that will create a high quality digital learning environment.”6
In the end game, the language employed will influence decision makers, legislators, the general public and even parents who uncritically buy into the propaganda. Given the ultimate importance and influence of language, advocates for schools and children must compete using plain-spoken truth; the mechanistas, as I call them, must be exposed for what they are and for what their ulterior motives and ultimate goals are. I will say without hesitation that those whose purpose is to crucify public education on a cross of profit by distorting the public narrative with their vocabulary of destruction have defective moral compasses calibrated with dollar signs at all cardinal points.
This combat for public opinion recalls Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising. It will be a dark world ahead indeed if the mechanistas succeed in their war against the common good, public education and the vocabulary of an open and democratic society. When I was a youngster, World War II had ended and the Great Depression was past, the pantheon of heroes was made up of Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers and Trigger and Dale Evans and Buttermilk—all heroes in the classic sense of good ascending above evil and subverting such wrongdoing as a heartless banker’s foreclosure of a poor widow’s ranch. In the eternal war between good and evil, good prevailed and that, as anodyne and naïve as it might have been, was the message. The narrative has changed, and what we now see glorified in the popular culture is violence for the sake of violence, unbridled ambition and profit for the sake of profiteering no matter the social costs. Sadly, these perversions are the behavior children are being exposed to now. The world has changed, not for the better, and if we are to turn it around we must call out the language of destruction for what it is. We must change the narrative with the language of community and social good.
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 taught “Schools and Society” and “School Reform” to graduates and undergraduates. He holds two master’s degrees and a bachelor’s in mathematics. He is currently working on a book, Belief Systems and the Social Contract, which he started when he was teaching at Wisconsin.
1. George Orwell, 1984.
6. The Nation, 11/17/11
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
We’ll occupy the streets
We’ll occupy the courts
We’ll occupy the offices of you
Till you do
The bidding of the many, not the few
—Makana, “We Are the Many”
By Steve Klinger
From locations as disparate as Egypt, Spain, Tunisia and a five-acre farm in British Columbia, a global movement that has instilled hope in lifelong cynics, and that some have described as an elevation in human consciousness en route to a new world order, found its American nexus in an obscure patch of real estate near Wall Street in lower Manhattan less than three months ago. Prompted by an online campaign that was the brainchild of Estonian expatriate Kalle Lasn in Vancouver and his colleagues at the anticonsumerist magazine, Adbusters, the #OCCUPYWALLSTREET hashtag appeared on Twitter on July 13. There was also a poster of a ballerina balancing on the back of a muscular bull with the following text: WHAT IS OUR ONE DEMAND? #OCCUPYWALLSTREET SEPTEMBER 17TH. BRING TENT. The bold idea went viral, and on Sept. 17, hundreds of people wound up converging on privately owned Zuccotti Park, overcoming initial confusion and fragmentation to establish a protest encampment that got the attention of the world. Lasn had put evolutionary biologist Robert Dawkins’ concept of “meme” into the vernacular, branding the frustrations of millions with a phrase and a call to action—what turned out to be a transcendent cultural message.
For over two months, Occupy Wall Street grew and developed a community unlike anything seen before in the United States and quickly spawned Occupy encampments in hundreds of cities and towns of all sizes across the nation. A coordinated effort of law-enforcement agencies has since raided and cleared dozens of Occupy encampments, often using brute force and chemical weapons to disperse, injure and arrest nonviolent protesters who offered only passive resistance in most instances. As many expected, the shows of force have been credited with growing the movement by drawing new participants outraged at the police brutality and by inspiring Occupiers to return to the parks, to move into the streets, the halls, the courts and other centers of power from which the 1 percent have imposed their will on the 99 percent, in the terms of the movement’s primary slogan.
Although criticized for not generating specific political demands, OWS issued an official Declaration of the Occupation of New York City on Sept. 29, which is reproduced on this page. A litany of complaints that incisively describe the “mass injustice” inflicted upon “people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world,” the declaration is as much a moral expression as a political one, cataloguing everything from illegal foreclosure to inequality and discrimination in the workplace to blocking generic forms of medicine that could save lives. As some of our contributors point out on these pages, to make specific demands is to accept that the State has the power and authority to meet them. But to Occupy sends a different message entirely.
Unlike leftist movements that sputtered and died in the 20th century, or even the successful initiatives that enfranchised women or made enduring gains for minorities and exploited workers, the Occupy movement has resonated in a new way, especially with young people who felt alienated by established political protocols, because it has from its outset been inclusive and non-hierarchical. As Michael Moore said last week, “There is a structure [to the Occupy movement] but instead of being vertical where there is some charismatic leader at the top that everybody is suppose to follow, this movement is a horizontal structure, which means we are all leaders. So in your neighborhood, you are a leader of this movement.”
In the mainstream media and the rightwing blogosphere, the Occupy movement has been vilified as naïve, self-indulgent, anarchistic, unsanitary, unfocused, a “flea party” of recycled hippies bent on distraction and destruction. Others are convinced it is an inevitable social revolution that will remake the world in directly democratic egalitarianism, localism and sustainability. In this issue, we look at some of the faces of Occupy, from the revolutionary concept at its premise to the actions of its political arms and strategic and practical problems of maintaining encampments, both on a national scope and closer to home, in Santa Fe and New Mexico. A fascinating report from ground zero at Liberty Square/Zuccotti Park by Santa Fe’ own Alan Hoffman is our centerpiece, along with commentary and analysis we hope you will find useful in putting this young and changing movement into perspective, even as it evolves on a daily basis.
This document was accepted by the NYC General Assembly onSeptember 29, 2011.
As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.
As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.
- They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
- They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
- They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
- They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
- They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
- They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
- They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
- They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
- They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
- They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
- They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
- They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.
- They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
- They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
- They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
- They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
- They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.
- They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
- They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
- They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
- They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.
- They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
- They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.*
To the people of the world,
We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.
Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.
To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.
Join us and make your voices heard!
*These grievances are not all-inclusive.
Speaking only for myself, I find it is not surprising that most Americans don’t understand the goals of the global Occupy movement that started on Wall Street on September 17th, just three months ago. To understand the movement it helps to get their take on corporate culture.
It is hard to blame corporations for wanting to make money; after all, I am fundamentally a capitalist. But for the first time we see that some of the worst practices of the corporate culture can actually cost lives. During the Depression the price for potatoes dropped, so the potatoes growers, using the law of “supply and demand,” got legislation to limit the amount of potatoes grown while Americans were starving and then dumped part of the crop into a river to further reduce supply. When starving people saw the spuds floating by, they were prevented from harvesting them by armed guards on the shore. When does a corporation have the right to take a life, either by starvation or gunfire? Before the human race realized that resources are limited, the Robber Barons could get away with making decisions that were bad for society and the planet in the name of profit, but those days are over.
Two fundamental things have changed since the early 1900s. Firstly the
Earth just exceeded seven billion in population, nearing or passing the Earth’s carrying capacity. It has finally hit home that there are not enough resources for the entire population of the planet if 1 percent of the population is allowed to hoard such a large proportion of the Earths resources. You have heard the numbers: The 400 richest families control more resources then 150,000,000 Americans. And secondly is the instant communication of the Internet and social media. In the past, revolutionary movements like our own, started with leaders in a room willing to take the risk to put forth a new way of living, and in our case it expanded outward from Philadelphia, supplanting the king’s control.
But with instantaneous communications, new ideas arrive at all points on the planet at the same instant, without leaders. In the past the corporate culture owned the newspapers and dictated public opinion. They were able to divide the public using fear based on race, religion or national heritage, but today this misses the point. The Occupy movement is comprised of all races, religions and nations, and the divide today is based on class, that is the 1 percent trying to control the 99 percent for their own profit. We are seeing today the advent of a new integrated society where the corporations can no longer control the message and shape public opinion. Even the lie factory that is Fox News is losing the hold on their audience as more people are feeling the financial hardship and getting the real facts with a few clicks on the Internet.
And that leads us to the Occupy movement
It was nothing less than amazing that a few activists that read a posting by AdBusters.org website started camping out on Wall Street and started a worldwide revolution that I hope will change our world. For the first time the people of this planet understand that “corporations exist to make a profit,” and as I said before this is not all bad, but when their actions damage the nation as a whole and cost human life, we have the right to pass laws that protect the public at large. Never before has there been a global movement that is acting out of an understanding that this is a life-and-death struggle that will affect us today and be even a greater threat to our children and grandchildren, if the corporate excesses continue.
Occupy, where are the demands?
On a recent trip to New York I visited Liberty Square and participated in the daily Think Tank meetings. One position that emerged was that this was not the time for final demands; there was too much to learn, and if we prematurely staked out a position it could cut off a novel idea or a new approach that could be a game-changer. The Occupy movement hopes to enact comprehensive solutions, not just bumper stickers, and that takes time. Making demands now would also give the K Street lobbyists a target to shoot at, and there is no reason to give them that. But speaking for myself, I think that six months from now this movement will have to identify those who share our values and support them to propel the movement forward.
How can the Occupy movement make change?
Occupy Santa Fe created the Issues Identification Working Group, starting with a board of over a hundred issues collected at a General Assembly meeting. These were categorized into six broad categories that are essential to our survival as a people:
- Occupy Sustainable Economy
- Occupy Energy and Environmental Policy
- Occupy Agriculture
- Occupy Health and Health Care
- Occupy Culture, Media and the Arts
- Occupy Education
What we mean by “Occupy the essential components of life,” is to primarily focus on making change now, like where we buy and grow our food, how we work toward sustainable energy consumption, how we make corporate-controlled media irrelevant with new technology, and how we can move our money to local institutions to decentralize our economy. These issues were discussed in Think Tank on Wall Street, and I agreed to create a virtual Think Tank so all of the Occupy movements could contribute their knowledge on line. Identifying, researching and delineating these issues now provided Occupy Santa Fe and the rest of the movement two important benefits: Firstly, to overcome the fear in the public by putting forward a thoughtful vision that the 99 percent can understand and believe in. Secondly, when we do take the power from the corporations, we will need to take quick action on these issues, and it is essential to have already come up with some of the solutions.
Alan Hoffman has worked with environmental real estate in Santa Fe since 1977, designing and building passive solar homes, successfully marketing new home communities and helping to create neo traditional villages including “Aldea de Santa Fe” and “Oshara Village.. Alan passionately pursues the cutting edge of walkable community design and certified Zero Energy Homes.
By Bruce M. Berlin
Can the Occupy Wall Street movement force President Obama to implement “change we can believe in”?
In the last month or so, a number of cities around the country have forcefully evicted their Occupy Wall Street encampments. On Nov. 3, Oakland, Calif. riot police advanced on peaceful Occupy Oakland. In New York City recently police removed Occupiers from Zuccotti Park in the middle of the night, resulting in at least one young man bleeding profusely from the head. Other cities have acted against their local Occupiers in a similar manner.
These actions do not appear to be a series of individual cities overreacting against, for the most part, peaceful protesters. On Nov. 25, author, social critic and political activist Naomi Wolf reported in The Guardian that “coordination against OWS at the highest national levels” had occurred. She wrote that “the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on ‘how to suppress’ Occupy protests.”
According to blogger Rick Ellis, Minneapolis Top News Examiner, police actions were “coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies… In several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules. Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear.”
It is hard to believe that President Obama did not know that his Administration’s Homeland Security Department was involved in suppressing the rights of American citizens to peaceably assemble and petition their government for a redress of grievances. While Obama has big Wall Street contributors to consider, we thought he still had some civility and sense of justice and fairness. Why hasn’t he condemned the use of force against Americans who are exercising their First Amendment rights? Moreover, why hasn’t President Obama publicly addressed their concerns and acted to curb Wall Street excesses and prosecute those who have committed malfeasance? Is Obama so in bed with his millionaire backers that he has lost touch with his Chicago organizing roots and the economic plight of millions of average Americans?
Given the president’s propensity to cave in to Republican demands every time they stand firm in support of their wealthy patrons, the answer seems to be that Obama is wedded to Wall Street. According to Naomi Wolf, however, the reason that Obama and the rest of the federal government have not only failed to support the Occupy movement, but acted to suppress it, is the movement threatens the ability of Washington insiders, particularly Congress members, to become wealthy.
By asking Occupy participants what they wanted, Wolf learned that their number one issue was to get money out of politics. Their second demand was to reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation. But their third concern was the most edifying for Wolf: to close “the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.” Consequently, Wolf discovered that the Occupiers are demanding the elimination of a conflict of interest that “allows members of Congress to profit personally—and immensely—from their own legislation.” Connect that ability to enact self-promoting legislation with the fact that members of Congress spend 30 to 70 percent of their time campaign fundraising, often with big corporate donors, and we end up with a Congress “hooked on loyalty to funders rather than the public they are elected to serve,” according to a Dec. 3 Truthout article by William B. Daniels.
If you had any doubts as to just how driven by money our Congressional representatives are, the Occupiers’ third demand should resolve them. And the Obama Administration’s efforts to disrupt the Occupy movement again demonstrate that the president sides with the moneyed interests. While Obama delivers inspiring speeches supporting economic justice and opportunity for all, as he recently did in Kansas, when it really counts the president doesn’t seem to have the fortitude to fight for the American people by pushing back against the big banks and his Wall Street supporters.
A few months ago, prior to the commencement of the Occupy movement, Dylan Ratigan on MSNBC argued that getting money out of politics was the only real way to solve this problem. (Go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIcqb9hHQ3E&feature=youtu.be.) Ratigan contends that the president needs to go directly to the American people and admit we have a “bought Congress” that can’t do what needs to be done. He then suggests that Obama abandon trying to work with a corrupt Congress as Teddy Roosevelt did 100 years ago. Ratigan then urges the president to establish an infrastructure bank to provide loans to American companies at 2 percent interest to get the country back to work.
There’s no question that the country is at a critical crossroads. Will we continue down the road where money controls government officials and the policies they enact? Or will we change course, get money out of politics and make policy based on the public’s welfare? If only we had a president who was as bold in his actions as he is with his words.
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.
The Occupy movement, by which I mean the global rebellion among the world’s deprived and exploited people everywhere, can be seen either as a protest against economic and political injustice or as the beginnings of a social revolution. If the former, then its goal is political and economic reform; if the latter, its end game is a fundamental change in the underlying structures of social governance and economic enfranchisement.
The question is not exclusively a matter of what the participants of the movement currently think, although of course what they think, both now at the movement’s inception and later on in the course of its development, will be a factor in deciding the issue. Rather, the essence of the question revolves around the objective conditions from which the movement has sprung and the material realities that will inevitably shape its course.
It is in the nature of a protest movement to target a social grievance and to issue a set of demands intended to “set things right.” The anti-Vietnam War movement demanded an end to the war in Vietnam. The Civil Rights movement demanded an end to racial discrimination. The Women’s Suffrage movement demanded the right of women to participate in the electoral process.
In each of these instances it was within the capacity of the ruling powers to satisfy the protested grievance. American ground troops were pulled out of Vietnam beginning in 1969, and a short time later military conscription was abolished. Racial segregation in public schools was rendered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1954, and civil rights legislation was enacted by Congress 10 years later. And in 1920 women were granted the franchise. These demands were met because (1) sufficient political pressure was brought to bear on the State, and (2) it was within the power of the State to do so.
Are we in an analogous situation today with respect to the Occupy movement? I submit that decidedly we are not, and for two crucial reasons: (1), no legislation or executive enactments can orchestrate reforms sufficient to address the conditions that bred the revolt; and (2), the State is institutionally incapable off enacting such reforms.
At the heart of the movement is the issue of the inequitable distribution of material wealth. And the condition underlying this inequality is driven by the imperatives of capital accumulation, or the persistent drive for profit. The history of capitalism has been plagued by an irresolvable contradiction at the center of the accumulation process. This contradiction has reached crisis proportions and is the reason why economic reform is no longer an option. I’ll explain.
Social wealth, or in the parlance of political economy, exchange value, is produced by labor, and labor alone. Profit is that part of exchange value over and above the portion received by a workforce, whether in wages paid by employers to their employees, or in entitlements or other worker benefits filtered through the State from tax revenues, which itself comes from the wealth created by labor.
One way or another, profits find their way back into the economy and increase its capacity to produce goods and services. It may be that the profitable company reinvests its profits and grows the enterprise. Sometimes it invests in other companies, either through direct investment or by stock purchases in the capital markets. And even if deposited in a bank and saved, those deposits increase the bank’s reserves at the Fed and allow it to make loans to an enterprise in need of fresh capital. This process is known as capital accumulation and is the essential dynamic of any capitalist system. So essential is this process that we may define capitalism as a regime of endless accumulation.
There is, however, a contradiction inherent in this process, one that has plagued capitalism throughout its history, but which since the 1970s has become especially acute. It stems from the fact that if a workforce receives in wages and social benefits less exchange value than it produces, as it must if there is to be a surplus that returns to capital as profit, then it cannot have the purchasing power to buy an ever-growing quantity of goods and services turned out by an ever-expanding industrial base. Thus the crisis of profit realization that is endemic to capital accumulation.
Although there are a number of tactical remedies at the disposal of capital, in the end they all boil down to driving down the cost of capital inputs. And the only way this can be done is by lowering the cost of labor. It is in this context that we must understand the drive to set up manufacturing, as well as services, in parts of the world where low wages and the absence of regulation, enforced by repressive political regimes, serve to maintain profit margins and thereby overcome the crisis of realization. It is in this context too that we need to understand the attempt of capital in the industrialized West to dismantle the welfare state apparatus. Every dollar of non-wage benefits that flows to a workforce is a dollar lost to capital’s bottom line. And finally, the crisis of value realization explains why, beginning in the 1980s, financial services have replaced manufacturing as the primary locus of capital accumulation in the United States. .
In sum, the imperative of accumulation, in its drive to overcome the crisis of profit realization, requires that capital systematically impoverish the very workers who create the wealth that is the source of their profits. To redress the grievance of income disparity is thus to fly in the face of the process of capital accumulation itself. In short, it is to demand an end to capitalism as such, and to insist on a new model of production and exchange on a global scale. Here is that objective condition that makes the Occupy movement not really a protest movement but inherently revolutionary: Its demand for an end to increasing income disparity is in essence a demand for the abolishment of capitalism. As such it is a demand that the “captains of industry” cannot possibly meet.
It is also a demand that must of necessity fall of deaf ears if directed to the State. For the State in capitalist society is not, nor has even been, a neutral arbiter in the struggles of labor against capital (as it is viewed in liberal social theory), but has as its sole function the maintenance of capitalist property relations. Or, put another way, the capitalist State is entrusted with supporting, with every means available to it, the regime of endless accumulation. And the upshot of this insight is that the seemingly innocuous demand for economic justice is at its heart a politically revolutionary demand. No matter if the movement at this point in time realizes it or not, its objective historical tendency is the dismantling of the regime of endless accumulation. Whether it is able or willing to live up to its historical mission only time will tell.
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. For the past several decades he has been an investment adviser and a securities portfolio manager, initially with his own investment company, more recently with a New York-based securities firm. Over the past several years he has taught philosophy courses at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
Along with the rest of the Occupy movement, Occupy Santa Fe is changing and developing at a rapid pace that by its nature often defies accurate description. On one level, the geographical occupation, well into its second month at the Railyard Park, continues with an evolving population of encamped occupiers. General assemblies, which had been held in a big, heated tent for a month, have moved indoors, with a steady location not yet established. But the biggest thrust in recent weeks has come from working groups, which are planning and holding direct actions around Santa Fe, and approving proposals that reflect the ambitious political goals of local Occupy members.
After Occupy Wall Street ignited the movement in the United States by setting up an encampment at New York’s Zuccotti Park, Santa Fe was one of hundreds of towns and cities to organize supportive Occupy actions in solidarity. Occupy Santa Fe began with a small mailing list, a Facebook page and then a Saturday rally on Oct. 1, in front of the Bank of America on Paseo de Peralta and St. Francis Drive. The following weekend brought another rally with a march on Oct. 15 to the Capitol Building, where hundreds lofted signs and banners, mic checks led to impromptu general assemblies and a steady drumbeat roused the passions of the self-declared 99 percent. Santa Fe Police, while present, seemed jovial and non-confrontational.
The rallies and marches continued through October, and by mid-month a base camp had been established on a little triangle of land across Paseo from the bank, and soon tents and an Airstream trailer were unmistakable signs of steady occupation. After a couple of weeks in that location, the city informed occupiers they were on private land and would have to move, and a few days later a new encampment sprang up at the Railyard Park, where some two dozens tents remain into mid-December.
Soon Mayor David Coss had stopped by, offering support and stating the encampment didn’t violate city rules because it was a form of political expression. Portable toilets soon arrived, and a bank account was established under a non-profit to accept monetary donations. The account has since been discontinued while a new non-profit sponsor is sought. Others brought clothing and food, and then an anonymous donor provided use of the big tent from an Albuquerque rental company, while generators hummed outside to furnish power. Donations of food and clothing filled the kitchen and supply tents as the community grew. In coordination with the marches and rallies, workshops and teach-ins were organized and direct actions launched (see sidebar).
By mid-November, as the temperatures began to dip, more transients began to fill the camp, and many of the original overnight campers departed, though continuing to attend general assemblies and organizing political activities. According to some, women no longer felt safe in the camp, there were incidents of theft and usage of drugs and alcohol, in spite of camp rules prohibiting them. As in numerous cities, a divide seemed to be growing between residents of the camp, including many homeless, primarily seeking food and shelter, and the more politically motivated members who wanted to focus on broader political grievances.
Things came to a head after the Albuquerque rental company removed the big tent on Nov. 29, reportedly at the request of one occupier, without the due process of a general assembly consensus. The same individual had repeatedly clashed with other members who described him as potentially dangerous, according to GA minutes. On Dec. 2, OSF’s media working group released a statement to the press, advising media that the general assembly had reached a consensus to inform the man in absentia that he was no longer welcome in the group and explaining the background for their action. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported the developments as evidence of a rift between rival factions of Occupy Santa Fe.
But members who met with the Light of New Mexico a few days later said the statement was sent to media and police because they expected retaliation from the individual once he was informed of the GA’s action. They denied a schism in the local movement, saying it was a case of dealing with one or two individuals whose negativity was threatening the success of the entire group. Comments and coverage of the tent incident and its aftermath can be found on our web site, www.thelightofnewmexico.com.
So what has Occupy Santa Fe been doing, aside from the well-publicized dispute with a dissident member over removal of the encampment’s big tent?
A lot, according to group members and OSF’s Facebook page and web site, including workshops, teach-ins, actions at Santa Fe locations and consideration and approval of far-reaching political proposals.
- At a Dec. 9 General Assembly, the group unanimously passed a proposal from Alan Hoffman, calling for a Constitutional Amendment to limit the rights and powers of corporations and business associations. The text can be viewed at http://occupysantafenm.org/.
- On Dec. 6, OSF attended an Environmental Improvement Board Hearing and interrupted testimony with a five-minute-long people’s mic. As reported on the group’s web site, “The EIB heard the same testimony last year and a law was passed to put carbon caps on coal burning electricity in New Mexico, and begin moving toward renewable energy… After Gov. Martinez was elected with the support of big oil and gas, she replaced the board members, and is attempting to overturn the law with this new hearing. PNM, and specifically San Juan Coal Power Plant, is one of the biggest polluters and greenhouse gas emitters in New Mexico.” A video and text of the people’s mic statement can be found on the web site.
(Donato Thomas Jaggers commented on OSF’s Facebook group page: “At the Environmental Improvement Board public hearings, Occupy folk stood in solidarity with many, many youth who had come from United World College and Youth Allies to protest against the repeal of last year’s carbon cap ruling.
“As well as the many eloquent speakers who spoke out against the repeal, Amina led a powerful mic check, repeating the same statement Occupy had mic checked on Monday. For the first two lines, it was just the 10-15 of us repeating what Amina said, but pretty soon the whole room—maybe 200 people—were repeating in unison our calls for greater consciousness, justice and environmental responsibility. The point of repeating the mic check during the public hearings is that now that statement goes down on the public record.
“As well as that, Occupy folk started using our silent hand signals of support for people who spoke out against repealing the carbon cap. Again, pretty soon the whole room was using hand signals. And each time, the EIB secretary noted the degree of support for each statement.”)
- On Nov. 25, Buy Nothing Day, OSF went to both Santa Fe Walmarts, handing out fliers about Walmart’s economic injustices toward its employees and corporate practices that harm the communities in which it operates and enrich the 1 percent at the expense of the 99 percent. Members held mic checks to address employees and shoppers and read a statement about Walmart. The video and text can be found on the web site.
- Numerous working groups have been established, including Camp, Direct Action, Media, Financial, Legal, Climate Change, Legislative and Los Alamos.
- Workshops and teach-ins have been conducted on such topics as non-violence training, climate change, banking and finance, and nuclear safety issues at LANL.
- The Legislative working group is planning a March to the Roundhouse on Jan. 17, 2012, the opening day of the 2012 session. Carmen Stone reports on the group’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/187379998016098/), “We are forming Legislative Watchdog groups. It is time for all of these groups to begin to work with each other. Imagine NM Occupies bringing the People of New Mexico together to support legislation that enriches our people & heals our planet—and imagine us Not supporting legislation that continues to keep our people in poverty and destroys our planet!”
- The LANL working group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/226519817418501/) is working on a mission statement with a goal of ending the nuclear weapons program at LANL and is also coordinating demands for study of radionuclides in the watershed above the Buckman Direct Diversion Project and a letter-writing/petition campaign to the Defense Nuclear Safety Board requesting nuclear catastrophe prevention actions at LANL plutonium facilities.
—Steve Klinger, Editor
On Nov. 11, 2011 Alan Hoffman of Santa Fe, New Mexico traveled to New York City and visited Occupy Wall Street. Here is what he found.
Report from Occupy Wall Street #1: I arrived at Liberty Square in the shadow of the new World Trade Center and was welcomed into the Think Tank Working Group which meets 12:00 to 6:00 every day. This group gets input from those present on three subjects a day. On this day the first decision that was needed referred to a request made by the Egyptian Tahrir Square Resistance Movement for election monitors for the first election in their history. The General Assembly facilitators explained that OWS did not have the expertise to be election monitors, but they still wanted OWS to be present in solidarity, believing that both organizations were part of the same movement. It was the decision of the General Assembly that each working group would nominate one person to go to Egypt. I explained that I had only been there for an hour, but they insisted I help make the decision, so I got to know those present and joined in to nominate Richard from California, an engineer with clear speech and convictions, who had been involved with the Think Tank for just a week. (It seems that that is a long time at OWS).
Report from Wall Street #2: The process of selecting a delegate to the Egyptian elections was not a straight line. As soon as the discussion began, a middle-aged man stepped up in opposition and blurted out that we should not send a delegation to Egypt. It is fascinating how well the facilitated consensus process works to incorporate and then neutralize forceful opposition. A facilitator named Tim informed the opposer that the GA had already made the decision to send a delegation to Egypt and the only question was whom to nominate. The opposer did not seem interested in the process or the decision of the GA. He blurted out that the Muslim Brotherhood had the best organization and would win the election and then would institute Sharia Law and make women “slaves” in Egypt. I then made the point that that was the strength and weakness of democracy. Yes, the Muslim Brotherhood would likely win many seats in the new legislature but if the people of Egypt did not like how they ruled, they would replace them at the next election. He then laughed and said, “Once they are elected, there will be no more elections.”
The wonder of Occupy Wall Street is the mix and diversity of the people there. A man listening to the discussion said a friend of his from Egypt was there and might add something to the discussion. A shy man was led into the circle and sat to answer questions, and the opposer immediately blurted out again, “Won’t the Muslim Brotherhood take control of the country?” The Egyptian man agreed that they would take many seats, but there will be other parties represented, some secular, and that would moderate the Brotherhood. The opposer laughed, implying the man was “naive” and stated that once the Muslim Brotherhood “takes over” they will never allow another election. The shy Egyptian then stated with surprising conviction, “Then we will go back to Tahrir Square until all Egyptians are free.” This answer caught the opposer off guard and he stepped back, and the Think Tank Working Group selected Richard as our delegate. The group then took a break, and we got some wonderful split pea soup and fruit salad from the kitchen and prepared for the next subject. What came next was nothing less then amazing, and you will hear about it in Report from Wall Street #3.
Report from Occupy Wall Street #3: There is a local resident who got involved in the Think Tank group as a mater of proximity and has blossomed as a thinker and an actor in the Occupy movement in his neighborhood, which happens to be Wall Street. We will call him the Chess Player. A crisis befell OWS when I was there and needed attention. There is a general lack of understanding about the Occupy movement around the world, and this can lead to organizations co-opting the message.
The Chess Player told us how, some weeks ago, a group of skinheads showed up with signs with swastikas referring to the “Jews of Wall Street.” You probably read about it, especially in the rightwing corporate media. Understanding how sacred this ground is right now, the Chess Player and others caused the skinheads to leave. I didn’t ask him how he got them to leave, but imagine this organism that is OWS, making its decisions from the outside in, this group with no real leaders all understanding at the same second they needed to protect the integrity of their vision and taking action.
Then on the 11th the unthinkable happened, with of the burning of some parked cars and hateful graffiti in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood that the rightwing media is trying to pin on OWS. The Chess Player and others took it upon themselves to visit Borough Hall to assure the community that OWS needs all peoples of good will to contribute—all religions, all ages, all classes and all histories. He pointed to a lovely and capable facilitatorsand said, “And here is a beautiful Jewish girl right here,” and warm smiles were exchanged between this large jovial black man and the capable fair-skinned young women leading this process.
We must understand, in a place as diverse as New York, if we are going to create an inclusive movement, we will have some elements within that movement that have a history, like people of Arab decent and Jewish people. But in fact, so far this has been a strength of the Occupy movement: We seem to intrinsically understand that the 1 percent use these differences to divide us and we can’t let this happen. There are workshops at Liberty Square on how to neutralize hate and Islamophobia; there is a conscious effort to keep our eye on the prize and not allow anyone to define us by their own fears and hatreds.
So it was decided that the next subject would be, “Why does OWS get a bad rap in the press, and what can we do about it?” What happens next surprised even me.
Report from Occupy Wall Street #4: The official title of the daily meeting is the Think Tank Working Group, but this name belies the true nature of the group. The Think Tank is the portal into OWS, where six hours a day there is a place where any visitor can hear about an issue chosen by the consensus process and have the consensus of that group transmitted to the General Assembly meeting each day at 7:00. The next subject chosen was, “Why does OWS get a bad rap in the press and what can we do about it?” This came to a head when the New York Post implied that OWS was a racist organization, accusing OWS of playing a part in the burning of three cars and racist graffiti in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood.
It was time for Think Tank to start, the facilitator shouted, “Mic check, Mic check,” and as the crowd responded and amplified his voice, he invited all to join in on the discussion. The Chess Player, Richard and a number of regulars settled in, and in the circle was a reserved man about my age who seems to have been to Think Tank before, understanding and adhering to the process. The facilitator, a young blond woman with a caring but firm style of facilitation, called him Russell. The discussion started with the Chess Player telling of his return from meetings at Borough Hall, upset after the New York Post carried on with its portrayal of OWS as anti-Semitic, drug crazed rapists and murderers with bad hygiene. The discussion started by someone saying, “I had never before proposed a conspiracy theory,” but this time it appeared that individuals that do not adhere to the fundamentals of the Occupy movement show up at Liberty Square and the rightwing press seemed to be there to catch the shot. Others spoke, and we seemed to be looking for a way to make a statement condemning all racism. Then a young man stepped up to speak.
Think Tank gives special attention to put “on stack” people who had not spoken before. The stack is a list of people wishing to speak, and one facilitator “keeps the stack,” selecting who is in line to speak next. This young man suggested that the reason that OWS can be misrepresented in the press is that “OWS refuses to make demands that clarify its position.” This is a common point made in the Think Tank and always generates a lot of discussion. Then as usual, someone responds by pointing out the basics covered in the Declaration: income inequality, unequal justice, the influence of money in government and tax reform, among others. Russell responded by mentioning that the tax laws were not just unfair but are actually bad for the economy. He said that his clothing company tried to manufacture in this country, but the way the tax laws were written it actually discouraged him from manufacturing in the states.
One position that seemed to emerge was that this was not the time for final demands; there was too much to learn, and if we prematurely staked out a position it could cut off a novel idea or a new approach that could be a game-changer. It would also give the K Street lobbyists a target to shoot at, and there is no reason to give them that. This seemed to satisfy the young man, but speaking for myself, I think that eight months from now this movement will have to at least pick a direction and identify those that share our values and support them to propel the movement forward.
Just then a young women in the circle held up her two hands with her thumb and forefingers, making a triangle, and the discussion stopped and everyone sat down. This signal means that the discussion had moved off topic as it often does. The facilitator started again by restating the question at hand, and the discussion focused back on what type of action OWS should take in the light of the misrepresentation in the rightwing media.
(Update as of Dec. 1, 2011: The trip to Egypt by OWS was delayed as a result of the ongoing turmoil in Tahrir Square that has already cost 40 Egyptian lives. As described by the Egyptian visitor to Think Tank, the Egyptian people went back into the streets when the Army resisted giving power over to the civilian government. In addition, 6,000 young members of the Muslim Brotherhood have quit, with many joining secular parties.)
Report from Occupy Wall Street #5: When the discussion returned to the challenge of protecting the inclusive nature of the movement, several positions rose to the top for consideration. One position was to ignore the provocation because “giving the accusations any attention plays into the hands of the skinheads and the right wing media.” The second position was that OWS must speak up to defend the rights of all groups because if one minority is not safe, no minority is safe.” And my position is that any attempt to divide us based on race or religion missed the point. The Occupy movement is comprised of all races and religions and the divide in America was based on class—that is the 1 percent vs. the 99 percent—and this was accepted by the group as a message to be included in the final communiqué.
Russell seemed to have an innate understanding of message development and how to deliver it and helped the group take a position that a communiqué should be taken before the General Assembly, condemning all racism and explaining that OWS was an inclusive movement and that any attacks or insults against any race or religion was unacceptable to OWS. But it was clear to the Think Tank that this was not enough. There was a march planned for the area where the attack took place the following day, called by religious leaders. They seemed to understand that if they did not all speak out, any one of them could be next. They understood that skinheads only knew hate and that included Jews, Blacks, Catholics and foreigners, in other words, almost everyone. It was the general feeling of the group that OWS needed to take the message to them directly and the OWS needed to join civil society to condemn all hatred and racism.
There was an outspoken black man in the group who lamented loudly that blacks were under-represented in OWS, and I was surprised to hear that because around half of the Think Tank members were black. When I pointed out that 13.5 percent of Americans are African American he stated, searching for a defense of his indefensible statement, “Because we have suffered more than regular Americans we need more representation.” And it was hard for me to argue that point, and it is fair to say that the group reflected his concern. All of the members of Think Tank were thoughtful and articulate, and remember that Richard, a black man, was the nominee being sent to Egypt as an election delegate from OWS. In fact, I found the black participants in Think Tank had a different point of view that brought a well-rounded perspective to the process, and Russell in his quiet way offered a calm wisdom to the proceedings. Just then a young woman called to Russell and he wished us all well, said goodbye and left.
Shortly after he left, we finished up our work with a consensus that OWS should issue a statement of condemnation and join in on the march of tolerance to take place the following day, and the facilitator left to join a group of Work Group facilitators to pen the statement for approval at the General Assembly that evening. During the break, I mentioned to the Chess Player how impressed I was with the calm wisdom of Russell and that I felt I had seen him before, when he said, “Russell, sure you have seen him, that’s Russell Simmons, the richest man in hip hop. The founder Def Jam records and the owner of several clothing companies. He’s the brother of Joseph Simmons of Run-DMC.” To be honest, not knowing a lot about a hip hop, I did not know about his street creds, but I was totally impressed with him as a person and a thinker.
The final subject to be discussed that day was the effect of “off shoring of money by American companies and the negative effect on the economy.” I was drained from the first two sessions and in need of a “visit to the McDonalds” (the only bathroom in the area) and left to rest up for the General Assembly in an hour and a half.
Report from Occupy Wall Street #6… I returned from McDonalds and got a roll buttered with garlic cheese spread and walked around while I waited for Lynn, a facilitator with Occupy Santa Fe, and her two boys. I stopped by the silk-screen table and got an OWS t-shirt and visited the library with thousand of books, many on social justice, economics and the history of protests in America. Earlier, a Spanish-speaking Occupier wondered if there were any books in Spanish on tax policy. A Spanish-speaking member of the Think Tank group walked him to the library, and I was surprised when they returned with a book in Spanish on social and financial equity, I think.
The camp is a complete community, offering everything from food to first aid to a free tobacco table where you can roll your own. A number of political tables were presenting positions from “Queering Occupy Wall Street” to Native People for Justice, and people with signs for every political bent positioned themselves above Freedom Square. Workshops on how to survive being arrested, how to take direct action and turning adversity into opportunity were presented in and around Freedom Square.
Just before 7:00 Lynn and her kids showed up, and we found a spot to take part in the General Assembly. Then we heard the familiar “Mic check, mic check” and the crowd of around 150 people responded in kind. The facilitators introduced themselves and went over the hand signals and then read the agenda. The first item was listed as an emergence item. They dove right in, explaining that the New York Post and Fox News attacked OWS as racist, and it was decided that an anti-racism statement was to be read to the General Assembly and approved as a statement from OWS. The statement was read by two facilitators and opened for discussion. An occupier identifying himself as Arab American, questioned the use of the term anti-Semite in the letter, stating that Arabs are Semites too. Another occupier signaled a direct response and reminded the opposer that there are Arabic people in the same neighborhood where the attack took place and Muslim Americans have been attacked as often as Jewish Americans. The gentleman withdrew his objection, and a few other minor details were discussed before the statement was approved by the GA, with everyone raising their hands in the air with “dancing fingers” to signify their consensus. A facilitator then announced the location and time of the march against racism and asked occupiers to attend to leave no question that OWS embraced all parts of the greater community, except those that espoused hate.
The following day, Sunday the 13th of November 2011, OWS joined a march of solidarity with spiritual leaders from all over New York, stating clearly that OWS stood for tolerance, diversity and justice. Most local and national media covered their stand against racism. I could not attend on Sunday but returned to Think Tank Monday the day before Freedom Square was cleared and reoccupied.
Report from Occupy Wall Street #7: I was taking the train into New York City wearing my Occupy Santa Fe t-shirt. A 30-something black male was looking at me, and I feared that I might have to defend myself. Instead, the gentleman approached me, put out his hand and said, “Thank you for what you are doing. I have kids and I am afraid there might be nothing left for them.” He explained that he did two tours in Iraq and he did not want his kids to follow in his footsteps. I asked him if he knew why he was in Iraq and he did not hesitate: “We were protecting the oil. “ I asked if every soldier knew that and he said yes. I asked him if that was OK with him and he lamented, “ We are soldiers, we don’t set policy, we just follow orders.”
When I arrived at Freedom Square, the Think Tank had not started yet, and Tim the facilitator was putting up a sign asking for a subject for the first session. My area of greatest interest is the nexus of energy and sustainable technology and its effect on economy, militarization and the environment. The group embraced the subject and Tim called the meeting to order with the customary “Mic check, mic check.” The discussion got off to a fast start with two positions being staked out. One was that the oil companies are hampering technology that could free us from dependence on oversees oil to preserve its power over us and the other was that Americans have been programmed to over-consume. A very strong woman from an island in the Caribbean pointed out that in her home, people consume a fraction of what Americans consume and they are still happy, and if Americans want to move away from corporate control, Americans will have to “unplug” from a consumptive lifestyle. We came to the realization that they were both true. We realized that “standard of living and quality of life” are not the same thing and that once we realize this, we might be happier. The sooner we stopped aspiring to a private jet and big house in the country, the sooner we might find the happiness that still eludes us.
In the area of advanced biotechnology, using waste to replace foreign oil, I was able to bring info on the state of the art in advanced biofuels. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was partly a stimulus plan, but more than half was “reinvestment” in the American industrial base. The ARRA, through its support of innovative American companies, was successful at leapfrogging over existing technologies, making it financially feasible to use non-food based biological systems to replace our reliance on dwindling oil reserves. Whereas the oil companies have put some money in this research, it has been start-up tech companies that have carried the weight of this research, and those that own the municipal solid waste are expressing the interest. McAllen, Texas is the first city to bring in a start-up to process their waste. Using Plasa2Energy’s microwave technology, which has been working in Mexico for four years, they will make their own liquid transportation fuel from city garbage. There was excitement in the group with the thought that energy production might be decentralized from Big Oil to local communities and that the movement needs to make sure this technology gets deployed and not bought and buried, which might be in the interest of the 1 percent but certainly not the country as a whole.
Report from Occupy Wall Street #8: THE LAST DAY OF THE ENCAMPMENT AT OWS, ONE-DAY CLOSER TO TRUTH AND FREEDOM. The Monday I planned to leave to come home to Santa Fe, I could not stay away from OWS and took the train to New York. The discussion at Think Tank was stimulating, the food healthy, the mood jubilant and the resolve rock solid. A young woman from Portland and I spoke of how this movement might make itself relevant in changing the world we live in, and she echoed the thought generally held, that OWS had already changed our world in many ways. The discourse and perceived conflict in America and around the world changed from conflicts between parties, nations and religions to the conflict between lies and the truth. If it is true, it is true in Egypt, China, South Africa and New York. I saw with my own eyes how a person invested in fear of Muslims, Chinks, Commies and Queers could be opened to the possibility that it is not about them, but instead about the fear itself. About how those that own the banks, the media and the government with their wealth and power have controlled the 99 percent by making us fear other nations, religions and parties, and what the movement is doing is pulling back the curtain, exposing the Wizard of Oz pulling the strings, and once the curtain is pulled back exposing the Wizard, as in the movie, he loses his power. And that is what OWS has done, and that genie can never be put back in the bottle.
As I spoke to people that day, the movement seemed to be broken into two parallel forces. The point of the spear was the campers who understood that it was their job is to pull back the curtain so all people of the world can see how we have been manipulated throughout history, and for them hanging on to the encampment was essential. The other group, was focused on what we do when this realization comes over the people of world like a thunder clap and we realize that we will have a small window of time to make concrete changes in the way we live our lives. When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and went up to Mount Sinai, it did not take long for the fearful tribe to return to the Golden Calf that was used to control them in the past. The same will be true with this movement. If we are successful at wrestling control from the 1 percent, we must know that they will be willing to use any dirty trick to regain their power. So we must be ready to realign our economy, industry, agriculture and health care and free our art and media from being the purveyor of hate and fear that it is right now.
Six hours after I left that day the NYPD tore down the encampment on Wall Street and by some estimates the movement grew to 20,000 in New York the next day. I saw an elderly lady with a sign that read, ”The more you screw us, the more we Multiply.” Power to the 99 percent, signing off from Occupy Wall Street.
Editor’s note: The first four Reports were in our Dec. 15 –Jan. 14 print edition.
By Jerry Ortiz y Pino
The New Mexico Supreme Court has handed retired District Judge James Hall of Santa Fe the ticking time bomb. He’s now charged with redrawing four state electoral maps, a mission the governor and Legislature whiffed-on in September. Making the final decision on each of the four separate redistricting cases involved will now take an additional three months.*
This means it will be during the next legislative session before the process that will define boundaries for our three Congressional districts, our five Public Regulation Commission Districts and our 112 Legislative districts is complete. This also means there will be less than four months after those maps are drawn and the June primary elections. Until the maps are finalized, prospective candidates won’t know for sure in which districts they are running.
I don’t know if Judge Hall has the wisdom of Solomon and the evenhandedness of the statue of Justice herself which adorns so many courthouses. But whatever his personal qualities and skills, I think it is fair to say that any decision he produces will set in motion unprecedented levels of caterwauling, garment-rending and thunderous appeals to the heavens to intercede…from both Republicans and Democrats. He can’t win.
Of course, that’s the beauty of handing these tough issues off to a judge; particularly a retired judge. He doesn’t have to win. He just has to make a decision.
That’s all the Legislature and governor had to do, too, and yet they couldn’t get there. For the third time in three tries (1991, 2001 and now 2011) the ineptness of the Legislature/governor combo at successfully navigating the shoals of redistricting has landed the process in the lap of the Judicial Branch. “Bail us out, Your Honor,” the other two branches have had to whine. “We can’t make it work.”
The worst part of these failures is that it is painfully expensive. First there’s the cost of the statewide information-garnering committee process. Then there was the expense of the Redistricting Legislative Session itself (19 days this go-round, at $50,000 per). But it’s when this hits the courts that the calculators really start spinning.
It’s the army of lawyers who will be maneuvering in, around and through the court proceedings who make this piece of the action the most costly by far. Ten years ago it cost the state $3.5 million to litigate just two of the maps. For the four before Judge Hall this year, we shouldn’t be surprised if it hits the $6 million figure.
So, what’s a cash-poor state to do? How do we extricate ourselves from this mess—if not this time (too late), then when the 2020 census comes rolling our way 10 years from now? I have a modest proposal.
For decades the League of Women Voters has urged us to consider creating a state commission that would be charged with handling this task rather than the Legislature and the governor. This actually is done in a few other states, with a variety of models employed in an effort at finding the optimal solution. I think this makes great sense and would like to propose a Constitutional Amendment and seek the voters’ support for changing this entire process.
I know I am but the most recent in a long series of lawmakers who have run this particular flag up the Legislative flagpole—all of whose proposals have been cut to shreds by the AK47 volleys of those who seek to defend the status quo. The usual argument is that it would be impossible to agree on the makeup of such a commission.
The answer is to keep it simple. Don’t create a 40-member commission with every interest group imaginable represented, and ethnic, gender, age, geographic and political balance sought in its make-up…that’s a nightmare. Instead, make it a five-member commission, a workable size. It can have the same sort of staff support (demographers, computer experts, political historians and sociologists) the existing system demands—but by virtue of its smaller size will be much less costly.
Have the persons named to the commission come from a limited pool of widely-respected and thoroughly reasonable possible members, not from an enormous inventory of candidates suggested by everyone with a dog in the fight. I think the most acceptable such pool would be all retired Supreme Court and Appeals Court judges living in the state who are in good enough health to tackle the chore. That’s a couple dozen individuals, and all will have demonstrated prudence, caution and the ability to give thoughtful consideration to controversial subjects.
From that pool, have the governor (whoever that is in 2021) select from that narrow pool five Redistricting Commission members and two alternates who would substitute if any original members cannot participate. The appointments would have to reflect bipartisan affiliations, with no more than three members coming from any one party, and the alternates’ affiliations would preserve that balance.
Here’s the key to this suggestion’s success: Its maps could not be vetoed; its work could not be challenged in court. In short, its work would decide the matter finally. That’s a lot of power to vest in a commission of five former judges. But isn’t that precisely the power we now vest in one retired judge, Jim Hall?
Simpler, cleaner and far less expensive, this system would redraw the maps every 10 years, using all the criteria now employed by the Legislature except one: It would be blind to the self-protection strategies of the current incumbents. And that’s a very good thing.
*Hall began hearing testimony this month in Santa Fe. The current hearings are on the three Congressional plans, and the PRC plans will also be heard before Christmas. In January he’ll take up the House and Senate redistricting cases—which means there will probably a decision some time in February on them.
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.
Have you missed a mortgage payment? Here’s a guide about what you can expect. This article is designed to demystify the foreclosure process in New Mexico and discuss the timing that is usually involved.
We all know the economy is tanking, following the housing bubble and subsequent crash of property values. The downward spiraling of our economy is directly traceable to the culture of legislated greed in the banking and mortgage industry. The biggest recurring payments most families make is the mortgage on their home. With real estate prices plunging, especially when the mortgage balance is more than the value, paying good money after bad doesn’t seem fiscally wise.
New Mexico is a judicial foreclosure state, which means that after you have missed many payments, the bank, or someone claiming to having the legal right to foreclose, will file a foreclosure suit in the state district court in which your home is located. Depending on the bank, and the type of loan (whether insured by FHA or conventional), suit could be filed from 4-12 months after your last payment.
Know that even after missing payments, you have options. One of those is staying in your home, taking care of it and preparing for a later orderly departure. I do not recommend slinking away from your home in shame, abandoning it to become another blighted home in your neighborhood. This brings down values of homes for your neighbors and your community. You and your family have to live somewhere.
If you love your home and neighborhood, as well as the schools, you can stay in the home, sometimes for years. Contrary to myth and rumor, you will not get evicted suddenly without warning, locked out of your house by the sheriff, and thrown out onto the streets. By having an attorney, you will get plenty of advance warning before having to move your family from the home. The banks operate differently when you are represented.
Typically, you will receive telephone calls from the servicer (the company to whom you make payments) very soon after missing your first payment. These calls will continue, sometimes daily, with aggressive bill-collectors badgering you to make your full payment now. The only way to stop the phone calls is to request in writing that they not contact you by telephone but only in writing. If the loan is FHA-insured, many lenders are required to accept partial payments. Before making any partial payment, confirm whether this applies to your loan; otherwise, your partial payment isn’t applied to the loan, nor is it returned to you.
You will probably start getting letters from the servicer, stating that you can apply for one of the programs designed to keep people in their homes. I encourage my clients to participate in this process, even though the results are less than satisfying for most. Who knows, you may get lucky and get the modification you need to afford to stay in your home. If your loan was a no-doc, with no income verification, it seems odd that the bank is now asking for documentation of your current income and expenses to modify an oppressive loan that required no such documentation originally. At the very least, this process can buy you another couple of months before the inevitable foreclosure suit. There are certain regulations a lender must follow before filing suit, and by participating in the loss-mitigation process, you may have defenses available to you for the servicer’s failure to follow applicable laws. The servicer who files a foreclosure suit while you are being considered for a HAMP modification is in violation of the servicer’s contract with the U.S. Treasury and program guidelines. Keep copies of all paperwork generated in this process for later review by your attorney.
After several months of correspondence and documentation has been submitted, you will receive a letter from an attorney for the servicer or bank. When you receive the first letter from an attorney, you’ll know you are getting close to the foreclosure suit being filed. The attorney will give you a notice of default and intent to accelerate, which means that if payments are not caught up within 30 days, the full amount will become due and owing. This is a good time to hire an attorney if you want to live in your home for a while. You may get a second letter in 30 days stating that the note has been accelerated, or you may just get a stranger at your door who asks you if you are “Mr. X,” at which point, they hand you a fat envelope. That envelope will contain a Summons, Complaint in foreclosure, and attachments to the Complaint. You have 30 days to file a formal answer with the court, and send a copy to the bank attorneys. Don’t ignore these papers! You must file an answer to avoid a default judgment and imminent sale of your home. Banks count on most of these foreclosures being granted as a default judgment because most homeowners don’t even bother to file an answer, mistakenly believing there is nothing they can do about the situation. Why be one of these statistics when you can fight for your home?
In cases where the bank knows it lacks the proof of standing (the legal right to file suit because it is the owner of the Note), just having an attorney file an answer for you may cause some of these cases to wither away. If the plaintiff (the one who filed suit) fails to take action that moves the case toward finality, the judge may dismiss the action after six months of inactivity, for lack of prosecution. However, the bank can have the case reinstated within 30 days, or it can refile a new lawsuit at a later date.
Aggressively defending the case may put you in a better bargaining position when the case is scheduled for settlement conference. Many foreclosure defense attorneys are getting good results at mediation, typically far better than the loan modifications that were offered before suit was filed.
The most important event to avoid is a deficiency judgment. A deficiency judgment is the difference in the amount the bank bids on the home at the foreclosure sale and the amount of the mortgage balance with accrued interest, fees and costs. This difference can be substantial, and a judgment will subject you to personal liability for that amount, leaving you facing bankruptcy as the only way out. Avoiding a deficiency without bankruptcy can be accomplished a number of ways, including loan modification, short sale, giving the bank the deed before foreclosure sale, or “cash for keys.” Some banks will allow families to continue living in the home on a “lease-back” after getting the deed, at reasonable rents.
So many foreclosure suits are being filed that you may have years from the time suit was filed to when the court orders a sale, particularly if you have a knowledgeable attorney helping you from the beginning. Educate yourself about your rights, and go into foreclosure with a sense of confidence and peace. Losing your home is a tragedy for all the members of the family, and not to be taken lightly. You do have options that can make the situation more controllable in terms of timing, allowing you and your family time to plan for the smoothest transition possible, and possibly even a more favorable outcome.
Ana Garner, Attorney at Law, represents only homeowners in the Santa Fe and Albuquerque areas. She has 30 years of litigation experience in N.M. courts. Her mission is to protect the integrity of the judicial process in foreclosure actions and expose the fraud being perpetrated on the courts and citizens. Her contact information is [email protected]; telephone 505 474-5300. She will review foreclosure documents at no charge if they are scanned and e-mailed to her with the subject line, Free Review of Foreclosure docs.
Folks from both the political left and right are understandably furious. The lion’s share of our national wealth and income are increasingly concentrated in the hands of 1 percent of the population while the ranks of the poor continue to grow—almost 25 percent of our children live in poverty—and the middle class sees less opportunity in its future than at any time since the Great Depression.
Everywhere we look, the game appears to be rigged. Large corporations receive huge subsidies and often pay no taxes, while bad actors at banks and on Wall Street not only go unpunished for misdeeds that brought our economy to its knees, but continue to earn hefty bonuses. Sweetheart government contracts are uncovered everywhere we turn, and most of the largess winds up in the hands of big campaign contributors. Money’s corrupting influence on politics is impossible to ignore.
Working inside the system as a state senator, I can confirm that the game favors wealthy interests in a thousand ways, both large and small. It’s not just the huge giveaways that are outrageous; it’s the Rube Goldberg contortions of law that have been put in place to protect them. You don’t need to read Catch-22 to appreciate this sampling of doozies:
- Laws that prohibit disclosure of the size of specialized tax breaks to specific corporate taxpayers. Our government can give the money away but is mysteriously barred from telling us who’s getting how much.
- A law prohibiting cash-strapped Medicare from negotiating reduced prices from fabulously profitable pharmaceutical companies.
- Health care reform that purports to protect the public from private insurance abuses by requiring folks to buy private health insurance!
- Laws that leave consumers paying the hefty legal and administrative costs utility companies incur when they file to raise your rates—even when the rate-hike request is substantially reduced!
- Laws that allow corporations producing genetically modified seed to sue a farmer for patent infringement if that seed accidentally blows onto his land.
- Exemptions from basic water protection regulations for fracking operations by oil and gas drillers. I cannot think of any other industry where regulators have decided an inherently risky process is so perfect that it requires no monitoring at all!
- And underlying it all, campaign finance and lobbying laws so full of loopholes that big money is driving our politics more than ever before.
The question I have to ask is how much worse can it get when our own Supreme Court piles on by allowing corporate insiders to usurp our basic civil rights? By virtue of its recent Citizens United decision, the court effectively ruled that every elected office is up for corporate auction using your money. Citizens United allows corporate managers to invest unlimited shareholder funds to promote political candidates of their choice. No shareholder or board approval is required. Finessed properly, political donations are not even legally required to be reported as such by management. If you thought public officials were bought before, you haven’t seen anything yet.
The court justified its Citizens United decision as protection of free speech. They seem to be confused about what free speech means. Most of us think the First Amendment is meant to insure that every individual is free to say what they want. The Supreme Court has ruled the First Amendment ensures corporate insiders the right to use our invested money to promote their personal political picks for free!
Every one of us is invested in corporate America through the stock market, an investment fund, pension fund, or as a citizen of New Mexico who benefits from investments by our state severance tax fund. None of us signed a proxy asking corporations to support political candidates on our behalf. When corporate insiders spend investor money to support political candidates without investor approval, it is a blatant violation of our First Amendment rights.
Proposals to correct the Citizens United decision through constitutional amendments have been made by a number of federal legislators, including New Mexico’s Senator Tom Udall, and Congressman Martin Heinrich. I will be co-sponsoring a resolution in the upcoming New Mexico legislative session supporting a U.S. constitutional amendment that corrects the Citizens United fiasco. I will also support measures that protect us from corporate dominance of elections at the state level.
Let your senators and congressmen know we want our elections and our government back. We must not stand idly by while a misguided Supreme Court allows multi-national corporations to commandeer our wealth, our laws and our individual free speech.
Steve Fischmann is the State Senator for District 37, Dona Ana and Sierra counties.
by Kathy Meyer
Just two teams vied to win the We The People civic education competition at the Roundhouse on Saturday, but the field was still impressive.
Students from Moriarty-Edgewood and St. Pius high schools “testified” to the volunteer judges about increases in executive power, challenges to the Constitution in the 21st century, substantive and procedural due process, the 14th Amendment, and freedom of speech — among many other subjects from the Constitution and its amendments. Each team answered six questions from panels of three judges.
While the students had studied, researched and prepared for the subject areas, the judges required them to answer follow-up questions using their own critical analysis and judgment. The students’ answers included knowledge all the way from the Magna Carta to Zuccotti Park—answers provided with professionalism and aplomb.
After the question portion ended judges provided valuable feedback and constructive criticism. Students learned from veteran judges about the importance of eye contact, techniques for teammates to assist each other to deftly answer questions, using case law for evidence, and always being confident in their responses.
The results were very close, but Moriarty-Edgewood won the event and is eligible to compete in the national competition in Washington, DC next spring.
We the People, the Citizen and the Constitution (WTP) is a program that was started in 1987 by the Center for Civic Education (CCE) with funding from Congress by way of the U.S. Department of Education (USDE). The primary goal of the program is to promote civic competence and responsibility among the nation’s elementary and secondary students. The program enhances students’ understanding of the history and foundations of the institutions of American constitutional democracy, with emphasis on the contemporary relevance of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Free professional development for teachers and free classroom sets of textbooks for elementary, middle and high schools have been provided by the programs to teachers receiving professional development, according to Dora Marroquin, Ph.D., New Mexico Director, Center for Democracy and Civic Education. Over 3,000 teachers have gone through the WTP professional development, and over 78,000 students in New Mexico have gone through the program, she said. The WTP textbooks have six units of content and a variety of innovative cooperative learning activities. Students are able to demonstrate their knowledge of constitutional principles and have an opportunity to evaluate, take and defend positions on relevant historical and contemporary issues in the culminating activity used by teachers as authentic assessment (simulated congressional hearing) in which students “testify” before a panel of judges.
For the first time in 24 years, Congress cut the funding for all the CCE programs across the country; therefore, the programs at the national level have slowed almost to a stop. The same is true with the state programs in all 50 states, because the funding for the states’ programs came from CCE by way of the USDE. Cuts in “earmarks” did away with all funding that provided civic education to students, professional development for teachers and classroom sets of civic education textbooks in all 50 states.
“In New Mexico we are still trying to pull it together,” Marroquin said in a written statement. “Many schools in the state (elementary, middle schools and high schools) are still using the materials provided (free) to teachers who attended trainings, but with no funding for professional development, free textbooks, or culminating activities, most of the programs have been cut, except for the culminating activity in Santa Fe in December.”
Second annual Santa Fe Alternative Gift Market offers options that keep on giving
Holiday shoppers who are interested in gift-giving that benefits those in need are invited to attend the second annual Santa Fe Alternative Gift Market. The Market’s grand opening celebration takes place at DeVargas Mall Friday evening Dec. 16, from 5-7pm. Mayor David Coss will be on-hand for the ribbon-cutting. The event is chaired by Ali McGraw. The Market will be open Dec. 17 and 18 during DeVargas Mall hours, 9 am to 8 pm on Saturday and 10 am to 6 pm on Sunday.
Participants can select tax-deductible gifts of urgently needed assistance to local and international organizations that provide a variety of services including medical help, shelter and food, working to reduce illiteracy, and assisting homeless veterans, among other gifts.
Gift-givers can choose from more than 60 different items including: visits to dentists for Santa Fe children through La Familia Medical Center; legal representation for a girl rescued from sexual slavery in Asia; a bicycle for rural health workers in Zambia; a children’s book for Santa Fe’s Public Library; a one-night’s stay in Santa Fe’s Interfaith Shelter; or entrepreneurial training for an Egyptian trying to start a business.
The market will also feature musical performances and story times for children. Volunteers from the Santa Fe Public Library and Friends of the Library will be on hand to read holiday favorites. Visitors to the market will also enjoy coffee, supplied by Java Joe’s, hot cider, and holiday-baked goods while they are considering their donations.
Alternative Gifts International (http://www.altgifts.org/) is a non-profit organization that inspires support for humanitarian and environmental causes. Shoppers/donors at DeVargas Mall will have the option of designating charitable gifts in the name of relatives, friends and associates through carefully selected agencies.
Court denies Administration’s attempt to quash appeal on LANL plutonium facility
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Judicial District last month ruled in favor of the Los Alamos Study Group on a motion by the Department of Justice (DOJ) requesting dismissal of the Study Group’s appeal of a May 2011 decision by a New Mexico federal district court which allowed the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) to continue working toward building a $4-6 billion plutonium facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).
The Study Group <http://www.lasg.org/> had claimed, and still claims in this appeal and in a second lawsuit filed in New Mexico federal court, that NNSA and DOE have never written an applicable environmental impact statement (EIS) for the facility, called the “Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF), that the agencies involved are violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and that the project is proceeding illegally and must be halted while an applicable EIS is written.
“This is good news—very positive for us,” said Study Group director Greg Mello. “The Tenth Circuit has decided to hear our appeal, and the federal agencies, which we believe are grossly violating NEPA, must now explain themselves before a panel of senior judges in Denver.”
In a separate positive ruling for Study Group regarding their second NEPA case in New Mexico federal court, the court denied DOJ’s attempt to transfer the new case to the Honorable Judith Herrera, who had ruled against the Study Group in the first case, the case now under appeal.
Mello said, “Congress passed NEPA to require federal agencies to take a hard look at alternatives to projects that will endanger the environment. That ‘hard look’ has never happened in this case. The project has ballooned to 10 or 15 times the original cost estimates, is going to be delayed at least 14 years, the nuclear stockpile has declined by half, the original raison d’etre for the project has largely evaporated—and yet there are no possible alternatives to this massive project? This is NNSA’s position, and it is absurd. There are, in fact, several reasonable alternatives, as many in government know.”
CELDF presents Democracy School in Albuquerque
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) will be presenting a Democracy School in Albuquerque conducted by Thomas Linzey, senior legal counsel, and Ben Price, projects director, CELDF, (www.celdf.org).
This Democracy School will bring together of community leaders, both concerned elected local officials and citizens across New Mexico and Colorado who recognize the inevitable—in the words of CELDF:
“The [community rights] ordinances turn the myth of popular sovereignty into reality. With the fracking boom [large water withdrawal, GMO, factory farm contamination] in full swing, and our communities becoming resource colonies for a gaggle of corporations, if the time isn’t now, then when will it come? If our communities are not the ones to lead the way, then who will? How long will we continue to allow corporate directors, abetted by traitorous legislators, to govern our communities?”
Come learn how you can change the course of history within your own community—and learn how to reclaim democracy within your community.
DATE: February 3-4, 2012
PLACE: Albuquerque, location tba
TIME: 6:00 pm
WHAT: We are looking for community leaders who believe:
• In the power and rights of people.
• In our right to protect our clean water, air, land, health and safety.
A limited number of scholarships will be provided. Attendance is limited to 30 people. Call 575 666-2529 or e-mail [email protected] and ask for Kathleen Dudley.
Agricultural Producers “Fill the Boot” for Hungry New Mexicans
Over 700 pounds of food, plus cash donations, were delivered to the Roadrunner Food Bank on Dec. 5 after a food drive held during the annual Joint Stockmen’s Convention.
“No one should go hungry, and we were glad to do our part to help,” said Rex Wilson, Carrizozo, New Mexico Cattle Growers Association (NMCGA) President. “I’m proud that so many people participated in the food drive, and hope that our donation will make a difference to those in need.”
Helping neighbors in need is something that happens every day in agricultural communities, Wilson said, and the groups wanted to do their part to help hungry New Mexican families. “It’s important to help out when you are able, because you never know when you’re going to be the one who needs help.”
The Joint Stockmen’s Convention is the annual December meeting of five statewide agricultural trade organizations – the NMCGA, the New Mexico Wool Growers, Inc. (NMWGI), the New Mexico Federal Lands Council (NMFLC), the New Mexico CowBelles (NMCB) and the Dairy Producers of New Mexico (DPNM). This year’s meeting was held Dec. 1-4 in Albuquerque.
Review by Claire Ayraud
The Art of Fielding
A novel by Chad Harbach
500 pages, Little, Brown
While immersed in the first chapter of Chad Harbach’s incredibly detailed, wondrous prose, I realized that this would be one of the most compelling novels in my library. I only keep books that I will read again, and this is one of them. It seems to be about baseball, but that is only the conveyance of the author’s intent. He describes the Zen of being in the zone where there are no thought processes going on in Henry’s head as he scoops up the ball and throws to first, a superhuman feat. There is only a perfect calm channeling of energy that courses through his body and propels the ball exactly into the catcher’s mitt. In order to get to that place, Henry is coached by Mike, his mentor, into a shape that can handle anything that comes at him on the field of play. He is molded by hard work and training into a sculpted hard body and mind that is sure of itself and ready for anything.
Henry is on a winning streak, with no errors for 52 games, which is one game short of the record, but in a fluke his throw goes off the mark and hits the Buddha, Owen, who is the team’s calm, centered player, who also happens to be gay. As the story unfolds, the homosexual element is revealed alongside the easy camaraderie of the hetero males.
The female element enters with Pella, the college president’s daughter, who stirs up the relationships but also rescues Henry from his fall from grace.
The fall is precipitated by the errant throw, which makes Henry question everything and think too much so that he is unable to deliver the ball, as he rethinks and chokes during every game until he has to leave the one thing he truly loves.
The cast of characters is fleshed out so that you feel a part of this enclave, at home with this team of players, and so when one of them is hurting you feel as if you’ve been there and experienced this loss and heartache in your own life somehow. The love of each one for the other, and their dysfunctional ways of dealing with their lives, is part of the universe told with beautiful images that serve as a parable.
The ending of the novel disturbed me, as it was highly unbelievable; however, it referred back to Emerson’s life and what he did after his wife died. There are numerous references to literature from the college president’s life of letters, library of books and the speeches he gave. Harbach inserts his own theories on life and its interconnection with the universe into the characters’ speech throughout the novel. He is brilliant at making this seamless and natural. The ending is not an ending at all but just the beginning of an outwardly moving spiral. We expect a novel to end in a pat resolution; however, our lives never do this but only move on to the next paradox—and so does this story.
This is not just a book about baseball. It is a fully encompassing journey into self-awareness that transcends everyday life into a meaningful, harrowing yet beautiful, complicated existence.
Claire Ayraud worked for the Crested Butte News for five years in the ‘90s writing columns on the history of that old Colorado mining town and the people who live there now. Also in her portfolio are many film, theatre and book reviews including interviews of directors and dance masters. Finishing her degree in English at the SF Community college, she became a Santa Fe resident in 2001 and lives in Nambe.
LOCAL AND AREA BOOKS/TALKS/LECTURES/THEATER/CULTURE
To be included in the monthly calendar, please send suitable items of interest to [email protected] by the first of the month of publication.
Dec. 11- 22
Red Wind Center of Santa Fe
Native Wisdom Keeper: Ohki Simine Forest
Ohki is a vision holder of Mohawk descent living in Chiapas, Mexico, where since 1985 she has been collaborating with impoverished indigenous Mayas. She is the author of Dreaming the Council Ways, and has presented at the Esalen Institute, Bioneers, Vedanta Centre, Denver University, Southwestern College, the Tesuque Pueblo Seed Sovereignty conferences and many others. This holiday season Ohki Simine Forest offers teaching circles and private sessions at Red Wind Center of Santa Fe, with Maya craft sales to benefit the artists and the work of her non-profit Red Wind Councils in Chiapas.
For more information and to register call Patricia Worth at 505 429-0529 or e-mail her at:
Saturday, Dec. 17
9 am, Free
Santa Fe Farmers’ Market
1607 Paseo De Peralta #1, Santa Fe
Patricia Foreman – City Chicks: Keeping Micro-Flocks of Chickens as Garden Helpers, Compost Makers, Bio-Recyclers and Local Food Suppliers
Collected Works Bookstore presents Patricia Foreman for a special signing of her book City Chicks: Keeping Micro-flocks of Chickens as Garden Helpers, Compost Makers, Bio-recyclers and Local Food Suppliers. This event will take place at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market,
Sunday, Dec. 18
4 pm, $20-$70
The Lensic Performing Arts Center
211 West San Francisco Street
Presented by Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, “Royal Music” is expected to be a masterful performance! Be swept away by Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks and Water Music, Corelli’s Concerto grosso Op.6, No. 8, and Schumann’s Symphony No. 3, “Rhenish.”
Monday, Dec. 19
6 pm, Free
Charles J. Shields, And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, a Life
Collected Works Bookstore
202 Galisteo Street
Collected Works Bookstore presents biographer Charles J. Shields and his latest book, And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, a Life. This book is the first and only complete life-story of Kurt Vonnegut, one of the most influential, controversial, and popular novelists of the 20th century. Millions know him as a counter-culture guru, anti-war activist, and satirist of American life. But few outside his family and friends knew the arc of his extraordinary life. He made friends easily, but always felt lonely; he sold millions of books, but never felt appreciated; he described himself as a humanist, but fought with humanity at large. As a former public relations man, he crafted his image carefully—the avuncular, curly-haired humoris—though admitting, “I myself am a work of fiction.” This biography reveals the man who enchanted a generation.
Tuesday, Dec. 20
6 pm, Free
Southside Branch of the Santa Fe County Library
6599 Jaguar Drive, Santa Fe
A Course in Miracles
Need A Miracle this Holiday Season? The public is invited to attend a free introduction to the spiritual guidebook, A Course in Miracles, in the Café Meeting Room. The session will contain information from this remarkable book, which promises of miraculous experiences of happiness and peace. Rev. Mary Ray, PhD, RN, interfaith minister, nurse and board certified human services practitioner, will present a history and overview of this remarkable, 40-year-old mysterious book that has continued to attract readers throughout the world. A Course in Miracles was written by inner dictation by a psychologist at Columbia University in New York in the 1970s. Since publication, the book has been published in 19 languages. For information contact: Mary Ray [email protected]/maryray.info, 209-404-1985
Saturday, Dec. 24
5 pm, $20 – $92
The Lensic Performing Arts Center
211 West San Francisco Street
Christmas Eve Concert
Presented by Santa Fe Concert Association, the Christmas Eve program is the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 1, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4.
Saturday, Dec. 31
5 pm, $20 – $92
The Lensic Performing Arts Center
211 West San Francisco Street
Claire Huangci, pianist
Presented by Santa Fe Concert Association, Claire Huangci, pianist
Prokofiev Piano Concert No. 3.
Beethoven Symphony No. 5
Wednesday, Jan. 4
6 pm, Free
Natural Grocers, 3328 Cerrillos Rd.
Forks Over Knives
Santa Fe Veg is screening the documentary, Forks Over Knives. A discussion and snacks follow. The documentary examines the possibility of controlling and even reversing degenerative diseases by making healthy plant-based food choices. Meetup.com/Santa-Fe-Veg
Friday, Jan. 6,
1 pm, Free
The Lensic Performing Arts Center
211 West San Francisco Street
Shoes For Santo Nino
The Santa Fe Opera and University of New Mexico School of Fine Arts have embarked on a joint production of a new children’s opera. The opera, based on the children’s story “Shoes for Santo Niño” by Peggy Pond Church, is being written by the American composer Stephen Paulus. Andrea Fellows Walters, The Santa Fe Opera’s Director of Education and Community Programs, is the librettist. The 35-minute work, to be conducted by Bradley Ellingboe, calls for two adult soloists, three children, a chamber orchestra and UNM Children’s Chorus, prepared by Regina Carlow and Julia Church Hoffman. Presented by The Lensic & The Santa Fe Opera.
Sunday Jan. 8
Travel Bug Books
839 Paseo de Peralta
Senator Peter Wirth, Overview Of The Legislative Session
journeysantafe program.www.journeysantafe.com. Contact 505 474-1457 for more information.
Sunday Jan. 15
11 am, Free
The Travel Bug
839 Paseo de Peralta
Conservation Voters in Conversation on Legislative Training
…and how to navigate the Legislature while in session. Sponsored by journeysantafe
www.journeysantafe.com. Contact 505 474-1457 for more information.
Sunday, Jan. 15
2 pm, Admission $5; students and Friends of CSM free
The DeLavy House
161 Edmond Road off Highway 550
1.5 miles west of I-25, exit 242
Geologic Quirks of the Sandia Mountain
Geologist Dirk Van Hart will outline the geologic history of our Sandia Mountain and some of its unusual features, i.e. its “quirks.” 505-792-4851 or http://home.comcast.net/~friendsofcsm.
Kathleen Goodwin, FCSM – Volunteer
505 404-8487 [email protected]
Sunday Jan. 22
11 am , Free
The Travel Bug
839 Paseo de Peralta
Education Concerns and Upcoming Programs
Attorney Sherry Tippett and Dr. Michael Anderson, Dean of Education, Highlands University, discuss many of the concerns about Education and upcoming programs as journey focuses on Education in 2012. sponsored by journeysantafe
www.journeysantafe.com. Contact 505 474-1457 for more information.
Sunday Jan. 29
11 am, Free
The Travel Bug
839 Paseo de Peralta
Update on the Buckman Direct Diversion Project
Mark Sardella, Exec. Director of Local Energy, presents an update On the Buckman Direct Diverson Project. sponsored by journeysantafe
www.journeysantafe.com. Contact 505 474-1457 for more information.
Saturday & Sunday Dec. 17 and 18
7:30 pm on Dec. 17 and 4 pm on Dec. 18
Arthur Bell Auditorium at the Harwood Museum of Art
238 Ledoux St, Taos NM
Taos Chamber Music Group: A Classical Holiday Encore
Due to the success of last year’s Classical Holiday concerts, TCMG brings you another music program from the 18th and early 19th centuries that complements the holiday season’s festivities www.taoschambermusicgroup.org
Sunday, Dec. 18
5224 New Mexico 518
World Snowboard Day
The international snowboard community mobilizes to celebrate the fun of snowboarding. www.sipapunm.com
Saturday, Dec. 24
Location: Angel Fire Resort
1100 North Angel Fire Road
Angel Fire, NM
Torchlight Parade and Fireworks
Angel Fire Ski Area will light up on Christmas Eve. It will be a festive evening, including a torchlight parade and fireworks before capping off the evening with night skiing at the only ski area in New Mexico to offer skiing under the stars.
Friday-Sunday, Dec. 16 – 18
7 pm on Friday and Saturday
2 pm on Saturday and Sunday
The National Hispanic Cultural Center.
1701 4th St SW # 211 Albuquerque
Free, ticketed event
Resolana: The Dream Act
The Legal and Political with Dr. Michael Olivas
Dr. Michael Olivas is a legal scholar whose work has been
seminal in the discourse over the Dream Act that would allow young
immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to complete their higher
education. He will discuss the debate that has been unleashed in a time of
heightened nativism. Strong movements supporting The Dream Act have
emerged in Texas and California, especially at their respective state
universities. Email [email protected] for more information
Albuquerque, location tba
Democracy School in Albuquerque
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) will be presenting a Democracy School in Albuquerque!
We are pleased to announce that Thomas Linzey, senior legal
counsel, and Ben Price, projects director, CELDF, (www.celdf.org) will be presenting this Democracy School.
This Democracy School will be the coming together of community leaders, both concerned elected local officials and citizens across New Mexico and Colorado
by Chuck Shepherd
Chinese Education Values
To get to their school, 80 children (aged 6 to 17) in the mountaintop village of Pili, China, near the borders with Tajikistan and Afghanistan, make a 120-mile journey that includes 50 miles on foot or by camel. The most dangerous parts of the route are an inches-wide path cut into a cliff (over a 1,000-foot drop), a 600-foot-long zip-line drop and crossings of four freezing rivers (easier in winter when they are frozen solid). The kids must make the chaperoned treks four times a year — coming and going for each of two long sessions. According to one teacher, Ms. Su, the kids generally enjoy the adventure. The government is building a road to the village, but it will not be finished until 2013.
— Globally (except in Japan), family-run businesses underperform those run by professional managers. Japanese corporations often seem to have a talented son to take over for his father. The main reason for that, according to an August Freakonomics radio report, is that the family scions usually first recruit an ideal “son” and then adopt him, often also encouraging their daughters to marry the men. (Japanese adage: “You can’t choose your sons, but you can choose your sons-in-law.”) If the man is already married, sometimes he and his wife will both get adopted. In fact, while 98 percent of U.S. adoptions are of children, 98 percent of Japan’s are of adults.
— At an October ceremony in the Satara district in India’s Maharashtra state, 285 girls were allowed to change their names, as each of them had originally been named the Hindi word “Nakusa,” which translates to “unwanted” (expressing their parents’ disappointment at not having had a son). In Satara, only 881 girls are born for every 1,000 boys, reportedly the result of abortion, given the expense of raising a girl (whose family is expected to pay for any wedding and give a dowry to the groom’s family).
— Swedish Judges Get Tough: (1) A court dismissed charges against two 20-year-old men in October, accused of having bared a passed-out, 18-year-old woman’s breasts at a party and taken photographs. Since the woman was not “aware” that she was being molested, the act was not a crime, ruled the Stockholm District Court. (2) Also in October, the Falun District Court in central Sweden convicted 23 women of possession of “large quantities” of child pornography, but gave them suspended sentences, merely fining them in amounts as low as the equivalent of $375. Their male “ringleader” was sentenced to one year in prison.
— Dubai is a city of towering, architecturally brilliant skyscrapers, but since all were built only in the last several decades, the city’s central sewer system has not been able to keep up. Consequently, reported NPR’s “Fresh Air” in November, only a few are hooked up to the municipal system, and the remainder must hire fleets of tanker trucks to carry away the waste water. The trucks then must queue up, sometimes for 24 hours at a time, to dispose of it at treatment plants.
Latest Religious Messages
— Factory worker Billy Hyatt, who was fired in 2009 by north Georgia plastics company Pliant Corp., filed a lawsuit in August alleging illegal religious discrimination. Pliant (now called Berry Plastics) required its employees to wear stickers indicating the number of consecutive accident-free days, and March 12, 2009, was the 666th day. When Hyatt refused to wear “the mark of the beast” (embracing that number, he thought, would condemn him to hell), he was suspended and then fired.
— The International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Mo., recently celebrated 12 consecutive years of around-the-clock musical praying, which Pastor Mike Bickle and his evangelical congregation believe is necessary to fight the devil’s continuous infiltration of the realms of power in society (business, media, government, etc.). “To keep the music going,” according to an October Los Angeles Times dispatch, “the church has 25 bands playing throughout the week in two-hour sets,” divided between “devotional” music and “intercessions,” in which God is petitioned to help some cause or place. Bickle claims that there are “thousands” of 24/7 prayer groups in the world.
— Israelis lately experience attacks not just from the outside but from its own ultra-Orthodox communities (about 10 percent of the country, and growing), whose activists have jeered and stoned “immodestly” dressed women and girls (as young as 6) on the street, defaced women’s images on billboards, forced illegal gender segregation in public facilities (including buses and sidewalks), and vandalized businesses that treat women as equals (such as one ice cream shop — since female customers lick the cones in public). An especially violent minority, the Sikrikim, employ some tactics reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan in America.
Each August in Urakawa, Japan, a “hallucination and delusion competition” takes place among visiting alcoholics and sufferers of mental disorders, who in principle are helped by bonding with fellow patients and revealing their failures and successes. The Bethel Festival, named for its sponsor, brings about 600 people together for on-stage presentations (sometimes in the form of song or dance) and awards a grand prize to a standout visitor (one year, to a woman who lived for four days in a public restroom after a voice in her head told her to, and in another year, to a man who had overcome a 35-year stretch of never straying more than two yards from his mother). (Some mental-disorder professionals believe the festival is too-easily mockable by insensitive outsiders.)
How does an extortionist (or kidnapper) safely collect the money that has been dropped off for him? In July, police staking out a vacant field in Colerain Township, Ohio, after leaving the $22,000 ordered by alleged extortionist Frank Pence, waited for about an hour, but Pence failed to show. Then, one officer noticed the money slowly moving across the field and finally caught up to Pence, who was pulling a very, very long, partially concealed rope from a location a distance from the drop site.
Crème de la Weird
Authorities in Washington County, Ore., said in October that they would not file charges against a very weird 21-year-old woman who had felt compelled, as a tribute to her horse that had just died of old age, to get naked and climb inside the horse’s carcass, to “feel one” with it. Her boyfriend recorded the extremely bloody adventure with numerous photographs (many showing her smiling joyously), which made their way onto the Internet and available to any viewers with strong stomachs. Said Deputy Sgt. Dave Thompson: “At some point in your career, you say, yeah, I’ve seen a lot of bad stuff (and) you see this kind of picture and you realize maybe you haven’t seen everything.
Least Competent Criminal
A lawyer’s first rule of cross-examination is to never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to, but criminal defendants who act as their own lawyers typically do not get that memo. Philome Cesar, charged with about 25 robberies in the Allentown, Pa., area, began questioning his alleged victims at his trial in November. Please describe, he asked the first, what the robber sounded like. Answered victim Daryl Evans, “He sounded like you.” After Cesar asked a second victim the same question and received the same answer, he decided to stop cross-examining the victims. (He was convicted of 19 counts.)
A News of the Weird Classic (January 2006)
In New Braunfels, Texas, in November (2005), Robert Villarreal, 34, was sentenced to 50 years in prison after he sold drugs to the same undercover officer for the third time in a 14-year period. He had actually argued “entrapment,” claiming that for the first sale, in 1988, he was so young (age 18) that he shouldn’t be expected to remember later what the officer looked like.
NewsoftheWeird.blogspot.com and www.
WeirdUniverse.net. © 2011 Chuck
Shepherd. Distributed by Universal Uclick.
1997 At-Risk Survivor
Confirmed True by Darwin
Guest Writer: Fred Walker
(1966, Australia) Against animal testing?
How about human animal testing?
Dr. Jack Barnes, of Cairns, Australia, failed to halt the spread of his own mad scientist genes, but his survival wasn’t due to a lack of effort on his part. In 1966, Barnes was hot on the heels of the source of a mysterious illness called Irukandji Syndrome. Sufferers endure excruciating back pain, sweating, and nausea. He suspected that the source of the illness was a tiny marine creature, so he set about finding it by sitting on the seabed for hours, wearing a weighted diving suit.
Note the outstanding Darwin potential demonstrated.
However, the Grim Reaper did not yet beckon. Instead, the fickle finger of fate rewarded him by revealing the source of the mystery illness: a minute jellyfish, its bell measuring only an inch across. It was at this point that the Doctor’s latent Darwin potential, already hinted at, was unleashed to its full (and nearly fatal) potential.
There are many toxic jellyfish off the coast of Australia. Our dedicated scientist knew he must test his hypothesis that this gelatinous creature was toting the particular venom that causes Irukandji Syndrome. And how best to go about this?
He chose the most expedient method available: he stung himself.
Foolish? Yes, but the good Doctor was not done yet. To reach truly dizzying heights of Darwinian grandeur, one must ensure that one’s deficient DNA is entirely removed from the gene pool. As Dr. Barnes had already sired an heir, there was only one thing left to do…
He stung his 14-year-old son as well!
Despite this truly outstanding effort to place the continued existence of the Barnes lineage in mortal peril — alas, it wasn’t to be. Dr. Barnes, his son, and the nearby lifeguard whom the good Doctor also introduced to the joys of Irukandji Syndrome, were all rushed to the Intensive Care Unit of a nearby hospital. All three survived.
As a final twist, not only will the mad scientist’s genes live on, but so too will the family name: the jellyfish was named Carukia barnesi in the intrepid scientist’s honour!
DarwinAwards.com © 1994 – 2009
Submitted by: Fred Walker
Thank you Fred!
honors those who improve the species,
by accidentally removing themselves
from it! Read The Darwin Awards
Next Evolution by Wendy Northcutt.