Contents, March 2012
OK, folks, today’s assignment will be to explore the influence in your home state by an organization called ALEC, or American Legislative Exchange Council, and what to do about it.
Let’s begin with a little quiz:
1. Are you aware of the Washington DC-based organization, ALEC, which is funded by the largest corporations and wealthiest individuals in the U.S.?
2. Are you aware that ALEC exists to write what they euphemistically call “model legislation” to hand to your elected officials for them to introduce to your legislature for the purpose of passing business-friendly laws which will govern your life and the education of your children? No mention will be made that these new laws were created in Washington DC and not by your legislator.
3. Do you know that New Mexico’s ABCD-F Act is based on ALEC model legislation and that every bill having to do with education in the 2012 Legislature was originated by ALEC as “model legislation”?
4. Are you aware that the highly publicized Occupy-crashed banquet in Santa Fe was hosted by ALEC for sympathetic legislators?
5. Do you know about the all-expenses-paid sojourns at exclusive resorts to encourage legislators to introduce and pass ALEC-provided “model legislation”?
Does any of this trouble you? I hope so. It certainly bothers me.
A group of legislators in Wisconsin have now introduced a bill that would require that organizations which introduce legislation through compliant legislators register themselves as lobbyists. I would call it the “Truth in Legislating Act.” The story, reported in the Madison Capital Times on Feb. 17, quoted the bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Mark Pocan: “ALEC is like a speed dating service for lonely legislators and corporate executives. … The corporations write bills and legislators sign their names to the bills. In the end, we’re stuck with bad laws and nobody knows where they came from.” It goes without saying that this form of legislative monkey business is patently dishonest and it seems to be endemic across the U.S. as legislators are wined and dined by ALECian lobbyists, fat-cat donors to their political campaigns who also designate individuals to be appointed to critical positions of authority (e.g. our very own Hanna Skandera) at the state level. This same pattern has been seen in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and other states, as well as New Mexico.
The authors, of a March 2012 Phi Delta Kappan article, Julie Underwood and Julie Mead, both of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wondered how such a consistent pattern of legislation could appear across the country. “How could elected officials in multiple states suddenly introduce essentially the same legislation?” they asked. Their conclusion after considerable research shows ALEC to be behind it. The UW-Madison professors, no fans of the organization’s motives, wrote that “ALEC’s positions on various education issues make it clear that the organization seeks to undermine public education by systematically defunding and ultimately destroying public education as we know it.”
For your edification, here is a list of New Mexico legislators with published ALEC ties:
House of Representatives
- Rep. Paul Bandy (R-3), ALEC State Chairman and Guest at the December 2010 International Relations Task Force meeting
- Rep. Jimmie Hall (R-28) and Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Alternate
- Rep. William Gray (R-54), ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Alternate
- Rep. Nathaniel Quentin Gentry (R-30), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Alternate
- Rep. Rick L. Little (R-53), ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Member
- Rep. Alonzo Baldonado (R-8), ALEC Education Task Force Member
- Rep. Dennis Roch (R-67), ALEC Education Task Force Member
- Rep. Paul Bandy (R-3), ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Member
- Rep. Nora Espinoza (R-59), ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force Member
- Rep. Larry A. Larranaga (R-27), ALEC International Relations Task Force Member
- Rep. William R. Rehm (R-31), ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force Member
- Rep. Anna M. Crook (R-64), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Member
- Rep. James R.J. Strickler (R-2), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Member
- Rep. Thomas A. Anderson (R-29), ALEC Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force Member
- Rep. Dennis J. Kintigh (R-57), ALEC Civil Justice Task Force Member
- Sen. Kent L. Cravens (R-21) , ALEC State Chairman, Public Safety and Elections Task Force member
- Sen. Sander Rue (R-23), Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Member
- Sen. George K. Munoz (D-4), ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Member
- Sen. William E. Sharer (R-1), ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Member
- Sen. Mark L. Boitano (R-18), ALEC Education Task Force Member
- Sen. Vernon Asbill (R-34), ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Member
- Sen. Sue Beffort (R-19), ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force Member
- Sen. William H. Payne (R-20), ALEC International Relations Task Force and Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Member
- Sen. Rod Adair (R-33), ALEC Civil Justice Task Force Member
And here is a list of New Mexico legislation inspired by ALEC:
HB 386 (introduced 2/7/11) “Transparency in Private Attorney Contracts” is similar to ALEC’s “Private Attorney Retention Sunshine Act”
HB 318 (introduced 2/2/11) “Crime of Organized Retail Theft Act” is similar to ALEC’s “Organized Retail Theft Act”
HB 45 (introduced 1/10/11) “Eminent Domain Federal Property Condemnation” (Sponsor: Rep. Paul C. Bandy) is based on ALEC’s “Eminent Domain Authority for Federal Lands Act”
SB 324 (introduced 1/31/11) “Licensure of Secondhand Metal Dealers” is similar to ALEC’s “Responsible Scrap Metal Purchasing and Procurement Act”
House Joint Memorial 24 (introduced 1/27/11), “Requesting Governor to Withdraw New Mexico from the Western Climate Initiative” is similar to ALEC’s “State Withdrawal from Regional Climate Initiatives”
HB 229 (introduced 1/27/11) “Parental Notice of Abortion Act” is similar to ALEC’s “Parental Consent for Abortion Act”
SB 195 (passed 2/17/10) “Sunshine Portal Transparency Act” is similar to ALEC’s “Transparency and Government Accountability Act”
HJR 5 (introduced 1/20/10) “Resolution to Allow Health Care Decisions” is based on ALEC’s “Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act”
HB 105 (introduced 1/19/05) “Income Tax Deduction for Organ Donation” is similar to ALEC’s “Organ Donation Tax Deduction Act”
This is a list of ALEC education “model legislation” which became bills introduced in the New Mexico Legislature.
ABCD-F Act — passed
Education Accountability Act
Having to do with schools, teachers and administrators:
Career Ladder Opportunities Act
Teacher Quality and Recognition Demonstration Act
+ Great Teachers and Leaders Act
A further report on legislation introduced by New Mexico legislators on behalf of ALEC can be found at: ALEC inspired bills in the 2011 legislative session.(http://veritasnm.com)
How we deal with this legislative infusion for the benefit of powerful corporate and financial interests is a question that must be answered before our entire body of law has been replaced by laws written by those interests and for their benefit How do we deal with legislators who are willing to sell out their constituents in return for an expenses-paid trip to an exclusive resort or a fancy meal?
Strategy vs. Tactics
I think attacking ALEC, which has millions of dollars in its war chests donated by the largest corporations in the world, is a futile strategy. Also, attacking the legislators who so willingly surrender their responsibilities for paltry rewards—“atta boys” and banquets from ALEC and its sponsors—will not pay off; what will work is to identify them as such publicly.
Shouting and chanting and storming meetings are tactical; educating is strategic. It is imperative that the narrative high ground be seized, that the narrative be occupied and educative. There is no need to attack ALEC when simply pointing out to the public who they are, what they do, whom they have bought and the effect on people’s lives and well-being would be sufficient. Of course this will take patient, concerted and continuous effort to pull off, but then the 2012 legislative elections aren’t until November. There is hope. There is still time to organize and to keep the narrative going long enough and strong enough to occupy that narrative. And, it is much easier to address these issues from high ground than by slinging mud and thus alienating the public.
It must be realized, I believe, that the general public does not have the interest or faintest clue about the machinations and goals of ALEC. That sort of apathy illustrates the general reality gap between activists and Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public and, if the issues are polarized along political party lines, the gap gets wider. In any event, the ethical and moral issues here have nothing to do with party because there are ALEC toadies with outstretched palms on both sides of the aisle. They are neither Democrats or Republicans but ALECians.
The campaign against ALEC must always, I think, focus on the issues and the impact of those issues on the public For those whose support you seek, the story has to become their personal narrative. If you do this right, ALEC-free candidates will come looking for you. And when they seek your support it wouldn’t hurt to require a solemn pledge to not succumb to ALEC. Think of yourselves as educators, Occupy, and you are on the road to effecting significant social change. The only people you want to alienate are the ones you don’t like, not the ones whose support you need to create change. At all costs avoid becoming the narrative yourselves; remember, it’s not about you, it’s about the truth.
An annotated version of this article with hot links is available on our web site, http://www.thelightofnewmexico.com
Emanuele Corso has been a New Mexico resident for over 30 years. Prior to that he taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Department of Educational Policy Studies, where he received his doctorate in education policy studies. He is currently working on a book, Belief Systems and the Social Contract, which he started when he was teaching at Wisconsin.
Veritas NM has identified the following bills from the 2011 regular
legislative session, the language of which is very similar or identical
to leaked ALEC bills:
• House Joint Memorial 24 (2011), Requesting Governor to Withdraw New
Mexico from the Western Climate Initiative
• House Bill 45 (2011), Eminent Domain Federal Property Condemnation Act
• HB 229 (2011), Parental Notice of Abortion Act
• HB 318 (2011), Crime of Organized Retail Theft Act
• HB 323 (2011), Interstate Health Care Freedom Compact
• HB 372 (2011), Immunity to Persons Who Rescue Another Act
• HB 386 (2011), Transparency in Private Attorney Contracts Act
• HB 552 (2011), Hospital Liability Act
• HB 579 (2011), Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emission Requirements Act
• SB 324 (2011), Licensure of Secondhand Metal Dealers
• SB 195 (2010), Sunshine Portal Transparency Act
• HB 105 (2005), Income Tax Deduction for Organ Donation
Veritas NM is requesting comment from lawmakers who sponsored these
bills or who belong to ALEC, and will follow up on this report.
ALEC Exposed home page <http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed>
ALEC State Chairmen <http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ALEC_State_Chairmen>
ALEC model legislation <http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed>
ALEC model legislation – education <http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/Bills_Affecting_Americans%27_Rights_to_a_Public_Education>
list of politicians <http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ALEC_Politicians>
New Mexico legislators w ALEC ties <http://sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ALEC_Politicians#New_Mexico_Legislators_with_ALEC_Ties>
Members of the ALEC Education Task Force
Rep. Alonzo Baldonado (NM R-8), Member
Rep. Dennis Roch (NM R-67), Member
Sen. Mark L. Boitano (NM R-18), Member
New Mexico Is Open for Business
Jerry Ortiz y Pino
If you wanted to find a tagline for the recently concluded 30-day session of the New Mexico Legislature, one that would capture as much of the essence of the session in as few words as possible, it would be hard to top: “New Mexico: We’re Open for Business!”
That’s certainly the posture that Gov. Martinez has deliberately fostered during her first 15 months in office, and it’s one that lawmakers of both parties have enthusiastically adopted. It is also one that makes me very worried, and for good reason.
The impression our new administration seems determined to give is that we are experiencing a drastic turn-about in attitude toward business; that an imaginary pre-existing suspicion of (if not downright antagonism toward) private enterprise by New Mexico State Government has been junked and that now (at last!) the private sector will be able to soar free of all the chains that have bound it up tightly until the dawning of the era of Susana.
That is purest fabrication, of course, the type of propaganda with which the two largest lobby groups for business in the state, the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and ACI, the New Mexico Association for Commerce and Industry, routinely entertain each other. The fact is that those groups’ lobbyists have always had open entree to the Legislature and that they have for decades wielded inordinate influence over any piece of legislation that might impact their members.
The Richardson administration quite openly courted business leaders and was not the least bit reluctant to seek special tax breaks or outright cash incentives for companies it sought to lure here. You needn’t look further than the Hewlett Packard operation in Rio Rancho to find only one example of state largesse meted out by Martinez’ immediate predecessor. And there were plenty of others.
So my reaction, upon hearing our new governor declare that we are now open for business, was befuddlement: what in God’s name was the last eight years of currying favor with corporate poobahs if it wasn’t already “open for business”? Or, to put it another way, how much more open can we get?
What I’ve come to realize of course, is that the tagline is simply code. We really can’t get much chummier with business than we’ve already been, but when we say that we’re now “open” what we mean is that we intend to roll back environmental protections—while continuing to mouth the expected pious declarations of being committed to clean air, water and soil, but…
So the rollback of environmental protections has begun, though it hasn’t been through legislation, but rather through the actions of the executive appointees to the administrative boards and commissions charged with implementing (or in this case, wiping out) the protections.
On the legislative front, what took place this session was a succession of corporate extortions, each one progressively more outrageous, always employing what we will certainly see a great many more examples of in years to come—the Sopranos’ favorite strategy: the protection racket.
It was so faithfully copied over and over during the session that I am amazed why every large business in the State didn’t jump on the bandwagon and get its taxes slashed by the same monotonous, three-step tactic.
Step One: We want our taxes reduced because they make us non-competitive.
Step Two: If you don’t cut them, we may be forced to leave New Mexico.
Step Three: Into which of our bank accounts will you be making that deposit?
Thus, Uranco (the multi-billion-dollar uranium-enrichment plant in Lea County) got its tax break by threatening to transfer its marketing operation across the border to Texas, which has no gross receipts tax. It couldn’t with a straight face threaten to move the plant it had just built here, but the sales of enriched nuclear fuel…
Then came Burlington Northern Railroad, which got its tax break after a veiled threat to do more and more of its refueling and maintenance work in Texas instead of here (after 120 years in New Mexico it was hard to argue the rail lines themselves would be moved).
And Tres Amigas, the partnership in Eastern New Mexico formed by three utility companies to provide expanded access to the nation-wide grid for New Mexico-generated electricity from renewable sources, secured its tax boon by suggesting oh-so-coyly that without the relief they would probably have to build their new headquarters in Amarillo rather than Rio Rancho.
There were more, but you get the picture. The code phrase, “Open for Business,” seems destined to gradually take on quite an expanded meaning in the years to come as more and more corporations wise up to the fact that all it takes is the threat to leave to immediately generate offers of tax relief from a panicky New Mexico government.
I’d suggest that perhaps what we need most in New Mexico isn’t to be quite so shamelessly open to business, but to find effective ways to partner with businesses loyal to us. Until we evolve beyond dealing with the private sector as if New Mexico were nothing more than an unworthy suitor who has to entice fidelity by dangling ever-more expensive gifts, we will continue to be taken advantage of. A race to the bottom with Texas is not a competition we can survive winning.
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.
There’s a reason the Yiddish word chutzpah has become part of the English/American lexicon, with synonyms like arrogance, audacity, gall and nerve. The classic example of chutzpah has been the adolescent convicted of murdering his parents, who goes before the judge to plead for mercy on the grounds that he’s an orphan.
Gov. Susana Martinez gave new resonance to the meaning of chutzpah last week when she vetoed Senate Bill 9. And she even summoned memories of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.
It’s no exaggeration to state that Sen. Peter Wirth’s corporate tax equity bill, which he had introduced and watched languish for seven years before the 2012 session, became the rallying point for the broad coalition of progressive groups that came together in the months and weeks before the session.
This bill was a no-brainer. By requiring out-of-state corporations to use combined reporting, New Mexico would close its loophole of allowing them to shift their New Mexico income to other states, which had forced New Mexico companies to bear the tax burden. This year’s version of Wirth’s bill initially called for the new rule to apply to all out-of-state corporations, which would have generated millions of dollars in new revenues and allowed a significant drop in the tax rate for New Mexico corporations. By no measure would this have been a tax increase for New Mexicans or New Mexico businesses. The phrase has been overused, but by making the Exxon-Mobils and Shells and other corporate giants pay tax as they do in every other western state the bill would have leveled the playing field for New Mexico companies trying to compete. This is why it had such wide support from both workers’ groups, businesses and even the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce.
Of course, it had its enemies, as usual, among the lobbyists and legislators associated precisely with those corporations that would have to ante up. It will make companies leave New Mexico, they cried. It will cost jobs. It will make us less competitive. So, under tremendous pressure from lobbyists and Republicans, the bill was largely eviscerated in the Senate Finance Committee and narrowed to apply only to big-box retailers of 30,000 square feet or more (Walmart, etc.). Instead of a significant reduction in the corporate tax rate, the scaled-back bill called for a slight rate drop, from 7.6 to 7.5 percent on income above $1 million. Still, it was a step in the right direction and obviously a tax-reduction, not an increase.
In that form, it passed both chambers of the Legislature at the 11th hour, thanks to strong and persistent public support and lobbying from unions, small business and political groups and movements such as MoveOn.org, ProgressNowNM, We Are People Here! and Occupy.
Leave it to Gov. Martinez to veto SB 9 on March 6, calling it a tax-increase measure and complaining that it unfairly singled out big-box retailers, when of course that was the only way it could gain enough support to pass both houses, given opposition from her office and Republicans. In an incredibly long and rambling veto message (the governor obviously knew she had to dance on the head of a pin to concoct even a marginally reasonable explanation), Martinez delved into arcane accounting language to argue that New Mexico’s unique (read: dysfunctional) tax codes would have put the state at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states.
The bottom line, of course, is that Martinez was elected thanks to huge campaign contributions from wealthy donors in Texas and others intimately connected with the very corporations that would have had to pay these taxes. As usual, she put big business first and New Mexico last, despite her tired rhetoric about protecting jobs and caring for struggling New Mexicans.
Now that the dust has settled, we can see even more clearly what the governor’s priorities are when we look at her line-item vetoes of more than 20 capital outlay projects in Santa Fe. Funds for the new district courthouse under construction, the Botanical Gardens, the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, La Familia Medical Center, Women’s Health Services, El Museo Cultural and Santa Fe Public Schools projects were all axed. Meanwhile, true to her law-and-order roots, the governor spared a $440,000 project to renovate and expand Santa Fe police headquarters, a $3 million project to upgrade dormitories at the NM Law Enforcement Academy, and funds for improvements to county jail facilities.
Incredibly, this governor seems to be continuing to enjoy public approval ratings north of 60 percent. It’s hard to fathom how New Mexicans can be charmed by her empty words while her goals and agenda are so clearly motivated by the interests of those who elevated her to power. If the mainstream media would open their eyes and voters would look at the record instead of the rhetoric, New Mexicans would be well on their way to making a statement of their own and vetoing Susana in 2014.
Steve Klinger is editor of The Light of New Mexico. He can be reached at [email protected]
As with every 30-day session, the main focus of 2012 was the state budget. This year, the Legislature passed the first unanimous budget in a very great while—a tremendous moment of bi-partisan cooperation. The $5.6 billion budget is about 10 percent smaller than it was when I took office in 2009, but it still makes new investments in education for early-childhood programs and programs meant to improve reading performance by our youngest students.
The Legislature also tackled the urgent need to spur job creation and boost our local economy. We introduced and passed bills to invest more than $290 million in infrastructure and economic development projects statewide, including more than $25 million for projects in Santa Fe. The funding for these job creation projects will come from existing taxes on oil, gas, coal and extractive industries dedicated to funding capital outlay projects. The bills will not raise taxes. Local projects slated to receive new investment include road improvements, La Familia Medical Clinics, Women’s Health Services, the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, and other economic development-focused initiatives.
I am proud to have had a pivotal role in the passage of several other important pieces of legislation. Below are some highlights, and a full list is available at www.nmlegis.gov:
1. A highlight of the session was the passage of Senate Bill 9. I was very glad to be the House sponsor of Senator Wirth’s bill to close the tax loophole that allows “big-box” stores to evade New Mexico’s income tax. Closing the loophole eliminates big boxes’ unfair advantage over New Mexico’s home-grown businesses. [The bill was vetoed by Gov. Martinez on March 6. Editor]
2. I was co-author of House Bill 201, which will eliminate major roadblocks preventing the development New Mexico’s geothermal resources. With the passage of this bill, New Mexico is poised to develop a clean, zero-emission, renewable energy source for electricity generation and bring new clean-energy jobs and tremendous environmental benefits for many years to come.
3. The House passed a memorial I wrote to study implementing statewide standards for safe nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals. We know safe ratios improve patient safety, reduce health care costs and make sure patients get the quality attention and care they deserve. I introduced this memorial as a direct result of last year’s dispute between Christus St. Vincent Hospital and its nurses, and I hope that this measure will provide a constructive way forward for both parties.
4. I was able to bring new attention to how unlimited special interest money in politics jeopardizes our democracy by co-sponsoring a memorial calling for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the dangerous Citizens United decision. In passing this bill, the House sent a clear message of opposition to the outrageous spending by “Super PACs” around the country.
Outside of the framework of passing legislation, I was also able to advance other issues that will be the focus of my work in future legislative sessions. As chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I held the Legislature’s first hearing on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and its effect on our groundwater and land. We highlighted several key issues that need further attention, and I will pursue efforts in the future to make sure that we have safe and clean water into the future
Despite these successes, many good ideas presented on both sides of the aisle failed to make progress. In fact, fewer bills passed this year than any year since 1976. The governor’s all-or-nothing approach on key issues means that no progress will be made for another year. Among these were bills to end the social promotion of third-graders unable to read at grade-level and to address fraud and abuse of our policy to issue driver’s licenses to foreign nationals without social security numbers.
I am deeply concerned about the poor reading performance of our students, and I was eager to support many of the ideas presented in the governor’s education reform proposal. However, the bill contained a dangerous provision giving school administrators too much control and stripping parental rights to be involved in education decisions for their children. Ultimately, my opposition was based on the insufficient time allowed for remediation measures. With only 18 months to put in place early intervention programs and allow them to be effective for today’s second-graders, the bill carried tremendous risk that hundreds of children would be required to be held back at the end of the next school year. All of my efforts to add a small change and create a “safety valve” for children immediately affected by the bill were refused by the administration, but I look forward to revisiting this issue in the next session with the hopes that we can reach a compromise to move education reform forward.
Progress must also be made on driver’s licenses for foreign nationals. It is outrageous that “brokers” come into our state and arrange licenses for non-residents. There is far too much fraud in the system, the penalties for breaking our license laws are too lenient, and there is no way to verify the authenticity of documents submitted with an application. To address these specific problems, I sponsored legislation to impose tough new restrictions requiring finger-printing, real residency verification, immediate document verification, shortened license periods, and significantly enhanced fraud penalties. These reforms would make our licenses more secure and our roads safer, but more importantly, they are not contentious. New Mexicans should be able to count on their Legislature and governor to find common ground and make basic progress on fixing straightforward problems.
Brian Egolf is NM Representative for Dist. 47 (Santa Fe).
Senator Peter Wirth
The 2012 Legislature adjourned Feb. 16 with progress on many fronts. We passed a solid budget that restores past cuts to teacher and state employee salaries. A wide variety of local and statewide projects were funded, giving our construction industry a jump-start at this critical time. And a bill was passed by both chambers that makes out-of-state “big-box” retailers pay their fair share of New Mexico’s corporate tax. Highlights are outlined below.
Some good news on the budget horizon:
New Mexico is coming out of its worst fiscal crisis since statehood. For the first time in four years, revenue projections going into the session were positive, and we began mid-January working with a projected surplus of about $250 million.
The challenge with budget projections is they are estimates, which factor in a number of variables, including the price of natural gas and oil. To give you some sense of how energy prices impact our state, a 10-cent change in the mcf (1000 cubic feet) price of natural gas is a $12-million-plus-or-minus impact to the budget. A one-dollar increase or decrease in the price for a barrel of oil is a $3 million change.
The $5.6 billion budget for Fiscal year 2013 is fiscally responsible and keeps reserves at 9 percent. We emphasize funding core governmental programs like education, health care and public safety. I am particularly happy to see some new funding added for pre-kindergarten, drug courts and to help our judicial branch of government.
There is a lot more that needs to be done to move our state forward. I am confident, however, that we have restored the strong foundation needed to create future successes for New Mexico.
Senate Bill 9 really helps New Mexico businesses:
After eight years of introducing legislation to put some fairness into our tax code, this year both legislative chambers approved Senate Bill 9, a bill making out-of-state “big box” corporations pay their fair share and lowering the top corporate tax rate. This compromise legislation is not the broad corporate tax reform New Mexico needs, but is a very important first step.
Many thanks to the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce and all the local businesses who supported our effort. Combined with a coalition of New Mexicans spearheaded by Move-On New Mexico, these new voices in the discussion helped offset the continued efforts by the corporate lobbyists to paint Senate Bill 9 as “anti-business.” [See update below.]
New condominium compliance with zoning:
Another bill I sponsored is Senate Bill 10. This legislation allows local governments to require newly created condominiums to certify when they are formed that they comply with local zoning requirements.
Currently, the condominium form of ownership can be used to bypass zoning, putting innocent buyers into an illegal unit and exceeding density requirements in our neighborhoods. Senate Bill 10 does not solve past abuses but will prevent this from happening in the future. [See update below.]
Super PACs will operate in the dark this election cycle:
One very important bill that died the last morning of the session after a Republican filibuster in the House was Senate Bill 12. This legislation would have required independent expenditure committees, known as “Super PACs,” and non-profits to disclose donors when these groups expressly advocate for or against a candidate or “educate” voters shortly before primary and general elections.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United gives corporations the constitutional right to make unlimited donations to these Super PACs. What we are seeing play out in the Republican presidential primaries is coming to New Mexico this year. It only seems right that voters know the source of this funding so they can make educated decisions at the polls.
Lots of tough negotiating went into Senate Bill 12, and we were very close. I am committed to putting this law on the books in 2013 should I have the privilege of serving another term in the Legislature.
Update: Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed Senate Bill 9 on March 6. Sen. Wirth issued the following statement in response to the veto:
I am extremely disappointed with the Governor’s veto of Senate Bill 9. New Mexico businesses are the big losers today. This was a chance to lower the top corporate tax rate and begin the process of fixing our tax code, which is a mess. Instead, the Governor sided with out-of-state “big box” retailers, letting them continue to avoid paying their fair share of New Mexico’s corporate tax.
Tax reform will not be easy. The broad support for Senate Bill 9 shows that New Mexicans and New Mexico businesses want tax fairness. I am committed to continuing a bipartisan tax reform discussion in future legislative sessions.
Update: Gov. Martinez signed Senate Bill 10 on March 6.
Peter Wirth represents Senate Dist. 25 in the NM Legislature and can be reached at [email protected]
In last month’s issue I argued that the nation states of the developed economies have become institutionally incapable of addressing the needs of their citizens. Unlike the quarter-century “golden era” following World War II, the role of the state is no longer to broker a compromise or social compact between labor and capital but rather to promote, support and where necessary defend transnational capital in its pursuit of endless accumulation on a global scale. If I am right, then appeals to the state for fundamental social reform are politically naïve and strategically misguided.
One thing is clear: the neo-liberal agenda of transnational capital is in crisis. It has subsumed masses of people under the logic of a brutal (and brutalizing) global economy, uprooting billions from the ground of their traditional livelihood and consigning them to abject and unrelenting poverty unprecedented in history. As a consequence the neo-liberal agenda, and the institutions that support it, are in the throes of an acute crisis of legitimacy. Resistance is everywhere—from the streets of Cairo to the hills of Bolivia, from the cities of the eurozone to the canyons of Wall Street—some organized, others spontaneous, some peaceful, others violent. The question then is: how to construct a coherent and sustained counter-hegemonic politics?
As one ponders resistance politics today one is all too aware that its constituent social movements are long on opposition and short on vision. They know what they are against, but what are they for? They know what needs to be dismantled, but where is their vision of what is to take its place? Just as significantly, what is often portrayed as a more or less unified movement (albeit a “movement-of-movements”) is fractured along the lines of issue and identity politics: women’s rights, immigrant rights, indigenous rights, environmental concerns, anti-corporate sentiment, anti-war protestations, et. al., vie for space on the spreading groundswell of resistance. Intersecting this cacophony of political voices is the debate over the degree of organization the movement should assume. Young anarchists oppose any hint of hierarchical structures and celebrate the absence of organizational leaders, while those old enough to recall the civil rights battles of the 1950s and ‘60s hark back to the “Rainbow Coalition” that marched behind Dr. King in Selma and Birmingham, Ala.
So I pose the question anew: What is to be done? To lay my cards on the table, I believe the time has come for a new political party. Right off, let me reassure those who may think that I’m calling for a Third Party, one competing on the same political terrain as the Democratic and Republican parties. I am not. For the role of these parties, like their counterparts in Europe, is to manage the current socio-economic system, especially the crises brought about by the ongoing reconfiguration of capital and the restructuring of the global division of labor. The role of the party I am advocating is not to manage the current system, nor is it to reform it; it is to replace it. What this means is that the ultimate aim of the party’s platform is an end to the regime of endless accumulation, which is to say an end to capitalism, and a reconstitution of human relations of production and exchange on a global scale that provides for the needs and desires of everyone on the planet.
The internal structure of the party must be steadfastly democratic. It must from inception put in place organizational practices that prevent its ossification into a rigid bureaucracy adhering to an ideologically pure party line. It will reach out to, embrace and unify (not co-opt and dilute) progressive grassroots organizations and people’s movements such as environmental organizations, various “rights” groups, trade unions, the World Social Forum and other social justice movements. It will create organs of communication such as party newspapers (both local and national), a party website, issue-specific blogs, and an assortment of social media networks. It will spawn and support truly progressive think tanks, and even an Institute for Social Change, as sites where “organic intellectuals” can produce and disseminate ideas and analyses that challenge the prevailing ideological hegemony of transnational capital.
Although the aim of the party is not to win seats in the corridors of power, but to break the hold on power represented by those holding seats, the party will run candidates for public office, especially in local elections. Running for office presents the opportunity to offer a counter-hegemonic vision centered around issues of importance at the local level. It thus offers an opportunity of raising consciousness by critiques and proposals that are not ideologically constrained within the narrow parameters of the two existing parties. For example, it is not enough to oppose methods of drilling for oil and gas that use polluting technologies; what needs to be called into question is the right of a tiny few to own the natural resources of an entire society, and to exploit those resources for their own personal gain.
Which brings us to the heart of the issue of what a new social vision will look like. To contest the “right” to the private ownership of natural resources, and thus by implication the entire order of property rights as it pertains to the resources and machinery necessary for the sustenance of human life, is to raise the question of what collective stewardship would look like. We know what we do not want, and that is for the state, even a newly constituted socialist state, to step into the space currently occupied by private corporations. The model of a state-centered bureaucratic apparatus in command of production and labor is one that has been irredeemably discredited by history.
How, then, can these resources be collectively managed for the common good? What new political structures of decision making need to be put in place, what new social relations governing everyday life and work need to be established, in order to ensure the mutual satisfaction of real need and genuine desire? To discover those social mechanisms, and to articulate a vision of society shaped around institutions which embody them, is one of the primary tasks of the new party. To begin to implant their embryonic forms, quietly and under the radar, within the abandoned cracks and corners of the current unstable global order, is another. And keep in mind that this is not a matter of social engineering; it is a profound ethical project. For in the final analysis, “the true strength of the party is moral; it is fed by the trust of the spontaneously revolutionary masses whom economic conditions have forced into revolt.” (Georg Lukacs, History and Class Consciousness)
In cities, towns and villages everywhere, in every corner of the globe, economic conditions have forced the masses into revolt. The choice before us is whether the forces of transnational capital will succeed in steering the revolt in a reactionary right-wing direction, or whether the revolt will follow a progressive left-wing agenda and create the conditions of human liberation. It is the historic mission of the party I propose to ensure that the second alternative prevails, and that the global movement-of-movements coalesces around a politically powerful agenda of knowledge, peace, work and love.
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.
You’d expect to be taking a “toxic tour” in an industrial part of the Rust Belt, or maybe around the uranium mines of Libby, Montana or even Grants, New Mexico. In the beautiful bottomlands along the Rio Grande northwest of Santa Fe, and even up on the rugged Pajarito Plateau, gouged by deep, tree-lined canyons, with outcroppings of basalt and layers of volcanic tuff, you probably wouldn’t be looking for deadly toxins or high levels of radionuclides. That is, unless you thought about what inhabits the area on the edge of the Pajarito Plateau—Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The Toxic Tour, guided by Joni Arends, executive director of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS), with help from fellow activists including David Bacon and Mark Sardella, is an eye-opening journey through terrain many of us who live in Santa Fe or northern New Mexico have seen from some distance, or driven past without too much thought of what lurks beneath the surface of our watershed. For water is what this tour is all about, even though air and soil are of course intimately involved as well. Water that irrigates our crops and slakes our municipal thirst and washes our children and pets and cars—and that may not be nearly as harmless as we casually believe, trusting those who are supposed to regulate its safety.
The truth is, we don’t think too much about where our water comes from—beyond the taps and faucets in our homes—unless it is visibly compromised or lacking, or until certain concerns are brought to our attention.
But Arends and a number of other activists who have been keeping a watchful eye on Los Alamos and its nuclear activities for years, want more New Mexicans to think about a major source of their water and the kinds of things that catch a ride along with the storm runoff and the melting snow from the Jemez Mountains. They want authorities to take a closer and more accountable look at the water from Los Alamos that winds up in the Rio Grande, where the Buckman Direct Diversion Project now pumps thousands of gallons into Santa Fe’s domestic water supply, while the rest flows downstream to Cochiti, Albuquerque, Las Cruces and El Paso and percolates into underground aquifers. (The Buckman DDP web site assures readers and municipal water users the Buckman water meets stringent standards for radionuclides and other contaminants and declares, “The BDD Project will produce excellent and safe drinking water.” <http://www.bddproject.org/drinking-water-standards.htm>)
On a cold and windy Saturday morning, the Toxic Tour starts in Los Alamos in the maintenance yard of the Los Alamos Public Schools, where a dozen interested participants huddle against a stiff March breeze. Arends points out three massive gas tanks, which she says are double-lined but otherwise simply sit above the bare concrete- and asphalt-paved yard perched on the edge of Pueblo Canyon, where a water treatment plant can be seen below. She tells how during the early years of the Manhattan project (1943) waste disposal largely consisted of rolling metal drums full of contaminants—radioactive, toxic and hazardous wastes—over the edge and into this and other canyons. Further up the hill, an open retention pond above the yard collects untreated surface water and debris, and in storms its overflows spill into the canyon, where they will work their way around the water treatment plant and down toward the Rio Grande.
One canyon over is Los Alamos, the deep gorge that begins above the townsite and follows NM 502 through San Ildefonso Pueblo to the river at Otowi. Across from the Canyon Rim Trailhead, Arends points out the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center, which she says, when it operates has “the dirtiest [emissions] stack in the Department of Energy complex.”
Driving past the airport, we see quonset huts over land from the Manhattan-era Material Disposal Area B (MDAB) site, where internal and external air monitoring provide the only effective measurement of airborne contaminants, according to Arends. Putting domes over old dumping grounds and analyzing the soil, she says, is what needs to be done as a first step in cleaning up over 2,100 sites that LANL self-identified after the Cold War as locations that could release toxic wastes.
We head next toward Pajarito Peak ski area, surrounded by Santa Fe National Forest that was burned in the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire. Over 7,000 acres of LANL property burned during the fire. Turning off on an unpaved road overlooking the townsite, with a view spanning east 40 miles to the Truchas Peaks, we see the older damage from Cerro Grande and more recently blackened tree stumps from last year’s Las Conchas Fire, the largest ever recorded in New Mexico at over 150,000 acres.
Pointing at the bare hillsides that still have not recovered from the Cerro Grande Fire, Arends says of the watershed, “There’s nothing to hold the soil from eroding during storm events, sending a flood of contaminated sediments down Los Alamos Canyon to the Rio Grande.”
Arends and David Bacon agree the best solution is to remove contaminants in the bottom of the canyon, and Arends adds, “PCBs, radionuclides, hazardous materials, metals… it’s everything from the discharge, it’s every conceivable thing.”
Next stop is the notorious, though innocent-looking Area G, where low-level radioactive, toxic and hazardous wastes are stored in 42,000 above-ground 55-gallon drums, according to Arends, covered only by white canvas tents with open doorways. This waste dump, less than a mile from a quiet residential neighborhood in White Rock, began operations in the late 1950s and barely escaped the Cerro Grande Fire. Arends says the tents have not been replaced since their erection in the 1980s. She would like to see all the drums removed and the buried waste excavated in order to protect the water table, but LANL officials maintain that excavation is not necessary. According to the Jan. 4, 2012 non-binding “Framework Agreement” between the National Nuclear Security Administrations (NNSA) and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) (http://www.nmenv.state.nm.us/), 17,000 transuranic waste drums in Area G must be removed by the end of 2014, but it is unclear when the remaining 25,000 drums will be moved.
From the Overlook Park at White Rock, one can see the deep canyons coming off the Pajarito Plateau and the serpentine Rio Grande as it winds its way tranquilly southward, past brush and bosque. On the far side is the Buckman Direct Diversion Project, less than three miles downstream from where Los Alamos Canyon meets the river near Otowi. Given enough water flow, anything that comes down the canyons traversing Lab property will make its way to the Buckman Direct Diversion intake.
So we head next for the Early Notification System (ENS) near the mouth of Los Alamos Canyon, which is designed to measure the volume of runoff coming through after heavy rains above. The way it is supposed to work, in a storm event that sends a high level of water past the measurement station, telemetry sends a signal to a tower on Tesuque Peak. The signal is then relayed to the BDD control room, which triggers a shutdown of the Buckman intakes, so turbid or contaminated river water does not enter the municipal system. After a storm event, as during last summer’s monsoon downpours that washed massive amounts of ash into the Rio Grande, Buckman is shut down and Santa Fe’s supply is switched over entirely to well water and/or water from the Nichols and McClure reservoirs above Canyon Road.
But Arends says there are several concerns with this arrangement. First of all, the ENS equipment is not in every canyon (the BDD web site says Los Alamos Canyon has two storm gaging stations and Pueblo Canyon one); other canyons have sampling stations but no relay systems. In addition, she says, what might be sufficient notice to shut down Buckman could prove inadequate when the river is flowing very rapidly. The Buckman DD Board says that even if tainted water should enter the diversion system, its filtering process removes 99.99 percent of contaminants (http://www.bddproject.org/faq.htm). It does speculate on what happens if that remaining. 0.01 percent happens to be a radionuclide.
An inspection by our sleuthful tour participants reveals a sampling device at the ENS station in the canyon surrounded by piles of mud and puddles of stagnant water, and engineer Mark Sardella, who filed a complaint about the safety of the Buckman system in November, 2010, and has written articles and made public presentations about its risks, expresses his dismay. “There’s no reliability study,” he tells us, and “no redundancy if this early warning system fails,” for whatever reason. He repeats his disbelief that the Buckman Direct Diversion Board would approve a diversion location in the first place that is only a couple of miles below where the Lab’s legacy contaminants can enter the river. “You have to multiply the risk” by each variable, he explains, such as the possibility the sensors or relays might fail or the intake shutoffs malfunction.
After a break for lunch we head out on the long unpaved Old Buckman Road that follows the pipeline past 13 wells and a sediment treatment plant, all the way to the banks of the Rio Grande, a bone-jarring ride of about 11 miles. Arends tells us plutonium was reported by the city of Santa Fe in its annual water quality report from a sample collected from Well No. 1 in 2005, and more recently tritium (http://www.nmenv.state.nm.us/DOE_Oversight/pubs.htm#lanl). She points upriver to the far bank where a lone white cottonwood sits, just yards above the river. “Plutonium from the Lab was found buried there,” she says, adding that the New Mexico Wildlife Federation has proposed pulling numerous trees up that may be contaminated, and CCNS has demanded that grid sampling be done, as required in the Consent Order signed by LANL with the state of New Mexico, mandating cleanup of toxic wastes by 2015. “We just don’t want kids to be playing out there,” she says, “until [the contamination] is cleaned up.”
Another reason for a cleanup is that the river is a major flyway for migrating birds, she explains, adding, “But LANL does not want to have to clean up waste off-site.”
In the wake of President’s Obama’s budget request to delay for at least five years all spending on the new $4-6 billion plutonium facility in Los Alamos, activists say now is the perfect time to switch focus from producing unneeded and cost-prohibitive nuclear weapons to cleaning up the area’s toxic mess. Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, wrote in last month’s edition of The Light of New Mexico, “The Lab has estimated that entirely removing the wastes from its radioactive waste dump Area G would take up to 108 million labor-hours, with $13 billion in labor costs. That could employ thousands of workers for 20 years with high-paying jobs.” But in another article in the same issue he noted, “LANL plans ‘cleanup’ on the cheap through ‘cap and cover’ and leaving most of its immense radioactive and hazardous wastes in place, when over time the ultimate repository for that contamination is our precious groundwater and the Rio Grande.”
Not all anti-nuclear activists agree there’s a high danger of radioactive contamination of Santa Fe’s water supply (Greg Mello, executive director of Los Alamos Study Group, has stated publicly he has no concerns about the safety of BDD water [SF Reporter, Feb. 29 –March 6, p. 11]), but it is undeniable there are hundreds of unlined pits, trenches and shafts on LANL land the Lab doesn’t monitor and hasn’t cleaned up, and that contaminants have frequentlybeen measured in and around the Rio Grande.
According to NMED, virtually all the canyons below the Pajarito Plateau are pollution-impaired, with gross alpha radiologicals, mercury, PCBs, copper aluminum, zinc and selenium contamination, and uses for livestock watering, aquatic life and wildlife habitat are not supported. Yet it is this water that storm events, heightened by erosion from two catastrophic wildfires, carry into the Rio Grande above the Buckman diversion.
On the BDD site a Rio Grande stormwater report updated 11-03-11 contains an entry from 08-21-11 taken in Guaje Canyon showing gross alpha radiologicals of 953 picocuries per liter (although this is labeled as “filtered” it is much higher than the entry labeled “unfiltered” (5.39 pCi/L), a very elevated reading (http://www.bddproject.org/files/storm-event-summary/storm-event.htm).
According to Communities for Clean Water, a consortium of community-based organizations formed in 2006 (of which CCNS is a member), the “impact of LANL’s toxic legacy” is still being discovered:
- PCB contamination in soils at LANL as high as 42,000 times the standard for human health
- Chromium-6 (hexavalent chromium) in the regional aquifer supplying Los Alamos County at 24 times the New Mexico groundwater protection standard
- One drinking well supplying Los Alamos County shut down because of perchlorate contamination
- 1,4-dioxane detected in groundwater flows
- Plutonium and tritium detected in the Buckman well field, source of 40 percent of Santa Fe’s drinking water
- Inadequate surface and groundwater monitoring
- Monitoring data regarding toxic contamination withheld for as long as two years
- LANL fined by NM Environment Department multiple time for violations of the Consent Order
LANL scientists and BDD staff have argued the water is safe and that the early notification system protects the municipal supply, but as Mark Sardella points out, they have yet to produce the actual data that last March showed quantities of tritium in the Buckman well field, instead issuing repeated reassurances those lab findings were erroneous. Sardella says that since December he has made numerous unsuccessful attempts to obtain the original data from LANL.
Hydrogeologist Bob Gilkeson, who worked with LANL in the 1990s, told the Santa Fe Reporter (Feb. 29 – March 6. p. 11), “Tritium was detected in the wells as reported by the contractor, and then the LANL scientists come on and say it was a mistake. That’s completely unacceptable.”
Arends says, “When a laboratory obfuscates the data, then we know there’s something there,” adding, “it’s a pattern with LANL that we report on.”
She concludes, “We have been supporting and subsidizing—our bodies have been the receptacles of—bad management practices.”
Experience has shown that Lab assurances of safe practices can’t be taken at face value. And few are surprised that LANL, king of the jungle in northern New Mexico’s economy, is treated with kid gloves by elected officials and the watchdog agencies that could bring it into compliance with health and environmental standards.
At the end of the Toxic Tour, after seeing a portion of our watershed with our own eyes, it seems reasonable to ask upon whom the burden of proof should fall—the citizens of New Mexico or the authorities tasked with protecting their health and safety.
Joni Arends, Executive Director
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety
Following the May 2000 Cerro Grande fire, it became clear that toxic and radioactive pollutants were migrating through the canyons at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to the Rio Grande. The fire burned over 47,000 acres in the Jemez Mountains and 7,000 acres of LANL mesas and canyons.
In response to community concerns, in July 2000, Concerned Citizens of Nuclear Safety (CCNS) organized a conference called “Fire, Water and the Aftermath: The Cerro Grande Fire and Its Effect on the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo Watershed.” The goal was to answer the question: What is being done to protect our river? Over 450 people attended. Tribal leaders, journalists, health professionals, and representatives of the Department of Energy (DOE), LANL and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) made presentations about the efforts being made to protect the Rio Grande.
In 2001, the highest storm water flows occurred in Los Alamos and Pueblo canyons, which carried large quantities of historic LANL pollutants to the Rio Grande at the Otowi Bridge.
In 2002, in order to address growing concerns, CCNS hired technical experts and conducted three-day sampling trips in the White Rock Canyon stretch of the Rio Grande, which extends from the Buckman to Cochiti Dam. We collected our own samples for analysis.
Our experts wrote reports about their reviews of DOE, LANL and NMED data, including one by George Rice, a groundwater hydrologist, entitled “New Mexico’s Right to Know: The Potential for Groundwater Contaminants from LANL to Reach the Rio Grande.” Rice found that pollutants could travel from a LANL discharge pipe into the groundwater and be discharged at the Rio Grande springs—a distance of eight miles—in 26 years or less. We gave presentations about the report to the public and elected officials and found that many people were not familiar with the area.
In 2002, the Buckman Direct Diversion Project was proposed for the east side of the Rio Grande to supplement Santa Fe’s drinking water supply. The plan was to divert 8,730 acre-feet per year (an acre foot is about 326,000 gallons of water) of inter-basin San Juan-Chama Project water from the Rio Grande at the Buckman. Concerned about increasing levels of LANL toxic pollutants migrating in storm water flowing to the Rio Grande, CCNS brought the facts of LANL pollutants to the Buckman environmental impact statement process.
In 2003, in order to educate the public and decision makers about our concerns, CCNS began to offer tours in order to show the relationships of the Rio Grande, LANL and the Buckman area.
In January 2011, the Buckman Project came on line. Following the Las Conchas fire last June, the name of the tour changed to the “Toxic Tour” because of the increasing levels of LANL pollutants found in storm water flowing to the Rio Grande. The tour has also expanded to include both the Buckman and key LANL sites viewed from public lands. We offer you the opportunity to join us for a tour. To sign up, please email [email protected]
In ancient times, long before the first literature in the West, the peoples of the eastern Aegean worshiped the tree. We did not always know that. But in the last 100 years, and especially in the last 50 years, archeologists have uncovered the ruins of societies that did not worship patriarchal property succession and focused on the natural order of seasons, regeneration, and, at the center, on women. Newly discovered seal rings, frescoes, figurines and vases depict men and women paying homage to trees. Mostly women are depicted and they are dancing, praying, honoring these symbols of seasonal rebirth, fruit bearing and life.
We have not known, for these intervening millennia, that the tree was the center of worship in part because the Garden of Eden story in Genesis was intended to erase that memory, and we were instructed to turn our backs on trees. Women, especially, were instructed by Genesis to bow down to the rule of males, to think of time as a line and not a cycle, and to acknowledge that property should from that time forward be forever connected to the male line. This is the beginning of patriarchy, and it starts with the rejection of both women and the tree of life. To say it straight: from Genesis forward, for more than 3,000 years, the governing story in western mythology has been that patriarchal property shall be more important than life, property’s accumulation more important than life’s preservation.
Some of you will remember that in the slide show that we have been working on in We Are People Here! we use a graphic of a tree. In one slide we have shown the tree of plutocracy, and the fruits on that tree are union cuts, pension cuts, job exports, tax incentives for oil and gas, and higher taxes on the income from labor than income from capital. That tree of plutocracy, in turn, grows out of the soil of the old mythology of property that ultimately derives from Genesis. In our day, it translates to the notion of the free market, survival of the fittest, and the imagined idea that predatory capitalism is the source of America’s success.
The original story of the Garden of Eden therefore reinforces, and was ultimately the source, of the myth that establishes the priority of males and their claim to property. It establishes the futility of the feminine principle as a source of security, and Eve is told that she and her female progeny will bear the suffering of childbirth and the yoke of obedience to their husbands forever.
Hierarchy, privilege, class, and a denial of the central truth of regeneration through collaboration, are all sanctified in this early myth. The idea that the vessel of regeneration, female life, came from a rib rather than sexual union must have come as new learning to everyone. In time it would demonstrate the triumph of story over real life experience. From that single distortion of reality will stem much of the tragedy of western history.
Those of you who have read my book In Search of the Lost Feminine will know that I believe that this story was meant to expunge from Hebrew culture of the period around 1,200 BCE, the centrality of life-giving, of cycles, of the principle of regeneration. Research now establishes unequivocally that there was a battle for minds going on in the eastern Mediterranean at that time. We know from the archeology that I have mentioned that women enjoyed far more prominence before these earliest scriptures than after. And we know from all of western written history that from about 1,200 BCE, the protection of property and wealth has been of more importance than the protection of sustainable life, or the life-bringers, or that is, of women.
Tonight let us remember that the change of the image of the fruitful tree, to turn it from being a symbol of knowledge and regeneration to a symbol of sin, was used to establish plutocracy. This change in focus in turn was the beginning of inordinate human suffering that has scoured out the lives of untold millions for three millennia. It is time we changed the slide-show image, and as people and progressives, time to change our minds, our focus, our commitment and our resources, to reflect our reverence for life. It is time we returned to the Garden from which we all were expelled 3,000 years ago.
In 2012, now when all life on the planet is threatened by climate change, or militarization, or poverty, or desertification, or the collapse of democracy, let us set anew in our imaginations a leafy tree in its pre-biblical meaning, as a symbol of abundance, connection, fruitfulness and our rootedness in the soil. We can then imagine that our largest purpose might be to return, reclaim, and begin anew the attitude that Albert Schweitzer also called a reverence for life.
If we think on the Tree of Life as a symbol today it could mean at least the revival of the feminine impulse and all that sustains life, and with that the revival of our love for the natural world from which all life comes. Fortunately, in our times, consciousness is rising. Communication is spreading. We can see, as perhaps no generation before us, that we do not want to be divided one against another obeying the strategy of the propertied plutocracy through the centuries. We can see awareness building in our country in this year, and this time we are too aware to let plutocracy’s campaign to divide us succeed.
In our imaginations therefore let us return to that home of the Tree of Life from whence our ancestors were driven 3,000 years ago, with our reclaimed message of sustainability and with our reclaimed message of life’s value above property.
Let us be aware of our capacity as life bringers and life givers. Let us set life above property in every way we know how.
Craig Barnes is the author of Democracy At The Crossroads, is a former civil rights lawyer, international mediator and the host of Our Times with Craig Barnes, heard weekly on KSFR radio.
The past legislative session had some controversy and some important legislation, but it was really just the calm before the storm. With Democratic control of both chambers and an uncompromising governor’s office, gridlock might have been expected. But it won’t stay that way for long.
Status quo budget
The even-numbered-year 30-day sessions are usually tamer than 60-day sessions simply because both the time and items allowed to be heard are limited. The main point of a 30-day session is to do the budget, and the Legislative Finance Committee and Gov. Martinez essentially ran status-quo budgets with some restoration of cuts from the previous few years. The budgets were so close going into the session that there wasn’t much suspense.
Over the last year, public employees have taken a 3.25 percent pay cut, a majority of which (1.75 percent), was restored for the upcoming fiscal year. The restoration was due to an automatic trigger-based sunset (opposed by Gov. Martinez) that was put in the pension swap/pay cut bill last year, so at least things are getting slightly better for public employees. We hope that our successful sunset of the remaining 1.5 percent pay cut (which was also opposed by Gov. Martinez) will stay in place during the next session.
There was also a missed opportunity to shore up at least one of the pension funds and ensure its solvency for the indefinite future. There were bipartisan proposals to keep the Educational Retirement Association benefits exactly as promised for both retirees and current workers, and to only add relatively small changes for future employees (they’d have to wait until 55 years old before retiring and would only vest after eight years instead of five).
Higher contributions would have been the major avenue for saving the funds, and because of a prior state commitment to add 5.25 percent from the employer side, would have required only a 3.4 percent change for employees. That’s not cost-free, but as a price to save a terrific pension benefit and to restore a fund that is almost $6 billion underwater, it’s peanuts. The rejection of this proposal was doubly surprising because at the end there was only 1.4 percent difference, to be spread out over the next six years. It’s pretty easy to make up 1.4 percent over six years if the economy gets better, but now educational employees and retirees will have to take their chances on the 2013 Legislature and Gov. Martinez.
One big success story of the 2012 session was that progressives worked their tails off to pass, after eight years of trying, “combined reporting,” closing a corporate tax loophole that benefits only out-of-state companies with big legal and accounting departments. Peter Wirth’s Senate Bill 9 passed both chambers.
Incredibly, SB 9 was vetoed by Gov. Martinez. The bill even included an overall reduction in the corporate tax rate, so it’s now crystal clear (if it hadn’t been before) that the New Mexico Republican Party and Gov. Martinez will protect even the most outrageous tax loopholes and abuses by big out-of-state funders, even if it hurts New Mexico businesses and our state budget.
Political scapegoating and gimmickry
There were several high-profile gimmicks that died, as they should have, for lack of compromise by Gov. Martinez’ office. From reading the governor’s press releases, you’d think that the cause of our high unemployment, slow recovery, poor educational achievement, crime, and other major problems was that undocumented residents of New Mexico had driver’s licenses.
As many police and law enforcement officials will tell anyone who will listen, though, if anything, driver’s licenses for everyone who is driving actually makes New Mexico safer than pushing people into a shadow existence. People with driver’s licenses get insurance. They don’t flee accident scenes. And we have a database of most everyone in the state, which makes it far easier to apprehend criminals.
There was a compromise bill to prevent non-residents from coming to New Mexico to defraud our state, and that would have imposed strict residency requirements, but because it was a practical solution instead of an anti-immigrant ideological statement, it was rejected by those who would rather scapegoat than find solutions.
The 2013 storm
Which brings us to 2013. There will probably be another surplus, maybe even to a point where there’s enough to do more than restore previous cuts. That means that there will be an enormous battle about whether we invest in our kids’ education, public safety, and early childhood programs after years of cuts or whether we slash taxes for the rich once again.
Pension funds will also be a higher profile issue than they were in 2012, because we’ll be a year further down a bad trajectory, and there will be more public attention on the funds. There may also be a more ideological and less solutions-oriented House and/or Senate, and if that happens, pension reform will become an absolutely brutal fight (one of the many reasons it made sense to fix the problem in 2012).
And the more high profile (but ultimately not-too-impactful) issues like driver’s licenses for undocumented workers will reach a fever pitch, as the issue becomes a centerpiece for the Martinez re-election effort in 2014.
Which way will it go?
2012 ended up being primarily a status-quo session, but change is coming in 2013. The outcome of these battles in 2013 will be determined by whether progressives care enough about things like health care for poor children, improving education, and ensuring an end to corporate tax dodging to come out and support legislators who share their vision.
People who would rather divide our state by scapegoating immigrants, de-fund health care for poor kids, give special treatment to multinational corporations, and starve our education system will be coming out in droves, helped by a million-dollar war chest from Gov. Martinez. So the only two questions for how the battles of 2013 will get resolved are: Will progressives bother voting at all in November, and will they make sure that they vote on downballot races in addition to higher profile contests?
Carter Bundy is the political and legislative director for AFSCME in New Mexico. The opinions in this column are personal and do not necessarily reflect any official AFSCME position. You can reach him at [email protected].
Our democracy is suffocating. Super PACs, corporate lobbyists and other moneyed interests have a stranglehold on Congress, the president and his administration, and even some members of the U.S. Supreme Court. You may already be aware that our democracy is gasping for breath. You may even be outraged at the debilitated state of our country. But what are you doing about it?
Many of us feel hopeless, unable to act. We see the devastating effects greed and the thirst for power have on our country. We are perplexed by the failure of politicians to effectively address our nation’s problems. We are angered by the Senate Republicans’ constant filibustering of almost all the legislation that the Democrats or President Obama propose. We lament Obama’s repeatedly caving to the demands of corporate lobbyists and their Congressional lackeys. But we are at a loss at what to do to turn back the plutocracy—the domination of government by the super rich and corporate interests—and revive our democracy.
During the last century, the Supreme Court has extended more and more rights to corporations that were previously reserved only for human beings. We are now at a point where the leading Republican candidate for president declares that “corporations are people” and hardly anyone blinks an eye.
Not long ago, the Supreme Court, by a five-to-four vote, declared that money is speech. Corporations being “people” can now “speak” as loud as they want with their checkbooks, buying their favorite politicians and putting them in office to do their bidding. Our democracy is on life-support.
So, what have you been doing to save our democracy? Ranting about the injustice of it all or professing that you are just one individual incapable of making any real difference, just won’t cut it. If you examine the history of political change in 20th-century America, you will find that the major advancements in citizens’ rights have practically always involved mass movements. Whether the cause was women’s right to vote, workers’ rights to better pay and working conditions, or the blacks’ civil rights struggle, they all engaged in huge rallies and protests to gain the attention of Congress and force those in positions of power to make the changes demanded by the people.
Today we face the greatest challenge to our rights as citizens since World War II. The very wealthy and big business, the top 1 percent, largely control our public policy. In many cases, money, not our votes, effectively decides who wins elections and makes the laws. Whether it’s our expensive healthcare system, our dependence on polluting fossil fuels, our loophole-filled tax structure, or the deregulation of corporations, government policy favors the interests of the rich and powerful at the expense of most Americans because money buys influence.
If we, the people, allow this to continue unabated, it will not be long before the United States becomes a fascist or corporate state totally controlled by big business. Since we have little power as individuals, the only solution is to come together and unite in common cause as Americans have periodically done in the past to secure their rights.
One group in New Mexico that has taken up this cause is We Are People Here! (WAPH). Led by writer and radio commentator, Craig Barnes, WAPH is calling for “a fair society with equal opportunity for all.” Its mission is “to transform the current social and economic condition to one of a democratic society that respects and represents the well-being of all its people.”
Among WAPH’s goals are to educate the public about the increasingly great disparity between the wealthy and the middle and working classes, as well as about the enormous influence big business has on our government and the devastating impact the corporate plutocracy has on our democracy. We Are People Here! plans to assist in mobilizing millions of Americans in an effort to dismantle the plutocracy and reclaim our democracy.
WAPH has eight committees working to achieve its goals. Some of them are Action, Communications, Education and Outreach, and Finance and Fundraising. The Education and Outreach committee has developed a 30-minute slide show presentation that graphically illustrates how our democracy has been broken by money and corporate power and how we can work together to overcome this tremendous challenge. The committee is showing this presentation to interested groups in Santa Fe and around the state. It’s looking for more venues, if you have a group who would like to see it.
I have been active on WAPH’s coordinating committee since last May and am now heading a planning committee to produce a conference, Reviving Democracy, this July in Santa Fe. The conference objective is to bring together representatives from various groups and communities from across New Mexico who are aligned with WAPH’s mission and goals to form a large coalition with a unified vision and a strategic plan to revive democracy.
We Are People Here! believes that a mass movement like those I’ve already noted will be required to save our democracy. If you are not already involved in the fight to take back our country from the plutocracy, it is time you got on board. Your country needs you!
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.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
When the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) officially opened their pro bono law offices to help communities push back against corporate threats nearly 20 years ago, little did they realize that their travels would take them into the tropical forests of Ecuador and Bolivia to write the first “Bill of Rights for Nature,” and to the deserts of New Mexico. Nor could they possibly have imagined that the demand upon them would grow exponentially over the most recent years with over 160 communities passing protective community “Bill of Rights” ordinances.
Last month, Thomas Linzey and Ben Price, two engines of CELDF who work creatively and tirelessly to open people’s eyes to the myths that have kept citizens firmly entrenched in U. S. law that continues to strip citizens of their freedoms and safety, came to Albuquerque to present the Daniel Pennock Democracy School to a “small group of thoughtful committed citizens”—community leaders and activists from across the state of New Mexico and from Colorado.
The Democracy School’s curriculum contains excerpts from pages of historical documents. Apparently when these documents were condensed into textbooks for public schools and higher learning, essential facts and truths as presented, were “lost.” These were the documents that explained how empires arrived at their absolute power. The actions that this government condemns outwardly against other countries are the very methods used throughout the building of the U.S. Empire. Reading first-hand how power was amassed by the select few at the helm of the new government of the United States is a sobering experience, considering that today’s actions of dominance, here and abroad, are but an extension of earlier decades of law and rule.
Thirty people sat attentively during the two-day Democracy School, and many today are organizing within their communities to bring about change. With new awareness and organizational strategies that reinforce the democratic process, these community leaders are working towards accepting their citizens’ rights to local self-government and local sustainability. This shift of power from state-driven to local government authority is a reflection of the rights of each individual to change that which is no longer acceptable. Unveiling the mythsthat keep our fellow citizens, locally elected officials and the rest ofus blind is an engaging process that breathes life into the act of democracy itself, and is an expression of democracy at large.
“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be
their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge
gives. This basic philosophy of the American Revolution inspires all our work.”
Aligning with locally elected municipal officials who comprehend the risks of such bold action is the work of organizing and educating, along with a clear vision of what democracy requires to flourish. When a local official takes action to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens in the face of the top-down leadership that employs pre-emptive powers to frighten off or lure all but strong morally focused leaders, the message is powerful and widely resounding. With corporate development and capitalism steering this country, little room is left for those who occupy the land, the wilderness areas, or the towns and citiesThe Democracy School experience awakens people to that which is truly at risk of annihilation. And that is our Democracy.
Since the right to profit is considered sacrosanct, any serious alternative is automatically rejected. This is the permanent tension that lies at the heart of a capitalist Democracy and is exacerbated in times of crisis. In order to ensure the survival of the richest, it is Democracy that has to be heavily regulated rather than capitalism.
—Tariq Ali, “The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad”
For more information on holding a Democracy School in your community, contact www.celdf.org
Co-founder, Drilling Mora County
Mercersburg, PA: With the two-year anniversary of the Citizens United decision upon us, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) released a statement examining the activism that’s emerged in the wake of the U. S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision, and declaring the need to build a broader movement. For nearly a decade, CELDF has assisted communities to adopt first-in-the-nation laws which refuse to recognize “corporate rights. ”
The current activism that’s emerged in the wake of Citizens United—in which the U. S. Supreme Court found that corporate First Amendment “free speech rights” were violated by federal law which limited corporate spending in elections— seeks merely to return to pre-Citizens United days.
Yet, as CELDF examines in its statement, corporate “free speech rights” were around long before Citizens United. Indeed, the origins of corporate constitutional “rights” can be traced back to the early 1800s in the U. S., and back even further to English common and ecclesiastical law. It is that legal legacy which has provided corporations with not only “free speech rights, ” but a litany of other constitutional rights and powers.
In its statement, CELDF calls upon communities, activists, and non-profit organizations to recognize the need to frame the problem far more broadly than just a need to return to the days before Citizens United. CELDF writes in its statement:
We believe that creating the necessary and desired outcomes requires us to focus not on merely reversing the Supreme Court’s latest expansion of corporate “rights, ” but on eliminating the basic (and mostly, unquestioned) authority of corporate minorities to override, and interfere with, democratic decision making by local and state majorities. It is the usurpation of community decision making authority that must be eliminated if we are to have any hope of building truly sustainable and democratic communities.
In addition, in response to requests from communities, today CELDF released a Model Community Bill of Rights Elections Ordinance, securing the right of people to clean government and fair elections and the right to be free from corporate activities which interfere with those rights.
The model ordinance eliminates corporate constitutional “rights”— including corporate “personhood rights, ” corporate First Amendment “free speech rights, ” and Fifth Amendment “equal protection and due process rights. ” Further, the ordinance bans corporations from making contributions or expenditures to influence any election within municipalities that adopt the ordinance.
The model ordinance is drafted not merely to return to a pre-Citizens United legal framework, under which corporations would continue to possess a broad range of constitutional “rights, ” powers and privileges and could actively participate in elections by spending millions of dollars in contributions and expenditures. Rather, the ordinance is drafted with a recognition that the problems we face are far broader than Citizens United, and therefore our response must be far broader as well.
Ana Garner, Attorney at Law
Foreclosure lawsuits are rising alarmingly in Santa Fe County. Chances are that you or someone you know is about to go into foreclosure, or has already been “served” (delivered) the papers showing the lawsuit has been filed against them. These papers are the Summons, Complaint in Foreclosure, and typically, at least two exhibits to the complaint, the Note and the Mortgage. You can always hire an attorney to help you. For those of you who want to do it yourself (which I don’t recommend, but sometimes it’s the only way), the purpose of this article is to tell you why it is critical that you file an Answer, and secondly, how to do it. Nothing is sadder to me that seeing a default judgment entered against someone when it doesn’t have to happen that way.
First, a little background about foreclosure suits. Did you know that the majority of foreclosure cases are easily won by the bank, without trial or proof of one thing, simply because the homeowner didn’t even file an Answer to the Complaint? The statistics are that approximately 85 percent of all foreclosure cases filed in New Mexico, as well as the rest of the country, result in a Default Judgment entered by the Court. A “Default Judgment” is one that the Court is forced to grant to the Bank because the homeowner didn’t even file an Answer to the Complaint, and of course, never appears to contest the Bank’s motion for default judgment. They don’t even have to give the homeowner notice of this motion if the homeowner didn’t file an answer. If no one utters a peep, what is the Court to do? The one sure way to prevent default judgment of foreclosure is to file an answer. I’m going to show you how, below.
Why are default judgments something to avoid like a bad disease? First off, you will get evicted from your home within short order, typically a couple of months (assuming you haven’t moved out already). You can also be left with a huge deficiency judgment, which is a judgment against you for the difference between what your mortgage balance plus costs are, and what the bid on your home is. A deficiency judgment hangs over your head legally for up to 14 years. This means that wages can be garnished; liens can be placed on any other property you or your spouse may own, and bank accounts can be seized. This is the worst possible outcome to the financial struggle that led to falling behind in payments. The only way out is bankruptcy, and that may not be a good option for everyone.
Why do so many people let a default judgment happen to them? The reasons vary. A common one is shame at not being able to live up to their obligations, so they just “walk away” (slink away is more like it). Fear of being suddenly evicted and feeling powerless makes some people feel more empowered to just walk away from the home on their own schedule. Some people fail to file an Answer because they don’t know what to do, or believe they can’t afford an attorney to help them. Some fail to file an Answer because they have already abandoned their home and never even received the paperwork. This article is addressed to anyone who has received foreclosure lawsuit paperwork within the last 30 days, or thinks they are about to get served with a lawsuit for foreclosure. It also applies if you received paperwork more than 30 days ago, but no Motion for Default Judgment has been filed by the Bank. You won’t know that, because they don’t have to send you anything if you never file anything indicating you are contesting the lawsuit.
I’ll reiterate an important message from my prior articles about the subject of foreclosure: don’t abandon your home. I’ll go so far as to say that it’s your duty to your neighborhood and community to continue living in the home and taking care of the home and landscape to make sure your neighbors’ homes don’t plunge in value because there is an abandoned, neglected home on their street. We need to understand that what we do affects those around us, so please, please, stay in the home. You and your family have to live somewhere—what better place than the home you’ve loved and taken care of for years?
Here’s how you file an Answer.
1. Time: You have 30 days from the time you received the packet to file it with the District Court clerk and send a copy to the bank’s attorney. The Summons will have the address of the Court where you will need to send the Answer. Now, I’ m not going to be able to give you enough information to make your answer sound like something from an attorney. That doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you do it.
2. Look at the first page of the Complaint. Everything above the words “Complaint” or “Complaint in Foreclosure” is called the caption or style of the case. You must type that in exactly as it appears, making sure the number is exactly the same. This is essential to make sure the Answer is filed in the correct court file. Instead of “Complaint,” you’ll type ANSWER, preferably centered.
3. Each paragraph of the Complaint must be admitted or denied. Deny the paragraph if any part of it is untrue. Number your answer by the same numbers as each paragraph in the Complaint. If you don’t have enough information to admit or deny a paragraph, state: Deny for lack of sufficient information.
A word of caution about admitting anything. You may think you should admit you executed a note and mortgage. We know you signed something. What we don’t know is whether that Note and Mortgage are enforceable, nor do we know whether the copy of the Note attached as an Exhibit is a true and correct copy of your current original note. Sure, it looks like the one you signed years ago. But in the interim, it may have collected various endorsements by being transferred and sold numerous times, endorsements you won’t see on the copy attached to the complaint. So, don’t admit that it is a true copy of the “original” Note. The “original Note” isn’t the one you signed, it’s the current negotiable instrument that has been sold many times over.
Also, in the complaint where bank or servicer claims to be the holder of the Note, definitely deny that. Make them prove it. Many times, they can’t.
4. At the end of the answer, you can assert defenses. An important defense is standing (the bank lacks the legal right to foreclose on your home, because it isn’t the right party); violations of TILA and HAMP laws (especially if you applied for and never received any loan modification); unjust enrichment; unclean hands; predatory lending practices; failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted. Number each of these separately under the centered words “AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES.”
5. At the end of your affirmative defenses, you can put a statement of the relief you want the court to grant you. A short statement like this will do the trick: “Defendant requests that this Court dismiss the complaint, nullify the mortgage and note, and quiet title in the name of Defendant, and whatever other relief the Court deems just and proper.”
6. Sign the Answer, putting your current mailing address and telephone number, and email, if you use that.
7. You’ll also need a statement of how you served the bank’s attorney at the very end: “I certify that I (mailed/emailed/faxed) a copy of this pleading to Attorney X, at this (address/fax number) on __ day of ___ month, 2012.”
8. Send one copy to the court by mail and one copy to the attorney who signed the complaint. To serve the attorney, you may do this by fax, mail, or email attachment to the attorney. Unrepresented people with a civil case can file the answer by presenting it at the court clerk’s window or mailing it to the court clerk. Be sure and mail an original and one copy of the Answer, plus a self-addressed stamped envelope, to the Court Clerk, with a cover letter asking them to return the endorsed (stamped) copy back to you. This step is necessary to give you proof of when the Answer was filed in court. (Attorneys are required to use the e-filing system; however, “self-help” folks do not file papers this way). Santa Fe District Court even has a self-help line: 505-455-8146.
Following these steps exactly are enough to prevent a default judgment. This will buy you time and possibly find an attorney to help you. Whatever you do, don’t ignore a foreclosure lawsuit! Make sure you file an answer within 30 days if you don’t have an attorney!
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.
Update Your Voter Registration Now
In anticipation of the June 5, 2012 Primary Election, Valerie Espinoza, Santa Fe County Clerk, is urging voters will register to vote or update their voter registration information well before the May 8, 2012 deadline for the Primary Election. Not sure what is in your voter registration? Check your record online at VoterView (https://voterview.state.nm.us/) or call the Clerk’s Office (505-986-6280) and ask the staff member to look up your voter record.
The Clerk’s Office advises voters not to wait till the last minute to register to vote or change their registration. Registration ends 28 days before an election, and the books are closed until the Monday after the election. If you wish to vote in this year’s Primary Election (June 5), you must register on or before May 8, 2012. Getting a Voter Registration form is easy. Call the Clerk’s Office (505-986-6280) and the staff will gladly send you a form. You can pick up forms at the County Clerk’s main office or satellite offices around the county:
• Santa Fe: 102 Grant Avenue (505-986-6280)
• Edgewood: 114 Quail Trail (505-281-4042)
• Eldorado: Ken and Patty Adams Senior Center, 16 Avenida Torreon (505-466-4029)
• Pojoaque: 5 West Gutierrez, Suite 9 (505-455-2775)
Other places to pick up a voter registration form include the main branch of the Santa Fe Public Library as well as a number of state agencies, such as the Motor Vehicle Department and Human Services. You can also find a link to the National Voter Registration Form on the Clerk’s site (http://www.santafecounty.org/clerk/elections_information).
From years of experience staff members at the County Clerk’s Office have some suggestions for voters so that the process of registration (and ultimately, voting) goes smoothly.
Know and use your 911 residential address on your voter registration. A surprising number of people in Santa Fe County do not know their addresses. Why is it important to us at the Bureau of Elections? This year redistricting will shift precinct and district lines, and many polling places will change because some schools are unavailable. The Bureau will send out 24,000 letters and new voter cards to all affected voters, but the U.S. Postal Service now uses the 911 addresses, not the old rural route addresses listed in some voters’ records. Take the time to find out if the address at which you are registered is really your current 911 address.
Pay attention to the political party field. Because New Mexico has a closed Primary system, (only registered Republicans can vote in the Republican Primary, and only registered Democrats can vote in the Democratic Primary), what you indicate in the Party field on your Voter Registration matters. If you do not indicate party affiliation, you are registered as DTS (Declined to State), also known as Independent. Voters registered as DTS, Greens, Libertarians, Independents, etc., cannot vote in the Primary Election.
Remember your penmanship and print your Voter Registration forms clearly. Illegible forms cause delays, and if we are unable to resolve the problem in time, you may not be able to vote.
Report: One in five NM children live in high-poverty communities
New Mexico ranks 49th in the nation in the percent of children living in areas of concentrated poverty, according to a new national KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. One in five—or 20 percent—of New Mexico’s children under age 18 live in areas where poverty is prevalent.
An area is considered to have ‘concentrated poverty’ when 30 percent of its residents live below the federal poverty level. People living in high-poverty communities face severe hardships, and the opportunities for New Mexico’s children to thrive and achieve success in these areas are diminished.
“Where we live, work, play, and go to school shapes our lives. Children living in areas of concentrated poverty have little access to good health care, high-quality early childhood care and education programs, first-class schools, and safe playgrounds,” said Christine Hollis, NM KIDS COUNT Director. “Not all families with children living in high-poverty communities are poor themselves. But living in a high-poverty environment means these children face greater learning, developmental, emotional, and health challenges than children living in more economically stable areas. These challenges can stall a child’s chances for future, long-term success. This, in turn, has a negative impact on the state’s general economic health and well-being.”
Hispanic, Native-American and African-American children are six-to-nine times more likely to live in areas of concentrated poverty than are white children, according to the Data Snapshot. Counties in which the highest percentages of children are living in high poverty areas are: McKinley (67 percent), Luna (62 percent), Curry (45 percent) and Doña Ana (44 percent). “McKinley has a majority Native-American child population, while the populations of the other three counties are predominantly Hispanic. Given that New Mexico is a minority-majority state, these data showing racial and ethnic disparities in living conditions are of great concern,” said Hollis.
Policy changes that promote broader systems- and community-level change, such as investments in early childhood care and education programs for children, along with asset-building opportunities for parents, are promising practices for high poverty areas. “Knowing that high-quality early childhood programs are one of the best ways to break the cycle of poverty, it’s very disappointing that in this past session lawmakers did not pass legislation that would have allowed New Mexicans to vote to provide a sustainable funding source for improving and building a comprehensive early childhood learning system,” said Bill Jordan, Policy Director of New Mexico Voices for Children. “This type of investment is exactly the kind of bold change that the state needs to begin to tackle our huge poverty problem.”
The Data Snapshot is available on the KIDS COUNT page of the New Mexico Voices for Children website: http://www.nmvoices.org/nm-kids-count. Data for all New Mexico counties, along with other state and local data on child well-being indicators, are available at the KIDS COUNT Data Center page: http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/bystate/StateLanding.aspx?state=NM.
Energy Task Force to provide sustained assistance
This month at the 2012 legislative session, New Mexico took its first step towards sustained energy assistance for low income New Mexicans. Thanks to a joint legislative memorial spearheaded by Prosperity Works and championed by Rep. Gail Chasey and Sen. Linda Lopez, a task force will be formed in May 2012 to study ways to provide energy bill assistance to low income customers.
Unlike charitable emergency programs like the Good Neighbor Fund or HEAT New Mexico, the Low Income Energy Assistance Task Force is charged with determining a way to provide a continuous monthly discount to qualifying limited income residents. Many states, including Texas, Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, California and North Carolina, have already implemented discount rates for their low-income residents funded by a variety of innovative plans.
The creation of the Energy Assistance Task Force was supported not only by consumer advocates like Prosperity Works, but also environmental groups and the states two biggest energy provides, Public Service Company of New Mexico and New Mexico Gas Company. This summer, representatives from all of those organizations will sit down together to come up with strategies and advise the legislative task force on the best of those strategies. A bill based on the best solution for New Mexico will be introduced in the 2013 legislative session, which means monthly rate relief on energy bills may be on the way for thousands of New Mexicans.
By Chris Salamone and Professor Gilbert Morris
Review by Claire Ayraud
This short, concise treatise on the problems of democracy and the U.S. economy is based on the tag line “Our best America is only one generation away.” Salamone’s main point is that Americans have lost their sense of integrity, handed down from our forefathers by way of the Constitution and the way they lived their lives. An era of entitlement has ensued, courtesy of the baby boomer generation’s children, who lived in a time of plenty, became soft and stupid, and have forgotten their heritage.
Salamone, attorney, educator and “thought leader” (according to Amazon) goes on to cite his work with young people where he witnessed, “a proliferation of the forces of entitlement and complaint…Still more unfortunate is that parents…have fostered these attitudes and culture,” by pandering to their children’s complaints.” He insists that the youth he speaks of was from all socio-economic backgrounds. He cites the Congressional Student Leadership Conference, The National Junior Leaders Conference, etc., not stating which organization he worked with. (This has not been my experience. Most of the young people I know are much more evolved, smarter and enlightened than their parents were at their age, including my own children. However, I read on…)
Salamone’s ideas that personal responsibility, along with limited government and limited entitlements, equal the course we should take to repairing this country makes perfect sense. One would have to agree that we could all benefit from this; however, I take issue with several of his platforms and rhetoric. In his stance on limited entitlements he writes, “Through private charity…America has for nearly all of its history provided for the ‘least of our brethren’—the sick the widowed, the orphaned and certainly the soldier.”
So, he claims, we should depend on the whims of the rich to take care of the poor. Does he not remember, or has he not read that the rich have historically made their money on the backs of the poor but mostly have not returned their due back to the society?
Government regulations and union organizations made it possible for the middle class to emerge from the poor working class of the early 1900s. While labor unions and many restrictions on employers have come to seem almost obsolete now, they were necessary to wrestle human rights and a living wage from wealthy corporations. I remember my father on the picket lines trying to hold on for another week without pay, with only the union to support our family in the early 1960s.
An article in The New Yorker, “Magic Mountain” by Nick Paumgarten describes the Davos Convention held in Switzerland each year. Paumgarten quotes Klaus Schwab, professor at the University of Geneva, founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum: “Capitalism, in its current form, no longer fits the world around us.” He and many European and American leaders, businessmen, scientists and famous people from around the world meet at Davos each year to brainstorm about solutions to this and other dilemmas. They are all good at identifying problems, but none show any progress toward a solution, which could be attributed to their élite standing. The attendees most connected and given to realizations far exceeding the establishment are the vocal, “Occupy” factions present. Their banner reads, “The Great Transformation?? Bullshit. Nobody with 4 Aces Wants a New Deal!” Occupy Zurich had set up igloos and yurts in the parking lot outside, which the mayor of Davos had loaned them. A Minnesota man was quoted as saying, “The fundamental illegitimacy of the W.E.F is that it has no democratic basis whatsoever. Those people can’t claim to represent the seven billion.”(The New Yorker, March 5, 2012 p.44).
Rescue America should be relegated to this category of “those people.” It does not represent the seven billion but an élite faction of U.S. politics that wants to turn back the clock instead of moving forward with the issues we have today, i.e., economic collapse, environmental degradation, human rights issues that were not even conceivable 200 years ago. Even Schwab (a capitalist himself) admits that capitalism no longer fits. But we are stymied by the 1 percent, who have all the power and money and do not want to see real change.
One of the protesters at Davos came up to the writer Paumgarten wearing flowing robes with garlands of fake hundred-dollar bills and quoted TS Eliot, “Do not let me hear/ of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly.” (“East Coker”)
Beware of books such as Rescue America, cloaked in truth, but mired in rhetoric that only benefits the rich.
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. She became a Santa Fe resident in 2001 and lives in Nambé.
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.
Saturday, March 17
8 am-1 pm
Farmers’ Market Pavilion
1607 Paseo de Peralta (&Guadalupe)
Spring Farmers’ Market
Dynamic Northern New Mexico farmers and ranchers bring you fresh
greenhouse tomatoes, greens, root veggies, cheese, grass-fed meats,
teas, herbs, spices, honey, baked goods, Southwestern body care, and
so much more. Come check us out every Saturday.
Sunday, March 18
Travel Bug Books
839 Paseo de Peralta
Present Challenges and The Future of Education In New Mexico
Subject: A three-part education & discussion series with local teachers and administrators on the Present Challenges and The Future of Education In New Mexico. Part I—Who Controls Education in New Mexico? A look at the challenges in Education with the Dean of Education at Highlands University, Dr. Michael F. Andersonm and Associate Dean Dr. Dave Braun y Haryicki in Sherry Tippetr’s Education Series for journeyesantafe. Come join the conversation with teachers and administration on Education and how we can reshape it for better future for all. Part II and III on March 25 and April 1. 505 992-0418. Free and open to the public. www.journeysantafe.com
Sunday, March 18
3 pm – 4 pm
Temple Beth Shalom
205 East Barcelona
Santa Fe Time Bank
Please join us for a pre-potluck conversation. We’ll be discussing the Kitchen Cabinet and wonderful opportunities for interested members to get involved. Come to find out more and ask questions. This is a great place to meet your community members and learn more about them. Great place to match needs with resources and eat some wonderful food. Earn Time Dollars for attending both. 505 216-6590.
Tuesday, March 20
James A. Little Theater
Chris Williams with David Barsamian
Lannan Foundation, In Pursuit of Cultural Freedom Series:
Are Global Warming and Ecological Degradation Caused by Free Market Enterprise? Chris Williams is a longtime environmental activist and professor of physics and chemistry at Pace University in New York. Tickets: www.lensic.com or call 505 988-1234.
Wednesday, March 21 &
Thursday March 22
211 West San Francisco Street
SDC Mountain Works & The Lensic: Banff Mountain Film Festival
$15 / $25 for both days
SDC Mountainworks and The Lensic present the Banff Mountain Film Festival, a program of The Banff Centre, and one of the largest, and one of the most prestigious, mountain film festivals in the world. 505 988-1234.
Thursday, March 22
5:30 pm – 7 pm
Temple Beth Shalom
205 East Barcelona
Santa Fe Time Bank
New Member Orientation
Last step for membership, as well as a great opportunity to come and ask any questions you may have. This is nuts and bolts for new and current members. Have a question about
how things work? This is the place to gather with your community and find an answer.
Thanks to Margaret for donating her studio space to be a temporary office. It means that if you have a question about Community Weaver, about a trade, or don’t have internet access, you can come to the office and speak with a real person. New office hours are: Tuesdays 5 pm – 7pm, Saturday 10 am – 12 pm or by appt. The office is in the Lena Street Lofts off Second Street, Studio A-3. 505 216-6590.
Thursday, March 22
202 Galisteo Street
Magda Prus presents The Avatar Path: The Way We Came
As part of the Shared Reading Series, Collected Works Bookstore presents Magda Prus and Michelle Heeney. Standing in for author Harry Palmer, Magda Prus presents The Avatar Path: The Way We Came, which encourages readers to live deliberately. New Mexico-based poet and photographer Michelle Heeney presents her third book of poems and photographs, The Monkey Tree.
Sunday, March 25
Travel Bug Books
839 Paseo de Peralta
Present Challenges and The Future of Education In New Mexico
Part II of a three-part education & discussion series with local teachers and administrators on the Present Challenges and The Future of Education In New Mexico. The Socio-Economic and Bi-Lingual Challenges of Middle Level Education with Dr. Dave Braun y Haryicki, Assistant Dean of Education, Highlands University and other teachers. Part III on April 1 505 992-0418. Free and open to the public. www.journeysantafe.com
Wednesday, March 28
211 West San Francisco Street
Lannan Readings and Conversations: Ann Beattie with Michael Silverblatt
Short story writer and novelist, Ann Beattie with Michael Silverblatt. After numerous earlier rejections from The New Yorker, Beattie had a story accepted by the magazine in 1974 and many more in the following years. Her most recent collection, The New Yorker Stories, is a compilation of those 48 stories published from 1974 through 1986. 505 988-1234. $3 – $6.
Thursday, March 29
202 Galisteo Street
Sharon Niederman, Signs and Shrines
Collected Works presents Southwestern author Sharon Niederman for a discussion of her latest book Signs and Shrines: Spiritual Journeys Across New Mexico. She will be presenting in conversation with journalist and educator V.B. Price. Sharon Niederman is an author, journalist, and photographer who specializes in cuisine, travel, history, literature and spirituality. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and serves as president of the New Mexico Press Women. She is the author of 10 books, including New Mexico’s Tasty Traditions; New Mexico: An Explorer’s Guide; Hellish Relish, and Shaking Eve’s Tree. Her latest book presents travelers with a discriminating overview of sacred sites, retreat centers and festivals throughout New Mexico.
Saturday, March 31
10 am – 5 pm
Santa Fe Community Convention
Center, 201 W. Marcy Street
8th Annual Santa
Fe Jin Japanese Cultural Festival
Presented by Santa Fe JIN, this is an event ideal for the whole family. This year, our theme for the Festival is “Pop Japan.” We will be featuring Seshami Street Boys, a shamisen (Japanese traditional 3-string instrument) comic duo, as well as singer/songwriter Shihori, who is well-known for her Anime songs from Japan. We will also invite the master taiko drummer, Koji Nakamura, 2008 Grammy Winner and Koto player, Yukiko Matsuyama, 2010 Grammy Winner. Stage performances throughout the day also include: Santa Fe local Smokin’ Bachi Taiko, traditional Japanese dance, The Way of Tea, Japanese songs by Norio Hayakawa, and a Japanese Pop fashion show by Santa Fe Community College Fashion Design department. We will have a Martial Arts demonstration room as well. In the workshop area, you can learn Origami (folding paper). Take pleasure in lots of arts and craft booths as well as a silent auction. Japanese festival foods will delight you. Come enjoy the day with us! Contact: Shizuko Kobayashi, President, Santa Fe JIN, 505.471-9022 www.santafejin.org
Sunday, April 1
Travel Bug Books
839 Paseo de Peralta
Present Challenges and The Future of Education In New Mexico
Part III of a three part education & discussion series with local teachers and administrators on the Present Challenges and The Future of Education In New Mexico. A Look At Waldorf Schools and Rudolph Steiner’s Philosophy of Education. A Conversation with Waldorf Trustee and Teacher Meg Gorman with students and administrative representatives and others. www.journeysantafe.com 505 992-0418. Free and open to the public.
Wednesday, March 21
6 – 8 pm
Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice
202 Harvard SE, Albuquerque
Conversation with David Barsamian on Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street
Uprisings: Kashmir to Cairo to Wall Street, How the Arab Spring and O.W.S are succeeding. David Barsamian is the award-winning founder and director of Alternative Radio, the independent weekly audio series based in Boulder, Colorado. He is the author of numerous books with Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Eqbal Ahmad, Tariq Ali, Arundhati Roy and Edward Said. His best-selling books with Chomsky have been translated into many languages. David’s interviews and articles appear in The Progressive, Z, the Sun and other publications. He is winner of the Media Education Award, the ACLU’s Upton Sinclair Award for independent journalism, and the Cultural Freedom Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation. The Institute for Alternative Journalism named him one of its Top Ten Media Heroes. For more information: contact Stop the War Machine 505-858-0882, Admission is free, donations accepted
Saturday, March 31 – April 22
St. Michael & All the Angels Episcopal Church
601 Montano Road NW
5 -7 pm March 31
Windows and Mirrors: Reflections on the War in Afghanistan
An art exhibit of 25 panels depicting the war through the eyes of Afghan children and professional artists. Created by American Friends Service Committee. (505) 323-5539
April 14, 2 – 4 pm
War is Not the Answer discussion
April 20, 7- 8:30 pm
Poets Against the War
April 22, 2 – 4 pm
NORTHEN NEW MEXICO
Wednesday, March 21
5:30 pm – 7 pm
JCI Building, Northern New Mexico College
1021 Railroad Ave., Española
Opportunities for Española Valley Businesses in Green Markets
Admission is free, but space is limited and registration is strongly encouraged
The REDI Green Business Cluster of Northern NM, and Northern New Mexico
College, invite you to participate in an event for Española-area
businesses. The markets for various types of “green” products and services are
expanding, creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to build their
businesses and grow revenues. These include home building, forest
products, renewable energy, environmental services, agriculture, and more.
This event will bring together green market experts, business owners,
economic development and business support services and associations
familiar with the emerging opportunities for information sharing,
advice, questions, access to resources and networking. Refreshments will be
served. Scheduled speakers at this time are:
* Dr. Nancy Barcelo, President, Northern New Mexico College
* Ida Carrillo, NNMC Small Business Development Center
* Marie Longserre, Santa Fe Business Incubator
* Kim Shanahan, Santa Fe Area Homebuilders Association: green building
* Larry Mapes, Valverde Energy: green energy
* Camilla Bustamante, NNMC: sustainable food systems
by Chuck Shepherd
BEHOLD THE NEXT ECONOMIC BUBBLE: PAINTINGS!
The royal family of Qatar, apparently striving for art-world credibility, purchased a Paul Cezanne painting (“The Card Players”) last year for the equivalent of about $250 million, which is twice as much as the previous most-expensive painting sold for. (Qatar is vying with the United Arab Emirates to become the Middle East’s major intellectual hub.) At the same time that Qatar’s purchase was made public in February, artwork of the probable value of about $200 million became news in reports of the imminent Facebook initial public offering. Graffiti artist (“muralist”) David Choe stood to make about that amount because he took stock instead of money to paint the lewd themes on the walls of Facebook’s first offices. Even though Choe was quoted as saying, originally, that he found the whole idea of Facebook “ridiculous and pointless,” his shares today are reportedly worth up to one quarter of 1 percent of the company.
** ** **
The Entrepreneurial Spirit
– Last year, the Cape Town, South Africa, “gentlemen’s club” Mavericks began selling an Alibi line of fragrances designed for men who need excuses for coming home late. For example, as men come through the door, they could splash on “I Was Working Late” (to reek of coffee and cigarettes) or “My Car Broke Down” (evoking fuel, burned rubber and grease).
– Bipartisanship: White supremacist Richard Treis, 38, was arrested in February in St. Louis, along with his alleged partner, black gang member Robert “Biz” Swinney, 22, and charged with running a huge methamphetamine operation. The two, who had met at a prison halfway house, had allegedly meshed their unique talents — Treis as a meth cook and Swinney as a skilled street seller who recruited people to buy restricted pseudoephedrine products from pharmacies. Said a deputy, “They put away their differences to get the job done.”
** ** **
Science on the Cutting Edge
– Can’t Possibly Be True: “(A) growing number of scientists” are at work on biocomputer models based on movements of slime to solve complex-systems problems, according to a December report in London’s Daily Telegraph. Though slime molds are single-cell organisms lacking a “brain,” said professor Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Japan’s Future University Hakodate, they somehow can “organize” themselves to create the most direct route through mazes in order to find food. Said professor Atsushi Tero, of Kyushu University, ordinary computers are “not so good” at finding such ideal routes because of the quantity of calculations required, but slime molds seem to flow “in an impromptu manner” and gradually find the best routes.
– Medical Marvels: (1) Claire Osborn, 37, of Coventry, England, was diagnosed in October with an aggressive, inoperable throat-mouth cancer and given a 50 percent chance of survival. However, less than a month later, during a severe coughing spell, she actually coughed out the entire tumor in two pieces. Subsequent tests revealed no trace of cancer in her body. (Doctors hypothesized that, fortuitously, the tumor was growing on a weak stalk that was overcome by the force of the cough.) (2) In January, doctors at North Carolina State University performed knee-replacement surgery on a cancer-stricken house cat. Such surgery on dogs had been done, but because of cats’ smaller bones and joints, doctors had to use micro techniques usually employed on humans.
** ** **
Fine Points of the Law
The Houston Funding debt collection company in Houston, Texas, had fired receptionist Donnicia Venters shortly after she returned from maternity leave when she announced that she intended to breastfeed her child and needed space in the office to pump her breast milk. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Houston Funding for illegal discrimination based on “pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions,” but in February, federal judge Lynn Hughes (Mr. Lynn Hughes) rejected the EEOC’s reasoning. The law does not, he wrote, cover “lactation” discrimination.
** ** **
Leading Economic Indicators
– In an incident reported in February by the Indo-Asian News Service, a Pakistan International Airlines captain made a revenue-enhancing decision for his full flight PK 303 from Lahore to Karachi. Two overbooked passengers would not have to make alternative arrangements if they accepted seats for the 640-mile flight in the plane’s restrooms.
– Real estate reassessments hit Pittsburgh like a bombshell in December when county officials announced enhanced estimates of property value in order to raise needed tax revenue. In the first wave of assessments (which engendered criticism countywide, according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story), a real estate attorney who lives in the Mount Washington neighborhood was stunned to find his condominium apartment had jumped $55,000 in value, now “worth” $228,700 and, worse, his private parking space on the ground floor of the building, previously valued at $5,000, now “worth” $287,800.
– In December, National Geographic lamented that the number of South Africa’s rhinoceroses killed by poaching increased by a third in 2011, to 443, as a response to the booming street price of rhino horns. MSNBC reported that the horns’ market price “soared to about $65,000 a kilogram, making (them) more expensive than gold, platinum, and in many cases, cocaine.” The reason for the price is an escalating, though science-free, belief in Asia that rhino horn powder can cure cancer.
** ** **
The Weirdo-American Community
In February, a jury in Thousand Oaks, Calif., acquitted Charles Hersel, 41, of molesting children. Though Hersel admitted through his lawyer that he paid high school students to spit in his face and yell profanities at him, and had offered to pay them money to urinate and defecate on him, jurors found that he must have done those things for reasons other than “sexual gratification” and therefore, technically, did not violate the statute under which he was charged.
** ** **
Least Competent Criminals
According to prosecutors in Camden, S.C., in November, Christopher Hutto, 30, needed money badly to buy crack cocaine, but the best plan he could devise was getting a friend to telephone Hutto’s mother and demand a ransom. Though Hutto, according to the phone call, supposedly had been beaten up by kidnappers and dumped in a secret location and was “near death,” the “kidnapper” asked only for $100. The un-eager mother dawdled a bit until she and the caller had negotiated the ransom down to $60. (The money drop was made, and sheriff’s deputies arrested Hutto running from the site with the booty.)
** ** **
Airbags Save Lives: News of the Weird has previously chronicled the breast-obsessive Sheyla Hershey, the Guinness Book record-holder for largest artificially enhanced bosom (size 38MMM). (To recap, the Brazil-born, Houston-area woman had her implants removed two years ago for health reasons but then, after depression set in over her “loss,” she wanted them back, but no U.S. surgeon would meet her requirement of 85 fluid ounces of silicone per breast. Finally, she found a surgeon in Cancun, Mexico, and received slightly smaller implants — 38KKK.) Hershey, 32, was charged with DUI as she drove home after a Super Bowl party in February. Her car spun around and hit a tree, and according to Hershey, who was not wearing a seat belt, it was likely that her breasts saved her from injury by cushioning her as she was thrust against the steering wheel.
** ** **
Like many cities, Taipei, Taiwan, has a dog-litter problem that has proved unsolvable, as citizens continue to ignore pleas to pick up after their dogs and keep sidewalks clean. Finally, city officials designed a successful program (announced in December): a dog-poop lottery. Anyone handing in a bag of dog litter would get a ticket (one ticket per bag) to a drawing with prizes ranging up to pieces of gold worth the equivalent of about $2,000. (Citizens would be on the honor system as to whether the “litter” in the bag came from a dog or from another source.)
Are you ready for News of the Weird Pro Edition? Every Monday at http://NewsoftheWeird.blogspot.com and www.WeirdUniverse.net. Other handy addresses: WeirdNews at earthlink dot net, http://www.NewsoftheWeird.com, and P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679.)
COPYRIGHT 2012 CHUCK SHEPHERD
DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL UCLICK
1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106; 816-581-7500
1999 Darwin Award Nominee
Confirmed True by Darwin
(09 Nov 1999, Mexico) A Mexican jail guard died from an excess of zeal while supervising an inmate’s conjugal visit. Raul Zarate Diaz was closely watching his charge from the roof of the prison when he tripped over an air vent, crashed through the skylight, and fell 23 feet to land beside the bed where the inmate and his wife were, against all odds, enjoying an intimate moment. The interrupted prisoner, offended by the intrusion, attempted to start a riot, but was squelched by prison security.
Prisoners in the Tapachula facility reported that Diaz was in the habit of prowling the prison roof during conjugal visits, in search of prisoners to supervise. Local law enforcement reported that the guard was clutching a pornographic magazine, which was retained as evidence, and binoculars, whose sentimental value led to them being given back to the family of the deceased.
DarwinAwards.com © 1994 – 2012 Woot!
References: La Cronica, Reuters, Le Journal de Montreal,
The News of Mexico City, InfoRed radio
Wrong Time, Wrong Place
1990 Darwin Award Nominee
Confirmed True by Darwin
3 February 1990, Washington
The following mind-boggling attempt at a crime spree appeared to be the robber’s first, due to his lack of a previous record of violence, and his terminally stupid choices:
1. His target was H&J Leather & Firearms. A gun shop.
2. The shop was full of customers – firearms customers.
3. To enter the shop, the robber had to step around a marked police patrol car parked at the front door.
4. A uniformed officer was standing at the counter, having coffee before work.
Upon seeing the officer, the would-be robber announced a holdup, and fired a few wild shots. The officer and a clerk promptly returned fire, covered by several customers who also drew their guns, thereby removing the confused criminal from the gene pool.
No one else was hurt.
honors those who improve the species,
by accidentally removing themselves
from it! Read The Darwin Awards
Next Evolution by Wendy Northcutt.