Contents, September 2011
Connecting the dots
“It is the role of a newspaperman to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
– Chicago journalist Finley Peter Dunne
There are those who think the print newspaper is in its death throes and others who think words of any kind are just useless spitballs hurled by naïve optimists into the maelstrom of a crumbling democracy and a planet hurtling toward disaster.
Among the dwindling minority who are still willing or able to commit words to the printed page, even fewer are doing anything like real journalism, as the money behind the surviving mainstream media is too busy advancing the corporate agenda, promoting the so-called balance of false equivalents, or in some cases hacking the phones of crime victims in the race to pander to the lowest common subscriber denominator.
We won’t be doing things that way, and we thought you’d like to know.
I feel privileged to be associated with The Light of New Mexico, a new, independent monthly newspaper based in Santa Fe that will take a higher road in attempting, as our tagline states, to illuminate inconvenient truths. We considered numerous titles for our new publication, and various slogans as well, with a common theme of shedding light on the issues of the day: political corruption, connecting the dots between manmade climate change, gridlocked government, skyrocketing corporate influence in campaigns and legislation, and the threats to democracy our republic is facing on every level. You are holding the initial result of that quest in your hands.
As I have done before in my nearly 40 years of newspaper work in New Mexico, most recently with Grassroots Press (www.grass-roots-press.com), I’ll be looking for stories that illustrate the realities ordinary people are facing in their daily lives, hoping to educate our readers and ourselves on the forces that are shaping our future in a downsizing and endangered nation. I’ll be exploring the ways in which the forces of greed and self-interest are attempting to hijack public policy. I’ll be featuring commentary from journalists, authors and experts on the critical times we face, plus a mix of pertinent syndicated material and open pages for you, our readers to fill, with your comments and unique perspectives on everything from politics to the arts.
Without deep pockets or any corporate support, we’ll also be relying on you to help us grow with your display advertising and your donations, as well as your feedback and suggestions.
Santa Fe is a remarkable place, with a rich history of cultural alchemy, a place that tolerates and elevates diversity, eclecticism and artistic expression. One of the oldest capital cities in North America, it arose on the site of far older Pueblos, a product of European colonialism and an often bloody clash of cultures – Native American, Hispanic, Anglo – and has been endlessly reinventing itself for better and worse ever since. These days, it’s a world-class destination, but also a place called home for nearly 70,000 folks, including some of the most talented and successful individuals on the planet, and the organizations they’ve brought with them. These include a vital emerging community of locavore, sustainable, nonprofit endeavors. Santa Fe also holds but a fraction of the population of the state of New Mexico that is our larger home, a coverage area into which we hope to expand as The Light of New Mexico grows; we hope to serve it with dedication and distinction.
Most of all, we hope you’ll read our words and help us write them. We hope to prove worthy of your interest and support. Obviously, we believe in the power of words to educate human beings and change history. We also think that time is growing short to do that under the umbrella of a free press in a besieged democracy. That’s why we feel our work is important, especially in a time when ever more of us are feeling afflicted, and those with the money and power are growing ever more comfortable.
Steve Klinger can be reached at [email protected]
When, in 1787, it came time for the American states to work on a new constitution, the drafters were faced with two outstanding problems: One was the inability of the 13 states to enforce taxation or regulate commerce between themselves or with foreign nations. The second was full knowledge of the history of kings, bishops and centralized power. They needed a government with more power than the existing Confederation of states but with less power than would lead to tyranny. They knew what chaos looked like because they were at that moment in the midst of it. They knew what tyranny looked like because they had just emerged from centuries of it
The Constitution drafters therefore devised a government that both centralized power and divided it. This was the famous “separation of powers” doctrine that established the Congress, the presidency, and the Supreme Court. The founders wanted one branch to be able to stop the powerful ambitions of another.
That was good for a while.
Today, however, the three branches have become so adept at restricting the power of the others that they have created system failure. The separation of powers has resulted in a paralysis of powers.
The House of Representatives was rendered helpless between 2008 and 2010 by the Senate, in which a minority party used the filibuster to halt consideration of, or even debate about, over 400 pieces of legislation that had been approved by the House. The Congress was therefore rendered utterly incapable of passing progressive legislation.
Another Senate rule allows a single senator to place a “hold” on approval of executive appointments. The result has been that hundreds of presidential appointments have been held up by a single senator. In many cases the senator who placed the hold did not actually oppose the person to be appointed; he or she was bargaining for legislative concessions to, say, South Carolina, or to Oklahoma, or Florida. This game of deal or no-deal effectively deprived President Obama of hundreds of top-level officials. This is not just balancing executive power; this is nullifying executive power.
If that is not enough, all three, the House, and Senate and the president, have been stymied by the Supreme Court when it struck down their legislation for campaign finance reform. The Court held that the Congress was wrong to regulate campaign expenditures and that the founders intended that for this purpose corporations should be treated as persons. This may seem ridiculous to any outsider who has studied the Constitutional Convention or the ratification assemblies in the several states, but that is what the Court did. Again, this is not merely balancing the powers; this was nullifying legislative power.
What the founders did not foresee, and what has turned out to be particularly unhappy today, is that the stifling of all three branches of government has come about through a single cause: the controlling influence of extreme wealth. Both houses of Congress, the presidency and the courts have been subverted by expensive campaigns that masquerade as democratic but are in fact vehicles of plutocratic control.
It is to that overriding issue of the slide of American democracy toward plutocracy that the new organization We Are People Here! has come into being. The ultimate aim for plutocracy, for the 400 people who own 50 percent of America’s wealth, is to maintain the appearance of democracy but deprive it of the power to govern.
The stalemate in Washington, D.C. is therefore acceptable to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to the Koch Brothers, who spend millions each election cycle, to Halliburton, with its headquarters in Dubai, to the Bank of America, with its 116 foreign tax havens. They are all, almost by definition, opposed to local regulation of the environment, of fracking, of water rights, of campaigns. They are therefore engaged – from New Mexico, to Chiapas, to Ecuador, to India – in an all-out war with local controls. And that means they are at war with democracy.
We Are People Here! is the outcome of a series of lectures that I gave at the Collected Works Bookstore last winter and spring. It has now burgeoned into a collection of subgroups working on the foundations of a new political story for America, while at the same time taking action locally, collaborating with nurses and ranchers, environmentalists and unionists.
We are People Here! is aiming at the roots of the paralysis, and those roots are, at first, the control of the legislative process, the campaign process and, increasingly, the courts, by those who have huge amounts of money to spend and with which to direct rules, laws and decisions to their own benefit at a cost to the American middle- and lower classes. We are therefore directed at the disparities of wealth, the very existence of the plutocracy, and the stories by which the plutocracy justifies itself.
In its coordinated campaign in 2010, the plutocracy aimed at one overarching target. They realized that if they could rally the public against “big government,” they could sweep away the EPA, the SEC, consumer protection, and health and safety regulations all at once. They could roll back the New Deal and with it unions, Medicaid and Medicare and a hundred other programs in schools and universities and the arts.
We Are People Here! seeks to use the same strategy but to turn it around. Our one target is “plutocracy,” which is government by and for the very wealthiest at the expense of all the rest. These wealthy few are, literally – as they have been throughout history – at war with democracy, and we will not make it easy for them. Join us. We meet monthly and we are on the move.
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.
Agua es vida. Water is life, or at least its dominant basis, especially in places like New Mexico, where the few reliable surface sources are increasingly taxed by climate change in the Southwest, amid growing urbanization. After a summer of wildfire, continuing drought and rising temperatures, people who took even New Mexico’s limited water for granted are starting to think again.
Centuries of traditional agricultural uses are threatened by these environmental circumstances, plus a labyrinth of complex water laws and compacts, involving neighboring states and the Republic of Mexico. Corporate interests are stealthily – and sometimes blatantly –maneuvering to acquire precious water rights in every corner of New Mexico. Lawsuits are piling up, and reservoir levels are shrinking, not just seasonally, but seemingly from year to year. With surface water scarce, farmers are pumping from wells at a rate that may not be sustainable for the aquifers that supply them.
A Santa Fe-based group has turned its full attention to water, with growing concern about how to expand a dialogue to inform the state’s residents of the threats to their health and livelihoods. Increasingly, the members of JourneySantaFe have quickened the pace of their activities as they see New Mexico at the edge of an environmental precipice – and also a political one.
As David Bacon, a former Green Party candidate for governor, puts it: “Water, in all its forms, is under attack. How we respond to this attack will determine our future and that of millions of other species on this planet.” [See Who controls our water in the bioregion, p. ?]
In response, JourneySantaFe (http://www.journeysantafe.com/) has established a water panel to help Bacon plan a statewide summit on water in the bioregion to be held in January 2012 while the Legislature is in session. The group has also devoted its Sunday meetings at The Travel Bug to a series on the subject of water, hosted by Bacon, who also hosts a weekly KSFR radio program, Living on the Edge.
The Light of New Mexico conducted an e-mail interview with Bacon to find out more about the Water Summit and his work on water in the bioregion.
LNM: How did the idea for a water summit emerge? What might it accomplish that the Sunday Water Series and your radio program cannot?
DB: Communities as diverse as Catron County and Mora County are fighting major water battles – corporate water withdrawal and fracking of aquifers. The summit would put people from affected communities face to face so that they (we) could all learn about the issues and the community responses to them.
LNM: What are some of the water issues and cases in New Mexico that especially trouble you?
DB: Fracking for natural gas in tight formations is one of the most troubling. This process injects millions of gallons of toxin-laced water into aquifers under very high pressure. It is probably the most ecologically damaging form of gas extraction that has ever been. Others are: 1) water withdrawal for electricity production – 55,000 acre feet/year from the San Juan River by PNM and Arizona Public Service Co. These two companies have also polluted most of our rivers, streams and lakes with mercury. 2) Corporate ownership of water. Catron County is facing the draining of its entire aquifer within a 50-year timespan by an Italian corporation that will sell the water downstream to developers.
LNM: What kinds of entities and individuals would you like to see participate in the Summit?
DB: I want to see participation from county commissioners, planners, state reps, water activists, community activists, and people of all stripes who want to learn about issues and solutions
LNM: Do you envision both public events and expert panels or workshops?
DB: I envision a combination of public events and expert panels and workshops, along with white papers and video recordings of the panels. I will also invite all water groups to have their own displays manned by their reps throughout the summit.
LNM: What kind of change can an event like this produce?
DB: I would like to see the formulation of strong, county-level water protection ordinances come out of the summit, along with a stronger sense of the importance, and possibility, of water protection in our state as a whole. I would like to see many elected officials buy in to this new story.
LNM: What if any opposition or resistance do you anticipate?
DB: Opposition will come from those groups and corporations that abuse and pollute water, control it in a non-democratic mode, and who desire to continue in that mode
LNM: What types of organizations will sponsor the summit? Will they also provide funding for venue rental, publicity, staffing, etc.
DB: There are many active water groups in New Mexico who will provide funding and support. There are also environmental groups and foundations who will do the same. I’m also hoping for some state, national, and even international support.
LNM: Has the approach of using local ordinances had any major success in blocking or reversing corporate access to water rights and uses/abuses? Have these initiatives/ordinances withstood any legal tests?
DB: There is a group called CELDF (www.celdf.org) that has led the way in this regard. They have written ordinances that outlaw fracking within political boundaries – Pittsburgh and Buffalo have passed such ordinances – and ordinances that outlaw corporate water withdrawal. The court cases are proceeding in Pennsylvania right now, after a judge refused the attorney general’s dismissal suit of a township’s right to ban corporate hog farming partly to save its aquifer. CEDLF’s web site will have many more examples. They were instrumental in the passage of two national “rights of nature” constitutional amendments in Ecuador and Bolivia. Pittsburgh currently has such an initiative up for adoption.
LNM: There are some who feel the needs of thirsty urban areas and the money and power behind them will inevitably trump more equitable or traditional uses (agriculture, rural domestic uses, watershed and habitat protection). Your thoughts?
DB: The fight is now for water law that honors a sustainable water economy. One that protects water as both a human right and as a natural system that enjoys its own rights. This will be a fight, obviously, but one which we have to win if we are to survive climate change, pollution, peak water and human ignorance.
LNM: Isn’t Santa Fe in a conundrum of self-interest vs. altruism here, as the safety of the water from Buckman is questionable and the area’s needs are outpacing the capacity of other sources such as the reservoirs, while groups originating here push more socially conscious/democratic approaches to water allocation that could negatively impact this community?
DB: Santa Fe has not done too well in terms of addressing water scarcity. The Buckman Direct Diversion is unsustainable from multiple angles, as are all large centrally engineered projects. Santa Fe does have a community of brilliant water activists who know that you start upstream with water catchment, water-wise land use, water recycling, water
purification, and on and on. This will be the paradigm of survival now and into the future. We will need to get serious about municipally owned power grids that generate heat and electricity with low, or no water consumption and that cut way down on greenhouse gasses. We can do this today.
LNM: You have made the connection between the control of water and the future of democracy. There are many fronts in the current corporatist assault on our democratic underpinnings; why is water the most important one, in your opinion?
DB: Water is the basis of all life – outer and inner. People, who are 70 percent water, respond at a deep emotional level to water’s power, beauty, purity and necessity. Democracy must be based on reality, and I feel water is one reality that joins all of us living beings together. The re-connection with water will re-energize our democracy, and vice versa.
The dirty little secret about water in the West is that water conservation is a hoax.
When we conserve water by using less, we don’t save it for the health of the watershed or
put it aside in any way; we simply make it available for someone else to consume, if not
today, then tomorrow in the next strip mall or housing development down the road.
In this respect, water conservation is good for the short-term economy – it keeps the real
estate industry, the building trades, and much else going – but it doesn’t work out well for
the resilience of our communities because it leads to “hardened demand,” which means
that the water we use is needed all the time, no matter what.
This is the big irony of water management: in dry times, waste is our friend. When water
is used wastefully, it is easy to deal with drought. Everybody stops watering the lawn,
washing the car and making puddles of any kind. Current demand drops like a stone.
But when everybody conserves – puts in low-flow toilets, xeriscapes the yard, and does
all that other good stuff in both public and private sectors – the demand for water
“hardens.” The uses that remain are essential; you can’t turn them off, and sometimes you
can barely pare them back.
Conservation enables a community with fixed water resources to continue growing. But
the more it grows on the strength of conservation, the more vulnerable it becomes to
drought. When dry times inevitably come, there’s no flex in the system.
One logical response is to limit growth, but I don’t know of a single community that has
done this without lamentable consequences. Consider Bolinas, Calif. Because of
limited water supplies, Bolinas put a cap on the number of water meters its utility would
support. Early in 2010, one of those meters changed hands for a cool $300,000. The
Bolinas example illustrates another demand phenomenon. Limit supply, and the price of a
needed commodity soars. Outside of small, boutique communities like Bolinas, a major
spike in the cost of access to water would be socially and politically unacceptable.
Environmentalists might respond by saying, “Communities will have to handle shortages
the best they can. In the meantime, we enviros need to secure in-stream flows for rivers
and place those water rights in a blast-proof public trust. That way we can prevent the
collapse of the linear oases that sustain the non-human environment.”
The trouble is, anything can be raided. There is no such thing as a blast-proof public trust,
not if whole cities face death by thirst. And that kind of threat may not be far away.
Most climate-change models forecast declining stream flow and reduced water
availability in the Southwest on the order of 10 percent to 30 percent, as well as in other
areas of the West. Higher temperatures and faster evaporation guarantee that the region
will become more arid even if precipitation remains constant. (But don’t bet on
precipitation remaining “normal.”)
Our utilities tell us that conservation is the answer to future water scarcity. I think they
tell us that because they don’t have another answer.
In a pinch, utilities will also talk about “augmentation” – desalination, interbasin
transfers, and other big-ticket, high-tech lines of attack – which might keep the water supply
hamster wheel spinning for another generation or so, at considerable fiscal and
environmental cost. But none of these strategies will stop the wheel of increasing need
and hardening demand from spinning, or even slow it down.
And no one dares mention that, over the long term, water conservation paints us into a
tighter and tighter corner. Optimists say that conservation at least buys us time by putting
off the day of reckoning. This may be true, but what are we doing with the time we’ve
Another argument holds that, when push comes to shove, we can always squeeze more
water out of agriculture. Some water districts have already done this, partly by financing
agricultural efficiencies, partly by moving the water out and dewatering valleys. Even
this strategy has limits, however, and it raises other troubling issues, such as: How do we
In the end we are back where we started, lacking the ability to set limits and live within
them. I don’t have an answer to this conundrum, but it seems to me the sooner people
start talking about it openly, the better our chances of solving it.
Meanwhile, our rivers, cities, and farms remain in peril.
William deBuys is a contributor to Writers on the Range, an opinion syndicate of High
Country News (hcn.org). His seventh book, A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the
Future of the American Southwest, will appear late in 2011.
Editor’s note: The following originally appeared on http://www.localenergynews.org/news/2011/8/2/the-risk-at-buckman.html
Santa Fe recently brought online a new system that takes water out of the Rio Grande to supplement its municipal drinking water. Unfortunately the new system, called the Buckman Direct Diversion, draws water from directly beneath several canyons that regularly dump storm water laced with radionuclides and other bomb-making contaminants.
What on earth would prompt Santa Fe officials to draw municipal drinking water from below the Los Alamos National Labs – host to more than 2,000 known toxic dumpsites? You might ask them. Seriously, if you are concerned you should attend a Buckman Direct Diversion Board meeting, where you can ask them directly (next meeting Oct. 6, City Hall, 4 p.m.). If you can’t make a meeting, you can always call or email the board members:
Consuelo Bokum [email protected] 505-982-4342
Chris Calvert [email protected] 505-955-6812
Danny Mayfield [email protected] 505-986-6200
Rosemary Romero [email protected] 505-690-3016
Liz Stefanics [email protected] 505-986-6210
Virginia Vigil [email protected] 505-955-2755
Rebecca Wurzburger [email protected] 505-955-6815
They will tell you that they commissioned a study to look at the risk to Santa Fe residents, and the study concluded that there was “no health risk” posed by drinking water from Buckman.
No health risk? None?
Here are a few things you should know about the risk analysis.
First, there is no such thing as a system with “no risk.” Everything has risk, and when it comes to engineered systems, history is rife with examples of engineers under-predicting risk. I pointed this out in a letter to the Santa Fe New Mexican last November, and surprisingly, I got a call the next day from an investigator from the New Mexico Board of Registration for Professional Engineers. He reminded me that when I became licensed as an engineer in New Mexico, I agreed to abide by a Code of Professional Conduct that includes reporting substandard engineering practice that might affect public safety.
So last November, I filed a formal complaint against ChemRisk – the company that did the risk analysis. The investigator, Roman Garcia, told me that no ChemRisk employees could be found on the rolls of licensed engineers in New Mexico.
It’s one thing to practice engineering without a license, and it’s another to tell 100,000 users of a water system that there is no health risk from drinking water taken from beneath a nuclear waste dump.
The results of ChemRisk’s report were released in draft form in October, 2010 after Santa Fe had already spent more than $200 million on the Buckman project. ChemRisk charged $200,000 for the analysis – about one-tenth of one percent of the project cost. Seems like that might have been a good investment to make before the start of the project, rather than after its completion.
On its website, ChemRisk bills itself as the “premier contractor in the U.S for characterizing former nuclear weapons complex sites.” In other words, they have carried out millions of dollars worth of work on behalf of LANL and other weapons complexes. Are they willing to jeopardize those contracts in favor of a little $200,000 contract for Santa Fe? This is commonly known as an “inherent conflict of interest.”
ChemRisk’s integrity has been questioned before. In 1997, the Wall Street Journal reported that ChemRisk “reanalyzed” data from another scientist and published their work in a scientific journal, under the original scientist’s byline, reversing the conclusion that chromium contamination in drinking water leads to an increased risk of stomach cancer. ChemRisk didn’t mention that the work was paid for by PG&E, who was working at the time on the infamous Erin Brockovich case. PG&E paid $333 million to settle the Brokovich case, and the scientific journal retracted the article.
Did ChemRisk’s do anything unethical when they analyzed the Buckman data? In my opinion they did, but they may have gotten some help from the Buckman Board. Buried in ChemRisk’s report is an assumption that four of the most dangerous contaminants known to wash into the Rio Grande above Buckman are removed before anyone drinks the water. In other words, they analyzed the risk of contamination after the contaminants were removed, allowing them to state that there is “no health risk.”
Just about anyone can tell you that after you remove contaminants, there is no risk of contamination. You don’t need to spend $200,000 to find that out.
An article published in the Santa Fe New Mexican last December claims that the decision to study the risk of contamination under the assumption that contaminants had been removed was made by the Buckman board of directors. That would be shocking if it turns out to be true. Perhaps we should ask them.
I haven’t carried out my own analysis of the risk of LANL contamination getting into Santa Fe’s drinking water and making people sick, but my guess is that over the long run it’s somewhere around 100 percent. My reasoning is this: If you put one bullet in a six-shooter, spin the cylinder, point the barrel at your head and pull the trigger, the odds of killing yourself are just one in six. But it is a well established fact that if you repeat the game over and over again, day after day, you will surely kill yourself. It is a mathematical certainty.
As long as the Buckman pumps continue to run and the LANL toxins continue to flow, Santa Feans are playing a perpetual game of Russian Roulette with their drinking water. Unless LANL cleans their waste out of the canyons above Buckman, eventually our water supply will become toxic
It is, sadly, a mathematical certainty.
Mark Sardella is a professional engineer and the co-founder of the nonprofit Local
Water, in all its forms, is under attack. How we respond to this attack
will determine our future and that of millions of other species on this
Corporations are focused on water as a bottom line and a mere commodity
for their survival – from buying and selling, to fracking aquifers – a major
source of aquifer pollution that threatens water supplies throughout the
country – to agribusiness farming with its massive chemical input that
pollutes nearly all of our streams and rivers and oceans, electricity
generation that consumes billions of gallons of fresh river water every
year, to large-scale development, deforestation and the death of our
All this is seen as the absolute “right” of corporations, while
communities are left powerless. A grim picture – but not hopeless.
Many communities in the U.S. have passed local ordinances that protect
their water from corporate ownership and destruction. Bolivia and
Ecuador recently placed their water within the protection of their
In the arid Southwestern bioregion we are facing increasing record
temperatures, droughts, decreased snow pack and lower river flows, along
with the degradation of our farming and grazing lands.
In Santa Fe County we financed the Buckman Direct Diversion Project –
which will supply much of Santa Fe’s potable water from the Rio Grande.
This system is sited downstream from the oldest and most polluted nuclear
weapons complex in America. It is sited beneath the Pajarito Plateau, which
has experienced two major wildfires within the last decade, resulting in
massive flows of ash throughout the canyon systems that drain into the Rio
Grande above Buckman. It depends on its water from a river basin that is
increasingly compromised by climate change – one that is over-appropriated
by powerful entities down river: Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, to
mention a few.
How did we get into this astonishingly screwed-up situation where the
very basis of life is owned by, controlled by, polluted and depleted by
corporate interests with little or no say from the citizens? And how do
we get out of it, into a world where a healthy water cycle, healthy
watersheds and democratic control of water are seen as basic rights?
We must first begin to pass and enforce local water ordinances within
our counties. These could prohibit fracking of aquifers, outlaw corporate
water withdrawal from aquifers, prohibit any pollutants from entering our
rivers and streams, and codify the rights of nature within local law.
To accomplish this we will need to return to a basic, democratic form of
governance – one that recognizes the rights of nature and the power of
local communities to protect those rights. This will be a completion of
the original revolution upon which our country was founded and the
creation of a whole new democratic story based on life, resiliency,
democracy and sacred world.
This dialogue is already taking place within many communities throughout
New Mexico, the nation and the world.
In Santa Fe we will be holding ongoing dialogues on water at the
Travel Bug every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. These conversations will bring
together political activists, water activists, food activists, energy
activists, grazing activists, forest health activists, scientists,
writers, poets, and ecologists to begin weaving together the broken strands
of a truly resilient and democratic bioregional water system. This will
culminate in a statewide water summit in January. Please join us for
these dialogues, and together we can plan our water future.
David Bacon was the Green Party candidate for governor of New Mexico in 2006. He hosts a radio program on KSFR and coordinates the water series at the Travel Bug in Santa Fe.
Politics for profit
Suppose you wanted to make a killing on the stock market. The first requirement is that you are a billionaire already – that way if the scheme backfires, you can just kick your dog and go on. One little problem, however. “Talking down” a stock to lower its price so you can buy it cheap and sell later at a profit is illegal – life isn’t fair!
Some billionaires have figured out a way to get around that little problem, as the recent drop in the stock market shows. First, you sprinkle a little cigar money among right-wing “think tanks” to inspire their hack writers to endlessly “talk down” the entire U.S. economy. Ayn Rand addicts in Congress chime in and concoct various ways to slash and burn their way through the federal budget, taking specific aim at programs benefiting students, the ill, the elderly and the poor.
Naturally, the targeted groups and the increasingly nervous middle class cease spending except for the most dire necessities, the economy shudders and quakes, employers slash payrolls and defer expansions and upgrades. Finally, Standard and Poors, asleep during the Savings and Loan debacle, the Enron failure, the Bush liar-loan “securitized debt obligations” train-wrecks, is prodded awake to pronounce the U.S. economy on life support.
Insulated by ideologues in Congress from paying taxes on their gains, clever billionaires make a list of companies to take over at fire-sale prices as stock prices go down, picking off take-over victims as though they were so many clay pigeons, reaming out their assets and sending their U.S. employees into the street.
Ho-hum, is it time for the next trophy wife, or a new yacht – this time with a helicopter pad and a ramp for the Rolls – or two?
Christus St. Vincent Redux
“90 % of Texans give the other 10% a bad name.”
– Doc, Mary Doria Russell
Lee H. Ervin
The good news is that Christus St. Vincent Hospital, “a healing ministry,” is not a bad hospital. Not a great hospital, mind you, but not a bad hospital. Christus St. Vincent is, according to the Medicare.gov website (<http.//www.medicare.gov>), an average hospital in terms of patient outcome. Rejoice. Things could be worse. Actually they do get worse and then back to average.
Christus St. Vincent Hospital is listed on the Hospital Compare area of Medicare.gov as being no different from the national rates for death rates from heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia patients. Fair enough. We’ve got an average chance of getting out of the place alive, and to be fair, more than a few of us have. In the last year the hospital reported over 11,000 admissions, did better than 5,000 inpatient and outpatient surgeries and saw an astounding 52,000 people in their emergency room.
But what about the quality of care, the caring, the healing experience at Christus St. Vincent? Not to put too fine a point on it, but Christus St. Vincent Hospital is at the bottom of the barrel; the bottom. Of 14 hospitals within a 100-mile radius of Santa Fe, Christus St. Vincent ranks dead last in terms of patient hospital experience (Medicare.gov/Hospital Compare). Christus St. Vincent is in fact below the national average in 10 out of 10 areas of patient satisfaction and below the New Mexico average in nine out of 10 areas. Take a look at http://www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov/staticpages/help/hospital-resources.aspx
Why is patient satisfaction below average at Christus St. Vincent hospital?
Headquartered in Irving, Texas, Christus administers 41 hospitals, mainly in smaller towns and cities in Texas and Oklahoma. They operate one hospital in each of Utah, Missouri, Iowa, Arkansas, Georgia and of course Santa Fe. For good measure, Christus administers five hospitals in old Mexico, where presumably they have few if any pesky labor problems. But the question is, how does the Christus health care system rate overall in patient satisfaction? Do all their hospitals consistently rate below average like St. Vincent
Nope. None of them do.
Hospitals in the Christus system, with the obvious exception of St. Vincent, rate about average, and in some cases higher than average in patient satisfaction. The problem is not systemic.
Is the problem money, lack of funds?
Not even close. In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, Christus St. Vincent reported revenues of $299.3 million and expenses of $278 million – $21.3 million more revenue than expenses. That is $21.3 million in profit but, since the Catholic faith-based healing ministry is a non-profit, they must have another word for it. Seems like profit to me.
In addition to the $21.3 million in “profit,” Christus St. Vincent hospital pays a “management fee” to a “Christus Health” down in Texas. Christus does not disclose the dollar amount of the management fee; however, if this management fee does not put at least a few more million dollars in the coffers of Christus then the corporation’s assets don’t total $41 billion, which they do. The point is that at this time, Christus St. Vincent’s poor record of patient satisfaction hasn’t got anything to do with lack of funds.
Does poor patient satisfaction have to do with Christus management? Research, to be published in the elite journal Social Science and Medicine, shows that hospital quality scores are approximately 25 percent higher in physician-run hospitals than in the average hospital. “Outstanding hospitals tend to be run by someone with a medical degree,” said the paper’s author, Amanda Goodall, Ph.D. The CEO of the Christus conglomerate has a business degree and is a former chief financial officer. Christus St. Vincent CEO Alex Valdez is a lawyer and former chief financial officer.
For an example of a physician-administered hospital, we don’t have to look far. Again, according to Medicare.gov/Hospital Compare, we find that 90 percent of the patients gave Physicians Medical Center of Santa Fe a rating of 9 or 10 compared to just 51 percent of the patients at Christus St. Vincent. Eighty-nine percent of patients surveyed would definitely recommend Physicians Medical Center; 56 percent would definitely recommend Christus St. Vincent.
Then there is the matter of nurse turnover. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported in February 2011 that there had been a 25 percent turnover among Christus St. Vincent nurses in the last 14 months. Keeping with their policy of honesty and openness, hospital spokesperson Arturo Delgado refused to confirm or deny. Nor did the spokesman respond to questions about the average level of experience of the new nurses being hired.
In the same article, Delgado stated that “Christus St. Vincent is not seeking to replace older, experienced nurses with recent graduates.” Allegations that the hospital has embarked on such a program are not rare. In fact at least one lawsuit has been launched. One can hope that Mr. Delgado is not disingenuous here. Quality nursing matters. According to a 2009 publication by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “The loss of veteran nurses is especially costly. Nursing expertise takes years to develop; when experienced nurses leave, health care systems pay a heavy price because less-experienced nurses may not recognize symptoms as quickly, understand systems, or know the best ways to avoid certain medical errors.” Of course veteran, experienced nurses cost more, and of course a reasonable nurse-to-patient ratio is essential to proper patient outcome, as well as satisfaction.
It is safe to say that for Christus the prolonged labor negotiations with the nurses’ union, which ended about a month ago, averting a strike, was a public relations disaster. Christus seemed shifty. Christus was not open. Christus ran ridiculous ads that may even have been panned in Texas. The negotiations ended with the nurses giving up as much as $5 million in wages and benefits. They now can be forced to work overtime. However, the central argument between the nurses and the administration was safe staffing levels. Here it appears the nurses retained some say, some dignity, and preserved their jobs and their union, which is the only one in the 41-member Christus system. We will see how it works out.
If it works out well, Christus St. Vincent will be a better hospital. If it works out well, St. Vincent nurses can take a full half-hour break each 12-hour shift. If it works out well, the patient experience levels today might just rise right on up to average – God willing, a little higher.
“The bottom line” is an essential component for any business, but so are pride, respect and honesty. It used to be in America a business could have both.
For 20 years Lee Ervin was an editor and writer for the award-winning Crested Butte Chronicle and Pilot. He has made Northern New Mexico his home for the past 12 years. Thanks to Steve Stockdale (Discern This! blog, http://thisisnotthat.com/wordpress/) for background information on Christus St. Vincent.
Survey of Patients’ Hospital Experiences
HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) is a national survey that asks patients about their experiences during a recent hospital stay. Use the results shown here to compare hospitals based on ten important hospital quality topics.
|Measure Description||ST VINCENT HOSPITAL||NEW MEXICO AVERAGE||NATIONAL AVERAGE|
|Patients who reported that their nurses “Always” communicated well.||
ST VINCENT HOSPITAL
New Mexico Average
|Patients who reported that their doctors “Always” communicated well.||
ST VINCENT HOSPITAL
New Mexico Average
|Patients who reported that they “Always” received help as soon as they wanted.||
ST VINCENT HOSPITAL
New Mexico Average
|Patients who reported that their pain was “Always” well controlled.||
ST VINCENT HOSPITAL
New Mexico Average
|Patients who reported that staff “Always” explained about medicines before giving it to them.||
ST VINCENT HOSPITAL
New Mexico Average
|Patients who reported that their room and bathroom were “Always” clean.||
ST VINCENT HOSPITAL
New Mexico Average
|Patients who reported that the area around their room was “Always” quiet at night.||
ST VINCENT HOSPITAL
New Mexico Average
|Patients at each hospital who reported that YES, they were given information about what to do during their recovery at home.||
ST VINCENT HOSPITAL
New Mexico Average
|Patients who gave their hospital a rating of 9 or 10 on a scale from 0 (lowest) to 10 (highest).||
ST VINCENT HOSPITAL
New Mexico Average
|Patients who reported YES, they would definitely recommend the hospital.||
by Peter P. Blanchard III, Hardcover, 224 pages
Published 2010 by UPNE
Book Review by Claire Ayraud
Everyone wants to know about the famous couple who gave up the good life in California in the 1940s after WWII to live on an island in Maine. With no modern conveniences except a generator and saw to cut wood, they eked out a life of seclusion with many surprises along the way.
They had no experience to guide them, however they seemed to do just fine living in harmony with nature and loving everything about it. The author met Nan Kellam after Art had died, as a representative of the Maine Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, to which the Kellams donated their island with a lifetime interest. So he was brought together with her at the end of her life, and the story of this couple sparked something inside him. He was privy to their manuscripts journaling island life,. and he knew that they had wanted to publish some sort of record of their lives.
Blanchard is very sensitive to who they were and the time period in which they lived; his prose is much like Nan’s: poetic, romantic in a way that seems to fit with the entries in her journal.
Also I was struck with how it seemed like my own grandmother writing about her life. She was always hopeful, bring out all the good things and glossing over any strife or hardship. As a reader, I wanted to know all the details: Did they have an outhouse,? How was that managed? How did they cook, with gas or wood? How did they take showers? But Nan doesn’t really talk about this, and Blanchard follows suit. He does dig a little deeper into it, but I wanted all the intimate details. He focuses more on the love between Art and Nan, just as she does in her diary
It is a lovely story, well-told — with integrity, humor and drama — and I was fascinated from cover to cover, waiting for any tidbit of information that might show me who these people were. I was not satisfied at the end, and I wanted more, but I think that Blanchard didn’t want to invent anything, rather stick with the truth from the writings.
In retrospect, I appreciate that more than if he had speculated too much. The picture of Art and Nan is clear, as much as they wanted you to know, and the rest is personal. My Nana certainly never spoke of her and my grandpa’s sex life, or money issues or what kind of privy they used. And so it is with this lovely book, a tribute to a relationship with each other and the nature that is the island of the title.
Photographs by David Graham and others really bring this book alive, and it was to this I looked for clues of who they were and what they were like. The island’s beauty is captured here in all the stark harshness of winter, along with summer’s splendor, and I felt their wonder and awe at the power of nature in their lives.
While mainstream media in recent months was encouraging collective dithering over a possible U.S. government shutdown, the chilling realities of off-the-chart levels of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, escalating upheavals throughout the Middle East, and surging oil prices have been simmering in the background, remaining the lethal environmental, geopolitical, and economic time bombs that they are. Many weeks ago, I was well aware that a government shutdown was highly unlikely but would be used to distract our attention from more urgent matters, and thus, I reported only one story about it in my Daily News Digest <http://www.carolynbaker.net> .
In the spring I returned from Northern California where residents there were profoundly anxious regarding the effects of radiation on the West Coast from Fukushima. How not, when on April 1, the San Francisco area newspaper, Bay Citizen, reported that “Radiation from Japan rained on Berkeley during recent storms at levels that exceeded drinking water standards by 181 times and has been detected in multiple milk samples, but the U.S. government has still not published any official data on nuclear fallout here from the Fukushima disaster”?
In typical American media fashion, out of sight, out of mind. As summer arrived, fewer and fewer stories of radiation realities in and issuing from Japan were being reported. An occasional comment still surfaced, usually assuring us that we have nothing to fear. It’s all so benign. Apparently, we could now move on to “really important” stories like Obama’s 2012 campaign and the royal wedding.
And yet, whether explicitly stated or not, Americans and billions of other individuals throughout the world, are not only terrified about radiation but about their economic future – an economic future that will be inexorably more ruinous as a result of the Japan tragedy and its economic ripples globally. By that I do not mean that they feel mild anxiety about embellishing their stock portfolios, but rather, are feeling frightened about how they are going to feed their families, where they will live after losing their house in foreclosure, where they might find employment in a world where having a full-time job is becoming increasingly rare, how they will access healthcare without insurance or the money to pay out of pocket, or how they will make ends meet in forced or voluntary retirement.
Obviously, these anxieties are relevant to the world’s middle classes and not to teeming masses of human beings living on two dollars per day or less. Ironically, however, it is frequently the case that for all the suffering of abjectly impoverished human beings, they have seldom known any other standard of living and have learned how to survive on virtually nothing. They hear no reports of nuclear meltdowns, and even if they did, such news would seem insignificant in the face of needing to secure food or water for today – a type of existence that contains its own traumas and yields dramatically short lifespans.
Having inhabited a middle-class existence, one can only comfort oneself for so long by reflecting on the plight of the destitute in far-off places. One’s immediate reality is an anomalous deprivation, a stark loss of the familiar, and the looming reality that things will not get better, but only worse, and that these losses are unpredictably punctuated with frightening events such as extreme weather, natural disasters, nuclear meltdowns, or the terrifying consequences of rotting infrastructure such as pipeline explosions or collapsing bridges. These realities take their toll on the body – sleepless nights, a weakened immune system, moodiness, anger, depression, despair, and often, suicidal thinking. Whether the trauma is dramatic and frequent such as a 9.0 earthquake in Japan followed by high-intensity aftershocks, or whether it slowly grinds on amid a disquieting sense of the permanent loss of so much that one held dear, the landscapes of countless lives are forever, painfully altered, emotionally littered with charred shells of once-exuberant and robust routines.
Yes YOU Have Been Traumatized
But, you may argue, I haven’t been traumatized. My life is amazingly normal. I’m weathering the collapse of industrial civilization reasonably well and feel profoundly grateful.
Indeed, I celebrate your good fortune, but I must add that no inhabitant of industrial civilization is without trauma because that paradigm is by definition traumatizing.
It is only when you understand the extent to which you have been traumatized outside of your awareness that you can effectively prepare for and yes, welcome, the demise of empire and its ghastly assaults on your soul and the earth community.
In the face of extreme weather events and earth changes, skyrocketing food and energy prices, increasingly dramatic expressions of civil unrest globally, massive unemployment, global economic evisceration of the middle classes, and the proliferation of toxins worldwide – whether from fracking in Pennsylvania or leaking reactors in Japan, we are all in varying states of emotional breakdown and breakthrough. The sands are shifting under the feet of all human beings on this planet. Nothing is as it seems. “Things fall apart,” wrote William Butler Yeats, “the center cannot hold.”
Call it whatever you like—collapse, Transition, Great Turning. Put a happy face on it or a terrified one, but regardless of how you spin it, regardless of how much you want to feel good about it – and there is much to feel good about – the changes are dizzying, sometimes delightful, sometimes devastating. Yes, it’s an exciting time to be alive, and it’s an excruciating time to be alive. Sometimes one feels schizophrenic, sometimes bipolar. But all of that, yes all of that, is traumatizing to the human nervous system, and if we don’t recognize that, we’re probably hiding out in the “Hurt Locker” of empire.
So how do we not hide out? How do we face our trauma, begin healing it, and protect ourselves as much as humanly possible from further wounding, particularly as life becomes even more traumatic?
The Transition movement has provided us with a treasure-trove of resources for cultivating logistical resilience in our communities through awareness-raising, re-skilling, and creating self-sufficient and sustainable communities. Anyone not involved in this kind of logistical preparation is only half-awake, yet many individuals believe that no other preparation is necessary. Might that not, in fact, be one characteristic of trauma? Just as the PTSD-scarred combat veteran insists that all he needs is another good battle to make him feel better, it may be that the hunger for one more gold or silver coin, one more case of freeze-dried food, one more bucket of barley, one more permaculture class, one more emergency response training is yet another means of avoiding the emotional healing and preparation work every human being needs to do in order to navigate the accelerating unraveling of the world as we have known it.
A Few Ways Of Developing Emotional Resilience
Understand that industrial civilization is inherently traumatizing. Make a list of the ways it has wounded you and those you care about.
If you are involved with a Transition initiative, start or join a heart and soul group where the psychology of change (see The Transition Handbook <http://www.amazon.com/Transition-Handbook-Dependency-Resilience-Guides/dp/1900322188/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1302560968&sr=1-1>) can be discussed in depth and group members can share feelings about the acceleration of collapse as well as share how they are preparing for it emotionally. (A newly emerging Santa Fe Transition group, Transition Town Santa Fe, <http://www.facebook.com/groups/237769009577936/> holds monthly potlucks, etc.)
Become familiar with your emotional repertoire and how you deal with your emotions – or not. Imagine the kinds of emotions that you and others are likely to feel in an unraveling world. How do you imagine yourself dealing with those emotions? How would you prefer to deal with them?
Think about how you need to take care of yourself right now in an increasingly stressful world. What stresses do you need to pull back from? What self-nurturing activities do you need to increase?
Who is your support system? If you do not have people in your life with whom you can discuss the present and coming chaos, you are doubly stressed. Find people with whom you can talk about this on a regular basis.
What are you doing to create joy in your life? Do you have places in your life where you can have fun without spending money or without talking about preparation for the future?
What are you doing to create beauty? Life may become uglier on many levels, including the physical environment. How can you infuse more beauty into the world? Use art, music, poetry, dance, theater, storytelling and other media to enhance the beauty of your community and your immediate environment.
Consider creating a regular poetry reading salon in which people come together, perhaps monthly, to share poems or stories which express the full range of human emotions. Many communities have found poetry sharing events to be incredibly rich venues for deepening connections and their own emotional resilience.
Spend as much time as possible in nature. Read books and articles on ecopsychology and take contemplative walks or hikes <http://contemplativehiking.com> in which you intentionally engage in dialog with nature.
Engage at least twice a day in some kind of mindfulness practice such as meditation, inner listening, journaling, guided visualization. Still another tool for mindfulness and community deepening is sacred earth-based rituals which can be done individually or shared in a group.
It is important to remember that challenging experiences are not necessarily traumatizing experiences. The collapse of industrial civilization will be challenging for those who have been preparing for it; for those who haven’t, it will constitute massive trauma. The less attached we are to living life as we have known it, and the more open and resilient we are – the more we are utilizing the myriad tools that exist for preparing our emotions, our bodies and our souls for collapse – the more capacity we create for navigating a formidable future.
All of the above suggestions are related to releasing stress from the mind and body. As the external stresses of an unraveling civilization accumulate, we all need ways for letting go of them. My friend, Jerry Allen, of Transition Sebastopol, Calif. who is also a marriage and family therapist, recently penned an article entitled “The Importance of Effectively Discharging Accumulated Stress As Our World Moves Into Crisis,” in which he states:
Learning to effectively release accumulated stress is not some peripheral process that is needed primarily to treat returning soldiers and victims of abuse, as important as that treatment is. Learning to let go of accumulated stress and discharge new stresses is a vital skill for all of us who are preparing ourselves to face the unknown future. It is as important as doing physical emergency preparations. We have witnessed the chaos, rage and panic that can grip communities when devastating changes happen. When panic hits as someone yells “fire” in a crowded theatre, other voices need to be ready to stand aside and start singing loudly to calm the people and re-direct their energies. Such work has saved hundreds of people from trampling deaths in panicked crowds. If we are still too activated by our own build-up of trauma, we will not be in a position to discharge fast and take quick decisive community initiative.
As we prepare to serve in a helping role among many, it makes sense to train a vibrant cadre of our community members on how to cultivate body awareness, let go of stress fast, remobilize our adaptive capacity and be ready for action. It also makes sense to explore and adapt the use of story, song, dance, ritual and whatever works to help our communities come together, heal together and strengthen our joint body for action.
My just-published book Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Handbook For Inner Transition <http://www.amazon.com/Navigating-Coming-Chaos-Handbook-Transition/dp/1450270875/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302558134&sr=8-1> is chock full of re-usable tools for creating and maintaining vibrant emotional resilience. It is also ideal for use in Transition heart and soul or study groups focused on creating emotional resilience.
I do not assume that a world of increasing crises will be a world devoid of cooperation or community building. In her brilliant 2009 book, A Paradise Built In Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise In Disaster <http://www.amazon.com/Paradise-Built-Hell-Extraordinary-Communities/dp/B003F76CA2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302559520&sr=8-1> Rebecca Solnit notes that in most natural disasters, human beings unite in a spirit of cooperation to support each other. While I certainly concur and reviewed Solnit’s book in an article entitled, “Disaster: The Gift That Keeps On Giving” <http://archive.carolynbaker.net/content/view/1289/1/> I am also well aware that cooperation is not the only response to trauma. Furthermore, the collapse of industrial civilization is most likely to play out in an irregular, “lumpy” fashion in different locations at different times. How it plays out and over what period of time will dictate how humans respond. One thing is certain: Responses will not always be benevolent, caring and cooperative.
Thus we must prepare for a very uncertain future by consciously cultivating emotional resilience. This involves addressing the myriad ways in which we have been traumatized by the current paradigm and training with intention for encountering situations in the future which may be even more emotionally challenging in a world unraveling.
Carolyn Baker, Ph.D., is the author of Coming Out of Fundamentalist Christianity: An Autobiography Affirming Sensuality, Social Justice and The Sacred (2007) and Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse (2009). She manages the Speaking Truth to Power website at www.carolynbaker.net <http://www.carolynbaker.net/> . Her forthcoming latest book is Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Handbook For Inner Transition.
I remember a beautiful end-of-summer in Scotland ten years ago. In lovely sunlight the soft breezes carried the lilt of lassies comin’ through the rye and lovers takin’ th’ high road to Loch Lomond.
Back home unemployment was a rising concern; it had reached 4.9 per cent in August, the highest rate in four years. Private employers had just cut 130,000 jobs, ten times the predicted amount, and shipped nearly 50,000 jobs overseas.
Independent economists said the bad news meant the long-awaited economic recovery still was not in sight. Not to worry, “we’re about where we should be,” said the chief economist at Merrill Lynch, one of the Wall Street firms that was happily selling AAA-rated investment packages that seven years later would be called “sub-prime” and “toxic.”
On a hillside east of a small town in the Scottish highlands, a natural waste-disposal field was in its fifth experimental year. Although toxic slush was deep underfoot somewhere, the air was scented only by a profusion of wildflowers. There’s more than one way to deal with toxic.
The remains of an ancient Roman fortification crested the hill. Later in the afternoon we would stand in its shade and watch Scotsmen sling a haggis in a traditional festival game. A few days later, we took a leisurely drive toward John O’Groat., stopping often to admire rocky shorelines and the occasional sandy beach.
When we stopped for fuel, the attendant for the single pump recognized us as Yanks. “Did y’ hear about the Twin Towers?” he asked. BBC radio told us the latest about the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The U. S. national debt was just a shade over $5 trillion.
When he finally emerged from hiding, the President of the United States led a campaign of fear, half-truths, outright falsehood and “cooked” intelligence to launch a war against a country that had nothing to do with the September attacks and whose sleazy dictator had nothing to do with those who organized and financed it.
When he left office, that president and his unfunded wars had doubled the national debt.
Unemployment was over 10 percent.
The toxic assets Wall Street had sold as prime investments went “poof!” and the richest banks in the world were on their knees, begging.
A new president printed new money and showered it on the bankers who had brought the world to the brink of depression.
The national debt rose to $12 trillion.
The wars went on.
The unemployment rate remained twice what it had been in 2001. That’s not counting millions more jobless who have been unemployed for so long they no longer count as “statistics.”
So far only one man running for president has offered a plan intended to provide jobs for some of the unemployed. It calls essentially for tax credits to private employers to encourage them to hire more people. (These are the same private employers who cut 130,000 jobs in August of 2010 and shipped 50,000 of them overseas, causing independent economists to warn that we’d better do something soon about unemployment.)
Last month, the U. S. economy did not add one new job. Zero. Zilch. As soon as John Boehner says it’s OK, the president will talk to the nation about jobs.
What he says isn’t likely to do much for the millions without work. Talk doesn’t buy groceries.
Last month, for the first time in ten years, not one American was killed in Iraq in George Bush’s war. However, it was the worst month ever for American deaths in Afghanistan, Barack Obama’s war. Nobody reports the losses here and there in the dozen or so clandestine wars we’re fighting.
No politician running for president is talking about ending the wars that put us deeply in debt as a nation. Yet all the politicians say the debt is a crisis.
It is such a big, big crisis that we can’t afford to create public sector jobs fixing a national infrastructure that has been neglected for so long that it’s a risk to life and limb for our common citizens.
But it’s not so big a crisis that we need to end the huge tax cuts we gave to our very richest citizens.
This isn’t a country. It’s a bloody zoo, and the animals are in charge.
Read more by Thomas Wark at http://bordellopianist.blogspot.com
Some of you may remember the 1976 movie, Network. In a scene that still lives in the memories of many of us who saw the movie, Howard Beale, played by the late Peter Finch, opens his high-rise apartment window, sticks his head out and yells: “I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”
In his famous soliloquy, Beale explains: “I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad… [T]here’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it…. We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’ Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad!….All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!’ So I want you to get up now… and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE’’… Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!… ”
It’s 36 years later, and things have gotten much, much worse. And, yes, some of us have gotten mad. But very few of us are really doing anything about it. We feel afraid, helpless, hopeless, perplexed, unaffected, stuck and a number of other disempowering feelings. And, while our feelings are important, and we need to deal with them, my sense is that our country is sinking so fast that we do not have the luxury or time for months or years of therapy to examine our collective depression.
The best natural remedy for being down is getting up. That is, getting up off your rear and taking action. Doing something is better than doing nothing. Even if it does not work, you learn from what you do and how to improve upon it. Perhaps, most importantly, taking action gets you involved, and you do feel better.
Millions of Americans voted for Barack Obama for president in 2008 and felt good about it. We knew the country was in really bad shape. Candidate Obama gave us hope, and we trusted him when he promised, “Change you can believe in.” But electing Obama has not come close to solving our country’s problems. In fact, what I have learned from the last several elections is that no matter whom we elect, they will not solve what’s wrong with this country. Only the American people can do that.
In order for We, the people, to begin changing the country and putting it on the path toward the democracy we read about in our high school civic books, we first need to be clear about what the problem we are trying to solve is. Fifty years ago President Eisenhower in his Farewell Address warned us about the power of the military-industrial complex. Several decades prior to that, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis observed: “You can have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, or democracy, but you cannot have both.” Simply put, our government is controlled by powerful corporations and the super rich, what has come to be known as the plutocracy. The average voter has little or no say in what our government does or does not do. All you have to do is trace the enormous amount of money that lobbyists and big campaign contributors spend in Washington to determine whom our government really serves.
The next step in solving our country’s problems is to believe in ourselves and our ability to make a difference. Yes, the odds are stacked against us. But, history tells us that mass movements – the women’s movement, the environmental movement, the civil rights movement, the labor movement – can and do effect real change. The one thing that all of these efforts have had in common was that a tremendous number of people got involved in each of them because the people felt they had a real, tangible interest in the outcome.
The biggest, most effective movement in my lifetime (I’m 66) was the one against the Vietnam War. The reason the anti-Vietnam War movement was successful in helping to stop the war was because most Americans had a personal stake in it. Everyone either could have been drafted and sent to Vietnam or knew someone, a friend or relative, who could have been drafted. Consequently, millions of people took to the streets. “Hell no, we won’t go” was the common cry that united us.
Our challenge today is to educate Americans so that they clearly understand that they have a very real, personal stake in the continuing control of our government by powerful corporations and the super rich. (For instance, Americans pay much higher prices for prescription drugs because of the vise-grip the pharmaceutical companies have on Congress.) When Americans truly comprehend how much our corrupt political system personally affects them, only then will a mass movement, like those already mentioned, arise to take control of the government out of the hands of the plutocrats and turn it over to the people. So, all together now, stick your head out the window, and yell, “I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”
Bruce Berlin is a Santa Fe attorney who has been a political activist most of his life. For ways to get involved locally, go to MoveOn.org; DemocracyAtTheCrossroadsSF.org; or moneyouttapolitics.org.
State WIC program leads nation in some areas
The New Mexico Department of Health’s (DOH’s) Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program was one of the first in the nation to provide food benefits using the electronic benefit transfer (EBT) system. WIC serves approximately 62,000 participants monthly and is leading the nation in breastfeeding initiation rates (77 percent of WIC moms breastfeed their babies after birth, which is higher than the 75 percent goal by U.S. Healthy People 2011).
A recent review of the WIC Program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) found no instances of fraud. “FNS conducted a financial and program review [of WIC] and found no discrepancies,” said Bill Ludwig, Regional Administrator of FNS’s Southwest Region.
The FNS review, which examined four years (Oct. 1, 2005 through Sept. 30, 2009) of data totaling more than $168 million in expenditures, identified variances amounting to less than one-tenth of one percent (0.10%) and some issues with accounting procedures. The review confirmed the findings of an internal review and other reviews by annual financial audits, which also concluded that no fraud occurred, but that procedures could be strengthened. The FNS review recommended changes to internal accounting procedures and reconciliation processes, all of which are currently in practice or are being implemented.
“I am very pleased that our federal partners have fully reviewed these issues and have confirmed the conclusions of previous reviews of financial practices in the WIC Program. The Department will continue to serve New Mexico’s families with the utmost integrity,” said Dr. Catherine Torres, Cabinet Secretary for DOH.
The WIC Program serves New Mexico’s women and their children by providing supplemental food, nutrition education, and referrals to health and social services. For information on the WIC Program, visit http://www.nmwic.org <http://www.nmwic.org> or call 1-866-867-3124.
Santa Fe Alliance wins Pinon Award forvisionary
The Santa Fe Alliance has been chosen as one of four Piñon Award winners for 2011 by the Santa Fe Community Foundation. Often referred to as “the Academy Award for nonprofits,” the prestigious Piñon Awards are the only honor reserved exclusively for nonprofit organizations in Northern New Mexico.
The Santa Fe Alliance will receive the Visionary Award, which the Community Foundation presents to an organization “making measurable progress toward a well-articulated and achievable vision for what is to come, an organization that sees the ultimate outcome of their work being achieved far beyond the present, can anticipate the unmet needs of future generations, and has the stamina and patience to develop a path to success.”
“The Foundation awarded the Santa Fe Alliance the 2011 Visionary Award for their keen attention to local economies and sustainability,” said Brian Byrnes, President & CEO of Santa Fe Community Foundation. ”In a diverse region like ours, where industry can vary from small-scale farming to large universities, the Alliance is building awareness of the connections between local produce and tourism, film projects and green building and growing the region’s economic opportunities.”
The mission of the Santa Fe Alliance is to build a healthy local economy while preserving a strong sense of community; the Alliance envisions a just and sustainable global economy created by local economies that enhance community life, provide economic and social justice, and support locally owned businesses. Some specific Santa Fe Alliance programs to support the local economy include:
The Buy Local First community education initiative, which raises awareness about the impact of local purchasing; the Farm to Restaurant Project, a multi-pronged program of public education about local food purchasing, promotion of restaurants that purchase local food, and a delivery system for restaurants purchasing from northern New Mexico farmers; the Business to Film Program, which trains local businesses how to work with film productions in New Mexico in an effort to increase local purchasing of goods and services by the film industry; a Bank Local Initiative, educating the public on the value and impact of banking with local institutions; and a weekly talk radio show highlighting local business and economy issues.
As a business membership organization, the Alliance also produces business development workshops and networking events, including Green Drinks Santa Fe, the monthly networking event for eco-progressive individuals and businesses; and offers discount programs and other services to business owners, entrepreneurs and employees. The Alliance advocates at the local, state, and national levels, and partners with other organizations to influence public policy in support of a local sustainable economy.
“It is a great honor to be recognized by the Santa Fe Community Foundation for our leadership and work in the community,” says Santa Fe Alliance Executive Director Vicki Pozzebon. “We are a young organization by most standards, and here we are today, stronger than ever as a nationally recognized network and a local visionary of the new economy. This is truly an exciting time for us to be working on issues that impact locally owned businesses.”
The other non-profits being recognized this year (all of whom are Santa Fe Alliance members) are: Santa Fe Mountain Center (Tried & True Award), New Mexico Environmental Law Center (Quiet Inspiration Award), Southwest CARE, Es Mejor Saber program (Courageous Innovation Award).
Piñon Award event details
Tuesday, October 4th, 6:00 pm
Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W. San Francisco St.
Free and open to the public; no tickets necessary
Tuesday, October 4th, 6:00 pm
Eldorado Hotel & Spa, 309 W. San Fransisco St.
Tickets: $75/person (portion is tax deductible)
Purchase through the Lensic Box Office at 989-5362
Founded in 2003, the Santa Fe Alliance is the third largest Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE ) network in the US and their Regional Hub Leader for the second year. At the forefront of the local economy movement, through dynamic programs, education, outreach, advocacy, and collaborative partnerships, the Alliance is a catalyst for economic sustainability and growth in northern New Mexico. The Santa Fe Alliance has grown to a membership organization of nearly 500 locally owned businesses, non profits and community leaders, all working together to create a sustainable local economy. For more information on the Alliance’s award-winning and innovative programs, please visit www.santafealliance.com.
Report: New Revenue Will More Than Cover NM’s
Medicaid Expansion Costs
ALBUQUERQUE—New Mexico will come out millions of dollars ahead when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is fully implemented in 2014. The Act will bring in between $6 and $8 billion in federal funding for the expansion of Medicaid between 2014 and 2020. The NM Human Services Department has estimated that it will cost the state as much as $797 million for the expansion during those years. But a new report, released today by New Mexico Voices for Children, shows that the state will take in as much as $1.2 billion in new tax revenue from the economic activity generated by the new federal Medicaid funding, tax credits and premium subsidies.
“We’ve demonstrated for years that Medicaid is an economic engine for New Mexico—despite the current administration’s claim that it is ‘unsustainable,’” said Bill Jordan, Policy Director for NM Voices. “When Medicaid is expanded under the Affordable Care Act in 2014, our economy will get an even bigger boost. The new tax revenue will more than cover the state’s cost for the Medicaid expansion,” he added.
U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) released this statement: “This report offers further evidence that the Affordable Care Act is very good for the people of our state. Right now, nearly one in four New Mexicans lack basic health care coverage. The Affordable Care Act provides New Mexico with billions of dollars to reduce that number significantly and that, in turn, will help bring down the cost of health care for all of us.
The extent of the new economic activity is laid out in a companion report, “The Economic Benefits of Health Care Reform in New Mexico,” which NM Voices released earlier this summer. That report estimated between 38,000 and 47,000 jobs will be created by the federal dollars, bringing the state between $1.6 and $2.1 billion in economic activity.
The ACA will also reduce the net federal deficit by as much as $1 trillion over the next two decades.
NMSU study shows negligible effect of driver’s licenses
for undocumented immigrants
Allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses or requiring lawful residency identification has an “insignificant impact” on the percentage of uninsured drivers in New Mexico.
That’s according to New Mexico State University’s J. Tim Query, an associate professor of finance and business law, who decided to test assertions on both sides about the correlation between driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants and the number of uninsured motorists.
New Mexico is one of three states — including Utah and Washington — that allows immigrants to apply for a driver’s license without proving their legal residence.
Gov. Susanna Martinez has proposed that the state stop issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. That issue will be among others state lawmakers will consider during a special legislative session in September.
New Mexico is second in the nation in uninsured drivers at 25.7 percent, with Washington in 11th place at 16.1 percent. However, only seven states have a lower percentage of uninsured motorists than does Utah. That state has an estimated 8.2 percent rate of uninsured drivers, which is well below the national average of 13.8 percent. Utah’s licenses can only be used for driving.
“When examining data from the Insurance Research Council’s (IRC) periodic study of uninsured motorists,” Query said, “evidence is somewhat mixed in that states with loose requirements for a state-issued driver’s license did not have uniformly lower percentages of uninsured motorists.”
For example, according to IRC figures, Arizona saw its uninsured motorists rate drop from 17.8 percent in 2007 to 11.9 percent in 2009– a full year before its tough immigration law went into effect. Meanwhile, California’s uninsured drivers rate fell from 18.1 percent in 2007 to 15 percent in 2009. The IRC provided no reason for the drop in both states.
Query based his conclusions on statistics derived from the IRC, the Pew Hispanic Center, the Insurance Identification Database and the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division. Most of the data dates to 2007, when Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan and Oregon also allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. The most recent IRC data is from 2009. Query conducted his research with Risa Kumazawa, an assistant professor in the department of economics and quantitative sciences at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
Query identified factors that did cause an increase in the uninsured driver rate: the actual number of undocumented immigrants and unemployment.
“On average, a 1 percentage point increase in unauthorized immigrants relative to the labor force increases the uninsured motorists rate by 0.54 percentage points,” Query said. “We also find that a 1 percentage point increase in the state unemployment rate increases the uninsured motorists rate by 1.74 percentage points.”
Query points to other studies that find the uninsured driver rate drops when mandatory insurance laws are enforced more strictly and poverty rates are lower.
“While the fraction of unauthorized immigrants matters, the lawful residency requirement has a negligible impact on the percentage on uninsured motorists, based on the results of our study,” he said.
LOCAL AND GLOBAL 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.
Sunday, Sept. 18
11am to noon at the Travel Bug
839 Paseo De Peralta
Author, historian and conservationist William DuBuys discusses water issues and
climate change in the bioregion. William deBuys is a writer and conservationist based in Santa Fe. His first book, Enchantment and Exploitation: the Life and Hard Times of a New Mexico Mountain Range, which won a Southwest Book Award, combines the cultural and natural history of northern New Mexico. His recent books include River of Traps, Salt Dreams: Land and Water in Low-Down California, and The Walk. His forthcoming book is A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest.
(Part of the water series that has been created by David Bacon on Who Controls Water in the Bioregion. The programs are sponsored by journeysantafe (www.journeysantafe.com <http://www.journeysantafe.com> ).
2 pm at Collected Works Bookstore
202 Galisteo Street
Collected Works presents, writer, artist and Santa Fe native, Susan Gardner and her memoir, Drawing the Line, a powerfully evocative memoir of a life that starts in New York City and crosses East Asia, Western Europe, Latin Americ and the American southwest. It presents a record of love, adventure, sorrow and redemption. It recounts a life spent largely in motion, and the determined struggle to reach personal fulfillment in the face of contrary demands and persistent upheaval.
Susan Gardner is an internationally known painter, photographer, and poet. She has been a house builder, teacher and landscape designer. She makes her home and her art in Santa Fe.
Tuesday, Sept. 20
Santa Fe Rehearsal
5:30pm – 7pm
1614 Paseo de Peralta
Join Earth Care and our partner New Energy Economy on Saturday, Sept. 24 at noon for global action to stop climate change pollution, break fossil fuel dependence and create more renewable power. New Energy Economy is working with 350.org, Sierra Club, SWOP and others to organize a flash mob on Sept. 24 for the Moving Planet day of action. New Mexico needs SOL NOT COAL!
We will be holding two practice sessions (one in Santa Fe and one in Albuquerque) on Tuesday, Sept. 20 to rehearse the basic moves for the flash mob to be held on Saturday, Sept. 24 at noon in Albuquerque at a location with hundreds of people. The venue for the flash mob is set, but we need to keep it hush hush to maintain the element of surprise.
We will disclose the location and further details to all those who attend the practice.
If you are unable to make it to the practice but would still like to attend, contact us and we will find a way for you to participate. Join us in this “SOUL TRAIN” action to end coal in New Mexico! City:
Friday, Sept. 23
5:30 pm-6:30 pm Whole Foods Market
For information call 505-428-0069
Positive Energy, Inc. is dedicated to spreading the word about solar electricity and the environmental and financial benefits of this renewable energy source. In a partnership with Whole Foods Market™ on Cerrillos Road and Homewise™, Positive Energy, Inc. will provide information on the current federal and state tax rebates as well as the incentives being offered by public utilities. Homewise™ representatives will be there to offer advice on financing options, and there will be an opportunity to sign up for a free estimate on a solar photovoltaic system for your home. Learn about energy efficiency, off-setting your energy consumption and the opportunity to never pay an electric bill again.
Whole Foods Market ™ Community Room
753 Cerrillos Rd.
7 pm, $22 / $15 students at The Lensic
211 West San Francisco St
National Theatre of London in HD– One Man, Two Guvnors at The Lensic In Richard Bean’s English version of Goldoni’s classic Italian comedy, sex, food and money are high on the agenda. Fired from his skiffle band, Francis Henshall becomes minder to Roscoe Crabbe, a small time East End hood, now in Brighton to collect £6000 from his fiancee’s dad. But Roscoe is really his sister Rachel posing as her own dead brother, who’s been killed by her boyfriend Stanley Stubbers. Holed up at the Cricketers’ Arms, the permanently ravenous Francis spots the chance of an extra meal ticket and takes a second job with one Stanley Stubbers, who is hiding from the police and waiting to be re-united with Rachel. To prevent discovery, Francis must keep his two guvnors apart. Simple.
Saturday, Sept. 24
2 pm, $5 at New Mexico History Museum
located on the historic plaza in downtown Santa Fe
Gems of the Pueblo World
presented by New Mexico History Museum
New this year: A special lecture by retired National Park Service archaeologist Joan Mathien, “The Role of Gems and Minerals in the Pueblo Worlds,” Saturday, Sept. 24, in the History Museum Auditorium. Mathien worked on the Chaco Project analyzing ornaments and minerals and was editor for many of the project’s publications. Currently she is researching the Chaco field schools held from 1929-1942 and again in 1947. Mathien will talk about how Native Americans in the Southwest used gems and minerals for beads, pendants and mosaics pieces; known sources for some of the minerals; methods used to “fingerprint” minerals such as turquoise; possible trade relationships that moved goods between different cultural groups; and the continuity of the gems’ use into the present.
Sunday Sept. 25
11am to noon at the Travel Bug
839 Paseo De Peralta
Editor Steve Klinger will unveil the new newspaper, The Light of New Mexico (Sun Publishing, Skip Whitson, publisher), which will feature water on its cover in coordination with the ongoing water conversation series with David Bacon. The first edition will feature articles by various panel members, including Bacon, Craig Barnes, Mark Sardella, William DuBuys and others. Klinger is editor and publisher of the online newspaper Grassroots Press (http://www.grass-roots-press.com) and formerly was owner and editor-publisher of the Las Cruces Bulletin.
Part of the water series that has been created by David Bacon on Who Controls Water in the Bioregion. The programs are sponsored by journeysantafe (www.journeysantafe.com <http://www.journeysantafe.com> ).
Tues Sept. 27
5:30 pm Bishop’s Lodge
1297Bishops Lodge Rd.
Honor Minnie Gallegos and Art Bonal
at the presentation of the Ben & Carmen Lujan Awards,Democratic Party of Santa Fe County
Suggested (not required) contribution $75, Sponsor $300. Host $1,000 +
Wednesday, Sept. 28
7:00 pm at The Lensic
211 West San Francisco St
Readings & Conversations: Chimamanda Adichie with Binyavanga Wainaina at The Lensic, presented by Lannan Foundation $6 / $3 students and seniors
In her most recent book, That Thing Around Your Neck, Adichie turns her penetrating eye on not only Nigeria but America, in 12 stories that explore the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States.
Tuesday, Oct. 4
$40 at La Posada de Santa Fe
330 East Palace
Lunch and Learn with Cherie Burns
presented by NM Committee of National Museum of Women in the Arts
Cherie Burns is the author of The Great Hurricane: 1938, published by Grove/Atlantic (2005) in soft and hardcover. “Before there was the Perfect Storm, there was the Great Hurricane of 1938. Cherie Burns’s book is not only a riveting and wonderfully written account of one of the worst storms of the century, it is a marvelous portrait of an era and a region. A must for all New Englanders and lovers of the sea,” said National Book Award winner Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Heart of the Sea and Sea of Glory.
Searching for Beauty – The Life of Millicent Rogers, the first biography of the Standard Oil heiress and fashion icon, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in fall of 2011.
6 pm at the Lensic (free)
211 West San Francisco St
Piñon Awards: The Santa Fe Community Foundation gives out awards each year to nonprofits in five categories. The presentation is entertaining and informative about the groups and free at the Lensic. It is followed by a fundraiser dinner at the Eldorado Hotel.
Democratic Party of Santa Fe County. Also 7 pm, Eldorado Hotel (call 505 988-1234 for $75 tickets)
Sunday, Oct. 9
11am to noon at the Travel Bug
839 Paseo De Peralta
Craig Barnes will speak on water issues and the importance of working locally and working together! Author, Playwright, Mediator. As host of the radio show Our Times with Craig Barnes <http://www.craig-barnes.com/> Barnes has been a champion of civil society, the rise of democracy and the rule of law.
Part of the water series that has been created by David Bacon on Who Controls Water in the Bioregion. The programs are sponsored by journeysantafe (www.journeysantafe.com <http://www.journeysantafe.com> ).
Sunday, Oct. 16
11am to noon at the Travel Bug
839 Paseo De Peralta
Courtney White from The Quivira Coalition will be in conversation with David Bacon.
The Quivira Coalition was founded by a rancher and two conservationists in June, 1997, to build bridges among ranchers, conservationists, scientists and public land managers around concepts of progressive cattle management, innovative stewardship and improved land health. “The mission of The Quivira Coalition is to build resilience by fostering ecological, economic and social health on western landscapes through education, innovation, collaboration, and progressive public and private land stewardship.
Part of the water series that has been created by David Bacon on Who Controls Water in the Bioregion. The programs are sponsored by journeysantafe (www.journeysantafe.com <http://www.journeysantafe.com> ).
Sunday Oct. 23 & 30
11am to noon at the Travel Bug
839 Paseo De Peralta
David Bacon: Who Controls Water In The Bioregion
With guest speakers, local politicians and county representatives discussing the
concerns of water, climate change, drought in Southwest. The Water Summit
has been re scheduled for mid-January during the legislative session. Panel
members will include William DuBuys, Jack Loeffler, Craig Barnes, Joni
Arends, Mark Sardella, Mark Rudd, The Right Rev. Holly Beaumont, Subhankar
Banerjee and others.
Sept. 16 & 17
New Mexico’s 7th Annual
Celebration of World Music & Culture
National Hispanic Cultural Center
1701 4th St SW # 211
17 Acts from 6 Continents on 3 Stages Over 2 Nights!
Full line-up, schedules and programming at
Tuesday, Sept. 20
Washington Middle School Park
(outside of SWOP’s offices)
10th & Park Ave. SW
See calendar item under Santa Fe
Saturday, Oct. 1
3 pm – 5 pm At PAGE 1 ONE BOOKSTORE
11018 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuquerque NM, 87111
Self-Published and Local Author Book Fair
October’s Local Author Fair: Authors are invited to bring their books to promote independently and sell at Page One’s Self-Publishing Fair. This excellent networking opportunity occurs the first Saturday of every month from 3 to 5pm in the Page One Cafe. Check out our Small Press and Local Author page to learn more about selling your book at Page One or about participating in our Local Author Fair.
Memetic evolution: shoes
Wendy Northcutt, Syndicated Columnist
I have preliminary research on the causes of Darwinian
Deaths in Women. High heel shoes are killing
women! On railroad tracks, in front of buses, reports
flood into Darwin Awards Central from everywhere
in the world. We are literally falling victim to our
own fashion sense, and it’s so common I did not
even post a single story; I considered the valid news
reports to be salacious and dumb. I was wrong.
High heels are a major source of voluntary injury
and death among women. I do not wish to offend
anyone in this audience. I love the tall, graceful feeling
of high-heeled shoes, too. But they belong in the
bedroom, not on the street! Women, we have been
talking amongst ourselves about the problem for
years, and doing nothing.
Look at my feet. I am wearing plain flat sandals.
Hobbling ourselves is not sexy, it is sending a signal
of weakness. This is Darwin Awards dumb. We invent
“fashion” to solve the problem of how to look sexy.
We pay $$ to solve the problem, we pay again with
broken bones and Darwin Awards deaths, all to fix
an imaginary need to “improve” our appearance.
Our natural inclination to attract a mate has
been driven to ridiculous peacock extremes. Nature
took care of the problem already. You. Are. Sexy,
ladies, just as you are.
Memetic evolution. The more I look the more
I see that marketing is driving memetic evolution.
Those who do not see the irony in the marketing of
sexual selection are doomed to suffer, because it’s
so common it’s invisible. Ladies, I love you so much,
I vow that the first twenty people to publicly throw
out their entire collection will each be awarded $100
from the Darwin Awards Safety Fund known as my
www.DarwinAwards.com is a chronicle of enterprising
demises, honoring those who improve the species, by
accidentally removing themselves from it! Wendy Northcutt
recently published Darwin Awards Countdown to
Egos out of control
Plus amputee porn & pierced gal adds a ring
By Chuck Shepherd, Syndicated
Arriving, inevitably, at no one’s
destination It turns out that the
town council and the board of education
in Wethersfield, Conn., spent at
least $634,140 over 18 months (likely
much more) to deal with an ethics
dispute involving a $400 course that
the then-chair of the board of education
charged to the government. (The
course, taken by the chair’s son, would
have been authorized if the kid had
been a student, but he had already
graduated high school a month or two
before and apparently wanted to retake
the course to get a higher grade.)
As you might guess, most ($407,000)
was for lawyer fees. Hartford Courant
We’ve been doing it the hard
way China’s Agricultural University
in Beijing says they’ve genetically
modified a herd of 300 cows to give
… human breast milk (sweeter than
cow milk and with all the urchin-enriching
strength as if it came from
our own lovely flesh-and-blood milk
machines). Sky News (London)
Least competent legislature A
couple of weeks ago, Tennessee
passed an overbroad law that would
criminalize sharing any of your paid
passwords (no cheating! buy your
own subscription!), and last week the
legislature made it illegal to Internetpost
any image likely to “frighten,
intimidate, or cause emotional
distress” to anyone, including people
you never even heard of and never
wanted to see your stuff, anyway.
Absurdities A U.K. woman who is
a leading support-grouper for “limb
deficient” people, campaigning to
buck up their self-esteem, announced
her dismay last week that her Internet
postings were also gaining popularity
. . . among sexually delirious amputee
fetishists. BBC News
Pleasure prison palace You’ve
heard of South American prisons
where certain inmates get privileges
(appliances, conjugal visits, etc.), but
you’ve never seen anything like the
San Antonio prison on an island off
Venezuela, where the country’s drug
traffickers do hard time: four swimming
pools, barbecue and drinks
poolside, air conditioners, DirecTV,
an armory (“I’ve seen guns in here
that I’ve never seen before,” said a
former British soldier-smuggler),
regular cockfights for gambling, and
drug sales (to prisoners but also to
visitors, who go there to buy, knowing
that guards search going in but not
coming out). New York Times
Chutzpah! A Virginia inmate (the
former Michael Stokes) had the balls
to sue his prison for “forcing” him to
castrate himself (and botch it, since
he didn’t know what he was doing)
because he couldn’t get taxpayers
to front his gender-reassignment
surgery. Stokes has actually been Ms.
Ophelia De’lonta for a while now, but
is not totally what he wants to be. -
New York Daily News
Cops will be cops It’s one thing to
fire an employee for, say, trying to
stop a shoplifter or for goofing off on
security detail. But Rice University
fired its police officer David Sedmak
for rushing off-campus to an armed
standoff with a man holed up after
shooting two Houston Police Department
officers. Could have counseled
him, given him probation, etc., but
no. Houston Chronicle
Losers LAPD finally figured out
what happened last Thursday night
at an 11 p.m. car crash. A man was
giving his daughter driving lessons,
and when she lost control and bowled
over a few things, he apparently
tried to teach her the crucial art of
“evading police after a traffic accident.”
Los Angeles Daily News
Oh dear! “[Q]uite happy” led
observers’ descriptions of Ned
Nefer, 38, arriving in Watertown,
N.Y., on foot (65 miles) from Syracuse
accompanied by his wife of
24 years. (“We both really love the
outdoors.”) Mrs. Nefer is a 6-ft-high
mannequin that Ned built, by himself,
from the neck down. Police,
detecting neither a danger nor a
crime, shrugged. Watertown Daily
Strained eulogies are in order
“Our beloveds . . . who were killed
by a flying bear . . ..” On a Quebec
highway last week, two people,
minding their own business . . . saw
a collision . . . and the bear landed
on them. Toronto Sun
Great moments in architecture
The county Common Pleas Courthouse
in Columbus, Ohio, was
built with snazzy all-glass stairs. Said
Judge Julie Lynch: “If you wear
dresses, you’re on notice . . . to take
the elevator.” (For now, security
guards are merely watching out for
people craning their necks underneath
the stairways.) Columbus
Desperate housewives The main
problem causing all this turmoil
and hubbub in the Muslim world
is . . . insubordinate wives, according
to the 800-member Obedient
Wives Club in Rawang, Malaysia.
(Previously, the same organizers
had established a Polygamy Club.)
Associated Press via Yahoo News
The aristocrats! Store manager
Richard Moore of Aaron’s in
O’Fallon, Mo., just cost the company
$95 million (reduced to $39
million) after a jury concluded
that he not only serially sexually
harassed a woman while she worked
there but once placed his junk
on top of her head while she was
seated on the stockroom floor. Belleville
Wet dump Brent Kendall apparently
had a sour breakup with a former
squeeze (unclear who dumped
whom), but he was arrested for
breaking into her home, slicing up
25 pieces of clothing, and wee-weeing
on her bed and computer. Iowa
City Press Citizen
Starting over Divorced couple
Heather and William Davis were
charged in Stillwater, Okla., with
trying to arrange William’s fake
death so he could escape arrest warrants
and start all over again . . . as
a woman . . . after both lost custody
of their young daughter because
(while Heather might not have
been a great parent, either) William
was caught by the kid having
sex with a blow-up doll. KFOR-TV
From Tippecanoe County, Ind.,
judge Loretta Rush, recounting
why handing an abused child over
to relatives might not always be
the best thing “I had a case where
a child was born with drugs in his
system. Both parents were using. We
were looking for relative placement,
but both sets of grandparents were
using. So great-grandmother’s in
the courtroom, and I asked her if
she would pass a drug screen, and
she said she would not . . ..” – Journal
& Courier (Lafayette, Ind.)
What’s wrong with these people?
The bride was Elaine Davidson, with
7,000 body piercings; the groom
was Douglas Watson, a government
bureaucrat in his 60s, no piercings.
Tough love Brandon Bishop, 24,
was arrested for beating the bejeezus
out of the 2-year-old daughter of
his finacee, over a 3-month period.
However, he thought he had a good
reason: Her mother treated her like a
princess, and she needed toughening
up. Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)
Newsrangers: Danya Rutter and the
News of the Weird Board of Editorial
Advisors (And for the accomplished and
joyous cynic, try News of the Weird
Daily/Pro Edition, at www.Newsofthe-
Weird.blogspot.com. ©2011 Chuck Shepherd,
1130 Walnut St., Kansas City,