Saturday, December 31, 2005
Like the old song Sixteen Tons says, "another year older and deeper in debt." Well, the lyrics actually say another "day" older, but what the hell. It's gonna be 2006 in another few hours. Cast Your Fate to the Winds and think back fondly to those millenium survival kits and New Year's around the world coverage on all the TV stations SIX years ago now.
Ah, Those Were the Days My Friend when Richard Nixon and Ronnie Ray-Gun seemed like the worst that America could produce in terms of leaders.
I don't know about you, but I kind of miss Guy Lombardo doing Auld Lang Syne at midnight every year on TV. No one else does it with as much corn, and I think a song like that should be corny, above all. Guy died in 1977. Never fear, you can download his traditional version or spiffier versions ala Tex-Mex polka, freestyle disco or country. I kid you not.
Oh my, Time, Time, Time, See What's Become of Me ... as the Bookends Theme says, "Time it was, and what a time it was, it was, A time of innocence, a time of confidences, Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph, Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you."
Then again, Turn, Turn, Turn, To Everything There is a Season. And some believe that Time Has Come Today, a song, by the way, that was the first I ever listened to on headphones -- those massive clunky ones that preceded ear bugs by decades. My conciousness wasn't the only thing altered.
It's good to remember that The Times They Are A'Changin -- again. At least we hope they are, and for the better. Mister Jones still doesn't know what's happening, but perhaps we can use Lakoff-style framing to tune him in to the truth, no?
If you need to determine the EXACT time so you know precisely when the New Year hits in your part of the world, check out the Time Ticker. Or take a Walk Through Time. Remember, the New Year will arrive one second later this year. Tick tock.
Finally, cap your celebration with some Faith-Based New Year's Toasts by Ward Sutton. Holy sacred cow, it's almost twenty oh six! Since I'm half Polish, I'll wish you "Szczesliwego Nowego Roku." See ya next year ...
Great American Dream in Reverse
I read an op-ed page article by Holly Sklar in the Albuquerque Journal this morning that nailed where we are economically as a nation, as we prepare to greet 2006. You can read it at The Providence Journal site via free registration. (You have to be a paid subscriber to read it at the Journal site.)
Using inconvenient FACTS, Ms. Sklar demonstrates how misbegotten our current economic policies have been, pushing America and most Americans down, not up. The only winners? A skinny slice of the most elite of the investor class at the top. We aren't "winning" in terms of global competitiveness or any other meaningful measure. We are rushing down a road to ruin, pursuing an unsustainable path characterized by humongous debt, trade deficits and losses of good-paying jobs. And yet the corporatists, regardless of party, continue to claim that bankrupting our middle and working classes, making education more unaffordable, refusing to make healthcare coverage a right and rushing headlong to become a low-wage nation are the only ways to progress.
Sklar's bottom line? "We will not prosper in the 21st Century global economy by relying on 1920s corporate greed, 1950s tax revenues, pre-1970s wages, and global-warming energy policies." Some excerpts:
... We are becoming a nation of Scrooge-Marts and outsourcers -- with an increasingly low-wage workforce, instead of a growing middle class. Even two-paycheck households are struggling to afford a house, college, health care and retirement. The American Dream is becoming the American Pipe Dream.
... The hourly wages of average workers are 11 percent lower than they were back in 1973 (adjusted for inflation), despite rising worker productivity. CEO pay, by contrast, has skyrocketed -- up a median 30 percent in 2004 alone, in the Corporate Library survey of 2000 large companies.
Median household income has fallen an unprecedented five years in a row. It would be even lower if not for increased household work hours. Americans work over 200 hours more a year on average than workers in other rich industrialized countries.
We are breaking records we don't want to break. Record numbers of Americans have no health insurance. The share of national income going to wages and salaries is the lowest since 1929. Middle-class households are a medical crisis, an outsourced job, or a busted pension away from bankruptcy.
The congressional majority voted the biggest cut in history to the student-loan program, at a time when college is more important, and more expensive, than ever. Public-college tuition has risen even faster than private tuition, jumping 54 percent over the last decade (adjusted for inflation).
... Contrary to myth, the United States is not becoming more competitive in the global economy by taking the low road. We are in growing hock to other countries. We have a huge trade deficit, a hollowed-out manufacturing base, and deteriorating research and development. The infrastructure built by earlier generations has eroded greatly, undermining the economy, as well as public health and safety.
Households have propped themselves up in the face of falling real wages by maxing out work hours, credit cards and home-equity loans. This is not a sustainable course. The low road is like a shortcut that leads to a cliff.
We will not prosper in the 21st Century global economy by relying on 1920s corporate greed, 1950s tax revenues, pre-1970s wages, and global-warming energy policies.
... Contrary to myth, many European countries are better positioned for the future than the United States, with healthier economies and longer healthy life expectancies, greater math and science literacy, free or affordable education from preschool through college, universal health care, less poverty, and more corporations combining social responsibility and world-class innovation.
Among the world's 100 largest corporations in 2005, just 33 are U.S. companies, while 48 are European. In 2002, 38 were U.S. companies and 36 were European. CEO-worker pay gaps are much narrower at European companies than American.
The United States dropped from number one to number five in the global information-technology ranking by the World Economic Forum, whose members represent the world's 1,000 leading companies, among others. The top four spots are held by Singapore, Iceland, Finland and Denmark, with Sweden number six.
Instead of pretending the problem is overpaid workers and accelerated offshoring, we need to shore up our economy from below and invest in smart economic development. Let's make that our New Year's resolution for the American Dream.
Friday, December 30, 2005
Americans Who Tell the Truth
A friend up in Taos sent me a link to a powerfully creative and timely project called Americans Who Tell the Truth. At a time when speaking truth to power seems out of vogue even in many Democratic circles, it features courageous Americans past and present who are known for doing just that. The extensive website, including a suggested curriculum for using the project's materials for educational efforts, is well worth an unhurried and thoughtful visit.
The truth-tellers are heroes and heroines from the arts, politics, literature, music and many other disciplines. The diverse collection includes Rosa Parks, Rachel Carson, Howard Zinn, Cesar Chavez, Chief Joseph Hinmaton Yalektit, "Granny D" Doris Haddock, Wendall Berry, Studs Terkel, Jim Hightower and many, many more. Robert Shetterly, a Maine artist and peace and justice activist, has produced an evocative series of portraits of these brave Americans and coupled them with quotes and biographical information. Shetterly says:
I began painting this series of portraits --- finding great Americans who spoke the truth and combining their images with their words --- nearly three years ago [after 9-11] as a way of to channel my anger and grief. In the process my respect and love for these people and their courage helped to transform that anger into hope and pride and allowed me to draw strength from this community of truth tellers, finding in them the courage, honesty, tolerance, generosity, wisdom and compassion that have made our country strong. One lesson that can be learned from all of these Americans is that the greatness of our country frequently depends not on the letter of the law, but the insistence of a single person that we adhere to the spirit of the law.
The portraits and biographical materials are designed to function as an educational and inspirational display of what Shetterly believes is hopeful and just about America. They form several traveling exhibits that are being hosted by schools, universities, churches, and various community groups around the country "to create dialogue that will help each of us figure out which truths we value most as citizens in a democracy." Perhaps now more than ever, we need to keep our uniquely American history of challenging the status-quo alive -- to ensure that Americans from all walks of life know this history and its traditions and can pass them on to their children and grandchildren. The preservation of real democracy demands it.
To support the project and keep it on the road, you can kick in a few tax-deductible bucks for operational expenses or purchase cards from several sets created from the portraits. You can also organize an exhibit of some or all of the paintings in your community. The artist's goal is to "share 'Americans Who Tell the Truth' with as many people in as many parts of the U.S. as possible." Looking for hope, inspiration and vibrant role models as the new year dawns? This is a good place to start. (Click on images for larger versions.)
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Tonight's 'We The People' Features Bob Anderson of STWM
WE THE PEOPLE: December 29, 2005
WATCH: 7-8 PM ABQ Community Cable Channel 27
GUEST: Bob Anderson - Local Stop the War Machine Host
HOSTS: Mickey Bock, Judith Binder, CALL-IN: 346-1633
Website: www.1776wethepeople.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Q & A With Patricia Madrid at Next DFA-DFNM Meetup
NM Attorney General Patricia Madrid will be speaking to our group and answering questions at the next DFA-DFNM Meetup on Thursday, January 5th, at 7:00 PM at the First Unitarian Church Social Hall at Carlisle and Comanche in Albuquerque. Click to join our Meetup group or RSVP.
As you surely know by now, Madrid will be challenging Rep. Heather Wilson for the CD1 seat in 2006. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post ranks the competitiveness of this race ninth in the nation and says this will be Heather's "toughest race since she claimed the seat in a 1998 special election."
The 2005 campaign fundraising filing period ends on December 31 and Madrid's campaign would like to see a strong showing to demonstrate that thousands of New Mexicans are willing to step up and support her challenge to the awful policies of Bush and his rubberstamp, Heather Wilson. You can make an online donation right now at her new website.
Heather Wilson is nothing more than an enabler for the radical agenda of the Bush/Cheney/DeLay machine. She voted for them and time and again she votes with them on legislation that puts the interests of wealthy elites ahead of the people. This may be our last and best chance to stop her before she becomes SENATOR Heather Wilson! Let's get involved.
MoveOn is already targeting the race with a tv ad criticizing Wilson's position on the Iraq War. In MoveOn's recent petition campaign demanding an Iraq exit strategy and timeline, Wilson's office was presented with 2500 signatures, the most of any candidate targeted. Her response? According to the Albuquerque Journal, another parroting of the BushCo line: "As the Iraqis stand up, we can stand down." Wilson spokesman Joel Hannahs dismissed MoveOn.org's effort as that of a "left-wing" political group. We know where Wilson stands.
On the other hand, Madrid is advocating establishment of a definite, clear timeline for troop withdrawal that begins bringing our men and women serving in Iraq home by December 2006. She's also taking strong positions on healthcare, prescription drugs, tax policy and government reform. We're excited that we'll have a chance at Meetup to get detailed answers directly from Attorney General Madrid about her views on these and other issues like election reform.
Contribute a few bucks at her website before the end-of-year deadline and then come on down to our Meetup on Thursday, January 5th and take advantage of an excellent opportunity to meet the candidate and find out face-to-face what she stands for. A large attendance will demonstrate that Madrid's early reachout to the progressive community is much appreciated. Hope to see you there.
Amnesty International: Make Some Noise!
The Black Eyed Peas, Avril Lavigne, and The Cure are joining Amnesty International in a ground-breaking musical venture using the works of John Lennon. Make Some Noise launched on 10 December -- International Human Rights Day -- and aims to inspire a new generation to celebrate and stand up for human rights.
The global launch of Make Some Noise features the release of the Black Eyed Peas’ rousing version of Power to the People, The Cure’s interpretation of Love, Snow Patrol’s recording of Isolation, and Grow Old With Me performed by The Postal Service. All four exclusive singles are available as online downloads via www.amnesty.org/noise. These will be followed in early 2006 by an array of iconic John Lennon tracks from further top artists. All single downloads will be available at $0.99 in the U.S. from www.amnesty.org/noise. All profits from music sales will be used to support Amnesty International – the world’s largest human rights organisation – in its global human rights work.
Amnesty International wants Make Some Noise to encourage a new audience to celebrate and take action for human rights and attract one million new supporters worldwide. All of the contemporary recordings will feature as either single downloads, over the course of the year, or as part of a download compilation album. Due for release in 2006, the compilation will mark one of the greatest music projects of the decade.
Make Some Noise follows Yoko Ono’s generous donation of the rights to John Lennon’s solo songbook to Amnesty International in 2003. “It’s wonderful that, through this campaign, music which is so familiar to many people of my era will now be embraced by a whole new generation,” says Yoko Ono. “John’s music set out to inspire change, just as Make Some Noise does. In standing up for human rights, we really can make the world a better place.”
Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas, says “Power to the People is the ultimate anthem! We had an incredible time recording the track for Make Some Noise, and hope the single will motivate people to truly stand up and be counted.”
Irene Khan, Secretary General at Amnesty International, says “We’re thrilled to be using John Lennon’s songs in our human rights work. We hope this music will bring an awareness of human rights to a new generation. After all, human rights are what make music possible - we wouldn’t be able to create music, listen to it or dance to it without freedom of speech, expression, and association.”
Monday, December 26, 2005
Let There Be Light
Some images from our Christmas Eve jaunt around Albuquerque to view the luminarias and lights. It's easier said than done to get clear pictures in low light, no-flash situations with a digital camera. Especially if you neglect to read the instruction booklet. But perhaps the blurred quality can pass as a special effect. (Click on photos for larger versions.)
By far our favorite all-luminaria display was on Dietz Farm Road off of Rio Grande Boulevard. No street lights, no competing electric lights, no huge crowds. No way to capture the real effect of hundreds of luminarias glowing all around you either, but here's a small taste:
We thought this display had New Mexico written all over it:
Some people added little fires this year, which is how luminarias and farolitos (if you live in Northern New Mexico) began:
Nothing like a sailboat in the high desert:
Click to see the entire photo album.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
'Tis the Season
We were out shopping at Peacecraft in Albuquerque's Nob Hill last night and saw a big lighting display on the club that hugs the corner of Carlisle and Central. It included a large message of "Season's Greetings" that stretched along the Central side, which brought back memories of how popular this saying was long before the current Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas dither came along. In fact, as I recall it, "Season's Greetings" was the message most heard and seen on many Xmas cards, in stores and among people of varied backgrounds during my younger days. So there!
We aren't joining the Tricentennial luminaria contest this evening, but we do have our very pretty tree from the Delancey Street lot, our usual all blue lights along the eaves and our perenniel peace sign that's been lit on the front of the house since before the war started (see right). We are gonna travel down to Old Town later to mingle on the plaza and witness the lighting of the luminarias there and browse the lights on the way home.
Most of all, whether you celebrate any of the wintertime holidays and whichever way you might express that celebration, we want to wish you peace, good tidings and the patience and energy to keep speaking truth to power. Now more than ever.
Here are a couple tunes as my gifts to you this season. First up, in honor of all the brave souls who have returned to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, as well as those who may never return home, here's Christmas on the Bayou by Lonnie Brooks from the Alligator Records Christmas Collection. And I know I've been on a Jackson Browne kick lately, but I had to include his Rebel Jesus , this version performed with The Chieftains on The Bells of Dublin holiday album. You can read the timely lyrics below. Enjoy. Your friendly heathen pagan...
The Rebel Jesus, Jackson Browne
The streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants' windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
As the sky darkens and freezes
Will be gathering around the hearths and tales
Giving thanks for all God's graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus
They call him by the "Prince of Peace"
And they call him by "The Saviour"
And they pray to him upon the sea
And in every bold endeavor
As they fill his churches with their pride and gold
And their faith in him increases
But they've turned the nature that I worshipped in
From a temple to a robber's den
In the words of the rebel Jesus
We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why they are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus
But pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgement
For I've no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In this life of hardship and of earthly toil
We have need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure and I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus.
Friday, December 23, 2005
The Army Men Project
Have you heard about The Army Men Project? The website Mouths Wide Open, whose motto is "The job of a citizen is to keep your mouth wide open," has come up with what I think is one of the most clever antiwar messaging tactics I've seen. No posters, no signs, no confrontations -- just little army men carrying a Bring Me Home label, scattered all over the planet awaiting discovery:
We’re spreading plastic Army Men around the country and around the globe as small, everyday reminders of the ongoing horrors of the war in Iraq and to serve as tools to foster dialogue, action and resistance to the war. Here in the United States we’re encouraged to forget about the war, to go on with our lives, to “go shopping.” But what if everywhere people went there were little plastic Army Men nudging them to remember that we’re waging war? At Home Depot, on the gas pump, in the 7-11, at the post office, on the hood of the car, in the public restroom, at the movie theatre, in the produce section of the grocery store … in your neighborhood …?
You can either buy or order your own army men and download your own stickers or order them directly from Mouths Wide Open. The "Bring Me Home" labels include the website URL to spread the word to others who might like to place little army men all over their neighborhoods. You can also make up packs to distribute to others who are interested in placing them in conspicuous locations:
Thanks to Ann Manning for giving me my first bag of army men, who will soon be spreading their messages around the Northeast Heights of Albuquerque. Bring the troops home.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
NM Voters Seek Order Barring Purchase of More Touchscreen Voting Machines
From Voter Action:
Eight New Mexico voters asked District Judge Eugenio Mathis for an emergency order blocking the Secretary of State from spending millions of dollars on Sequoia AVC Edge touchscreen voting machines for use in Bernalillo, Dona Ana, Santa Fe and 11 other counties. The plaintiffs allege that the machines are not accessible by disabled voters and violate a state law requirement for voter verifiable paper trail printers, necessary for meaningful audits and recounts. Plaintiffs also submitted substantial evidence that the Sequoia touchscreen voting systems are inaccurate and unreliable, having lost thousands of votes and switched countless others in recent elections.
The motion for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction was filed in the case of Patricia Rosas Lopategui, et al. v. Rebecca Vigil-Giron, et al. The case was filed in January of 2005, and seeks a permanent injunction against use in future New Mexico elections of the Sequoia AVC Edge touchscreen and other “direct recording electronic” (DRE) voting machines sold by Election Systems & Software and by Danaher Controls.
A better solution is readily available. The Secretary of State has certified a superior voting system, the Automark, which was selected over the Sequoia Edge by county clerks in 19 New Mexico counties. The Automark is truly accessible by the disabled, including blind and low vision voters as well as voters with severe dexterity disabilities. (The Sequoia does not make accommodations for voters with dexterity disabilities like Cerebral Palsy.) The Automark also produces paper ballots, which are counted by an optical scanner, like the ballots of all non-disabled voters. Following elections, these paper ballots are available for audits that are vital to ensuring the integrity of elections.
The 19 New Mexico county clerks who chose the Automark join a growing national trend away from DRE touchscreen voting machines and toward optical scan paper ballots, with the Automark for disability access. Numerous counties across the country have gone so far as to abandon recently purchased, problem-plagued touchscreen systems in order to switch to the Automark with optical scan ballots.
Plaintiffs submitted the affidavit of Noel Runyan, an expert on the design of disabled access devices. Mr. Runyan, who is blind, gave this harsh assessment:
In my opinion, the Sequoia AVC Edge DRE does not satisfy the disability access requirements of HAVA, as incorporated into New Mexico law. This opinion is based on (1) the Edge’s complete lack of any accommodation for persons with severe physical dexterity impairments who are unable to use touchscreens or keypads; (2) the gross inadequacy of the Edge’s audio assist feature for persons who are blind or low vision; and (3) the Edge’s failure to accommodate elderly voters who have developed severe visual impairments with age but are unfamiliar with and unable to cope with audio-only access technology because they have had normal vision most of their lives. In short, it is my opinion that a large portion of disabled citizens who attempt to cast their votes on Sequoia AVC Edge voting machines will be unable to do so.
Editor's Note: Remember that the County Clerks of the largest counties in NM who are insisting on buying touchscreens are DEMOCRATS, then read this op ed published on OpEd News: Dear Howard Dean: Why Bother?
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Breaking: ANWR Preserved!
The Senate today blocked oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, rejecting a must-pass defense spending bill onto which supporters had added the quarter-century-old environmental issue to garner broader support. The vote was a stinging defeat for Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who for years has waged an intense fight to open the refuge to drilling. Senate leaders were expected to withdraw the defense legislation so it could be reworked without the refuge language.
Here's one of them, as well as the Sierra Club's statement on this victory:
“To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. Perhaps the wilderness we fear is the pause within our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace. Wilderness lives by this same grace.” -- Terry Tempest Williams
Washington, D.C. -- In an against-all-odds victory for wildlife, wild places and all Americans, the Senate today rebuffed attempts to attach controversial provisions to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the Defense spending bill.
"Drilling proponents have pulled out all the stops, and tried every trick in their playbook to open up the Arctic Refuge to no avail," said Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director. "This is a tremendous victory for all Americans and proof positive that the fate of the Arctic Refuge must be debated on its merits, not as part of a sneak attack."
Drilling proponents have now failed to include Arctic drilling on energy, budget and defense bills. The deplorable effort to link Arctic drilling to funding for America’s troops and Hurricane Katrina relief, led by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) and bolstered by intense lobbying from the Bush administration, failed in a cloture vote 44-56 (cloture requires 60 votes).
"We applaud those Senators who refused to let drilling proponents manipulate them and the democratic process," said Pope. "Today’s vote reaffirmed the Senate’s role as a deliberative body, not a place where unrelated and controversial issues are tacked on to any bill without debate and at the whim of special interests."
Senator Stevens -- the man who brought us the $450 million "bridges to nowhere" -- tried to bully the Senate into passing a bill that benefits his state and the oil industry at the expense of all Americans.
"This year the oil industry squeezed Americans at the gas pump to the tune of billions in record profits, carved out billions more in government subsidies, and then lied to Congress. Senator Stevens held defense spending and hurricane relief hostage to help Big Oil out," said Pope. "Today the Senate gave the oil industry and Stevens the lump of coal they deserved. We will remain vigilant as those who would plunder the Arctic Refuge for short-term gain are clearly willing to try anything regardless of cost."
"Americans want real energy solutions that protect special places like the Arctic Refuge. Today that message was heard loud and clear," said Pope. "Drilling proponents tried every excuse, but Americans know that Arctic drilling would not put a dent in our dependence on foreign oil, would do nothing to strengthen our national security, and would not save consumers money at the pump."
A recent report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s own Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that even 20 years down the road, when Arctic Refuge oil would be at or near peak production, gas prices would only be affected by about a penny per gallon. The United States sits on just 3 % of the world's known petroleum reserves. Government estimates indicate that there is less than a year’s supply of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and even the oil industry admits it would take 10 years to make it to US markets.
Caught in the Act
Watch the videos of what Bush had to say about wiretapping in 2004 and what he has to say about it now.
Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires-a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution. -- George Bush - April 2004
Support the DNC petition to obtain BushCo legal opinions on the surveillance via FOIA
See how Think Progress effectively counters Drudge lies about Clinton and Carter ordering surveillance the same way