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Monday, April 13, 2009

Organizing for America's New State Director Begins New Mexico Listening Tour Tomorrow in Las Cruces


I got an email today from Luis Hernandez, who's the recently hired New Mexico State Director for Organizing for America -- President Barack Obama's nationwide organizing effort to involve the grassroots.

Luis announced that they're back on the ground in New Mexico, and starting this Tuesday, April 14th, they'll be hosting Listening Tour Town Halls across the state. You can learn more or sign up for one here. Events are scheduled for Las Cruces (tomorrow), Hobbs, Albuquerque Central and the North Valley, Valencia County, Farmington, Espanola and Santa Fe.

According to the email, you'll get a chance to meet new state staff members, hear about some lessons learned during the general election, and offer your thoughts on how New Mexico can be organized going forward. Your ideas will be used to write a New Mexico-specific plan for Organizing for America in 2009 and beyond.

The campaign brought an unprecedented number of new voices into the process. According to Luis, Organizing for America is dedicated to making sure those voices remain at the center of the debate as the President and Congress work on providing solutions for our economy.

But these meetings are not just for folks who were involved in the campaign -- they're hopeful that every New Mexican will get involved.

"We can't stop growing our movement now. We've never had a better opportunity to shape our future -- and just like during the election, we'll do it from the bottom up," Luis said.

If you can't make it to a Listening Tour event, you can still get involved with Organizing for America in New Mexico by letting them know how you'd like to see New Mexico organized: https://nm.barackobama.com/LTsurvey.

April 13, 2009 at 06:33 PM in Events, Obama Administration, Organizing for America | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rep. Luján to Participate in Ground Breaking for Affordable, Energy Efficient Home in Santa Fe

Note: Congressman Lujan's office has published a revised schedule (pdf) of Congress On Your Corner Events for the period April 13-18, 2009.

Tomorrow, Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D, NM-03) will join Santa Fe Habitat for Humanity, YouthWorks, Santa Fe Community College, Oshara Village, and Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association to break ground for an affordable, energy efficient home. The event takes place at 11:00 AM on Tuesday, April 14, at 54 Willow Back Road in Oshara Village in Santa Fe.

“Building energy efficient homes helps save families money and create green jobs,” said Rep. Luján in a statement released today. “This project should serve as a model for energy efficient home building that can help families across New Mexico live in houses that are good for our planet and our pocket books. By building energy efficient homes and weatherizing existing homes, we can create green jobs and help grow a new, clean energy economy in New Mexico.”

This project is a partnership between Santa Fe Community College, Youthworks!, Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association and Santa Fe Habitat for Humanity. The groups are working together to train at risk teens in green building while constructing energy efficient homes for Santa Fe Habitat for Humanity. Training local youths in green building will help create a workforce that is essential to growing a clean energy economy in New Mexico. The program is called "Training Today's Youth for Tomorrow's Jobs."

Rep. Luján will join the partner organizations to break ground for an affordable, energy efficient home that will be located on 54 Willow Back Road in Oshara Village. Once the home is complete, a Santa Fe resident and her three children will move into the home.

Prior to his election to Congress, Rep. Luján was a member of the Extraterritorial Zoning Commission in Santa Fe County where he worked with his colleagues to approve the development of Oshara Village, a state of the art sustainable community. Oshara Village is a community that uses energy efficiency, water reclamation and mixed-use design.

April 13, 2009 at 01:57 PM in Green Economy, Housing, NM Congressional Delegation, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan | Permalink | Comments (0)

Easter Bunny Calls on Congress to Rethink Afghanistan

Rethink Afghanistan preview

As the White House conducted its traditional egg hunt on Sunday, Brave New Foundation's Rethink Afghanistan campaign had several Easter Bunnies distributing and hiding more than 6,000 Easter eggs at Union Square in New York City and in front of the White House in Washington DC. The eggs were stuffed with toy soldiers serving as a reminder of the troops currently stationed in Afghanistan, along with a series of poignant questions that have yet to be raised about the war on Afghanistan.

Thousands of soldiers serving in Afghanistan were still away from their families this Easter. These soldiers will soon be joined by an additional 21,000 troops. Congress has yet to call substantial oversight hearings on whether the troop escalation makes sense.

"Easter is a time for renewal. As American families celebrate this important holiday, we must renew our commitment to world peace. We need to reengage the country in a national debate and ask the important questions that have yet to be raised about the Afghanistan war," said Pastor Peter Laarman, Executive Director, Progressive Christians Uniting, in a news release.

In a recent trip to Kabul, Hollywood director and activist Robert Greenwald interviewed with local Afghans who consistently expressed a desire for the US to end its seven-year occupation in Afghanistan. Many of them cited the US occupation as fueling pro Taliban sentiment in Afghanistan.

"Congress needs to assert its role in critical oversight as we continue to ad troops and money to a war that has already cost billions of dollars. The American people deserves answers to important questions such as, are we really helping in Afghanistan if human rights are getting worst," Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films said in a written statement.

View the 'Rethink Afghanistan' documentary here.

April 13, 2009 at 12:20 PM in Afghanistan, Military Affairs | |

Counter Demonstration to Support Obama on Economy Set for Wednesday in Albuquerque

From Terry Riley: I just read an article on the front page of the Albuquerque Journal promoting a demonstration against taxes. The lady who was interviewed would not list a party affiliation but did say that she is conservative. Their demonstration is called, "The Albuquerque Tea Party." They are objecting to Obama's rescue spending and to the taxes that they are paying. (See this Raw Story article for more info.)

I am going to hold a demonstration in support of President Obama and what he is trying to do to save our economy. I doubt that everything that he will try is perfect but he is working hard to fix a really big mess and he needs support. I also believe that it is time to bring attention to the tax cuts for the rich both on the federal level as well as the state level. We must rescind those tax cuts.

Their demonstration is going to be one block west of the intersection of Louisiana and Montgomery and will run from 4 PM on Wednesday April 15th through 7 PM. I propose a counter demonstration at the intersection of Louisiana and Montgomery that will run from 4 PM through 6 PM on Wednesday, April 15th. They have bought radio ads supporting this demonstration and got a front page story in the Journal. Please, we must push back.

The demonstration that I am planning is about 150 yards east of the "Tea Party" demonstration and I would like to ask anybody who attends to concentrate on getting out a message of support and not to get into yelling matches with the other demonstrators or people who drive by. Civil demonstration is what gets attention. Certainly with the Journal having covered the lead up to this demonstration we should be able to get media attention to our presence. I will contact all TV and the Journal.

There is plenty of parking southeast of the intersection of Louisiana and Montgomery.

My suggestions for signs are:

Bush spent it...

Rich people took us to war!
Rich people need to pay taxes!

No taxes -

no police
no fire department
no paramedics
no county hospitals
no highways
no airports
no air traffic controllers
no social security
no medicare
no country

Obama just started
give him a chance!

These are some suggestions, I am sure you all will come up with other good ones. Please come and help me show our support to Obama and the need to fix the problems without any more tax cuts.

Terry Riley

Also see my earlier post on the teabagging events being pushed by Fox News and other right-wing groups.

April 13, 2009 at 09:01 AM in Economy, Populism, Events, Obama Administration | Permalink | Comments (4)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Pleasures of Peeps Shows

(Click on images for larger versions)

For your holiday viewing pleasure, here are the top 40 entries in Peeps Show III, the 2009 Peeps diorama competition. Haven't had enough? You can still view the 2008 and 2007 Peeps Shows hosted by the Washington Post. Not Peeps, but couldn't resist:


April 12, 2009 at 01:13 PM in Current Affairs, Food and Drink, Visuals | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Green Jobs Bills Signed: Moving to a Sustainable Tomorrow in New Mexico

RichardsonGreenFrom Juan Reynosa at New Mexico Youth Organized: On Thursday, Governor Bill Richardson signed a number of great “green” bills. By so doing, he helped New Mexico take many steps towards more sustainable economic growth in the future.

New Mexico Youth Organized had the honor of working with outstanding groups like New Energy Economy, and others to help enact two key pieces of legislation.

Senate Bill 318, sponsored by Senator Eric Griego, earmarks $1 million dollars of the Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP) fund to go towards supporting and bringing in green businesses, such as solar manufacturing, wind technology, bio-fuels production, and energy retrofits.

House Bill 622, sponsored by Speaker of the House Ben Lujan, has many components of the Federal 2007 Green Jobs Bill. It will provide support to the Department of Higher Education for implementing green jobs training programs in colleges throughout the state. Not only that, it also prioritizes many local populations (single mothers, unemployed, at risk youth) to provide them with new opportunities in the emerging green economy.

Environmental leaders across the state also worked with state legislators to enact the following policies: add a 10% state tax credit to the 30% federal tax credit to help people install solar power systems (SB 257), provide tax credits for production of utility scale solar and geothermal plants (SB 237), and form financing districts (SB 647) or use a special property tax assessment to also help New Mexico residents install renewable energy technology.

New Mexico is beginning to move in a direction where we can begin to use our vastly underused resources of solar, wind, and geothermal. Significant federal support exists to help take us in this direction, and, from what I saw at yesterday’s signing ceremony, we are beginning to gain a great amount of state support as well. With the enactment of these policies, we are creating opportunities for residents of New Mexico to become part of the green economy.

A big round of thanks goes out to all the great individuals and organizations that played a part in this success. A thank you as well to Governor Richardson, Senator Griego, Speaker Lujan, and all the other legislators who are helping to create a more sustainable New Mexico.

Also see our previous post on the signing of SB 647, sponsored by Sen. Peter Wirth.

April 11, 2009 at 02:19 PM in Energy, Environment, Green Economy, NM Legislature 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bagging Tea Bagging; Plus A New Way Forward Protest Set for Saturday in ABQ

I'll let Rachel Maddow (Rachel!) do the heavy bagging of the faux-grassroots teabagging protest being pushed by CNBC's Rick Santelli, Faux News and other right-wing teabagging aficionados that's set for April 15. (If you don't get the jokes and innuendos in Rachel's report, look up "teabagging" on Wikipedia, etc.)

Think Progress and Media Matters provide more info on the "astroturfing" aspects of the teabagging "movement." Turns out the phony "revolt" is really all about right-wingers outraged about stimulus spending (what's their plan again?) and the chance that rich people might have to pay the moderately higher level of taxes they had to cough up during the Clinton years.

If you were coerced to watch the out-of-control antics of Glenn Beck on Feigned News, you'd know that there's a revolting revolution (that WILL be televised) "brewing" amidst the teabagging extremists. Beck and others on the right are positively foaming at the mouth over ... well, over the fact that Republicans and their agenda are about as popular as Lipton teabags in London. Or worse. Beck has even suggested that President Obama is pouring gasoline on "average Americans" with his policies -- and has acted out the scenario on his show. Talk about a mini-doc on everything that's wrong with the livid right as Obama completes his first 100 days of coping with the awful aftermath of eight years of the BushCo administration.

The teabaggers are hoping turnout at their demonstrations will break a Guinness Book of World Records record for the largest multi-city demonstration in American history. Matt at New Mexico FBIHOP puts that notion convincingly to rest.

Locals will be teabagging it in Albuquerque on April 15th, according to a report by Jeff Jones in the Albuquerque Journal. Not surprisingly, Jeff's piece ignores the fact that the so-called "national collaborative grass-roots effort" is really the product of the monied, corporate right-wing noise machine.

A New Way Forward
If you'd like to attend a real grassroots event on the economy, check out A New Way Forward, which is organizing events to be held all over the nation tomorrow to demand the break-up of the "too big to fail" banks. The group is advocating that the offending banks be nationalized, reoganized and decentralized. Among the volunteer coalition that's organzing the events are Firedoglake, Mike Lux of Open Left and Zephyr Teachout of ye olde Dean campaign -- along with a myriad of bloggers and others in the progressive grassroots movement.

Albuquerque's event is set for Noon on Saturday, April 11, outside the First Plaza Galeria. Click to sign up.

April 10, 2009 at 03:00 PM in Economy, Populism, Events, Media | Permalink | Comments (12)

Guest Blog: Creation vs Choice is Key to Domestic Partnership Arguments

This is a guest blog by Ellen Wedum of Cloudcroft, New Mexico.

The Domestic Partnership Rights and Responsibilities Act, Senate Bill 12, was defeated in the New Mexico Senate on February 26, even after several attempts to reach a compromise acceptable to the Conference of Catholic Bishops. The complete vote can be found here (pdf).

The scientist’s argument.
As a scientist, I see no reason for this unrelenting determination to deny the civil rights of gays and lesbians. But then, I believe that the universe was created billions of years ago, and that God created homosexuals, heterosexuals, the solstice, giraffes, and all the rest of our marvelous universe. I do NOT believe that homosexuality is a simple “choice,” and predict that once the entire human genome is mapped, we will find that the tendency to homosexuality, as well as musical genius and other traits, is programmed into our DNA. To which some might reply, “What do you know? It may be that homosexuality is not in the genes at all.”

Well, that is my point. What do I know? What do any of us know about the influence of the genes, or fetal nutrition, or family upbringing? How can we presume to deny civil rights to these couples based on uninformed judgments?

The Biblical argument.
During the 2008 legislative session opponents relied heavily on the Bible, particularly the Book of Leviticus, for their arguments against domestic partnerships (HB 9 that year). For example, chapter 18, verse 22 states, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” (I am quoting the King James Version.)

The Book of Leviticus was written for a community of escaped slaves, struggling for existence in a harsh environment. Reproduction was crucial to them. A woman’s most important function was to produce many children, preferably boys. Likewise, men were expected to father many children, so avoidance of that duty was indeed an abomination.

Leviticus is part of a Torah ("Teaching") of some 613 rules and regulations, and a number of "abominations." These teachings helped the ancient Hebrews to survive, but many of them seem pretty ludicrous now, like calling the eating of shellfish an abomination (Leviticus 11:9, Deut. 14:9). None of today’s quoters of Leviticus are out picketing Red Lobster restaurants, but you can’t just cherry-pick the verses in Leviticus that you choose to apply, especially if you are applying them to folks that do not believe as you do.

There are good reasons why Christians feel free to watch football on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons, and eat popcorn shrimp and a pork-filled hotdog while they're at it; but acknowledging those reasons means recognizing and accepting changes in the rules laid down in the Torah since the time of Moses.

The legal argument.
Another argument used against the institution of domestic partnerships in New Mexico was that in both California and Massachusetts they were ruled to be the same as marriage. That argument is misleading. In those two states, the supreme courts have ruled that the domestic-partnership laws violated state constitutions by creating a separate-but-unequal institution. In California, this effectively legalized same-sex marriage (see In re Marriage Cases, 5/15/08). The issue is still unsettled in that state. In other states domestic partnership and civil union laws have been upheld. The New Mexico constitution needs to be examined to determine whether the objection raised in California would be valid in our state or not.

The angel food cake argument.
I was talking to someone the other day who dismissively said that gays and lesbians should just go to a lawyer and draw up a contract if they want a domestic partnership. They don’t need to institutionalize it, he implied. In fact, Nora Espinoza, currently the HD 59 state representative, said much the same thing when she testified against domestic partnerships in 2008: “...all you have to do is go on the Internet and there are already, um, forms, thank you, forms, that you can get ... they can be used and I implore you that you can take care of your loved ones without touching the sanctity of marriage.”

To me that is like saying that gays and lesbians are unworthy of eating angel food cake unless they make it themselves from scratch. If you try to make an angel food cake from scratch, instead of from a mix, the first problem is that you need 12—13 egg WHITES. So you have to separate the whites from the yolks, and then figure out what to do with all those yolks.

Next you have to use cake flour, not regular flour, and sift it before measuring. Also, the sugar must be superfine. Now wouldn’t you rather just buy the mix, add water, stir, pour, and bake?

So why the denial of a “Domestic Partnership” mix? This denial is based entirely on the assumption that people are NOT created gay and lesbian by God, and can therefore be judged to be undeserving of “equal protection of the laws.”

Will scientific research eventually prove that homosexuality, like racial characteristics, is written in one’s genes? Until we know, I propose that it is better to heed the Torah of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

This is a guest blog by Ellen Wedum, who is a retired physical chemist enjoying her life in the mountains outside of Cloudcroft. She is active in the Democratic party in Otero County, served as the Otero County Democratic chairwoman 2007-2009, and ran for state representative in 2006 and 2008.

Ellen suggests that readers might want to copy this op-ed, which also appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News, and send it to their favorite, or least favorite, legislator.

If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

April 10, 2009 at 01:13 PM in Civil Liberties, GLBT Rights, Guest Blogger, Religion | |

Colfax County Magistrate Court to Hold DWI Sentencing Hearing at Raton High School

Here's a creative tool being used in the battle against drunk driving. The Raton High School Gymnasium will be transformed into the courtroom of Colfax County Magistrate Judge Warren Walton as he presides over formal DWI Sentencing Hearings for three DWI defendants on Tuesday, April 14, 2009, at 11 AM.

A statement from the office of the New Mexico Supreme Court explained that strict courtroom decorum will be enforced by uniformed police officers as the students of Raton High School witness and hear the prosecuting and defense attorneys present their arguments and the judge hand down formal sentencing for the defendants who have previously plead guilty to DWI offenses. After each sentencing, Judge Walton will direct the defendant to address the students and give a statement explaining the effects of drinking and driving on their lives and the lives of their families. Uniformed police officers will then shackle the defendant for removal to the local jail.

Said Judge Walton, “We spend so much time telling our kids what to do. The “Court to Schools Program” vividly shows our children how defendants are held accountable in the criminal justice system for their choice to drink and drive. They observe the defendant, who is a member of their own community. They hear the defendant describe the damage caused by a reckless decision. Then they hear the shackles scrape on the hardwood floor as the defendant is removed. My hope is the students will leave with a lasting impression of the damage caused by drinking and driving, an impression which will deter them from making the same mistake.”

April 10, 2009 at 12:40 PM in Crime, Education, Justice | |

State Auditor Balderas' Bill Aiding Rural New Mexico Signed By Governor Richardson

Hector-Balderas-07Late yesterday, Governor Bill Richardson signed SB 336, a bill creating a multi-tier audit system that eases the financial burdens shouldered by smaller governmental entities when complying with state audit requirements. The legislation was the result of State Auditor Balderas' Task Force on Rural Accountability and directly impacts acequias, land grants, soil and water conservation districts, mutual domestic water associations, and small municipalities. The legislation was widely supported by representatives of those entities statewide.

"I'm proud that the work of the Task Force produced a more practical financial reporting system for smaller government agencies throughout rural New Mexico," Balderas said in a written statement. "Tough economic times require creative solutions in assisting rural communities with state financial requirements without compromising accountability. This new system provides some relief for the smallest of governmental agencies and is long overdue."

Balderas explained that the bill makes certain financial reporting requirements for entities economical, given the entity's annual revenue. Under the new law, if the operating budget revenues of an entity are:

  • Less than $10,000, the entity is not required to submit a financial report unless the entity directly receives and expends appropriations for capital outlay projects;
  • $10,000 to just under $50,000, the entity must submit its budget to the Local Government Division of the Department of Finance and Administration for certification;
  • $50,000 to just under $250,000, the entity must submit a financial report to the State Auditor according to a specific set of agreed-upon procedures;
  • $250,000 to just under $500,000 the entity must submit a financial report to the State Auditor according to a specific set of agreed-upon procedures, as well as a compilation of its financial statements;
  • $500,000 or more, the entity must submit a full financial and compliance audit to the State Auditor.

SB 336 was sponsored by Senator John Sapien (D, Corrales-9). For more information about the State Auditor's Office, please log onto www.osanm.org.

April 10, 2009 at 10:14 AM in Government, NM Legislature 2009, Rural Issues | |

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