Friday, March 25, 2011

Stephen Jones: The New Mercantilists

This is a post by contributing writer, Stephen Jones, of Las Cruces.

As the current recession has dragged on, the national debate seems to have turned to slashing national investment and eliminating national debt at all cost, while, at the same time, backing dirty, failing and outdated industries, rather than growing our way out of bad economic times. Instead of engaging in sound market-based solutions and working toward the sound public investment that supports innovation, leaders of both parties seem intent on abandoning any semblance of sound classical economic policy for the all-out support of an outdated policy of neo-mercantilism.    

Mercantilism was a theory of economic development that held that there was a finite amount of wealth in the world, and that national treasuries were entirely dependent on the monopoly trade in, and the extraction of, that fixed wealth. The mercantilist age was based on increasing debt in protected commercial combinations, supported by massive militarist states, whose national blood and treasure was spent in maintaining those protected monopolies. Mercantile traders used their accumulated wealth to buy control of governments, who in turn spent the treasuries of those nations to maintain the mercantile monopolies. The mercantile epoch is best remembered for galleons filled with Mesoamerican gold, Indian cotton and southeast Asian spices plying the ocean waves to feed Europe's little addictions.

For most of four centuries, up until the end of the 1800's, European mercantilists stacked their gold and silver bullion and forced their home kingdoms deep into debt, engaged primarily in maintaining colonial supply lines including, most notoriously, the Atlantic triangular trade. This trade involved moving raw materials extracted from the Americas to Europe, sending manufactured goods back to the the Americas and to Africa and turning human beings into commodities. The human commodities were traded as slaves, and most perished working in the sugar cane fields of the Western Hemisphere, the cash crop of the colonial powers of mercantile Europe.

Adam Smith, War and Revolution
By the time of the enlightenment era of the mid-eighteenth century, the radical thinkers of Europe had mustered the courage to speak up against the mercantilist masters of that continent. Among the seditious, Adam Smith, the Scottish economist and philosopher wrote, "A great empire has been established for the sole purpose of raising up a nation of customers who should be obliged to buy from the shops of our different producers all the goods with which these could supply them. For the sake of that little enhancement of price which this monopoly might afford our producers, the home-consumers have been burdened with the whole expense of maintaining and defending that empire."

It would be comforting to believe that the old mercantilist age came apart merely through the superior economic and political arguments of enlightened spokespersons like Adam Smith. In fact, however, the old order collapsed in decades of war and revolution, including a thirty-years-long world war between Britain and France that finally hurled both of those empires and their allies from the Western Hemisphere. It should be little wonder why the framers of the United States Constitution were so suspicious of national trade monopolies and standing armies. Two-and-a-half centuries on, we seem to find ourselves right back at square one.

A New Incarnation of the Mercantilists
Over the last few years, our Republican and libertarian friends would have us believe that they are the great defenders of Adam Smith's economic orthodoxy, champions of the "invisible hand" of the market, condemners of the large national debt and the defenders of enlightened economic growth, working to get us back to basics. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact they are just a new incarnation of the old mercantilist hoodoo.

Like medieval burgesses in their counting-houses, the Republican leadership puts the defense of monopoly trade combinations ahead of support for competitive small businesses, backs obsolete and dirty extractive industries over green technologies, opposes infrastructure development, whether it be rail, smart-grid energy, or rural broadband, and holds an outdated military-industrial complex sacrosanct, and all the enormous national debt that goes with it, at all costs. They place corporate protection ahead of innovation; they place government policing of individual "lifestyle" ahead of education, and military expenditures ahead of infrastructure, education, health and human resource development. Above all they defend tax breaks for oil companies over everything else. Drill here, drill now!

The Facts on Debt and Deficits
The inconvenient facts are readily available. Most of our national debt has been piled up almost entirely by Republican Administrations. Prior to sometime last year, when they got some kind of economic religion, the GOP told us, in the words of Dick Cheney, that "deficits don't matter." Ronald Reagan began his first term with a total debt of only $930 million and increased that total debt to $2.7 trillion, more than all the presidential administrations before him combined, including the "New Deal" of Roosevelt and "Great Society" of LBJ. The first Bush Administration expanded the national debt to over $4 trillion, and then George W. Bush nearly doubled the debt from $5.6 trillion to more than $10 trillion. Rather than calling for shared sacrifice, the second Bush fought two unfunded wars, while slashing the tax rates for the wealthiest Americans, and told the rest of us to just "go shopping."

Most of our deficits come from support of one industry, of course, and that is maintaining the endless international supply lines of the oil industry.

A Right-Wing Prescription for Failure
Instead of addressing the real cause of all that debt, the Republican Party takes aim at everything that has nothing to do with the deficits, including Social Security. Instead of moving us away from our oil addiction, the GOP moves to protect that one industry against any competition. As gas and food prices rise and national capital cash flows remain sluggish, Republican leaders take aim at everyone and everything other than the root causes of all that debt -- particularly education, health, infrastructure and services to the poor -- and instead pump cash into the coffers of central bankers, falsely believing such transfusions will somehow cure capital-flow problems.

In Wisconsin, the GOP's Governor Scott Walker attacks collective bargaining instead of building on that state's strong education facilities. In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder seeks to cut corporate taxes by 86%, while raising individual income taxes and hatching a dubious scheme that would allow him to install un-elected corporate managers over elected local governments. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie calls for raising that state’s estate tax exemption from $675,000 to $1 million, while eliminating New Jersey's earned income tax credit. Maine Governor Paul LePage, a Tea Party favorite, has introduced a tax package that would raise the state’s estate tax exemption from $1 million to $2 million -- allowing four hundred of the state’s wealthiest estates to escape taxation -- while hiking property taxes to make up the difference.

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez wants to slash funds for public education while blowing away any regulatory oversight of dirty extractive industries or her pet campaign contributors like Doña Ana County's dirty factory-dairy industry. Former Governor Gary Johnson, launching his vanity presidential campaign from a Taos-area ski slope, and looking to stoke the heart-strings of the so-called libertarian flock, tells us we should just go ahead and eliminate the whole national debt by next Thursday.

These schemes are not a recipe for recovery; they are a prescription for failure. They place protection for favored trade combinations ahead of innovation or sound market investment.

The Real Adam Smith
Even old Adam Smith, usually cited for his pure market orthodoxy, understood the need for public investment to public support the marketplace. Smith frequently called for government infusion of funds for key areas of development, including infrastructure and public education. Far from backing the unchecked support of corporate interests, Adam Smith was frequently among big business's greatest critics, especially when they worked with government partners to support old trade combinations and stifle small-market innovation. "Businessmen," Smith wrote in the Wealth of Nations, "are an order of men whose is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even oppress the public, and who have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it."

The time is now for the government and the marketplace to invest in the future and oppose the policies of the new mercantilists, both those of the Republican Party and the corporatists in the Democratic Party, and to get back to basics and build for the future. 

To see more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.

March 25, 2011 at 09:35 AM in By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Corporatism, Economy, Populism, Finance, Investments, History, Republican Party, Right Wing, Trade | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Stephen Jones: Looking Backward

This is a post by contributing writer, Stephen Jones, of Las Cruces.

Among the many architectural gems in the city of Chicago, a city of landmark architectural gems, stands a large stone home constructed in 1886 and designed by the Boston architect H.H. Richardson. Because of its open interior floor plan, the Glessner House is considered by many to be the first "modern home." Commissioned by John Glessner, a partner in Warder, Bushnell & Glessner, a 19th-century farm equipment manufacturer. The dichotomy between the home's flowing open interior spaces and rich wooden detail and its severe fortress-like, harsh-stone exterior, with a facade lacking of any large windows, is a striking, often unnerving experience to present-day tourists and other visitors to the building.

One of the most unusual features of the structure is a stark, brick-walled servants' corridor that runs the entire length of the exterior walls of the house and separates the interior of the home and the outer stone walls. The exterior windows along the corridor are mere arrow-slit openings only a few inches wide.

Glessner's fortress home was not so much a statement of avant-garde architectural tastes as it was a domestic military engine, conceived by design, by the architect, and intended to protect the Glessner family from the working people of Chicago. For all of their wealth, John Glessner and his neighbors on Prairie Avenue in Chicago were a frightened and miserable lot, virtual prisoners in their opulent homes. 

George M. Pullman, the railway sleeping car manufacturer, and Glessner's immediate neighbor, was laid to rest at a secret midnight funeral, buried in a lead-lined coffin within a reinforced steel-and-concrete vault, under a slab of several tons of reinforced cement, due to fears that his body might be exhumed and desecrated by his angry employees. Marshall Field, the legendary retailer and another Prairie Avenue neighbor, lived in hiding, moving from his downtown businesses to his home in a dark, sealed carriage. His family, cooped up in their gilded-age mansion, lead lives more resembling the confines of a penitentiary than that of respected leaders of the community, a family wracked by scandal, murder and suicide. 

Class Warfare
Just beyond their fortified homes were America's working people, and a state of virtual war. Beginning in March of 1886, as H.H. Richardson was designing the Glessner home, a series of labor conflicts spread through the streets of the city and culminated in a general strike on May 1, 1886. Four days later, violence between police and workers escalated to a bombing. Though the perpetrator, or their political intentions, were unknown, Marshall Field led efforts on behalf of the Chicago business community to hang eight innocent men. The "Haymarket Tragedy," as the event became known in the United States, set off world-wide pro-labor protests, and the events known as "Haymarket" to Americans have been commemorated internationally ever since, as May Day.

Conditions in Chicago were repeated in every major city that year, and deep into the plains. In 1886 alone, over 1400 violent strikes crippled the nation. 350,000 industrial workers struck in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, and New York. Over 200,000 railway workers struck for seven months in states from Missouri to Texas, violently battling the hired vigilantes of the Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific railroads, the state militias west of the Mississippi and the Texas Rangers. The labor unrest spilled north into Canada and south into Mexico. Conflict also spread out onto the farms on the great plains, as Granger farmers called "populists" demanded the immediate nationalization of the banks and railroads.

Anti-Democratic Utopia
In the aftermath of 1886, Americans began to wrestle with the ongoing conflict between labor and business owners that threatened to turn the nation into Armageddon. A utopian novel by Edward Bellamy titled Looking Backward: 1887-2000, became the top-selling book of the era. Concerned with the incalcitrance of the special interests, the book envisioned an ideal future where labor and business lived in a world of perfect co-operative harmony. Largely forgotten today, Bellamy's novel spurred a mass movement of followers, and Bellamy Clubs organized thousands of chapters in all corners of the United States. If Bellamy's comforting vision of harmony between the classes attracted many, that projected harmony came at a very high price -- the abolition of American democracy -- which Bellamy thought corrupt.

Choosing Progressive Reform
Fortunately for all of us, Americans embarked on a substantially different path in the years following 1886, choosing progressive reform instead of the various extremist visions that devoured many of our sister nations. In choosing reform, Americans were able to bring labor and farmers together with business, and forge a prosperous nation for all Americans. One key to that prosperity, and a major one, was the recognition of America's unions. 

Faced with the challenge of extremism, either the anti-democratic extremism of the corporate special interests, or the anti-democratic visions of people like Bellamy, Americans chose, at the beginning of the 20th century, to steer the nation onto a path of principled, democratic reform -- and back onto the sound republican vision of the Americans that had gone before them. "Friends," Theodore Roosevelt said, "our task as Americans is to strive for social and industrial justice, achieved through the genuine rule of the people."

Using the "bully-pulpit," Roosevelt took on the special interests and adopted the path of reform of the progressives. "I prefer to work with moderate, with rational, conservatives," Roosevelt said, "provided only that they do in good faith strive forward toward the light but when they halt and turn their backs to the light, and sit with the scorners on the seats of reaction, then I must part company with them." 

Today's Radicalism
After some of what we have seen coming from the Republican Party and their corporate sponsors in the past few months, we would all be wise to spend a little time looking backward. We are right to be concerned about the extremist radicalism of the governments of Wisconsin and elsewhere -- including the Martinez administration here in New Mexico -- that seeks to replace moderate leadership with class, gender, ethnic and race hatred, against LGBT people, and to strip the unions of collective bargaining rights. This radicalism aim to turn back the clock a full century and a quarter, back to the dark world-vision of Glessner, Pullman, and Field.  

We, as Americans, chose a different path in Roosevelt's time, and prospered as a nation for that vision. We need to pick up the torch and get back to basics, and to our genuine American values, again today. 

To see more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.

March 10, 2011 at 10:57 AM in Business, By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Corporatism, History, Labor, Progressivism, Right Wing | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

SJC Tables Anti-Cultural Preservation Bill, Companion Bill Still Alive in NM House

On Monday night, a bill that would have thwarted New Mexicans’ ability to protect sacred, cultural, and historic sites was stalled in Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) by a tabling motion that passed 6-4.

“The Pueblo of Acoma is pleased with the committee’s decision,” Governor Randal Vicente of Acoma Pueblo said after the vote. “Tonight’s vote affirms the right of New Mexico Tribes to protect our culture and historical heritage for future generations.”

Senate Bill 421, Cultural Property Registration and Acquisition, sponsored by Sen. Rod Adair (R-Roswell), went through many iterations and amendments in a confusing hearing. The version that was voted on required a majority of all property and mineral rights owners to submit written consent before nominating a property for designation. Because property or mineral interest owners may not be New Mexico residents, this change could have transferred the decision-making power from New Mexicans to out-of-state entities -- and from property owners to extraction industries. Crazy stuff.

“New Mexico is home to rich cultural and historic sites that bolster the tourism industry in many local communities,” said Sandy Buffett, Executive Director of Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM). “Protecting the lands that are important to New Mexicans is not only responsible, but ensures that our communities are culturally and economically sound. We applaud the committee’s action to table SB 421.”

SB 421 has an identical companion bill, HB 422, which passed out of House Energy & Natural Resources Committee today (HENRC), and will move on to House Judiciary Committee (HJC). HB 422 is sponsored by Rep. Richard Vigil (D-Ribera).

Take Action: Contact your representative and members of the HJC and urge them to vote no on HB 422.

March 8, 2011 at 12:51 PM in Environment, History, Mining, Native Americans, NM Legislature 2011, Uranium | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Stephen Jones: My Wisconsin

This is a post by contributing writer, Stephen Jones, of Las Cruces.

As we have watched the largest public protests in decades unfold in the streets of Madison over the past few days, I've been reflecting on my own values, old family ties, and the many hard working families that still live in that Midwestern state. I know a little about Wisconsin and its people. I was born there.

As a Wisconsin native I feel it necessary to comment on the working people of the state, on their collective bargaining rights, and on the fake budget crisis contrived by the newly elected Governor, Scott Walker, and his corporate masters the Koch Brothers; a fake crisis echoed here in New Mexico and on the national stage. As we probably all know by now, Walker came to office this year with a budget surplus, a rare occurrence in this economic downturn, and used his good fortune to launch a Union-busting scheme in the heart of one of the nation's most progressive states; in fact, the state that gave progressivism its name.

My own progressive values were shaped at the dinner table in my grandparents' Milwaukee kitchen where I spent many of my summer days when I was growing up. My grandfather, Stephen, for whom I was named, was a streetcar motorman. My grandmother's given name was Sophia, though she preferred being addressed by the more familiar "Sophie." She may have been the best cook in her northwest side Milwaukee neighborhood. She baked her own bread, made her own noodles, spent hours creating baked goods that few so-called professionals could match, and canned everything that didn't sprout flowers from her garden -- skills carried over to city life from a rural ancestry. It was State Fair award-winning stuff. Cooking wasn't her sole obsession. She used a manual-wringer washing machine and wash board decades after the world had adopted automatics. The automatic contraptions "didn't really get the cloths clean," she said.

My grandparents, some 10-12-years before I was born

They were stout Union people and proud of it. Like most Wisconsinites and Milwaukeeans, they were proud of their state and proud of their city. They were proud of what their generation of working people had accomplished there; namely, a place with the best schools, the best parks, the best libraries, and the best cultural institutions in the region, if not the nation. The high standard of living of Wisconsin residents came largely through collective bargaining. It was a stalwart Labor state.

It was a pleasant enough life to come from. Wisconsin was known for its respect for natural areas and its high-ranking universities. Milwaukee was known for its honest, clean government, parks and great schools. While other cities were reeling in the Rust Belt, Milwaukee was still prosperous. The state's workers were among the best paid in the nation, and had some of the best benefits. Milwaukee had the highest rate of home ownership in the nation. Many of those homes were collected in wide bands of housing called "Milwaukee flats," two-story craftsman homes that had begun as simple one-story buildings that were quickly converted into large lot-filling two-story buildings, as Milwaukee's skilled Union workforce invested their savings into becoming entrepreneurial landlords.

In those summers in that kitchen, my grandparents, Stephen and Sophie, repeatedly tried to impress on me that none of Wisconsin's life advantages were ever to be taken for granted. Before he was a Union streetcar motorman, my grandfather had worked twelve-hour days in a mill where the men who had been crushed, burned or perished in the unsafe machinery during the night shift, then had their hats lined up at the plant gate to greet the incoming day shift as a kind of macabre memorial or warning to the incoming workers. In the old mills, before the Unions, life had been cheap.

Before she took to cooking and washing and making a home for her children, my grandmother worked in a sweatshop stitching linings for steamer trunks, then helping her mother cook and clean at the family boarding house that lodged the laborers that faced the unsafe mills at night. She met my grandfather when he was a workman-boarder at her mother's house.

Labor Wars and LaFollette
They were veterans of the labor wars that rocked Milwaukee at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th, and of the progressive movement that wrested democratic control of the state from corrupt party machines tied to corporate power, which ran the place over a century ago. 19th-century Wisconsin, like most states, was closely associated with the raw power of the economic trusts. Farmers faced off against legislatures bought on Wall Street, workers faced off against physical attacks from the bosses. In 1886, then-Governor Jeremiah Rusk sent the State Militia to Milwaukee with orders to fire on protesting workers demanding an eight-hour day at the Bay View Rolling Mill. Seven people, including a twelve year old boy, were killed. The event helped to spur the reform movements in Wisconsin that overturned the trusts and led to a national movement of reform we know as progressivism.

Images Combining traditional, authentically conservative family and community values with sweeping economic and political reform, the organization of voters in Wisconsin led to key reforms nationally. In Wisconsin the movement was led by Robert LaFollette (above right), a Madison Congressman who coined the term "progressivism" at the end of the 1890s. He was elected Governor in 1900, then U.S. Senator in 1908, where he would eventually lead a bloc of progressive voices in the Congress.

LaFollette's reforms include many innovations that progressives still champion, and that many of us take for granted today. State-elected regulatory agencies, publicly elected school boards, workmen's compensation, unemployment insurance, municipal home rule, the minimum wage, the primary election system, voter initiatives, referendum and recall, direct election of U.S. Senators, women's suffrage, the abolition of child labor, and progressive taxation, among others.

Milwaukee's municipal reformers established he first government-run water and sanitation systems, created the nation's first community college, and passed the first mandatory public-education ordinance. The reforms were sweeping. The public library launched the first publicly funded telephone reference system, and Lutie Stearns, the system's Children's Librarian and a friend of the LaFollette family, used her personal savings to launch the world's first bookmobile service and took a lending library on wagon-top to rural communities in Wisconsin. Stearns was just one of the many public servants, including many of our public schoolteachers, who have put innovation and sacrifice ahead of personal gain.

Every Generation Better Than the Last
My grandparents were proud of the accomplishments of their generation, but feared that the clock might one day be turned back. My parents were never very happy when my grandparents talked about the past. To my father, a World War II veteran, and my mother, who had a successful career as a Veterans Administration nurse, my grandparents' bleak stories and warnings about the past were not proper topics of discussion for the ears of their five-year-old son. At best they were ancient history, best forgotten. To my parents, Wisconsin and its local communities were places where everyone could safely look forward, not back. After all, America was a country where every generation had it better than the last.

Like my parents, most of Wisconsin's people took hard work, responsive institutions, shared sacrifice, fair play, and the resulting shared affluence for granted. The state pioneered the progressive income tax, and its state income tax has always been among the nation's highest, yet businesses have always eagerly headquartered there to gain access to the state's extensive education facilities and highly educated workforce. Wisconsin's citizens are traditionally among the most educated in the nation.

Wisconsin's people believed in targeted government investment and spending, particularly in education, but were infamously frugal and valued conservation as well. The largest cathedral in the state was hand-built by Milwaukee workmen who hand-carried salvaged brick, wood, and stone north from Chicago's demolished former Federal Office Building, and refashioned the salvage into the cathedral. It is the only church in the world whose door knobs sport the U.S. Federal shield logo.

Muir, Nelson and the Packers
Wisconsin's John Muir and Gaylord Nelson were national leaders of the conservation movement. Muir left his Portage, Wisconsin home and took his naturalist vision west late in the 19th century to "Save the American soul from total surrender to materialism." Muir was a leading proponent of the National Parks movement, and Nelson founded the Wilderness Society in the 20th century. Environmentalist and forester Aldo Leopold, another Wisconsin native, is well-known to most New Mexicans as the naturalist who developed our own state's natural resource management systems.

The so-called "Wisconsin idea" we learned about in the Dairy State as children provided a pretty good life for all. Even the champion Green Bay Packers are a product of that "Wisconsin idea." The Packers are the only community-owned professional sports franchise in the nation; the team and its facilities are owned co-operatively by Green Bay's citizens rather than a multi-million-dollar corporate entity.

No Room for Complacency
In 1912, at the height of his political career, Senator Robert M. LaFollette of Wisconsin wrote in his autobiography that "We have long rested comfortably in this country upon the assumption that because our form of government is democratic, it was therefore automatically producing democratic results." We were wrong to be so complacent, Senator LaFollette went on to warn us. "Tyranny and oppression," he wrote, "are just as possible under democratic forms as under any other. We are slow to realize that democracy is a life; and involves continual struggle. It is only as those of every generation who love democracy resist with all their might the encroachments of its enemies that the ideals of representative government can even be nearly approximated."

Senator LaFollette and my grandparents were right to worry. As the people of Wisconsin learned last week, corrupt corporate-driven voices are never every truly at bay. While Wisconsin entered 2011 with a budget surplus, state workers -- whose average wage is a mere $24,000 annually -- found their lives and livelihoods under attack within months of Scott Walker's inauguration. Wisconsin's new masters sought to strip them of their health care and pensions, as well as their collective bargaining rights.

Stand With Wisconsin's Working People
The rest of us need to join Wisconsin's working people and stand up to this attack on hard-won middle class lives. The challenge may seem daunting, but hardly more daunting than it was for the laborers who demanded an eight-hour day at the Bay View Rolling Mill in 1886, or the recalcitrant and corrupt political establishment that Robert M. "Fighting Bob" LaFollette took on and defeated at the beginning of the 20th century. This, at a time when progressive reform was an untried idea rather than the successful and long-proven ideology that brought America to prosperity in the decades that followed his leadership.

"The essence of the Progressive movement, as I see it," Robert M. LaFollette wrote, "lies in its purpose to uphold the fundamental principles of representative government. It expresses the hopes and desires of millions of common men and women who are willing to fight for their ideals, to take defeat if necessary, and still go on fighting."

Wise words for any generation.

To see more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.

February 21, 2011 at 10:57 AM in By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Corporatism, Economy, Populism, Education, History, Labor, Progressivism | Permalink | Comments (13)

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Steve Pearce Raids Columbus

This is a post by contributing writer, Stephen Jones, of Las Cruces.

Pearce Congressman Steve Pearce (R, NM-02), leading a group of Congressional Tea Party favorites, raided Columbus, New Mexico on Tuesday where the group met with residents at the Columbus Community Center. Columbus is a small border community just north of the Mexican border in southwestern New Mexico where Pancho Villa led a raid onto U.S. soil in 1916 during the era of the Mexican Revolution.

Joining the Pearce event at Columbus on Tuesday were Georgia Congressman Phil Gringey, Iowa Congressman Steve King, and California Congressman Ed Royce, all Republicans. Congressmen King and Gringey are co-sponsors of H.R. 140, the “Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011,” an effort to overturn the 14th Amendment in the United States Congress. In his press release issued Sunday announcing the visit, Pearce claimed "I want to help get beyond the beltway rhetoric of border security, and work toward solutions that reflect the complexity of the problem."

If overturning the U.S. Constitution constitutes getting beyond the overheated "beltway rhetoric," it's hard to see how. Far from representing a reasonable borderlands voice on security issues, Pearce's new alliance with extremists like King and Gringey is anything but reasonable.  According to Congressman King, "The current practice of extending U.S. citizenship to hundreds of thousands of ‘Anchor Babies’ every year arises from the misapplication of the Constitution’s citizenship clause and creates an incentive for illegal aliens to cross our border. The ‘Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011’ ends this practice by making it clear that a child born in the United States to illegal alien parents does not meet the standard for birthright citizenship already established by the Constitution."

Nothing could be further from the facts. The only constitutional "misapplication" showcased by the Congressional party is that of Congressmen Pearce's allies, Gringey and King. The 14th Amendment clearly states "All persons born or naturalized" are citizens of the United States. Birthright citizenship to all persons born on American soil was the clear intent of the framers of the 14th Amendment and subsequently strongly supported by the Supreme Court and other case law.

History of 14th Amendment
As we have frequently pointed out on Democracy for New Mexico, the issue of birthright citizenship was extensively debated in Congress by the authors and sponsors of the Amendment leading up to passage and ratification in 1866 and 1867, and their intentions made clear in their extensive speeches and writings.

In an address to Congress on March 9, 1866 Congressman John A. Bingham of Ohio, the Representative who drafted the original language of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, specifically made his intent clear. Speaking in support of the proposed Amendment Bingham said, "I find no fault with the introductory clause [birthright citizenship], which is simply declaratory of what is written in the Constitution, that every human being born within the jurisdiction of the United States not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty is, in the language of your Constitution itself, a natural-born citizen; but sir, I may be allowed to say further, that I deny that the Congress of the United States ever had the power or color of power to say that any man born within the United States, is not and shall not be a citizen of the United States. Citizenship is his birthright, and neither the Congress nor the States can justly or lawfully take it from him."

As to whether birthright citizenship was to extend only to former slaves, and not to the children of immigrants, Bingham spoke forcefully for the language and for equal protection of the law for all persons within America's borders. He  asked opponents of birthright citizenship in Congress, "So you propose to allow these discriminations to be made in the States against the alien and stranger? Can such legislation be sustained by reason or conscience? With all respect to any gentleman who may be a supporter of it, I ask can it be sanctioned? Is it not as unjust as the unjust State legislation you seek to remedy? Your Constitution says 'No person,' not 'no citizen' 'shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without the due process of  law."

Missing the Point
Pearce, Gringey and King are off the mark on immigration, on constitutional intent, and they fail to grasp the real security challenges facing the border region, generally. Furthermore, if the Pearce-Gringey raid on Columbus was meant to highlight an historic event when Mexican nationals under General Villa entered the territory of the United States and shot up the town, the Congressmen seem to have missed the obvious historical analogy. Villa's 1916 raid had nothing to do with immigration into the United States but rather was an action, on Villa's part, to extract revenge against an American gun dealer who had illegally sold weapons and then cheated the Mexican revolutionary.

That gun dealer, Sam Ravel, had sold guns to Villa and other leaders of the Mexican revolution, and then failed to make good on the promised delivery to Villa's forces. Ravel's property was destroyed in the 1916 raid, though Ravel, who was in Albuquerque at the time of the raid, himself escaped harm. If Pearce and his allies King and Gringey are truly concerned with border security, they might begin by addressing the illegal gun sales from north of the border into Mexico that have destabilized the region and contributed to a northward flight of refugees from conflicts south of the border both in 1916 and in the drug-driven borderland crisis today. Unlike birthright citizenship, illegal gun-running by rogue weapons dealers is not protected by our Constitution.

While FBI statistics show a dramatic decrease in illegal immigration and criminal activity in the areas on this side of the border, as well as more deportations than ever before, the death rate in northern Mexico at the hands of drug cartels armed by illegal gun merchants from north of the border are higher than ever.

On the meaning and intent of our Constitution, specifically the birthright citizenship provision of the 14th Amendment, and its democratic guarantees of equal protection and due process, Congressman John Bingham, its original author, said in 1866, "Your Constitution provides that no man, no matter what his color, no matter under what sky he might have been born, no matter in what disastrous conflict or by what tyrannical hand his liberty may have been cloven down, no matter how poor, no matter how friendless, no matter how ignorant, shall be deprived of life or liberty or property without due process of law--in its highest sense, that law which and impartial, equal, exact justice."

We realize Representative Steve Pearce isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, but Congressman Bingham's words and intent ought to be clear enough even for the Congressman from New Mexico's 2nd District to understand. 

To read more posts by Stephen Jones, visit our archive.

February 2, 2011 at 12:58 PM in Border Issues, By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Civil Liberties, Hispanic Issues, History, Immigration, Minority Issues, Right Wing, Steve Pearce | Permalink | Comments (6)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

2/5: World Premier of 'Green Fire' Film About Aldo Leopold at NHCC

Watch trailer

From the Albuquerque Wildlife Federation:
Come enjoy the February 5th world premiere of Green Fire, a film about Aldo Leopold -- author, conservationist, and founder of Albuquerque Wildlife Federation. AWF will be a sponsor for this exciting event ... stop by our table to visit at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. Follow the link below to purchase tickets -- just $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Click for flyer (pdf). Don't miss it!

World Premiere of Green Fire!
February 5, 2011, 7:00 PM
Catered reception following film
Doors open at 6:30 PM
Coming to Albuquerque... 

Join us at the Albuquerque Journal Theater at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, 1701 4th Street SW in Albuquerque. Tickets available through NHCC Box Office, $10 advance/$12 at the door (includes box office fees). Visit the film's website at

Be in the audience when we show Green Fire for the first time ever! Program includes introduction from the filmmakers and recognition of winners of the Aldo Leopold Writing Contest. A catered reception will follow the film. 

See the first full-length, high-definition documentary film ever made about legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold and his environmental legacy! Green Fire shares highlights from his extraordinary career, explaining how he shaped conservation and the modern environmental movement. It also illustrates how Leopold's vision of a community that cares about both people and land continues to inform and inspire people across the country and around the world.

Leopold spent his early career in New Mexico and Arizona, developing ideas that remain relevant today. He continues to inspire projects nationwide that connect people and land.

Leopold’s call for a respectful relationship between people and the natural world lives on in community conservation work happening all across the nation and around the world, and certainly all over New Mexico. Get energized to become a part of the “fierce green fire” of people and organizations working to connect people and land in their own communities!

Thank you to our major sponsors: Anthony Anella Architect AIA, Bernalillo County Open Space, Los Poblanos Inn and Cultural Center, National Hispanic Cultural Center, US Forest Service Region 3

Additional Sponsors: Bean and Associates, Inc., The Bosque School, Direct Power and Water, Green Fire Times, New Mexico Land Conservancy, OGB Architectural Millwork, and La Montanita Co-op.

January 22, 2011 at 11:32 AM in Environment, Events, Film, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sen. Tom Udall Honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Renews Call for Hope and Healing

King light

The annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Parade March takes place today in Albuquerque. Participants will meet at 11:00 AM at University and MLK Boulevard NE and march to the downtown Civic Plaza for commemoration activities. U.S. Reps. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan will be among the speakers.

Today at 3:00 PM, the African American Performing Arts Center at New Mexico Expo, 310 San Pedro NE in Albuquerque, will host MoJubilee, a free, live theater performance that recounts the life of Dr. King. The performance will feature music from the Motown era. For information, call (505) 261-7474.

Senator Tom Udall released the following statement yesterday honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“Each year, we come together on this day to honor the legacy of a man who dedicated his life to service. A man who brought hope and healing to America. And every year, events of the day serve as a reminder of how important it is that we all strive -- both as individuals and as a society -- to live up to that legacy.

“Last year, as we honored Dr. King, the people of Haiti were suffering in the aftermath of an unimaginable natural disaster. And Americans by the millions were rising to the call -- offering aid, assistance, and prayers to a country most had never visited and to a people they had never met.

“Through their actions, they were answering what Dr. King called ‘life’s most urgent question’ -- ‘what are you doing for others?’

“This year, we gather again to honor Dr. King. And today that uniquely American spirit is once again evident as our country faces a national tragedy of its own -- the senseless murder of six innocent Americans and the grave wounding of a Congresswoman and 13 others.

“Congresswoman Giffords and those gathered at the Tucson supermarket on Saturday were simply living their lives, trying to make a difference. They were being active participants in the Democratic process when they became victims in a senseless tragedy.

“As we mourn those we have lost and pray for those who are struggling to recover, we would be wise to remember the words of Dr. King -- our nation’s preeminent advocate of non-violence. We would be wise to remind ourselves that ‘the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’

“At this time of challenge and controversy, Dr. King’s legacy serves as a guiding light for us all. ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that,’ Dr. King said. ‘Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.’

“That’s why, as we honor Dr. King, I urge New Mexicans to love one another. Today we must live the words of Dr. King, who said, ‘I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.’

Sen. Udall will speak at the 15th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Commemorative Breakfast that will be held on Monday, January 17, at 8–10:00 AM at the Marriott Pyramid Hotel in Albuquerque. For tickets, contact Galvin Brown at (505) 293-1300.

January 15, 2011 at 10:25 AM in History, Holidays, Sen. Tom Udall | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stephen Jones: A Fire in a Crowded Theater

This is a post by contributing writer, Stephen Jones, of Las Cruces.

On a cold December morning in 1905 a small group of old friends of the late William Lloyd Garrison gathered at the door of the old African Meeting House on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston to mark the centenary of the birth of the fiery abolitionist leader. One passerby, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, out for an evening stroll, indignantly crossed to the opposite side of the street, telling his wife that nothing could induce him “to do honor to a man who broke the condition of social life by bidding the very structure of society perish rather than he not have his way -- expressed in terms of morals, to be sure, but still his own way.”

For Holmes looking back at Garrison in 1905, being morally right was not worth the carnage of national conflict; rather it was better, Justice Holmes believed, to restrict provocative speech. Holmes, a veteran of national conflict, was three times wounded in Civil War battles from Antietam to Fredericksburg before returning to Harvard after the war to earn a law degree. He then practiced as a private attorney in commercial law before his appointment to a Federal Judgeship in 1878. In 1902 President Roosevelt appointed Holmes to the United States Supreme Court.

It was in the capacity of a Supreme Court Justice that Holmes wrote the majority opinion in Schenck v. United States, echoing his feelings on the limits to free speech he first expressed on Commonwealth Avenue, and shaped by his life experience as a soldier and a wounded veteran. Holmes likened what he viewed as dangerous speech to “falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater.”

Charles Schenk, the Secretary of Socialist Party, had been arrested in 1917 under the wartime espionage act, for passing out leaflets at a military induction center. Schenk’s leaflet urged inductees to defy the draft and refuse service as a “violation of rights.” In his opinion Holmes found that Schenk’s agitation presented “a clear and present danger” to the order of American society, and found that Schenk had no right to criticize the Federal government in a time of war. In Schenk, Holmes likened the agitator’s speech to “falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater,” the often improperly paraphrased sentence for which the opinion is best remembered.

Holmes Changes His Mind
Holmes' opinion in Schenk set off widespread debate among academic circles. After engaging in a spirited correspondence following his decision with Zechariah Chafee, a young professor at Harvard, and others, Oliver Wendell Holmes had second thoughts. In his written dissent in Abrams v. United States only eleven months later, Justice Holmes decided he had made an error and instead appealed for free and open speech. In his dissent in Abrams, Holmes concluded that suppression of free speech posed an even greater danger to the exercise of a democracy than its restriction in the interest of national tranquility.

In less than a year, Justice Holmes decided that suppression of the speech of a William Lloyd Garrison, or even of a Charles Schenk, might, in the end, have much worse consequences to the well being of the nation than the free exercise of open debate. In his dissent, Holmes wrote, “When men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundation of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas.”

Relevance to Today's Debate on Vitriolic Speech
In the immediate aftermath of the assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, there has been a lot of concern and public discussion of vitriolic speech in the airwaves and among certain so-called leaders, particularly the hate speech of many so-called “conservatives.” Whether this overheated rhetoric drove a single disturbed individual to stalk Representative Giffords with a semi-automatic weapon we may never know. In the end, it is really a question to be decided by each one of us, individually.

Like most of us, I hope that the events of this past weekend will give some of us pause before spouting violent speech against our fellow citizens. That examination of conscience, however, is best arrived at by the members of the press, the political leaders of our nation, the media personalities who make their trade in creating division and by ourselves as individual citizens. It would be a mistake for any of us to seek to limit the free speech of any among us, onerous as it might be.

Words do have consequences, as we learned again this week. Any of us can, after all, falsely shout fire in a crowded theater if we choose to do so. If we do so, however, we ought to realize there will in the end be a price to be paid. Ms. Palin and others may now be learning this simple lesson. Time and reflection will ultimately tell. In the aftermath of this week’s violent event there have been demands to restrict speech on the air and elsewhere. This would be a mistake.

Protect Our Best Values and Traditions
There isn’t really much value in demanding that so-called “conservatives” refrain from carrying guns to political rallies, speaking in terms of “second amendment remedies” or branding themselves in terms of street warfare. By now we ought to know that those so-called “conservatives” have very little ability to restrain themselves, anyway. At the end of the day, their path is neither a long-term winning strategy nor a valuable vision for our future. As progressives, we had best stay our own course, and work to protect the best traditions of our nation, including protecting the free exercise of speech we may not like.

As horrified as we may be today, we should refrain from restricting the values we most cherish, including the free exercise of speech. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his Eulogy to the Martyred Children, in the aftermath of the killings of four young girls at a Birmingham church in 1963, “Somehow we must believe that the most misguided among them can learn to respect the dignity and the worth of all human personality.” The violence and negativity of the speech of conservatives “may well serve as a redemptive force ... to transform the negative extremes of a dark past into the positive extremes of a bright future, and yet cause the nation to come to terms with its conscience. At the end of the day there is little to be gained, really, in restricting the speech of anyone, in the words of Dr. King, “who has fed his constituents with the stale bread of hatred.”

To read more posts by Stephen Jones, visit our archive.

January 11, 2011 at 03:10 PM in By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Civil Liberties, History, Media, Right Wing | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gov. Bill Richardson: Billy the Kid Pardon Decision by Friday; No Additional Pardons or Commutations

Governor Bill Richardson issued a statement today saying he continues to review documents and public input related to a potential pardon for Billy the Kid. (Click to see the petition for the pardon submitted by Albuquerque attorney Randi McGinn.) Gov. Richardson reiterated that he will announce his decision before he leaves office on Friday.

The governor's office received 809 emails and letters commenting on the proposed partial pardon by the December 26 deadline for submittal cited on a special web page about the case. Of those, 430 backed the pardon while 379 were against it. 

E-mails debating the issue came from all over the United States and beyond, including England, Japan, France and New Zealand, said Richardson's deputy chief of staff, Eric Witt.

"This has clearly generated a lot of interest globally," Witt said.

He said responses, pro and con, came from people familiar with the legend of Billy the Kid as well as from people knowledgeable about the territorial era and the Lincoln County War, in which the Kid and Brady were on opposite sides.

No Other Pardons or Commutations on Tap
Other than the possibility of that pardon, Richardson said he will not grant any other pardons or commute any other sentences before leaving office.

“I believe that requests of this nature must be fully vetted and investigated by the appropriate agencies to ensure that I do the right thing for those who request clemency as well as the citizens of New Mexico,” Richardson said. “While I appreciate the urgency from those who have made last-minute requests for pardons, I do not have adequate time to thoroughly review them before leaving office.”

December 29, 2010 at 04:03 PM in Crime, Gov. Bill Richardson, History, Legal Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gov. Bill Richardson Asks for Imput on Billy the Kid Pardon Petition

Billy-the-kid Yesterday, Governor Bill Richardson announced his office has received a formal petition for the pardon of Billy the Kid which he will consider and make a decision on before the end of the year. Governor Richardson is seeking input on the petition and has set up a website and email address where history buffs, experts, other interested parties and the general public can weigh in on its merits (see below).

According to a statement released by the governor's office, the petition centers around the widespread belief that Territorial Governor Lew Wallace promised Billy the Kid a pardon in return for damning testimony The Kid gave during a murder trial. The petition is narrow in scope and does not argue for a blanket pardon of all of Billy the Kid’s activities. The petition can be read by logging onto this page.

“As someone who is fascinated with New Mexico’s rich history, I’ve always been intrigued by the story of Billy the Kid and, in particular, the alleged promise of a pardon he was given by Territorial Governor Lew Wallace,” Governor Richardson said in a written statement. “I will diligently review this new petition and all the facts available regarding an agreement between Billy the Kid and Governor Wallace before rendering any decision.”

Governor Richardson has heard from many people over the years who believe the pardon issue deserves to be revisited. In an effort to clarify the issue, the administration has been reviewing the historical record surrounding these events through various documents, accounts, personal interviews and other materials.

Independently, nationally prominent trial attorney Randi McGinn was designated to review both the history and prior petitions to ascertain whether there was sufficient basis for the matter to be seriously considered. Ms. McGinn, a New Mexico resident and western history enthusiast, agreed to undertake this voluntarily and at no cost to taxpayers. After concluding her review, Ms. McGinn submitted a formal petition on December 14, 2010.

Governor Richardson will be accepting written comments regarding the pardon petition until December 26th. You are asked to limit comments to the contents, events and pleas contained in the petition. Those interested can log onto, email or mail their comments to:

Office of the Governor
State Capitol
490 Old Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe, NM 87501

ATTN: Eric Witt-BTK

“I look forward to hearing what others have to say about the petition. I also hope that this will spark renewed interest in New Mexico’s history and how the days of Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War helped shape our state,” Governor Richardson added.

December 17, 2010 at 11:36 AM in Crime, Gov. Bill Richardson, History, Justice, Legal Issues | Permalink | Comments (6)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Otero County Democrats Honor Stephen C. DuBois: “I’m a Harry Truman Democrat!”

Stephen C. DuBois receives award from Dawn Provencher while Stephanie DuBois and Christy French look on

Contributing writer Stephen Jones checks in from Southern New Mexico.

Otero County Democrats met at Sunset Run Restaurant in Alamogordo Tuesday night to take care of local organizational business, announce raffle and fundraising winners, and to honor Stephen C. DuBois, a longtime member and supporter of the party and a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. DuBois was a 19 year old sailor at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked the U.S Fleet in Hawaii, where he was stationed. DuBois served in the United States Navy in the Pacific Theater during World War II and in the Korean conflict.

Otero County Dems applaud Stephen DuBoise

Dawne Provencher, Otero County Democratic Chair, read and presented DuBois a certificate of appreciation from the County Party and also announced that the party was placing a commemorative brick in his name at the Tularosa Veterans memorial. DuBois is a resident of Tularosa, New Mexico.

Battle of Pearl Harbor veteran Stephen DuBois

Stephen C. DuBois is also a lifelong Democrat and father of Stephanie DuBois, a leading Democratic activist who recently ran for New Mexico Public Regulation Commissioner. Stephen DuBois thanked the party and the large group of well-wishers at the event for the commemoration and honor from the Party, “I’m a Harry Truman Democrat!” he said.

Stephen's daughter Stephanie DuBois

Earlier on Tuesday, New Mexico Democratic State Chair Javier Gonzalez honored the 2400 military and civilian casualties that lost their lives at Pearl Harbor and issued a statement specifically honoring Stephen DuBois: “I am proud to take this opportunity to thank and honor Stephen C. DuBois, a Pearl Harbor veteran and 30-year resident of New Mexico. Mr. DuBois served as a Navy medic with the US Marines in Pearl Harbor after joining the military in 1939, and his 20 years of service also included tours in World War II and Korea. His commitment to serve our country and its values makes him a living example for our emulation.”

To read more posts by Stephen Jones, visit our archive.</p>

December 8, 2010 at 09:49 AM in Democratic Party, History, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

DPNM Chairman's Statement Remembers Pearl Harbor; Honors Stephen C. DuBois

On the anniversary of the Battle of Pearl Harbor, Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairman Javier M. Gonzales released the following statement:

“On this hallowed day, we remember the ultimate sacrifice so many Americans made in Pearl Harbor. The legacy of those 2,400 soldiers and civilians lives on in our memory and through the celebration of the values for which they died. The men and women who serve our country in times of war and in times of peace shall always hold a place of honor among our citizens.”

Gonzales also honored Stephen C. DuBois, a resident of Tularosa and living veteran of the Battle of Pearl Harbor:

“I am proud to take this opportunity to thank and honor Stephen C. DuBois, a Pearl Harbor veteran and 30-year resident of New Mexico. Mr. DuBois served as a Navy medic with the US Marines in Pearl Harbor after joining the military in 1939, and his 20 years of service also included tours in World War II and Korea. His commitment to serve our country and its values makes him a living example for our emulation.”

December 7, 2010 at 09:42 AM in Democratic Party, History, Military Affairs, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)