Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lora Lucero In Gaza: Drones and Bombing

A guest blog from Lora Lucero who has been living in Gaza for several weeks now. Lora has her own blog of her journey in Gaza, you can follow her here.

Gaza bombed
Gaza November 14, 2012

A sleepless night last night as we sat together at home in the center of Gaza City. Earlier in the afternoon, Israel had assassinated the #1 military chief of Hamas, a targeted killing as they had promised they would do. But everyone expected more, and we got it.

Explosions every 5-10 minutes throughout the night. Some were far away and some were a couple of blocks from our house. Those shook the building and broke the glass. Today there is plenty of glass everywhere.

Living in Gaza for 7 weeks now, I have learned the sound of drones and F-16s. Last night I heard plenty of those, in addition to the bombs.

I have been blogging, posting on Facebook and just learning how to Tweet. When we have electricity (as we do now because someone has turned on the building's generator) I try to send updates.

A number of people have asked me "why are the Palestinians sending rockets into southern Israel. Aren't they asking for a response? Doesn't Israel have a right to defend itself?"

I urge Americans to put this in context. Col. Ann Wright described the recent chronology of events, which I included here. http://loralucero.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/put-israels-assault-in-gaza-in-context/

I don't want to justify violence from either side, but the equities in this situation should be understood.

Israel is an occupying power with the best weapons in the world thanks to American tax dollars ($3 billion per year).

Palestinians in Gaza have some home-made rockets. The Palestinian children who were killed playing football (soccer) had no weapons, and one was shot in the stomach - like target practice.

Israelis living in southern Israel near the hostilities have a choice. They can evacuate to a safer location.

Gazans have nowhere to go. This is one of the most dense locations in the world, with families squeezed in very tight quarters. They have no choice but to sit tight and hope the bombs don't fall on them.

I am very disappointed in Obama's canned response --- that Israel has a right to defend itself.

Of course, both sides have a right to live in peace and security, but Obama's response is not helpful to anyone in the region. The Arab League, Egypt, Russia, France, Turkey, and many other countries have expressed concern and outrage for Israel's deliberate carnage in Gaza. I hope Americans realize that the community of nations understands the dynamics in the Middle East, and our willful ignorance in the U.S. is disgraceful.

Please call or write our new U.S. Senator Heinrich and help educate him.

Thank you from Gaza.
Lora Lucero
www.loralucero.wordpress.com

November 15, 2012 at 10:39 AM in Guest Blogger, International Relations, Lora Lucero, Contributing Writer, Middle East | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

ABQ Fair Redistricting Committee Initiates Public Records Inquiry Concerning Partisan Violations of Open Meetings Act and Hispanic Voting Rights Dilution

Following is a press release provided by Lora Lucero.

This afternoon, community leaders representing the ABQ Fair Redistricting Committee submitted a public records inspection request to the City of Albuquerque, inquiring about back-door partisan communications that reduced the number of the City Council’s Hispanic Voting Age Majority districts to just two of the city’s nine council districts. Since 2000, 75% of the city’s new growth has been Hispanic, now comprising 47.2% of the city’s whole population. The National League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is assisting the group with its IPRA request and potential litigation.

“There’s simply too much at stake for Albuquerque’s Hispanic population and core historic neighborhoods to let this injustice go unaddressed,” said Lora Lucero, a north valley activist working with the group. “The five councilors might have scored a ten-year partisan majority, but they did so at the cost of diluting the voices of many minority and impoverished communities.”

Partisan power-grabs like that achieved by the five city councilors on February 22, and signed by Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry on March 5, were the target of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In addition to Hispanic voting dilution, the decision also packed into one district many communities of interest, including most of the city’s federally designated “pockets of poverty,” areas in need of street improvements, communities desperate for revitalization, and areas with crumbling infrastructure.

Although the Albuquerque City Council is a non-partisan body and the redistricting committee process was mandated to be public, the ABQ Fair Redistricting Committee wants to know what communications were not made available to the public but might have had a significant impact on the outcome of the city council redistricting. For that reason, the group’s letter requests copies of all documents and communications (correspondence, e-mails, and attachments) related to the City Council redistricting process since June 1, 2010. Recipients of the IPRA request will have 15 days to respond and the information garnered will inform the ABQ Fair Redistricting Committee’s decision to pursue legal recourse.

July 12, 2012 at 04:00 PM in City of Albuquerque, Legal Issues, Lora Lucero, Contributing Writer, Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, June 01, 2012

Release the Public's Funds Pronto! by Lora Lucero

Following post is by contributing writer Lora Lucero.

As many have heard, PRC candidate Cynthia B. Hall won a writ of mandamus Thursday evening.

The court ordered the Secretary of State to release the matching funds required by state law if a privately-financed opponent outspends a publicly-financed candidate.  In Hall's case, Al Park is privately financing his bid for the PRC to the tune of 4:1 over Hall's publicly-financed campaign.

Although the writ of mandamus technically only applies to Cynthia Hall's campaign, I called the Secretary of State this morning and urged her to release the matching funds to ALL publicly-financed candidates.  PRONTO!

The Secretary of State's toll free number is 1-800-477-3632.

I hope everyone who wants to see money out of politics will do the same.

The following is the press release issued from Cynthia Hall's campaign:

Chief Judge Barbara Vigil Orders NM Secretary of State to Follow the Law
Albuquerque, NM – May 31, 2012

This afternoon, Presiding Judge Barbara Vigil ordered NM Secretary of State Dianna J. Duran to follow the law and release matching funds to Cynthia B Hall, publicly-funded Democratic candidate for the PRC in District 1.
The Secretary of State, contrary to the mandate of New Mexico's Voter Action Act, had withheld matching funds from Hall and other publicly-funded candidates for several weeks.
Last week, in response to the Secretary’s refusal to release the funds, Hall filed a Temporary Restraining Order and Amended Petition for Writ of Mandamus.
Judge Vigil signed the Writ of Mandamus filed by Hall and ordered the Secretary of State to comply forthwith. The Judge also instructed Hall to file a new Writ of Mandamus tomorrow if the Secretary of State continues to withhold the funds. The Secretary of State’s office said they would notify Hall if they decide not to follow the Judge’s orders.
The Secretary of State still faces a federal matching funds lawsuit. In the last few days the Republican Party of New Mexico, the New Mexicans for Economic Recovery PAC, and PRC Candidate Al Park teamed up in federal court. They sought to prohibit the Secretary of State from releasing the matching funds. These Plaintiffs, along with Intervenor Al Park, cited Citizens United in their assertion that the release of matching funds would infringe upon the free speech rights of private and corporate donors.
During today’s hearing, the judge did not allow Al Park or any other candidates to intervene in the lawsuit.
This represents a victory for the Hall campaign as well as for other publicly financed candidates in the state, such as Karen Montoya and Judge Victor Lopez of Albuquerque.
For the moment, the matching funds provision of New Mexico’s Public Financing Law has been upheld. This could also mean protection for matching funds as provided for in Municipal elections in places like Albuquerque.

June 1, 2012 at 10:51 AM in 2012 NM PRC Races, Candidates & Races, Justice, Lora Lucero, Contributing Writer | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Women Speaking to Women

Lora lucero eric griegoThe following post is provided by Contributing writer Lora Lucero.

Eric Griego has the support of many women in the CD-1 race for the US Congress.  I gathered some of my women friends together to speak to our sisters, mothers, and daughters about why this race is so important, and why women support Eric to champion our issues in Washington DC.  Please check out my short video below.

Hear State Senator Dede Feldman share about Eric's determination to stand up for women's rights.  Eric not only supports Roe v. Wade, but also considers women's rights essential to decisions on medical privacy. As a State Senator, Eric stood up to conservative anti-women forces and opposed legislation designed to erode family planning rights, criminalize abortions, and force minor victims of even incest or rape to obtain parental permission before receiving care.

Thanks to Senator Dede Feldman, Representative Mimi Stewart, Marit Tully, Loretta Naranjo Lopez, Barbara Grothus, Melinda Smith and Deborah Marez-Baca for participating in this first video.  More to come in the next few days. 

May 22, 2012 at 02:37 PM in Eric Griego, Lora Lucero, Contributing Writer, NM-01 Congressional Race 2012, Women's Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Free Speech Not For Sale by Contributing Writer Lora Lucero

By Contributing Writer Lora Lucero.

The US foreign policy of using sanctions against Iraq in the 1980s-1990s and currently against Iran  is designed to be the kinder, gentler, antiseptic tool of aggression.  I heard last week from Richard Becker (ANSWER Coalition) about the impact of our sanctions on Iraq.  More than 500,000 Iraqi children died as a result of these sanctions.  And now we are following that same path in Iran.

Front desk ch27Where was Becker speaking?   Unless you attended the presentation at UNM on Saturday afternoon, you only would have heard him or seen the video “Genocide by Sanctions” if you watched the IndyMedia show on Albuquerque’s public access TV Ch. 27 on Thursday evening (7-8 pm).  The mainstream corporate stations did not cover this serious discussion.  It didn’t fit within the sanitized commercial programming of KOB, KOAT, KASA or KRQE.  The Albuquerque Journal certainly didn’t cover it.

Albuquerque’s public access channels 26 and 27 have been run efficiently and economically for thirty-plus years by Quote-Unquote but now city government may lock the doors and turn off the lights.  There is a very real threat that the community will lose its public access channels, the only media that provides free studios, equipment and training to the public so that our voices can be heard, and the stories we care about can be aired.

Studio ch27     Studio 2 ch27
I naively thought public access channels were guaranteed by some FCC regulation, but in recent weeks I’ve learned there is a nationwide campaign by phone companies --- including AT&T Inc,  Verizon Communications Inc, and Qwest Communications International Inc. --- to move into the cable market.  They have their sights on PEG (public, education and government) channels.   Albuquerque is part of a much larger battle being waged in Los Angeles; Troy, NY; Tampa, FL; and elsewhere around the country.

The corporate takeover is a bit convoluted, but here’s the skinny as I understand it today.  Comcast wants the cable TV channels which were reserved for public use in the ABQ/Comcast 2002 Franchise Agreement.  That agreement doesn’t expire until October 2017, and it was codified as a city ordinance.   That means Mayor Berry and the City Administration cannot simply turn the keys over to Comcast;  the City Council must approve any amendments to the agreement first.  The battle is currently in the city council chambers where free speech advocates have eloquently pled their case.  The final decision is expected Monday, May 7.

The deal being secretly negotiated with the country’s largest and most powerful cable television operator by the Berry Administration is the transfer of operating rights of six of the nine digital cable channels reserved for public use for a small fraction of their worth.  To illustrate the size of the giveaway, note that the last sale of two commercial channels approached $30 million, but the Comcast offer for six channels is reported to be a total of $250,000.

The arithmetic stinks, but so do the bedfellows.  Mayor Berry and the Administration bypassed the Cable Franchise and Hearing Board recommendation to award the public access contract to Quote-Unquote, by creating an ad hoc group which recommended that uPublic receive the contract – the same group that was effectively “gifted” the Education Channel 95 nearly a year ago but has kept the channel dark ever since.

Another fishy piece of this puzzle.  Rick Metz, President of uPublic, had a meeting with Rob Perry, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer, prior to the city issuing the RFP to operate the public access channels.

Studio 3 ch27It appears to me that uPublic is the front man for Comcast in this “deal.” If the City Council approves the amendment to the ABQ/Comcast 2002 Franchise Agreement and uPublic is awarded the public access channels, then the “deal” will strip ordinary citizens of a valuable 1st Amendment platform in Albuquerque.

This is CHINATOWN, only the battle is for broadband real estate, and not water rights; for freedom of speech, not a glass of water.  And many, many more cities around the country are also under siege, or have already lost to the Cable/Media giants.

Time for the public to rise up and tell the City Council that free speech in Albuquerque is not for sale.

April 24, 2012 at 06:14 AM in Corporatism, Government, Lora Lucero, Contributing Writer, Television | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Governor Martinez Establishes New Task Force

Breaking news!  Following the New Mexico State Engineer’s decision on March 30, 2012 [OSE File No. RG-89943] dismissing the San Augustin Ranch, LLC water rights application, Governor Susanna Martinez announced the creation of a new task force -- the Building Resilient Communities Task Force.

The stated goals of the task force are to examine the impacts of climate change on New Mexico communities (both urban and rural) and make recommendations by October 1 for building stronger, more resilient communities to be better prepared to adapt and respond to the serious impacts predicted by the scientific community. Governor Martinez will review these recommendations to determine what her administration can implement immediately and what might be appropriate legislation for the Legislature to take up in 2013.

“The Building Resilient Communities Task Force will pick up where Our Communities, Our Task Force left off in 2007,” Governor Martinez said. “We must not drop the ball.  Under my predecessor’s leadership, New Mexico began to ask the tough questions.  It is more important than ever to search for the answers today with the impacts of climate change, the economic meltdown, and other challenges confronting New Mexico.”

Lora Lucero, an Albuquerque land use attorney, city planner, writer, and climate activist, has accepted the role of leading the Building Resilient Communities Task Force which will be comprised of members from the previous task force. “I’m grateful for this opportunity,” Lucero responded. “Climate change is a non-partisan issue which impacts us all, and our children’s children, without regard to political affiliation.  I look forward to working with everyone on the Task Force over the next six months and including the public in this very important work.”

April 1, 2012 at 12:59 PM in Climate, Environment, Government, Green Economy, Land Issues, Lora Lucero, Contributing Writer, Susana Martinez, Urban Issues, Water Issues | Permalink | Comments (8)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Hate Speech or a Courageous Warning?

By contributing writer, Lora Lucero.

Audience members assault protesters
Photo above: audience members assault protesters.

Hate speech or a courageous warning?   Depending on who you speak with, that’s what we heard at the University of New Mexico on Thursday, Feb. 23.  Nonie Darwish, an Egyptian-American who founded Arabs for Israel, was invited by the UNM Israel Alliance to talk about “Why the Arab Spring is Failing and How Israel is Involved.”  Her speech was interrupted half-way through by several young people in the back of the auditorium who attempted to “mic check” her in protest.  Yelling erupted as a number of audience members rushed to the protesters -- pushing, punching and pulling a protester’s hair. 

Young child cryingA young girl (I’m guessing 7-8 years old) started crying and found comfort in the arms of a UNM student because her parents had left her to join the melee in the back of the room.

I thought I was prepared.  Having read about Islamophobia for years, and followed high profile cases such as the Park 51 controversy in lower Manhattan, Darwish’s speech should not have shocked me.  As a land use lawyer, I’ve written and co-edited a book on religious intolerance and how it plays out in the local government permitting process.   RLUIPA Reader: Religious Land Uses, Zoning and the Courts.  Nonie Darwish’s speech, however, crossed the hate speech line for me.

What is hate speech?  I’m not a constitutional scholar, but I consider words (spoken or written), pictures or any type of communication that incites violence against an individual or group because of their race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation, for example, as hate speech.  Inciting violence doesn’t require an explicit call to violence. Sowing the seeds of fear, distrust and anger which can predictably lead to violence, constitutes hate speech in my book.

Keeping audience member off protester
Photo above: Keeping audience member off protester

Nonie Darwish never said “go kill Muslims” or “burn down the Mosque.”  She prefaced her remarks by saying that she was “not here to talk about people, not to criticize a religion, but an ideology.”  She said “if a religion expands itself so much that it becomes the state – a religious state which has a religious legal system (Sharia law), and the religious state has a military institution called jihad” – then it is fair game to expose it and offer criticism.  At that point, I wondered if the audience would listen respectfully to a presentation about Israel, a religious state with a military institution (the Israel Defense Forces) that wages war against civilians in the Occupied Territories.

The Arab Spring is destined to fail, Darwish asserts, because of what she calls the inherent conflict between the Islamic political system and Sharia law.  Although not introduced as a legal or religious scholar, Darwish frequently cited to page numbers of various texts as she proclaimed that Sharia law authorizes a violent overthrow of leaders, and a whole host of other really nasty things.

I came home after the presentation still shaking and started to post some of her more inflammatory comments on Facebook.  As soon as I typed the words, I erased them, concerned that I might unintentionally be the conduit for violence. I didn’t want to offend my Muslim friends, and I didn’t want to be tainted with that hateful speech which made me feel dirty after typing them.

Nonie DarwishWho is this woman?  Nonie Darwish was born in Egypt in 1949.  Her father was a high-ranking Egyptian military officer stationed with his family in Gaza and killed by Israel when Nonie was only eight. She immigrated to the United States in 1978 with her husband, became an Evangelical Christian and conservative Republican, and gained notoriety after she wrote “Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror.”  She regularly speaks on university campuses.

She says she wants to warn Westerners about the “dangers of Islam” and “expose Sharia law.”  She is very familiar with how her controversial remarks are received by some people, disclosing that there is a fatwa on her life for speaking against Islam, but her speaking tour is a way of “thanking America” for taking her in after she “escaped Egypt.”

A rational, thoughtful adult, even someone who has never been exposed to Islam, would hear her words and question “what’s the other side of the story?” Most people in the audience, however, appeared to be unquestioningly in support of Darwish’s worldview, giving her several standing ovations.

Every mainstream religion has its extremists, its radical fundamentalists who will resort to violence in the name of religion.  Google “Christian terrorism” or consider the Jewish settlers in Hebron in the West Bank or recall the Muslim hijackers who flew into the World Trade Center.  Each must be condemned, but Nonie Darwish goes far beyond that.

Darwish has painted all Muslims and the entire Islamic faith (at last count there are more than 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide) as extremists who want to make “war on the West.”  “A true Muslim must be an enemy of the West,” she declares.  “Jihad means a permanent war against Jews, Christians and non-Muslims. Jihad challenges the sovereignty of all non-Muslim countries.  Jihad against non-Muslims is required.”

“Lying to a non-Muslim is obligatory,” Darwish claims, “if the purpose [for lying] is obligatory [under Sharia law].”  She continues: “The Muslim religion hates the Jewish people. There are pure commandments in the Qur’an to kill Jews.” She also says there is “not one Muslim or Arab organization that teaches tolerance.”

Muslims are burning down churches in the Middle East, consummating marriage with young girls who are 8 years old, enjoying “pleasure marriages for a few hours” which is allowed under Sharia law. After sharing her interpretation of Sharia law as a fait accompli, she noted that “Islam has made Sharia law everything” and “all Muslims who live in the United States want to live under Sharia law.”  I found her wild claims were outrageous, but her opinions appeared to carry water with most everyone in this audience at UNM.

Darwish believes that the West is being deceived by its own intellectuals and politicians. She says that “Palestine never existed” (I can guess who she is supporting in the Republican primary).  In response to a question from the audience about the two-state solution, she advises that Gaza should be part of Egypt, and the West Bank should be part of Jordan. “If I was in Israel now,” she says, “I would build a fence higher and higher. It is a miracle that Israel can survive.”  A great applause from the audience followed this remark.

During the Q & A that followed her presentation (and Darwish said she appreciates challenging questions), one person asked her “if the problem is Sharia law, what is the solution?”  She said “first accept there is a problem” but gave no other “solutions.”

An audience member thanked her for “doing God’s work” and said she would go out and purchase all of her books. Another admirer remarked that universities “are not being taken over by the leftists, but by communists.”  A third audience member referred back to President Obama’s speech in Cairo when he spoke about “extremism not being the way – but did you see his face when he said it?”  This person thought Obama’s face became contorted and that he was tacitly giving his approval of extremism. “His policies are so anti-Israel.”

Professor Richard WoodProfessor Richard Wood, a recent past president of the faculty senate, stood to read a statement from Rabbi Flicker withdrawing the B’nai Israel Sisterhood’s support from this event, and rejecting all forms of hate speech.  The audience booed him down and even took the microphone away from him.

A young man stood and shared some gruesome details about how his family had been killed, and then revealed they were killed in Lebanon by Israeli soldiers.  He called Darwish a bigot and was booed down.

A recent UNM graduate stood and said she traveled to Israel and the West Bank last summer.  She saw the “Security Fence” that Israel has built in the West Bank and was sympathetic to the Palestinians living under occupation.  The audience booed her down.

Another audience member asked Darwish about her opinion of Israel attacking Iran.  She believes the West should be “acting powerfully” in response to the threat that Iran poses.  The audience enthusiastically clapped.

Hoping to dispel at least one statement Darwish made, I went to the microphone and shared that I had visited Egypt last summer, and was pleased to see both a Christian church and a Jewish synagogue, neither of which were burning.  In her forceful style, she laughed and dismissed my comment as an indication of my naivety.  I wish I had had the courage displayed by those young people who attempted the mic check. I should have told Darwish that her Islamophobia is unacceptable at UNM.

I wonder if UNM has a hate speech code. Gerald Uelmen, the former Dean of my law school in California, shared the that “[t]here were approximately 75 hate speech codes in place at U.S. colleges and universities in 1990; by 1991, the number grew to over 300. … [R]eports of campus harassment increased 400 percent between 1985 and 1990. Moreover, 80 percent of campus harassment incidents go unreported.” I suspect the statistics have skyrocketed since 2001.

Thankfully, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office is taking hate speech seriously.  In 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder established an Arab-American and Muslim Engagement Advisory Group.

Lynn ProvencioAs a witness, I’m going to make a report with the UNM Campus Police on Monday, and I’m going to write to the Department of Justice and file a grievance.  Hate speech and Islamophobia must not go unchallenged.  The sponsors of Nonie Darwish’s presentation, including the UNM Israel Alliance, the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and Congregation Albert Brotherhood, should renounce this fear-mongering.

Her remarks crossed the line between free speech and hate speech when she smeared an entire religious group (all Muslims worldwide) as fanatics and extremists.  She meant to sow fear and distrust of all Muslims.  She encouraged the “us versus them” dynamics in her audience, where several members were willing to use physical violence to eject protesters from the auditorium, and grab the microphone away from speakers.

I can’t help but wonder what my Jewish friends and family would think if a speaker was up on stage denouncing Judaism in the way that Darwish denounced Islam.  First, they would rightly shout “Anti-Semite!” and then, if they had their wits about them, leave the auditorium and go protest at the University President’s house. I hope those same friends and family will denounce Nonie Darwish as a fear-monger and Islamophobe.

On Sunday, the UNM Students for Justice in Palestine issued the following statement.  That same group is conducting a number of educational events this week on campus.

Free Screening of “BUDRUS”
Monday, February 27th @ 7:00PM
UNM Student Union Building Theater (Lower Level)
Budrus is an award-winning feature documentary film about a Palestinian community organizer, Ayed Morrar, who unites local Fatah and Hamas members along with Israeli supporters in an unarmed movement to save his village of Budrus from destruction by Israel’s Separation Barrier. Success eludes them until his 15-year-old daughter, Iltezam, launches a women’s contingent that quickly moves to the front lines. Struggling side by side, father and daughter unleash an inspiring, yet little-known, movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories that is still gaining ground today. In an action-filled documentary chronicling this movement from its infancy, Budrus shines a light on people who choose nonviolence to confront a threat. The movie is directed by award-winning filmmaker Julia Bacha (co-writer and editor of Control Room and co-director Encounter Point), and produced by Bacha, Palestinian journalist Rula Salameh, and filmmaker and human rights advocate Ronit Avni (formerly of WITNESS, Director of Encounter Point). Read more information about the crew and cast.

Watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hqYR7OkqL4&feature=player_embedded

Palestinian Field School Panel
Wednesday, February 29th @ 12:00PM
UNM Student Union Building, 3rd floor, Lobo A&B Room
A panel of UNM Students who recently had the chance to visit Palestine this summer as part of an American Studies & Anthropology class on Post-Settler Colonialism will present pictures and testimonies of what they have witnessed during the 14 days that they were there.

Normalization Workshop w/ BEKAH WOLF:
Wednesday, February 29th @ 6:30PM
UNM Student Union Building, 3rd floor, Acoma A&B Room
Palestine Solidarity activist, Bekah Wolf, will present a workshop on the dangers of Normalization. Wolf is a Jewish-American originally from Santa Fe, NM who was an active member of her local synagogue growing up and first visited Palestine as part of a Zionist youth trip in 1998. She became active around Arab, Muslim, and South Asian immigrant rights in New York City particularly in the direct aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. As part of a delegation of Jews Against the Occupation, Bekah returned to Palestine as a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement in 2003-2004. In the summer of 2006 she and her now-husband, former political prisoner Mousa Abu Maria, began the Palestine Solidarity Project.

STOP HATRED, STOP ISLAMAPHOBIA PANEL
Friday, March 2nd @ 12:00PM
UNM Student Union Building Atrium (Lower Level)
A panel will speak about the growing rhetoric of Islamaphobia in American Society. The speakers will include Graduate student of Sociology & SJP Member Becky Erickson, Founder of Muslim New Media Mustafa Dill, and the third panelist will be finalized shortly.

WHAT IS BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT, AND SANCTIONS?
Friday, March 2nd @ 1:30 PM
UNM Student Union Building Atrium (Lower Level)
Heard about the growing movement called Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions? Not sure what it is? Well come listen and learn about what BDS is and how we’re bringing it to UNM Campus!

For more information please visit: unmsjp.org/iaw or e-mail us at unmsjp@gmail.com

February 27, 2012 at 09:42 AM in Lora Lucero, Contributing Writer, Middle East | Permalink | Comments (25)

Monday, February 20, 2012

City Redistricting is More Than Lines on a Map

Provided by Contributing writer Lora Lucero.

Albuquerque City CouncilThe Albuquerque City Council is poised to take final action on Wednesday, February 22, on its preferred plan for carving up the nine city council districts.

The Council does this every 10 years following the US Census to make sure that we adhere to the "one person, one vote" goal.   Clearly, most of the city's growth in the past decade has occurred on the West Side, thanks to our leaders' pro-sprawl policies. And so it's time for the people of the West Side to have a third council district.

There are many ways to skin this cat, but it appears the five Republican councilors have decided "Plan L" is the map du jour.  "Plan L" essentially eliminates District 3 by squishing Districts 2 & 3 together, creating a "small nation" says Councilor Debbie O'Malley who represents District 2.

The problem with Plan L District 2 is the impact it would have on representation for downtown Albuquerque.

The new, enlarged District 2 would have approximately 30% of the city's "poor" and "very poor" streets; along  with approximately 40% of the city's 5-year road rehab projects.

The new, enlarged District 2 would have 23 of the city's 27 redevelopment areas.  Nearly 25% of the GO Bond projects would fall into a single district.

The new, enlarged District 2 would have the vast majority of low income census tracts and all of the federally-designated "pockets of poverty."

That means one councilor would be advocating for the needs of 30-40% of the crumbling infrastructure; for 85% of the redevelopment projects; and for the majority of low-income residents of Albuquerque.

The goal ideally is to create 9 districts with equal population numbers --- approximately 60,675 people. But "Plan L" would shift more people into District 2 and, with 63,508 people, the new District 2 would have the greatest deviation from the ideal.  4.7%

Something to think about ..... not just for those of us who live downtown, but for the entire city.

In a nutshell, what the 5 Republican Councilors want is to protect their solid Republican-voting districts while diluting the representation of the minorities and poor people who live in District 3.  This results in a geographic bias in favor of the predominately white, middle-upper class neighborhoods in the NE Heights.

Shameful!

The entire city depends on a strong historic core with a vibrant downtown.

There are other ways to draw the lines on the map so that we don't slight the voters who live downtown, and don't weaken the representation and advocacy that a thriving city requires in its downtown core.

Contact your City Councilor and the Mayor ---- and let them know that "Plan L" stinks.  They can do much better.  COrtega@cabq.gov 

February 20, 2012 at 07:57 PM in City of Albuquerque, Lora Lucero, Contributing Writer, Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, February 13, 2012

ACTION ALERT: US Senate Is Considering Legislation That Would Resurrect The Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

ACTION ALERT notification from Lora Lucero, contributing writer.

Keystone pipeline pic

Right now, the Senate is considering legislation that would resurrect the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. President Obama rejected this toxic disaster-in-the-making last month, and now Big Oil's representatives in Congress are trying to force its approval.

It looks like a deal might be coming together in the next 24 hours. I've just joined a huge effort to blitz the Senate with messages opposing Keystone XL - the entire environmental movement is coming together to send over 500,000 messages to Congress in under 24 hours. Can you join me?

The place to go to send a message is here: act.350.org/sign/kxl/

If you haven't heard of Keystone XL or don't know about the tar sands, here's the short summary: Keystone XL is a proposed 1700 mile pipeline connecting the Alberta tar sands with refineries on the Gulf Coast. The tar sands are North America's largest pool of carbon, and NASA's top scientist James Hansen says that exploiting them means 'essentially game over' for the climate. Keystone will ship tar sands oil across critical water supplies and sensitive ecosystems just so it can be exported to foreign markets from refineries in Texas. The job benefits are way overstated, and overall it is just a scam designed to line Big Oil's pockets at our own expense. 

Thanks a bunch. Lora

February 13, 2012 at 11:10 AM in Action Alerts, Energy, Environment, Fracking, Lora Lucero, Contributing Writer | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Press Don't, Won't, Can't, Cover the 99% Occupy the Roundhouse Rally

A must read from contributing writer Lora Lucero.

Middle age woman occupy rndhse“Middle age, middle class. What’s so radical about that?”   The lady marching in front of me to Occupy the Roundhouse on Tuesday was my kindred spirit, even though I could only see the sign on her back. 

I joined an exuberant, high energy crowd of about 300-400 people (my guesstimate) to send a strong message to anyone who would listen ----- “We are the 99% and this is OUR house.”

Occupy groups from Los Lunas, Albuquerque, Silver City, Farmington, Santa Fe, Las Vegas and Taos were present, along with groups focused on healthcare reform, voter’s rights, eliminating corporate personhood, opposing GMO chile, closing the tax loophole for multistate corporations, supporting clean energy, ending fracking and so much more.

What did all of these people (across the age, income, and ethnic spectrum) share in common?  They spoke for the 99% against the special interests and 1%.  Believe me - coming together is very powerful and empowering. 

Press roomWhat did the mainstream media choose to share with you?  There were certainly a plethora of media personnel sitting and standing in the “box” above the House floor in the Capitol building.

I don’t watch much television but I heard that New Mexico stations covered the handful of demonstrators who disrupted Governor Martinez’s speech.  And I saw a Channel 13 crew on the west side of the Roundhouse filming a predictable tit-for-tat between a couple of Tea Party folks and a few representing the 99%.   (The Tea Partiers are going to realize someday that they ARE part of the 99% too.)

Mainstream media always likes a conflict or controversy.  But did you hear any of the messages from the 99%?   Did you hear the reactions of any Legislators about the 99% at their doorstep?  Did you hear about the middle age, middle class woman who was told to leave the public gallery by a security guard because “stickers are not allowed”?   She had a small (2 inches x 4 inches) sticker on the back of her coat that read “We Are the 99%”.  She left without causing a ruckus. 

We may rail against the Koch brothers, corporate America, and the 1%, but I think the media is complicit in undermining our democracy.  It feeds us the soundbites that keep us titillated and dumb, and ignores real issues that an informed citizenry need to know.

Some of us may not be comfortable disrupting the Governor’s speech, but thank goodness someone has the courage to stand up and make noise.  I suspect that we are going to need more provocative actions of peaceful civil disobedience in order to dislodge the stranglehold that the special interests and 1% have on our politicians, our government, and our media. 

And we need to support the public radio and television stations that break with the status quo to provide us with meaningful news reporting. 

I’m still seething from being escorted out of the gallery on Tuesday because of the message (“We Are the 99%”) on my back.  Capitol security and staff need some First Amendment training, and I need to make noise.  Being one of the 99% carries awesome responsibility.

Come join us this Friday, January 20, to Occupy the Courts.  https://www.facebook.com/events/270552246315008/   There are actions happening at courthouses across the country.  I’m headed to the Federal District Court in downtown Albuquerque from noon to 3 pm.

January 19, 2012 at 12:06 PM in Lora Lucero, Contributing Writer, Media, NM Legislature 2012, Occupy Wall Street | Permalink | Comments (6)

Monday, January 09, 2012

NM Legislature Show Up, Be Counted!

Lora luceroGuest contributor Lora Anne Lucero is currently a registered lobbyist for the League of Women Voters of New Mexico.  In years past she has lobbied on behalf of other organizations and also served as an analyst for the House Judiciary Committee in 1992.

Something New Mexico Senator Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe) said a few weeks ago to a gathering in Santa Fe has stuck with me through the holidays.  Simple and to the point.  He said, “If you want to make a difference, show up.”  Or words to that effect.

He was talking about the New Mexico Legislature and how ordinary citizens can have a real impact on the fate of legislation.  Wirth shared his story about one contentious committee hearing years ago.  A constituent called him and said she wanted to bring her students to the Roundhouse to see their government in action.  He encouraged her to arrive early because the committee rooms at the Roundhouse fill up quickly when there is a controversial bill.

The teacher arrived early with her gaggle of students in tow.  They all sat down and patiently waited for the action to begin.  Soon enough, the lobbyists in suits and ties showed up but there were no seats available.  One lobbyist asked Senator Wirth to move the students out of the room, but he refused, telling the lobbyist: “This is their government too.”  Or words to that effect.  The controversial bill that Senator Wirth was hoping would make it out of committee did, thanks in part to the students who showed up and participated in the process.  The suits were not pleased.

Roundhouse with rall

The 99% is sharing that same message.  We can make a difference if we show up!

The short 30-day session begins on January 17th at noon and ends on February 16th at noon.  Some lament that New Mexico Legislators don’t have enough time to accomplish much.  I say, “they don’t have much time to get into mischief.”

When in session, the Roundhouse is a madhouse that makes little sense to the average New Mexican.  In addition to the Legislators, their staff, analysts, lobbyists, and the press, you will find women dressed in their finest outfits dripping with Spanish jewelry, and young pages scurrying around delivering messages, and citizen activists hoping for a moment to share their elevator speech with a Legislator.   You will also find some of the best pieces of New Mexican art on the walls of the State Capitol.

If you have never attended a legislative committee hearing, resolve to make 2012 the year you do. Your presence, whether you speak or not, will have an impact. 

One way to magnify your presence is by joining other New Mexicans who plan to Occupy the Roundhouse on opening day of the session. “At 10:30 am on Tuesday, January 17, a unified gathering of statewide New Mexico Occupy / (un)Occupy groups and allies will commence in Santa Fe at the NM State Capitol for opening day of the 2012 NM Legislature, meeting on the corner of Old Santa Fe Trail & Paseo de Peralta .At 11:30 am, a march will also start at the Railyard Station (North)  and make its way to the Roundhouse. This march is for people traveling on the train that arrives at 11:15 am from Albuquerque, plus everyone else from Santa Fe and statewide who would like to join. We will then all converge together at the Roundhouse – OUR HOUSE!” 

More details available here. http://www.occupynewmexico.org/ and on Facebook too.   MarchtoRoundhouse@groups.facebook.com

Connecting with your State Senator or Representative, either in person, phone or email, is easy to do.  All of the information is available here.  http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/default.aspx   Following the progress of draft legislation is fairly easy too.  http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/BillFinder.aspx  Believe me, when a Legislator sees a message from a constituent, he or she takes it seriously, on both sides of the aisle.  Let them know what you think.

My very first experience sharing my two cents with New Mexico Legislators was 20 years ago as a new resident, having just returned from California.  I was sitting in the House Judiciary Committee, just observing the proceedings.  The committee was discussing the “Bottle Recycling” bill for the upteenth time.  On the spur of the moment, I stood up and introduced myself as a new resident who had recently moved from Califonria where they had great success with their version of the “Bottle Recycling” bill and I encouraged the committee to approve it.  Or words to that effect.

Lo and behold, did I get a tongue-lashing from a Legislator who wagged his finger at me and said “We don’t need any advice from Californians.” The room fell quiet, everyone looked over at me (or at least it felt like all eyes were on me).  I was shocked, wanted to crawl under my chair, and swore I would have nothing to do with these “nuts” ever again.

Thank goodness I didn’t follow through with that promise.  The very next day, that very same Legislator who wagged his finger at me the day before saw me in the hall and apologized!  

New Mexicans are lucky to have a State Legislature that is open and accessible to everyone, unlike many other states.  We need to take advantage of that and participate in the process.

Hope to see you on the 17th!

January 9, 2012 at 11:59 AM in Action Alerts, Lora Lucero, Contributing Writer, NM Legislature 2012, Occupy Wall Street | Permalink | Comments (6)

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Overwhelming Democratic Message for 2012: ORGANIZE.

LoraThe following motivated, high spirited first DFNM blog post for 2012 was provided by contributing writer Lora Lucero. Thank you Lora. Help keep us on track.

A twitter at the end of the year - #4wordsfor2011: Rise, Revolt, Topple, Repeat.  No one could have predicted Mubarak’s fall nor the rise of the OWS (Occupy Wall Street). However, we should have reasonably predicted many of the horrendous records broken last year – weather disasters topping them all.

As a self-identified “progressive” (and we can debate another time what that term means), I wanted to know whether the tumultuous year just passed left progressives with any lessons and hope for 2012.  I caught up with several of my favorite elected officials who shared their thoughts as the curtain fell on 2011.

One word summarized everyone’s comments – ORGANIZE.  The battle at the federal, state and local levels will require that “Democrats organize and focus on issues at every level of government” because the opposition is very well organized.   We must be willing to “organize our communities.”  “The right wing ruling class is counting on voter ignorance and anger.” We must “stand our ground and not waiver.”   

“The 1% at the top of the economic ladder will never voluntarily step aside and relinquish its stranglehold on the public pocketbook.  It will have to be forced to do so and that means the opposition, as ferocious and as well-financed as it will be, must be confronted directly.  In other words, we cannot back down; we cannot become exhausted; we cannot stop working every single day. And it means we should turn off our television sets because the avalanche of ‘independent’ PAC issue ads will be frightening.”

This past year “we underestimated the shrillness and meaness that is possible from Republicans and we turned on ourselves in trying to outshout the other side.” It’s very difficult to get anything done (must be how Obama feels) when we are in “clean-up mode” and trying to repair the mess of others. “There are places where horse-trading (as much as I personally abhor it) is necessary to make progress ... that is incremental at best.”

The impact and influence of the Occupy Movement was noted by several. “Occupy Wall Street is immensely hope-inspiring.” The 99% has turned the political debate. “Occupy Wall Street got the media to talk openly about ‘corporate greed.’ There are indications around the country that a more liberal view on government may bode well in future elections.” “Clearer heads are prevailing despite the increase of hate and fear” ---- witness the anti-Walker protests in Wisconsin, overturning anti-worker legislation via initiative process in Ohio, and the recall defeat of anti-immigrant architect Senator Pearce.

“Lets not forget the working class, the working poor, and lets hope the occupy movement keeps it up. I’m hoping the inside of the state capitol gets occupied. Heck, the Governor’s office too!”

Advice for New Mexico progressives?

“Partner and build consensus. Identify 3 key policy initiatives that directly impact people’s lives and pursue them relentlessly with the most united front possible.” 

“In New Mexico, the way the Democrats in the Senate came together to thwart Governor Martinez’ angry, illogical campaign to end drivers licenses for foreign nationals was a surprising and very encouraging indication of what might be done when we stay united and determined.”

“We need new blood: younger, energetic and more diverse legislative candidates if we are going to not only resist the Governor’s agenda but formulate a successful agenda of our own. And we have to find a way to communicate our message effectively since neither the Albuquerque Journal nor the television stations have shown any interest in helping us inform the public about the crucial issues: government’s role in boosting employment (jobs!); the necessity of financing infrastructure adequately (taxes!); the necessity of protecting the environment (resisting corporate greed!). Those issues are almost always reframed in the mass media into a conservative’s vision. Until we can figure out how to speak the truth in a way that registers as truth with the voters, we will be on the defensive.”

Elections matter.  Everyone noted the importance of elections for championing the progressive agenda.  “We need to learn that the dem candidate cannot be someone who merely assumes the candidacy but is someone who has really been vetted by the people.”  “Support candidates in democratic primaries who have exhibited a history of participating in the progressive movement as opposed to those who are risk averse and self-serving.”  We must protect the progressive districts and continue to elect progressives. And we must watch out for the Agenda 21 folks who are on the prowl with a campaign to unseat elected officials in cities around the state that have supported ICLEI. http://www.iclei.org/  As an organizing tool, “the Progressive Voter Alliance is a good model which we should try to set up around the state.” (More about that in a future post.)  

Thanks to the contributions  of State Senators Stephen Fischman and Jerry Ortiz y Pino; State Representatives Mimi Stewart, Antonio Maestas and Eleanor Chavez; Albuquerque City Councilor Ike Benton; Santa Fe Councilor Rosemary Romero; and Las Cruces Councilor Sharon Thomas. I appreciate you taking time during your holidays to share your thoughts and wisdom.  Lets plan for 2012 to be the Year of the Progressives!

January 1, 2012 at 01:28 PM in Economy, Populism, Local Politics, Lora Lucero, Contributing Writer, Occupy Wall Street | Permalink | Comments (6)