Friday, November 21, 2014

The Obscenity of Scott Greenwood and Tom Streicher: (Yet Another) Scandal in Alburquerque

"We're not starving, we're just hungry..."

Of all people in the United States these two characters from the Buckeye State, Scott Greenwood and Tom Streicher, somehow got themselves hired in Albuquerque at $350 per hour plus expenses. (Just look at them, it's ludicrous! If we're making a nasty porno, at least give us some eye candy!) Their billings, already in the six figures, were "earned" presiding over the cut and paste job that is the DOJ Consent Decree on unconstitutional policing by the APD (27 fatalities, many of them unarmed, just since 2010). 

But $350 an hour is apparently not sufficient remuneration for the duo and they got caught scraping the bottom of the commonweal's cookie jar, scratching for every last green chile flavored crumb. One can only imagine how mortified Council Members Ken Sanchez, Isaac Benton, Brad Winter, Diane Gibson, Trudy Jones and Don Harris, who voted in favor of the contract, must be for their lack of discernment. They have to be thinking, What other foxes have we naively let into the chicken coop even after being repeatedly warned during public comments by the people who saw through these two?!

And what kind of contract could CABQ possibly have approved wherein these kinds of pecuniary abuses are not immediate grounds for its dissolution? We don't have the final tally yet, but under New Mexico statutes: 30-16-1. Larceny.  D. "Whoever commits larceny when the value of the property stolen is over five hundred dollars ($500) but not more than two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) is guilty of a fourth degree felony." A defendant convicted of a fourth degree felony in New Mexico faces up to eighteen months in prison and a fine up to $5,000. Shall I call Corrections Secretary Marcantel and reserve a couple of luxury suites in the prison in Clovis just in case?

KRQE broke the story; not sure why.

By now it's dawning on everyone in the Land of Enchantment not enchanted into a stuporous coma that these DOJ Consent Decrees are fabulously enriching business opportunities for the "experts" who jimmy up some expertise. In this case Greenwood's past gig at the ACLU, cynically trading on its brand for personal gain, and Streicher's tenure as a police chief whose own department was the object of DOJ scrutiny for the killing of 15 Black men in five years, many of them unarmed. Yep, if I read this summary of his chiefdom right those are his qualifications--a pile of corpses and a record of resistance to departmental reform. 

If Albuquerque's lucky it'll get some of the money back after the audit, and if Greenwood and Streicher are lucky they'll somehow avoid being indicted by District Attorney Brandenburg for theft from the people of New Mexico. But in all likelihood the conditions that led to the too-tempting-to-resist spending spree will not be altered, and the people of Albuquerque will remain on their knees tithing heavily to the well-established Church of Endemic Corruption posing as the Chapel of Anomalous Malfeasance. 

A buckeye. 'Nuff said.

I wrote, just this morning, to Councilman Brad Winter to see if he would be demanding an apology for the rip-offs from the Buck Eye Boyz Gang, and to learn if he's planning on proposing setting reasonable expense guidelines for outside consultants. I'll happily publish his response when it arrives sometime after the end of the Anthropocene.

Another question I asked Winter was whether the mounting pile of evidence of bad stewardship of taxpayer resources is concerning to him vis a vis Albuquerque's bond ratings in the capital markets. But I might've saved the pixels. After speaking with a press officer in Moody's NYC office, Albuquerque has little to fear from the bond rating agencies. They're looking solely at factors that could have an impact on the city's ability to repay its debts in bond instruments over 20 to 30 years.  

Even money damages from wrongful death and injury lawsuits in the tens of millions are a mere rounding error in its $870 million annual budget. And while good governance is one of Moody's metrics, I was advised that they never give prescriptive advice. Poof went my fantasy of having our corporate overlords rein in a governmental body unable to hold itself accountable, even a teensy little bit. 

I also wrote to Mister (gotta spell it out for him) Scott Greenwood himself and offered space here for him and Streicher to say how very sorry they are. Not just for getting caught, but for flaunting their white male privilege and class entitlement in a decadent display of Gimme!

An uncanny resemblance to that ole Buckeye Scott Greenwood stuffing his face.

Additionally, in their self-selected role as the people's guardians of the DOJ Consent Decree process I also wrote to APD Forward, specifically to ACLU-NM Exec. Dir. Peter Simonson in his capacity as spokesman, to learn what its position on the expense scandal might be. I had hoped to find an excoriating statement on their website (it's been ten days since the scandal broke), and really don't know to what to attribute the group's silence on the matter.  It reflects so very poorly on them. With watchdogs like these...

Frankly, I don't expect to hear back from Mister Simonson because I may have pissed him off months ago in a little listserv contretemps when in so many words I expressed the concern that he himself may be lusting after one of these plummy consultant gigs in some other poor unsuspecting American city being held hostage by a militarized police force. All he had to do is say he wouldn't touch a gig like that with a 10-foot pole...but to everyone's disappointment, he didn't.

And if it's the case that he's upset with me for even suggesting that such a future lucrative possibility may be motivating and influencing his actions and inaction in the here and now, well...c'est la vie.

Unlike Moody's, Written Word, Spoken Word does offer prescriptive advice, even unsolicited!
Perhaps Ken Ellis, Steve Torres, Mike Gomez, or other of the family members of APD victims who are part of the organization and whose moral authority blankets APD Forward in a patina of conscience, might wish to secure a public statement from everyone on the legal team that they will not seek such lucrative consultancies using APD Forward as a launching pad. It would feel a lot cleaner.

This comes to mind because I'm sure I'm not the only reader who felt some measure of disdain for the tepid and obfuscating  APD Forward Analysis (for Dummies?) of the 106-page agreement. In its initial iteration anyway, the APD Forward legal team offered up bullet points and "Bottom Lines" that give little of the sense of what a crushing disappointment and betrayal of good faith this document is.

Bottom Line: Though they get kudos for slogging through the 106 pages of info dump in the document that now governs the APD reform process, APD Forward pulled a heckuva lot of punches in conveying the document's significance in maintaining the status quo in power relations.
 So different in tone and substance from La Jicarita's David Correia (one of the Burque 13) who concluded in his analysis:
"If there was one thing that no one believed, it was that APD could police itself. And yet, the idea that the solution to APD is APD is at the very heart of this Agreement. And DOJ’s faith in APD’s ability and willingness to police itself produces its share of absurdities.

Consider the section that actually “requires” that APD officers self-report their misconduct “to a supervisor or directly to the Internal Affairs Bureau.” Or the part of the Agreement that now requires that APD officers carry officer-misconduct complaint forms wherever they go. “Officer, once you’re done violating my constitutional rights, could you pass me one of those complaint forms in your pocket?” Or the section titled “Community and Problem-Oriented Policing” that actually includes the following sentence: “APD shall ensure that officers are familiar with the geographic areas they serve.” Or the fact that the Agreement leaves it up to APD to train its officers in “leadership, ethics and interpersonal skills.” I laughed out loud so often while reading this Agreement that my daughter, in the other room, thought I was watching a sitcom.
The women in the first row--Nora Anaya, Barbara Grothus and Kathy Brown--3 of the Burque 13, watching CABQ unanimously pass the Agreement negotiated by Streicher and Greenwood.The Burque 13 went to jail, incurred injuries, lost income, faced ridicule, and are still not out from under the legal wrangling with the City, while the Buckeye gang gobbles down $53 steak dinners on their dime. Mike Gomez, whose son Alan was shot in the back by by APD officer Sean Wallace (back row), is a portrait of parental anguish.
But the Agreement is no sitcom; it’s a horror show. In section after section, the DOJ identifies a problem and then charges the very agency responsible for creating that problem with coming up with a plan to fix it. The DOJ noted profound deficiencies in Internal Affairs investigations of officer-involved use of force. This Agreement “solves” that problem by requiring that APD “ensure that investigations of officer misconduct complaints shall be as thorough as necessary to reach reliable and complete findings.” The Agreement describes new requirements for crisis intervention training, requires new processes for officer misconduct investigation, and defines new oversight responsibilities for brass. but in every case—in every case—leaves it up to APD to achieve those goals. Each obligation or requirement in the Agreement is followed with a sentence that includes the language “APD shall develop and implement” or “APD shall revise and update its policies and procedures ” or “APD shall develop objective criteria for.” The only evidence that DOJ was involved in drafting this Agreement is the fact that much of it is plagiarized from other consent decrees. Otherwise, it reads as though drafted by APD itself.

We live in a city with a police department that routinely violates the constitutional rights of the people it’s charged to serve. It kills and brutalizes people at an alarming rate and with a frightening precision and it’s been doing it for decades. And, after this Agreement, there’s no end in sight."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

SWEPI v. Mora County: The Purple Haze of U.S. Judge James Oren Browning

Will Judge Browning "kiss the sky" or permanently lodge his silver tongue up fracker-in-chief Dick Cheney's hemorrhoidal arsehole?

When asked about the lyrics to his song Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix said that he was writing about a dream he'd had, a disorienting dream of walking... under... the... sea. If so, his subconscious mind psychoacoustically associated "deluge" with "delusion."

Purple Haze all in my brain,
lately things don't seem the same,
actin' funny but I don't know why
'scuse me while I kiss the sky.

Yeah, Purple Haze all in my eyes,
don't know if it's day or night,
you've got me blowing, blowing my mind
is it tomorrow or just the end of time?

When Hendrix composed the song in 1967, five years after the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, the nascent environmental movement was concerned then as now with the self-defeating delusion that living beings can coexist peaceably with mega-poisons being dumped on our lands and seeping into our aquifers. The early environmentalists cut their teeth on the victorious battle to ban DDT in the United States, an important win.

But before being banned, DDT was regularly sprayed along the Texas coastline where little Jimmy Browning frolicked as a lad. No doubt the stuff's in him still, wreaking its enduring havoc on his central nervous system, and sadly, judging by some of his bloopers at last week's hearing, very possibly, his intellect.
Judge James Oren Browning's umwelt was formed in this hideous but "normal" landscape in his hometown of Levelland, Texas.

Mora County before Judge Browning's imminent rulings. One wonders if he's constitutionally capable of valuing it?

Oral Arguments in SWEPI v. Mora County were held on November 3, 2014, in the U.S. Courthouse in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S. Judge James Oren Browning presiding. SWEPI, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell is suing Mora County to overturn the Mora County Community Water Rights and Local Self-Governance Ordinance

The Ordinance dares to ban SWEPI from fracking Mora County into another version of Levelland. 

Fortunately for those of us who like their earthly landscapes to be hospitable to...uh... Life, Big Oil & Gas blew it, big time. Power, in its headlong rush to quash precisely this kind of orientation toward the law--law as a tool of empowerment for local peoples--way, way, way jumped the gun in filing the suit, as Jeffrey Haas, Mora County's pro bono attorney pointed out over and again. SWEPI, via its two hired New Mexican ringers, erratically slapped some but not all the needed documents together and left Browning, who was appointed by W in 2003, to clean up their sloppily parataxic mess. SWEPI assumed, correctly, that Judge Browning  would be so inclined, but they also assumed, probably incorrectly given his level of befuddlement, that he would be up to the task. 

But how? The judge also well knows that the matter of challenging Mora's anti-fracking ban is not ripe for adjudication--"Is this a manufactured suit?" was a consistent refrain as he thought some of the timing issues through aloud. All roads pointed him to that same question: "Manufactured suit?" Sadly, the record will show that he must've muttered it to himself half a dozen times. His performance in this regard was evocative of actor Bill Murray's zany character in What About Bob--"baby steps...manufactured steps."

Because of course the whole bloody suit is contrived, completely so. Even the Albuquerque Journal indicated as much in its perfunctory and curtailed coverage when it quoted one of the SWEPI attorneys baldfacedly admitting, "I agree there's nothing in the record...". I'd like to see the rest of reporter Scott Sandlin's story, both the parts that he knew would never make it in and didn't bother to write, and the column inches he did write but that were summarily chopped by more cautious editors. And as for the so-called alternative press, Kay Matthews of La Jicarita, who's been consistently and disgracefully shilling for Shell in her Mora coverage--regulation good, banning bad--didn't bother covering one of the most important New Mexico environmental law stories ever, because...? 

Mora makes the "ripeness" case in spades: fundamental factual disputes, burdens of proof unmet, validity of SWEPI's leases totally unsubstantiated. There's been no harm to SWEPI, there's no imminent harm to SWEPI, (how could there be? they haven't even requested drilling permits for these leases!) there's nothing yet to sue about. On the merits SWEPI can't get there from here, at least not without a big assist, or series of assists, from Judge Browning. Or as one legal commenter in the peanut gallery put it:
"One after another Brownings' decisions were ideologically driven. Particularly on the 'Standing issue,' it was really alarming that there was almost no discussion about imminent and concrete harm and that he asked so many questions implicating extra-record evidence. He also didn't respect the burden of proof for the jurisdictional issues. His seeming need for extra-record evidence alone demonstrates that discovery was appropriate and a decision on SWEPI's motion was premature!"
Damn straight! I've been around enough U.S. Courthouses to know that normally the court rules on a Judgment on the Pleadings on what has been filed--there's no permitting additional evidence. At least that doesn't happen in the usual course, but it sure as hell happened last Monday. SWEPI's attorneys magically pulled a spreadsheet supplementing the evidence of its claims in Mora County out of a hat, material that had not been included in the Pleadings, or otherwise provided to Mora's attorneys.

In the cheap seats our eyes were rolling in disbelief, but Browning was acting as if he accepted that SWEPI's leases were valid although there's not a shred of evidence of that. It is absolutely SWEPI's burden to prove, and we can only surmise that if they could've, they would've. It was galling to see Browning let them sneakily add to the record with vague statements like "oh yes, they intended to drill" or "they have millions of dollars of leases in Mora County." Millions? How about a verifiable number? And how is it permissible that the amount of value of the leases now claimed orally is 100 times what they had offered proof of in their Complaining?!

One analysis, and it seems unavoidable, is that Browning was well aware that legally SWEPI had fallen short of meeting its burden, and he was asking questions to get them to provide new little bits of evidence which might sufficiently satisfy their burden to allow a ruling in their favor to be upheld by an Appeals Court. He asked so many questions implicating extra-record evidence.

So yeah, we suffered the indignity of watching Browning blatantly prompting them, coaxing the "right answers" out of them. It didn't matter how many times Haas objected, Judge Browning was by turns placating--"Maybe I can fix that later"--or condescending: "You're just throwing everything at the wall and hoping something will stick!" I kept waiting for a referee to blow a shrill whistle and call Foul! But then I realized, the only one who could call foul in this scenario was committing the foul, and so we sat there powerlessly watching Browning engage with SWEPI in some super-creative improvisational collaborative record-creation. "Mountains!" I asked the Sandia peaks visible from my seat in the very last row, "can you believe this travesty purporting to be justice?" The mountains blushed in witness to the shame of it all.

Similarly, Browning's stated inclination to rule that the Mora Land Grant and Jacobo Pacheco, a Mora citizen, could not intervene was a slap in the face of the people in attendance, and a shitty thing to do all around. It would have been an easy enough nod to Mora's dignity, if the good judge were so inclined to care about such matters. Was he trying to humiliate Jacobo, and make an example of him as one who shouldn't have even bothered trying to fight back?

He can insult us all he wants in his courtroom, but if Browning's opinion ignores the 10th Circuit law on this issue, law that is liberal (in the sense of generous) in allowing citizen and environmental groups to intervene in cases where a government entity such as Mora County is defending the suit, he'll get his professional comeuppance. We'll just have to wait and see if he's that much off his gourd.

Even more bizarre, when one of the Mora attorneys explained that there were competing corporate rights and community rights to be evaluated in the case (the essence of judging), he dismissed his duty to weigh them by saying corporate rights have been given precedent for 150 years.  With an attitude like that why should communities with their second-class citizen's rights ever hope for equality inside a U.S. Courtroom? 

At that point my compassion kicked in and I wondered if the judge, though only my age, might perhaps be dealing with some cognitive issues: unfortunately for Judge Browning, DDT has been linked to early-onset Alzheimer's. Criminy, how many times did he insist that the mayor of New York City was still Michael Bloomberg? Three terms weren't enough of that despotic billionaire? Surely he's aware that Bill de Blasio was inaugurated last January, more than ten months ago? And then there was that absolutely lunatic moment when he flat out said: "I keep hearing voices," and called in court security to make sure he didn't hear any anymore. And it honestly wasn't clear if he was referring to the few murmurs of reaction in the courtroom, or a more personal paracusia.

No one who attended will ever forget Haas' plea, if not for justice then at least, for decency.
"Judge, it is ironic that the oil company is suing claiming its constitutional rights are violated based on the Civil Rights Act of 1871. This Act, known as the Klu Klux Klan Act, was passed to protect persons (recently freed slaves) from acts of states and cities and their police forces denying them basic constitutional rights. We had just fought a war to establish that people were not property. Now the Courts are declaring that property is people."
I couldn't tell if that statement affected Browning as it did many of us in the gallery, or if it even reached the part of the man who might still care about the quality and consequences of his own judgemanship. But the thought occurred to me--that Judge Browning, sitting up there on his pharoahic throne in his plummy purple haze, like little Jimmy Browning sucking up the DDT fumes on the beaches of Corpus Christi, might not actually know the difference.

I guess I'll wait until after I read Judge Browning's opinion on SWEPI v. Mora County, which I very much hope will be contra to his stated inclinations on the issues, before I fill this out. Judge Browning, without hyperbole, holds the fate of far too much that is not his and never can be in his own human hands. Perhaps a thorough neurological examination is in order before he takes pen to paper, or recuses himself due to medical unfitness. Environmental hazards do take their toll, even on the 1% who live in a purple haze of invulnerability.


you hardly wait for a chink
to open where something to say
might issue, and not more blue
smoke. the heart is a small
red pyramid, totally relaxed
you put your finger on a map of
the Balearic Islands, orange
as ironwood & what a strange day
comes out of you like bluets
it doesn’t matter what you say
the ruins stand in a green shade
tall, taller than Odysseus
serving up his baseless dish
and around the yellow taxicabs
go, exhausted with the age
they are smashing your mind
purple, a Phoenician sea

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sublet on Former Helmuth Naumer Compound, Jan 1 to March 31, 2015

If I weren't fortunate enough to be traveling to an even more extravagantly beautiful place in South America this winter, I don't think I could tear myself way from my rustically charming rented casita and studio only eight miles from the Santa Fe Plaza. But I am headed to Banos, Ecuador to volunteer with La Bib at Arte del Mundo, and am subletting my place which is comfortably, if somewhat funkily, furnished, for a three-month term.

It's actually two spaces-- a 750 sq. ft. casita and a 500 sq. ft. studio space in a freestanding building a few dozen steps down a curving path. Both are part of a compound which was the former residence of painter Helmuth Naumer, whose murals are part of the Bandolier National Monument. Every single time I enter my writing studio/living room, I pinch myself that Naumer's work once hung on these walls. Works like these:

The current residents of the compound, my landlords and two other renters, are very caring people and wonderful neighbors. It's a very sweet vibe out here, probably because we all have our share of the beauty of the place, and so I'm hoping to find just the right sublettor(s) who will meld into the landscape seamlessly and appreciate the luxury of silence, sun-dappled days, star-drenched night skies, and falling asleep to the comforting yet primal crackle of cedar, juniper and pinyon fires in the bedside kiva.

Living in the adobe casita is like being a kid at sleep-away camp, it's so relaxed and carefree.

Tranquility, privacy and views over the arroyo are all available from the casita's portal.

When you enter, there's a deep coat closet on your right and the eating nook on the left.

Here's a longer view and you can see the gas heater on the wall.

It's even prettier by candlelight and moonlight.

From the entrance, you step up into the kitchen.

The water is from my landlords' well and it tastes delicious. And it's a gas stove and oven, which I always prefer.

Here's a few more views of the fun-to-be-in kitchen.

I just bought the antique Cuisineart at a yard sale. It's so ancient, it doesn't have an on/off button, but when I plugged it in, it worked!

The fridge is a month old, and the skylight lets the light pour down on the happy cooks.
The bathroom is through the bedroom next to another sizable closet (both will be emptied out completely). There's a gas heater in it, which I turn on to warm the space up before showering and dressing. It doesn't take long to make it toasty in there.

The sleeping space is a dramatic and large room which you enter by stooping under an arched doorway. The room has stone floors, high ceilings made of traditional vigas, and large windows looking out on an overgrown courtyard replete with stone fountain and peach tree. The wildness is its own kind of freedom.

It's just an incredibly comfortable and felicitous bed. An electric blanket warms up the sheets perfectly. And here's what you see from a position of repose.
Just to the right, there's a second door to the outside and a wall-mounted electric heater.. You'll want a good pair of slippers to pad around on the stone floor, but you'll be snug enough.

Down a path is the aforementioned studio/living room.

Natural light permeates the room, there are multiple windows on three sides.

It has a wood-burning stove and gas heater for warmth, and its own portal and views for gorgeousness.

What else, what else? There's uncovered parking for three vehicles. A land line for local calls. Cable, wifi and utilities are included. You can rent it all per month for what a slightly fancier casita in town would cost per week. I'd appreciate receiving all three months up front, and my very lovely landlords have requested final say on the sub-lettor(s).

Finally, it's a very healing place. Bird feeders, wind chimes and gurgling fountains dot the compound. It's also a very inspiring place in its wildness and savage beauty--you will hear the coyotes! The surrounding roads are lovely and perfectly safe for solitary walks or romantic rambles, and there's a high quality restaurant serving breakfast and lunch not a ten-minute stroll away.

If you think you might enjoy spending a happy 3-month idyll in a laid-back, no-stress environment, please be in touch with me at Looking forward to sharing my little piece of heaven with you.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

At the End of a Long and Lawless Day, Burque Media Represents in Ferguson

Article and images (unless noted) by Frances Madeson
New Mexico is love-bombing Ferguson.

One of the most positive concrete outcomes of the police brutality movement in Albuqerque this season is the founding of a community media outlet whose focus is media justice. With all due respect, we in the activism community refer to the local corporate paper as The Albuquerque Urinal, and the alternative press while seeming to engage with many issues of concern also manages to stop well short of providing information and perspectives that would fundamentally challenge the status quo. Into this gaping void Burque Media, whose tagline is Countering Lies, Exposing Truths, was born.

Image by Dinah Vargas. "A visual exploration of what it means to be from somewhere."

Along with the state flag, the Desert Spirits banner is representing New Mexico on the ground in Ferguson, Missouri this weekend.

"I almost feel like I'm going to war, like it's a duty," Dinah Vargas, co-founder of Burque Media Productions told me about the impulse to join the fray in Ferguson. "The violence, the threat is very real. But Albuquerque's still in this. No one said we're out. I feel called to go."

Partners in Media Justice--Dinah Vargas and Steve Kramer
1,037 miles separate Albuquerque from St. Louis County, but that isn't stopping Steve Kramer. He says he's primarily impelled by a desire to demonstrate reciprocity, solidarity. "We've had people come here to join us in our struggle. It was important to us, it meant a lot. Likewise, we will go there.

"As organizers ourselves, we're sensitive to the fact that they don't want troublemakers who can hurt their cause. We understand about outside agitators. But we reached out to organizers there on the ground, and got positive feedback as to our coming. We bring that sensitivity being involved in our own community."

Within hours three vast coolers were filled with supplies for the people on the ground contributed by people in the Albuquerque Police Violence movement. Medical supplies too.

Among the truckload of contributed goods, Nora Anaya, one of the Burque 13, made sure there were healing roots and herbs used by the Curanderas healers of New Mexico. Nora explained to me:

"The healing herbs I sent were what was used in times of old, when there were no doctors for thousands of miles--roots and herbs from the cabinet. For instance clove that you might use to spice a ham could take the pain from a toothache until they could find a way to pull the tooth. Or eucalyptus oil for asthma, a few drops under the nose helps clear the passageways.

"I sent contra yerva, one of the most powerful herbs that I've encountered. When you pull it out of the earth and it dries, it becomes almost rock like. It's grated and used in powder form and would be very helpful in healing wounds from rubber bullets, for instance. I sent two bags of contra yerva, and a parmesan cheese grater.

"And I meant to give them a quick lesson on healing facial wounds before they left. The best band-aid on the face is the skin of the shell of an egg. It has proteins and you can use a little of the egg white for adhesive. Hold it down with a little bit of pressure and it becomes like a second skin."

At the Enterprise Car Rental where we went to rent the truck--rows of vehicles from various law enforcement agencies.

"We're fighting a system of unlimited resources," says Steve Kramer.

"We'll have a different presence, being from Albuquerque," Dinah explained. "We're coming as citizen journalists, community people who have been through it. When the tear gas clears, the rubber bullets have been picked up off the street, and the press goes away, it doesn't mean that the problems go away. They remain."

Joining the entourage, Ledford Thomas who will be radio blogging on Burque Media. Thomas hopes to meet the Brown family while in Ferguson.

Thomas, a retired Account Manager for Sprint, sees this moment as a "defining moment." He sees "a Nation of People coming together around this." He hopes to document "the historical moment when change DID happen. I want to be able to tell my grandson that I was there."

Our friend Isaac Mitchell, who thanks to the APD will have no grandsons from Jonathan. (Dinah's image, I think)

After hours of preparation (including picking up gas masks, just in case), it soon came time to pack up the truck. Vi from Burque Media came with her young son to give her friends a sendoff of hugs, smiles and fine words. "These are my brothers and sisters in the fight," she told me brimming with a current of high emotion. "I want to be here with them before they go. The National Guard is in Ferguson, and that's bad."

"The police are shooting people," Vi continued. "Because they feel threatened by the color of their skin, or their clothes, all these superficial reasons. This is a Class War we've been engaged in for many years now, and it's all over the country. At Burque Media we're just trying to wake people up, and bring visibility to experience and knowledge from other places."

In addition to the many visitors who had come by to drop off supplies, many emails and other messages of support were conveyed. "This is a peoples' effort," Dinah explained. "We wouldn't be on our way if it weren't for the many contributions of cash and Western Union wires we received from about fifteen contributors so far. Every time someone said I wish I could give even more, I said What you gave is exactly what we needed. And it's true.

"We're going out there, and we might not see any action," Dinah said. "But we're going to get that second story, the one from the people, the story of the community. We live the struggle every day. City Councilman Dan Harris whined that he was tired of the public comments. He doesn't know what tired is. It isn't ever over for us, it doesn't ever end for us. And I don't think it can."

To help bring our friends home from Ferguson on Monday and to support the continued work of Burque Media, won't you please consider making a generous contribution. A Go Fund Me campaign has been established HERE.

Update: Watching the raw footage Burque Media has been sharing via Ustream is everything I personally hoped for. Dinah and Steve are bringing love, soothing people with their voices, words, handshakes, embraces. I can only imagine the richness of experience they will be bringing home to New Mexico, and am so deeply and hugely proud that they are our ambassadors to Missouri.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Best People--Santa Fe Stands With Gaza

Lambchop under siege in Santa Fe. (Photos except one by Frances Madeson)
Resistance in Two Acts.

Act One

On Wednesday, July 23rd, more than 50 New Mexicans came together from Albuquerque, from Taos, and overwhelmingly Santa Fe, to condemn U.S. Senators Heinrich and Udall for action and inaction with respect to Senate Resolution 498, which Heinrich co-sponsored and Udall did not oppose. The resolution, which was passed unanimously, supports Israel's right to defend itself against Hamas' rockets, and calls for the political marginalization and de-legitimation of Hamas. 

Although there is never a good time for savagery, political or military, the Senate passed its expression of blind support for Israel after the Israeli Defense Force had already commenced the evocatively named Operation Protective Edge, its deadly ground invasion into Gaza. For this one craven act alone the U.S. Senate should please do us all a huge favor and abolish itself—what possible good can come from an oligarchic political institution capable of giving notional carte blanche to a killing-spree perpetrated on an unarmed civilian population and then backing it up with over $3 billion in annual foreign and military aid, year after year after year?

Please don't look away, these are our bloody tax dollars at work--a mind-blowing $8 million a day.

Text of the letter delivered to Senator Heinrich:

Senator Heinrich, we are delivering this message to you today, because last Thursday, just after Israel launched its invasion into Gaza, you voted for Senate Resolution 498, to endorse the assault. You voted knowing the Israeli military had already killed scores of civilians by shelling Gaza from the sea, air, and land, and that civilian casualties would increase exponentially with a ground invasion.

It is because you and others like you in the US Senate and House unanimously support Israel militarily, and economically and provide diplomatic cover and protection from international and UN condemnation that Israel feels free to imprison and blockade Gazans and deprive them of the most basic human needs including clean water, adequate food, electricity, jobs, and freedom to travel. Now with your specific endorsement and promise of protection, Israel has escalated its war on Gazans to include massive murder and maiming of civilians,destruction of their homes. hospitals, mosques, schools, water and electricity supply, their sanitation system, and any place of refuge from the IDF’s firing of bombs, missiles, mortars, and machine guns.

Senator Heinrich your continuing endorsement of Israeli actions has, as expected, resulted in massive death and destruction in Gaza. Recent counts are over 600 Gazans killed, including over 80% civilians, 4,000 wounded, tens of thousands homeless, 900,000 without potable water, all caused by the Israeli invasion. You and your colleagues have blood on your hands.

We are Santa Feans outraged by the escalating apartheid developments in Occupied Palestine and the genocide being carried out in Gaza. We demand that the U.S. immediately cease all financial and military aid to Israel until a UN monitored ceasefire is carried out, until the blockade of Gaza is lifted, and until the Occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem are ended.

Civil rights attorney Jeffrey Haas in the blue cap and his son Justin holding the bullhorn were a model of generational resistance to the generational subjugation of the Palestinians.

Former Brooklynite, long-term Santa Fean, and brother to all--activist Joe Hempfling
I asked Joe,
What did we do here today?

It was an opportunity, we were doing something. But the trick is not to be caught up in results in an Anglo-Saxon kind of mode. We're a spoke in the wheel. We changed our own hearts today. In coming today, we stepped out of our lives, business was not usual today.

And this is what we have to do: Change hearts one at a time, starting with your own. LOVE—it's time has come.

Look at how many brothers and sisters we have all over the world!

Ilse Biel, one of the Burque 13. From South Africa, Ilse became a U.S. citizen so that she could risk arrest for civil disobedience without fear of deportation.

Always inspiring to hear, Consuelo Luz heals us and soothes us while she spurs us on.

Jeff Haas, one of the organizers of the action, also read this statement (sadly since the 23rd, the number of dead Gazans has trebled!):

I am here today to protest the escalation of Israel’s ongoing war against Palestinians.

I am here today to protest the killing of over 650 Palestinians, overwhelmingly

civilians, by Israeli bombs missiles, rockets, drone strikes and machine gun bullets.

I am here to protest the wounding of over 4000 Gazans, and tens of thousands made

homeless, and hundreds of thousands of Gazan refugees fleeing for safety with nowhere to go.

I am here to protest Israel’s destruction of homes, hospitals, mosques, schools

and today ...Gaza’s only power plant. Indeed Gaza’s entire infrastructure is being

destroyed and living conditions are even worse than before the recent invasion

when they barely supported subsistence.

I am here today to protest the ongoing blockade of Gaza, the virtual caging of its

people, and the daily deprivation of even subsistence items such as clean drinking

water, adequate food, and sanitation, electricity, and the right to leave.

I am here today to stand in support of the brave Gazan people who, despite taking

horrible human losses, stand together to demand an end to their imprisonment by


I am here today because I could not stay home and be silent, after watching,

listening and knowing what Israel is doing to Gazans.

I am here today because I have witnessed firsthand the abuses that Israel inflicts

on the Palestinian people every day in Occupied Palestine including stealing their

land, demolishing their homes, building a wall to segregate and isolate them, taking

most of their water for their pools and lawns and denying Palestinians water for

household necessities and irrigation, building settlements and protecting settlers

who shoot at Palestinians trying to harvest their olives, protecting Jewish Israelis

who invade Palestinians homes in East Jerusalem and throw out the occupants.

But I am here today mostly because the US and our Congress are the financiers,

military providers, and diplomatic protectors of all of Israel’s aggression. It is the

US government that supports and enables all of Israel’s atrocities and violations of

International Law and then provides diplomatic protection by vetoing every

UN Resolution condemning Israeli action.

Most recently our Senate and House of Representative, unanimously and

shamelessly voted to support Israeli’s bombing and invasion of Gaza. No one stood

up against the demands and threats of AIPAC. They are like the gun control lobby

on steroids and no Congress person has dared to stand up for human rights and

criticize Israel for the indiscriminate and intentional killing and maiming of civilians

It is the US that guarantees Israel that all its war crimes including its illegal

Occupation of the West Bank, its blockade of Gaza, and its regular and periodic

murder and imprisonment of Palestinians will not be met with UN sanctions or even


I am here to demand that our Senators and Representatives stop all military and

economic aid to Israel, until Israel ends the Occupation of the West Bank and

East Jerusalem, ends the blockade of Gaza, stops the arrest and imprisoning of

Palestinians without charge or legal recourse, and returns Palestinian land

Occupied by settlers.

I am here, as we all are, to call for an end to the horrible massacre that the Israeli

Military is inflicting on the people of Gaza. But like the people of Gaza, we are

seeking more than a temporary ceasefire. We are seeking a recognition of the basic

human and civil rights of Gazans to live free of the deadly blockade and embargo.

As Mohammed Omar wrote in and editorial in today’s New York Times,

The terms outlined by Hamas for a cease-fire are the same

as those the United Nations has called for repeatedly: open

the border crossings; let people work, study and build the

economy. A population capable of taking care of its own

would enhance Israel’s security. One that cannot leads to


End the Siege of Gaza! Stop the Shelling of Gaza!

Gaza Gaza don’t you cry Palestine will never


Act Two

Carmen Stone, whose dear friend Santa Fean Denny Cormier is currently in Gaza risking all to keep Al Shifa hospital from being bombed by making known his physical presence there, interrupting the utterly banal meeting to speak truth to Power.

Carmen Stone, about to be ejected from the meeting, up against Tom Udall's wall of fake sunshine.

On Saturday, August 2nd, Tom Udall invited his fellow member of the white man's millionaires club, U.S. Senator Al Franken, to schmooze with the proles at the Center for Progress and Justice in Santa Fe on the occasion of something or other--opening a campaign office, I think. Franken was one of the co-sponsors of Senate Resolution 498 and the chance to bring up the urgent emergency in Gaza to the very people who had endorsed it unconditionally was an historic opportunity we could not miss--not one but two U.S. Senators had materialized from the ether to hear our pleas and cries and demands.

Leslie Lakind, another brother to all, with Erin Currier

On Cerrillos about 40 people were standing with signs and other props. Susan Tarman from Amnesty International Santa Fe was there juggling three clipboards, each with a petition to Heinrich, Udall and Congressman Lujan.

Did the Democrats call the police?

Yes, they most certainly did.

It was really beautiful to see the Udall supporters in full regalia coming out to support the protest. One had to respect the sight of them there asserting their belief in a system of governance they still believe to be substantively affectable by citizen input. Though I personally do not share their worldview--I no longer believe that our institutions are salvageable and I am breathlessly waiting for them to topple of their own internal rot--I admired them for having the courage of their convictions in their own context.

Eta Gordon, one of the best of the best

I greeted Jeffrey Haas and shook his hand with overwhelming respect. I hadn't had a chance to tell him personally how very much I had admired his latest brief on the Mora County Anti-Fracking Ordinance, and what a great pleasure it was to read. It goes to the heart of the matter and stays there beating steadily, page after page. Each succeeding argument adds strength to the ones that preceded until the cumulative effect is one of undeniable intellectual triumph. It is a mighty challenge to the premises and merits of big Oil and Gas' right to bring their suit in the first place. I was in the presence of a towering legal figure, and I felt appropriately thrilled.

The senators were late. I don't know what happened earlier in the day at the Albuquerque action at the Peace and Justice Center where a similar event was staged, but whatever it was had clearly rolled off their backs like rain off a couple of duckies. The duo waddled in completely relaxed, even jocular. Franken in a $1,600 suit looking primped and pampered, wearing his wealth and power easily, a deep entitlement oblivious to privilege, which in his remarks he mistook for "luck." Udall knows better than to flash his opulence back home. His preppier-than-thou ensemble couldn't have been more Inside the Beltway, and his yellow polo shirt matched his campaign poster. It occurred to me that his handlers might be trying to insinuate a subliminal homophonic associative message--sun, son, reflected glory of his father who, as these things go, was known as a man of principle.

Al's tie is also a perfect match with Udall's campaign poster. It's not just colors that these two coordinate.

Udall, it turns out, is a deeply mediocre speaker who knows his audience and gives them exactly what they want--a patrician's reassurance of continuity, the sense that the familiar world of traditional platitudes and hegemony the white-haired audience has always held dear is still operational, the benign and benevolent wizard yet reigns unexposed behind the curtain. For that illusion they'll tolerate even his inane crassness--Udall introduced Franken as a grandfather, a pater familias, who could've made great sums of money in show biz, but was slumming in the U.S. Senate. As if his public service was some kind of sacrifice, and not the ticket to a Swiss bank account that it likely is.

A union hall for the NM film industry, the room itself is accustomed to show biz.

It was a great relief when Jeff Haas interrupted the meeting to talk about the war crimes in Gaza, but like Carmen, he was escorted by security out of the building. One of the well-heeled Democrats said to no one and everyone sotto voce about Jeff--He's an asshole. I saw the Dem's face when he said it-- ratlike, pinched, distorted with contempt. I can only hope his karma delivers him to this post or that he somehow otherwise comes to be confronted with the picture of the child above, and recalls his slur.

I held up my impromtpu sign, scrawled quickly on a page from my notebook--ABOLISH THE U.S. SENATE. Franken squinted to read it then gave me a look like, C'mon now, lady. I wish I could say that I had flustered him and that that was the reason his remarks were so diffuse and insincere sounding. But I have seen Al do his shtick before at a DLC21 event in Manhattan, and he was similarly vague and unimpressive. In Santa Fe his biggest laugh line involved a child and a microwave, but that didn't stop him from getting a standing ovation from the polite Santa Fe Democrats, who no doubt wanted to send him off with a good impression of their club.

To be honest, this Al's far more entertaining. Maybe Udall can get him to come rouse the troops!

Kay Matthews at La Jicarita has a good write-up of the event too, and hers includes a vid of Carmen being shouted down, and ousted. Somewhere Eleanor Roosevelt is not pleased. There's quite a lively comment thread following the post, though my last comment didn't manifest. I'll end with it:

Mr. Gomez:
I fear you’re missing the point of interrupting the meeting while the senators were present, although it’s a simple principle: Speaking truth to Power. (Not to the sycophantic aides or folks who were there to see a former tv star, be seen by Udall, or snack on some free refreshments.)

If you’ve been paying attention then you know by now that Operation Protective Edge is pretty much a natural gas grab tarted up to look like something else. and

Your precious Democratic senators went along with a military assault on an unarmed civilian population to get better business terms for Halliburton. Why don’t you spend some time thinking about the implications of that? Especially for New Mexico, given this state’s beholdenness to big Oil and Gas, not to mention its colonial history–past, present and future?

Bianca Sapoci-Belnap and babe