Archive for Steve Klinger

Bring it on

By Steve Klinger

Police in cities across the country did the Occupy movement a great favor when they raided the mothership Monday night and evicted Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park. In a coordinated series of actions that Oakland Mayor Jean Quan admitted included an 18-city law enforcement conference call, police raided encampments from coast to coast, using batons, pepper spray, riot gear and whatever it took, short of lethal force, to retake the parks, in the guise of public welfare and safety.

Some, like Bill O’Reilly, calling it a “legitimate political movement” for the first time only in pronouncing its eptitaph, boasted hopefully that “the Occupy movement is dead…and it’s a good thing.”

Not so fast, Bill.  New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg screwed up big time, and so did his law-and-order buddies with their Gestapo tactics. The camps were actually becoming a major drag on the movement, though they were its necessary and effective beginnings. By mid-November they had drawn influxes of transients, druggies, drifters and grifters, far more interested in free food and lodging as winter began to bear down than in sweeping political change. Increasingly, they had filled the encampments with hard-core homeless and a variety of mentally ill social outcasts, whose tactics of Occupation were based largely on a misplaced sense of entitlement. They were draining energy from the political focus of the movement, sullying the image of the original Occupiers and deflecting focus from economic injustice in this country to stories of petty theft, drug use and assault, and spreading filth and squalor.

If left alone, many of the larger camps especially, in more controversial locations than Occupy Santa Fe, and with far less sympathetic mayors and police forces, would have descended into tent-filled slums in a matter of days or weeks, damaging the movement further and perhaps destroying it.

Instead, the widely broadcast brutality of cops with truncheons and klieg lights, dragging sleeping and nonviolent campers from their tents I the middle of the night, accomplished just the opposite of their objective. This is why the mood in Zuccotti Park the following day, after it reopened once a judge ruled that First Amendment rights did not include sleeping bags and tents, was one of liberation and near-euphoria.

As Gandhi famously noted: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

Stage 3 had begun in cities across the United States. The cops and mayors and 1-percenters thought the Occupiers would give up and go home, but they miscalculated, as the forces of oppression always do, after they panic when they realize they have overreached, big time.

There is too much wrong in this country for those who have become aware of it to give up and go home. The Occupy movement changed the dialogue from the trumped-up,  red-herring deficit issue to the real subject of injustice and unfairness in America. The 99 percent are the 99 percent for a reason. The emperors have no clothes, and now everybody knows it.  There is no going home, as the 30,000 or so rallying in New York’s Foley Square tonight and marching across the Brooklyn Bridge are exclaiming, as the thousands more who flooded Wall Street earlier are proclaiming, as the hundreds and thousands in marches and protests in dozens of cities, which will spread to hundreds of cities by this weekend, are reminding those who would continue to oppress and repress them.

We don’t know where exactly it’s all heading, but it is looking more real by the hour. Marches, rallies, teach-ins, move-your-money actions, and why not a nationwide strike, boycotts, flash mobs? If the cops stay violent, and the mayors keep making condescending speeches about the public health and welfare, they become the movement’s best recruiting tool. Bring it on, Bloomberg and your media minions, for you know not what you have unleashed!

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Time to pull up stakes

 

In an ironic twist few would have anticipated two months ago, the Occupy movement risks being hijacked—not by the cops, the media or the money of Wall Street, but by the homeless. As wintry weather bears down on Santa Fe and a lot of northern cities and towns, the political activists in tents and sleeping bags are being replaced by transients, drifters, vagabonds, conmen and grifters, druggies and misfits of all kinds, looking for a handout, a tent, a hot meal and a place to hang that isn’t a church- or government-run shelter.

 

Those who are serious members of the OWS movement and have slept at the Railyard encampment here report an increasing number of occupants who have no interest in the movement except what they can gain from it personally. Instead of social or political commitment they have an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. Naturally the mainstream media are picking up on the growing divisiveness, and it won’t play well on Main Street. People who don’t understand the movement or its goals are happy to exploit any perceived weakness or inconsistency. Violence, such that which broke out in Oakland a few nights ago, is the worst setback, especially when it is precipitated by the Occupiers, or appears to be. Camps full of disruptive misfits and social outcasts are nearly as bad.

 

On the one hand, the greed of the 1 percent and a gridlocked, dysfunctional government are largely responsible for the legions of homeless this society produces, and the movement cannot ignore them. On the other hand, parasitic and unstable transients, not the foreclosed and the economically displaced, are the ones filling the camps, and Occupy movements are facing a major strategic decision in one city after another.

 

To launch the movement, physical occupation of a park adjacent to Wall Street was a great political statement and a focal point for drawing participants and media coverage. Though most of the sites occupied in other places weren’t as meaningful, the symbolism of staking out a piece of public property as an act of civil disobedience was still powerful and appropriate. Now some are starting to question whether maintaining the camps is becoming a form of fetishism—an obsessive attachment to something that is not really the heart of the movement.

 

The time has come for Occupy groups to contemplate abandoning their encampments rather than seeing them be held hostage by drifters and grifters. Occupation was always a symbolic act, and more can be accomplished by the process most of the groups have now successfully established, of holding general assemblies and working/action group meetings in a variety of public spaces. Exercises in direct democracy, marches, rallies, picketing, teach-ins, and maybe even flash mobs, are effective tools each group can use, now that adherents have come together and the media are providing coverage. There are many targets on which the 99 percent can focus, and the Occupy sites are no longer essential for that purpose.

 

While the encampments have had a certain historical resonance as well, mirroring the Hoovervilles of the Great Depression, they could not practically speaking be expected to exist in the long term, so why not move beyond them now that they are becoming a logistic and a strategic liability?

 

This doesn’t mean the many outcasts they are drawing should be forgotten by the society that created them, but that is not a new problem or one the Occupy movement can allow to drag it down. America needs a message of unity from OWS and its supporters, not mixed signals, and not the negativity that is waiting to happen the first time a major casualty is reported from some Occupy camp. It won’t take long, it will happen any day now, and it will further undermine the confidence of the public and the image of the movement.

 

Onward, Occupiers—it’s time to break camp.

 

 

—Steve Klinger

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What is it about ‘No’ that you don’t understand?

By Steve Klinger

It all boils down to a simple question: Why can’t Obama and the Democrats take the gloves off and expose the Republicans for the sociopathic subversives they really are?

Yes, Dr. Kidglove, as blogger Tom Wark likes to call him, gave a forceful speech and presented a jobs program larger than many expected. But as Robert Reich quickly calculated (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-reich/american-jobs-act-obama-_b_955250.html) it would not make a big difference in reducing unemployment or otherwise stimulating the economy or avoiding a likely double-dip recession. At $200-300 billion of new spending it’s just not big enough, and many of the tax cuts are extensions of what’s already in place.

I said “would” because it will not become law. The Republicans will block it, using Mitch McConnell’s cynical talking point, no doubt coined long before Obama opened his mouth:
“This isn’t a job plan. It’s a reelection plan.”

Except the shoe is really on the other foot. To the Republicans, everything is about the election and nothing is about human suffering and national priorities. Obama has hesitated, procrastinated, accommodated and capitulated for the better part of three years, naively hoping for bipartisanship. His self-deluded attempts at leadership have repeatedly met with solid and unrelenting GOP resistance – no, flat-out obstructionism. Unlike some leftists who believe he is bought and paid for, I think he has simply shown himself to be overmatched  and incapable of necessary confrontation. So once again, abandoning principle for the sake of perceived expediency, he has presented a program he thinks/hopes/prays will get enough Republican support to be enacted as a half-measure.

But it won’t be good enough to matter if it does, and anyway, it will not, precisely because Obama again underestimates the cold-blooded ruthlessness of his opponents, who do not put country ahead of politics, and certainly not ordinary working people (or those who wish they were working people). This is what he and every Democrat and every sentient media commentator should be saying, over and over, until voters get the message: How can you trust the Republicans to help ordinary folks when they are constantly demonstrating they’re willing to ruin the country for the sake of reclaiming power?

As many have pointed out, the Republicans would say day was night if they thought it would give them an electoral victory in 2012. And they would, and do, watch millions suffer while pretending to act in their interest. Using their own past proposals to get their support did not work with health care or the debt ceiling,  and it will not work with jobs.  Maybe someone on Obama’s re-election team is planning to exploit GOP opposition to this plan once the campaign season starts in earnest. But in that case, as Reich asks, why not push the program that’s really needed so you can make a persuasive argument about how the right is selling the country down the river?

Take the gloves off and swing back. What is it about ‘No’ that you don’t understand?

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One more cave job

By Steve Klinger

The Democrats, in a baffling instance of rapid-cycling mutation, are proving again to be a subspecies of Homo sapiens that appears to have a backbone only when they are live on C-Span. In the backrooms where the deals get done they are total invertebrates, as demonstrated by the debt-ceiling deal emerging in Congress this weekend.

Republicans are pleading for just a little more Democratic support, which tells everything about whose plan is moving forward to avoid the trumped-up deadline for national default. Despite months of rhetoric about not making the little guy pay for budget austerity, the Democrats’ version of the “compromise” going forward is even more of what the Republicans wanted than they ever expected to obtain: A 12-member “Super Congress” that will have to come up with about $1.8 trillion in cuts by Thanksgiving – or entitlement programs will automatically be cut instead (the right’s objective all along). No revenue enhancement, no expiration of the Bush tax cuts, apparently no legislation even to eliminate tax loopholes.

The cardinal rule of negotiation with terrorists and rogue states is, don’t ransom hostages or you simply reinforce and encourage the behavior. This is especially true when you have taken yourself hostage. The Republicans in Congress, with the Tea Party sticking knives into their backs, are a gang of terrorists, holding the United States and its system of democracy hostage. The debt ceiling crisis is an artifice – blackmail, pure and simple. The right knew from Obama’s cave on the budget a few months ago that he and Senate leaders would not only blink on the debt ceiling but would deliver the keys to the candy store with their eyes shut tight.

Obama had a reasonable option: invoking the 14th Amendment, which states that the debts of the United States shall not be questioned. Certainly there was some legal gray area, but in the absence of a reasonable and fair legislative agreement, he could have kept the option open and exercised it under a state of emergency – but not this conciliator-in-chief. He could have led, as he was elected to do, but he abstained. Essentially, he abdicated his constitutional duties, as he has been doing for two-and-a-half years.

Majorities of over 70 percent of the public in recent polls have said they want the rich to pay their fair share of reining in the deficit, but the Republicans continue to lie shamelessly in pretending they are following the will of the people. The media perpetuate outrageous false equivalencies in reporting the so-called balanced view that both sides need to compromise. Only some bloggers, a few columnists and a handful of radio and television commentators have pointed out that the emperor has no clothes: The “compromise” is persuading the kidnapper to take your food away in four months instead of next week as the price for agreeing to leave the oxygen flowing to your tomb.

And this from a party that putatively controls the Senate and the White House. Last time I checked, that was two-thirds of the day-to-day decision-making authority in this country. Why should they be the ones to blink in this game of chicken, especially when the President holds the trump card of invoking the 14th Amendment?

This deal should incite a riot but will probably only get AARP members to bang on their bedpans for a few days. It should bring millions into the streets with signs and shouts of protest. All it will do is send those millions into the streets and under the overpasses one family a time when all the safety nets erected over decades of social progress are ripped away from them by the plutocratic predators who will devour the nation until, like the parasites they are, they succumb along with their host victim.

And sadly, most shameful of all, is a president so many of us supported to change the way things are done, who wasn’t up to the task, who proved oh so much better at spouting promises than  protecting his charges and the democracy that elevated his sorry ass.

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Time to draw a line in the sand

By Steve Klinger

This blog has been fulminating for a couple of months (or maybe since the midterm elections) as I watch the spectacle in Washington that the President elevates by describing as a three-ring circus. As any circusgoer or participant well knows, meticulous planning and coordination go into every circus stop at every town, and every act, from trapeze to juggling to animal routines. This is not to be confused with the dysfunctional frenzy in the Beltway.

The debt-ceiling crisis has in common with the circus that it is built on role-playing and enacted to mesmerize the audience, but the Washington version goes beyond entertainment and has no logical script other than the objective of maximizing political gain on behalf of those seeking financial gain.

In the final days of this trumped-up crisis, an artificial day of reckoning that only further denigrates government in the eyes of the populace, extemporaneous grandstanding rules the show. Republicans hold government, the President, the Democrats in Congress and the America people hostage in a cynical and hypocritical game of brinksmanship, alleged to be about controlling deficit spending but in reality about completing the redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the plutocracy.

Democrats have made strategic mistakes; for far too long they have lost the media-driven battle of public opinion, as usual being unable to match the Republicans’ ability to manipulate the victims themselves (Tea partiers, blue-collar workers, retirees, struggling homeowners) into orchestrating their own economic and political demolition.

The most offensive aspect of the whole thing has to be the collusion among the triumvirate of greed-driven plutocrats, co-opted politicians and mainstream-media talking heads whose rank hypocrisy knows no shame. Correspondents and news anchors talk about spreading blame and purport to provide a “balanced” perspective in lamenting that the sides can’t seem to compromise. Public opinion polls are twisted into confirming that the frustrated public just wants the two parties to reach an agreement. A problem almost entirely generated by wartime spending, Wall Street excess and self-serving deregulation has been allowed to be portrayed as one of runaway “entitlement” spending and false comparisons to balancing household budgets.

Commentators talk ad nauseum about compromise and deal-making. To our woe, the smartest guy in the room is the President, who has brainwashed himself into believing the compromise dictum, though he should have known a month into his presidency that “compromise” and “bipartisan” are code words for a strategy to prevent his re-election, even at the risk of destroying the nation.

Better-informed observers than I have chronicled the steadfast refusal of virtually the entire Republican delegation (especially in the current House) to compromise, while the Senate has elevated the filibuster to a new art from – all to thwart Obama and the Democrats, no matter how centrist or even right-leaning their agenda. But Obama can’t get the C-word out of his head and persists in the mindset of some self-styled ambassador instead of the leader and the agent for change many of us thought we were electing.

He has already capitulated on his principles regarding everything from the environment to single-payer health care, torture and secret rendition, drone attacks, national security, immigration, and is now willing to send Medicare down the slippery slope to pay the rightwing ransom in a scenario that is entirely of their making.

What he needs to do is explode the myth of equal blame and expose the total hypocrisy and cynicism, his re-election hopes be damned (though ironically they might well be advanced if he showed an iota of leadership). At this eleventh hour he needs to give Congress a very short leash to reach a workable agreement on a debt-ceiling extension and a package of spending cuts plus revenue-enhancement measures that will settle the issue through the 2012 elections. He needs to draw a line in the sand.

If no deal is reached in another two or three days, he needs to invoke the 14th Amendment, declare a state of emergency and extend the debt ceiling by executive decree.  There is much Democratic support for exactly such a course in the absence of a deal. The Republicans will scream bloody murder, but let them. They can’t lie, posture and manipulate any more than they already are. If the House wants to deliberate impeachment proceedings, so be it; at least it will give them something to do. If the courts must get involved, let them; they can’t be any less rational than the Republican leadership in Congress. If it costs Obama his re-election, he should realize that’s a better alternative than allowing the nation to slip into default and bring disaster on the economy and the American people.

He just might find an unexpected reaction – a groundswell of support from a nation that decisively elected a president to lead, not follow.

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The fire this time

By Steve Klinger

As a newcomer to Santa Fe (though it is the second time around), I’m a little puzzled about how things work up in this neck of the Land of Enchantment.

There is a fire burning in the Santa Fe National Forest. As of 11 am on Sunday it had grown to 900 acres, six miles northeast of Tesuque and nine miles north of Santa Fe. The plume of smoke seen yesterday is back, there’s a red flag warning for virtually the entire state, with winds expected to gust up to 50 mph this afternoon, with sustained winds 25-30 mph. The humidity is in single digits, the forest is bone-dry, a tinderbox ready to ignite, as it obviously has. And though this fire was no more than 5-7 acres when reported, crews were unable to keep it from erupting; containment remains at 0 percent.

But the attitude toward this fire seems to be as ho-hum as if it were a quarter of an acre in the middle of the monsoon. After a front-page story yesterday the New Mexican has nothing new today, in fact nothing on its web site at all, unless you click on most-read stories. Instead, it’s all about Father’s Day, the Buckaroo Ball and the Railrunner Groupon. Television news stations flew their copters over the area, but their reports were basically hearsay and endless repetition. They managed to buttonhole no one in authority and likely would not have known what questions to ask them if they had.

Forest Service officials, according to New Mexico’s official Fire Information site http://nmfireinfo.wordpress.com/2011/06/18/pacheco-canyon-fire-update-6182011-430-pm/ are maintaining Stage 2 fire restrictions for the entire Santa Fe National Forest. Hyde Park Road is closed at the forest boundary and campers in the area are supposedly on alert – but no evacuations and no closure of the forest.

I’m no expert on the moisture content of the combustibles, but there seems to be widespread agreement these are the worst conditions in the state in recent memory. Already crews are stretched thin, and equipment is scattered all over the Southwest as the Wallow Fire continues to spread along the Arizona border and fires burn near Raton, Carlsbad, Ruidoso and Estancia.

I love the opportunity for forest recreation as much as the next guy, but does it make any sense to leave this forest open under these conditions?  I realize no structures are threatened as the blaze heads toward the Pecos Wilderness. I understand that Santa Fe thrives on tourism, but is anyone taking the even moderately long view that a forest with thousands of acres of blackened aspens and mixed conifers won’t have much appeal to visitors for a long time to come, let alone for fall colors? What about the wildlife that will die and the watershed that will take years to recover from the major wildfire this is quickly becoming, or a new fire that could start while the forest remains open?

I understand that protected forests build up too much undergrowth and overly dense stands of trees ready to explode in the crown fires that are most damaging and hardest to control. But this does not seem like the time to make amends for overzealous stewardship, when conditions are tantamount to tossing a bag of gasoline-soaked rags into your 120-degree garage.

How about some answers from those who make these decisions? Better yet, how about some questions – the right questions – from those in the media whose job it is to ask them?

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An Eye for an Eye

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one,
not even an enemy.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Steve Klinger

“Today we are reminded that as a nation there is nothing we can’t do,” a gloating Barack Obama said last night after a team of Navy SEALS gunned down Osama bin Laden in his Pakistan hideout. I beg to differ.

We may be able spend billions of dollars to fight al Qaeda and track the mastermind of the 9-11 attacks. Obviously, we can engage in at least three wars at the same time. We can rationalize the need to hold anyone accountable for torture and extraordinary rendition. Clearly we can continue the Bush policy of targeted assassination, as demonstrated yesterday in a gambit Reuters described this morning as a pure “kill operation” with no attempt to capture. (Obama administration officials said we’d have captured bin Laden if he hadn’t resisted.)

On the home front, we can bail out Wall Street, sell out Main Street and cop out of holding anyone accountable for the rapacious corporate excesses that are destroying the middle class.  In fact we can anoint corporations with the rights of human beings and then watch as the megabucks of the former methodically dismantle two centuries of social progress to protect the latter.

But what we can’t seem to do, and Obama should remind himself of it once in a while as he gazes fondly on his Nobel Peace Prize, is rise above the perpetuation of violence.

The rhetoric of U.S. political leaders and the voices emanating from the lamestream media are dripping today with patriotic fervor, übernationalism and vengeance of biblical proportions. “Justice has been done,” Obama proclaimed in his television address late last night, concluding his address with numerous references to God. Said South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham, “The message of this event is that if you choose to do harm to the American people and try to destroy our way of life, there is no place to hide and no passage of time will keep you safe.”

The sanctimonious high-fiving extended all the way to Rush Limbaugh, who gushed at one point, “Thank God for President Obama.”

I would like to inquire, how many of the 2974 Americans killed on Sept. 11, 2001 were brought back by the assassination of bin Laden? How quickly will we now disengage our forces from Afghanistan, having eradicated the object of our invasion? How soon will our human dignity be restored in airports and border crossings, where treating everyone as a potential terrorist only underscores the victories terror and violence continue to win on a daily basis at the expense of civil liberties?

Glasses will be raised by the millions this evening as even Republicans begrudgingly acknowledge this triumphant moment when our Special Forces showed the world you don’t mess with America. Obama will no doubt get a boost in the polls as he heads into his re-election campaign. But in the minds of hate-filled fanatics who see their own bloody self-sacrifice as the most exalted path to heaven, there will be no panic and no stampede to lay down their arms. Not only did we hand them the master martyr’s death to avenge, we taught them a lesson about western civilization and Christianity. How sweet a victory it is when your enemy can no longer claim the high ground, having shown he is just as barbaric as you are!

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Long live the Duke

By Steve Klinger

A grown man is not supposed to cry when a retired baseball player of 84 dies in a convalescent hospital in southern California, but this wasn’t just any old baseball player, it was Duke Snider, and I can still remember hearing the cheers in the apartment where I grew up, eight block from Ebbets Field, when the Brooklyn Dodgers mounted a rally back in the mid-50s, and the wind was blowing right.

This was the graceful, gliding centerfielder who rivaled Mays and Mantle in his heyday, before he stepped in a hole in Wrigley Field and tore up his knee, who was described by one sportswriter as having “steel springs in his legs.”  There was even greater torque in his hips and shoulders as he drove the ball out of the park on 407 occasions – or perchance struck out, which he did a lot as well.

But he was the Duke, probably the greatest of the Boys of Summer, and I kept a scrapbook of his exploits, only to leave it behind when I went away to college and my parents moved to Florida. It wound up, like most of my belongings, flooded in my aunt’s suburban basement a couple of years later.

The memories of Snider’s heroics in the 1955 World Series and numerous pennant races of that era were strong, however, and I couldn’t forsake the Duke and his cohorts even after Walter O’Malley uprooted them for more lucrative pastures in Los Angeles. While some of my friends became Yankee or, later, Met fans, I finessed the AM radio dial late into the night, searching for an LA Dodger broadcast. I even wrote to Vin Scully, who actually answered me, to relate that there were no radio stations from LA sending Dodger games back to Brooklyn. Where was MLB.com when I needed it?

About 15 years ago, I happened to be driving up the Florida coast on my way to the Orlando airport during spring training, and on an impulse I stopped at the Dodgers’ fabled training camp in Vero Beach to take in a Grapefruit League game. The crowd was sparse that day, but I spotted Snider, then about 70, sitting all by himself in the stands up behind third base. It took all the courage  I could muster, but I approached him and introduced myself. He was gracious and willing enough to talk about the Dodgers’ days in Brooklyn and their controversial departure, which he blamed not on O’Malley but on Robert Moses, a New York City official with great power over land use in those days.

Be that as it may, we had a pleasant chat and I drove off to the airport, tearful then as I was today, with those innocent days of baseball hero worship fresh in my heart.

I can’t think of anything more traumatic in my childhood than the day the New York Post announced the Dodgers were abandoning Ebbets Field — not for Jersey City, which would have been bad enough, but for California, and taking the Giants with them!

A couple of years later, the wrecking ball smashed into the 50-year-old bricks of that hallowed ballpark so that a man named Marvin Kratter could demolish it to build apartments.  I clipped out the photo and put it in my scrapbook.

Snider grew slow and fat and mercifully retired after a year with the Mets and another, inconceivably, with the San Francisco Giants.

But my boyhood bond was strong, and I was elated when he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980.  In retrospect, his career statistics don’t measure up to those posted by the other New York centerfielders of his day, but for a few seasons he could run and field and throw with the best of them and blast the ball as high and far as anyone. In fact, he hit more home runs than anyone in the National League in the decade of the 1950s.

He was the Duke of Flatbush, and today I wept for him and, I suppose, for the dreams of childhood, so irrevocably replaced with adult realities, where greed trumps glory every time.

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Time for a new direction

“Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.”
Robert C. Gallagher

“Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.”
Anonymous

By Steve Klinger

Almost eight years ago, the United States had just begun visiting “Shock and Awe” upon Iraq. Less than two years removed from 9-11, the mainstream media were waving the flag as vigorously as the Bush administration, but even more sanctimoniously.  Those of us protesting the war and the crackdown on free speech couldn’t get our rallies covered by area newspapers or television stations. We couldn’t even get a letter to the editor published.

So with an idea I had, and some generous help from a local group called PeaceAware and a few individuals, we published a little tabloid called Grassroots Press. The lead story and photographs were done by Thomas Wark, a retired editor with national credentials and a Pulitzer Prize to his name. The first issue, which might just as easily have been the last for all we knew, covered a university solidarity event and the growing peace movement in southern New Mexico and featured an article on the new “’peace candidate” for president, Dennis Kucinich. There was plenty of commentary on the stifling media atmosphere surrounding the war, a discussion of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of America, a warning about developmental threats to the Otero Mesa ecosystem. The centerspread featured photos and comments from community activists and why they were keeping vigil against the war – exactly the stuff the Sun-News and my former paper, the Bulletin, wouldn’t touch. On the back page was a People’s Guide to Internet Resources, an amazing URL list of alternative news and opinion sites, government agencies, social and economic justice sites and what we would soon be calling blogs.

Grassroots Press never grew very large, but we did find a way to keep it going, with a little advertising from local progressive businesses and candidates, subscriptions and some generous donations. Other than the printers and an underpaid graphic designer, the rest of us donated our services, though over time we were able to pay writers occasionally and sometimes find a little gas money for those who helped distribute the paper.  I’ll confess, I became the benevolent dictator in charge of whipping up the bimonthly mix of articles, photos, ads and directories.

Over those eight years we tracked the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and increasingly turned our attention to the growing social injustice and burgeoning violence on the border, and the resistance efforts of groups on either side, from the women’s weaving cooperatives in Chiapas to the besieged and bloodied residents of Lomas del Poleo and the victims of the violence in Juarez. We exposed military recruitment tactics in local public schools; we warned of the dangers of electronic voting machines; we examined the growing threats to civil liberties. Frequently we looked at the growth of militarism in New Mexico and threats to our environmental treasures. Increasingly, we documented efforts at localism, food security, recycling and sustainable energy practices in southern New Mexico.

A few years ago we explored the unsavory circumstances involving the State Land Office, a growth-oriented City Council and a local developer that led to the annexation of Vistas at Presidio. Soon we were in the thick of local political battles that, over a few election cycles, brought a progressive city government to Las Cruces. We supported progressive candidates on state and county levels and watched their efforts also meet with success.

The problems with accountability and transparency in local government have abated somewhat, and sustainability initiatives have increased. But the economy and the national political climate, not to mention the corruption in Santa Fe, brought a backlash at the polls last November and increasingly heated rhetoric on key issues in a divided state.

All the while, looming beyond the day-to-day stuff, the American empire continues its incremental implosion, the corporatists extend their malignant reach into every cranny of government, and the planet continues its slide toward eventual demise as a habitable environment – at least for Homo sapiens.

I won’t pretend there is no further need for the beacon we’ve tried to shine, but I will acknowledge that the time has arrived for me personally to go in a different direction, and thus this current issue will be the last print edition of Grassroots Press (unless a successor should step forward). The entire newspaper industry is shifting away from print as the Internet, computers, tablets, mobile and personal devices remake the media landscape. We will continue the Grassroots Press website from our new home in Santa Fe (no, we’re not going just to be near Susana), and we urge you to visit us at www.grass-roots-press.com and to continue sending your commentary, your articles, your letters and your announcements as we attempt to exert more of a statewide presence.  I believe totally that legitimate grassroots journalism and political activism are the only avenues we have to defend and nurture what is left of our democracy, but I need to do my part in a different way.

There are far too many people to thank for me to list by name. You made it all possible, and you know who you are. Thank you, each and every one. Keep the torch burning.

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One More Gun

By Steve Klinger

Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican who has been outspoken in remembrance of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the wake of the shooting, said he wishes there was one more gun in Tucson, Ariz., the day of the massacre. “I wish there had been one more gun there that day in the hands of a responsible person, that’s all I have to say,” Franks said, visibly irritated at a question about increased gun control.

Spoken just like a freedom-loving American NRA champion. One more gun.

That’s what we need. How dare these liberal freedom-tamperers vilify the Second Amerndment and the right to bear a Glock 19 or an AK-47 by talking gun control when a fellow wants to go hunting or defend his family – or get heroic in front of a Tucson grocery store?

So what if the background-check system failed miserably because, while everyone knew Jared Loughner was crazy, no one reported him or did anything to stop him? If we’d had one more gun in Tucson we’d have erased the vermin before he could have shot all 20 of those innocent people. Oh, he might have gotten a few, but that’s just collateral damage for freedom American-style.

So what if the overturned ban on assault weapons has helped pour thousands of automatic firearms into Mexico, where over 30,000 have died of gunshot wounds in the last three or four years?

One more gun and the Virginia Tech shootings wouldn’t have left 27 dead…maybe only half a dozen.

One more gun (or maybe two) and we could have stopped the Columbine killers early on in their spree.

One more gun and there’d be no need to worry about pistol-packing Tea Partiers demonstrating near the President.

One more gun and we could shut up all the Brady bill supporters and the assault-weapon ban supporters and anyone complaining about the plan to allow open carry for Texas college students.

One more gun and someone would have nailed George Tiller’s murderer right in the act.

One more gun and someone might have taken out Lee Harvey Oswald or Sirhan Sirhan or James Earl Ray.

Come to think of it, why stop at guns? The world is a dangerous place, and God wants us to defend it in the name of freedom.  One more fighter jet. One more tank. One more killer drone. One more nuke.

Because as Rep. Franks would have it, one good weapon deserves another.

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