Archive for January, 2011

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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If spunk were eggs, we’d all eat omelets

By Thomas Wark
Say this for the handful of true progressives in American political life: they’ve got spunk.

It’s a pity that the likes of Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich have no option in party affiliation except to align themselves with the gutless Milquetoasts who call themselves Democrats.  But such is political reality in the two-party system of the former democracy called the United States. They have to lie down with dogs and accept fleas like the so-called health care reform act, which passed only after it was so modified that it merely perpetuates the crimes it set out to reform. Dean and Kucinich ultimately supported it because, for a complicated set of reasons, they perceived it as slightly better than nothing at all.

In his working class district of Ohio, Kucinich has retained his seat in Congress in successive elections despite enormous sums of money spent by the Republicans in vain efforts to buy enough votes to oust him. But if they failed at the ballot box, the Republicans now will get rid of Kucinich by the massive scam called redistricting.

Under the law, each state gains or loses seats every ten years according to its new population as determined by the U.S. Census.  Because Ohio lost population, it is required to redraw its Congressional districts later this year.

Here’s what Kucinich said in a recent letter to constituents:

My district might be eliminated. We need to begin to work now to prepare for what is sure to be a major effort to silence your voice. As you know, my work in Congress has never been about me. It’s about the hopes and aspirations of the people of the 10th district and the people of our Nation.

I don’t know where my district will be. But I owe it to you and to all those who have ever supported me to not sit idly while questions are being raised in every major media outlet about whether I will be forced out of Congress by redistricting. I will not let any special interests force me out. Your support will ensure that the debate – on issues as important as ending the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, implementing single-payer healthcare, and remaking our economy for Main Street not Wall Street – will continue.

I’m not going to let our voices and our movement be abolished by the stroke of a pen. There’s too much at stake. This is the time to stand up and speak out. And based on the support and responses I’ve seen so far, I know you’re right there with me.

Good luck, Dennis.  Hell, I remember the afternoon a friend plunked down two bucks at the parimutuel window in Liberty Bell park for a “win” ticket on a 1,000-to-one shot, the longest odds in the history of the venue.  The nag won and my friend took his bride out to dinner at Le Bec Fin.

And here’s Dean:

The question is still what kind of country do we want to live in?

Republicans often play to the worst impulses in human nature and separate people from each other, scapegoating minority groups and dismantling our community support systems. We have a better answer.

We know what we believe.

We believe in community. We care about our neighbors and we help each other. We can provide a bright future to our children with a quality education and we can provide a secure retirement free from poverty and dependence for our grandparents. And we can accomplish it within a reasonable budget so we don’t leave a burden of debt on the next generation. Democrats are responsible and balance budgets. Democrats lift up the community and make sure that everyone has a chance for a future.

We believe in security. We will foster strong partnerships with other nations to ensure the secure and safe prosperity for all. We will reduce our dependence on resources that make us vulnerable to attack. We will use our American ingenuity to strengthen our own economy and our environment. We won’t start wars of choice and then perpetuate them to keep the military contractors in business. We will fund schools and investment in green jobs over funding bombers and missile defense our military doesn’t need or even want.

We believe in liberty. We respect every American’s right to practice their own religion and to live a life free from bigotry, abuse, and harassment. We will fight discrimination and deliver on the promise of equality for all Americans. We believe that no one, not multinational corporations nor the government, has the right to your personal information to keep tabs on you for profit or unwarranted policing.

We believe in community, security and liberty and we will never back down.

Truly, they won’t quit.  But how often do thousand-to-one shots win?  Don’t make your dinner reservations yet.

Read more by Thomas Wark at http://bordellopianist.blogspot.com

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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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‘I hope you jump in rain puddles’

By Thomas Wark

I remember how it was, covering this kind of breaking news. We had to anesthetize ourselves against normal human emotional pain.

Where were you when you first heard about the assassination of John Kennedy? About the planes flying into the twin towers?

There were reporters to be dispatched, assignments to be made, facts to be double-checked, directories to be consulted, neighbors to be found, experts and authorities to be interviewed. There was no time for tears.

Old habits die hard.

Today the numbness has worn off. Others have dispatched reporters, made assignments, interviewed neighbors and authorities, made their reports.

Today I am weeping.

My tears were triggered by, and are especially for, a little girl. She was the youngest and most innocent of the victims in the Tucson madness yesterday.

Christina Taylor Greene was born on September 11, 2001. She was part of the Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9/11 project. Her entry reads: ” I hope you know all the words to the Star Spangled Banner and sing it with your hand over your heart. I hope you jump in rain puddles.”

The tears began the moment I read that.

The profound, simple poetry of hope, written by a little girl.

Back in the numbness, I read the pious prattling of the politicians: Palin, Boehner, McCain, Obama. Verbal Novacaine.

And then I read, “I hope you jump in rain puddles.”

Through the tears I saw, dimly, but I saw it. I saw the old vision of hope, before the likes of Obama turned the word into a parody of itself, into the cheap talky-talk of our sound byte world.

Hope is not audacious.

Hope is a rain puddle.

A little girl taught us this profound truth. Will it die with her? Will the insanity that ended her life continue to fester and grow in this brutalized country of ours?

Is there still a thing called hope?

Can we actually join hands and jump in rain puddles together?

Can we? Will we?

Read more by Thomas Wark at www.bordellopianist.blogspot.com

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