Fear Of A Brown Planet?

brownplanet“Unfortunate” and “chilling?”

How about insulting and xenophobic?

Local advocates may have held back a bit last week when they condemned Republican Albuquerque mayoral candidate Richard “R.J.” Berry and the New Mexico Republican Party for blaming a brutal murder on the city’s existing immigration policies.

Albuquerque police have charged suspected members of a hardcore El Salvadoran crime gang with murdering cook Stephanie Anderson on June 20 as they robbed a crowded Denny’s Restaurant on the city’s West Side.

In the aftermath of the crime, Berry and state Republican Party executive director Ryan Cangliosi blamed the city’s police policies regarding immigrants for the murder and called Albuquerque a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants.

Berry and Cangliosi said they were lamenting the fact that since 2007, city policy bars police from questioning a person about his or her immigration status unless the person is already under arrest or the officer feels their immigration status may be relevant to a criminal investigation.

The city adopted the policy in connection with a 2005 civil rights lawsuit brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund involving three Del Norte students who were detained at their school until immigration officials could question them.

In the days since the murder, Albuquerque police revealed that they had arrested one of the suspects, Pablo Ortiz, for DUI in 2008. He served time in jail and was then voluntarily deported to El Salvador. Police don’t know how Ortiz got back into the country and came to commit the murder. But city policies on immigration don’t appear to have anything to do with it.

Late last week, a coalition of advocacy groups expressed outrage that Berry and the Republican Party would attempt to use the murder as a pawn in their political chess game.

“Campaigns like this (against immigrants) have had a chilling impact on Hispanic/Latino communities across the country, resulting in increased discrimination, hate crimes, and racial profiling,” Adrian Pedroza, executive director of the Albuquerque Partnership, a Latino-led advocacy-based coalition, told the New Mexico Independent.

“At a time when we should be coming together to mourn the tragic death of a community member, it is unfortunate that there are those who would use this issue to further a political agenda,” Barbara Dua, executive director of the statewide New Mexico Conference of Churches, told NMI. “This is a time for us to unite, not be divided by fear mongering.”

Advocates say what Berry and the Republicans are claiming is unfortunate and chilling.

But let’s also call it what else it is – a xenophobic attempt to insult people’s common sense by confusing the facts and blurring the line between immigrants and the kind of ganged-up criminals who shoot a woman in cold blood.

Using the specter of crime and public safety to elicit knee-jerk reactions during political season is an old trick.

Did any of you fall for it?

More Corporate Welfare For Polluters?

As the Waxman-Markey climate bill continues to slowly crawl to an upcoming vote,  more and more debate emerges.  This time it’s Blue Dog Democrat Collin Peterson of Minnesota taking the reins for energy producers who already emit too many noxious emissions into our environment.  Congressman Peterson represents rural electric producers (mainly ones who burn coal and ethanol to produce electricity) and claims this bill leaves them behind.

Congressman Peterson is protecting the exact companies (i.e. coal and ethanol plants) that this bill is trying to force to make more cleaner and more efficient.  Of course he shouldn’t expect good favor from this bill (i.e. tons of money).  Yet, by some twisted logic, that’s exactly what he’s asking for.

Peterson wants electric producers who burn coal and ethanol (see how the San Juan Generating plant is holding up in NM with their emissions production) to get back 100% of the allowances they pay for excess emissions.

To me this is like taking away your kid’s allowance because he’s bad, then giving it right back to him because he needs the money to be good.

Seeing how the fine paid by San Juan (which is owned by PNM) was the largest in state history, it is mind boggling to think how much money would be given away via 100% allowances nationwide.

Secondly, Peterson argues that many of the low-income people in his Farm Belt region would be affected more than others in the nation.  While there may be a small increase in his constituents’ rates (mostly a result of electric generators in this area not being clean or efficient enough and thus they have to spend large amounts of money to get their plants in order) it will not add up to the thousands of dollars that these dirty energy representatives claim it will.

The Congressional Budget Office released a report last Friday that estimates that the total costs passed on to households from the Waxman-Markey bill will be a whopping $175 a year.  And, the report says, the low-income consumers that Peterson talks about won’t have their rates raised – instead, they’ll actually get back about $40 a year.

So once again, I have to ask the question:

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Gary’s Italian Mafia Holiday

Paulie and TonyAttorney General Gary King is cracking down on the seething, Mafioso cesspool in New Mexico by taking a trip to Italy next week.  Granted, King has been working with law enforcement officials from Mexico as of late to combat crime that is trickling over the border, yet is it really necessary to go all the way to Italy to learn about ways to combat organized crime?  I figure he would do just as well going to Jersey and hitting up Tony Soprano and Paulie Walnuts  for that info, so he could come back and spend more time in New Mexico.

I’d also figure the Attorney General would want to experience the entire week-long conference, seeing how much he wants to learn about fighting organized crime, instead of the mere three days he plans on attending (here and here).  For anyone who’s attended long conferences like these, you know the first few days are mostly full of jet lag, intros, and mixers anyways.

And it’s obvious that other border states are just as interested in learning about Italy’s infamous crime fighting ways as the other state AG’s who are attending are from Idaho and North Dakota.  It definitely makes me wonder why AGs from border states California, Arizona, and Texas decided not to attend. Perhaps they figured out that they could get the same information from an upcoming and very similar conference being held by California’s Attorney General. Or shoot, why not even take the two-hour flight to, I don’t know, how about Mexico, to learn about border crime.

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It’s Real

People who use social media to organize often refer to the crucial moment when someone steps out of the blogosphere and converts their online communication into real-life action.

Sadly, accused murderer James Von Brunn did just that Wednesday when he shot and killed African American security guard Stephen P.  Johns at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

In a place meant to honor the millions who died in the Holocaust, Von Brunn set out to make his lifelong vow of hatred for Jews horribly real. After shooting Johns, Von Brunn was shot and wounded by other guards before he could make good on his plans to kill others at the museum.

From his extensive writings on the Internet and from notes later found in his car, Von Brunn’s rampage appears to be linked to President Barack Obama’s appearance last week at the notorious Buchenwald death camp in Germany. In a speech there, Obama and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel denounced so-called Holocaust deniers (like Von Brunn) who say it never happened.

The ugly truth is that the number of threats against Obama have skyrocketed since Americans elected him in November. One noted criminologist even chalked Wednesday’s murder up to what he called “the Obama effect,” which attempts (rather clumsily) to describe the uptick in racial trash-talking since Obama became the country’s first black president.

It’s quite evident that the Internet provides a ready forum and handy organizing tool for the rising number of racist, anti-Semitic haters out there.

I’m not saying people don’t have the right to say what they want on the Internet. I would never say that.

But I do want to express my disgust at those who pooh-pooh the connection between the hateful things people write online and actual events like the murder of Johns – and the possible murder of many others – at the Holocaust Museum.

The groups who track hate online on sites like the one Von Brunn maintained have long warned that events like this were coming.

Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center told the Los Angeles Times that the nonprofit group had tracked a sharp increase in what it considered right-wing hate groups over the last eight years — from 602 to 926.

A “confluence of factors,” Potok told the Times,  appeared to be fueling the growth — including anger about nonwhite immigration, concern over the deteriorating economy, fears of new restrictions on firearms, and the election of the first African American as president.

“We may well be seeing a perfect storm of factors that favor this movement,” Potok said.

Contrast that with those on the right, many of whom simply laughed a few months ago at a Department of Homeland Security report that warned economic and social conditions “presented unique drivers for right-wing radicalization and recruitment.”

Now there’s no excuse – we know it’s real.  So can we please stop pretending that the hate people spew online means nothing?

Mt. Taylor Protected After Years of Struggle

MountTaylor

Guest Post by Nadine Padilla. She is an organizer for the Sacred Alliance for Grassroots Equality (SAGE) Council.

The New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee has unanimously decided to place Mt. Taylor permanently on the State Register of Traditional Cultural Properties.  This designation follows a year-long battle between private landowners, who say the designation will affect development that may occur on their lands, and Native American tribes, who honor Mt. Taylor as a sacred place central to the cultures and livelihoods of Native Americans.

The permanent designation of Mt. Taylor as a Traditional Cultural Property is the culmination of hard work for five tribes acting on behalf of all tribes in the southwest and the residents of New Mexico.  The five nominating tribes, Acoma Pueblo, Laguna Pueblo, Zuni Pueblo, and the Hopi and Navajo Nations began the application process over a year ago in order to protect Mt. Taylor from renewed uranium mining interests.  This designation will ensure that the public has the opportunity to give proper comment on any new mining proposals that are within the TCP boundary.

The Cultural Properties Review Committee was under great pressure and received over 6,000 letters and emails concerning the nomination.  The letters were 4 to 1 in favor of the nomination.  The CPRC should be commended for their continued service in protecting New Mexico’s greatest treasures.

Mount Taylor is a stratovolcano in northwest New Mexico, northeast of the town of Grants.  It is the high point of the San Mateo Mountains and the highest point in the Cibola National Forest.

Editor’s Note:  SAGE Council’s Nadine Padilla, who is of Navajo descent and grew up near Grants, remembers that being close to the sacred mountain was integral to every important moment of her childhood, including her coming-of-age ceremony at age 13.

California’s Nightmare State

If the so-called teabaggers need an example of what life would look like without government, they need only to look at what’s happening in California right now.

Government there is under siege after voters rejected tax measures that would have funded vital state services and resources.

Now California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he’s forced to shut down large sections of state government for lack of funds.

Stunned Californians are standing by as the state closes summer schools, shuts down programs for seniors and makes plans to close hundreds of state parks.

Those kind of cuts affect everyone.

But as usual, the poorest and the neediest will bear the brunt of the shutdown of resources and services.

Gov. Schwarzenegger is proposing a complete elimination of the state’s welfare program for families, medical insurance for low-income children and Cal Grants cash assistance to college and university students.

It’s sad that millions will have to suffer.

But maybe California in its misery will serve as a living, agonizing example of what happens when people don’t make the connection between government, paying taxes and maintaining the standard of living Americans have come to expect and deserve.

Is it PNM’s turn for a bailout?

If you pay enough attention to what’s been going on as of late, you’d figure that PNM is about to be swimming in money. Not money from profits based on their energy production (in fact, PNM posted losing quarters all of last year), but in “help” from state and federal sources.

First off, PNM has been given free rein when it comes to rate increases.  Last year the state Public Regulation Commission approved PNM for a 4.4% ($24 million) rate increase. That was big, but not quite the $82 million PNM originally wanted. PNM also requested a fuel clause, which would have given them the ability to adjust their rates to adjust to fuel costs. Many spoke out against this rate clause, saying it was simply a thinly-veiled rate hike designed to help PNM make up some of the $58 million that they didn’t get in the rate increase. It was determined that there wasn’t a need for the fuel clause and PNM’s request was rejected.

Now there’s word of another rate increase at the beginning of this year. PNM recently announced they will impose a 9.7% or $77 million rate increase starting in July. According to PNM’s CEO Jeff Sterba, the increase “is the latest step in our ongoing efforts to ensure adequate recovery of PNM’s costs and restoring shareholder value.”

Funny, I thought the reason PNM sold their gas holdings and got a credit line increase (increased to $300 million) last spring from the PRC was to improve PNM’s profits (and thus decrease how much they pass on to consumers) and help improve PNM’s credit rating.

One has to wonder whether last year’s profit losses, the large costs paid out to upgrade PNM’s San Juan Generating Plant, and the recent $7 million fine for emissions from the San Juan plant have anything to do with PNM’s recent request for a rate increase.

But now PNM is taking it to the federal level.

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