Barb Wold, pioneer in online activism passes away

By Matthew Reichbach

Barb WoldBarb Wold was undeniably the leading voice of progressives in New Mexico in the online arena. Wold passed away Sunday at the age of 64, leaving behind her life partner MaryEllen Broderick.

Wold was a progressive activist who founded the popular blog Democracy for New Mexico and ran the influential website for years. Wold often credited the Howard Dean campaign for getting her involved in online politics — and no one in the state, on the left or right, did it with the passion and tenacity of Wold.

Wold truly was a pioneer in New Mexico for blogging and showed that online activism could have an effect on the real world. Wold became a force in the Democratic Party from her writing at Democracy for New Mexico and other political efforts. Democrats in the state quickly learned that speaking to Democracy for New Mexico and attending the monthly DFA-DFNM meetups were essential to reaching the progressive base of the Democratic Party.

Wold saw dozens of New Mexico blogs come and go since launching Democracy for New Mexico on July 31, 2004. One reason is that Wold was able to put up new content on a regular basis for years, where many tired of the grind of blogging about New Mexico politics for little, if any, pay. Wold continued to publish content on the site throughout her battle with cancer — even posting a piece on Sunday.

When the Democratic National Convention Committee announced one blog from each state would receive a press pass to the Democratic National Convention, Democracy for New Mexico was a no-brainer for New Mexico’s press pass. One of my fondest memories of Wold was from the day before the Democratic National Convention kicked off in Denver.

Wold, Broderick and journalist Peter St. Cyr formed our own New Mexico caucus at an empty Morton’s Steakhouse. There was talk about politics, as one might expect from the company and the reason for being in Denver. But there was talk about her hometown of Chicago, about the state of the New Mexico blogosphere and a number of other topics with nothing to do with politics or even New Mexico.

 

I can recall a number of times writing something or focusing on a story that Wold did not believe was fair or important and receiving an email or a direct message on Twitter about it — Wold wasn’t the type to back down from a fight, as many reporters and political types in the state could attest to. And Wold was never unprepared for a discussion about anything to do with politics. Or any other subject, for that matter.

When I began playing softball, Wold told me about playing 16 inch softball in Chicago, a variant of softball where the fielders don’t use gloves. When I saw it being played on the short-lived TV show The Chicago Code, I had to let Wold know.

It is these kind of anecdotes that I will remember when I think of Wold in addition to her effect on the politics in the state.

Broderick wrote a better post about Wold than I could ever hope to write and encourage readers to go read it — if they have not already. Here is an excerpt of the post:

Barb was diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer on Sept 9, 2011. She was brave and honest in facing this news. Barb and I had many hours to spend together over the past months to share in incredible ways, only deepening our bond. She died real suddenly yesterday, she had a small breakfast, and was on facebook, had checked out the blog, and basically we were just being. I left the house for 10 minutes and came back to find her gone in her chair at her table with her Ipad open. And what really cracked me up is when I looked at what she was last looking at on her Ipad, it was the Bern County Blue Review. I swear to God!

 

A Tip of the Hat to Laura Paskus at the Global Climate Change Conference in Cancun

By Tracy Dingmann

You may have heard about the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, meeting from Nov. 30 to Dec. 10 in Cancun, Mexico.

It’s a global confab of policymakers and negotiators from 192 countries who are gathering to work through solutions to the scourge of global warming and climate change. (Last year’s meeting was in Copenhagen.)

Aside from publications like the New York Times and The Guardian, news coverage of Cancun has been pretty sparse. That’s part of a trend noted by media critic Nathan Schock, writing at the blog 3blmedia, who notes that a recently-leaked memo from the Gannett newspaper USA TODAY shows that 27 reporters there cover entertainment, while only five cover the environment.

I am happy to say that New Mexicans are lucky to have one of the region’s finest freelance reporters, Laura Paskus, in Cancun gathering information for stories that will appear in a number of media outlets.

You can follow her personal blog – read one of her dispatches from Cancun here – and keep track of what longer-term projects she might be working on with the information she’s gathering from the world’s leading climate change fighters in Cancun.

Thanksgiving Wishes From Clearly New Mexico

A Guest Post by Anthony Fleg

To our wonderful Clearly New Mexico community, we want to thank you for your support and energy. Far beyond this site, it is the work we are dedicated to, making our state healthier, safer, more equitable, and more democratic that is worth giving thanks for this holiday. Whether your efforts are improving our schools, ethical reforms in our political systems, or speaking on behalf of the most vulnerable populations that are too often forgotten, thank you!

As you can see from the stories on our site, it is exactly those efforts that inspire the writers of Clearly New Mexico. Often, these are the stories not deemed “newsworthy” elsewhere – youth working to beautify their communities, conversations about keeping the internet accessible to all, and Indigenous efforts to protect water are not the things we see much of in the media, but which have made it to our site in just the last week!

A few thoughts as you enjoy your time with family and friends this holiday, given in the spirit of Clearly New Mexico’s community:

* First, a medical fact – yes, turkey does have an amino acid called trypophan which causes sleepiness. So, get those important political, philosophical, and spiritual conversations out of the way before the turkey-induced daze!. And before you ask, NO, this does not give you lisence the next day to blame something you say to the in-laws on the trypophan!

Continue reading

Welcome, El Grito!

By Tracy Dingmann

On Aug. 4, our friends at the SouthWest Organizing Project launched “El Grito: News and Views from New Mexico’s Grassroots.”

The exciting new website aims to use digital media to evoke the deep cultural traditions of New Mexico communities as well as the rich legacy of struggle through alternative media for justice, equity, and opportunity that exists in New Mexico.

In English, El Grito means “The Cry,” and in this context it refers to several things, including the traditional shouts made during cultural celebrations and dances in New Mexico, as well as to El Grito de Dolores, the battle cry of the Mexican revolution for independence from Spain.

El Grito also refers to El Grito del Norte, a community newspaper founded in Espanola in 1968 that chronicled the grassroots struggles of traditional New Mexico communities.

Writers and activists from El Grito del Norte later moved to Albuquerque’s Los Duranes neighborhood, where they founded the Chicano Communication Center to advance grassroots communication across the state.

As explained on the site:

SWOP’s roots in alternative media extend back to those days at the Center, and the spirit of grassroots powered media lives on in our work today through blogging and our magazine, Voces Unidas. We hope that spirit is embodied here at El Grito, where we’ll bring community based analysis about the burning issues we face today, as well as news of the happenings in our communities.

In an interesting nod to history, two of El Grito’s writers, George Lujan and Clearly New Mexico alum Juan Reynosa, are from families that were well represented in the Chicano Communication Center.

The site will have several sections, including space for community event notices and for short pieces on current events El Grito finds noteworthy. There will also be longer articles from El Grito writers.

Submissions from the public are encouraged and welcome.

From the site:

Our lens is critical analysis of our society, our focus is the landscape experienced by New Mexico’s traditional and low-income communities. We reserve the right to only publish those pieces that further the debate in a constructive and positive manner.

El Grito is strictly non-partisan, and will not publish any content referring to political elections or written by a person seeking elective office.

From the site:

We pledge to offer a space here for the diversity of voices that exist in New Mexico, and to continually seek out and share the stories and views of New Mexicans who may not always have access to a medium that will let their cry be heard across the state. And we sincerely hope you’ll check in often and add your “grito” to the debate.

Please join Clearly in welcoming this much-needed voice to the New Mexico blogosphere!

Watching Tea Partiers Play “Spot The Black Person”

black guy tea party

Black Guy At A Tea Party

By Tracy Dingmann

Is the Tea Party finally waking up to the realization that they have a public relations problem when it comes to, you know, brown people?

It’s interesting, because lately I’ve been detecting some sensitivity on the part of Jim Scarantino, one of the biggest local Tea Party boosters around. You can catch Jim glowingly singing the praises of the Tea Party on TV and radio and blogging about it at a number of sites.

The other day, he posted the most fascinating picture on the New Mexico Liberty blog, which sponsors the local tea party and many of its events.

This is what the picture showed: It was a black guy at a Tea Party. You heard me right. An actual black guy at a tea party in St. Louis. Speaking, no less. And standing right behind him – another person of undetermined brownness. With a big crowd of white folks staring up at the both of them.

Scarantino gave the picture the sardonic headline: “Another Racist Tea Party; Scroll Down for Photographic Evidence from St. Louis.“

And that, my friends, is apparently all we should need  – one photo of a black guy at a Tea Party somewhere as proof positive that the Tea Party movement doesn’t have a racist bone in its body.

Sadly, since I’ve been a black person my whole life,  I know this game very well.  It’s called “Spot the Black Person” – and tea partiers have been doing a lot of it lately. And I understand why. Headlines like this and this can’t be good.  Not to mention this collection of wretched posters. Although to be fair, a couple of these pictures are not actually  racist – just incredibly offensive. We trust you’ll be able to tell the difference.

This flood of bad publicity is drowning the Tea Party movement as it celebrates its first birthday. And I think all the bad publicity is starting to make some of the people in the movement nervous.

Why do I say that? Because they’ve been whining a lot lately about how the racist incidents and kooky statements from some of their followers have overshadowed what they really stand for.

And they are doing damage control.

Check out this email from the Columbus, Ohio Tea Party, which features the admonition: “Actually, what your signs say matter a great deal.” (That’s in response to the many Tea Partiers who like to say, “It doesn’t matter what my sign says, you’re going to call me a racist anyway.”) Serious rehabilitation going on there.

But really, who are the tea partiers, and what do they stand for? A poll came out today that helped the rest of us delinate their demographics. According to this NYT/CBS poll, they are largely white, Republican, older and male. Fair enough.

The poll also shows they are more likely to think its okay to think violent action against the government is justified. Wow.

Yep, the Tea Party is in the midst of a public relations crisis over its identity…and I don’t envy it.

And Jim, I’m sorry – sending out pictures of lone black people at Tea Party events is not going help.

PS. Check out this hilarious blog from someone calling themselves Tea Party New Mexico. We found this blog by cruising the official NM Tea Party Patriot directory –  but this guy or gal is clearly a ringer.

Check out this quote from all-caps post called “A Response To My Critics:”

FIRST OF ALL FRED, THANK YOU FOR COMING TO MY WEBSITE, I DO APPRECIATE YOUR TIME, AND PLEASE TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS IF ANY OF THEM ARE MORE PATRIOTIC THAN YOU ARE THAT YOU THINK IT’S A REAL GOOD WEBSITE THEY OUGHT TO CHECK OUT. SECONDLY, THE TEA PARTY IS NOT A RACIST MOVEMENT. IF YOU HAD READ MY SITE WELL, INSTEAD OF JUST DISMISSING IT WITHOUT EVEN READING IT, YOU WOULD HAVE SEEN THAT AT THE MOST RECENT TEA PARTY MEET AND GREET MEETING HERE IN ALBUQUERQUE, WE WATCHED A VIDEO OF GLEN BECK FANS AND ONE OF THEM WAS BLACK AND HE GAVE A GOOD LITTLE SERMON ABOUT FREEDOM AND LIBERTY. THE TEA PARTY IS NOT RACIST, AND THAT IS JUST A FACT. NICE TRY, COMRADE.

Here’s another quote from a post called, “ I Can’t Stop Crying.”

I was going to write today about how it turns out Obama probably isn’t an android or robot or altered guy or whatever (though he is a Kenyan and a Muslim and a socialist and maybe the Antichrist), because my wife heard from a reliable conservative source that that guy James David Manning wasn’t right about that.

I was GOING to, but then when I went to type about it, I thought of some things about this once-great nation of ours, the United States of America…and Obama, and the Democrats, and that she-wolf Pelosi, and that traitor to our race Bart Stupak, and my daddy and his drinking, and how the Tea Party is working so hard to fight all that, and I just started crying and crying and I still can’t stop.

It’s taken me over an hour just to type these words through the tears and the shaking and, anyway, I guess I won’t be able to do a full write-up today.

Hopefully, tomorrow I will be feeling better.

UPDATE: I finally stopped. I’m okay now.

Read the rest …it’s a postively Swiftian takedown of tea partiers. (We thought he was real for quite some time. And then we laughed and laughed.)  Whoever this is – he or she gets the joke.

Clearly’s New Look

To Our Readers:

Today we’d like to introduce a new look for Clearly New Mexico – one that we hope makes your visits to our site a bit more pleasant visually. Don’t worry – we’ll still feature the same biting commentary and socially responsible take on the issues we’ve become known for.
We did add one little thing – a weekly question – which we’d like our thoughtful readers to answer in comments we’ll publish on the site.
Thanks for sticking with us through our redesign – and tell your friends to come check out Clearly’s new look, too!

Tracy Dingmann

Recovery Funds going to New Mexican Tribal Communities

I first want to thank Barb Wold for making me aware of this.  I just got through reading an article from Democracy for New Mexico entitled, “Recovery Act Funds go to NM Tribal Communities for Energy Efficiency, Transportation.”

A quick excerpt from her blog:

“Five pueblos and the County of San Juan will receive more than $900,000 in energy efficiency grants through the Department of Energy for energy audits, building retrofits and to create financial incentive programs for energy efficiency improvements. They include:

Pueblo of Cochiti: $40,400

Pueblo of Isleta: $112,000

Pueblo of San Felipe: $102,200

Pueblo of Taos: $61,400

Zuni Pueblo: $267,500

San Juan County: $329,400

Additionally, the Department of Transportation released ARRA funds to:

Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo: $156,000 to purchase one van and one bus compatible with Americans with Disability Act standards.”

This is great news and I applaud New Mexican Senators Udall and Bingaman who helped get this money to some of our Native communities.

These funds will help tribal residents save energy and make their homes and buildings more efficient, while also providing jobs for residents there in the realm of performing building retrofits and energy audits.

Also, make sure to go here to read the full blog by Barb.

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?

Crashing the Gates of the Mainstream Media

Check out this great read from PBS’s excellent Mediashift website about the crucial role the blogosphere plays in media criticism. My favorite line is about bloggers crashing the gates traditionally kept by the so-called “legacy” media:

Here comes the crowd, and in many instances, they’re not very happy and they have cheap global distribution for their thoughts. And you won’t like them when they’re angry.

Give it a read!