A Breath of Not So Fresh Air

So now that the Waxman-Markey bill has passed the House, we can all breath a sigh of relief right?  Unfortunately, no.  Hopes are high as the United States ventures into breaking ground with its first piece of climate legislation. Yet many are also  disappointed with the implications of the bill.

For one thing, the bill still bases its reductions on the 450 ppm (parts per million) carbon level, rather than the more realistic and recommended level of 350 ppm.  Then it goes a step further (maybe lower is a better word here), since, the way it looks now, the bill will help in making a big, no gigantic, reduction of about 4-5% by the year 2020.  The bill says its 17%, but that’s based on the 450 ppm level, which just won’t work.

The other problem is the amount of carbon allowances that will be given directly back to the companies who just paid them.  Polluting entities are set up to get all the way up to 85% back of the fines they will pay for excess emissions.

So how does a climate bill end up rewarding polluters more and setting pretty insignificant numbers for pollution reduction?  Wasn’t the point of this bill to begin punishing polluters who have gone too far and begin helping people who are in need in our country by helping provide new job opportunities and moving to cleaner energy?

This scenario with this bill has gotten so bizarre that my friend has begun calling it the Wackey-Merman bill, which, in his words, is, “like a mythic half/man, half/sea creature: the head has the science that tells us what is necessary yet the lower half of the body is the slimy political part that can’t seem to walk the talk.”

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A Case of Journalistic Pay to Play?

Plans for a curious joint advertising/editorial venture between the Albuquerque Journal and the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce are raising questions about the paper’s ability to cover the business community objectively.

In addition to causing consternation in the business community, the alliance also raises questions about whether it violates basic journalistic principles  – specifically, whether it compromises the sacred separation that is supposed to exist between an objective newspaper’s editorial content and its advertising.

Here are the details:  On July 13, the chamber will publish a quarterly report called “Business Plan” in the “A” section of the Albuquerque Journal.  In addition, beginning on July 27, the chamber will run a full-page “Business Plan” report every other week in the Journal’s Business Outlook.

In a letter to its members, the chamber pitches the new Journal sections as  “exciting new advertising opportunities” and notes that buying ads will give them access to the “Journal’s Average Weekday Statewide Readership of 260,925!”

Rates for the special section ads were not listed. It is also not clear whether the Journal or the Chamber of Commerce will write and edit content for the sections.

In 1999, a similar advertising/special section arrangement between the Los Angeles Times and the Staples Center caused a titanic uproar in the journalism world.  More than 300 Los Angeles Times employees – embarrassed at their editors’ breach of journalism ethics – signed a petition calling for an internal investigation into the arrangement.

The fallout from the incident and the widespread condemnation from other journalists later caused Times Mirror CEO Mark Willes to resign in disgrace.

The Chairman’s Table

According to the letter, chamber members who place ads in the Journal sections will become members of a new group called the “Chairman’s Table,” which the chamber says will “provide prominent recognition of companies which provide annual financial resources leading to the continued success” of the chamber.

According to the letter, Chairman’s Table members will agree to sponsor a program or event or advertise in the quarterly Business Plan in the Albuquerque Journal, or in the bi-monthly editions of the Business Plan in the Business Outlook. In exchange, Chairman’s Table members will get access to exclusive invitation-only events, including bi-annual events with the former board chamber chairman where they will receive “special updates on timely and current issues facing the business community.”

The coziness of the arrangement between the state’s largest paper and the city’s biggest business group is angering some chamber members, who say it seems to give new meaning to the concept of pay to play.

One business owner who chooses to remain anonymous said the chamber told her to “pick up her membership check” when she raised objections to buying a Journal ad.  Other chamber members are wondering: Does this mean all chamber members who don’t agree to buy Journal ads will be asked to leave?  Will chamber members be pressured to advertise in the special sections?

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The Journal’s Jihad

The Albuquerque Journal’s bizarre jihad against the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is alive and well.  Following Independence Day, the state’s paper of record conveniently breached the firewall between its news section and its editorial section, yet again, as it circled back to “cover” the nonprofit sector in New Mexico.

By now, those familiar with the Journal will recognize its tactics:

  1. Story placement: Publishing a “story” about a new nonprofit in yesterday’s edition – the story was placed on the front page, above the fold.
  2. Juicy headline: You can almost hear Ron Burgundy reading this one –“Conservatives Look to Nonprofits, Move a Response to Liberal Efforts.”  Really.  Is that the title of a guest opinion piece?  No, it’s the title of a “news” story.
  3. The follow-up editorial in today’s edition: “Real Voter Education.”
  4. The inability, or refusal, to acknowledge thirty years of established Supreme Court legal precedent on the First Amendment.

This final tactic (the refusal or inability to actually discuss First Amendment law) is what is most damning to the Journal’s credibility.  In fact, it’s really an affront to Journal readers.  To treat readers like adults and actually analyze well-established law would be diametrically opposed to the Journal’s political agenda.  It’s that simple.

But, it gets even more bizarre.

As I discussed in an earlier post, top brass at the Journal have been heavily involved with a local nonprofit called the Foundation for Open Government.  As you can see here, the first and perhaps most important charge for FOG (as listed on their own site) is to help the public “understand and exercise their First Amendment rights.”  I wonder how the Journal editor squares the FOG mission with his paper’s year long Jihad against the most basic of American rights.

Really.  On the one hand, there’s the “promotion” of the First Amendment through FOG, while at the same time a concerted effort by the state’s paper of record to avoid a thoughtful discussion of First Amendment law.

It’s the kind of cognitive dissonance that leaves one speechless.

Independence Day Tea-Bacle

“My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy”

– Thomas Jefferson

Let ‘em know, Mr. Jefferson.  As one of the most respected statesmen in our history,  it’s not surprising that he had to deal with folks of the teabagger variety.  His quote sounds like it was made just for them.  He obviously was one of those crazy, socialist types.

tea-bag-fail-publicBecause as much as they try to make it seem like they’re against government spending and taxes, I’m sure the teabaggers will be enjoying their ride to their July 4th Albuquerque event on the tax funded roads, or maybe some will use the city-funded, free park and ride up to Balloon Fiesta Park.  Or how about the fireworks show that night which I’m sure many of the patriotic, teabaggers will take time to enjoy.

But I know they’d rather not have the option to use public transportation and would rather be driving on pothole-ridden, dirt roads.  I’m sure many, like them, feel that the many social services helping U.S. citizens (especially during times of recession) and their families need to be stripped away.  Hell, why not go ahead and get rid of public libraries, public swimming pools (we don’t need these this summer), and let our entire police force go while we’re at it.  We all know these things are not worthy enough to pay taxes for.

Its funny that the teabaggers are suddenly up in arms, when actions during the past 5 years should have been something that had them pissed off and protesting too, if not even more.  Why aren’t they protesting against big business that helped put us in the economic situation we are in (Bernie Madoff should be getting heckled non-stop by these folks)?

Where were the teabaggers when billions of dollars were being spent on a war that has only made us more enemies than friends on the global level?  Or is government spending on things like education and social services a bigger threat to our people than war spending?

But we all know this is just all about taxes and government spending, and not a free for all for these “fed up” people to go off on say – abortion, or the crazy notion of Obama as Hitler, and us his Jews.

Fortunately, there were some other folks who pointed out the absurdity the events.

Yet they, like anyone else, they have the right to freedom of speech, as well as the right to celebrate Independence Day (which I hope we all enjoy this weekend).  But I hope that they cover their eyes and ears when that tax-funded fireworks show goes on across from their event.  Because I know they wouldn’t want to support any government spending that is hurting Americans on Independence Day.

Health Care Reform 2.0

In an emotional town hall in suburban Annandale, VA today, President Obama spoke with Americans who shared their nightmarish experiences with the existing health insurance industry.

In pledging his commitment to health care reform, Obama spoke favorably of the so-called public option, a government-sponsored health care plan that would operate in competition with private insurance.  Recent polls show an overwhelming number of Americans favor the public option when considering health care reform.

Public forums like the one the president held today have given Americans a high-profile way to air their troubles – and have distinguished Obama as a great “Listener In Chief.”
But at the risk of overplaying the dreaded empathy card, Obama is doing even more to highlight Americans’ agonizingly real problems with the cost, availability and quality of their health care.

The folks at Organizing for America, Obama’s grassroots political organizing arm,  have compiled an archive of personal stories from regular Americans who share their health care horrors.  Organized by city (there are a number of Albuquerque ones),  the archive chronicles real problems from real people, in their own voices. It’s a great outlet for people who want to talk about why our health care system is screaming for reform –  and a handy resource for those who still need convincing.

Check it out.

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?