We Like You, Too
I am so happy, but not surprised, that the Alibi printed a piece in support of our club, the Highland MCs [Thin Line, "Jowls Aquiver," March 15-21]. I've always read, passed on to my students and respected the Alibi. Now I am a die-hard fan for life.
The MCs and I needed a little help. Although the school has been supportive, I worry that people look at us differently. We are trying to be positive and real. The students at Highland face many adult issues in their daily lives. It would be useless to ask them to make music that does not reflect any of these issues. They are influenced by the hyper-sexual society we live in. They are not kids anymore, really. We have many pregnant teens attending class on a daily basis. Is it our job as educators to ignore or deny this?
Your column was well-written and insightful. Thank you so much for being there for us.
Guessing About Gessing
I want to express my appreciation to the Alibi for effectively reporting on the latest trends and backstories regarding Albuquerque that are often missed or ignored by other local publications. A timely article found in your March 15-21 issue [Talking Points, "Free Market, Free Thinking"] was an interview by Jim Scarantino of the Rio Grande Foundation’s Paul Gessing, whose opinion pieces have appeared in local newspapers and who has been making a well-financed and organized splash regarding mass transit, among other political issues regarding the city.
While timely and answering the question of why the former director of government affairs for the ultra-conservative National Taxpayers Union had entered the fray on an issue of local concern, the interview was flawed in many ways: from its fawning tones (that he deserves to appear on a list of “Young New Mexicans to Watch”), leading questions (now why is the state motto “more government”?) and the almost comical attempt in the interview to allow Mr. Gessing to separate himself from his Republican and ultra-conservative mentors and financiers. In other words, Mr. Scarantino provided little, if any, journalistic insight or skepticism with his subject.
Aside from those defects, the interview was revealing. I found interesting Mr. Gessing’s assertion that “we state the facts and choose not to resort to personal attacks.” Was he stating “facts” when, in an article that appeared in the Jan. 26, 2007, National Review, he distorted and made up facts regarding the state budget increases under Gov. Richardson, or perhaps it was when he mischaracterized the city light rail system as a “tourist trolley”? There are many other examples of distortion and misinformation in his previous job at NTU, such as when he made a similar attack on the highly successful Washington subway line in 2001, but the list would be too long and you get the point.
Mr. Gessing may come by his opinions honestly and one cannot help but admire his rhetorical skills in disinformation, but they are no different from the ideologically extreme protect-the-rich policies that have always come out of the NTU, the Cato Institute and from wealthy oilmen: no taxes on the personal income or estates of the super rich; privatization of Social Security, Medicare and education; further deregulation of the already tragically deregulated airline industry; opposition to all mass transit; support for urban sprawl; union busting.
What Mr. Gessing does not acknowledge (and will not since it does not fit in with his polemical and mildly misleading approach to civil discourse) is the fact that virtually everyone favors limited government: liberal and conservative alike. After all, you don’t hear anyone in mainstream politics calling for the dictatorship of the proletariat or public ownership of (what remains of) American industry.
The real issue, which goes unsaid, is whose power is limited and whose is not. Do we as a people allow the further concentration of wealth and power into the hands of the few or do we use government to benefit the people as a whole and provide opportunity to the greatest number of citizens?
For example, he makes the nonsensical statement that “government bureaucrats must rely on force to achieve their goals” while, supposedly holding in contrast: “people acting voluntarily are usually better equipped to create a just, livable society.” Well, the latter statement is the definition of democratic self-government, in the absence of which we have rule by the rich and strong over the poor and weak. (Let’s ignore for a moment the demonization of public servants and public service which sounds very much like a personal attack on a group—I am surprised to learn as a retired senior Navy officer that my authority rested solely on force and not constitutional government and the rule of law. Perhaps this reveals more about how conservatives view governance—making them unfit for public service—than it reveals about the rest of us.) Under democratic self-government everyone has at least the chance of equality and accountability through the electoral and judicial process. Otherwise we are left with authoritarianism, oligarchy, corruption and a form of economic monarchy. In other words: the same old discredited social Darwinism that earlier generations discarded.
The public spoke loudly at the ballot box in 2006 against, among other matters, what is one of the most corrupt political eras in our nation’s history. We have witnessed the out-and-out pilfering of the public coffers in the name of privatization, free enterprise and outsourcing by the likes of Halliburton, Enron, Lockheed Martin and other defense companies, and the entire Bush administration and its rich cronies. Billions of dollars went to Iraq on pallets and were never seen again. It boggles the mind that anyone, after this record of malfeasance, would consistently take a position against the effective working of democratic government in support of the public interest. Our democratic system is broken but it is broken because of the concentration of wealth and power and corruption of our economic elites, the manner in which they subvert our public institutions, and their ability to avoid accountability. That is where we need to direct our attention.
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