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Why I let lady issues determine my vote

If you refuse to look away while one political party puts personhood for fetuses above personhood for women, this election is relevant to you.

The GOP platform does not make exceptions for abortions in cases of rape or incest, or even some insignificant detail like the life of the mother. They tell us rape resulting in pregnancy is a gift from god. They tell us some girls “rape easy.” I could go on, but I’m sure you know the rest. (If you don’t, the gist of it is really, really misogynist.)

I’m hardly saying President Obama is perfect, or even that another Obama presidency will prevent a gaggle of old white men from talking about vaginas. But a non-vote allows them to continue talking about women as second-class citizens. A non-vote doesn’t combat the notion that we’ll go slut-crazy with unfettered access to birth control. A non-vote won’t keep funding for Planned Parenthood—an organization that provides cancer screenings, treatments of STDs and low-cost contraception as 97 percent of its services. And most of all a non-vote doesn’t tell Republicans that these issues are real, deciding factors for many women of all class, color and circumstances, no matter how much they try to tell us otherwise.

Obama has let a lot of us down on a lot of things to be sure. But he (and the Democrats behind him) continue to do all right when it comes to ensuring women have basic agency over their own bodies. And I haven’t even mentioned the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act or basic civil rights for our LGBTQ community.

Plus, why would you vote for a party that erects a “lady tent” to convince us ladies to like them as much as we all like pink.

Image from


How much do City officials make?

Berry’s expanded online transparency efforts

Mayor Richard Berry provided us with a new online time-waster Wednesday on the city's ABQ View government transparency website. The database list includes the names, departments, positions, base pay and total year-to-date earnings of all 6,000 city employees. It will be updated every pay period. Seriously, I've already looked up the salaries for the Police Department and am moving on to Parks and Recreation as soon as I finish writing this blog.

ABQ View launched in August of 2010 and started out by publishing the names (or positions) and salaries of appointed officials and the 250 highest-paid employees. The city is the first in New Mexico to publish this information on all employees who's salaries come from tax-payer money, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Due to Berry's efforts on increasing government openness, the city received a Sunny Award from the Sunshine Review for a perfect record in transparency. Only 112 governmental entities throughout the country have received this distinction from the nonprofit organization that collects and shares state and local government information.

Some city employees expressed concerns about publicizing a notoriously taboo subject like salary, but Berry pushed ahead saying that the community deserves to know how its money is spent. Concerns about identity theft have not been substantiated.

The expansion of the website allows interested parties to search out instances of nepotism as well as examine the database for tax money spent on travel expenses and city contracts. For the incurably nosy, its the peephole we've been waiting for.

Play Youtube Video


Very Much Larger Array

No matter what you do or don't know about the Very Large Array, you knows it's large. Very large.

I picture ’70s-era scientists with wire-frame glasses and high-waisted bellbottoms throwing their hands in the air and proclaiming, “Screw it, I can't think of a name either. Let's just call it the Very Large Array.”

Now these scientists have another shot, with inspiration from a public contest. A decade-long restoration of the astronomical radio observatory facility is nearing completion, and it’s decided to throw out the old moniker for a newer, sleeker version worthy of 21st century technology.

Although the VLA will appear the same, the expanded capabilities will allow scientists to observe previously undetectable cosmic objects. A new radio telescope will be more sensitive and increase resolution and imaging abilities, according to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

Scientists and astronomers from around the world use the VLA to peer into the cosmos and see things such as a star exploding. While the expansion wont be completed until 2012, astronomers have already used new equipment to watch a black hole devouring a star last spring. Yes, they used the word “devouring.”

The total cost of the expansion was $97.99 million and came from the U.S., Canadian and Mexican governments as well as the National Science Foundation. Eight radio-telescope dish antennas will join the 27 existing dishes outside of Socorro.

Name suggestions will be accepted until Dec. 1 and winners will be announced on Jan. 10, 2012.

I'm hoping they go with Something Even Bigger.

Elise Kaplan


Painting the town ill

On the sleepy Labor Day streets of Nob Hill, the alley between Flying Star and the Slice Parlor attracted quite a crowd. Three artists jammed out to hip-hop while keeping their brushes to concrete on the 100-foot long wall. Everyone passing by stopped to watch, dance, talk and take pictures.

The psychedelic street art is a mishmash of images and colors reflecting the styles of the collaborating artists: Jaque Fragua, Ernest Doty and Ryan Montoya. A sickly green skeleton hovers in the smog of a nuclear reactor above the message “A good Indian is a live Indian.” A large Native/east Indian spirit guide with four eyes looks on. The hands of God descend from the sky controlling marionettes.

Fragua says the artwork is meant to draw attention to environmental and cultural degradation. “We wanted to put everything under one umbrella,” he says. “This includes all of the issues that face the way indigenous people live in the area and around the world.”

Fragua says he sees the piece as a parody of what he calls “art slavery” along Route 66 where billboards advertise Indian wares for tourists. “We’re advertising the truth,” he says. “It’s something that doesn’t require money to look at, just attention.”

The mural is part of a larger show called Bomb the Canvas, featuring graffiti-style art around Albuquerque. The fourth-annual expo ended Sunday, but the street art lives on.

Gov. Susana Martinez


Driver’s license checks no mas. For now.

Everyone is talking about driver's licenses. First Gov. Susana Martinez required 10,000 foreign nationals to show proof of residency. Then, Mexican-Americans rallied to fight back: protests, letters, and lawsuits abound.

Yesterday, a District Court judge in Santa Fe, Sarah Singleton, issued a temporary halt to the guv’s push. The order came in response to a lawsuit brought against the Taxation and Revenue Department. Freedman Boyd, working with the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund, filed the suit. He says Martinez’ license verification effort violates the separation of powers between New Mexico's executive and legislative branches.

“We think it's a great step towards ending this unconstitutional action once and for all,” says David Urias, an lawyer who also worked on the lawsuit. “We believe the courts will step in and stop it.”

This would be good news for El Centro and Somos un Pueblo Unido, organizations that advocate for immigrant rights. Both groups have vocally opposed the program, saying Martinez is targeting immigrants for political gain.

Somos un Pueblo Unido issued a news release yesterday about the judge's decision, explaining their stance on the residency certification. The organization “believes the program is inefficient, costly, confusing, and is being used to intimidate immigrant families in New Mexico … .”

Today El Centro will hold a rally called “Don't Target our Families” outside of the Taxation and Revenue Department at the northeast corner of Central and San Mateo at 5 p.m.

Inside Casa Vieja
Eric Williams


Goodbye, old house

Casa Vieja's 300-year-old walls succumbed to old age earlier this month. Owners Josh and Kate Gerwin closed their doors until further notice after a building inspector deemed the collapsing adobe a hazard.

The charming 18th-century structure is one of the oldest in Corrales and has housed stage coaches, military headquarters, tightrope walkers and a general store. For the last 30 years it has been a restaurant.

Since buying the restaurant in 2009, the Gerwins' food and drink have been well-loved by Alibi readers. In last year's annual Alibi poll, Casa Vieja was voted Best Restaurant in Albuquerque. Josh was runner-up for Best Chef and Kate won Best Wine Steward by a landslide vote.

The restaurant's emphasis on locally sourced ingredients made it a favorite with foodies, and the eclectic cocktail and wine lists made even the pickiest drinker happy. The menu reflects the slow food movement by embracing organic and sustainable fare that's never seen the inside of a can.

The Gerwins have not revealed their next step after the condemnation of their building, but here's hoping they bring their culinary creations further into the city.

The ballot for the 2011 Best of Burque Restaurant Poll will hit stands next week. Voting starts on Wednesday.


Dune surfing. Couch surfing.

Late Sunday night found my roommate and I sitting on top of a dune in White Sands National Monument with an English couple we'd met earlier that morning. We'd lent them a tent, dropped their backpacks at our house and set out for a five-hour road trip through southwestern New Mexico. Bring a swimsuit for Elephant Butte Lake, we said, and a sleeping bag.

As bizarre as it was for my roommate and I to find ourselves camping with strangers, it was stranger for Julia and Fen who had started the day at Einstein Bagels without a plan.

Such is the beauty of, a global nonprofit network connecting travelers with locals. The network encompasses more than 230 countries and three million members.

Each surfer (or surfer-couple) creates a profile describing their interests, goals, travel stories and pictures. Travelers send out messages asking if they can crash on a couch during their time in a city. Some people host every week, others only do so occasionally. No money changes hands, although it's considered polite to offer a bottle of wine or a home-cooked meal.

It takes a lot of trust to open your doors to a stranger or to spend the night on a foreign couch, so the network has set up a series of verification practices. The site confirms a member's name and address but the community relies on hosts and surfers vouching for each other. Perhaps the leap of faith is that the person you connect with will be someone with whom you want to spend a couple hours or even days.

While the four of us lounged on the marshmallow frosting dunes, we discussed the unusual circumstances that brought us together. Perhaps all CouchSurfers share a willingness to be spontaneous in the search for adventure—even if it means journeying deep into a 275-square-mile desert with strangers.

A Michael Reynolds-designed Earthship in Taos
[click to enlarge]

Earth Wise


From debris to dwelling

Earthships sound like the future, but they're made from the past. Built entirely from recycled, natural and indigenous materials, the homes are as unique as the individuals who inhabit them. Due to consistently sunny weather, unclaimed wilderness and a population that prides itself on being different, New Mexico presents the ideal location for off-grid, solar powered dwellings. The self-proclaimed “renegade architect” for the cause, Michael Reynolds, created the Earthship World Headquarters in Taos.

The first Earthship given a permit in Santa Fe County in 10 years nears completion by Christmas 2011. The Ampersand Sustainable Learning Center spearheaded the construction of this Reynolds-designed dwelling in Cerrillos. The house will be 1,400 square feet, and recycled tires and cans set in cement form the walls. Once complete, the home will maintain a temperature around 70 degrees, due to solar heating and cooling from the earth.

On Aug. 20 Ampersand will offer a Sustainable Neighborhood Project seminar, including tours and hands-on experience for visitors. Volunteers can help create interior plasters from local materials. The tour includes a discussion of the sustainable processes involved in harvesting solar energy, rainwater and graywater.

As off-the-grid homes, Earthships require no utility bills and create minimal fossil fuels. Plus they look awesome.

To register for the Sustainable Neighborhood Project call (505) 780-0535 or e-mail

The extremely photogenic Van Jones


Jobs rally at Civic Plaza tonight

Unemployment, the economy and budget cuts can be boring topics, but once you start paying attention, they're scarier than that time you watched The Shining late at night, alone. Instead of cowering in fear of a federal ax hacking away at social programs, the American Dream Movement will rally at Civic Plaza today from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

The American Dream Movement, a progressive response to the Tea Party, includes and 30 other organizations. It’s mission is to create economic justice for veterans, students and others in need. The movement grew out of the turmoil in Wisconsin and was named by Van Jones, who was the green jobs adviser to the White House in 2009. The debt ceiling deal and cuts to Medicare, education and transportation spurred a recent round of demonstrations.

“The priorities are upside down,” says Margo Morado, the council coordinator for the Albuquerque chapter of, “Taxes have not been raised, and the cuts are going to affect the poor, elderly and disabled the most.”

Albuquerque's rally is one of 254 nationwide taking place today. Morado says 200 people have signed up, and she estimates an attendance of 250 to 400 participants. The demonstration will feature a reading of “A Contract for the American Dream,” a plan to get the economy back on track based on ideas from 131,203 people. The 10-point proposal was developed through online forums and house meetings.

Democratic state Sens. Eric Griego, Jerry Ortiz y Pino (an Alibi columnist) and state Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas will speak in support of job creation and halts on spending cuts. In addition to policy discussions, the rally will also include poets, music from the Route 66 Revelers and a flash mob.


Laundering for a good cause

Kurt Lucero, owner of The Cleanery, sees a lot of clothes, blankets and jackets every day, and last year he decided to take these wares in a new direction. In November of 2010 he joined Albuquerque Rescue Mission in collecting clothes for the homeless, including items abandoned at the dry cleaner as well as those donated by customers.

“It's a win-win-win situation.” he says. “ARM gets help for the less fortunate, we get to purge our storerooms, and customers feel good about themselves.”

Lucero initially asked for donations along the dry cleaning route and found many customers were eager to contribute. In early July he started accepting any items for ARM's back to school drive at The Cleanery's three locations throughout the city. The drive collects backpacks, pencils, pens, notebooks and other items for homeless children who cannot afford school supplies. In addition to The Cleanery, donations can be dropped off at the Albuquerque Rescue Mission at 525 Second Street SW.

Lucero says he collected three full boxes of school supplies for the drive earlier today. He does not charge for donation pick-up.

“Customers are coming out of the blue, it's totally surprised us,” he says. “It's really snowballed and makes us feel good that we're making a difference.”

The Cleanery has received clothing donations of all sizes and types, including business attire that ARM distributes to homeless people in search of jobs. When the business receives clothing donations, it cleans and presses everything before handing it over to ARM. The business is New Mexico's only dry cleaner certified by the Green Business Bureau, which means it uses eco-friendly technology and recycles hangers, garment bags and paper goods.

ARM is a Christian missionary for Albuquerque's homeless, an estimated 6,000 of which are children. On Aug. 6, ARM is hosting an event to distribute the school supplies they have collected since June. The event takes place at the Albuquerque Rescue Mission from 12 to 3 p.m.