Archive for Sandia Tea Party

A Picture Isn’t Always Worth Many Words

by John Weckerle

We continue to peruse the internet in search of local political commentary, and came across this post on Sandia Tea Party Official Internet Spokesman Chuck Ring’s blog.  With our curiosity in a state of pique, we decided to poke around the web and learn a little about the photograph contained within the post.

As it turns out, this image has reportedly been used in disinformation campaigns, including a posting of the photo by President Elect Donald J. Trump’s attorney in October suggesting that he had received an award from the NAACP.  We found this article from the Huffington Post to be very interesting.  The article points out that the award, correctly named the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, as well as the organization that awarded it (the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations, or NECO) came into being as an outraged reaction to then-President Ronald Reagan’s decision to award the Medal of Freedom to 12 naturalized citizens.  NECO was formed by Mr. Trump’s real estate broker, William Fugazy, and Mr. Trump received the award in its first year.  We have found no specific reason for Mr. Trump’s receipt of the award.

According to the Huffington Post article:

Officially, the medal criteria are broad and inclusive: Winners should “uphold the ideals and spirit of America,” while “maintaining the traditions of their ethnic heritage.” In practice, the winners are mostly white Americans of European descent.

They certainly were the year Mr. Trump received the award; as reported by the Huffington Post and as documented in this New York Times article, only four of the 80 recipients that year were African Americans.

The NECO website states: “The Ellis Island Medals of Honor embody the spirit of America in their celebration of patriotism, tolerance, brotherhood and diversity.” It is perhaps rather ironic that, as the Huffington Post article points out, “At the time, Trump and his father held the dubious honor of having been the defendants in one of the largest-ever housing discrimination lawsuits, a case sparked by a Justice Department civil rights investigation that found the Trumps discriminated against prospective tenants who were black.” And it is perhaps even more ironic that the person dead-center in the photo posted on Mr. Ring’s site is none other than anti-gay activist Anita Bryant, whose name had by that time become synonymous with that particular form of bigotry.

We’ll leave it to our readers to form their own opinions (and, of course, post them here; unlike the Sandia Tea Party site and Mr. Ring’s, we allow comments) as to whether or not Mr. Trump is a racist.  We’ll simply observe that standing next to a civil rights icon in a photo doesn’t make one “not a racist” any more than standing next to an oak makes one a tree.

In closing, we note that the NECO website lists Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a past awardee.

A Little Catching Up, And A Little Clearing Up

by John Weckerle

With the election safely over, we turned to some of our local favorites to see what sort of high-fiving might be going on – and surprisingly found essentially none among our normal haunts.  After apparently selling its trademark to the fossil fuel industry (the site essentially became a re-posting venue for screeds by petroleum industry-funded fossil fuel advocate Marita Noon), the Sandia Tea Party site appears to have gone “dark” in October.  As expected (and hoped), the East Mountain Tea Party remains silent, but a little searching revealed that its former denizens Therese Cooper and Char Tierney are alive and kicking on the internet, dispensing their version of reality via Facebook. We don’t want to be raising the relevance scores on their accounts, so we won’t link directly, but on Facebook they are therese.cooper.9 and char.tierney.9, respectively, the latter having recently changed her Facebook account from CharTierney.  Both accounts are reminiscent of what we saw on the East Mountain Tea Party site and sites associated with the Table of the Remnant and Operation Jesus Pictures.  Silvana Lupetti is also apparently on Facebook (SilvanaLupetti). Unfortunately, we didn’t find anything particularly worth commenting on, but we’ll keep an eye out just in case.

We do, however, occasionally receive e-mails from readers containing what might be described in the current vernacular as “fake news,” and we thought we’d share a little of that with you today. We recently received an e-mail containing the following:

»» A Little Catching Up, And A Little Clearing Up

The Sandia Tea Party Lets Someone Else Strike (again)

by John Weckerle

It was with some surprise that, several weeks ago, we decided to look in on the Sandia Tea Party site to see how they were treating the political silly season – and found that it had vanished from the web. Repeated visits over a week or two were fruitless, and it looked as if the Sandia Tea Party had, like its former sister organization, the East Mountain Tea Party, vanished from the face of the Earth, or at least from the Internet.

Alas, with this morning’s browsing we find the site back in place, with Sandia Tea Party Official Internet Spokesman Chuck Ring at the helm. Unfortunately, the Sandia Tea Party site appears to have become primarily a venue for screeds provided by fossil fuel energy industry advocate and anti-environment writer Marita Noon, executive director of Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy, which is described by SourceWatch as “a lobby group funded by New Mexico oil and gas industry interests.”  Ms. Noon is also an author at Breitbart.com, founded by the late serial liar and fraudster Andrew Breitbart. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, depending on one’s point of view), it would appear that the energy industry is not getting its money’s worth, at least based on the most recent article, dated August 2, found on the Sandia Tea Party web site.

In the most recent article, Ms. Noon attacks the biofuels industry, and particularly the Renewable Fuel Standard, on the basis that these have led to widespread corruption, influence peddling, and fraud. The article presents a number of examples in which various parties have fraudulently sold or otherwise taken advantage of tax credits associated with the production of biofuels (Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs). Ms. Noon presents these as support for eliminating the Renewable Fuels Standard. We do not challenge the idea that these incidents occurred, and we recognize that there are some environmental and socioeconomic issues associated with biofuels that require more consideration than they are getting, but it seems a huge stretch to portray these accounts of fraud as an indictment of the biofuels credits or the industry as a whole. This would be akin to saying that telephone solicitors who defraud people are the fault of the telephone system, or that the solution to identity fraud would be to eliminate identities. Regardless of the system, there will always be those who will try to turn it to their advantage illegally. Fraud in the energy industry is not limited to the biofuels sector – after all, we all remember this little incident.  As to influence peddling and possible corruption, we found this article by Bill Moyers interesting. And there are plenty more out there for those who are interested and have time for a little searching.

The reality of all this is that fraud is a crime that has been committed in nearly all sectors, and that the issue is one of dishonesty rather than something industry-specific. We’ll leave our readers with a link to America’s 10 most famous fraudsters, and draw attention to number 2 in the slideshow.

Energy, Such As It Is

by John Weckerle

In a recent article re-posted by Sandia Tea Party Official Internet Spokesman Chuck Ring…

Okay, we’re ribbing Chuck here a bit; as we recall that he wasn’t crazy about the implication that he is the “official internet spokesman.” Still, as essentially the editor of the site, the mantle falls upon his shoulders and we’re sticking with it, while acknowledging that Chuck is a good person and a dedicated member of the community.  We would like our readers to understand that our reference to Chuck as “the official internet spokesman” carries a specific recognition that may not have been apparent: We may agree or disagree on a variety of issues, but Chuck is willing to put his name where his mouth is, where the entire planet can see it, and that takes a certain amount of intestinal fortitude.*

We are, however, a bit concerned to see that the Sandia Tea Party site, apart from a few cartoons, seems to be dedicated to reposting articles by Marita Noon on the subject of – well – energy.  We will begin with some disclosures, beginning with Ms. Noon’s relationship with the conventional energy industry:

SourceWatch article: Marita Noon
SourcWatch Article: Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy

We will also disclose your editor’s occasional commercial involvement with the energy industry, which includes consulting to the oil and gas industry in the early 1990s and to some small solar enterprises in the early to mid-2000s.

Ms. Noon’s article opens up with what has become a bit of a tired argument – the idea that including solar and wind energy in the total energy portfolio would result in a situation in which coal-fired power plants would be turned off during peak hours and have to be restarted from cold state on a daily basis.  We do not dispute Ms. Noon’s proposal that natural gas-fired plants would restart more effectively.  However, we do find the idea that conventional power plants would have to undergo a shutdown-and-restart process based on some perceived peak productivity on the part of renewable energy rather questionable; given the state of the industry, we see no reason to assume that renewable energy resources, as currently projected, would be expected to entirely satisfy peak demands in the short- or medium-term.  We challenge Ms. Noon and her compatriots – given that she and they are making the case – to provide convincing economic analyses to make their case -and if they cannot, we challenge the Sandia Tea Party to do so.

* Guts.

But On Us, It Looks Good – Good And Boring

by John Weckerle

In a June 3 article titled “Stranger Than Fiction: Which It Appears To Be,” Sandia Tea Party official internet spokesman Chuck Ring denounces the Evangelical Immigration Table – a coalition of evangelical organizations seeking immigration reform – and its logistics partner, the National Immigration Forum, on the basis of a Breitbart.com (once the web site of the late serial liar Andrew Breitbart) article.  Mr. Ring and the Breitbart writer, Mike Flynn, take issue with the fact that the coalition had announced a $250,000 ad buy as part of its efforts to support the immigration reform bill currently slogging its way around (note that we did not say “through”) Congress.  The criticism is based on two premises: that the coalition “doesn’t legally exist as an incorporated entity or nonprofit organization,” and that the organization is not transparent with respect to its funding and activities  to the point that Mr. Ring, speaking for the Sandia Tea Party, accuses the organization of “hiding its true agenda.”

Let’s deal with the legality of the group’s existence first. There is no legal requirement that coalitions or other groups of people exercising their First Amendment right to free speech (and, as legal precedent based on the First Amendment dictates, free association) be registered or recognized by government in any way, and there is no prohibition against such groups purchasing advertising.  The Breitbart article states: “There are strict limitations on what (c)3’s (sic) and (c)4’s (sic) can undertake” (somewhat true, but these limits apply primarily to interference with elections and lobbying and can be fairly murky; see the IRS web site on exemption requirements for charitable organizations for more information) “and clear prohibitions on them coordinating on an issue campaign” (an absolute falsehood in the grand tradition of the site’s founder).

As far as transparency is concerned, those who have already clicked through to the two organizations in question will have seen what we did: both organizations list their leadership and/or key members, something that the Sandia Tea Party has neglected to do on their web site.  Neither does the Sandia Tea Party publish the names of their contributors and the amounts of their donations.  We challenge them to do both.  On our own, we can’t gather much information about the latter, but a little research has provided us with some information regarding the Sandia Tea Party, its officers, and its (at least as far as we can find out) “nonexistent” status as a Federally recognized tax-exempt organization.

»» But On Us, It Looks Good – Good And Boring

Agenda 21 Is Coming To Kill Your Local Tea Party

by John Weckerle

Okay, maybe not.  However, having seen just about enough of the associated silliness and paranoia on the Sandia Tea Party web site, and having had just about enough of special interests and political ideologues misrepresenting sustainability for their own ends, we decided to do a little looking around and gather some information that perhaps represents something just a little closer to reality than what has been presented there and in other far-right venues.  We found a few FAQ sites and others associated with organizations officially associated with Agenda 21.  Predictably, what we found was substantially different from the interpretations provided by the Sandia Tea Party, and we’ll get to that presently.

We also decided to see what the other local Tea Party chapter, the East Mountain Tea Party, had to say about the issue, and were surprised to find evidence that the organization may be defunct.  The domain now resolves to the Albuquerque Tea Party site, and there have been no posts to the EMTP’s Facebook page since October.  With no other explanation, we must assume that the proponents of Agenda 21 are responsible for the demise.  Less clear is the reason that the Chavez County Tea Party Patriots web site, as linked from the Albuquerque Tea Party site, is now presented in either Chinese or Japanese (we’re not sure which); perhaps they’ve outsourced themselves to Asia.

Now, on to Agenda 21.  We will not provide an exhaustive description here but will highlight a few points and provide links for the perusal of our readers, who we believe to be just a little more fact-conscious than some.  We’ll begin by providing a link to the text of Agenda 21, provided by the Institute for Global Communications (alternatively, you can download it in PDF format from the UN website).  It’s a big document – 351 pages – but what we’ve read of it does not seem to support an impression of a socialist/environmental extremist conspiracy.  A bit of “myth debunking” can be found in the article “Agenda 21: Just the Facts” presented by the Better World Campaign.  Of critical importance: Agenda 21 is not a treaty, is not binding in any way, and does not afford the United Nations any particular authority for implementation.  The article “What Is Agenda 21?” by the UN Dispatch explores the “controversies” surrounding the initiative, including the conspiracy theories being presented by various special interest and political groups opposed to what they describe as “sustainability” – which is, of course, not sustainability at all.  The Wikipedia article on Agenda 21 similarly points out the initiatives voluntary and non-binding status.

A non-UN organization composed of local governments – ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability (formerly the International Council for Local Initiatives) describes itself here, stating in part: ” ICLEI is a powerful movement of 12 mega-cities, 100 super-cities and urban regions, 450 large cities as well as 450 small and medium-sized cities and towns in 84 countries.  ICLEI promotes local action for global sustainability and supports cities to become sustainable, resilient, resource-efficient, biodiverse, low-carbon; to build a smart infrastructure; and to develop an inclusive, green urban economy. The ultimate aim is to achieve healthy and happy communities. We have developed stable, long-term programs to support local-level sustainability and continue to develop innovative new programs to respond to issues of international concern.”  In its article “FAQ: ICLEI, the United Nations, and Agenda 21: Setting the Record Straight About ICLEI,” ICLEI-Local Governments USA states (among other things): “ICLEI is a champion of local governments. Working with elected officials, ICLEI’s World Secretariat helps voice local government needs and priorities during international negotiations and agreements that will effect local governments, such as the U.N. climate negotiations and the upcoming Rio+20 summit.”

Sustainability is not an international socialist-environmental extremist conspiracy.  It is not out to take anyone’s land away, prevent anyone from having children, or force anyone into indentured service as the only means to get drinking water.  We encourage our readers to follow the links provided in this article and learn more about Agenda 21 and sustainability initiatives in general.

Ordinanciationism

by John Weckerle

In the November 1, 2012 edition of the Mountainview Telegraph, Edgewood resident and Tea Party organizer Bob Steiner provides a letter to the editor titled “Property Rights and Edgewood.”  In the letter, Mr. Steiner opens with a lament with respect to the multiplicity of jurisdictions to be encountered near the borders of a small town located near the borders of three counties.  These focus on the multiple jurisdictions as they apply to emergency services and animal control, and the duplication of services.  About halfway through the letter, Mr. Steiner gets to the main point: that Santa Fe County has proposed a Sustainable Land Development Code (SLDC) and “that may really hurt some county residents.”  Mr. Steiner, after stating vaguely that the ordinance “will force land owners to strictly adhere to severe new restrictions that limit where they could erect housing and industrial buildings,” declares that “It also dictates that some multi-family housing (apartments) must be built.”

A sentence or two further on, after suggesting that the County has assembled a sort of ideological goon squad to market the ordinance, Mr. Steiner states: “According to another local press source, this “simple” ordinance has some 350 pages and has still to be vetted by legal authority.”  This would, on the face of it, seem to suggest that Mr. Steiner had not actually seen the ordinance, and we figured that we should take a look.  Employing more of the advanced research techniques that are available to us and not the Tea Party – the County web site, Adobe Reader, and the CTRL and F keys – we were able to isolate all uses of “multi” in the document (there are 75), and determine that there is absolutely nowhere in the document where the use of “multi” involves a requirement to build anything.  Neither do references to “apartments” (7 instances).

There is, however, a requirement that a certain percentage of housing be affordable, which might be part of the confusion, as such requirements tend to cause some heartburn in certain circles – especially circles that have gone on record with the opinion that sustainability is some sort of international socialist conspiracy.  This section of the ordinance – Chapter 13 – also causes some indigestion here, although for different reasons.  Chapter 13 contains references to terms not defined or used in any other place in the ordinance (for example, Major Project and Minor Project).  The ordinance requires the Affordable Housing Administrator to “recommend and present to the Board proposed Affordable Housing Regulations” and appropriate amendments.  The affordable housing requirements in the ordinance rely on income ranges “specified in the affordable housing regulations,” which of course would appear not to have been passed, at least based on the wording of the ordinance.  Proper definitions and regulatory references are vital to any ordinance and, based on this and a quick perusal of other parts of the ordinance, we find it difficult to argue against Mr. Steiner’s suggestion that it has not benefited from a thorough legal review – which we think should happen before, and not after, release to the public.

While we agree that the County should proceed slowly, it is not because of unspecified, probably fictitious, egregious requirements but because the ordinance as currently worded simply does not appear to pass muster as a well-organized and enforceable document.  Because we are staunch supporters of sustainability (which probably brands us as socialist conspirators from Planet Ten), we’d like to suggest that the County engage their attorneys and other specialists in developing sustainable development codes, rework the document to a greater degree of completion, and reissue it for public review.

In case Edgewood residents are concerned about where they fall in all this: we feel it important to point out that this ordinance specifically applies, as pointed out in Section 1.8, to the unincorporated portion of the County, which does not include Edgewood.

Assaulting Battery Grants

by John Weckerle

We turn our baleful eye once again on the writings of the writings of the Sandia Tea Party.  In an article titled “Stimulus Funds: Failing & Falling Into The Tank,” Edgewood Town Councilor and Sandia Tea Party internet spokesman Chuck Ring provides us a link to a Washington Times article that is apparently to be considered evidence that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has been a failure (this despite steady, albeit slow, improvements in key economic indicators): a bankruptcy filing by battery maker A123 Systems, which had “received a nearly quarter-billion-dollar stimulus grant in late 2009, but federal job-tracking figures show only a few hundred positions were created before the company joined a growing list of federally backed energy businesses that ended in bankruptcy.” The Sandia Tea Party article laments: Many a dollar has been wasted and deposited in Obama’s vast wastage pit.

Alarmed, we employed some of the advanced research that is available to New Mexico Central but apparently not to the Sandia Tea Party – Google – and found an article in the Washington Post that provides what may perhaps be a more detailed and less politically focused account of A123’s bankruptcy.  In short, the stimulus-funded facilities were acquired by Johnson Controls, Inc., and are still operating, and no jobs have been lost.  The company had only drawn on $129 million of the grant when it filed for bankruptcy – specifically, Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows the company to continue operations while reorganizing.  The ultimate goal of Chapter 11 bankruptcy is not to go out of business, but to emerge from bankruptcy and continue to operate thereafter.  We’ll also note that the stimulus grant has resulted in 400 jobs so far.  We recommend that readers of the Washington Times article also read the Washington Post article before deciding whether reports that the A123 story represents a “failure” are perhaps a trifle overblown.

Here, And Gone, And Here, And Gone Again, And Here Again, And…

by John Weckerle

Those of our readers who are still tuned in most likely noticed that there was a nearly two-month hiatus in our coverage of – well, everything.  This is probably the longest break in our commentary since we started up, and we’re still not sure just how often we’ll be posting, although we’re pretty sure it will be more often than once every couple of months.

There are two major reasons for our absence.  First, your editor has experienced a reconfiguration of professional activities, and this change, while a very good one, has included both a great deal of being very busy and an unavailability of access to the blog.  Second, quite simply, we got tired of being angry.

Let’s face it; when you’re spending a substantial amount of time investigating corruption and debunking politically motivated falsehoods, bigotry, and other nastiness, you run the risk of having it get to you.  It can be very labor-intensive, especially for those of us who actually try to research and fact-check the things we produce, and the risk of doing so is that it typically involves immersing oneself in a rather unpleasant stew of unsavory material.  Indignation, anger, and similar emotions can be a drain on one’s energies.

During a trip to Washington, D.C. last week, I had a discussion touching on this with a colleague.  We both probably fall within the “more or less centrist” realm, although we are likely on different sides of the theoretical political mean.  One of the many things we agreed upon was that the fringe groups are co-opting the political discourse, and in a destructive manner.  The problem is that a lot of the rest of us appear to be either falling for it or bowing out, and the result has been a prolonged economic downturn, the appearance of a negative national attitude, and a dubious future.  We’re stuck with a legislature that cannot seem to make progress on what should be sensible national priorities because it is mired in ideological conflict, and hardly a half-year goes by without Congress flirting with national financial disaster over some dearly held, all-or-nothing political position that is probably not held as an absolute necessity by most of us.

It is time for line-in-the-sand politics to come to an end.  The nation faces serious problems that need attention and action, and opportunities that should be seized.  If we turn our attention to what works rather than what we believe (as opposed to what we can demonstrate), we can make headway and not only bring our economy back from the brink, but set it on a course to reach new heights that include opportunities for all – and we can do it without destroying the environment or leaving people behind.  To accomplish this, however, we’re going to have to take the spotlight off the fringes, get it on center stage, and let the bitter, anti-government extremists wail alone in the darkness.

At this point, we’ve pointed out enough dishonesty and prejudice on the part of the fringes to make it clear that these are the hallmarks of their efforts.  At this point, anybody who’s still taking them seriously is probably going to continue to do so, regardless of what we demonstrate concerning their credibility, and we’re tired of sounding like a broken record.  We’ll probably take aim once in a while, but likely with far less frequency.  Instead, we may wish to bring out information that will shine a light under the rocks, so to speak, and counter the disinformation being circulated by special interests masquerading as grass-roots movements with actual information that has at least some support from the world of facts and real analysis.

In short – it’s time for us to move on – and by “us,” we don’t just mean those of us at New Mexico Central headquarters, but all of us who can.  Let those of us who can come together do so, and let the others remain apart if they must.

Swift Blog Veterans For Old, Debunked Stories

by John Weckerle

We find ourselves, as always, in bewildered awe at the jaw-dropping oddness we see out the in the flatter parts of the political bell curve. We refer once again to a Sandia Tea Party article, this one titled “A Slap in The Face By FLOTUS” (this refers to the First Lady of the United States, currently Michelle Obama. We’re getting just a bit tired of the constant appending of “OTUS” onto just about everything; then again, we got sick of the “you-name-it-gate” thing a long time ago).  In this missive, the Sandia Tea Party leadership makes mention (of course, with no links) to an article which was first purported to have a photograph of Ms. Obama holding hands with Bernadine Dohrn, wife of Bill Ayers.  Readers may recall mention of Mr. Ayers – a leader (along with Ms. Dohrn) of the Weather Underground Organization, or Weathermen, an extreme radical left organization of the 1960s and 1970s – during the 2008 Presidential campaign.  Mr. Obama was, at that time purported to be “palling around with terrorists.” The photograph in question (but not provided) is supposedly evidence linking the Obamas to Ms. Dohrn and Mr. Ayers.

The Sandia Tea Party leadership corrects itself (after, apparently, having been corrected by somebody else), stating: “I have been corrected.  The hand clutch is with Terresa Heinz Kerry.”  Now, at that point, most people would have at least gotten suspicious and done a little research into what they were writing about – or at least changed the title, given that Ms. Obama had apparently not held hands with Ms. Dohrn.  Instead, the Sandia Tea Party provides a link to a Freedomworks article (surprised?) titled “Charles Manson and Three Degrees of Separation” by Jack Lloyd Rowlinson.  This is, according to the Sandia Tea Party, “an excellent account by Jack Lloyd Rowlinson, of politicians and their pussy-footing around with folks longing to overthrow our form of government using the most violent methods possible … warping our young people’s minds in progressive colleges and slaying our first level protectors at every opportunity.”  Leaving aside the rather hyperbolic/paranoid tone of this particular piece of prose, the Freedomworks article demonstrates nothing described in the Sandia Tea Party article.  It is a rather rambling discussion of Charles Manson’s purported pre-murder relationships and a short history of the Weather Underground’s activities, followed by an assertion that the Obamas maintain a relationship with Mr. Ayres and Ms. Dohrn “to this day.”

Now, we’re not going to waste a single word defending Mr. Ayers or Ms. Dohrn and their past activities.  Not one.  What are going to do is point out that the supposed relationship between Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers was subjected to rather intense scrutiny back in 2008, and the entire “controversy” was shown to be politically generated bunk.  We refer not to the partisan blogsphere of which the author of the Sandia Tea Party is so clearly fond, but to articles by the master debunkers at Snopes.com (here) and the renowned Factcheck.org (here).

Now, we know that the falsehood factories may have lost a little of their production capacity in recent months, but this particular product didn’t gain much all that much traction the first time around and recycling it seems a bit odd, especially given that the recycling’s being done by FreedomWorks.  We’re a little surprised to see FreedomWorks – with money from Koch Industries and other major corporate sponsors – wasting its resources on rehashing old and discredited attacks. With their resources, shouldn’t they be able to do better?

Unfortunately, we’re far less surprised to see the Sandia Tea Party picking this sort of thing up and passing it along.

A Rare Point Of Agreement – And The Usual Disagreement

by John Weckerle

We have, perhaps typically, kept silent on the issue of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman debacle.  Looking over an April 10 article on the Sandia Tea Party site, however, we find ourselves in a rare state of agreement with a single point in the article, that the media – and, quite frankly, the blogsphere – have behaved digracefully in the coverage of this tragedy to date.  In a rush to sensationalize the situation and exploit societal tensions, the media, as well as the multitude of pundicrats who are even less accountable than the “professional” journalists, portrayed the issue in such a manner as to incite anger and divisiveness.  That people from all parts of the political spectrum reacted strongly is no surprise, although we should continue to hope that people on all sides of the issues will eventually adopt a reasonably skeptical attitude toward early media and blog coverage of – well – just about anything.

Now, we’ve listened to the uncut version of Mr. Zimmerman’s 911 call, and we’ve reviewed the list of prior 911 calls made by Mr. Zimmerman.  What we do know is this: that Mr. Martin was walking around in a neighborhood in the rain, and that was considered “suspicious” by Mr. Zimmerman.   At least to us, Mr. Zimmerman’s voice seemed very nervous on the call.  The Sandia Tea Party’s official internet spokesman is correct that NBC edited the 911 tape in a way that might increase a listener’s perception of George Zimmerman as a racist – although he does fail to mention that Fox News and the New York Times, among many, had reported that an NBC producer had been fired over the incident three days before the Sandia Tea Party article was posted.  From the 911 recording, we know that the dispatcher indicated that Mr. Zimmerman should not follow Mr. Martin, that Mr. Zimmerman agreed, and that Mr. Zimmerman then followed Mr. Martin.  A confrontation of some sort ensured, and Mr. Martin lost his life. What we do not know, after trying to filter the facts out of the coverage, is why this happened.  We have often made the case here that the best judgment comes of examination of facts, and given that actually very few of those have been, and continue to be, available to any of us, it remains premature to speculate on the degree to which race and racial issues contributed to the horrible events that led to the end of Mr. Martin’s life at the age of seventeen.  We encourage our readers, and pretty much everybody else, to reserve judgment until such time as a reasonable set of facts is available.

What we would like our readers – and, again, pretty much everybody else – to consider is this: how have we, as a nation and a society, come to such a pass that the simple act of walking around in the rain (a long-time pastime of your editor’s, by the way) is “suspicious behavior?”  What has brought us to the point where one person has the right to demand, perhaps even forcefully, an accounting from another citizen as to the nature of his business as he walks down the street?  At what point did we become so suspicious of each other, so angry at each other, that such an event should come to pass?  And let us not forget that a young man’s life is cut off, and a family is mourning, for reasons we cannot yet fathom.  All we can be sure of is this: those reasons will never, ever be good.

Lest our readers think that we agree entirely with the Sandia Tea Party spokesman, we will point out that there is much in the article with which we disagree.  Providing a litany of horrible crimes perpetrated by African American criminals as an unnecessary demonstration of media bias toward African Americans is nothing short of contemptible given the situation.  These horrific cases have nothing in common with the Martin/Zimmerman case – but the fact that the Sandia Tea Party chooses to sign on to such a comparison speaks volumes regarding the character and biases of the organization, its members, and those who attend its events for the purpose of political expediency.

We’re getting tired of the nastiness.  It’s time for those of us who are willing to work together to stop giving the fringe – on either side of the carpet – center stage.  “Liberal” and “conservative” are not endpoints on a line; they are points on a continuum, and we think they are points that have more in common than many people realize, regardless of the irreconcilable differences that the people at the extreme ends of the bell curve may have with one another.  As a nation, we’re not accomplishing much by yelling at each other.  There will always be those among us who insist on the yelling, but as for the rest of us, we could do better with a serious talk here and there.  Perhaps if we talked more and shouted less, we’d get closer to living in a nation in which we can all walk down the street, wearing whatever clothes we see fit, in whatever weather we see fit, and not be viewed with fear or suspicion.  We’re a long way from that now, for a very complex set of reasons, but if we try, we can get there some day.  Rather than focusing on our differences, and listening to those who seek to gain by driving us apart, perhaps we should consider working to come together and move forward.

Absent Is As Absent Does

by John Weckerle

We turn our attention today to a couple of articles from different sources regarding the upcoming Congressional elections here in New Mexico.  One of these is a Sandia Tea Party article titled “Progressives Spreading Bull Butter Again — Why Not, It’s What They Do Well” by Edgewood Town Councilor and Sandia Tea Party official internet spokesman Chuck Ring, excoriating Eric Griego, (seeking election in the Democratic primary for Congressional District 1), for not affording the “organization” the “courtesy” of responding to an invitation to a “candidates forum” to be held by this august organization.  The second is an article titled “Dems Skip Tea Party Candidate Forum” in the East Mountain Telegraph.  Both articles note that Democratic candidates did not attend events hosted by the Sandia Tea Party.

Surprised, anyone?

»» Absent Is As Absent Does

Racist, Indeed?

by John Weckerle

We find ourselves today shaking our heads over another Sandia Tea Party article titled “Racist Indeed,” posted January 19.  In the article, Edgewood Town Councilor and official Sandia Tea Party internet spokesman Chuck Ring states that the word “racist” “has lost its meaning except as a buzzword which progressives and other detractors of conservatism love to throw to see if it sticks to the wall like so much scat.” Mr. Ring provides two links to the same “Real Clear Politics” article in which former Bush press secretary Ari Fleisher and Democratic strategist/Obama 2012 pollster appear on CNN with Anderson Cooper.  In the video, Mr. Belcher states:

“First of all, do you think you’re going to invite me on the show and then I’m not going to talk about the ridiculousness of that statement? Two things. One is a great way to sort of get people on your side and win voters is to attack their intelligence. So great job there. Really sensible, Herman Cain.

The second part here is, it’s really a teachable moment. You know, if I came on your show, Anderson, and I said, all Jewish people are brainwashed, I probably wouldn’t be invited back to CNN and I assure you the condemnation would be swift and it’d be powerful and be strong. What Herman Cain said was a racist, bigoted statement and he should be treated like a racist and bigoted person who makes those racist and bigoted statements.”

He goes on to say:

»» Racist, Indeed?

In Hot Water Again…

by John Weckerle

Your editor has again apparently stepped on some toes – specifically, those of the folks over at the Sandia Tea Party web site.  This should not be surprising to our readers; we have on multiple occasions taken issue with the postings there.

On October 17, Sandia Tea Party internet spokesman and Edgewood Town Council member Chuck Ring posted a cartoon depicting a balloon in the shape of U.S. President Barak Obama’s head, captioned “Running Low on Fuel?”  In the basket below the balloon can be seen a beleaguered donkey, and the basket bears the words “White Guilt.” Now, we admit that we don’t usually make comments directly on the Sandia Tea Party web site, preferring to conduct our reviews and analysis in our own space.  However, we did think it appropriate in this case to get some more information, given the lack of any commentary other than the cartoon in the post, before publicly making any conclusions.  Your editor posted the following, rather direct comment:

Would you care to elaborate on the meaning of this image and how it relates to the political and/or socioeconomic issues that face the nation at this time? Would you also care to enlighten the readership with regard to how this image communicates the official position of the Sandia Tea Party?

At first glance, and several subsequent looks, this post would appear to suggest that the official position of the STP is that the President was elected (and remains so) because he is of African American descent (“white guilt”) and/or has received support from the electorate based on this premise. If this is the official position of the STP, please provide credible references to support the position.

After accusing your editor of attempting to paint him as a racist (and later accusing me an “attempt to steer any reader to your interpretation of the cartoon”), Mr. Ring responds to the initial question somewhat in the affirmative, suggesting that “some” voters likely supported Mr. Obama to expiate the “sins of their fathers.”  No real evidence is provided to support the claim – but to be fair, it would be wrong for us to dispute that “some” may have done so, because “some” probably did.  We do, however, question whether this was a significant influence on the results on the election, and welcome the Sandia Tea Party to provide any credible (that is, verifiable) evidence that this was a major factor. We will also say that, after kicking the idea around New Mexico Central headquarters, we did not settle upon “racist” as describing the cartoon, although “racially charged” and “racially insensitive” did gain a little traction before we gave up on the exercise altogether.

Mr. Ring then expresses offense at the question and engages in an attempt to put your editor in his place, whatever it is that he believes that place to be. This is not the first such attempt, and it is likely to be about as successful as previous efforts.  Despite the explicit statement that no criticism or judgmental language had been offered, Mr. Ring states that this must have been the case because “your IQ is probably in the stratosphere as to the number and I know you have common-sense.”  I have, in fact, been wondering what happened to my IQ, and I do appreciate the help in trying to find the darned thing and put it to use, but the fact that I apparently left it on a plane at some point hardly seems good reason to call me a liar.  An inference is made to the cleaning of diapers on the blog.  I now have my own scatological Sandia Tea Party web site reference – and that without expressing a single opinion!

Mr. Ring denies being the Sandia Tea Party’s spokesman, and I challenge that point.  Mr. Ring responds: “Since I have corrected your opinion, I believe we can lay it to rest.”

Let us address the latter point first – Mr. Ring has repeated his denial of our characterization of him as the Sandia Tea Party’s spokesman, but he has corrected nothing.  For the reasons given in the comments, we consider him the one of the organization’s spokespeople, and denying that until the cows come home will probably not change our position in that regard – the Sandia Tea Party site is not his personal blog (he also has one of those), and what he posts there reflects directly upon the organization.  With respect to the “offense” taken, we see this as an attempt to deflect attention away from the issue originally raised, and put it into the same category of the “I know you are but what am I” strategy to which we have declined to respond in the past.

We have a little insight for the would-be non-spokesman: These tactics do little to enhance the credibility of your positions or decrease that of those who question them.  They may play well to a limited audience – and if that’s all that’s intended, that’s fine – but the world at large likely assigns them very little weight in the debate.

The Insidious Plot

by John Weckerle

Our readers may have noted that we’re occasionally sporadic with respect to the frequency of our posts.  The challenging economy is becoming a challenge, and sometimes we find ourselves working hard just to keep working hard, and the need for some of us to continue generating an income sometimes means a need to take a break from other pursuits.  We returned to the online world today and took a quick look in on the folks at the Sandia Tea Party, and noted a September 15 post by Edgewood Town Councilor Chuck Ring on the Rebuild the Dream Contract for the American Dream.  A copy of said contract is provided in image form – not surprisingly titled “Communist Contract AD Alliance Partners” by the author – as is a graphic providing the logos of organizations affiliated with Rebuild The Dream.  Mr. Ring invites us to go conspiracy hunting at a site called “Discover The Networks: A Guide to the Political Left.”  He then suggests that there is something misleading about Rebuild the Dream’s use of the logo of one of the supporting organizations, “OUR Walmart,” insinuating that OUR Walmart is a fictitious organization or one that may have “misused” Walmart’s name.  He points out that a Google search leads to a listing for “ourwalmart.org,” a site no longer in service with a link to Walmart’s corporate home page.

In this, Mr. Ring indulges in a little fast footwork himself – so fast that he apparently shot past the first three hits on the search he recommends.  The first two lead directly – and predictably – to the organization called Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OURWalmart), an association of Walmart employees who quite pointedly state that they are not satisfied with the conditions of the their employment.  In that context, we don’t see anything misleading.  A little research indicates that Walmart challenged the use of the domain name “ourwalmart.org” by the organization – a challenge that appeared valid given domain naming conventions, which is something your editor knows a little about.  However, we’ll point out that the logo on the “commiegraph” does not include a domain name, so we fail to see the deception in its inclusion on the graphic, which was clearly lifted from the Rebuild the Dream site and presented without attribution on the Sandia Tea Party site.

»» The Insidious Plot