Thursday, May 31, 2007

Spring Cleaning

Saturday Night Live has been, by and large, painful to watch the last couple of years. As such, I rarely do. But a recent (May 19) animated skit just caught my eye. The premise of the "TV Funhouse" segment (the series that brought you The Ambiguously Gay Duo) is presidential candidates airing their dirty laundry on Oprah. And there are plenty of soiled sheets, so to speak, to choose from.

It's offensive. It's outrageous. It's sacridelicious.

The Guv is featured for only about 17 seconds in the nearly five-minute sketch but he isn't skewered nearly as bad as most (aside from the fact that the Richardson impersonator sounds like the unholy offspring of Jack Nicholson and George Bush I). Former NYC mayor Rudy Guiliani probably gets the worst of the Zed treatment. But you'll just have to see for yourself. Without further ado,

Live, from New Mexico, it's ...uh... Thursday afternoon!: Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Score One for Hillary

Fresh off his official (but super anticlimactic) announcement in Los Angeles last week, Bill Richardson must be feeling a bit down today. The reason: LA Mayor Antonio Villariagosa, one of the country's most talented and energetic Latino pols, just endorsed Big Bill rival Hillary Clinton. Villariagosa must be betting that Hillary is most likely to win, while Richardson isn't... despite his perfect Spanish and Mexican-American heritage. Still, its gotta be a big blow for Big Bill.

As a matter of comparison, can anyone seriously imagine former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington or former NYC Mayor David Dinkins NOT endorsing Jesse Jackson during his historic runs for the White House back in the '80s. Not a chance. Fast forward to Richardson's historic run two decades later, and he seems unable to generate the same kind of ethnic appeal and solidarity.

That probably speaks to how Richardson has been able to (successfully) transcend his ethnic identity for most of his career, not just with an Anglo last name, but more importantly with his own political decisions to focus on foreign policy, for example, rather than immigration or civil rights issues.

In some ways, Richardson has been a victim of his own success.

Off-Shore Bank Accounts

El Gobernador is hitting up a different sort of White Sands this week. Yesterday was Boca Raton. Today is an island-hopping fundraising jaunt in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The primary purpose for the trip is raising cash, raising cash and raising cash (and, if there's time, lobby Ricky Martin to quit pouting and just do the Menudo reunion already).

It's not a bad move on Richardson's part. Give the neglected US Territories (or Commonwealth, in PR's case) some face time. Plead for campaign funds. Say hi to the outgoing Miss Universe (see previous link). Maybe even sip a fruity umbrella drink. See? It's not that bad being a presidential underdog.

Besides, there probably aren't a lot of candidates making official stops in Condado and St. Thomas. If the Guv reaps a windfall, it won't be long before he hits up Guam, American Somoa and the Northern Mariana Islands. He could even take a slow-moving freighter to Palmyra Atoll if money gets tight.

But, alas, it's not all fun and games. Richardson will be leaving the islands quickly with his "I Went To Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands For 24 Hours And All I Got Was This Stupid T-Shirt...And $425,000 in Campaign Contributions" shirt in tow. He will be back in boring old landlocked New Mexico tomorrow and Friday before jetting off for Rundlett Middle School and the New Hampshire Democratic Convention in Concord on Saturday morning.

But wait...there's more!

Not one to miss out on a party, The Guv will traverse back across the country in time for the Iowa Hall of Fame Dinner in Cedar Rapids on Saturday night before hopping another flight back to New Hampshire for the next Democratic Presidential Debate on Sunday (5 pm New Mex time) at St. Anselm College in Manchester.

Joe Biden and Chris Dodd will be making the New Hampshire-to-Iowa-to-New Hampshire trip as well. The Three Amigos will also be joined by Dennis Kucinich and Michelle Obama at the NHDC. Apparently Barack Obama is in such high demand he has to send family in his stead. So don't be suprised if you see his second cousin Ray-Ray give a stump speech to the Greenville County Democrats at a Waffle House in South Carolina.

The Guv will also be joined in Cedar Rapids by Dodd, Biden, Hillary and John Edwards for the Iowa Hall of Fame shindig. Alas, the Hall of Fame in question has something to do with the Iowa Democratic Party and thus is filled with names nobody outside Dubuque has ever heard of. But Cedar Rapids is a good place for politicians to act like they enjoy being in Iowa considering the town has produced such thespians as Ashton Kutcher, Elijah Wood, Ron Livingston (Peter from Office Space) and Michael Emerson (Benjamin, the Creepy McCreeps leader of The Others on Lost). Which, come to think, a combination of Lost and Office Space probably sums up what it's like to live in Iowa.

Richardson's resumé

This article from the American Chronicle about Richardson's need to talk about more than his resumé was good, but characterizing Richardson as being from a "midwestern" state confused me. I'm pretty sure I don't live in the midwest. If I do, I may have to move.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Full Court Press

The Guv met the press on Sunday and, by most accounts, caught a few on the chin for his troubles. Michael Buffer, take it away:

In this corner, the challenger wearing the red trunks with yellow trim, hailing from Santa Fe and weighing in at two bills and some change..."Wild" Bill Richardson!

And in the other corner, the reigning
Meet the Press champion wearing the Men's Warehouse special, a southpaw hailing from Washington DC and weighing in at 190 pounds (not counting the 15 added by the camera and/or Green Room buffet)..."Tenacious" Tim Russert!

Let's get ready to ruuummmmmbbbbblllllllllee!!!

Okay. It probably wasn't that dramatic. But judging from video clips and the interview transcript, Russert certainly didn't pull any punches. In fact, you could say Russ had Big Bill on the ropes soon after "Governor Richardson, welcome back to Meet the Press."

Russert pressured Richardson on his Iraq stance, immigration, his name-checking of deceased US Marine Aaron Austin, New Mexico's persistently high poverty rates, his tenure as Energy Secretary, his energy proposals, gun control, being "drafted" by the As, even whether he roots for the Red Sox or the Yankees. In short, everything short of Richardson's opinion on walking while chewing gum (he initially supported the idea but, in reflection, changed his mind upon the realization that such multi-tasking could have serious public health consequences).

Russert probably scored a unanimous decision. But while the governor was reeling on an occasion or two, he was still standing when the final bell rang. And there's nothing wrong with a little bare-knuckled political pugilism every now and then (few around these parts are bold enough to even step into the ring with Richardson). It thickens the blood. Builds moxy. Plus, chicks dig scars.

The BR4P camp can take some solace in the showdown. Getting grilled with tough questions for an hour on national television legitimizes, in a sense, your candidacy. For instance, Russert and other reporters aren't going to bother thoroughly raking Mike Gravel over the coals. The inclination is more towards getting the former Alaska senator a warm cup of milk and directions back to the Anchorage nursing home he wandered away from about three months ago.

Besides, if it was an actual boxing match (instead of a tortured analogy), chances are good the governor would mop up. My prediction: Richardson by TKO in the fifth.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Singing Points

Not unlike Halley's Comet, every once in a while the New Mexican daily paper emerges to contribute something useful to The Discussion. The latest offering comes courtesy of Steve Terrell and his analysis of presidential theme songs. A tip of the cap to Terrell, but it occurs to us that theme songs only serve a solitary purpose. Which is why I've compiled the following list of songs tailor-made to be the soundtrack for any prospective Richardson talking points:

BR4P advertising campaign: “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles.
Budget deficit: “2+2=5” by Radiohead.
California primary: “Beverly Hills” by Weezer.
Campaign schedule: “Gone ‘til November” by Wyclef Jean.
Domestic partnerships: “Gay Bar” by Electric Six.
Foreign Policy: “Come Together” by the Beatles.
Fundraising: “C.R.E.A.M.” by Wu-Tang Clan.
George W. Bush: “American Idiot” by Green Day.
Global Warming: “This is Why I’m Hot” by MIMS.
Gubernatorial appointments: “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)” by Snoop Dogg.
Health Care: “Be Healthy” by Dead Prez.
Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards: “Ain’t Sayin’ Nothin’ New” by the Roots.
Immigration: “Walk The Line” by Johnny Cash.
Inappropriate touching of lieutenant governors: “I Touch Myself” by the Divinyls.
International diplomacy: “I’m Afraid of Americans” by David Bowie.
Iowa caucus: “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” by Dwight Yoakam.
Iraq: “B.O.B.” by Outkast.
Jerry Falwell: “Dead and Bloated” by Stone Temple Pilots.
Latino Heritage: “Lean Like a Cholo” by Down.
Name recognition: “Who Am I (What’s My Name?)” by Snoop Dogg.
Nevada caucus: “Viva Las Vegas” by Elvis Presley.
New Hampshire primary: “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” by Pearl Jam.
New Mexico: “It’s Good to be King” by Tom Petty.
Next “I’m Running For President” Announcement: “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake.
Presidential polls: “Underdog” by Sly and the Family Stone.
Resumé: “Ch-Check it Out” by the Beastie Boys.
South Carolina primary: “Raise Up” by Petey Pablo.
Speeding tickets: “I’m in a Hurry and Don’t know Why” by Alabama.
US Attorney firings: “I Think I Smell a Rat” by the White Stripes.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Aftermath

What a difference four months and two words ("exploratory committee") sent to the guillotine can make. Back in late January, people outside the 505 shrugged when Bill Richardson unveiled his BR4PEC on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. That reaction was for several reasons. Among them,

A) The announcement came mere days after the two-headed hydra of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had entered the fray.
B) Four months ago, approximately 17 members of the general public outside New Mexico, the Clinton Administration and the Democratic Party could pick Richardson out of a lineup.
C) Those same 17 people are the only folks outside the Stephanopoulos family who regularly watch This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

Nothing, other than semantics, substantially changed with Richardson's official entry on Monday. But this time around Big Bill's announcement was carried by most (if not all) the major television news networks and earned him headlines in Papers Of Record from New York to LA.

Therein lies the beauty of the curious political concoction that is the presidential exploratory committee (just ask Tom Vilsack how announcing right off the bat worked out for him). Moreover, the timing gave the Guv a rare spotlight all his own after several months of building support and, more importantly, some semblance of name recognition.

The majority of Americans still probably couldn't tell you what state Richardson governs if you spotted them the "New" and the "Mexic". Then again, plenty of Americans still think "New Mexico" refers to the strand of beachfront hotels and Señor Frogs in Cancun. If only Richardson had announced he was forming a presidential expedition committee on Monday. Then he could make another (bigger and with more balloons) announcement in September. Alas.

The Guv doesn't have quite as hectic of a campaign schedule this week, but he's not exactly spending the next couple of days pruning the Yuccas outside the governor's mansion either. Today he'll be hosting a limited engagement in...wait for it...Santa Fe (it's a small city in northern New Mexico) before he jets off to Seattle tomorrow, back to Albuquerque on Friday before making an appearance on Meet The Press (the show's title is taken quite literally in the governor's case) in DC on Sunday morning before returning to California Sunday night. The Yuccas might have to wait.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Delicious Irony

Yesterday's "official" announcement in Los Angels has got me thinking about the main argument Big Bill uses at every turn to make his case to voters: I'm the most qualified.

Here's how he put in in LA: "I am running for President because these times call for a leader with a proven track record, and a demonstrated ability to bring people together to tackle our problems at home and abroad. I am that person, not because I say so, but because of what I have done..." Call it the "resume" pitch, a strand of which is practically woven in every speech Richardson gives, not to mention those two funny TV ads he's released to date.

But the other (obvious) part of Richardson's announcement in LA was to emphasize his Latino heritage. Combine the two—impressive resume and Latino heritage—and you turn one tired insinuation on its head. To his credit, Richardson isn't shy about pointing out that he's arguably the most qualified presidential candidate, period.

Seems to me that's a delicious irony in a country where ambitious minorities are often disparaged as unqualified.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Old Switcharoo

Turns out all my whining about the Los Angeles Press Club hosting Big Bill's official coming out party was for naught. Or maybe the SFR blog is just so powerful that it causes entire presidential campaigns to buckle to their knees. Either way, according to BR4P headquarters, the announcement will be at the same bat time (Monday, 11 am NM time) but on a different bat channel.

Richardson has moved the press conference to the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. I make no presumptions about the state of the LAPC, but the Biltmore sounds a tad more swank. According to the hotel's Web site, it "has been home to presidents, kings and Hollywood celebrities since it opened in 1923." Natch, apparently, governors from New Mexico.

We'll nevertheless still be monitoring the San Andreas Fault to see if the governor's announcement shifts any tectonic plates, causing a fissure in the Democratic primary through which Richardson's liquid hot charisma (if not magma) will seep.

Yeah, I watched Volcano on AMC the other night.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Department of Redundancy Department

This just in: Bill Richardson is running for president.

The BR4P campaign just officially announced there will be an official announcement by the governor on Monday to officially announce his candidacy, officially. Fare thee well, presidential exploratory committee. We hardly knew yee.

As far as official announcements go, this ranks up there with declaring that the sky is blue, water is wet and Tara Reid is drunk. In other words, not surprising. After all, it's not like Big Bill was going to spend months of campaigning just to yell "Psych!" and fold up his tent, renounce his citizenship and live out his years as a sheep herder in Uruguay (although I hear Uruguayan shepherds do quite well).

What is a little suprising is the locale of his announcement. Richardson will officially throw his hat into the ring at 11 am (NM time) at the Los Angeles Press Club in, you guessed it, Los Angeles. It's no secret that California could conceivably reap huge electoral dividends for Richardson and, admittedly, he has to get some high-profile pub outside of New Mexico to be taken seriously as a national candidate. But don't be fooled by the well-tanned SoCal press corps, governor. Beneath those white veneers lurks rampant gingivitis of the soul.

Feeling slighted? Perhaps. A little jaded that we don't even have a Press Club? Maybe. But at least we didn't kill Biggie Smalls.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cabin Pressure

Big Bill is racking up the frequent flyer miles this week.

Monday saw the governor chatting up Google employees in Cali. Although his appearance hasn't had much effect on his Google hits, currently in the 1.3 million range (yes, we're keeping score at home). Tuesday was Portland, OR. Yesterday, Richardson landed in the nation's capital and, if the campaign schedule is accurate, the governor is tending to an "Energy Roll Out" at the DC Hilton as we Presumably the event is an opportunity for the Guv to postulate on his various energy proposals and not a chance for him to unveil his new Ludacris remix. But if that was the case, we'd imagine it'd go a little something like this:

We got renewable energy (Roll out!)/Me and my homies (Roll out!)/We rollin on (hybrid) twenties, with the top back (Roll out!)/So much money (for biofuels and solar energy), you can't stop that!

Ahem. Tonight the Guv storms into Shreveport, Louisiana. Tomorrow is Omaha. And the week wraps up on Saturday with a tour of Iowa's Greatest Hits Volume: 3 (Red Oak, Shenandoah, Glenwood, Carter Lake) culminating with a Pottawattamie (say that 10 times fast) County Democrats House Party. No word on whether Kid or Play have RSVPd.

The Richardson campaign (like almost every other campaign) has yet to weigh in on the passing of Jerry Falwell. But while some stand mute, others have shouted from on high with their

Monday, May 14, 2007

Is Bill Going Viral?

his new ads are certainly garnering comments. Mostly positive ones (not the actual blog I'm linking to, but the comments in response are positive).
A quick google blog search on Richardson would indicate that, in general, the ads are getting him noticed. And noticed, when you're barely polling above the percentage of error, seems like a good, um, first step.

Oh, Canada

It appears that Bill Richardson's "Job Interview" ads are already getting some attention from our friendly neighbors to the north (Canada, not Colorado).

This blog posting from Chris Boutet (sounds French-Canadian or "Freedom-Canadian" if you happen to be former Ohio Rep. Bob Ney "The Freedom Guy" circa 2003) of The National Post, a Toronto-based paper presumably printed on recycled maple leaves, weighs in on the governor's telegenic candidacy.

Boutet dubs Richardson the Democrats' "loveable loser" but calls the governor's new ads "pretty damn funny" and wonders "Why can't Canadian political ads be this good?" Boutet also points out that this isn't the first time Big Bill has used "humour" (as opposed to, say, "colour," "honour" or "jewellery") to gain political traction and includes a link to the "Western" ads Richardson ran during his last gubernatorial campaign.

This could be good news for the Richardson camp. After all, if the whole Oval Office thing doesn't work out you just might see some "Richardson for Prime Minister '11" bumper stickers sprouting up in the future. Take that to the banque.

Friday, May 11, 2007

union talk

the gov touted his pro-union career to firefighters (in New Hampshire at their convention; the article I'm linking to conveniently seems to be missing the location).
Richardson, of course, hasn't been entirely popular with unions. Certainly the Corrections unions, here, have had plenty of gripes. I can't find the links, but here is some of our reporting on Richardson's problems with the Corrections unions.
All of these stories are copyrighted by The Santa Fe Reporter.

June 15, 2005, published in The Santa Fe Reporter
Bad Faith?
Union officials decry governor’s contract response.
By Dan Frosch
After nearly two years of negotiations, New Mexico’s State, County and City employees were certain they’d emerged less bloodied than Gov. Bill Richardson. After all, they had won most of their demands for better working conditions through an independent arbitration agreed to by both parties.
They were wrong.
Earlier this month, Richardson’s office sent a letter to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) in Washington, DC, citing several problems with three points that had been decided in the union’s favor. Those issues included a 2.5 percent incremental salary increase, extra personal days and more bereavement days.
Leaders of New Mexico’s Council 18 Union—which represents 13,000 workers throughout the state and is part of AFSCME—tell SFR they were shocked by news of the letter. Union officials say they believed the governor was bound by the arbitration to which he’d agreed.
“I’m really surprised. I didn’t think he could do this,” Zach Garcia, vice president of the State Correctional Workers’ Union, Local 3422, and a member of the Council 18 negotiating team, says.
“We had faith in the governor,” Arcy Baca, president of Local 477, which includes all State workers in the Santa Fe area except corrections workers, adds.
The arbitration followed initial negotiations on a new contract in 2003 in which union and State officials reached an impasse on a number of key issues related to salaries, personal leave, staffing, scheduling and overtime.
In February of this year, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services decided the union’s final proposal—which entailed pay raises, more bereavement days, better overtime compensation and other improvements—was reasonable and should be agreed to by the State. State negotiators had argued such a proposal would cost too much and violated existing rules mandated by the New Mexico State Personnel Board.
Although the New Mexico State Legislature failed to fund an overall pay increase, union officials say they wanted a 2.5 percent incremental increase written into their contracts to help pressure the Legislature to fund it in the future.
In May, Council 18 presented Richardson with a new contract and assumed he’d sign it. Anthony Marquez, executive director of Council 18, says the union now has requested a meeting with the governor but has not heard a response. He also noted that last week at its state convention in Albuquerque the AFL-CIO national labor union—affiliated with AFSCME—passed a resolution urging Richardson to sign Council 18’s contract.
Tiffany Ricci, spokeswoman for AFSCME, which represented Council 18 during the arbitration, says AFSCME is still negotiating and she expects the results to be favorable.
In response to questions from SFR, The New Mexico Office of the Governor issued the following statement regarding negotiations with the union: “The Governor’s Office acknowledges that there are some technical issues that remain. But we are hopeful and optimistic that an amicable agreement will be reached.”
Such optimism doesn’t sit well with local union leaders—especially corrections workers, who are particularly miffed at this latest setback because of their struggles for pay raises and rocky relations with Corrections Secretary Joe Williams.
Throughout the legislative session, union members picketed the Roundhouse for better wages, and in March, the Corrections Union unanimously handed Williams a vote of no confidence.
“For Richardson to say that he supports collective bargaining, go through the negotiations and then do this…We feel betrayed,” says Lee Ortega, a corrections sergeant at the Santa Fe state penitentiary and president of Santa Fe Sub-local 3422.
Cayetano Trujillo, a corrections worker and secretary treasurer for the Santa Fe Sub-local, was part of Council 18’s negotiating team and believes Richardson’s hardball tactics will considerably strain an already tense relationship between public employees and the governor.
“He’s dictating all of this on whole terms, so it’s as if the whole process was useless,” he says. “Now we have to go back to the same place we started. Now we have nothing. This was a real slap in the face.”

Nov. 2, 2005
Roid Rage
Prison union alleges inmate price gouging.
By Dan Frosch
Rarely does a prison movie go by without the requisite scenes of gargantuan inmates, swollen from untold bench press reps, stomping around the jail yard shirtless and scowling.
The reality, at least at the Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe, is a bit more complicated.
SFR has learned that Sub-local 3422, the local chapter of the state prison guard union, has filed a complaint with Attorney General Patricia Madrid’s office alleging that the New Mexico Corrections Department is overcharging inmates for vitamin supplements used by inmate weight lifters.
Further, the union says Corrections Secretary Joe Williams inappropriately hired a personal friend, local weight trainer Perry Barnes, to administer the vitamin program, allowing Barnes to make a profit off the inmates in the process.
“Not only are the inmates getting gouged in terms of the prices,” Joe Kellenyi, Sub-local 3422 recording secretary, says, “the secretary also gave his friend what is essentially a no-bid contract.”
According to Kellenyi, the union originally contacted Madrid’s office this past summer after an inmate weight lifting club complained to guards that Barnes was charging them too much money for vitamin supplements. The inmate group, Power Demons Self Help Club, sells the vitamins at the Penitentiary commissary, and uses the profits to pay for funeral furloughs when an inmate’s family member dies, bedside visits to sick relatives and local charities.
Before Barnes started working with Williams late last year, Power Demons told Kellenyi that they alone negotiated with the supplier, Universal Nutrition, and were able to garner a better deal. An Aug. 8 letter, obtained by SFR, and written to Williams from Power Demons, calls Barnes unprofessional, his prices extreme and says the vitamin purchasing worked better when the club was in charge.
The letter also says Power Demons has thus far paid Barnes nearly $4,500 for the vitamins, far in excess of what it paid Universal directly for the same products.
Subsequent documents drafted by Power Demons and given to SFR by Kellenyi, show the club is now paying Barnes an average of about $5.75 more per package of vitamins for the four different products it purchases.
Since filing the initial complaint, Kellenyi says he’s been in contact with staff from Madrid’s office but has received no definitive word of whether an actual investigation will take place.
AG spokesman Paul Nixon confirmed receipt of the complaint from the union but would neither confirm nor deny an investigation.
Williams, himself a former body builder, acknowledges being in contact with the Attorney General’s Office but says there’s no impropriety and that standardization of vitamin purchasing was a security concern because the piecemeal fashion by which inmates were previously buying vitamins was difficult to oversee.
“We had inmates at some facilities buying bags of one protein and inmates at another buying a different sort of supplement,” Williams says. “Some of these vitamins the Federal Drug Administration were still looking at, and I didn’t feel comfortable with that.”
The New Mexico Corrections Department has a six-tier classification system based on the severity of crime committed. Only inmates classified as less dangerous—levels one though three—can lift weights. The more serious body builders within that lower risk population will buy multi-vitamins or protein supplements like creatine, William says.
According to Williams, since Barnes took over, the vitamin prices have largely gone down throughout the state prison system with the exception of the Penitentiary in Santa Fe.
Corrections spokeswoman Tia Bland says inmates at the Lea County Correctional Facility, for example, used to shell out $40 for a five-pound bag of “Ultra Whey” vitamins but now only pay $24. (Santa Fe inmates paid $19.45 before Barnes took over, she says.)
“We can understand why the inmates at Santa Fe might not want to pay more, but we had to look at the bigger picture,” Bland says.
Williams says the arrangement with Barnes—whom he met at a mall kiosk where Barnes was selling his vitamin wares—is not illegal because “there’s no taxpayer money involved.”
State agencies must allow open bidding for contracts of less than $20,000 and a “Request For Proposal” process for contracts of more than $20,000, according to Alex Cuellar, public information officer for the New Mexico General Services Department, which oversees purchasing for the state. But because Barnes sells his goods directly to the inmates, the Corrections Department does not have to do either, Cuellar confirms.
Barnes also defends his involvement and says the vitamin purchasing standardization prevents contraband from entering the prisons because it’s easier for the New Mexico Corrections Department to oversee a single system. He also says before he came on board, inmates were purchasing vitamins containing Aspartame, a controversial artificial sweetener.
Though Barnes would not divulge how much money he’s earned, he did tell SFR he typically sells protein vitamins for about half of the going market price—$46—and barely breaks even as a result.
“The allegations are false,” he says. “The Power Demons are just mad because they were making money when they were the distributor. They’re the price gougers.”
Not so, according to Kellenyi, who’s pressing the Attorney General’s Office to conduct an audit of the Santa Fe Penitentiary commissary.
“To us, this has every appearance of a kickback,” Kellenyi says. “We’re hopeful the attorney general will look at this seriously.”

June 7, 2006
Correcting Corrections
Union officials question prison leadership
By Dan Frosch
If it weren’t for the Treasurer’s Office, the New Mexico Corrections Department could make a legitimate claim as the most troubled agency in the state.
In 2005, a nasty split between the corrections union and administrators over salaries and working conditions left both sides on horrible terms. Last year, four guards were attacked at a facility in Santa Rosa, an incident union leaders blamed on a lack of funding. This past April, the ACLU of New Mexico filed a lawsuit against the Corrections Department for ignoring overcrowding at a women’s prison in Grants.
And the bad news keeps on coming.
On May 29, Gov. Bill Richardson removed Secretary of Corrections Joe Williams from office while investigators look into his use of a state cell phone, a state trip and his personal relationship with an out-of-town prison lobbyist. The temporary sacking came on the heels of a May 28 Albuquerque Journal story that detailed Williams’ relationship with Ann Casey, an assistant warden at an Illinois prison and a New Mexico lobbyist in 2005.
The day the governor put Williams on unpaid, administrative leave he also appointed Deputy Secretary of Administration Jolene Gonzales to take over day-to-day operations during the interim.
Now, union officials question Gonzales’ appointment.
“We’re very concerned because Jolene doesn’t have a corrections background. You think that would be a prerequisite to run the entire department,” Lee Ortega, president of northern sub-local 3422 in Santa Fe, says. “We don’t have a clue why she should be appointed.”
Richardson initially tapped Gonzales for the deputy secretary post in August 2004. Prior to that appointment, she worked as a budget analyst for the state’s Legislative Finance Committee for nearly 10 years. She was also budget bureau chief for the Corrections Department for approximately five months in 2004.
Union officials say none of those jobs translates into the ability to oversee 10 prison facilities and manage more than 2,000 employees throughout the state.
Both Ortega and Dominic Vigil, the state corrections union president, say Erma Sedillo, deputy secretary of operations, should have been appointed acting secretary. Sedillo has worked in the corrections industry for more than 20 years.
“Jolene has no experience. She’s basically a bookkeeper. We have a lot of serious issues we’re dealing with right now. And she’s not capable of handling them,” Vigil says. “Erma should have been put in that position.”
In response to questions about why the governor chose Gonzales over Sedillo, Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos sent SFR an e-mail statement:
“Governor Richardson is confident that the entire leadership team at the Corrections Department will do a good job of overseeing the operations during this brief period.”
Gallegos also stresses Williams will likely be back on the job after the review is completed June 9.
New Mexico Corrections Department spokeswoman Tia Bland repeatedly told SFR that Gonzales was unavailable for an interview.
Union officials have long had a contentious relationship with Williams and his administration, clashing over wages, staffing and other contractual issues [Outtakes, Aug. 3, 2005: “The Late Shift”].
In April 2005, union members gave Williams a vote of no confidence, and Vigil says many issues, such as staffing, remain unresolved. According to Vigil, the Corrections Department is more than 300 officers short.
Meanwhile, the investigation into Williams, conducted by the State Personnel Office, continues. State Personnel Director Sandra Perez says she expects to meet the June 9 deadline set jointly by her office and the governor’s office.
Union leaders on June 3 gathered in Las Cruces to discuss Williams’ leadership, Gonzales’ appointment and other ongoing concerns they have relating to work conditions.
Ortega says the union has decided to hold protests within the next month unless Williams is permanently removed from office and is replaced by someone “we can work with.”
The protests won’t be the first of their kind. In the spring of 2005, the corrections union held demonstrations outside the Roundhouse to protest the Legislature’s failure to grant workers a pay raise and what union leaders perceived as Williams’ lack of support.
Says Ortega: “We sit down with [the administration] at least once a month. They say they’re taking care of the issues we’re concerned about but nothing happens. We’re tired of playing their game.”

Jay and Silent Bill Strike Back

The Guv is hitting up his third state in three days today (after NY and NH) for a little California dreamin'. His LA trip is ostensibly a short fundraising swing but we suspect that Roscoe's House of Chicken 'n' Waffles has something to do with it.

The highlight of the roadie will be a spot for Big Bill on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno this evening (10:45 pm New Mex time on NBC). In order to cause a minor stir during the 2004 election, John Kerry rode a Harley into Leno's studio. Alas, a Hog and some leather chaps couldn't save him. Maybe Richardson will have more luck if he putters on stage aboard an electric Vespa while Tupac's "California Love" thumps in the background. Ya know, to capture that elusive 30-and-under renewable energy "Thug Life" tattoo voting demographic.

Richardson has a tough act to follow after last night's Leno lineup of Cameron Diaz, Nelly Furtado and a 6-year-old piano prodigy. The Guv will be sharing the stage tonight with "Julie Scardina and Sea World Animals" and special musical guest Miranda Lambert. "Miranda who now?" you ask. Pssshhh. Apparently you weren't one of the 324 people who tuned into that season of Nashville Star. But her latest single ("Famous in a Small Town") has a certain a propos poignancy for Richardson. Let's just hope he doesn't get up-staged by Shamu and friends.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Why Bill Was Right to Oppose Birth Certificates for Stillbirths

If Richardson wants the vote of the majority of Americans, who are pro-choice, then he needs to be consistent in his support of reproductive rights. That's why his decision on this seemingly-uncontroversial bill was particularly astute.

If it makes grieving women feel better, then why not just issue the certificates? Well, because we have to weigh the comfort some women may receive from the certificate against the rights of all women. Requiring state-issued birth certificates for stillborn fetuses is a vital part of the anti-choice movement’s strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade by slowly and systematically assigning to fetuses rights that supercede the rights of women.

In the Roe v. Wade decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a fetus is not a “person,” unlike the grown person whose body is hosting the fetus. It should make perfect sense that a woman is entitled to protection under the 14th Amendment, whereas a fertilized egg is not, and that we cannot take rights away from women simply because they have the fortune (or misfortune) of getting pregnant. Unfortunately, all that information is just blah blah blah when mainstream media focus on the heartbreak of stillbirth, quoting grieving women who want birth certificates to acknowlege their loss.

Yes, it is miserably heartbreaking to lose a child, but it’s also a misery to be forced to have a child against your will. And that’s where this whole birth-certificates-for-stillborns thing is going.

According to National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy, “…If they can convince the Supreme Court that ‘times have changed’ since Roe was decided and that a fetus should now be recognized as a "person" under the Constitution, then abortion would immediately become an act of murder in every state across the country. …And once a fetus is considered a "person" under the U.S. Constitution, no legislation, no ballot measure, no court case, no vote will be able to keep abortion legal in this country."

In the effort to overturn Roe by establishing the fetus as a person, anti-choice activists have been pushing all kinds of laws, on state and federal levels, that attempt to give rights to fetuses, while infringing on the rights of women. Gandy cites several examples:

1) The Bush administration added new regulations to the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) in 2002 that classified a fertilized egg as an "unborn child" eligible for health insurance. They said the change was needed to cover prenatal care — but it was really just "cover" for another fetal personhood initiative. (In fact, the Clinton administration had covered prenatal care under S-CHIP without regulations establishing that an embryo is a child.) The same year, Bush told the Advisory Commission on Human Research Protections (under the Department of Health and Human Services) in 2002 to consider embryos as "human subjects."

2) In 2004, Bush signed into law the so-called "Unborn Victims Of Violence Act," which amended federal criminal laws to create a second, separate offense for killing or injuring a "child in utero," thus transforming even a fertilized egg or zygote into a child — a person — under that federal law. Although the stated purpose was to protect pregnant women from violence, conservatives in Congress quickly killed a substitute that would have doubled the penalty for any crime against a pregnant woman. This law covers only crimes committed on federal land, so it has limited actual application — it's just another step in the march toward fetal personhood.

3) Prosecutors across the country are using child abuse and neglect statutes to criminally charge women for actions that potentially harm the fetus, claiming for example that pregnant women were "delivering" drugs to "minor children" through their umbilical cords.

4) In 2005 and 2006, three bills were introduced in Congress that would severely punish doctors unless they tell women seeking abortions (contrary to medical knowledge) that "your unborn child" will feel pain in "the process of being killed in an abortion," offer her anesthesia for the fetus, and get a signed statement that she received the information. This so-called "fetal pain" bill was narrowly defeated in the closing days of the 109th Congress, but is already on tap for the 110th.

“Taken together with the appointments of two anti-woman Supreme Court Justices and several anti-woman chiefs and advisors to key entities such as the Department of Health and Human Services and the FDA Advisory Panel on Women's Health,” Gandy says, “these affronts to women's rights comprise a substantial undertaking—an organized effort to supply the Supreme Court with an abundance of references for an argument that fetal personhood should be legally recognized. Every state and federal measure that calls embryos and fetuses ‘children,’ unborn or otherwise, is a resource in the right-wing's ‘Roe-Be-Gone’ reservoir, waiting to be tapped. I'll say it again: Don't be chastened by those who say ‘it's just semantics.’ Words matter in the law, and in the case of fetal personhood, they may matter a lot more than you think.”

For a complete analysis of fetal personhood, check out the writings of Joyce Allen, a Canadian pro-choice writer and publisher.
(posted by Gwyneth Doland)

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Bill's new ad

I gotta say, I think this was a good move on their part. I'd much rather see a clever ad than a didactic one, and Richardson is not a great speaker, so this ad, in which he's mute, works on several levels.

Richardson under attack

While most people agree Richardson doesn't have a shot at becoming president (most people I talk to, anyway), he's still under attack. This group is targeting Richardson for vetoeing a bill that would have given birth certificates to mothers whose babies had died stillborn.