Lifting the Digital Curtain: an NN Pepsi Challenge

( – promoted by navajo)

Pepsi Challenge Grant Lifting the Digital Curtain

Many communities across the United States, especially rural communities and communities of color, live behind a digital divide. They don’t have access to the same online organizing tools as urban white upper and middle class neighborhoods. And, at the same time, progressives find it difficult to engage the under-served.

Each year, at Netroots Nation, bloggers bemoan the fact that too few people of color are included or heard. We reach out again and again to the blogging world to recruit African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and other people of color. And each year we fall short of the mark because we cannot find the activists we seek in sufficient numbers among bloggers.

I have a different kind of idea. Let’s help leaders of community health coalitions attend Netroots Nation to introduce them to online organizing tools. More below the jump:

Communities Joined in Action is a national alliance of community health coalitions working to end disparities in health care. CJA believes health care is a Civil Rights issue and it works to create Civil Rights facts on the ground by teaching coalitions in underserved communities to use the Affordable Care Act and other tools to insure access to quality health care among the poor, people of color, the homeless and other hard-to-reach populations.

This year, we have created a Marketing and New Media Committee dedicated to teaching coalitions to build power through community organizing, and to make use of online organizing tools. We have submitted a Pepsi Challenge Grant to bring 24 coalition participants to Netroots Nation in Providence, RI to caucus with bloggers and to learn on and offline organizing techniques.

IMG_6069Last year, I brought three colleagues from Rio Arriba County in Northern New Mexico, to Netroots Nation in Minneapolis. (Here I am with David Trujillo after a long day of flying. Photo Credit to navajo.) We attended the Native American and Latino Caucuses as well as workshops in community organizing, messaging, online tools, etc. Since then, we have hired a Public Information Officer, revamped our County and health council websites, even including a blog so that we can communicate directly with the public (unmediated by our Fox-like local paper).

In a week and a half, mindoca is coming to Rio Arriba County to teach a team of us to use (and teach others to use) new media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs. She’s going to teach us to incorporate their use into advocacy campaigns, marketing of our website and blog, community strengthening activities and legislative action. Mindoca also came out to the annual CJA conference in Washington DC where she trained coalitions to use online tools in their organizing efforts, and to organize to build community power.

We want to come back to NN this year and we want to bring colleagues from other communities of color with us. We want to come back in force.

I, TheFatLadySings, known to my non-blogging friends as Lauren Reichelt, have been tapped to chair this new CJA Marketing and New Media committee. I have submitted a Pepsi Challenge Grant for $50,000 to help Communities Joined in Action to bring a large CJA delegation to NN 2012. And I will help CJA to develop webinars to teach community coalitions across the US to use some of these tools.

We need your help. Specifically, we need you to promote and vote for our grant application.  Go to refresheverything and sign up for an account with Pepsi. Then go to Lifting the Digital Curtain and vote for us. You can vote five times a day. We certainly hope you will vote all five times for us!

IMG_6216If funded, our grant will also send two members of Native American Netroots who would not otherwise be able to go, to Providence. And NAN will help Communities Joined in Action to recruit Native American Coalitions as members. (This is navajo’s photo of navajo, meteor blades, Lucia Sanchez and Raymond Ortiz at the NAN caucus last year.)

We hope to see you at Providence. We hope to be able to tell you there about the many wonderful facets of the Affordable Care Act that are helping us to eliminate health disparities. And we hope to learn from you to use online tools to register and mobilize our communities to vote.

Help us to help you by voting for: Lifting the Digital Curtain

And tell a friend.

We need diarists to help us promote this cause every day in December. Sign up for a day in the comment thread below.

Anonymous’ Attack on Drug Cartel Benefits Youth in my County

( – promoted by Meteor Blades)

The Houston Chronicle reports that the ubiquitous hacktivist (dis)organization Anonymous is celebrating Halloween by threatening to expose the members of Zetas, one of the most powerful drug cartels in Mexico.

My little county, Rio Arriba, in northern New Mexico, has long been overrun by drugs because of this cartel. The guys on the left are not drug kingpins. They are ranchers. And they are seriously put out with the cartels.

Rio Arriba County suffers the highest heroin and polydrug overdose death rates in the US. A few months ago, a beautiful local mountain lake was befouled when a plane flying low to avoid being detected by radar crashed into it, spewing cocaine, fuel, and bodyparts into the water. Nobody knows who was in the plane.

Our rural Hispanic and Native American youth are being systematically plied with drugs by Mexican and Californian gangs to entice them to become mules. We have watched our teen drinking rate creep upward. Children as young as 12 are now addicted to heroin.

I couldn’t be happier that Anonymous has taken on the cartel. However, I wonder if bloggers everywhere will suddenly find themselves targets in a new kind of war. I know how quickly those kinds of wars can sneak up on you.

Anonymous produced the video embedded below, which may contain language some viewers find offensive. I can’t provide a transcript and I can’t translate because I don’t speak fluent Spanish. But I enjoy almost anything Anonymous produces, especially when they are taking on one of the biggest, most ruthless armies in the world; even more so if that army has been plaguing my state and county more virulently than the Bubonic variety which kills a few people each year out here.

Back in the Clinton days, before the rest of the country had heard of a border fence, Senator Pete Domenici and the Department of Justice rolled into our community with helicopters, HIDTA designations and law enforcement personnel of every stripe and color to remove the local outlets of the Mexican cartels. It was like an occupation but not the hashtag kind.

Press swooped in from all over the nation. The Drug Czar came to town to inform us we needed to support his War On Drugs in South America which we were winning, because otherwise Spanish-speaking countries including Rio Arriba would fall to cartels like dominoes. The solution to Rio Arriba’s problems was the construction of a border fence.

My friends and I organized marches and hearings and interfaith services to alert the world to our need for better schools, doctors and substance abuse treatment. We had no idea why the Feds were babbling about a giant fence. “Addiction is an epidemic!” we shouted to anyone who would listen. In the midst of the ensuing maelstrom, I found myself debating Gary Johnson (then Governor) on public television. (He wanted to legalize drugs and close down treatment centers. My colleagues and I wanted to decriminalize drugs and build more treatment centers.) I was startled one day when producers from 60 Minutes showed up at my house to ask for an interview.

Hey! We were just a sleepy little town before we became the poster community for the War on Drugs!

I answered the door in my green Espanola Farmers’ Market apron, armed with a greasy spatula. I had been flipping latkes. “Are you taking a randomized poll?” I asked them, mystified by their presence. “Or did I win some sort of lottery?”

Actually, we were the canaries in the proverbial coal mine.

A few days ago, Huffpo cited a UN report stating that criminal proceeds amounted to over $2.6 trillion in 2009, 3.6% of the world’s gross domestic product. More than 2.5% of the world’s GDP was laundered through our esteemed financial institutions according to the report (all the more reason to #occupy the mierda out of those pinche cabrones!) Only 1% of that money is ever recovered. The rest contributes to bankers’ profits.

And the particular products marketed by the cartels (in collusion with our financial institutions) are domestically and internationally gross. Because it is traffic in drugs, guns, and sex slaves. It is fueled by and fuels our incessant parade of wars and terrorism. It is definitely not democratic. It has not been stopped by military action. It can’t be stopped by military action. The military simply ends up paying bribes.

ICE estimates that anywhere between $19 billion and $29 billion annually flows between Mexico and the US to fund cartels. Chellis Glendinning wrote about it in her book, Chiva: A Village Takes on the Global Heroin Trade. (Check it out! I’m in the last chapter where she talks about people who are doing something!)

David Luna, US Director for Anti-Crime Programs recently stated at a conference in Thailand:

“Increasingly sophisticated and organized webs of crime and corruption fuel greater insecurity, instability, and subversion across our economies, threaten our communities, and imperil the health and safety of our people.”


According to the Houston Chronicle, Anonymous produced this video after one of their members was kidnapped by Zetas during a protest in Veracruz Province. Anonymous is warning Zetas to release the hacker unharmed or face exposure of every corrupt government official, policeman, journalist and business associated with the cartel. Exposed individuals would risk almost certain execution by rival cartels.

“You made a huge mistake by taking one of us. Release him,” says a masked man in a video posted online on behalf of the group, Anonymous.

“We cannot defend ourselves with a weapon … but we can do this with their cars, homes, bars, brothels and everything else in their possession,” says the man, who is wearing a suit and tie.

“It won’t be difficult; we all know who they are and where they are located,” says the man, who underlines the group’s international ties by speaking Spanish with the accent of a Spaniard while using Mexican slang.

He also implies that the group will expose mainstream journalists who are somehow in cahoots with the Zetas by writing negative articles about the military, the country’s biggest fist in the drug war.

“We demand his release,” says the Anonymous spokesman, who is wearing a mask like the one worn by the shadowy revolutionary character in the movie V for Vendetta, which came out in 2006. “If anything happens to him, you sons of (expletive) will always remember this upcoming November 5.”

The United States Army has not been able to win its War on Drugs. Not in South America. Not in Mexico. Not in Afghanistan. Not in Rio Arriba County. But I think Anonymous can. I think it would be absolutely fantastic if Anonymous obliterated this abominable organization by shining a light on its collaborators. Because that’s what all these cockroaches need to fester. Darkness. They hide under rocks. Drug lords, corrupt judges, lobbyists, mob lawyers, corrupt government officials, banksters, and corrupt police run from the light of day.

The violence that may potentially ensue from Anonymous’ latest blow for democracy would be savage. And it would conceivably draw the entire blogging world into its maw.

Still, a world without Zetas’ kidnappings, beheadings, drugs and terror is a world worth imagining. Imagine a world in which students at our middle school were not afraid to ride the school bus! Imagine a world in which my friend’s 9-year-old daughter had never been murdered by a burglar trying to steal her medical syringes! Imagine a world in which my colleague’s 17 year-old son had not died suddenly of an overdose!

Can an unarmed bunch of geeks defeat one of the most powerful private armies in the world?

I hope so.


photo credit: Aaron Huey

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Help Defeat Cannon AFB’s War on Northern NM

Fifty years after Eisenhower’s famous warning to beware the growing power of the military-industrial complex, speaker after speaker at a public hearing in Santa Fe, NM, suggested that Cannon Air Force Base has committed acts of war against rural tribes and counties in New Mexico and should be shut down.

PhotobucketAt issue was Cannon’s plan to expand its Low Altitude Tactical Navigation (LATN) site to include 21 southern and eastern Colorado counties and 17 eastern and northern New Mexico counties. Affected tribes include the Jicarilla Apache, the Southern Ute and the Navajo. Several Pueblos are near the training zone as well including Ohkay Owinge, Taos, Santa Clara and San Idefonso.

And of course, my own county, Rio Arriba, which is home to several tribes and many Hispanic ranching families that predate the United States of America.

In order to train pilots for low-altitude night flight in Afghanistan, Cannon AFB will begin to conduct three five-hour missions per night (688 a year) in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado.

Planes to be flown include the MC-130J and CV-22 (the infamous Osprey). After receiving a great deal of public criticism, Cannon altered its original plan, excluding populated areas and commercial airspace in this draft. The wealthy and politically connected communities of Los Alamos and Santa Fe were exempted as was the town of Espanola, and the minimum flight requirement was raised from 200 feet above ground level to 300 feet. According to Cannon’s dubious Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI):

Approximately 10 percent of the training missions would be flown between 300 and 500 feet (ft) Above Ground Level (AGL), 40 percent between 500 and 999 ft AGL, and 50 percent between 1,000 and 3,000 ft AGL.

Amazingly, without offering any evidence, the FONSI states that wildlife, the local economy, structures, ranching, hunting/camping and culture will not be effected.

Look for the Draft FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impact) and alleged Environmental Assessment from which these quotes are taken at this site.

Most of the County of Rio Arriba, home to Hispanic ranching families pre-dating the United States, as well as the Jicarilla Apache reservation and the pueblos of Ohkay Owinge, Santa Clara and San Ildefonso, will be subjected to low level fights.

Many serious flaws have been pointed out in the Environmental Assessment at poorly publicized “community forums” (which should, in fact, be called “public hearings”). For example, the FONSI finds that wildlife will be unaffected by the flyovers even though the EA does not identify which wildlife inhabit the area or where they can be located in the fly-over zone.

The FONSI determines that the requirement to uphold environmental justice has been met:

Scoping comments expressed concerns about disproportionate effects on environmental justice populations. Twenty-one counties in Colorado are entirely or partially under the

proposed training area. Four of those counties have a higher percentage of minorities than the state as a whole and 17 of those counties have a lower percentage of minorities than the state. In New Mexico, 17 counties are entirely or partially under the proposed training area. Five of those counties have a higher percentage of minorities than the state as a whole and 12 counties have a lower percentage of minorities than the state. Similar conditions exist for low-income and youth populations. The Proposed Action would not have disproportionate effects to minorities, low income, or youth populations under the proposed training area.

Since the purpose of the exercises is to train pilots to fly extremely close to the ground over mountainous terrain, it is unlikely that all areas of the proposed training ground will be equally affected by very low flights. More low flights are likely to occur over mountain passes and in rugged terrain than in flat areas. Native American Tribes such as the Ute, the Jicarilla Apache, Navajos and the Pueblos live in these areas as do many indigenous Hispanic ranchers. Rugged remote counties are also poorer and more heavily Hispanic, especially in New Mexico and southern Colorado. Moreover, elk, deer and other wildlife are also concentrated in these areas. It is unlikely that a large airplane flying 300 feet above a herd of any kind will not affect it. And the centuries-old adobe dwellings ubiquitous in northern New Mexico are unlikely to withstand damage from noise and vibrations in the same manner as the modern steel, brick and cement architecture tested for overflight in the “Environmental Assessment.”

I made remarks at the hearing in Santa Fe because the one in Espanola (in Rio Arriba County), which is closest to Hispanic ranchers and Native American tribes, was so poorly advertised that few people knew about it. I heard about it at the last minute thanks to a NAN blogger, Los Anjales. Carol Miller of the Peaceful Skies Coalition had alerted almost all of the people in attendance in Espanola. The only Air Force notification was a teeny advertisement buried deep within the B section of the local paper in four point font.

PhotobucketOne of the changes proposed in this draft as a result of public criticism is that Native American Tribes will now be able to prevent flyovers of important ceremonies by calling up the Air Force to tell them where and when the ceremony will be held. This proposal strikes me as preposterously insulting. Most of the tribes in our area do not tell one another where their ceremonies will be held, and would certainly not have an interest in informing the military that confined them to reservations in the first place.

Ranchers will also be allowed to call the Air Force to report where and when important activities such as branding, calving and shearing will occur. This fanciful suggestion is equally preposterous. It assumes that ranchers can predict without disruption caused by weather and other exigencies, where and when the event will occur. It also assumes they will have phone service and time to place the call.

Two county representatives (a commissioner from Santa Fe County and I) pointed out that Ospreys are prone to crashes, and that remote rural counties do not have HAZMAT capacity to respond to a crash. Moreover, some of you may remember my blog posts this summer about the Las Conchas fire, which spread to over 400,000 acres in a few days. That fire was caused by a downed power line, and required three Type 1 Emergency Response teams to contain its spread.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the process, in my opinion, is that all comments on the sham Environmental Assessment and FONSI are to be sent to Cannon Air Force Base which will make the final decision. Since the Environmental Assessment is a joke, the FONSI is completely unsubstantiated and the public notification process has been non-existent, I don’t see why we should believe administrators at Cannon Air Force Base will listen to comments by politically unconnected minorities.

Unless of course, those minorities dream up a great strategy for making themselves heard. Here is my suggestion for just such a strategy.

How You Can Help

Soon, the twelve members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction will be meeting to identify deep cuts to the military. In May of 2005, Canon AFB was recommended for closure by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. The decision was reversed after people in Northern New Mexico circulated petitions on behalf of the base. Many individuals now regret their activism.

I am recommending that NAN members (and their relatives and friends) submit letters to members of the Super Committee requesting the closure of Cannon Air Force Base. Each training flight costs $11,000 which could be used to fund schools, fire departments, police, health care and other services. The letter should be copied and submitted as a comment to Cannon Air Force Base. I will provide you with all the relevant contact info and a letter template below.

Senator Patty Murray D-WA, Committee Co-Chair Phone: (202) 224-2621 Fax: (202) 224-0238

Senator Max Baucus D-MT Phone: (202) 224-2651 Fax: (202) 224-9412  

Senator John Kerry, D-MA Phone: (202) 224-2742 Fax: (202) 224-8525

Senator Jon Kyl, R-AZ Phone: (202) 224-4521 Fax: (202) 224-2207

Senator Rob Portman, R-OH Phone: 202-224-3353 Fax: 202-224-9075

Senator Pat Toomey, R-PA Phone:(202) 224-4254 Fax: (202) 228-0284

Representative Jeb Hensarling R-TX, Committee Co-Chair (You must include a zip code in his district. Here are a few you can use: 75030, 75032, 75041, 75043, 75047, 75049, 75088, 75103, 75114) Phone: Phone: (202) 225-3484 Fax: (202) 226-4888

Representative Xavier Becerra, D-CA Phone: (202) 225-6235 Fax: 202-225-2202

Representative Fred Upton, R-MI Phone: (202) 225-3761 Fax: (202) 225-4986

Representative Dave Camp, R-MI (You will need a zipcode in his district to email him. Try this one: 49654.) Phone: (202) 225-3561 Fax: (202) 225-9679

Representative James Clyburn, D-NC (You will need a zipcode in his district to email him. Try one of these: 29403, 29590, 29052.) Phone: (202)225-3315 Fax: (202)225-2313

Representative Chris Van Hollen, D-MD (You will need a zipcode in his district to email him. Try one of these: 20837, 20841.) Phone: (202) 225-5341 Fax: (202) 225-0375

Here is some sample text you can use:

In 2005, the people of New Mexico including many Native Americans and rural Hispanics petitioned to keep Cannon Air Force Base open. In return, Cannon AFB has singled out poor and minority communities for ongoing night low altitude training flights, threatening homes, wildlife, and the local economy.

The Founding Fathers fought the revolution because they believed Britain’s standing army was a form of tyranny. Requiring Native Americans to report their ceremonies to the USAF to avoid flyovers is an act of war against Native Americans. Low level flyovers of peoples’ communities is also an act of war. Only our Congressional Representatives may declare war.

Many of the people in the flight path have already experienced high intensity wildfires that have rapidly burned hundreds of thousands of acres. County governments in the impacted area do not have HAZMAT capability to respond to a plane crash or in-flight fueling disaster; and the dryness of the forest poses a severe fire hazard. Cannon AFB’s proposed activity presents a serious threat to the lives and livelihood of its neighbors.

Moreover, the alleged environmental assessment conducted by Cannon AFB was incompetent, with huge gaps in data and unscientific “findings;” nor were communities in the flight path adequately informed public hearings.

Each flyover costs the federal government $11,000 per hour, almost the amount of a full-time annual salary in rural Rio Arriba County. This is money that could be used to improve the schools, emergency response, roads and fire fighting capabilities of the threatened communities. I strongly urge you to close Cannon AFB and redirect this funding to basic human services.

Thank you for your attention.

Submit copies of all your letters as public comment before November 5 to the Cannon AFB Public Comment site.

For more information, contact The Peaceful Skies Coalition.

Bringing Rural Minorities into the Netroots Fold

( – promoted by navajo)

I live in rural Rio Arriba County in the mountains of northern New Mexico. While my community covers a geographic area the size of Massachusetts, there are only 40,000 residents. Seventy percent are Hispanics who arrived in New Mexico in the 17th century. Eighteen percent are Native Americans: two pueblos and an Apache Reservation.

It is important for rural minorities to be able to tell and control their own stories. The self-told story is a first step in healing the wounds of oppression. Mastery and control of the medium, be it printing press, teevee or web, is an important first step.

Rural minorities are badly underrepresented among the Netroots, and, for good reason. The tools of the trade (high speed internet access, connectivity, computers, servers, fiber optic, etc.) are often unavailable in the communities where they live.

Try owning an iPhone in Rio Arriba County! The phone might be cool but it doesn’t do you any good if it doesn’t connect to anything.

But besides the issue of not-so-handy gadgets, it is difficult to attract Native Americans and Hispanics in my community to the web because the tools, which might seem difficult to acquire initially, don’t appear to be immediately useful. Why bother to learn to surf the web when there is no dialogue on it about issues that are meaningful to you?

Why learn to use twitter if you don’t want to know what Madonna ate for lunch, which word Sarah Palin is going to misspell today, or who Snooki is doing ? A chat room allowing me to partner with my neighbor to buy and divide up a cow from a local rancher might have more application.

I am lucky. Several years ago, my bosses decided that my nocturnal internet habit is a useful way to educate policy makers and the public at large about issues that matter in Rio Arriba, and they have encouraged me to pursue my eccentric habit. For a few years, I have been sending links to a listserve of my New Mexico friends who otherwise wouldn’t follow blogs.

Recently, I’ve been trying a new tactic. Our Rio Arriba Community Health Council created a website with multiple functions that I hope will prove useful enough to prompt people to try them out. But just in case that doesn’t work, I am resorting to annoying tricks.

Barry Geller, who created the site, has included an online resource directory for our member organizations, a community calendar and a blog. So far, all the blog entries are my own. I have been showing people how to read and comment. Soon, the council will find a volunteer to post their own diary.

We live in a one newspaper town. Most of the non-profits and local residents complain that the newspaper won’t write about anything positive that they do. I see blogs as a way to change that.

I posted a photo-diary on the blog about a health council event and sent out links so people could see their photos. I walked into the office of our county commission chairman, showed him how to set up an account, and refused to leave until he posted a comment.

Now I am trying another strategy. Barry partnered with the Greater Espanola Valley Community Development Corporation (GEVCDC) to create a wonderful app, enabling council and CDC members to work on collaborative writing projects such as positions statements and funding proposals. If somebody wants to participate in a collaborative health council grant, they have to do it through the CDC forum (which is open only to council and CDC members).

I tried to use video-conferencing equipment to demonstrate use of the forum a few months ago at our health council meeting. That didn’t work out very well since we couldn’t get the equipment to function. I felt pretty dumb. I am hoping that my own ineptitude with some of our tools and equipment makes it less intimidating for others to try. But I don’t know. Maybe it just wastes their time.

Whatever. We tried it again the next month and it worked very well..

Initially, it was a migraine and a half to get anyone to use the forum! Some people had difficulty signing in. The staff member assigned to assist council members to use the CDC forum seemed to be devoting a great deal of energy to arguing with their IT guy over spreadsheets. After one especially heated argument involving multiple extensive fact-finding emails regarding the difficulties a particular member encountered while trying to sign in, it turned out that the member had used the password for some other account. Once project staff stopped bickering and we got the forum running and used it to write a proposal, it worked pretty well.

Now I’m trying a new and even more exciting project.  I would like to bring a group of Native Americans from local reservations to this year’s Netroots Nation.  I think I can help to subsidize their costs through my county budget, since they will be representing the county. But I may need additional help.

Anyone interested in talking about this?