Weekly Alibi

Moore the Upriser

No great moment comes without toil. As proof, before Michael Moore was introduced to an exuberant crowd of 7,500 people at The Pit on Sunday, he was subjected to a press conference with our local media. Just minutes, in fact, before Moore walked across the Pit floor to his podium, greeted by a sustained standing ovation, he had to contemplate this inane question from a local TV newsman: "Why do people like George W. Bush?"

Sporting a red UNM Lobos baseball hat and his trademark baggy jeans and sneakers, Moore, fatigued from a lingering case of bronchitis, made the most of the moment. "For the same reason they like Ferris Bueller," he said, referring to the 1986 film staring Matthew Broderick. "He never did his work in school and never got caught. (Bush) never worked a day in his life and then they made him president. Who wouldn't want that? That is so Ferris Bueller."

But while Moore knows how to deliver a punch line, his stated purpose on Sunday night was not to entertain the converts, but to penetrate the minds of the very few in the audience who might be considering a vote for independent candidate Ralph Nader. If there's one thing that gets under Moore's skin, it's Nader, and by proxy anybody willing to cast a vote for him this year. In fact, the first words Moore uttered at his press conference were "366 votes last time," referring to Democrat Al Gore's margin of victory. "I can't think of a more important place to be. I have a special message for my fellow Naderites tonight."

That special message, it turned out, could be summed up in four words: Vote Kerry, not Nader. But that's not to say Moore didn't ramble in various directions, covering a range of topics in the same way he edits his films – with humor, outrage and pathos seemingly all at once.

Naturally, the show featured Moore mocking the president as an ill-informed yokel. Like the way Republicans howl at the mention of Democrat John Kerry as a flip-flopper, this theme never seems to get old with Moore. He called President Bush's facial expressions during the first presidential debate, "Three Stooges doubletakes." He said Bush showed up for the 90-minute debate with five minutes of material. He ridiculed the president for referring to a rumor about the draft posted on the "Internets."

"Where's the second Internet?" Moore said. "I want that. Mine's too slow."

Moore joked about the draft at one point, then later spoke on the topic soberly, saying: "Do the math. They have run out of troops. I'm telling you right now, Bush, if elected, is going to bring back the draft."

He asked if there were any Republicans in the house. To the few faint claps, Moore said, "Welcome, we admire you." Then he proceeded to explain why, calling Bush's supporters relentless, organized and well-funded. "You operate like sharks that never stop moving. You're up at dawn trying to figure out what minority group shouldn't be allowed to marry," he said.

From there Moore screened a series of mocking, and at times hilarious, faux campaign ads that highlighted the military service records of Bush and Kerry.

He talked about Fox News, pharmaceutical companies (the subject of his next movie) and Richard Nixon, to name a few.

Moore then segued into another video presentation, this time a five-minute clip of President Bush addressing the media following his interview with the 9/11 Commission. Moore set up the scene saying Bush opposed formation of the commission, refused to testify under oath, insisted he and Dick Cheney appear together and refused to allow the session to be recorded, transcribed or witnessed by the media. Then he showed the press conference, an unfiltered clip of Bush's inarticulate stonewalling, and Moore lamented that the press conference got little attention from the network news.

Then, as he was about to begin reading from his new book, "Will They Ever Trust Us Again? Letters From the War Zone," a compilation of letters and e-mails from troops in Iraq and their families in the United States, a genuine slacker uprising from the audience interrupted Moore. A young woman challenged his support for Kerry, calling him a pro-war, pro-Patriot Act candidate. She heckled her theme loudly, without restraint, for several minutes. Her persistence inflamed Moore to the point he was yelling in the microphone: "Bush must go! What part of that don't you get?" Moore said Nader won a moral victory in 2000 by forcing the 2004 Democratic primary to veer away from Gore's conservative leanings and toward a more progressive agenda. He said Nader should "accept that victory and go home." He pleaded with the woman "to vote with us just this once and we'll all be on Kerry's ass Nov. 3, just for you." The woman was not swayed, nor deterred. She kept shouting her opposition to Kerry, and Moore kept firing back. He accused Nader voters of selfishness, of wanting to feel good about themselves, while ignoring the plight of troops in Iraq. He scorned Nader as an egotist. "It's all about Ralph," Moore said. "I'm so fucking sick of it right now," and he threw his pen on the podium.

The confrontation, however, dissolved into another playful skit as Moore's volunteers passed out bags of Ramen and underwear to slackers who didn't vote four years ago, but vowed to vote for Kerry this year.

After the show, Adam Hernandez, 42, a father, and one-half of a politically mixed marriage, said this year marks the first time in his life a political yard sign stands in front of his house. He said he's a moderate Democrat, his wife of 12 years is a Republican and still undecided, and they usually keep their political viewpoints to themselves. "This is such a big deal," Hernandez said. "The Iraq war pisses me off, but Bush is also bad on the environment and he's secretive."

Mario Trujillo, a 19-year-old TVI student, said he registered to vote on the day he turned 18. He said he wasn't worried about the draft, because he planned to join the Air Force after college. "But I don't want to go on a mission where I question its purpose," Trujillo said. "You can find anywhere on the corner somebody willing to die for our country. But we've been misled into believing the war in Iraq was necessary. Our freedom isn't in danger. Compared to other countries, we've got it made.

Bush Gets Punked at the Sunshine

You may not want to believe it, but George W. Bush has some strengths. As he told us four years ago, he is a uniter, not a divider. The truth of that statement was more than apparent last Friday, when over 700 punk rockers converged on the Sunshine Theater for the fist-pumping, crowd surfing and political networking that was the Rock Against Bush tour.

"It speaks to how much we dislike Bush," said Toby Jegg, co-founder of PunkVoter.org, "that punk rockers have organized."

After failing to take a political stance with their (sometimes sizeable) audiences before the last presidential election, many formerly apolitical bands did an about face as events unfolded over the next few years. Jegg explained, "They saw this nut (G.W.B.) on TV and said, ’Whoa, this is like letting a 4-year-old drive a car.' Somebody's gotta do something! We realized it was our obligation to speak out."

So Jegg and Fat Mike Burnett from NoFX formed PunkVoter.org to make political leverage out of the cultural weight musicians wield. PunkVoter soon counted more than 200 of the nation's best known punk bands as members, and they began a full-scale media assault against the Bush administration.

They produced two compilation CD/DVDs ("Rock Against Bush" Volumes I & II), featuring documentary clips, which have now sold over 500,000 copies. They launched an ad campaign comparing the two presidential candidates and endorsing John Kerry for president.

"We've spent over $200,000 in battleground states," says Scott Goodstein of Punk Voter. All of the ads have been placed in the alternative press (including the Alibi) to reach their target audience, Goodstein said.

PunkVoter.org registered over 10,000 new voters on their last tour, and this time they have an even broader goal in mind. "We want to educate, to make sure young voters are getting some factual information," Goodstein said. "We want to challenge (them) to take action and read more, look into alternative news sources, and as Jello Biafra would say, ’become the media.'"

So they invited guest lecturers to speak at their concerts. International labor leaders, peace activists and documentary filmmakers have all shared the stage with the musicians. Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA), who has told young crowds that the likelihood of a draft in a second Bush administration "is almost a certainty," and women's rights leader Gloria Steinem have also addressed the raucous crowds. Goodstein said inviting the guest lecturers is a great way to introduce the audience to politics, and for them to hear about issues "from a credible source."

Unprecedented

When the Rock Against Bush tour bus rolled into Albuquerque, the five bands came accompanied by Richard Perez, director of the documentary "Unprecedented." Perez attended an afternoon screening of the film at UNM and was on hand, along with the drummer of Anti-Flag, to introduce his work and answer questions.

The movie was an unflinching deconstruction of how Bush was declared winner in 2000, and the kind of obstacles legal, legitimate voters had to face in the election. If anyone has any lingering suspicions that something was rotten in the state of Florida, "Unprecedented" will leave little doubt about what rotted and where. It is part of the "Rock Against Bush II" DVD.

Perez and three other panelists spoke with the audience for about an hour. They encouraged everyone to vote, and to join PunkVoter.org. Pat of Anti-Flag explained the groups main goal is to make a voter's league, 500,000 strong, that will be able to influence policy toward more progressive values like environmentalism, anti-militarism, women's rights and civil rights.

"George W. Bush and John Kerry will hopefully both be dead in 20 years," he said "We will not be." It is up to the younger generation, then, to fight for the world they are going to have to inhabit. "What we are doing here today is not about the election, and it's not about tomorrow. It's about 20 years in the future."

He pointed to the conservative movement as an example of successful long-term strategies for political power. "The conservatives started mobilizing in the '60s, and where are we now? We have a conservative majority in the House and Senate, conservatives in the White House. We need to start mobilizing today for a progressive majority."

The show

By 7 p.m. Friday evening the line for the concert stretched around the block. Punks were handing out fliers to other shows, others asked for spare change and cigarettes, and others registered people to vote. A woman dressed in stars and stripes bellbottoms waved a sparkly blue megaphone in the air. "Anyone here not registered? If you don't vote, it's all your fault!"

Leonard Lucero and Phillip Griego plan to vote. They are local musicians who have also been inspired to become more politically involved and outspoken since Bush took office. They're voting for Kerry because they've "seen what Bush is capable of" and find it "scary to think of four more years if he didn't have to worry about re-election." Brahm, a black clad lad from Santa Fe, said he's voting against Bush, because you "gotta beat the fascists!"

The bands collectively put on an energetic show that engaged the crowd. Many of them spoke between songs about the war in Iraq and Bush's policies. Anti-Flag was the most vocal. They masterfully interspersed music and message, working the crowd into a frenzy. "Everyone here is the death of the George Bush Nation. It's up to us to take this fucking country back!"

Although the tone was aggressive, the content of both lyrics and speeches was unquestionably pacifist. Song after song dealt with refusing to participate in war, and they repeatedly told the audience to take part in this election and in the life of their communities. At the end of the evening, they thanked everyone for "treating yourselves with respect, treating each other with respect, and taking care of each other." After the encore, the exhausted crowd shuffled out to "This Land is Your Land" blasting over the sound system.

Yet the positive attitude couldn't mask the other side to the evening's emotions. Everyone I talked to expressed fear of Bush's policies, fear of the war, fear of a looming draft, of media consolidation, loss of civil liberties and environmental degradation. Roxy, lead singer of the Epoxies, hopes that people "really understand what we're on the brink of. It's scary as hell. A lot of people are talking about going to Canada." At the same time, she said the Rock Against Bush tour has brought together people "gung-ho to do what they can," looking for ways they can make a difference in society.

Jesús of the Young Voter Alliance summed up the day's message before the screening of Unprecedented. "You don't have to change the world by yourself," he said. "You just have to take that one stand. That one stand you take will create a ripple of hope that will go out and touch the world. So take that stand today."

New Mexico Voter Information

Here are a few facts that may surprise you as you anticipate voting in this year's election.

1) If you haven't voted in the last two general elections, or any of the smaller elections in the last four years, your name most likely has been removed from the voter rolls and you need to register again.

2) If you have moved, you need to register again. To get a voter registration form, contact your County Clerk or any well-run campaign office.

3) If you are chomping at the bit to vote, you don't have to wait as long as you may think. Registered voters can cast their vote beginning on Oct. 16 at the County Clerk's office. You can vote using an absentee ballot at your County Clerk's office even if you have not applied for an absentee ballot. Their hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

4) Requests for absentee ballots are available online at www.sos.state.nm.us/Election/03Special/ABinfo.htm.

Big Dates

Oct. 5: The last day to register. Registrations must be in the County Clerk's office by 5 p.m. This is also the first day that absentee ballots are mailed to voters.

Oct. 16: Early voting begins. No statewide list of locations exists. If you call your County Clerk, they will be able to tell you the locations, including your County Clerk's office. Early voting happens on the following days (call the Bernalillo County Clerk at 768-4189 to confirm): Tuesday through Friday: noon to 8 p.m. Sat:urday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Oct. 28: Last day to request an absentee ballot.

Oct. 30: Last day for early voting.

Nov. 2: It's Election Day! Well, today is Election Day, the last of 23 days to cast a ballot. Absentee ballots must be in the County Clerk's office in their official mailing envelopes by 7 p.m.

Request Denied

Here's a recipe for some long-winded arguing. Start with concerns over voter fraud and disenfranchisement, mix in some partisanship and accusations of bureaucratic incompetence, add a team of Republican and Democratic lawyers and let cook in a Bernalillo County courtroom.

That was the backdrop last week for two days of legal wrangling that left Judge Robert L. Thompson "thinking out loud" at 5 p.m. on Friday about whether or not to require newly registered voters to show I.D. at the polls this election season.

"This could create a major incident in the orderly conduct of the elections," the judge said before recessing for the three-day Labor Day weekend.

After the court heard closing arguments on Tuesday, Judge Thompson announced he would deny the Republicans' request that all new voters registered by a third party be required to show I.D. at the polls.

"The process will remain the same," said Democratic Party lead attorney, Jon Boyd, "Voters will not have to prove entitlement to vote if they are properly registered."

In other words, the court ruled that only first-time voters who registered by mail will be required to show identification at the polls. Other first time registrants, including the tens of thousands who have been registered by a third party at concerts, movie theaters and shopping malls, will not have to show a valid I.D. on election day.

"It's mystifying," said Republican state Sen. Rod Adair, while passing out a Republican Party sponsored statewide poll indicating the public overwhelming supports all voters to show I.D. "The key thing going on here is the public wants fair elections."

Free and Open Elections

At the heart of the matter was a state law that went into effect on July 1, 2003, that says: "If (a voter registration) form is not submitted in person by the applicant and the applicant is registering for the first time in New Mexico, the applicant must submit with the form a copy of a current and valid photo identification, utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document that shows the name and address of the applicant; and if the applicant does not submit the required identification, he will be required to do so when he votes in person or absentee."

Seven plaintiffs, including Republican state Rep. Larry Larranaga and Steve Cabiedes, the Green Party candidate for Bernalillo County Clerk, signed a complaint alleging Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera and Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron have violated the plaintiffs' rights to a "free and open" election.

Republican attorney Pat Rogers, arguing on behalf of the plaintiffs, said the statute requires all newly registered voters who didn't register in-person at a county clerk's office to show I.D. at the polls or include a photocopied I.D. with an absentee ballot. The law is "crystal clear," Rogers told Judge Thompson.

However, the New Mexico Bureau of Elections, which operates under the secretary of state, notified county clerks across New Mexico months ago that only those residents who registered by mail will be required to show I.D. at the polls this year.

Since July 2003, more than 112,000 newly registered voters have been added to the voter polls in New Mexico, or more than 10 percent of the state electorate. Tens of thousands of these new voters were signed up by a third party organization such as Youth Voters Alliance, New Voters Project and Rock the Vote, whose workers hand delivered the tens of thousands of registration forms to the County Clerk's office this year. These forms were then labeled "walked-in."

Voter registration forms require a birth date, social security number, mailing address (P.O. Box doesn't count) and a signature to be accepted by the County Clerk, said Herrera. No form of photo I.D. is necessary unless the form arrives by mail, which requires a photocopied driver's license.

Once these requirements are met, newly registered voters should receive in the mail a voter registration card from the County Clerk office, which includes the poll location where the voter will cast a ballot on election day. Meanwhile, the registration form is transferred to the secretary of state's office, which crosschecks the social security number with the name listed. If the name and social security number don't match, the form will be invalidated and the registrant will be removed from the voting rolls, which eliminates the need for a photo I.D., said Herrera.

The County Clerk's office makes no distinction between a third party handing over voter registration forms and the actual individual whose name appears on the form. Either way, the form is stamped "walked in" – a procedure the Republicans strongly objected to, if I.D. is not required at the polls.

According to Denise Lamb, director of the state Bureau of Elections, it would have been impossible to review the newly registered voter applications to determine which ones were third party "walked ins" and which ones were not.

Rogers, however, argued that the third party method of registering first-time voters should not qualify as "in-person" and anyone registered by a third party should be required to show one form of documentation listed in the state statute when they go to the polls. He said that the state statute is "plain and unambiguous." Rogers also maintained that any voter required to show I.D., but who failed to do so, could fill out a "provisional ballot" at the polls, which would later be examined by an election official to determine its validity.

The Democratic attorneys, led by Mr. Boyd, said newly registered voters would be disenfranchised if the I.D. requirement was enacted, because many live in rural areas or have had an address change.

Sydney Henning, a recent UNM graduate and organizer with the Young Voters Alliance who protested outside the county courthouse, said she "adamantly opposed" the voter I.D. requirement and cited herself as an example why. She moved three months ago then re-registered to vote, but her driver's license doesn't reflect her new address.

"I could have stayed registered at my parents Northeast Heights residence, but I want to vote in my precinct, that represents my issues and interests," said Henning. "Voting is my passion and I don't want anyone taking that right away from me."

Henning said a voter I.D. requirement would potentially disenfranchise thousands of college students in a similar situation. "It will hit the campus hard," she said. "The voter drive on campus has been extremely successful. Our street canvas has brought in so many young people at concerts, movie theaters, everywhere and anywhere."

Joan Javier, of the New Voters Project, agreed with Henning, saying her organization registered over 14,000 student-aged, first time voters this year.

Partisanship

The Republicans complaint also states "plaintiffs are informed, are aware and are greatly concerned about the widespread prevalence of fraudulent registrations received by the Bernalillo County Clerk in anticipation of the Nov. 2, 2004 election."

The Democrats argued, in the end, that no evidence was submitted during two days of testimony to verify this claim. And at times, the partisan hostilities in the courtroom were palpable.

For example, when Rogers called Vigil-Giron to the stand, her testimony focused more on partisan campaign matters than clean elections. Rogers asked Vigil-Giron if she had given "large sums of money" to the John Kerry campaign, to which Vigil-Giron replied, "How do you define large?"

"Anything more than $3," answered Rogers. "And you're a Republican?" shot back Vigil-Giron, causing laughter in the courtroom. Vigil-Giron said she gave the Kerry campaign $500 this year.

In another exchange, Rogers asked, "Do you recall being called 'highly partisan' in the press?" To which Vigil-Giron replied, "Only by Republicans."

Voter Fraud

At the close of Friday's hearing, Rogers conceded that a small number of eligible voters would be wrongly turned away at the polls if the I.D. requirement was implemented, but said the number was negligible.

The Democratic Party attorneys argued for dismissal of the complaint on the counter-claim that no voter fraud or threat of voter fraud had been proven by the plaintiffs, and irregularities on voter registration cards submitted as evidence had been caught by the secretary of state's office.

The Democratic Party attorneys seemed to have effectively cast doubt over several examples of voter registration fraud cited by the plaintiffs.

For example, Rogers called Glenn Stout to testify, an APD officer who called the Albuquerque Journal several weeks ago after his 13-year-old son received a voter registration card in the mail. The Republican attorneys then added Stout to their plaintiff list after the media reported the incident.

In his sworn testimony, Stout said his son never filled out a voter registration form. When he checked the social security number on a police computer, it belonged to a 23-year-old man in Alamogordo, Stout said, adding that he was concerned that whoever filled out the form intended to vote fraudulently. Any act of voter fraud, including false registration, is a felony.

In cross-examination, attorney Jim Scarantino noted that the address on the 13-year-old boy's registration card was sent to a residence a block away, but still managed to arrive in Mr. Stout's mailbox. Scarantino then revealed a parent of a 15-year-old boy that lives across the street from Mr. Stout said her son also received a fake voter registration card in the mail.

When asked if the two boys played together, Mr. Stout said yes and then Scarantino said, "Isn't that an odd coincidence?," suggesting that the well-publicized story resulted from a teenage prank. Stout said his son would be in so much trouble if he had committed a prank that the threat alone would be enough of a deterrent.

Nonetheless, it was not clear how the voter registration came about and in the end Mr. Stout reported the problem to the County Clerk's office who removed the boy from the voting rolls. In an interview outside the courtroom, County Clerk Herrera said the boy's name and mismatched social security number would have been caught by the secretary of state's office, before final approval to vote was granted.

Another example of fraud cited by the plaintiffs involved Karlee Hall, who recently moved to Albuquerque from Silver City so her husband could attend UNM. She registered once at a Northeast Heights Albertson's and again a few months later at Hastings on Wyoming after she hadn't received a voter registration card in the mail.

In her testimony, Hall said she knew nothing about the complaint until her two voter registration cards turned up on the evening news two weeks ago. When she called KRQE News 13 to inquire who was behind her 15-minutes of fame (friends had seen her name on the news), the station told her to talk to the Bernalillo County Clerk's office, she said. When she contacted the Clerk's office, she was told only one of her registration forms had been turned in. "Only the media had two of them," said Hall.

Patricia West, another woman whose two, separate voter registration forms were included as evidence of voter fraud on the complaint, had a similar story. She registered at Albertson's and several weeks later again at Hastings. West testified she only received one voter registration card in the mail and was content that she was only registered at the County Clerk's office once.

Interestingly, both West and Hall said they thought the folks signing them up at these retail locations were representatives of the County Clerk's office. And neither could recall what third party group signed them up.

Still, Republican state Rep. Joe Thompson, co-counsel for the plaintiffs with Rogers and attorney David Garcia, said he believes there are far too many duplicates – people registering as much as five and six times – that aren't getting caught by the County Clerk's office, although the Republicans did not produce much evidence.

"When you have overzealous people that are not vigilant about following the law, there is a chance mistakes will be made," said Thompson referring to get-out-the-vote groups operating across the state. "The law addressed that, it was passed by the democratic Legislature and signed by a Democratic governor, and the secretary of state is brazenly ignoring it."

In the end, though, Judge Thompson said the "possible extraordinary and substantial injury to the public" that could arise if the voting process was altered in the weeks before voting begins outweighed the arguments presented by the plaintiffs.

"New Mexico is a very diverse, unique mixture of citizens, all of whom have a right to vote," Thompson said at the close of the hearing.

Road to Recovery

The world can break your heart when you least expect it. For Adan Carriaga that devastating moment happened in 1984 when a drunk driver killed his mother. From that day on, he made a decision to end his own destructive drinking habit and, in honor of his mother's memory, turn his anger into something positive.

Today Carriaga dedicates his livelihood to giving others a second chance to sober up before they take an innocent life. "I wanted to help people clean up and be responsible," he said.

Carriaga is the division manager of New Mexico's Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center's DWI Addiction Treatment Program. His goal and the goal of the program is to focus on the inmates' recovery rather than their incarceration. The program aims to help solve the drunk driving epidemic that plagues Bernalillo County. While it might only make a small dent in solving a large problem, officials and inmates at the center believe in its potential success.

The program began in 1997 with funds from the state Legislature, following a bill pushed by North Valley Rep. Rick Miera to address a lack of treatment for DWI offenders. Resolving the DWI problem in New Mexico has been Miera's passion since taking elected office more than a decade ago. Miera's commitment to fix the problem as a public servant stems from his clinical work at the UNM department of psychiatry, where he works with adolescents and their families who struggle with alcohol and drug abuse.

"When I got into the Legislature, one of the issues that was heavy in my mind was DWI, so what I was looking for were alternatives to sentencing," Miera said, "not sitting [in jail] for six months, looking out the window wishing you had a drink."

The bill pushed by Miera ultimately funded the metro jail DWI treatment program and encouraged alternative sentencing such as treatment and education in contrast to just serving time.

Funding for the program comes directly from the state liquor excise tax. As Carriaga puts it: "In a sense, these people are paying for their treatment before they ever get here."

The 28-day program has been at maximum enrollment since its inception, with nearly 200 prisoners participating at any given time. There are currently an average of 35 men and five women added to the waiting list each week. Despite the fact that it is the largest DWI program in the state, the demand for treatment, for now, far exceeds the supply of counselors and space at the facility.

Room Without a View

It is 3:00 p.m., and the women's pod is in lock down/quiet time. This is one of the few breaks prisoners (clients as they call them) get from participating in the detention center's 12-step rehab program. Instead of enjoying a brilliant Albuquerque afternoon, they are confined to a cell with several other women all battling their own addictions.

There are currently 54 women in the program, all locked up for repeat DWI offenses. The women are busy with group therapy, classes and homework from the time they awake at 5:00 a.m. to lights-out at 10:00 p.m. With the exception of the orange jumpsuits, most of them resemble dutiful college students, studying and resting when they can in their bunks. But instead of taking academic exams, the inmates have to pass tests of their sobriety, peer and self-evaluation, and the ultimate test: will power.

The goal of the rogram is not to point fingers at the already convicted and humiliated, but rather to offer guidance, self-reflection and addiction awareness.

In their free time they focus on the workbook, "How to Escape Your Prison." They are responsible for completing everything in their workbook that goes over the 12 steps to treatment, such as exercises in self-reflection and gaining knowledge about their addiction and the consequences of their actions. The work focuses on how they view themselves and has them look into their past. If they don't complete the program, they will have to take it over again as a condition of their release. Constant tests are taken to ensure that the clients remain clean, sober and committed.

Sally, the oldest of the three women, who looked like late 20s or early 30s, said she landed in the detention center after being influenced by "the wrong people." She has been in the program since Dec. 11, 2002, trying to kick an addiction to crystal meth. She said the program has helped her to express herself and open up. She realized things that she'd kept hidden. "I learned about my addiction. I never knew I had one."

Jane had only a week to complete the program the last time we met in April. She said treatment for her crack addiction had taught her many valuable lessons. "It has helped me to look at things I put my family through. It helped me to forgive myself and deal with things rather than just feeling numb. It helps me to recognize what triggers me."

Ann has been in the program for six months. "I never thought I had a problem (with alcohol). I realized there were addictive behaviors I used to perform. This program has taught me to look deep down in myself. It made me look at what I did to my family and how to deal with emotion, nervousness and anger."

The women said that they developed a strong relationship with the other women and that they feel like a close-knit family. They are aware that they are going to face challenging situations when they return to the outside world and that this treatment program is only the beginning of their recovery. The challenge is trying to stay clean and not returning to old friends and influences.

"When I turn 21, I'll be legal," said Ann. "It's two weeks until I'm released. That's why the fears are there, on the back burner."

The Men's Pod

There are twice as many men as women – 128 to be exact. The men seemed more hesitant to speak at first, but as the interview went on they became very candid about their feelings. Of the five men I spoke with, four were addicted to alcohol and one to heroin. Each said he had learned something valuable from the program.

"It brings out issues we have to deal with to maintain sobriety," said Alex.

All the men said they believed that adhering to a religious faith was imperative to maintaining sobriety. Carriaga said that because individuals believe differently, it is up to each client to define his or her spirituality. The treatment is about treating the mind, body and spirit, he said, in various forms. "We don't force anything down anyone's throat, you need to look into the eyes of the man or woman in the mirror and decide to change," Carriaga said.

The five men in the pod all talked about how hard it is for them to speak openly about their failings and insecurities, because society teaches them to repress their emotions. "We have to reveal things, it's painful," said one client.

It's Still Prison

The men and women at the center have visitation rights, but only behind a monitor. For security purposes and because of the possibility of inmates receiving drugs from their visitors, they aren't allowed to physically touch or be near their loved ones.

Despite these obstacles, the men praised the program. James said he's maintained sobriety for a year and a half. He admitted that he is short tempered and that the program helped him to recognize his personality traits. He said they all realize it's going to be a life-long struggle.

"The first time I came here I was angry," said Jim. "The program taught me I'm an alcoholic. It's given us the tools to change our lives."

"We've never had a program like this before," James said, alluding not just to time spent incarcerated, but to all of life's misadventures that ultimately brought these men together.

Dedication and Devotion

Michael Harrison, a clinical coordinator at the center who has worked in the field for 15 years, said the treatment program is beneficial because it focuses on peer evaluation.

An important aspect of the program is that it hands a lot of the authority to the clients. In other words, Harrison explained, clients evaluate each other and work with their peers just as much as, if not more than, they work with counselors.

"We put the responsibility of the environment on the client," said Harrison, who embodies the definition of tough love, adding, "Sometimes you have to go in there and bark."

The counselors, however, have little trouble connecting to the clients. They know what it's like to be on the opposite end of the spectrum. They have all battled addictions to drugs and/or alcohol.

Harrison said the most rewarding thing about his job is seeing people want to take responsibility for themselves. "All of us believe that people can change and that's why we do it. Locking people away is not the answer."

The struggles that Aurora Cata, a counselor in the women's pod, faces have as much to do with staff turnover as with meeting the rigorous demands of rehabilitating repeat DWI offenders. She said that the security staff keeps changing and are often moved to different areas of the center.

"We are constantly parenting and re-educating," said Cata, "when it is important for the clients to have consistency in their lives."

Pete Valencia, a substance abuse counselor for the Spanish-speaking groups, said that the most rewarding thing for him is the progress clients have made. "I've actually seen them on the outside and they'll come and say 'hi.' I tell them 'You make it that much easier for me to go to work.' They provide the results."

Officials for the treatment program don't have an outcome study done yet, and success and recidivism rates are not always easy to quantify. Harrison and Carriaga said that it is difficult to predict what directions the clients have taken or will take. Sometimes the person you'd least expect to succeed will make it, or vice-versa. Meanwhile, the program is not cheap, estimated at $730 per person for 28 days, but the counselors and directors say they are committed to keeping it alive.

DWI and the Future

According to police reports from Albuquerque Police Department traffic analysis center, there have been 2,443 DWI arrests from January to May for 2004. The number of traffic accidents involving drivers under the influence is 298 from January to April.

Despite no official outcome studies, Adan Carriaga said a positive change has happened since the program first went into existence. For example, according to New Mexico Department of Transportation and the Division of Government research, DWI fatality rates have declined since the program's inception in 1997. Of course, New Mexico still registers an alarming number of DWI arrests and fatalities each year.

The ever-present waiting list at the metro jail treatment program only proves that there is more work to be done to provide rehabilitation for the overflowing list of offenders. The treatment has made a visible impact on the clients behind bars, and as they re-enter the outside world after completing the metro jail treatment program, these men and women at least have a shot at a clean and sober future.

Register And Support Ralph?

Last week, folks passing by the UNM campus near Popejoy Hall had a chance to support Ralph Nader for president and register to vote at the same time, thanks to the hard working efforts of two women. To be sure, their purpose was colored in patriotism. Small, novelty store American flags were taped to nearby lamp posts and the card table that served as their base of operation sported a stars and stripes table cloth.

As pedestrians passed by, the women – one who sported spandex and big hair the likes you would otherwise not find on the Albuquerque campus, the other a possible stand-in for actress Kathy Bates – beseeched folks to sign-on to put "the independent Ralph Nader" on the ballot in New Mexico.

Noticing the petitioners were not handing out Nader brochures, pins, bumper stickers or information of any kind pertaining to his candidacy, Paul Suozzi, a UNM employee and supporter of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, said he "knew right away something fishy was going on." When Suozzi asked one of the petitioners if she was a Nader supporter the answer, he said, was no.

"They said they worked for a marketing firm with money coming from the Republican Party," Suozzi said. "I believe in forthright and frank presentation not this duplicity going on here."

According to UNM Student Services, last week a representative of Florida-based JSM Inc. – a marketing firm with known ties to GOP donors and consultants that specializes in gathering petition signatures – completed the "activity clearance form" to petition for Nader signatures on UNM's campus. At that time, the representative told Student Services' staff that she was working for the Republican Party.

According to a KUNM news report, another employee believed he was working for the Republican Party and admitted he hoped Nader's campaign would help George W. Bush get elected. However, JSM petitioners, who are also working at area Wal-Marts and in the Downtown area, are not divulging this information to the public unless asked.

JSM's petitioners are flown in from out of state, housed in local hotels and paid between $1 and $3 per signature, according to an employee seeking signatures in the Downtown area last week. The employee said he is nonpartisan and just doing his job.

Meanwhile, Kevin Zeese, Nader's campaign spokesman, said JSM's New Mexico petitioners are being paid solely by the Nader campaign. The company is only hired to collect signatures, he said, and petitioners are not supposed to talk to the media or pass along information about Nader's candidacy. Zeese added that the Nader campaign was not concerned about the party affiliations of these "professionals."

"I'm sure there is a mix of people that are being paid, and not all of them are Republicans," said Zeese. "We just want them to ask for signatures. The campaign will begin after Ralph gets on the ballot."

Zeese called the Albuquerque news reports "bizarre" that quoted JSM employees who said they supported Bush and worked for the GOP. And as of Friday, Aug. 13, Zeese said he had not spoken with Jenny Breslin, JSM's owner, about the matter. Breslin did not return Alibi phone calls and Zeese stated that the Nader campaign discourages her from talking to the press.

Zeese also said news reports about Republicans giving Nader financial support have been "amazingly exaggerated."

JSM in Nevada

A July 16 article in the Las Vegas Sun reported that Steve Wark, a Republican campaign consultant and former state party executive director, worked with JSM in Nevada to get Nader on the ballot. "Wark raised $30,000 – from friends and Republicans like the state party chairwoman – to pay for the signature-gathering effort for Nader," the article states.

Once Breslin arrived in Nevada she contacted Wark and told him to send the money to a nonprofit organization in Missouri, Choices For America, which then passed it on to JSM, the Sun reported. The petition drive worked after 20 JSM employees were flown into Nevada from California, earning as much as $3 per signature, after collecting more than 10,000.

The article also quotes Zeese saying that the Nader campaign paid JSM $15,000 for the Nevada petition drive. As for the idea that Republicans were also involved, Zeese said, "The more I think about the story, the less it makes sense."

While the Nader campaign's $15,000 does not add up to the total cost spent on JSM employees in Nevada, the total amount spent on petitioners is difficult to trace. Choices for America's nonprofit designation "is given to organizations that do social work and education, so it does not have to file federal campaign information," the Sun reported.

When the Alibi showed the Sun article to Carol Miller, Nader's New Mexico volunteer coordinator who ran for the Green Party presidential nomination earlier this year, she said, "It actually strikes me as a nonstory, there was not much there."

As for the New Mexico Republican Party, executive director Greg Graves said, "I don't know who these (JSM) folks are. We haven't had any contact with the Nader campaign."

Of course, New Mexicans should recall former GOP state party chair John Dendahl offered to hand-deliver $100,000 to the Green Party two years ago, hoping the money would fund a third candidate in the District One congressional race. Dendahl was upfront about his involvement in the plan (the Greens denied the offer), telling the Alibi at the time, "It's not a dirty trick, it's a new strategy."

Graves also said he didn't oppose the idea of citizens giving funds to more than one presidential candidate. "We need more money in the process," he said, "But I want the money to be raised and spent in an honest, open way."

Important Issues

When the Alibi attempted to interview the aforementioned women last week, one said she was just doing her job and wasn't allowed to talk to the media, while the other threatened to call the police if she was asked any questions or had her picture taken.

When asked if they were Nader supporters, one said "no," the other said "yes" and then the two briefly had a shrewish moment amongst themselves. They would not reveal their names, but said they worked for JSM and I would need to talk to "Jenny." When asked if JSM Inc. was financially backed by Bush supporters, one woman said yes and the other said no.

Right then, along came Colin Donoghue, a 24-year-old political science major. He was happy to sign the petition, because he said he thought there should be more than two choices on the ballot.

Donoghue, it turned out, has impeccable environmentalist credentials (co-chair of UNM Students for Clean Energy) and voted for Nader in 2000. But this year he said he supports Kerry. He blithely signed the petition anyway and went on his way, but, upon the Alibi's request, returned to ask the petitioner to explain if she was actually supporting George W. Bush.

"Go away," said the Bates look alike. And he did.

So why didn't he ask to have his name removed from the list?

"Well, I do want to support a third party, not the Republican Party," Donoghue said. "But I think it's a shame that the important issues are clouded in politics."

The Latest Poll

As it stands today, Republican President George W. Bush, Democrat Sen. John Kerry and Libertarian Michael Badnarik are the only names to appear on the Nov. 2 presidential ballot in New Mexico. (According to a Rasmussen Poll dated Aug. 5, Kerry led Bush and Badnarik by 50 percent to 43 percent to 5 percent statewide).

Carol Miller, though, said Nader has already gathered more than 25,000 signatures in New Mexico and plans to gather thousands more in the next two weeks. Nader must submit 14,527 signatures, which equals 3 percent of the votes cast in the 2002 gubernatorial election, to the Secretary of State's office by Sept. 7.

"Why would Republicans invest their money on petitions when we know we are going to have more than enough signatures in New Mexico?" she said.

Meanwhile, as of Friday, Aug. 13, Ralph Nader's name will appear as an independent candidate on ballots in New Jersey, Nevada, Arkansas and South Dakota. Of the four, all are swing states except South Dakota, which strongly supported Bush in 2000. Nader has also filed federal lawsuits in an attempt to get on the ballot as the Reform Party candidate in Michigan, Illinois and Texas.

According to the Associated Press in Michigan (another swing state), the majority of 50,000 signatures submitted on Nader's behalf came from the Michigan Republican Party.

All in all, Kevin Zeese said Nader hopes to be on the ballot in 47 states by the Nov. 2 election, having only given up on Georgia, Oklahoma and Indiana as of last week.

Conservative Conservationists are a Rare Breed

Question: How many Republican environmentalists can you fit into a van? Answer: All of them.

OK, there were two vans -- and not every Republican attending the first annual "Wilderness for Conservatives" conference in Albuquerque last month crammed into one of these two vans to go on the full-day field trip to Bandelier National Monument.

But, the point of the joke stands.

Environmentalist Republicans -- at least of the elected variety -- are not only rare these days, they've nearly become an oxymoron. But one point remains clear in the minds of folks running the national organization now headquartered in Albuquerque: It wasn't always that way.

Republicans for Environmental Protection, or REP America, was founded seven years ago by three women who decided they were going to reform the Republican Party's views on wilderness conservation.

In fact, the perception that "real Republican" and "real environmentalist" are incompatible in the same person is a perception common enough to warrant discussion on REP America's website.

A page on the site asks: "How do we answer those who believe that no 'real Republican' wants to protect the environment or believes in conservation?" The answer, the site says, is to "point with pride to the great GOP leaders of the past" who fought to establish "many of the policies we take for granted today."

Listed among the leaders are Teddy Roosevelt, "who established our unmatched system of wildlife refuges and national parks," Barry Goldwater, "the father of conservatism" and also a REP America member and Richard Nixon, who signed federal laws such as the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and established the Environmental Protection Agency.

Today the group has about 2,000 members across the country and 23 of those members traveled from Wisconsin, Missouri, Washington, California, Colorado and other states to attend the Wilderness for Conservatives conference in downtown Albuquerque last December (REP America's sister group, the REP Environmental Educational Foundation, to which donations are tax-deductible, was the prime mover behind organizing the conference.)

The organization also boasts 15 Republican members of Congress, but none from New Mexico. "I wouldn't expect that she wants to join us," said the group's president, Martha Marks, referring to Albuquerque congresswoman Heather Wilson, "I haven't seen any indication of that."

For now they'll have to settle for state Rep. Pauline Gubbels, of Albuquerque, former New Mexico Governor Dave Cargo, and District 6 City Councilor Hess Yntema.

About 14 of the 23 REP America members attending the conference hiked in Bandelier National Forest on Friday, Dec. 6. Others on the field trip were wilderness advocates of the nonpartisan and Democrat varieties -- and at least a few of us were anxious to observe up close, question, maybe even understand this rare bird: the self-proclaimed environmentalist Republican.

Along about midday, hiking out of Bandelier Canyon with the pack of Republicans -- some of whom carried backpacks with Sierra Club insignia, some of whom were speaking passionately on behalf of the value of public lands -- a conference speaker, himself not a Republican, quietly advised me, "You might want to press these people a little, find out if they really are Republicans."

At the conference the next day Jim Scarantino, former president of REP America's New Mexico Chapter and current chairman of the Coalition for New Mexico's Wilderness, bristled while recounting to the audience a moment when he was introduced to fellow wilderness advocates as, "a Republican, but not a real Republican," because he really did believe in protecting wilderness.

Books could be written on how and why environmental protection became a partisan issue, and most REP America members have theories on the matter. In fact, most REP America members at the conference were on the high side of 50 years and recall once voting for Republicans strong on environmental protection.

However, REP America as an organization doesn't dwell on why most of the Republican Party turned away from environmental protection in favor of promoting industry. Instead the group focuses on remembering that the party did turn away.

To a much greater degree than remembering the past, however, the group focuses on reform -- turning the elephant green, turning the elephant around, getting the Republican Party back to its conservationist roots -- however you want to phrase it. The only topic at the conference discussed with greater frequency than fond remembrances of Teddy Roosevelt was the assertion that conservation is part and parcel of a real conservative ideology.

As a group, REP America opposed the appointment of Gale Norton to Secretary of the Interior. The group opposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (and claims some credit in aiding those eight Republican senators who bucked the party leadership and voted against drilling). A group spokesman has called President Bush's "Healthy Forests Initiative" a game of Uncle Sugar's crony capitalism. The group endorsed Arizona Senator John McCain in the presidential primaries. In fact, I heard very few kind words at all spoken about George W. Bush at this conference -- and I heard no kind words regarding the administration's environmental policies.

To be honest, I think a person could have walked through this crowd with a large sign reading "George Bush is not my president" and received more pats on the back than punches in the stomach. (Mind, that's an impression I came away with, although I didn't actually try carrying the sign.) However, neither did I hear a kind word spoken of Al Gore. And I don't think a person would have gotten a single pat on the back for a sign claiming Al Gore is our true president. This is a crowd for whom Teddy Roosevelt never truly stepped down. I mean this literally.

At the dinner reception Saturday night, after the main conference was over, the appearance of a surprise guest speaker was announced.

"Ladies and gentleman," said the Master of Ceremonies, "I give you the President of the United States!" And in walked a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator.

So what does President Bush think of REP America?

"I can tell you we are known by the administration and probably not liked," said Jim DiPeso, Policy Director for REP America. "How can I put this delicately? I've heard second- or third-hand that we are on Karl Rove's fertilizer' list. But that's OK. We think it's the height of patriotism to correct your leaders when they are erring."

Getting back to my joke about fitting all environmentalist Republicans into one van -- pure exaggeration when it comes to the average voter -- however, not so far off if you want to talk about elected Republicans in office at the moment.

The only active political presence to attend Wilderness for Conservatives was a staff person for Republican Rep. Heather Wilson. Pete Domenici's office was contacted but never replied. John Sanchez, who made an unsuccessful Republican bid for governor of New Mexico and may run for head of the Republican Party of New Mexico, hasn't responded to repeated attempts from REP America to contact him.

As for Heather Wilson, while she did send a representative to the conference, it should also be noted that in 2002 she made the League of Conservation Voters' "Dirty Dozen" list for one of the worst environmental voting records in congress. Wilson even sponsored a bill that would have opened up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to widespread drilling, a position anathema to environmentalists of all stripes. To my questions about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and request for an interview, Wilson's office responded with this statement:

"We've made tremendous progress in the last 20 years cleaning up our air, water and land and there's no turning back. Congresswoman Wilson thinks the good news is, we don't have to lose the progress we've made in conservation. REP America and Heather agree that we need a balanced, long-term energy policy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and preserve the beauty of the land we love. As with any group, they may not be eye to eye with Congresswoman Wilson on every single issue, but that's OK. That's how our democracy works."

A statement that, to some, is politician for, "Drill away, boys!"

The Green Elephant

Reforming the White House's current views on energy and the environment is hardly easy to say, much less actually do.

In a keynote address delivered before a collection of environmental groups at a gathering called the Wild Rockies Rendezvous near Missoula, Montana in 1999, Martha Marks, likened the task ahead (putting the conserve back in conservative) to "pushing a pea up the side of Trapper Peak with your nose."

Trapper Peak is a mountain visible from where Martha Marks made the speech. I once lived near the mountain and climbed it one time. I supposed pushing a pea up the high rocky summit with your nose might be possible, but before a person tried it, they'd have to come up with a damn good reason.

"Why?" is a common question asked of Martha Marks regarding the organization she founded. Why fight it? If environmentalism has become a partisan issue -- as it appears to have become, with Democrats for protection and Republicans for mining, drilling and pollution -- then why stick with the exploitation party? Why strain to turn the ship around when there is already another ship headed in the other direction? Dare it be asked: Why not become a Democrat?

"A lot of people -- a lot of reporters -- have asked me that same question," Marks said, "and I'll tell you what I've told them. I've always been very conservative. I grew up in a military family. The first time I voted, I voted for Richard Nixon in 1968. And I've voted Republican almost straight through since. I'm pro-defense. I believe in individual responsibility and smaller government. ... And it is not foreign to us Republicans to be good conservationists."

Marks, like most REP America members at the conference, wouldn't comment on her stance regarding hot-button issues such as abortion and gun control, preferring instead to keep the group's focus centered solely on conservation.

More telling than Marks' stance on nonenvironmental issues, however, is her own success as a politician running on the platform of a "Green Republican." She spent 16 years in academia as a Spanish professor before beginning her political career. She first got "politicized" in a fight to save a golf course in Lake County, Illinois from development. Marks doesn't golf, but describes the course as, "One heck of a beautiful golf course, with a couple dozen big stands of old burr oaks and shagbark hickories, a natural stream meandering through and sweeping meadows of prairie wildflowers."

Marks was on the losing side and the golf course was turned into a housing development in the end, but the fight inspired her to run against the chairman of the county commission in the next election, a person whom everyone, even his friends, called "Bulldozer Bob," according to Marks.

"When my husband, Bernie, found out what I'd agreed to do, and that I'd be running against a well-connected establishment-type Republican from a neighboring village, who had already won several elections and would have all the pro-development money and endorsements behind him, Bernie's first reaction was: Poor fellow! He's not going to know what hit him!'" Marks related in her Wild Rockies Rendezvous keynote address.

Running as a green Republican, on a platform of fiscal responsibility and slow-growth, Marks won 72 percent of the vote in the Republican primary election, easily knocking off Bulldozer Bob. After three terms pulling in similar percentages, Marks recently retired as county commissioner and has recently moved permanently to New Mexico.

An Endangered Species

It would seem that green Republicans don't have to answer the question "Why?" When instead they only have to point to the numbers. One of Marks' favorite set of numbers comes from a poll completed in 1995, the year she and two other women formed REP America. The poll found that 55 percent of Republican voters did not trust their own party to do the right thing when it comes to the environment, she said.

Polls show that even rural Republican voters in western states prefer environmental protection over development by clear majorities, according to Marks. However, she said, people tend to vote on other issues. Throw campaign contributions from extractive industries into the political mix and headlines such as "Industry Seeking Rewards From GOP-Led Congress" from the Dec. 3 issue of the New York Times result. The story's subhead read, "Around the country, businesses and industries that donated millions of dollars to elect Republicans are mapping out strategies to take advantage of the party's sweep in Washington."

REP America doesn't have the kind of money to influence big elections through campaign contributions. Instead, the group is relying on what Marks calls a "powerful voice" that comes from a "powerful argument."

It won't be easy. As Marks also says, "Right now the pro-environment Republican may be the most endangered species on Capitol Hill."

Jeremy Vesbach is a regular contributor to Alibi who writes on water conservation and use issues in New Mexico.

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