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THE GAUNTLET

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re: impact of new Placitas development

We are facing what has been called the worst drought for a hundred years. Sinkholes have appeared in Albuquerque over the past few years, indicating serious depletion of the water table. Santa Fe is in a persistent state of water shortage due to overdevelopment.

At the same time, a developer is moving ahead to build sixty houses in the area south of NM 165 and between the Village and Placitas Heights. Seven wells have already been drilled. Roads have been bulldozed and more are planned to provide access to the dozens of vehicles that will be introduced to the area.

I am concerned about the impact to the area’s water resources and would like to raise some questions. How much will this new development affect the water supply in Placitas village? Can the water supplies at the east end of Placitas (as opposed to below the S curves where they get their water from a different source) sustain a development of this size?

If the answer to these two questions is no, will the Sandoval County Commission approve the development as it has done historically with other developments in the area?

I am interested in finding out what's going on and starting a public dialogue about this new development. I am genuinely concerned about our water situation. Any readers who are interested in this should call me at 867-5670.

—Edwin Macy
26 Camino a Las Estrellas, Placitas, NM 87043

 

Battle joined: Wal-Mart to buy Corrales Road site

—from the Corrales Comment, May 11, 2002

It’s no surprise that Wal-Mart generally refuses to take no for an answer. Company officials continue to press for permission to build a superstore at the north end of Corrales Road, despite Corrales’ resolution opposing the project.

Controversy appears to be growing, not abeiting, since the village council voted April 23 to oppose a new Wal-Mart store near Corrales Road and Highway 528.

Corrales state senator, Steve Komadina, has entered the battle on Wal-Mart’s side—even though his own home is one of the closest in Corrales to the proposed site.

Within days of receiving the senator’s support, Wal-Mart signed a purchase agreement to buy the sixteen-acre parcel in question. The seller, Pat Coughlin of Corrales, said the giant retailer plans to move ahead with plans to build a 190,000 square foot store just east of Corrales Road and Highway 528.

Corrales mayor responded to Komadina’s support for Wal-Mart by issuing a statement of his own on May 7.

“I believe [Komadina] has been persuaded by colossal misjudgement with obvious disregard for the real facts and a flagrant attempt to distort the consequences. There is more to government and politics (and he does make this statement through his office as state senator) than the mighty dollar. How about just doing what’s right? Is there no conscience here?”

An article in the March 4, 2002, issue of the Nation Magazine, by Texas maverick Jim Hightower, notes that “Wal-Mart always expects to get its way, whether confronting suppliers, competitors, workers, governments, or the people . . . . “

Hightower commends the people of Glendale, Arizona, for their recent victory over Wal-Mart, and observes that “in the past three years, these [anti Wal-Mart] coalitions have stunned the company by stopping ten new Wal-Mart stores” nationwide.

“Why single out Wal-Mart?” Hightower asks. “Because it’s a hog. Despite the homespun image it cultivates in its ads, it operates with an arrogance and avarice that would make Enron blush and John D. Rockefeller envious.

“It’s the world’s biggest retail corporation and America’s largest private employer; Sam Robson Walton, a member of the ruling family, is one of the richest people on earth.

“Wal-Mart and the Waltons got to the top the old-fashioned way: by roughing people up.

“Their low, low prices are the product of two ruthless commandments: extract the last penny possible from human toil and squeeze the last dime from its thousands of suppliers, who are left with no profit margin unless they adopt the Wal-Mart model of using non-union labor and shipping production to low-wage hellholes abroad.”

The article praises Kathleen Lewis and Bill McDonough of Glendale, Arizona, who stood up to Wal-Mart and won. It notes that the giant retailer wanted to put up a supercenter there as well, one that would easily contain four full-sized football fields.

Hightower urges citizens around the country to organize to prevent takeovers by Wal-Mart. He lists the following websites: www.walmartyrs.org and www.walmartwatch.com.

Anti-Wal-Mart forces in Corrales have joined the River’s Edge I neighborhood association in planning a battle strategy.

Led by Pam Garfield, Eileen Moffett and Susan Wyatt, the group hopes that one or more local attorneys will volunteer to help.

E-mail coordination is through scwyatt146@aol.com. Other villagers tracking Wal-Mart developments are Pat Clauser, Jerry Dusseau, Jim Findley, and Councilors Laurie Rivera and Walter Lucero.

 

Which end is up?

—Carl Hertel

Looking through a recent Albuquerque Journal I was struck by how many contradictory news facts are put forth in different parts of the paper. For example, on the Sunday in question there was a national news story about how if we fail to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge we will fall prey to Middle Eastern oil cartels and fuel prices will rise exponentially. Yet in the same issue we read a regional news story that oil production in southern New Mexico is down because of falling oil prices and surplus supply.

A close reading of much of today’s news—not just in the Journal, but most print and electronic media coverage—is filled with conflicting reportage. Thus, in the Middle East one nation’s “massacre” is another’s “fight against terrorism,” or, closer to home, the FDA pronounces American foodstuffs safe while a Swedish research group claims that staples like french fries and potato chips will give you cancer. Similarly, in New Mexico many bumper stickers (down-home mass media) urge us to eat more beef while on the tube Frontline produces a special on meat processing that makes you ill just watching it, not to mention making you never want to eat a hamburger again.

Even Karl Marx admitted life was filled with contradictions, but since September 11 it seems as if these contradictions or whatever you want to call them in our information flows have gotten out of hand. It is not simply a case of ambiguity or simple difference of opinion, but one of conflicting realities routinely presented in everyday media. For those of us who cling to the notion that some semblance of “the truth” still exists, the levels of conflict and contradiction in mass media reportage are alarming. The mass-media news industry seems to have fallen prey to what has always been true of advertising: the flow of information is driven by intentional misrepresentation, manipulation and money. The resultant environment is characterized by conflict, frustration, anger and even, some would say, insanity.

The latter is the theme of the May-June issue of the Adbusters Journal of the Mental Environment. Adbusters focuses our attention on the prevalence of dissonance, distortions, and lies in mainstream advertisements and other expressions of the commercial culture. The magazine uses a format of taking mainstream ads and text and altering them to reflect what the editors believe is closer to ”the truth.” The results are often startling and provocative. According to Adbusters, American culture is inundated by deceptive and manipulative media expressions. For example, they cite medical ads that tie taking medications for mental disturbances to nonscientific, nonmedical motivators such as “friendship” and “patriotism.” A CIBA Ritalin ad shows photographs of three distraught women and carries the text “When lethargy is a medical problem . . . the gentle stimulant action of Ritalin restores normal physical and mental activity.” Over this message—which omits mentioning the serious side effects of this drug—Adbusters has ironically added an image of a smiling pharmacist and the caption “Your Friendly Druggist.” Another graphic uses the old Uncle Sam recruiting poster in which the American icon points his finger at you, but instead of saying “Uncle Sam Wants You!” it carries the text “Have You Had Your Pill Today.“ Other articles and graphics in the magazine call into question mainstream definitions of insanity, mental health, and “normal” behavior. By the use of actual ads and text along with ironic alterations of them, Adbusters’ editors proclaim that “Our aim is to topple existing power structures and forge a major rethinking of the way we will live in the 21st century. We want to change the way information flows, the way institutions wield power, the way TV stations are run, the way the food, fashion, automobile, sports, music, arts and culture industries set their agendas. Above all, we want to change the way we interact with the mass media and the way in which meaning is produced in our society.”

Adbusters may not be everyone’s antidote to mass media mashing our minds and robbing us of meaning, but it provides a lusty example of what the problem is and why we might seek alternatives before “it” (mass media) drives us all crazy trying to figure which end is up.

One way to protect ourselves is to follow the example of scientist Linus Pauling, who had a long stick with which he reached out and shut off ads on TV (it’s a lot easier for use today with our remote controls). Also, E.F. Schumacher’s adage “small is beautiful” can help us do business and gather information contained in small, decentralized sources (such as this newspaper). This alone can go a long way toward protecting us from the battering of mass media and its obfuscating, contradictory collections of supposedly factual images, ads and “news.” One of the blessings of September 11 was the reawakening of the will to defend the freedom and right to access the truth, and conversely, to reject those elements in our society that would modify or barter those freedoms away out of fear and a need for control.

 

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