Officially, it's the 6th biggest city in Texas.
Officially, it's the 21st largest city in the US.
(Unofficially, it population & rank are (much) higher.)
Technically, it's the oldest European settlement in what is now the United States (1598), easily beating both Jamestown (1607) and Plymouth (1620).
It's hometown to the largest military installation in the US, just about the size of Rhode Island.
As a metro area, it's the largest border town in the world.
It even has a congressman who, as House intelligence committee chair, stumbled into deserving some dKos adulation this week by calling-bluff and killing-off the so-called "Protect America Act" (FISA).
But as an extremely Blue city in an extremely Red state... and for lots of other shrewd reasons.... "here" is totally ignorable by everybody with any national political savvy.
So why were all the Clintons -- Hillary Tuesday, Chelsea Friday, Bill Friday & Saturday -- here 3 days this week?
((read the rest of this diary here, and then the poll will make sense :))
"Here" is a place called El Paso.
And for 1 week only (ending March 4th, 2008) El Paso may be of some passing interest to people who live north, west, or east of here.
We got some attention from the whole Clinton Family this week. (Since I'm reserving the poll for other purposes, I'm inviting you to give your creative answers in the comments section as to why The Clinton Family would choose El Paso for it's President's Week Vacation destination (+ bonus points for snark con queso)).
More importantly, now that I've got your attention for 15 seconds:
Who among you has the connections to get Barack out here?
After all, I got to see Dylan, Santana, BB King, and the Stones live here this past year -- so what do I have to do to see the genuine 'Rock Star of this shindig?
Ignoring El Paso is of course business-as-usual, and of course makes good rational calculated sense ;)
Texas is supposedly important this week.
Change is Good (even if it's just for a week, till March 4th is out of the way.
A 50 State Strategy is genius... so why not hit all 5 of the Metros in Texas?
But most importantly: ELP needs a good solid dose of Si Se Puede.
You see, Bush's cronies in Austin just ruled this month that ASARCO could resume operations. ASARCO is the copper & lead smelter sitting at the point where Chihuahua, New Mexico, and Texas all meet -- right in the midst of 3 Million helpless and voiceless human beings. Despite opposition by everybody who does not have a paid-off vested-interest in ASARCO, it is being shoved down our throats, and it's effluent up our noses. Despite ongoing pleading by our hard-fighting state senator (Eliot Shapleigh) and mayors of Juarez (CH), El Paso (TX), and Sunland Park (NM), the Bushite powers that be are resolute to push our landmark Tower of Toxicity (once had dubious distinction of being world's tallest smokestack) back into operation, pumping out the pollution.
But that's OK. Cause we can't do nothin' about the burning of whatnot in the Colonias that pass for suburbs (yes, that's snark) round Juarez, by folks who just want to cook their food or stay warm or fuel kilns to bake tiles so those a bit higher up the ladder can have non-dirt flooring.
But that's OK. Cause all the dust and smoke and smell from Juarez is secondary to the official #1 airborne carcinogen facing El Pasoans -- diesel exhaust from all those east-west trucks doing the China-2-Walmart shuffle (can't do without those nifty plastic doggie bones now, can we?), plus all those north-south trucks doing the NAFTA shuffle (can't do without those kilos of herbs and spices, now can we?)
But that's ok. Cause all that offically-tracked poison is just a drop in the bucket compared to the hellbroth of out-of-place molecules that nobody in power has any incentive to track.
But that's ok. Cause those "toxic" chemicals in the air get balanced out by huge quantities of "benign" dust. On those few days when visibility resembles Boston pea-soup fog, it's hard to ignore that there is indeed a "dust storm". But what is that dust, and where does it come from? Harmless sand? From unpaved roads in Juarez? Or maybe just "natural" allergens, blown in on the winds from the west, of concern only to the few (few hundreds of thousands, that is, asthma, allergy, and respiratory disease suffers) locals who are not macho enough to tough it out?
Well, should you ever go out 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, etc miles west of El Paso, out to the endless BLM-owned reaches of southern New Mexico, you'd notice something interesting. Vast open stretches of nature -- bright sun, blue sky, mesquite desert. You get out of your vehicle, go for a stroll...perhaps seeking a breath of fresh air. But even that far from a city, you notice the air aint quite right. Why, you wonder? Not a man-made object as far as the eye can see, 360 degrees... until you look down at your feet. And you notice strange markings... hoofprints... on every square yard, and someplaces every square foot.
And then, you start to ask questions, and slowly, it begins to dawn on you. Cattle. It takes 2 years and 150 acres of desert to raise just a single head of cattle.... and in those 2 years, that cow tramples every square foot it can, seeking forage in land never meant to support grazing. In a land where every drop of water is spoken for. In a fragile desert ecosystem, where the crust is so sensitive that it takes many years to heal once disturbed. And during those years of disturbance until natural healing, there is nothing to prevent even delicate breezes from picking up and airlifting fine parched loose sandy soil from below the crust.
So hundreds of thousands of folks around here have to pay hundreds of dollars a year in sinus meds and doctor visits and lost school days.... largely because vast tracts of BLM land from here to Tuscon are trampled by cattle, kicking up humongous dust storms.
Who is insane enough to run cattle out in the Chihuahuan desert? So-called "ranchers" ... and they do it for the tax writeoffs.
Even that insane behaviour would be uneconomical if the "ranchers" had to do it on their own land.... but most of the land being trampled by morsel-seeking cattle is owned by.... YOU and ME: via the BLM, and their super-sweetheart land-lease deals.
These things would never happen in a genuinely Free Market... they only happens because you and I subsidize it via tax loopholes designed to encourage such "productive" use of our public lands.
But why should you care? Based on my un-scientific anecdotal data -- that the MoveOn events & Inconvenient-Truth-showings that I've hosted have been the only lonely dot on the MoveOn map for a radius of hundreds of miles -- I'm guessing few readers here are enduring Hell Paso.
So consider this: even amidst this hellbroth of toxicity and particulates, UTEP researchers who are friends of mine have told me that their dust-analysis equipment has been able to sort-out and detect some compounds that they definitively have traced all the way back to... China. Yes, Chinese dusts from parched Chinese denuded land with uniquely identifyable soil compostions... making it all the way cross the Pacific, cross Baja/California, cross Arizona, cross half of New Mexico.
Yup, so there a dose of reality, El Paso-style, coming soon... to a breather near you.
All politics is local, eh? Well, that's a frickin' shame, because all the really important things we need politics to address aren't local.
You've just had a dose of some local reality from Hell Paso. And that was just the Westside. On the Eastside, we have bigger-than-RhodeIsland FortBliss, which is ramping up it role to simulate what it's like to play with big guns and joyride around in big tanks in places like Iraq and Iran. Guess what? Joyriding around in tanks all over Chihuahuan desert has the same effect as cows, only worse.
Scorched-earth isn't just a metaphor. Our voracious species, and our companion-animals, and our fossil-fueled-vehicles, are eating all we can eat, and burning up all we can pump, and burning down what's left.
We need change. Big change.
So, all snark and levity aside, my call to Barak, many paragraphs above, to come to El Paso is just wishful thinking; in fact, I don't want to have him come here and breathe the mix and get sick -- we need him to stay healthy so he can win Texas, and win the convention, and win in November.
Sure, I'd love to get a dose of his magic live, up close and in person. And I really do think that a goodly number of El Pasoans are ripe to be turned-on to the Obama message, and could be converted to voters this week. Even the rumblings in Segundo Barrio are much more favorable to Obama than you'd guess.
But Clinton's got our number.... ~80% Hispanic, 3% Black; big-dose of GI & Vet voters. I saw Bill speak day before yesterday, and he hit all the right themes for those demographics, and hit them hard. I was genuinely reminded why I still regard him as our best President since Kennedy. And I was thrilled to hear him talk up our anti-global-warming-as-jobs-creation meme -- I'm thankful he's my eco-ally at last, but it's too little too late from good 'ole Bill. And, to coin a phrase:
Senator, I served with Bill Clinton: I knew Bill Clinton; Bill Clinton was a friend of mine. Senator Hillary, you're no Bill Clinton.
"He’s the most exciting presidential candidate I’ve ever seen. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime candidate."
Even the local paper came out for Obama.
It's our 15-minutes-of-relevance, due to our technically being part of Tejas. So, if any Obama-campaign folks are listening: please expedite my store.barackobama.com bulk order #151114 .... because a half-million Texas Democrats deserve at least a few buttons and stickers ;)
(Although the above sounds like snark, it isn't; or a complaint, it isn't -- just a winking-nudge so we receive our 2500 stickies and 100 buttons in time to make the rounds and slap 'em on 2600 people before March 4th rolls around.)
(To be fair, several El Paso volunteer & networking groups for Obama have sprung-up in the last 2 weeks. (And maybe some of them have gotten their swag already :)) But doesn't El Paso deserve at least a little bit more attention from the official campaign?)
Regardless of how you took all I've written above, here's my heartfelt bottomline:
We need Barack's spirit here, because we need a breath of fresh air.
We all need a breath of fresh air.