FEATURE Nicotine Fit by Robert Bryce 8 When the tobacco industry settled with Texas, the trial lawyers may have thought they were due their pay and congratulations for a job well done. The new A.G. and the Gov don’t see it that way. THIS ISSUE DEPARTMENTS Dialogue 2 Editorial 3 Love and Power by Louis Dubose Left Field 5 La Familia, Cop Call, The Bush Beat & Le Death Penalty Political Intelligence 16 Molly Ivins 18 Asking the Right Questions Jim Hightower 19 Happy Days, Virtual Forests & The Greedy-Whirly Public Occasions 20 Taking Back the Country by The Democracy Brigade BOOKS AND THE CULTURE Bellas Artes 21 Poetry by Katie Kingston The Prison-Industrial 22 Complex Book Review by Mary S. Mathis Community Relations 26 Book Review by John Summers Afterword 29 D.P.S. Sentiment by Lucius Lomax Cover Art by Harrison Saunders Note: The Observer’s Books and the Culture section is partially funded with support from the City of Austin, under the auspices of the Austin Arts Commission, and the Austin Writers’ League, both in cooperation with the Texas Commission on the Arts. EDITORIAL 1 The Language of Power T ” he politicians may not understand the theological talk about ‘love and power’ but, when the I.A.F. speaks to power, they listen respectfully,” William Greider wrote in Who Will Tell the People? The Industrial Areas Foundation’s language of love is the intellectual legacy of theologian Paul Tillich. But the language of power, the organization’s lingua franca, was the language spoken when 5,000 members of twenty-four I.A.F. groups from seven states gathered in San Antonio on November 7. Since 1988, I have attended a number of meetings of the state’s I.A.F. organizations: Valley Interfaith in the Lower Rio Grande Valley; Communities Organized Austin Interfaith; the El Paso Interreligious Metropolitan Alliance in San Antonio. I write about these events because, like Bill Greider, I am convinced that these community-based organizations are a rare sign of vitality in an otherwise moribund democracy. But they are difficult to write about, without writing a formulaic story: the people came, they met in convention, the leaders said this, the politicians said that, and a strategy was agreed upon. Reporters sometimes avoid these events because they are not “news.” At the San Antonio meeting I was overwhelmed by news and intrigued by one observation. The observation required walk ing to the back of the stage and looking over the heads of sixty or seventy people elected officials, members of the business community, clergy high and low, and the I.A.F. organizers and leaders coordinating the event who were facing the audience. What was first-term Congressman Charlie Gonzalez seeing when Father Jimmy Drennan asked the 5,000 enthusiastic delegates to stand and endorse an item on the I.A.F. Domestic Strategy Agenda? How did this “IT’S UNCONSCIONABLE THAT THE BOT-TOM 20 PERCENT CAN SEE THEIR WAGES DECLINE WHILE THE TOP 20 PERCENT ACCUMULATE SO MUCH WEALTH.” event look to Congressman Nick Lampson, or Congressman Ciro Rodriguez, or U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, or state Senators Rodney Ellis and Eddie Lucio, or House Ways and Means Chairman Rene Oliveira, or Bexar County Judge Cyndi Krier, or San Antonio Mayor Howard Peek? These elected officials were confronted with the angry enthusiasm of 5,000 people, who represent tens of thousands of votes. \(Governor Bush was invited but, as Watching the convention from the back of the stage, I realized the I.A.F. had reversed the spatial dynamics of the ornate auditorium in downtown San Antonio. The audience was sitting on stage, watching a demonstration of political power in the tiered seats on the floor and the balcony. The language of love was inaudible but the language of power was evident. And the politicians sat and listened respectfully. There is also news. Since I started paying attention ten years ago, the Southwest I.A.F. \(which began in 1974, when seven community leaders met to discuss the lack veloped into a regional power that might be described as the Interstate-10 Alliance. I asked I.A.F. southwest regional director Ernesto Cortes if the Southwest I.A.F. considers itself a national power, as its member organizations now extend from Houston to Los Angeles. “You forget New Orleans,” Cortes said. “We’re a regional organization. We’ve put together a regional agenda responding to problems that are distinct to the Southwest. But they have national implications. “There is grotesque inequality,” Cortes continued. “It’s unconscionable that the bottom 20 percent can see their wages decline while the top 20 percent accumulate so much wealth.” The inequality Cortes describes is particularly egregious in San Antonio. Among the fifteen largest cities in the country, San Antonio has the second-highest number of people living below the poverty level. Half those living below the poverty level are between the ages of eighteen and fifty-nine. And most are working: San Antonio’s current unemployment rate is lower NOVEMBER 26, 1999 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3 ti .1 ,94., reoftrors,
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