Sunday, May 19, 2019

Something Is Happening Here . . . Maybe an Illegal(?) Art Show

We enjoyed related events last weekend, all organized by our friend Saba, a Diné (Navajo) artist. At NMSU's Kent Hall, Pictograff: the Art of War Prayer opened; meanwhile, as part of the 8th Annual Illegal(?) Arrowsoul Art Show, visiting indigenous aerosol artists muralized walls at Cruces Creatives, the old Coors Building near the railroad tracks, and elsewhere. 

Friday evening, artwork hung inside Kent Hall; and in the courtyard stood a temporary structure, its blank walls waiting to be painted during the opening. 

We talked with Orlando Cruz from Santa Ana Pueblo, and listened to his haunting songs and drumming. A Standing Rock Water Protector, he's friendly and interesting – and so popular on Facebook that he has reached Facebook's limit on friends. 

Native Artists in Action had a table. This collective uses art and rap music to help kids find better ways to live, including healthier eating, Bishop Undurdog (Zuni) said. “We found ourselves through art, and we're trying to do the same thing, let young people find themselves through art.” 

On the structure's three walls, three artists created interesting art pieces as the sun set. One artist, 40+ (and even sometimes using little reading glasses), was Doug Miles (San Carlos Apache), a nationally-known artist/photographer. He once painted a mural in Fort Apache (a Bronx neighborhood the police once considered highly dangerous) exploring the similarities between the two Fort Apaches. 

These are energetic, creative, caring young people. They feel doubly marginalized, being both indigenous and artists. They're forging a subculture that welcomes them, nurtures their art, and helps them help others. No one should feel threatened by this – unless it's inherently threatening when people who are different (ethnically, culturally, or socially) try to express themselves, make a buck, and raise families. 

These artists exhibit an appealing mix of creativity and activism. Several protested at Standing Rock. NAA sells a t-shirt with a painting and the words, “The elders say . . . never forget 1680,” a reference to the Santa Fe revolt. 

Introducing the music, Saba said that while “graffiti culture” started on the coasts, Native Americans here have made it their own. “Don't forget, we've been writing and painting messages on the wall forever. So this is a rebirth of that. This is how we pray.” 

He thanked Kent Hall and the University officials for “being cool with all this.” 

We bought a painting by Rezmo of a traditionally-dressed young girl reaching up toward a hummingbird. The painting is somehow sweet, and seems sweeter when a friend explains that the girl is Rezmo's daughter. It also reflects her Diné-Aztec heritage. Rezmo, talked with us about how, artistically and personally, traditional tribal concerns mesh with new ideas and styles. 

The temperature was perfect, the moon peeked at us between tree branches, and the music was lively. Blood-pumping. The NAA folks sang rap-style music with rap's hard-edged sound but softer lyrics. We met some neat people, learning later that many are cultural rock stars with legions of fans, though mostly unknown to us older white folks. We saw some great art, some made right in front of us. Both the art and conversations reveal a very old culture blended with a new one, and artistic self-expression mixed with strong desires to make things better.

I wished more Las Crucens were enjoying these moments; but I was also glad the evening was so intimate. Everything seemed just as it should be.
                                                    -30-

[The above post appeared this morning, Sunday, 19 May 2019, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG's website.  A spoken version will air during the week on KRWG and on KTAL-LP 101.5 FM -- streamable at www.lccommunityradio.org .]


[Note: I've inserted a bunch of photos from the event, below.  When I have a moment, I'll add some additional comments, additional captions to photos, and links to info on some of the artists mentioned!  Meanwhile, I should note that the "Something is Happening Here . . ." in the title is from a Bob Dylan song, the line, "Something is happening here . . . and you don't know, what it is, . . . do you, Mr. Jones."]


Even the Dead Can Paint
but Don't Forget What Weekend this Is!
Painting Cruces Creatives

Saba takes a hand






Orlando Cruz drumming - Kent Hall


Pleased with her Purchase?























At the old Coors Building Saturday morning

At the old Coors Bldg






Saba in Coors Building

Painting Johnny

Painting Detail near Buffalo
Randy Painting at Dereks Place

Johnny w chair





Sunday, May 12, 2019

NM Supreme Court Considers an Interesting Energy Question

New Mexico's Supreme Court heard an important argument Monday on what's fair and lawful with regard to our push toward renewable electricity sources. 

Big utility companies have a legal monopoly on distributing our electricity; but should we let them use that power to gain a monopoly on producing electricity?

PRC Hearing Examiner Carolyn Glick said, “No!” After reviewing much evidence, she said it wasn't even a close call. She found that PNM had rigged a 2017 request for proposals on a 50MW solar generating project so that bidders could only succeed if their bid involved PNM owning the solar fields. Affordable Solar, Inc. won the bid.

Noting that the public interest is always paramount, and the utility's interest secondary, Glick recommended ordering a fairer rebid, with a 90-day deadline, not the 31 days she found unfairly brief. 

NM's PRC overruled Glick, 3-2. Coincidentally, Affordable's registered lobbyist was a campaign consultant to two commissioners. In 2018, Affordable was those commissioners' major campaign contributor, and PNM Resources gave $440,000 to a PAC supporting them. (Their challengers, including Las Crucen Steve Fischmann, won.) 

PNM had a huge financial incentive to ensure it owned the land and generating facility; but such an arrangement would cost consumers a lot more for their juice. The Supreme Court has stated that, “the public interest is to be given paramount consideration; desires of a utility are secondary.” Glick obeyed that mandate. 

PNM seeks to charge us: for the electricity (at a higher rate); 9.5% annual “return on equity” on the solar equipment; plus 9.5% annual “return” on the land. Without PNM land ownership, we'd pay less for the electricity (including the producer's 4-5% profit), plus minimal interconnection and distribution or transmission charges. 

PNM gets 9.5% guaranteed return only because hundreds of millions (coal) or even several billion (nuclear) were beyond what normal investors could handle without a “risk premium.” This project totaled only $72 million. We no longer need hugely expensive centralized plants or such handsome PNM profits. 

Since solar generated on non-utility-owned land is generally cheaper than on utility-owned land, effectively limiting bids to proposals using PNM-controlled land should be suspect. Two bids (disqualified by PNM) proposed producing on non-PNM land, at $34.50 and $29.63/MWh, respectively. Plenty lower than Affordable's $44.63. 

In 2016, on another project, three bids (including Affordable's) using non-PNM land were far cheaper than $44.63, despite declining prices for solar. Four months after overruling Glick to approve Affordable's $44.63 bid, the PRC reportedly approved a 50MW proposal with a $29.98 independent competitor bid.

PNM argues that there was no legal requirement to use a Request for Proposal; but RFP's are standard, transparent, and (theoretically) fair. There is a requirement to show that the proposal is cost-effective and in the public interest, and that alternatives were considered – and RFPs are a good way to do that. Further, PNM chose to use the RFP and claim it was fair, so when it actually wasn't so fair, who cares whether an RFP was required? 

There's sure no public interest in PNM owning the land.

State law mandated that the PRC require PNM to prove, with reliable evidence, that it was proposing the most cost-effective course. PNM didn't. 

PNM and the PRC claim the bidding process was fair. Since the Supreme Court must give the agency's conclusion significant deference, PNM might win.

But New Mexicans would pay way more for electricity than they should, for decades.
                                                -30-

[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 12 May 2019, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG's website, and a spoken version will air during the week on KRWG and on KTAL-LP, 101.5 FM (streamable at www.lccommunityradio.org).]

[I'm no energy expert, but I have read parts of the briefs on both sides, and the Hearing Examiner's Recommended Decision, and the PRC's decision overruling her.  I'll hope to have a current member of the PRC and perhaps someone from a utility on a radio show to discuss these and related issues in the foreseeable future.  This is or should be a time of major change in the industry, not only with a steady increase in renewable energy sources, and probably major further improvements in storage, but at least to some degree decentralization and decreasing reliance on the grid.  I think all that is positive -- and the move to renewables not only economically prudent in the long-term but essential to help avert the worst consequences of climate-change.  (Still, I want to ask someone about where we'd be if, as has happened in the past, something -- asteroid striking Earth, or an unusually large volcanic eruption, say --  seriously cuts down on the sunshine reaching the solar panels for an extended period.  I hope that's both a foolish question and an academic one.)]  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Soil and Water Conservation Commission Needs More Conservationists

The New Mexico Soil and Water Conservation Commission (NMSWCC) is an obscure group one could easily overlook. The NMSWCC could do us a lot of good. Climate-change makes protecting our resources even more critical; but the NMSWCC seems to think climate-change is a shuck. 

NMSWCC is not a conservation group. In appointing NMSWCC commissioners, our previous governor reportedly just rubber stamped a conservative group's suggestions. So NMSWCC is run by ranchers for ranchers. It oversees dozens of soil and water conservation districts around the state, and appoints two of each district's seven board-members. Some districts – like Valencia, in Belen – do great work; but many don't.

Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District (DASWCD) board-members represent themselves, their extremely conservative ideology, and ranching interests, but not so much the public. They got elected and re-elected, initially because the public knew little about them, and later by rigging their election process. 

DASWCD often opposed real conservation efforts, demonized the BLM, and alienated other locally elected officials. When the Las Cruces City Council (unanimously) and the County Commission (4-1) supported the Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks National Monument, the DASWCD unanimously opposed it and wrote President Obama urging him (purportedly on our behalf) NOT to approve OMDPNM. While some soil and water districts did actual conservation, these folks spent time passing a resolution decrying the county commission's alleged obedience to U.N. Agenda 21 – a well-meaning and generalized global sustainability resolution with no legal force. 

In 2014, the District asked voters to approve a mil levy to net hundreds of thousands of public dollars to finance District activities. We rejected that in a landslide – although Las Crucens willingly invest in our community and environment. 

This referendum, and DASWCD's monument opposition, drew public attention. DASWCD conceived, and the NMSWCC approved, an unfair and obviously unconstitutional measure creating four voting “zones.” Zone 4, which includes Las Cruces and more than 50,000 voters, elected one supervisor, while Zones 1-3, with a total voting population under 50,000, elected three. 

The U.S. Constitution requires “one-person, one-vote” elections. When a Zone 4 voter, Grant Price, sued, Judge James Martin rejected NMSWCC's argument that it shouldn't have to follow the U.S. Constitution, and ordered it to rescind its approval of the unfair zoning districts. (Full disclosure: with Mike Lilley, I represented Mr. Price in the lawsuit.)

At a meeting in Las Cruces, the NMSWCC ignored conservationist candidates and reappointed two ranchers. Several Las Crucens wanted to speak at that public meeting. Chair Dudley Hunt prevented them from addressing the Commission before the appointments were made. Commissioner Charlie Sanchez from Valencia SWCD spoke up against this muzzling of the public – and soon found himself tossed off the Commission by Governor Martinez. In 2017, we elected two conservationists to the DASWCD.

Our Governor should appoint actual conservationists to the Commission. Ranchers absolutely should be represented, but they should not control it or continue appointing fellow ranchers (or right-wing ideologues) to local boards. Mr. Hunt probably should not be re-appointed.
Our Legislature created this system to preserve New Mexico's water, land, and wildlife for all of us, stressed how important conservation was, and even empowered districts to get around the anti-donation clause when necessary. 

Let's refocus NMSWCC on its true mission, by appointing commissioners dedicated to preserving our environment and resources. A fair mix of environmentalists, ranchers, soil/water experts, and others could really do some good.
                                         -30- 

[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 5 May 2019, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG's website.  A spoken version will air during the week on both KRWG and KTAL-LP, 101.5 FM.]

[Bottom line: as a citizen of New Mexico, I hope Governor Lujan-Grisham will appoint a conservation-minded set of commissioners who represent all of us -- including, but not limited to, ranchers.] 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Las Cruces Rises to the Challenge of Increasing Numbers of Refugees

Hosting 2,200 refugees in two weeks is an unexpected challenge. Our community is responding beautifully. 

For months, nonprofits and churches have been helping a steady influx of Central American refugees. Then the feds started releasing so many that the City made Meerscheidt Rec Center a temporary shelter and authorized substantial expenditures. 

Fleeing grave dangers, the refugees are applying for asylum, legally, under U.S. laws and treaties. They have court cases elsewhere, and family or volunteers waiting to house them. Some stay here 24 hours or less. Most are families. Many are children. 

Firefighters, church members, city employees, and volunteers cheerfully cooperate on logistical problems including food, housing, clothes, medical care, and travel. 

The refugees spent Easter weekend at Las Cruces High. At around 6 p.m. Saturday, firefighter Nicolas Palma showed volunteer Kari Bachman around gyms full of cots. Kari, whose Spanish is impeccable, would spend the night. Palma, who would return early the next morning, had been there all day. So had the school principal – and at 7 p.m. she was sweeping a floor. County Treasurer Eric Rodriguez was handing out bottles of water. Outside stood a Salvation Army “emergency kitchen” truck, overseen by Salvation Army ministers Michael and Norma Evans. A woman rushed to hug them, recalling their past disaster-relief efforts. (She's an FBI agent, but was volunteering here.) The school's computer lab was a travel agency, ably managed by a retired FEMA employee.

Kari said of her 14-hour night, “Being in charge was kind of daunting. But the other volunteers were incredible. We had fun, laughed, and worked well together. Best of all were the asylum-seekers. They were amazing. There were 174 of them overnight, and to a person, they were extremely kind, personable, and calm.”

She didn't ask about their suffering, but heard moving stories anyway. One woman returned from the hospital with her young son. While fighting off an attacker in Mexico, she'd fallen on her two-year-old son's leg, breaking it. 

“They were really warm and engaging, would always share a smile and talk. I was moved to tears so many times through the night. Watching a sick kid smile, and the mothers cuddling with the kids and reading little books to them. It was powerful.” One “very spiritual” indigenous Guatemalan man kept saying how grateful he was they'd made it and that he just wanted to be in a place where he could work without fear.

Sunday morning, Chris Van Inga and Phinneas Phogg (parrot-at-large, familiar to farmers' market denizens) put sudden smiles on the faces of kids and adults alike, as Phinneas barked, meowed, somersaulted, played dead, and perched on the palms of little hands. Former federal prosecutor Peter Ossorio (serving as “towel boy”) remarked that he wished national media could see how dangerous these people are. He pointed out a table in the corner where the owner of Trini's Nail Creations was doing refugee women's nails – on Easter.

There's no end in sight. Thursday the City leased the old armory to house refugees, and authorized spending up to half a million dollars. 

Las Cruces didn't ask for this challenge. But in working together on unfamiliar problems, and meeting wonderful people, Las Crucens have found satisfaction and even joy.
But this ain't sustainable. We need an administration in Washington that can comprehend the problems forcing people to flee their homes and will deal with those problems – or at least stop exacerbating them.
                                                    -30-

[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 28 April 2019, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and on KRWG's website.  A spoken version will air during the week on KRWG and on KTAL-LP 101.5 FM (www.lccommunityradio.org)]

[Internet storms over the city's involvement in this refugee problem have been a little puzzling.  I get it that some folks want a border patrol, and/or hate on sight anything the city council does; and I think our laws, policies, and procedures need serious re-examination; but on the immediate issue of what the city council should be doing, I've posted a simple question: given that the Feds proposed to dump 150 people a day here, what ought the city council to have done?  Ignored these people, which not only would have been inhumane but would likely have exacerbated the impact on the community and cost us more in the long run, as many of these people lacked language skills, funds, cell-phones, food, adequate clothing, routine medical care, etc., and would have stayed longer and needed more services?  Most of these folks have court dates and friends or family and, with a little help, could be on their way quickly.  So should we have ignored them?  Started a gun-battle with the Feds?   Put them all in jail for vagrancy? Left 'em on the street, vulnerable to sexual predators, pederasts, and violent nut-cases?  None of us takes great joy in seeing half a million bucks leave our treasury; but what was the viable alternative that was better?]

[Make no mistake: the situation in Central America and the influx of asylum-seekers is a problem.  A federal problem that needs a federal or international solution.  But we won't help solve it by spreading lies and myths that these refugees are inherently bad or dangerous people.  Two dominant themes in talking with folks who've worked with the refugees: wonder at the cooperative ways they've solved problems and, above all, respect and even affection for the refugees.]

[Donald Trump's sly solution may be the evisceration of all environmental regulations protecting us from the excesses of big corporations.  Give him time, and the mercury in the water and the gas-polluted wells, plus climate-change-caused lost drinking water (and land) in Miami and exacerbated drought in the Southwest, will make things pretty unappealing here.  Only problem is, it'll be worse in Mexico and Central America.  So greater numbers of refugees will be crossing the border to join us on our way to Canada.]






Sunday, April 21, 2019

home again

It's great to be home. 

To step outside to the mild weather and relative quiet of Las Cruces in April, hear the familiar chabbling of the hens, and reassure the cat that we still love him. (Yeah, I invented “chabbling” to suggest babbling, chattering, and occasional squabbling.) 

Everything suddenly seems simple. It helps that I was away from Facebook and most email for a week. 

Some of my friends are still screaming about U.S. Representative Ocasio-Cortez's “socialism” – kind of like saying “You have cooties!” when we were six. Meaningless, but effective. At that age, anyway.

Others are pointing out again that progressive states are and should be looking at state banks, a concept North Dakota implemented in 1919, and has used successfully for a century. Oh, but that'd be socialist, the bankers will shout – as Republicans shouted that social security would be socialist, and later that Medicare would lead to socialist dictatorship.

So, the Trumpists are screaming that socialism leads to dictatorship. The non-Trumpists are screaming that Trump seeks to create a dictatorship. Maybe all governments lead to dictatorships. Governments – whether monarchies or oligarchies, nominally socialist and/or democratic – seem to work for those who control them. Those in control tell us we need them, and that because someone (Muslims, Jews, Communists, Capitalists, Koch Brothers, George Soros) is trying to hurt us we had better forgive or forget the sins of those in power. 

Trumpists seem delighted to have a president that Russia (or at least its dictator, Mr. Putin) put a high priority on convincing us to elect. You'd guess patriots would be unnerved by that, unless they imagine either that Mr. Putin has our best interest at heart or that he is witless. I've seen no evidence of either.

What's not so simple is writing a column. 

When I left I was looking into whether or not the Las Cruces City Council violated the open meetings law by discussing in secret the recent policy of having certain officials sign special “at-will” employment agreements. The mayor's own reported statement after the closed meeting, that the policy was erroneous and would be corrected, suggests that the council did so; but several time zones away, on holiday with friends and family from Japan, it's hard to force oneself to pursue such an investigation. Same with several other issues people had been talking with me about.

While I was away a thousand refugees came through town. I was sad that I wasn't here to help with that. I wanted to write a column about the people busting their butts helping refugees, about what else was needed, about my love of this community; but knew little. (“Never stopped you before!” I imagine a reader or two snorting.) I look forward to discussing Las Cruces and refugees with City Councilor Gabe Vasquez Wednesday morning on KTAL-LP community radio, 191.5 FM.

Nonetheless, being elsewhere for a week is instructive – not least because a newspaper there too is busily reporting who's winning council elections, who's been appointed chief jailer, and how well or poorly various public institutions are performing. (Except that the names mean nothing to me, with no perspective on the problems being analyzed. Without perspective, it all sounds like hens chabbling.) Is it all meaningless, since the world will go on, like the sea, while we ride the waves and imagine we know stuff?

Anyhow, it's great to be home.
                                        -30-


[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 21 April, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and on KRWG's website.  A spoken version will air during the week on KRWG (Wednesday and Saturday) and on KTAL-LP (Thursday), 101.5 FM -- Las Cruces Community Radio.]

[Not sure how well the column said what I meant it to; and, as always lately, when I turn to making a radio version of the column, usually on Sunday morning, shortening the piece and changing it from something people read into something people hear, the process forces me to deepen my focus on what's essential and what's not.  Meanwhile, a host of other thoughts and experiences -- and even reactions to the written column -- intrude.  For example, since sending this in Friday we've celebrated Earth Day, I've watched an interesting film on climate-change, and I spent an interesting couple of hours Saturday evening at Las Cruces High, with volunteers and officials working to deal with an unrequested and unforeseen refugee influx.]



Friday, April 19, 2019

Good Fun for a Good Cause

Last weekend, I played in the 2nd Annual Aaron Gifford Memorial Pickleball Tournament. 

It was fun. Met many enjoyable people from eleven different states, on two beautiful New Mexico spring days, and ran around a lot. Healthy exercise, and a chance for local pickleballers to play with referees and strict rule, and play game after game in the hot sun, even when they felt tired or dehydrated. There was even a court for beginners to try out the game and learn. If some of those folks got hooked, the exercise could improve their health and even their longevity. 

It was also a good event for a good cause. 

Aaron was a beautiful young man, inside and out. He served three tours of duty in Iraq. He returned with PTSD – more troubled than he admitted, sleepless at night, restless. He didn't get help. Maybe it wasn't manly; maybe he underestimated the enemy inside him; or maybe he just didn't want to bother anyone with his troubles. In the end -- as 22 veterans do each day -- he killed himself.

His mother, CeCe Hunter, has turned that unspeakable loss into a win for others. With the help of her family, and a family of pickleball players, she created this Tournament. 

Last year, the Aaron Gifford Tournament donated to Mission 22, started by veterans, named for those 22 daily tragedies, and designed to decrease that number by helping fellow vets. Mission 22 (and the tournament locally) spread the word that psychological help is available and can be effective with PTSD. Many vets doubt that anything can help them. If one vet who needed help got it because s/he heard about Mission 22 through this Tournament, or Mission 22 used Aaron's contribution to help someone avoid emulating him, that's a huge win.

This year, seeking to do something locally meaningful, the Tournament assisted the Community of Hope to get homeless vets into homes. This excellent local program can house a homeless vet for $3,000. Even before we played, the Aaron Gifford Memorial Tournament had presented Camp Hope with a $6,000 check. The final tally could include another $12-$15,000. That'd be six or seven homes for men or women who served their country.

Energized by the task at hand, CeCe also appeared on radio shows and wrote an op-ed in this newspaper. She not only has helped spread the word to vets and their families that help is available, but has created some of that help.

A huge military-looking vehicle, nicknamed “The Punisher,” stood near the NMSU Tennis Center during the Tournament, a stark reminder of both the dangers of war and the camaraderie between soldiers. (It was built by a local Marine veteran in honor of Chris Kyle.) Many players were vets, some wearing caps identifying the nature of their service. “Thank you for your service” was an oft-heard phrase. 

I have disagreed with politicians sending young folks into some wars; but our country has a clear duty to do our best to repair the damage war does to those who serve. It's appalling how poorly we meet that obligation. It's a sad irony that the politicians who shout loudest for war are sometimes the most unwilling to spend actual dollars to help the veterans (victims) of those wars. 

Credit CeCe and Camp Hope for stepping up – and please consider contributing to Camp Hope in Aaron's memory.
                                             -30-



[The above column appeared Sunday, 14 April 2018, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on KRWG's website.   A spoken version will air during the week on KRWG and on KTAL-LP, 101.5 FM, Las Cruces Community Radio ( )www.lccommunityradio.org).  I was too far away from my keyboard to post this Sunday morning, so I'm doing so now.]


Sunday, April 7, 2019

To the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

Dear Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee:

Please rethink your heavy-handed warning that you'll boycott any consultant who works with a primary challenger to a Democratic incumbent. 

Primaries are how we choose our candidates – and leave everyone feeling s/he had a fair shot. Involvement in primaries can strengthen ties to the Party. Telling us we can't try weakens those.
Political parties aren't mentioned in our Constitution. The two-party system has done both good and harm. Our government has grown so complex that the parties function almost as an unofficial arm of the government. The parties have tremendous power – and, I would argue, some obligation to use that power wisely – but are not subject to constitutional restraints on governments. 

Consider the context: heavy criticism of the Party for allegedly tipping the 2016 scales toward Hillary against Bernie, and criticism of DCCC assistance to favored primary candidates in 2018. Your heavy-handed effort to help retain incumbent Democratic congresspersons risks increasing disaffection among Democrats and independents. 

Wresting control of government back from the orange-haired narcissist and his cynical enablers is critical for our nation's future – and perhaps for our continued existence as a democratic republic.
I understand your desire to run the strongest candidates in general elections, and to avoid the expense and potential rancor of primary campaigns.

I understand your desire to run the strongest candidates in general elections, and to avoid the expense and potential rancor of primary campaigns.

But as a Democrat, I wish to be free to run for Congress or to support the best candidate. We have a wonderful Congresswoman; but if we had a corrupt or incompetent congressperson, I would actively seek a better alternative. Your duty is to maintain the majority – which your rigid commitment to established figures may endanger. If you think Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is hurting the party, I've got some interesting video to show you.

While I understand that supporting a challenger won't endear me to the incumbent, formalizing that pressure to conform is repugnant and unethical. Since the Democratic Party is not a government entity, you may not be violating the U.S. Constitution; but you're taking a stand against liberty. (Ironically, in the political arena you're acting in a manner the antitrust laws might not allow if you were capitalists seeking unfair profits.) 

I don't favor term limits. A senior congressperson can use contacts and knowledge of the system to be highly effective, and seniority increases power; but many voters distrust politicians; and rigging the primaries to give incumbents an unfair advantage will encourage the rest of us to counter with term-limits to level the playing field.  

Public faith in our system has been weakening for decades. Trump, Putin, and Jerry Mander have it on the ropes, drooling. Why knock it into the second row?

Your abuse of power will be self-defeating in the long run. For most of us, there's a tension between strict party loyalty and viewing our party association in the larger context of our political beliefs and values. There's both a gravity holding us in the party, and a centrifugal force. You are embittering many of your best people, particularly the all-important younger generations. Consider that the Party's great strength is its openness to change and to different ethnicities and genders; closing primaries to young challengers undermines that strength. 

Absent some compelling justification of your conduct, I will contribute nothing to the DCCC, find other ways to support appropriate candidates, urge others to avoid the DCCC, and mark all your emails as spam. 
                                                                                         -progressive old fart seeking a party
                                                     -30-

[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 7 April 2019, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and on KRWG's website.  A spoken version will air during the week on KRWG and on KTAL-LP, 101.5 FM 9www.lccommunityradio.org )]

[Also wanted to say, but couldn't fit it into the column, that DCCC is undermining its own "Let's unify for the general election" refrain.  In 2018, when Xochi won the nomination and election, a woman named Mad Hildebrandt had been campaigning for the CD-2 seat for months, probably a year.  Mad looked good, sounded good in the speeches I heard her make, and deserved some credit for jumping into the race early, even before Steve Pearce announced he'd be running for governor instead.
Understandably some Democrats got fairly attached to her.  Xochi won the primary.  My message to my friends who'd backed Mad was, Democrats have got to unify to have any chance to win this seat -- and winning it is critical because we now have Mr. Trump in the Casa Blanca.   Some folks were annoyed because they felt the DCCC had favored Xochi over Mad, although I don't think the DCCC actually put money into the primary race.
In any case, I recall the bitterness.  I just don't think punishing folks for contesting primaries is going to strengthen that "Unity!" message.  Rather, I'd have a hard time in 2020 saying the stuff I said in 2018; and I wouldn't expect folks to listen as much.  Yeah, it'll still be true that we should maintain control of that seat.  But I might need some reminder myself as to why the folks who act like the DCCC are better than some other crooked bunch.]

[The Party may not see the consequences of this in 2020.  The urgency of wresting back control of our country from Trump and his enablers is still high; but like termites, people's irritation with the DCCC will eat away at the Party. ]   

[I do sympathize with the desire to avoid costly and sometimes rancorous primary fights; but occasional primary fights come with the territory if you're a political party.  It'd be interesting to discuss with top Democrats whether, on balance, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is good or bad for the Party.   She's in some ways what the framers of our Constitution envisioned: an everyday citizen bringing her view to a legislative body of diverse views, speaking up vigorously, and representing her constituency.  I don't agree with everything she says; but I don't have to.  I don't suggest she be our president; but I could make the case in a debate that she'd be far better at it than Donald Trump! ]   

[My father was a Democrat and a passionate admirer of Adlai Stevenson, for whom I wore sandwich signs at the tender age of 5.  My first real interest in the whole thing was really Jack Kennedy against Richard Nixon.  I went to a school where about 70-80 per cent of the students preferred Nixon, but I liked Kennedy.  I worked passionately for LBJ against Barry Goldwater in the fall of 1964, was disappointed in his escalation of the Viet Nam war, and worked for a peace candidate challenging the Democratic establishment's preferred candidate for U.S. Representative, but got disgusted by both parties, and had a particularly strong reaction to the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.  Driving a New York City taxicab, I often opened conversations with passengers by asking, "Which of the three little pigs are you going to vote for?" (Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, and George Wallace) and cast my own first vote in a presidential election for the eminent Eldridge Cleaver -- so I do understand people feeling that both parties suck.  (But by 2000 I was appalled by old ally Ralph Nader's distraction from the Gore-Bush race, and had vigorous discussions with my daughter regarding her support for Nader.] I suppose I was registered Democratic when I initially lived in New Mexico; in California I registered as "Declined to State" (and forgot that fact and tried to vote in a presidential primary in 1984), then registered Democratic when I returned to New Mexico.  
I think for myself.  I'm a Democrat because that party approaches my views more closely than the other folks, because in this part of New Mexico you're missing half the fun if you can't vote in Democratic primaries, and because the Republican Party has moved so far right over the past few decades.  I don't believe stuff because Democrats say it, although my initial reaction to anything Donald Trump says is that it's probably inaccurate. Still, I look into it further, usually.
At this moment, I am concerned about the future of the Republic.  Donald Trump and the folks who manipulate him are dangerously short-sighted and belligerent, and dishonest, and must be opposed, vigorously, and the Democrats do that -- although they themselves are too much dependent upon money, so that I sometimes feel the Republicans represent the Kochs and the other oligarchs, the Democrats represent a managerial class that runs a lot of companies and other entities, and no one represents the average working folks, although  Democratic policies toward the economy and the environment than Republican policies; but that's damning with faint praise.
Someone did ask me to be "Parliamentarian" of the county Democratic Party a while back, and I went to meetings for a year or two.  I liked the people, and generally agreed with them.  But deep down, I still distrust political parties.]