Sunday, September 17, 2017

A Fine Evening: Las Cruces Symphony "Pops under the Stars"

We thoroughly enjoyed the Las Cruces Symphony's “Pops under the Stars.” 

Beforehand, I visited with several elected officials, with people I've fought beside or against over various issues, and with folks I've known nearly five decades. So many are damned decent people!

Then the music starts. Capturing us. Lonnie Klein is an animated conductor, and seems a skillful one. Visiting vocalist Diane Penning sounds even better than last year. 

The evening is more than great music on a mild evening and the discovery that our new downtown plaza is made for this. There's a true feeling of community. Enjoying the music, surrounded by familiar faces, I reflect on lives and time. 

Our host and hostess are friends who work tirelessly for the community, with a deep appreciation of its political needs and artistic promise.

Across our table sits a younger couple. I've seen them arguing legal points and passionately advocating for our environment. Tonight, entranced by the music, they're relaxed in each other's arms. All around, couples of all ages are holding hands, or leaning back against one another. 

I see three gay couples, good friends. They seem happy. But not touching. I want a world where they feel free to demonstrate their affection publicly. 

I see a woman whose husband died this year. Both were beloved in the community. As Ms. Penning sings “It's time to say good-bye,” our hostess goes to the widow and hugs her. We're glad. I cannot imagine her grief, her strength. When a quail died flying into our living-room window, the bereaved mate wailed for days. Humans have words, but no answers. Friends' sincere and loving support is a pale substitute.

During intermission, I speak with a young man whose father I've battled in court. We express appreciation for the evening and introduce our wives. “Watching Lonnie is half the show,” he marvels. I think again how great it is that at his father's law office, where he is a paralegal who will soon be a skilled lawyer, his grandfather is the receptionist. That's “family” – an endangered species these days.

I see two people I've known for nearly 50 years, since before they found each other. Married since the early 1970's. She stands behind him, hands on his shoulders. Still lovely. Still loving. They're proud of their daughter, an important player in the evening's events.

Several generals sit at a nearby table. When the Symphony plays a medley of songs of the five branches of U.S. military service, veterans stand when their songs play, and Lonnie salutes them. The vets clearly appreciate this respect. Each, if s/he served on a battlefield, also looks into a deep well of comradeship, shared dangers, and joys and tragedies far beyond our ken.

One general graduated from NMSU. Hispanic. Married a gal from Mesilla. Joined the Army. Decades of hard work and skill made him a brigadier general. Then he got to come home to command at White Sands. 

Dimly I recall concerts in parks I attended as a small child. The people were happy and all knew each other. Later, for years, I'd have thought pops under the stars a bit corny, preferring symphony halls and clubs with edgy modern jazz. 

Tonight, the fine music, a gentle breeze with a hint of rain, our restful postures, and a couple of glasses of wine fill me with love not only for my wife but for everyone around us. People's love for each other, their shared pleasure, and the sometimes twisted paths that brought us all here . . . seem almost tangible.

Under the stars, I'm home.
                                                 -30- 

[The column above appeared this morning, Sunday, 17 September 2017, 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 both KRWG Radio and KTAL-LP (101.5 FM).]
 
[This is a personal sort of column, the kind -- unlike exposing political corruption or bad management in government entities, say -- with which it's particularly hard to know how close you've come to saying what you wanted to say.  Or even quite defining what you wanted to say.
At some point during the last half of the concert I realized I wanted to write about the evening.  I'm no music critic, so I can only say that I liked the music and it sounded very professionally played; but the feel of the evening -- the good music, the mild weather, the venue, and a series of encounters (or moments just looking around at people) started to seem to me very special.  I really did feel a powerful wave of love for everyone there, which is a hard kind of thing to say without sounding sappy.  
But music, while I'm enjoying it, also renders me sort of spacey, reflective.  Time and change and the way lives intersect.in very different ways at different moments over the course of decades, are things I reflect on a lot.  Not that I have anything profound to say, but . . . it's nice not to be always carping about someone's misconduct or the idiocies of some public officials.]

[Everything else aside, the evening convinced us to shell out for two season tickets.  Season starts October 7, and looks great!  Check out the symphony's website and think about a season ticket if you like that sort of thing! 
Season or individual-performance tickets available at
(575) 646-3709 or at www.lascrucessymphony.com ]

[Oh, and Lonnie Klein, the conductor, will be a guest on my radio show, "Speak Up, Las Cruces!", September 27 at 9, on KTAL LP, 101.5 FM, the new community radio station."]


Sunday, September 10, 2017

September 11th and Afterward

Monday is September 11th. It is a date like December 7, and perhaps November 22 or August 6. Sixteen years later, it cannot just be said. By 2033 will young folks say it as easily as they say November 22 or August 6?

Memories force themselves on anyone older than 19. After that surge of vivid memory, we reflect.

September 12th
That morning I was in the Library of Congress. Someone suddenly announced the library was closing. Didn't announce there'd been an attack, and that Congress – a block away, connected by underground tunnels – might be a target. But word spread.

The traffic jam was exceptional. Even on my motorcycle it was tough going. For days, military helicopters roared above us. At supper that night, from a rooftop restaurant, I could see smoke still rising from the Pentagon. Early the next morning I rode to the monuments. Streets empty. Just cops and soldiers. I photographed the Lincoln Memorial at dawn, sans sightseers and joggers, just Lincoln, long shadows, and a janitor pushing a broom across a huge marble step.

The U.S. then attacked Afghanistan. For no particular reason, we also attacked Iraq, which had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden and (despite Saddam Hussein's viciousness) was an obstacle to the spread of Iran's influence. 

Neither war has ended. Will we still have soldiers there in 2033?

It was obvious that destroying Iraq would create more terrorists; and it has. The “nation” had been shaped to suit the British. Ethnic and religious tensions would obviously explode into civil war if Saddam's strong and ugly hand were removed. And the Russians had demonstrated the difficulties of war in Afghanistan.

We were in the throes of hysteria. The destruction of the World Trade Center shocked us. Like someone who's been mugged by people from a different ethnic group, we had to struggle with the temptation to assume all Muslims (or all Arabs, or all foreigners) meant us harm. It wasn't so. ISIL and most of the terrorism carried out in the name of Islam during the past 16 years has victimized fellow Muslims. Meanwhile millions of Muslims live among us as quietly and productively and “American” as anyone else. They worship the same God as Jews and Christians. (Quran or Bible, old words in each can be misread to authorize terrible things.)

Now?

We are sensibly more alert. Modern technologies make us vulnerable. Anywhere, anytime, we could be attacked by some deranged person. Modern weapons mean such attacks can be deadlier.
Most others around the world have it worse. Most have never formed the false sense of security our wealth and geographic isolation have given us.

September 11th was and is a test. Heroic efforts by people risking their lives to save others was a great start to passing; but the longer-term test is to love our country enough to hold to its ideals when the going gets tough.

We have been proud that our democracy served as a model throughout the world, and that we were a refuge for the persecuted and the unfree. Justice and tolerance are easier when you're wealthier than anyone else and seem immune to attack. They're harder to maintain when your pockets are emptier and your world seems dangerous.

Is it easy to maintain our ideals? No. Maybe it's easier to circle the wagons and hate anyone outside. Harder to extend a hand to strangers. Well, marriage, child-rearing, and living a good life take work too. But they reward us. Let the heroism some showed then inspire us all to go above and beyond in little ways.
                                                       -30- 

[The column above appeared this morning, Sunday, 10September2017, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and on KRWG's website.  A spoken version will be aired during the week by KRWG and by KTAL-LP FM.] 




Sunday, September 3, 2017

Heroes at 97 - Marthe Cohn and J Paul Taylor

On the 97th Anniversary of women's suffrage in the U.S., two 97-year-olds, speaking on consecutive nights, reminded us – more with their lives than their words – of the importance of standing up against intolerance and hatred.

Sunday, lifelong resident J. Paul Taylor spoke. He embodies ethnic mixing: his Scotch-Irish father and Mexican mother raised a fine young man who taught generations of kids. Then, at 66, he started a nearly two-decade career as the Conscience of the Legislature. He's always stood up for tolerance, equality, and freedom. He still does. 

Monday . . . Imagine a Jewish French girl living near the German border during World War II. She and her family suffer much as France surrenders and Germans occupy her town – and the rest of France collaborates with the Nazis. She trains as a nurse. Risking their lives, she and her family hide refugees, and help them navigate the European version of the Underground Railway. 

When France is liberated, she joins the French Army, at 24. A captain learns she speaks and reads German fluently. She has blonde hair and blue eyes. She ends up in Intelligence, volunteering for repeated missions across the border into Germany. (Only women can do this: posing as a male German would fail, since any young male would be in the army.) 

Sounds like a movie. Not something you go into the Rio Grande Theater to hear the heroine describe.
Marthe Cohn's book, Behind Enemy Lines tells a hell of a story. Not without humor. As when she describes waiting with an older French guide for nightfall, so that she can cross when the German sentries won't see her. He tells her a lot about his wife and family, then, with a strange smile, says, “'You may die tonight. Why don't we have a bit of fun?” But, she tells us more than 70 years later, “that wasn't on my agenda.”

Across the border, she mingles with Germans as a German nurse seeking her lost fiance, a German soldier. She learns much about German troop movements, information that saves lives and helps shorten the war. When she's offered a chance to go home, she declines. Her mission will only end when there's an Armistice. She asks only for a bicycle, having walked many miles. 
 
She falls in with some Germans. One SS officer boasts of his atrocities and brags that he can smell a Jew from a mile away. When he suddenly faints, she nurses him back to health. Grateful, he invites her to visit him at the Siegfried Line. Several weeks later, she tries, but some German soldiers tell her that the entire area west of Freiberg has been evacuated – and ambushes await the Allies in the Black Forest. She manages to get this critical information into Allied hands. (Fortunately, the first tank that shows up is French, since she has not yet learned English.) “That is what they gave me all those medals for,” she tells us, gesturing at the long table on stage.

With occasional help from her husband, she tells us her story. She speaks with charm and wit, and a surprising command of the English vernacular, referring to “mom-and-pop stores,” and of soldiers “taking me for a bimbo,” and using such words as “newcomer,” “rickety,” and entailed.” (She learned English after the war.) 
 
Marthe was pretty then. She's magnificent now. Like J. Paul, she speaks with humility and grace. 
 
Both articulate a message still painfully clear: if we do not each do what we can against hatred and injustice, the fight could be lost.
                                                   -30-

[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 3 September 2017, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG's website.  A spoken version will be aired by KRWG several times this week, including twice on Wednesday, and by KTAL-LP 101.5 FM on Thursday.]

[Much thanks to Dr. Richard Hempstead for alerting us to Ms. Cohn's imminent appearance here -- and treating us to seats; thanks to Rabbi Bery Schmukler and the Alevy Chabad Jewiosh Center of Las Cruces for arranging Ms. Cohn's appearance; and thanks to Cynthia Garrett and the others who organized the annual birthday fest for Mr. Taylor.]  

[I've written often about J Paul ["An Admirable Friend"], including an earlier birthday celebration ["Where Love Abides - J Paul Taylor is 95!"] and the book about his life (The Man from Mesilla)by Ana Pacheco ["A Saturday Afternoon in Mesilla" (2012).]. 

[Ms. Cohn's book, co-authored with Wendy Holden, is Behind Enemy Lines - The true story of a French Jewish spy in Nazi Germany, published in 2002 by Three Rivers Press.  I will read it with interest.  Interestingly, Ms. Cohn was pretty silent about her exploits for decades, so silent that her children had been unaware of them in any detail until she was awarded the Medaille Militaire on 14 July 2000 (presented by the French consul in Los Angeles).   "She was just our mom," they commented.] 
Image may contain: 1 person, sitting and indoor
Marthe Cohn signs a copy of her book - Rio Grande Theater 28Aug2017
J Paul Taylor - "Happy Birthday!" SNMFRM 27Aug2017

[To anyone who objects that Ms. Cohn's conduct is much more "heroic" than J Paul's, I'd agree -- as, I'm sure, would he.  But the coincidence of hearing moving speeches by two admirable 97-year-olds on consecutive days was irresistible; and both speak to contemporaneous concerns, to which their own lives and spirit are highly relevant.] 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Tale of Two Governors - Retain NMSU President Garrey Carruthers

Sometimes we change our minds about people; or the people change. Or both.

I knew Garrey Carruthers slightly in the 1970's. He was a business professor and chaired the State Republican Party. I was an antiwar rabble-rouser, then a reporter. We didn't particularly hit it off. 

I lived elsewhere when he was governor. After I returned to Las Cruces, and he sought the NMSU Presidency, I wrote against choosing him. Nothing personal. He'd apologized for Big Tobacco, and was sticking his head in the sand about global warming; and he'd likely stress corporate and military stuff rather than arts and sciences. 

Soon after he got the job he appeared on my radio show. We talked for an hour. Agreed about some things and disagreed about others; but collegially and somewhat candidly.

Later, someone at Corbett Center overreacted to students protesting the National Security Agency. Alan Dicker held a sign pointing at the NSA recruiting table reading, “If you want to work for Big Brother, apply here. The next day, another student dropped a copy of Orwell's 1984 on NSA's table outdoors. Both students were arrested. Which I thought violated their free speech rights.

Representing the students, Mike Lilley and I contacted Assistant General Counsel Lisa Warren. We said that we could and would sue, and spend a lot of everyone's time and NMSU's money litigating what seemed to us an obvious violation. Or University and students could collaborate on rewriting the campus free speech rules and educating staff on the law. 

NMSU (Carruthers) agreed. As I wrote then, the resulting Free Speech Task Force was a delightful, cooperative experience. If you'd walked in during a meeting, you would have had a hard time figuring out which half of the members the University had appointed and which the students had appointed. If NMSU Police Chief Stephen Lopez saw a way we should state a free-speech right more clearly, he said so. If I saw something that was good for free speech, but might have negative side-effects on NMSU, I pointed out the problem. 

Carruthers backed us wholeheartedly, helping shepherd the new policy through the administrative process, including Regents' approval. 

It's been a tough time to preside over a public university. Dwindling funds and a short-sighted governor have exacerbated problems most colleges and universities are facing. I lack sufficient knowledge to assess Dr. Carruthers's performance in detail; I've heard things anecdotally. I like his readiness to jump into a frank discussion with people, whether they agree with him or not. He has substantial relevant experience, as NMSU student, professor, dean, and now Prexy. He's likely a fine fund-raiser, with varied contacts; and his openness to discussion probably means he can not only raise funds from wealthy conservatives and corporations but from more progressive entities.

So, why didn't the Regents decide not to renew his contract? Ageism? Can't be poor performance. Sure ain't because they want someone more liberal-arts oriented. The Regents likely don't share my view that, except for the Ameresco energy services contract, NMSU has been lousy on environmental matters. 

Or did Susana Martinez get her appointed board to slap Carruthers down because he'd spoken up for NMSU when she was having a hissy fit and not funding universities? (Yo, that's his job!) Or has she whispered she'd like a highly-paid gig after 2018, increasing her state retirement benefits?

Hope not. Unlike Carruthers, she can't get along with people who aren't obedient; she holds petty grudges and acts on them; she has no experience teaching at or running a university; and she's screwed up her current job six ways from Sunday.
                                                    -30-

[The above column appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 27 August, 2017, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG's website.  A spoken version will air several times this week on KRWG Radio, and on Thursday on KTAL-LP, 101.5 FM.]

[I note the high praise for Carruthers expressed recently by Bill McCamley, Mary Kay Papen, and others who've had a better chance to observe Carruthers. I share their concern that even if there's no plot to put Susana in Garrey's seat, the Regents should not be turning a cold shoulder on Carruthers because he spoke up for the University against Martinez's blanket veto, and implicitly criticized her by noting he'd raised taxes as governor when it appeared necessary.
I'm not suggesting we canonize Carruthers; but I recognize that most of what I oppose in him is stuff these Regents probably like. I'm not happy about NMSU's development plans East of town; but that's me, and I recognize that his plans may be pragmatically in the best interest of the University's long-term finances.  If Carruthers still isn't sure about global warming or thinks it's fine to deal with Monsanto, we still disagree and I still think those are important issues; but it isn't as if the regents share my concerns.  Their secret reasons for sending him off into the sunset, IF they do so, are likely not that he's insufficiently concerned about the environment.]

[Meanwhile, between my writing of this column and its publication, the Sun-News has also editorialized on the subject and the Board of Regents plans to discuss the issue Wednesday morning and revisit Carruthers's future, (probably at about the time I'm discussing the issue with Bill McCamley and others on my weekly radio show).  Since donors reportedly have also expressed the kinds of concerns the legislators, the Sun-News, and I have expressed, I'm hopeful the Regents will rethink this one.]

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Trump and Charlottesville

I think I understand why revulsion at Trump's comments on Charlottesville is so universal.

Trump's “both sides are wrong” response didn't shock or surprise me. Local Republican County Chair Roman Jimenez's vicious writing didn't surprise me. Why would they? 

But Trump is suddenly isolated, deserted by business, the military, and other Republicans. Jimenez has resigned under fire. Republican fire. 

A book review helped me see why this week's events elicited such a strong, universal reaction: what we saw dredged up distant images locked in all our hearts because they were so unthinkable.
The book review mentioned conductor Arturo Toscanini getting beaten up by Nazi thugs in Berlin in 1931. One of many harbingers of what was to come. 

We have a president who encourages violence. He plays to his audience by urging security to beat protesters at rallies and by urging police to bang black arrestees' heads against the hard steel roofs of police cars. When his supporters do violence, he can't criticize them unambiguously. Nazi wannabes shouted slogans against Jews. A nutcase from Ohio drove into a crowd of people. Trump doesn't see the problem.

He can't unambiguously criticize an insane and homicidal supporter. The victims were asking for it. Were both sides guilty in the Miami nightclub shooting, because gay people were dancing with each other in public? Democrats condemned the shooting of Republican Congressmen at a baseball practice. I loathe Steve Pearce's politics, but I'd sure stop someone from shooting bullets at him if I could! 

If a Muslim nutcase had driven that car, Trump would rail against Muslims. But the White Supremacists who egged this guy on? They were Trump's first supporters. 

Even Republicans are appalled. Even many conservatives are speaking out.

On the radio a black woman says she's surprised not by the racism but by the Quad Cities speaking out against that racism. She never saw that while she was growing up. She felt good seeing white faces at a protest. In Doña Ana County, Jimenez's extreme rhetoric is suddenly unpalatable to the people who had made him their leader. 

Why? Because a dangerous buffoon as Chancellor, with thugs who support him beating people, feels eerily familiar.

Whatever our political or social views, we do not want that Nazi world. Trump and his supporters have trod too close to indelible images from history carved somewhere deep inside us: photographs from the Holocaust, Nazis kicking a pregnant Jewish woman's belly. (I also recall TV footage of skinny little black girls being escorted to school by the national guard, on a sidewalk lined with jeering white adults.) Whatever our beliefs, we know we do not want a world like that. 

Trump is not Hitler. He's a narcissist who's lived a privileged life. He has no strong political views. He's greedy, shallow, and self-absorbed. He hasn't Hitler's sharp focus or deep hatred. Trump looks down on blacks, but has no desire to eradicate them. Particularly if they stay in their place.
 
And our middle class and lower-middle classes aren't (yet?) nearly as shell-shocked as Germany's were during the 1930's. Yeah, the last few decades have about made the middle-class an endangered species, widening the vast inequality between rich and poor and pushing more of us toward that latter.
But things aren't as bad as they were in Germany.

We have a long democratic tradition. Germany didn't.

But historical repetitions need not be precisely identical. 

The young woman murdered in Charlottesville posted online that we must speak up against hatred, that failing to speak was to support it. 

It's heartening that so many are speaking out. This time.
                                     -30-

[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 20 August 2017, 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.]

[If it isn't clear what I'm saying and what I'm not: it feels dangerous to have a fellow in the White House spewing violent thoughts and encouraging the more vicious among us; when thugs do pro-fascist violence, he basically smiles upon them; and that can't help remind anyone who's old or has read any history of Germany in the 1930's.  Not an appetizing prospect.
I'm not saying Trump is Hitler; but if a man drives a car into a crowd because he's too busy looking at himself in the mirror to concentrate on driving, the people he kills are just as dead as if he'd planned it all out carefully.  Same with our democracy, already under threat by Citizens United, Koch Brothers, ALEC, and the rest.
That is, there are dangers here.  Bad things are happening and more could be in store.
There are a lot of reasons -- the responses of our business and military leaders, our democratic history and traditions, Trump's basic incompetence, and above all the fact that such a vast majority of people loathe Trump -- to hope nothing so vile as happened in Germany will happen here; so I don't believe anything similar will happen here.  But most Germans couldn't  have imagined what occurred there.
I don't think we'll descend to that level; but I do think every thinking person of good will needs to pay attention and speak up.  Hitler was even more marginal than Donald Trump when he started.  Folks didn't suppose either would become their nation's leader.  These are troublesome times, which I believe we'll survive -- but not if we sleep.]


[Saturday, as I was copying this column into my blog, I ran across these statements by U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb).  And although he and a couple of other prominent Republicans may be angling for visibility in a possible post-Trump Presidential race in 2020, similar sentiments seem widespread right now.]

[And this just in: Evangelical students at Liberty University are returning their diplomas to protest Jerry Falwell's continued support of Trump.   Liberty University? These are not leftwingers.


September 12, 2011




Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Kaepernick Redux

My Sunday column a few weeks ago discussed Colin Kaepernick, and the NFL's informal blacklist of him for kneeling during the national anthem and making comments critical of our government and police -- and the history of both.

19August update:

This new story shows NY City cops showing support for Kaepernick, and a second white football player participating  in  an anthem kneeling -- by keeping his right hand on the shoulder of a kneeling black teammate.

“There will be no football in the state of Georgia if Colin Kaepernick is not on a training camp roster and given an opportunity to pursue his career,” said Gerald Griggs of the Atlanta NAACP at a Friday press conference, via fox5atlanta.com. “This is not a simple request. This is a statement. This is a demand.”
“Kaepernick engaged in a silent, non-violent protest,” says Senior Pastor Deblaire Snell of the First SDA Church in Huntsville, Alabama. “He did this to raise awareness to the number of brown and black individuals that have been beaten and killed at the hands of law enforcement across this country. Since the end of last season, as a result of this protest, Colin Kaepernick has been unable to find employment in the NFL. I find that strange, seeing that the NFL has employed individuals that have been convicted of sexual assault, domestic violence, cruelty to animals, along with driving while under the influence. A number of NFL owners have come out and stated the reason they cannot employ him is because of a fear of a backlash from sponsors or a certain segment of their fan base. And it’s interesting that they’ve capitulated thus far to a certain segment of the fan base while fearing no backlash from the African-American community. . . .
“My belief is simply this. If Colin Kaepernick was willing to take a stand for those of us who are non-celebrities that would have to interact with law enforcement on a day-to-day basis, if he’s willing to take a knee for us, certainly we ought to take a stand, and stand with him.”
Over the balance of the video, various others explain that there will be a refusal to watch the NFL, a refusal to purchase NFL merchandise, and a refusal to participate in fantasy football.
“We want you to know this protest is not anti-flag, because people of color love the Stars and Stripes,” says Dr. Leslie N. Pollard, president of Oakwood University. “This protest is not anti-American, because people of color have loved this country, even when this country has not loved us back. And this protest is not anti-veteran, because we support those who have made sacrifices so that our liberties have been secured. This protest is to ensure the rights of all Americans regardless of color and creed to be heard.”
previous update:
I felt, as others do, that Kaepernick was a sufficiently good quarterback that he should have been hired this offseason well before quite a few QB's that teams hired or retained.  Without rearguing that, this post will note additional developments and contain links to some stories on those.  This week, those include a couple of other prominent players who failed to stand for the national anthem before preseason games recently.  Saturday, star running-back Marshawn Lynch sat before his first game as a Raider.  Sunday, Seattle Seahawks' defensive end Michael Bennett, some of whose comments appear below, did the same.  

Seahawks' head coach Pete Carrol didn't even realize until after the game that Bennett had sat during the anthem.  A Seahawks' official said he was fine with Bennett's action "as long as Michael is preaching love and not hate."  On Saturday, Lynch, Bennett’s former Seahawks teammate, sat on Oakland’s bench eating a banana during the anthem.


Bennett chose not to stand during the national anthem prior to the Seattle Seahawks preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers. He explained why to Yahoo Sports’ Jordan Schultz, and this is a condensed version of his words:
I’ve been thinking about sitting during the national anthem, especially after everything that’s been happening the last couple weeks. It’s just been so crazy right now, and I felt like the conversation wasn’t over.  I know it offends a lot of people, that’s why I kept it straightforward. I love America, I love hot dogs, I love everything about it.
I thought about it right up to the beginning of the game, and finally decided not to stand because it just felt right.
Everybody’s supportive as usual, because people know I genuinely care about people and care about the way that the world is.
Not a lot of people are willing to stand up and say what they believe in. [N]ot everybody is willing to say that they hate injustice. It’s kind of one of those things where you’ll be ridiculed if you bring something like that up in any place, so it’s hard to do.  I think I’m just a regular human being that’s wiling to be vulnerable in that way.
I really had to think about what I was doing. It was one of those things like, ‘Yeah, you’re really doing it. You’re really putting yourself out there to be attacked. You’re really stepping out. Are you ready for what’s going to happen? Are you ready for what people are going to say?’
So far, everything’s been positive.
Going forward, I want to continuously just push the message of equality.
My goal, my hope, is more action. Say less, do more.




(Twitter/@DennisTFP)

I think I’m at the point where spiritually, this is what you do. You dedicate your life to helping make change and using your platform to do it. You continuously have to be on that path to keep going, challenging yourself to do it. I think I’m inspired to keep doing more, even with all the hate going on. I’m inspired to keep trying to make a change.
I know some people won’t like it, but that doesn’t bother me. It’s a part of life, I think. Everybody’s going to attack you. If you’re in the game, you’re being attacked. I think being a sports star, you need to learn about fans, learn about people. The ups and downs of people, their beliefs – people feel one way one day and then change the next day. Sticking to who you are is, I think, the most important thing.
For me, I think wanting to make a difference started as a kid. I was always helping around, help doing things. I was on my grandpa’s farm, just doing stuff for the community. I got it from my parents. I think growing up reading about Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi and all these people, it really helped me cultivate what to do with my platform.
I always looked up to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, John Carlos. All these guys do so much.
Now I look at Colin Kaepernick and all these people who do so much in the community and raising the bar of what we can do as athletes and what we can do as people. Do we forget our story and our journey and recreate who we are? Or do we connect our story to where we are now to be able to give other kids opportunities?
People want to keep you on the field. Everyone cares about what you do on the field and not what you’re doing as a man or a father or a person. Every question is about sports and sometimes it can get annoying because you can kind of lose your identity within sports.
When you get in the position on a platform where you get a chance to give back and create opportunities for others, that’s where I want my legacy to be. Over the last four or five years, my story has been shared more than in the past. I want to create opportunities for others. I want to raise the bar about what we can do as athletes and people. I think that’s where I want my legacy to be.
People are inspired by each other and want to help each other, and I think that’s the message that I really want to speak to clearly. It’s about how do we connect with each other and remember that we’re all people, and we all want to be a part of this great thing we call life, and this great thing we call love.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Texas Becomes Mecca for Rapists and Thieves

Texas limits deer-hunting to certain seasons, but is making it open season all year long on Latinas without papers. 

SB4 makes it criminal for a police chief or sheriff to direct officers not to ask for people's papers.
Latinos and law-enforcement are united in opposing this bill.

The Legislature ignored State Rep. Mary Gonzalez's moving plea not to pass this vicious and misguided bill. She too had been raped. A painful public admission. She made the obvious point that discouraging victims from reporting rapes and other crimes tells anyone contemplating such conduct that he probably can get away with it.

Already, reports of rapes have declined significantly among Latinas, while reports from others are increasing. And it's not just rapes. A group of teenagers confessed (or bragged?) that they targeted Latinos because “they don't call the police.”

Since potential criminals don't necessarily know who has papers, crimes against Hispanic citizens, legal residents, and illegal residents will all increase. But so what? They're brown, and they're in Texas. 

As the Texas Major Cities Association (TMCA) argues, cops “work extremely hard to build and maintain trust, communication, and stronger relationships with minority communities through community based policing and outreach programs. [Laws like SB4] that push local law enforcement to take a more active role in immigration enforcement will further strain the relationship between local law enforcement and these diverse communities.” 

This at a time when distrust and poor communication between cops and minorities is literally killing members of both groups. Why would a witness without papers answer questions about a cop-killing in Dallas? They know the cops aren't protecting them. Cooperating could not only spark retaliation by the killers but get them deported. (Would the cops actually deport such a person? They 'd not want to; but would a witness take the chance?)

SB4 exposes Republican “law-and-order” talk as empty rhetoric. The TMCA op-ed added, “if we don't arrest criminals who victimize our immigrant communities, we allow them to remain free to victimize every one of us.” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo tweeted, “Violent crime is on rise across our Nation & some would rather men & women in blue go after cooks & nannies, instead of hardened criminals.” TMCA suggested that a real effort at decreasing immigration would go after businesses that hire immigrants. 

Although Governor Abbott says it's about public safety, law-enforcement officials are nearly unanimous in strongly opposing this bill. Cops know how things work on the street. SB4 adds to their problems and dangers. But it fits the anti-immigrant hysteria, and the Republican ideology. Who cares about the people it hurts? 

Who cares about anything sensible when hysteria takes over? 

The famous wall, if ever built, would accomplish little, but would hurt the economy and ecology along the border, divide communities, and cost a fortune. Just the threat of it may be dampening cross-border trade.

Smart folks outside the U.S. are already trying to replicate Silicon Valley, hoping that tech-savvy folks from other countries will feel more comfortable bringing their talents to somewhere that isn't in a panic against “furriners.” 

I understand Trump's position. He was never as popular as he wished, and now he's screwing up all over the place. In traditional fashion, he's distracting us with convenient scapegoats. The same tactics work well in Texas. 

Studying facts and making reasoned decisions was never as popular in government as it should have been; but Trump's legendary disdain for truth and facts seems to work, so why wouldn't small-minded Texas legislators emulate him. I hope New Mexicans won't.
                                                        -30-

[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 13 August 2017, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and on KRWG's website.  A spoken version will air several times on KRWG Radio, and possibly on KTAL-LP, 101.5 FM.]

[Here's part of what State Rep. Mary Gonzalez said:  "To my friends on this floor, if you ever had any friendship with me, then this is the vote that measures that friendship. That you can vote for this amendment, then you think it’s OK for women, for children not to be able to go to law enforcement and be protected in their most vulnerable time in their lives. That you’re willing to take that risk, then I hope you never talk to me again, because this is people’s lives."There’s been a sharp drop. In rapes and sexual assaults alone, the reduction has been 42.8 percent, while the rest of the community, the numbers have gone up. The same holds true, to a lesser extent, I think about 13 percent increase, with a decrease for all violent crime.
"And, you know, that’s the unintended consequence. When you start trying to create the perception that front-line law enforcement officers, who should be focused on public safety, are now going to become ICE agents, you cannot argue with the fact that it’s going to have an impact. Perception matters. And the perception that SB 4, and the debate leading up to this law, has created is that we are going to be required to be immigration agents, which that’s not the truth. I mean, that’s not a fact, but it doesn’t matter. You cannot—we just can’t seem to convince the immigrant community that they need not to fear us."]

[Here's a link to Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo's press conference.  (I'm proud of my former law school classmate, Houston Mayor Silvester Turner, for whatever part he played in making this guy chief.)

The New Yorker quotes El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles as saying, “It’s kind of amazing that, during the initial hearing, the senators had all these chiefs and sheriffs from across Texas speaking against the bill—and they totally ignored the people in law enforcement,” adding that his alread overworked officers are  “too busy to waste their time doing another agency’s work.”  He also noted that the new law made this "[T]he only area where one of my officers could now be allowed to go out there and ignore his own bosses is on immigration. It’s crazy.”

Republican supporters of SB 4 are doubly hypocritical: they're not only interfering with police when they're the loudest at screaming "Support your Local Police," they always preach "decentralization," but only practice it when they feel like it.  As Acevedo told The New Yorker, “Texas politicians always complain that Washington is trying to dictate to them how to do things.  Now they’re turning around and doing the same thing to the cities in their own state.”  Further, since police in most of these cities already asked about immigration status if it was material to an investigation or with regard to someone arrested, the effect of the change is to specifically targets witnesses and people reporting crimes.  Victims.  I'd sure appreciate that if I were a criminal in Texas!]