Sunday, October 1, 2023

Homelessness Is a National Epidemic

I don’t love everything the Las Cruces City Council does. I advocate much stronger steps to improve the Police Department and its accountability. I yammer about the City’s defective obedience to the Inspection of Public Records Act. Once when I spoke, Councilor Tessa Abeyta treated me the way far-right Republican Congressfolk treat Merrick Garland.

But let’s play fair. If we really want to improve our community, not just make political points, it helps to know who at least influences what.

We are not seeing homelessness because we’re unusually nice to unhoused folks or because we live somewhat near an international border. Our warm climate and open spaces compound the problem, but the nation is experiencing an epidemic of homelessness.

The reasons aren’t secrets: we have chosen not to spend enough money on affordable housing; unlike other developed nations, we’ve chosen a healthcare system in which healthcare is not a right, many citizens lack health insurance, and others are just a catastrophic injury or illness away from homelessness. (42% of U.S. citizens who receive cancer diagnoses spend their entire life savings within months.) While modern life tends to unsettle many of us, our society takes less care of the mentally ill or the demented than it should. Large numbers of citizens live from paycheck to paycheck, subject to eviction if an unusual expense – even a dead car – devours the rent money.

Most of what citizens suggest at council meetings is unconstitutional, otherwise unlawful, and/or impractical.

“Buy ‘em a ticket for Los Angeles and throw ‘em on a bus!” echoes the Medieval solution: people act weird, throw ‘em on a boat headed to another city. They’re gone. Traveling on water might help their minds. Researching my novel, The Moonlit Path, I learned that in 1914, when angry bands of unemployed men roved through California, cities sometimes put them in trucks and drove them to other cities. But a city trying that now could pay huge damages.

Roust ‘em!” The City of Albuquerque is under a new court order not to seize or destroy homeless folks’ property. Homeless encampment sweeps may be unconstitutional.

The state and federal constitutional protections against injustice and inequality can sometimes be real inconvenient. For example, just because you think some penniless guy is a problem, you can’t just lock him up and toss the key because he lacks $200, when a rich guy would walk instantly, hardly noticing he’d deposited $200.

The Constitutions say we get fair trials. If jail is a possibility the state or city pays a lawyer to defend us. But I can’t have a fair trial if I’m too mentally addled to help my lawyer with that defense. Defendants who display their lack of sanity to judges get sent to Las Vegas. They aren’t cured there, maybe aren’t even treated, but the State sends ‘em back, agreeing they’re insane, and local judges have to free them. State and Nation could spend more on helping with mental health.

I remember a commercial in which a guy fixing transmissions says, “Pay me now or pay me later.” Not changing your oil eventually has consequences. If some of these problems worry you, consider advocating that our governments do some prevention. (Meanwhile, congressional wingnuts may shut down our whole government (costing many billions of dollars) to make us spend less on just the kinds of things that could help.

Few choose homelessness. Helping folks avoid it helps us all.

                                  – 30 – 


[The above column appeared Sunday, 1 October, in the Las Cruces Sun-News and on the newspaper website (sub nom, Can We Focus on Real Solutions for Homelessness), as well as on the KRWG website under Local Viewpoints. A shortened and sharpened radio commentary version will air during the week on KRWG (90.1 FM) and on KTAL-LP (101.5 FM / ]

[By the way, folks ask me what's going on with the column, because they often don't see it in the Sun-News these days.   Yes, I do still write the column each week (although one recent week I just got too busy and skipped it, first time in more than a decade).  No, it's often not in the newspaper.  (Why?  Because, as I understand it, they now make up the editorial pages for all the Gannett papers in the region, not solely for Las Cruces, so sometimes my column doesn't make it.) It is still on the newspaper's website, given above (although just when it goes up varies).  It is also on KRWG's website, under Local Viewpoints, usually by Monday.  That one's free.  And of course I re-post it here on my blog.]

[By the way, we’ll continue candidate fora this week on “Speak Up, Las Cruces!” on KTAL, 8-10 am on KTAL, Community Radio:]

4 October 

8 - 8:30  Co-Hosts Peter Goodman and Daisy Maldonado will talk with each other and listeners who call in [ (575) 526-KTAL (526-5825) ]

8:30-9     Beto O'Rourke (by phone)

9-10        Las Cruces City Council Dist. 1 Candidates Jason Estrada, Cassie McClure, Daniel Buck, Patrick Potter, and Mark O'Neill)

See our website for full schedule, but we’ll talk with the seven candidates for Mayor of Las Cruces on 18 October, from 8:30 – 10.

[Candidate fora repeat when the Wednesday morning show repeats 2-4 pm Wednesdays, and thereafter will be on our archives, so they're available to everyone, whether or not you're free to listen when we're talking.] 

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Restorative Justice Is a Healthy Innovation at LCPS

Las Cruces Public Schools is implementing restorative justice.

Starting around 2017, influenced by former School Board President Maria Flores, the school sought to reexamine its approach to discipline. Automatically meting out punishments, particularly suspensions or expulsions, wasn’t working for the schools (not really changing any kids’ hearts and minds) or for the community (putting uneducated kids on the streets, when perhaps he could have gone further in his education. Suspension is “the nuclear option.”

LCPS was tired of repeating similar actions with a forlorn hope of getting a better result.

So what IS “restorative justice” as practiced in our schools?

“It’s about teaching kids how to cope with their emotions and understand the harm caused by any infraction,” says Roberto Lozano, Associate Superintendent of Equity, Innovation, and Social Justice. It rests on five Rs: Relationship, Respect, Responsibility, Repair, and Reintegration.

It’s not about “no consequences.” It’s about tailoring those consequences to the specific situation, kids, and infraction, in a way that might improve the situation for everyone, not just put kids prematurely on the street instead of en route to a diploma. And as a kid who was usually in trouble, I’d have hated it. I’d have said, “Punish me any way you feel like, you jerks!” rather than have to sit down and discuss the harm I’d caused. With victims.

Rather than automatically thinking “Punishment!” the teachers learn to consider “restorative practices” that might repair the harm done, restore harmony, and even maybe even reach the root cause of a kid’s misbehavior. The school arms principals, counselors, and teachers with tools for more subtle and sharply focused responses to misconduct – which takes everyone more time and effort, but promises superior results. “This work is hard,” Dr. Lozano warns.

It’s about getting kids to reflect on the harms caused by their own misbehavior. LCPS is doesn’t compromise where safety is concerned, but seeks generally to turn sour behavior into refreshing discussions and, hopefully, kids’ insights into themselves and their conduct. An example: angry mother of first grader complains some “monster” classmate grabbed her daughter’s backside. Assistant principal identifies boy and calls parents, who apologize profusely, explaining the boy went to park with older brother and friends, saw them grabbing each other’s asses in play, thought that was how one behaves. They’ve told him otherwise. Principal schedules sit-down. Parents meet. Mother is still angry, but softens a little when she hears explanation. Then kids join them. Mother breaks into hysterical laughter when she sees how small and clueless the “monster” is.

Strong student-teacher relationships are essential. Building such relationships may not be in the syllabus; but writing it off is like canceling football practices and just playing weekly games because you can’t record a “win” by practicing. Or objecting that changing the spark plugs isn’t driving to Tucson. Strengthening relationships and trust furthers the basic mission by improving kids’ ability and motivation to learn reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. Studies show kids who are relative comfortable in class learn better. Which makes sense. Don’t we all function better when we’re not too distracted by uncertainty whether we belong, fears that no one cares about us, or emotional upheaval about having been beaten up?

I’m not sure how widely the program is effective. A high school teacher recalled some talk of it a few years ago “from the higher ups,” but really hadn’t seen it in action.

But the idea is good.

                                             – 30 --

[The above column appeared Sunday, 17 September, in the Las Cruces Sun-News and on the newspaper's website, as well as on the KRWG website under Local Viewpoints. A related radio commentary will air during the week on KRWG (90.1 FM) and on KTAL-LP (101.5 FM / ]


Sunday, September 10, 2023

A Ringside Seat for Local Democracy

Democracy is a strange and messy process. Plunging into it sometimes leaves me moved, amused, angry, and curious.

I went to Tuesday’s City Council Meeting. I hoped to help rescue discussion of police accountability from the secret committee where Mayor Miyagashima has sent it to die. (Ken’s helped make some great changes over time, but killed others in their infancy.)

Public input, as usual, was mostly the Coalition for Conservatives in Action, berating councilors about rising crime and regarding some letter to NMSU regarding an unpopular and hate-producing speaker. (I lack facts to agree or disagree. I understand protecting the students from hatred, but I’m a pretty strong First Amendment guy. That’s another column.) It’s sometimes tough to distinguish honest anger about real problems from using a convenient way to attack the councilors.

Outside the meeting room, I told some of the conservatives I share their concern about crime, particularly recidivism, but think the Council the wrong target on some issues. Actions these folks demand would be tossed out by the U.S. Supreme Court. State constitutional bail rules bind Municipal Court. Recidivism? If a municipal judge has a mentally incompetent defendant, who can’t constitutionally be tried because s/he can’t assist the defense lawyer, the judge can send the defendant up to Las Vegas; but Las Vegas just says “Yep, incompetent,” and sends the Defendant back. The judge can’t try that Defendant, and can’t institutionalize the defendant to get the help s/he needs.

Sadly, I kept having to explain why I didn’t think abortion was baby-killing, and that sort of stuff.

Some folks (left or right) can’t suspend their political anger long enough to cooperate on matters we all agree need fixing. By contrast, when CCIA’s Juan Garcia called me one Sunday morning, I went to the site of some vandalism and wrote a column on the problem it symbolized. Juan didn’t bother reminding me that he thinks abortion is murder, and I didn’t waste time asking how the hell he could vote for Donald Trump. We saw a problem, sympathized with the victim, and wanted to improve the situation. We still do.

The Council considered a hotly-contested proposal for an apartment complex at 725 McClure, zoned for single-family homes. Planning and Zoning had declined to approve it, and the owner appealed.

John Vaccaro made a great argument for the landowner, noting that the project helped address standing problems such as infill development and more affordable housing. Justin Nations movingly argued the residents’ case, based on safety, inadequate road and infrastructure, and historic significance. I did not immediately know which way I’d vote, if I could.

Sincere citizens argued from their conflicting interests. No one was right or wrong in any clearly accessible way. I felt for the single-family homeowners, recalling how much I disliked the extra traffic Centennial High School caused – and dislike the willfully law-breaking black smoke from Tommy Graham’s old mortuary. But the developer was following some city principles, and, as one councilor said, multi-family homes, more energy-efficient, are the wave of our climate-altered future.

And we need places for workers and old folks with limited resources to live.

“This is a hard one,” two councilors commented. “It’s a really heavy decision,” one added. Finally they rejected the appeal 4-3, but several expressed mixed feelings.

Sitting there reminds me that much of a councilor’s work has little to do with the political spectrum.

                                                         – 30 --


[The above column appeared Sunday, 10 September, in the Las Cruces Sun-News and on the newspaper’s website (sub nom Democracy and your City Council, as well as on the KRWG website. A related radio commentary will air during the week on KRWG (90.1 FM) and on KTAL-LP (101.5 FM / (By the way, Wednesday, 13 September, from 4 to 5:30 I’ll be intermittently on KRWG, helping with the station’s upcoming fund-drive. This would be a duller, less enjoyable, less intelligent, and generally less interesting community without KRWG, and its classical music, local and national public affairs programs, and local news reporting. We listen often. If you’re a contributor, thanks! If you’re not, please consider contributing.]

[Regarding the line, early in the column, “Ken’s helped make some great changes over time, but killed others in their infancy,” it’s a fair summary, but oversimplified. In my view Mayor Miyagashima’s long tenure has seen him on the right side of a lot of close calls, but also with his mind slammed shut against certain proposals. I hadn’t yet moved back here when he first ran for Mayor, but I supported him twice for re-election – and would not have supported him had he chosen to run again this year. I like and respect him, but have been as direct as I could be about some strong criticisms, including a couple where I thought the City was violating state law or its own ordinances.]



Sunday, September 3, 2023

On Book Banning

Coalition of Conservatives in Action’s local chair, Juan Garcia, has requested removal from the Mayfield High library of a book, Jack of Hearts and other Parts. We’ll discuss this on radio September 13 with Juan, but here’s my gut reaction:

Book-banning happens when political or military power and intellectual or humanitarian weakness combine. Banning a book, whether the Bible, Lady Chatterley's Lover, or Ayn Rand’s nonsense, admits that in a free exchange of ideas, the book is dangerously persuasive.

Freedom is a compelling idea. Dictators ban books and movies and activists advocating freedom. Equality is so compelling that Rhodesia, South Africa, and southern U.S. states banned works urging it. Some would still ban To Kill a Mockingbird. Christianity, early on and again in Communist-ruled nations in the 20th Century, was a dangerous idea.

Our country’s bedrock principle is freedom of speech. In New Hampshire town halls or in cyberspace, we are confident enough to invite freedom of discussion. Ideas, religions, and theories, even some we loathe, should be free to contend in the intellectual marketplace.

Banning books states, loudly and clearly, “I’m afraid my views can’t hold up to open competition and examination.” Why else bother?

Jack was written, apparently, to reassure “queer” kids and spark discussion. (“Queer,” like “the N-word” was an epithet that folks now, like Blacks in my youth, turned around and embraced, as a way of saying, “We are who we are – Is Name-Calling is the Best You Can Do?”)

Our government says kids should be treated well, whatever their skin color, religion, gender, or ideas. That doesn’t always happen.

The banning can’t be for containing sex scenes. Jack is less explicit than many young adult books, and in the small excerpts I’ve read, the harsh, hurtful treatment of lovers might discourage kids from suffering such treatment, not attract them.

The banning is for fear of the idea that kids whose sexual preferences differ from the narrow Fundamentalist Christian box of only one male and one female, preferably married to each other, and perhaps preferably of similar skin shades and limiting their activities to the missionary position. It’s reasonable to discourage high school kids from having sex at all; but that horse left the barn decades ago, so the concern must be the nature of the sex.

The banning can’t be an allegation that Mayfield High is teaching kids bad behavior. No class requires or discusses the book. It’s in the library. So are murder mysteries and perhaps Mein Kampf or Das Kapital, but Mayfield High isn’t thereby advocating murder, communism, or persecution of Jews.

The fear seems to be that kids exposed to such ideas will choose behavior or genders of which their parents would disapprove. (Gender doesn’t seem to be a choice.) As a board-member in Tennessee said, the book contains ideas about sex education “that I disagree with.” But that’s the point of reading, and education: to confront those, sometimes. The Supreme Court says “disagreeing” ain’t a constitutionally appropriate ground for banning.

So I why shouldn’t this book be there, for the occasional kid who wants to read it. Few will, so what’s the problem?

To me, the whole commercial U.S. culture, which still objectifies women and still uses sex to sell, is far more harmful to kids than anything in Jack. The pervasive view that women must be “beautiful,” as the dominant culture defines beauty, did me more harm than any book.

                                                   30 – 


[The above column appeared Sunday, 3 September, on the newspaper's website, as well as on the KRWG website. A related radio commentary will air during the week on KRWG (90.1 FM) and on KTAL-LP (101.5 FM / (By the way, 13September from 4 to 5:30 I’ll be intermittently on KRWG, helping with the station’s upcoming fund-drive. This would be a duller, less enjoyable, less intelligent, and generally less interesting community without KRWG, and its classical music, local and national public affairs programs, and local news reporting. We listen often. If you’re a contributor, thanks! If you’re not, please consider contributing.

Regarding the column, I should note that we’ve scheduled Mr. Garcia as a guest on our community radio show, Speak Up, Las Cruces, 13 September, during the 9:30 – 10 a.m. segment, to discuss his reasons for asking that the book be removed.]

Personally, I figure folks who are not hurting anyone, and are acting consensually, and are of sufficient age and mental acuity to choose intelligently, should have much freedom. Frankly, too, although I am a man who likes women sexually, I have always wondered why, in the abstract, we should not ALL be bisexual: if intimate caresses and sexual congress are fun, and enhance the closeness people feel for each other, why not feel free to enjoy that with lots of one’s friends? Too, overpopulation is one of humanity’s problems, and gay sex doesn’t contribute to it.]

[Finally, a word regarding an earlier column, on the Disqualification Clause of the 14th Amendment, which arguably disqualifies Donald Trump from running for President. I’ll add a note to the end of that recent column later, but I’d suggested our secretary of state raise the question legally. The New Hampshire Secretary of State has now done so, asking the New Hampshire Attorney-General for legal advice on the matter. That’s an appropriate start toward what we should see, a full and fair airing of the issue in our court system, likely reaching the U.S. Supreme Court.]



Sunday, August 27, 2023

Letter to Foxy the Dog

           dog’s head in my lap

           she knows only this moment

             – i am still learning

Dear Foxy:

You illustrate why I usually prefer animals to people.

Before you came to us, you experienced more bad things than I know about.

Of the time before Maggie rescued you from the shelter we know only that you had a litter. I often wonder if they shot your pups. You so fear gunshots, even at a distance, that when you’re enjoying a walk by the river, it’s over if we hear them shooting to scare birds from the pecan orchards. Fireworks are torture. Thunder sends you scurrying under my desk, the most solid protection you can get under.

Maggie rescued you, and cared for you; but, decades before your birth she was gang-raped, and she suffered other hardships thereafter. She was a sweet, intelligent, pleasant old lady; but she was convinced that the boys who had played tricks on her in the town you lived in initially were now in Las Cruces, breaking in at night to frighten her, and would soon kill her.

To protect herself and you from her oppressors, she kept the doors barricaded and you in a cage. Letting you out involved ten minutes of moving chairs and boxes and what-not. As dogs often take on their human companions’ moods and fears. I wonder how Maggie’s fear and paranoia affected you.

(Digression: in our youth, a woman friend always picked exciting guys who had a nasty edge to them; nice guys were boring; she loathed milquetoasts. Once when she visited my parents’ house, an exceedingly nice guy (Tim) was also visiting. As she came in the front door, her dog took off for the back of the house, where Tim and my father were mixing drinks, and instantly bit Tim, whom neither girl nor dog had ever met.)

When, Maggie fell ill and you came here. You loved Dael, who had sometimes brightened your life when you were with Maggie; but you weren’t too sure about me, perhaps reflecting Maggie’s understandably suspicious view of men. New circumstances made you nervous.

Watching you flower here brought me joy. No more cage. Your own small door let you go out and come in at will. Your own garden. Dael taking you for long walks every day, without fail, and us both taking you to the river when weather and schedules permit. No fear.

You’ve been remarkably well-behaved! While clearly from no obedience school, you’ve quickly recognized our preferences and accommodated them. No mutilated cushions, excessive barking, or other modest sins.

We also learn from you. You live so much in the moment, your reddish tan body barely able to contain your excitement when a Saturday morning bone appears! No sulking over disappointments or visits to the vet. No looking very far into the future. Making the best of stuff. Loving, unconditionally.

But it’s heartbreaking to hear friends’ stories of the overcrowded shelter, and of the horribly stupid neglect some humans destroy animals with. A bicyclist friend, a retired law-enforcement officer, talked often with his neighbor’s dog, and sometimes supplied water or other missing necessities, was saddened one morning when, not unexpectedly, the neglected dog was no longer. People who abuse or abandon animals should be abused. (They probably were.) 

Humans are a sorry lot. Governments aren’t coping with the wild-dog problem we’ve created, or with the devastating canine attacks on human beings.


30 --



Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Will the Disqualification Clause Disqualify Mr. Trump?


Donald Trump inspired, incited, and participated in an insurrection. That it was an insurrection was clear at the time, on live television.

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment bars people who have taken an oath to support the U.S. Constitution from holding office if they “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution or have “given aid to the enemies” of the United States. A waiver by a supermajority of Congress can lift the ban.

Two conservative law professors spent a couple of years researching whether or not the Disqualification Clause bars Donald Trump from being President of the United States. They concluded that it did. While that would not suffice for a criminal conviction of Mr. Trump on insurrection charges, barring him from appearing on the ballot in New Mexico for the nation’s highest office appears legally and ethically appropriate.

They cited Trump’s efforts to undo the 2020 presidential election, including his efforts to intimidate state officials to alter vote counts and to persuade state legislatures and Vice-President Mike Pence to overturn the election, assemble false electors, as well as his instigation of January 6 to pressure Congress.

In what they call Trump’s “incendiary address,” he repeated lies about election fraud and told the crowd to “fight like hell.” As they fought like hell, Trump stayed silent, despite urging from staff and family to attempt to stop the violence. The two professors call that “deliberate indifference bordering on tacit encouragement.” It sure looked that way.

This was an insurrection. Courts have convicted and sentenced participants on that basis. A NM judge disqualified a county commissioner on that basis. So the question is whether or not Trump participated. A Georgia grand jury and a federal special prosecutor say Trump participated.

The two professors think he did, as does Professor Steven Calabresi. All three are active members of the Federalist Society, the source of all Donald Trump’s judicial nominations, and Calabrese co-founded it, while a law student at Yale. In examining Section 3, they used “originalism,” the favored method of the Court’s most conservative members.

Further, Section 3 is self-executing. It does not require a court decision, but should be carried out by state election officials. (Had General Robert E Lee run for Senator in 1868, would you require a criminal conviction to determine that he was barred?) Nor does the First Amendment protect Mr. Trump. For one thing, he took action, which the public has witnessed or heard.

Federal courts should determine these matters. The professors suggested that former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie file suit. If he doesn’t, or a court says he lacks legal standing, others should stand ready.

I hope NM Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver read the paper. The moment Trump signs up for the June 4New Mexico Republican Primary, she should announce that he doesn’t qualify, and/or file a legal action for declaratory relief.

Why so quickly? Because the nation would be served by an authoritative decision, one way or the other, prior to the national Republican Convention. Disqualification after a Republican nomination would be unfair to the Party and voters.

Any disqualification would be challenged in court. Facts and arguments should be fully aired in this context. Then the case would, and should, be appealed to the Supreme Court. All this takes time. The nation deserves to have both sides present their best cases in court, facilitating a speedy and just determination.

                                              30 –


[The above column appeared Sunday, 20 August, in the Las Cruces Sun-News and on the newspaper's website, as well as on the KRWG website. A related radio commentary has aired during the week on KTAL-LP (101.5 FM / and will air on KRWG Radio this week. Apologies to folks who read these columns on this site! Getting this and the next one up belatedly, and will try to get back on the beam this coming Sunday, 27 January – but that’ll be a challenge. The bridge folks have a Sunday unit game, then KTAL – Las Cruces Community Radio – will have an open house 6-9 pm Sunday, at the studios, 121 Wyatt Drive, Space #9. Should be food and live music and plenty of fun, so if you have an interest in the station, join us!]

[Lot more to say about all this, and more will be said. If Chris Christie doesn’t file suit, an election official, here or in another state, likely will make the obvious statement, that Mr. Trump isn’t qualified under the Disqualification Clause, and the issue should be litigated appropriately. It’ll be interesting to see how this Supreme Court, 1/3 of its members appointed by Mr. Trump, will handle the matter. However the litigation gets started, and by whomever, I hope it’s early enough so that the process and the possible result will be fair to all concerned.]


Can Israel and the U.S. Preserve Democracies -- and Strengthen Them?

Can the news from Israel teach us about our country?

You could say Israel and the U.S. were each was admirable in concept, yet deeply flawed. You could attack each for violently stealing land and decimating other peoples. Each sometimes lets religion control its government, as Hindus and Moslems do in India and Iran.

The U.S. was founded by adventurers, passionate Protestants, and criminals, who built a civilization from nothing, in a land so far from home that the first settlers’ great-grandparents hadn’t even known existed.

Our revolution and our democracy were a shining light to thoughtful citizens throughout Europe, and eventually throughout the wider world. And if, like a poor person who grows rich and is corrupted by power, we grew from nothing to the most powerful nation in the world, economically, culturally, and militarily. Although we have repeatedly abused our power, inexcusably, we have also retained a reasonable semblance of our democratic values and done some good around the world.

Israel was also a moving story, particularly if you read Exodus as a kid: a people who wandered the world, rootless and often abused, even persecuted, suffered an unthinkable loss of six million human lives. Other genocides have occurred (e.g., Rwanda) but hardly on such a scale and as irrationally. They find a land where they can be. The founders’ concept was more socialistic and tolerant than Israel actually is, a place where Jews could live in peace, together and with other folks in the area, free from persecution.

Both stories were flawed. “Columbus discovered America!” Comedian Dick Gregory did a great routine: “How would you feel if you’re sitting in your car, I’m walking down the street and like the car, ‘Hey, I just discovered this car!’” There were people here. We destroyed their world. Arguably, we committed genocide. Certainly we killed many. We destroyed their culture, freedom, and homes. Our beautifully success story rested partly on that crime and partly on kidnapping and enslaving another set of people. Obviously there were also people living in the land the Jews found, and whatever the founders’ hopes might have been, those people have not been well treated – and the mistreatment seems to be increasing. Israel’s shiny democracy, originally meant to include others who lived there, has never been fully democratic.

Now Israel is run by a right wing and allegedly corrupt man whose power depends on pandering to the greediest, most prejudiced, and most religion-crazed of citizens. Having been in and out of power, he now clings to office partly to evade criminal charges, and perhaps imprisonment. While most Israelis are modern, moderate folks, who practice a liberalized form of their religion or are mostly secular, the government, partly to maintain its leader’s freedom, is attacking democracy, destroying the supreme court, regularizing violence against Palestinians, and plotting to spare the most zealous orthodox Jews from military service. Courageous Israeli citizens have responded with weeks of passionate, courageous, unprecedented protests.

Here, a rightwing and apparently corrupt figure gained (and abused) the Presidency, by pandering to greed and prejudice, and seeks it again partly to avoid criminal prosecution, including for attacking our democratic process. While most of us are modern and tolerant, he panders to the chauvinists, racists, and haters among us, has helped destroy our Supreme Court, and incites his supporters to violence, while elevating Fundamentalists.

Sad. Tragic. Inspiring a new passion for threatened democracy, in Israel and here.

                                                               – 30 --


[The above column appeared Sunday, 13 August, in the Las Cruces Sun-News and on the newspaper's website, as well as on the KRWG website. A related radio commentary aired during the week both on KTAL-LP (101.5 FM / and on KRWG Radio. Apologies to folks who read these columns on this site! Getting this and the next one up belatedly, and will try to get back on the beam this coming Sunday – but that’ll be a challenge. The bridge folks have a Sunday unit game, then KTAL – Las Cruces Community Radio – will have an open house 6-9 pm Sunday, at the studios, 121 Wyatt Drive, Space #9. Should be food and live music and plenty of fun, so if you have an interest in the station, join us!]

[This column grew out of a radio discussion regarding Iran and Israel. They’re enemies, but have some similarities. For one thing, in common with much of the world, while majorities of individuals seem to be growing more tolerant, secular, and modern, governments (in parts of Europe, Burma, Iran and Israel, and the U.S.), or at least significant population segments, seem to be retreating into more conservative and intolerant religious passions, for various reasons. The word-limit for a Sunday column led me to omit discussion of Iran above.]