Features

Surprise! Ken Buck Shows Up for Work!

Longmont Area Democrats had their “with or without Ken Buck town hall meeting” and guess who showed up? The man himself. Think activism doesn’t have any effect – there it is. Buck started out on the defensive and got more shrill as the meeting wore on. He hacked his way through a series of questions, tossing out rhetoric, GOP talking points and some good ole fashioned bullshit – which the crowd called him out on. It got tense a few times and I think the organizers wished they had a whip and chair – but the Dems calmed down and Ken didn’t run away (as GOP candidates are wont to do when faced with any substantive resistance). It was a great meeting – the Dems were fired up and Buck scurried away with his pants still smoking, staff hustling to keep up. Thanks to Shari Malloy who asked me to shoot this meeting – and a special thanks to everyone that came and spoke!

Photos at Flickr.

My friend Kate Beier asking Ken Buck a question:

Littwin: Gigantic, enormous, colossal, unpresidented women’s march drives Trump mad

From the Colorado Independent:

These are, as they say, early days. And as the nascent Trump era progresses — if that’s the right word — we will continue to see things we’ve never seen or heard before.

For starters, we’ve never heard an inaugural speech like Trump’s American carnage address.

We’ve never seen a counter-inaugural demonstration drawing an astonishing 3 million across the country, many of the protesters wearing pussy hats and many carrying signs about a president keeping his tiny hands off the First Amendment. If you think you were stunned by the turnout — the 100,ooo-marchers-strong aerial shot of Civic Center is a remarkable testament to those Coloradans trying to take their country back — imagine how Trump felt.

We’ve never seen a press secretary, on his first day, ordered by the president to read out a pack of lies about, of all things, crowd size and insist they were true – period. Or see a presidential counselor say the lies were actually “alternative facts.” Or see Orwell cited quite so accurately quite so early in a president’s tenure.

We have seen Trump embarrass himself many times, but never quite as he did, as president, at the CIA, standing in front of the wall honoring the CIA dead, using the occasion to accuse the press of willfully deflating his inauguration numbers and of falsely creating a rift between him and the intelligence agencies that he had compared to Nazis.

We’ve never seen a president, in his first days, hold a meet-and-greet with congressional leaders and tell them the already clearly debunked lie that he had lost the popular vote only because 3 to 5 million illegal immigrants voted for Clinton, who apparently was not smart enough, as several observers have pointed out, to wield these voters in, say, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

He can’t let go — of anything. He can’t move on — from anything. Getting elected isn’t enough. It has to be the greatest election. The most colossal crowds. A global movement. And still that won’t satisfy. We can only imagine what the GOP congressional leaders were thinking – that they have to pretend for four years that this is remotely normal. Remarkably, in the face of Trump’s allegation of massive voter fraud, no one called for an investigation. A better response, of course, would be to call for an intervention.

Read the rest at the Colorado Indpependent.

Donald Trump: A Litany of Lies

Photo courtesy of Newscorpse.com

Photo courtesy of Newscorpse.com

In just the last seven days Trump has lied nine times:

  1. Trump said his university had an ‘A’ rating by the Better Business Bureau.
    False: The BBB responded that Trump University had a D- rating.
  2. Trump said his steak and wine businesses are booming.
    False: He doesn’t own those companies at all… they just bought his name.
  3. Trump said Obama lied and that the real unemployment rate is up to 35%.
    False: The unemployment rate is 4.9% and Obama doesn’t generate the reports.
  4. Trump said Obama made the army weaker.
    False: Army generals said it’s the leanest, strongest and most powerful it has ever been.
  5. Insurance companies are hurting because of Obamacare.
    False: Health insurance industry stock has increased by 400% in the last seven years.
  6. Insurance companies have laid off millions of employees because of Obamacare.
    False: Insurance companies have hired in record numbers in the last four years.
  7. Obama is destroying the economy.
    False: Every sector of the economy has improved in the last seven years.
  8. Trump said he didn’t know who David Duke was.
    False: Trump has talked about David Duke many times in the past.
  9. Trump said Hillary is about to go to jail for using her email on her phone.
    False: It has been determined over and over again that she did nothing illegal.

The Sacrifice and Final Words of Rev. Charles Moore

Reverend Charles Moore - Photo from The Washington Post

Reverend Charles Moore – Photo from The Washington Post

From The Washington Post

A Texas minister set himself on fire and died to ‘inspire’ justice

One Monday in June, 79-year-old Charles Moore, a retired United Methodist minister, drove to Grand Saline, Tex., his childhood home town some 70 miles east of Dallas. He pulled into a strip mall parking lot, knelt down on a small piece of foam and doused himself with gasoline.

Then, witnesses said, he set himself on fire.

read the rest at The Washington Post


The Reverend Charles Moore’s final words are included in the WaPo article as scanned images. I feel that they should live on in the Internet so I have transcribed them in their entirety. Strong language caution. Powerful sentiments backed up by a man’s life. I feel this should be transmitted as far as humanly possible. – M.D.Wray


O Grand Saline, Repent of Your Racism

I was born in Grand Saline, Texas almost 80 years ago. As I grew up, I heard the usual racial slurs, but they didn’t mean much to me. I don’t remember even meeting an African-American until I began driving a bus to Tyler Junior College and made friends with the mechanic who cared for the vehicles: I teased him about his skin-color, and he became very angry with me; that is one way that I learned about the pain of discrimination.

During my second year as a college student, I was serving a small church in the country near Tyler, when the United States Supreme Court declared racial discrimination in schools illegal in 1954; when I let it be known that I agreed with the Court’s ruling, I was cursed and rejected. When word about that got back to First Methodist Church in Grand Saline (which had joyfully recommended me for minsitry– the first ever from the congregation), I was condemned and called a Communist; during the 60 years since then, I have never once been invited to participate in any activity at First Methodist (except family funerals), let alone to speak from its pulpit.

When I was about 10-years-old, some friends and I were walking down the road toward the creek to catch some fish, when a man called “Uncle Billy” stopped us and called us into his house for a drink of water — but his real purpose was to cheerily tell us about helping to kill “niggers” and put their heads up on a pole. A section of Grand Saline was (maybe still is) called “pole town,” where the heads were displayed. It was years later before I knew what the name meant.

During World War II, when many soldiers came through town on the train, the citizens demanded that the shades in the passenger cars be pulled down if there were African-Americans aboard, so they wouldn’t have to look at them.

The Ku Klux Klan was once very active in Grand Saline, and it still probaby has sympathizers in the town. Although it is illegal to discriminate against any race relative to housing, employment, etc., African Americans who work in Grand Saline live elsewhere. It is sad to think that schools, churches, businesses, etc. have no racial diversity when it comes to blacks.

My sense is that most Grand Saline residents just don’t want black people among them, and so African-Americans don’t want to live there and face rejection. This is a shame that has bothered me wherever I went in the world, and did not want to be identified with the town written up in the newspaper in 1993, but I have never raised my voice or written a word to contest the situation. I have owned my old family home at 1212 N. Spring St. for the last 15 years, but have never discussed the issue with my tenants.

Since we are currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer in 1964, when people started working in the South to atttain the right to vote for African-Americans along with other concerns. This past weekend was the anniversary of the murder of three young men (Goodman, Schwerner and Cheney) in Philadelphia, Mississippi, which gave great impetus to the Civil Rights Movement — since this historic time is being remembered, I find myself very concerned about the rise of racism across the country at the present time. Efforts are being made in many places to make voting more difficult for some people, especially African-Americans. Much of the opposition to President Obama is simply because he is black.

I will soon be eighty years old, and my heart is broken over this. America (and Grand Saline prominently) have never really repented for the atrocities of slavery and its aftermath. What my hometown needs to do is open its heart and its doors to black people as a sign of the rejection of past sins.

Many African Americans were lynched around here, probably some in Grand Saline: hanged, decapitated and burned, some while still alive. The vision of them haunts me greatly. So, at this late date, I have decided to join them by giving my body to be burned, with love in my heart not only for them but also for the perpetrators of such horror — but especially for the citizens of Grand Saline, many of whom have been very kind to me and others who may be moved to change the situation here.

Rev. Charles Moore
June 13, 2014

My Message to Twin Peaks Charter School

This was first published at outboulder.org.

Evan 1

“My name is Evan Young. I was the valedictorian of Twin Peaks High School’s 2015 graduating class, but was not allowed to deliver my prepared speech at the graduation ceremony on May 16th.

The school’s administration maintains that I was prevented from speaking “to preserve and protect the mission of the school.” However, my school’s mission is one of promoting tolerance and respect, and it is these values I sought to promote in my graduation speech. The central message of my speech was that you must learn to respect people even if you disagree with them, a lesson which I learned during my four years as a student at Twin Peaks High School, and I thought briefly disclosing my sexual orientation in my speech would be the perfect catalyst for this discussion.

I understand such a revelation might be difficult for some people, but my main point was precisely that even if they don’t agree with me we can respect each other’s opinions. My friends and I disagreed about many things over the years, but we learned to overlook our differences and respect one another. In my speech, I merely asked the audience to do the same to me.

Lastly, I’d like to make clear my reasons for bringing this to the press. I’m not angry or bitter, and my frustration at being prevented from speaking at my graduation has largely subsided.

I love my school, and I want nothing to happen to it save that which will improve it in the long run. Nor am I doing this for publicity, or to seem like a hero. I’m not a hero, and the overwhelming support I’ve received from friends, family, and even people who I’ve never met show that I had nothing to fear to begin with.

Rather, I’m bringing my story forward so that it may serve as an inspiration, not only to other LGBT students, but to any student who is in some way different. I want them to know they should not be ashamed of who they are. They can celebrate their uniqueness, no matter what people in authority tell them. They can achieve academic success, if they let nothing hold them back. They can become virtuous and compassionate; their differences don’t make them morally inferior. That’s what my school is all about.”

-Evan Young, Twin Peaks Charter School Valedictorian 2015

Don’t take the bait

By Joel Dyer at The Boulder Weekly

Longmont Council member Bonnie Finley - with a surprising motion that should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention.

Longmont Council member Bonnie Finley – with a surprising motion that should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention.

It was a nearly packed house Tuesday, Aug. 26, in the Longmont City Council chambers as citizens who believe that local communities should have the final say over fracking in their neighborhoods turned up in good numbers.

The Council was voting on whether the city should continue its support of the fracking ban that Longmont voters placed into their city charter via the ballot box in 2012.

You may recall that Tuesday’s vote was necessitated by Boulder County District Court Judge D.D. Mallard’s ruling in July that found Longmont didn’t have the authority to ban hydraulic fracturing within its city limits because the state was in charge of regulating the practice and a precedent had been set in 1992 when Greeley tried to ban drilling within its city limits only to lose that right in court after being sued.

Public comment went as expected with one speaker after another imploring council to appeal Mallard’s decision. Many reminded the seven-member council that 60 percent of Longmont voters supported the fracking ban and that those citizens expect council to fight for their ban as long and as far as possible. In some instances that reminder sounded like a plea and in others a threat.

And then something a bit unusual happened. After virtually no discussion, pro-oil and gas industry Councilwoman Bonnie Finley, the same Bonnie Finley who has fought for years now to allow the industry to drill and frack Longmont at will, opened her mouth and said she wanted to make a motion that was going to surprise people.

“There’s a need for clarity on the issue,” she said. “That’s why I am supporting this [appeal], and that’s why I believe we should go all the way.”

And then she said one more thing.

“And I also believe we should invite other communities with similar interests to join our case.”

The crowd went wild. The other members of council, both those who were recently voted in by the antifracking crowd and those who are more industry-friendly, quickly echoed Finley’s sentiments. They all agreed with great enthusiasm that all the other communities along with Boulder County that have fracking bans or moratoriums should hitch their antifracking wagons to Longmont’s appeal.

Translation: Look at this really great giant horse Finley is offering to us as a gift. Let’s take it inside the fort, celebrate our victory and get a good night’s sleep.

For those unfamiliar with Longmont City Council, for more than a decade Finley has been employed by the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry a.k.a. the Colorado Chamber of Commerce. Her job at the state level is government affairs and membership retention. So who are some of the members that she is working to retain? How about trade groups like the Colorado Petroleum Association, Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) and the American Chemical Industry, all groups whose profits are increased by way of drilling and fracking. COGA is even one of the organizations who is suing Longmont over its ban.

The fact that Finley has not recused herself from votes on issues like fracking — an issue wherein her employer has a stated position and is actively trying to sway public opinion and lobbying to create a more oil-andgas -friendly regulatory environment at the state and local level — is an appalling abuse of Longmont’s democratic process. It’s like giving the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry a proxy vote at the center of one of the most important issues in Colorado history. It is also an incredible oversight by her council peers that they have not demanded that she recuse herself in light of this clear and substantial conflict of interest.

So why the sudden change of heart by Finley at Tuesday’s council meeting? First, I think that everyone on council knew that the city was going to appeal, so one dissenting vote wouldn’t have mattered.

Second Finley’s or her boss’s or COGA’s, however you want to interpret who controls this council seat, suggestion that all the communities with bans and moratoriums join Longmont’s appeal is pretty shrewd. After all, even the anti-frackers applauded the suggestion. But it may well be a Trojan horse of sorts.

The oil and gas industry is certain that it will eventually prevail in defeating the Longmont ban. They may yet be wrong, but truth be told, they think they will win sooner than later as the courts seem to be rushing through the fracking cases these days.

After the great Jared Polis debacle left the industry with a two-year drilling window before the next attempt can be made by citizens to create a constitutional amendment that can protect communities from the dangers of drilling and fracking, getting the rigs going in Boulder County potentially has a 24-month timeline.

So getting Lafayette, Boulder, Broomfield and Boulder County all into one court case wherein their concerns and legal arguments could all be dismissed at the same time would really help the industry exploit this small window of opportunity to drill up Boulder County . If each of the towns and the county fight their lawsuits and presumed-to eventually-be-filed lawsuits individually, it will no doubt drag things out much longer, regardless of the final outcomes, quite likely well past the Polis/industry created twoyear drilling window.

So thanks for your motion Bonnie Finley and thanks for your vote to appeal. But as for your invitation to get all the governmental entities to join Longmont’s appeal, I think that the elected officials getting your invitation will see it for what it is, an attempt to get the rigs drilling more quickly in Boulder County. Thanks but no thanks.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

A Call for More Balance at Vance Brand

One of Mi-Hile Skydiving's Twin Otter skydiving planes.

Mi-Hile Skydiving’s Twin Otter skydiving plane.

I write to express a moderate opinion regarding the current conflict between many county residents and Mile High Skydiving. We live a few miles west of the Vance Brand Airport and plainly hear the excessive and rather continuous noise from the jump planes as they climb at maximum rate, then descends under 75 percent power to expedite their subsequent loads to altitude, often within minutes of each other. It is onerous and unfortunate.

Mile-Hi Skydiving is operating within the limits of a federal law which doesn’t restrict aircraft noise or frequency of operation. The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) reserves the exclusive control of the skies throughout the U.S., and restricts local control of the airway system so that free, unimpeded air traffic can be unencumbered by a myriad of local regulation. This concept makes sense for air transportation of people and goods between airports.

The logic of this system breaks down, in my opinion, when those FAA regulations are used to allow a very noisy operation such as Mile-Hi Skydiving, to operate from, and back to, the same airport on a continuous basis, climbing and descending over the same areas of the county at full power settings. That doesn’t seem to me to be the intent of the FAA purpose for exclusive control of the airspace.

Tim Barth, the airport manager, has correctly used this argument in the past, stating that he has little control over activities that are regulated by the FAA. However, there have been several instances where local municipalities have successfully enacted noise control regulations at their airports. I believe that the City of Longmont does have the authority, if it so chooses, to control operations at its airport, including limiting excessive noise from planes, their hours and frequency of operation, hangar activities, etc.

The pressures to enact such control seem to come from a small part of the populous, many of whom are not city residents. So, from legislators’ “re-election perspective”, there’s little incentive to respond to complaints. Like me, there are probably many who are offended by the noise, but see little benefit of complaining to the deaf ears of the airport. Although Mile-Hi Skydiving provides little to the city in the way of taxes (it even purchases its own wholesale fuel rather than supporting the newly christened Elite Aviation) its activity does increase the utilization of the airport which probably aids in justifying federal funding.

However, the life of a small airport is fragile. Each year many across the country close due to inactivity, citizen mandate, or development pressures. Vance Brand has, so far, been relatively successful in maintaining a good support base of both the aircraft owners and the citizenry. But most of the airport tenants and pilots (I’m one) do not appreciate Mile-Hi Skydiving’s hazard to flying and their noisy activities. And more and more local citizens don’t either, resulting in deteriorated relations between the airport and the voters. Eventually there may be enough pressure from such sources to encourage a decision from legislators to move or close the airport.

Those feelings are progressing now. Many will tell you how beneficial the skydiving operation is to the airport. But many more will tell you that it is having a far more deleterious effect.

Gary Rubin lives in Longmont.

2013 Longmont election big win for Progressives

Dennis Coombs, Mayor of Longmont

Dennis Coombs, Mayor of Longmont

Monday November 11th the City Council members for Longmont were sworn in – among them returning mayor Dennis Coombs. Here’s our photos.

Two new members were also sworn in –

Polly Christensen

Polly Christensen

Polly Christensen replaced Alex Sammoury and Jeff Moore replaced Katie Witt, both winning handily – no recounts this year.

Coombs sailed to victory with a 16% (Correction – 17.84%) margin over his opponent Bryan Baum, breaking out early with a large lead that Baum never managed to match, despite running scandal-free this time around. A push poll of unknown origin may actually have hurt the right-wing candidate by attempting to spread scurrilous rumors and deeply offending voters.

Jeff Moore

Jeff Moore

Sammoury and Witt were pleasant and appeared to be relieved at leaving City Council. Alex said he’d ‘…try and miss them…’ on Tuesday evenings, clearly being ironic. Witt pronounced ‘…you haven’t seen the last of me…’ and was greeting by laughter from the audience.

Well, I suppose we can hope

StephBaumTweets_111213Despite pronouncements from the right that Longmont is a ‘conservative’ town, the ‘left’ ran off two conservative candidates and defeated a tea party ex-mayor decisively. An obviously-planned kerfuffle over a months-old crabby note from Polly Christensen was clearly the Baum’s payback for being ‘pooched‘ in the last election. Super-classy for Abbondanza owner Bob Goff to not only save the note, but put it in the hands of Longmont’s First ‘Lady’ of muck-raking, who cackled gleefully about it. Love how she’s eager to see a fellow Longmonter in the ‘poor house’ – kinda clashes with her sweet, fundraiser persona…

Polly had this to say about her note to Goff:

“Usually Abondanza is my son’s and my favorite place for pizza, wine, and Parchesi. I was exhaused and was feeling a bit accosted by politics at a place where I was hoping to relax and NOT think about politics. I overreacted to the signs in the window and the political stickers on my leftover box. I wrote this cranky note on a scrap of paper. It was ill-considered, harsh, and unnecessary. I regret not just walking away and getting some sleep.”

Longmont's self-proclaimed 'First Lady'

Longmont’s self-proclaimed ‘First Lady’

Interesting tweet about the ‘Old Guard’… and the Pro-Tem vote was planned…? Really?

So, all in all a very interesting night and terrifically revealing of how deep the wounds of the last election were and how badly the right wanted revenge – any revenge.

Reports Expose Extreme Pressure Groups Masquerading as Think Tanks

Center for Media and Democracy and Progress Now Reports Show Expansive Reach Of State Policy Network

WASHINGTON – November 13 – Twelve new reports released today expose the State Policy Network (SPN), an $83 million web of right-wing “think tanks” in every state across the country. Although SPN’s member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, an in-depth investigation reveals that SPN and its state affiliates are major drivers of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-backed corporate agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders. The reports show how these groups masquerade as “think tanks,” and describe how some of them may be skirting tax laws while really orchestrating extensive lobbying and political operations to peddle their legislative agenda to state legislators, all while reporting little or no lobbying activities.

“The ‘experts’ of State Policy Network groups get quoted on TV, in the papers, or in the legislature as if they were nonpartisan, objective scholars on issues of public policy,” said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). “But in reality, SPN is a front for corporate interests with an extreme national policy agenda tied to some of the most retrograde special interests in the country, including the billionaire Koch brothers, the Waltons, the Bradley Foundation, the Roe Foundation, and the Coors family.”

Denise Cardinal, executive director of Progress Now, added, “The bottom line is these organizations of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich are representing themselves as groups that are looking out for the best interests of everyday, working class Americans and it’s just a blatant lie. What we’re doing is trying to bring some transparency to the damaging work they’re doing on a daily basis. From policies that promote polluting the air and water to the destruction of our public education system and a tax system that benefits their rich donors, what these organizations are doing is shameful and it’s time that someone brought this to light.”

You can see the reports — a nationally-focused report written by CMD and eleven state-focused reports written by Progress Now member groups and CMD — at www.StinkTanks.org as well as detailed information documented at SourceWatch.org.

Key findings of the report include:

  • While it has become an $83 million dollar right-wing empire, SPN and most of its affiliates do not post their major donors on their websites. The identities of the donors we have discovered reveal that SPN is largely funded by global corporations — such as Reynolds American, Altria, the e-cigarette company NJOY, Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon, Facebook, the for-profit online education company K12 Inc., GlaxoSmithKline, Kraft Foods, Express Scripts, Comcast, Time Warner, and the Koch- and Tea Party-connected DCI Group lobbying and PR firm — that stand to benefit from SPN’s destructive agenda, as well as out-of-state special interests like the billionaire Koch brothers, the Waltons, the Bradley Foundation, the Roe Foundation, and the Coors family — who are underwriting an extreme legislative agenda that undermines the traditional rights of modern Americans.
  • Although SPN’s affiliates are registered as educational nonprofits, several appear to orchestrate extensive lobbying and political operations to peddle their legislative agenda to state legislators, despite the IRS’s regulations on nonprofit political and lobbying activities.
  • SPN and its affiliates push an extreme right-wing agenda that aims to privatize education, block healthcare reform, restrict workers’ rights, roll back environmental protections, and create a tax system that benefits most those at the very top level of income.
  • SPN and many of its affiliates are some of the most active members and largest sponsors of the controversial ALEC, where special interest groups and state politicians vote behind closed doors on “model” legislation to change Americans’ rights, through ALEC’s task forces. SPN has close ties to, and works with, other national right-wing organizations like the Franklin Center and David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity.

###

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) is a non-profit investigative reporting group. Our reporting and analysis focus on exposing corporate spin and government propaganda. We publish PRWatchSourceWatch, and BanksterUSA. Our newest major investigation is available at ALECexposed.org.

We accept no funding from for-profit corporations or the government. If you would like to make a financial contribution to support our work, please click here.

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2013/11/13-1

U.S. checkered immigration history

The U.S. is a land of immigrants, a common saying. Our treatment of immigrants has not always been one we can be proud of, beginning with mostly northern Europeans entering lands populated by a native or indigenous people. Through disease, wars, and policy that population has been decimated and still suffers oppression.

Following independence from England the U.S. purchased lands taken from the indigenous population by Spain, and annexed 55 percent of Mexico following a war. Indigenous people who had crossed the man-made border between the U.S. and Mexico for centuries were eventually not permitted to cross that border.

Various populations were excluded after providing much-needed labor. After building the transcontinental railroad Chinese immigrants were barred from entering the U.S. (Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882). Between 1943 and 1964 the Bracero Program bought in more than 5 million temporary workers. In 1954 Operation Wetback targeted Mexican American communities with nearly 4 million deported, including some U.S. citizens of Mexican descent.

A common practice has been the utilization of Asians and Latinos as a labor commodity rather than as people. (For a local flavor, see “White Gold Labors” by Jody Lopez and Gabriel Lopez, a documentation of the abuse of laborers brought to Greeley to harvest the sugar beet crop.) When the labor is no longer valued, people, including families, are deported.

The immigration situation has never been no more complicated than it is today. For many years the southern border was alternately open and largely closed. When labor was needed in fields and orchards, workers, mostly men, entered with a wink and nod by border enforcement. These workers tended to work for the same farm or orchard year after year, returning home after the harvest season. As the border became more challenging and more dangerous, workers stayed. Some with green cards failed to renew their status or simply overstayed.

Because we have not matched work visas with labor demand, we have many undocumented people here to fill a need. As we saw in some states, tough anti-immigrant laws resulted in large portions of crops rotting in the fields.

Over the years many immigrants brought their children with them or had children here, sometimes with U.S. citizens as the other parent. As we “got tough” on undocumented immigrants we began to deport a large number of people.

Unlike the stated policies of the White House and Department of Homeland Security, many of the deported have nothing other than a minor traffic violation in addition to illegal entry. A very significant number of those deported are parents and breadwinners. Their departure causes huge hardships on those left behind. As a result of the recession here and improving economy in Mexico, a greater percent of those trying to enter (re-enter) are doing so for family reunification.

At the same time the U.S. beefed up border security, spending billions of dollars, cutting through properties of U.S. citizens and creating the largest policing force in the country. The “fence” has been extended farther and farther away from populous centers. What used to require one or two days walking in the desert is now a brutal four-day walk. In 2012 in the Tucson Sector alone, 300 bodies (estimated to be a small fraction of the total deaths) were found. These bodies are those of brothers, daughters, mothers, aunts, grandparents, etc. Their death is not just their death but the loss of someone very important in the lives of those in the U.S. or in their home country.

Many Border Patrol agents are compassionate and rescue as well as capture immigrants in the desert. However, videos document border patrol agents breaking water bottles left out to save lives (killing is not the answer) and treating immigrants inhumanely such as making them walk barefoot. The most egregious examples on film are the beating of a man in Nogales and the shooting of an unarmed teenager who was in the Mexican town of Nogales.

Those of us who participated in the Migrant Trail, a 75-mile, seven-day walk from Sasabe, Mexico, to Tucson watched a film (“The Undocumented”) that showed the finding of bodies, the autopsies and the efforts to let families know the tragic ends of their relatives. We carried crosses with the names of the deceased and called out their names. If we did not relate to the terrible conditions at the border before we walked, we did afterward.

Arrogance of command protects sexual assault offenders

Clearly, someone needs a good boot in the pants.

Clearly, someone needs a good boot in the pants.

The first time I showed up at “sick call” during Army basic training, 16 in my company of 250 filled the first sergeant’s office displaying blisters worn through to flesh. Both of my Achilles were bloody and I could hardly walk, much less run in combat boots. This ailment stayed with me through four months of infantry training and six months of officer training, the latter including “jorks,” jogs of five miles carrying an M-14 and wearing a fully loaded backpack.

Periodically, an Army doctor would prescribe low quarters, regular shoes, so I could continue training. And to this day, nerve damage in my left foot causes pain and numbness in several toes.

I relate this sad tale to demonstrate this point: Of the 16 complainers that day, only four of us withstood the first sergeant’s shaming condemnation and actually went to see a doctor. The other 12 were bullied into submission, made to feel like cowards and laggards. Our treatment then was matched with another warning. Don’t write to your congressman and complain because the chain of command will send that letter to your company commander and you will be in hot water.

No one who has served in the military should be surprised that there were 26,000 cases of sexual assault recently reported. I wondered about the huge jump and asked a friend, a woman who served four years and left the Army as a captain. She related that a male senior officer had harassed her on her first tour of duty. It didn’t matter that she was married and warned him off. She is an attractive woman, and, as she said, “boys will be boys.” Today though, she believes the overall environment has improved, leading more women to report sexual assaults and harassment. Regardless, she said, there is still an arrogant “good old boy network” protecting offenders.

As the father of four daughters and grandfather of six granddaughters, I see the existence of a network of men who will lie to protect other men as so far from honorable as to be repulsive. Military officers are sworn to tell the truth. Always. They are also expected to uphold positive leadership characteristics including empathy, dedication, judiciousness, loyalty, trust and understanding. Note that arrogance is not one. Yet I saw it many times from officers who believed that once silver or gold bars, oak leaf clusters, eagles or stars were pinned on their shoulders they were automatically imbued with greater intelligence and overriding power. And that first morning on sick call was my first encounter with its corruption.

Years before the reality of Hillary Clinton as a viable presidential candidate, my wife asked a good question: Where are all the women running for president? That was in August 2000, when we didn’t like any of the candidates. The idea for a book struck me, so one night we sat down and brainstormed to describe the ideal first woman president. She had to be “flameproof,” and Hailey MacMurray, the leading lady in my novel, was certainly that. She was spick and span, highly intelligent, smart, an All-American athlete and attractive. Hailey would attend the Air Force Academy and graduate at the top of her class on the way to becoming a jet fighter pilot. And become a widowed, single mom. How could the hawks vote against such a phenomenon?

Then real life intervened. Almost between chapters in my writing life at home, I was introduced to the daughter of an office secretary where I worked as part-time gofer. Personable and well-mannered, she was an all-state volleyball player, and as a freshman at the Air Force Academy was so good she was on the starting varsity.

Then she was sexually assaulted at the academy. Her mother’s grief at work was palpable and mixed with the fear that her husband was threatening to take his gun to the academy and shoot somebody, anybody. But on top of the anguish of the assault came this message to the young woman from the “brass”: Resign. Quit school. That’s what all the other women have done.

Say again? Where was the empathy, loyalty, trust and understanding?

Twenty-six thousand sexual assaults tell me the chain of command does not work and should not be considered for reporting such felonies, court martial offenses. Yet the Inspector General reporting system is set up for just such cases. If the IG system is not working, then it’s time, in Army lingo, to take names and kick ass.

Bill Ellis is a local author who can be reached at contact@billelliswrites.com.

Adult Education Graduation – June 20, 2013

DSC_0134-ThrillOfGraduationThe Adult Education progam of St. Vrain Valley schools had their final graduation ceremony on Thursday June 20, 2013. I believe there were 100 graduates, all obviously thrilled to have their prized diplomas in hand. I heard stories about overcoming adversity to get an education, mothers working and going to school and the powerful support of friends and family. These are people working hard to achieve the American Dream, they embody the basic principles that America was founded on. And they make me very proud. Thank you to the staff for all their work and thanks for inviting me to attend! I hope you like the photos, glad I could be on hand!

Here’s the entire photoset – you can also go directly to the Flickr set by clicking here.

[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157634238206045″]

Here’s two of the speeches I heard:

J. Ruben Saenz

J. Ruben Saenz, 2013

J. Ruben Saenz, 2013

I am a Mexican by birth and an American by naturalization. I am originally from Ojinaja Chihuahua Mexico, a small town on the border with Texas, in 1979 I waved goodbye to my country and moved to New Orleans, which is a multicultural city, it was there, that for the first time in my life I was exposed to a wide variety of languages and dialects, that awakened in me a passion for languages and gave me an idea where to direct my steps to.

I came to this school with two purposes: a) when I left my country, even though I had already some academic achievements, I did not bring with me any transcripts to accredit my education, I decided therefore, to get a high school diploma from an accredited American institution. b) Having obtained a High School Diploma entailed also a personal challenge, the intellectual exorcism of certain fears, concerns I had regarding subjects I struggle with when I was young, math to be specific. Those fears have been conquered, it was a challenge that in the end was well worth it, in fact this second time around, it was actually fun.

To retiterate what I mentioned earlier, getting a High School Diploma was most of all a personal challenge, which I was able to accomplish the only way success is achieved in this life, through hard work and effort.. By the way, my appreciation and respect for all the ladies who are graduating tonite, what you’ve accomplished is commendable. It’s all the same, through hard work and effort were you able to juggle school and a job, while at the same time taking care of your families. It goes to prove that you ladies can accomplish anything if you wish: the sky is the limit, and may this High School Diploma be just the beginning of a series of academic achievements.

As for me, I plan to pursue my goal, which is to grow in the exciting field of translation and interpretation, which by the way I also became certified on just two days ago from the Community College of Aurora. It’s a very demanding and challenging career, but at the end of the day, I thrive on challenges.

For us Latinos, the family plays a crucial role in our daily lives; I dare to say that just as it was for me, for many of the Latinos gathered here tonight, we are what we are, thanks to the unwavering support of our respective families. We Latinos, regardless of our ages and whereabouts, in a way, we actually never left home. Even though we did, we’ll always carry wherever we go a piece of it.

And last but not least, I would like to thank on my behalf and that of my fellow students, The Board of Education for this unique academic opportunity offered to us, thanks also to all the teachers, Mrs. Hena, Marcia, Betsy, Rebecca, Susannah. Thanks to all the substitute teachers and volunteers for donating your time and effort. I apologize if I omitted anyone.

In closing, I would like to make a small personal comment regarding the closure of this school, it’s a shame that other adults, minorities as well as young people, won’t be able to benefit from a quality education. This just gives us a glimpse of where the priorities of our leaders are.

On this note congratulations to teachers and students for a job well done and good luck to all in the future.


Douglas Joel Guzman Cerna

Douglas Joel Guzman Cerna - 2013

Douglas Joel Guzman Cerna – 2013

First of all I would like to thank the creator of life, honored guests, fellow graduates, staff and friends. My name is Douglas Joel Guzman Cerna. I’m from Nicaragua and I’m 36 years old. I came to the U.S. when I was 15 years old. I went to school in North Carolina for about three years. Then, I quit school and I started working. I started meeting many people who encouraged me to stay in school but I never listened to them. I would like to thank all those people that have been in my life in so many different ways. Also I would like to thank the negative people too, because they encouraged me to prove them wrong.

I came to Adult Education with the hunger to learn more and to earn a high school diploma, what the inside of me had always wanted. I came to that point and made that decision, and now I did it, with my efforts and the good teachers I had.

My family has been all the people that I have met in my journey of this life. I have been learning from them, from the way they live their lives and the way they treat me. It has been awesome. Even the negative people have helped me because I done what they didn’t expect me to do.

My plans are that one day I will be an architect because I have been learning a lot about construction. As you know when you have the desire to do what you want, you do it; there’s nothing easy but you can do it. Nobody will do it for you. I hope one day that I will reach my goal to be an architect just like I have reached this goal of my high school diploma.

I would like to thank the District Board of Education and the St. Vrain Valley School District for providing the opportunity to earn my high school diploma. Thanks to all and God bless all of us.

 

Down the corporate greed rabbit hole

Capitalism, gun to headWhen did making a profit turn into greed? Greed has been around from the beginning of time, but my guess would be it was unleashed in the1980s when American voters bought the farce that wealth would trickle down to them. There was no proof of this theory, but politicians kept saying it over and over until a majority of people began voting against their self-interests: Electing congressional representatives who approved lower corporate tax rates and numerous business deductions, but were against that job killer, increasing the minimum wage.

The fear tactic

When companies downsize, the actual work does not go away. One employee leaves; her co-worker takes up the slack, receiving extra duties. Or technical assistance is transferred to a phone bank in India. The fear tactic is deathly subtle: Either work harder and longer hours or you’ll be out of a job. Result: less overhead, more profit. Improving procedures and workflow? Not in the picture because that worker picking up the slack will stay at the same pay. What’s to change?

The early-out two-step

Older workers on the cusp of reaching retirement are offered a quick out — with reduced benefits. The work remains but will be done by lower-paid rookies. Conservatives in Congress refuse to compromise on solutions to fully fund Social Security. Their best thinking is to push up the retirement age and reduce benefits. Does anyone who’s been out looking for a job after age 40 really believe you can find one after 50? 60? Or even 70?

The possibilities?

I retired on an early-out offer at 51. In the succeeding 20 years I have worked in several full-time jobs and a half-dozen part-time ones. My job experience: toll booth operator; free-lance writer; warehouseman; multiple-choice question writer; online accounting system tech writer; AmeriCorps writing mentor; law firm runner; para-educator; sole business owner writing and selling books; writing coach; creative writing instructor; concierge; writer-in-residence. There were pluses and minuses. I wanted to write after I retired, so the keyword “writing” is sprinkled among my various jobs. But among the good experiences was a nasty confrontation with exhaust fumes in that toll booth — it was either that or wear a Donald Duck costume and walk around Walt Disney World in 90-degree heat. Worse was physical exhaustion in the warehouse doing a job designed for someone 30 years younger. Yet I discovered the joy of writing at home and selling a few books.

Something different is needed

A paradigm shift in thinking would lower the retirement age, not raise it. Consider this: What if the tax code favored workers who wanted to retire early, even at 45 or 50? Going further: What if big business/large corporations got a tax deduction only if they created jobs? Moving us older workers into retirement earlier makes room for younger folks. Let’s tell it like it is. Is it more cost-effective to pay hundreds of thousands of workers unemployment insurance or to rewrite the tax code making it feasible for older workers to leave earlier? Perhaps more would sample the work world as I have done and create their own job. Or start a small business.

Slurping at the federal trough

Entrepreneurs know where the big money is, in that trough filled with our taxes; politicians need money to keep their jobs. It has become a traditional tradeoff. The push for an independent Congress requires getting money out of elections. Changes to thinking, especially for a tax code favorable to American workers, require publicly funded elections, setting term limits and abolishing political parties. While we’re at it, let’s throw open primary and general elections to all voters no matter their political affiliation. No one really won the 2012 general election. Less than 24 hours after the votes were counted, stalemate returned, or really, simply remained. Does anyone really like gridlock? The work of Congress has become winner take all. Any vote is not for the people but for the particular party’s ideology. Meanwhile political spin managers try to convince us that our friends and neighbors we know to be moderate and independent are actually out to destroy our country. Preposterous.

Bill Ellis is a local author and can be reached at

contact@billelliswrites.com

 

Corporate Greed, Corporate Bullying, Corporate Slavery

Featured in McClatchy Newspapers articles, Phil Richards, Joe Arredondo, and Lisa Weber are being pushed to their human limits while their employers use technology to measure every minute of their work in a “relentless push for efficiency.” (“A Tougher World: As employers push efficiency, the daily grind wears down workers,” and “Tracking workers’ every move raises stress along with productivity.” Business Section of the Sunday, April 14, Times-Call, page C6.)In Greed We Trust

The technology may be new, but the management strategy is quite old: Use threats and fear to maximize productivity. I saw it working summers in a sweatshirt factory where “efficiency engineers” used the technology of that era, stopwatches, to pressure workers to attain 200 percent of the going piece rate. We called those timers “Khrushchev” behind their backs; the Soviet premier at that time was feared by all blue-collar workers. Cutting wages to the bone and fighting off unions was the norm in the textile industry’s greedy, profit-seeking course as owners moved their factories from England, to New England, to the American South, to out of the United States.

I worked in a Florida sweatshop writing multiple-choice questions for a greedy man who joked as he gave me 25-cent-an-hour raise after a year. “Here’s some motivation,” he said sarcastically. The perks? We all got a turkey for Thanksgiving and a pound of venison sausage from his hunting trips for Christmas. The man flaunted his wealth and was always chipping away at working conditions, making life miserable. It worked. No one stayed long.

In my last part-time job working for a health food store, I was called into the office and given the choice of running to restock shelves faster or quitting. That was my last day.

My wife’s experience more closely mirrors that of many of today’s workers. In her HMO job, she gradually assumed the duties of exiting co-workers without any raises. Her company perk was a grand Christmas party. At her last one, the retiring CEO thanked everyone for helping him build a mansion on a Caribbean island. He said that? Really.

After we moved to Longmont, my wife started as a temp and again gradually took on duties of co-workers who either quit or left in downsizing efficiency moves. After two years she “earned” a 1 percent raise.

The American “business model” is dangerously flawed. Under the guise of a sacrosanct profit motive, and raising productivity to compete in the global economy, government and business leaders, stitched at the hips of special interests, have left out American workers. Just three decades ago Robert Townsend, CEO of Avis and author of “Up the Organization,” set an example by paying his management team members more than he got. Today that strategy has vanished. Multimillions go to the top while arguments to raise the minimum wage for average workers is fought as a job killer. It is absurd.

Today it is a rare event when a smart and conscientious executive like Harold Dominguez, Longmont’s city manager, shares bonus pay with a team of workers. Or, Don Haddad, superintendent of the St. Vrain Valley School District, rejects raises four years running.

In a negative paradigm shift, corporations continue to cry wolf about government regulation stifling business. But their lobbyists and congressional representatives, bought with campaign contributions, have manipulated the tax code to create deductions that virtually avoid their paying a fair share of taxes. Worse, many top earning corporations do not pay any taxes. According to the Corporate Tax Dodgers Report, a joint project of Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, for years 2009 and 2010 General Electric made a profit of $10.46 billion and paid no taxes. GE actually got a refund, with a tax rate of minus 45 percent.

My wife and I paid more taxes for 2012 than GE did in 2009 and 2010.

money_stacks_of_100sIn plain English, the untouchable profit motive has been used successfully in “getting government off the backs of businesses” and unleashing obscene greed. Workers have been pummeled with dehumanizing pressure so the big bucks can stay at the top. The middle class is threatened with unconscionable cuts to entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security while lobbyists and politicians rant against raising taxes for the wealthy elite and protect tax deductions that allow mega corporations to avoid paying taxes.

Shame on Us

$3.89 million buys our government. Good deal for the NRA

$3.89 million buys our government. Good deal for the NRA.

On Saturday, I received a fundraising call from a nice man representing the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to the U.S. Senate. He started by thanking me for my past support. Ten seconds into his pitch, I interrupted and informed him that from now on my contributions will go to candidates who fully support sensible gun safety regulations. Now that my eyes have been opened, gun safety will never again be a back-burner issue for me.

Recently, the Senate voted on seven amendments aimed at strengthening federal gun laws, including expanded background checks, banning high-capacity magazines and banning assault weapons. All of them failed, in part due to the influence of the powerful pro-gun lobby.

The NRA membership includes about 4 million ordinary Americans who have presumably embraced Wayne LaPierre and the NRA’s paranoid and distorted world view. But whom does the NRA truly represent? According to a 2011 study by the Violence Policy Center, since 2005 the NRA has received as much as $38.9 million from gun and ammunition manufacturers and sellers, including Beretta USA, Glock and Ruger. Under the phony guise of protecting Second Amendment rights and opposing “tyranny,” the NRA and their allies oppose any and all firearm regulations. These absurd arguments are aimed at distracting us from the real problem of gun violence and lining the pockets of the gun industry.

Recent editorials have angrily shouted “Shame on you!” to U.S. senators for their recent votes. I say “Shame on us.” Shame on us for our collective failure to stand alongside our neighbors in Aurora, Newtown and communities throughout America — neighbors who have lost their loved ones due to senseless acts of gun violence.

Before you decide where you stand, think it through.

The next time it may happen to you.