Like many of us who supported Hillary Clinton, I am in a bit of shock that our country has chosen to elect a man so totally unqualified—morally, intellectually, and experientially—as Donald Trump. Yet the votes have been cast; and while he lost the popular vote by over a million votes, he won the electoral vote—the only one that counted. Despite early warnings of problems—the ever-growing and large, raucous Trump rallies; Russians all but indicted in hacking many of our national political organizations; the incessant drumbeat of Wikileaks’ releases of meaningless political insider emails; and a cowering FBI Director prematurely revealing the discovery of a “new trove of emails” ten days before the election that turned out to be mostly copies of already analyzed material—most of us were lulled by the pundits and pollsters who showed that Hillary would most certainly win, possibly by a landslide. Even the exit polls, run by the same media and pollsters, all but confirmed the certainty of Hillary’s success.
And then the votes actually started to be counted. The shock to more than half of us hit like a bomb; euphoria to the rest began to set in. Apparently, change, at whatever cost, driven by anger and hatred of those often left out of the political equations of the past, overpowered reason, deliberation and thoughtful governance proposed by Hillary.
Yesterday, I submitted my formal petition to run for public office as a Democrat for New Mexico State Representative for District 34. While many may not be surprised at my decision to run for public office I’m sure many others would think I am crazy given: the costs just to mount a reasonable campaign, the likelihood of an Anglo (gringo) to win in a predominantly Hispanic district, the challenge in taking on a well financed incumbent , the public exposure, and resultant stresses to my private life. All of this should I get elected for a job that will require much work, long hours, endless travel and absolutely no pay. It is hard to justify why I am running in a purely logical sense but I’ll give it a try. Continue reading →
The world has been holding its breath awaiting the formal response to the historical signing of a nuclear agreement between the United States and six other nations with Iran this past July. The agreement, if enacted, would lift economic sanctions against Iran while, hopefully, preventing Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon for at least ten years and beyond. The US Congress has sixty days to either agree to or reject the agreement. News on an almost daily basis gives a tally of who may or may not vote in favor or against the agreement in both Republican-controlled houses of the Congress. President Obama on his part has threatened to veto any action to reject the agreement. Being a pre-year Presidential election year (yes, we are still more than a year away from any Presidential elections!) all seventeen of the Republican candidates have weighed in (aghast and against), as well as the three Democrat hopefuls (cautiously in favor, maybe), making this a multi-media event of major proportions. Before reviewing the most salient particulars of the Iranian deal it might be useful to consider how a similar nuclear agreement was successfully negotiated in the past and the lessons we might learn in our current circumstance. Continue reading →
Like many of us I was shocked by the horrific killings that took place recently in Paris where more than a dozen staff and editors of the French publication Charlie Hebdo, as well as some innocent bystanders, were viciously and cold-bloodedly gunned down by Islamic terrorists. In a separate but related incident a policewoman and five other Parisians were killed. Ultimately, the French authorities found and killed the perpetrators of these killings, but not before they had succeeded in bursting the illusionary bubble of security and safety thought to be enjoyed in this modern city and, in fact, in Europe and much of the west. The terrorists, young French citizens apparently trained and supported by Al-Qaida, purportedly acted in revenge for cartoons and articles published in this satirical weekly newspaper seen as insulting to Mohammed and the Islamic faith.
The Western world responded swiftly in showing support and solidarity to what was seen as a vicious attack on freedom of speech and liberty in our modern society—”Je Suis Charlie—I am Charlie,” resounded around the world as thousands took to the streets in protest and support against the terrorists. The intent of the rallies and the protests was to show Islamic extremists/terrorists that we will not be bullied by armed threats, and we will continue to live as free and open societies. To underscore this, the January 15 publication of Charlie Hebdo sold out more than 5 million copies. (Their normal publication rate previously only amounted to about 60,000 copies!) In the end though we are left to reflect on what could cause such a violent and visceral reaction to simple cartoons in an obscure publication. From my own travels I recall an experience that may offer some insight as to what drives these extremists. Continue reading →
This past September while standing in a long tourist line to enter Rome’s ancient Colosseum I was mesmerized by a little boy held in his mother’s arms right in front of us. I had just taken out a banana to maintain my failing strength (tourism is tough!) when I caught sight of the youngster eyeing my banana as I slowly and now very deliberately peeled it with a devilish grin in my own eyes. The youngster squirmed in his mother’s arms as I teasingly ate the banana while wondering if it would be impolite or taken wrong if I offered the child a bite. Before I could make up my mind to share (or not) the young mother, alerted to her child’s awakened appetite, cleverly pulled out her own banana to give the child! As he eagerly grabbed the proffered banana from his mother I mimed my need to have a bite. He wisely ignored my growing, silent entreaties to share that which I had refused to share only moments before. We both laughed when he dramatically finished off his snack leaving me looking desperate and famished—a fun moment to pass the time in a long, boring line. Having broken the ice we introduced ourselves to the young couple. “Where are you from?” we asked. “Russia,” they replied. “And you.” “We’re Americans.”—only a slight hesitation but I could sense for both of us conflicting thoughts, “But you’re the enemy. You seem so nice.” Continue reading →
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” is part of a poem by Emma Lazarus that is immortalized at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. My grandparents and hundreds of thousands of other immigrants fleeing from the oppressions and trials of their home countries in Europe and elsewhere first saw the Statue of Liberty as they looked for refuge and a new life in the US. In a conversation on immigration I recently asked a young college student if she were familiar with this quotation at the base of the Statue of Liberty. She looked at me blankly unaware or forgetful of what is such a large part of all of our families’ histories. That in fact we are all from a stock of immigrants (native Americans and African Americans excepted). That our strength and vitality as a nation has come from immigrants fleeing oppression going back to the Pilgrims to more recently, Vietnamese and Southeast Asians making their way to our shores. My young friend’s lack of understanding of this basic underpinning of our national heritage unfortunately is not unusual. Witness the recent uproar by public and private citizens with the arrival of more than 62,000 Central American children since October of last year, “illegally” crossing our border with Mexico and seeking asylum status. We fail to understand our history and further lack understanding of the meaning of the word “refugee” and the national and international laws which pertain to refugees here or elsewhere in the world. Continue reading →
Surge of undocumented children immigrants overwhelms border facilities in Texas
Recent headlines in the U.S. have focused on a major influx of undocumented immigrants crossing our southern border with Mexico, many of them children either traveling alone or with single mothers seeking refuge. According to Homeland Security some 52,000 children have arrived on the U.S.-Mexico border since October of last year, most coming from Central American countries including Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, looking to escape the upsurge in violence and destitution threatening those countries. Some, apparently, are trying to take advantage of special treatment afforded children and families that cross the border illegally which they believe, mistakenly or otherwise, will allow them to stay. The paid “coyotes” smuggling them encourage this misinformation in promoting their services throughout the perilous journey from their home countries to the border. This is only the latest in the influx of undocumented (illegal) immigrants from the south that have looked to the U.S. for shelter from economic and/or violent social oppression in their homelands. While the details may vary, the problem of illegal immigration is not limited solely to the U.S., but is in fact a global problem that requires a far more comprehensive approach than we or any other nation is taking. Continue reading →
In 2012 Border Crossings ran a series of posts (“The War on Drugs”) reviewing the history of our drug laws, the long term consequences of those laws, and recommendations to decriminalize and legalize recreational use of marijuana and other drugs. In November of that year, Colorado and Washington state voters approved referendums legalizing the recreational use of marijuana; and this January, the two states began to implement regulation and taxation of marijuana sales despite grumblings from the Justice Department and DEA.Sale of pot in Colorado netted tax revenue of $2 million in just this first month.While only a drop in the bucket of the state’s $20 billion plus annual budget, other states have taken notice and additional referendums to legalize marijuana are being advanced for consideration of the voters during the next election cycle.Recent polls show that a majority of Americans (51% plus) now believe that marijuana should be legalized.Even the President has weighed in, recently downplaying the hazard posed by marijuana, declaring the drug no more dangerous than alcohol, pointing to the graver risk presented by other recreational drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine.Have we turned a corner on the War on Drugs? Continue reading →
The US The US southwest and west are experiencing severe drought – in some cases, perhaps, the worst ever recorded. For example, in California experts have characterized it as a 500-year drought. Over 40,000 people in California will have no water supplies in the next few months, and state officials acknowledge the figure will rise.While this is a drought-driven problem failure to anticipate and prepare for drought is also playing a role . This is a major threat to the farming industry of the state – and to the agricultural production of the US as a whole given that California’s output is a substantial portion of US total output.Winter-based industries such as ski resorts are also facing a declining future as snowpack falls – only 15% of normal in the Sierra Nevada, to take one US example.(This is happening worldwide, highlighted this year by the Winter Olympics in Russia, made possible only by saving snow from last year and by massive snow-making.) Continue reading →
Poster from “The Ugly American” movie starring Marlon Brando
In the book The Ugly American (1958), the authors Eugene Burdick and William Lederer describe Americans living in a fictional, Southeast Asian country that was a thinly disguised Vietnam. Popularized by a movie starring Marlon Brando, the book’s title came to symbolize the view of Americans as often seen from abroad—arrogant, loud and ostentatious. The title actually alludes to an American government worker who, while physically unattractive, lives and works closely with Southeast Asians in improving their daily lives by bringing small scale, innovative technology into their local villages (a bicycle-powered water pump, improved chicken coops, etc). The fictional hero of the book was actually a real person, Homer Atkins, who worked in Vietnam with the International Cooperation Agency—now the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)— in the 1950s. Our efforts of civilian aid to Vietnam then were obviously overwhelmed by the ensuing military conflict of the Vietnam War of the sixties and seventies, leaving scars and tragic memories still felt by many Americans to this day. Arriving at Hanoi International Airport recently I was curious, if not somewhat apprehensive, as to how an “ugly American” might be met. The following describes my own personal experience and thoughts about going forward in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. Continue reading →