October 31, 2006
colorado: take the guess out of voting
Colorado voters now have the "Ballot Builder" -- an interactive tool that is free to use on the Rocky Mountain News site. This tool takes the guessing out of voting and could end the stranglehold our two main parties have on our state.
The process is 1) set up a user profile 2) identify where you live (so it can generate the races you'll vote in) 3) take a survey on where you stand on the issues and initiatives 4) view an individualized ballot which gives you the percentage of agreement you have with each candidate. You can click on "full profile" below the candidate's party info to see their views side-by-side with yours. In most cases, the candidate includes a few sentences clarifying their viewpoint -- I found this of particular interest. It also helps you make more subjective decisions concerning the candidates (as opposed to the objective statistical percentage generated by the tool itself).
It was so interesting to see in which races I favored the Republican, Democrat, Reform Party, Libertarian and Unaffiliated candidates.
If you're not from Colorado, then too bad for you. Unless you can find the groovy tool somewhere for your state.
October 27, 2006
tancredo to condi: don't send Dog to the big house
I honestly don't know why I read any article with Tancredo's name in the headline. Yet I just keep coming back for more.
Tancredo -- self proclaimed champion against all things illegal -- or at least all brown-skinned "illegal" activity -- is leading the charge to protect Dog the Bounty Hunter.
Yes, you read it right.
In recent weeks, Tancredo led the charge in petitioning Condoleezza Rice to block the extradition of Dog the Bounty Hunter to Mexico -- where he could face jail time.
Tancredo apparently believes he alone should decide which laws merit being upheld. And, according to Tom, the laws of the sovereign nation of Mexico just don't pass muster.
October 26, 2006
rule of law
This year the GOP mantra has been "the rule of law, the rule of law, the rule of law." People are expected, by the GOP, to abide strictly by the "rule of law" no matter their desperation or need (to which unjust laws have certainly contributed). But anyone watching Colorado's gubernatorial race has seen the contradiction in recent headlines.
GOP candidate Bob Beauprez' campaign is under FBI investigation for material in a campaign ad that could only have been accessed through a national law enforcement database by an authorized law enforcement officer for non-law enforcement purposes. Rather than supporting the rule of law over the informant, Beauprez has touted him as a courageous whistleblower.
You see, Bob wants it both ways. Here is a quote taken directly from his website -- in regard to "illegal immigration".
In fact, the rule of law--the idea that whether you are rich or poor, powerful or famous--you are subject to respect and abide by the law, just like everyone else (emphasis added). And the rule of law--that contract that we all enter into as citizens--is what distinguishes America from the rest of the world. If we send the message that the rule of law no longer matters in America, we risk losing the very essence of who we are as a nation, what has made us a beacon of hope to those that seek freedom throughout the world. Source: Bob Beauprez' official campaign website
Yet a recent Rocky Mountain News article shows us that Bob doesn't mean really mean everyone must "respect and abide by the law":
Bob Beauprez described the federal law enforcement agent suspected of leaking confidential FBI data to his gubernatorial campaign as a courageous "whistleblower," outraged by his Democratic opponent Bill Ritter's plea-bargains for immigrant offenders as Denver district attorney.
At a press conference today, Beauprez said the agent was justified in breaking the law to exposed Ritter's "obscenely lenient" practice of allowing immigrant drug traffickers to plead to felony trespass on farm land, which the congressman claims allowed them to avoid deportation.
"Our source, in my opinion, performed a great act of courage and public service in bringing this story to the public domain," Beauprez said.
The next day Mike Littwin had this absolutely brilliant commentary on the whole ugly scene:
In the shocking news development of the day: Apparently, it's OK with Bob "Black Hat" Beauprez if you break the law.
The man who would be your governor - the state's lawman-in-chief - says law-breaking is more than OK with him. It's fine with him. It's dandy with him. In fact, you can be his personal hero if you do it.
Not always, presumably. Not, say, if you're an "alien " - even a whistle-blowing "alien."
From what I was able to learn at Beauprez's please-stop-the-bleeding news conference Friday, to qualify as a heroic law-breaker, you have to be an American citizen and have a "belly-full." You have to be "fed up." It's the Alka-Seltzer defense.
And you have to come to his people with possibly illegally procured information - don't worry, no one at the Beauprez campaign will even ask - but only when the Beauprez campaign is 15 points down in the polls and especially desperate.
Well, Beauprez didn't say anything about being desperate Friday, although he could have.
He also didn't say he hopes Cory Voorhis, the ICE agent reportedly at the center of the investigation, broke the law in Denver, so at least he could plea down to ag trespass.
And he didn't say anything about moral relativism or how many other laws you can break heroically. And whether it's legal now for federal agents to torture you for it.
What he said instead was that it was all Bill Ritter's fault. Yes, Ritter's fault for exposing the fact that the Beauprez campaign may have come upon information illegally. (Follow the logic: Beauprez bashes Ritter for blowing the whistle on someone Beauprez claims heroically blew the whistle.)
It's strange, this sudden tolerance for lawbreaking, because Beauprez's entire campaign has been built around his contention that ex-DA Bill Ritter lives to put criminals back on the street - like someone, say, who illegally hacked into a federal database.
At the news conference, I asked Beauprez if he really thought that the guy was a hero if he broke the law to provide information for a political attack ad.
Q: "Do you still find him a hero whether he broke the law (or not)?"
A: "I think he did the right thing."
Even if the broke the law?
"I think he did the right thing."
Now, I'm not saying anyone broke the law. No one has been charged with anything. But I am saying Bill Owens put the CBI on the case, and the CBI brought in the FBI. And I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere the NSA is listening in.
And I'm saying there are heroes and there are heroes. And this guy got to be Beauprez's hero having a belly-full about a case that's three years old - which is a long time to nurse an upset stomach - and got that belly feeling better only by helping with a last-minute attack ad.
There are those who will accuse me of hypocrisy for hammering Beauprez. It's the press after all that loves to print leaked material and then insist on the right to protect sources.
I would protect a source. And like reporters I know, I might even go to jail to protect a source, although it's not, I admit, my first choice. I prefer accommodations with 24-hour room service.
I had to laugh, though, to hear Beauprez actually comparing himself to Judy Miller, who spent nearly three months in jail. Beauprez, by the way, has never mentioned the possibility of him actually doing any time.
Beauprez did, however, say the source might have to face the music. He also heroically put responsibility for meeting with the source onto his 28-year-old campaign manager, John Marshall, who may not see the humor two to five years from now.
I'm not sure how exactly you get to be heroic for disingenuously attacking plea bargains. Or for charging a 12-year DA with being soft on crime when everyone knows you become a prosecutor to put bad guys away. It's like accusing a firefighter of not wanting to put out fires.
It's a feeble attack, but it's the best Beauprez has. And, at the news conference, he says this controversy is really about revealing Ritter's "dirty little secret."
Here's the real dirty little secret: It's almost impossible for any Republican to be running 15 points behind against a Democrat with no legislative experience, who is himself running an unexciting, take-no-risks campaign that basically comes to this: I'm not Bob Beauprez and he is.
And, in case you had any doubts, here's the latest boffo ad from the Beauprez campaign: Beauprez is wearing, stunningly, a black hat. Wearing the black hat, he is standing on the wrong end of a horse, saying - and, remember, the ad appears just as this scandal has broken - "There's that smell again."
Hold your noses. Because there's something, finally, we can all agree on.
And now you know just what xenophobia smells like.
October 6, 2006
the face of american farming
We recently spent a crisp fall morning at a nearby farm harvesting hundreds of pounds of produce. We were loaded onto hay wagons and towed around the fields in search of potatoes, carrots, beets, onions, etc. From the very start, I was having two separate experiences; two separate dialogues -- happy banter with my children and friends about every topic under the sun; thoughtful sidebars of conversation with my husband regarding the real story that day -- the story of the immigrant and American farming.
At the outset of our adventure, I found myself wandering through the farm's produce stand. There I saw this mother, stocking shelves and attending to visitors, with her tiny infant in tow. I'd been at this farm a few years back -- on an even colder day -- and in the same produce stand another woman was working, a toddler at her side. A shudder went through my spirit to see that these women seem to have no other option than to bring their little ones along as they work in the wind and chill. Posing as though I were delirious with the thrill of a harvest outing, I took pictures of the produce displays and then zoomed in to captured the image of the mother and child to share here.
Meandering toward the hay wagons, we passed an immigrant feeding the animals in the petting zoo while three more waited by the tractors that would pull us through the fields. Once we were loaded onto the wagons, we realized that among our group was a family of Eastern European immigrants. Elderly and middle aged ladies alike in their mismatched print skirts, sweaters, and headscarves. The men's faces rugged and timeworn. All held harvesting tools in gloved hands, it was obvious that they meant business -- they were there to harvest their maximum quota; to put up produce for the winter months. I enjoyed watching the cultural collisions as the farm workers tried to corral this group of very determined harvesters back onto the wagons when it was time to move along... "Amigos, we go now!" Sometimes slowly pulling away in order to gain their cooperation.
My husband wasted no time in befriending the farm workers and learned they had been at the farm for 6 years -- and were seemingly satisfied there -- but they had never been to the mountains, a mere 45 minute drive away. They lamented the fact that my husband had visited well known tourist attractions in their home town in Mexico -- places they had never had the opportunity to visit. Our new-found friends then started tipping us off to which area would have better harvesting -- seemingly to give us an advantage over the more serious harvesters in our group. Not that it was needed -- there was plenty for all.
In the ongoing conversation my husband and I shared, we observed that few people would think of an immigrant when asked what the American Farmer looks like. Images like this are more likely to spring to mind:
But it is an incomplete image at best. American Farming depends upon immigrant labor. Unfortunately, the media, politicians and the farming industry itself minimizes the contribution made by these immigrants. Although I exclusively saw immigrant workers on my two visits to Miller Farms, I was hard pressed to find evidence of immigrant workers on the farm's website. The only images I found were on the educational video where for a few seconds you will see a clip of workers with brown skin spreading seed with narration saying something to the effect of "Sometimes the farm workers help Farmer Joe."
Now, I'm all for Farmer Joe -- especially if he is providing fair wages and housing for his workers -- my point is that immigrants remain in the shadows largely because we keep them there -- for fear that acknowledging their contributions would diminish the American Fantasy.
Unfortunately for our farming industry, by keeping immigrants in the shadows, more than a fantasy is being shattered. From sea to shining sea agricultural profits are being shattered by the current farm worker shortage. Colorado's agricultural industry is set to lose millions this year because of a worker shortage prompted by the (most likely illegal) immigration laws passed in July.
As our harvest excursion drew to an end, the task of hauling our produce to the car loomed before us. Joking, my husband asked a teenage boy along on the outing how much he would charge to haul the bags to our car. He quipped, "$1,000 per bag." We all laughed. The truth is best spoken in jest.
And the truth is that you cannot pay an "American" worker to do these jobs.