Sunday, July 15, 2018


Alpha-numerics are scary.  Trump makes fear of MS 13, a criminal gang known for its violence, motivate opposition to immigrants.  Progressives make fear of uranium (U235) and plutonium (Pu239) motivate opposition to the transportation and storage of spent fuel.  Yet the factual record is clear on injury, death, or damage: the public has little to fear from MS 13; the public has less to fear from the transportation and storage of spent fuel containing U235and Pu239.

New Mexico is not considering relocating MS 13 members to New Mexico and housing them here; it is considering a proposal for transporting spent fuel and storing it at a repository in the southeastern part of the state.  Progressives, environmentalists, and anti-nuclear groups—overlapping groups of over-ardent advocates—are trying to rouse citizens who have an unreasonable fear of anything associated with radioactivity against this proposal.

The state’s leading Progressive environmentalist legislator, Senator Jeff Steinborn, is trying to scare people.  He knows that the proposal is in the early stages of a multi-year licensing process.  To prejudice its deliberation, he made many requests for information to the Martinez administration, which he knew might be unable to fulfill them, not to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which he knew would make the information available to the public.  The purpose of his premature and misdirected requests was to suggest that the state is hiding something and thereby cast suspicion on the proposal even before its details are disclosed and can be discussed.

Progressive media sympathizers are already ramping up the rhetoric.  For example, Peter Goodman has already expressed his views in the Las Cruces Sun-Newspress and on KRWG.  His comments to serve the anti-nuclear cause and this anti-transport-and-storage campaign show signs of deficient knowledge and biased thinking.  I responded in a Sun-Newsguest column and a website comment but believe that another better informed and balanced response can help advance reasonable discussion.  I base this response on my experience as a consultant for some twenty years on many aspects of nuclear power, including safety, health, and environmental issues. In particular, I consulted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on its assessment of the Department of Energy’s submission on a waste confidence hearing and on its nuclear safety goals in the 1980s.

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Ever since the advent of commercial nuclear power in 1957, its opponents have fought it with fear-mongering based on four undeniable facts.  One, the public fears nuclear energy because of its enormous destructive power, forever symbolized by its first use in atomic bombs.  Two, it fears nuclear energy, whether for military or peaceful purposes (many wrongly believe that nuclear power plants can explode like atomic bombs), because it is a mysterious but powerful force understood and controlled by only a small number of scientists and engineers.  Three, it fears radioactivity because it knows that exposure to high levels of radiation endangers health and life, directly or, through contaminated water, soils, or food, indirectly.  Four, it fears radioactivity because it is threat which it cannot naturally detect or against which it cannot easily defend itself.

The irrelevance of these facts about fears confronts the reality of the safety, health, and environmental record of transporting and storing commercial nuclear wastes, from low-level radioactive medical waste to high-level radioactive spent fuel, for well over half a century.  That record is unblemished: no one in the public has been identified as harmed, killed, or sickened from storing or transporting spent fuel, and no waters or lands along tracks or roads, or off-site from repositories have been closed to the public because of radioactive contamination.  Since the public has not been exposed, it has not been endangered. Workers transporting spent fuel or storing it are exposed to higher than normal background doses of radiation, but their health risks are small.  Opponents of commercial nuclear power, although they try to scare people about its risks, do not deny this record; indeed, they say nothing about it.  (In this context, fears about the most serious accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant, the “China syndrome” meltdown of a reactor core at one unit at Three Mile Island, have been unfulfilled. No hydrogen explosion occurred, and small radioactive releases had no detectable short- or long-term health effects on the public near to or far from the plant.)

The reasons for this record should be reassuring.  Concerns about transporting and storing spent fuel have prompted studies of the risks of accidents, releases, or terrorist attacks on rail or road shipments or at surface or subsurface repositories to ensure that they are not realized in actual effects.  In turn, these studies have prompted research, policies, regulations, and programs to protect citizens from hazards and the environment from harm.  The result is that scientists, engineers, managers, and technically oriented public officials have addressed and abated these risks for decades.  Having done a good job thus far, they are likely to do a better job in the future, over even longer periods.

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Notwithstanding, opponents of the proposal for a commercial spent-fuel repository in southeastern New Mexico raise objections, a few of which need to be addressed.

Some opponents refer to the safety, health, and environmental dangers near Hanford, Washington, as if that one-of-a-kind situation at that plutonium production site bears any resemblance to the situation at a spent fuel storage site. The differences illuminate the irrelevancy of that comparison and its use for fear-mongering.  The Hanford site was a military facility for producing plutonium for atomic bombs from the middle of World War II until the end of the Cold War.  In that period, the site stressed production and slighted the management, treatment, and storage of wastes.  The result was a complex, enormous mess: its shoddy storage of radioactive waste and its leaks of air- and water-borne radioactive contaminants remain the country’s greatest cleanup challenge.  But there is no comparison between the major, long-term, no-one-knows-what-kind of stuff leaks on and off this site, and some minor, on-site leakage and minor cleanup at spent-fuel storage facilities.

Opponents object to the proposed repository in the state on the additional grounds of its location, the risks from surface transportation, its likely long-term use despite it “temporary” designation, its design, and its vulnerability to terrorist threat. 

The objection based on location is mostly a variation of the NIMBY (not in my back yard) objection, although the site is in a relatively remote, sparsely populated area. The question is why spent fuel stored cannot remain at their power plant sites, not collected at one dedicated site. The answer is that such distributed storage is riskier and more expensive than concentrated storage.  Current on-site storage facilities are nearer population centers, older, more prone to leaks, less secure against natural disasters, more vulnerable to terrorist attack, and more expensive because of repairs, upgrades, and diseconomies of scale.

The risks from transportation are negligible.  Trains and trucks containing military and civilian radioactive wastes have traveled along tracks and over roads, near large cities and through small towns for decades.  Despite the occasional derailment or accident, they have caused no waste-related injuries, deaths, health problems, or environmental harm.  There has been no terrorist attack on any of these vehicles.  (By contrast, the risks of transporting fossil fuels are common and continuing or recurrent risks to safety, health, and the environment. Train derailments, truck accidents, ruptured pipelines, and storage facility defects cause explosions and fires of oil, gas, and other petroleum-based chemicals, some toxic.).

Whatever length of time a “temporary” designation refers to—the repository may end up being long-term, if not permanent—, storage requirements will satisfy the standards for safety, health, and the environment from the beginning of service and will be updated to lower or prevent risks and to provide for remediation.  (By contrast, the safety, health, and the environment consequences of leaking or collapsing holding ponds of coal slurries, and air- and water-borne dispersal of radioactive materials and toxic metals from coal fly ash used as landfill receive almost no attention.)

The 30-foot cap over the repository is adequate for both radiation containment and repository protection.  More depends on the containment pit and the spent fuel containers: geologic and hydrologic factors affecting site stability and integrity; the kinds of materials enclosing the containment pit; their design and engineering; the casket materials and designs; the methods for inventorying, locating, and monitoring caskets.

A terrorist attack on the site is unlikely to occur, much less succeed in damaging the repository, disrupting its operations, or destroying or dispersing its contents. Sensors, physical barriers, and other security features will detect, hinder, or prevent attacks by munition-bearing planes, drones, or vehicles; or unauthorized armed or weaponized people. However, media coverage of a terrorist attack, though unsuccessful, could create hysteria in this corner of the state.

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My primary concerns with nuclear power are not technical, but managerial and financial.  My advice would be for the public and opponents to avoid double-standards to the transportation and storage of spent fuel and to focus on management issues, particularly the prompt and full disclosure of risk-related matters, and the availability of sufficient resources and the commitment to use them immediately if need be.  I trust the NRC, not the state government, to concern itself with the risks, but neither to ensure that the contractor, Holtec International, conducts itself like a good and responsible neighbor.  Opponents should also try to secure, if possible, formal arrangements for legal standing should an adverse event occur and Holtec International default on its commitments.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


       I once had friends in German and France; I still have friends in Canada and England.  I have recently written to the living while thinking about the dead to explain how fallen is America, a country detached from the values which it once owned but now repudiates, and disgraced by its debasing of its highest aspirations.

The great symbol of America is not the flag, which, despite the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance, is mere decoration.  The anthem is a rhetorical absurdity; no one really cares whether a flag survived a military bombardment over two hundred years ago.  The pledge is a depleted formality of fine words imperfectly matched by deeds and measuring our hypocrisy.  The great symbol is the Statue of Liberty, with its poem, not only welcoming, but also requesting immigrants:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I like its placement; in a harbor, it signifies harbor, or haven.  I like its idea of America as the “MOTHER OF EXILES,” welcoming, nurturing, supporting those forced by persecution, poverty, famine, or war to flee their countries and risk all to come to this “Land of Opportunity.”  I like its idea of a door, not a wall.

Others have quoted this sonnet’s final words in these days of Trump’s cruel war and Sessions’s callous law against the poor, the weak, and, most of all, women and children—those denoted for special care in Jewish Holy Scriptures, Christian Bible, and Muslim Koran.  In these days of desecrating religion by politicizing it, Trump and his base of self-described or so-called Christians defile America and demean Americans—citizens, legal residents, immigrants documented or not.  These people have abandoned Americans’ aspiration to live in a country which, if great, is above all else, good.  We must urge them to rejoin “We the People.”

We can remember that Indians were immigrants from Asia, and the first whites were Europeans (blacks did not immigrate).  We can recall Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first and pointed words to the Daughters of the American Revolution: “fellow immigrants.”  We can reflect that the first waves of immigrants coming to America desired a better life for themselves and their children.  (We can also recognize two facts: one, many European immigrants were criminals; and, two, despite slavery and segregation, blacks have shared that impulse.)  We can and must recognize, respect, and revere that impulse in those who have come later to America, as our forbearers did, after great loss and at great risk. We can and must realize that their desire to come here and join us as Americans honors America.  The result: immigrants became Americans and helped make America great.

So let us adhere to the Constitution’s Preamble, which, spelling out the Declaration’s values of equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, asserts America’s governing purposes: to unify as a nation, to live under just laws, to live in peace with one another, to defend ourselves when need be, to advance the good of all, and to enjoy the freedoms which make life worth living.  We can honor our Founding Fathers only by honoring and striving to fulfill their purposes for all of us.  They did not believe that we needed to be powerful to be great among the world’s countries; they believed that we needed to be democratic to be good for the world’s peoples.  My wish:

Make America Good Again.

Saturday, June 30, 2018


Even as a child of 10 or so, I read a lot of books, magazines, and newspapers, with special interests in history and science.  I remember reading older newspapers reporting headline events which my father kept among family mementos in the attic.  Among them were papers about major battles and final victories in the Second World War, including accounts of the concentration camps.  I still recall, almost feel, my trauma—sweating, dizziness, weakness—from reading the details of horrors of beatings, tortures, and medical experiments for which nothing in post-war suburban America prepared me.  But one message impressed itself upon me: if citizens in a country as advanced as Germany could behave as barbarically as they did, citizens in America could behave similarly.  So it is has been a life-long nightmare that Americans could follow the course followed by Germans in similar conditions or under similar circumstances.  With a replacement cast of characters and institutions, that nightmare is coming true today.

The parallels are easy enough: (1) populist leaders with notable hirsute features—Hitler’s mustache, Trump’s bouffant hair—, superb oratorical skills, mastery of modern communications, and sociopathic abnormalities; (2) rural followers readily characterized as semi-educated, ill-informed, disillusioned by government, disaffected by economic hardships, alienated by cosmopolitan elites, unsettled by technological, demographic, and cultural changes in the modern world, resentful of foreign influences, and hostile toward residents not regarded as fellow citizens; (3) officials bootlicking and obedient; (4) legislatures malleable and supine; (5) the highest court acquiescent and complicit.

America has always had propensities to authoritarian rule.  About a third of the colonists remained loyal to the English monarchy, and a third of the states governed themselves by race-based rule.  The Union won the battles to end the Civil War about race, but the KKK and White Citizen Councils, with the support of racist sympathizers, continued the war by other means.  The federal government, after breaking one treaty after another, confined Indians whom it had not exterminated to reservations.  It denied them and Chinese immigrants citizenship and the right to vote, and thereby placed them under the rule of authorities to whom they had given no consent.  It uprooted West Coast Japanese citizens and interned them in detention camps.  And, during the great expansion of the American economy from the beginning of the Civil War to the end of the Second World War, Americans indulged not only resurgent racism, but also anti-Semitism and xenophobia on an unprecedented and still unsurpassed scale.

What is different today is a president with authoritarian propensities modeled for and encouraged in the citizenry.  Trump’s central trait, once stridently argued, now tacitly accepted, is extreme narcissism.  He shows his narcissism in his lack of empathy, decency, and integrity; his penchant for humiliation and cruelty; his impulsiveness and inconsistency;—and more. His followers and many others show the same emotional and moral deficiencies.  Narcissism rules the inner world; nihilism rules the narcissist’s outer world.  Trump’s nihilism manifests itself in his hostile, aggressive tendencies to diminish, disrupt, or destroy anything—truth, laws, norms, customs—which can abate or restrict the exercise of his inner, outwardly directed, narcissistic energies.

Trump’s combination of narcissism and nihilism substitutes chaos and violence for order and peace, with both public and private consequences.  The combination accounts for his transactional view of the world. With ego-gratification the sole grounds and standards for interactions among people, groups, and nations, he perceives the world as a place of contention between his and others’ interests. In his zero-sum view, some win, some lose.  Thus, Trump converts the public square in which most people cooperate and compete according to shared convictions, conventions, and compacts into an arena of unchecked competition and conflict.  To operate as president, he concentrates power to control others by carefully doling it out and snatching it back to keep everyone variably disoriented, defensive, dysfunctional, and thus disabled from managing or resisting him.

To achieve this rule, however, Trump must struggle, be strong in the struggle, admit no weakness or mistake, manipulate or intimidate others to serve his interests, allow none to have a position of stability and strength within his orbit of power, and weaken or annihilate all opposition outside it.  Indeed, he responds to perceived threats to his exercise of authoritarian power by increasing his efforts to concentrate power to control others. These demands are his offense to defend his insecurity and fragility in a world seen as threatening, powerful, and controlling—his father projected from Trump’s inner to outer world—in which losing reveals him wobbly, weak, and, worst of all, unworthy.  The point is this: Trump’s combination of narcissism and nihilism is constitutive and compulsive, and it will continue to operate and spread one opportunity at a time.

Once upon a time, John Dean said that there was a cancer on the presidency; today, he would have to say that the president is a cancer metastasizing countrywide.  Trump spreads his vulgarity and barbarism, his disrespect for others (of all political parties), his disregard of the law, and his authoritarian tendencies and methods.  He uses “alternative facts” or “fake-news” to rouse fears of immigrants depicted as national security, criminal, or economic threats.  He hinders Muslim immigrants and visitors, and harasses Hispanics by separating parents from children and sending adults to jails and minors to holding cages and tent cities (stage-one ethnic cleansing).  A future need for scapegoats will lead him inexorably to the traditional target of choice: Jews.  My nightmare seems prophecy.

But there is a wake-up call.  As Trump exploits today’s crisis of character whereby many people are abandoning personal beliefs and breaching social norms essential to a functioning democracy, opposition begins by realizing that what we want outwardly, politically, we must want inwardly, personally.  We must make a this-is-who-I-want-to-be-and-how-I-want-to-live-my-life commitment to the first principles of democracy.  In the Declaration of Independence, they are clearly stated: equality under the law; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; the consent of the governed—or clearly implied: respect for others and respect for reason with its supports, facts and argument.  In the Preamble to the Constitution, they are also clearly stated as the purposes of government: a strong union of states, justice, domestic peace, national defense, general welfare, and the benefits of freedom.  I end by copying the first words of these foundational American documents and invite a careful reading of them—we too seldom read and think about them—for those who want to protect democracy on Independence Day, the day on which we celebrate what Trump would deny us: equality “with liberty and justice for all.”

From the Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

From the Constitution:

We the Peopleof the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Any departure from believing and living according to these values, principles, and purposes deviates from a citizen’s commitment to American democracy.  In 2018, in the second year of Trump’s presidency, celebrating Independence Day means committing to political action, if only to voting on Election Day, based on these ideals, above and beyond any specific items which candidates may have on their agendas.

Monday, June 11, 2018


   So said a black Union guard to a white Confederate prisoner whom he recognized as his former owner.  Too bad a civil war had to be fought to free blacks in the hope of enabling them to have a share in America’s benefits.

This quotation prompted me to question whether the Declaration of Independence, written in a desperate hour, declared all men equal as a cynical appeal to those whom the signers had never treated as equal and never would. Although many of these signers drafted the Constitution, it says nothing about equality in that political context or the extent of the franchise.  InFederalist Paper#10, James Madison expressed two great concerns.  One was parties, with inevitable factionalism. The other was the mob (from mobile vulgus, or fickle masses, or theelectorate).  To abate this concern, the Constitutional Convention designed a buffer, the Electoral College, presumably of the “better sort” elected to elect the president.

Another brake on the electorate in America’s early years were state franchises extending only to those white males who met a property qualification, usually about $100 (or $2550 in 2018 dollars; it measures how much richer we are today that this amount does not seem greatly exclusionary).  The purpose of this device was to deny the franchise to those with little stake in the community and the economy, and, presumably, little education and social standing.  But, within a few decades, the logic of democracy and “all men are created equal” had extended the franchise to all white males.  Now, despite some recent Republican state laws and administrative directives to suppress the vote of Democrat-leaning groups (blacks, seniors, students), most Americans have the right to vote and can if they wish.

Even so, the equality stated or implied by federal or state constitutions is political equality as defined by two things only: the right to vote and the rule of law applied equally to all.  Otherwise, people are neither “created equal” as a matter of nature nor treated as equals as members of society; and, either way, they do not remain equal.  They get better or worse depending on the evolution of their character and conduct by nurture, education, or social environment.

Character and conduct occur across a spectrum, not in strata.  But, today, the talk is of opposites: rich vs. poor, educated vs. uneducated, secular vs. religious, powerful vs. oppressed, bicoastals vs. intercoastals, city dwellers vs. country denizens, and so forth.  Increasingly sharp divides are liberals vs. conservatives, Democrats vs. Republicans. The left-hand and the right-hand elements of these opposites are aligning with these political orientations or parties, both of which have “elites.”  Trump’s “base,” the now dominant power in the Republican Party, reflects this alignment and features Christian fundamentalists and white males.

Whatever the point or zone of difference between these “haves” and “have-nots,” the base envies what the haves have and desires to have some, and resents not having what the haves have and despairs at having some.  The tension of envy and resentment varies with current conditions.  When times are good and the future hopeful, have-nots abate their envy or resentment; when times are bad and the future bleak or threatening, they condition their responses according to their respect for elites.  Recent decades have witnessed accelerating erosion of respect for traditional authorities generally and political leadership specifically; recent years, the emergence of the Tea Party and its contempt for government, and the eruption of the base and its rejection of anything authoritative: experience, competence, knowledge, expertise, science, reason (i.e., the use of evidence and argument) in decision making.  Its personal attacks on experts in fields germane to public policy reveal other meanings of “base”: low, corrupt, or vile; nasty, callous, or cruel; and dishonorable or disreputable.  In the aggregate of these meanings, “base” signifies degeneracy.

The irony of the base’s envy and resentment is its backhanded compliment to elites and everything which they possess or represent: wealth, power, social standing, education, social and cultural sophistication, and decorous language and behavior—all things which it lacks and the lack thereof makes it feel inferior and, by projection, looked down upon.  Hillary Clinton’s label “deplorables” for those without these advantages could not have better confirmed what the base thinks that the elites think of them.  Donald Trump, whom elites scorn despite his wealth and power, properly represents the base.  He reciprocates their scorn and responds as the base would like to: not on the elites’ terms, but on theirs, by using vulgarity, belligerence, recklessness, and vandalism to give elites a punch in the nose to even the score.  But, as their allegiance to Trump suggests, despite his tax cuts favoring the haves, the base lacks even self-serving interests and has only inchoate and unconstructive grievances.

One sorry result is that Trump and the Republican Party easily exploit the distress and fears of those who, for one reason or another, have failed to adapt to changing circumstances, lack the education to catch up, and have no confidence in a better future for themselves.  It is easy to suppose the base to perceive itself as outsiders, left-behinds, or, in Trump’s term, losers (whom he promises to make winners).  But as long as the base continues its custom of falling for and following con artists—political populists and “Jesus-loves-me” Bible-thumpers or prosperity preachers—, so long it will remain unregenerate and aggrieved—pathetic to those who perceive its self-defeating, yet societally damaging, ways. The base will be the last to realize, for example, the perfect storm of Trump-diminished health insurance coverage and Trump-increased health risks from EPA deregulation.

Another sorry result is that the Democratic Party no longer knows how to lend a helping hand to those whom it would assist but from whom hostility emanates. It fails to comprehend that the hostility which rebuffs its well-intended efforts is the reaction to its we-know-what-is-better-for-you-than-you-do programs designed in Washington.  It deludes itself in thinking that the antidote is publicized once-every-four-years “listening tours”—ruses fooling no one and insulting everyone.

Notwithstanding, rival opinions of haves and have-not do not have equal claims to legitimacy. Opinions about cultural or lifestyle issues—what is really “American”—cannot be equal if have-nots want what haves possess.  And opinions about public policy cannot be equal if have-nots cannot articulate anything coherent, cogent, and constructive.  In a country founded in the Enlightenment (aka, “Age of Reason”), they can hardly claim to be “real Americans” if they are not committed to using reason and respecting people in the democratic process.  Practice has not matched policy, but the aspiration for political equality requires unwavering allegiance to rationality and decency.  To secure democracy for all, haves must support its principles and values, extend its processes, and invest in social programs so that have-nots, too, may enjoy full citizenship, benefit from society, and hope for a better future.

Otherwise, comes the next civil war: “bottom rail on top now, massa.”

Monday, June 4, 2018


UPDATE: Senator Heinrich, presumably in response to the following blog, has written me to re-affirm his commitment to end this barbaric practice of separating parents and children. Much of the letter repeats what his 1 June NMPolitics letter stated.  But it adds his cosponsorship of the Keep Families Together Act, which act would prevent DHS from taking children from the parents at the border.

Senator Heinrich’s additional effort is much appreciated, but more effort is required of him because relevant legislation is very unlikely to be passed by Congress or signed by the President.  What remains is a political action campaign, entirely appropriate for a Senator seeking re-election to a safe seat, to influence statewide election.  (Such a campaign would also be entirely appropriate for the Las Cruces Progressive Voters Alliance--indeed, practically required of it,  if the PVA is ever to be something more than a political consortium for gossip exchange.)  Emphasis on this issue in his Senatorial campaign will engender support on the issue down ticket in Congressional, gubernatorial, and other state race.  Senator Heinrich’s voice would be a powerful one to expose and deplore Congressman Pearce’s stance on this issue and on related immigrant issues, and to show his absolute unfitness to govern in a state nearly half Hispanic.

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In a 1 June column for “This is not who we are”) and in a 4 June email to constituents, Senator Martin Heinrich declared himself on the controversy about separating children from their parents, call them what you will: illegal or undocumented immigrants.

      I cannot say that I think that the legislation which Senator Heinrich supports and the policy which he calls for are in any way acceptable (see: “This is not who we are”).  First, the legislation proposed by Democrats and supported by him surrenders the principle of keeping children and parents together.  Indeed, the proposed legislation legitimizes their separation.  If Senator Heinrich believes, as he says, that their separation is inhumane and immoral, then why does Senator Heinrich support legislation which permits it?

Second, the legislation to protect children in federal custody recognizes that they are at grave risk of abuse (pornography, sexual molestation, beatings, etc.).  Democrats, including Senator Heinrich, in proposing this legislation, imagine that it can protect them.  The idea that federal legislation can keep federal institutions and personnel from abusing children is naive and irresponsible.  In all kinds of care-giving institutions—day-care facilities, hospitals, jails or prisons, senior care centers, etc.—children and adults are abused or at risk of abuse.  Given this administration’s hostility to immigrants, it is naive and irresponsible to think that DHS or HHS detention facilities (i.e., holding pens) for children will be free from abuse by DHS or HHS personnel. The proposed legislation, if enacted, may deter some abuse, may punish some abuse, but will still allow abuse to occur. Even so, who will report the abuse, and who will investigate the personnel, charge them, prosecute them, etc.? Just how much federally enabled and implemented child abuse will Democrats, including Senator Heinrich, regard as acceptable?

I urge Senator Heinrich to publicly withdraw his support for this legislation.  I urge him to propose legislation which revokes and denies the authority of any agency or contractor of the federal government to separate families: parents from each other and from their children (what if children are accompanied, not by mothers, but by fathers?), and which denies funding for any federal or federally contracted activity with this purpose or effect.  I urge him to call out Republicans for supporting administration policies which make a mockery of their professed allegiance to “family values.”

Sunday, May 27, 2018


Republican Congressman Steve Pearce, Freedom Caucus member, declared candidate for governor of New Mexico, has not stated his “family values.”  But they are readily known from his votes, his statements, and, more importantly, his silences on family planning and immigration.  They show him unfit to lead a state in which Hispanics constitute nearly half the population.  His special hostility to Hispanic women, children, and spouses or partners is evident in his extreme Republican notions of “family values,” which are a threat to economic well-being, health, safety, and life.

One of Pearce’s family values is opposition to family planning.  His undoubted honesty—no one would accuse a Christian fundamentalist of hypocrisy—on this issue would mean than he and his wife have never had instruction in measures to control family growth or, if they had, had ever implemented them.  So abstinence, impotency, infidelity, or God’s will has kept this presumably intact western congressman, always a bareback rider, from fathering a larger family. As a self-righteous, power-hungry, Christian fundamentalist, Pearce wants everyone else to live like him.  Or else, as Governor, he will pass laws and rule to make others live as he wants them to.  Hispanic Catholics can forget the social service commitment of their faith.

According to Pearce, a staunch believer in small government to help business and a voluble professor of freedom from its regulations, government should be big enough to force people to be free from family planning choices and stop them from it because family planning is Pearce’s God’s proper work.  Women as well as men should get down on their knees—copulation is hard, abstinence easy, in that position—and pray to his God for no unwanted pregnancies. But, if women get pregnant, his God wanted them pregnant, and they should be grateful even for unwanted children.  Pearce’s God wants women to run genetic, gynecological, and gestational risks, without regard to their health or their lives, the health or lives of their potential offspring, and the effects on the health or lives of their spouses or partners and other children.  His God favors the life of the unborn to the life of the woman. If an unborn proceeding to full term threatens great harm or death to the mother, his God wants the woman harmed, maimed, or dead; Pearce denies that she has a right to self-defense against the unborn.  His God wants men to have no say in the size of families which they create with their wives or partners.

On his own, Pearce knows that, in the absence of family planning and recourse to contraception or abortion, the poor remain poor by having children for whom they lack the resources to feed, clothe, house, and educate properly.  He votes against funding Planned Parenthood to advance what is in New Mexico a clearly anti-Hispanic agenda.  His attacks on family planning, contraception, and abortion have less to do with religious freedom than Hispanic economic impoverishment and political powerlessness.  Any Hispanic who votes for Pearce votes for Hispanic subsistence living and subordinate status.

Another of Pearce’s family values is the dismemberment of Hispanic families.  If one member of a resident family is undocumented, Pearce wants that member separated from the family and deported.  If Hispanic families without papers cross the border, Pearce wants children separated from parents; parents incarcerated in internment camps, jails, prisons, or military facilities; and their children scattered to military facilities or “foster homes.”  He knows that, given the record of sexual misconduct in the military services, in one of which Pearce proudly serves, women and girls will likely be sexually molestation or raped.  He may accept that, by coming to this country without papers, Hispanic females were just asking for it.  He also knows that, under the Trump administration, HHS has lost track of—Boco Haram-ed or “disappeared”—over 1500 Hispanic minors in 2017 alone.  He may also accept that these “foster homes” are possible way stations in sex trafficking—and an effective way to use fear to enforce immigration law, as his Republican colleague, the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has so eloquently stated it.

Website verbiage aside, Pearce’s silent assent to Trump’s declaration that undocumented adult Hispanic immigrants are “animals” means that Pearce accepts that Hispanic immigrants will be ill-housed, poorly fed, and abused, and that some will die.  Pearce may liken the deaths of locked-up or vanished Hispanic children to the deaths of “pet animals.”  Revealingly, Pearce’s website professes the need for “human solutions,” presumably different from “animal solutions,” to the immigration problem. Obviously, a word not in his vocabulary: “humane.”

Such are Pearce’s “family values.”  Be sure to have them in mind when the voting commences in the fall.

Thursday, March 22, 2018


 From his perspective and with his interests, Trump has made some very smart moves recently.  The departures of Rex Tillerson and H. R. McMaster in the past two weeks and, I predict, the departure of James Kelly by May Day; and the transfers or appointments of Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, and, if confirmed, Gina Haspel—mean one thing: Trump has assembled a wartime administration.

I further predict that Trump, with the support of these new advisers will launch or threaten to launch attacks on North Korea or Iran or both.  There is no reason to think that he has changed wishes which he has intimated in the past.  Now, he has a war-prone group of advisers to aide and abet him.

These threats or attacks will not occur at least until late spring and may await mid-summer because Trump will want them to have maximum political effect at home.  He expects that they will rally the American people to support the country in its military posture or operations.  He expects them to help Republicans in the off-year elections.  He expects them distract the public from the harmful effects his tariff policies.  And he hopes that they will derail Robert Mueller’s investigation, if only by pressuring Republicans to withdraw financial support for its continuance during wartime, because, so they will claim, it undermines the president at a perilous time.

Oh, I do so hope that I am wrong.