Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Todd Parkins

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Police Lieutenant Todd Parkins died at his Sandia Park home from an accidental gunshot to his chest while preparing for hunting season on Wednesday, September 24. He was 38.

On Feb 20, 2004, then Sergeant Parkins received the Department’s Life Saving Award. He was the Traffic Section Lieutenant and well regarded by those who knew him.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Only that he’s gone too soon.

I taught report writing to the 68th Cadet Class in May of 1993; Parkins was in the class. He didn’t stand out and I took little notice of him. This is a good thing. He wrote well enough that he filled all my squares without me noticing. It came from his education at Baylor University, where he'd graduated.

From an instructor’s point of view, spending a couple of hours a week in a class room, then reviewing the work of solid students doesn’t make a huge impression on your psyche.

Parkins was such a student. I knew he was going to be one of the 98 percent. Unlike the two percent of officers who routinely get into trouble, he was a dedicated, hard working police officer, on the job for the right reasons. I was not surprised to see his name on the promotion lists. The few times I did see him, he stood tall and was the model of the professional police officer.

He was a big man with, what police call a command presence, that look of knowing and being in control, exuding that feeling amongst the ordinary citizen that know, it’s nice to have a cop around. On the other side, it projects, for those who wish a cop wasn’t around so that mischief, or worse might happen, that they should sense an uneasiness.

However, that wouldn’t be an accurate read of Parkins. He was approachable, quick with a smile and always willing to assist.

He'll be missed.

UPDATE:

Read Sgt. Joe Schmedlap's world's tribute.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Paul Newman

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Paul Newman: actor, on the stage, television and in movies, race car driver, and owner, and philanthropist died Friday of cancer. He was 83.

Here he is in his role as car owner during the California 500 at Ontario Motor Speedway on September 3, 1972.

His acting was legendary and he won awards for his stage, television and movie roles. Others will tell you of how he starred in their favorite performances.

I appreciated his storytelling, especially in, Exodus, 1960. His performance in the 1969 released Winning with the cameo appearance of Albuquerque’s Bobby Unser, the actual 1968 Indianapolis 500 winner, whose car was featured in the production.

Who could not like his other 1969 film, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?

He made three movies in a row in 1981 and 1982 that resonated with me as his best, they were all stories of law: Fort Apache the Bronx, Absence of Malice, and The Verdict.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Get ‘em; We Don’t Have Time To Follow Our Own Rules

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Off with his head, seems to be the agreement of many local bloggers, radio news talk show hosts, both political parties, the local politicians running for U.S. Senate and Congress and even outgoing Senior U.S. Senator Pete Domenici, the ranking member of the State’s Republican Party.

That would be Bernalillo County Republican Party Chairman Fernando C de Baca’s head, right, they’re calling for. They want him removed because of his reported comments to BBC Reporter Jon Kelly during an interview at the State Fair last Thursday. Kelly is riding the election bus called "BBC Talking America US08" project sponsored by the BBC Radio World Service. The bus is on a 37-day cross-country tour leading up to the American election Nov. 4.

The BBC article quoted C de Baca as saying:
"The truth is that Hispanics came here as conquerors," he said. "African-Americans came here as slaves.

"Hispanics consider themselves above blacks. They won't vote for a black president."

Many have interpreted C de Baca’s words as racist and have called for his resignation or removal. C de Baca claimed his words were taken out of context; that he was talking about a historic view of some old -- 50 to 60 years ago -- older Hispanics.

It’s pretty obvious that he is not going to vote for Democratic candidate Sen. Barak Obama, here in Espanola, before a large crowd, well populated with Hispanic supporters, at the same time C de Baca was talking to the BBC; not because Obama’s black, but because he’s a Democrat. If nothing else, C de Baca is a loyal Republican.

Most of the people calling for his ouster have every right to call for his removal under their First Amendment right to free speech, just as C de Baca had the right to say what he did and Kelly had the right to publish what was said.

C de Baca agreed to meet with the County Party Executive Committee Tuesday morning to discuss what he should do in the wake of the mounting controversy.

The Executive Committee took a vote of confidence in their Chairman and supported C de Baca staying in his position.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

This is New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Allen Weh with 1st Vice Chairman Jon Barela, Nina Martinez, Vickie Perea, and 2nd Vice Chair Chris Saucedo during a hastily called news conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Weh expressed his disappointment and obvious anger, though he denied it and claimed he had the unilateral power to remove a County Chair under undefined special circumstances.

There is one major problem; the Republican Party is bound by rules. The County Party has rules that include provisions for removing any of its elected officers. No one at the County level has started the process, nor does it seem that they will.

So Weh has taken it upon himself to threaten to exercise some undefined power and unilaterally remove C de Baca. Jeff Jones of the Journal reports.

Before exercising his self proclaimed power, Weh, hoping to allow cooler heads to prevail, appointed a committee of high-ranking Republican Party members, to try to reason with the County chair.

After hearing out the delegation Wednesday, C de Baca chose to hold on to his seat. He has retained a lawyer and personnel laws are now in play. C de Baca, without saying so, is invoking his right to have a fair process if he is going to be removed. Weh has been moving cautiously; possibly some Party member who is a lawyer has warned him off because of the fight that might ensue.

At the press conference, Weh said he was not going to take any immediate action because it would create a sideshow and detract from the task at hand: electing John McCain President of the United States, a new United States Senator, and three Congressmen from New Mexico.

Analysis

If Weh wants to condemn C de Baca’s speech, he may do so till he’s blue in the face. However, if he wants to take action, he must act within the law.

Any attempt Weh makes will be outside the rules.

Let’s look at those pesky State Party rules. They are specific on how County Officers may be removed from their position:
3-1-4. COUNTY - CENTRAL COMMITTEE - COUNTY OFFICERS

D. Removal of County Officers: Any Officer of a County Central Committee may be removed by a two-thirds vote of all the members of the County Central Committee present in person at a meeting properly called for the purpose and attended by at least 51% of the entire membership of the Committee. In such voting, proxies shall not be recognized.

My Take

Due process is an important concept in American government and the Party that hopes to retain the White House and vacated U.S. Senate seat and gain a seat from the Democrats in the House of Representatives must be seen as willing to follow the laws of the land and the rules of their Party.

The mass hysteria surrounding C de Baca’s comments, the rush to simply be rid of him, is exposing the leadership of the State Republican Party to worse than what C de Baca might have said.

There is no discussion about what C de Baca’s words impart. The effort is to simply shout down anybody who recognizes some truth to the unresolved problems in ethnic and race relations in this country and particularly in the State of New Mexico.

I can empathize with C de Baca, right. When I was President of the Police Union. I spoke with the press about the way, then Chief of Police Sam Baca, selected supervisors.

In an of Oct. 4, 1986 Albuquerque Journal article entitled, “Union Head Accuses Police Chief of Disruption:”
…Bralley said in an interview this week that Baca runs the department on what he called the patron system. “He’s the boss, the patron. You are either for him or against him… People who are loyal to Sam Baca are rewarded. Everybody else, watch out. And like every good patron he has a spy system, whose network runs through the department,” Bralley said.

“Baca has told me that loyalty to Baca is the most important attribute a member of this department can have,“ Bralley said.
My comment was perceived as racist and the Union Board not only called for my resignation, but also proceeded to formally oust me. I survived a recall vote by a two-to-one margin. I know what I meant and I now know how it was perceived.

Being in an elected position and in the public eye, sooner or later, of your making, or of a reporter’s, you’re going to have a bad day with the press.

The fourth U.S President, James Madison, when he was working on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, championed the “Marketplace of Ideas.” This is a concept in challenging offensive speech, which is done with a calm reasoned response. One does not suppress bad speech, but to the contrary, uses more speech to counter.

State Representative Janice Arnold Jones of Albuquerque, seen sitting behind C de Baca at the GOP State pre-primary convention, wrote a letter of support for C de Baca to the County Executive Board Tuesday. As a result, a robotic phone message has been generated that automatically calls people and a prerecorded voice states that Arnold Jones had written a letter supporting C de Baca after he had made racist comments. The voice goes on telling listeners to call the Representative, giving her home number and implores them to tell her to change her position and condemn C de Baca. The robo-call does not identify who commissioned the project as required by law.

"Have confirmed six recipients of robo call." Arnold Jones wrote in an email response seeking comment. "Four called and left message for me saying 'keep up the good work!' I'm sure that was not the desired result of the robo call. "

I know Arnold Jones; I took a campaign photograph for her two years ago. She is running unopposed this cycle. She holds a Saturday morning constituents’ coffee-office hours, which has about 20 people regularly, attend, including myself.

Has someone in the Party, beyond Weh's knowledge, started an "Enemies' List" and are they engaging in dirty tricks reminiscent of Richard Nixon's Watergate Plumbers; except against one of the Party's own elected legislatures?

Sheriff Darren White and Republican Congressional District One candidate told Peter St. Cyr’s “What’s the Word” blog that he will have nothing to do with the County Party until C de Baca is gone from his post.

White, seen here, after his recent back injury and weeklong hospitalization, at the end of a press conference where he announced he was fit to continue his campaign, is attempting to intimidate C de Baca.

“What’s Wrong With This Picture?” believes White may have left his backbone at the hospital and no longer has the necessary courage to call for a meeting of the County Central Committee to address C de Baca’s continued standing in office.

Instead of taking the time to dictate a letter, he took time with the news media to rail and spew using words towards C de Baca that don’t help.

Weh and White are acting more like some dictators of history; like the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin, or Iraq’s Saddam Hussein or Chilean Gen. Augusto José Ramón Pinochet, who all made their political and real enemies disappear without so much as any due process.

It ultimately appears that Weh wishes to remove C de Baca over his words. They have ideological differences and Weh is dictating what C de Baca must not say in order to remain a Republican leader.


Update:

C de Baca has just resigned under pressure according to a St. Cyr posting.

Bernalillo County Party Treasurer Ryan Cangiolosi will become the Chairman according to 770 KKOB News Radio.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Smear of Fernando C. de Baca

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Two-faced. That’s how Bernalillo County Republican Party Chairman Fernando C de Baca’s reflection makes him appear during the bus trip to the State New Mexico Republican Party 2008 Quadrennial Convention in Las Cruces, June 14-15. Is he?

He’s a popular guy; he received more votes than any other delegate to National GOP Convention in St. Paul earlier this month.

Yet, he’s not all that popular among State Party leaders and some candidates. His top placement in the election results were not made public to spare the embarrassment of top elected officials, Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson according to sources close to the vote counting process. Domenici, Wilson and State Sen. Steve Komadena were announced at the top of the delegates list at the convention. C de Baca was listed ninth.

You can see the results as announced on a posted piece where I recorded the announcement as part of my freelance correspondent duties for “What’s the Word? With St. Cyr.”

According to a June 16 press release by the State Party, the order of results for delegates was first by those who, by virtue of Party office, were automatically elected. They were State Party Chair Allen Weh, then State National Committee woman Rosie Tripp and Committee man George Buffet. The remaining delegates were listed in alphabetical order.

BBC Radio World Service’s Jon Kelly, wrote on the election bus blog page from the "BBC Talking America US08," an article “Latin class” in which he quoted C de Baca:
…On the other side of the Fair, however, Fernando de Baca, 70, told a different story. The chairman of Bernalillo County Republicans argued that the Latino emphasis on hard work and family values, plus the Catholic church's opposition to abortion, made the community naturally conservative.

He offered another, blunter, reason why he believed John McCain would do well in New Mexico.

"The truth is that Hispanics came here as conquerors," he said. "African-Americans came here as slaves.

"Hispanics consider themselves above blacks. They won't vote for a black president."

I wasn't sure about this, though. Virtually all of the Hispanic voters I spoke to told me they were supporting Obama….
So what’s wrong with this picture?

This is Sen. Barak Obama Democratic Party Presidential nominee before a large enthusiastic crowd in Espanola, N.M also on Thursday.

The Pueblo of Santa Clara, which was the northern end of Don Juan de Onate’s 1598, trip up the Camino Real. Espanola is only a mile from the Pueblo and became the first capitol of what is now New Mexico.

Several Northern New Mexico Counties: Guadalupe, Mora, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, and Taos have majority Hispanic populations with up to 86 percent registered Democrats.

Four other New Mexico counties: Valencia, in the center of the State, Doña Ana, in South and the boot-heel counties of Hidalgo, and Luna in the Southwestern part of the state also have majority Hispanic populations.


New Mexico Democratic Governor Bill Richardson, in his introduction to the crowd, said he guaranteed Obama that Rio Arriba would vote 102 percent.

Locally, blogger Matthew Reichbach of New Mexico FBIHOP alerted the local blogosphere about 4:30 Friday that the BBC piece was up.

Reichbach, seen here covering Obama in Espanola, is openly a partisan Democratic blogger and makes no apologies for it. He also writes for the New Mexico Independent. Reading Reichbach on both sites, one can see him present topics differently.

Before Reichbach could rewrite his piece for the Independent, their Assignment Editor Trip Jennings posted an article, “BBC: N.M. GOP leader says Hispanics ‘won’t vote for a black president’”

“Chairman Fernando C de Baca’s reported comments are reprehensible, ignorant, and completely unacceptable,” Bernalillo County Sheriff and N.M. Congressional District Republican County candidate Darren White’s campaign wrote in a press release. “Someone who holds these beliefs has no business holding a leadership position in any political party.”

“I find GOP Chairman de Baca's comments offensive, short-sighted, and horribly racist. White’s opponent, Democrat Martin Heinrich responded. “Spewing such bigotry proves once again that the GOP leadership of Bernalillo County is far too out of touch with New Mexican voters, who – regardless of political party – are a proud people who celebrate our cultural and ethnic diversity. GOP Chairman de Baca should step down and apologize to all New Mexicans for his disgusting display of intolerance. And if he fails to do so voluntarily, then I would hope that Darren White and the rest of the Bernalillo County GOP party leadership oust him immediately.”

“Mr. C. de Baca’s comments are extremely offensive and insulting,” Republican Presidential candidate John McCain '08 Southwest Regional Communications Director Ivette Baraja, wrote through a press release distancing McCain’s campaign from C. de Baca. “We believe that Mr. C. de Baca’s comments in no way reflect the beliefs of New Mexico Hispanics He has no affiliation with our campaign.”

Nationally, The Daily Kos’ Founder and Publisher Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, of the self-proclaimed “largest progressive community blog in the United States,” posted early Saturday morning, “The most out-of-touch Latino is, naturally, a Republican”

Democracy for New Mexico, a local blog that specializes in posting Democratic Party’s events calendar and reporting on them posted Friday, “GOP's Bernalillo County Chair Claims Hispanics Won't Vote for Obama Because of Race.”

This is St. Cyr talking with Barbara Wold of Democracy for New Mexico in Espanola covering Obama Thursday. She would post Saturday, “Heinrich to White: Oust Bernalillo County Republican Chair for Racist Remarks; Also, Info on C de Baca's Past.”

Heath Haussamen on New Mexico Politics posted, “GOP leader's racially tinged comments are wrong.” Haussamen editorialized:
Adding my voice to the chorus

Regardless of whether he had his basic facts about Hispanic history right, I’m going to add my voice to what I expect to be a growing chorus of people denouncing C. de Baca’s comments. While others have expressed in the context of the presidential race that there are some racial tensions between Hispanics and Latinos and blacks, C. de Baca’s comments were largely erroneous and out of line.

Sure, some Hispanics, apparently including (assuming he was quoted accurately) C. de Baca, hold such racist views. There are people with racist views in any culture group. But the polling and other evidence, regardless of what C. de Baca says, shows that the majority of Hispanics and Latinos support Obama. I have come across many conservative, Democratic Hispanics and Latinos who support McCain, but it’s usually because of his stances on the war, abortion or other policy issues, not because of some belief that they’re better than Obama.

…It seems C. de Baca is out of touch with reality. The opinion he expressed and which he apparently holds is outdated, racist and sad. I agree with White: Someone who holds such beliefs has no business holding a leadership position in any political party.
St. Cyr and I spoke about the news and political dynamics of this issue as he was preparing to write. He, unlike the other bloggers, was attempting to reach C. de Baca for comment. St. Cyr had gotten the impression in talking to his sources the there was going to be an effort made to remove C de Baca as County Party chair.

I proffered that the quotes from BBC seemed out of context and Kelly’s follow up paragraph, “I wasn't sure about this, though. Virtually all of the Hispanic voters I spoke to told me they were supporting Obama,” had a tentative tone.

I asked the question, what if, in spite of the racist characterization in the quotes, there was some degree of truth that there were Hispanics and other non-black’s who would not vote for an African American for president?

In my recent travels, I have had acquaintances pose the question, could an African American be elected? Others have raised concerns for his safety. I have one friend who will vehemently deny having any bigoted tendency who speaks derogatorily of Obama’s racial makeup.

I also raised the question about the polling anomaly known as the Bradley effect. This effect, sometimes also referred as the Wilder effect stems from Los Angeles’ first African American Mayor Tom Bradley’s run for California Governor going into the 1982 election with a consistent lead according to late polling. He lost to George Deukmejian. In examining why the polls were so wrong it was decided that white’s participating in the polling had lied about their willingness to support Bradley based on his race. In the 1989 Virginia Governor’s race, African American L. Douglas Wilder, a Democrat had a nine-point lead against white Republican opponent Marshall Coleman. Wilder won the election by less than a one-half percent margin.

Late Saturday night, St. Cyr conducted a half-hour telephone interview for his blog. Listen for yourself.

C de Baca apologized for the quotes. He explained that he had been asked for an historic perspective and did. He said the BBC took the explanation out of context.

St. Cyr tried to reach Kelly on the BBC election bus without a response.

Knowing of St. Cyr’s efforts I went directly to BBC in London using an on line form.

International Communications Manager, BBC Global News Patricia Lodge emailed a “Press statement relating to Jon Kelly's blog containing comments from Fernando C. de Baca” which reads:
"Jon Kelly accurately reported what Fernando C. de Baca said to him about Hispanic perceptions towards African Americans. The BBC has not received any complaints about the report from Mr de Baca or the Republican Party."
Haussamen, however, received an e-mail directly from Kelly in which he wrote that he was. “‘100 percent confident’ in his quoting of C de Baca.”

In response to Lodge’s press statement I re-sent my form response and added:
In your press release you state, "The BBC has not received any complaints about the report from Mr de Baca or the Republican Party."

I wrote to the BBC around 6 AM Mountain Daylight time or about six hours difference from London.

I do not represent Mr. C de Baca or the Republican Party or am I defending either. However, I sent an inquiry. I do not have enough information, at this time, to raise my question to one of a complaint, yet your statement in your release is an obfuscation.

Clearly the quote is out of a certain context because the entire conversation is not quoted.

My question is three-fold: was it C de Baca's sentiments or was he speaking from a historic perspective, was the second quote "Hispanics consider themselves above blacks. They won't vote for a black president," a combined quote, and did your reporter Jon Kelly record the interview?
Lodge sent an email in response at 6:34 PM MDT.

You might find it useful to listen to The World Today at 6pm CT on www.bbcworldservice.com. There will be a further report on this subject and our interviews with Mr de Baca.

The email posting was an hour and four minutes after the show ended. A later program aired a story by Ros Atkins on a Gay Pride event in Dallas, Texas.

Analysis

I cannot believe that the BBC Radio’s Kelly did not record the interview for possible inclusion in their radio presentation but instead, filed a printed blog story.

If one has ever had the opportunity to speak with C de Baca, for any length of time, they know that he is quick to: tell stories, to go into great detail about how events have unfolded, and to place them in their historic context, in explaining and answering questions.

He is not a man without faults. However, he is also very candid. He openly admitted, in an earlier interview for another story to his own past. He pleaded guilty to a felony fraud in California and paid a fine.

The Espanola crowd at the Obama event appeared to be predominantly anglo. This is a slice of the crowd at one of its thickest points and represents, what I think, was about five percent of the number of people present; I counted about 260 in the picture.

It’s difficult sometimes to distinguish Hispanics by sight, as so eloquently pointed out by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, the once and soon to be again New Mexico resident. She toyed with the idea of running against White and Heinrich for Congress, but chose to stick to writing: novels, social commentary, politics and her insightful Hispanics views. Valdes-Rodriguez’ point is that “Hispanic” is a culture, not a race. a very diverse culture.

Of the 61 elected delegates and alternates to the National Republican convention, 13 have obvious Hispanic surnames. That represents just over 20 percent. The number is about half of the statistical percentage of Hispanics in New Mexico’s population, which is about 40 percent.

Of the 42 delegates and alternates, including super delegates to the Democratic National convention 21 have obvious Hispanic surnames. At least three others represented other minorities.

BBC Radio World Service’s Kelly is riding the "BBC Talking America US08" election bus. He’s a writer with BBC News having written a fair amount.

My Take

This is the classic face of Northern New Mexico. I don’t want it to be stereotypical, however, it is how this particular attendee presented himself.

Did C de Baca intentionally make an overt racist statement? I don’t know. Was he speaking in an historic context? I don’t know that either; only two people know and they disagree. Maybe Kelly did record the interview and maybe he will provide it so we might know.

There was an undercurrent effort to remove C de Baca as County Party chair according to sources who wished not to go on the record. It is now confirmed by C. de Baca’s press release of Monday night. The removal was in part based on White’s assertion, “Someone who holds these beliefs has no business holding a leadership position in any political party.”

“I agree with White: Someone who holds such beliefs has no business holding a leadership position in any political party,” echoed Haussamen.

Haussamen is perceived, by some political and media analysts, as a shill for the White campaign, through his association with Whitney Cheshire, who wrote for Haussamen’s site.

She staffed White’s Congressional announcement before taking over as communications director of Rep. Wilson’s failed Senate primary campaign. Cheshire went to the John McCain '08 campaign as State Communications Director, a position she has apparently left. Cheshire seems to still be in the background of the State Republican party in a media advisory capacity.

Yet White is part of a faction that would like to oust C. de Baca and finds this quote a covenant place for them to hang their hat. He was quick and harsh in his condemnation of C de Baca. His primary opponent, State Sen. Joe Carraro said, “Darren shoots from the hip.” I see it a little differently; White shoots from the lip and he’s not a very good shot because he reverts to his street cop days rushing into thing with only one side of a story. White didn’t try to find out if there was another side. He lacks the intellectual curiosity that should have set off bells and whistles into asking, is it likely that C de Baca actually made such a statement.

St. Cyr asked C de Baca about stepping down and whether State Chairman Weh, left talking with newly elected National Convention Delegates, might remove him. C de Baca said he was prepared to step aside for the good of the party and unity of the campaign effort.

A Republican insider indicates that C de Baca poses a threat to the factional leadership at the State Party level.

“It’s the same group that went after [New Mexico State Representative] Rory [Ogle] when he had his troubles,” said the insider who wishes anonymity.

Weh, White and Wilson lead the faction against C de Baca. State Senator Sue Wilson-Beffort and former Bernalillo County GOP Chair Ken Zangara joined the group against Ogle, the source said.

Ogle was pressured to step down according to reports of the day after a 2004 domestic dispute that ended the freshman Representative’s legislative career.

In 2000, another faction ousted Ramsay Gorham from the State Chair and replaced her with Whe.

This whole series of events points out one of the problems that abound in the blogosphere, a lack of the simplest journalistic follow-up.

The BBC did its thing. However, maybe nobody noticed that Kelly made an error; he got Fernando C de Baca’s, right, name wrong. He wrote it “de Baca.” At some upstanding journalistic endeavors, spelling a name wrong, by it self, is a termination offense.

Heinrich’s campaign made the same spelling mistake. New Mexico Independent’s Trip Jennings spelled Jon Kelly’s name both Jon and John. I’m not taking this vein any further, for I am more than spelling challenged. I just expect the British Broadcast Corporation to have editors to catch such errors.

New Mexico FBIHOP, Democracy for New Mexico, Heath Haussamen on New Mexico Politics and any other blogs failed to take the critical next step, ask the target of the charge for comment. I didn’t make the call because I am a small player in a team effort on St. Cyr’s team. He has nurtured the relationship with C de Baca so that he got the only call back and the 25-minute interview.

The political candidates rushed to judgment trying to out do each other.

C de Baca has now issued a press release explaining himself again and challenging Weh’s authority in proposing or suggesting that he step down.

The decision of C de Baca’s future as County chair, rest with him and the 15-member executive board that is scheduled to meet at 8:30 Tuesday morning.

Update: There was a reason I did not want to pursue the name spelling; because I don't do a very good job of it myself. It seems that I made a mess of at least three names which hopefully  I have corrected. Fernando C de Baca spells it this way according to his business card, without the period. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Politics: from Weirdsville

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Traveling in the local press pool, KKOB AM 770 Radio News’ Peter St. Cyr, had a chance encounter with Republican vice presidential nominee, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin at Albuquerque North Valley’s El Pinto restaurant where the candidates bought some salsa in a public outing early last Sunday afternoon.

Palin approached St. Cyr and spoke conversationally until the Republican campaign’s Traveling Press Secretary Brooke Buchanan interceded saying this is not an interview.

Nobody understood that better than St. Cyr. He had been doggedly asking for an interview, but to no avail.

Palin walked up to St. Cyr commenting on how beautiful New Mexico was.


St. Cyr, left, was a member of the press pool the last time McCain came to town, July 14-15 and rode the Straight Talk Express from Cutter aviation to the hotel, with Jeff Jones of the Albuquerque Journal, Barry Massey of the Associated Press, Kate Nash of the Santa Fe New Mexican and blogger Heath Haussamen on New Mexico Politics. The McCain press liaison volunteer from St. Petersburg Fla., awaits the signal that the airplane has come to a stop before escorting the pool to the bus. The local pool was not invited on the Straight Talk Express this trip.

So what’s wrong with this picture?


This is Arizona Sen. John McCain, Republican presidential candidate’s Straight Talk Express bus. It was leading a motorcade from Cutter Aviation at the Sunport passing the chartered airplane used on this trip by many members of the media. The plane is now used by Palin in her separate campaigning.


There was a second Straight Talk Express bus and motorcade for Palin seen in front of the candidates’ campaign plane by the same name.

Since the convention, the press contingency traveling with the campaign has significantly grown. The campaign’s attitude towards the press has also changed. McCain and Palin, along with their spouses and staff, flew on the Straight Talk Express airplane. There was a small media pool on the candidates’ plane.


A second campaign chartered airplane, only partially painted, ferried other members of the press. The media had been isolated from Palin since McCain announced her as his running mate.

The basic concept of a pool, whether national or local, is that a select group of represented media accompanies the candidate. There normally is a member from each kind of medium: reporters from printed press, radio, and television; in addition there is a video and still photographer to round out the pool.

At the White House, the pool is established by the press corps itself and is done on a rotating basis. Locally, the campaign seems to select the pool. In July, there was no TV or still photographer invited on the bus. TV stations had been guaranteed one-on-one interviews with McCain. This trip, the local pool makeup was: the Albuquerque Journal’s Jones, and Photographers Roberto Rosales on Saturday and Adolphe Pierre-Louis on Sunday; KOAT TV’s Matt Grubbs and Video Photojournalist Derrick Davis and KKOB-AM radio’s St Cyr. The rotation system does not seem to apply to the print category, because the Journal represents the only daily newspaper in the city. KKOB has been repeatedly selected because, though they aren’t the only radio news station, it seems that KUNM FM does not attempt to become part of the pool.

The pool often times is relegated to just going for a ride, to perform what is known as the deathwatch. Seldom does anything happen during a motorcade, but occasionally, a politician will make an unscheduled stop or, there will be an accident and the pool is present to cover such events.

One of the ground rules of the pool is that the member represents the entire press corps and the material they produce is available to all outlets. On the pool announcement is: “Please Note: Local Pool Coverage is not exclusive and all coverage obtained must be shared.”

Palin gave her first series of sit down television interviews to ABC’s Charlie Gibson late this past week.

John McCain has written about his views about responding to the media in this month’s Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists. It seems that his views are not binding on his running mate or enforced by his campaign staff.


Analysis

The concept of a free and robust press is just that, a concept, which at times seems totally foreign to campaigns and law enforcement.

Both Denver and St. Paul police had a few incidents that illustrate this point. One of the most high profile incidents was the arrest of “Democracy Now!” host Amy Goodman by Minneapolis police at the site of a protest where two of her credentialed colleagues were arrested and charged with felony riot.

Thousands of protesters descended on the two convention cities and for the most, part the extensive preparations kept any disorder in check. Having things peaceful is an admirable goal, but at the expense of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment is unacceptable.

These conventions were nothing like the Chicago Democratic National Convention of 1968. The Walker Report to the National Commission on the cause and prevention of violence called the Chicago events a “Police riot.”

The protestors and the response by law enforcement shaped preparations for conventions that have followed. The Walker Report found high levels of provocation by protesters towards police that included; hurling verbal epitaphs, rocks and even human waste.

The First Amendment right to peaceably assemble and petition for grievances is problematic when some, set on provocation and violence join, the otherwise peaceful protesters to cover their own violent intentions.

Over the years, protesters have perfected their techniques in disruption while police have perfected their techniques in suppressing such disruptions. Citizens and peaceful protesters have been in the middle. Some might call them unwitting rubes at the hands of embedded violent offenders. However, they are conscientious citizens exercising their political right to dissent.

In both cities, several members of the media were arrested in what has been characterized as non-threatening incidents.

Carlos Miller’s blog, “Photography is Not a Crime It’s a First Amendment Right,” follows incidents involving governmental interference with photographers and is worth viewing.


In the early 1970’s, Albuquerque had a series of anti-war demonstrations that culminated in arrests. Most often, arrests were for a failure to disperse after engaging in acts of civil disobedience.

“I consider this an illegal bust,” this braless woman shouted as she was arrested. This photograph also entitled, “I consider this an illegal bust,” was an award-winner in the “Focus on Politics ’72,” Newsweek/Konica camera Election Year Photo Contest.

The media had free reign of the scene. It mattered little whether you were a photographer for a well-known news outlet or a freelance documenter, like the young man standing in front of then Deputy Chief Don Daniels, far left, who was on scene to supervise the arrest of protesters that had sat down at the Louisiana Boulevard and Gibson Avenue gate into Kirtland Air Force Base.


Back to Albuquerque Sept. 6, 2008.


Upon arrival, McCain’s wife, Cindy, right, emerged from the plane wearing a fluorescent green dress with a fluorescent orange vest. She had three pins visible on the dress: Two bejeweled pins in block print reading NAVY and USMC, and a small blue star flag. It immediately struck me that through the color of her fashion, she over-powered her husband’s running mate. I posed a fashion-pseudo-psychology question about it to fellow blogger M-Pyer’s Marjorie Childress.

“When Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, joined the campaign,” according to a New Yorker magazine article, “Cindy became markedly perkier: suddenly there was another woman around to deflect attention from her.”

Ariel Levy wrote the September 15, 2008, The New Yorker article, “The Political Scene the Lonesome Trail Cindy McCain’s nontraditional campaign.”

Levy’s take is completely opposite to what I perceived and also favors Childress’ observation.


At the bottom of the airplane stairs, McCain and his wife briskly met with the assembled local Republican greeters, finishing the six-person line before Palin finished hugging and chatting with the first.

McCain and Palin were scheduled to hold a rally at the Convention Center where more than 6,000 tickets were distributed.

Obama supporters and anti-war activists held a counter rally on Civic Plaza, then relocated to the corner of Second Street and Tijeras Avenue.

Listen to the audio and view the protesters confronting rally attendees.

video



This unidentified protester approached photographers and said he was going to smoke marijuana. However, he could not get his lighter to work.


A half-dozen Albuquerque police officers with the Emergency Response Team were assigned posts along the south side of Tijeras and the east side of Second Street.



I attempted to photograph a particular officer in juxtaposition with the protestors, but he told me, “Don’t take my picture.” He then said he couldn’t order me not to take his picture, but asked that I not take his picture. I told him he was a public servant in a public place. As I moved around to capture his subdued ERT patch, he told me not to stand behind him for “Officer Safety.” I told him I was a retired officer and he should not worry about my taking his picture.


More Analysis

The phrase “Officer Safety,” is the product of a fundamental philosophical change in police training about 20 years ago. A group of commercial trainers engaged in fear mongering as a means of alerting officers and cadets of potential dangers facing officers on the street.

In Albuquerque, such training has a history of acceptance and rejection, especially after the commercial vendor produced a video on the threat of knives and cutting instruments that literally scared the daylights out of officers. At least one officer involved shooting resulted in the death of a man who posed no actual threat. The Public Safety Advisory Board in 1991 made recommendations that lead to suspending the use of the video and vendor.

It’s important that officer’s engage in a high level of situational awareness, however, what this officer was doing was not as the world should be. It’s not his fault; he was taught that way. Vendors need to make a living and there were those who believed that their use of “shock reality” to emphasize their officer safety message seeped back into the training regiment.


The officer had no personal identifiable markings on his uniform. This violates one of Sir Robert Peel’s principles, “Public safety requires that a policeman be given a number.”

The officer, to avoid being photographed, abandoned his assigned post. Whatever happened to slightly turning one’s body to place the perceived threat in their peripheral vision?

One should not have to ask the identity of an officer who might not want to engage in a distracting conversation.

An e-mail to Public Information Officer John Walsh requesting identification of the officer was ignored.

This may indicate a systemic problem that could mushroom if APD believes it’s OK for officers not to identify themselves.


I suspect some who never knew, or are proponents of the fear motivator mentality, wouldn’t recognize the concept of command presence demonstrated by APD downtown beat cop Robert Dorwin, photographed 40 years ago and a block south of the Convention Center. The concept of keeping your head up and on swivel to check your six – 6:00 o’clock – or your back now seems like a lost art, by some at APD.



Lines of enthusiastic supporters serpentined for more than a couple of blocks awaiting entry and passage through the Secret Service’s magnetometers.


Republican County Clerk candidate Rick Abraham carried a campaign sign and sought to register voters in the long line.

video

In the line, I encountered Charly Tipton, a New Mexico alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., earlier in the month. I asked him about his experience. 

An out of town couple, who had not made up their minds about whom they would vote for, were waiting in line, shouted a response to Obama supporters and were denied entry. According to a KOAT TV report, two visitors from Richmond, Va., Charles Anderson and Larissa Carpenter, had tickets for the event. While passing Obama supporters chanting on the other side of the street, Carpenter said she shouted, “Go Obama.” McCain campaign officials rescinded the tickets, calling the rally a private event. One campaign worker told Anderson to turn off his video camera, that, “you have no right to photograph me right now.” Albuquerque Police enforced the taking of the tickets and banished the couple.

The Republican Party, especially in New Mexico, is very intolerant of even the slightest possibility of dissension or protest.

A delegate from Albuquerque to the New Mexico Republican Party’s 2008 Quadrennial Convention, in Las Cruces, Patrick Marron, a candidate for the National Convention delegation, and a supporter of Ron Paul for President, was ejected for asking why he couldn’t videotape the proceedings. Marron was also ejected from McCain’s Memorial Day Speech in Albuquerque. Read about it in an earlier post.


Inside the Center’s East Complex’s 57,600 square-foot Fran Hill SE Exhibit Hall there was a stage in the middle of the room. The production vendor lit the room with stage lighting in addition to the existing light. Directly over the stage, the overhead lights were turned off creating a dark pool. Spotlights were then added in an attempt to equal the lights. For cameras, it created a color balance problem. The room’s light appeared to be mercury-vapor, which is blue and close to daylight temperature while the spotlights were slightly bluer.

The sound was offered up by a disc jockey who did not represent the traditional Republican taste in music. Journal Columnist and host of KNME TV’s Friday night political roundtable talk show, “The Line,” Gene Grant, called the event presentation as sexy. He provides a heavy metal music review. In the Journal he wrote of being the son of a hockey mom.


Southern New Mexico Congressional District 2 Representative and Republican US Senate nominee Steve Pearce provided the invocation.


The only recognized State Legislators were Representatives Larry Larrañaga and Justine Fox-Young who led the pledge of allegiance. Incumbent, Larrañaga is unopposed and Fox-Young was introduced as the youngest legislator elected. Other Republican legislators could not even get tickets for the event.


Bernalillo County Sheriff and Congressional District 1 nominee Darren White was introduced to strains of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Going To Take It.…”
It’s a piece of music I know; a personal theme song I used during my union presidential run. The song’s beat and lyrics are a perfect motivator for taking on an incumbent, but it makes no sense when replacing a member of your own party and your mentor, Heather Wilson.

It seemed particularly strange when Rep. Heather Wilson, whom Pearce defeated in the Senate nominating primary, for the abandoned seat held by six-term Sen. Pete Domenici, gave what could only be characterized as a continuation of her losing stump speech.

“Now at first I had some reservations about John McCain,” Wilson said. “You see I went to the Air Force Academy and most of you know that John McCain started out as going to a little technical college back there in Maryland, but he recovered from that.”

Later in the week, it became apparent why Wilson spoke and not Pearce. The McCain campaign announced she was appointed one of 19 national members of the “Palin Truth Squad,” according to a press release. The release cited a Sept. 9, Wall Street Journal account of a 30-member Democratic Party investigative team sent to Alaska to research Palin.
…the McCain-Palin campaign today launched the Palin Truth Squad to counter recent attacks on Governor Sarah Palin, her family, her friends and her record of accomplishment. The Palin Truth Squad will set the record straight against Internet and liberal smears of Governor Palin.

In the event of false attacks, rumors and smears against Governor Palin, the Palin Truth Squad will issue alerts and statements to voters and the media to set the record straight. Additionally, the Truth Squad will be available to respond to inquiries from the media.
Wilson’s statements are not always accurate, making her role as a push back spokesperson questionable. Here are two examples from her speech:
She has been saying for a while that, “The most important responsibility of the federal government, before anything else, is to provide for the common defense.” Yet the preamble of the U.S. Constitution says:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, 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.

Though providing for the common defense is important, it is not first or most important; its place in the Constitution is just about right. Some may argue that without defense there is nothing else. However, without a union, justice, or domestic tranquility, there is nothing to defend.


“Now that announcement kind of took the Obama folks a little by surprise.” Wilson said, in speaking about Palin’s nomination. “They’re saying, ‘well you know she’s a governor, but of a small state.’ Memo to Joe Biden; there are city parks in Anchorage that are bigger than Delaware.”

Chugach State Park is the third largest state park in the country at 49,5204 acres or 773.74873 square miles and is wholly contained within the 1,961.1 square miles of the city of Anchorage. Delaware is 2,490 square miles.


National Basketball Development League’s Albuquerque Thunderbirds, Storm Chasers dance team performed a couple of cheers and tossed McCain/Palin t-shirts to the crowd.


The second loudest response to an introduction seemed to be the noise made for movie actor Robert Duvall and his actress-producer wife Luciana Pedraza. “Give me an Amen,” said Duvall, quoting a line from his 1997 independent movie, “The Apostle,” which he wrote, directed and starred in as Euliss ‘Sonny’ Dewey.


Reminiscent of a World Wrestling Federation entrance, the Straight Talk Express bus drove through a cloud of stage smoke under one of two huge American flags, the bottom of which was slowly raised like a curtain. An interior spotlight illuminated the Sen. and Cindy McCain as they emerged from the bus.


The loudest cheers were reserved for Palin. It seems she makes people giddy. The former Miss Alaska beauty queen contestant seemed to have captured the attention of those who were caught off guard by this politically unknown woman. Many Republicans were disappointed that their original hopeful candidates dropped out during the primaries, leaving McCain the presumptive nominee. Palin’s views seem to bring the disappointed Republicans back with her more hard line conservatism than the top of the ticket’s representative.


Joe Monahan’s repeatedly requested a “glamour shot” photograph of Palin, showing how some of the media view her. Self proclaimed Republican blogger, at Sgt. Joe Schmedlap’s world finds Palin, “…smoking hott considering her age.…”

Listen to the speeches of Palin and McCain, brought to you by St. Cyr.


McCain waved around his only stage prop, a Sharpie pen, threatening to veto earmarked additions to budgets he will send to Congress; or what is also known as pork when someone doesn’t think the project is worthy. He said he would make such lawmakers’ name well known.

It makes one wonder if McCain was talking about his views on transportation earmarks for building bridges and highways in Alaska?

A quick peek at that darn Constitution will reveal that all revenue bills start in the House. Amendments may, of course, be added and will be. Article 1 section 7:
All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives;…
Any idea that McCain, if elected, would actually not negotiate with lawmakers over earmarks is to deny the reality of how the Constitution and Congress works in reality.


The media area and camera risers were not saturated with the traveling press. The late hour and the fact that the campaign had a successful event earlier in the day where almost three times as many people attended meant that the day’s stories were filed for the east coast, where those deadlines were already past. Albuquerque represented the same; just an echo. Nothing new was going to be said. The national press photographers worked the area between the stage and the railing. They got access for close-ups that I could not obtain.

Another local account is from Capitol Report New Mexico’s Harold Morgan in a two-part report. Part one and part two.


University of New Mexico Daily Lobo’s Photographer Vanessa Sanchez became enterprising. She asked a campaign press liaison if she could photograph from a roof access ladder. He checked with the Secret Service who allowed her to climb some 30 feet above the floor.


Enthusiastic photographers gathered behind the center head-on riser and photographed through the openings to see their candidates.


Supporters wanted to capture the moments with cameras and audio recorders. Cellular phone cameras and small digital cameras and video recorders abounded.


After less than 40-minutes of speeches, McCain, Palin, and their spouses worked the crowd, shaking hands and signing autographs. Members of the national and local press pools took to the stage to obtain good angles.


Albuquerque Journal Photographer Roberto Rosales, upper left corner, and KOAT TV Photojournalist Davis, right focus in on McCain, center, greeting a little girl dressed as a princess. McCain is flanked by: his wife, Secret Service Agents, and over Cindy McCain’s shoulder is the nearly ever-present Traveling Press Secretary Buchanan.

This picture sums up the evening fairly well, a bit of a fairy tale.


As the night ended, a motorcade led by a phalanx of local law enforcement agency motorcycles escorted the Straight Talk Express buses from the Convention Center.



My Take

This event, like those run by the Democrats, was nothing more than grand theater. The room was transformed into a giant television studio. Unlike town hall events, this wasn’t designed to be a dialogue with the American people; it was more a beauty pageant runway to introduce the newest and yet unknown political star; Sarah Palin. It was more fashion runway than the historic two-hour Chautauqua speech. I’ve written about them before. Chautauquas were annual summer school or educational gatherings, often held outdoors and offering lectures, concerts, and theatrical performances, according to the World English Dictionary. They were also referred to as political gatherings with long political speeches. Everything today is designed for potential voters to not know the records, the inner political thought or motivations of their candidates.

I see two exceptions:

The speeches of the two main speakers were extremely short. Even shorter than the few remarks as “Memorial Remembrance” of Sen. McCain at Albuquerque’s Memorial Day ceremonies, meant to be a non-partisan event where he wrapped himself in the American flag and gave a modified stump speech lasting 20-minutes.

And with the exception of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which followed a two-hour oratory by former Massachusetts Senator and Secretary of State Edward Everett, few short speeches have imparted such a broad understanding and insight into a political mind.

McCain’s use of town halls are a bit deceptive, because they seldom have questions posed by someone who is not already squarely a supporter.

Though, during the July 15 event at the Hotel Albuquerque, he was confronted by William F. Davis, an alternate delegate supporting Ron Paul who challenged McCain. The Senator handled the question.

Another question was posed by Zeke Gonzales, nine years old, about what McCain would do for families, was met with a dismissive, thank you for the question; now go take a nap.

We learned nothing new from this visit that we didn’t know by watching network news.

Being new to the national stage, all sorts of things about Palin are coming to light. Some are not surprising; some are being spun to enhance her resume beyond its actual value. Both sides are propagandizing to suit their own interests. At the moment, the endorphin rush is pretty heady and is being played for maximum effect. It will wear off as we learn more about her. There are only a few things that have instantly caught my eye.

The question phrased as, is she qualified to be vice president, a mere heartbeat away from the presidency? The Constitution Article 2 section 1:
No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
She qualifies. Does that satisfy voters? It shouldn’t.

The second thing that I find troublesome is the personal involvement of the governor by her staff using her official position to look into her former brother-in-law Alaska State Police Officer Mike Wooten’s personnel action which led the firing of Department of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan for failing to dismiss Trooper Wooten.

My interest comes from my years of union representation of officers who come to the attention of administrators or politicians and according to what Monegan told CNN:
"In the center of all of the controversy is Trooper Wooten's continued employment," the former police commissioner said. "My job was to provide passion and support to 900 people -- almost 900 people -- in the Department of Public Safety, and one of them -- which included Trooper Wooten -- was an irritant to her."
The Alaska State Legislature is looking into the matter of Monegan’s firing, but her attorneys have filed documents seeking to have the State Personnel Board conduct the investigation. This move shows Palin’s true colors; the Governor appoints the three-member Personnel Board. She may not appoint more than two members from the same party. There is a reason for separation of powers; to have the Legislature investigate the Governor.

Palin is painted as an ethics reformer and a maverick, in the vein of John McCain. A maverick, by definition of the southwest cattle industry is an unbranded yearling cow that has separated from its mother and ownership cannot be established. When located and branded, legal ownership is established.

Citing an act of ethical challenge against others does not mean that one is always ethical them self.


Palin is troubling, but she still has 48 days to convince the American people that she is more than just Constitutionally qualified to be vice president.

It’s amazing how well parody seems to work. Let the party begin.


However, maybe the most telling reason to believe that one is not getting dealt with honestly and openly comes from the simple effort to learn the identities of the greeting party, above, at the “Straight Talk Express” airplane. I know the Campaign Manager for Darren White for Congress Sara Lister, third from the right, in the black dress, was the escort for the group at Cutter Aviation.

I sent Lister the picture with a single line request: “Could please identify the greeting party that met the Sen. John McCain / Gov. Sarah Palin airplane last week?”

Instead of answering the question forthrightly, Lister, whose political resume includes: being a former executive assistant to the chief of staff for Sen. Pete Domenici, then ran his political action committee, Pete's PAC, was deputy executive director of the New Mexico Bush-Cheney '04, Inc., and was finance director on Congresswoman Wilson's 2000 re-election campaign, passed my request on to McCain '08 Southwest Regional Communications Director Ivette Barajas.

“Ivette, Do you want to respond to this?”

Barajas wrote:

Hi...I will be more than happy to help with any information.

Can I ask what media outlet you are with??

thanks!

Ivette Barajas

My response: Ivette,

I'm a freelance photographer.

Thanks for helping out...

Later

MGB

McCain, in his open letter to the SPJ Quill wrote:
In our future, as in our past, the greatness of our country has relied upon dedicated Americans who have had the freedom to explore, debate, and challenge existing ideas and policies. Often, the press is both the vehicle and the impetus for such change. It is for this reason that I have always felt inclined to share my vision with the press to the point that they run out of questions or no longer feel like listening. Through this method, I hope that I may reach the American people and convince them that I am worthy of their trust.
The point being, there is a disconnect from McCain’s assertion that he will answer any question and the lack of consideration from his staff that, instead of simply identifying the greeting party, it is preconditioned on knowing where the picture might be used.

That’s not straight talk.