Wednesday, August 23, 2017

War Memorials Aren't Created Equal

Memorial in Frank Ortiz Park.
The camp was at what is now the 
Casa Solana residential area
(N. Mesa Mutts photo)
 Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.

Shovel them under and let me work—
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.

Two years, ten years, and the passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.
Grass, by Carl Sandburg

 There is quite a bit of uproar over the de-emphasis of United States Civil War monuments to Confederate generals and other CSA warriors. Neo-Nazis and folks still fighting The War Between the States are marching in (tiki)torchlight parades and occasionally battling leftists with fists and other semi-lethal objects (and occasional lethal weapons like cars) over the symbolism of de-Civil War-izing Southern states. The whole thing chillingly reminds me of the collapse of the Weimar Republic. Presumably, our difficulty in putting the past behind us is because some of the underlying issues around that war were never completely resolved and have been overprinted with modern right wing identity politics.

Jizo lives in our yard in Casa Solana
to honor and remember the 
Santa Fe camp internees 
(N Mesa Mutts photo)
 Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Nathan Bedford Forrest, and others may have been pretty keen military tacticians and in most situations, no less honorable soldiers (with the exception of incidents like Fort Pillow) than their adversaries, but they were fighting for a pretty rotten cause. Grant and Sherman may have been just as ruthless in war (Cold Harbor was a senseless Union sausage grinder and Sherman's March to the Sea presaged 20th Century economic "total" warfare), but Grant and Sherman were fighting for the winning side. The bottom line is that in our Civil War, States Rights and then secession were being used in the service of slavery. One would think that would be enough to put those Lost Cause heroes to rest quietly even if they were damn good and brave soldiers. After all, Irwin Rommel, Heinz Guderian, and Erich von Manstein were great military leaders but all their leadership did was prolong the carnage of World War II in the service of Hitler. Indeed, there were many other excellent Werhmacht generals. We don't see statues of them although no military history is complete without their stories. Maybe we should have wished that Germany had lousy generals.
Dead at Stalingrad, 1943. 
Anyone for a hero's statue?

Some memorials are to things we would rather forget but should not. The bronze plaque in Santa Fe overlooking Casa Solana, shown above, is in memorial to the colossal mistake Franklin Roosevelt made in signing Executive Order 9066, which put innocent Japanese-Americans in internment camps for the duration of World War II all because of prejudice and wartime hysteria. We have been toying with repeating that mistake.

The Czechs had an interesting approach to their own revisions of history. Rather than obliterate one particular memorial or fight  over it, they mocked it.

Monument to Soviet Tank Crews
 Prague, 1961 (Wikipedia source)
The Red armies liberated Czechoslovakia from the Germans during the spring of 1945 and promptly put up their own war memorial in Prague; the tank at the left was in honor of the Soviet armor that first reached the city. As time went on and especially after the 1948 Communist coup, that tank became the symbol of the Soviet boot on the Czech (and Slovak) neck. During the 1989 Velvet Revolution it was painted pink and eventually had a middle finger added in fitting tribute to the misery inflicted on Czechoslovakia by the Soviet government. The tank was moved permanently (except for occasional trips back for special occasions, as seen below on the barge) to a military museum rather than sitting in the national capitol. During one period, a pink tank was buried partway in the ground as an art-in-life symbolism to the fall and attempted rise of the USSR. The idea was not to forget the past but to put it in a moving context.
Pink Tank temporarily returned to Prague, 2011
complete with middle finger of fate
(Wikipedia source)
Maybe those Czechs have a point that should not be lost on Americans. I don't think it would go over too well to dress General Lee up in a pink tutu and mock Traveller, but you get my drift. Shit happened. How we remember it says far more about us than it does about our historical relatives. We need to move on, but as George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". I might add, those who do not understand and resolve the mistakes of the past are more likely to blindly repeat our many past mistakes.

Russia rising again? Or sinking into the earth?
(Wikipedia source)

Monday, August 7, 2017

New Mexican: Shooting Straight Means Hitting The Right Target

The New Mexican editorial "Shooting Straight Matters in New Mexico" criticizing a Federal concealed carry license (CHL) reciprocity bill didn't do the subject justice. This topic is a red herring to New Mexico's gun violence problems.

New Mexico accepts CHL permits from 24 states. Of the contiguous states whose permits we accept, Texas has a live fire requirement while Arizona and Colorado do not; classroom instruction also varies.  But more to the point, our gun violence problem is home grown. Untrained children, gang members, revolving door felons, disgruntled spouses, and others are our gun violence poster children. There are few if any, out of state zip codes on those mug shots, regardless of a state’s CHL requirements. 

Two laws that would reduce gun crime in New Mexico (it takes more than gun laws to reduce gun crime) are first, a set of incentives and requirements to ensure secure gun storage. Lax storage is a major conduit (via theft) of guns to illicit purposes and a significant cause of childhood accidents. If widespread gun ownership is coupled to lax storage, this creates a target-rich environment for gun thieves. Second, passage of a domestic violence/gun restraining order bill such as the one Gov. Martinez vetoed. In third place is a background check requirement when selling a gun to someone you do not know.

"May issue” permitting should be off the table. Our standards for concealed carry in New Mexico are tough but fair and transparent while "may issue" permitting lacks basic due process protections. Imagine, when renewing your driver's license, having all the paperwork in hand and a clean driving record. The DMV administrator denies your license request because traffic is too congested and in his opinion, you don’t have a good reason to drive a car. "May issue" permitting is arbitrary and capricious.

Finally, training in the safe handling and use of firearms, and knowledge of self-defense laws, are inseparable from carrying a gun in public. That's my objection to this Federal bill: the "race to the bottom" lack of proficiency requirements is inappropriate.  My CHL instructor Mike Grimler commented in the New Mexican: "...I firmly believe that anyone who incorporates a firearm into a personal self-defense plan...assumes a huge societal responsibility...and, part of that responsibility incorporates firearm knowledge, knowledge of use of force laws, and demonstration of firearm marksmanship and handling proficiency, which can only be attained through comprehensive and extensive training..." Mike, with his comment, shot a rhetorical bullseye.

Some compare CHL to driver's and marriage licenses, i.e., states recognize each other's driver's licenses while Obergefell requires states to recognize each other's same-sex marriage licenses. Universal CHL could be accomplished with thoughtful consensus requirements. But with gun politics so polarizing, such a solution is unlikely. Thus, either a federal law or court order is the only solution to changing the crazy quilt status quo of who can carry where in the United States if we desire to do so. 

The bottom line? Deadly force should be the absolute last resort in confrontational situations. Guns should never be America's Maslow's Hammer when resolving conflicts, whether they be personal or political issues. That has to be the bottom line. 

Finally, for an example of just plain inappropriate even if Constitutional, go here.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Is "Bombs for Profits" a Good Model for a Nuclear Weapons Lab?

 "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist." -Dwight Eisenhower

The County Manager and Council Chair have both submitted comments to NNSA regarding the draft solicitation for the LANL M&O Request for Proposals. The letters sent to NNSA can be found in this Daily Post article. There is a lot there, but the parts that I find objectionable are the statements "The Contractor should be a for-profit operator". This statement puts the county's demands for more amenities above the national good. This criticism is especially timely since there is talk that some on Council seem to want to move ahead, using funds in hand, with certain recreational projects that the public voted to not fund with a bond issue.

 Is a "profit" model a good one for LANL? What, exactly, is the "competition" LANL faces when building "LANL Brand" nuclear weapons and defense "products" if we use a free-market model rather than one of a non-profit public institution?  How does the American taxpayer play this "market" since the public is the ultimate source of investment capital? Should for-profit companies even be building nuclear weapons given the dire nature of these instruments of mass destruction? Do we need to "sell" nuclear weapons because they are necessary for the nation's defense or because we need to ensure a good rate of return for a private consortium of for-profit companies? Not to mention, to ensure a bigger GRT tax payout so Los Alamos can build whatever it pleases (year round ice rinks, bigger and better golf courses, more overcapacity roads, splash pools, etc)? Has Los Alamos County become irreversibly hooked on the for-profit GRT payouts and thus the military-industrial complex model?

 Los Alamos, which would not exist as a small city if not for the laboratory, was not starving for goodness when I arrived here to work under the UC system. In fact, the combination of the county's innate attractiveness and the UC connection convinced me to leave a pretty good university job and sign on the dotted line. Plus, no matter how much money we spend on splash pools, we will always be, as someone else once said, a cul-de-sac rather than a Santa Fe or Albuquerque. Some of us like it that way. Or to paraphrase Richard Hannemann, when he had his blog, "Los Alamos really is a small town. Remove the (for-profit) GRT from the equation and you get a small town. Put the GRT back into the equation and you still have a small town -- with an Attitude problem. We really don't absolutely have to have the GRT -- we just have to lose the Attitude."

We don't need to demand more of Joe Sixpack's taxpayer's dollars to prop up our public buildings, recreational resources, and AAA level of service arterials (e.g., Diamond Drive) in order to have a great community. The question of a for-profit or not-for-profit model for the national lab is subsidiary to a lot of other important issues, most of which revolve around sustaining an excellent national laboratory and second to none work force. With the high salaries here and excellent quality of life, we should cover the rest. Indeed, compared to most of New Mexico (or for that matter,most of the US), we have long been doing pretty darn well for ourselves. If we want more amenities, we should provide these ourselves rather than pick Uncle Sam's pockets which of course, means picking the pockets of communities doing far worse than we are.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"Man With a Gun at Smith's": Legal Details Matter

The other day, the Daily Post carried a short story about a man being reported to the police for having a gun in Smith's.  Although I'm pretty sure that even hate tatoos are protected by the First Amendment, and it turns out it was a pellet gun, its understandable that this gentleman raised suspicion but the bigger issue here is the law and there is state law that addresses this specific situation.

Thinking only of the supermarket part of the store, I was wondering what actually happened as the Daily Post story was short on details.  New Mexico is an open carry state and in addition, we recognize a lot of other state's concealed carry permits. Hence every once in a while someone might be legally packing heat. But what visitors from other states (and some locals) might forget is that in New Mexico, there are restrictions on where a person can bring a gun and that includes bars. As locals know, Smith' contains a bar. What might be unclear is whether the state law regarding guns in bars applies to an entire supermarket or just its contained bar. Anyone know the answer?

"No guns" sign is that obscure white thing
behind trash receptacle
Slightly different angle. Still hard to see the required sign.
For an establishment to comply with the legal posting requirements regarding prohibiting guns on the premises, a proprietor is supposed to post his or her establishment conspicuously (see note below**) with the required signage. I had occasionally looked, but not noticed signs on the main doors going into Smith's. In light of the Post story, I decided to look more carefully. Sure enough they were there yesterday, in the lower right hand glass panel next to the sliding door. Unfortunately, someone had put the decorative trash bins directly in front of the signs on both west facing doors. I mentioned to one of the cart collecting guys that those No Gun signs were both behind the decorative trash containers. He and I moved one trash box, the one closest to Trinity. I asked him to notify the manager. I don't know if they moved the bin closest to Canyon Rim Trail. I didn't check the Starbucks entrance.

** From the Dept of Public Safety web site: Unlawful carrying of a firearm in an establishment licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages consists of carrying a loaded or unloaded firearm on any premises licensed by the regulation and licensing department for the dispensing of alcoholic beverages except:  (1) by a law enforcement officer in the lawful discharge of the officer's duties;
(2) by a law enforcement officer who is certified pursuant to the Law Enforcement Training Act [29-7-1 NMSA 1978] acting in accordance with the policies of the officer's law enforcement agency; (3) by the owner, lessee, tenant or operator of the licensed premises or the owner's, lessee's, tenant's or operator's agents, including privately employed security personnel during the performance of their duties; (4) by a person carrying a concealed handgun who is in possession of a valid concealed handgun license for that gun pursuant to the Concealed Handgun Carry Act [29-19-1 NMSA 1978] on the premises of: (a) a licensed establishment that does not sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises; of (b) a restaurant licensed to sell only beer and wine that derives no less than sixty percent of its annual gross receipts from the sale of food for consumption on the premises, unless the restaurant has a sign posted, in a conspicuous location at each public entrance, prohibiting the carrying of firearms, or the person is verbally instructed by the owner or manager that the carrying of a firearm is not permitted in the restaurant; (5) by a person in that area of the licensed premises usually and primarily rented on a daily or short-term basis for sleeping or residential occupancy, including hotel or motel rooms; (6) by a person on that area of a licensed premises primarily used for vehicular traffic or parking; or (7) for the purpose of temporary display, provided that the firearm is: (a) made completely inoperative before it is carried onto the licensed premises and remains inoperative while it is on the licensed premises; and (b) under the control of the licensee or an agent of the licensee while the firearm is on the licensed premises.

B. Whoever commits unlawful carrying of a firearm in an establishment licensed to dispense
alcoholic beverages is guilty of a fourth degree felony.

What one is supposed to see going into Smith's
 But I could see now why I never noticed the signs, assuming they have been there all along. They were hard to see unless you are looking. Our Tattooed Man from Arizona may have missed them too.

Outa towners might not know Smiths has a bar, so is there any way we can let local businesses know those signs have to be seen to be obeyed? Is anyone responsible for ensuring compliance? I think we would be wearing a community-size egg facial if someone were to be charged with a 4th degree felony over a poorly administered posting requirement.