Peace in the Middle

Lady Liberty cries as angry words fly and malice stains the palates
Of youth untaught in the ways of grace when coming face to face
With elder glory in story boldly told in chanting prayer for peace,
And yet on the other side another mob from another world of hate,
Who throw out the bait by taunting, vaunting their own religiosity
In some monstrosity of twisted history with apocalyptic prophecy,
While one veteran man stands in the gap to quell the rising storm
As the foundations are being shaken to awaken our sleeping souls

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Now Soul-Peace

Flame burns brighter, higher on funeral pyre of wicked nightmares
That tear the fabric of the soul once whole and full of lively vivacity
In pertinacity to bring bright light from out behind clouds of doom,
Which loom large over the city of the heart in pity to tear her apart
Except for the determination to damn this dæmon to an expulsion
From dreams of innocence followed quickly by his own destruction
In hottest hell’s conflagration for which there is now no mitigation,
And so the man in turmoil shall no longer recoil, but live in peace

Local Papers Tell More Than You Might Think…

Local, small town newspapers may tell more than you might think, perhaps especially in what they don’t say. I know. I worked for a small town paper in east-central Alabama, wrote freelance articles for another half-dozen papers, and have generally followed smaller, local publications anyway. And one thing’s for sure: Small town papers respond to and cover what’s important to local residents. After all, it’s their bread and butter.

For example, the paper I worked for ran a few AP (Associated Press) articles, but for the most part covered very typical small town stuff. You know, last night’s high school basketball game, the latest meeting of the garden club, town council and country commission meetings, a new traffic light to be installed at a “heavy” traffic intersection. Typical stuff for small town papers.

However, and this is important, if a larger issue directly affected our area, we’d report on it. For example, when I was with the paper we had an issue with water usage along the Chattahoochee River. The city of Atlanta was sucking up large quantities of water from the River, thus lowering water levels along the Chattahoochee further south. This directly impinged upon our area, so … we reported on it, albeit from a local perspective.

This is true, I believe, of most local papers, especially smaller ones. Ordinarily you expect them to report on typical, small town matters. They should. Again, it’s their bread and butter. Subscribers can, and do, easily get national and international news from the larger papers, from radio, television networks, and now the Internet. Consequently, what they want from their local paper is … well, local news. Period.

This is a big part of the reason I delved into local, small town newspapers in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, particularly focusing along the Mexican border, when trying to determine whether or not there is really a crisis there. And what did I find? I ended up searching through more than 40 such papers and found only a handful, perhaps six or seven, that addressed border issues and illegal immigration at all, and those publications pretty much offered the same conclusion: There is no crisis along the border.

What really struck me, though, was the fact that out of those 40+ papers I consulted, the overwhelming majority had nothing whatsoever to say about any border problems, illegal immigration, drugs and crime (supposedly) flooding in from Mexico. Nothing. Period. So because of my own background, I knew there must not really be any “crisis” at all.

You see, I know that if there really were, and if it were directly impacting those towns and cities, the papers would be reporting it. The silence, in this case, told me more than what was reported in those other, very few local publications. Add to this the fact that, according to other larger news outlets, residents along the border are actually reacting negatively to the (false) claim that there’s a “crisis” and you know with hardly any doubt that this frenzy has been manufactured by our current President. 

Sad, really, but before signing off on this article, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all of the honest, hard working, small town newspaper reporters, who keep their constituency informed so well day after day, week after week. They deserve our applause and our respect!


Read “Beyond Washington: What the Locals Have to Say About the Border ‘Crisis’” and Beyond Washington: What the Locals Have to Say About the Border ‘Crisis,’ Part II

Beyond Washington, What Do the Locals Say About the Border ‘Crisis?’ Part II

In yesterday’s “Beyond Washington, What Do the Locals Say About the Border ‘Crisis?’” we looked at what New Mexico and Arizona residents, local papers, and Border Patrol officials have to say about the President’s proposed Wall and the alleged “crisis” at our shared border with Mexico. Today, let’s at least glance at the State of Texas, especially since POTUS just visited there to drum up support for the Wall, and see if we can get at least a bird’s eye view of what the situation looks like from there.

President Trump visited the city of McAllen, Texas on Thursday, January 10th, to advance his case for his promised Wall along the Southwest border as an essential necessity in combating illegal immigration, especially focusing on drug smuggling and other contraband, terrorism, gangs and other critical problems allegedly tied directly to illegal immigrants crossing over from Mexico. His simple point remains the same as it has since at least 2015: The U. S. needs a wall all along the Mexican border for security.

If this is true, then one might logically expect the fairly elected mayor of McAllen to agree with the President. One might reasonably expect the mayor to fully support the President’s assertion that there is, indeed, a “crisis” at the border … but this is simply not the case. Following Trump’s visit, McAllen’s mayor, Jim Darling, told Time pointblank, “We don’t feel a crisis in our city… We live day to day in a very safe community.”

Darling further pointed out that McAllen is “a vibrant area” and “the safest city in the state of Texas, and we’re right on the border, so that kind of rhetoric,” about crisis, “resonates and sells newspapers, but it hurts our area.” He added the fact that McAllen had “no murders last year in a city of 150,000…” In a city of that size, especially along a border in “crisis,” one would expect things to be grimmer.

Furthermore, Julie Hillrichs, who represents a coalition of border mayors, judges, and other officials, told Time that “the real way to increase security at the border would not be a wall, but increased investment in the legal ports of entry that already exist in their area. ‘We have never supported the wall,” Hillrichs says. “The Border Coalition has consistently over the years stated we believe the wall is a wasted investment.'”

But the Attorney General for Texas, Ken Paxton, claimed fencing along the border in El Paso has helped to substantially reduce crime in that city, which, he further claimed, had previously had one of the highest crime rates in the nation. “After that fence went up and separated Juarez, which still has an extremely high crime rate, the crime rates in El Paso now are some of the lowest in the country,” Paxton said. “So we know it works.”

El Paso may not quite agree, however. In a January 10, 2019, article the El Paso Times investigated the AG’s claim and found that this is simply “not the case.” The paper further, and importantly, explained:

Looking broadly at the last 30 years, the rate of violent crime reached its peak in 1993, when more than 6,500 violent crimes were recorded. Between 1993 and 2006, the number of violent crimes fell by more than 34 percent and less than 2,700 violent crimes were reported. The border fence was authorized by Bush in 2006, but construction did not start until 2008. From 2006 to 2011 — two years before the fence was built to two years after — the violent crime rate in El Paso increased by 17 percent. 

Point in fact, in January 2018, community leaders and law enforcement officials in El Paso credited a number of developments, programs and efforts that have resulted in lowering crime rates … not border fencing. 

Meanwhile, Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz was invited to participate in a roundtable discussion with President Trump during his Thursday visit to McAllen, except it wasn’t really a discussion. Saenz said, following the event, he felt rather “disenfranchised” because he was, quite frankly, not able (or allowed) to make any contributions whatsoever. On Friday, January 11th, the Laredo Morning News reported him saying:

There was a disconnect. Maybe he (Trump) gets information, but really he ought to take into account the border leaders, the mayors and county judges – input that he didn’t get because there was no opportunity for us to provide that information… We need to make our own evaluations locally to come up with the best plan.

The editorial board of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times judge the proposed Wall would be “like setting fire to billions of dollars,” and that “money would be better spent on stronger administration and enforcement at the ports of entry and better technological monitoring of the remote places where Donald Trump envisions a tall physical barrier.” In its December 2018 article, simply concludes that the Wall is “not the solution.”

Once again, seemingly not much support for the Wall, at least along the borders in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Perhaps tomorrow we’ll take a look at California, or more appropriately southern Cal, to gain some local perspective there. So far, though, it seems folks along the border, with the majority of Americans, favor better and tighter border security, but by other more effective means than a wall.

Beyond Washington, What Do the Locals Say About the Border ‘Crisis?’

There have been a few articles on how residents along the Mexican border feel about the proposed Wall, illegal immigration and related issues. For example, the New York Times recently ran one entitled, “On the Border: Little Enthusiasm for a Wall,” on January 9, 2019. But I’d thought I’d do some snooping around myself, so I began with newspapers in Arizona and New Mexico.

I thought, reasonably enough, that if there’s really a border crisis with a flood of illegals crossing every day, smuggling in drugs and weapons, trafficking in sex and generally putting the lives of everyday, ordinary Americans at high risk, then of course I’d run across articles and editorials about this issue. In doing so, I also limited myself to local opinion and perspective. In other words, no nationally syndicated news or op-eds.

To make this research easier on myself, at least initially, I utilized the convenient “clearing house” of newspapers provided by USNPL. I also narrowed my research, this time round, to the states of Arizona and New Mexico, leaving the much larger states of California and Texas to tackle independently at a later date. Finally, I made any and all local news reports on immigration-related issues top priority — that is, above opinion articles.

Well, I searched a little over 30 newspapers and, much to my surprise, found only five that in any way addressed the Wall and/or border and/or illegal immigration issues. Only five out of approximately 32, if my count is right. That is, only about 15.5% of the local news sources I examined had anything to say about these issues, even after the President’s address on what he continues to describe as our “border crisis,” and all but one was an opinion-editorial.

This rather shocked me, to say the least, and it may seem unbelievable to some … but that’s why I provided the above link to USNPL. This site lists newspapers in all 50 states, so anyone if free to conduct their own research and correct me on my findings. In fact, I heartily welcome any and all contributions to this discussion. For now, though, what did I find? In short, the following:

In a recent statewide survey, of which results were published January 10, 2019 in The Arizona Daily Sun, fully 40% of residents said education was their top concern followed by immigration and border security at a distant 29% and healthcare at 8%.

In an op-ed published by The Fountain Hills Times, local resident and editorialist Ann Schweers bluntly said, “The assertion that there is a crisis on the border with thousands of terrorists and criminals apprehended is false. They are playing with statistics to instill fear.”

Susan Sanders of Green Valley, Arizona, had to say this about the Wall and border security in an op-ed for the Green Valley News on January 10, 2019:

We don’t need more physical wall. Those who work and live along the border know its ineffectiveness. Physical walls have proven damaging to the environment, to personal property, to business, to tourism and they are downright unfriendly.

We do need border security…

Eventually, we need immigration reform with consistent and enforceable laws!

The Albuquerque Journal editorial board noted in its January 5, 2019 opinion article that it is a “fact (that) immigrants commit fewer crimes than their U.S.-born peers,” but also argued that “border barriers in some form would help with the humanitarian crisis by sending the message we do care about border security and funneling crossers into safer, more manageable areas…”

The editorial board of the Sana Fe New Mexican also stated in its January 9, 2019 editorial that “clear statistics … show undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens.” They also went on to point out:

Trump said the wall is needed to keep out illegal drugs; most drugs come through official ports of entry, not along the border between entry points. As we have pointed out before, too, illegal immigration is hardly a crisis, despite Trump’s claims. Border crossings are at their lowest point in decades. The humanitarian crisis Trump said he is addressing has been caused by his administration’s wrongheaded policies.

Finally, another perspective, which, although published in the Wall Street Journal, nevertheless comes from local Border Patrol agents. In its article published back in 2016 the Journal reported:

[S]ome border patrol agents like (Matthew) Eisenhauer, who typically work in remote areas, see it differently. Eisenhauer told CBS News that a “great wall” is not really the solution.

“Border fortification means a lot of things in different areas,” said Eisenhauer. “In areas where we can’t have a physical structure, we use the environmental challenges to funnel traffic into certain areas to identify and apprehend [individuals] in a more effective manner.”

And in the same article, Joe Agosttini, the assistant port director in Nogales for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, asked rhetorically, “Do you think a wall is gonna stop them from coming in?” And then answered himself, “The fact that you have a house, would that stop a burglar from coming in … I used to live about 30 feet from the fence, OK? I’ve been seeing these things for 30 years.”

Perhaps tomorrow, or sometime in the fairly near future, we’ll take a look at California and Texas, probably separately (!) to see if we can drum up some local perspective on the wall issue in those states, but again, it shocks me to find so little about this “crisis” from local news outlets. One would think that if their communities were being overrun and endangered, the local papers, so very dependent upon local advertisers and subscribers, would consistently cover this unfolding, tragic drama. What I found instead, by and large, were the newspapers of relatively quiet, sleepy little towns reporting common, everyday, ordinary news you’d expect to find in small town newspapers.

Trumped Up ‘Crisis’ and Reality: Will It Just Go Away?

In an 1861 address delivered in Cleveland, Ohio, Abraham Lincoln said, “This crisis is altogether artificial. It has no foundation in fact. It can’t be argued up, and it can’t be argued down. Let it alone, and it will go down of itself.” Ah, well, tragically enough the crisis at that time did not “go down of itself,” but his words still sound very applicable to the present situation we face in our country.

Trump has created an artificial crisis at the southern border, all in order to build an unnecessary and (would-be) largely ineffectual wall. We discussed the proposed merits of building such a wall in a previous article, “To Build or Not to Build: Educate Thyself.” Looking at the raw facts, we found (I believe) that a wall all along our southern border with Mexico is simply unnecessary at best.

However, the President dragged out his same worn-out arguments, false claims, and misleading (mis)information in his address to the nation last night to hopefully convince the American people that we really do, indeed, face a “crisis” in illegal immigrants flooding into the U. S. from Mexico. As we showed in the above-cited article, and as plenty of media outlets, think tanks and other groups have reported, this is not true.

What is, perhaps, more disconcerting at this point, though, is the seeming intransigence of the Republican establishment. They seem determined at all costs, no matter the consequences, to follow Trump even should he lead them into the depths of hell itself … but why? It has been amply proven there is no crisis at the southern border, but if there is, does it make any sense to keep the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) largely shuttered in a continuing (non-sensical), partial government shutdown?

Think about it? If we were at war, would we expect the President and Congress to do something stupid to cripple our Armed Forces? Ha! would you lay off more than half your army smack dad in the middle of an armed conflict with another nation? Of course not, so it would only make sense for the Republicans ~ and particularly the Republicans, because they supposedly believe there is a crisis ~ to push to at least temporarily fund DHS … if not the other gov’t departments as well, but at least DHS!

Some other things to note regarding the curious Republican lemming-like devotion to Trump: 1) the President’s approval ratings have never been high, but now they’re hovering somewhere around 38 to 40%, 2) Most Americans believe, adamantly, that the continuing government shutdown is nonsensical, detrimental, and completely unnecessary, 3) a majority of Americans fault Trump for the government shutdown, as opposed to blaming Democrats, and 4) most Americans really don’t want a wall anyway!

So, what are these GOPers thinking? Especially Mitch “Turtlehead” McConnell? Do they imagine they’re gaining anything? Perhaps they’re just playing politics and protecting their positions of power… Maybe. But even though I’ve never claimed to be a political prophet, I fully expect two (or three) things to happen:

1) the Republicans will lose control of the Senate, which means, of course, that several GOPs will lose their bid for reelection, 2) Democrats will very easily maintain control of the House, and 3) if Trump even makes it to 2020, he will most assuredly not be reelected.

It would really be nice if this manufactured “crisis” would “go down of itself,” but that’s not going to happen. So … it seems Trump and his Republican cohorts will have to go down, and go down they surely will. Independents and moderate Republicans are more than tired and aggravated by this administration, and they’re growing impatient with Republican senators, especially, who refuse to exercise the duties of their office, all in blind adherence to POTUS. Time will tell … but that time is quickly drawing near.