Letters to the Editor

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Remembering Diversity

Remembering diversity

Regarding Work of Art, “That fourth floor,“ of Jan. 4:
There were no Mexicans on the fourth floor where I grew up. No buildings were that tall. There were indeed countless Mexicans in the fields and orchards, and I was right there with them. Chopping sugar beets, picking apples, tomatoes, peaches, pears, black berries, quinces, crab apples and etc. I dreaded working in the endless rows next to a Mexican lady. She would arrive at the noon time lunch truck long before me. And the boss noticed.
We lived on a wretched apple farm near Santa Cruz, Calif. The biggest building there was the school house. One room wide and one room tall. Inside was a rich mix of citizenry. When the Mexican kids were in the area the enrollment shot up to 15. Their parents came from Mexico around 1928. Doroteo was one of my best friends. Marguerite and Lorrayne were Portuguese, and Leroy was Italian. Because there were three Okies enrolled Mom made us wear shoes so that the teacher would know that we were not. No other visible difference.
When Mom needed a dozen eggs she handed me 20 cents and sent me off through the dark forest to buy them from Clorinda. She was Spanish. Her parents and grandparents were also. Her grandfather had owned a large piece of California.
Fred and Al lived in a cabin hidden in that forest. They were wood cutters. They invited me to dinner whenever they saw me. I enjoyed their fresh tomatoes served with sugar on them. They both had the same father. But they had different mothers because their father enjoyed several comely Indian lady friends. Fred and Al were called half breeds.
In high school one of my good friends was a Japanese boy. A third of our high school was Japanese. They were our best football players. The taller Chinese were our best basketball players. World War II was a lucky break for some of us. After the Japanese were interned there was room for many of us to move up into the upper 10 percent in high school. And my Mexican friends and I saw our pay go up to 50 cents an hour.
Mart was another wood cutter. If Mart was still splitting wood at supper time, my father always invited Mart to share our table. Mart was black. The ship I was on stopped in Norfolk, Va. Once ashore I saw two water fountains near a department store. Signs identified them as White and Colored. I headed straight for the Colored to see the color of that water.
Reies Lopez Tijerina came to NMHU in the 1960s to make his land grant speech. The gym was overflowing. The audience shouted their approval and support, often jumping on the benches. The grim faced student in front of me never moved. Later I discovered — you guessed it — that he was a Native American. Duh?
I wonder how many water fountains are provided on the fourth floor?
Harry Leippe
Las Vegas

Thoughts on municipal filings

Reading “Municipal filings” (Optic editorial, Monday, Jan. 9) provided fodder for this writer to render his opinion. The editorial stressed the milestones and importance of the upcoming election. A change of the voting majority of the city council, a test of the new charter, and the importance of the direction the city is heading are of great concern to most voters. Of greatest concern being the utilities department with illegal water taps, problems with safety and water in general.
 I’d like to know what is happening with the water taps and are there also illegal gas taps? I remember the consultant we hired said 11 percent of the gas that was unaccounted for. There should be no unaccounted gas. All buildings, including city buildings, should be metered. Leaks in infrastructure shouldn’t be more than 1 percent or you will blow-up buildings like we did last year. When are we going to stop having the gas customer adding to the general fund? The gas customer pays about 20 percent of his bill for things other than his gas. Why is the city in the gas business anyway? If you don’t own the store, you don’t take care of the merchandise.
 I am a bit surprised at those that are dropping out of city government when they seemed to have set the direction but don’t appear to want to deal with the details. The old saying goes, “The devil is in the details.” Candidates who run should be prepared to answer all. During the last election forum, I submitted a question asking the candidates how they would reduce the approximately half million dollars yearly that we supplement the recreation center. Our mayor answered that it wasn’t intended to make a profit and no one answered the question. I guess they just didn’t read the question.
 I agree with the editorial that the candidates should be prepared and be ready to cover all areas of city government. They should be able to debate safety and how they would have prevented the disasters that happened in the utilities department. But better than the candidates being prepared, the voter should be prepared and informed. I’m afraid the charter will be tested when we have a runoff and the candidate who got the most votes at first doesn’t get the majority in the runoff. If he accepts the results, the voter will have won and the advantage is theirs and not the candidate that can have a bunch of his friends run with him to muddy the vote. It is ultimately the voter who is responsible for the outcome. If we vote in clowns, don’t be surprised when the funny business starts at city hall. It is all of us who are responsible for who we get. Get informed and vote.
Jose J. Marquez
Las Vegas

Blows against the constitution
As we mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo prison on Jan. 11, 2002, we recognize that it has become a symbol of torture and abuse throughout the world. President Obama promised to close it when he took office. At this time it is appropriate to consider the status of Guantánamo and other attacks on human rights and civil liberties begun under the administration of George W. Bush, and now written into law under Barack Obama.
 Most threats to our constitutional liberties have been internal, from politicians unwilling to stand up to fear-mongers, such as Sen. Joe McCarthy who in the 1950s repeatedly charged that communists and their sympathizers had infiltrated parts of the U.S. government.
 The latest fear-based attack on our constitutional rights occurred on New Year’s Eve, when President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), after it had been passed by both houses of Congress. In addition, he has failed, or been prevented by fearful legislators, from closing Guantánamo. 
Provisions of the NDAA allow the President, on the basis of a suspicion that an individual may be a supporter of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or “associated forces,” to use the U.S. military to capture any individual, including U.S. citizens, anywhere in the world.  That person could be detained indefinitely, without charge or trial. To repeat, it is now U.S. law that American citizens can be detained indefinitely for suspected and unspecified association with terrorists. This is on top of President Obama’s claim that he has the authority to murder American citizens, as was done to Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen last year.
 Another blow to the constitution occurred when members of Congress prevented the Obama administration from trying alleged terrorists in federal courts, where hundreds of terrorism prosecutions have led to convictions.  Instead, they will be tried at Guantánamo in military commissions, where rules are still being written, and which will not conform to constitutional or international standards of justice.  For example, a few days ago it was announced that communications between defendants and their lawyers could be read by prison staff.
All these assaults on the Bill of Rights are extremely serious. Even though President Obama has said that he would not authorize the indefinite military detention of American citizens, that power will be available to subsequent Presidents, and may be used against any of us who express disagreement with government policy.  For the future of our country, we must be aware of and work against laws and practices that violate the human rights and civil liberties guaranteed by our Constitution.  A good starting place now is to continue to insist on the closure of Guantánamo and the trial of alleged terrorists in federal courts.
 Robert E. Pearson
Amnesty International USA
Legislative Coordinator, New Mexico

Mil Gracias

    On behalf of the Greater Las Vegas Lions Club I wish to thank the many hundreds of caring citizens who generously responded to the Lions’ Holiday Pecan Sale to help someone in Las Vegas see better.
Also, businesses and professionals in the community increased their pecan purchases to use as “smile” gifts for their customers and staffs; The Optic, KFUN and Karyl Lyne’s email posts helped publicize when and where our goodies would be available; sales space was graciously provided by Walmart, Community First Bank, Bealls, SECU, Bank of Las Vegas and Shoes ‘n Boots; all year long businesses who joined in the Lions Federal Holiday Flag Display program contributed to our vision assistance work.
Finally, we extend to Mayor Alfonso Ortiz our heart-felt appreciation for including the Lions Club as one of the nonprofit organizations that receive distributions, for vision exams and glasses purchase assistance, from his annual fund-raiser at the Plaza Hotel.    
As we look forward to the challenges and opportunities of 2012, The Greater Las Vegas Lions Club is most grateful to all who helped us keep Las Vegas vision healthy. And from everyone who will benefit from your generosity and concern, thank you.
Maryanne Sanders
Greater Las Vegas Lions Club