Archive for May, 2009

In today’s Journal (Saturday), Win Quigley has written a superb column on the tragic killing of Tyrus Toribio, the little boy found buried in sand in an Albuquerque park. His mother has been arrested in the killing.

A lot of words have been written and said about this terrible event, but no one has approached it with the insight and humanity as Quigley did in this morning’s Journal ($ sub. req.)

Here’s how it begins:

A single paragraph in the Journal’s coverage of the Tiffany and Tyrus Toribio tragedy jumps out at me.

Toribio’s attorney, Lelia Hood, said her client recently fell on bad economic times when retailer Linens ‘n Things closed its doors. Hood said Toribio had worked for the retailer for about 18 months before losing her job.

What grabs me is that 18 months is a long time for a young woman to work in a single retail store, an industry where turnover is expected to be high. My image of an accused murderer is tempered just a little bit by the possibility Tiffany Toribio was, like most of us, trying to get by.

I suspect his careful examination of human frailty will result in the usual e-mail deluge from those who see no worth in such careful examination, but if you can get your hands on a Journal, do yourself a favor and read Win’s column. You won’t regret it.

A Pennsylvania newspaper has apologized for accepting and printing a classified ad that openly hopes for the assassination of Barack Obama.

How did we get here? What have we done to ourselves that brings us to the point where newspapers print classified ads hoping for the assassination of the President of the United States?

How did we come to this? How did we do this to ourselves?

It’s always nice to see another columnist come along and underscore what you’ve already argued. Mark Morford, in his usual inimitable San Francisco Chronicle style, makes the argument in “The Big Gay Shrug — Sorry, Enemies of Gay Marriage. Prop 8 or no, you’ve already Lost.

Why? Their own kids, that’s why.

Morford writes: “Gay marriage is a foregone conclusion. It’s a done deal. It’s just a matter of time. For the next generation in particular, equal rights for gays is not even a question or a serious issue, much less a sinful hysterical conundrum …”

It’s a generational thing and there’s no way anyone will stop it. I made much the same argument when I was writing a column for the Albuquerque Journal and several people got their shorts in a twist when a kid in Clovis included a picture or two of gay kids appearing to like one another in the high school yearbook.

In that column I wrote:

“My money is on the Clovis young’uns. Not all of them, of course. Nothing is ever 100 percent. But I’m betting there’s a slowly emerging majority, just as there is in other Clovises around the land.

“The Clovis young’uns find themselves in an argument with their elders, a not unusual generational occurrence.

“Their elders are going to lose the argument. They may not lose it today or tomorrow or next week or next year or the next 10 years.

“But lose it they will.

“The world is changing, even in Clovis.”

Writing in the Chronicle, Morford makes a similar argument. He’s right.

In the Times today is a story that underlines the old saw about politics making for strange bedfellows, and just maybe opens a small window into a few common human touchstones. The lawyers who argued Bush v Gore in 2000 — David Boies for Gore and Ted Olson for Bush — are now on the same side in one of the more touchy questions in today’s culture wars — same sex marriage, specifically Prop. 8 in California. The lawyers have teamed up to have Prop. 8, passed by referendum to ban same sex marriage, reversed.

This turn of events caught the eye of Mary Ellen Capek in Corrales. She is the principal at Capek & Associates, a Corrales resident and author (Effective Philanthropy — Organizational Success Through Deep Diversity & Gender Equality). She is married to Sue Hallgrath and former board chair of the Equality New Mexico Foundation. When she saw that Ted Olson had joined forces with David Boies, it made her sit up a little straighter in her chair.

“This Ted and Dave Show blew me away,” she said. “I think it was Ted who lost his wife in the Pentagon 9/11 crash (this is correct). That’s the kind of tragedy that will either make or break most people. So maybe that has something to do with softening him up. I keep looking for the downside myself, but can’t find it. The biggest fear of the national groups is losing in the Supreme Court, and the one federal suit they’ve filed is very narrow, surgically aiming at only a piece of the federal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act.) It will be interesting to watch, to say the least.”

She said she’s not privy to the national gay rights organizational debates on the subject, but that a lot of her friends have asked the same questions.

“They have wondered why the caution, citing the same argument Ted and Dave do about having the same majority that won the other two major cases,” she said. “And speaking personally, with the obvious caveat that they are on the level, it feels quite wonderful to see two straight, white guys taking up this cause with the visibility and timeliness that they have. It feels so good. I’m concerned about the risks of losing in front of the Supremes, but can’t see the logic that it would take another 20 years if we did. We’ll learn from it and come back with better arguments.”

Chris Hedges has a review in the Times Book Review on a book called “The Photographer.” The review alone will strip any notion of glory from war that you might have entertained.

The Journal ran a list of Memorial Day events today ($sub. req.) Nothing was on the list for Bataan Memorial Park on Lomas near Carlisle. Just as well. It’s best if you go there at a quiet time, when it’s just you and handful of granite pillars with names engraved in them.

These are the New Mexico Boys, the men of 200th Coast Artillery Anti-Aircraft Regiment, 1800 New Mexicans who went to war and were captured by the Japanese in the Philippines. Half of them died there and in Japan.

I sort of adopted Bataan park as a lunchtime place several years ago, a place to go with a sandwich and good book. As small urban parks go, it’s a good one. At the south end of if is a memorial to the men of Bataan. Stand before it and think about how many people the event affected and it becomes hard to believe.

More than 1,800 men from a state as small as New Mexico meant that virtually everyone knew someone who was connected to the names engraved into those granite pillars. Think about it: the entire New Mexico National Guard was taken prisoner.

I interviewed one of those Bataan survivors once, a delightful man named Manuel Armijo. He spoke of the awful day they saw white sheets, signals of surrender, stretched between trees as far as they could see.

“It was horrible,” he said. “On the way down the mountain, I cried. So did the rest of the boys.”

Surrender was the farthest thing from their minds. They wanted to fight. But with what? They had no food, no ammo, and the order had come: Surrender.

He died in 2004. He was 92. I think of him every time I go by the park. I remember his laughing and telling stories about how he was the first sergeant and refused promotion to second lieutenant because he didn’t want to leave his buddies.

“I didn’t want to leave the Santa Fe boys,” he said. “We grew up together … There were 72 of us. Every battery had its own buddies.”

So if you have a minute and the weather’s nice and you’re in the neighborhood, stop by the park. Read the names. Think about what they did for us.

Whenever I’m in the mood to complain about local politicians, a friend comes to their rescue. He sent the link to this story on local Florida politics from a Kentucky Fried Chicken in St. Petersburg. I feel better already.

I suppose it’s something akin to rooting for your own demise, but if my generation is going to insist on segregated proms in the 21st century (It is the 21st century, right?), then I have no choice other than to look forward to the day when geezers like me have gone to our reward (such as it may be) and new generation is put in charge.

In rural Georgia, black kids and white kids are friends; black kids and white kids date; black kids and white kids socialize together.

But their parents don’t like it. So the proms are segregated. Lovely, eh?

I recieved an interesting e-mail from Google today. It seems its robots have decided I’m a spammer. I filled out the form for “review” and then, just for fun, called Google. Of course, I wasn’t able to speak with a human being.

I’ve posted the obvious on Facebook and I’ll post it here again: If I am to be a spammer, it would require a certain level of compuer knowledge that I don’t have. I couldn’t spam if I wanted to. But it’s a little bit irritating knowing there’s a Google robot computer somewher that has identified me as a spammer.

Could it be Google is unhappy because I’ve left and built my own Web page on which to blog? I don’t know. I’m too new to this to know. I just know there’s a message on the old blog announcing to the world that I’m a spammer.

I’m beginning to think cyberspace isn’t such a friendly place after all.

First came email, years ago, ancient now, something akin to the kind of stuff you might find on an archaeological dig. I saw something a few days ago about how social networks had surpassed email as the preferred contact media.

So, as usual, there’s the curve, and there I am, behind it.

Then came Facebook, at the urging of a friend, a science writer who is forever egging me on into new universes. So I joined Facebook. Pretty soon I had “friends” I’d never heard of in my life.

Then, of course, he got me to Twittering. The jury is still out on Twitter, discussing the case in very, very short sentences.

Then came the savvy computer expert who said, “Did you know that is available?”

Well, no, of course I didn’t know. Now I do, and here it is, a new home page.

The blog’s name remains the same — Tag End. The home page as shameless self-promotion may be found in the two books available from Amazon (or the University of New Mexico Press). You’ll see them on the right-hand side of the page.

Beyond that, it’s more brave new world, I suppose. But I’m going to try to throw in some old world stuff, as well.

I wrote a column for 28 years for the Albuquerque Journal. There was little in the way of political screeds and much more in the way of conversations and stories about people who weren’t “newsmakers.” (You know, the usual suspects — governors, mayors, councilors and commissioners.) I was always much more interested in the people in Albuquerque’s neighborhoods; and for that matter, people beyond Albuquerque’s neighborhoods.

I hope you’ll find some of them here now. You’ll find links to stories that catch my eye and links to Web pages and bloggers who catch the other eye.

Meanwhile, I need to go about the business of finding out what all these new buttons and keys do.


Jim Belshaw