"He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water." Isaiah 49:10

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rocky Road to School Reform in Denver Public Schools

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

The lack of success in education by Latino young men and women has long been a source of pain and determination for me to help improve the lack of achievement and failure facing young Latinos.  The drop out rate among Latino youth has centered around the 50% plus side for many years, and it past time that leaders in the church took a stand for the betterment of our community.

I believe a good education can be the great equalizer in our society and direct our community toward the road of future success.

The Denver School Board has been rocked by controversy in its attempts to decide school closures and school redesigns (where all teachers & Principal are fired) in neighborhoods of predominately Latino and Spanish-speaking areas of NorthWest - NorthEast Denver.  Parents, community members, teachers, faith leaders, and students have joined together to create a coalition putting pressure on the board to re-consider its decisions.

As a result, as a member of a community coalition demanding open meetings, I wrote an editorial speaking on behalf of a newly elected school board member who was criticized and demonized The Denver Post Editorial, and parents who simply want to be a part of the solution.

The Denver Post Opinion
School reform from the back room a shame
By Fidel "Butch" Montoya
Posted: 12/04/2009 01:00:00 AM MST

The Denver Post talks about the Denver School Board misfiring again and demonstrating to our children how to abuse the public trust. It is shameful the editorial board has failed to see the underhanded and unethical abuse of power by the superintendent and old members of the board for the past year.

Isn't this the school board that appointed Tom Boasberg without community input? Isn't this the school board that proposed radical changes without community input? Didn't the old school board and superintendent misfire again by trying to close a public meeting?

The Denver Post editorial board unfairly singled out new member Andrea Merida for what it called "bullying behavior," and her "embarrassing and unprofessional display." In fact, you can replace Andrea's name with Boasberg or any other member of the "old board," and find that those labels can adequately apply to them as well.

Merida took a courageous step in seeking a court order allowing her to be seated as a board member. She clearly demonstrated the seriousness many parents and community members of West and North Denver felt about the radical changes being forced on the community. By using the law to challenge the board's pending agenda, Merida forced the old school board to play fair.

That the proposals were being voted on without community input was an "embarrassing and unprofessional display" of arrogance by the old board.

Perhaps Merida's alleged bullying did not change the outcome of the vote on the reforms, but forcing the old school board to debate and discuss the proposed reform agenda in an open forum was success in itself.

It is a shame the editorial board immediately labeled "Merida and her camp" as being anti-reform. This is absurd! Merida's courageous stand was proof that many parents and families only want to improve education for their children. This alone is the guiding principle for Lake parents, and only shows that the editorial board does not understand the parents' commitment to see true reforms take place.

Let there be no doubt: Merida, Arturo Jimenez and Jeannie Kaplan stand for reform with due process and respect for the parents, teachers, community members and the students who may be impacted by the reforms.

Counseling Boasberg to "play hardball" with the new board members will only increase the rancor and mean-spirited behavior shown by members of the old board. If Boasberg learned anything from the Monday meeting, it should be that his data-based reforms will be challenged, questioned and reviewed so we do not make the same mistakes made in New York City or Chicago.

Reform without representation is dictatorial and shows that Boasberg and the old board will have to learn to change their bullying behavior and shameful display of abuse of leadership and allow parents and community members a role in determining the scope of the reforms for DPS.

Fidel "Butch" Montoya is director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. Contributing to this commentary were Nick Weiser, founder of the Denver Education Advocacy Network; human resources consultant Wendy Silveira- Steinway; and Guerin Green, publisher of the North Denver News.

Read more: http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_13921736#ixzz0Zqk3jt8E

Response to my Op-Ed by Editorial Board
The Denver Post Opinion
Critical misinformation in school board debate
By Chuck Plunkett
Posted: 12/07/2009 01:00:00 AM MST

In the wake of Hurricane Merida, and as the Denver community tries to make sense of all the fear and loathing, there is an insidious argument going around that needs to be buried.

If it's allowed to persist, all the marriage counselors in Denver won't be able to help put Denver Public Schools back together again.

The argument is being made by well-meaning people against well- meaning people, so hopefully there's enough goodwill yet to pull us through.

Community leaders like Butch Montoya and the most-famous new member on the DPS board, Andrea Merida, are casting the DPS administration as "dictatorial" and the former board as toadies to the heavy- handed machinations of Superintendent Tom Boasberg.

The erroneous assertion that needs to be clarified is that the DPS administration and the former board sought to push through reforms for several schools that were either failing or struggling — and did so without community meetings, public input or serious debate.

Such claims unfairly conjure an image of a Stalinesque superintendent changing the fundamental structure of six schools without giving so much as a thought to the taxpaying parents and students of DPS, much less any time for the public to dissent or to respond.

Against this horrid backdrop, Montoya and others who oppose Boasberg cast Merida as the courageous David against the DPS Goliath.

The argument explains why the otherwise good-meaning people who support Merida cannot concede that her actions were at least a little over the top.

Merida did nothing illegal. And those who back her convincingly argue that she was guided by her dedication to students and families who resist Boasberg's changes.

Still, let's acknowledge that Merida also was guided by the teachers' unions who backed her election with thousands of dollars and other support. The unions are at odds with Boasberg's plans.

I disagree with the unions that Boasberg's attempt to foster reforms championed by the Obama administration is bad for schoolchildren, but that's another debate.

Tom Boasberg, as I have come to know him, is not dictatorial. To the contrary, folks like me who favor President Obama's reforms wish the relentlessly consensus-minded Boasberg was a bit more resolute.

During the run-up to a community meeting at which the public was to consider the administration's reforms, the mild-mannered superintendent met with The Post editorial board. Boasberg presented us with piles of reports and statistics and rationales for suggesting the changes he hoped to see at the schools in question.

Parents had ample access to the same information. The district freely made it available to all who asked. Additionally, The Post wrote stories explaining the plans, and we editorialized on them.

Opponents demanded more time to debate the changes, so DPS scheduled a second public meeting.

Finally, DPS pushed back a meeting of the Board of Education to vote on the changes from Nov. 19 to last Monday, to allow for extra debate and discussion.

This was — demonstrably — a public process.

And the best-informed people to vote on the plans were members of the former board, who had been through the full scope of the public and administrative process.

Finally, delaying the vote much longer wouldn't have been reasonable, as parents begin making their school choices in January.

I'm a fan of debate and of the public process. I don't think any school administration is so smart or pure that it should not be scrutinized, questioned and challenged.

But DPS didn't try to hide.

DPS acted like a democratic institution is supposed to act. The process that ended so regrettably last week was fair and above-board.

It's time to move on, and to drop the false and destructive misinformation.

Chuck Plunkett: 303-954-1333 or cplunkett@denverpost.com.
Read more: http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_13941183#ixzz0ZqmIOfLu

Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to Preach in 1972.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Is Dobbs Really Gone?

By Fidel “Butch” Montoya

It was great news when CNN finally pushed Lou Dobbs off the air, giving in to the pressure of thousands of Latino/as demanding that the cable network fire Dobbs. Unable to sign off with his trademark smirk on his last show, Dobbs was, however, able to heave that reported eight million dollar payoff by CNN over his burdened shoulders and laugh all the way to the bank.

The question everyone was asking was where will Dobbs reappear? Some right-wing pundits have said Dobbs will sign on the FOX News channel. Dobbs, himself, has said he will continue his “advocacy journalism,” and that we have not heard the last of him.

So be it, but what Dobbs and his right-wing fanatics can’t deny is the fact that a national Internet effort, coordinated by journalist Roberto Lovato, was a powerful force that even CNN could not ignore.

Many of his critics could care less where Dobbs might show up. Latinos were satisfied with the wave of criticism and its consequences, which got Dobbs off the air.

But wait, just about three weeks after he was fired, the resurrected Dobbs appeared on a live interview on Telemundo’s Al Rojo Vivo with news anchor Maria Celeste and he had a new message for the masses.

“Whatever you have thought of me in the past, I can tell you right now I am one of your greatest friends and I mean for us to work together.”

Whoa! Stop the ‘Get Rid of Dobbs’ bandwagon! He said what? Yes, you read correctly what Dobbs said. “I am your greatest friend and I mean for us to work together.”

According to The Wall Street Journal, the new Dobbs is desperately trying to shed the old Dobbs. “I hope that will begin with Maria and me and Telemundo and other media organizations and others in this national debate that we should turn into a solution rather than a continuing debate and factional contest.”

Dobbs said that? I wondered if Dobbs had been hit with a bad case of the H1N1 flu. Was he delirious, out of his mind with a high fever? What exactly was going on here??

As Celeste ran down her list of why the Latino community would not want him over for tamales or menudo, she pushed back harder, wanting to hear why he thought he would be welcomed in the Latino community.

There was no fuzzy warm feeling of “mi casa es su casa” during the interview.

“Many Hispanics consider you to be the No. 1 enemy of Latinos,” Celeste told him. “Do you think that the community is somehow misjudging you?”

“Oh, not somehow. Definitively, absolutely.” Dobbs responded. “By the way, I don’t believe for a moment that the Latino, Hispanic community in the United States believes that of me at all. It has been the efforts of the far left to characterize me in their propaganda as such.”

So all along, every time Dobbs appeared on his daily CNN show and spewed his poisonous mean-spirited hateful lies about immigrants, he was just trying to endear himself to our community?

So as he smirked at his viewers, the lies he told day after day demonizing the undocumented immigrant was just a bad misunderstanding? So as we sat in our family rooms watching CNN, not believing our ears as Dobbs did his best to get his far right-wing nuts all fired up about hating Latino immigrants was just a big misinterpretation of his lies?

But wait, there is more in The Wall Street Journal story that may cause you run to your therapist, thinking your hallucinating or losing your mind.

Mr. Dobbs told Spanish-language network Telemundo he now supports a plan to legalize millions of undocumented workers, a stance he long lambasted as an unfair “amnesty.”

"We need the ability to legalize illegal immigrants under certain conditions.”

This is the same immigration critic who day after day called for the deportation of the reported 12 million undocumented immigrants living in our country. Now, according to his spokesperson, Dobbs wanted just the criminals deported. Not those who are “living, upright, positive and constructive lives,” who should be part of our society.

I don’t know if Dobbs bumped his head on the way out of his CNN office or maybe his Latina wife gave him an ultimatum to clean up his act or she would leave him taking with her half of that eight million dollars?

The truth be told, Dobbs is considering a run perhaps as a third party candidate in New Jersey against our only Latino United States Senator Robert Menendez. And you know what that means?

Dobbs needs the votes of the largest growing minority in the country - Latinos! He knows he cannot possibly even think of winning that race without his Latino friends supporting him.

But before we even think of extending our hand to Dobbs, let’s not forget the reason to quiet Dobbs was not because he had just a different opinion. Dobbs found it was better for his TV ratings to feed deception, fear and hate, and allow the merchants of hate push their political agenda of misinformation and myths about immigration reform and undocumented immigrants.

So now that Dobbs is our friend again, and since he earned those millions of dollars demonizing every Latino in the USA, would he consider giving some of that payoff to help spread his newfound truth that immigration reform is needed in our country?

Come on over Lou Dobbs, but don’t forget your wallet, and by the way, forgive us if we don’t forgive you.

This article first appeared on http://www.latinolandscape.com/

Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Saying "No" to the Red Kettle of hypocrisy"

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

The long awaited decision by National Association of Evangelicals to endorse a resolution supporting comprehensive immigration reform was seen as a major break through among Latino evangelicals and other Church leaders.

While not endorsing any particular political policy, the N.A.E. outlined their support based on Biblical principles.

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference referred to the resolution as a “tipping point.” The NHCLC represents some 15 million Latino Evangelicals, and counts over 25,000 churches as part of its membership. The NHCLC has worked behind the scenes for several years trying to convince the N.A.E. to support immigration reform.

"Today’s resolution conveys a collective message on behalf of the evangelical community that at the end of the day immigration reform is a matter of justice firmly grounded on biblical truth. Moreover, this resolution embodies the spirit of a message declaring that comprehensive immigration reform stems neither from the agenda of the donkey nor from the agenda of the elephant but rather from the agenda of the Lamb,” declared Rev. Rodriguez.

The N.A.E. resolution was seen by many interfaith leaders as an important step toward putting together a large interfaith based coalition pressuring Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year.

In the past, white evangelicals generally sat on the sidelines silently opposing any attempt to bring the undocumented immigrants out of the shadows or protested openly against undocumented immigrants in our country. They turned a deaf ear to the sound Biblical guidance that brings an added dimension to a badly needed civil debate.

As quickly as the news spread concerning the N.A.E.’s adoption of the immigration reform resolution, immediately some members of the N.A.E. responded by doing all they could to distance themselves from supporting immigration reform and claiming they had not endorsed the controversial resolution.

It reminded me of the movie Titanic as panicked passengers were literally jumping overboard to escape the danger of going down with the sinking ship. Not that the N.A.E.’s adoption of the resolution in any way reflects a sinking ship, but the Christian faithful running away from endorsing the resolution demonstrated confusion and chaos aboard the good ship N.A.E. about loving and taking care of the stranger in our land.

We had large denominational leaders stuttering as they sought to justify their lack of support of the resolution. Almost as quickly as most N.A.E. members were quoting Biblical principles for supporting the resolution, other N.A.E. members apparently forgot to recall those Biblical truths before taking a political stand versus a Christian one against the resolution.

Many N.A.E. members quickly denounced the resolution as nothing more than a means to provide “amnesty” to illegal immigrants. Clearly many white evangelicals have not dropped their opposition to providing a reasonable process for immigrants to assimilate into our society and seek citizenship if they desire to do so.

NumbersUSA, a notoriously anti-immigrant organization, with a goal to push undocumented immigrants out of our county, has an article in their newsletter trumpeting the fact that many N.A.E. members were backing away from the N.A.E. resolution on immigration reform.

The article color some evangelical ministers and churches with stripes of yellow, making it clear these members do not support the N.A.E. resolution on immigration reform even though they claim membership of the mighty Evangelical N.A.E.

The anti-immigrant N.A.E. members are using their denominational Websites to convey their side of the story as they continue to deny the Biblical proclamations that instruct us to love the stranger, the alien, the forgotten in our communities.

The fact that these Biblical principles are “The Word,” the “rightwing Christian politicians,” pontificating their word, might as well stand behind their bully pulpits to denounce the teachings of the Holy Scriptures that serve as moral and Christian guide for many born-again Christians. .

Many of those N.A.E. members posted their opposition on their denominational websites, trying to calm down the racist furor among some of their membership that the resolution caused.

"The Churches of Christ in Christian Union does not support the N.A.E. resolution on illegal immigration. We are a member of N.A.E., but our support on the resolution was never requested. The Churches of Christ in Christian Union support legal, regulated, and fair immigration”. -- Dr. Thomas H. Heniz, General Superintendent, the Churches of Christ in Christian Union.

Another N.A.E. member denomination in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, posted this disclaimer on their website:

“Statement on Amnesty forms the Executive Director in behalf of our Leadership Team and the General Association of General Baptists. Our denomination has been misidentified in recent email correspondence regarding amnesty for illegal immigrants. Neither I, our Leadership Team, nor the denominations we serve have been involved in the cause for amnesty for illegal aliens”. -- Dr. Ron Black, Executive Director, General Association of General Baptists.

Even our friendly Christmas bell ringers have found no room in the inn for undocumented immigrants. As members of the N.A.E., The Salvation Army does not support the resolution and make it quite clear that they will not support “amnesty” for the estimated 12-20 million undocumented immigrants in our country.

“The Salvation Army chose not to adopt the resolution nor will it become our stance on immigration reform”. Salvation Army official statement

It is a sad commentary by one of the biggest faith-based organizations, which claims to be compassionate and willing to help the poor and disadvantaged, unless of course, you are an undocumented immigrant. It is clearly racial profiling and morally reprehensible for The Salvation Army to disavow the Biblical principles and not adopt the Christ-centered examples of ministering to the alien, the poor and the homeless.

It seems like we might have to take a half a loaf of support from the N.A.E. when it comes to moving the urgent need for immigration reform forward. The reality is that we have too many families living in the shadows of our communities, our economy, and our church stipples.

Too many immigrant families are being separated everyday as long as Christians of the Right refuse to accept an immigration policy which would keep families together without fear of home or work place raids that lead to separation of families and deportation to a country some left years ago.

Truth be told, without a strong commitment from the “Christian community,” immigrants will continue to live in fear, confusion and a society where hate crimes against Latinos will continue to escalate. The consequences are serious bodily injury and even death to the innocent immigrant walking the streets of gold in America.

It is time for faith leaders across this country to encourage and pressure President Obama to act on providing immigration reform so that those individuals and families living near the margins of the American Dream can actually and realistically live that dream.

However, it more critical for faith leaders, who do support comprehensive immigration reform, to pressure their own to follow the Biblical principles of caring and loving our neighbor, instead of allowing the evil one to use politics to create disharmony and division among the followers of Christ.

Too many “born again Christians” are confusing the Word with plain old dirty politics. Dancing around their idol of racism, how quickly they have forgotten that the Love of Christ is for everyone, legal or undocumented. We can’t pick and choose who we love when we are commanded by Christ to love our neighbor as ourselves.

I, for one, am pleased that the N.A.E. worked closely with their Latino evangelical allies and members and finally passed a comprehensive immigration reform resolution. Rev. Samuel Rodriguez also deserves recognition for his untiring efforts and ministry to the families that we are encouraged in the Bible to love and care for.

By the way, this Christmas holiday while shopping at the mall, if you run into “a soldier of the Salvation Army,” waving their red kettle and the ringing bells asking for a small donation, instead of reaching into your purse or wallet, save that money and give to your church or favorite other Christian charity. Give your donation to an organization that does not look at the color or nationality of the poor, the hungry, and the forgotten.

The Salvation Army - or any other Church - shouldn’t preach to us about caring and loving the deprived and then walk away from the reality of the needs of undocumented immigrants. Keep your money out of the red kettle and instead support another organization that does not question or qualify their calling to the poor and needy based on immigrant status.

Beware of wolves in sheep clothing, - those selective ministries requesting a green card before they are willing to provide the necessary Christian ministry and family services to immigrant families yearning for a helping hand; that both support and sincerely appreciate your ministry.

Remember, Christ loved us all and never once required a picture ID or green card.

This column first appeared at:

Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed as a Minister in 1972.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vietnam Redux: Without protests, demands and outrage, is the Afghanistan conflict endless?

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

We have all heard or read the news about President Obama's reevaluation of America's commitment to the war in Afghanistan. The war has dragged on for over nine years, with the coalition forces having lost 1,500 causalities. The current commander, General Stanley McChrystal has said 40,000 more soldiers are needed to fight the Taliban insurgents. There are reports that General McChrystal wanted as many as 80,000 additional troops, but that will never happen.

When this war started, it was to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the Islamist group responsible for training terrorists in secret camps around the country. President George W. Bush claimed al-Qaeda, a terrorist organization, was the main threat to our internal national security and safety; thus the buildup to destroy these camps and the insurgents.

In fact, at one point, it seemed like the coalition forces were making progress and slowly hitting the insurgents hard, and closing in on the leadership of al Qaeda. That was when the American leadership diverted their attention, obsessed with starting another war in Iraq to protect the oil fields and keep any disruption of oil production from the Middle East. I know that some still believe we started the war in Iraq to spread "democracy," but by now, I think many of us know better.

Without our full attention and resources, we were reminded that Afghanistan isn't so easily contained or tamed. It's easy to forget that the mighty Soviet Union took on the mujahidin in Afghanistan in 1979 and slowly became entangled with an enemy it could not destroy. In spite of the Soviet army's strength and modern weapons, they could not bring down these resistance fighters. One of the reasons was that the mujahidin used guerrilla tactics against the Soviet army.

The Soviet army was brutal as it destroyed villages and crops, and killed millions of Afghans. Unable to secure the nation, after 15,000 troops killed in the war, the Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan without reaching its military objectives. One of the reasons of course was that we were helping to arm the mujahidin with U. S. made shoulder--launched antiaircraft missiles. This turned the war in favor of the mujahidin. This assistance helped the mujahidin bring down the feared Soviet helicopters, which were the Soviet army's major advantage in the war at one time. But after losing so many of these heavily armed and technologically superior helicopters, along with their crews, it became a losing battle for the Soviet army.

Ironically, when American and NATO troops moved in to fight the mujahidin and Taliban in Afghanistan, they began to fight resistance fighters armed with sophisticated American weapons. What seemed like a great idea in the 1980's - to help destroy the Soviet presence in Afghanistan - became one the biggest threats to our own army. After nine years in Afghanistan and still needing additional troops, the scenario and circumstances, I fear, are beginning to resemble that distant war we all wanted to forget - Vietnam.

Back in 1967, the Rev. Martin Luther King, becoming more concerned about the USA's growing role in the Vietnam War, courageously called for an end to that war. He said, "If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read 'Vietnam'."

We are mired in our present-day Vietnam, and we clearly are not making any progress in containing the insurgents. In fact, our troops have been badly outnumbered in the remote outposts in recent battles, forcing General McChrystal to move them back to more secure bases.

A few weeks ago, we suffered one of the most deadly weekends in Afghanistan, which claimed the lives of eight soldiers based out of Fort Carson, Colorado, the 4th Brigade Combat Team. This was the highest level of war causalities suffered by the troops out of Fort Carson. The battle took place in a remote area near the Pakistan border. The enemy reportedly was armed with modern automatic rifles and rocket propelled grenades. In the battle that took place, which lasted a day, hundreds of insurgents took on the remote outposts manned by U. S. troops. In the end, U.S. troops suffered the heaviest loss of lives. Ironically, INDT.com reported this battle was the deadliest fighting for Fort Carson soldiers since the Vietnam War.

In fact, there are questions about the weapons used by our ground troops, the A4 carbine. Some wonder if they are reliable enough for our troops to trust their lives to these weapons. There are confirmed reports that the Pentagon is investigating the efficacy and reliability of weapons used in battle skirmishes in remote U. S. outposts, where American troops suffered heavy causalities. The investigation centers on questions around whether or not the weapons may have malfunctioned, jammed and failed to fire, leaving our outnumbered soldiers at further risk. With questions and doubts raised about the weapons used by American troops and if they are the best we can provide, can our troops depend on them in battle?

Is our objective to destroy al-Qaeda and the terrorist training camps, which we've been told repeatedly are a direct threat to our national security? If so, where is the commitment from our president to fight this war to win it? Half-hearted attempts will not suffice this time around. The Vietnam War strategy did not work before and it will not work in Afghanistan.

We lost the Vietnam War because the nightly news was able to show how brutal and bloody this war actually was. Families eating dinner in the comfort of their homes, watching the news out of Vietnam, soon found that this war was not dinnertime fare. They watched our young become casualties of a war that had no winning objective.

The Vietnam War generated some of the biggest war protests in our country's history. More and more people demanded that we get out of Vietnam and stop sending what President Johnson called "American boys" to fight someone else's war. In fact, the Vietnam War convinced LBJ not to seek another term as president.

This brings to mind a question as to why those who marched in protest against the war in Vietnam and Iraq have not seen fit to take to the streets to demand that we get out of Afghanistan. Still embedded in our minds and memories are the visual images of thousands marching through the streets of New York City, demanding an end to the war in Iraq. Some labeled former President George W. Bush both a war criminal and a puppet of the oil industry for fighting the war in Iraq. The crowds of protestors demanding that Bush get us out of Iraq spread across the country like a wild fire. Yet, as America evaluates its commitment and position on Afghanistan, there are no protests, no demands and seemingly scarce opposition to this war.

I find it ironic that no demands are made of President Obama to get us out of another possible Vietnam. It is as if the war is so far away and, after all, we have only lost 1,500 troops in nine years of battle.

I believe it is time we called for an end to America's participation in this bloody conflict. We cannot afford to continue to fight a war with no end in sight. We have allowed the insurgents to dictate the direction of this war and have done very little to change their objectives. I believe most Americans would be hard-pressed to explain how our mission in the war in Afghanistan has been accomplished. Or how it can be accomplished.

As we read in the news several weeks ago, right here in Denver, Colorado, allegedly a terrorist cell was busy planning another terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9/11. The main suspect was trained in Pakistan, our ally in the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. There is no doubt that we must continue to be vigilant and fight the war on terrorism, and that we never allow the violence of terrorists to be manifested on our streets. That Pakistan -- our ally -- allows terrorist training camps to operate without real fear of reprisal speaks to how our own allies could care less about our national security.

Perhaps, if the Rev. Martin Luther King were alive today, in his powerful voice he would remind us that, "If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read 'Vietnam and Afghanistan'."

This column first appeared at http://www.latinolandscape.com/

Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000.  Montoya was Licensed as a minister in 1972.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rev Samuel Rodriguez testifies at Senate Committee on the Judiciary

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

In public testimony presented before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, spoke in favor of comprehensive immigration reform from a faith-based perspective. Rev. Rodriguez also spoke of the urgency to pass this legislation as a means of addressing faith and moral bankruptcy issues in our country.

Rev. Rodriguez stated, "Let us be clear. As Hispanic Christians, we stand committed to the message of the Cross. However, that cross is both vertical and horizontal. It is salvation and transformation, ethos and pathos, Kingdom and society, faith and public policy, Covenant and community, righteousness and justice. Each dependent on the other, not either or, but both. We seek to reconcile a platform where John 3:16 converges with Matthew 25 while Billy Graham meets Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Masters table."

May we continue to uphold our Congressional leaders in prayer who will guide the debate and passage of immigration reform legislation in the Congress. It is imperative that this legislation be passed at this time. Any delay on the passage of this bill will only continue to foster hate, nativism , and as Rev. Rodriguez testified, "create a reality where our Borders are yet fully secured and the immigrant families a long with the entire Hispanic American community find ourselves facing racial profiling, discrimination and a hostile ethnically polarized environment not seen since the days prior to the successes of the Civil rights movement."

I pray that as we unite in prayer across our nation, that the Lord will honor our pleas and prayers for justice and righteousness for 12 million people. We also pray for Rev. Samuel Rodriguez as a faith leader anointed for this time, and may all he does in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, be blessed by the Lord. We also continue to uphold our governmental leaders in prayer for wisdom and guidance.

Fidel "Butch" Montoya
H. S. Power & Light Ministries - Latino Faith Initiative'
Denver, Colorado 80212

Testimony of The Reverend Samuel Rodriguez

October 8, 2009
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
Senate Hearing Testimony

Embedded within the Historical election of 2008 lies a clarion call and a prophetic supplication for national unity accompanied by an alignment of our core values. Values that include both security and compassion, the rule of law and welcoming the stranger, mercy and justice.

Accordingly, the lack of passage of Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation has created a reality where our Borders are yet fully secured and the immigrant families along with the entire Hispanic American community find ourselves facing racial profiling, discrimination and a hostile ethnically polarized environment not seen since the days prior to the successes of the Civil rights movement. For at the end of the day this is not a political issue but rather one of a moral and spiritual imperative."

We applaud our President and declare that we stand with him as he demonstrates that he is a man of his word. A word promised in the campaign to the immigrant and Hispanic community. A word affirmed and reiterated to the Hispanic Congressional Caucus earlier this year. We understand the political realities as we deal with the economy, health care and the war in Afghanistan. But our prayer is that you, members of the Senate, do not forget one number, the number 12.

Twelve million people living in the shadows. Twelve million hiding in fear. Twelve million without rights, Twelve million without a nation, without legal covering, Twelve million not knowing if today is the day they will be separated from their children. Twelve million people living in a land without the opportunity of ever experiencing the fullness of life, embracing the hope of liberty or pursuing the promise of happiness. Yet these 12 million carry one common commodity: Hope.

Hope that the President and members of Congress that ignited a movement and ushered in change will bring down the walls of political expediency and incorporate within immigration reform the bridge to assimilation and a pathway to the American Dream. Hope that this Congress who stands committed to saving the auto industries, our banks, homeowners and healthcare will similarly apply that saving grace and spirit to these 12 million souls. Hope and Faith that this Congress will pass comprehensive immigration reform.

To that end, the fastest growing ethnic and faith demographic, Hispanic Born Again Christians and the New Evangelicals, urge the Obama Administration and Congress to pass and enact CIR as expeditiously as possible. Via our 25,434 churches and 16 million strong Hispanic Evangelical Community, The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, America's largest Hispanic Christian organization, stands committed in framing the moral imperative for CIR by reconciling both Leviticus 19, treating the stranger amongst us as one of our own and Romans 13, respecting the rule of law.

Let us be clear. As Hispanic Christians, we stand committed to the message of the Cross. However, that cross is both vertical and horizontal. It is salvation and transformation, ethos and pathos, Kingdom and society, faith and public policy, Covenant and community, righteousness and justice. Each dependent on the other, not either or, but both. We seek to reconcile a platform where John 3:16 converges with Matthew 25 while Billy Graham meets Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Masters table.

For example, as we deal with immigration, via the prism of the vertical and horizontal cross,, we humbly encourage Congress to finally pass and sign into law legislation that will protect our borders, put an end to all illegal immigration, create a market driven guest worker program and facilitate avenues by which the millions of families already in America that lack the legal status can earn such status in a manner that reflects the Judeo Christian Value system this nation was founded upon.

In addition, we urge both parties to repudiate all vestiges of xenophobia and nativism that saturates this debate. For the fact of the matter is that these immigrants are God fearing, hard working, family loving Children of God who reflect the values of our founding fathers and embrace the tenets of the American Constitution, The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Moreover, our desire is for every immigrant in America to become a productive citizen, master the English language, embrace the core values of the American idea and realize the American Dream

Finally, we understand that every day that passes without Comprehensive Immigration Reform adds tarnish to the soul of our Nation. The question arises, can this nation be saved. Let us save this nation, not by providing amnesty but by providing an earned pathway to citizenship. In the name of Justice, in the Name of righteousness, in the Name of The Divine, pass comprehensive immigration reform. By doing so we will protect our borders, protect families, and protect our values and in the end we protect the American Dream.


National Association of Evangelicals support Immigration Reform

Hispanic NAE Applauds Sister Organization, The National Association of Evangelicals, for Passage of Immigration Reform Resolution; Rev. Samuel Rodriguez Testifies at Senate Hearing on Faith and Immigration

(Washington, D.C., Hispanic Christian Newswire) America’s largest Hispanic Christian Organization, The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), The Hispanic National Association of Evangelicals, participated in a historic vote led by the National Association of Evangelicals approving a comprehensive immigration reform resolution supporting a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented.

“On behalf of our 25,434 churches, we commend and applaud today’s resolution by our sister organization, the N.A.E. This is, without a doubt, a tipping point. We can no longer state that immigration reform stands as a Latino, immigrant or partisan issue. Today’s resolution conveys a collective message on behalf of the Evangelical community that at the end of the day, immigration reform is a matter of justice firmly grounded on biblical truth,” declared Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, NHCLC President.

The historic vote came in the midst of scheduled association Fall meeting in Glenarden, Maryland. Hispanic NAE board members who also serve on the NAE board credited Dr. Leith Anderson for the resolution.

“Without the leadership of Dr. Leith Anderson, this resolution would never have materialized. His heart and commitment to the Kingdom and his missional perspective enabled him to serve as advocate for a compassionate and biblical solution to the immigration reform debate,” stated Dr. Gilbert Velez, National NHCLC Chairman, NAE Board member and President of the Hispanic Mega Church Association.

Hispanic NAE President, Samuel Rodriguez joined Leith Anderson, Michael Gerson, Cardinal McCarrick and Jim Tolle in testifying before the Senate subcommittee on Immigration Reform. Rodriguez addressed Senators Charles Schumer, John Cornyn and Jeff Sessions declaring that the soul of the American Nation stands tarnished as a result of the treatment of the immigrant community.

“Every day that passes without comprehensive immigration reform adds tarnish to the soul of our nation. The question arises, can this nation be saved? Let us save this nation, not by providing amnesty but providing an earned pathway to citizenship. By doing so we will protect our borders, protect all families, protect our values and then and only then can we truly protect the American Dream,” added Rodriguez.

The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference is America’s Largest Hispanic Christian Organization serving 25,434 churches by providing leadership, fellowship, networking, partnerships and advocacy platforms to the seven directives of Life, Family, Great Commission, Stewardship, Education, Justice and Youth.

The complete text of Rev. Samuel Rodriguez’s Testimony is available at www.hispanicevangelicals.com.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hispanic Evangelicals Push Back on Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric in Health Care Debate, Label Exclusion as “Xenophobic Health Care Reform”

Washington, D.C., Hispanic Christian Newswire) America’s largest Hispanic Christian Organization, The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), The Hispanic National Association of Evangelicals, expressed disappointment and warned of continued polarization as a result of the recent incorporation of anti-immigrant rhetoric within the current Health Care debate.

“The Hispanic National Association of Evangelicals believes our nation needs Health Care Reform that reconciles affordability and accessibility with the protection of life, conscience, personal and religious liberties. We encourage all members of Congress to debate this issue with integrity, humility, and respect. Health Care reform is a matter of Social Justice driven by a moral imperative that is undeniable. The fact that millions of Americans lack health care coverage is unacceptable”, declared Dr. Gilbert Velez, NHCLC Chairman and President of the Hispanic Mega Church Association.

Hispanic Evangelicals are reacting to rhetoric recently incorporated by both parties declaring that a proof of citizenship requirement will be included in Heath Care Reform proposals prohibiting undocumented families access to coverage.

“Correspondingly, we find it to be both morally and politically disadvantageous not to include coverage for all those currently residing in our nation. To require immigrants to prove citizenship in order to purchase Health Care coverage stands as a defacto endorsement of racial profiling and continues to exacerbate the anti-immigrant sentiment currently embedded within the immigration reform debate”, explained Rev. Nick Garza, Conference Chief Operating Officer.

“To exclude the opportunity for working families to purchase coverage will place over 12 million homes in a precarious situation. This is deportation via attrition or better yet, some may label the scheme as Xenophobic Health Care Reform. We call upon all the White House, Congress and faith advocates to respectfully address this matter from the platform of Leviticus 19 as we are admonished to treat the strangers among us as one of our own”, added Garza.

The Conference is hosting town halls in Hispanic populated regions in order to discuss the impact of the proposed legislation.

Rev. Eve Nunez, Conference Vice President for Networking added “In order to pass viable Health Care Reform, America needs all stakeholders fully engaged including the Hispanic and Faith communities. Let us work together to find common ground that will insure both our physical and moral health”.

The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference serves approximately 16 million Hispanic Evangelical and Charismatic Christians via 25,434 churches by providing leadership to the 7 Directives of Life, Family, Great Commission, Stewardship, Justice, Education and Youth.

Hispanic National Association of Evangelicals identifies 7 Priorities for America’s Fastest Growing Demographic

(Washington, D.C., Hispanic Christian Newswire)

America’s largest Hispanic Christian Organization, The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), The Hispanic National Association of Evangelicals, announced today the 7 Priorities the organization will focus on from now until 2015; Life, Family, Evangelism, Education, Youth , Stewardship and Justice. The announcement comes in the heel of the organization’s annual board meeting.

“21st century challenges require an evangelical community to speak on a moral and biblical platform that is culturally and prophetically relevant. As the Evangelical movement ages, we hope to make a significant contribution. We must lead with righteousness and justice as we incorporate spiritual, educational, moral and justice threads in all our work for the Cause of Christ and His Kingdom”, stated Dr. Jesse Miranda, Chief Executive Officer of the organization.

Recent surveys by Pew Research and others point to the Hispanic Evangelical community as a thriving community reinvigorating many of the evangelical denominations in America. As the sister organization of the National Association of Evangelicals, the NHCLC stands a part by culturally contextualizing the 7 priorities. The organization, while tracing its roots to the first ever Hispanic National Network, A.M.E.N, today the leadership function of its daughter organization, sees the broadening of the agenda as a sign of the times.

“Our priorities reflect our core values. Hispanic Evangelicals have a moral and biblical responsibility to address issues that reconcile both the vertical and horizontal elements of the Christian Cross. For that matter, we will channel our energy and resources for the purpose of expanding sanctity of life agenda, defending and strengthening marriage and families, fulfilling the Great Commission, and fighting for Justice, which includes advocacy for immigration reform and alleviating poverty both domestically and globally.

In addition we stand committed to our Youth as we address reducing the teenage pregnancy and the high school dropout rates, expanding educational opportunities all while framing a national platform for biblical stewardship of both our economy and environment”, explained Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, NHCLC President.

“We believe the Hispanic church will usher in a fresh move of God’s Spirit upon our nation where Holiness and Biblical Truth will once again take center stage”, he added.

The Conference will publish a document titled The Hispanic Evangelical Manifesto outlining the specific biblical foundation, supportive research and strategies for each corresponding cause. NHCLC will identify 7 strategic Non Hispanic Partners that will join the Hispanic Church in addressing the issues.

“It’s a new season. The Hispanic Evangelical church stands committed to a prophetic proclamation of the Gospel while simultaneously committed to a prophetic demonstration of biblical social justice. Our children demand it, our culture needs it, Our Lord requires it”, exclaimed Dr. Gilbert Velez, National Chairman.

For Interviews and additional information, please contact Maritza Ramirez, NHCLC Marketing and Media Director, at 916-919-7476. www.hispanicevangelicals.com and hispanicchurch@aol.com

Assemblies of God join Hispanic National Association of Evangelicals, Dr. George Wood - Serve on Advisory Board

(Washington, D.C., Hispanic Christian Newswire)

America’s largest Hispanic Christian Organization, The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), The Hispanic National Association of Evangelicals, announced today the addition to its membership roster of one America’s largest denominations, the Assemblies of God, headquartered in Springfield, Missouri.

“It is a natural fit for The Assemblies of God, already the largest Hispanic member denomination to fully join the Hispanic NAE. We have for years via AMEN and the NHCLC served the Hispanic churches in the fellowship, what is historic of this membership and partnership agreement is that we will serve all 12,000 plus churches as it relates to Hispanic American Christian values, priorities and representation as we defend Life, marriage and our biblical worldview”, stated Dr. Jesse Miranda, Chief Executive Officer of the organization.

The growth of the Pentecostal Hispanic community within the ranks of the American Evangelical community stands poised to transform the national religious landscape since, according to Pew Research and Dr. Gaston Espinosa, a Latino Evangelical expert, Hispanic Pentecostals stand committed to a strong biblical worldview particularly in issues of social and family values.

“With the recent launch of the National Hispanic Pentecostal Congress in addition to this historic membership/partnership agreement with The General Council of the Assemblies of God, we are demonstrating our commitment to serve a vibrant and powerful emerging community. The relationship between the Assemblies of God and Hispanics can be traced to the early 20th Century when AG missionaries began an outreach to Hispanics in America and abroad resulting in the Pentecostal explosion both domestically and abroad”, explained Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, NHCLC President.

In addition to membership affiliation, Assemblies of God General Superintendent, the denominations Chief Executive Officer will serve on the Association’s Board of Advisors. ”The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the Hispanic National Association of Evangelicals, serves our Fellowship of over 12,000 churches, particularly in representing the values of our Hispanic brethren by defending biblical marriage, life, and advocating social justice from a biblical world view”, stated Dr. George Wood, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God in America.

The Assemblies of God offers a number of academic opportunities via colleges, universities and bible institutes throughout the nation, a compelling feature for the growing Hispanic American Pentecostal community.

“The fact that Jesse, Sam and I are Assemblies of God ministers speaks to the prominent role this fellowship exercises within our American and Global Christian family. We are proud to be part of this fellowship and blessed to serve the church as we build a multi- ethnic Kingdom Culture firewall against moral relativism, spiritual apathy and cultural decay”, added Dr. Gilbert Velez, Board Chairman.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Is Anyone Minding the Unemployment Nightmare?

Fidel "Butch" Montoya
H. S. Power & Light Ministries - Latino Faith Initiative

One of the most frightening scenarios I envision for our country’s future results from the number of people who are standing in unemployment lines across our country without any prospect of finding a job, either full-time or part-time. Unemployment statistics keep rising with no end in sight. As politicians search for answers, the unemployment rate continues to escalate, this past month, creeping closer to 10%, the highest percentage in 26 years.

Many laid-off people are nearing the end of their government options for receiving unemployment benefits. Unemployed workers receive 26 weeks of unemployment benefits after losing their jobs. As an emergency measure, the government has added another 13 weeks in hopes that workers will find jobs during that period.

Unfortunately, the unemployment rate continues to inch up, with the last report from the government showing 9.7% of Americans are without jobs. In August, another 466,000 joined the 14.9 million Americans out of work. When you look at the number of companies still laying off employees, the future for many workers is bleak, even dire.

In Michigan, the unemployment rate is closer to 15% with the production of cars and trucks continuing to fall. Factories are shutting shut down due to poor car sales; others are running at less than their production capacity.

The government gimmick of “Cash for Clunkers” was a success; with most car dealers pleasantly surprised at the number of vehicles they ended up selling during the $3 billion dollar corporate welfare program. Consumers who traded in their “clunker” received a $4,500 rebate, and some dealers added another several thousand-dollar incentive to the government rebate, making it very attractive to junk their clunker.

“Cash for Clunkers” worked in adding 31,000 people to the job rolls. Unfortunately, now that the incentives are no longer in place, car buying is down as consumers are weary of buying big-ticket items again. Motor vehicle and parts companies lost 15,000 jobs in August.

With so many workers out of work and trying for the first time to reach unemployment offices to apply for unemployment benefits, they have encountered an uncaring bureaucracy that defies description.

In Colorado, where Don Mares is the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, he has faced an avalanche of criticism and heat from frustrated jobless persons, frustrated by their attempts to get unemployment benefits either online or by telephone.

One caller wrote to 9News/NBC in Denver about her experience on the telephone: “I haven't been this frustrated in a LONG TIME. I've been trying to call over 100 times a day (at least) for over 2 weeks, but have called in off and on for longer than that. I've got kiddos that need food on the table and I'm running out of time to get the money rolling in. You would THINK that it being this big of a problem they would be open for longer hours AT LEAST, have the people that are working there take turns getting some OT, I'm sure their wallets could use it and then in turn more people would get processed and so they can have the money in their wallets for bills and food. This whole process is a DISGRACE!”

Similar stories are common around the country because state labor departments were simply not ready to address the tsunami of jobless workers seeking some sort of financial assistance.

In California, before an additional 1,650 new call takers came on board this spring, callers trying to find out information about unemployment benefits needed to dial the department a whopping 42 times to reach a person at the other end. What is even more astounding is that more than 85 per cent of the 50 million calls attempted in the month of January were turned away.

Even more overwhelming for unemployed Californians is that it still takes 17 calls to reach a live operator at the unemployment office. MercuryNews.com reports that nearly two-thirds of the 18.9 million calls made in July were rejected because the phone service was too busy. Talk about added frustration as desperate jobless workers just try to find answers from local government job agencies.

Just to give you an idea of the cost to states resulting from unemployment, consider what is happening in California. MercuryNews.com reports that the Employment Development Department says it has already distributed $12.5 billion in unemployment insurance benefits this year - 50 per cent more than the record $8.1 billion paid out in all of 2008. In addition, many people, because of federal extensions of unemployment benefits, are staying on state rolls longer than usual.

With many workers close to exhausting their unemployment benefits, workers have to turn to jobs where many are barely making the minimum wage. Even though these workers may want full-time jobs, having to settle for part-time work or jobs that they really don’t want or are trained for, puts them in a class of worker the government terms “underemployment.”

Another class of workers are “discouraged workers.” These are workers who give up seeking work because they believe no jobs are available to them. The Department of Labor is faced with a growing number of “discouraged workers.”

In a recent press release, the department issued some more bad news: “About 2.3 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force in August, reflecting an increase of 630,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.”

In other words, with unemployment benefits drying up, and workers not looking for work because in the prior 12 months they had been unable to find a job, many are cast aside hope of finding a job. With the economy still sputtering, the future is not looking very hopeful for many workers seeking employment.

What is equally troubling is the fact that the Department of Labor does not even count these indisputably unemployed people as “unemployed” because four weeks prior to the survey they had given up looking for work. So, instead of adding these thousands of workers to the unemployment rolls, it looks like the government has simply written them off like the banks have written off toxic assets or mortgages.

If only it were that easy to erase the number of Americans without work, but these jobless workers are still out there suffering the loss of self esteem, pride and professional networking, not to mention facing a future of hopelessness. In addition, the real issue we cannot overlook is that these workers without jobs are real people with real families and real needs.

These figures also do not reflect the millions who are working part-time jobs hoping to make up for hours cut back from their regular jobs, or working these jobs because they simply have been unable to land full-time jobs.

Can you believe millions of American workers are facing a future with little or no hope in the land of the free and home of the brave? That can’t be happening - or can it? Why is it that the billion dollar bail out in stimulus dollars no longer affect our economy? Where do jobless workers turn to when unemployment benefits run out and jobs are still unavailable?

Yet, we continue to hear the President and other government leaders say the worst of the down economy may be over and that things should be looking up. The recession, which is officially over one year old, is finally – maybe – hopefully – ending.

Even Colorado officials are saying that the Colorado job market is getting better without any significant increase in unemployment as one sign the market could be stabilizing. Hard to picture this employment environment so rosy when in 2008 the unemployment rate was 4.9%. Today, that unemployment rate is 7.8%!

Keep in mind that most of the unemployed workers who cannot find suitable jobs are used to working for a wage and living. They bought into the American Dream like the rest of us, and now find their dream turning into a nightmare. The question that lurks in the minds of many workers is, “Are we closer to the unemployment line than we care to think?”

These workers living the nightmare cannot make mortgage payments or pay their rent. In some cases, their cars are being reposed because of non-payment. Families who were used to a middle-class standard of living are now finding out that dreams alone do not foot the bills.

As more workers find they are unable to find employment, what is going to happen to thousands of families unable to meet their monthly payment obligations? As desperation begins to grow, what will become of these families as they discover that about the only alternative to not finding work may be homelessness? During the Great Depression, there were close to two million homeless families migrating across the country.

Those of us who have read John Steinbeck’s classic, “Of Mice and Men,” are familiar with the sad and desperate stories of the Great Depression. Many of us empathized with the lives of jobless workers who, out of anxiety and anguish, looked for any means to support their families.

While the President assures us that we are not headed to the Great Depression of 2009, one has to wonder about the jobless who cannot find work. Are they already facing their personal Great Depression?

Boyd Huppert, a reporter for KARE/NBC in Minneapolis, recently profiled workers at Checkers, a local popular fast-food hamburger joint. Huppert’s report demonstrated what this anemic economy is forcing workers to do survive the unprecedented “underemployment problem” facing our country.

What Huppert found was a mother lode of laid-off professionals now flipping burgers and frying French fries. He found homebuilders, a civil engineer, a former executive chef and an area manager for Walgreens among the workers in this hamburger joint. All barely working because - in spite of their years of experience and college degrees - this is the only work they could find.

What surprised Huppert was there were hundreds of others who wanted these jobs.

Huppert reported, “All of the workers with whom we talked at the Checkers were helpful, determined and happy to be employed, yet none of them were where they expected to be. You could go the [University of Minnesota] to study the way the economy is changing us – or you could stop for a burger and listen.”

The high unemployment rate hits minority groups and teenagers the hardest. Whites had an unemployment rate of 8.9 per cent, Latinos at 13 per cent, Blacks at 15.1 per cent, the highest it has been since 1986, and Asians at 7.5%. Teenagers, who generally worked some of the part-time jobs now taken by underemployed adults, face a record high 25.5 per cent unemployment rate.

While the government has taken unprecedented steps to try to turn the economy around, the number of jobs that are being cut from the economy easily overshadows any progress made. The new economy is not creating new jobs and that is a fact we are going to have to face as more Americans look for a job.

While the country debates a national health care bill, continues to debate the war in Iraq, and begins to worry about a larger intervention in a war in Afghanistan that many military officials say we cannot win, shouldn’t we be equally concerned about the growing unemployed workers in desperate need of a job?

Economists from the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland, trying to explain the current job market and the contradiction of the unemployment numbers from the last two months, are still baffled. Although job loses in July were less than June, the unemployment numbers still rose.

In the FoxBusiness Report, two economists try to explain what may be going on. “The sharp rise in unemployment that we have seen,” economists Murat Tasci and Kyle Fee wrote, “is not due primarily to a sharp rise in separations but rather to the fact that once unemployed, the chance of finding employment has fallen dramatically. This means that unemployment durations are getting longer.”

The long-term prognosis is that we may not see any substantial creation of the quality jobs the economy has lost. As the economy tries to rebound, we may just find ourselves lowering our standard of living because many quality jobs may be a thing of the past.

I trust someone high in the Obama Administration is developing an employment policy to address a very volatile unemployment situation. With thousands of homeless and jobless Americans joining the unemployment lines, this is not what many will consider a sound economic recovery.

Meanwhile, is anyone paying attention to the number of people reaching the point of desperation? What will become of the thousands of workers who, having exhausted their unemployment benefits, still cannot find full-time employment and face the dread and fear of losing their homes, cars, livelihoods, self-esteem and, ultimately, any vestige of the American Dream?

This column first appeared at www.latinolandscape.com

Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked as a broadcast journalist for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed as a minister in 1972.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Health Care or Just More Headaches

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

It is a shame that a full debate cannot take place on the different versions of the health care plan passed out of the committees in Congress without having to deal with all the gimmicks and chaos, and unfortunately, in some cases, violence.

I believe we need universal health care.It is unfortunate that the controversial details of the plan are not being taken seriously and, as a result, there have been no responses in a reasonable manner.

Many of the "lies" that are being spewed by many enraged and annoyed protestors still need answers, and the counter claims made by the proponents of the Obama care plan are just adding to the misinformation. As a result, we have seen this misinformation create more confusion, chaos and irritation in many of the Congressional town hall meetings.

For example, President Obama, at the AARP town meeting, claimed the national seniors organization had endorsed the health care plan. His press secretary, Robert Gibbs later had to explain that the president had “misspoke.”

In fact, AARP have not endorsed the Obama care plan and have serious questions that they want answered before endorsing the plan. Gibbs says the president “misspoke,” or is that a polite way of acknowledging that the president wasn’t telling the exact truth?

The reality is that the passion, anger and desire for change generated by candidate Obama has now become the hallmark of the opponents of the health plan. Community organizers have brought together crowds of people who are angry and fed up with government spending that has led to a record deficit.

Ironically, what worked for candidate Obama seems to be working for opponents of Obama care.

Mark Halperin, the editor-at-large and senior political analyst for Time magazine, has expressed what I believe to be what many protestors want in their calls for a full debate on the issue. Halperin wrote:

"Of course we want a full debate. Of course, we want people who have dissenting views from the administration and Congress to have a full hearing. However, that is not what this is about. That is not the intent of most of these people. It's not the way the press is covering it."

While I agree that perhaps some of the town hall protests may have been orchestrated, it is giving the extreme right wing of the Republicans far too much credit to think that they could organize the widespread concern and anger that people across this country are feeling.

I believe it comes back to the fact the health care plan is being rushed too quickly without taking the time to answer the questions - legitimate questions and concerns that people are asking.

The chaos and anger – all the shoving and shouting - have pushed aside the valid arguments and costs of the health care plan. It is practically impossible for issues related to the health care plan to receive a fair debate at this point. Too much bad blood is creating a deep rift between proponents and opponents of the health care plan.

Political pundits say that in 1994, when President Clinton proposed his health care plan, it was even more unpopular than the president's plan today.That is increasingly becoming hard to believe.

One of the biggest differences is that the Internet is playing a larger role in disseminating facts and "lies". Because the president’s staff and the Democratic leadership ignored and did not react responsibly and decisively to answer all questions and “lies” raised by opponents, we have found the value of the Internet has worked in the opponent’s favor.

Still, all of the turmoil and chaos of the town hall meetings does not take away from the fact that we need to have this health care debate. While the president will continue to push his health care plan, the debate cannot continue on this negative tone.It is unfortunate that we have found ourselves in a very bad place in our country.

There needs to be an open debate on "the president's plan". If the protesters have ideas, everyone needs to hear them. But if they're just stunts and gimmicks being used to cause disruption in order to get the media's attention, I believe their strategy in the long run is bad for the country, whether you want the president's plan or not.

What concerns me more than the present debate on health care is the fact that I believe the future debate on comprehensive immigration reform has been compromised.

The current atmosphere in our country has reached a real critical crisis point by the lack of civil debate and discourse. While some of the "actors of the health care debate" have disrupted the national debate, they have also empowered other opponents of the debate who had legitimate questions as well.

In fact, President Obama has gone back on his election promise to make comprehensive immigration reform a priority in the first year of his presidency. He now says the debate on immigration reform will not take place until sometime in 2010.

Other seemingly promising proponents of comprehensive immigration reform have also disappointed those of us expecting an end to the immigration stalemate with a Democratic president and Congress.

Senator Schumer of New York has become increasingly hostile and tough on those he now calls “illegal immigrants.” In order to look tougher on immigration reform, Schumer has used words generally reserved for right-wing extremists and opponents of immigration reform.

The president’s own Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, has even gone further by saying that reform may not be necessary at all. She went on to say a greater emphasis on enforcement would resolve many of the problems related to immigration reform. In fact, Homeland Security has continued to follow the mean-spirited polices of the Bush Administration, particularly when it come to raiding homes, place of employment and entertainment.

Unfortunate the angry and hateful tone of the health care debate has poisoned the water for future debate on immigration reform.

The outcome of the health care debate will determine whether future immigration reform will face a difficult and bumpy road when the debate starts on that controversial topic.

That debate will also depend on whether or not the anti-immigration forces take advantage of the turmoil and anger felt across our country, and use it to harness the unrest and chaos to their favor. I fear that a new chapter in civil disobedience and the lack of civility has entered a frightening stage in our country.

Regardless, the opportunity for passage of comprehensive immigration reform bill will become a difficult challenge in the future. It means we must be more vigilant as we move forward in our fight for justice and righteousness.

Unfortunately, what some pundits thought was the right time as far as passing new immigration reform – the present - will discover that it will not be easy to accomplish this time around.The ugly health care reform debate has hurt the chances for passage of immigration reform.

While we attempt to move forward with the health care debate and listen to the questions related to many of the contentious issues related to health care, and as we strive to work for consensus, let us pray that the national narrative will not continue in the same angry and mean-spirited tone poisoning today’s climate.

While it is critical that we find a way to create a health care plan that serves the needs of every American, we must work together.

We also need to change the tone and temperament of this current debate so that any future debates on issues of concern to our country – including immigration reform - can take place without all of the turmoil and chaos brought about by the present health care debate and debacle.

It is time for both liberals and the conservatives to realize their tricks-of-the-trade are causing what many consider a serious division in our country that will not be so easy to navigate and correct.

The time for bickering is over. Can we all just get along?

This column first appeared at www.latinolandscape.com

Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked as a broadcast journalist for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed as a minister in 1972.

The American stripes and "patriotic" vigilantes: Red, white and blue in the face

By Fidel “Butch” Montoya

Hate crimes are among the most hideous and hurtful crimes committed against any group of people. Beyond the physical injuries, hate also affects us emotionally and can damage our psyche for years. committed

Over the years, we have seen and heard of these crimes being against certain groups of people, and we have seen a quick and direct response against those who have committed hate crimes. In the past, America always had a scapegoat and someone that was intimidated and destroyed by hate.

When Matthew Shepherd was brutally attacked and left to die on some fence on a lonely prairie road in Wyoming, there seemed to be universal shock and disbelief. Wyoming always reflected the Old West and the values of the past encouraged by Manifest Destiny – white entitlement at all cost. So there in the middle of nowhere, Shepherd hung on that old fence as if he were a scarecrow, which is what his rescuers initially thought he was when discovering him.

After being coerced by two bar acquaintances to drink and then leave with the two men, they violently turned on the young man for being gay and murdered him for his wallet and money. Shepherd's brutal murder became one of the most famous hate crime deaths leading to movies, marches, protests, and a new effort by the gay community to make more people aware of hate crimes against gays.

We have heard the stories of how innocent blacks had to face hate, disrespect and death when many were hung from trees like common criminals just because whites hated black people. There is no question; this brutal and hateful period of history in this country is something we must constantly be vigilant. And we must rally against the violent hate crimes committed against black men and women in our country.

At the turn of the century, Bishop Henry M. Turner was able to express the uncertainty, the fear,and determination felt by many Blacks. "We were born here, raised here, bled and died here, and have a thousand times more right here than hundred of thousands of those who help to snub, proscribe, and persecute us, and that is one of the reasons I almost despise the land of my birth."

It is shameful that our society and federal government allowed the people who were responsible for these hate crimes to go in many cases unpunished and, in some cases, protected by the law.

It is time that Americans awake from their false sense of security and the false impressions we have created about racism and bigotry not being a problem in our country. Many citizens fail to understand that right now in our country, innocent men and women are being becoming the victims of rape, beatings and murder. While we whistle "Dixie," across our country more and more hate crimes driven by racism and bigotry are listed on the daily police log.

Today, the victims of violent hate crimes are Latinos and Spanish-speaking immigrants who, in many of the cases, were simply minding their own business. Brown people are now targeted by some Americans you would never dream would be responsible for such ugly and demeaning stalking and murders. It is time we all take notice of these hate crimes being committed in our country and realize it us up to us to stop this violence in our community.

It is inexcusable that other groups that have been victims of hate crimes remain silent or seemingly unwilling to voice their condemnation of other people being murdered, injured or having to live with hateful and difficult memories of being beaten, stalked, harassed, cursed for being "Mexican" or for speaking Spanish.

It appears that most Americans seem unaware of the hate crimes being committed or, if they are aware, turn a deaf ear and close their eyes to the heinous and vicious pictures and video displaying the hateful and evil-spirited acts of violence.

In his book, "Faces at the Bottom of the Well," Professor Derrick Bell writes about the history of persecution endured by blacks. Professor Bell's book has shaken the very foundation of our beliefs. He observes, "Many people will find it difficult to embrace my assumption that racism is a permanent component of American life."

One of the most heinous crimes against humankind was when several white teenagers brutally beat Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, Pa. He was brutally beat to death because he was a Mexican immigrant. The white teenage boys harassed Luis for being "Mexican" and for having a white girl friend.

Ramirez attempted to walk away from the scene, not wanting to fight back. As Ramirez and his girl friend tried to get away, he was followed and beaten by the white teenagers. During the beating, Ramirez fell to the ground, then curled up as he tried to protect himself. His assailants continued kicking while he cowered on the ground. One of the teenagers viciously kicked Ramirez in the head, and it was obvious the three "good American boys" did feel any remorse or guilt.

Ramirez later died at the hospital of a severe head injury. What was his crime? Apparently, many of the good people of Shenandoah, Pa. believe being "brown" is reason to harass and kill.

Moreover, what did our criminal justice system do to provide justice to the loved ones of Ramirez? For one thing, police only called it a fight even though a person was killed.

The Morning Call.com, a local newspaper published an op-ed piece by The Rev Nelson Quinones, pastor at Christ Lutheran Church in Easton, in which he wrote:

"The charges the Shenandoah jury dropped were third-degree murder, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon, and ethnic intimidation. The jury found the teens guilty of simple assault, furnishing alcohol to minors, corruption of minors, and purchase and consumption of alcohol. The Latino population is under attack by hate-mongers. Yet the Latino community is portrayed as prospective attackers. To add insult to injury, this is after a Mexican immigrant was beaten to death. Who is the victim? In Shenandoah, Latinos are hiding from the police, who appear to have failed them."

We have seen the hateful conduct by the Maricopa County Sherriff in Arizona against undocumented Mexican immigrants and Latino American citizens. In Sheriff Arpaio's federally granted authority, he believes he has the right to harass and detain any person who may look like an undocumented immigrant.

The reality is that you and I could be walking down the streets of Maricopa County minding our own business, innocent of any crime, but stopped and jailed for not having the correct documentation showing our citizenship to the USA.

I ask you, how many Americans actually carry their passports as proof of citizenship? Yet, this is what is required by the good Sheriff Arpaio if you do not have any other picture ID documentation showing that you are a legal person in our country.

A few months ago, a group on a church men's retreat in another part of Arizona, assembled in a state park, was detained and eventually some of the men were jailed and deported.

Their crime? Creating a public nuisance for singing and praying while preparing breakfast for the group. They were cited for disturbing the peace and the sheriff's department was called to put an end to this peaceful right of assembly. Their songs or prayers were not so loud as to create a public nuisance. The pastor of the group was put in jail for several weeks until he could get his documentation in order. Innocent, but guilty of being brown in Arizona.

A month or so ago we witnessed another ugly and disgusting double murder committed by a group of armed men and women. They ended up killing nine-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father Raul Junior Flores in Arivaca, Ariz.

The vigilantes who took the law into their own hands were Minutemen, members of a "civilian defense corps" that harasses undocumented immigrants along the U.S.-Mexico border. Brisenia's mother was also shot and severely injured in the shooting. Police suspect the "minutemen vigilantes" intended to leave no witness behind.

The Flores' crime? Being brown in Arizona. It appears these members of the Minutemen, dressed as law enforcement officers, busted down the door of the house where the Flores lived. Shawna Forde, a highly influential member of the Minutemen and advocate for the Minutemen movement, felt she and her cohorts could kill this family simply because they needed money and drugs to finance their efforts to "guard the border."

What is so hideous about this crime is that they actually felt they could get away with taking the law into their own hands and murdering any member of the Flores family who got in their way.

The Department of Homeland Security recently released a report on right-wing extremists like Forde's group who have the power to incite other right-wing groups to violence. Of course, right-wing politicians and pundits, to mention the Minutemen, condemned the report.

Pima Country Sheriff Clarence Dupnik was appalled at the Flores crime scene where the family were ruthlessly murdered. "This was a planned home invasion where the plan was to kill all the people inside this trailer so there would be no witnesses. To just kill a nine-year-old girl because she might be a potential witness to me is just one of the most despicable acts that I have heard of."

It is time that these hate crimes against Latinos be stopped. We can no longer sit on the sidelines and not do anything about the murders callously committed by right wing extremists.

Like so many other problems in our country, we must raise awareness of these crimes, and do whatever we can to curtail the belief that some people they have to kill Latinos. It is inexcusable to allow this climate of fear and murder to exist in neighborhoods across the nation.

Perhaps Pastor Quinones said it best. He stated, "The reality is Hispanics are living in panic. Mothers tell their children not to speak Spanish on their way to school," he stated. "Fathers instruct their sons not to wear baseball caps that bear national symbols or t-shirts with a flag. Overall, parents are encouraging their children to walk in pairs. No one should be a straggler. Get home quickly."

Yes, it is time we got home quickly, and safely. But before we do, we must raise up in righteous anger, and stop the violence against our community.

America, where is your indignation against violence toward "brown people?"

This column first appeared at www.latinolandscape.com

Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed as a Minister in 1972.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Conservative cries of racism: Who is really racist?

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

The historic nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the first member of our community for the Supreme Court has created a groundswell of support for her nomination. President Barack Obama made the decision to nominate Sotomayor based on her qualifications and the "empathy" she would bring to the Court. The President said, "Sotomayor would bring more experience on the bench than anyone currently serving on the Supreme Court when appointed."

Judge Sotomayor is living the American Dream. Raised in the South Bronx in New York City, she typifies the expectations of every Latino family to work hard and expect success to follow. In Sotomayor's case, she grew up in a public housing project after her parents moved from Puerto Rico. Her parents, like so many other Latino parents, came from humble beginnings. And, like so many other Latino parents, harbored dreams of success for their children.

A poll by the Los Angeles Times says 54 per cent of Americans support her nomination to the Supreme Court. 28 per cent oppose her nomination, and a sizable group of 19 per cent had no opinion. Clearly, the majority of Americans believe she is an excellent choice to serve on the Supreme Court.

While a solid majority of Democrats and Independents support her nomination, 57 per cent of Republicans do not. It should not be surprising to read that Republicans do not support her nomination. After all, the GOP "has been" leaders have shown no shame in calling Sotomayor a "racist," or "Hey, Hispanic chick lady," as FoxNews commentator Glen Beck called her. He went on further trying to justify his remarks by saying, "Gee, she sure sounds like a racist here. Do you think she is a racist?" Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has blasted her as "unqualified," and as a "Latina woman racist."

However, the most telling negative comments from Republicans came from anti-immigrant crusader, Tom Tancredo. Of all people to call Sotomayor a "racist," America's most publicized bigot and racist has the gall to speak out against her because he disagrees with her because, I assume, she is a Latina.

Right-wing TV mudslinger Pat Buchanan claims that Sotomayor is an "affirmative action candidate." He, along with Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard, believes she "has benefited from affirmative action over the years tremendously."

Tancredo also had the temerity to claim that Sotomayor is a member of an extremist group called "La Raza." Of course, he was referring to the National Council of La Raza, which he called "a Latino KKK without the hoods or nooses."

As you may know, the NCLR is one of the most respected civil rights Latino organizations along with the Mexican America Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Believe it or not, here is America's Most Wanted Racist calling Sotomayor a "racist." Tancredo, who has no shame, confirmed with his mean-spirited comments what a lot of us long have suspected - he is a man who has lost all of his marbles.

The highly controversial right-wing radioman, otherwise known as the cigar smoking Rush Limbaugh, has used his national radio program to fire up the Republican base to oppose her nomination by using the "R word" again. He said, "Here you have a racist."

Limbaugh didn't stop with that incendiary statement. "Do I want her to fail? Yeah. Do I want her to fail to get on the Court? Yeah, she would be a disaster on the Court." He also said, "Now you have one appointed to the Supreme Court." (Limbaugh was referring to his comments in which he called Obama "the greatest living example of a reverse racist.")

It is a sorry state of affairs when every right-wing pundit is trying to outdo each other with who can find the most ugly and hateful words to demean the years of experience Sotomayor has as a federal judge.

With 17 years on the federal bench, she is obviously the most experienced person nominated to the Supreme Court in at least 100 years. Sotomayor deserves to be confirmed by the Senate. In spite of the foul-mouthed Gingrich, Limbaugh, Beck, Buchanan, Barnes and Hannity (people Fiaz Shakir calls, "right-wing hate merchants," in his blog on AlterNet), Sotomayor will be confirmed.

The conservative cadre claims Sotomayor will allow her Latina heritage and life experiences to tip the scales of justice unfairly as a member of the Supreme Court. That claim stems from a comment that Sotomayor made at the UC Berkeley School of Law annual symposium co-hosted by the La Raza Law Journal, and Berkeley La Raza Law Student Association at UC Berkeley School of Law back in 2001.

Sotomayor said, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." This comment is probably the biggest reason for the firestorm of criticism from the right wing pundits and politicians.

The cultural reality and a proposition that many majority Americans cannot accept is the fact that our cultural heritage and upbringing does bear on our values and opinions. I believe it is important to put that "damning comment" made by Sotomayor at the law symposium in perspective. Something the blind and deaf right-wing of the Republican Party either cannot see or simply fails to understand.

During her presentation at the law symposium, Sotomayor further clarified her opinion that gender or cultural backgrounds can and will affect decisions that judges must make.

Sotomayor explained, "Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage."

I believe that because of our cultural upbringing and life experiences, we may see issues differently based on our life perspectives. I also believe Sotomayor will bring that "empathy" to the Supreme Court and, as a result, ensure that justice is shared with all who bring their grievances to the court.

Still, as we journey through life, we will have to deal with people, who because of their lack of cultural sensitivity and ignorance of life equity issues, will always make fools of themselves. If Tancredo knew of the work of the National Council of La Raza, he would never even consider or compare the KKK to the NCLR.

If he understood the significance that the NCLR has in our Latino community as a strong voice of equity and civil rights, he would agree that his racist comments have only given us reason to doubt that he has all of America in mind when he claims to work on issues affecting the citizens of our country.

Obama, Sotomayor, and the Democratic Party leadership work to keep the debate about the real issues for confirmation and not the wedge issues continually pushed in our faces by the GOP choir of xenophobia and intolerance.

It is interesting to note that Newt Gingrich finally backed away from his initial reaction to the nomination of Sotomayor and apologized, saying that his reaction was "perhaps too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so." Gingrich went on to say, "The word 'racist' should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable."

Now from one extreme to the other in the Sotomayor debate is the matter of the Tancredo interview on CNN where he called Sotomayor a "racist," and NCLR as the "Latino KKK."

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) is demanding that CNN, which carried the Tancredo interview with reporter Rick Sanchez, denounce the Tancredo remarks. It is also demanding that CNN refrain from "providing a forum for pundits that consistently disparage the Latino community."

Additionally, MALDEF and NCLR are collecting petitions to send to CNN, reflecting their concerns and outlining their demands. MALDEF laid out their position in a press release. "MALDEF will not stand by and watch as Tancredo attempts to smear the reputation of one of the nation's distinguished federal jurists with false claims and misinformation."

Talking about false claims and misinformation, this attempt to muzzle CNN is simply wrong. While there is no way I could endorse what Tancredo said in his interview, MALDEF and NCLR are reacting like the rightwing extremists Gingrich and Limbaugh. They are coming up with a ridiculous attempt to censure people with different opinions and their right of free speech.

I wonder if along with his apology, Gingrich also volunteered to do some community service for the Latino community. If so, I am wondering if he did not volunteer his time as a news pundit to assist MALDEF and NCLR with their silly complaint about CNN.

That is about the only way I can understand why MALDEF and NCLR would demand an apology from CNN because the network aired Tancredo's comments about Sotomayor. By asking people to sign on to their Internet petition, they have successfully diverted the debate about Sotomayor's qualifications to a wedge issue of free speech.

Perhaps the headman from Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez, offered some of his personal advice as well since he is so good at shutting down any news organization that criticizes his government for corruption.

At any rate, let's forget about the questionable petitions criticizing a national cable news channel for doing their job for presenting a diversity of opinions and ideas and let us keep the debate on ensuring that Judge Sonia Sotomayor becomes the first Latina Supreme Court Justice.

Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972.

This article previously was posted at Latino Landscape -