Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dream Act-Another Era

My father first came to the U.S. in 1920 as a ten year old. He was a Canadian, but his parents were refugees from Czarist Russia. His mother could not stand the constant sniping by her sister in law, and took the kids back to Canada in 1922. My grandfather remained and constantly pleaded with her to return. In 1925 she had had enough of the poverty in Canada and caring for seven children. She sought to return, but was prevented by the new Immigration Law that severely limited persons who were born in Russia.

My father graduated from high school in Estevan. He was a very high achiever. He sought to further his education in Pittsburgh, and was given a student visa. Shortly after he arrived in 1929, the Great Depression started. He could not afford the University of Pittsburgh and sought work. He could have stayed, probably undetected, but he could not go further than the menial jobs he could take as an illegal alien. He admitted his indiscretion of fasely using his status as a student and was asked to leave the country.

A year later he was given entry and returned as a legal immigrant. Obtaining jobs, getting fired, about seven times, he finally landed one as a clerk in a department store. During this time he applied for and received permanent residence and eventually in 1935, full citizenship.

His ambition never failed and he became a radio announcer for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pittsburgh Hornets (the AHL hockey team that yielded its franchise to the Penguins).

My reason for writing this blog is to illustrate that our immigration policy can and does stifle the new blood that the U.S. needs to progress and maintain its status as a world leader. My father was fortunate, and by proxy, so was I. (To learn more about my father, Joe Tucker, check out Screamer: the Forgotten Voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers.)

The Senate had a majority in favor of considering the Dream Act that would have given foreign born individuals, those who served in the military and those looking for higher education, the opportunity my father had, and he had it in the deepest part of the Great Depression. Unfortunately, Senators, mainly from the South, the Southern colony of Arizona, the Mormon states of Utah and Idaho, and Montana (afraid of an influx of Canadians??) stood in the way of their dream.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Beyond borders: Arizona and Mexico

I (Murray) am a history buff. I subscribe to the philosophy that only fools are bound to repeat it. Arizona has a special place in American history. At first it was part of New Mexico. To establish a commercial base (i.e., slavery), southerners moved in to the area now known as Arizona during the mid 19th century and unilaterally called it a separate territory. The federal government ultimately recognized the area by drawing a straight north/south border between what is now Arizona and New Mexico.

The two states do, in fact, differ substantially in the make up of population and politics. New Mexico has a substantial Hispanic population who are descendants of people who were Mexican before the Mexican American War. By contrast, Arizona was settled by easterners, primarily from the south.

Looking at a relief map of Arizona, there is a mountainous area in the north that falls off to flat land. The south end of the mountainous area was the original border between Mexico and what was then the Territory of New Mexico. The land to the north was ceded to the United States after the Mexican War and contains the present day city of Phoenix. Native American tribes, Commanches and Apaches, were the primary residents, and Mexico was glad to put the defense of Mexicans who were constantly raided by the tribes onto the U.S.

Some southern leaders were concerned that northern interests controlled commerce into California and were making it a free state. A small, but powerful group of them, saw the potential of increasing their influence (particularly slavery) in southern California, and splitting the state in two, one slave, one free. In order to accomplish their goal, they sought to build a railroad from an eastern terminus in El Paso to California. The only problem was the mountainous terrain that they would have to traverse.

Mexico's President, Santa Ana, was in dire financial straits. He was concerned that the U.S. was considering another invasion and needed funds for the Army. A deal was struck to cede the flat area seen on the relief map above to the U.S. This area also includes a small strip of land in the present state of New Mexico. The large area in the relief map that is centered by the present city of Tucson, is know as the "Gadsden Purchase," named for the principal proponent of the southern link to the west coast.

This area was sparsely populated by Mexican farmers scratching a living on what is mostly desert. The current border was fixed as a line in the sand leaving relatives on both sides of the artificial border.

During seventy years after the Gadsden Purchase, it was commonplace for Mexicans to cross the border to visit relatives and to work in the U.S. Many stayed and became citizens.

We lived south of Tucson in the center of the Gadsden Purchase for two years (2004-2005) and visited Nogales, Mexico, on a regular basis. In 2004, crossing the border was easy for anyone. Then the drug gang troubles hit on the Mexican side and the streets of Nogales became deserted of tourists, businesses failed and crossing the border required scrutinized documentation for everyone.

The existence of illegal immigrants in Arizona, particularly Phoenix, has gone unrequited for many years. The illegals provided cheap labor and business and the citizenry looked the other way taking advantage of this near slave labor.

The recent growth in drug trafficking led a majority of Arizonians to accept a stark law enabling local police to carry out federal law that may be in conflict with the U.S. Constitution. It is an outgrowth of the inability of the U.S. Government to control the border with Mexico AND the inability of law enforcement in Arizona to control the traffickers. The issue is NOT illegal immigrants that has existed since the first immigration acts were passed in the early 20th century made entry to the U.S. illegal.

From my perspective, it is the geography of Arizona today represented only by an arbitrary line in the sand instead of the original natural mountainous border of 1845, the strained historic relationship of the U.S. with Mexico, and the racial attitudes of early settlers that are the foundation of the problem.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

NY Times, Pittsburgh Steelers, and an Art Exhibit

How does the NY Times, Pittsburgh Steelers and an Art Exhibit fit together? Well it really does and came as a total surprise to both Murray and me as we researched some statistics related to our blog. This week I took a course on Search Engine Optimization and learned about inbound links and how they can help add credibility to one's website or blog. After an excellent class, part of WESST's networking and Training here in Santa Fe, I came home and discovered that Author and Artist had an inbound link from the New York Times. "Now that is high on the authority/credibility score" was Clare Zurawski's comment when I reported the link to her the second day of the course she was leading.

OK... so now what was the link? Written by Eric Dash, it was published on September 18, 2010 titled, "The Steelers at the Intersection of Iron City Beer and Art Basel." It features how "football and cultural life are so intertwined" in Pittsburgh and particularly focuses on a exhibit at the Miller Gallery of Carnegie Mellon University which opened on August 27 and runs through January 30, 2011. The Author and Artist Blog is linked when Dash talks about the "life-sized statue of running back Franco Harris's Immaculate Reception" that greets visitors to the Pittsburgh Airport. Here's the link to the NY Times article and you can link back to our article when you see the "life-size statue" highlighted.

Murray took the picture when we arrived at the Pittsburgh airport at the beginning of April 2008. We were returning to our home town of Pittsburgh to help with the Obama primary. What a trip that has proved to be from our picture with now President Obama at the Pittsburgh Airport, to great time spent with friends and family, to having this inbound link from the NY Times, not to exclude seeing Franco and other stalwarts of the Steelers' Dynasty at a Steeler Rally for Obama.

I end with a fantasy. What fun it would be to tour the "Whatever It Takes: Steeler Fan Collections, Rituals and Obsession" at the Miller Gallery of Carnegie Mellon University with my father-in-law Joe Tucker. Of course that is not possible. Joe died in 1986 and Murray has written a wonderful book about his father that I hunch many of our blog readers have enjoyed. It's called Screamer: The Forgotten Voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I can imagine Joe's enthusiasm and delight at the exhibit which "focuses on fans not as consumers but on fans as producers" with all kinds of imaginative displays. A description of the exhibit points out that the fans are "a creative force that modifies dominant culture into something much more personal and collectively creates the Steeler Nation."

Alas... living now in Santa Fe I doubt that I will get into Pittsburgh to see the Exhibit. We would love to hear from people who have seen it and if someone would like to write a guest blog on the Exhibit we would welcome that.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Immaculate Reception Proven

There has been much concern about this particular play for over a generation.  We finally have definite proof that the catch was legal and that the Steelers won the game.   These four photos show the play in detail and are taken from NFL Films.

As a very loyal fan of the Steelers for over 60 years this is one of my favorite plays.

1. Bradshaw fades to pass eluding rush

2. He gets the ball away

3. The ball clearly contacts Raider's Tatum while both he and Fuqua go for it.

4. Franco catches deflection at shoetop and races for winning TD.

For more Steeler and Pittsburgh sports visit my website

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Starting a new nonprofit organization: Healing Voices - Personal Stories

For the past two months I have been busy starting a new nonprofit organization called Healing Voices - Personal Stories.  Creative juices are flowing and I'm excited about this new project.  Of course I'm still painting but as I have mentioned in this blog before, I'm missing the collaborations that directing the Avodah Dance Ensemble provided.   Now I've found the collaborations in a new way.

I've been sharing the fun that I have been having exploring the film industry here in New Mexico and how much I have enjoyed being directed.

Now this has taken me in a new direction.  Motivated by my work leading dance workshops in women's prison I am part of a founding board of Healing Voices - Personal Stories where we hope to create and distribute films to raise public awareness of women's striving to overcome abusive trauma.  Our organization now has a beginning website and a blog that I will be posting on every few days.  I hope that some of the subscribers to our Author and Artist blog will subscribe to Healing Voices - Personal Stories too.

Murray and I will continue to blog here as well.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Payroll tax holiday

Depressions. There are people today, mostly in their nineties, who experienced the last one that commenced in 1929 and ultimately ended because of huge government expenses and deficits to fight the second world war. There is no one alive today who can remember the other one that was also precipitated by a monetary crisis in the mid 1890's. While the cause for both can be traced to liquidity, the availability of loans, the underlying reasons are different.

In the 1890s the money supply was gold. For fifty years the country had increasing amounts of this commodity from California, Alaskan and Yukon gold mines. The supply of new gold began to dry up in the 90s, but not the need for it to fund expansion.

The capricious spending of the 1920s came to an abrupt end when speculators realized that the value of the stocks they owned was ethereal. The banks that lent money on what they thought was market value, suddenly found that their collateral had no substance. They could not lend and business could not find funds to continue growth.

In 2008 the basis for growth was not gold nor stocks, but the consumer's appetite for big houses funded by what was perceived to be a never-ending increase in value of their investment. Americans began to use their homes as ATMs. Again, the banks went along with this fantasy, fueled by the guru of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan.

Consumers could not afford their mortgages and cut back on spending. Business saw inventories increasing and cut back on both hiring and making additional product. Banks stopped wild loans of 100% or more of value. While the basis was different (houses as collateral versus stocks as collateral) the problem was the same. Loss of liquidity.

In 1935 along came John Maynard Keynes who wrote The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. He basically said that there are three components of any economy: What consumers spend, what business invests, and what Government spends (or invests). These three items comprise the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Reduce any one of them and GDP decreases.

The deficits caused by our participation in World War II brought an end to the Great Depression and convinced some that Keynes was right, that government must step in when the other elements of GDP are not viable.

A moratorium on the Employment Tax (FICA) that funds Social Security is now being considered. In fact, Senator Scott Brown (R. Mass) had indicated his support of this idea in January. This tax goes into a Trust Fund that is then borrowed by the Government to fund deficit spending and may be the largest lender to the General Revenue. Stopping this tax does not add to the general deficit. It is not part of the federal budget.

What does a moratorium do? First, we do not have a problem for funding Social Security until about 2037 under current actuarial calculations. By allowing current employees to use these funds that would otherwise be a tax, consumer spending will increase immediately. Secondly, business who will save their portion of FICA will have funds to both increase investment and incentive to hire additional workers since the cost of wages will be reduced by the elimination of the FICA tax.

The placement of funds in the hands of consumers and business will be the fastest way to improve the GDP. Keynes would be smiling.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Obama’s Drill Baby Reasons don’t meet the economic test

The President is not an economist. The idea that drilling in U.S. waters will reduce dependency on foreign nations is absurd. Excuse the pun, but oil is fungible. What is brought up in the waters off shore goes into the world market. Now consider the cost, not only of oil drilled a mile beneath the Gulf, but also the indirect cost of leaks and spills in delicate areas. Economic theory states that price is based on marginal cost. The most expensive product that clears the market determines the price for the market as a whole. The lower cost product (Saudi oil) gets a premium since it is cheap to produce. No wonder oil companies want to drill the paltry amounts of off-shore US oil. As this oil comes to market with its high cost, the price paid for less costly production earns a significant premium.

The cost of oil brought up from the near surface wells in the Middle East is by far less costly and less environmentally challenging than that from the Gulf. True, the U.S. MIGHT get some royalty income from the leases if the Interior Department can get its act together to collect this income. But this oil will not make a dent in our use and there is no reason to believe that the oil drilled from offshore will reduce our out of pocket cost-in fact such payments will probably increase since the oil produced off shore is the most costly oil to produce on the market.

A sound energy policy should not have as one of its facets the cost-ineffective off shore drilling that has led to making the Gulf of Mexico an oil tanker, polluted shorelines and sickened inhabitants of Louisiana, many of whom do not have health insurance.

There is a superabundance of finance experts in the Administration. There needs to be a stable of experts on strategic markets, like oil.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Retraining the Lost Generation

Our elected officials are enamored with spending funds we don’t have on “Defense,” like wars that have no significance for our homeland- Vietnam and Iraq. We do have a war we should be fighting, but we appear ignorant of it. All indications are we are losing this war, the training of a workforce that is competitive in this world economy.

Unemployment, today, can be traced to the construction industry. The overbuilding of the period from 2001-2007, spurred on by ridiculous lending by banks and mortgage companies, made available well-paying jobs for people who did not need education. Construction jobs stimulated jobs in ancillary industries for wood products and structural steel, to mention two.

I am old enough to remember to have worked on a similar structural economic problem that became acute in the early 1960’s. We had emerged from World War II and the Korean War. The defense industries that had thrived in this period were seeking government largesse that President Eisenhower warned against: the military-industrial complex. But the steel industry and its major ancillary industry coal mining were in increasingly desperate shape.

The Appalachian Regional Commission was created to seek solutions to the horrific poverty that we were seeing in states like West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. Leaders of cities like Pittsburgh saw its future in industries other than steel. The Congress was persuaded to invest in education through the National Defense Education Act.

Today, we do not have such leaders as the progressive, David Lawrence, and the ultra conservative, Richard Mellon, who combined to shift from the pollution of steel to transform Pittsburgh to where you can now see that the sky is really blue. We do not have the sharp political wits that made the Kennedy-Johnson period a political success story.

If it takes using the Defense budget, perhaps that is where our emphasis should be. We have a war in the U.S., but it is not in Iraq, Iran, Israel, but at home. We are growing an increasingly uneducated work force at just a time when just the reverse is needed.

Let’s shift our defense spending from planes, tanks and guns to educating our future generations and retraining the lost generation.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

From Directing to being Directed

For over thirty years I directed The Avodah Dance Ensemble. I loved creating pieces, working with talented dancers and musicians. When I retired in 2004 it was with a satisfaction of having said what I needed to say. I was also thrilled to have Julie Gayer Kris become the new artistic director and to know that what I had begun was going to continue with new energy and ideas.

I turned by attention to painting. The discipline from dance days carried over in that I found that I could easily spend hours at the easel creating. After a few years I sensed something was missing. Some volunteer work and even a part time job didn't feel the gap I sensed. Then last year when we were in Placitas, NM I saw an ad for an evening acting workshop and went. I loved it. When we moved here last September I decided that doing background (extra) work on TV and film might be right on. I was lucky to get some work on Crash which I wrote about earlier. As we settled into Santa Fe, I got more serious.

I signed up for a class in Acting for Film and Media at Santa Fe Community College. The 8 week (twice a week) course just finished, and I loved it. Developing two pieces, one a monologue and the other a two person scene was challenging. Most of all I loved the time in front of the camera where fellow students directed our pieces.

This past week I had the opportunity to do background work on two projects. One was a student short independent film and the other was a major Hollywood feature. Again I found I loved the experiences. I liked being told when to enter, what to do and simply be part of the creative process without having to be the bottom line director that I had been with the dance company. Since I signed a confidentiality agreement related to the feature film I will have to wait until it is released to share any specific thoughts. It was an amazing learning experience and I will be going back on set Monday this time with our 1993 mini van.

There seem to be lots of opportunities in New Mexico for background work. I am meeting people on the sets that have been in 20 or more films. And people that are new to it. My partner in a cross for the feature was a physician that had just retired and, like me, this was his first film. So besides the opportunities for work (yes we are paid on TV and film projects although not on student projects) interesting people gravitate to this type of work.

When our instructor asked us if we wanted to continue to the second half of the class he went around asking if we wanted to focusing on acting or directing. I didn't hesitate. Acting!

Not only had I liked the process of being directed I found I wasn't embarrassed by seeing myself on a large scene when we watched our scenes this week. Maybe I have just accepted myself as I am. I could watch myself and see what was working and what I needed to work on. I appreciated the feedback from the instructor as to what he recommended.

I look forward to continuing this new journey and have found the balance to the quiet work of painting alone in my studio.

I welcome your reactions and comments and sharing how you have found balance in your life.

Other related blogs of authorandartist are:
Celebrating Avodah
Background Work on Crash

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bill Dudley: The End to a one year era

Author's note: The following was among my father's notes from which I wrote the book Screamer: The Forgotten Voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The incident occurred in 1947, and now all have passed on. My dad viewed Dudley as the greatest individual to ever play pro football, and one glance at his achievements in running, passing, kicking and playing defense should convince anyone else of why dad was justified.

I returned on Sunday from the Run for the Roses. I wanted to write this note as quickly as possible so that I would not forget. Art pledged me to complete secrecy about what I had heard, and other than writing and filing this note; I will not speak of what transpired.

Besides me, there were three others at the Derby Saturday, Art Rooney, Bill Dudley, and Fran Fogarty. “Bullet Bill” had finished the 1946 season as the most spectacular player I or anyone else had ever seen. Art wanted to sign him for the ’47 season, but there were problems. He had had several clashes with that other Steelers great, the coach, ‘Jock’ Sutherland. Bill had been a standout at Virginia where they played the new T-formation. In the single wing, Bill was often left open to punishing tackles. He wanted the coach to modify and got into a heated argument with him over tactics.

Having finished the season under the unwavering coach, Dudley came to Louisville with one mission. If he were going to continue with the Steelers, he would have to be paid a lot more than the $5,000 he made for 1946. He told Art that he understood that “Whizzer” White had a contract for $15,000 a decade earlier, and that either he would get $25,000 or he would retire.

Art told Bill that he had been carrying the team for the war years and it was only in 1946 that the team began to almost pay for itself. Bill was noticeably upset, but knew that Art was being truthful. He told him that the maximum he could go was $10,000, but would agree to a bonus if certain conditions were met. The possibility of anything approaching Bill’s figure was not remotely possible.

Bill was downcast when we parted, he back to Virginia, we, back to Pittsburgh.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Health Care: Think Comprehensive and Practice Incremental Change

When I worked in policy development from 1968-70 one thing became totally apparent to me: It is nearly impossible for Congress to pass comprehensive policy.

When I worked in policy development, comprehensive took the form of PPBS or Program Planning Budgeting Systems. This concept evolved from the attempts by the Defense Department to get its budget to where results related to dollars spent. The problem, it required the Representative in Congress to gore the hides of a majority of its members.

The same is true for the bills passed by the Senate and House on Health Insurance Reform. No one questions the need for reform, but almost each step proposed in each of these comprehensive packages has an impact on individual representatives that necessitates him or her to register a no vote, or worse, get “paid off.”

As of the first of March 2010, passing a comprehensive change has been placed in the hands of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House. If she could garner a majority, the very imperfect Senate package could be passed and sent to the President. An astute politician, she has decided the easy way out is to throw the ball back to the poorly operating Senate and let them muddle through. History has shown that this maneuver may be clever politics, but cowardly and likely to lead to no change for a health care system that is on its way to total disaster.

Comprehensive proposals rarely pass Congress. FDR barely did it with the Social Security Act in 1935 and LBJ squeaked by on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Comprehensive reform of the Defense Department budget sought by Robert McNamara was DOA as it cut programs in too many Congressional Districts, programs that if considered separately would have won majorities in most aspects.

Republicans have been crude and gamey in their political attacks. But, underlying their arrogance is a political reality, expressed most effectively by Senator Alexander. The comprehensive nature of the House and Senate proposals cannot receive clear majorities. Their supercilious proposal of “shred and start over” is reflective of the political reality that the substance in each proposal can have an up or down vote that might lead to comprehensive change: to paraphrase Senator Alexander, incrementalism will garner bipartisan support for most of the pillars in each proposal, that the political fight will be over a small percentage of items that may pass or fail by narrow votes.

The late Senator Kennedy understood this political reality and worked diligently on structuring incremental change. He also publicly scolded himself for not working with the Nixon Administration when it proposed a comprehensive health care program in 1974 when the percentage of GNP spent on health care was only 8% (now 17% and growing). I would like to think that the Congressional leadership would have learned this lesson from history. It’s all right to think comprehensively on health care reform, but realism dictates that enactment will occur only through passing elements incrementally.

See my other writing on health care reform: Universal Health Revisited 1/27/09; Doctor Appointment: Wait 3 Months; Murray's latest writing on health care; and Nixon Health Plan Revisited.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Finding My Voice as an Artist

While I love taking classes and working on my drawing and painting skills my ultimate goal is to find my own voice as a visual artist. Since I have over a thirty year history as a choreographer and artistic director of a dance company I have been curious how I might transfer some of that experience, creativity and knowledge to painting. With this in mind I have begun an experiment using music, working in pastel and oil painting.

When we were preparing for our move to Santa Fe, Murray decided to transfer his large collection of LP records to computer files and to give away his record collection. I decided to take 25 of his records to experiment with an art project. So far I have completed 3 pieces and am nearly done with the 4th. I have decided not to evaluate what I am doing until I have done 12 of the 25. To keep experimenting and refining my process.

Here's my process:

I listen to a record and select a two to three minute portion. (Murray provides me with the file from his computer). I listen to it over and over like I might if I were going to choreograph it.

Then, using pastels, I make at least four rough abstract sketches. I let the music tell me what colors to choose. Much like improvising movement, I play with lines and shapes on paper with no censoring.

I look at the different sketches that I have done and choose one to refine and do so still working in pastel. When I am satisfied with that I move to canvas.

I have already taken a record and glued it to a 12 by 12 inch canvas. The record is gessoed so it will take oil paint. I do two coats and let it dry.

Now I'm ready to take the pastel sketch and sketch its outline in charcoal to the record/canvas.
Next I follow the traditional techniques I learned in Tony Ryder's class of inking in the sketch, doing an underpainting and then a final painting (or form painting) in oil. This process can take several weeks... especially since I am painting the sides of the canvas and that can involve several days of drying before I can turn the canvas to work on a side. I like painting the 1 1/2 inch sides because it gives it a 3 dimensional look and doesn't require framing to have a finished look.

Here's an example of the 3rd study I did to a short section of Vivaldi's Concerto in G Minor.

I would be interested in hearing from other visual artists who are experimenting with ways to find their own voice!