The Builder Governor

Remembering Jack Campbell

December 10, 2016 in New Mexico Politics | Comments (1)

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By Larry Joseph Calloway


Jack M. Campbell / The autobiography of New Mexico’s first modern governor: as told to Maurice Trimmer with Charles C. Poling, University of New Mexico Press, 2016.


I was lucky to arrive in Santa Fe before its style, real estate and cultural conflicts went commercial and while Jack Campbell was still governor. The city has changed, and people like Campbell usually decline to run.


I also was lucky to meet Maurice Trimmer on that first day as a New Mexico political reporter. After working for UPI in several big city bureaus, I had requested this transfer to a smaller pond, but now I was totally lost. Santa Fe looked foreign. The Bataan Building did not look like a state capitol. The governor’s office looked deficient with a staff of only seven, including Trimmer, the press secretary.


Perhaps because he too had been the new UPI guy eight years earlier, Maury sympathetically began some on-the-job education. He invited me to accompany the governor to El Rito. The state under Campbell had started a vocational program there to make use of what was irrevocably designated as a teacher’s college in the state constitution. We saw young men and women learning hair styling and construction and auto mechanics.


On the drive back to Santa Fe in the limo the director of the new Board of Educational Finance said it would be logical to move the school from the rural village to the town of Espanola. The governor said, “Bill, your problem is you try to apply logic to Northern New Mexico.”



My Fellow Americans. . .

November 9, 2016 in SOUTHERN JOURNAL,U. S. Politics | Comments (2)

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By Larry Joseph Calloway ©

 The networks were so unprepared for Donald Trump’s win that my election night switching caught only one panelist who could speak with authority for the key voters euphemistically called “white – no college degree.”  He was J. D. Vance, the black-haired concise-speaking author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” an immediately personal story of his poor and violent family from Appalachian Kentucky.

I was reading it in October along with another pre-election bestseller, the radical history “White Trash” by Nancy Isenberg. These books are cultural not political, but they explain something about the “populist uprising,” as Vance termed it in an interview while adding that Trump understood the anger behind it but offered no solutions.

Apart from politics, my research represented an obsession with my father’s hardwood Appalachian roots. He was always wanting something far away. His sisters talked of North Carolina when we visited their farms near Lyons, CO. They were pretty and spoke in sweet accents. My father drank. He died. I was about to set the periodic ancestry project aside when, suddenly, up popped an email from a total stranger in Longmont, Colorado. I’ll get to the deep synchronicity* of it in a few minutes.

Writer-lawyer Vance’s family moved from Jackson, KT, to Middleton, in southern Ohio, so his grandfather could work in the Armco steel mill. It rusts away now under a Japanese name. His grandfather died as an out-of-work alcoholic. His mother, pregnant at high school graduation with his older brother, was more in love with drugs than any of her half dozen husbands.

His elegy is for his grandmother, who raised him. She was a heroic exemplar of the lost mountain culture of pride and toughness. She disciplined him relentlessly to pursue self-improvement through education and even, among other folksy wisdoms, learning golf because “that’s where rich people do business.” (Trump is an international developer of golf courses.)

Mamaw, as he called her, represents the culture lost when the families of several generations were uprooted by economics and dropped dead by economics. “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,” as my father used to say. I had his brother-in-law minister, a chaplain of the Arizona National Guard, read it at his graveside ceremony. Vance does not mention churchgoing in Middleton, but I suppose religion was a part of the lost culture because in every North Carolina hollow where I searched for Calloways there was a church — usually Baptist — often looking forsaken. Vance observes out of nowhere, “I wasn’t surprised that Mormon Utah — with its strong church, integrated communities, and intact families — wiped the floor with Rust Belt Ohio.”


“Spotlight” At Telluride 2015

My last Telluride Film Festival review

September 11, 2015 in T-ride Film Fest | Comments (6)

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t-ride aerial

September: Telluride



NEWSPAPERS, the first drafts of history, also used to write the loglines of movies. The logline for “Spotlight,” debuted at the 2015 Telluride Film Festival and my hope for a lot of awards, goes like this: A quartet of Boston Globe investigators, publishing under a “Spotlight” logo, shames the Catholic Church, the legal profession and journalism itself in a year of stories about the systematic burying of cases of sexual abuse of children by parish priests. The 2003 Pulitzer Prize panel called the work “courageous,” and the screenplay by director Tom McCarthy (“The Station Agent”) and Josh Singer portrays that courage with artful intelligence.

We all know the general story, but this telling is new. It unfolds like a thriller. The reporters discovered a pattern of concerted reaction in contradiction of the “just a few rotten apples” p.r. strategy of the Church. When an activist group supporting the victims, mostly kids from poor Boston parishes, would manage to get a case to court, a conspiracy of silence descended like a dark curtain. A pedophile priest would get some time off and a transfer. The family of the child or children would get a patronizing visit by the archbishop and $20,000 (a limit set by a strange Massachusetts statute). The case would then be officially sealed and the victims, not the defendants, would be abandoned to live in shame.

The Spotlight reporters led by Walter Robinson saw the pattern and were the first to expose it after diligent research. Robinson is played by Michael Keaton, who is not the star because the ensemble including him, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian James is the true star. They repeatedly attempt to interview lawyers who say they can’t talk because they would be disbarred for violation legal ethics. When Robinson ridicules this, a lawyer responds that he was just doing his job. Robinson asks, then, whose job was it to look after the victims?


Get Cam, Find Cab, Make Film

Documentary Films At Telluride

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To get started on a documentary film you don’t need documents or film. Just take a camera – it doesn’t have to be expensive – to an interesting situation and the world will provide, if you wait long enough. The devil is in the editing. These new possibilities for non-fiction production were delightfully demonstrated in Jafa Panahi’s “Taxi” at the Telluride Film Festival.

He was in big trouble with Iranian security, and if he was seen filming he would be arrested. So he came up with a plan. Masquerading as a taxi driver, he rigged a cab with small cameras and hit the streets of Tehran. The resulting ride is, well, great taxi theatre. We see the actual humor and humanity of a country depicted by our politicians, who have never been there, as a bleak and dangerous enemy.

A loudmouth passenger sits in front complaining that a neighbor in a hurry hopped in his car and it would not go. Then the guy saw all the wheels were gone and it was sitting on blocks. If a couple of these thieves were hanged in public that would stop this car stripping, he says. A diminutive passenger in the back seat, a teacher dressed in black and covered, says, “I can’t believe what I just heard.” An argument ensues at a pitch that would make an American talk show host proud, and the loudmouth gets so mad he orders Panahi to stop and let him off.

And that’s just the first scene. There is a smuggler with a selection of DVD movies, another with banned CD albums. The taxi is flagged down at a traffic accident and Panahi rushes him to the hospital. A film student argues about the rules against depicting reality. A flower lady is going to visit political prisoners. A mugging victim spots his mugger but declines to do anything that would subject him to police interrogation. . . . If you film it, they will come.


A Long Time On The Colorado Plateau

What happened there anyway?

July 27, 2015 in El Turista,JOURNEYS,Rio Grande West | Comments (1)

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tucked up in clefts in the cliffs

 growing strict fields of corn and beans

 sinking deeper and deeper in earth

 up to your hips in Gods. . . .


–Gary Snyder


They are long gone, of course, eight centuries gone, but I always think they still own those crooked canyons and sunny alcoves where they built in sandstone and wrote on walls and signed their strange writs with hand prints. After the summer heat we drove to the Colorado Plateau looking for the goners, the absentee owners. We walked their intermittent ways in the sun and sat and read or talked by the lantern in the moon. Like good journalists and good tourists we came back with stories and pictures. There was a house on fire.


House on Fire Ruin, Mule Canyon

As if something still raged. As if it were telling us something.


The SHOW Goes On, Toronto

My comments on the Telluride Film Festival, 2014

September 3, 2014 in T-ride Film Fest | Comments (4)

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The threat by the Toronto Film Festival to put a partial eclipse on films that premiered a week earlier at Telluride did not dim any lights on the old mining town’s opera house “SHOW” sign. The 41st Telluride Film Festival directors got everything they wanted for the Labor Day weekend program, according to volunteers who heard it from them.

Harvey Weinstein, adept at Telluride premiers that go on to win best picture Oscars, did not withhold his “The Imitation Game.” Gary Meyer (call him top dog, though he does not even appear on the programs) personally introduced “Escobar: Paradise Lost,” as a sneak preview that “we wanted immediately” and got.

The SHOWs that I saw in the four shining days included those two features; artful documentaries on the photographer Sebastiao Salgado and Roger Ebert; angry dramas against the background of complicity of the courts and local police in corrupt evictions of homeowners in Russia and — same, same — The United States (“Leviathan” and “99Homes”); a Jon Stewart special (“Rosewater”); a peripatetic chick flick (“Wild”); two costume dramas (“Madame Bovary” and “Mr. Turner”); and an enlightening documentary on Russian hockey players (“Red Army”).


Stories From Telluride

My Review Of A Festival Of Films

September 5, 2013 in T-ride Film Fest | Comments (5)

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The 40th Telluride Film Festival opened unceremoniously with the first North American screening of “ALL IS LOST” in a fine new high-tech theatre. Robert Redford stood out of the light as director-writer J. C. Chandor told us: “This film is about YOU.” He paused, or faltered, continuing: “About you and the end of your life.”

redfirdAs the lights went down I wondered if a solo passage on a doomed sailboat in the middle of the Indian Ocean is truly a good way to die.  About 107 minutes later I caught on. It’s a parable.

As Ernest Hemingway (I’ll explain the connection later) might have said, a man must die alone. And, courage is grace under pressure. The man is Redford, playing his usual manly role and playing it very well at about age 75. He is the only person in the nearly wordless film and, Chandor calculated, he is in 98 per cent of the shots.

We know nothing about the character, not even his name. But we don’t need to. He is Redford. Why confuse a pure and simple parable with a back-story? Redford is already, as Chandor put it, “part of everybody’s experience.”


Self Government, Subdivided

First Of All, Eject All The Lawyers

June 27, 2013 in Rio Grande West | Comments (0)

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The subdivider land rush on Western ranches in the 1970’s, stopped after  a few years by environmentalists, left behind conglomerates of lot owners governed under covenants written by the subdividers. The rule of law — and influence of lawyers — elsewhere does not often apply to these non-profit corporations any more than democracy applies to business corporations. The Baca Grande, carelessly platted on an old ranch in southern Colorado’s arid San Luis Valley, is one such subdivision. But there are many others, such as the more prosperous Eldorado near Santa Fe and Rio Rancho near Albuquerque.

Of about 3,500 lots owned by about 2,900 parties in the Baca Grande, at least half lie undeveloped and hundreds of these are perpetually up for resale or under tax liens. A heavy majority of owners live out of state due to original mass marketing or even out of the country due to sales at military bases in Asia.

Law enforcement depends upon the county sheriff at Saguache, 30 miles across the dry valley (many residents like deputies at a distance), and fire fighting is up to private entities (a slim majority of voters have blocked taxation to fund the local fire district).

Governing has become so variable that the Baca Grande Property Owners Association (POA) is a sort of fight club that cannot even come to agreement on how to elect a representative board of directors. This was the issue at a contentious meeting on the first evening of summer. After two hours of watching the left jabs and right crosses I became more interested in watching for the moon to rise from the astonishing Sangre de Cristo Mountains through the smudged steel-framed windows of the old and often painted association hall.

Confronting each other at a long table were some complaining property owners and the POA board members they have sued, alleging unlawful procedures in the board election last November. A professional parliamentary moderator from the other side of the mountains had been brought in, but the civil exercise accomplished nothing tangible except to clear the way back to district court.

The lawyerless homegrown lawsuit had been dismissed (“without prejudice,” the plaintiffs kept emphasizing) by Saguache County District Judge Martin Gonzales on the basis that it was not timely. One reference must have been something, one of those non-binding statements of purpose, that the Colorado Legislature inserted in the uniform code called the  Common Interest Ownership Act (CIOA). It says, “The general assembly finds and declares that the cost, complexity, and delay inherent in court proceedings make litigation a particularly inefficient means of resolving neighborhood disputes.” It goes on to say the associations are “encouraged” to adopt mediation rules such as the one under which the June meeting was called.

Diane Dunlap, the leading plaintiff, declined at the outset of the meeting to give away their case because their lawsuit, in her words, “is very much alive.”  She also objected to the board’s hiring of the moderator, Mary Anne Tebedo of Colorado Springs, who served 18 years as a Republican in the legislature.

But Dunlap was not shy about asserting the main point:  that the election of three board members at the annual membership meeting last November was invalid for numerous reasons and, therefore, the three should step down and acknowledge everything out of the ordinary that they have done since taking office last January is null and void.

The three are Russell Schreiber, Matie Belle Lakish and Diana Moats. But it was board member Treat Suomi, elected previously, who emerged as their  spokesperson.  He said most participants agree that the election procedure “is something that needs to be fixed.” He invited everybody to work together “so the next election we have will not have all these problems and not cost all this money.”

Bruce MacDonald, a plaintiff, responded, “We have three board members that were not duly elected, and that’s the primary dispute. I don’t hear anything about what is to be done about it.” Repeating this several times later, he said it wasn’t enough just to say “we’ll get it right next time.”

The problem here, as elsewhere, is the lack of clear legal guidance in how to elect people to take the heat of governing an unincorporated rural subdivision. The association bylaws say: “Any vote for the election of directors shall be by written ballot in a form to be prescribed  by the board.” But they go on to say, “The vote allocated to a lot may be cast under a proxy duly executed by the lot owner. All proxies shall be in writing.”

The CIOA says, “Votes for contested positions on the executive board shall be taken by secret ballot” and that the ballots shall be counted by uninvolved and objective volunteers.

Most of the votes in the November election were by proxies — Dunlap called them “hybrid proxies” — submitted  directly by mail or indirectly through people attending the annual association members meeting. The plaintiffs argued in the special June meeting that the election process was flawed by lack of respect for the secrecy of the ballot and transparency of the counting, but they were not specific, except to point out that the Colorado Springs company to which most operations of the association have been outsourced took the ballot box home. Suomi said the company, Hammersmith Management Inc., merely examined the paper for “alterations” and found none.

Another objection mentioned by the plaintiffs was that board members arrogated to themselves the authority of a nominating committee. Association bylaws say candidates “must have been nominated by the nominating committee or by petition with 25 signatures.” Schreiber said the problem here was that nobody in the community wanted to serve on a nominating committee despite numerous requests for volunteers.

Tebedo intervened often, sometimes telling Dunlap to hush up and Schreiber to speak up, but her greatest challenge was the plaintiff Nigel Fuller. Standing and pointing an angry finger at a man in the audience, he said, “Why is Bill Short here?” Fuller said his target was not a property owner and was, in fact, a lawyer.

Tebedo said, “Why does that make a difference? I’m not sure I’m going to recognize him.” She suggested Fuller should confront the man at recess. But Fuller persisted, saying, “Why is Bill Short allowed?”

Tebedo said there was no provision for questioning anybody in the audience. Lakish said, “It’s a public meeting.” Fuller remained standing. The man still did not respond. Tebedo said, “People here are allowed to listen.”

Dunlap entered the fray, saying, “He’s a lawyer for the defense.”

Tebedo said, “Why does it disturb you?”

Dunlap said, “He’s only here because he’s the lawyer for Treat and Russell.”

Tebedo called a recess, during which there were no fist fights. The meeting resumed, covering the same ground as before. The moon eventually rose.


What Did You Expect? Privacy?

Mechanic In A Digital Age

June 17, 2013 in U. S. Politics | Comments (1)

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Finally, some media attention to the thin legal basis for the NSA surveillance of telephone and e-mail communications. Stories today about the decision of  U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon that the program is unconstitutional report his dismissive comments on Smith v. Maryland. The 34-year-old Supreme Court opinion says you don’t have an “expectation of privacy” when you dial a telephone. This opinion was the basis of the government’s defense in the case before Leon. He wrote that “the government’s surveillance capabilities, citizens’ phone habits, and the relationship between the NSA and telecom companies” today are so unlike 34 years ago that the Smith decision does not apply. Here is what I reported in June:



Be reasonable. The government can look at your phone and email logs. You should know that by now.  All reports say this,although there may be limits.  According to the government, there is protection of privacy, but that depends upon secret decisions by secret courts. So you don’t know. You have no “reasonable expectation of privacy,” as the Supreme Court likes to put it.

The issue was framed in a 1967 opinion by the court involving the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Without getting a warrant,  the FBI placed a listening device on a phone booth to catch a man who was phoning unlawful bets from one state to another. His lawyers argued it was a violation of his privacy. The federal prosecutors argued the phone booth was public, not a private place.

Justice Potter Stewart wrote the 7-1 majority opinion (Katz v U.S.) siding with the the bookie. “One who occupies [a telephone booth], shuts the door behind him, and pays the toll that permits him to place a call is surely entitled to assume that the words he utters into the mouthpiece will not be broadcast to the world.” The opinion extended Fourth Amendment protection to any situation where a person has an expectation of privacy. And it expressed Stewart’s dictum: “Property does not have rights. People have rights.”


Everything We Know Comes From Roger Corman

Report From The Telluride Film Festival

January 14, 2013 in T-ride Film Fest | Comments (0)

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(Originally posted Sept. 9, 2012)

Knock. Knock.

Who’s there?


Argo who?

Argo Fuckyerself.

This punch line — the line, not the whole joke — is a running gag in Ben Affleck’s “Argo,”  based on the rescue of six Americans who hid in the Canadian embassy during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. The line is at home in Hollywood. It was in the mind of Clint Eastwood during his imaginary talk with Barack Obama at the Republican National Convention. It should be propped up in big letters on a Hollywood hill. And it is especially appropriate delivered in the movie by the profane producers played by John Goodman and Alan Arkin. It got a laugh every time at the 2012 Telluride Film Festival. (more…)