Arena developers, Kings on wrong side of immigration issue

I would feel proud if the movers and shakers in Sacramento backed a program to bring desperate Syrian war refugees to our city. Instead, they are promoting a plan to allow wealthy foreigners to go to the head of the immigration line and buy their way into the United States.

Where’s the outrage, folks, or at least a touch of cynicism?

It wasn’t to be found in the Sacramento Bee today, which put this headline on the story: “Sacramento Kings pursue overseas investors for development near new arena.” The lead of the story said: “Tapping into a federal program that dangles green cards to wealthy foreigners, the Sacramento Kings are seeking Chinese investment dollars to help finance redevelopment of the site around the new downtown arena.”

For those who dig into this federal program, a less rosy picture emerges. Fortune magazine headlined its story this way: “The dark, disturbing world of the visa-for-sale program.” The lead of the story said: “Whether you’re a skilled technology worker or a poor laborer, it’s getting harder to become a U.S. citizen. But for those with $500,000 to buy their way in, it’s a different matter.”

Officials with the Kings and their development partner, JMA Ventures of San Francisco, recently traveled to China to pitch the redevelopment of Downtown Plaza to potential investors, The Bee said. The Kings and JMA plan to build more than $300 million worth of development near the new Golden 1 Center arena, including a hotel-office tower and a shopping and dining district. The officials hope to entice foreign investors to use a 25-year-old federal program, called EB-5, that gives international investors the right to gain permanent U.S. residence – a green card – in return for hefty investments that create jobs.

Immigrant investors are required to invest $1 million in a general commercial project or $500,000 in a low-income or rural project and show they’ve created at least 10 jobs within about two years to stay in the United States permanently. About 10,000 visas were granted through the program last year, most going to Chinese investors.

Critics are quick to make the moral argument that the United States should not be in the business of selling the right to live in this country. A system that favors the rich over the poor or the middle class is especially repugnant.

Beyond that, the federal immigration agency that oversees the controversial EB-5 investor visa program can’t effectively detect fraud or assess the program’s economic benefits, the Government Accountability Office said in a report this past summer. The agency can’t determine the number of jobs created nor the source of investors’ funds, the GAO said.

That conclusion comes almost two years after a blistering report in 2013 by the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security that drew similar conclusions, the Seattle Times reported.

Because of its troubled past, Congress is currently debating whether to renew authorization for the EB-5 program. In an editorial, the Washington Post urged Congress to end the program.

“Let hotel developers compete for capital in the marketplace like everyone else,” the Post said. “And let the thousands of visas set aside for EB-5 applicants be reassigned to immigrants who are worthy even if they aren’t rich.”

The owners of the Kings and arena developers should be embarrassed to promote such a tainted program.

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“Safe space” won’t solve case of slain Grant High football player

One wonders whether there is a “safe space” for a witness with a troubled conscience.

This would be a person who saw the fatal shooting of Grant High School football player Jaulon Clavo Nov. 13. The 17-year-old Clavo was gunned down in daylight at a busy intersection in the Del Paso Heights neighborhood of Sacramento. He and four other players were making a food run a few hours before game time.

Nicole Clavo, Jaulon’s mother, has made heartfelt plea for a witness in this low-income neighborhood to come forward with information to help the police solve the case.

“I beg you from the core of my soul,” she said. “Someone knows. And they need to come forward. … You should want to come forward. You should want these killers caught. Next time it may be your brother. It may be your sister. It may be your son.”

Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Rod Noorgard said he has no doubt that someone saw the shooting in the well-traveled area. “It could be not wanting to snitch, or not wanting to be involved, or thinking that your information isn’t important. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, it’s time to step up.”

“To stop violence from occurring in our community, we need to stop the cycle of silence,” said Derrell Roberts, a North Sacramento community activist who has led a drive for a reward fund. So far, $15,000 has been raised in the community.

Calls for “safe spaces” have become endemic on college campuses and activist strongholds, as I wrote last week. Individuals who feel threatened because they’re black, gay, transgender or whatever are demanding “a haven from the harsh realities people face in their everyday lives,” said writer and college professor Roxane Gay in a New York Times article.

No doubt a witness to this killing in Del Paso Heights would like to feel safe in bringing crucial information to the police. But that’s not the way it works in the real world. It takes courage to face down killers through our open legal system. One’s identity is likely to become known, and retaliation is a constant threat. Community support for someone perceived as a snitch may be lacking.

Instead of public accountability in this case, we have frightened individuals whispering among themselves in “safe spaces.”

“I’ve heard talk,” Nicole Clavo said. “People are talking in barber shops. They’re talking in beauty shops, in the schools. People are scared, and that’s the problem.”

We don’t need a generation of people hiding out in “safe spaces” and discussing their fears with like-minded people. We need individuals who have the courage to stand up and demand justice in the public arena.



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Searching for words to capture Vietnam experience

One has only learnt to get the better of words

For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which

One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture

Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate

With shabby equipment always deteriorating

In the general mess of imprecision of feeling.

The lines above by the poet T.S. Eliot came to mind the other night as I reflected on my frustration with writing a piece about my Vietnam era experiences. As I mentioned two weeks ago, a group planning activities for my 50th college reunion thought reflections on Vietnam and how it shaped us would elicit interesting discussion.

I’ve trashed a few starts on this subject because they were too chronological, too trapped in the past. I want to convey what I feel now about what I did then – which was to refuse my induction into the Army and struggle with a legal mess for several years. This was the formative event of my young adult years and became the touchstone for my moral views.

In my mind, I did the right thing at the right time. I’m sure some classmates who served in the military feel the same way. We examined our consciences and came up with different conclusions. Were our actions morally equivalent?

I didn’t think that in 1967, and I don’t think that now. More than a million Vietnamese were killed during the war, and 58,000 Americans of my generation. For what? Moral action doesn’t occur in a vacuum.

The angry arguments of that era lie in a minefield in my head, primed to explode. Who wants to go there? For what purpose? My classmates aren’t going to benefit from my judgments any more than I would from their judgments. I’ve been around that baggage for 50 years.

Yet Vietnam fills my head with kaleidoscopic images and internal dialogue. They get mixed in with news stories and photos coming out of Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. The words of Obama and Bush bounce through a sound chamber along with those of Johnson and Nixon. The lies about the Gulf of Tonkin consort with those about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

It’s hard to find the words that convey the changing nature of my Vietnam-era experiences, or to present them in a way that would make my classmates or anyone else want to keep on reading. I think what happened to my generation during the Vietnam era is relevant today, but finding a way to express that is a challenge.

Writing is often a process of self-discovery, and what emerges can be surprising.

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When you take on power, there are no “safe spaces”

I’m not feeling at all sympathetic to the idea of creating “safe spaces” for the growing number of people who feel life has given them a raw deal because they’re black, female, gay, transgender, oppressed campus activists or some other category of perceived victimization.

I slogged through a New York Times piece Sunday that asserted “safe spaces” allow people to feel welcome without being unsafe because of the identities they inhabit. “A safe space is a haven from the harsh realities people face in their everyday lives,” said writer and college professor Roxane Gay.

Such “safe places” have engendered an environment on some campuses where students have to be given “trigger warnings” about books, films or discussions that may contain material related to some traumatic event in their life. “Safe spaces” are places where intellectual arguments are shut down because some ideas are just too painful for students to endure, even if they are going to college to learn how to think.

The idea of “safe spaces” has gained traction far beyond the insular college world. I went to a seminar a while back on how bloggers could expand their audience. The discussion quickly devolved into complaints about Internet trolls who were wounding the feelings of budding bloggers by posting nasty comments on their writing.

I thought the seminar “experts” would get the discussion back on track, but instead they commiserated with the wounded writers and suggested ways they could limit their readership to trusted friends and supporters.

As a longtime journalist and blogger who has suffered his share of unpleasantness from readers, I accept praise and condemnation as the way the marketplace of ideas and opinions operates. I think it’s important to try to create a climate of acceptability for a variety of ideas.

Sunday, I went to see the film “Suffragette,” a tough-minded look at the price paid by British working-class women who fought for the right to vote before World War 1. This is not a feel-good movie where right defeats might as trumpets sound. Instead, it’s a depiction of how the lives and spirits of these women were ground down by the harsh fight against entrenched male power. Victory was a long time coming for British women who fought the good fight.

Back in the 1960s and ’70s, I don’t recall “safe places” for those who fought for civil rights, feminism, gay rights or an end to the Vietnam War. These activists took risks and suffered pain for causes they believed in. They knew the real world doesn’t offer “safe spaces” for those denied their rights. You have to get out there and fight for them.

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Appeasing DeMarcus Cousins is a losing tactic

Insanity is doing the same stupid thing over and over but expecting a different result.

It should be clear by now that appeasing DeMarcus Cousins brings nothing but losing seasons to Sacramento. It should be evident that undermining good coaches will deprive them of the control needed to produce a winning team. And it is unlikely that anything will change until fans vote with their feet and boycott the soap opera produced and directed by primary owner Vivek Ranadive.

Fans should remember that Ranadive foolishly gave Cousins a $62 million contract extension and lost any possibility of control over this self-centered malcontent. Then Ranadive confused his success in the tech world with basketball expertise. He publicly bragged how he had transformed his 12-year-old daughter’s hapless basketball team into a winner by utilizing an uptempo style. Ranadive got rid of coach Michael Malone, who catered to Cousins’ half-court game. He eventually brought in a good uptempo coach in George Karl and told him to get Cousins to sacrifice his offensive stats for the good of the team.

That’s crazy. What incentive does Cousins have to do this? Absolutely none. Cousins has shown year after year he is not a team player. This week, when Cousins vented his anger in a profanity-laced tirade aimed at his coach, Ranadive and general manager Vlade Divac let him get away with it. Instead of backing up Karl, who reportedly wanted to suspend Cousins for two games, they appeased Cousins and reinforced his toxic tantrums.

Ranadive, according to today’s Sacramento Bee, is being pressured by minority owners of the Kings to improve the product before the new downtown arena opens in October. The Kings will never be a first-class team with Cousins at the center of it. Unless they’re crazy, fans should know this by now and start demanding that Cousins be traded.

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