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Columns

  • Let the immigrants stay

    Virtually all commentary about the influx of unaccompanied Central American children into the United States, which some say could rise to 90,000 this year, misses the point: no government has the moral authority to capture these kids and send them back to the miserable situations they have escaped.
    This claim will strike many people as outrageous. So I ask, where does government get the moral authority — I’m not talking about legal power — to apprehend and detain human beings of any age who have committed aggression against no one? There is no such authority.
    These children are human beings. Whether they are coming here to be with family or to escape danger, they have the same natural rights as Americans have. Our rights can be expressed in many ways, but they boil down to just one: the right to be free from aggression.
    We have this right not by virtue of being American, but by virtue of being human. It is a natural, not national, right, so these young Hondurans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans have it too. Locking them up and deporting them should offend Americans, who claim to believe in the natural right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. (Did the Fourth of July have any meaning, or was it just a day off from work?)

  • Man uses mentoring as way of giving back

    When Chris McLaughlin was 5 years old, he underwent surgery to address partial hearing loss from an ear infection and resultant scar-tissue tumors.
    When he was 9, he lost most of his hearing after another surgery. Chris had been a “cool” kid with lots of friends and involved in sports, but when he showed up at school wearing hearing aids that in the technology-of-the-day resembled large music headphones, he felt different and was treated differently. Sports weren’t fun wearing a large headset with a speaker box, and he couldn’t hear without it. At first kids thought he was a rebel for wearing “music headphones” in school. Chris quickly adopted that persona. And then he began isolating himself.
    When Chris was 11, his father passed away. His mother mourned alone in her room and shortly afterward turned her attention to dating. Chris coped with his father’s loss alone. And still dealing with being different, he took to keeping a book in his hand at school, or went to the library so that he didn’t have to socialize.

  • Crawlix, nittles and quimps, oh my...

    One of my favorite scenes in “Doc Hollywood” is when Dr. Benjamin Stone (Michael J. Fox) gets frustrated and used the f-word. The deputy says, “Watch your language, Doc! You’re in the buckle of the Bible belt here. Try saying fudge or something.”
    Stone replies, “Fiddlesticks too strong?”
    Now, what does define a word as being “too strong” of a curse? If you stub your toe in Mississippi and scream “Fudge!” would anyone within earshot not know what you’re really saying?
    If you say one thing and mean another, you really just outsourcing the vulgarity. Like yelling “Sugar!” when you’re late for work and as you are getting into your car, you see that you have a flat tire.
    People use “sugar” as a term of endearment to their sweetheart. So how do you really know what your honey is saying to you when he calls you that?
    Holy fudge! Can you believe that sugar? What a dagnabbit snickerdoodle!
    Let’s face it, profanity is engrained in our culture. That’s a really sugary thought when you think about it.
    Euphemisms aside, one of the worst offenders of potty-mouth syndrome is the movie industry. Even films geared towards children contain “a little vulgarity.”

  • Accion's Presto Loans offer quick, affordable credit to small businesses

    Small businesses in need of a quick, modest-sized loan often have little choice but to turn to high-cost, yet easy to access, alternative credit products. But New Mexico business borrowers have a new option.
    Accion had long been looking for ways to speed up the process of making microloans to borrowers who don’t qualify for loans from traditional lenders and need a relatively small amount of money to take advantage of a time-sensitive business opportunity. Accion also wanted to help businesses respond quickly when faced with an urgent need.
    Almost a year ago, the nonprofit lender began piloting quick-turnaround “Presto Loans” of $8,000 or less with interested applicants. The pilot project was a success — with 285 loans totaling $939,000 — and Accion has recently cemented its offering of Presto Loans, moving toward a one-hour turnaround time from loan application to funding by the end of the year.
    The Presto Loan works by using technological advances to streamline loan processing, according to Metta Smith, director of lending and client relations at Accion’s Albuquerque office.

  • A perfect storm at our southern border

    The crisis that has erupted at our southern border is a direct and all-too-predictable result of the President Barack Obama administration’s feckless immigration policies. But there is a deeper cause as well, one for which Republicans and religious conservatives share blame.
    Encouraged by the rumors they hear of Uncle Sam’s leniency and largesse, an exodus of many tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America, joined by pregnant women and mothers bearing small children, is leaving that troubled region behind. They are pouring into our country not just unchecked, but indeed aided and abetted by the very same federal authorities — handing out bus tickets, no less! — who once sought to turn them back.
    Rather than avoiding Border Patrol agents, these illegal crossers are actually seeking them out. Who wouldn’t? Welcome to Obama’s version of a kinder and gentler — and lawless — America.
    What is the proximate cause of this upsurge? The Center for Immigration Studies’ Mark Krikorian puts it best: the administration’s “various de facto amnesties for illegal aliens and its permissive enforcement practices.”

  • Changing faces of feminism: They're younger and more diverse

    As I entered the hotel, a reporter was asking a woman how feminism had changed over the years. I attended the National Organization for Women’s national convention in Albuquerque last week to answer that question for myself.
    The next day’s newspaper headlines shot back one answer: DeBaca County may elect the state’s first female sheriff since the 1960s. And she’s gay, but that hasn’t been an issue in her campaign.
    More answers: The Supreme Court ruled that a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics is unconstitutional. The Supremes themselves have a 100-foot buffer zone. They also decided that the beliefs of a corporation, Hobby Lobby, are more important than a woman’s need for contraception.
    “There are three things we can do,” said President Terry O’Neill, “vote, vote, vote.”
    I’ve been a NOW member for decades but never attend events. Many of us think we’re doing our bit through career choices, voting, and raising strong daughters and open-minded sons. Still, this was an opportunity to tune back in.

  • Read fine print carefully before signing contracts

    If you always stop to read the fine print before signing anything, congratulations — your parents trained you well. If you don’t, beware: Your signature could commit you to a long-term gym membership you don’t really want, an apartment you can’t afford or worst of all, paying off someone else’s loan you cosigned.
    Broadly defined, contracts are mutually binding agreements between two or more parties to do — or not do — something. It could be as simple as buying coffee (you pay $3 and the restaurant agrees to serve you a drinkable beverage), or as complex as signing a 30-year mortgage.
    Once a contract is in force it generally cannot be altered unless all parties agree. And, with very few exceptions (e.g., if deception or fraud took place), contracts cannot easily be broken.
    Before you enter a contractual agreement, try to anticipate everything that might possibly go wrong. For example:
    After you’ve leased an apartment you decide you can’t afford the rent or don’t like the neighborhood.
    Your roommate moves out, leaving you responsible for the rest of the lease.
    You finance a car you can’t afford, but when you try to sell, it’s worth less than your outstanding loan balance.

  • Disconnect: World fame, excellence nation’s worst state economy

    “Santa Fe, N.M.,” the newspaper dateline said. The story resided on page one of the June 30 issue. The publication was the Wall Street Journal, which has the nation’s second largest newspaper circulation at 2.3 million (including 900,000 for the digital version) for the six months ending March 31.
    Ignoring the digital edition where the story was not prominent, that means 1.4 million newspapers, nearly all with page one given at least a glance, and the words “Santa Fe, N.M.” presented in a positive business context.
    The story was about Bill Miller, a mutual fund manager who has been way, way up (becoming, the story said, “the best stock picker in the business”), way, way down and now is back up. Miller lives in Baltimore, Md., and Vero Beach, Fla., but he comes to Santa Fe occasionally as chairman emeritus of the Santa Fe Institute and a major SFI donor.
    The 30-year-old SFI (santafe.edu) is a place with employees and resident faculty and a network of “external faculty” stretching round the world. A research institute, SFI does the science of complex adaptive systems.

  • Susana feasts on Dems' state chair

    Unless every last New Mexico Democrat with any influence whatsoever has suddenly fallen victim to persistent and pervasive masochism, Sam Bregman’s days as state party chairman are numbered.
    Aren’t they? Doesn’t everything we know about politics and the logic thereof dictate that he must either leave his post voluntarily or face pressure from those top state Democrats capable of rational election year thought to resign his chairmanship?
    The miracle is that prominent Democrats up for election or reelection this year — Tom Udall, Ben Ray Luján, Michele Luján Grisham, Hector Balderas, the whole lot of them, including Gary King — haven’t already quietly taken Bregman by the neck and given him the boot.
    Admittedly the metaphor is mixed. But Bregman has become the main course in the buffet of campaign hash Susana Martinez has been serving New Mexico voters since primary election day when she walked away with her party’s nomination for a second term as governor.
    Who knows what’s fair and what’s not in today’s political climate?

  • From the battlefield to the VA hospital

    In 1974, a group of disabled Vietnam War veterans in wheelchairs staged a 17-day hunger strike in Los Angeles to protest poor treatment in veterans’ hospitals. They demanded better treatment for returning veterans and an investigation.
    And just seven years ago patient neglect at Walter Reed Army Medical Center burst into the news. These and other cases took the same course: finger pointing, congressional indignation, investigations, resignations and reforms.
    Just like today.
    For a little more perspective on VA and military hospitals, I called my friend Jerry, a Vietnam veteran who’s been a recent patient at VA hospitals in Albuquerque and Tucson, Ariz.
    “I just went to the VA, and there were people there from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, and Iraq and Afghanistan. If we hadn’t gone into Iraq, the VA wouldn’t be overwhelmed.