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Columns

  • Supreme Court to Obama Administration: Congress writes laws, you don't

    Now that the dust has settled on the Supreme Court’s 2014 session, we can look at the decisions and conclude that the Obama Administration received a serious smack down. Two big cases got most of the news coverage: Hobby Lobby and the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) recess appointments. In both cases, the administration lost. At the core of both, is the issue of the administration’s overreach.
    Within the cases the Supreme Court heard, one had to do with energy: Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG) v. Environmental Protection Agency — and it, too, offered a rebuke.
    The UARG v. EPA decision came down on June 23. The decision was mixed — with both sides claiming victory. Looking closely, there is cause for optimism from all who question the president’s authority to rewrite laws.
    A portion of the UARG v. EPA case was about the EPA’s “Tailoring Rule” in which it “tailored” a statutory provision in the Clean Air Act — designed to regulate traditional pollutants such as particulate matter — to make it work for CO2. In effect, the EPA wanted to rewrite the law to achieve its goals. The decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia for the majority, stated:

  • A tailored approach needed to market N.M. Hispanics

    Doing business in New Mexico requires an awareness of — and sensitivity to — the attitudes and preferences of people who identify as Hispanic or Latino, because this demographic represents a plurality of New Mexico’s population. Hispanics are 47 percent of the state’s residents — the largest percentage of any other racial or ethnic group.
    In its annual statewide perception survey, the Garrity Group learned how Hispanics and Anglos feel about 17 industries and institutions and 14 professions and how people in both groups use different media for news, information and shopping.
    Likenesses and differences
    In some areas, the positive feelings of Hispanics and Anglos toward various institutions weren’t far apart. For example, both groups had similar feelings about the health-care system, with Hispanics expressing 52 percent favorability and Anglos 46 percent. Both groups also had poor opinions of journalists and lawyers.

  • Kit Carson left a complicated and controversial legacy

    Kit Carson Park in Taos will have a new name.
    The local argument over the name is one of those debates New Mexicans have from time to time that shows our lingering sensitivities. Navajos have strong feelings about the man, but let’s look more closely at the person and the place.
    Kit Carson was a man of his time. The frontiersman and trapper scouted for explorer John C. Fremont, fought in the Civil War and served as Indian agent. He once testified, “I think, as a general thing, the difficulties (with Indians) arise from aggressions on the part of the whites.”
    In 1862, Gen. James Carleton ordered Carson to attack Mescaleros, kill all the men and capture women and children. It was a brutal campaign, but Carson ignored the order to kill all the men, and the Mescaleros became the first to occupy the Bosque Redondo reservation on the Pecos.
    The next year Carleton ordered Carson to round up Navajos. Carson didn’t want to lead the campaign and tried to resign, but Carleton cajoled him into staying. In “Blood and Thunder,” author Hampton Sides describes how Carson grimly carried out the ruthless, scorched-earth campaign that Carleton demanded. After troops destroyed their crops, livestock and orchards, the starving Navajos surrendered.

  • Divorcing? Protect your finances, personal data

    No doubt you’ve seen many warnings against sharing personal or financial information with strangers, but what about your spouse — or ex-spouse? A recent study by McAfee uncovered some unsettling results:
    • Although 96 percent of adults surveyed trust their significant other with passwords, intimate photos and other personal content, only 32 percent have asked their ex to delete the information when ending the relationship.
    • One in five people said they’re likely to log into their spouse’s Facebook account at least once a month.
    • Some 30 percent admitted they’d “cyber-stalked” their significant other’s ex on social media.
    Given the high rate of divorce and how frequently marriages end acrimoniously, it’s not a big leap to think that a scorned lover could severely damage your credit and reputation. If you’re getting divorced, here are some important legal, financial and privacy considerations:
    If you and your spouse are in complete agreement on how you wish to divide assets and settle debts, you may be able get by with a do-it-yourself divorce kit. It’s still wise to have a divorce attorney review the forms to make sure you haven’t overlooked anything.

  • Oil boom in New Mexico? Well, we knew that already

    Thoughts from ConocoPhillips count for New Mexico. That’s because CP accounts for around 40 percent of the gas produced in the San Juan Basin and has at least two locations in Farmington with three nice looking offices and sundry outbuildings.
    A CP senior economist, Helen Currie, brought her Ph.D. to Farmington July 9 to outline the outlook for oil and gas markets. Her audience was 25 or so legislators attending a joint meeting of the Legislative Finance Committee and the Revenue Stabilization and Tax Policy committee.
    A national overlay is an oil boom in New Mexico. Our oil production is way up — Currie expects maybe another 30 percent growth by 2020 — Currie just didn’t call it a boom.
    In the state briefs section July 10, USA Today said, “Federal statistics show that (New Mexico) is in the midst of an oil boom. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said New Mexico, North Dakota and Wyoming were the largest crude oil producers on federal and tribal land during the 2013 fiscal year.”

  • Fighting Internet injustice in rural N.M.

    The digital divide in America — those who do and those who do not have access to the Internet — runs especially deep in rural New Mexico. Is it digital injustice or just the painfully slow development of the necessary infrastructure?
    Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, visited New Mexico recently. He confronted that question and a challenge on the confusing issue of net neutrality, the argument over whether some content providers can get favorable high-speed access to the network at the expense of other users. Though he spoke with obvious conviction, some audience members were unsatisfied with his answers.
    After visiting Acoma Pueblo, Wheeler spoke and answered questions at a forum sponsored by the New Mexico Media Literacy Project and other organizations belonging to the New Mexico Digital Justice Coalition.
    “Digital Justice” is fighting terminology. It implies that the lack of access is a political decision rather than the absence of resources.

  • 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.