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Columns

  • Opening up primary elections … or not

    There is a good chance that state Sen. Bill O’Neill and state Rep. Emily Kane, both Albuquerque Democrats, will be reelected this fall and soon thereafter find themselves once more at the Roundhouse for another 60-day legislative session.
    Which leaves the rest of us ample time to reflect upon legislation they intend to propose at the 2015 Legislature that would substantially change the nature of primary elections in New Mexico.
    Primary elections were widely adopted by the states in the last century as a way of breaking the stranglehold powerful and often corrupt political bosses had in deciding who would be allowed to run for public offices under the banners of the two major parties.
    It was the reformers’ idea that registered members of those parties should be able to go to the polls in a primary election and decide such matters for themselves. Thus, for decades now in states across the country, registered Democrats and registered Republican pick the candidates who will appear on their general election ballots.
    But times and party registration change. As noted a couple of weeks ago in this column, there are today almost as many registered voters who are neither Republican nor Democratic as there are registered Democrats and Republicans combined.

  • Mission creep in Iraq

    There are several reasons not to intervene militarily in another country’s conflict, even modestly. One is the potential for mission creep.
    We already could detect the signs of mission creep in Iraq. Now, with the stepped-up United States airstrikes after the Islamic State’s horrific execution of American reporter James Foley, the signs are clearer than ever.
    On Aug. 7, President Barack Obama said that the U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq were to protect Americans from the Islamic State’s threat to the Kurdish city of Erbil, where the U.S. government has a consulate. He also said Americans would be protected anywhere in Iraq, including Baghdad. Finally, he said airstrikes would be part of a humanitarian mission to save “thousands — perhaps tens of thousands” — of Yezidis who were trapped and desperate on Mount Sinjar.
    But in later statements Obama intimated that he had other objectives.

  • Liability, strategy concerns help business owners pick structure

    The form a new business should take isn’t always obvious. Though many self-employed entrepreneurs begin as sole proprietors, an individual can structure her business in many other ways. The best structure is the one that fits her business’s strategy and size and offers the greatest protection from liability and taxes.
    Flying solo
    A sole proprietorship, the simplest business form, is logical for many startups or solo professionals, such as consultants, private investigators, or freelance writers. In a sole proprietorship, the business is not separate from the owner and his business income and losses are included on his personal tax returns.
    A sole proprietor often has little overhead, and personal assets are used in the business. He operates under his own name or creates a “doing business as” moniker. Because the sole proprietor is personally responsible for all his business’s debts and liabilities, he might want to incorporate or become a limited liability company to protect his assets.
    A sole proprietor rarely has to do more than obtain a business license and gross receipts tax number, but his business type might require registration with licensing authorities.
    Choosing partners

  • Signs that your pet needs to see a vet

    Though our pets may pet may dread the veterinarian, there are many instances when a trip to the local animal hospital or clinic is essential to their health. Since Fido can’t express to you in words when he isn’t feeling himself, there are many symptoms you can look out for to help determine if it’s time for a vet visit.   
    “It is most important to remember that everything should be taken within the context of the other signs,” said Dr. Jean Rubanick, veterinary resident instructor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (CVM). “Basically, if there are multiple signs, then taking a pet to the vet is indicated.”
    Some common signs of irregularity may include extreme lethargy, increased respiratory rate, profuse vomiting or diarrhea, anorexia, or increased drinking and urinating. While these are most widely recognized as indicators for veterinary attention, some symptoms may be more unique and less recognizable.
    “Abnormal circling (not to be confused with the occasional circling of an excited dog), head pressing, seizures, inability to rise, weakness, respiratory distress, changes in the gum color, and bubbles coming from the nose are some other sign to look out for,” Rubanick said.

  • Benefit of the doubt

    Like many people, I seem all too willing to criticize people I’ve never met simply because they do something that irritates me. It’s hard not to want to lash out when you interpret someone’s behavior solely from internal feelings rather than considering unknown external factors that may be in play.
    Social psychology theory refers to this tendency as the “fundamental attribution error.”
    For example, when I see someone pushing a baby carriage down the side of the street instead of using the sidewalk, my first inclination is to ask them if they chewed paint chips as a hobby when they were young. I find myself getting mad that someone would risk the safety of a child like that.
    But maybe the parent knows something I don’t know. Maybe the kid is the spawn of Satan and they’re just trying to save us from an apocalypse.
    Of course, some days I think we could really use an apocalypse or two. It would definitely ease congestion on the roads in the morning.

  • Identity thieves target kids as well as adults

    I’m sorry to report that child identity fraud is alive and well in 2014. If anything, the problem may be worsening as identity thieves devise new methods to steal — and use — children’s personal information. Most commonly, they’ll harvest kids’ dormant Social Security numbers and use them to illegally obtain jobs or open fraudulent bank and credit accounts, mortgages, or car loans.
    Many victims don’t realize there’s a problem until they later apply for a student loan, bank account, job or apartment and are turned down because of the poor credit history someone else racked up. Some families are even hounded by collection agencies or arrested because the debts or criminal activities were so extreme.
    There are no completely foolproof methods to protect your children’s identities, but here are some precautions you can take:
    While it’s tempting to simply not register your kids for SSNs until they turn 18, that’s not practical in today’s world. For one thing, they’ll need one to be claimed as dependents on your taxes. You may also need SSNs for your kids to obtain medical coverage or government services or to open bank accounts in their names.

  • N.M. businesses join national Manufacturing Day initiative

    Manufacturing Day is catching on in New Mexico, with more and more manufacturers lining up to represent the state in a national day of recognition for businesses that make products in America.
    Events are planned at more than a dozen facilities in nine New Mexico communities. Last year, the first time New Mexico participated, seven producers hosted events in three cities.
    New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership — the primary sponsor of statewide events — is scheduling tours in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho, Hobbs, Silver City, Deming, Farmington, Las Cruces and from Santa Fe to Taos. Each region has a designated day to participate between Oct. 1 and Oct. 3, with kickoffs set for Oct. 1 in Hobbs and the Albuquerque metro area.
    Who’s on board?
    Nineteen businesses have committed to public or private tours, but many more are considering participation in this important event.

  • Cost of keeping LA a green community

    Fourth of a series
    One of the major issues in this town is water: do we have enough to keep this a green community, at an affordable cost? Since I was elected to County Council two years ago, I have been gathering facts about water in Los Alamos. Much of this information is in the “2006 Long Range Water Supply Plan for Los Alamos County”, on the county website at losalamosnm.us/utilities/Documents/Reports/Long-RangePln_8-06_for%20Web%20posting.pdf.
    If we can agree on the facts and the uncertainties, I think the citizens of Los Alamos are likely to agree on good plans and policy regarding water. Here, I will discuss our water supply and demand, threats to our water supply, possible future water needs, and some ideas on responsible water policy for Los Alamos. I welcome any additional facts and thoughts on the subject.
    Responsible Water Plans and Policy

  • American intervention will only heighten already-present violence

    Nearly a century ago, after four bloody years of World War I, British colonialists created the state of Iraq, complete with their hand-picked monarch. Britain and France were authorized — or, more precisely, authorized themselves — to create states in the Arab world, despite the prior British promise of independence in return for the Arabs’ revolt against the Ottoman Turks, which helped the Allied powers defeat the Central powers. And so European countries drew lines in the sand without much regard for the societies they were constructing from disparate sectarian, tribal, and ethnic populations.
    Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations declared that former colonies of the defeated powers “are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world.” These included the Arabs (and others) in Mesopotamia (Iraq) and the Levant (today’s Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine/Israel). Because they were not ready for independence and self-government, the covenant stated, their “well-being and development” should be “entrusted to advanced nations who … can best undertake this responsibility.”

  • Business owners can learn to get their groove back

    Life for a business owner is exhilarating and dynamic, especially in the beginning, as the plan is set in motion and a product or service begins its path to market. The unpredictability of this journey is part of the reason it’s so stimulating to start and build a business, but maintaining that level of excitement and drive can be challenging when the business’s evolution doesn’t unfold according to plan.
    When initial funding from family or an investor runs out before benchmarks are met, a startup owner can worry about her ability to repay investors and stay on track. Even businesses that reach the second stage of maturity can stumble — say, when a large account goes to a competitor, or a product doesn’t find traction.
    No matter where the business is in its life cycle, the owner has a lot at stake, as do his investors and employees. To keep his head clear, the business owner has to be motivated by something other than fear of failure.
    Dangerous doldrums
    A business owner who loses her passion for what she does will have trouble putting in the time and energy to start or sustain a company — especially when it’s just getting off the ground and 16-hour days are typical.