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Columns

  • Opinion: Justice still awaits family of woman slain by cop

    Just off the heels of the Albuquerque Police Department’s evaluations by the Department of Justice, the family of a woman, who was a victim of a state police officer’s excessive violence, rallied together April 11 in to get justice for a life that was cut short.
    Jeanette Anaya, 39, was driving along a Santa Fe street Nov. 7, when State Police Officer Oliver Wilson attempted to stop her for making a “wobbly” right turn. Anaya did not stop and Wilson gave pursuit. Dashboard camera show the pursuit and the police car slam into Anaya’s vehicle. Wilson then got out of his cruiser, ran along side of Anaya’s vehicle and fired 16 shots — two of them killing Anaya. There are conflicting stories on whether the passenger in Anaya’s car was injured, at least physically.
    I knew Jeanette and her family well. From what it seems to me is, she panicked for whatever reason and fled in the direction of her home. When the officer hit her car, the camera shows (at least to me) that she is still trying to get away, not run the cop over as he said.

  • Transparency: Easy to say, harder to do

    Transparency is hard. Just ask the governor, who is now learning, as her predecessors did, that one of the sacrifices of her job is privacy.
    In the latest skirmish of the transparency wars, Gov. Susana Martinez called out a Democratic lawmaker for using a legislative agency to dig dirt on a political opponent.
    Some perspective: The Slurpy hit the fan last month after the governor tried to restrict the Legislature’s two biggest watchdogs, the Legislative Finance Committee and the Legislative Education Study Committee, by requiring them to go through her chief of staff for information. A torrent of criticism from the media and both parties forced the governor to uncuff the committees.
    This happened just after Sunshine Week, a media event that reminds elected officials to keep their cards on the table and their decisions out in the open.
    Coverage of this controversy was interesting. The Albuquerque Journal, which has been so blatantly pro-Martinez as to sacrifice its credibility, blasted the administration for this move. Even red-county newspapers have noted the long fall from grace of the governor who campaigned on transparency. (To be fair, the Legislature has its own transparency blind spots, but that’s another column.)
    We’re seeing more public records challenges.

  • Reining in all prom expenses

    If you’ve got teenagers, you already know how expensive high school can be. Besides food, clothing and school supplies, a whole host of extracurricular activities are competing for a share of your wallet — even as you frantically try to save for college and your own retirement.
    One of the biggest expenses you’ll encounter is prom. Gone are the days of borrowing dad’s suit and crepe paper streamers in the school gym: Today’s proms are often more like a Hollywood premiere with limousines, designer gowns and swanky after-parties.
    I’m not kidding. According to a recent nationwide survey conducted by Visa Inc., the average U.S. family with a high school student attending the prom expects to spend $978 this year. Surprisingly, that’s down 14 percent from last year’s survey average of $1,139 per family.
    A few other interesting statistics the survey uncovered:
    • On average, parents plan to pay for about 56 percent of prom costs, with their kids picking up the remaining 44 percent.
    • Parents in lower income brackets (less than $50,000 a year) plan to spend an average of $733 — a considerable share of the family budget. Thankfully, that’s down significantly from last year’s $1,245 estimate.

  • Supremes take another whack at campaign reforms

    “This deeply flawed Supreme Court decision continues down a path that equates money with speech and corporations with people.”
    Thus did New Mexico’s United States Sen. Martin Heinrich’s react to the high court’s McCutcheon v. FEC 5-4 decision earlier this month that pounded another nail in the coffin of this nation’s campaign finance reform laws.
    Taken in tandem with the court’s 2010 ruling Citizens United (also by a 5-4 decision), practically all significant laws passed in recent years calculated to rein in the billion dollar orgy of campaign money with which corporations and big moneyed interests contrive to buy and sell influence in Congress and state Houses across the land are kaput.
    As presently composed, five of the nine members of whom the Supreme Court consists are rigidly conservative, as that term is generally construed today. That same group of five justices is routinely activist, bent on interpreting the laws they are called upon to adjudicate in ways other than originally intended and sometimes even contrary to intentions.
    It is this predilection of the current court majority that Sen. Heinrich critiques when he decries the equating of money with speech and corporations with people.

  • Poor economy makes people leave N.M.

    The worst state economy in the nation is right here in New Mexico. Albuquerqueans are very good at divorce. People are leaving the state.
    These things go together.
    Having the worst state economy means tying Kentucky for the nation’s leading wage-job loss percentage between February 2013 and February 2014, according to the Labor Market Review, the newsletter of the state Department of Workforce Solutions released April 4, late in that day after potential readers had gone home. DWS buried the news —it’s an election year, after all — leaving it at the bottom (where else?) of a table on page 16.
    We lost 0.2 percent of our wage jobs, or 1,900, over the year. Virginia was the only other state losing jobs. The losses concentrated in Albuquerque, which reported 4,500 fewer jobs, a 1.2 percent drop.
    Maybe it was newly divorced people leaving town.
    Men’s Health magazine ranked divorce propensity in 100 cities. Albuquerque placed 99th, followed only by Charleston, W.Va. Joe Queenan, described as “a humorist” by the Wall Street Journal, which hosts his column, called the bottom 10 “blighted burgs.”

  • Pet Talk: Alternatives to debarking surgery

    Debarking surgery is quite the controversy in pet news today. Is it inhumane? Do the possible risks outweigh the perceived benefits? These are viable questions to ask when considering debarking surgery to control your dog’s chronic barking. However, with April being the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, it is also important to recognize the numerous available non-surgical alternatives that are said to be safer and even more effective by veterinarians and trainers alike.
    As decipherable from the name, debarking surgery is the act of surgically disabling your dog from producing a loud, barking sound. “Although the procedure is called ‘debarking,’ it does not result in the inability for the dog to produce any sound at all,” said Dr. Kelley Thieman, a clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “Instead, the dog has a muffled quality to its bark, and in time could even regain the ability to bark.”  

  • The sky is the limit

    At the end of World War II, our nation was broke. The money owed by our government exceeded the nation’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) by 20 percent. We literally owed more than we produced in an entire year.
     And yet times were good. The nation found itself in an era of prosperity, and the National Debt was a topic of rare discussion.
     You would think that enduring a debt of $259 billion would paralyze a rational thinker. But society is oddly capable of burying concerns like this along with the tens of millions killed, and moving forward with its focus on commerce and industry.
     If people had in fact been more conscious of the debt, they may not have actually minded. For you see, the nation was growing (both in population and in power) and the National Debt was shrinking.
     Well, for a few years anyway. From 1945-1948, the National Debt declined to $252 billion. Back then, people laughed when politicians boasted of the debt’s decline, noting that a 7 percent decrease was nothing to brag about. But today having the debt shrink by 7 percent would be earth shattering news.

  • Priorities regarding energy independence

    If the goal is “energy independence,” what issues should be a priority in America?
    Recently, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) sent out a “2014 Priority Issues Survey” which contained a section on energy.
    Section VII, asks: “Which of the following will help America achieve energy independence?” It offers five options that do little to move America toward energy independence — which isn’t even a realistic goal given the fungible nature of liquid fuels. Additionally, most of the choices given on the DCCC survey actually increase energy costs for all Americans — serving as a hidden tax — but hurt those on the lower end of the socio-economic scale the most. The proposals hurt the very people the party purports to champion.
    The survey asks respondents to “check all that apply.”
    • Raising gas mileage standards for all new cars and trucks
    If it were technologically possible to build a cost-effective truck, or SUV that had the size and safety Americans want and that got 54.5 mpg, that manufacturer would have the car-buying public beating a path to its door. Every car company would love to be the one to corner that market — but it is not easy, it probably won’t be possible, and it surely won’t be cheap.

  • Spend your tax refund wisely

    Last year the IRS doled out over 110 million income tax refunds averaging $2,803. Another way to look at it is that collectively, Americans overpaid their taxes by nearly $310 billion in 2012.
    Part of that is understandable: If you don’t have enough tax withheld throughout the year through payroll deductions or quarterly estimated tax payments, you’ll be hit with an underpayment penalty come April 15. But the flip side is that by over-withholding, you’re essentially giving the government an interest-free loan throughout the year.
    If you ordinarily receive large tax refunds, consider withholding less and instead putting the money to work for you, by either saving or investing a comparable amount throughout the year, or using it to pay down debt. Your goal should be to receive little or no refund.
    Ask your employer for a new W-4 form and recalculate your withholding allowance using the IRS’ Withholding Calculator (irs.gov).
    This is also a good idea whenever your pay or family situation changes significantly (e.g., pay increase, marriage, divorce, new child, etc.) IRS Publication 919 can guide you through the decision-making process.
    Meanwhile, if you do get a hefty refund this year, before blowing it all on something you really don’t need, consider these options:

  • Political words: 'Stop at nothing,' 'Fire,' 'Journey.'

    Political types write funny. Not funny, ha, ha, but funny strange. One example is that all the opponents are “failedpolicies,” as if the alleged failing are one word. Or for the left, “waronwomen.” Fate placed me on some political email lists. Punishment for sins.
    Rep. Ron Barber of Tucson, Ariz., does it best. Emails come most days. Rather than running on his record, he has decided the conservative mega-rich Koch brothers are the problem. The March 31 email says, “Harold — I’m sorry for being so blunt.”
    Barber emails usually close with a pitch for money, often three dollars, which seems an odd amount. Clearly the advisors have decided three dollars makes for a soft enough touch that recipients will help Barber hold the line against the Kochs.
    An art exists to all this. Solicitations are to start with an attention grabbing invocation of the apocalypse and close with asking for money.
    In a March 25 blog post, Steve Terrell, political writer at The Santa Fe New Mexican, reported results of a poll that said Attorney General Gary King led the five Democrats running for governor with 34 percent. Then it was Sen. Howie Morales, 15 percent; Sen. Linda Lopez, 13 percent; Lawrence Rael, seven percent; Alan Weber, five percent.