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Columns

  • Governor keeping state government lean

    Gov. Susana Martinez has pleased almost everyone with her trimming of political appointees in state government. The only people not happy are a few politicos who hoped for jobs.
    The target number for Martinez originally was to cut appointees from over 500, which former Gov. Bill Richardson had during most of his administration, to the 320 former Gov. Gary Johnson had before he left office.
    But focus by Republicans on Richardson’s appointees, beginning over a year ago, caused Richardson to start cutting his appointees back so it wouldn’t be a campaign issue and wouldn’t tarnish his legacy.

  • Understanding fire dynamics

    There is a personal irony associated with the Las Conchas and Cerro Grande fires.
    Meanwhile, the jury is out on forest recovery and what the future holds for unburned parts of our beloved Jemez Mountains, especially if prolonged drought, a return to drier norms or, as many fear, global warming, continue the wildfire legacy begun with the 1996 Dome Fire.
    Las Conchas also begs the question of when mountain homeowners will “get it,” that they must realize that that proliferation of often sick, stunted trees snuggled near their homes is dangerous — and unnatural.  
    Too, there is the dangerous trend in many subdivisions of narrow, winding roads bordered by heavy timber.

  • Memories from Nagasaki

    NAGASAKI  1945 — Decision time had come. Do we invade the main islands of Japan or do we drop atomic bombs? There were strong feelings on both sides.
    But most of our political and military leaders came down on the side of the bomb. America was heavily committed to the Manhattan Project.
    It had cost $2 billion and had been run on a breakneck, two year schedule to be ready prior to the Japanese invasion.
    We’d done it. The bombs were ready. As Robert Oppenheimer, the project’s scientific director, put it “The decision (to use the bombs) was implicit in the project.”

  • Clubbing kids is fun

    Parents — do you want your child to learn more than what is usually taught in school?  
    Well then, my advice is that you should club your kid. Yeah, at least once a week — a good clubbing makes all the difference in the world.   
    Over the past few years, I’ve clubbed dozens of students every week.  Usually, I employ geometric logic or a good algebraic conundrum to get their attention.  
    Of course, I’m talking about the Math Club.  You don’t have to be a geek to have fun with math, and students find that they can answer some very tricky questions with ease.  
    Like, how many seconds are in a year?  Well, there’s January 2nd.  February 2nd.  March 2nd.

  • Following the sewage

    Out of sight, out of mind. (At my age, alas, I no longer live within the confines of that dictum. I can forget, misplace and overlook things that are smack in front of my face. But I digress.)
    What many folks can’t see they can indeed overlook. And all too many Americans have never seen what happens to the water that flows down the kitchen sink and out of the house.
    But with each load of laundry or flush of the toilet, we create wastewater that’s mingled together and heads toward treatment plants.
    The average American makes 100 gallons of wastewater per day.
    While it’s natural to think that sewage water is icky, it’s also a fact that sewage is natural – and it’s even interesting from a biological point of view.

  • Secrecy obsession is no longer part of the equation

    Should the Manhattan Project that produced the world’s first atomic bomb be made part of the U.S. national park system?
    The answer in most of the country is disbelief that our proud nation has taken over 60 years to get anywhere close to recognizing its role in the birth of the Atomic Age.
    But the answer in much of Santa Fe and its surroundings is how dare they honor an instrument of mass murder and universal destruction.
    Opposition of the moralistic handwringers has not been much of an impediment to establishing a historical park, however.

  • Smooze financiers now

    Tight credit markets of the past few years have made it difficult for business owners to obtain loans to expand their businesses.
    Getting a loan is still as hard as ever, even though most financial institutions have plenty of capital to lend.
    With the interest rate charged banks by the Federal Reserve Bank at almost zero, it’s surprising so little capital is moving around.  
    Loans, as a percentage of deposits, are very low.
    Credit will loosen eventually because banks can’t survive long-term without making loans.
    Stung by losses when loans defaulted, banks are understandably more conservative; but they need interest revenue from loans to grow.

  • Critics of education consultants need to get a life

    First impressions of Hanna Skandera, public education secretary designate: smart, articulate, poised, confident and supportive of her staff.
    “The Public Education Department and the employees who have been (through six months of big change) have been remarkable,” Skandera told the Legislative Education Study Committee (LESC) July 25.
    My time at the meeting was brief, only an hour, because family business intruded. I went because of the opportunity to see Skandera in action and the chance to learn. Education jargon always impedes learning about education.
    I think it’s some kind of cultural conspiracy against parents and citizens. More exposure, I figure, might bring more understanding.

  • Give reforms a chance

    Should we be more concerned that 87 percent of our public schools didn’t make Adequate Yearly Progress or that Democrats are still nitpicking Secretary of Education-designate Hanna Skandera?
    I’d say the AYP scores are the least of our worries. It’s apparent by now that this yardstick of the federal No Child Left Behind Act is inherently unfair and unhelpful.
    We also know that half our kids can’t read and 60 percent struggle with math. That’s why Gov. Susana Martinez plucked a veteran of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s education team to replicate Florida’s success here.

  • Paying for cheaters

    The Social Security expert was among friends and in a mood to be candid.
    People who are disabled and unable to work, or who believe they are, can apply for Social Security disability benefits of lifetime income and medical coverage through Medicare.
    Typically, applicants are turned down on their first try, so they hire a lawyer and go to a hearing.
    That’s why you see so many ads on TV for Social Security lawyers.
    Social Security judges hear those cases. The claimant, says this expert, usually has an attorney, but there is no opposing counsel for the government.
    There is — no lawyer to advance any argument for why this person is not entitled to disability benefits.