• State Dem Chairperson bashes silly editorial

    “Do you know Debra Haaland?”
    That question was put to me recently by a neighbor when our paths crossed while walking our dogs in a nearby park.
    “We’ve never met,” I said, “even though she was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor last year and she’s now the chairwoman of the state Democratic Party.”
    “Did you see her letter to the editor the other day?” my neighbor continued.
    “Her letter,” as my neighbor put it, was actually an op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal wherein Haaland takes that newspaper to task for a rather silly editorial it published criticizing State Auditor Tim Keller and Attorney General Hector Balderas for having used their own personal email accounts to rally fellow Democrats to their party’s causes.
    In other words, the state’s most widely circulated daily (which “has long been rumored to be a right-wing newspaper,” Haaland noted) had nothing better to do with its ink than criticize a couple of politicians for doing what all politicians do, irrespective of party.
    And doing it on their own time and dime, at that.
    My neighbor’s dog is named Greta, I learned, but I know nothing about his politics.

  • Insulting stereotypes, demeaning dialogue can't pass as humor

    After a group of Native American actors walked off the set of “The Ridiculous Six,” now shooting in northern New Mexico, I happened to be at Ghost Ranch for a conference.
    The cast and crew were also at Ghost Ranch, near Abiquiu, but only their trailers were visible.
    Too bad. I would have enjoyed a word or two with them. Instead, I’ll give them 600 words.
    Let me say up front that I’m a fan of Adam Sandler when he’s in movies for grown ups. The rest of the time he makes garbage, which, unfortunately, is what “The Ridiculous Six” is.
    Some Native actors, including Mescalero Apache consultant Bruce Klinekole, took exception to insulting stereotypes, ignorance and disrespect for Native culture.
    Good for them.
    The fact that they objected publicly brought the discussion into an open forum on the Internet and in the media.
    It tells you something that I can’t fully explore all the offensive material because the content is too raunchy for a family newspaper. Indians in the movie are supposedly Apache; in real life Apaches were personally modest and conservative in their behavior. Sandler’s Apache women were named Beaver’s Breath and Wears-No-Bra and one that’s unprintable.

  • Changing face of healthcare

    Whatever you think of Obamacare, the United States healthcare system before Obamacare was a mess.
    Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, is an attempt to straighten it out. So said Dr. Michael Richards, speaking to the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Association. Richards is executive physician in chief of University of New Mexico Health Systems — one of the leaders responsible for moving New Mexico’s healthcare system into the new century.
    As Richards spoke, the doctor sitting next to me was muttering. This transformation is going to be hard on doctors, especially those in private practice.
    The problem, as we hear often, is that the United States spends more than twice as much per patient as other advanced countries, but our outcomes are worse, our error rates are among the highest, and alarming numbers of Americans have little or no access to services.
    The ACA addresses three goals, Richards said. These goals conflict with each other, so regulatory processes are needed to keep them in balance.
    First is insurance reform, especially to improve access by abolishing the limits for people with pre-existing conditions. This is good for those patients but it adds cost to an already costly system.

  • Proposed Los Alamos bag ban bad for environment and freedom

    Los Alamos County Commission is now considering banning plastic grocery bags.
    More than 200 municipalities in the United States, including two in New Mexico — Santa Fe and Silver City — have banned the distribution of lightweight plastic shopping bags.
    Proponents of bag bans, specifically the Sierra Club, claim they will reduce litter and protect the marine environment, diminish our consumption of resources and emissions of greenhouse gases, reduce waste and save taxpayers’ money.
    Unfortunately, the supposed environmental benefits of banning plastic bags evaporate upon closer examination.
    For starters, authoritative studies show that plastic bags constitute less than 1 percent of visible litter in U.S. cities.
    Litter is never a good thing, but the right way to reduce it is to through education — not to simply ban plastic bags.
    Members of some pressure groups claim that plastic bags kill large numbers of marine animals. Even for bags distributed in coastal cities, that claim is simply false.
    As David Santillo, a senior biologist with Greenpeace, told The Times of London: “It’s very unlikely that many animals are killed by plastic bags. The evidence shows just the opposite … on a global basis, plastic bags aren’t an issue.”

  • Sierra Club talking points get debunked

    Here are how some Sierra Club talking points being debunked:
    Talking Point: Plastic bags last forever in the landfills.
    Debunking: Everything lasts forever in the landfills we use. They are designed to keep what’s put there as stable as possible to reduce the chance of nasty stuff oozing into the environment.
    TP: Re-usable bags are friendlier to the environment.
    D: If you consider the entire lifecycle of these bags, the re-usable bags are worse for the environment. Most of them are made in China with dirtier energy and no restrictions on what waste products are allowed back into the environment. Most of the plastic shopping bags currently offered at checkout are made in the U.S.A. with much cleaner energy and high standards for waste product disposal. Banning plastic shopping bags eliminates more United States jobs and contributes toward polluting the environment.
    TP: Paper bags are better because they’re recyclable and biodegradable.

  • Reasons to ban single-use carryout plastic bags

    The United States used more than 100 billion plastic bags in 2009.
    Significant resources are used to create these bags — oil or natural gas are used as the feedstock. And considerable energy is used transporting them to the stores where they are dispensed. The very idea of using scarce and expensive resources on an item intended to be used once, for a few hours, and then thrown away is the antithesis of sustainability.
    These bags are intended to be used once to carry groceries or other purchases to the car, then to the house and then be discarded.
    Many opponents of a bag ban say they make additional use of the bags before disposal. I have no doubt this is true for those people, but the statistics show that most bags are not reused. And even if they are reused, they still go into the trash, where they eventually end up in the ocean, scattered over our landscape, or in a landfill where they do not decompose for hundreds of years, and remain a problem if they ever make their way back to the surface.
    It should also be noted that there are biodegradable products available for all of the uses to which these bags are reused by some. They have to be paid for, but that cost reflects the fact that they are not hard on the environment.

  • Highway finance still is the elephant in the room

    No additional money will appear during the next year or so for construction and maintenance of New Mexico’s roads and highways, barring a special session of the Legislature, an event that Gov. Susana Martinez said March 30 was highly unlikely.
    More money was in the deal that wasn’t a deal at the end of the recent legislative session. The opinions about sources of money were strongly held. No compromise wandered into the negotiations, and so nothing happened.
    The administration and the Legislature again kicked the proverbial can down the, ummm, road.
    The administration wanted to move motor vehicle excise tax revenue (around $144 million, this budget year) back into the road fund from the general fund, which would punch an equal hole in the general fund.
    The road fund, source of construction and maintenance money, is different from the general fund, which is allocated by the budget.
    The administration also figures it is OK to borrow against severance tax revenue, something legislators oppose partly because road construction money was borrowed under the Gary Johnson administration and the payments still eat a nasty piece of the money that is available for roads.
    The Democrats proposed raising the gasoline tax, a move the governor opposes. Nyahh, so there, they said to one another, and the session ended.

  • Fixing roads is better plan than bicyclists' underpass

    The expanse of New Mexico means it is miles and miles from here to there.
    From Farmington to Hobbs, it is 497 miles. Make the ends of the trip be Shiprock and Jal means adding 67 miles. The trek takes some time.
    Bike-walk cultists aside, traveling is done using cars and trucks. A very few fly in private planes or on the heavily subsidized local service airlines. One or two ride horses.
    Much traveling is done just to cross the state. The east-west interstates — 10 and 40 — aren’t owned by trucks. It only seems that way.
    The cars, trucks and their occupants travel on roads. A modestly-encouraging happening of the recent legislative session is that our roads’ terrible and long-ignored financial condition has emerged in public discussion.
    This is the first step to eventually doing something.
    We begin with a digression and reminder: The term “road money” means much more than roads for vehicles.
    At a recent neighborhood association meeting, my representative on the Bernalillo County Commission, Maggie Hart Stebbins, lamented a place where bicyclists must cross a four-lane street by actually crossing on the street rather than having something specially built.
    The situation is dangerous, Hart Stebbins said.

  • Be thankful Legislature is not Congress

    It’s appropriate that our state capitol is round because during the legislative session, it’s a pressure cooker.
    News from Santa Fe about the session’s end is about the blow-ups between the House and Senate, the Senate and the governor, House Republicans and House Democrats. True, unfortunately.
    But consider that on the night before the final day, House Speaker Don Tripp kept his members at their oars from early evening until 2:45 a.m.
    The House went into session the next day at 8 a.m., got an incendiary capital outlay bill at 8:30 a.m. and launched into debate.
    Mind you, this is after days of late nights and marathon committee hearings and floor sessions. You could hear it in their tired, raspy voices and see it in memory lapses and punchy responses — like college students who’d pulled too many all-nighters.
    Only they don’t have the stamina of college students. Some of our elderly legislators simply didn’t attend night meetings and missed even day meetings.
    Is this any way to make laws? Or sausage?
    Next, consider the sea change in the House with its first Republican majority.

  • Foster care system must improve for children placed in state's custody

    Among government’s critical responsibilities is protecting children from abuse and neglect. Our goal in this legislative session is to improve the foster care system for children placed in the state’s custody because their parents are unable, or unwilling to care for them.
    We are co-sponsoring Senate Public Affairs Committee substitute for Senate Bill 115 to help accomplish that. The Senate has unanimously approved the legislation, which will lay a foundation for realigning citizen review boards required by federal law to help oversee the state’s efforts at safeguarding children in foster care.
    Let us be clear at the outset. The purpose of the legislation is to ensure the state’s policies and practices effectively serve children.
    We’ve heard concerns expressed that proposed changes would silence citizen input into decisions about foster children. Rest assured the legislation will not do that. In fact, citizen advocates for improving child welfare can more effectively influence state policies if SB 115 is approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez.
    The legislation is straightforward. It reorganizes an advisory committee to include representatives of the state agency responsible for child protection, the courts, former foster children, as well as members of the public.