• Ending the standoff over education reform

    Early in the legislative session, I got on the elevator with Hanna Skandera, whose name is usually modified by the word “embattled” and whose title, Education Secretary, has the appendage “designee.” Two little words say so much.
    In the elevator, however, she was a state employee receiving the good wishes of another state employee.
    “I think they’ll confirm you,” he said.
    “Whether they do or not, I can still do my job,” Skandera replied with characteristic moxie.
    We now know that after 10 hours of hearings, the Senate Rules Committee didn’t vote, and its chairman, Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, is on the receiving end of the same kinds of critical blasts Skandera endured.
    Deservedly so.
    Regardless of how you feel about her education reform, Skandera deserved an up or down vote. Period. She is the governor’s choice for the job, and unless some severe character flaw has come to light, the governor deserves to have her own people in the cabinet.
    That said, I don’t think it makes much difference who is Education Secretary because the administration and Republicans are so far from consensus with teachers and Democrats that reform is in jeopardy.

  • Insurance you can probably do without

     I’m a big believer in having the appropriate amount of insurance, especially when it comes to your health and personal liability. But if money is tight and you want to get the most bang for your buck, there are a few types of insurance you can probably do without – or that may duplicate coverage you already have elsewhere:
    Extended warranties. When you buy a car, appliance or electronic device, the salesclerk usually will try to sell you an extended warranty. These policies often duplicate coverage already provided in the manufacturer’s warranty. Plus, many credit cards provide an additional warranty on items purchased with the card.
    Smartphone insurance. After shelling out big bucks for a smartphone, you might be tempted to buy replacement insurance. Just be aware that you’ll probably pay a hefty deductible and likely receive a refurbished phone, possibly not even the same model. My advice: Keep your old phone to reactivate in case you drop or lose the new one.
    Flight accident insurance. The risk of dying in a plane crash is miniscule and already covered by regular life insurance. Also check your credit card cardholder agreement, since many cover such accidents for tickets purchased with their card.

  • Pet heart health and heartworms

     The heart is a complex organ and it is important for pet owners to be aware of the diseases it can develop.
    Pet owners should be aware of the signs and symptoms of heart disease so that they can provide their pet with the best possible care.
    “Humid spring and summer days may cause dogs and cats to suffer more from mosquito bites that can lead to heartworm disease,” said Dr. Sonya Gordon, associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
    “Dogs have a high risk of heartworm infection, but cats are also susceptible to the disease.”
    Pets become infected when a heartworm-infested mosquito bites the animal, transmitting the heartworm larvae into the tissue of the pet.
    As the larvae develop they travel through the tissue and ultimately settle in the blood vessels of the lungs, which leads to the development of heartworm disease.
    “Heartworms should really be called lungworms because the adult worm typically lives in the blood vessels of the lungs, not the heart,” said Gordon.

  • Startup weekend sets ideas in motion

    Developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts gathered March 1-3 in Santa Fe for a marathon of brainstorming, team building and product testing aimed at transforming entrepreneurial impulses into viable ventures.
    More than 60 people showed up for the inaugural Startup Weekend Santa Fe, a 48-hour intensive, immersive collaboration known to the tech world as a hackathon. Participants pitched 32 ideas for marketable products or services, formed 16 teams around the most feasible ideas and ended the weekend with 10 groups presenting projects to judges.
    A proposal to develop a broadcast platform for amateur sporting events — dubbed SportXast by its Santa Fe and Los Alamos team members — emerged the winner. Prizes included a trademark package — with free consultations, trademark search and filing fees — from Leverage Legal Group, an event sponsor; a two-month membership in the Santa Fe Business Incubator’s small-business program; a small-business membership in the New Mexico Technology Council, a member-driven organization of tech-savvy innovators; and free admission to the next Startup Weekend, tentatively set for mid-June in Albuquerque.
    The judges identified
    ZymoStat as a runner-up. ZymoStat’s creator hopes to revolutionize the home-based craft-brewing industry.

  • Looking at the disasters that U.S. intervention created

    Americans have forgotten about the Iraq war, which began 10 years ago this week, and the Afghan war, the longest in American history, but the U.S. government is still throwing its weight around in both countries.
     The Iraq war, the pretext for which was nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, officially ended in 2011 with the withdrawal of virtually all of America’s combat troops. But the havoc wreaked by the U.S. invasion and regime change goes on. Over a hundred thousand Iraqis were killed in the war itself, but many more died in the aftermath from sectarian violence and the obliterated infrastructure. (Iraq had never recovered from the destruction inflicted by the U.S. government in the 1991 Gulf War and in the decade of sanctions related to it.) Millions fled their homes.
     The U.S. occupation unleashed bitter sectarian violence, complete with U.S.-trained death squads, leading the numerically dominant Shiite Muslims (who are friendly to Iran) to cleanse the Sunnis from Baghdad. A Sunni insurgency against the occupation inflicted heavy casualties until American money managed to have the guns turned on the al-Qaeda affiliate, which was not in Iraq before the U.S. invasion.

  • Opinions from the void

     Recently, Vivienne Westwood (English fashion designer and fizzy soda expert) made headlines when she criticized First Lady Michelle Obama’s wardrobe choices.  During an interview with the New York Times, the reporter commented on how nice it is that Michelle recycles her clothes.  Westwood said, “Don’t talk about her.  It’s dreadful what she wears.”
     Alright, let’s see a show of hands.  Who gives a muroidea’s gluteus maximus what Vivienne Westwood thinks about who wears what?  Prior to reading the interview, I had never even heard of her.  I then made the mistake of Google searching to see what type of style clothing she designs.
     I’ve seen better designs on road kill.
     So what does Katy Perry think about the Pope resigning?  Does Tom Cruise have advice on how to handle urban blight?  I heard that Yo Yo Ma think it’s a good time to invest in New England real estate!
     Why are so many people insanely interested in the opinions of fashion designers, sports stars, TV celebrities, movie stars, and rock singers?  Have we de-evolved so far that we need Rosanne Barr’s guidance on what makes a good marriage?

  • Know landscape before requesting small business loan

    Many Americans long to see where their talents as inventors or craftsmen or cooks can take them.
    But businesses often struggle in their early years, and this makes some lenders wary of financing enterprises that don’t have an established track record.
    After repeated rejections from potential funders, many entrepreneurs simply give up.
    Organizations like Accion are one option for the aspiring entrepreneur who can’t secure a loan through a more traditional financial institution, such as a bank or credit union.
    But getting a loan requires some groundwork, no matter where she looks.
    The Five Cs
    Traditional lenders evaluate loan requests on the basis of the client’s character, capital, collateral, capacity and conditions – the 5 C’s of credit.
    The lender measures character by observing the client’s punctuality, organization and understanding of the size and purpose of the loan. They listen to what references say and what his credit history demonstrates about his commitment to pay off debts. They review the business plan to see how well it reflects the client’s experience, strategy and commitment.
    Existing capital is a plus for an aspiring entrepreneur and a way for the lender to assess the borrower’s personal investment in the business.

  • Immigration laws have failed

    Some might find me annoyingly literal about obeying certain laws. Take traffic.
    In residential areas I drive the 25 mph speed limit. If an arterial has a 30 mph limit, that is my speed. I stop, completely, at stop signs and before turning right on a red light.
    At higher posted speeds, morality gets situational. I fudge above 35 mph. During the time of Jimmy Carter’s idiotic 55 mph interstate speed limit, my protest was to go 95 along the six-mile divided stretch of I-25 north of exit 115.
    Thus I was disappointed to see an argument against red-light cameras saying it was bad that the cameras caught people doing the “California stop.” Too bad, I figure. It’s “the law.”
    I was appalled recently to hear a lawyer argue that no such thing as “the Law” exists. Everything about the law was technical, he claimed: the rules, the manipulation, the arguments. There was no higher moral framework.
    A retired police officer friend soothed my slightly conscience-stricken speed limit behavior by saying the broader issue is public safety, and taking the posted speed limit literally is good in congested areas. Public safety fits with the bigger ideas holding society together.

  • Maximize your disabled child's government aid

    Parents of special needs children have enough on their plates just tending to the health, educational and emotional needs of their kids — not to mention often having to cope with drastically lowered income because of reduced work hours or having to pay someone else for childcare.
    So it’s not surprising that many of these parents haven’t had time to hatch a long-term financial plan in case their kids need care after they’re not around.
    Fortunately, many government programs and community resources are available to help relieve the financial burden of parenting special needs children.
    But eligibility criteria are complicated and the application process time-consuming. Plus, if you’re not careful, you or well-meaning relatives could inadvertently disqualify your kids for future benefits by not structuring their inheritances correctly.
    Here’s a brief overview of key government assistance programs
    The Social Security Administration provides two types of disability coverage: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). Rules and eligibility requirements differ between the two programs — and benefits differ for children and adults.

  • He said, she said

     Lawmakers have earned some rest after a surprisingly productive legislative session. I will save analysis for another day and give you instead some of the flavor of the last 60 days of verbal jousting in my second annual Quotes of the Session.

    House Speaker Ken Martinez, D-Grants: “A lot of times we approach a problem from two sides and try to work it out. 

    If we define the problem together and define solutions together, there’s no need to reach across the aisle.”

    Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, during a discussion of the health insurance exchange: “This is the session where cats and dogs are dancing in the street, and everybody’s compromising.”