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Columns

  • Mary Kay Papen is the best choice for Senate Pro Tem

    During the last legislative session, a female scribe in the press gallery asked me, “Have you ever noticed that the women say what they need to say and sit down, and the men go on and on?”
    I had noticed.
    Now, this isn’t true of all legislators. There are a few long-winded women and some men who measure their words. Both chambers have too many lawyers (male) who never tire of exercising their vocal chords, even though everybody else tires of exercising their ear drums.
    When the session convenes this week, the Senate will have just six women, the smallest number in a decade, because some bowed out and others lost their races.
    The House gained six women, for a total of 25. So if the initial observation holds, House speeches should be shorter and more to the point.
    The usual argument about having more women is that many of the issues affect us more, but I argue that women do things differently. We’re inclined to be more collaborative and less competitive.
    A businessman once told me that he preferred to hire women. “They’re more loyal,” he said. “Guys are always working deals on the side.”
    Other men told me they’d become avid fans of UNM’s Lady Lobo basketball players “because they really play as a team.”

  • Matters of the Heart: Congenital heart disease

    Humans and animals often have similar health problems. One example of this is Congenital Heart Disease. Congenital Heart Disease refers to a problem the animal is born with. There are multiple types of Congenital Heart Disease: valve malformations or dysplasia, valve narrowing or stenosis, abnormal openings between the heart chambers or septal defects, and patent ductusarteriosus.
    Patent ductusarteriousus is the most common among dogs, said Dr. Ashley Saunders, assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
    “There are anumber of diseases that your dog can be born with, patent ductusarteriosus is the most common in dogs,” she said.
    PDA is caused when the ductusarteriosus, an arterial connection between the aorta and pulmonary artery, doesn’t close properly after birth, Saunders said. This results in blood being pumped back through the artery instead of through the rest of the body.
    Saunders added that different breeds such as German shepherds, miniature poodles, cocker spaniels, Pomeranians, collies, and Shetland sheepdogs are more susceptible to the disorder. Female dogs are also predisposed to the disorder.
    Most dogs with PDA have a heart murmur that the veterinarian will hear upon routine checkup.

  • Muni Building should be named for citizens

    The new municipal/administration building is THE Los Alamos citizens’ building! As such, it should not be a memorial to any one person, dead or alive.
    While a few previous, and some current, councilors doggedly refused to allow LA citizens to vote on it, the building is still the citizens’ building and not the council’s building.
    If a nickname is needed, make something like “The GRT (Golden Revenue Trove or Gross Receipt Tax-windfall) Building” as that is what enabled it.
     Councilor Berting put forth the request that the building be named in memory of Jeannette O. Wallace.
    Berting insisted by her actions that this be the honoree the administrator’s committee focused on even though several councilors argued that the public should be pulsed more generally about any naming.
    I voiced, during “public comment,” that the motion had the appearance of council’s pre-emptive decision in the naming. Since the committee is to hear from the public and report back to council at the beginning of February, scrutiny will, by sheer time constraint, be restricted.
    There has been plenty of time in the last year to address this “naming” business without rushing; yet, we are now being asked to do a quickie.

  • Don't expect much from this Legislature

    SANTA FE — What should we expect from New Mexico’s 2013 Legislature? Our chosen leaders have promised to work together but the chances don’t look good.
    Former Gov. Bruce King’s campaign slogan was “Working Together,” But Bruce had been on the county commission, was a former House speaker and a three-time governor. He knew how to make it work.
    Today we are faced with more than 30 of our 112 lawmakers being new to their jobs and a governor whose experience is as a prosecutor — a job not known for working together.
    Add to those problems new leadership in both the House and Senate. House Speaker Ben Lujan retired and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings was beaten in a bitter battle. So we have no steady hand of longtime leadership plus a number of first-time committee chairs.
    And it doesn’t end there. The recent elections were the most expensive ever -- and probably the dirtiest. Everybody claims dirty elections but this is the first time we have had GOP money being used to defeat Republicans in the Republican primary and Democrats in the Democratic primary. And it was the governor’s PAC that was behind it all.

  • Keeping funeral costs affordable

    Anyone who’s put a loved one to rest knows that death is not cheap. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average adult funeral cost $6,560 in 2009 (their most current data).
    That doesn’t include such common add-ons as a cemetery plot, headstone, flowers, obituaries and limousine, which can add thousands to the bill.
    Because death is a frequently avoided topic, many people aren’t armed with information about the many variables — and costs — involved in planning a funeral.
    Thus, just when survivors are grieving and most vulnerable, they’re bombarded by decisions that must be made quickly, often without even knowing what their loved one would have wanted.
    The key message for the living is to decide on preferred funeral arrangements ahead of time and to convey those wishes to your family – ideally in your will.
    Another important lesson: Know your legal rights and what funeral-related goods and services cost so you — or your survivors — don’t feel pressured into buying things you don’t want or need. The Federal Trade Commission oversees “The Funeral Rule,” which regulates how funeral providers must deal with consumers. Among its provisions:

  • Misrepresenting the NRA

    Mr. Pawlak’s recent column demonstrates a common approach to gun control among those of a utopian pacifist persuasion and others who cannot accept that there really are evil people in the world that will kill with a gun, a knife, a baseball bat, a car or any other tool they can get their hands on.
    That approach is simple, when they can’t argue the facts or logic; they resort to name-calling, insults, derision, and worst of all exaggeration and misrepresentation.
    Let’s start with Mr. Pawlak’s blatantly dishonest exaggeration and misrepresentation. The NRA did not recommend that we:
    “Convert public schools to firearms depots.”
    “Arm all the teachers with guns.”
    “Patrol the hallways with a few mercenaries.”
    “Have a couple of Humvees equipped with Browning .50 cal machine guns ride protective circles around the school playground.”
    What Wayne LaPierre and Asa Hutchinson of the NRA did recommend can be read by anyone honest enough to seek out the truth at nraschoolshield.com.
    You can see for yourself that the actual transcript of the December 21, 2012 press conference and The National School Shield program doesn’t resemble Mr. Pawlak’s assertions at all.

  • Food of the Gods

    Back in high school, history was far from my favorite subject. I was a terrible student — never reading the lessons, never doing my homework, never listening in class.
    I suppose you can see why I became a teacher, right?
    I now regret not having paid more attention.
    History is a wonderful subject and over the years I’ve found myself fascinated by the history of almost everything. For instance, did you know that babies used to wear dresses, girls and boys alike?
    There’s a great picture of President Franklin Roosevelt at the age of two, posed nicely wearing the cutest baby dress you’ve ever seen.
    Anyway, I happen to enjoy cooking and over the holidays it’s become rather a tradition for me to make homemade chocolates.
    It’s a form of stress management for me.
    With chocolate drenched air filling the house, it prompted me to read up on the history of chocolate.
    The botanical name for the cacao tree is “Theobroma”, from ancient Greek and Latin meaning “Food of the Gods.”
    Today, it is often spelled “cocoa”, which many cacao enthusiasts argue is somehow a bad thing.
    Ah, but I’ve tried both and they’re equally delicious!

  • Economic disaster and the fiscal cliff

    The recently passed bill to “solve” the Fiscal Cliff economic crisis should not have been passed. It is a bad bill and a worse law. But not because it is too liberal or too conservative.
    The Fiscal Cliff bill passed jointly by Republicans and Democrats will now turn the United States into a perpetual borrowing nation.
    This nation has real debt and deficit problems. We haveaccumulated a $16.4 trillion national debt from decades of spending beyond the taxes and fees the government receives.
    And each year for the last five years, the nation has run a national deficit, or annual loss, of more than $1 trillion.
    That amounts to the U.S. borrowing 40 cents for every federal dollar spent each year.
    The above said, the problem is not due to one party overspending, or to the 2008 banking disaster and resulting Big Recession, or the government choosing to do jobs that it should not be doing.
    The reason we have a national borrowing addiction is because of two primary factors: the President Bush tax cuts since 2001 have starved the U.S. Treasury of at least $700 billion a year in tax revenues from all sources, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been funded through borrowing, rather than cutting spending elsewhere or raising more taxes, or both.

  • Contemplating white elephants

     

    SANTA FE — When I suggested in a recent column that Spaceport America might be a good location for the $1 billion research ghost town a one-man international development company is promoting, I was only half serious. 

    It does seem that New Mexico’s much-heralded spaceport could be on its last legs Gov. Susana Martinez and the New Mexico Legislature work very hard in the next few months to keep it. 

    Some very exciting offers have been made to Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic by some deep-pocketed suitors. 

    Virgin Galactic now says it was sold a bill of goods when former Gov. Bill Richardson painted a picture of Virgin being the center of a thriving spaceport. After several years, Virgin remains the only tenant at the site. 

  • Protecting kids in schools

     During a newsroom discussion about guns about a decade ago, a woman piped up: “I don’t understand what the big deal is. I’m from Santa Rosa. We grew up with guns.”

    In New Mexico and other rural states, we begin the discussion from different sides of the fence. In the country, a gun is a tool used to hunt and protect livestock against varmints. In the city, the varmints are two-legged.

    Since the nightmarish shootings in Connecticut, the arguments and analyses fly back and forth like an old western shoot-out, which leads me to a few observations.

    First, gun ownership is a personal decision. I lived for eight years in a tough neighborhood where people kept telling me I should have a gun.