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Columns

  • Let's hate success now

    Absent any traditional success on any front over the past three-plus years, President Obama has decided to make success a bad word. Not just a bad word, success is becoming tantamount to a pathological disorder.
    By “traditional success,” of course, I’m using such archaic standards as creating jobs, generating opportunity, developing strong foreign presence, maintaining a strong national defense, cutting the deficit, reducing our national debt. Things that apparently went out of fashion with the phrase: “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”
    Those were Obama’s words, proclaimed, curiously enough, five days prior to Nov. 4, 2008.  And now, with our economy still teetering on the edge of collapse, unemployment still over 8 percent (and that isn’t “real” unemployment, which some estimates place in the surreal upper teens), gasoline prices at record levels and still climbing, and our deficit and debt still rising, Obama has decided to make class warfare the center piece of his campaign.

  • No hope for redistricting

    SANTA FE — So the cost of redistricting the U.S. House, state legislature and the state Public Regulation Commission this year was over $8 million. Some of us had predicted $10 million so we got off easy considering what a litigious, polarized, uncooperative, out-to-get-each-other society we have these days.
    The call has gone out for an independent redistricting commission appointed by the public. Forgeddaboutit. That would take politicians of good will. It ain’t gonna happen.
    Yes, some states have independent redistricting commissions. Those are states with initiative and referendum provisions written into their constitutions.
    The story is that Congress wouldn’t allow initiative or referendum in New Mexico’s constitution because it didn’t want laws “made in the street.” They trusted only the governor and Legislature. Too bad they can’t see how that’s been working out.
    Congress did trust Arizonians to make laws in the street.  But they trusted Arizonians. They were whiter, more southern, less Catholic and spoke mainly English. So Arizonians passed an independent redistricting commission back in their good government days a decade or so ago.

  • Secret thoughts from the jury

    Forty people shuffle into the courtroom. They take assigned seats, which correspond to their names on a diagram. They look serious and a little intimidated.
    Voir dire begins – the question-and-answer process by which the biases and beliefs of these potential jurors will be disclosed, and a jury of 12 members and two alternates will be selected to decide the fate of another human being.
    The judge introduces himself, the attorneys, and the defendant. This is a criminal trial, he says. The defendant is accused of possession of heroin.
    The defendant is a small, middle-aged man whose blank facial expression does not change. He looks slightly shabby in nondescript slacks and a flannel shirt.  
    The judge asks questions first.  Do any of you know the defendant, he says, or me, or any of the attorneys, or the District Attorney for whom the prosecuting attorneys work?
     I’m the first to raise a hand. I know someone with the District Attorney, not well. Well enough to influence my decision?
    No, Your Honor. The judge asks about the jurors’ schedules and potential time conflicts.
    The prosecutor asks questions. How do you feel about the drug laws? Are they too strict or not strict enough? Marijuana should be legalized, someone says. Another says the drug laws should be stricter.

  • Depreciation prevents expense spikes

    The Internal Revenue Service stipulates that businesses must capitalize expenditures for big-ticket items and recover that cost over several years – a practice known as depreciation – to avoid dramatic changes in the financial statements of a business from one year to the next. Knowing when to depreciate and when to claim a special one-time expense deduction is critical for entrepreneurs.
    Capital expenditures offer businesses an opportunity to expand operations — to modernize and grow — by buying the equipment and capital they need and deducting these costs on their income tax return. This fuels economic expansion.
    Depreciation makes sense when a business makes a major capital investment that offers long-term benefits, but is purchased upfront or over the short-term. Typical candidates for depreciation include vehicles, buildings, furniture, equipment, and computer systems. Rather than frighten investors by recording the whole impact of a purchase in one financial period, where it can create a loss, a company can spread it out over many financial periods effectively matching the deduction to the period of benefit. It matters not how the loan is repaid; what matters is how long the investment is expected to provide an economic benefit.

  • Just say no to Medicaid expansion

    It’s free money! That’s the line used by actor Jimmy Fallon in a series of credit card commercials. It is also the line increasingly being used by advocates of Medicaid expansion here in New Mexico and across the nation.
    After all, who but a bunch of anti-social, uncaring, right wing conservatives could possibly turn down “free” money?

  • Let's get specific on future

    In a recent Guest View Point for the Los Alamos Monitor, my friend and fellow past councilor, Robert Gibson, made an effective case for why we should direct future diversified economic development in Los Alamos toward activities and businesses that maintain our exciting, unique and world-class community. He is exactly right on the WHY, but the ongoing challenge we have is - HOW are we going to do it? I would propose that Los Alamos County use two guiding principles for a specific path forward: 1) Build on our strengths; and 2) Create the businesses and jobs first, then let the urban village follow. Let’s consider one specific way that this concept can be readily implemented in our town.

  • Photos tell world of stories

    “A picture is worth a thousand words” tells more about human nature than you would guess. Some link the popular saying to Confucius (born 551 BC). Others trace its origin to ad man Fred Barnard in 1921. Check it out.
     Our nature also chooses the meanings of today’s photographs of Earth from space. The pair of photos confirms for each reader that his or her world view is far wiser than the views that others express.
    The sunlit photograph of Earth was taken from Apollo 17 shortly after launch on December 7, 1972. It displays what we are given to work with: Earth, its bright water and air hanging together in the black void. We also have the abilities to take such a photo.

  • How to deal with the telemarketers

    When the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act of 2003 was passed, it was supposed to herald a new era of silence – as in, no more annoying dinner-time telemarketing calls. Based on the number of unsolicited calls our household still receives nearly a decade later, however, I’d say the law has been had only mixed success.
    True, the sheer volume of calls did drop significantly after we registered our home and cell phone numbers with the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry. But because so many types of organizations are exempt from the legislation and so many shady companies flout the rules, everyone I know still gets pestered relentlessly.

  • Reliving the day they dropped the bomb

    The Hiroshima bomb didn’t jolt Japan as we had hoped. Its military leaders still refused the unconditional surrender demanded by the Potsdam Proclamation.
     But it did shake the Russians. Stalin feared he had waited too long for his oft-promised invasion of Japan. If Japan surrendered before he got his troops into Manchuria, the Soviets would have no claim to Japanese spoils.
     On Aug. 8, Russia declared war on Japan and at dawn on the 9th, tanks rolled into Manchuria.
    The night before, Major Charles Sweeney and crew rolled “Bock’s Car” down the runway on Tinian and took off for Japan carrying “Fat Man.” Unlike the flight of “Enola Gay,” three nights earlier, this was not a textbook operation.

  • What about the future of LA?

    Los Alamos is an extraordinary community.  Our quality of life is among the very best in the nation.  A major component of that quality is our economic wealth, also at the top.  Why are we so fortunate?  Can future generations enjoy a similar, or better, life here?
    Los Alamos is a unique combination of world-renowned science, small town atmosphere, and beautiful natural environment.  That formula is not for everyone, but it works for most of us.