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Columns

  • Heinrich, Wilson polar opposites on U.S. energy supply

    The two people who want to be your next U.S. Senator have a grip on two ends of the energy spectrum, but the middle is still virgin territory. One would offer carrots to renewable energy, the other would incentivize oil and gas. Neither fully embraces the range of sources.
    Democrat Martin Heinrich supported federal tax breaks and loan guarantees for companies developing renewable energy during his first two terms as a representative from the 1st Congressional District, while Heather Wilson did the same for oil and gas during her 10 years in the House. Both would move the nation toward domestic sources.
    Heinrich presents himself as the environmental candidate without acknowledging that solar and wind have environmental and land-use impacts. He says federal tax breaks for highly profitable oil and gas companies that already know how to produce their products have been unproductive.
    And yet production technology has changed a great deal and keeps changing – we have this research going on in the state. Isn’t that deserving of incentives?
    He also said that “coal and tar sands are the fuels of the past.” Not necessarily. Today’s coal is far cleaner than it was 10 years ago.

  • Dunn done good in the Senate

    SANTA FE — State Sen. Aubrey Dunn was a master tactician and understood state finances perhaps better than anyone else ever has. He died last week at 84.
    Dunn was business manager and part owner of the Alamogordo Daily News. He also had an apple orchard at High Rolls. At the Legislature he preferred to call himself an apple farmer likely because that was safer than saying he was in the newspaper business.
    Aubrey was a Democrat but if he were in the Legislature today, he’d probably be a Republican. It was shortly after his 1980 resignation from the Legislature that Democrats in the Southeastern part of the state started changing their registration to Republican or getting beaten by Republicans.
    Dunn was conservative. He thought like a business manager — or an apple grower.
    During the period he reigned as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Democrats held a good 30 out of the 42 seats in the Senate.
    In the House, Republicans and conservative Democrats had formed a conservative coalition to take control. In the Senate that wasn’t necessary since most Democrats already were conservative and Dunn was in control of the money.

  • Would you post your salary on Facebook?

    If I were a New Mexico state employee, crunched somewhere in the middle of the hierarchy (which I used to be), and I learned that my colleagues’ salaries were posted online, I would be tempted to take a peek.
    I might scan for anyone whose salary was higher than mine but who, in my opinion, didn’t deserve it. If I found any, I might become just a bit resentful.
    Would my work suffer? A little, possibly. Would I use this information to justify small acts of defiance, like sneaking a novel into the restroom now and then? Maybe.
    Would I be distressed that my own salary had been put on public display? Absolutely. Wouldn’t you?
    New Mexico state employees’ salaries were posted online, with names, on the state’s “Sunshine Portal,” until the names were removed following a court order, prompted by a lawsuit filed by the employee union AFSCME.
    The court order, it is important to note, referred specifically to the Sunshine Portal. The database was left in place, with names deleted for classified employees.
    I breathed a sigh of relief. I was concerned not only about employee morale and potential internal dissension, but about the kind of mischief that could be done to all those employees by nefarious use of the data — cheesy targeted marketing programs or worse.

  • Could we have a word?

    Why is it that so many people want English to be our “national language” but they can’t speak or write it properly themselves?
    You can have your cake and eat it too, right? But if you have a cake, what’s the big deal about eating it?
    What people should say is, “You can eat your cake and have it, too.”
    And what’s with too? To? Two? There are two too many to’s in our language. And of course, there’s the tutu.
    English is really messed up. That’s what I like about math. Well, yeah, that’s messed up too (or two?), but at least I know what’s being said when someone speaks math.
    English is a different animal altogether (or maybe more like a vegetable). After a quiz, asked a student how she thought she did. She said, “I did good.”
    “So, you did some charity work while I wasn’t watching?”
    I explained, “Helping out others is doing good. On a quiz, you do well, not good.” She nodded (a monosynaptic defensive reflex used by students to get teachers to leave them alone) and said, “OK, I did well,” to which I replied, “Well, it’s good that you did well.”
    Back in high school, I didn’t appreciate the subtle humor woven throughout the DNA strands of English grammar.

  • New Mexico was on hand in Tokyo

    SANTA FE – As part of our centennial coverage, the following is the Japanese surrender ceremony ending WWII:

    On Sept. 2, 1945, Japan made formal the surrender it had declared on Aug. 15. The ceremony occurred aboard the USS Missouri, in Tokyo Bay.
    The Japanese delegation, unable to find any vessel seaworthy enough to take them into the bay, boarded an American destroyer to take them on the 16-mile
    journey.
    An impressive 258 Allied warships filled the bay, making it one of the most formidable displays of naval power ever assembled in one anchorage.
    Many more vessels could have joined them for the ceremony, but it was an invitation-only event for warships that had distinguished themselves in Pacific battles.
    The Battleship New Mexico was there, honored for her service in the Gilberts, Marshalls, Solomons, Marianas, Philippines and Okinawa. In her last two battles, she suffered three kamikaze hits, killing a total of 83, including the commanding officer, and injuring 206.
    Also present was Gen. Jonathon Wainwright, the beloved commanding officer who remained in the Philippines after MacArthur left.
    Wainwright, who had endured all the prison camp atrocities experienced by his troops and looking like a skeleton, was quickly rescued from a prison camp in China and brought to the ceremony.

  • State revenues looking OK

    Decent news about state government finances came to the Legislative Finance Committee at the group’s August meeting held in Angel Fire.
    “Decent news” means revenue into the general fund—$5.7 billion for fiscal year 2013, the current budget year—is expected to beat planned spending by $35 million with larger margins expected the next two years.
    So-called “new money” for the next budget year (FY 14), which will be addressed by the 2013 legislative session, is estimated at $198 million. New money is next year’s projected revenue minus appropriations for this year.
    The meeting was quiet, the room small, the crowd modest – maybe 50, including presenters. Good news is boring.
    The LFC’s August 2009 jaunt to Angel Fire provided a quite different scene. The room for that gathering was twice the size of this year’s. The crowd was at capacity, almost hanging from the figurative rafters. The tone was negative, toward nasty.
    Projected revenues were some hundreds of millions short of appropriated spending.
    This year LFC chair Sen. John Arthur Smith, Deming Democrat, bragged, properly, on the LFC’s role during the unhappy times. The LFC and the staff anticipated the downturn.

  • Martinez is one in a big field

    SANTA FE — We said two weeks ago that New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez’s selection as a Republican National Convention speaker was a slam-dunk for the committee.
    Republicans have significant problems with women and minorities so the selection of several minority women with high offices was an easy call.
    And now comes the news that our governor will speak immediately before Paul Ryan’s address.
    That is a real coup. Her slot is being touted as second only to keynoter Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will introduce presidential nominee Mitt Romney on the final night of the convention.
    Every one of the multitude of convention speakers has a special message to deliver.
    Martinez was chosen to tell the inspiring story of her life and to talk about what needs to be done to keep the promise of America for the next generation.
    Other women governors chosen as speakers are South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin. Other women on the convention program are U.S. Rep Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Ann Romney.

  • Pink is not the only color for cancer patients

    Hands up. Who knows which cancer teal represents? No one? Who even knows what color teal is, anyway?
    OK, if you’ve read any of my columns you’ll know the answer is ovarian cancer. I started you on an easy one. Here’s a more difficult one. What are the symptoms? Can you remember from last September’s Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month?
    “Uh, bloating maybe, pain, some kind of pain.” Well, if you didn’t come up with four out of the following five then my work here isn’t done: bloating, pelvic pain, urinary symptoms, digestive irregularity and fatigue. Didn’t get them all? Then I hope you never do, because 2 out of 3 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer die of their disease.
    Who knew that there were other colors of the cancer rainbow than pink? Who knew that there are other cancers we should all be educated to be aware of?
    This month when I went into my cancer clinic, every staff member was wearing a pink ribbon T-shirt. If I go into the hobby shops, after having searched high and low for teal trinkets, I have to gaze at a check out rack full of pink ribbons, pink pens with ribbons, a pink-ribboned Hello Kitty, a pink ribbon flashlight…. the list goes on.

  • Obama taking softball questions

    SANTA FE — The White House press corps, which covers every move of President Barack Obama, owes a big thank you to an Albuquerque pop music station.
    Last Friday morning, the president accepted an invitation for an on-air chat with KOB-FM’s “Morning Mayhem” co-hosts Carlos Duran, Kiki Garcia and Danny Vigil.
    Presidents do that sort of thing from time to time, but the White House press corps has been feeling ignored recently because the escalating battle between presidential candidates has produced an atmosphere in which neither candidate had been inclined to take questions from the press corps.
    Just look at the battle of gaffes and their exploitation by the opposing camp to see why Obama and Mitt Romney prefer to confine themselves to prepared remarks.
    But last weekend, President Obama’s team made a quick pivot. Last Monday morning, Obama submitted to a grilling by reporters. Former Gov. Romney was in Hobbs Wednesday. We’ll see if New Mexico’s enchantment caused him to sit and talk with press corps reporters.
    According to news coverage of Obama’s conversation with reporters, little new information was imparted. Readers may have learned more from the light-hearted conversation with the KOB radio crew.

  • Medicaid is black and white and red all over

    Last week, the state’s leading economist waded into the Medicaid debate.
    “I think we should seriously think of saying yes to Medicaid,” said Lee Reynis, director of UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. “It’s an opportunity to develop health-care infrastructure, especially in rural areas. The federal government is willing to pay the freight for much of it.”
    BBER’s forecasting models indicate New Mexico would receive $3.9 billion from the federal government from 2014 to 2020, and the expansion would create thousands of new jobs. Reynis was speaking to Economic Forum, a nonpartisan business group. I was surprised at the comment, which came at the end of an otherwise gloomy look at the economy.
    Medicaid expansion has become an election issue. The Supreme Court, in upholding the Affordable Care Act, removed the mandate to expand the program, giving states a choice. Expansion supporters and detractors have their boilerplate arguments, so true believers can take a position without thinking.  If you’re in the middle – I’m sorry – you’ll just have to think.