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Columns

  • Best deal of the foreseeable future

    It’s a lot easier to criticize a proposed project than it is to defend it. The Nattering Nabobs of Negativism against the Patient Visionaries.  
    To understand this, I think of it like statistical mechanics:  a system with many degrees of freedom, which is a fair analogy to a complicated project like the Trinity Site Redevelopment Project, can exist in any of a large number of states (at a given energy.)
    When it actually assumes one state, all the others are excluded even though they are equally probable.  

  • A fitting tribute

    American troops will have all withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the month, ending the Iraqi Campaign, code-named Operation Iraqi Freedom, that began in March 2003.
    Lasting more than eight years and costing the nation approximately 4,404 Americans killed, 32,000 wounded and billions of dollars, it was conducted for a noble cause even if its execution at certain times, like all armed conflicts, was problematic.
    While there are clearly several places in the world today where we have American forces based, and which the reason and cost of keeping them there can no longer be justified, Iraq is not one of them.

  • Better cookies through science

    One of the best parts of baking for me as a kid was the process of “helping” my mama roll out and cut cookie shapes for the oven.
    At this age I know that I actually hindered her work and she was just being kind in letting me participate, but at the time I thought I was an aide in the process of transforming a lump of material into a thin sheet of ginger-rich dough that we could cut up into the barnyard animals of which I was so fond – and for which we had many different cutter shapes.

  • Have a feel good day

    Each weekend, I sit down and pour out my frustrations on the insanity of the world around me.  
    My friends keep telling me that they’re amazed at how many things I can write about and they ask me how I do it.  
    The secret rests on two simple truths.
     First, I’m willing to write about anything and everything regardless of the fact that I know absolutely nothing about the subject.  
    I’m an incarnation of the old adage that advice is cheap because supply exceeds demand.  
    Would you like for me to tell you my “expert” opinion on the economic plight of rutabaga farmers in Uruguay?  
    Or have me write on the ridiculous claims by some people that Uruguay even grows rutabagas?

  • President Roosevelts in the news

    Teddy Roosevelt has long been a popular president.
    Recently he has become even more so as President Barack Obama and presidential hopeful Gary Johnson have compared themselves to him.
    In his effort to prod more tax money out of the rich, President Obama has likened himself to Teddy the trust buster, going after greedy Wall Street robber barons.
    For his part, our former governor, Gary Johnson has taken a very different tack. He compares his adventuresome lifestyle to what Roosevelt termed his strenuous life of hunting, boxing, rowing and exploring. So far the comparison hasn’t done Johnson much good.

  • Wanted: Jobs, jobs, jobs

    What is the secret to creating jobs? Candidates promise it is their top priority but when legislative sessions roll around, conversations turn elsewhere.
    Blogger Joe Monahan is compiling a list. Most of the suggestions presented to far have involved the construction industry or the film industry.
    Both of those industries provide somewhat seasonal jobs. But with the state of our state economy, seasonal jobs are just fine.
    The state has a big pile of capital outlay money sitting around but disagreements in the regular and special sessions this year prevented most of the money from being spent.

  • Rats are decent little souls

    The more we learn about animals, the more complex and interesting is the behavior they exhibit.
    My faithful mutt-from-the-pound, a dog named Buster Brown, impresses me from time to time with complex behaviors aimed at getting what he wants out of me. Most people who live with animals can tell you a tale or two of diabolical — or thoughtful – animal behavior they’ve witnessed.
    But even knowing all that, a recent study on lab rats took me by surprise. The research makes it clear that rats empathize with one another and will actively work to help one another.
    Here’s the scoop that was recently published in the prestigious journal Science. The work was done by Peggy Mason of the University of Chicago with the help of colleagues.

  • State government escapes major disruption

    By hook, crook, shifting from Peter to Paul, and hundreds of millions of federal stimulus dollars, state government survived, without major operational disruption, three years of less money coming into the general fund, the states principal pot of operating money.
    The period ended with the 2011 fiscal year (FY 11) that closed June 30 of this year.
    Survival came through easing down spending 3 to 4 percent per year for four years, said David Abbey, Legislative Finance Committee director.
    Abbey spoke Dec. 15 at the annual legislative outlook conference of the New Mexico Tax Research Institute.
    The overall spending cuts ended with FY 11. For the current year (FY 12, ending June 30, 2012), the state has gotten lucky.

  • Succession law may still be useful for N.M.

    Gov. Susana Martinez is fond of crossing into El Paso frequently for a few hours to visit family, and this has brought some public attention to the “traveling governor” provision of New Mexico’s Constitution.
    A sentence in Article 5, Section 7, says:  “In case the governor is absent from the state, or is for any reason unable to perform his duties, the lieutenant governor shall act as governor, with all the powers, duties and emoluments of that office until such disability be removed.”  
    Emoluments, even!
    Maybe, some folks are saying, this horse-and-buggy provision is obsolete in the era of instant communication.  

  • Agents of change

    Three weeks into her job last year, Secretary of Education-designate Hanna Skandera had a teachable moment in the Capitol elevator.
    In a chance conversation, a woman told Skandera that she left the teaching profession because there was no recognition of excellence; her students were performing well, but next door, another teacher who was just marking time earned more because of longevity.
    “We have no way to acknowledge their excellence in a meaningful way,” Skandera said last week, speaking to business leaders. “How do you capture the art and science of teaching?”