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Today's Opinions

  • Confronting our troubles: Mumbling and the Ross Perot fantasy

    Conversations about our economic, ah, problem, mess, disaster, lack of an economy… (you pick the word or phrase) are happening behind the scenes. I have few further specifics. Even if I had more, probably I couldn’t share. Our leaders — call them “power brokers” — are worried, as well they should be. In larger communities, the power brokers may even have regular, scheduled gatherings. In small towns, it would be the café across from the courthouse.
    When the broker conversations propose action, especially specific and public action, taking on Person or Organization A, and seek people to lead the charge, the candidates for the civic role tend to say, “I have a contract with Organization A and can’t afford to lose it.” Or, “I can’t take the risk.” Or, “I’m just too busy.” Or, “Another power broker opposes this action and I can’t annoy this other power broker.” Or whatever.
    The result is no action and continued wringing of hands.
    An informal survey of theoretically potential cage-rattling, meet-the-challenge organizations leads nowhere.

  • Healthcare access: Are some more entitled?

    Healthcare policy is an endless debate in the United States, and in New Mexico the debate has its own special complications.
    Thoughts about how theories and ethics bump up against pragmatic realities come to mind in the wake of two recent public discussions I attended.
    Is there such a thing as “deserving” healthcare, and do some people deserve more than others? Should some people be more entitled to access healthcare, or better quality healthcare, than others? (“Entitled” is a loaded word. I used it deliberately to provoke your thoughts.)
    Should those who can afford to pay for it have a greater right than those who don’t? Should smokers, or fat people, or drug addicts have less access, or be forced to pay more than others? Should young people be at the front of the line and old people forced to the back? These questions arise starkly when we consider extremely limited resources such as organs for transplant, but they permeate the entire healthcare system.
    To develop the system we really want, we have to know what our values are. This message emerged from a presentation titled “Balancing Universal Healthcare with Medical Rationing,” by David Teutsch, a rabbi and ethicist, speaking recently to a New Mexico audience.

  • EPA’s carbon pollution rules good for business, economy

    Some national business organizations have hammered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for proposing new rules on carbon pollution from existing power plants, cutting carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, using 2005 levels as a baseline. What planet are they on?
    It’s ludicrous to pretend that climate change isn’t happening, or that it won’t affect every industry. It’s beyond comprehension that large business advocacy organizations, including the United States Chamber of Commerce, think that our government should stand by and do nothing, while climate-related disasters in 2012 caused more than $139 billion in damages, while U.S. taxpayers shelled out $96 billion in climate-related damages in 2012 alone, or while sea levels rise 6.6 feet by 2100 — enough to swamp Miami.
    Let’s be clear: the costs from carbon pollution will be terrible for business. Climate change poses tremendous risks — insurance premiums will skyrocket, electricity prices will soar, jobs will be lost, food and transportation costs will dramatically rise and taxes will likely increase in order to pay for needed infrastructure upgrades.

  • The Great War at 100: Revisiting the Guns of August

    On August 3, 1914, British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey gave a speech before Parliament that “proved to be one of those junctures by which people afterward date events,” according to Barbara Tuchman in her magisterial “The Guns of August.”
    The dour secretary appeared “pale, haggard and worn,” as he dutifully explained “British interests, British honor and British obligations,” all of which conspired to produce a commitment to defend Belgium against the militarism of the continent’s mightiest power: Imperial Germany.
    The issue involved more than the troublesome neutrality of that inconveniently situated little country. A few hours after Grey’s speech, Germany declared war on France, with the full expectation that victory would be achieved “before the leaves have fallen from the trees,” as Kaiser Wilhelm II declared. The day ended with Grey remarking that “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime” — words that proved prescient. The gloomy German Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke conjured a more farsighted scenario when he exclaimed to a colleague that their country was embarking on “the struggle that will decide the course of history for the next hundred years.” 

  • Pet Talk: Be aware of benign tumors in dogs

    The discovery of a fatty tumor underneath your pet’s skin can be disconcerting to any pet owner. Luckily, the most common fatty tumors, lipomas, are benign and usually not cause for concern.
    “Lipomas are common tumors of dogs, and although the gross appearance and texture of these tumors is characteristic, they are benign tumors in most cases,” said Dr. Rita Ho, veterinary intern instructor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
    Most lipomas feel fairly soft and movable under the skin and do not usually typically make pets uncomfortable unless they are in a location where normal movement is disrupted. Once your pet develops a lipoma, it is common for additional tumors to appear. If this does occur, each tumor should be checked individually.
    “Dogs can form lipomas under any conditions, even if the dog is in good body condition,” said Dr. Ho. “It is not related to any known cause or environmental factor.”

  • We are rut, so fight we musth

    Musth is a period in which adult elephants experience “testosterone overload,” inducing extreme levels of agitation, violent tendencies and rogue behavior. During musth, elephants discharge a thick tar-like substance called temporin, a warning sign that the elephant may charge in a dangerous frenzy with no apparent provocation at all.
    For male moose and elk, this testo-explosion is called “rut,” during which the animals fight with each other.
    And that urge to fight is simply uncontrollable. Elephants will charge almost anyone or anything in a seemingly mindless state of enraged fury. Moose in rut go head-to-head with each other (literally) in an attempt to demonstrate who is the superior male.
    It’s a macho-fest of the animal world, where “kill or be killed” is replaced with “kill and impress the girls!”
    The etymology of musth is very apropos. The word derives from the Persian “mast” meaning “intoxicated.” When raging in a manic killing craze, an animal exhibits the same level of judgment one might expect from someone who has ingested a dozen glasses of rum and coke (minus the coke).

  • New online tool helps manufacturers measure up against world-class standards

     

    Manufacturing businesses that want to know how their performance stacks up against industry standards have a new tool to make that measurement — and it’s available at no cost.

    The Manufacturing Performance Institute, in conjunction with the American Small Manufacturers Coalition and the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership, created the Next Generation Manufacturing Assessment Tool after surveying thousands of United States manufacturers in 2009, 2011 and 2013. 

    The biennial survey asks manufacturers what strategic benchmarks they use to measure their efficiency and effectiveness in six critical areas: human resources, supply-chain management, sustainability, process improvement, innovation and global engagement. The tool based on this survey allows manufacturers of all kinds to see how they compare with world-class industry practices and standards by comparing their responses to those of thousands of other top manufacturers. 

  • Tasks to survive back-to-school

     

    Parents, if this is your first time at the back-to-school rodeo, let me share a few lessons my wife and I have learned the hard way. Chances are you’ll be spending the next few weeks filling out piles of pre-enrollment paperwork, lining up carpools and, of course, taking the dreaded shopping excursions for clothes and school supplies.

    If you’re a first-timer or simply need a back-to-school refresher course, here are a few suggestions that can help you save time, money and sanity:

    Get organized. Maintain a correspondence file from your kid’s school for things like registration requirements, report cards, permission slips, required vaccinations, school policies, teacher and parent contact information, etc. Ask whether the school has a website, online calendar, or email list you can join. Also, create a family master calendar.