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Today's Opinions

  • Lawsuits piling up against HSD reveal doctored audit report

    What a difference one sentence can make!
    The decision by the state Human Services Department to strike one crucial sentence in an auditor’s report gave it carte blanche to yank the funding of 15 behavioral health providers.
    This is just one revelation in the 10 inevitable lawsuits, three of them filed last week, against the state for a move that was questionable from the outset.
    To recap, in February 2013 HSD hired Public Consulting Group to audit 15 providers and look for evidence of fraud.
    This was not a page-by-page forensic audit, intended to shake out the spiders, but a sampling of invoices. So, from $42,500 in overbilling found in the samples, the consultant conjured up $36 million in suspected overbilling.
    That alone was spongy evidence, but here’s the real kicker: the consultant reported that all 15 failed the audit, but also said there was no evidence of widespread fraud nor was there “credible allegations of fraud,” or significant concern about consumer safety, according to documents filed in the lawsuits.

  • Removal of Confederate flag shouldn’t have taken this long

    I’ve spent my whole life in the Northeast, but I have Southern roots.
    My late grandfather came from a long line of sharecroppers who toiled in the fields of Decatur, Georgia, for generations. Their history of hardship was common in the South.
    Where my grandfather grew up, poor whites often blamed their misfortune on the only group of people less fortunate than they: black people. For these marginalized whites, the Confederate battle flag came to symbolize what might have been.
    To me, the Confederate battle flag represents the dehumanization of black people. Renewed calls to banish it from public spaces across the South pit a national drive to stamp out prejudice against the region’s pride in its history — even if that particular history is nothing to be proud of.
    Many Southerners insist that the emblem merely salutes Southern heritage. But lynch mobs have never rallied behind sweet tea and collard greens.
    Separatist flags signified white defiance during the Civil War. A century later, they were embraced by the millions of whites who refused to acknowledge black people’s rights amid the racist backlash against the civil rights movement.

  • Literacy is more than reading

    Almost half of the adults in New Mexico can’t read.
    According to the New Mexico Coalition for Literacy, 46 percent of New Mexico adults are functionally illiterate. Of those, 20 percent have literacy skills at the lowest level, meaning, for example, they would have difficulty extracting simple information from a news article. Another 26 percent are at the second level, where their skills are a little higher, but not enough to get a job that requires reading.
    That’s simply awful.
    It may be some consolation that New Mexico is not alone in having a massive illiteracy problem. According to the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, the entire country is falling behind the rest of the industrialized world and now ranks about 17th in literacy.
    But none of this is good news, and, as usual, New Mexico is a little worse than most other states.
    A unique perspective on the issue comes from New Mexico’s most famous literacy activist, poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, who spoke recently to the literacy coalition’s annual meeting. Literacy isn’t just about reading, he said. “Literacy is about human beings being able to express their emotions to the people they love.”

  • Supreme Court same-sex ruling threatens religious liberty of all New Mexicans

    On Friday, in the 5-4 decision of Obergefell v. Hodges, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution requires all 50 states to license marriages between same-sex couples.
    The court’s action places the religious liberty of all New Mexicans at risk. As Justice Clarence Thomas noted, “the majority’s decision threatens the religious liberty our nation has long sought to protect.”
    Churches are at greater risk. Justice Thomas noted, “marriage is not simply a governmental institution: it is a religious institution as well. It appears all but inevitable that the two will come into conflict, particularly as individuals and churches are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.”
    Regarding the tax exempt status of religious institutions opposed to same-sex marriage, Chief Justice John Roberts noted, “There is little doubt that these and similar questions will soon be before this court.”
    Businesses are at greater risk. Already in New Mexico, a business has been found to violate state law for refusing to photograph a same-sex “commitment ceremony.” New Mexico’s Christian businesses should be very concerned.

  • The ‘New World Disorder’

    Ripples of events in Europe almost a quarter of a century ago reverberate in New Mexico today.
    After the celebrations occasioned by the fall of Berlin’s infamous wall on the evening of Nov. 9, 1989, U.S. and European officials hardly knew what to make of the dramatically altered political landscape that quickly emerged to challenge them.
    Bellicose cold war bombast that had served western politicians so reliably (“Mr. Gorbachev! Tear this wall down!”) was suddenly no longer serviceable and entrenched Eastern European political elites that had governed with iron fists since the end of World War II were on the run.
    Old eastern bloc “defense alliances” dematerialized. The once mighty Soviet Union lost dominion over neighboring polities and started calling itself the “Russian Federation,” where the decrepit communism of yore was transmogrified into corrupt, crony capitalism and yesterday’s commissars were swept aside by new cadres of oligarchs adept at profiting from the resources of the state.
    Proclaiming the Cold War to have been “won,” the first President George Bush hailed the promise of a “New World Order,” thus demonstrating how statesmen can come to rue glib pronouncements.

  • Office of Business Advocacy helps entrepreneurs launch and grow

    Governor Susana Martinez and Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela established the Office of Business Advocacy (OBA) in January 2011 and have been extremely pleased with its success.
    Since then, the OBA has saved or created more than 2,000 jobs by helping businesses navigate the sometimes complicated processes of permitting and licensing that can slow job creation and business growth. Now the OBA is expanding its mission.
    “The Office of Business Advocacy has done remarkably well helping small businesses that may not have the time or resources to sift through the regulatory, licensing and permitting process or address policy issues affecting their operations,” Barela said. “As a result of regulatory reforms, leading to less bureaucratic red tape than when the governor first took office four and half years ago, we’re expanding the OBA’s role to include proactively helping entrepreneurs start businesses and grow.”

  • Are we a Christian nation?

    It depends upon the definition. Would we be a Christian nation defined by a legislative fiat? No! That is expressly forbidden by our Constitution in the first amendment to it. Lawmakers shall make no law with respect to religion.
    There are 13 countries that do have an official state religion where the church is an integral part of their government. We have no national religion. In fact, one of the reasons the pioneering people who came to America was to escape such a mandated system of beliefs, faith and practices.
    Freedom of religion is a basic right of all citizens under our Constitution with the Bill of Rights. Some protestant colonies, early on, assessed taxes upon their citizens to support their churches, a practice that ceased with adoption of the constitution.
    We are free to believe what we wish without government interference.
    It was the practice of religious faith in Christianity that carried our national forefathers to achieve the basic values and moral courage to write and propose the basic form of government that we have.
    Though those of our countrymen who are not Christian still benefit from those basic tenants that give us the core of our national ethos.

  • Pet Talk: How to prepare for a furry friend’s death

    For many of us, the connection we share with companion animals extends beyond just friendly company, our pets are considered a part of the family.
    The truly unique love between an owner and their pet is something one has to experience to understand. Although a pet may be a very loved and important family member, it is important to be sensitive and aware of your pet’s needs as they age.
    Sometimes owners are faced with difficult decisions when their pet reaches an age or health condition that no longer allows them to enjoy daily activities. Dr. Sarah Griffin, lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (CVM), explains that euthanization is never an easy choice, but in some cases, it may be the best option for your pet.
    “One of my professors in veterinary school told us that she tells clients to pick the pet’s three favorite things,” Griffin said. “When two out of three of those things are gone, it’s time to let them go. Many pets will continue to eat and drink even when they are in pain. Keeping a daily record of good vs. bad days sometimes helps you see the quality of life they are living.
    Some of the emotional struggles owners face when dealing with their pet’s death may be guilt and loneliness.