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Today's Opinions

  • Innovation comes from entrepreneurs, major corporations, children

    Countries become more prosperous by producing and selling more stuff. One approach is having more people produce the same amount for each person. This might apply in New Mexico where a low proportion of our population works. Just hire more people.
    Using technology to have each person produce more is better. Or combine old ideas into a new application, the technique of Vasari21 (vasari21.com), a Taos-based website launched by Ann Landi, a four-year Taos resident transplanted from New York City. Landi has been a freelance writer for publications including the Wall Street Journal and ArtNews.
    Vasari21, is an online publication directed at artists, not art consumers. “There’s nothing like it,” she says. With decades of contacts at the top of the art world and with the internet, Landi is able to operate from Taos.
    Topics include how artists make their way, why critics act the way they do, and talking to a gallery.
    So far, so good, she says. Vasari21 has “a very low bounce rate.”
    Landi has learned that means people stick around the site for a while instead of clicking away in a few seconds.
    Major corporate innovation came recently to my Gillette brand shaving cream, made by Proctor and Gamble. The shaving cream cap has been a 2.5 inch diameter, two-inch-high plastic item.

  • We fill budget holes instead of creating a dynamic economy

    David Abbey, the longtime director of the Legislative Finance Committee, has said the state is running on fumes, and he’s not one to exaggerate.
    Because the recession hangs on and oil and gas prices dropped, tax revenues were down for 11 months of the last fiscal year by a whopping $543.3 million. Even though legislators cut budgets and swept spare change from every possible corner during the last session, we’re now spending money we don’t have.
    That might be a fine American tradition, but it’s illegal. The federal government can run deficits; New Mexico state government can’t.
    So Democrats, now joined by some Republicans, want a special session, but the governor is waiting for numbers from the entire year – as if one month’s revenues will make a difference – before calling a special session.
    Nobody likes a special session, especially during an election year, when the inevitable ugly decisions could affect votes.
    But the longer they wait, the worse it gets. They’ve used cash reserves to plug the hole, so the account hovers at 1 percent of state spending, or $63 million, down from $319.8 million last year. Good governance calls for higher balances.

  • Ingenuity is our best hope for the future

    “Cardboard” is a versatile concept. A “cardboard” person is thoroughly unattractive—flat, stiff, dull and banal. By contrast, real cardboard is a marvel – efficient, sturdy, useful and adaptable.
    “Cardboard box” is a generic name for boxes of all uses and sizes made from paper-like materials. Think of cereal boxes, juice boxes, a box of candy, brown boxes that store archives, shipping boxes and the “shoebox,” that cache of humble treasures.
    It is no small truth that kids take to the empty box as eagerly as they play with the grand toy that came in the box. What else makes so fine a fort, a lion house and a big bass drum? So strong is the cardboard box’s appeal as a child’s plaything that in 2005 a cardboard box was added to the National Toy Hall of Fame. It is true.
    The cardboard box drove us to reuse stuff long before it was a strategy. Cardboard was well suited for recycling long before recycling was thought about. The gods of yore may have helped more than we know.
    In the 1870s, corrugated cardboard hit the market and began to replace wooden shipping crates. The term “tree hugger” was used in India as long ago as 1730. The term was reborn in the 1960s and is popular today as an honor or an insult in natural resource conflicts.  

  • Pot will get us through times of no money

    I’ve seen dozens of economic development schemes over the years. Some were visionary, others simply delusional. Almost all involved tapping the taxpayers to benefit a handful of politically savvy lobbyists and their clients.
    I can count the number of winners on one hand. New Mexico wine, which scarcely existed 30 years ago, is now a $60 million business expanding at 10 to 15 percent a year. Beer has grown from 25 craft breweries five years ago to 45 today with an estimated $340 million in economic impact.
    Both succeeded without government subsidies and in the teeth of Prohibition-era laws and bureaucratic inertia. Real businesses flourish not by rent-seeking in Santa Fe or Washington to get the government to underwrite their costs and mandate customers to purchase their product, but by producing something consumers actually want to buy.
    If the Drug War has taught us anything over the past 40 years, it’s that people want to buy marijuana.
    Since Colorado’s first pot shop opened two years ago, that state’s legal recreational market has grown from zero to nearly $600 million last year and may top $1 billion this year. The state rakes in more than a quarter of that with a hefty 27.9 percent levy on sales.

  • 10 Tips for Becoming a Knowledgeable Renter  

    On the hunt for a new apartment? A move can be an exciting opportunity to explore a new area or meet new people. However, competitive rental markets can make it difficult to find a desirable place on a budget.
    Keep these ten tips in mind to manage the process like a pro. They’ll help you stand out from the crowd, get a good deal, enjoy the neighborhood and manage your rights and responsibilities as a renter.
    1. Talk to Other Tenants. Speak with current or past renters to get a sense for the building and landlord. Ask about the neighborhood, noise, timeliness with repairs and any other pressing questions. Consider looking for online reviews of the landlord as well, and research the neighborhood.
    2. Upgrade Your Application. Go beyond the basic application requirements and include pictures, references, credit reports and a short bio about yourself and whoever else may be moving in. Try to catch the landlord’s eye and show that you’ll take care of the property. You can order a free credit report from each bureau (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) once every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com.  

  • Johnson is another choice for president

    The 2016 presidential contest is down to two people. That’s what Deborah Maestas, Republican chair, would have us believe.
    In a July 17 op-ed she called for “Republicans and conservatives” to unite behind Donald Trump. “Trump’s success represents a shift that our country desperately needed,” she said. However laughable Maestas assertion in the op-ed, she was just doing her job.
    But, well, no. While unhappiness is everywhere, more is happening here than an either-or choice. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over, as Yogi Berra said.
    A phone call came a couple of weeks ago from my sister-in-law in southwest Wisconsin. A Catholic and a Democrat, she works for a branch campus of the University of Wisconsin in a community of 12,000.  She is distressed at the prospect of either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump being president. Her protest vote in the Wisconsin primary was for Bernie Sanders.
    After a few minutes, the topic of Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson entered the conversation, as you might expect. My wife, the Clinton supporter, gave me the phone. I said, “Policies aside, Gary is honest.” The other two are serial, purposive liars, among other things.

  • Makerspaces nurture business development

    Uncertainty about the commercial viability of an innovation or idea — in addition to the cost of renting or buying the machinery needed to build a working prototype — has stifled many an entrepreneurial impulse. But the makerspace movement that’s gaining a foothold in several New Mexico communities is trying to change that.   
    Makerspaces offer access to expensive equipment and expert mentoring that innovators need to turn a concept into something tangible. Their advocates see them as cauldrons of entrepreneurism and economic development — as early-stage business incubators.
    Nurturing creativity
    New Mexico is home to half a dozen makerspaces, many of them only a few years old.
    Los Alamos Makers calls itself “a scientific playground for all ages,” and its members can use all sorts of industrial, mechanical, laboratory and electronic equipment that the organization has procured in its two years of existence.
    Lots of people have ideas, said founder Prisca Tiasse, a former biologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, but they lack the means to invest in something that might not go anywhere. “That is a major hurdle for entrepreneurism.”

  • Focus legislation on one issue at a time

    The U. S. Senate, as you probably know, left Washington for a lengthy summer recess without passing an appropriation for research on the Zika virus. Though most senators agreed on the funding, Democrats disagreed with provisions unrelated to this issue, which had been included in the bill by Republicans.
    Among those provisions were restrictions on funding for birth control services from Planned Parenthood, weakened clean water laws governing pesticides and, as if the nation needs something else to motivate people to shoot each other, a provision that would have allowed the Confederate flag to be displayed at military cemeteries.
    Let us not, for this moment, debate the Planned Parenthood issue, the pesticide issue or even the Confederate flag issue. Let’s talk about process.
    This process, sometimes called logrolling, is what happens when legislation is written so that in order to vote for one thing that a legislator is in favor of, the legislator has to vote for something he or she opposes.
    In this case, according to the news reports, U. S. senators on both sides are now waiting for a few American babies to be born with tragic deformities so they can point fingers at each other. At least New Mexico, with its low humidity, is not a heavy mosquito state.