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Today's Opinions

  • Tijerina the Tiger

    The death of Reies Lopez Tijerina in an El Paso hospital late last month occasioned a good deal of comment and commentary.
    Tijerina invited comment and commentary, even sought it.
    His main claim to fame occurred almost a half century ago when he and a band of followers stormed the Rio Arriba County Courthouse in Tierra Amarilla, wounding a jailer and police officer and taking a reporter and the sheriff hostage.
    It was a big deal. “Tijerina’s Rio Arriba Court House raid,” it came to be called, and he ended up spending a couple of years in federal prison. But that was sometime later and unrelated to his Court House rampage.
    Tijerina and his fellow raiders initially got away by escaping into nearby Kit Carson National Forest. His grievance was the injustice he considered New Mexico’s original Hispanic settlers to have experienced when their land grants were abrogated or outright taken from them.
    It made him quite a celebrity, even something of a hero to many young Hispanic and Latino activists who seized upon the land grant issue and made it “a cause celebre.”
    This was in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when ferment and activism was abroad in the land.

  • Tax burden unfairly shouldered by poor

    American politics are dominated by those with money. As such, America’s tax debate is dominated by voices that insist the rich are unduly persecuted by high taxes and that low-income folks are living the high life.
    Indeed, a new survey by the Pew Research Center recently found that the most financially secure Americans believe “poor people today have it easy.”
    The rich are certainly entitled to their own opinions — but, as the old saying goes, nobody is entitled to their own facts.
    With that in mind, here’s a set of tax facts that’s worth considering: Middle- and low-income Americans are facing far higher state and local tax rates than the wealthy.
    In all, a comprehensive analysis by the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy finds that the poorest 20 percent of households pay on average more than twice the effective state and local tax rate (10.9 percent) as the richest 1 percent of taxpayers (5.4 percent).
    ITEP researchers say the incongruity derives from state and local governments’ reliance on sales, excise and property taxes rather than on more progressively structured income taxes that increase rates on higher earnings. They argue that the tax disconnect is helping create the largest wealth gap between the rich and middle class in American history.

  • By and large, who pollutes?

    A strain of common belief says super-sized contributions to election campaigns weaken environmental safeguards. All things considered, is this so?
    All things considered, no one knows. Things to consider are scattered too widely to judge as a whole.
    When data are scattered widely, we naturally focus on what we see first. But we can zoom out to see more.
    Begin at home. Big corporations make large donations to U.S. election campaigns. Pollution from big corporations is easily seen. Ergo, some say that worse pollution stems from hefty campaign contributions.
    These puzzle pieces start the idea that the quality of the land, air and water would be better sooner if corporate money had less influence in politics.
    A wider scan sees more to puzzle over.
    Corporate money has much less influence in Chinese politics. Yet, pollution is plainly worse in China than the U.S.
    The 2008 Summer Olympics in China’s capital city, Beijing, proved the point to the world. The government shut down plants in the region during the games to improve air quality.
    At a glance, we see worse harms in fumy places where corporations and capitalism alike are held in less regard than in our country. Harm simmers in many kettles of governance.
    And there is more to take in. A still wider scan brings to light more complications.

  • ‘Blackhat’ much ado about nearly nothing

    There was considerable concern within the nuclear energy community about Michael Mann’s cyber-thriller “Blackhat” before its release.
    Much of the pre-release angst was generated by the trailers, which showed a catastrophic nuclear accident had blown open a gaping hole in a large, domed containment building. I went to see it the first day it hit the local cinema, and early on I suspected that the nuclear energy community’s angst was literally much ado about nearly nothing.
    My first inkling was when the control room was shown. I almost laughed because it had wall-to-wall windows overlooking a vast, steaming open pool of water.
    First, there are no windows in actual nuclear power plant control rooms. Also, the depicted control room looked much like a high-tech press box at a modern professional football stadium.
    Regardless, I was curious about the hot-water pool. I wondered if that was supposed to be the reactor.
    My speculation was soon verified. There was a series of long, vertical metal pipes deep within the pool — the supposed core. Surrounding these pipes were several rotating fan-like devices. It seems that these were supposed to be the circulation pumps.

  • Mirroring the Marmota Monax

    Do you ever get the feeling that things will never change?
    With Groundhog Day approaching this weekend, it wouldn’t surprise me if I woke up and found myself back in the 1960s — flag-waving nationalists beating on foreigners, police beating on civil rights marchers, religious fundamentalists beating on homosexuals, bigots beating on minorities.
    Hang on. I need to check the calendar to make sure I’m not actually back in the ’60s!
    Monday, Punxsutawney Phil will once again look for his shadow, then predict the inevitable extension of winter for another six weeks.
    Actually, shadow or no, it’ll be 48 more days of winter, not six weeks (I checked to see when the Equinox occurs).
    But today, Jan. 30, is just as important a date as Feb. 2.
    In 1648, Netherlands and Spain signed a treaty — Peace of Munster — ending the Thirty Years War, a terribly destructive series of conflict in Europe that resulted in over 10 million deaths.
    It was a war to end all wars and its end brought forth an era of peace that reigned throughout Europe for years and years and years.
    Well, of course, there was that little skirmish between Portugal and Spain (Restoration War) for another 20 years. And then another 22 years of killing during the Anglo-Dutch War.
    Ah! But then there was peace!

  • Illegal immigration: Is Europe losing control of its borders?

    The cargo ship recklessly headed towards the coast of Italy. The crew had abandoned ship and the Italian coast guard scrambled to intervene.
    After regaining control of the ship the coast guard discovered a troubling reality: 800 illegal immigrants were hiding in the hull of the ship. These men, women and children — most of them coming from Africa — were exhausted and terrified by the ordeal.
    Later that day — December 31, 2014 — the ship was brought safely to the Italian harbor of Gallipoli where the migrants got off.
    Scenes like this play out almost on a daily basis.
    Two days later, the same scenario occurred with another cargo ship that was carrying roughly 450 illegal immigrants.
    Illegal migrants from Africa, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq are desperately trying to cross the sea to reach Europe.
    There is a lot at stake for everyone involved and 2014 saw record numbers of immigrants. On January 13, 2015, the European Union Commission (EUC) released a statement that said in 2014 “more than 276,000 migrants illegally entered the EU, which represents an increase of 155 percent compared to 2013.”

  • Governor speech making has evolved, but still doesn’t produce consensus

    Political speeches are a hazard of reporting.
    The great journalist
    H.L. Mencken once wrote of a speech by President Harding, “It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line… of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights.”
    His main complaint was that Harding’s speeches were devoid of ideas and nothing but stump speeches loaded with platitudes.
    I can’t say I’ve ever heard a speech that bad. I remember Sen. Pete Domenici as direct, Sen. Jeff Bingaman as cerebral, Gov. Bruce King as smart and folksy at the same time, Rep. Heather Wilson as sensible, House Speakers Raymond Sanchez and Walter Martinez as eloquent.
    Gov. Bill Richardson was clear and understandable, although he sometimes bullied people from the podium.
    Former Senate President Manny Aragon, during a speech about the state’s huge needs and the difficulty in stretching the budget, grew so emotional that I half expected him to weep. This was before he decided his own needs trumped everyone else’s.

  • Two kinds of income inequality

    Income inequality is back in the news, propelled by an Oxfam International report and President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. The question is whether government needs to do something about this — or whether government needs to undo many things.
    Measuring income inequality is no simple thing, which is one source of disagreement between those who think inequality is a problem and those who think it isn’t. But it is possible to cut through the underbrush and make some points clear.
    We can identify two kinds of economic inequality, and let’s keep this in mind as we contemplate what, if anything, government ought to do.
    The first kind we might call market inequality. Individuals differ in many ways, including energy, ambition and ingenuity. As a result, in a market-oriented economy some people will be better than others at satisfying consumers and will hence tend to make more money.
    The only way to prevent that is to interfere forcibly with the results of peaceful, positive-sum transactions in the marketplace. Since interference discourages the production of wealth, the equality fostered through violence will be an equality of impoverishment.