Today's Opinions

  • Letter to the editor 7-21-15

    Our Flag, My Flag

    There is hardly anything more beautiful than to be on a troopship coming into harbor with all those American flags flying. I’m home, I’m home, I’m home.
    From the time I was a 12-year-old Boy Scout, I remember being respectful to the flag that represents so many good things about the United States of America.
    I am a first generation American, as were so many of my classmates. We were Scots, Italian, Yugoslavian, Mexican, Polish, Japanese, Irish and more.  It was a great time and a great place to grow up, and every morning we recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
    Some might call this brainwashing, but it was in gratitude for a country that would allow us to be what we could not have been if our parents had stayed in the old country.
    We could be and were engineers, doctors, chemists, teachers, dentists, lawyers, small businessmen, mayors, senators and more. That is what the flag means.
    I can arm myself with a firearm and no one can take it from me. I’m a free man.
    My kids, grandkids and great-grandkids can go to any school or university they wish, for there are no class distinctions. I can vote for anyone I wish and I can run for office if I don’t like what I see, and I can win.  

  • Taking back the forests from the feds

    With all the uproar surrounding the Confederate flag these days, perhaps it’s time to take another look at secession.
    Certainly, there are more than a few New Mexicans, and not just in Rio Arriba and Catron County, who believe the Land of Enchantment would be better off out from under the heavy hand of the federal bureaucracy.
    Actually exiting the “one nation, indivisible” is not a viable option, of course. Even if Washington took a more relaxed view of the question than it did 150 years ago, New Mexico could scarcely survive economically without the dollars flowing in from all those good people in Ohio, New Jersey and other states that pay out more than they get back from the federal coffers.
    According to usaspending.gov, Washington dispensed $14.1 billion in New Mexico in the last fiscal year through 28,974 contracts, grants, loans and other financial assistance. That’s somewhere between a fifth and a quarter of the state’s total gross domestic product. If you think we’re poor now, wait until we send the feds packing.
    The lion’s share is funneled through the Department of Energy, which spent $4.8 billion in the most recent fiscal year, followed by $4 billion in Social Security, $2.5 billion to Health and Human Services, and $981 million in veterans’ benefits.

  • Susana’s Tax and Rev Woes?

    Back in January, as he was about to be sworn in as New Mexico’s attorney general, Hector Balderas reminded an Albuquerque Business First reporter that during the previous eight years as state auditor he had exposed corruption in a number of state agencies.
    As attorney general, he will be no less vigilant, Balderas pledged.
    The “Attorney General’s Office has powers,” he noted. “That’s what’s exciting about the Attorney General’s Office.”
    Roughly two weeks ago, Balderas’ successor as state auditor, Tim Keller, handed the new attorney general a preliminary investigation conducted by an independent, certified forensic investigative accounting firm indicating that top officials of the state Taxation and Revenue Department “improperly intervened in tax matters.”
    It was subsequently reported that one of the top Tax and Rev officials under scrutiny is none other than the department’s cabinet secretary, Demesia Padilla, about whom Keller said in a letter to Gov. Susana Martinez, “there is reasonable basis to open an investigation into” whether “the secretary improperly influenced, or attempted to influence the tax audit of a former client.”

  • Note to Trump: ‘Scum of two nations’ yielded presidents and patriots

    Donald Trump should read American history.
    If he did, he might not have made a statement like this: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
    As The Donald was shooting himself in the foot, I was learning about the Scots-Irish in this country as part of my research on New Mexico’s first U.S. territorial governor and Indian agent, James Silas Calhoun.
    The Scots-Irish were farmers who in the 16th and 17th centuries left their unproductive land in Scotland for better land in northern Ireland at the encouragement of the English who rid themselves of one set of troublemakers by inflicting them on another.
    They didn’t get along with the Irish but endured.
    After continued oppression, these Scots-Irish, as they came to be called, immigrated to the American colonies beginning in the early 1700s, long before the Catholic Irish. Pouring into Pennsylvania (they weren’t welcome in Boston) by the thousands, they migrated south to the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia and Alabama, which were glad to have these tough frontiersmen as a buffer between the settlements and displaced Indian tribes.

  • The sky is falling

    Once again, a commercial has prompted a virtual war of words, a tirade of tantrums, a carnage of complaints, an onslaught of objections, an assault of alliterative allegories!
    The guilty party was the pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, makers of the pain relief medicine Tylenol.
    J&J had the unmitigated audacity to run a commercial in which a homosexual had a headache.
    The sky is falling! The sky is falling!
    Seriously, this bodes global disaster. If gays can have headaches, they can have toothaches, also. Are we doomed to watch men brushing their teeth together? Is nothing sacred?
    Earlier this year, Hallmark Cards wreaked havoc on Earth’s orbit by featuring a same-gender couple in a Valentine’s Day commercial. OK, yeah, the world survived. But just barely.
    It’s bad enough homosexuals have access to medicines, but must we share our favorite munchies with them?
    Nabisco Honeymaid graham crackers and Kraft Oreos have both gone over to the dark side, running commercials featuring gay couples.
    Sylvester Graham, a Presbyterian reverend, invented the graham cracker in 1829. He introduced it as a health food to thwart carnal urges, preaching that sugary foods encouraged self-abuse.
    Some years later, the gay community invented S’mores. Gays 1, Sylvester 0.

  • Working past 65? Here’s what to know about Medicare

    If you plan to work past 65 and keep the health insurance you’ve had from your job, you’re likely to wonder what, if anything, you need to do about enrolling in Medicare.
    About one in six older Americans now remains in the workforce beyond what was once the traditional retirement age. And the number of older workers will only grow over time.
    One reason is that Social Security now requires you to be at least 66 to collect your full retirement benefits. Retiring earlier means a smaller Social Security check.
    Then, too, a number of 60-something workers continue to pursue their careers because they can’t afford to retire. And still others simply prefer to stay engaged and on the job.
    Whatever the reason for postponing your retirement, you still need to consider Medicare as you approach your 65th birthday and qualify for the health care coverage.
    First, you should visit with your company’s human resources manager to determine how your employer-provided insurance will fit with Medicare. That’s also true for anyone turning 65 and receiving health care through a working spouse’s group plan.
    Most workers will want to sign up for Medicare’s Part A, which usually has no monthly premium and covers hospital stays, skilled nursing, home health services and hospice care.

  • Fixing prison system

    New Mexico’s three-strikes law may be due for an update because, says Gov. Susana Martinez, the current law does not take enough violent criminals off the street.
    I’m all for protecting us from violent criminals, but I find our policies and attitudes toward prison — New Mexico’s and the nation’s — confusing and contradictory.
    What is prison for? Is it to punish? Is it, as the name “corrections” suggests, to reform? Is it just to get dangerous people off the streets?
    In recent years, states have outlawed the death penalty but increased the use of solitary confinement and enacted laws, like three strikes, that increase sentences.
    “Tough on crime” is still a fashionable attitude for some politicians, and it’s well known the U.S. maintains the highest incarceration rate in the world.
    The current population of New Mexico’s prisons is around 7,200, says the Corrections Department website. About 90 percent are male. Most, according to department public affairs officer Alex Tomlin, do not have a high school diploma or GED.
    Most, Tomlin said, are incarcerated for a second or subsequent offense, and most of those offenses were violent.

  • Letters to the editor 7-15-15

    Foundation responds to letter

    Without our being aware of it, my organization, the Rio Grande Foundation, has been the center of some controversy in Los Alamos County, as relates to the Los Alamos Aquatic Center. Most recently, a letter from Betty Ann Gunther discussed our organization’s supposed involvement in budget cuts at the aquatic center.
    We did publish a report in 2011 called the “Piglet Book” which argued that the $1 million-plus the county was spending annually to operate the center was exorbitant.
    Apparently, four years later, a majority of the Los Alamos County Council agrees at least that other budget items took precedence over the aquatic center.
    I don’t know whether or not a councilor ran across our report in their research on the issue, but the information remains as relevant today as it was then.
    Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t take issue with the inordinate attention Ms. Gunther pays attention to our funding. She can certainly argue that other priorities should have yielded to the aquatic center, but it seems that the funding sources of conservative and free-market groups are a far greater issue for their critics than are the funding sources of liberal organizations.