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Today's Opinions

  • 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.”

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Bandelier sites could be destroyed

    The park manager at Bandelier National Monument is planning to re-open portions of a trail that was closed in the 1950s in order to protect archaeological sites.
    The reasons for this new trail project are ostensibly stated as a safety concern due to the possibility of flash floods in the canyon floor and to provide visitors with additional archeological remains to explore.
    No one can fault the National Park Service for wanting to develop trails that provide reasonable access to our public lands. This is something we all want in our parks. However, any new developments or changes need to be done thoughtfully and carefully to ensure that our actions do not destroy the very treasures we are trying to preserve.
    Unfortunately this trail project will result in damage to and destruction of the archaeological sites that Bandelier National Monument was created to protect.
    Archaeologists from neighboring agencies and institutions including the Santa Fe National Forest, the State of New Mexico, San Ildefonso Pueblo and the National Park Service toured the proposed project area in late 2013.
    The unanimous concerns were that caves and associated archaeological remains would be permanently damaged by the proposed trail access.

  • ‘Road to Character’ brings David Brooks to Santa Fe

    For David Brooks, the key to the magic kingdom — or a side door, anyway — of major mainstream media and politics came from a smart-alecky spoof of William F. Buckley, the conservative guru and founder of the National Review, who was scheduled to speak at the University of Chicago.
    The student Brooks was closing his undergraduate time in the great books program at Chicago with a history degree. “The formative experience of my life,” he calls the Chicago time.
    During his speech, Buckley, known as I remember for his sense of humor, offered Brooks a job from the podium. After a brief time as a Chicago police reporter, Brooks joined the National Review as an intern in 1984.
    So began a path through companies such as the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard and now the New York Times and “The News Hour” on Public Broadcasting. Brooks is a star, in other words. The path brought Brooks to Santa Fe and St. John’s College June 26.
    The occasion was what St. John’s called a “Gala Benefit Dinner” that was the final event of the college’s yearlong celebration of its 50 years in Santa Fe.