Today's Opinions

  • Freedom becomes an issue when it is limited

    Consider the problems experienced within a single-family unit.
    Sibling rivalry. Financial difficulties. Personal differences. Infidelity. Abuse. Animosity. Dysfunctional relationships.
    Family dynamics prompted the phrase “Save your sanity. Find your happy space!”
    Put enough families together and you have a nation. With nearly 320 million people living here, there seems to be no happy space for American to run to.
    And yet, we pride ourselves on having one thing that sets us apart from the rest of the world.
    Unlimited, unfettered, unabated freedom.
    We have political freedoms. You can vote Republican. Vote Democrat. Choose not to vote. You can even vote for Trump if you desire. You can also stick pins in your eyes.
    We have constitutional freedoms. You can speak your mind, yell about the government, live where you want to live, travel the nation without restrictions.
    You can even say good things about Trump.
    We have individual freedoms. You can wear whatever clothes you desire. Get a tattoo. Drive a pickup truck. Listen to the music of your choosing. Even willingly listen to speeches given by Trump.
    Freedom is taken largely for granted and only when it’s abridged on one’s own home front does it become an issue of discussion.

  • Campaign finance watchdog Dianna Duran needed watching

    Here we go again.
    In 2012 Secretary of State Dianna Duran found that Sen. Mary Jane Garcia violated the Campaign Reporting Act a dozen times and dipped into campaign funds to reimburse herself for travel expenses the state had also reimbursed.
    A complaint by the campaign treasurer of Garcia’s opponent opened this can of worms, and the right-leaning New Mexico Watchdog, a news website, investigated and reported the double dipping, which prompted Duran to act. Garcia paid a fine, reimbursed the state and lost her reelection race.
    While the headlines were attention grabbers at the time, it’s one of the only times Duran acted on a campaign finance violation. And maybe now we know why.
    When Attorney General Hector Balderas charged Duran with fraud, embezzlement, money laundering and other crimes, he also revealed money oozing from campaign contribution accounts into her personal account to cover some astronomical gambling debts.
    This from an elected official who in 2011 took office from her discredited predecessor, saying, “We will have a Secretary of State’s Office you will be proud of.”
    From the outset, Duran’s priority was voter fraud, not campaign finance.

  • Oil’s down, gasoline isn’t. What’s up?

    A little more than a year ago, oil prices were above $100 a barrel.
    The national average for gasoline was in the $3.50 range. In late spring, oil was $60ish and the national average for gas was around $2.70. The price of a barrel of oil has plunged to $40 and below — yet, prices at the pump are just slightly less than they were when oil was almost double what it is today.
    Oil and gasoline prices usually travel up or down in sync. But a few weeks ago the trend lines crossed and oil continued the sharp decline while gasoline has stayed steady — even increasing.
    Oil’s down, gasoline isn’t. Consumers are wondering: “What’s up?”
    Even Congress is grilling refiners over the disparity.
    While, like most markets, the answer is complicated, there are some simple responses that even Congress should be able to understand. The short explanation is “refineries” — but there’s more to that and some other components, too.
    Within the U.S. exists approximately 20 percent of the world’s refining capacity. Fuel News explains that “on a perfect day,” these domestic facilities could process more than 18 million barrels of crude oil.

  • ‘Internet of Things’ offers powers, savings

    The Internet of Things is the next prodigious idea.
    The Internet of Things, called IoT for short, is a simple idea that offers intriguing powers and savings in major fields. What is more, the IoT sharpens the tools of regulatory engineering.
    The big plan is to amass key data from things, using the growing marvels of new sensors. Software keeps watch on the data and gives analyses in near real time to decide whether machines and procedures are working as best they can.
    The sensors are the things being attached to every kind of working object. A new Internet links the sensors to the software that keeps reporting where efficiencies can be gained and costs can be saved.
    By the same Internet link, signals can go back to adjust machine settings remotely. Thus the name.
    Industry expects to be its largest user, so some use the term “Industrial Internet.”
    The scale and scope of thinking can be gleaned by searching the web for “Internet of Things.” Wikipedia lists nine bustling areas in which IoT is seen as a new way for things to work better and faster, for less.  
    An early application is in marketing, that is, in using data about personal interests to supply information to people who may have real interest in it. Types of special information range from news to consumer products.

  • Family caregivers finally receive some assistance

    You may be a family caregiver, and if you’re not, you’re likely to become one.
    The numbers are surprising: 419,000 people in New Mexico, or one in five, do everything from providing meals and baths to administering medical care for a loved one. About one-fourth see to Alzheimer’s patients.
    The typical caregiver is a 46-year-old woman caring for her mother, but caregivers are often older. And she works full- or part-time. Many have had to reduce their hours, sacrificing income and retirement benefits.
    Hispanics and Native Americans provide care at a higher rate than the general population, the state says.
    If the state had to pay for this care, which accounts for 80 percent of long-term care and allows some people to stay in their own homes, it would cost $3.5 billion a year.
    (These numbers are probably low because they focus on families. Offhand, I know of three instances in which friends teamed up to care for terminally ill individuals with no living relatives.)
    This year, state government stepped up.
    Recently the state Aging and Long-Term Services Department announced its New Mexico State Plan for Family Caregivers.

  • Lamentation of laurels

    Three months ago, Dr. Walter Palmer was a successful dentist in Bloomington, Minnesota.
    As proprietor of River Bluff Dental, he was considered a fantastic dentist. His patients characterized him as supportive, personal and professional.
    Just one month later, he was one of the most hated people in the country. Overnight, he became an Internet star “famed” for being the murderer of Cecil the Lion in Africa.
    We all know the story. Palmer is a “trophy hunter,” a member of Safari Club International (SCI), a “nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of wildlife, education of the people and the protection of hunters’ rights.” That’s a direct quote from their corporate webpage.
    Let’s talk about trophy hunters first. There are many strange species of animals on this planet, but none so vile and dangerous as trophy hunters.
    Trophy hunters do not kill for food. They don’t kill to protect herds of cattle or sheep. They don’t kill in self-defense.
    They kill solely for fun. And they love to brag about it.
    Don’t get me wrong. I understand the human drive to kill. All you have to do is look at the history of warfare and you’ll understand that killing is one thing humans do best.
    Of course, everything has its bright side.

  • Can we do business through a wall?

    Imagine for a moment that President Donald Trump, or whoever assumes the nation’s highest office in January 2017, executes the border policy he is now advocating: sealing the border with an impregnable wall and making Mexico pay for it by taxing or confiscating the $20 billion in remittances Mexican expatriates send south every year, increasing visa and border crossing fees, and imposing new tariffs on Mexican imports.
    The ensuing trade war would have ugly consequences for both countries, with New Mexico and the other border states taking a disproportionate share of the pain on this side of the line.
    The resulting economic disruption might well ignite a conflagration unlike any seen on the border since Pancho Villa burned Columbus.
    Our trade with Mexico has increased six fold since the North American Free Trade Agreement was implemented 21 years ago.
    Mexico is now the 15th largest exporter in the world and the United States is Mexico’s single biggest trading partner, absorbing three-quarters of that country’s exports, while Mexico is our third biggest customer after Canada and China, importing $294 billion in U.S. goods last year alone. (All these figures refer to legal, legitimate cross-border trade, of course — the value of the illicit traffic is impossible to estimate with any accuracy.)

  • Money prep for all prospective parents

    It costs parents an average of $245,340 to raise a child from birth to age 18.
    That figure from the U.S. Agriculture Department is just one reason why prospective parents are advised to consider parallel financial planning for child-based expenses and retirement.
    The key is to start doing it as early as possible — in a December 2012 story in The New Republic, adults are starting families later than previous generations. In short, savings needs for childcare, college and retirement seem on a tighter collision course than ever.
    For prospective couples or single parents, any discussion of family should begin with the pros and cons of starting a family in terms of personal, lifestyle and career success.
    In short, the question “Do we want kids?” should come before “Can we afford kids?”
    Once family goals are settled, it’s wise to evaluate where current finances stand. While many couples have a thorough money talk before they wed, it works for family planning, too. Couples and single parents will benefit from complete financial transparency before pregnancy, adoption proceedings, or fertility treatment starts.
    Utilize qualified financial and tax advice to fit specific circumstances. Consult trusted family and friends for referrals to qualified financial planning and tax experts.