Today's Opinions

  • Bail regulation is ripe for reform

    There are more people in New Mexico’s county jails than in our state prisons, and some of them stay there for a long time.
    In some cases, it’s a relief that they are locked up. In others, it’s a tragic waste of their lives and a pointless expense for taxpayers.    
    A report from the Association of Counties puts the total adult jail population at 7,030 males and 1,405 females, as of June 30, 2013, while the state prison population was 6,043 males and 652 females.
    The report says the median length of stay for unsentenced inmates in 2010 was 147 days.
    Conditions are not so good, we hear. Only six are accredited detention facilities.
    It’s hard to imagine small cash-strapped jails offering high-quality mental health services, which many inmates need badly. The most notorious case — but not the only one — was Stephen Slevins, who was arrested in Doña Ana County for DWI and inexplicably locked in solitary for 22 months.
    He eventually received a settlement of $15.5 million but still reportedly suffers mental disability as a result of his ordeal.
    The regulation of bail is ripe for reform. Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, announced that he will introduce a constitutional amendment regarding the bail process. The proposal has been endorsed by the State Supreme Court.

  • Please, no excuses — get your flu vaccine this fall

    It’s that time of year when people come up with all sorts of excuses for not getting a flu shot.
    Often, though, the excuses catch up with them. So, for the benefit of the naysayers, let’s do a reality check and clear up some mistaken notions.
    “Why worry? It’s just the flu.”
    Every year, almost 300,000 Americans land in the hospital as a result of the flu and its complications, and more than 20,000 die from flu-related illnesses. Older adults should be especially wary. They will account for 60 percent of the hospital stays and 90 percent of the deaths.
    During the last flu season, more than 500 New Mexico residents were hospitalized because of flu-related illnesses and 31 died.
    “I got a shot last year. I don’t need another.”
    Even if you were vaccinated last year, you still need another shot this year, since your immunity to flu viruses wanes after a year. Also, the types of viruses usually change from season to season, so a new vaccine is made each year to fight that season’s most likely strains.
    “Last year’s vaccine was ineffective, so why should I think this year’s will work?”

  • 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.