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Today's Opinions

  • Letters to the editor 7-20-14

     

    School Board takes no action on merit pay 

    Parents and students in this school district deserve good teachers who are well paid.  Consequently, it is disappointing that our school district is not participating in the New Mexico Public Education Department’s (NMPED) Incentive Pay Pilot (ped.state.nm.us/ped/RFPDocs/).

    A statement in a Los Alamos Monitor story (July 10) about the Incentive Pay Pilot Program incorrectly implies that NMPED will control and administer this pilot. 

    However, the Incentive Pay Pilot Application itself states that it is up to each participating school district to design an incentive pay model. If the application is accepted, funding is provided by NMPED.

  • Interest rate limits needed to protect borrowers

    Getting a small loan license in New Mexico is a cinch. Just pay a $1,500 fee to the Department of Regulation and Licensing, show you have $30,000 in capital and a reasonably clean criminal record and you are in. There were 656 small loan operators in the state at the close of 2013.
    The powers that come with a license are astonishing. Outside of a very narrow product area technically defined as Payday Loans, licensees can charge any interest rate over any period of time with almost any loan terms they choose on amounts of $2,500 or less. Small lenders routinely burden unsophisticated borrowers with interest rates of anywhere between 200-600 percent and sometimes more than 1,000 percent. In the process, they often point to the license on their wall claiming their products are “state approved.” That license is, in fact, their license to steal.

  • The bloodstained banner

    Once again, the Confederate flag is in the news. Washington and Lee University recently announced it would take down the Confederate flags, which had been displayed next to the university’s statue of Robert E. Lee.
    Twelve African American law students protested the display as being “hate symbols representative of slavery and racism.”
    Supporters of displaying the flag countered that “the Confederate flag honors freedom-loving Americans who fought against Northern tyranny” and that removing the flag “besmirched Lee’s military honor.”
    You do have to respect freedom-loving people who owned slaves. I suppose they’re also proud that the university owned about 80 slaves who were used to build dormitories in the early 1800s.
    The university’s website states, “The Washington and Lee University community thrives on an ethic of honor and civility.”
    I’m sure that’s exactly how their slaves viewed it.
    The university’s President Kenneth Ruscio did remove the flags, but refused to apologize for Lee’s actions during the Civil War. Ruscio said, “Lee was an imperfect individual living in imperfect times.”

  • Supreme Court to Obama Administration: Congress writes laws, you don't

    Now that the dust has settled on the Supreme Court’s 2014 session, we can look at the decisions and conclude that the Obama Administration received a serious smack down. Two big cases got most of the news coverage: Hobby Lobby and the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) recess appointments. In both cases, the administration lost. At the core of both, is the issue of the administration’s overreach.
    Within the cases the Supreme Court heard, one had to do with energy: Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG) v. Environmental Protection Agency — and it, too, offered a rebuke.
    The UARG v. EPA decision came down on June 23. The decision was mixed — with both sides claiming victory. Looking closely, there is cause for optimism from all who question the president’s authority to rewrite laws.
    A portion of the UARG v. EPA case was about the EPA’s “Tailoring Rule” in which it “tailored” a statutory provision in the Clean Air Act — designed to regulate traditional pollutants such as particulate matter — to make it work for CO2. In effect, the EPA wanted to rewrite the law to achieve its goals. The decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia for the majority, stated:

  • Kit Carson left a complicated and controversial legacy

    Kit Carson Park in Taos will have a new name.
    The local argument over the name is one of those debates New Mexicans have from time to time that shows our lingering sensitivities. Navajos have strong feelings about the man, but let’s look more closely at the person and the place.
    Kit Carson was a man of his time. The frontiersman and trapper scouted for explorer John C. Fremont, fought in the Civil War and served as Indian agent. He once testified, “I think, as a general thing, the difficulties (with Indians) arise from aggressions on the part of the whites.”
    In 1862, Gen. James Carleton ordered Carson to attack Mescaleros, kill all the men and capture women and children. It was a brutal campaign, but Carson ignored the order to kill all the men, and the Mescaleros became the first to occupy the Bosque Redondo reservation on the Pecos.
    The next year Carleton ordered Carson to round up Navajos. Carson didn’t want to lead the campaign and tried to resign, but Carleton cajoled him into staying. In “Blood and Thunder,” author Hampton Sides describes how Carson grimly carried out the ruthless, scorched-earth campaign that Carleton demanded. After troops destroyed their crops, livestock and orchards, the starving Navajos surrendered.

  • Divorcing? Protect your finances, personal data

    No doubt you’ve seen many warnings against sharing personal or financial information with strangers, but what about your spouse — or ex-spouse? A recent study by McAfee uncovered some unsettling results:
    • Although 96 percent of adults surveyed trust their significant other with passwords, intimate photos and other personal content, only 32 percent have asked their ex to delete the information when ending the relationship.
    • One in five people said they’re likely to log into their spouse’s Facebook account at least once a month.
    • Some 30 percent admitted they’d “cyber-stalked” their significant other’s ex on social media.
    Given the high rate of divorce and how frequently marriages end acrimoniously, it’s not a big leap to think that a scorned lover could severely damage your credit and reputation. If you’re getting divorced, here are some important legal, financial and privacy considerations:
    If you and your spouse are in complete agreement on how you wish to divide assets and settle debts, you may be able get by with a do-it-yourself divorce kit. It’s still wise to have a divorce attorney review the forms to make sure you haven’t overlooked anything.

  • Oil boom in New Mexico? Well, we knew that already

    Thoughts from ConocoPhillips count for New Mexico. That’s because CP accounts for around 40 percent of the gas produced in the San Juan Basin and has at least two locations in Farmington with three nice looking offices and sundry outbuildings.
    A CP senior economist, Helen Currie, brought her Ph.D. to Farmington July 9 to outline the outlook for oil and gas markets. Her audience was 25 or so legislators attending a joint meeting of the Legislative Finance Committee and the Revenue Stabilization and Tax Policy committee.
    A national overlay is an oil boom in New Mexico. Our oil production is way up — Currie expects maybe another 30 percent growth by 2020 — Currie just didn’t call it a boom.
    In the state briefs section July 10, USA Today said, “Federal statistics show that (New Mexico) is in the midst of an oil boom. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said New Mexico, North Dakota and Wyoming were the largest crude oil producers on federal and tribal land during the 2013 fiscal year.”

  • Fighting Internet injustice in rural N.M.

    The digital divide in America — those who do and those who do not have access to the Internet — runs especially deep in rural New Mexico. Is it digital injustice or just the painfully slow development of the necessary infrastructure?
    Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, visited New Mexico recently. He confronted that question and a challenge on the confusing issue of net neutrality, the argument over whether some content providers can get favorable high-speed access to the network at the expense of other users. Though he spoke with obvious conviction, some audience members were unsatisfied with his answers.
    After visiting Acoma Pueblo, Wheeler spoke and answered questions at a forum sponsored by the New Mexico Media Literacy Project and other organizations belonging to the New Mexico Digital Justice Coalition.
    “Digital Justice” is fighting terminology. It implies that the lack of access is a political decision rather than the absence of resources.