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Today's Opinions

  • New ways scientists can help put science back into popular culture

    BY CLIFFORD JOHNSON
    University of Southern California, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

    How often do you, outside the requirements of an assignment, ponder things like the workings of a distant star, the innards of your phone camera, or the number and layout of petals on a flower? Maybe a little bit, maybe never. Too often, people regard science as sitting outside the general culture: A specialized, difficult topic carried out by somewhat strange people with arcane talents. It’s somehow not for them.

    But really science is part of the wonderful tapestry of human culture, intertwined with things like art, music, theater, film and even religion. These elements of our culture help us understand and celebrate our place in the universe, navigate it and be in dialogue with it and each other.

    Everyone should be able to engage freely in whichever parts of the general culture they choose, from going to a show or humming a tune to talking about a new movie over dinner.

    Science, though, gets portrayed as opposite to art, intuition and mystery, as though knowing in detail how that flower works somehow undermines its beauty. As a practicing physicist, I disagree.

  • Laundry pods are a reminder to talk to our kids

     This week, I would like to focus on how often we talk to our children and maybe provide some ideas of what we need to talk about.

    I confess, I was unaware of the laundry detergent pod challenge. I thought about putting the word challenge in quotes, but the selection of words should probably have the word stupidity in front of challenge.

    I knew of the fact that toddlers and perhaps small children may see these pods as colorful pieces of candy. Due to that, parents might need an extra reminder to store them safely and away from tiny hands. 

    I also heard and understood that patients experiencing dementia symptoms may also be confused by their colorful nature. There is an illness connection to that confusion, so again clearly a logical conclusion.

  • Letters to the Editor

     

    Dear Editor,

    Response to Monitor letter re NYT editorial on Iran nuclear deal

    On Sunday, Jan. 14, the Los Alamos Monitor published an editorial entitled “Iran deal did not pan out;” the actual title of this New York Times Editorial Board item is, “Unrest Shows the Iran Deal’s Value, Not its Danger.” The changed title affects the nature of the actual editorial. I wish to counter the implication of the Monitor’s title by advocating that the Iran Nuclear Deal, is incredibly good.

    The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran Nuclear Deal, is far better than I ever expected. Indeed, if followed by all parties, 

     It effectively blocks all possible avenues for Iran to produce a nuclear weapon.

  • VAF information sessions prepare companies to apply for funding

     Early-stage businesses, or even those that are more established, often find it hard to land the right cash infusion, especially when traditional bank financing can be elusive. Under this common scenario, funding through the Venture Acceleration Fund (VAF) could be the needed boost.

    Information sessions to help businesses apply for VAF are taking place in Northern New Mexico until Feb. 9, when the application process officially opens. Applications for funding will be accepted until March 12. 

    According to Carla Rachkowski, associate director of the Regional Development Corp. (RDC), which administers the program, VAF has been key as seed financing for early-stage businesses for more than a decade. The point, she said, is to assist entrepreneurs with taking innovations to market more quickly. VAF helps them through marketing and technology development, proof-of-concept, prototyping, developing market share and product launch. Sometimes it’s used to leverage more funding.

  • The legislative life: Part-time, unpaid, fixed-length sessions? Not quite.

     Legislators go to meetings. That’s what they do.

    Legislators also get a lot of mail, both paper delivered by the postal service and email. Some of the mail, maybe much of it, is read. The proportion of read mail might be a measure of legislator diligence or engagement. 

    Our legislators are described as unpaid, part-time, citizen legislators who meet in fixed-length sessions or 30 and 60 days in alternate years. 

    None of this is quite true. 

    Though legislators get no salary, there is a $164 per diem to allegedly cover expenses during the session in Santa Fe or for other legislative business, such as interim committee meetings. The amount is laughable. Few decent hotel rooms in Santa Fe cost less than $164.

  • Letters to the Editor 1-12-18

    Contrast between Sunday columns are amusing,
    disturbing

    Dear Editor,
    The contrast between the two columns and one letter on the Los Alamos Monitor Sunday Editorial page was both amusing and disturbing.
    As usual, John Bartlit presented an even-handed/minded analysis of the football-and-the-flag controversy, recognizing that the breadth of responses is a testament to the vitality of our democracy. My own thinking had been limited to: “Standing shows respect while kneeling shows obeisance or committed fealty – the latter choice of action doesn’t seem to match with the stated purpose for it.”
    Meanwhile, Paul Gessing continued to display what appears as barely-thinking partisanship against anything Democratic despite acknowledging that it was a Democratic governor who lowered income taxes – too much for stable state funding, as subsequent events have demonstrated.
    I still consider it a miracle that the State Permanent Fund maintains a legacy for indefinite generations of New Mexicans rather than being siphoned off to immediate political needs. (And by the way, doubling the gas tax would not be a tax increase – it would only restore the purchasing power of the tax to about the level of almost 30 years ago.)

  • Coalition uses data to analyze criminal justice

    By Finance New Mexico 

    For years I have wondered whether our criminal justice system makes sense. 

    I think first about my own safety. Does our system make me safer? Does it prevent crime? Does it make prudent use of my tax dollars? Is it pragmatic?

    Then I think about fairness and justice. Does our system teach criminals the lesson that will prevent them from committing crimes again? Does it prevent others from committing crimes? Do tougher penalties deter criminals from offending again? What is the system doing to prepare them for when they get out?

    I want data. Rather than being driven by emotions, either of compassion or retribution, I’d like to know what actually works.

    A group called NMSAFE (nmsafe.org) has done some of this homework. 

  • Letters to the Editor 1-7-18

    County in deep fiscal trouble

    Dear Editor,
    Unfortunately Mr. Pete Sheehey seems to have a gross misunderstanding of the shape of LA County fiscally. We are in deep trouble running a debt twice the legal limit and on top of that at least $71 million in the red!

    This is all available for anyone to read on the county website in the last audit done after the fiscal year 2016 ended. As it’s rather hard to find and it’s a rather long report mostly taken from figures the county supplied and broken down into small sections it can be tedious reading and hard to put together.

    You find it by going to Los Alamos County Administrative Services, Finance and Budgets, Reports and Budgets button, Fiscal Year Reports and Budgets,

    Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports, Incorporated County of Los Alamos FY2016 CAFR button.

    On page 196 you see the summation of debts and on pages 179 and 180 the summations of all available moneys including reserves and all moneys spent.

    The bottom line is Los Alamos County is broke and bankrupt  to the tune of over $100 million!

    Greg White
    Los Alamos