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Opinion

  • After the 2008 economic crisis, many people assumed they would never be able to reach true financial independence — the ability to live comfortably off one’s savings and investments with no debt whatsoever.
    However, individuals willing to use their time horizon to plan and adjust their spending, savings and investment behaviors might just find financial independence is possible. Here are 10 ideas to get started.
    1. Visualize first, then plan. Start by considering what your vision of financial independence actually looks like — and then get a reality check. Qualified financial experts can examine your current financial circumstances, listen to what financial independence means to you and help you craft a plan. The path to financial independence may be considerably different at age 20 than it is at age 50. The more time you have to save and invest generally produces a better outcome. But at any age, start with a realistic picture of your options.
    2. Budget. Budgeting — the process of tracking income, subtracting expenses and deciding how to divert the difference to your goals each month — is the essential first task of personal finance. If you haven’t learned to budget, you need to do so.

  • Part 2 of 2

    For days after the first atomic test on July 16, 1945, a powdery ash floated from the sky, coating everything in the Tularosa Basin, including cattle and crops. Then it rained, washing the stuff into wells and water sources.
    Ranchers noticed that their cattle turned white or partially white. Family pets similarly exposed had partially white coats. A rancher said his beard stopped growing for a few months, when it began growing again, it was white.
    Locals visited Trinity Site, walked around the cavity left behind, picked up the green glass that was sand before the blast, and looked at the twisted remains of the tower that suspended the bomb.
    Immediately after the blast, as a red haze descended, scientists and military personnel scrambled to evacuate.
    North of Trinity Site, men waited with vehicles to evacuate civilians, but radiation readings indicated they were safe, so far as they knew then.
    Photographs taken two months later show Manhattan Project leader J. Robert Oppenheimer and other scientists, unprotected, examining the tower’s remnants.
    Today, knowing what we know, it’s surprising how casual everyone was. It was the world’s first nuclear fallout, and New Mexico was the recipient.

  • This year brought the 35th edition of “The Capitol Fourth,” the public broadcasting show that runs twice each July 4. “The Capitol Fourth” celebrates the United States.
    To start this year, Barry Manilow walked onto the stage, took his place at the piano and sang, “America the Beautiful.” He followed with his own “Let Freedom Ring.” The song’s chorus says, “It’s a dream to build upon. We’ll take the dream and pass it on and on and on, and let freedom sing, let freedom ring.”
    The show included Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. The overture was accompanied by fireworks exploding in the sunset behind the Washington Monument, which was framed by flags.
    The usual 10-minute fireworks and music spectacular closed the show with a medley of Souza marches and “Yankee Doodle Boy,” from the musical “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
    A few weeks ago, I mentioned our drive-by of historic sites in Massachusetts and Philadelphia.
    We went to Lexington and Concord, Old North Church and Paul Revere’s house in Boston, and Independence Hall In Philadelphia. Spirits inhabit these places. Not ghosts, really, but a definite sense of events having happened.
    Today, Lexington and Concord mean the Minute Man National Historical Park.

  • At its regular meeting on July 15, the Board of Public Utilities voted unanimously to approve and forward to the County Council for their approval the following five agreements related to the San Juan Generating Station (SJGS):

    1. The San Juan Project Restructuring Agreement
    2. The Amended and Restated Mine Reclamation and Trust Funds Agreement
    3. The San Juan Decommissioning and Trust Funds Agreement
    4. The Restructuring Amendment Amending and Restating the Amended and Restated San Juan Project Participation Agreement
    5. The Exit Amendment Amending and Restating Amended and Restated San Juan Project Participation Agreement

    The county council will be reviewing these documents for possible approval at its regular meeting on Tuesday.
    The documents are agreements among the nine entities which currently participate in the SJGS and concern many issues. In particular, the agreements provide conditions for exiting from the plant in 2022, or how a decision for remaining in the plant post-2022 would be handled. Other topics include federal and state regulatory requirements, fuel supply sources, site and mine reclamation arrangements.

  • With respect to the San Juan Coal Fired Power Generating Station Vote in the County Council on Tuesday:

    1) We are told that we can’t get out from our ownership of San Juan until 2022.
    2) We are told it is smart to maintain our ownership to recover our $6 million bond outlay for the NOx abatement equipment to be installed.
    3) We are told we will have to pay our share of the expected forthcoming lawsuits whether in or out of the picture.
    Here is some background on all of these issues. Flexibility exists if we choose to take it. Going blindly ahead, we could be committing to much larger costs and here’s why:
    First, the removal of our ownership of San Juan was on the table. Here is how several California cities utilities did it. It is revealed in the document Entitled “City of Colton Electric Utility Department 2013 Integrated Resource Plan,” which can be found at ci.colton.ca.us/DocumentCenterView/1830:
    Here is a quote on page 17:
    “The California owners of Unit 4 (Anaheim and Modesto Irrigation District, Santa Clara and Redding or MSR) are trading their ownership in Unit 4 for capacity in Unit 3 so that when Unit 3 is decommissioned in 2017, they will have no remaining capacity in the project.”

  • I love all sorts of music.
    The world of music is like a buffet, and it’s fun to sample new dishes just to get a taste.
    I even like the taste of rap. Well, some of it. Most rap tastes like salted prunes dipped in Vegemite.
    The only two forms of music that I’ve never particularly liked are “country and western.”
    That nasal whining can ruin a good set of speakers, but there is one thing you can say about country music: when you listen to it, you know what’s being said.
    I love how Dennis Warner captured the true meaning of love in his song, “If my nose were full of nickels, I’d blow it all on you.”
    Or how about rockabilly’s legendary Johnny Burnette, who crooned out “You’re sixteen, you’re beautiful and you’re mine.” Did anyone ever ask him exactly how, at the age of 26, he knew her under-aged lips tasted like strawberry wine?
    Whatever one’s favorite music, it’s interesting to see how many people can enjoy a song without knowing what the song is about.
    The epitome of the enigmatic is, without a doubt, “Louie, Louie.”
    First sung by Richard Berry, it was later immortalized by The Kingsmen.

  • Let’s stop unwanted pregnancies! Let’s stop abortions! Real progress has been achieved in Colorado.
    Recent articles in the New York Times, Santa Fe New Mexican and other publications have reported that the birthrate among teenagers in Colorado plummeted by 40 percent from 2009 to 2013 and teenage abortions dropped by 42 percent.
    There was a similar decline in births for another group of particularly vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies: unmarried women under 25 who have not finished high school.
    The changers were particularly pronounced in the poorest areas of the state where jobs are scarce and unplanned births come often to the young.
    These astonishing results were not the consequence of abstinence curricula, but rather an aggressive outreach program administered by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
    Using funds from a private grant provided by the Susan Thompson Buffet Foundation (named for the billionaire investor Warren Buffet’s late wife), more than 30,000 long-lasting contraceptive devices, such as intrauterine device, known as IUDs, and contraceptive implants, were distributed at 68 family planning clinics across the state.

  • A Boy Scout takes an oath to become a Scout, “On my honor I will do my duty to God and my country and to help other people at all times and to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.” It is as simple as that.
    To become an American Legionnaire, one does not take an oath because one will have already done that when he/she raises their hand and swears to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America and to defend our country against all enemies foreign and domestic. One then dons the uniform of the United States of America military service then become a veteran. The motto of the Legion is “For God and Country.”
    Both are very similar as to allegiance in the purpose and goals of each organization.
    The image of The American Legion may be that of a bunch of old men sitting around, drinking beer and swapping war stories. There may be something to that because veterans do drink beer, but the bulk of conversation is not war stories. It is about family, friends and just plain everyday conversation.
    The common bond is not spoken but it is there. Part of that bond is a sense of duty to something more than one’s own self.

  • Despite public protest, Japan is going nuclear — again.
    Following the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima nuclear reactor in northeastern Japan, all nuclear reactors were gradually switched off for inspections. Due to safety concerns, the country’s nuclear power generation has been at a standstill.
    Meanwhile, new regulatory standards have been developed and reactors are undergoing inspections.
    Prior to 2011, nuclear power provided nearly one third of Japan’s electricity. Lost power-generation capacity has been replaced by importing pricey fossil fuels.
    Japan has few natural resources of its own. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports: “Japan imports more than 90 percent of its fossil fuels, and is particularly dependent on the Middle East for oil and natural gas.”

  • Part 1 of 2

    Not one newspaper mentioned the searing flash, massive fireball and multi-colored mushroom cloud that arose in the southern New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945. Windows rattled as far away as Gallup and Amarillo, Texas.
    The army said it was an exploding ammunition dump. New Mexicans doubted the story privately, but the nation was at war, New Mexico was deeply involved, and citizens didn’t ask too many questions. The story of the first atomic bomb test at Trinity Site came out with the devastation of Hiroshima, a few weeks later.
    What we’ve said about “the day the sun rose twice” in news stories has changed during its many anniversaries, starting with the wonder of it all and moving to the morality and legacy of the bomb. Decades passed before we heard about human impacts here in New Mexico.    
    On the first anniversary, a news story described the Manhattan Project in detail and noted that during the year, “four atomic bombs have been dropped, and peace has returned to the world.”

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • In totalitarian regimes, aka police states, where conformity and compliance are enforced at the end of a loaded gun, the government dictates what words can and cannot be used.
    In countries where the police state hides behind a benevolent mask and disguises itself as tolerance, the citizens censor themselves, policing their words and thoughts to conform to the dictates of the mass mind.
    Even when the motives behind this rigidly calibrated reorientation of societal language appear well-intentioned — discouraging racism, condemning violence, denouncing discrimination and hatred — inevitably, the end result is the same: intolerance, indoctrination and infantilism.
    It’s political correctness disguised as tolerance, civility and love, but what it really amounts to is the chilling of free speech and the demonizing of viewpoints that run counter to the cultural elite.
    As a society, we’ve become fearfully polite, careful to avoid offense, and largely unwilling to be labeled intolerant, hateful, closed-minded, or any of the other toxic labels that carry a badge of shame today.
    The result is a nation where no one says what they really think anymore, at least if it runs counter to the prevailing views.

  • 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.

  • Los Alamos cops, residents go above and beyond

    Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped rescue our dog, Sofie, from the bottom of Barrancas Canyon while we were away on vacation.
    Sofie’s adventure began on Sunday when she escaped our yard and climbed and/or fell into the canyon. Neighbors, friends, animal control officer Tom Beyers and our very conscientious dog-sitter searched high and low on Barranca Mesa, but by nightfall could find no trace of our wayward dog.
    Miraculously, our neighbor, Mary Langworthy, heard Sofie barking in the canyon early Monday morning and called Los Alamos police dispatch.
    Responding to the call for help, LAPD officers Cpl. Matt Lyon and Sgt. Brent Hudspeth climbed into the canyon and found Sofie, who was very weak and couldn’t walk on her own.
    These caring officers carried 13-year-old, 70-plus pound Sofie out of the canyon on their shoulders. Lyle Edwards heard the officers as they neared the top of the canyon around 6 a.m. and aided the rescue by dropping ropes so they could hoist themselves and Sofie up the final steep section.
    It was an amazing effort on the part of many that we have our beloved dog home safe and sound.