AP White House Correspondent

    Visions and Values

  • Stick your nose into a crevice in the bark of a big old ponderosa pine. The smell of vanilla sweetens your senses. Some call it butterscotch, but the best noses say vanilla.
    How can a ponderosa, a species that taught respect for turpentine, surprise with the fragrance of vanilla? The story is absurd, until you put your nose in the bark.  
    We leap now to the Digital Age.  
    Information is often acclaimed as the sweet driver of market efficiency and the currency of efficient regulation. That is, information is a regulator of markets of its own accord. The more informed the trading, the wider the interests served by markets.    
    No doubt it costs time, and thus money, to hand over details on the quality of a product, or, say, factory emissions.
    Just as surely, the details allow more informed choices in the marketplace, which quicken the blessings of market efficiency. The very meaning of efficient market is one driven by widespread information.  
    The Information Age spreads data far and fast. Much the way that better data are key to market efficiency, we begin to see that better, faster data at less cost also make regulation more efficient.
    Looking further, supplying better and faster regulatory tools is itself a new market.

  • Oh, those inconvenient people – the mentally ill. They fill our jails, they scare their neighbors, they drive their families crazy and sometimes bankrupt, and once in awhile they kill somebody, or become involved in a disturbance in which the police kill them.
    The upcoming legislative session will probably revisit the painful issue of how to deal with mentally ill people who pose a real or potential threat.
    Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry recently spoke in support of a bill that almost made it though the session this year.
    As last amended during the 2015 regular session, Senate Bill 53, by Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, was intended to give the legal system a broader range of choices for dealing with mentally ill people who come to the system’s attention. Berry said it’s expected again in 2016.   
    The bill is similar to “Kendra’s Law,” first enacted in New York. That law resulted from an incident in which a schizophrenic man pushed a woman in front of an oncoming subway train.  It allows a judge to require a mentally ill person who meets certain criteria to undergo treatment, including medication, for up to a year.
    The title of the bill is “Assisted Outpatient Treatment.” What does that mean?  

  • Ernie Casias stood beside a clear cylinder that was tumbling sand mixed with foam. Not just any foam – engineered foam. “It’s like mixing shaving cream and sand,” he explained.
    Engineered foam and cellular concrete are just two materials used in reclamation of abandoned mines and other disturbed lands.
    Exhibitors at the annual conference of the National Association of Abandoned Mine Lands Programs, meeting last week in Santa Fe, displayed such a range of expertise and products, I wished everyone could see it because it might change the conversation about development of all kinds.
    Images of the leaking Gold King mine and other eyesores come readily to mind, but most people don’t realize how sophisticated environmental science has become. Regulations play a role, but it’s become an arena for entrepreneurs with new ideas for reclaiming a construction site, a tailings pile or a drill pad.
    Casias represents ConDeck Corp. of Albuquerque, which uses a process developed by Aerix Industries, of Colorado, to make lightweight “cellular concrete.” Imagine mixing ugly mine tailings with foamy concrete and pumping the stuff back in a mine as fill or support.

  • Technologies wander from our national laboratories and become companies employing people. But in the view of David Pesiri and his bosses at Los Alamos National Laboratories, far too few have wandered from the laboratory and, of those, far too many have escaped New Mexico.
    One wanderer, Decision Sciences International Corp. of Poway, Calif., near San Diego, was briefly mentioned by The Economist in an article headlined, “The Nuke Detectives.” The firm’s “revolutionary and disruptive technology, originally invented” by LANL physicists, scans for contraband including nuclear threats.  
    David Pesiri is changing things. Pesiri, a chemist with 21 publications under his belt, leads LANL’s Richard P. Feynman Center for Innovation.
    “As a model, ‘technology transfer’ is dead,” Pesiri told the New Mexico Industrial Development Executives Association at IDEA’s September meeting in Los Alamos. The old passive sounding model had something to do with LANL getting patents and posting notices about the patents.
    Last year Pesiri wrote about the new way for Innovation magazine.

    Center for Visions and Values

  • Pity the folks whose jobs require them to make sense of lunacy. The media in all their forms are overrun with it, and it is pulverizing that which passes for political discourse today.
    As last week came to a close, the Republican U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and his hard-right GOP cohorts in Congress were threatening another of their federal government shutdowns if funding for Planned Parenthood is not stripped from a stop-gap budget bill that had to be passed if a shutdown was to be avoided come Oct. 1.
    It was chaos, with widespread talk among House Republicans that Boehner’s hold on the speakership itself was hanging in the balance if the far-righters in his caucus didn’t get their way on this one.
    So Boehner just up and resigned.   
    The situation became so worrisome that New Mexico Democratic Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham dispatched a communique to her constituents reminding them that “80 percent of the women who rely on Planned Parenthood are low-income.”
    “We should be working to protect the most vulnerable amongst us, not taking away their health care,” she added.

  • Like any professional discipline, the academic arena is littered with educational jargon.
     Today, an effective teacher must exemplify intersegmental critical-thinking, recontextualize synergistic concept-maps, and benchmark technology-infused pedogogical schemas.
     Personally, I don’t mind jargon. but there is one word that seems to be more abused than any other.  Rigor.
     Educational rigor involves the creation of a focused coherent learning environment that fosters critical thinking, encourages mastery of the material, and challenges students to help them build a sense of accomplishment.
     In short, rigor raises the bar, preparing students for moving on to more advanced topics and applications.
     There is little applicable training to guide teachers how to establish and nurture rigor in the classroom. Consequently, teachers strongly disagree regarding what constitutes “rigor.”
     In math classes, “rigor” is often tossed like a didactic grenade, purposely confusing students with needlessly difficult problems. Teachers expect students to memorize long lists of complex formulas and to work out problems with large or complicated looking numbers.

    Executive Director, Energy Makes America Great, Inc.

  • Historical Museum receives outpouring of community support after theft

    By now many of your readers may know that a theft occurred at the Los Alamos Historical Museum on Sept. 25. The good news is no one was hurt and no objects were taken from the museum. However, we did have a beautifully crafted, wooden donation box – made by one of our volunteers – which was torn apart, and the cash donations inside were stolen.
    The theft received a significant amount of attention on social media over the weekend, and the response from the community, both far and near, has been tremendous. We have received donations through our website from as far away as Texas and Montana, and a number of people came into the museum on Saturday to give special donations.
    The Los Alamos Historical Museum belongs to the community. Admission is free, and we rely on donations to support our operations. The outpouring of support has been encouraging and inspiring. It reminds us, once again, why this is the best little community on the planet. We love being your museum!

    Sincerely and with gratitude,
    Heather McClenahan
    Executive Director
    Los Alamos Historical Society

  • WASHINGTON — The “regular guy with a big job” has seemed at the center of palace intrigue forever, a man to shake things up in the old days, to be plotted against on and off ever since.
    There was nothing regular about John Boehner’s rise and fall and rise and fall in the House, nothing constant except that tan and the smoke-filled rooms wherever he was allowed to light up.
    Boehner’s announced exit as House speaker and from Congress altogether caps a political career that began as the head of a homeowners association in an Ohio neighborhood and made him second in line to the presidency.
    A firm opponent of abortion rights, he was essentially undone by disaffection from conservatives who want to push an anti-abortion struggle over Planned Parenthood financing to the point of closing the government, a step too far for him. He was once one of the agitators – a member of the Newt Gingrich Gang of Seven who seized the Republican congressional agenda, then the reins of House power, in the 1990s. He was ultimately undone by tea partyers and other conservatives he’d kept in line as speaker for nearly five years – barely, and at a cost.

  • While papal visits to the United States are increasingly common, what is uncommon is to see political-ideological battle lines drawn around a pope. The tendency this time is especially acute among liberals, who eagerly frame Francis as one of them – a categorization Francis has resisted. “I’m sure that I haven’t said anything more than what’s written in the social doctrine of the Church,” he said as his plane approached U.S. soil.
    To some degree, liberals are certainly justified in linking Pope Francis to many of their concerns – climate change, wealth redistribution, poverty. And even many conservatives seem to concede this pope to the political left. In truth, however, both sides lack a full picture.
    To illustrate the point, I’ll focus on the subject area that brings Pope Francis here to America to begin with: a major international Catholic Church synod on family and marriage.
    Though Francis is absolutely forgiving and charitable and merciful, including to homosexuals, when it comes to marriage and family, this pope has been unflinchingly orthodox in support of historic Church teaching. Some of his language has been even stronger than his predecessors. The extent to which that is true is at times shocking. Here are just a few examples:

  • For years, New Mexicans have said we’ve got it all when it comes to energy – oil, gas, coal, geothermal, solar, wind – and now we have a new energy policy that reflects this.
    Maybe now we can end the pointless jousting between supporters of renewable and traditional sources.
    Last week, the governor announced a plan developed over the past year by the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department after listening to sessions held around the state. The first energy plan since 1991 embraces all sectors and emphasizes jobs, economic diversity and energy independence.
    The big shift is “promoting greater production of ALL sources of energy, especially low-carbon sources,” which the governor’s news release describes as an “‘all of the above’ approach to energy development.”
    What I especially like about the plan is its solid statements of policy backed up by proposals rather than puffery. Here are the key points:
    Building or improving pipelines, electric transmission and rail from the Four Corners to I-40, and adding a third oil refinery.

    Sheriff, Los Alamos County

  • A friend told me, excitedly, that he has been approved for the new hepatitis C drug – the miracle drug that is supposed to cure this disease at a cost of $93,000 per patient. He has started the treatment and so far is doing great.
    I hadn’t known he had the disease. Of course, I’m happy for him.
    I realized later I’m helping to pay for his treatment. He is married to a retired teacher and is probably covered through the Retiree Health Care Authority. So am I. His treatment affects my premiums.  
    RHCA can afford to pay for this. This is good news for everybody in New Mexico, including you.
    RHCA provides health insurance coverage to retirees of New Mexico state and local government and schools. Active employees and their employers contribute a small percentage of payroll to the fund. Once those employees retire, if they choose RHCA for their coverage (before Medicare or in combination with Medicare), they pay premiums into the fund.  
    With tough cost controls and reforms, the program is now projected to be solvent through 2035, according to Mark Tyndall, RHCA executive director. This is a major accomplishment.

  • The Domenici Public Policy Conference is about the learning needed for “doing better at what we ought to do as citizens,” said former Sen. Pete Domenici to begin the eight-annual gathering in Las Cruces. The conference started with learning about education policy to build the economy.
    Former North Carolina Gov. James Hunt brought an unvarnished and lengthy recitation of why his state moved from, in the 1950s “tied with Mississippi as just about the poorest state” to, in the 1980s, around the time of Hunt’s 16 years as governor, being the hottest thing in economic development.
    When the work started, North Carolina’s income was 62 percent of the national average. Now it is 86 percent. New Mexico’s is 81 percent. Hunt kindly didn’t mention New Mexico’s link these days with Mississippi at the bottom of state-performance lists.
    North Carolina’s various initiatives worked.
    Born in Wilson, N.C., east of Raleigh, the 78-year-old Hunt was governor from 1977 to 1985 and from 1993 to 2001. He likes policy institutes, having founded two, both of which he still chairs.

    Projects Coordinator, New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership
    Fiance New Mexico

    Los Alamos County Councilor

  • 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?”