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Opinion

  • On Feb. 19, 1945, 20-year-old Bill Young of Mooresville, North Carolina, disembarked an LST on a miserable hunk of black rock called Iwo Jima. He was part of a 75-mile-long convoy of ships preparing to dislodge the Japanese from this volcanic remnant of an island. The territory was formally part of Japan, meaning it was considered literal sacred ground to Japanese soldiers.
    Just how many Japanese were there, and where, was a mystery to Young and the approaching Marines. It took his crewmen six weeks to arrive. They slept in cots under a tarp erected on the deck — all beds below were taken up by as many men as the U.S. military could jam on one boat. But that little bit of discomfort was nothing compared to what was unexpectedly awaiting them.    
    “The plan was to be at Iwo Jima just a few days to mop it up — less than a week we were told,” Young told me. They would tidy up things and then move on. The Japanese, however, had other plans.      
    “I ended up there for 37 days,” Young said, who stayed for the full duration of the unforeseen hell ahead. “We ran into more resistance than we ever thought imaginable. It was a real killing field.”    

  • Ethics and morality are different.
    Ethics involves “developing personal qualities of excellence.” The big picture, morality, “requires command-issuing universal law… willingness to obey the laws of God and nature.” The distinction comes from Eva Brann, a teacher at St. John’s College.
    Now comes the advent of Moral Monday, a construct in New Mexico of the New Mexico Federation of Labor, according to New Mexico Voices for Children, which used the Feb. 9 event to pitch its agenda through 10 speakers.
    Wikipedia calls Moral Monday “a grassroots social justice movement” that began in 2013 in North Carolina in response to the evil (my word) conservative deeds of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, elected in 2012 along with Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature. Getting arrested seems part of the North Carolina approach.
    The approach here seems more laid back, from what I can deduce from the Voices release.
    Still, the whole thing is fraught with arrogance. Nothing seems to be happening that has passing acquaintance with the laws of God and nature. Pope Francis seems to have cornered this topic with his continuing message of pastoral work.
    Government is quite different. Go way back to 1690 and John Locke, who provided an early articulation of today’s approach.

  • Our courts require additional resources to meet the justice needs of New Mexico’s citizens. Each day, courts address the aftermath of strained social and economic conditions, including crime, child and domestic abuse, and broken family and business relationships. Our independent court system also supports economic growth and investment by enforcing contracts and resolving business and property disputes. And it does all of this with less than 3 percent of the state’s overall budget.
    Inadequately funding the Judiciary undermines our ability to serve the public and fulfill our constitutional responsibility to provide fair, timely and impartial justice to all New Mexicans.

  • House Bill 41, the controversial mandatory flunking bill passed the House floor by a vote of 38-30.
    “We need to get our priorities straight. Our children’s education is crucial to our state’s success and we should be making an honest effort to make sure that they are thriving. This bill pushed through by Republicans will prevent generations of New Mexicans from getting a fair shot to succeed. Flunking children is not the way to advance our state. I am incredibly disappointed that Republicans continue to assault our children’s futures by forcing legislation in order to gain cheap political points,” said Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton (D-Albuquerque).
    “This particular piece of legislation is problematic for many reasons. Mandatory flunking is a sweeping measure that does not account for the individual circumstances of each student when they are faced with retention.

  • There was a big celebration in Taos last weekend, at the center of which were two pieces of legislation enacted by the last Congress.
    Who would have thought? A celebration of a couple of bills passed by one of the most maligned and unpopular Congresses ever convened under the Capitol Dome!
    Yet there they were — the measures’ key sponsors, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, former-U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Congressman Ben Ray Luján — congregated for the at-home unveiling of the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama on Dec. 19 and for, as well, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act, which went into effect with the president’s signature one week earlier.
    The Columbine Hondo Wilderness Act is precisely what the name says it is, but the process of bringing it into being began in 1980, three-and-a-half decades ago, when Congress passed the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Act.
    In other words, such are the ways of our national legislature that it took a sum total of 35 years of “study” for Congress to finally decide to set aside some 46,000 acres of a pristine mountain basin situated in the Sangre de Cristos near Taos.

  • As the national economy shows signs of real improvement, New Mexico’s recovery has been challenging and slow.
    Working families want to know when we will see more jobs, higher salaries and access to quality education at every level. The state legislature has an opportunity to put New Mexico in a position to provide that economic security and rebuild the middle class.
    Unfortunately, the first bill to gain traction at the Roundhouse is a divisive plan backed by out-of-state political operatives designed to divide working families. The so-called Right-to-Work plan championed by special interests would do more harm than good.
    Consider these consequences:
    • In states with similar anti-worker laws, workers earn, on average, $5,000 less each year than their counterparts in competing states.
    • Six in 10 states with the highest unemployment rates have these anti-worker laws.
    • Twelve of the 14 states with the worst pay gap between men and women are anti-worker states.
    • Workers in states with these anti-worker laws earn fewer benefits.
    • Worker safety suffers in these anti-worker states where the rate of deaths on the job is 54.4 percent higher.

  • Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard was explaining economic-base jobs to fellow members of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.
    The Los Alamos teacher had learned as an advisory member of the Jobs Council that economic-base jobs sell goods or services outside the state.
    It was one of those moments of clarity that cut through the political haze. Finally, after years of chasing anything that might have a payroll, lawmakers are educating themselves on the basics of a real economy.
    This is why the pyrotechnics last week in the House Judiciary Committee over Right-to-Work was so disheartening. In the last two years, the Jobs Council drew together both parties, along with business, labor, the administration and councils of government, to create proposals that would move us down the road.
    Now House members were jeopardizing that bipartisan goodwill with marathon, brutal debates over union membership as a condition of employment.
    Twice last week, the cavernous House chamber filled with business people and labor, one suited up, the other in blue jeans.
    They’re two sides of the same pancake. They need each other, they all want jobs and there is plenty of legislation that they do agree on.
    In the Republican-majority House committee, Right-to-Work was bound to pass, just as it will on the floor.

  • Presidents Day reflections typically commemorate the exploits of two of our larger than life chief executives whose birthdays we celebrate in February — George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. This piece instead assesses the contributions of a different American colossus — James Madison — and examines the War of 1812 as we observe the 200th anniversary of the treaty that ended the conflict, which the U.S. Congress approved on Feb. 16, 1815.
    Madison’s image does not adorn Mount Rushmore, and he has no memorial in Washington, D.C. However, he played a pivotal role in devising the United States, especially in framing the Constitution and promoting religious liberty. One of the nation’s most cerebral and articulate founders, he served in numerous legislative bodies, including the Continental Congress and the House of Representatives.
    Madison penned the extremely influential Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments in 1785 to argue for ending Virginia’s Episcopal establishment and providing complete religious freedom. Historians label it “the most powerful defense of religious liberty ever written in America.” No other founder had as much impact on the nation’s conception and practice of freedom of conscience and the separation of church and state.

  • Small companies often lease space before buying or building a property that allows them to expand or modernize. When they’re ready for that leap of faith, the U.S. Small Business Administration can help by underwriting a significant portion of any loan they need.
    The SBA’s 504 loan program is a public-private partnership administered through a Certified Development Company (CDC) that helps small, independently owned companies secure the fixed assets — such as land, building and equipment — that they need to grow and be competitive. If the business owner can provide a minimum of 10 percent of the loan amount, the CDC will underwrite 40 percent — up to $5.5 million in some circumstances — and this makes lenders more comfortable offering a first mortgage for the remaining 50 percent.
    The Loan Fund, a community development financial institution, works with the SBA and CDCs to help business owners obtain 504 loans and access money they might not be able to get. This lets business owners conserve cash for other operating costs.
    Who is eligible?

  • A fun aspect of teaching math is that I get to share stories about numbers with my students.
    The number “13” of course holds a special place in society and students love learning words like triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13).
    I explain to them that “tris” means “three” and “dek” means “ten.”
    This gives me the opportunity to demonstrate how words contain numerical prefixes taken from Latin and Greek, using these prefixes to define properties of cardinality, such as bi-cycle, cent-ennial, and sex-agenarian (one of my favorites!).
    Now today, being a Friday the 13th, I get to use the word friggatriskaidekaphobia (fear of Friday the 13th). But in this case, the prefix “frigga” has nothing to do with numbers.
    A few ago, a student told me that she had gone to see the movie “Thor” the day before (a Thursday) and was raving about how good it was.
    So I said, “Well then, it’s a happy coincidence that you saw the movie on Thor Day.”
    This led to a discussion on how days of the week were named after planets and gods. Sunday and Monday, of course, are immediately recognized as being named after the Sun and the Moon.
    And, as per our discussion, Thursday was named after that hammer wielding beastie-boy, Thor.

  • Rep. Cathrynn Brown was describing roads in southeastern New Mexico. The pit rule, which requires trucking oil waste to another site, has added to the already heavy traffic on state and county roads.
    Drivers take the shortest route, whether or not the road is safe.
    “Fatalities are a great concern to all of us,” said the Carlsbad Republican. “I got to a point where I dreaded opening the newspaper in the morning. Eddy and Lea counties do the best they can (but) we’re really hurting.”
    On the subject of transportation, you can say the same for every county in the state, from the patched and repatched northern U.S. 285 to McKinley County’s war-surplus bridges that can’t even hold a school bus.
    These debates within the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee grow more urgent every year.
    The governor now supports bonding $300 million in road projects, but last week Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith condemned the proposal as irresponsible. The state, he said, is already overextended.
    What he meant is the state has borrowed to the hilt for transportation. Bonds are IOUs.

  • A wise man once told me that people vote for politicians as they do in well-funded popularity contests.
    It is questionable that the current and impending actions of some policymakers represent the wider public’s interest, and it is difficult when some view election or re-election as unbridled support for their stance on important issues in our state.
    There are many people in New Mexico who feel like they have no voice beyond the voting booth, myself included. I continue to have serious concerns about the current state of our education system and how it reflects our collective beliefs and values, and I know I am not alone.
    My purpose in writing this is to respond to a recent column about House Bill 41, and to urge consistent interaction between the public and their elected officials even after this session’s dust has settled.
    That will take commitment, communication, information, and a willingness from all sides to take the time needed to sit down and consider options without expecting to find a “silver bullet” that will “fix” our education system forevermore.
    We are an ever-changing society. We need processes, beyond the ballots, in place to be able to adapt to changing times. Our founding fathers called this process “democracy,” and it encompasses more than a vote in November.

  • Knowing how to read is one of the most important life skills you could ever learn. When you know how to read, knowledge is at your fingertips and nothing is far from reach.
    Unfortunately for New Mexico, too many of our children are unable to read proficiently. Yet, year after year, we pass them onto the next grade without blinking an eye.
    This is called social promotion — it’s a failed policy that sets our children up for failure. And it’s high time we put an end to it.
    That is why I have joined two colleagues — Rep. Monica Youngblood and Sen. Gay Kernan — in sponsoring legislation that will not only eliminate this policy, but also give teachers, parents and students the resources they need to succeed.
    The truth is, it is not compassionate to move along our children when they are unprepared.
    Doing so only sets them up for failure. In fact, students who cannot read before the third grade are four times more likely drop out of high school.
    It’s not hard to see why. From first grade through third, our children learn to read. After those critical years, they read to learn.

  • The now-infamous 2013 audit of 15 nonprofit New Mexico behavioral health providers has finally been released to the public by our new Attorney General, Hector Balderas.
    You remember. That’s the audit that led the state Human Services Department to accuse all 15 of massive fraud and stop paying them for services under Medicaid, which led to 12 of those providers being starved out of business, a behavioral health system thrown into chaos and several thousands of very vulnerable clients — including many children and a few possibly dangerous individuals — abandoned.
    Sudden forced withdrawal from psychotropic medications, because there wasn’t anybody left to write the prescriptions, was just one of the disastrous consequences of this event.
    Among the 15 providers, over a three-year period, there were $36 million in cost overruns, the audit claimed. That’s a lot of taxpayer money. But I wonder if there might be other explanations for some of this spending.

  • Column up for theological debate

    I’m sure the Los Alamos Monitor does not wish to begin or encourage theological debates, so I will avoid any such rebuttal to Pastor McCullough’s column regarding baptism, “Explaining differences in types of baptism.”
    However, it might be wise for the Los Alamos Monitor to do some fact checking where it can in its religion columns.
    Pastor McCullough’s article immediately began with a factual error. A quick Internet search will indicate that infant baptism was practiced in the church and was mentioned as such by Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian and Origen, all of whom died well before the year 300.
    Unless Pastor McCullough has a different definition of “Middle Ages” than most people, his first sentence is incorrect. I will leave it to the reader to speculate about the cause of such an egregious error.

    Drew Kornreich
    Los Alamos

    Misinformed about baptism roots

    In reference to Pastor McCullough’s “Religion” column of Feb. 6, he is mistaken when he claims that infant baptism has its roots in the Middle Ages.

  • I was raised a union bigot.
    Unions were evil. My dad hated unions. I don’t know why.
    My perspective has evolved. Unions are useful. Nor are unions bad. However, monopolies are bad.
    One important lesson came from John Dendahl, then running a small unionized technology manufacturing firm in Santa Fe. Years later, Dendahl was the take no-prisoners chair of the state Republicans.
    A union contract defines the rules, Dendahl said.
    His company had not had a strike. In Albuquerque, a large electronics manufacturer claimed (correctly, I suspect) that the workforce included commie agitators and got much grief from the union, the same one as at Dendahl’s firm.
    As I remember, there were complaints, eventually substantiated, about sloppy handling of toxic materials.
    These memories arise in the context of “right to work” proposals (House Bill 75, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan, and, Senate Bill 183, a duplicate of HB 75, sponsored by Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington) being considered in the Legislature. Roch is an educator. Sharer is a businessman.
    The proposals would prohibit requiring union membership as a condition of employment.

  • Gas prices remain below $2 a gallon in most of New Mexico, providing citizens of our state with some extra cash for their winter fun. Don’t get used to it. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of implementing three rules that a new study by the Rio Grande Foundation and Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University says will substantially drive up the cost of electricity in New Mexico.
    This comes on top of recent, dramatic increases in electricity prices, thanks in part to New Mexico’s aggressive renewable portfolio standard (RPS). With the state’s largest utility PNM looking for a 12 percent rate hike, the RPS forcing utilities to purchase more costly “renewables,” and the Obama Administration’s proposed regulations, the electricity rate hikes faced by New Mexicans are only just beginning.  
    Of course, all New Mexicans want a clean environment; most appreciate the EPA’s intentions. Nonetheless, it’s clear that with the exception of a radical fringe, few are clamoring for new federal regulations that threaten the state’s struggling economy.

  • Editor’s note: This column first appeared at “The American Spectator.”

    On the morning after Christmas, James B. Edwards passed away. Few Americans under the age of 40 — unless they are South Carolinians — had probably never heard of Jim.
    Here’s the official biography: James B. Edwards was President Ronald Reagan’s original Secretary of Energy. At the age of 17, in 1944, Jim joined the U.S. Maritime Service to serve his country during World War II. Several years later, while still a Navy Reserve officer, he became an oral surgeon.
    In the mid-1960s, concerned about the direction of our country, he got involved in politics, first behind the scenes, then serving a term in the South Carolina State Senate. He surprised the experts in 1974 by becoming the first Republican governor of South Carolina since Reconstruction.
    Limited to one four-year term by the state constitution, Jim worked to promote the presidential candidacy of Ronald Reagan. After Reagan’s election in 1980, he tapped the oral surgeon from South Carolina to be his Secretary of Energy with the mission of shutting down the Department of Energy.

  • A frequent lament of New Mexico’s business community is the loss of brainpower and energy that results when young people move out of state to pursue economic opportunities they can’t find at home.
    This exodus isn’t unique to New Mexico and, by itself, isn’t cause for alarm. No matter where they live, young people almost always leave their home state after completing their schooling or training, even if they obtained that education tuition-free at New Mexico universities.
    Exploring the larger world and all its offerings helps young adults mature into self-aware global citizens — an asset to any community they choose to settle in.
    What most concerns economic-development advocates is how to make New Mexico that destination of choice for our dispersed millennials — the generation now in its 20s and 30s.
    The High Desert Discovery District (HD3) — the first private, nonprofit high-tech startup accelerator in New Mexico — is dedicated to cultivating a climate of innovation and possibility that entices young professionals and entrepreneurs to return to the state and contribute to its economic prosperity.

  • Who would have thought that Nancy Sinatra and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker would have a common area of political doctrine, one whose metaphysical ideology would be based on boots?
    As Nancy so poetically belted out, boots are made for walking. And Governor Walker wants those boots to walk all over you.
    With the 2016 presidential race on his plate, Scotty took to the stump to proclaim his “patriotic willingness to put boots on the ground” in Syria. It was a tough choice, but since it wouldn’t be his feet in those boots, he consented to the possibility of committing to ground warfare with ISIS.
    He must be a “Star Trek” fan. The Ferengi Rule of Acquisition No. 34 is “War is good for business.”
    I suppose his decision was based on his training received when he earned his master’s degree, a claim he made in a recent interview.
    Don’t bother looking it up. He doesn’t have a master’s degree. In fact, he doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree either. He dropped out of college.
    Nor does he have any military experience, at least not outside video games he might have played in an arcade.
    Beam yourself up, Scotty! The people on this planet aren’t stupid enough to believe your lies.