• Whether as a slowly rising tide or flash flood, marijuana reform is on its way to New Mexico. The question is, who will benefit economically from what’s shaping up to be the fastest-growing industry of this decade?
    Since New Mexico became the first state to license and regulate the production and distribution of medical marijuana in 2007, 23 other states have followed our lead. Now Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska have legalized recreational use. The District of Columbia has approved legalization, and unless Congress blocks it, President Barack Obama will soon be able to reunite his Hawaii choom gang for a smoke in the Rose Garden. (Hard to guess how the Secret Service would handle that, since pot remains illegal on federal property.)
    If he chooses to use the “pen and phone” he’s been brandishing lately in the cause of drug law reform, the president could drop marijuana from the fed’s list of controlled substances, a move that would favorably impact more Americans than his unilateral action on immigration. That would open the floodgates for similar reforms nationwide.
    Arizona legislators will weigh a legalization bill in the session opening this month, although it’s unlikely to make it to a floor vote this year.

  • As the Legislature debates the two related issues of right to work and minimum wage, we’re probably going to hear about theories like free markets and free choice. So let’s get real.
    Some things are still traded in completely free markets, I suppose, but I would hesitate to name one nationally marketed product that is not somehow affected (for better or worse) by subsidies, tax breaks, or other factors that have nothing to do with consumer choice. (If you find one, please write to me!)  
    We are all subsidizing Walmart. If you don’t shop there, you are subsidizing the purchases of people who do.  
    Americans for Tax Fairness issued a report in April 2014 called “Walmart on Tax Day:  How Taxpayers Subsidize America’s Biggest Employer and Richest Family.”
    In this report, a state-by-state analysis shows the estimated number of Walmart employees in New Mexico as 14,322. The estimated public assistance cost for those New Mexico employees is $63.2 million. The estimated yearly total of tax breaks and subsidies to the Walmart stores in New Mexico, benefitting the company’s owners and stockholders, is $73.7 million. Those two figures add up to $136.9 million — money either not collected in taxes or paid out in public assistance to workers.  

  • Many Americans are upset by the decision of President Barack Obama to issue an executive order to reform immigration policy. The executive order effectively grants undocumented immigrants the legal right to remain in the United States if they have been here five years and are parents, children, or spouses of citizens or of legal residents. The president says that he did this because Congress has not passed an immigration reform bill.
    Obama’s impatience with Congress on immigration reform is understandable. Government has allowed millions of immigrants to remain in the United States even though they are violating the law by being here. Since it costs about $23,000 to deport an undocumented immigrant, it would be fiscally irresponsible to try to deport a significant percentage of them. Thus, we need to reform immigration policy so that we have a law that we can afford to enforce. Although Obama may have gone beyond his authority as president, his action serves to highlight the urgency of Congress acting to reform immigration policy.

  • The information in a Jan. 9 report, “Martinez throws support behind right-to-work,” in the business section of the Albuquerque Journal reinforces the claim that Gov. Susana Martinez is just another Republican agent working for big business.
    As usual, the governor proclaims that she is working for the people. “It is fundamentally wrong to require membership (in a union) in order to get a job or take money from the paychecks of our workers by force to support a special interest group that they do not want to be a part of.”
    But where was she speaking and why?
    Martinez was appearing “before about 500 business leaders and legislators at a Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce luncheon.”
    It is a little hypocritical and suspect to claim you are supporting labor rights when you are speaking before a special interest business group that would benefit the most from abolishing unions altogether.
    Hmm. Do you really think the governor is looking out for workers, or is she trying to pay back big businesses for their financial support and troll for more cash to fuel her political ambitions?
    There are several inconvenient truths about right-to-work (RTW) laws.

  • On Wednesday, the world was shocked and appalled by the deplorable attacks at the Paris office of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Twelve men and women were murdered for expressing their freedom of speech.
    Sadly, it is not an isolated incident.
    In August, journalist James Foley was beheaded in Syria after being held captive for nearly two years. In September, a gruesome video released by terrorists showed freelance journalist Steven Sotloff beheaded.
    It has become a disturbing trend for radicals and terrorists to target journalists. These attacks challenge the value of free speech at its core.
    Worldwide, there have been more than 60 journalists killed and more than 100 kidnapped in the past year. This is unacceptable. It cannot continue. Every attack on the press is an attack on all of our freedom.
    A free press is a vital and integral part of any free society. Even in our country, we have seen steps taken to limit and outright prevent the media from doing its job.
    In 2013, the newspaper industry was shocked to learn the U.S. Department of Justice seized reporters’ personal records and phone logs. New York Times reporter James Risen has faced the threat of jail time for more than a year because of his unwillingness to divulge the names of confidential sources.

  • I love malapropisms (using the wrong words to obfuscate meaning), such as dancing the flamingo, or teaching family values as the bondage between mother and child.
    Word abuse like that is now called a Bushism, named after a grating great man who was ungratefully “misterunderestimated.”
    But I’m not really well versed enough to understand the nuances of advanced wordplay, juggling between mondegreens, eggcorns, spoonerisms and other side dishes of word salad. I usually wade in the kiddie pool of language and limit myself to idioms.
    Idioms can be truly bizarre when you take the time to think about them. Like saying that something costs an arm and a leg. So what can you get for a spleen and a gall bladder?
    Now, one of the most overused colloquialisms is “Practice what you preach.” Some people liken this to meaning “Walk the walk and talk the talk.”
    Actually, the correct terminology should be “Walk the talk,” meaning to follow a set of rules or directions that you expect others to follow.
    All too often however, the intended meaning is, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
    A perfect case in point would be Bristol Palin, who was paid by the Candie’s Foundation to promote “her message” on the importance of abstinence.

  • Jeffrey and Melissa Pilgrim launched Vista Photonics in 2003 to research how laser-based trace-gas sensors could be developed for a variety of commercial and project-specific uses.
    Among other innovations, the company created an instrument that helps farmers plan harvests by measuring how much ethylene gas crops emit to accelerate ripening.
    But the couple’s favorite brainchild so far is the optical life gas analyzer they developed for the National Aeronautic and Space Administration. The device monitors gas levels on the International Space Station — a function that’s critical to maintaining a balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide, water vapor and ammonia in the craft’s controlled atmosphere.
    These achievements — and the Santa Fe company’s growing status as a go-to maker of photonic products for various government agencies — led the Regional Development Center to recognize Vista Photonics in November as one of the companies it predicts will bring more jobs and revenue to the region by 2020.
    Originally begun to identify and nurture 20 high-growth companies that appeared likely to double their workforce and revenues by 2020, the Northern New Mexico 20/20 Campaign this year exceeded its goal: 25 companies have been inducted into the pantheon so far.
    ‘Growing ideas’

  • Skandera should be voted down
    The Albuquerque Journal’s quote of Tuesday was from Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, “We just need to get on with it.” It pertains to Hanna Skandera, “Secretary-designate” of the New Mexico Department of Education.
    Speaking of Ms. Skandera, I reread the resume that was published in the Albuquerque Journal of Feb. 13, 2011.
    It reminded me of a T-shirt I saw recently: “Those who can, Teach; Those who can’t, Pass laws about teaching.”
    Her degrees are in business and public policy, i.e. the modern idiocy that postulates “once you learn how to manage something, you can manage anything.”
    What happened to the boss’s son or daughter who started in the mailroom and learned what the corporation does or makes?
    The fate of Apple under Scully comes to my mind. Tom Scully managed Coke for many years and probably couldn’t even spell Silicon Valley. You may remember he almost drove the caravan into the desert of failed successes and caused the Apple board to bring Steve Jobs back to save it and build it into one of the legends of commerce.

  • Since the governor surprised us with her announcement that Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson will move over to the beleaguered Children Youth and Families Department, we’ve heard some pointed objections.
    Namely, what does Jacobson know about child abuse?
    Point taken. Personally, I regret the loss of the energetic, personable Jacobson from our tourism efforts.
    That said, this reshuffling could work. But it’s a qualified “could.”
    Since young Omaree Varela broke our hearts last year, we’ve learned a lot about CYFD: chronic understaffing, overworked and underpaid social workers, mismanagement from top to bottom, and poor communications with police.
    Former and current workers described salaries lower than other government workers, constant turnover in staff because of poor management, a cliquish atmosphere in which promotions and even office furniture depended on who you know.
    According to the Legislative Council Service, the time needed to complete an investigation increased from 58.2 days in 2008 to 86.4 days in 2012.
    One organization’s study, released in March, found:
    CYFD investigators receive a few months’ training. Other states in the region require six months’ training before they receive their first case.

  • We all expect to pay a price for missing deadlines, but not the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
    For the past two years, the EPA has failed to meet the deadline under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), requiring the agency to tell refiners how much ethanol to blend into gasoline.
    In November 2013, the EPA did make an attempt to announce the proposed 2014 blend levels — which by then were already months past the legally mandated deadline. The EPA set the proposed 2014 standard to a level lower than 2013s, even though the law requires increasing amounts.
    Ethanol producers, who were expecting the usual uptick, loudly opposed the reduction. They made so much noise, the EPA agreed to reconsider. To date, the 2014 standards have not yet been announced.
    Then, in November 2014, the EPA announced it would make a decision in 2015 on how much ethanol refiners had to add to gasoline in 2014.
    Congress enacted the RFS in 2005 and revised it in 2007 —which also provided incentives to America’s fledgling ethanol industry. At the time, gasoline demand was rising to an all-time high and oil imports comprised more than 58 percent of U.S. oil consumption.
    Then the world changed.
    The U.S. economy plunged into its worst recession ever, unemployment soared, and gasoline demand fell sharply.

  • I didn’t realize that there’s a “reality” TV series called “Dating Naked” until last weekend, when I came across mention of it in a review of the new book “How to be a Victorian.”
    “Living, as we do,” the reviewer mused, “in a culture so vulgar as to barely yawn” at television programs like “Dating Naked,” It’s little wonder that people glamorize the Victorian era of yore.
    There probably isn’t a single mover-and-shaker in New Mexico’s Democratic Party these days who gives a hoot about the Victorians, but if the November election was any kind of effort at courtship a lot of them emerged from the encounter stripped down to their political skivvies if not of their birthday suits.
    Any realistic stock-taking of the terrain on which they currently stand makes it abundantly clear that they are in “deep dodo,” to filch a phrase popularized some years back by former President George H.W. Bush.
    At the state level, their party is basically leaderless and has been for some time and will be for some time to come.

  • I am a residential solar installer working in Albuquerque for Positive Energy Solar.
    I humbly request that you reject both PNM’s proposed power replacement plan for the San Juan Generating Station and the proposed rate case on economic, public health and environmental grounds to make way for clean, renewable energies in the Land of Enchantment.
    In its 2013 Commission Code of Conduct (Res. No. 01-03-13), the commission resolved to “treat the office of commissioner as a public trust by using the powers of the office solely for the benefit of the public rather than for any personal benefit.”
    Spending a combined $576 million on gas, coal, nuclear energy purchases and generating capacity does not serve the best interests of the public. Similarly, a dramatic rate increase falling disproportionately on residential customers has no benefit for the vast majority of New Mexicans. Contrarily, it bodes well for PNM’s investors, who received an 8.1 percent dividend increase on Dec. 9.
    Instead of draining dividends out of New Mexico, PNM should invest in its state.
    The company’s PR folks deem their plan as the “most cost-effective option for customers out of thousands analyzed for cost, risk and reliability.”

  • The headlines and presenter observations from the New Mexico Tax Research Legislative Outlook Conference provide a brief indication of economic and tax matters coming in the 2015 legislative session. The conference was Dec. 16 in Albuquerque.
    Tom Clifford, secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration: Part of the severance tax bonding capacity will be earmarked for highways in the southeast.
    Charles Sallee, deputy director of the Legislative Finance Committee: Medicaid pays for 70 percent of the births in New Mexico. A quarter of the children entering kindergarten in high poverty schools are unable to identify one letter. Eighty percent of children are behind on the day they enter kindergarten. The problem with children who are behind is not ethnicity; it is poverty.
    Gary Tonjes, president of Albuquerque Economic Development: He supports the increase from $15 million to $50 million that is proposed for the Local Economic Development Act by the Jobs Council interim legislative committee. The money serves as a job closing fund from which state government provides capital for business expansion.
    “As a result (of the previous increase to $15 million), deals are happening. We are far more competitive,” Tonjes said.

  • Businesses invest lots of human and capital resources into marketing, asset purchases and outreach. Their goal, of course, is to generate the best return on every dollar spent, every hour worked and every keystroke made.
    Return on investment, or ROI, measures how much money or other tangible benefits the business makes on every investment.
    For example, if a business invests in a modern computer system to expand its reach and improve its service to Internet shoppers, the return on investment would measure how many new customers it gained and how much these newcomers spent. These gains would be analyzed in relation to the amount of the investment.
    ROI should be considered for every business investment, and various formulas can be used.
    Classic formulas
    and variations
    To calculate the classic ROI formula, the prospective business investor divides the cost of the investment into the estimated benefit or gain — the returns after costs are subtracted.
    The equation, expressed as a percentage, looks like this: Percent ROI = (Gains – Cost) / Cost.
    It seems straightforward and simple: A negative number equals a poor ROI, while a positive one suggests a good investment — and the higher the positive number the better the investment potential.

  • It is only a paper moon sailing over a cardboard sea …”
    These vintage lyrics chronicle the human condition. The words ring true in matters as normal and dramatic as the circus and political theatrics.
    Theatrics held the spotlight for years in the saga of New Mexico’s rule for safeguarding the soil and water while drilling wells to produce oil and gas. The rule sought to have drilling leave less waste on the land.
    The saga was recaptured in short form in a mid-2013 story in the Carlsbad Current-Argus. The news report read in part: “The Oil Conservation Commission approved the so-called pit rule Thursday, following testimony and deliberations that spanned more than a year. The regulations govern how producers handle drilling mud and other waste in pits, buried tanks, sumps and closed-loop systems.
    “The industry had argued that regulations adopted in 2008 and 2009 pushed producers from the state, costing New Mexico jobs and revenue. They petitioned in 2011 for the regulations to be amended.”
    The first step toward a rule is sufficient years of technical work. A leader in that work was a retiree from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Dr. Don Neeper, representing New Mexico Citizens for Clean Air & Water.

  • The Pew Research Center reports that 4 in 10 American adults have at least one step-relative, defined as a stepparent, a step-or-half sibling, or a stepchild in their family.
    While the Pew study says that many stepfamilies operate harmoniously, it also notes that adults “feel a stronger sense of obligation to their biological family members than they do to their step kin.”
    That is one reason why blended family finances can get so messy.
    Couples planning to blend families often have to make financial arrangements that respect previous relationships with ex-spouses and their families. Issues range from childcare and eldercare to potentially complex matters involving businesses, investment assets and real estate.
    That’s why involving trained experts in stepfamily financial planning is a must.
    Here’s a basic checklist of issues and solutions potential spouses and partners should consider:
    • Start with all cards on the table. Today’s first-time marriages or partnerships alone can introduce some staggering financial variables — business and inheritance issues, college debt, consumer debt or even past bankruptcies. Couples planning stepfamilies face even more complications.

  • As the new year begins, I can’t help but take a look back and gaze at the wonders of the year past.
    By “wonders,” I mean that I can’t help wondering how civilization survived another year of its continuing bizarre behavior.
    For instance, the Pepsi company almost succeeded in destroying life as we know it by test marketing a Doritos flavored soda. What says “I’ve lost what little mind I have” better than saying it with a mouthful of fizzy Doritos?
    Not to be outdone on the stupidity meter, James Manning, pseudo-pastor of the ATLAH “church” accused Starbucks of flavoring its lattes with the “seeds of sodomites.”  Actually, I think they only do that with the Frappuccinos.
    Yes, 2014 was a good year. A company released a kiddie coloring book featuring Ted Cruz fighting off serpents (Obamacare and social programs), flying on the back of eagles (defending the Second Amendment and the rights of firearm manufacturers), and various pages designed to give the children nightmares (images of Palin, Beck and Bachmann).
    The publisher originally wanted to make it a “color by numbers” book, but Cruz had trouble with the double digits.

  • The last words out of the mouth of strangling victim Eric Garner are actually a metaphor for how libertarians feel about the entire welfare-warfare state under which modern-day Americans have been born and raised.
    Don’t his words express precisely how we libertarians feel? Leave us alone, we say to the state. Get out of our faces. Get out of our lives. You’re suffocating us. You’re killing us — literally, spiritually, financially and economically.
    Thomas Jefferson described this phenomenon in the Declaration of Independence: the king’s government was sending “swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.”
    There is hardly any part of our lives that government officials aren’t involved in. They just won’t leave us alone. Drug laws. Economic regulations. Income taxation. IRS audits. Asset forfeitures. Home raids. Secret surveillance. Draft registration. Permits and licenses. Minimum-wage laws. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Terrorist blowback from an interventionist foreign policy. Checkpoints. Perpetual crises and chaos.
    It never stops.
    The direct cause of Eric Garner’s death was obviously the chokehold that the cops put on his neck, which prevented him from breathing.

  • I keep talking with public school teachers who are miserable. They’re all looking at their bank accounts trying to figure out when they can retire.
    The purpose of the school system is to educate students, not to make its employees happy. Students come first. But it’s hard to imagine that students are getting the best possible education when their teachers show up each morning feeling beaten and dispirited.
    They say it’s because of testing — too much testing, too little time to teach, testing results applied to their evaluations in ways that they say are unfair or illogical.
    Some complain about Common Core standards, but testing is still the primary theme.
    They are echoing a common complaint of unhappy employees. Employees are unhappy, it’s said, when they have no sense of control over their work, when they think things are being done wrong but they can’t do anything about it, when they don’t trust management and believe management won’t listen to them.
    That’s the classic formula, virtually guaranteed to produce low morale.

  • If your 65th birthday is around the corner or you’re anxious about Medicare, it’s a good time to start focusing on your options.
    Healthcare choice is becoming a bigger factor in the lives of pre-retirees as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) — better known as Obamacare — brings significant change to employer-sponsored and individually purchased health plans.
    Though a separate federal health insurance system with no connection to Obamacare or its online marketplaces, Medicare is going through its own evolution in terms of plan offerings and customer access.
    Here’s a basic primer for future Medicare enrollees:
    • What is Medicare? Medicare is a government-provided health and hospitalization insurance program for people 65 and older and for some people under age 65 based on disability or particular forms of illness.
    • What does it cost? Though you’ve likely paid taxes into the Medicare system your entire career, Medicare isn’t a completely free program; you’ll pay premiums deducted from your Social Security checks for some portions of your benefits. There may be copays and deductibles for certain services. If you have health issues already, it’s a good idea to investigate coverage based on the services you’re likely to need over time.