• The Hillary Clinton campaign’s newly announced “ambitious renewable energy plans” move far beyond Barack Obama’s highly criticized efforts that have increased costs and jeopardized reliability.
    Obama’s policies push a goal of producing 20 percent of the nation’s electricity from renewables by 2030 — hers is 33 percent by 2027. We are at 7 percent today.
    At a rally in Ames, Iowa, Clinton said, “I want more wind, more solar, more advanced biofuels, more energy efficiency. And, I’ve got to tell you, people who argue against this are just not paying attention.”
    I’ve got to tell you, the Clinton campaign isn’t paying attention — or, it is paying attention to the demands of wealthy campaign donors.
    The White House has received aggressive push back and a Supreme Court’s smack down over the administration’s policies designed to cut carbon dioxide by requiring renewables.
    A growing list of governors refuses to comply with Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) — the cornerstone of his climate agenda — and Congress has pending legislation giving the governors the authority to “just say no” if such plans would negatively affect electricity rates, reliability, or important economic sectors.

  • Few, if any, New Mexicans seem to notice, let alone mind, that their lawmakers schedule the state’s presidential primaries so late as to seriously limit their choice of presidential candidates.
    Yet it happens every four years.
    Think upon it. By June 7 of next year, when New Mexico holds its 2016 primary elections where Republican and Democratic voters can vote for the candidate they wish to be their parties’ standard bearers at the November general election, that decision will already have been made by voters in 40 other states.
    By then some candidates currently presumed to be in it for the long haul will have dropped out of the race altogether.
    There are (at present count) fully 17 individuals who have declared their candidacy for the Republican nomination, far more than necessary, even most Republicans would surely agree.
    Yet such are the vagaries of presidential politics that just last week one of the most recognizable of those candidates, former-Texas Gov. Rick Perry, made it known that for want of sufficient “liquidity” in his campaign treasury staffers at his headquarters will go unpaid for the time being.

  • Stress can come from everywhere — career, school, family, relationships, health — and especially money.
    The American Psychological Association (APA) recently reported that money remains the number one stressor for 72 percent of Americans. In fact, money has led the APA’s annual stress survey since its debut in 2007, the year before the financial crash that took the U.S. economy into its worst slump since the Great Depression.
    Are you financially stressed? Here are 10 major signs of financial stress and ways to take action.
    You wonder if your job is secure. Even though the economy has improved in recent years, employers still cut and reassign workers and make occasional adjustments in pay and benefits. If you’ve spotted changes in other departments or news accounts suggest a shift in your industry, start thinking ahead. Action Plan: Build up your emergency fund to cover six months or more of basic living expenses, update your resume and get organized for a potential job search.

  • Chomping down on the fine steak before me, I wondered if it was a local product — one of the happy animals standing knee deep in green grass that we’d passed on our way.
    No, said our host. He’d love to be serving local beef, but regulations require them to buy from licensed food processors.
    The same regulations allow them to combine ingredients to make a cake or stew but not to make their own butter to demonstrate self-sufficiency.
    That was one of many lessons of two days at the recently opened Concho Hills Guest Ranch, perched in the foothills of the San Mateo Mountains west of Magdalena in western New Mexico.
    The dude ranch is a passion for Tim and Marilyn Norris, nuclear engineers who worked all over the world (including a stint at Urenco, near Hobbs) before falling in love with New Mexico and deciding to pursue their dream here. They opened Concho Hills (ConchoHillsRanch.com) in April.
    Being around newcomers is an antidote to the New Mexico Blues, in which we dwell on our troubles and forget to count our blessings.
    The Norrises’ interest and enthusiasm is contagious.
    They’re also an example of what happens with every new business, a subject of keen interest to business groups and the legislative Jobs Council.

  • By the time a client gets a loan from The Loan Fund, she’s in a committed partnership with the nonprofit lender. That’s because The Loan Fund offers business development consulting to all potential clients — not just those who receive loans.
    The Loan Fund loan officers provide “pre-loan consulting” the moment they receive an inbound call or greet an office visitor.  And consulting continues after the client walks out the door — either to get more prepared or to start putting the loan money to work building a business, creating jobs and improving communities. The Loan Fund is fully invested with the people whose business startup and expansion plans it helps finance —even with those who aren’t ready for a loan.
    To fulfill its mission “to provide loans and assistance to improve the economic and social conditions of New Mexicans,” The Loan Fund offers the kind of advice and support that help businesses grow and reach sustainability.

  • Since 2009, New Mexico has waived federal work requirements tied to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps.
    More than 21 percent of all New Mexicans receive food stamps, leaving us behind only Mississippi.
    Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration has proposed to reinstate rules limiting able-bodied people — including parents of children older than six years — to three months of SNAP benefits unless they work, do volunteer work or attend job training classes at least 20 hours per week.
    Children and the myriad food programs targeted at them, as well as those who simply cannot work are not up for changes.  
    New Mexico is not alone in re-instating these modest requirements. According to a September 2014 report from the Pew Center, no fewer than 17 states were working to re-instate work requirements on able-bodied adults.
    In 2014, Maine re-imposed a three-month limit (out of every three-year period) on food stamps for able-bodied adults without minor dependents — unless they work 20 hours per week, take state job-training courses or volunteer for about six hours per week.
    The number of such people receiving food stamps in Maine has dropped nearly 80 percent since the rule kicked in, to 2,530 from about 12,000.

  • Justice in America is not all it’s cracked up to be. Just ask Jeffrey Deskovic, who spent 16 years in prison for a rape and murder he did not commit.
    James Bain spent 35 years in prison for the kidnapping and rape of a 9-year-old boy, but he too was innocent of the crime. He was finally freed after DNA testing proved his innocence.
    In comparison, Mark Weiner got off relatively easy. Weiner was wrongfully arrested, convicted, and jailed for more than two years for a crime he too did not commit.
    In his case, a young woman claimed Weiner had abducted her, knocked her out and then sent taunting text messages to her boyfriend about his plans to rape her. Despite the fact that cell phone signals, eyewitness accounts and expert testimony indicated the young woman had fabricated the entire incident, the prosecutor and judge repeatedly rejected any evidence contradicting the woman’s far-fetched account, sentencing Weiner to eight more years in jail. Weiner was only released after his accuser was caught selling cocaine to undercover cops.

  • We’re in peak tourist season, and the number of Texas license plates and happy crowds of shoppers are a welcome sight.
    Gov. Susana Martinez traveled to several communities with the announcement that visits are up a whopping 30 percent over last year and credited the “New Mexico True” campaign.
    As reporters dug into the numbers, they found that the 30 percent was local visitation. Critics panned her announcements as Not So New Mexico True, with a few saying the numbers were bogus.
    Not exactly, but they mean different things.
    To the local economy, my lunch when passing through Española, or my recent stay in Cloudcroft provides the same lift as a lunch or stay by a Texan or Coloradoan. To the state’s economy, it’s money recycled internally, so the buck has less bang.
    Former Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson, with every speech, urged her audience to see New Mexico.
    And the department directed several campaigns at New Mexicans.
    It’s a point well taken. If we’re not willing to be tourists in our own state, why should we expect anyone else to come here? In 2014, New Mexicans made 661,000 more in-state visits than they did in 2013, so either New Mexico True worked on us or we were “staycationing.”

  • Part 1 of 2

    The scope of our government is easy to forget.
    Like fire hydrants, government is in the background much of the time, doing whatever.
    Then, like a fire hydrant that doesn’t work — surprise — government can get our attention. In the broken hydrant case, the firefighters run the hoses to the hydrant in the next block, one that does work.
    Other attention getters are momentary. Last winter, Bernalillo County government bumped the gross receipts tax rate by 0.1875 percent, making the Albuquerque rate 7.1875 percent.
    I first noticed the change three weeks into July when a $32.10 ($30 plus 7 percent) became $32.16 ($30 plus 7.1875 percent). The change brought some mumbling while writing the check and slid to the shadows.
    “Highlights 2015” is the annual report about the legislative session from the Legislative Council Service, the staff to the Legislature.
    The table of contents shows 45 separate topics, some covering multiple sectors. The alphabetical list starts with alcohol and ends with water.
    The topics are policy. The Legislative Finance Committee’s annual “Post Session Review” discusses the money side.
    The regular session saw introduction of 1,755 items of legislation including 1,449 bills.

  • Statistical studies claim that extracurricular activities in school promote a higher rate of academic success.
    One study showed that 30.6 percent of students who participated in extracurricular activities earned a GPA of 3.0 or greater compared to 10.8 percent for students who did not participate.
    Keep in mind, though, that 87.14 percent of all statistics are purely fabricated, especially those that are presented with decimal points.
    Statistics aside, it’s just common sense that out-of-class activities promote both mental and physical health.
    Extracurricular activities help reduce behavior problems. In sports, students learn discipline and planning skills. Clubs and community organizations teach them responsibility and social inclusion.
    Students involved in activities gain higher self-esteem, more confidence and learn valuable interaction skills.
    And of course, there is a correlation between club involvement and higher academic performance. The creation of clubs and promotion of sports helps the students, helps the schools, and helps the community. It’s a win for everyone!
    But perhaps the most important benefit is it’s fun! Sometimes “fun” is more than enough reason!
    Being a teacher, I don’t want to downplay the importance of classroom studies.

  • I have a love-hate relationship with ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.
    I love the convenience and level of service that traditional taxis don’t offer. But I hate what they portend for the future of work with their rapidly expanding business model that pretends regular workers are franchisees.
    For one thing, casting employees as entrepreneurs offloads risks, along with the security and benefits that a traditional job used to offer.
    Workers toiling in the so-called sharing economy get no paid vacation or sick leave, no company match for a 401(k) retirement plan and no employer-paid health insurance. They may benefit from greater flexibility that they need for family obligations or even some fun, but these folks are missing out on big swaths of the safety net.
    What’s more, the CEOs and investors who are driving this share of our economy can get pretty stingy when it comes to sharing the profits with those who made those profits possible.

  • I’d like to meet Ignacio Padilla one of these days.
    Padilla is the fellow who recently got booted from his post as treasurer of the Santa Fe County Republican Party for having invited folks around the local plaza to whack away at a piñata fashioned to look like the “Great Bloviator,” Donald Trump.
    What it tells us about a sizeable bloc of rank-and-file Republican voters I shudder to think, but as these lines are written a goodly number of usually reliable polls indicate Trump to be leading the race for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
    Yet, since announcing his bid for the Republican nomination over a month ago, the billionaire real estate mogul has systematically set himself to the task of alienating first one and then another segment of the American electorate with an abandon that takes the breath away.
    His rivals for the nomination he alternately scorns as “idiots,” “weak,” “incompetent,” “jackasses.”
    Mexican immigrants, including naturalized citizens, “bring us drugs and crime. They’re rapists,” he raged, before going on to malign the military service of John McCain, who spent five years interred as a POW in Vietnam.

  • Light in living rooms is an ancient and basic need.
    Yet, filling this need reflects the long and shifting trials of society, business and the environment.
    In times past, cave dwellers filled their rooms with wood smoke. Today’s fluorescent light bulbs utilize mercury.
    The story line from then to now is a mini-history of the human race.
    The oil lamp, teaching of smoke and smells, was a new thing in 4500 BC. By 3000 BC, the candle was the latest and best.
    Candles use consumable wicks to control the rate that fuel is burned and thus control how much light is produced and for how long. Candles even tell time.
    As seen in many fields down through history, inventions in lighting came at a quickening pace. Is this effect driven by world population?
    A larger population brings with it more inventors and more demands for products. The world population in 4500 BC is estimated at six million, roughly like today’s Dallas-Fort Worth. By 1800, world population was near one billion.
    For more than 5,000 years, living rooms were lit by improved designs and better fuels for lamps, candles and fireplaces.
    We pick up the story again in early America, in the bloom of revolution.

  • President Barack Obama’s confusing approach to energy encourages our enemies who shout “Death to America” as it penalizes our closest allies and even our own job creators.
    Iran’s participation in the nuclear negotiations netted a deal that allows it to resume oil exports. International sanctions have, since 2011, cut Iran’s oil exports in half and severely damaged its economy. Iran currently has about 50 million barrels of oil in storage on 28 tankers at sea.
    It is believed that it will take Iran months to bring its production back up to pre-sanction levels. The millions of barrels of oil parked offshore are indicative of their eagerness to increase exports. Once the sanctions disappear — if Congress approves the terms of the deal, Iran wants to be ready to move its oil.
    On July 17, the Financial Times (FT) reported: “The departure of a giant Iranian supertanker from the flotilla of vessels storing oil off the country’s coast has triggered speculation Tehran is moving to ramp up its crude exports.” The Starla, “a 2 million barrel vessel,” set sail — moving the oil closer to customers in Asia.

  • The reason that the Parks and Recreation Board is hearing complaints is that voice and sight control of dogs does not work.
    Revise the animal ordinance to delete Sec. 6-4, and many problems will disappear.
    When one class of people is given more freedom than another, the ordinance does not protect everyone.
    This policy has been the problem since it was created.
    I was appointed as the advisor (non-voting) to the animal ordinance revision committee that created the 2006 ordinance.
    These are my observations of that process: The committee meetings were closed to the public. I was not allowed to lead a public discussion of pet owner responsibilities. The previous ordinance, as well as the last revision, were written by the same person.
    There needs to be real representative membership by a committee of users and experts. As a result of the process, the rules were written to give domestic dogs more freedom (voice and sight control), as well as access to county space with a “trust me” policy inferred.
    I was not in favor of the amended ordinance that designated that privilege (Section 6-4) because it conflicts with Sec. 6-3, which requires leashes for animals off the owner’s property.
    Voice and sight control is not considered a valid means of restraint of dogs in either Santa Fe or Albuquerque.

  • Next! What will you have today, sir?
    Well, I’d like the implosion special with a 400 kiloton yield, and an extra shot of tactical uranium, please.
    Very good. And would you like to be fried with that?
    So, this Aug. 6 is the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. How time flies when you’re having cold wars and hot proliferation parties!  Seventy years. What to get as a gift? 25 years is silver and 50 years is golden, so would plutonium be appropriate for 70 years?
    The question asked every year is, “Should we have dropped the bomb?”
    When discussing past wars, people literally go to battle with each other.
    The atomic bomb is of particular interest in our community, for reasons that escape me at the moment. The trouble with debating this issue is that for most people, it’s something they’ve only read about in a book.
    Myself, I still think the Diadochi’s treatment of elephants in the Battle of Ipsus, 301 BC., was inexcusable. I’m still waiting for a formal apology from them!
    World War II began in 1939, lasting six years with 113 countries participating or directly involved. Over 50 million people worldwide were killed.

  • One obstacle to improvement in a typical American company is the assumption that change requires months of planning, major expense and a work stoppage or slowdown. Then there’s the fear that old habits and practices will slowly return as people forget what they learned amid the pressures and demands of running a business.  
    Even when the need for change is obvious, such companies often resist fixing something until it’s utterly broken.
    An alternative, nonreactive view embraces change as a continual process of incremental improvements and tweaks — not as an exercise in obsessive compulsion but as an adaptive approach to reducing waste-related costs, eliminating inefficiencies and optimizing competitiveness.
    That perspective is the Japanese system of kaizen.
    Change is good
    As the Japanese rebuilt their economy from scratch after World War II, they invested heavily in their manufacturing and banking sectors and in the education and training of a disciplined, sophisticated and technically savvy workforce. Their manufacturing sector became so efficient that it challenged America’s status as the world’s largest economy in the 1980s.

  • There might have been a dam, a mile and a-half of stored water and a new chance at sustainability — though “sustainability” was not in our vocabulary then — with thriving truck gardens, lush orchards and a much greener valley.
    Or something else entirely. It depends whom you believed.
    Indian Camp Dam is the dam that never was. Seeing the current conflict over a proposed dam in the Gila, I looked back at the stories I wrote in the mid-1970s, when Indian Camp Dam was the dominant controversy in Taos.
    Years earlier, led by U.S. Sen. Dennis Chavez, Congress passed a law creating the San Juan-Chama project.
    The project diverted water from the San Juan River, a tributary of the Colorado, across the Continental Divide into the Chama River, from which it flows into the Rio Grande.
    The Chama joins the Rio Grande near Española. Communities farther north did not have access to that water, so the legislation authorized a dam to be built in Taos County.
    The dam was to be sited in the foothills upstream from Ranchos de Taos, along the Rio Grande del Rancho, the stream that runs near the famous St. Francis Church.

  • 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.