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Opinion

  • In what categories can you count yourself among “the two percent?”
    I’ll waste this sentence so you can really ponder that question.
    Did agriculture spring to mind? If not, you’ll find this statistic surprising: Less than two percent of Americans are directly involved in production agriculture. In other words, 98 percent of us are disconnected from the farm and ranch in terms of time, physical distance, or both.
    Because we are disconnected from farms and ranches, we are dependent upon them for the things that only they can provide: food, fiber and more. If ever there’s a time to be aware of and appreciate that fact, it is now during National Agriculture Week.
    A century ago, most people produced their own food either entirely or in part — and that was because they had to. But leaps in technology opened upon new ways of tending to farm and ranch work, new ways of sharing knowledge about farming and ranching, new ways to market what they produced. What hasn’t changed is the passion that farmers, ranchers, and others in production agriculture bring to their work.

  • Although we may be extra cautious when using household cleaners, automotive products, or pest control products in our homes and gardens, it may come as a surprise that the tasty morsel we just dropped while preparing dinner could endanger our best friend.
    Chocolate can be found lying around the majority of households, especially during the holidays. Depending on the size and type of chocolate, it can be very dangerous to your pet’s health if consumed.
    Make sure that your children are aware of this, as they might think they’re treating Fido by sneaking him a piece of chocolate cake under the dinner table. If your dog does get a hold of some, chocolate is absorbed within about an hour, so you should call your veterinarian immediately.
    “Additionally, grapes and raisins can cause renal failure in dogs if eaten,” said Dr. James Barr, assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
    “The exact cause of this is unknown, and the amount that needs to be consumed in order to be poisonous is unknown as well.”

  • For many teens, there’s nothing more exciting than receiving the first paycheck from a summer job — a sure-fire ticket to fun and freedom. It’s also a great opportunity for parents to encourage proper money management.
    Parents or guardians need to do some necessary paperwork first. Working teens will need his or her own Social Security Number (SSN) to legally apply for a job. They will also need a SSN to open a bank account to deposit their paychecks. Depending on state law, children under 18 may have to open bank accounts in their custodial name with their parents or guardians. It is also important for parents to check in with qualified tax or financial advisors about their teen’s earned income, particularly if it may affect any investments under the child’s name.

  • The recent report of Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s video-recording its members chanting a racist song wasn’t really what I would call news.
    A bunch of college boys sing proudly and loudly using the N-word in celebration of their promise to exclude blacks from membership in their club?
    “There will never be a n----r at SAE.  You can hang him from a tree, but he’ll never sign with me!”
    That’s not news. Making fun of others to exclude them from one’s clique is an old and proud American tradition. And you don’t mess with tradition!
    Like many people, I was disgusted when viewing the video, saddened to see how little has changed in so many years. And like many, I cheered when the chant-leaders were expelled and the fraternity was kicked off campus.
    The SAE Fraternity Manual declares SAE as “The Singing Fraternity,” boasting that it has “many songs that our members should learn.”
    I’m guessing that the members might want to take that out of their manual now.
    The fraternity’s motto is “The True Gentleman,” and its mission statement defines this as “the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety,” adding “one who thinks of the rights and feelings of others.”

  • Legislative sessions often leave the tracks during the final days, but last week was weird even by those standards.
    There was the usual House snipping that the Senate isn’t hearing their bills and more than the usual strain between parties. Rumors of retaliation floated in the stale air. Personal slights or bad behavior provoked demands for apologies.
    Tensions escalated until a University of New Mexico regent’s confirmation exploded in mid-air. When a long-serving senator resigned abruptly a day later, it was almost anti-climactic.
    Through it all, they kept working. The process pauses but doesn’t stop. All that blather in bloggerdom about the “do-nothing legislature” just ain’t so.
    The regent showdown had been brewing for days.
    The governor nominated former District Attorney Matthew Chandler as UNM regent. The Senate Rules Committee approved the nomination, then asked that its record be expunged and hauled Chandler back in.
    If lots of raised eyebrows had a sound, we could have heard a whoosh.
    The three-way face-off among Chandler, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto (all lawyers) shocked even veteran political reporters. Gone were the accustomed niceties observed in the Legislature, replaced by accusations flung back and forth.

  • Responsible parents would never gamble with their child’s college savings account.
    Yet that is precisely what the New Mexico Lottery is proposing to do with the Lottery Scholarship, which serves as the college fund for many New Mexico students from low- and middle-income families.
    The New Mexico Lottery is attempting to pass Senate Bill 355, which would eliminate the requirement that a minimum of 30 percent of lottery revenues be dedicated to the scholarship fund. This requirement was enacted in 2007, based on a proposal by Think New Mexico.
    Prior to that time, there was no minimum percentage that the lottery had to deliver to the scholarship fund. The lottery was required to dedicate at least 50 percent of revenues to prizes, but once that requirement was met, the lottery paid its operating costs and sent whatever was left over to the scholarship fund.
    As a result, scholarships received an average of only 23.76 percent of lottery revenues a year from 1997-2007.
    Fortunately, the legislature enacted the 30 percent requirement, and it has resulted in an additional $9 million a year going to the scholarship fund.

  • Bill Richardson’s decision to donate his accumulated papers to the University of Texas at Austin’s Dolph Briscoe Center for American History has raised eyebrows and ruffled feathers in certain quadrants of New Mexico politics.
    Which only stands to reason. Richardson’s political career began in the early 1980s with his election to the U.S House of Representatives from the state’s 3rd Congressional District and culminated, so to speak, in 2002 when he was elected to the first of his two terms as governor of New Mexico.
    Along the way he rose to a position of leadership in Congress, served as President Bill Clinton’s Ambassador to the United Nations and as U.S. Energy Secretary in the Clinton administration.
    Throughout it all, Richardson gained a national reputation and a measure of celebrity as a gifted diplomatic trouble-shooter and negotiator called upon by Democratic and Republican presidents alike to aid in the release of American hostages in such countries as North Korea, Sudan and Iraq.
    Indeed, such was Richardson’s reputation for diplomatic wizardry that just days after taking his first oath of office as governor, a delegation of North Korean emissaries appeared on his doorstep in Santa Fe seeking his counsel on their dealings in Washington.

  • Anyone who operates a business in New Mexico is familiar with the gross receipts tax, or GRT — a tax not on sales but on companies and people who do business here.
    Unlike a sales tax, the GRT is imposed on the seller of property or services. It is not a tax the seller collects from the buyer and delivers to the state; it’s due even if the seller doesn’t charge the buyer.
    The tax is imposed on the gross receipts of businesses or people who sell property, perform services, lease or license property or license a franchise in New Mexico. The same goes for those who sell research and development services performed outside New Mexico when the resulting product is initially used here.
    “Gross receipts” are the total amount of money or other consideration received from the activities covered in the tax law. They include sales of property handled on consignment and commissions received.  
    But they exclude GRT billed to the buyer, as that would constitute taxing a tax. Also excluded are cash discounts; taxes imposed by a Native American tribe or pueblo that is exempt from New Mexico GRT; interest or other types of time-price differentials; or amounts received solely on behalf of another in a disclosed-agency capacity — like an in-state florist who fulfills an order placed with an out-of-state company.

  • With spring break upon us, and summer vacations right around the corner, it’s time to start planning your much-needed getaways. Whichever destination you choose, having your pet by your side makes it even more enjoyable. However, there are some important things to consider before letting your furry family member tag along.
    “The first thing you want to do before you go on a big trip with your pet is to go on a short trip with your pet,” said Dr. Mark Stickney, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “Drive around and make sure that they don’t get too nervous or car sick while they’re in the vehicle.”
    If you notice that Fido is an anxious traveler, but still need to bring him along, consult your veterinarian about motion sickness medication or tranquilizers to help make the ride more comfortable.


  • Economic development” gets much conversation in the policy realm. Occasions range from chamber of commerce meetings to political campaigns and legislative hearings.
    But what, really, is all that conversation about? The perspective here comes from years of hanging out with economic developers and listening to the economic policy conversations.
    To do economic development is to meddle with an economy, be it a community, a county or region or even a state.
    Those of us tilting against meddling on the grounds that freedom, choice and competition provide better results are correct, but perhaps irrelevant.
    Conservatives meddle.
    The example as I write comes from all but one of the potential Republican presidential candidates swearing fealty to the ethanol industry in Iowa. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz provided the exception.
    When properly and narrowly defined, the idea of economic development is to add organizations to what is called the “basic” economy of the area. The organization can be private or public.
    Only when there appears the possibility of a government organization adding itself to a community is the acceptability of a government organization admitted.

  • Inspired by the public advocacy of terminal brain cancer patient Brittany Maynard, lawmaker in Washington, D.C., and at least 16 other states — from California to New York — have introduced bills that would authorize the medical option of aid in dying.
    This legislation would allow mentally competent, terminally ill adults in the final stages of their disease the option to request a doctor’s prescription for aid-in-dying medication that they could choose to take it if their suffering becomes unbearable.
    As a Catholic and a physician, I feel compelled to dispel the myths about these bills perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church, some disability groups, and the American Medical Association (AMA).
    The Oregon law that is the model for this legislation has a stellar 17-year track record, with no scientifically documented cases of abuse or coercion. Dying adults who go through the lengthy process of obtaining the medication in Oregon hold onto it for weeks or months, as Brittany did, before taking it, if they take it at all.

  • Major credit card processors are imposing tougher security measures on credit card issuers in the industry’s ongoing efforts to combat credit card fraud.
    These global standards — called EMV for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, the companies collaborating on the new system — include embedding computer chips into “smart” credit cards that offer greater security for point of sale (POS) transactions than the magnetic strips on traditional credit cards.
    Many chip-embedded cards require a personal identification number (PIN) instead of a signature to complete the POS transaction and close the security loop; these “chip-and-PIN” cards are the norm around the world, though they’ve been slow to catch on in the United States.
    One incentive for the changeover is the soaring cost of fraud. According to the payment industry’s Nilson Report, credit card fraud cost banks and merchants more than $5 billion in the U.S. alone in 2012. By contrast, credit card fraud in face-to-face sales has dropped dramatically in countries around the world that have adopted the new technology.
    Deadline looms

  • The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear four cases involving the issue of same-sex unions. These cases come from the Sixth Circuit where the U.S. Appeals Court had earlier upheld Michigan’s definition of marriage as limited to one man and one woman. That decision (DeBoer v. Snyder) created what is called a “conflict among the Circuits” and forced the Supreme Court to address the issue.
    The court will be likely to issue a decision in June 2015 with arguments in April.
    There are two questions that the court has agreed to take up. Does the 14th Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?
    Secondly, does that same Amendment “require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?”
    How should the Supreme Court decide these cases? Specifically, the justices should reject the recent rash of federal court decisions that have, for the time being, forced same-sex marriage on the citizens of 31 states who had democratically chosen to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

  • There’s a classic story about a philosophy professor who presented the students with a test asking a single question — “Why?” As the story goes, the only person who received an ‘A’ was a student who submitted the answer, “Because.” Another version of the story has the student answering “Why not?”
    The story is of course an academic myth, an allegory promulgated on the premise that philosophy defines its own worth and that the value of questioning the questions is itself in question. Myth or not, the story does underscore a related question that merits answering — “Why ask why?”
    Why should anyone seek an answer if there is no obvious value to having the answer other than simply to have it?
    Why is the sky blue and the sunset red? Why does a refrigerator get cold? Why does a stick of butter float in water? Why you should never mix bleach and ammonia?
    If curiosity killed the cat, does a cat that never questions anything live longer? Why are people so willing to accept what they’re told and not ask why?
    If we stick our heads in the sand and cannot see the things we fear, are we safer? If ignorance is bliss, you would think that this world should be a much happier place.

  • Lyme disease, a common tick-borne disease in humans, can be contracted by our canine companions as well. The disease, which is caused by a spirochete bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, can often be difficult to diagnose.
    “Hard-shelled ticks of the genus Ixodes transmit Borrelia burgdorferi,” said Dr. Carly Duff, veterinary resident at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “The tick attaches to its host, and then as the tick is feeding, spirochete bacteria migrate onto the host.”
    Clinical signs in canine patients may include fever, enlarged lymph nodes, a lack of appetite, and lethargy. Others may develop acute lameness as a result of joint inflammation, which lasts for a few days before returning days later, not necessarily in the same leg. This is known as “shifting-leg lameness.” More serious complications can include kidney damage and heart or central nervous system abnormalities in rare cases.
    Fortunately, your dog’s disease does not put you or your family at risk. “Dogs do not appear to be a source for infection in humans,” Duff said, “because they do not excrete infectious organisms in their bodily fluids to any appreciable extent.”

  • I checked my New Mexico Constitution the other day, and the provision is right there where I left it: Article IV, Section 16, “Subject of bill in title; appropriation bills.”
    “The subject of every bill shall be clearly expressed in its title, and no bill embracing more than one subject shall be passed except general appropriation bills and bills for the codification or revision of the laws; but if any subject is embraced in any act which is not expressed in its title, only so much of the act as is not so expressed shall be void....”
    This is called the single-subject provision. I wrote about it a couple of years ago, pointing out how nasty it is when Congress violates this principle and what a relief it is that New Mexico, along with 41 other states, has a single-subject requirement.
    Congress regularly sticks multiple unrelated subjects into the same bill, so members have to vote for the part they disagree with in order to support the part they agree with. How many bills have come out of the U.S. House of Representatives that include something about undoing the Affordable Care Act, for example?  
    The House of Representatives was barely able to pass a bill funding the Homeland Security Department for more than a week because some members insisted on holding the funding hostage to extraneous provisions.

  • Family vacations produce memories for a lifetime, but they can also teach kids great money lessons they’ll need as adults.
    Involving kids in planning family vacations not only helps them appreciate the overall benefits of travel, but offers an opportunity for even the youngest kids to learn lessons about budgeting, saving and essential money management they will encounter every day.
    If you have trouble tearing your kids away from their smartphones, you might be in luck. The technology kids use can be very effective in budgeting, pricing and planning travel. Surfing travel destinations can teach kids a great deal about what travel really costs.
    The first step in planning the family vacation should be creating a budget for the trip. Set a realistic dollar limit for the trip and bΩe prepared to discuss why that limit exists. For example, if there is a home renovation project scheduled that particular year, explain how that affects the overall family budget and the resources for the trip. It’s an important lesson in balancing fun and family priorities.

  • New Mexico is a culturally rich and diverse state with 22 American Indian Tribes, Pueblos and Nations that exercise sovereignty over their land and people.
    Our tribes have exercised these rights since time immemorial and prior to the Spanish, Mexican and United States governments.
    Tribes have the inherent right to govern and protect the health and welfare of their citizens, and oral health care should be no different.
    There is an oral health care crisis in our New Mexico tribal communities that must be addressed. Many tribes are located in rural areas, and most are in dental provider shortage areas.
    Even those living in urban areas have little to no access to dental care.
    Dental decay and disease are highly prevalent in the American Indian population. In one New Mexico Pueblo, 70 percent of adults suffer from untreated dental decay, and 58 percent of the children live with untreated dental decay.
    These children are missing school and suffering needlessly. Adults miss work, and elders cannot eat nutritious foods.
    This is needless suffering when a proven solution is readily available. By utilizing the dental therapist model all tribal, rural and underserved people throughout the state of New Mexico could benefit from much needed oral health care.

  • Sometimes We the People don’t elect the most upstanding candidates.
    Or we elect upstanding candidates, but they appoint people who aren’t cast from the same material.
    Or the power and temptation that come with the position alter them in ways that would surprise their grandmothers.
    Stuff happens. Most of the time, the first to know are subordinates or co-workers. Unless they’re willing to come forward, the bad seed grows and, undetected and unchecked, spreads aggressively.
    I have a lot of respect for whistleblowers and have worked with a number of them over the years. I know there are soreheads and disgruntled employees and even office romances gone wrong. They’re outnumbered by bona fide informants.
    Let me introduce you to them.
    They rarely see themselves as heroes. They’re ordinary people who really, really, really didn’t want to complicate their lives or step into the limelight.
    But they’re witnesses to something they could no longer stomach. The way they see it, they have no choice.
    Whistleblowers risk everything, everything — job, health, reputation, marriage — by going public.

  • I can’t help but compare the discussion involving the merits of the CIP project for the proposed North Community Regional Park and Community Links with what I do for a living: provide apartment housing for people living in Los Alamos.
    I own and manage a number of buildings in town that are almost the same age as is the golf course and believe it or not, there are more similarities than you might think.
    By the time our current projects are completed this summer, we will have invested well over $1,500,000 in upgrades and innovations in recent years. We do this because we have to meet or exceed the needs and desires of our customers.
    As a result, we have stayed competitive in the market and have a successful business.
    The same cannot be said for the golf course in Los Alamos.
    There is little disagreement that the course needs a new irrigation system. The current system is nearing 30 years of age, was not properly installed in the first place and is a component that typically requires replacement every 20-25 years.
    What is being debated is the proposed renovation of the course, which would include completely new turf and the re-design of several holes for safety concerns.