• Let’s stop unwanted pregnancies! Let’s stop abortions! Real progress has been achieved in Colorado.
    Recent articles in the New York Times, Santa Fe New Mexican and other publications have reported that the birthrate among teenagers in Colorado plummeted by 40 percent from 2009 to 2013 and teenage abortions dropped by 42 percent.
    There was a similar decline in births for another group of particularly vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies: unmarried women under 25 who have not finished high school.
    The changers were particularly pronounced in the poorest areas of the state where jobs are scarce and unplanned births come often to the young.
    These astonishing results were not the consequence of abstinence curricula, but rather an aggressive outreach program administered by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
    Using funds from a private grant provided by the Susan Thompson Buffet Foundation (named for the billionaire investor Warren Buffet’s late wife), more than 30,000 long-lasting contraceptive devices, such as intrauterine device, known as IUDs, and contraceptive implants, were distributed at 68 family planning clinics across the state.

  • A Boy Scout takes an oath to become a Scout, “On my honor I will do my duty to God and my country and to help other people at all times and to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.” It is as simple as that.
    To become an American Legionnaire, one does not take an oath because one will have already done that when he/she raises their hand and swears to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America and to defend our country against all enemies foreign and domestic. One then dons the uniform of the United States of America military service then become a veteran. The motto of the Legion is “For God and Country.”
    Both are very similar as to allegiance in the purpose and goals of each organization.
    The image of The American Legion may be that of a bunch of old men sitting around, drinking beer and swapping war stories. There may be something to that because veterans do drink beer, but the bulk of conversation is not war stories. It is about family, friends and just plain everyday conversation.
    The common bond is not spoken but it is there. Part of that bond is a sense of duty to something more than one’s own self.

  • Despite public protest, Japan is going nuclear — again.
    Following the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima nuclear reactor in northeastern Japan, all nuclear reactors were gradually switched off for inspections. Due to safety concerns, the country’s nuclear power generation has been at a standstill.
    Meanwhile, new regulatory standards have been developed and reactors are undergoing inspections.
    Prior to 2011, nuclear power provided nearly one third of Japan’s electricity. Lost power-generation capacity has been replaced by importing pricey fossil fuels.
    Japan has few natural resources of its own. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports: “Japan imports more than 90 percent of its fossil fuels, and is particularly dependent on the Middle East for oil and natural gas.”

  • Part 1 of 2

    Not one newspaper mentioned the searing flash, massive fireball and multi-colored mushroom cloud that arose in the southern New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945. Windows rattled as far away as Gallup and Amarillo, Texas.
    The army said it was an exploding ammunition dump. New Mexicans doubted the story privately, but the nation was at war, New Mexico was deeply involved, and citizens didn’t ask too many questions. The story of the first atomic bomb test at Trinity Site came out with the devastation of Hiroshima, a few weeks later.
    What we’ve said about “the day the sun rose twice” in news stories has changed during its many anniversaries, starting with the wonder of it all and moving to the morality and legacy of the bomb. Decades passed before we heard about human impacts here in New Mexico.    
    On the first anniversary, a news story described the Manhattan Project in detail and noted that during the year, “four atomic bombs have been dropped, and peace has returned to the world.”

  • With all the uproar surrounding the Confederate flag these days, perhaps it’s time to take another look at secession.
    Certainly, there are more than a few New Mexicans, and not just in Rio Arriba and Catron County, who believe the Land of Enchantment would be better off out from under the heavy hand of the federal bureaucracy.
    Actually exiting the “one nation, indivisible” is not a viable option, of course. Even if Washington took a more relaxed view of the question than it did 150 years ago, New Mexico could scarcely survive economically without the dollars flowing in from all those good people in Ohio, New Jersey and other states that pay out more than they get back from the federal coffers.
    According to usaspending.gov, Washington dispensed $14.1 billion in New Mexico in the last fiscal year through 28,974 contracts, grants, loans and other financial assistance. That’s somewhere between a fifth and a quarter of the state’s total gross domestic product. If you think we’re poor now, wait until we send the feds packing.
    The lion’s share is funneled through the Department of Energy, which spent $4.8 billion in the most recent fiscal year, followed by $4 billion in Social Security, $2.5 billion to Health and Human Services, and $981 million in veterans’ benefits.

  • Back in January, as he was about to be sworn in as New Mexico’s attorney general, Hector Balderas reminded an Albuquerque Business First reporter that during the previous eight years as state auditor he had exposed corruption in a number of state agencies.
    As attorney general, he will be no less vigilant, Balderas pledged.
    The “Attorney General’s Office has powers,” he noted. “That’s what’s exciting about the Attorney General’s Office.”
    Roughly two weeks ago, Balderas’ successor as state auditor, Tim Keller, handed the new attorney general a preliminary investigation conducted by an independent, certified forensic investigative accounting firm indicating that top officials of the state Taxation and Revenue Department “improperly intervened in tax matters.”
    It was subsequently reported that one of the top Tax and Rev officials under scrutiny is none other than the department’s cabinet secretary, Demesia Padilla, about whom Keller said in a letter to Gov. Susana Martinez, “there is reasonable basis to open an investigation into” whether “the secretary improperly influenced, or attempted to influence the tax audit of a former client.”

  • Donald Trump should read American history.
    If he did, he might not have made a statement like this: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
    As The Donald was shooting himself in the foot, I was learning about the Scots-Irish in this country as part of my research on New Mexico’s first U.S. territorial governor and Indian agent, James Silas Calhoun.
    The Scots-Irish were farmers who in the 16th and 17th centuries left their unproductive land in Scotland for better land in northern Ireland at the encouragement of the English who rid themselves of one set of troublemakers by inflicting them on another.
    They didn’t get along with the Irish but endured.
    After continued oppression, these Scots-Irish, as they came to be called, immigrated to the American colonies beginning in the early 1700s, long before the Catholic Irish. Pouring into Pennsylvania (they weren’t welcome in Boston) by the thousands, they migrated south to the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia and Alabama, which were glad to have these tough frontiersmen as a buffer between the settlements and displaced Indian tribes.

  • Once again, a commercial has prompted a virtual war of words, a tirade of tantrums, a carnage of complaints, an onslaught of objections, an assault of alliterative allegories!
    The guilty party was the pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, makers of the pain relief medicine Tylenol.
    J&J had the unmitigated audacity to run a commercial in which a homosexual had a headache.
    The sky is falling! The sky is falling!
    Seriously, this bodes global disaster. If gays can have headaches, they can have toothaches, also. Are we doomed to watch men brushing their teeth together? Is nothing sacred?
    Earlier this year, Hallmark Cards wreaked havoc on Earth’s orbit by featuring a same-gender couple in a Valentine’s Day commercial. OK, yeah, the world survived. But just barely.
    It’s bad enough homosexuals have access to medicines, but must we share our favorite munchies with them?
    Nabisco Honeymaid graham crackers and Kraft Oreos have both gone over to the dark side, running commercials featuring gay couples.
    Sylvester Graham, a Presbyterian reverend, invented the graham cracker in 1829. He introduced it as a health food to thwart carnal urges, preaching that sugary foods encouraged self-abuse.
    Some years later, the gay community invented S’mores. Gays 1, Sylvester 0.

  • If you plan to work past 65 and keep the health insurance you’ve had from your job, you’re likely to wonder what, if anything, you need to do about enrolling in Medicare.
    About one in six older Americans now remains in the workforce beyond what was once the traditional retirement age. And the number of older workers will only grow over time.
    One reason is that Social Security now requires you to be at least 66 to collect your full retirement benefits. Retiring earlier means a smaller Social Security check.
    Then, too, a number of 60-something workers continue to pursue their careers because they can’t afford to retire. And still others simply prefer to stay engaged and on the job.
    Whatever the reason for postponing your retirement, you still need to consider Medicare as you approach your 65th birthday and qualify for the health care coverage.
    First, you should visit with your company’s human resources manager to determine how your employer-provided insurance will fit with Medicare. That’s also true for anyone turning 65 and receiving health care through a working spouse’s group plan.
    Most workers will want to sign up for Medicare’s Part A, which usually has no monthly premium and covers hospital stays, skilled nursing, home health services and hospice care.

  • New Mexico’s three-strikes law may be due for an update because, says Gov. Susana Martinez, the current law does not take enough violent criminals off the street.
    I’m all for protecting us from violent criminals, but I find our policies and attitudes toward prison — New Mexico’s and the nation’s — confusing and contradictory.
    What is prison for? Is it to punish? Is it, as the name “corrections” suggests, to reform? Is it just to get dangerous people off the streets?
    In recent years, states have outlawed the death penalty but increased the use of solitary confinement and enacted laws, like three strikes, that increase sentences.
    “Tough on crime” is still a fashionable attitude for some politicians, and it’s well known the U.S. maintains the highest incarceration rate in the world.
    The current population of New Mexico’s prisons is around 7,200, says the Corrections Department website. About 90 percent are male. Most, according to department public affairs officer Alex Tomlin, do not have a high school diploma or GED.
    Most, Tomlin said, are incarcerated for a second or subsequent offense, and most of those offenses were violent.

  • The park manager at Bandelier National Monument is planning to re-open portions of a trail that was closed in the 1950s in order to protect archaeological sites.
    The reasons for this new trail project are ostensibly stated as a safety concern due to the possibility of flash floods in the canyon floor and to provide visitors with additional archeological remains to explore.
    No one can fault the National Park Service for wanting to develop trails that provide reasonable access to our public lands. This is something we all want in our parks. However, any new developments or changes need to be done thoughtfully and carefully to ensure that our actions do not destroy the very treasures we are trying to preserve.
    Unfortunately this trail project will result in damage to and destruction of the archaeological sites that Bandelier National Monument was created to protect.
    Archaeologists from neighboring agencies and institutions including the Santa Fe National Forest, the State of New Mexico, San Ildefonso Pueblo and the National Park Service toured the proposed project area in late 2013.
    The unanimous concerns were that caves and associated archaeological remains would be permanently damaged by the proposed trail access.

  • In totalitarian regimes, aka police states, where conformity and compliance are enforced at the end of a loaded gun, the government dictates what words can and cannot be used.
    In countries where the police state hides behind a benevolent mask and disguises itself as tolerance, the citizens censor themselves, policing their words and thoughts to conform to the dictates of the mass mind.
    Even when the motives behind this rigidly calibrated reorientation of societal language appear well-intentioned — discouraging racism, condemning violence, denouncing discrimination and hatred — inevitably, the end result is the same: intolerance, indoctrination and infantilism.
    It’s political correctness disguised as tolerance, civility and love, but what it really amounts to is the chilling of free speech and the demonizing of viewpoints that run counter to the cultural elite.
    As a society, we’ve become fearfully polite, careful to avoid offense, and largely unwilling to be labeled intolerant, hateful, closed-minded, or any of the other toxic labels that carry a badge of shame today.
    The result is a nation where no one says what they really think anymore, at least if it runs counter to the prevailing views.

  • For David Brooks, the key to the magic kingdom — or a side door, anyway — of major mainstream media and politics came from a smart-alecky spoof of William F. Buckley, the conservative guru and founder of the National Review, who was scheduled to speak at the University of Chicago.
    The student Brooks was closing his undergraduate time in the great books program at Chicago with a history degree. “The formative experience of my life,” he calls the Chicago time.
    During his speech, Buckley, known as I remember for his sense of humor, offered Brooks a job from the podium. After a brief time as a Chicago police reporter, Brooks joined the National Review as an intern in 1984.
    So began a path through companies such as the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard and now the New York Times and “The News Hour” on Public Broadcasting. Brooks is a star, in other words. The path brought Brooks to Santa Fe and St. John’s College June 26.
    The occasion was what St. John’s called a “Gala Benefit Dinner” that was the final event of the college’s yearlong celebration of its 50 years in Santa Fe.

  • Los Alamos cops, residents go above and beyond

    Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped rescue our dog, Sofie, from the bottom of Barrancas Canyon while we were away on vacation.
    Sofie’s adventure began on Sunday when she escaped our yard and climbed and/or fell into the canyon. Neighbors, friends, animal control officer Tom Beyers and our very conscientious dog-sitter searched high and low on Barranca Mesa, but by nightfall could find no trace of our wayward dog.
    Miraculously, our neighbor, Mary Langworthy, heard Sofie barking in the canyon early Monday morning and called Los Alamos police dispatch.
    Responding to the call for help, LAPD officers Cpl. Matt Lyon and Sgt. Brent Hudspeth climbed into the canyon and found Sofie, who was very weak and couldn’t walk on her own.
    These caring officers carried 13-year-old, 70-plus pound Sofie out of the canyon on their shoulders. Lyle Edwards heard the officers as they neared the top of the canyon around 6 a.m. and aided the rescue by dropping ropes so they could hoist themselves and Sofie up the final steep section.
    It was an amazing effort on the part of many that we have our beloved dog home safe and sound.

  • As Americans, we strive for safety — the safest medicines, safest cars, safest toys.
    But when it comes to women’s reproductive health, our state legislatures are passing laws putting women’s health at risk — about 250 since 2011.
    And now they do it under the guise of “women’s safety.” Women of color, especially African-American women, are disproportionately being affected by these policies throughout the Southern states where I live and spend much of my time mentoring young physicians and health professionals.
    The most serious health risks for women are coming from politicians cutting back access to family planning services and telling doctors how to practice medicine especially around procedures related to terminating a pregnancy.
    Costly clinic licensing standards, invasive ultrasound procedures and lengthy mandatory waiting periods (as if women haven’t already thought about this decision) are unnecessary because legal abortion is one of the safest surgical procedures available.
    In the United States, nearly 90 percent are done in the first trimester when abortion is safest.
    Once again, Texas is the battleground in the war over women’s bodies.

  • When Eric and Celina Quintana started their residential and commercial cleaning service in 1994, their goal was to dominate the janitorial services market in northern New Mexico.
    Two decades later, Performance Maintenance Inc. provides janitorial equipment and supplies to Los Alamos National Laboratory and sells environmentally certified cleaning products nationwide.
    PMI is poised to introduce its own bio-based cleaning products in July, when it hosts a grand opening for its new 10,000-square-foot retail warehouse and distribution center in Española.
    One part of the company’s growth was securing a five-year, $660,000 contract with the laboratory eight years ago — a contract that has since been renewed, Eric Quintana said.
    To improve his chances of getting that pivotal deal, Quintana schooled himself in the government procurement process at classes and workshops offered by the laboratory’s Small Business Program Office, the Regional Development Corporation (RDC) and the New Mexico Small Business Development Center at Northern New Mexico College. The RDC provided business expansion assistance funded by an investment by Los Alamos National Security, LLC — the company that manages the laboratory.

  • Question: Should Los Alamos High School offer a non-AP Calculus course?
    I’m asking this question because I’m interested in ascertaining what parents and students think.
    Now, I should emphasize that I am not asking this on behalf of Los Alamos High School. I’m asking it on behalf of what I personally believe makes sense to do.
    Obviously, I think we should offer the course. But the real question is: Do YOU think we should offer the course?
    If you already have an answer to that question, you can go to johnpawlak.com and complete a very brief survey to provide your response and comments.
    However, I would ask that you read my column before making a decision. I desire as many people as possible to respond, whatever their opinion. Your voices matter and I want them to be heard.
    LAHS currently offers Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus courses. Students taking AP courses can earn college credit.
    AP courses also provide a cumulative grade bump. Whereas an “A” normally equates to a “4”, a “B” to a “3”, etc., in AP courses an “A” equates to a “5”, a “B” to a “4”, and so on.
    What is non-AP Calculus?

  • In May, I wrote a column called “Follow the Money,” and I suggested taking the county’s budget discussions to a new level; adopting an approach that would allow the public, the county staff, and council members to better focus on the link between costs and service outputs, rather than focusing on costs by county department.
    That approach would enable more public involvement in how tax dollars are spent. It would also provide important decision information to help elected representatives and county staff consider the trade-offs necessary to balance the budget; and it would help us understand how well our actual spending aligns with the goals outlined in our Strategic Plan.
    It sounds obvious. Decide what’s important through Strategic Planning, then frame spending decisions in a way that shows whether spending actually flows to the highest priorities.

  • Last winter I heard two very different views of the New Mexico economy. An upbeat Jon Barela, Secretary of Economic Development, said the state was shrugging off the recession.
    “We’re recovering,” Barela told a committee in January. “The private sector is growing.”
    “New Mexico’s economy has really not begun to recover from the recession,” Jeff Mitchell, director of University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, told another committee. “We’re seeing real declines in the numbers of people in the labor market. An unprecedented number of people are leaving the state.”
    They were both right. The men two have different readings of the economic pulse because they occupy different positions along the timeline.
    Barela, an economic developer, has the pleasant duty of announcing new companies and expansions of existing companies. And he hears from economic developers around the state that inquiries are up.
    Mitchell, an economist, is reading data from the past year or previous quarters. When the ship begins its slow turn, it’s more apparent if you’re standing at the bow.

  • The climate alarmists appear practically giddy over Pope Francis’ recently released climate encyclical.
    Even Al Gore, who admits he was “raised in the Southern Baptist tradition,” has declared he “could become a Catholic because of this pope.”
    The Sierra Club’s former executive director, Carl Pope, chimes in. On June 22 in EcoWatch, he bashes “American conservatism” and positions the papal publication as being responsible for a “new dynamism” that he calls “palpable.”
    “It is more a gale than a fresh breeze,” Pope exclaimed, “when the most ground-breaking pope since John XXIII links poverty and climate.” He offers a litany of news stories to support his position.
    There is a link between climate policy and poverty, which is why many European counties are returning to fossil fuels and retreating from renewables — led by German capacity payments to keep coal-fueled power plants open.
    In PV Magazine, Stelios Psomas, policy advisor at the Hellenic Association of Photovoltaic Companies, laments Greece’s “policy U-turn towards lignite.”