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Opinion

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    For something whose nickname sounds so innocent, the “kiddie tax” certainly can wreak havoc on unprepared taxpayers’ yearly returns.

    Congress first introduced the kiddie tax as part of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 to discourage wealthy parents from sheltering their investment income in accounts under their children’s names, thereby avoiding paying taxes on the amounts. The rules have been tweaked periodically ever since.

    Although the kiddie tax once applied only to the unearned income of children under 14 (hence the nickname), it now impacts all children under age 19 (as well as full-time students under 24), provided their earned income does not exceed half of the annual expenses for their support.

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    This fall, Congress has an important opportunity to create jobs and grow the economy by passing a long-term, comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. The Farm Bill impacts every American, every day by providing a wide range of programs that strengthen our nation.

    The Farm Bill is crucial to maintaining a strong agriculture sector and an abundant food supply that benefits all Americans. 

    Over the past two years, producers have faced a multitude of disasters — from drought, to flooding, to blizzards. These events demonstrate how important the safety net is to keeping producers going strong. 

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    Last year, my friends and I were talking about news stories which bludgeoned the ears (and minds) of the American public throughout the year of 2012. 

    Of course, the Presidential election was high on the list. It was like watching a comedic version of Eraserhead dubbed over with the soundtrack from “Xanadu.” I must admit though, it was entertaining to see Clint Eastwood argue with a piece of furniture (and losing the argument to it).

    Psy’s Gangnam Style infected the airwaves with K-pop and bad dancing. Trayvon Martin’s murder piqued the nation’s curiosity as to what brand of shoes Zimmerman wore. 

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    Employment discrimination is toxic for the employer, the perpetrator and the victim. It cripples productivity, creates a hostile work environment and hurts employee morale. 

    If allowed to continue, it can lead to costly lawsuits and damage a business’s image, reputation and brand.

    The best way an employer can avoid being found liable for employment discrimination is to make equal opportunity the company standard — from recruitment to promotions, pay, benefits and training opportunities. Employers should know enough about employment law to recognize discrimination and the potential for discrimination when they see it and to ask for expert help if they are unsure.

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    German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone conversations are far more interesting than our own, but it’s no reason to be complacent.

    “We’re basically turning citizens into human intel for the country. Welcome to the Surveillance State,” said software developer Andrew Stone. “All communications are being spied upon — phone, email, Skype, web browsing. Massive amounts of data are being collected.”

    Stone isn’t your wild-eyed activist. He’s best known as developer of the popular mobile application Twittelator for the iPhone and iPad. His Albuquerque-based Stone Design Corp. has published more than 35 software titles for generations of Macintosh operating systems. Stone joined computing legend Steve Jobs after Jobs, forced out of Apple, started his own company, NeXT. Stone is still an independent developer for Apple.

  • After reading County Clerk Sharon Stover’s comments regarding marriage equality in the Los Alamos Monitor yesterday, there a few things I would like to point out.

    As of this week, the Doña Ana County Clerk is giving out licenses to same sex couples, and a District judge ordered the Santa Fe Clerk to begin issuing licenses Friday.

    Ms. Stover was quoted Wednesday as saying “Our office will wait until the courts and/or the legislature acts.”
    Well. The courts have acted and Attorney General Gary King says he will not take action against clerks who issue these licenses.

    By refusing to allow gay couples to get married in Los Alamos, I believe Ms. Stover is being discriminatory. Must we waste time and taxpayer money in the local courts to “force” her do the right thing?

    There were no protests at the Doña Ana court where same sex couples married this week. (Which is in southern New Mexico, usually a conservative area.)

    When asked what she would do if a gay couple sought a license from her office, Ms. Stover said she would inform them that, “Doña Ana has them.” Not very helpful.

    Who is she to stand in the way of loving partners who want the same rights straight people in this county have?

  • Dear Editor,

    This weekend there is a gun show at the Pueblo Gym. The gym is on a site owned by the Los Alamos Public Schools. This means that very soon, forty vendors will gather for the purchase and sale of guns on our tax-payer supported school property.

    A discussion has begun about whether or not it is appropriate to conduct gun sales on school district grounds. I began this conversation a few days ago when I emailed Superintendent Gene Schmidt and the five School Board members asking that LAPS discontinue its support of this gun show, where, by the way, children 12 and under get in free.

  • Now before anyone goes off on a jeremiad that I am “against public education,” let me assure you that is not the case. Both my parents were public school teachers, with my 91-year-old mother having taught more than 35 years.

    The case against University of New Mexico-Los Alamos is really a matter of asset management for county government in Los Alamos, and its whole approach to the future. Chief among my sincere critiques of the county commission is that they are lousy asset managers. Their single biggest sin in this realm … is the failure to properly understand “opportunity cost” within a rapidly changing environment.

    Maybe it’s the group think virus that promulgates this mindset, something grafted from “how we did business at the lab,” onto the entirely alien rootstock of local politics. I personally believe the cure for this dilatory disease is simply individual county commission districts vs. running “at-large,” with its resulting “faculty senate” mentality. We’ll save the legal implications of this argument for another time; they’re juicy.

  • I was delighted to read that my fellow county councilors passed a resolution in favor of the special election to consider a property tax levy to help University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.

    Even though I was away for that meeting, I want to voice my support for this resolution and furthermore urge every voter to approve this ballot question.

    I have many reasons for my support, but I wanted to concentrate on a specific value that UNM-LA provides to our community and one that my family has benefited from directly. A healthy UNM-LA is a great resource for our high school students, and helps in many ways to make them better prepared for the future.

    My three boys graduated from Los Alamos High School, and all three of them took classes at UNM-LA. These classes gave them a good (and eye-opening) preview of the rigors of a college class and gave them a head start by transferring credits to their eventual college.

    When I researched the statistics on this “dual credit” opportunity, I was surprised by the large number of students who took advantage of this program. In the last five years, there were almost 1399 dual credit students and last spring, 70 percent of them were LAHS students.

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    Business is business. Regulated companies make news when they wail away at the costs of buying and running pollution controls. The word goes out: pollution controls threaten jobs. 

    At the same time, the Institute of Clean Air Companies (ICAC) is busy praising the healthy incomes from the same controls. 

    The ICAC is the national trade organization that represents suppliers of air pollution control and monitoring systems, equipment and services for facilities. 

    The ICAC’s endless task is to drive home the basics of business that facility spokesmen routinely skip. The basics have to be pointed out as often as they are ignored. 

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    Three cheers for
    children’s theater

    On behalf of the Los Alamos Arts Council, I would like to thank the cast members of Missoula Children’s Theater’s production of “The Tortoise Versus the Hare” for their wonderful performance. I would also like to thank all the parents and friends of the cast who attended the play on Saturday, as well as Kirk Christensen and the staff of Crossroads Bible Church. They were wonderful to work with and made the week a complete success. 

    Additionally, many thanks go to the Los Alamos Arts Council members who volunteered their time to help make this year’s production a wonderful experience for the participants. 

    The Arts Council would like to thank the County of Los Alamos for co-sponsoring this event and the community for supporting Arts Council programs.

  • A  mighty whirlwind who shed Dorothy and Toto from Kansas to a colorful land far away. Adventures in Oz led Dorothy to see the truth back home more clearly than she had before.   

    Mars teaches as smartly as Oz.     

    This spring, I heard a popular talk in town on “Exploring Mars with Curiosity and Its Laser,” by Dr. Roger Weins, the project leader for the ChemCam laser that zaps red rocks on Mars to learn about them. 

    We saw how the one-ton rover Curiosity is commanded to rove on its six wheels over the red landscape. The fastest it can move is less than 0.1 mph. 

  • What do you suppose really happened on July 7, 1947, at the Roswell Army Air Force Base to cause Col. William “Butch” Blanchard to announce that a flying disk had been captured?

       An announcement of that magnitude would have to be carefully considered and not issued without direction from the highest authorities in Washington, D.C.

       The mystery of what happened at Roswell hinges on what took place behind closed doors that day. Official records indicate that absolutely nothing out of the ordinary occurred at the base during the entire week. Everyone who believes that, please raise your hand.

  • I had a great aunt who would never disagree with anyone about anything at anytime. 

    If you said you were in favor of raising taxes on red headed Rastafarians, she’d be all for it. 

    If you thought the government should outlaw whale hunting in Arizona, she’d support the idea with gusto.

    Got a beef with vegetarians? Think flip-flops should be outlawed in Mongolia? 

    My aunt would nod her head in agreement, repeat your statement, nod again and then she would pause. I could always see it coming.

    She’d tilt her head a bit, grimace ever so slightly, and then say in a prolonged drawled out almost painful sounding — “Buuuuut.”

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    If a tree falls in the forest…

    That little statement used to introduce a philosophical discussion. Today we might ask, “If a tree falls in the forest and lands on a power line, whose responsibility is the resulting fire?”

    A host of insurance companies are suing the Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative claiming the utility is responsible for the 2011 Las Conchas fire. 

    The utility argues that the tree fell on its line from private property outside its right of way. 

    We can probably expect more such lawsuits related to the Tres Lagunas and Thompson Ridge fires, both started by downed power lines.

  • In a desperate attempt at survival, 19 elite firefighters in the Arizona mountain town of Yarnell unfurled their foiled-line emergency shelters. A firefighter says they don't guarantee safety but the equipment can help in an emergency.

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    In “Democracy in America,” published in 1835, the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at length about the voluntary associations he found here. These groups of citizens came together to get things done, to build a schoolhouse, or whatever. They provided a core of what today we call civil society. 

    Now the worry is about “the decay of civil society as represented in part by the decline of thousands of private, voluntary organizations (Rotarians, Elks, et. al.) that have contributed so much to social order and progress in America.”

    George Melloan, the worrier here, was reviewing “The Great Degeneration,” the new book by Niall Ferguson, a Scot of some pop culture fame who teaches at Harvard. Ferguson did “Civilization: Is the West History?” a six-part documentary in 2011. 

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    The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District held an election a few weeks ago. Though I don’t live, or vote in that district, the election reminded me of the inefficiency (dare I say lunacy?) of the way we hold special district, municipal and school elections in New Mexico. 

    The turnout was predictably small. Turnouts for these single-purpose elections typically range from small to pathetic.

    A few days later, the point about special elections was illustrated in a very public way by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. United States Sen. Frank Lautenberg died. To fill his seat, Christie scheduled a special primary, followed by a special election. The special election for senator will be in mid-October, three weeks before a general election. The cost to New Jersey taxpayers is estimated at $24 million. The second election could have been combined with that general election and saved the taxpayers half of that money.

  • Some days it just seems like an episode of the Twilight Zone. Rod Serling steps from behind a tree and begins his monologue that will take viewers on a journey to some alternate reality.

    So it was with Friday’s announcement from the Kiwanis Club that this year’s 4th of July fireworks show is on for Overlook Park in White Rock. Indeed, the day’s top story regarding the impending closure of Santa Fe National Forest due to extreme fire danger juxtaposed with the Kiwanis statement was a study in contradiction.

    On the one hand, the county council and fire chief are moving to extend the ban on fireworks for another month, yet the Kiwanis Club would appear to be exempt.

    There’s no question that just about everybody loves a good fireworks show. Fireworks on the 4th of July rank right up there with saluting the flag and a slice of mom’s apple pie. It’s part of what defines us as being uniquely American. The annual event is also the major fundraiser for Kiwanis and the club is no doubt missing the revenue generated in light of the show’s cancellation the past two years. Like all of this town’s civic clubs, the Kiwanis do good work with the bucks they take in from events like the fireworks show. But, in this instance, one has to wonder if the risks are worth the rewards.

  • Instead of squandering $50,000 for a non-local public relations firm to develop a “brand” for Los Alamos, how about if we instead donate that money to the Sheriff Posse Shack remodeling fund? If we’re looking for a good investment to bring long-term tangible benefits to our community, I think the Posse Shack is a better bet than a catchy slogan.
    Elizabeth Jones
    Los Alamos