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Opinion

  • 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.”

  •  

    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. 

  •  

    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
     

  •  

    I would like to make the following comments regarding possible actions to be considered by our County Council.

    The retail stores in Los Alamos now provide a significant amount of the basic needs and desires of the community. For whatever else is desired, we go elsewhere. The council seems to be bent on providing more retail space. Is this necessary? What kind of businesses will be willing to take the risk? What have we learned from the fact that the town has lost two shoe stores, two sporting goods stores, two drug stores and several others in the recent past due to lack of demand? Many existing spaces are empty and available right now. Do we want more?

  • In case you’re a little slow to emerge from your cave after a long winter’s nap, spring has sprung in Los Alamos. 

    Leaves are back on the trees, flowers are blooming and a young man’s thoughts turn to downtown revitalization and sprucing up the look of the town… Huh?

    Well, there are things going on that give one a sense of renewed hope and optimism for the future of Los Alamos. 

    The current composition of the county council gives the sense that it may be more forward-leaning or a bit more activist in its approach to some of the nagging problems that seem to be holding the town back. 

  •  

    Valley Meat Company in Roswell has become the focal point for arguments over horse over-population in the same way ants become the focal points of bored boys with magnifying glasses. There’s more heat than light.

    In the back-and-forth chatter, I’m hearing a lot of arguments that don’t hold water. And, even if the determined Rick De Los Santos manages to open his plant, it doesn’t solve all of our horse problems. 

    The most ironic argument against a slaughterhouse for unwanted horses is that the noble animal is a western icon, a star in the Taming of the West. Somebody needs to read more history. To pioneers, the army and Indian tribes, horses were transportation. When a horse was used up, it was eaten: Meat’s meat.  

  •  

    Valley Meat Company in Roswell has become the focal point for arguments over horse over-population in the same way ants become the focal points of bored boys with magnifying glasses. There’s more heat than light.

    In the back-and-forth chatter, I’m hearing a lot of arguments that don’t hold water. And, even if the determined Rick De Los Santos manages to open his plant, it doesn’t solve all of our horse problems. 

    The most ironic argument against a slaughterhouse for unwanted horses is that the noble animal is a western icon, a star in the Taming of the West. Somebody needs to read more history. To pioneers, the army and Indian tribes, horses were transportation. When a horse was used up, it was eaten: Meat’s meat.  

  •  

    Has anyone ever told you New Mexico is the most corrupt state in the nation? I’ve heard it for years, including from an FBI agent, who investigated our financial corruption mess. 

    Since I was a kid, I remember hearing that some powerful New Mexican, maybe Dennis Chavez, as saying that if you want to get a degree in political corruption, go to Chicago. If you want to get a Master’s Degree, go to Louisiana. But if you want a doctorate, go to New Mexico. 

    If you ask people from the East Coast, they’ll probably tell you that New York and New Jersey are the most corrupt states. It just depends on where you’re from. 

  •  

    The New Mexico State University did what it probably should have done 20 years ago. It named former Governor Garrey Carruthers its president. 

    Carruthers left the governor’s office on January 1, 1991 and entered the world of business, primarily as president of Cimarron Health Care. He then went back to NMSU, where he has served a dean of the business school along with various other university jobs. 

    I got to know him well as governor, partly because of his openness. Every Monday morning he held a cabinet meeting with his department heads. Every Monday afternoon at 1:30 sharp, he held a press conference to inform the Capitol press corps what the government would be doing. He also answered every question asked. 

  •  

    Weddings have always been big business, but I was shocked to see how expensive they’ve become in the 17 years since my wife and I got married. 

    According to the annual Real Weddings Study, the average wedding in the United States now costs $28,427 and that doesn’t even count the honeymoon.

    Wait, it gets worse.

    Among the more than 17,500 surveyed brides who got married in 2012, the average amount paid for a wedding dress was $1,211. On average they also spent $204 per wedding guest and dropped $12,905 for the reception venue.

    There are many ways to rein in wedding-related costs while still having a memorable event. 

  • Now that the long-debated estate tax rules have finally been settled, let's get real: Despite all the hoopla raised, most people probably would never be impacted whether the lifetime estate tax threshold had stayed at $5.12 million or reverted to $1 million. In the end, it actually went up a bit to $5.25 million for 2013.

    Even if your estate will only be a fraction of that amount, it still pays to have a plan for distributing your assets. If your finances are in good shape, there's no reason not to start sharing the wealth while you're still around to enjoy helping others. It also doesn't hurt that you can reap significant tax advantages by distributing a portion of your assets now.

    Before you start doling out cash, however, make sure you are on track to fund your own retirement, have adequate health insurance, can pay off your mortgage and are otherwise debt-free. You wouldn't want to deplete your resources and then become a financial burden on others.

    If you can check all those boxes, consider these options:

  • Bloggers and editorial writers have examined the Legislature’s love child — the surprise, last-second, tax package that looked like both parents — and hooted about transparency and back-room deals. 

    But the tax deal was a compromise, fair and square, and it was refreshing to see legislators stop jawboning and hustle to get it done. 

    It’s now being touted as “tax reform.” It’s not, and to be clear, it doesn’t raise all boats.

    From the beginning of the session, lawmakers focused on the economy. 

    The most serious proposals boiled down to a handful. Democrats wanted a minimum wage raise, a tax incentive for TV productions (the “Breaking Bad” bill) and capital outlay. 

  • El Paso, Ciudad Juárez and Las Cruces are a region, one entity. The assertion grasps the remarkably obvious. Businesses in southern Doña Ana County and Juárez back up to one another. The Rio Grande, the nominal border between El Paso and Juárez, is often dry, posing little real barrier. Otero County and Alamogordo might be added with El Paso being the closest thing of size.

    The region is complicated. Northern New Mexico, commonly clueless about the south, might not understand this. To say the region consists of three states (Chihuahua, Texas and New Mexico) and two countries (Mexico and the United States) oversimplifies. There are counties and municipalities, water districts and basins and who knows what else.

  •  Have you ever turned on the light in a dark basement and shuddered as cockroaches scurried away? I get that same sense of revulsion whenever I hear about unscrupulous swindlers taking advantage of the victims of natural and manmade disasters.

    The Better Business Bureau has dubbed these human cockroaches “Storm Chasers” because they creep out of the woodwork after every major storm or disaster. In fact, because fraud was so widespread after Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Justice created the National Center for Disaster Fraud, a central information clearinghouse for more than 20 federal agencies where people can report suspected fraudulent activities tied to disasters of all types.

  •  

    Hardly a day passes without Tim Jennings’ name cropping up in Senate committees or floor discussions: “Sen. Jennings was working on… I was working with Sen. Jennings to…”

    The Roswell Democrat was liked and respected, yes, but his absence is a constant reminder to Senate Democrats of the bruising election cycle that took their president. Most certainly, Majority Floor Leader Michael Sanchez, another target of the governor’s blitz, is not willing to forgive and forget.

    The spirit of compromise lubricating gears in the House and (maybe) in the Governor’s Office is harder to detect in the Senate, where floor debate on some bills has been pointed and even sarcastic.

    In February, Senate Democrats shot down a Republican measure to increase use of state aircraft.