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Opinion

  • BY GEORGE CHANDLER
    Sheriff, Los Alamos County

  • A friend told me, excitedly, that he has been approved for the new hepatitis C drug – the miracle drug that is supposed to cure this disease at a cost of $93,000 per patient. He has started the treatment and so far is doing great.
    I hadn’t known he had the disease. Of course, I’m happy for him.
    I realized later I’m helping to pay for his treatment. He is married to a retired teacher and is probably covered through the Retiree Health Care Authority. So am I. His treatment affects my premiums.  
    RHCA can afford to pay for this. This is good news for everybody in New Mexico, including you.
    RHCA provides health insurance coverage to retirees of New Mexico state and local government and schools. Active employees and their employers contribute a small percentage of payroll to the fund. Once those employees retire, if they choose RHCA for their coverage (before Medicare or in combination with Medicare), they pay premiums into the fund.  
    With tough cost controls and reforms, the program is now projected to be solvent through 2035, according to Mark Tyndall, RHCA executive director. This is a major accomplishment.

  • The Domenici Public Policy Conference is about the learning needed for “doing better at what we ought to do as citizens,” said former Sen. Pete Domenici to begin the eight-annual gathering in Las Cruces. The conference started with learning about education policy to build the economy.
    Former North Carolina Gov. James Hunt brought an unvarnished and lengthy recitation of why his state moved from, in the 1950s “tied with Mississippi as just about the poorest state” to, in the 1980s, around the time of Hunt’s 16 years as governor, being the hottest thing in economic development.
    When the work started, North Carolina’s income was 62 percent of the national average. Now it is 86 percent. New Mexico’s is 81 percent. Hunt kindly didn’t mention New Mexico’s link these days with Mississippi at the bottom of state-performance lists.
    North Carolina’s various initiatives worked.
    Born in Wilson, N.C., east of Raleigh, the 78-year-old Hunt was governor from 1977 to 1985 and from 1993 to 2001. He likes policy institutes, having founded two, both of which he still chairs.

  • BY CLAUDIA INFANTE
    Projects Coordinator, New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership
    Fiance New Mexico

  • BY PETE SHEEHEY
    Los Alamos County Councilor

  • It’s that time of year when people come up with all sorts of excuses for not getting a flu shot.
    Often, though, the excuses catch up with them. So, for the benefit of the naysayers, let’s do a reality check and clear up some mistaken notions.
    “Why worry? It’s just the flu.”
    Every year, almost 300,000 Americans land in the hospital as a result of the flu and its complications, and more than 20,000 die from flu-related illnesses. Older adults should be especially wary. They will account for 60 percent of the hospital stays and 90 percent of the deaths.
    During the last flu season, more than 500 New Mexico residents were hospitalized because of flu-related illnesses and 31 died.
    “I got a shot last year. I don’t need another.”
    Even if you were vaccinated last year, you still need another shot this year, since your immunity to flu viruses wanes after a year. Also, the types of viruses usually change from season to season, so a new vaccine is made each year to fight that season’s most likely strains.
    “Last year’s vaccine was ineffective, so why should I think this year’s will work?”

  • There are more people in New Mexico’s county jails than in our state prisons, and some of them stay there for a long time.
    In some cases, it’s a relief that they are locked up. In others, it’s a tragic waste of their lives and a pointless expense for taxpayers.    
    A report from the Association of Counties puts the total adult jail population at 7,030 males and 1,405 females, as of June 30, 2013, while the state prison population was 6,043 males and 652 females.
    The report says the median length of stay for unsentenced inmates in 2010 was 147 days.
    Conditions are not so good, we hear. Only six are accredited detention facilities.
    It’s hard to imagine small cash-strapped jails offering high-quality mental health services, which many inmates need badly. The most notorious case — but not the only one — was Stephen Slevins, who was arrested in Doña Ana County for DWI and inexplicably locked in solitary for 22 months.
    He eventually received a settlement of $15.5 million but still reportedly suffers mental disability as a result of his ordeal.
    The regulation of bail is ripe for reform. Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, announced that he will introduce a constitutional amendment regarding the bail process. The proposal has been endorsed by the State Supreme Court.

  • A little more than a year ago, oil prices were above $100 a barrel.
    The national average for gasoline was in the $3.50 range. In late spring, oil was $60ish and the national average for gas was around $2.70. The price of a barrel of oil has plunged to $40 and below — yet, prices at the pump are just slightly less than they were when oil was almost double what it is today.
    Oil and gasoline prices usually travel up or down in sync. But a few weeks ago the trend lines crossed and oil continued the sharp decline while gasoline has stayed steady — even increasing.
    Oil’s down, gasoline isn’t. Consumers are wondering: “What’s up?”
    Even Congress is grilling refiners over the disparity.
    While, like most markets, the answer is complicated, there are some simple responses that even Congress should be able to understand. The short explanation is “refineries” — but there’s more to that and some other components, too.
    Within the U.S. exists approximately 20 percent of the world’s refining capacity. Fuel News explains that “on a perfect day,” these domestic facilities could process more than 18 million barrels of crude oil.

  • Here we go again.
    In 2012 Secretary of State Dianna Duran found that Sen. Mary Jane Garcia violated the Campaign Reporting Act a dozen times and dipped into campaign funds to reimburse herself for travel expenses the state had also reimbursed.
    A complaint by the campaign treasurer of Garcia’s opponent opened this can of worms, and the right-leaning New Mexico Watchdog, a news website, investigated and reported the double dipping, which prompted Duran to act. Garcia paid a fine, reimbursed the state and lost her reelection race.
    While the headlines were attention grabbers at the time, it’s one of the only times Duran acted on a campaign finance violation. And maybe now we know why.
    When Attorney General Hector Balderas charged Duran with fraud, embezzlement, money laundering and other crimes, he also revealed money oozing from campaign contribution accounts into her personal account to cover some astronomical gambling debts.
    This from an elected official who in 2011 took office from her discredited predecessor, saying, “We will have a Secretary of State’s Office you will be proud of.”
    From the outset, Duran’s priority was voter fraud, not campaign finance.

  • Consider the problems experienced within a single-family unit.
    Sibling rivalry. Financial difficulties. Personal differences. Infidelity. Abuse. Animosity. Dysfunctional relationships.
    Family dynamics prompted the phrase “Save your sanity. Find your happy space!”
    Put enough families together and you have a nation. With nearly 320 million people living here, there seems to be no happy space for American to run to.
    And yet, we pride ourselves on having one thing that sets us apart from the rest of the world.
    Unlimited, unfettered, unabated freedom.
    We have political freedoms. You can vote Republican. Vote Democrat. Choose not to vote. You can even vote for Trump if you desire. You can also stick pins in your eyes.
    We have constitutional freedoms. You can speak your mind, yell about the government, live where you want to live, travel the nation without restrictions.
    You can even say good things about Trump.
    We have individual freedoms. You can wear whatever clothes you desire. Get a tattoo. Drive a pickup truck. Listen to the music of your choosing. Even willingly listen to speeches given by Trump.
    Freedom is taken largely for granted and only when it’s abridged on one’s own home front does it become an issue of discussion.

  • You may be a family caregiver, and if you’re not, you’re likely to become one.
    The numbers are surprising: 419,000 people in New Mexico, or one in five, do everything from providing meals and baths to administering medical care for a loved one. About one-fourth see to Alzheimer’s patients.
    The typical caregiver is a 46-year-old woman caring for her mother, but caregivers are often older. And she works full- or part-time. Many have had to reduce their hours, sacrificing income and retirement benefits.
    Hispanics and Native Americans provide care at a higher rate than the general population, the state says.
    If the state had to pay for this care, which accounts for 80 percent of long-term care and allows some people to stay in their own homes, it would cost $3.5 billion a year.
    (These numbers are probably low because they focus on families. Offhand, I know of three instances in which friends teamed up to care for terminally ill individuals with no living relatives.)
    This year, state government stepped up.
    Recently the state Aging and Long-Term Services Department announced its New Mexico State Plan for Family Caregivers.

  • The Internet of Things is the next prodigious idea.
    The Internet of Things, called IoT for short, is a simple idea that offers intriguing powers and savings in major fields. What is more, the IoT sharpens the tools of regulatory engineering.
    The big plan is to amass key data from things, using the growing marvels of new sensors. Software keeps watch on the data and gives analyses in near real time to decide whether machines and procedures are working as best they can.
    The sensors are the things being attached to every kind of working object. A new Internet links the sensors to the software that keeps reporting where efficiencies can be gained and costs can be saved.
    By the same Internet link, signals can go back to adjust machine settings remotely. Thus the name.
    Industry expects to be its largest user, so some use the term “Industrial Internet.”
    The scale and scope of thinking can be gleaned by searching the web for “Internet of Things.” Wikipedia lists nine bustling areas in which IoT is seen as a new way for things to work better and faster, for less.  
    An early application is in marketing, that is, in using data about personal interests to supply information to people who may have real interest in it. Types of special information range from news to consumer products.

  • Margaret Sanger is a saint in the feminist church.
    She is a charter member of the progressive hall of fame. Liberals revere this woman who preached “race improvement” and denounced what she called “human weeds,” “morons,” “idiots,” “imbeciles” and the “dead weight of human waste.”
    Hillary Clinton glows that she is “in awe of” Sanger. She said so in 2009 upon receiving Planned Parenthood’s “highest honor” that year: its coveted Margaret Sanger Award.
    Likewise effusive was Nancy Pelosi when she proudly accepted the award in 2014.
    Speaking to Planned Parenthood a year earlier, Barack Obama, America’s first African-American president, hailed the organization founded by this racial eugenicist committed to creating a “race of thoroughbreds” and purging America’s “race of degenerates.”
    “Thank you, Planned Parenthood,” and “God bless you,” said Obama to a giddy crowd of ecstatic pro-choice women. The president commended Planned Parenthood’s “extraordinary” and “remarkable work.”

  • Imagine for a moment that President Donald Trump, or whoever assumes the nation’s highest office in January 2017, executes the border policy he is now advocating: sealing the border with an impregnable wall and making Mexico pay for it by taxing or confiscating the $20 billion in remittances Mexican expatriates send south every year, increasing visa and border crossing fees, and imposing new tariffs on Mexican imports.
    The ensuing trade war would have ugly consequences for both countries, with New Mexico and the other border states taking a disproportionate share of the pain on this side of the line.
    The resulting economic disruption might well ignite a conflagration unlike any seen on the border since Pancho Villa burned Columbus.
    Our trade with Mexico has increased six fold since the North American Free Trade Agreement was implemented 21 years ago.
    Mexico is now the 15th largest exporter in the world and the United States is Mexico’s single biggest trading partner, absorbing three-quarters of that country’s exports, while Mexico is our third biggest customer after Canada and China, importing $294 billion in U.S. goods last year alone. (All these figures refer to legal, legitimate cross-border trade, of course — the value of the illicit traffic is impossible to estimate with any accuracy.)

  • It costs parents an average of $245,340 to raise a child from birth to age 18.
    That figure from the U.S. Agriculture Department is just one reason why prospective parents are advised to consider parallel financial planning for child-based expenses and retirement.
    The key is to start doing it as early as possible — in a December 2012 story in The New Republic, adults are starting families later than previous generations. In short, savings needs for childcare, college and retirement seem on a tighter collision course than ever.
    For prospective couples or single parents, any discussion of family should begin with the pros and cons of starting a family in terms of personal, lifestyle and career success.
    In short, the question “Do we want kids?” should come before “Can we afford kids?”
    Once family goals are settled, it’s wise to evaluate where current finances stand. While many couples have a thorough money talk before they wed, it works for family planning, too. Couples and single parents will benefit from complete financial transparency before pregnancy, adoption proceedings, or fertility treatment starts.
    Utilize qualified financial and tax advice to fit specific circumstances. Consult trusted family and friends for referrals to qualified financial planning and tax experts.

  • Three months ago, Dr. Walter Palmer was a successful dentist in Bloomington, Minnesota.
    As proprietor of River Bluff Dental, he was considered a fantastic dentist. His patients characterized him as supportive, personal and professional.
    Just one month later, he was one of the most hated people in the country. Overnight, he became an Internet star “famed” for being the murderer of Cecil the Lion in Africa.
    We all know the story. Palmer is a “trophy hunter,” a member of Safari Club International (SCI), a “nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of wildlife, education of the people and the protection of hunters’ rights.” That’s a direct quote from their corporate webpage.
    Let’s talk about trophy hunters first. There are many strange species of animals on this planet, but none so vile and dangerous as trophy hunters.
    Trophy hunters do not kill for food. They don’t kill to protect herds of cattle or sheep. They don’t kill in self-defense.
    They kill solely for fun. And they love to brag about it.
    Don’t get me wrong. I understand the human drive to kill. All you have to do is look at the history of warfare and you’ll understand that killing is one thing humans do best.
    Of course, everything has its bright side.

  • The left has a mythical attachment to raiding the Permanent Fund for money to spend on education.
    My rough measure is the volume of applause after every mention of the idea at a recent gathering in Albuquerque to debut the new book, “New Mexico 2050,” edited by Fred Harris, a former Oklahoma Senator and longtime Corrales resident.
    The applause came from what appeared to be a large proportion of the 250 or so people in the audience vigorously cheering the permanent fund raid and other liberal shibboleths. The audience included several presumed candidates for governor, Harris said, the unstated further presumption being that the candidates were Democrats.
    I noticed only Alan Webber of Santa Fe, a result of reading his name badge.
    Bald heads and gray hair were everywhere.
    Controlling audience speechifying became a bonus task for Harris as moderator. The McCune Foundation provided money “to assist with project expenses,” he said. A McCune employee, Henry Rael, was a contributor.
    The book’s economic summary seems comprehensive, even including four pages on labor force participation, a favorite topic in this column that is commonly ignored by people discussing the state economy.

  • Today’s version of “A chicken in every pot” is Hillary Clinton’s proposed plan to “make college affordable and available to every American.”
    This is political catnip, pure and simple. And it is a more delusory form of catnip than Herbert Hoover’s “chicken,” for while everybody needs enough to eat, not everybody needs to go to college.
    There is today an oversupply of college degrees.
    A Federal Reserve study found that half of recent graduates were working in jobs that didn’t require a college degree or not employed at all. For Clinton to propose spending $350 billion to subsidize college attendance will exacerbate rather than reduce the glut of college-educated Americans.
    To propose such wastefulness when federal debt already exceeds $18 trillion is fiscally irresponsible and a slap at American taxpayers. It will also increase the number of graduates experiencing disillusionment when they realize the lack of market demand for their degrees.
    The increasingly overt socialistic nature of Clinton’s campaign theme is glaringly evident in her “New College Compact.”

  • Fifty years ago a far-sighted, bipartisan group in Congress established the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which taps a fraction of the nation’s offshore oil and gas revenues to give all Americans a lifetime of outdoor recreational opportunity.
    Congress intended the fund to be used for “preserving, developing and assuring accessibility to … outdoor recreation resources … and to strengthen the health and vitality of the citizens of the United States …”
    Every state has benefited from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It has built playgrounds and parks, improved hiking trails and campgrounds, and provided access to public land for the enjoyment of Americans of every age, background and place of residence.
    In fact, some of the first LWCF grants in New Mexico went to Los Alamos County nearly 50 years ago and used to develop Camp May Community Park.
    Other local projects have included ball field lighting, the comfort station at Overlook Park and improvements at Los Alamos Entrance Park.

  • Unless a federal judge issues a preliminary injunction, the definition of the “Waters of the U.S.” will change, as of today — giving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to regulate the water in your backyard. Even, according to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, “any area where agencies believe water may flow once every 100 years.”
    Thirty-one states, in four districts, have filed motions with the federal courts to block the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) from beginning to enforce the new “Waters of the U.S.” rule (WOTUS), which represents a new interpretation of the Clean Water Act (CWA).
    WOTUS was published in the Federal Register on June 29 and will become effective today.
    The CWA used to apply to “navigable waters,” which now, as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton recently said, “include almost any piece of land that gets wet and puddles.”