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Opinion

  • A witness hired by New Mexico oil and gas interests steps before the hearing officials with his written testimony. The court reporter greets him with these antique words: “Raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” He solemnly swears he will indeed. 
    Forms of this terse ceremony have been in use since Roman times and today’s forms are still recited countless times each day in venues looking for the truth. The phrases race by so fast that their mandates are fuzzy. 
    Think a moment on that middle phrase – to tell “the whole truth.”
    What do the words intend? The whole truth extends very far and is hard to know. No one can know everything.
    Since they cannot know everything, people tend to fill in what they do not really know with guesses, hopes and rumblings. What most people bring to the table are some pieces that mostly help one side.
    The court system knows the ways of people. So courts assemble the “whole” truth out of parts gathered by questioning a range of relevant people about what each of them knows. Firm questioning works to separate what is truly known from guesses, feelings and rumblings.  

  • BY NATHANIEL SILLIN
    Practical Money Skills

  • In the early days of Gary Johnson’s governorship, I had occasion to be at the State Capitol talking with some of his new appointees.
    “Oh,” one of them said to me, “so you work for the Department of Labor.” He looked pleased with himself.
    “No,” I said. “I work for the Workers’ Compensation Administration.”
    “Right,” he said, “Department of Labor.”
    “No,” I said, but he didn’t believe me.
    Several similar conversations happened with other appointees of the new administration.
    A few weeks later, I saw taped to a wall in the Capitol an organization chart of state government, showing a dotted line between the Department of Labor and my agency. We had at one time been “administratively attached” to that department. But we had never been part of it.
    The chart was several years out of date. This new gang of managers were relying on it as reference information to learn what they were now in charge of.

  • BY NATHAN SILLIN
    Practical Money Skills

  • MONTEZUMA—A warm and sunny December day in this international enclave suburb of Las Vegas had 237 teenagers beavering away at their studies. From the road, N.M. 65, the students and the roughly 100 adult staff supporting their academic work were invisible. 

    Their main building, the approximately125-year-old Montezuma Castle, gets attention as it rises four stories above the trees, plus towers, with spectacular Queen Anne design. 

    The students disperse a few days later for winter break. If everyone goes home, it would be to 75 countries. 

    Discrete signs on the road say, “United World College.” 

    New Mexico’s college president carousel brought new leaders to four institutions during 2016. Victoria Mora came to United World College after 24 years at St. John’s College in Santa Fe. St. John’s also has a new president, Mark Roosevelt. (The other 2016 newbies are Stephen Wells at New Mexico Tech and Richard Bailey at Northern New Mexico.) 

  • BY NATHANIAL SILLIN
    Practical Money Skills

  • BY D. DOWD MUSKA
    New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation

  • What you need to know about the Standing Rock standoff is how much you don’t know. This confrontation, playing out in frigid North Dakota, has drawn thousands of people from across the country and the attention of New Mexico’s senators.
    In April the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe camped in the path of a $3.8 billion pipeline project to protest plans to tunnel under the Missouri River, which the tribe says would jeopardize its water supply and destroy cultural sites. On Sunday, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers rejected the current route.
    It’s not over.
    Here are five things you should know:
    One: Organizers say they’re not opposed to the oil and gas industry. This is about protecting Standing Rock’s drinking water. The company insists the pipeline is safe. Protesters don’t believe it. Since 2010 regulators count 3,300 leaks and ruptures ranging from a few gallons to hundreds of thousands of gallons, according to the Center for Effective Government. Just last week, a natural gas liquids pipeline exploded near Kansas City.

  • “Tendency to whine” should be a business-climate rating category. New Mexico’s tendency to whine probably would be high.
    Just before Thanksgiving there was news that New Mexico has the second worst state business climate for construction contractors. So says the Associated Builders and Contractors, a national trade group. Only Illinois is worse.
    That same day complaints claimed Facebook’s standards for contractors working on its $250 million data center near Los Lunas were too tough. Faced with the whining, ever sensitive Facebook acquiesced to an old New Mexico joke, if the standards are too high, lower the bar. Facebook said it was committed to using local companies and that some of the requirements were only guidelines.
    Our review of rating studies continues. The source is the annual “Toward a Competitive Colorado” report, produced by the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. (metrodenver.org). The report provides 75 measures gathered under the general headings of economic vitality, innovation, taxes, livability, K-12 education, higher education, health, and infrastructure. We continue braving the statistical gods by averaging the measures within each general heading, some of them averages of yet other measures.

  • The Augusta Chronicle, Georgia, on Donald Trump’s Twitter account:

    From the daily news reports, you get the impression the Trump administration is already collapsing on itself.
    Since the election, the nation’s news syndicates have produced an unending string of nearly apocalyptic Tales of Dread. The transition is too slow! His chief counselor is a “conservative provocateur” and “controversial conservative firebrand” who may be anti-Semitic! Trump’s children may be helping pick the Cabinet! Foreign policy may change! His appointments are scary — and maybe even “anti-Islamist”!
    He may be planning “extreme vetting” of immigrants and refugees! It’s been two weeks since the election, and Trump still hasn’t cut his lifelong business ties!
    Good grief.
    Give the man a chance. He’s forming a new administration from scratch — and as a political newcomer, it really is from scratch. But as a savvy businessman, he’s doing a thorough job of screening candidates.
    Moreover, his meeting with Mitt Romney — who bitterly opposed Trump during the campaign — is a tremendous gesture of the kind of good will presidents should engender.

  • An idea results when one or several persons put some things together in their heads. Every new thing that humans invent or create starts as an idea.
         The history of ideas began with defense tactics and ways to defeat them, then came food craft and farm tools. Ideas branched out into new materials, forms of writing, ethics, art, medicine, music, science, governance, law and transport of goods and ideas.
         Ideas are not as simple as cartoonists suggest with light bulbs casting rays above leading characters. And a column can only begin to sketch the nature of ideas and their ventures in different fields. Yet these few brief points explain the drought of budding ideas in politics.  
         First, consider the chief traits of ideas. At its core, an idea is a splendid risk. Look back at how the idea to distill and purify kerosene in the mid-1800s curtailed the last of the profit in whale oil. The gain and loss from that idea depend on how you see things today.  
         At first airing, an idea is as lonesome as a space alien. An idea, as are computer chips, can always be refined, improved and built on. In a word, ideas grow.

  • An effortless way to help education

    Take the time to vote for the public schools bond in January.  It’s easy and almost effortless.  If your house is anything like mine, there’s a stack of papers on the counter where important things may get lost or overlooked.  Apparently, every college in the country feels the need to send a glossy publication to my home because a high school senior lives here.  When I get my ballot in January, though, I will open it immediately and check the yes boxes, sign and seal it, place a stamp on the envelope and put it in the mailbox right away.  It’s too important to get lost in the shuffle of pictures of impressive buildings and happy students promising a bright future.
    It hasn’t been that long ago that my oldest son started kindergarten and now, unbelievably, we’re nearing the end of his school years in Los Alamos.  The buildings have changed along the way with many improvements for which we are extremely grateful.  It’s been amazing to watch the transformation of the high school, middle school and Aspen, and for my kids to reap the benefits of new and remodeled buildings.  One thing that hasn’t changed at all is the team of dedicated teachers, guiding and encouraging my children from beginning to end.  

  • BY FINANCE NEW MEXICO

  • New Mexico dodged a bullet in the recent election. We elected a Secretary of State who encourages voting instead of a candidate whose publicly stated goal is to suppress it.
    Congratulations to us!
    At a candidate debate in October, Republican nominee Nora Espinoza talked about only one issue: requiring voter ID. Her opponent, Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver, won by almost 100,000 votes.
    Voter ID has been shown to be a code word for voter suppression – purposeful organized techniques to prevent legally qualified Americans from voting.
    Some forms of voter suppression are now legal in America. Both legal and illegal forms of voter suppression were employed this year in several states. Pundits and scholars will argue whether voter suppression caused the election results or merely contributed, but there’s little doubt that many votes were never cast or never counted – as to how many, the pundits will argue about the numbers also.
    The 1965 Voting Rights Act recognized that voting practices in some states actively discriminated against ethnic minorities and other target groups. The law required that voting procedures be conducted so as not to discriminate against those groups. In states with records of discriminatory practices, federal oversight was imposed.

  • By Bob Hagan

  • We hear a lot that civility died in the recent election, but it survives here and there.
    Republican Janice Arnold-Jones and Democrat Alan Webber, former candidates for governor, proved that speaking recently to New Mexico Press Women.
    On New Mexico elections:
    “The truth lost,” said Arnold-Jones, a former state representative. “I have never seen such complete willingness to abandon the truth – on both sides.” She said Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, the target of the governor’s political broadsides, “was a thorn in the side but a decent human being.”
    “Michael Sanchez was defeated by a scurrilous campaign,” said Webber. “It was a dark spot on the election.”
    He said the crime bills introduced in the special session “were a carefully laid trap to go after Democrats, in particular, Michael Sanchez.” The reality is that legislators “are too close to voters to be soft on crime,” he said.
    On New Mexico’s economy:
    Despite continuing bad news, the two describe themselves as optimistic. The way forward, both say, is to focus on infrastructure.

  • New Mexicans don’t especially like work, or at least work captured in official statistics.
    This work aversion is a continuing theme here. It’s something cultural, one of those rents in the social fabric that is central to our systemic troubles.
    The state Department of Workforce Solutions recently provided valuable additional insight by reviewing the propensity for work in our 33 counties. The measure is the ratio of employment to population (E/P). The ratio reports the percentage of the population age 16 and over that is not in an institution such as a jail and not in the military.
    The states stacking on top of Oklahoma lead in diligence. With 68 percent of its population employed in 2015, Nebraska has the highest employment-to-population ratio. Minnesota follows with 67.6 percent and Iowa has 67.3 percent. The other end of line finds West Virginia at 49.4 percent; Mississippi, 52.2 percent; and – ta da – New Mexico, 53.5 percent.
    “For the five-year period 2010 to 2014, Los Alamos County posted the highest E/P ratio, at 62.3 percent,” DWS said. For the 2010–2014 period, the national rate was 57.7 percent, with New Mexico at 53.9 percent.

  • For many businesses, philanthropic giving has an element of self-interest: It’s giving with the expectation of getting something back in the form of tax breaks and image building.

    But more and more businesses are discovering that unselfish giving has a value that’s immeasurable and that reverberates throughout the community, the workforce and the economy. 

    Community quality of life 

    Businesses that create and nurture an organizational culture based on gratitude can drive significant change that benefits everyone, not just their customers, especially if they can involve likeminded entrepreneurs.

    When a business spearheads a project that solves a local problem or provides a public service, such as building a bike path or setting aside company land for habitat restoration, it demonstrates an investment in the city or town in which it’s based and a commitment to making the host community a better place for everyone to live and work. 

  • Although women comprise a small fraction of tech professionals—just one in four, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology —several nonprofits and startups are working to jumpstart women’s participation in computer science.

    In a previous column, I considered Grace Hopper Academy, a New York City coding bootcamp designed explicitly for women. GHA’s sister school, Fullstack Academy, takes that program online with a Remote Immersive program. Most recently, I examined how the Campaign for Female Education (Camfed) has expanded female educational access in sub-Saharan Africa using big data. But what about middle school girls here in the United States?

    Middle school is perhaps the most prudent place to promote female participation in STEM, according to several studies. Given that many girls rule out tech careers by high school, educators and administrators would be wise to pique student interest before it’s too late. A Philadelphia-based non-profit called TechGirlz takes that challenge seriously.

  • Gov. Susana Martinez will face a legislature firmly in the hands of Democrats after this election. On the other hand, she got rid of the chief thorn in her side, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez.
    At this writing, the results are still new and not entirely final. Political pundits will be sorting out this election for a long time, but there are some takeaways.
    The big news here is that Democrats took back the House. After two bitter years of Republican control, we might expect to see some payback, but I hope they focus on the state’s business. Similarly, the Senate is a little more blue than red.
    The leadership shuffle in the House will probably make Rep. Brian Egolf, of Santa Fe, the new speaker. Keep an eye on the powerful House Appropriations and Finance Committee, where Gallup’s Rep.
    Patty Lundstrom has not only the seniority but the knowledge to be chair. And, fellas, women have been a little scarce in leadership positions.
    Incumbents often had the advantage, but not always.
    Newcomer Greg Baca overwhelmed Michael Sanchez after an expensive, ugly campaign. Advance New Mexico Now, a super PAC operated by the governor’s political adviser Jay McCleskey, dropped more than $370,000 on TV advertising alone, according to New Mexico In Depth.