• Doing new stuff is one of the key ways to build an economy.
    The proposal by Sen. Cisco McSorley, Albuquerque Democrat, to legalize growing hemp for industrial purposes was one such idea. McSorley’s bill met the governor’s veto pen.
    Liberals were outraged. According to Wikipedia, hemp incorporates several varieties of the Cannabis plant and is used for rope, fiber and oil, among other things. If “Cannabis” sounds familiar, think marijuana.
    A side benefit of the bill was to illustrate that even mega-liberals, of which McSorley is one, can think productively about capitalism once in the while.
    So can government.
    The Museum of New Mexico is one of those parts of state government that I see as a good thing. That the people working for the museum add to total government employment is, well, so what.
    A side note is that the museum still suffers from the name confusion of really being a system of museums and including what it calls “historic sites” such as Coronado, Jemez and Lincoln.
    It is the largest, state-run museum system in the country, the system’s “corporate” parent, the Department of Cultural Affairs, confirms.

  • As June bled into July, top-tier Republican politicos evidenced signs bordering on bonkers.
    First the Supreme Court ruled that there are no legal impediments to prevent Obamacare from proceeding on course. Then it decreed it within the rights of same-sex couples to enter into the legal relationship know as marriage?   
    There were exceptions, of course. New Mexico’s Republican governor, Susana Martinez, pretty much kept her cool throughout it all.
    She had never been keen on same-sex marriage, the governor noted, but with the court’s ruling it is now lawful and, basically, we should just get on with our business.
    As for the Affordable Care Act, Martinez was that rare Republican governor to sign onto the program from the start by instituting an insurance market exchange for New Mexico, if only because she recognized that it would effectively reduce the state’s high rate of medically uninsured residents.
    What we witnessed in this instance was a pragmatic governor doing her job and leaving the grandstanding to others.
    The lion’s share of other high profile Republicans, on the other hand, reacted to the high court’s rulings as if they had been plunged into a nightmare from which they can’t awaken.

  • As we celebrate our independence and astounding development from a fledging nation to the world’s superpower, we should applaud the extraordinary contributions of numerous founders.
    One of them whose accomplishments are often overlooked is John Adams. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and his cousin Samuel Adams typically receive the lion’s share of the credit for the creation and early success of the United States.
    In fact, John Adams has frequently been viewed as “somewhat of a loser.”
    He is the only president among the first five who was not reelected, his Federalist Party never again captured the White House and scholars have not ranked him as a great or near-great president.
    While David McCullough’s best-selling 2001 biography and the acclaimed 2008 HBO miniseries depicting his exploits increased public interest in his life, Adams still does not receive the recognition he deserves.
    Consider these facts. Adams played a pivotal role in the founding of the United States, especially the campaign for independence, the devising of state constitutions and the establishment of America’s diplomatic tradition.

  • The feat is to pick up the pace.
    New Mexico is known for stark White Sands and surreal bat caves, not for green pastures. A natural result is public surprise at the numbers reached by the New Mexico dairy industry.
    Dairy is the number one agricultural business in New Mexico. New Mexico ranks eighth in the nation in the value of dairy products. California tops the list.
    From 2001 to 2006, New Mexico’s milk production was the fourth fastest growing in the U.S., with a growth of 33 percent over five years.
    How does a large and fast-growing dairy business tend cows with no pastures? The answer is feedlots.
    Feedlots are large arrays of pens with provisions to feed lots of cows. New Mexico has more than 350,000 milk cows on some 150 dairy farms. Having 2,000 cows in a feedlot is typical.
    You don’t have to be an old cowhand to guess the by-product and problems that come from a pen of 2,000 cows.
    An average dairy cow produces six or seven gallons of milk a day and 18 gallons of wet manure. The story thickens.
    Nitrogen has key roles in nature’s schemes for all major life forms. The involved pathways are found under the heading “nitrogen cycle.”

  • Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing fraud issues at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
    Online thieves have been capturing Social Security numbers and other tax filing data to file fraudulent returns, principally for the purpose of stealing refunds.
    Just this past tax season, TurboTax, the leading tax preparation software company, had to stop transmitting state tax returns and introduce new safeguards after a run of suspicious returns. In March, the U.S. Treasury Department reported slightly over 2.9 million incidents of tax-related identity theft in 2013, up from 1.8 million in 2012.
    As to dollar loss, in January, the General Accounting Office (GAO) said the IRS had prevented an estimated $24.2 billion in fraudulent identity theft tax refunds in 2013, but actually paid $5.8 billion in refunds later determined to be fraudulent.
    In terms of damage, tax identity theft is really no different than any other form of identity theft.
    Thieves illegally obtain your Social Security number through online or other resources and then go to work on your finances and reputation.

  • Why does soda get cold when you put ice cubes in it?
    When I pose this simple question to my students, I get many different and interesting answers (like “cold is easier to share”).
    It’s not easy to teach and it’s even more difficult to learn.
    All too often, we blur the definitions between “knowledge” and “understanding.” There’s a huge difference between elemental knowledge (learn to count up to 100) and conceptual understanding (perceive the relationship between a number and its prime factors).
    But whereas conceptual understanding is unarguably important, we shouldn’t discount the value of “simply knowing something.”
    For example, I know that it’s not a good idea to drink bleach. No one ever taught me that. I just “know” it.
    As a teacher, I’m constantly looking for some magic formula to transfer knowledge from my head into someone else’s head. Quite frankly, I’m more than willing to let others take ownership of the neural noise between my ears.
    But back to the question, how do students learn? How do students cross the didactic valleys between the mental mesas of “I can do it” and “I actually understand what I’m doing?”

  • I’ve spent my whole life in the Northeast, but I have Southern roots.
    My late grandfather came from a long line of sharecroppers who toiled in the fields of Decatur, Georgia, for generations. Their history of hardship was common in the South.
    Where my grandfather grew up, poor whites often blamed their misfortune on the only group of people less fortunate than they: black people. For these marginalized whites, the Confederate battle flag came to symbolize what might have been.
    To me, the Confederate battle flag represents the dehumanization of black people. Renewed calls to banish it from public spaces across the South pit a national drive to stamp out prejudice against the region’s pride in its history — even if that particular history is nothing to be proud of.
    Many Southerners insist that the emblem merely salutes Southern heritage. But lynch mobs have never rallied behind sweet tea and collard greens.
    Separatist flags signified white defiance during the Civil War. A century later, they were embraced by the millions of whites who refused to acknowledge black people’s rights amid the racist backlash against the civil rights movement.

  • What a difference one sentence can make!
    The decision by the state Human Services Department to strike one crucial sentence in an auditor’s report gave it carte blanche to yank the funding of 15 behavioral health providers.
    This is just one revelation in the 10 inevitable lawsuits, three of them filed last week, against the state for a move that was questionable from the outset.
    To recap, in February 2013 HSD hired Public Consulting Group to audit 15 providers and look for evidence of fraud.
    This was not a page-by-page forensic audit, intended to shake out the spiders, but a sampling of invoices. So, from $42,500 in overbilling found in the samples, the consultant conjured up $36 million in suspected overbilling.
    That alone was spongy evidence, but here’s the real kicker: the consultant reported that all 15 failed the audit, but also said there was no evidence of widespread fraud nor was there “credible allegations of fraud,” or significant concern about consumer safety, according to documents filed in the lawsuits.

  • On Friday, in the 5-4 decision of Obergefell v. Hodges, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution requires all 50 states to license marriages between same-sex couples.
    The court’s action places the religious liberty of all New Mexicans at risk. As Justice Clarence Thomas noted, “the majority’s decision threatens the religious liberty our nation has long sought to protect.”
    Churches are at greater risk. Justice Thomas noted, “marriage is not simply a governmental institution: it is a religious institution as well. It appears all but inevitable that the two will come into conflict, particularly as individuals and churches are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.”
    Regarding the tax exempt status of religious institutions opposed to same-sex marriage, Chief Justice John Roberts noted, “There is little doubt that these and similar questions will soon be before this court.”
    Businesses are at greater risk. Already in New Mexico, a business has been found to violate state law for refusing to photograph a same-sex “commitment ceremony.” New Mexico’s Christian businesses should be very concerned.

  • Almost half of the adults in New Mexico can’t read.
    According to the New Mexico Coalition for Literacy, 46 percent of New Mexico adults are functionally illiterate. Of those, 20 percent have literacy skills at the lowest level, meaning, for example, they would have difficulty extracting simple information from a news article. Another 26 percent are at the second level, where their skills are a little higher, but not enough to get a job that requires reading.
    That’s simply awful.
    It may be some consolation that New Mexico is not alone in having a massive illiteracy problem. According to the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, the entire country is falling behind the rest of the industrialized world and now ranks about 17th in literacy.
    But none of this is good news, and, as usual, New Mexico is a little worse than most other states.
    A unique perspective on the issue comes from New Mexico’s most famous literacy activist, poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, who spoke recently to the literacy coalition’s annual meeting. Literacy isn’t just about reading, he said. “Literacy is about human beings being able to express their emotions to the people they love.”

  • Governor Susana Martinez and Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela established the Office of Business Advocacy (OBA) in January 2011 and have been extremely pleased with its success.
    Since then, the OBA has saved or created more than 2,000 jobs by helping businesses navigate the sometimes complicated processes of permitting and licensing that can slow job creation and business growth. Now the OBA is expanding its mission.
    “The Office of Business Advocacy has done remarkably well helping small businesses that may not have the time or resources to sift through the regulatory, licensing and permitting process or address policy issues affecting their operations,” Barela said. “As a result of regulatory reforms, leading to less bureaucratic red tape than when the governor first took office four and half years ago, we’re expanding the OBA’s role to include proactively helping entrepreneurs start businesses and grow.”

  • Ripples of events in Europe almost a quarter of a century ago reverberate in New Mexico today.
    After the celebrations occasioned by the fall of Berlin’s infamous wall on the evening of Nov. 9, 1989, U.S. and European officials hardly knew what to make of the dramatically altered political landscape that quickly emerged to challenge them.
    Bellicose cold war bombast that had served western politicians so reliably (“Mr. Gorbachev! Tear this wall down!”) was suddenly no longer serviceable and entrenched Eastern European political elites that had governed with iron fists since the end of World War II were on the run.
    Old eastern bloc “defense alliances” dematerialized. The once mighty Soviet Union lost dominion over neighboring polities and started calling itself the “Russian Federation,” where the decrepit communism of yore was transmogrified into corrupt, crony capitalism and yesterday’s commissars were swept aside by new cadres of oligarchs adept at profiting from the resources of the state.
    Proclaiming the Cold War to have been “won,” the first President George Bush hailed the promise of a “New World Order,” thus demonstrating how statesmen can come to rue glib pronouncements.

  • For many of us, the connection we share with companion animals extends beyond just friendly company, our pets are considered a part of the family.
    The truly unique love between an owner and their pet is something one has to experience to understand. Although a pet may be a very loved and important family member, it is important to be sensitive and aware of your pet’s needs as they age.
    Sometimes owners are faced with difficult decisions when their pet reaches an age or health condition that no longer allows them to enjoy daily activities. Dr. Sarah Griffin, lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (CVM), explains that euthanization is never an easy choice, but in some cases, it may be the best option for your pet.
    “One of my professors in veterinary school told us that she tells clients to pick the pet’s three favorite things,” Griffin said. “When two out of three of those things are gone, it’s time to let them go. Many pets will continue to eat and drink even when they are in pain. Keeping a daily record of good vs. bad days sometimes helps you see the quality of life they are living.
    Some of the emotional struggles owners face when dealing with their pet’s death may be guilt and loneliness.

  • Who in the world is Bernie Sanders?

    Some think of Bernie Sanders as an old curmudgeon with young ideas. He is actually a presidential candidate who promotes ideas like diverting money from war to repairing infrastructure, fair trade rather than free trade, tough action on drug prices, a real minimum wage, help with the cost of education, Medicare for all, paid sick leave and other labor benefits that could help American workers catch up with what their Western European counterparts already enjoy.
    This all sounds like an interesting platform, but whether Bernie can hold his message together during a tough presidential campaign remains to be seen.

    Richard Foster
    Los Alamos

  • It depends upon the definition. Would we be a Christian nation defined by a legislative fiat? No! That is expressly forbidden by our Constitution in the first amendment to it. Lawmakers shall make no law with respect to religion.
    There are 13 countries that do have an official state religion where the church is an integral part of their government. We have no national religion. In fact, one of the reasons the pioneering people who came to America was to escape such a mandated system of beliefs, faith and practices.
    Freedom of religion is a basic right of all citizens under our Constitution with the Bill of Rights. Some protestant colonies, early on, assessed taxes upon their citizens to support their churches, a practice that ceased with adoption of the constitution.
    We are free to believe what we wish without government interference.
    It was the practice of religious faith in Christianity that carried our national forefathers to achieve the basic values and moral courage to write and propose the basic form of government that we have.
    Though those of our countrymen who are not Christian still benefit from those basic tenants that give us the core of our national ethos.

  • Next to a battle lost, the greatest misery is a battle gained.” —Sir Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, June 19, 1815
    The Battle of Waterloo — a series of bloody encounters between French, Anglo-Dutch, and Prussian armies fought over four days — culminated with Napoleon’s final defeat on June 18, 1815.
    It was a major historical event, and yet its bicentennial has come and gone essentially without notice.
    From 1789 until 1815, wars of the French Revolution and the era of Napoleon wrested Europe from the era of “limited warfare” (from 1648 until the French Revolution) into a modern era of enormous bloodletting intensified by the rise of nationalism and the Industrial Revolution. It was a historical perfect storm unleashed in full fury a century later in two global wars.
    The aftermath: the terror-stricken world of today.
    Anglo-Dutch forces under Sir Arthur Wellington suffered 15,000 casualties. Napoleon’s army lost twice that number, including 7,000 captured. England’s Prussian ally suffered 7,000 dead. Napoleon, declared an international outlaw by the Congress of Vienna, finally was consigned to the remote south Atlantic rock of St. Helena, where he died in 1821.

  • It was June 17, 9:05 p.m. — an insignificant .095 inch diameter metal rod strikes a metal casing. Within minutes, the airwaves and Internet pipes are inundated with the news.
    It was a .45-caliber firing pin and its repeated impact on cartridge casings ensured the deaths of nine parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
    Cameras clicked furiously as Governor Nikki Haley “struggled through her tears as she urged communities across the state to come together and heal.”
    Struggled through her tears?
    There is the same miscreant who defended flying the Confederate flag at the Statehouse. (She recently flip-flopped and said, “maybe we should revisit this.”)
    The same Tea Bagger who supported laws allowing citizens to carry firearms without a permit.
    The same hypocrite who boasted her love of guns by posting a Facebook video of her at gun manufacturing plant, shooting at their range, then bragging that she did it in high heels.
    Once again, the nation is immersed in another debate over firearm rights.

  • When will a New Mexico tribe go to pot?
    It’s likely only a question of time until a New Mexico tribe jumps into the marijuana trade, straining the always delicate relationship between our state and local governments and the “domestic dependent nations” within our borders.
    The federal government set the stage for that conflict last year, when the Department of Justice issued its “guidance” on the cultivation, sale and consumption of marijuana on tribal lands: As long as the business is properly regulated, the feds will keep hands off.
    That opened the door to a lucrative new business opportunity for the tribes at the same time gaming is becoming less profitable.
    Here in New Mexico, the tribal “net win” (the amount wagered in the casinos less the payout to lucky bettors) has declined nearly 4 percent over the past three years.
    Those numbers reflect a long-term nationwide trend. The industry has reached maturity, with little room for additional growth.
    The pot business, in contrast, is just beginning to take off. Reliable national figures are hard to come by, but by one estimate the legal marijuana industry grew by 64 percent last year, to more than $2 billion in revenues.

  • A report shows a gender pay gap at the University of New Mexico to the tune of an almost $15,000 difference between male and female professors.
    According to data from the Chronicle of Higher Education, during the 2013-2014 academic year, the average full-time female professor at UNM earned a salary of $87,417, while the average, full-time male professor made $99,855 — a difference of $12,438.
    Although the gender pay gap is smaller between men and women in the associate professor and instructor positions, male associate professors still earned approximately $2,300 more per year at the school than their female counterparts.
    Chaouki Abdallah, provost of UNM, said the numbers don’t tell the entire story.
    “The most important reason for male professors (having higher average salaries) is that there are colleges and departments with higher salaries. For example, there are more male engineering professors. The lowest paid professors are where females are a majority such as education or the arts. The other reason is that females may delay careers or promotions because of family. Males will also negotiate for more money and females generally don’t,” he said.

  • It’s so small!
    When State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn announced that he was bringing back a pump jack to replace the sculpture in front of the State Land Office, I figured he’d bring a real workhorse. But no, the cute, colorful device installed last week is a diminutive version of the muscular equipment that keeps oil and oil revenues flowing.
    Dunn missed an opportunity.
    In 1979, when Commissioner Alex Armijo made his statement — and riled Santa Fe city officials — he planted a pump jack donated by Mobil that had produced more than 20 million barrels of oil from state trust lands.
    Both men, Armijo a Democrat and Dunn a Republican, wanted to honor the contributions of the oil industry to state coffers and educate the public about where that money comes from.
    It’s a worthy goal. Most people don’t know that the oil and gas industry has been paying for the state’s schools for decades.
    It would have been more educational to install an old piece of equipment with a history, which then would have allowed the Land Office to explain in exhibits how it worked and how the process has changed through the years.