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Today's Opinions

  • Departures from New Mexico way up

    We got smaller last year.
    Wouldn’t it be nice if the statement introduced a celebration of statewide weight loss? Not exactly, though our total weight may have been less on July 1, 2014, than a year earlier. Any weight loss would be because there were fewer people in the state, 1,540 to be exact.
    Specifically, the Census Bureau estimates that New Mexico lost 1,540 people (or 0.06 percent) during the 2013-14 year. The estimates were released Dec. 23.
    Six states presented similar attractiveness to the their population. On a percentage basis, four outperformed us: West Virginia (-0.18 percent); Illinois (-0.08 percent); Connecticut and Alaska (both -0.07 percent).
    This single population performance number reflects four elements: births, deaths, people moving internationally and people moving from state to state.
    Statistically, births and deaths are simple. Each event generates a piece of paper, a certificate. These are filed with the state and counted, accurately, one presumes.
    About 16,500 New Mexicans die each year, a figure that grows a few hundred each year, based on the past four years. The number of births, around 27,000 annually, declines about 500 each year.
    Necessarily, the number of people moving must be estimated. Techniques are well established. An estimated number really occupies a range.

  • Letters to the editor 2-3-15

    Praise for Aspen Ridge

    My reason for writing this is two-fold. First and foremost there are no words that could express fully the thanks and praise for the care, compassion and love shown from the staff at Aspen Ridge Assisted Living Facility to my mother in law, Virginia Marr, who recently passed away.
    We could never have made it through this experience without their help and expertise. How lucky this community is to have such a wonderful facility to help with our aging community members. Thanks also to Ambercare Hospice for
    their help during Virginia’s last days.
    A very special thanks to the United Church, Pastor David Elton and his staff who helped us through this very emotional and sad time. They were instrumental in making Virginia’s service so very special to us all. They really went above and beyond to make her day the best it could have been and I know Virginia would have been honored and pleased to hear and see all her family and friends there to help celebrate her life.
    Our thanks to the staff at Medical Associates of Northern New Mexico, the Los Alamos Medical Center Emergency Room and the Los Alamos County Fire and Rescue who have assisted us on many occasions.

  • Tijerina the Tiger

    The death of Reies Lopez Tijerina in an El Paso hospital late last month occasioned a good deal of comment and commentary.
    Tijerina invited comment and commentary, even sought it.
    His main claim to fame occurred almost a half century ago when he and a band of followers stormed the Rio Arriba County Courthouse in Tierra Amarilla, wounding a jailer and police officer and taking a reporter and the sheriff hostage.
    It was a big deal. “Tijerina’s Rio Arriba Court House raid,” it came to be called, and he ended up spending a couple of years in federal prison. But that was sometime later and unrelated to his Court House rampage.
    Tijerina and his fellow raiders initially got away by escaping into nearby Kit Carson National Forest. His grievance was the injustice he considered New Mexico’s original Hispanic settlers to have experienced when their land grants were abrogated or outright taken from them.
    It made him quite a celebrity, even something of a hero to many young Hispanic and Latino activists who seized upon the land grant issue and made it “a cause celebre.”
    This was in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when ferment and activism was abroad in the land.

  • Tax burden unfairly shouldered by poor

    American politics are dominated by those with money. As such, America’s tax debate is dominated by voices that insist the rich are unduly persecuted by high taxes and that low-income folks are living the high life.
    Indeed, a new survey by the Pew Research Center recently found that the most financially secure Americans believe “poor people today have it easy.”
    The rich are certainly entitled to their own opinions — but, as the old saying goes, nobody is entitled to their own facts.
    With that in mind, here’s a set of tax facts that’s worth considering: Middle- and low-income Americans are facing far higher state and local tax rates than the wealthy.
    In all, a comprehensive analysis by the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy finds that the poorest 20 percent of households pay on average more than twice the effective state and local tax rate (10.9 percent) as the richest 1 percent of taxpayers (5.4 percent).
    ITEP researchers say the incongruity derives from state and local governments’ reliance on sales, excise and property taxes rather than on more progressively structured income taxes that increase rates on higher earnings. They argue that the tax disconnect is helping create the largest wealth gap between the rich and middle class in American history.

  • By and large, who pollutes?

    A strain of common belief says super-sized contributions to election campaigns weaken environmental safeguards. All things considered, is this so?
    All things considered, no one knows. Things to consider are scattered too widely to judge as a whole.
    When data are scattered widely, we naturally focus on what we see first. But we can zoom out to see more.
    Begin at home. Big corporations make large donations to U.S. election campaigns. Pollution from big corporations is easily seen. Ergo, some say that worse pollution stems from hefty campaign contributions.
    These puzzle pieces start the idea that the quality of the land, air and water would be better sooner if corporate money had less influence in politics.
    A wider scan sees more to puzzle over.
    Corporate money has much less influence in Chinese politics. Yet, pollution is plainly worse in China than the U.S.
    The 2008 Summer Olympics in China’s capital city, Beijing, proved the point to the world. The government shut down plants in the region during the games to improve air quality.
    At a glance, we see worse harms in fumy places where corporations and capitalism alike are held in less regard than in our country. Harm simmers in many kettles of governance.
    And there is more to take in. A still wider scan brings to light more complications.

  • ‘Blackhat’ much ado about nearly nothing

    There was considerable concern within the nuclear energy community about Michael Mann’s cyber-thriller “Blackhat” before its release.
    Much of the pre-release angst was generated by the trailers, which showed a catastrophic nuclear accident had blown open a gaping hole in a large, domed containment building. I went to see it the first day it hit the local cinema, and early on I suspected that the nuclear energy community’s angst was literally much ado about nearly nothing.
    My first inkling was when the control room was shown. I almost laughed because it had wall-to-wall windows overlooking a vast, steaming open pool of water.
    First, there are no windows in actual nuclear power plant control rooms. Also, the depicted control room looked much like a high-tech press box at a modern professional football stadium.
    Regardless, I was curious about the hot-water pool. I wondered if that was supposed to be the reactor.
    My speculation was soon verified. There was a series of long, vertical metal pipes deep within the pool — the supposed core. Surrounding these pipes were several rotating fan-like devices. It seems that these were supposed to be the circulation pumps.

  • Mirroring the Marmota Monax

    Do you ever get the feeling that things will never change?
    With Groundhog Day approaching this weekend, it wouldn’t surprise me if I woke up and found myself back in the 1960s — flag-waving nationalists beating on foreigners, police beating on civil rights marchers, religious fundamentalists beating on homosexuals, bigots beating on minorities.
    Hang on. I need to check the calendar to make sure I’m not actually back in the ’60s!
    Monday, Punxsutawney Phil will once again look for his shadow, then predict the inevitable extension of winter for another six weeks.
    Actually, shadow or no, it’ll be 48 more days of winter, not six weeks (I checked to see when the Equinox occurs).
    But today, Jan. 30, is just as important a date as Feb. 2.
    In 1648, Netherlands and Spain signed a treaty — Peace of Munster — ending the Thirty Years War, a terribly destructive series of conflict in Europe that resulted in over 10 million deaths.
    It was a war to end all wars and its end brought forth an era of peace that reigned throughout Europe for years and years and years.
    Well, of course, there was that little skirmish between Portugal and Spain (Restoration War) for another 20 years. And then another 22 years of killing during the Anglo-Dutch War.
    Ah! But then there was peace!

  • Illegal immigration: Is Europe losing control of its borders?

    The cargo ship recklessly headed towards the coast of Italy. The crew had abandoned ship and the Italian coast guard scrambled to intervene.
    After regaining control of the ship the coast guard discovered a troubling reality: 800 illegal immigrants were hiding in the hull of the ship. These men, women and children — most of them coming from Africa — were exhausted and terrified by the ordeal.
    Later that day — December 31, 2014 — the ship was brought safely to the Italian harbor of Gallipoli where the migrants got off.
    Scenes like this play out almost on a daily basis.
    Two days later, the same scenario occurred with another cargo ship that was carrying roughly 450 illegal immigrants.
    Illegal migrants from Africa, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq are desperately trying to cross the sea to reach Europe.
    There is a lot at stake for everyone involved and 2014 saw record numbers of immigrants. On January 13, 2015, the European Union Commission (EUC) released a statement that said in 2014 “more than 276,000 migrants illegally entered the EU, which represents an increase of 155 percent compared to 2013.”