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Today's Opinions

  • Origin of the fear of Friday the 13th

    A fun aspect of teaching math is that I get to share stories about numbers with my students.
    The number “13” of course holds a special place in society and students love learning words like triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13).
    I explain to them that “tris” means “three” and “dek” means “ten.”
    This gives me the opportunity to demonstrate how words contain numerical prefixes taken from Latin and Greek, using these prefixes to define properties of cardinality, such as bi-cycle, cent-ennial, and sex-agenarian (one of my favorites!).
    Now today, being a Friday the 13th, I get to use the word friggatriskaidekaphobia (fear of Friday the 13th). But in this case, the prefix “frigga” has nothing to do with numbers.
    A few ago, a student told me that she had gone to see the movie “Thor” the day before (a Thursday) and was raving about how good it was.
    So I said, “Well then, it’s a happy coincidence that you saw the movie on Thor Day.”
    This led to a discussion on how days of the week were named after planets and gods. Sunday and Monday, of course, are immediately recognized as being named after the Sun and the Moon.
    And, as per our discussion, Thursday was named after that hammer wielding beastie-boy, Thor.

  • Paying for roads may require robbing Peter and Paul

    Rep. Cathrynn Brown was describing roads in southeastern New Mexico. The pit rule, which requires trucking oil waste to another site, has added to the already heavy traffic on state and county roads.
    Drivers take the shortest route, whether or not the road is safe.
    “Fatalities are a great concern to all of us,” said the Carlsbad Republican. “I got to a point where I dreaded opening the newspaper in the morning. Eddy and Lea counties do the best they can (but) we’re really hurting.”
    On the subject of transportation, you can say the same for every county in the state, from the patched and repatched northern U.S. 285 to McKinley County’s war-surplus bridges that can’t even hold a school bus.
    These debates within the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee grow more urgent every year.
    The governor now supports bonding $300 million in road projects, but last week Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith condemned the proposal as irresponsible. The state, he said, is already overextended.
    What he meant is the state has borrowed to the hilt for transportation. Bonds are IOUs.

  • Regarding House Bill 41 — Retention is not the answer

    A wise man once told me that people vote for politicians as they do in well-funded popularity contests.
    It is questionable that the current and impending actions of some policymakers represent the wider public’s interest, and it is difficult when some view election or re-election as unbridled support for their stance on important issues in our state.
    There are many people in New Mexico who feel like they have no voice beyond the voting booth, myself included. I continue to have serious concerns about the current state of our education system and how it reflects our collective beliefs and values, and I know I am not alone.
    My purpose in writing this is to respond to a recent column about House Bill 41, and to urge consistent interaction between the public and their elected officials even after this session’s dust has settled.
    That will take commitment, communication, information, and a willingness from all sides to take the time needed to sit down and consider options without expecting to find a “silver bullet” that will “fix” our education system forevermore.
    We are an ever-changing society. We need processes, beyond the ballots, in place to be able to adapt to changing times. Our founding fathers called this process “democracy,” and it encompasses more than a vote in November.

  • Time to end failed policy of social promotion

    Knowing how to read is one of the most important life skills you could ever learn. When you know how to read, knowledge is at your fingertips and nothing is far from reach.
    Unfortunately for New Mexico, too many of our children are unable to read proficiently. Yet, year after year, we pass them onto the next grade without blinking an eye.
    This is called social promotion — it’s a failed policy that sets our children up for failure. And it’s high time we put an end to it.
    That is why I have joined two colleagues — Rep. Monica Youngblood and Sen. Gay Kernan — in sponsoring legislation that will not only eliminate this policy, but also give teachers, parents and students the resources they need to succeed.
    The truth is, it is not compassionate to move along our children when they are unprepared.
    Doing so only sets them up for failure. In fact, students who cannot read before the third grade are four times more likely drop out of high school.
    It’s not hard to see why. From first grade through third, our children learn to read. After those critical years, they read to learn.

  • Behavioral health audit is finally public

    The now-infamous 2013 audit of 15 nonprofit New Mexico behavioral health providers has finally been released to the public by our new Attorney General, Hector Balderas.
    You remember. That’s the audit that led the state Human Services Department to accuse all 15 of massive fraud and stop paying them for services under Medicaid, which led to 12 of those providers being starved out of business, a behavioral health system thrown into chaos and several thousands of very vulnerable clients — including many children and a few possibly dangerous individuals — abandoned.
    Sudden forced withdrawal from psychotropic medications, because there wasn’t anybody left to write the prescriptions, was just one of the disastrous consequences of this event.
    Among the 15 providers, over a three-year period, there were $36 million in cost overruns, the audit claimed. That’s a lot of taxpayer money. But I wonder if there might be other explanations for some of this spending.

  • Letters to the editor 2-11-15

    Fundraiser concert a success

    The University of New Mexico-Los Alamos great room was the place to be on Sunday. For eight hours, 47 performers entertained a generous audience that contributed $1,264 to the UNM-LA Scholarship fund, the most ever in the fifth Annual Music Marathon. This was also the first one to which local businesses contributed door prizes.
    We would like the community’s help in thanking Bob’s Bodacious BBQ, Casa Mesita (which supports a dozen local charities), Chili Works, Del Norte Credit Union, Khalsa Acupuncture, Northroad Inn, Pam Reass, Professional Skin Care Choices, RadioShack (now selling musical instruments), and Village Arts for their door prizes, valued at more than $500. Shop locally, folks!
    Thanks performers, without whom all of this is impossible: Cathy Turner, Ruth Williamson, Sonja Ebey, Troy Makela, William Dale, Karin Ebey, Katie Brown, Sonja Ebey, Troy Makela, Joseph Dale, Kathleen Brodnax. Other piano soloists were The Little Piano Group playing Edvard Grieg: Rheta Moazzami, Robin Gurule, Claudia Hilko, Judy Hutson, Bonnie Kiang, Phyllis Slattery, Susan Mendel, Joyce Guzik and Juanita Madland.
    Donna and John O’Donnel delighted the audience with their baroque recorders.

  • Letters to the editor 2-10-15

    Column up for theological debate

    I’m sure the Los Alamos Monitor does not wish to begin or encourage theological debates, so I will avoid any such rebuttal to Pastor McCullough’s column regarding baptism, “Explaining differences in types of baptism.”
    However, it might be wise for the Los Alamos Monitor to do some fact checking where it can in its religion columns.
    Pastor McCullough’s article immediately began with a factual error. A quick Internet search will indicate that infant baptism was practiced in the church and was mentioned as such by Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian and Origen, all of whom died well before the year 300.
    Unless Pastor McCullough has a different definition of “Middle Ages” than most people, his first sentence is incorrect. I will leave it to the reader to speculate about the cause of such an egregious error.

    Drew Kornreich
    Los Alamos

    Misinformed about baptism roots

    In reference to Pastor McCullough’s “Religion” column of Feb. 6, he is mistaken when he claims that infant baptism has its roots in the Middle Ages.

  • RTW proposals threaten union monopoly — Oh my!

    I was raised a union bigot.
    Unions were evil. My dad hated unions. I don’t know why.
    My perspective has evolved. Unions are useful. Nor are unions bad. However, monopolies are bad.
    One important lesson came from John Dendahl, then running a small unionized technology manufacturing firm in Santa Fe. Years later, Dendahl was the take no-prisoners chair of the state Republicans.
    A union contract defines the rules, Dendahl said.
    His company had not had a strike. In Albuquerque, a large electronics manufacturer claimed (correctly, I suspect) that the workforce included commie agitators and got much grief from the union, the same one as at Dendahl’s firm.
    As I remember, there were complaints, eventually substantiated, about sloppy handling of toxic materials.
    These memories arise in the context of “right to work” proposals (House Bill 75, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan, and, Senate Bill 183, a duplicate of HB 75, sponsored by Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington) being considered in the Legislature. Roch is an educator. Sharer is a businessman.
    The proposals would prohibit requiring union membership as a condition of employment.