Today's Opinions

  • Democracy’ means discussion of issues among people

    Discussion – earnest, thoughtful discussion – is the historic lifeblood of our democratic republic. A democracy differs from a dictatorship to the extent that policy evolves from discussion of issues among the people.
    Abraham Lincoln built his most weighty speech on the basics of our country “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Then he famously resolved that it “shall not perish from the earth.”
    Yet, the people are turning their backs on discussion of issues. Worst of all, the people now turn their backs most fiercely when the issue is the most important issue. Bit by bit, people forget that the nation’s lifeblood is discussing issues among the people.

    This very point is the elephant in the room that we can’t talk about. The creeping loss of discussion is the gravest threat to democracy.

    To begin with, today’s news and talk shows are less about issues than they are about “obstacles” to issues. An issue involves ideas for discussion from which a national policy could evolve. Obstacles to issues are personal traits that disqualify an idea by the bare mention of a person’s name or a trait.

  • Iran has not moved closer to making nuclear weapons

    Dr. T. Douglas Reilly

    Much has been reported recently regarding Iran exceeding the JCPOA limit of 300 kg of 3.67% enriched uranium, and the announcement that it will begin enriching to higher levels by Sunday. These higher levels are still below the 20% limit that the IAEA defines as the boundary between low- and high-enriched uranium; LEU/HEU.

    The 300 kg of 3.67% enriched uranium contains 11 kg of 235U, i.e. the fissile isotope of uranium. The IAEA defines a Significant Quantity (SQ) of HEU to be 25 kg; the SQ for plutonium is 8 kg. These limits are chosen to be roughly the amount of nuclear material necessary to built one nuclear explosive. Such explosives can be made with lower amounts of U or Pu; but these are what IAEA safeguards have accepted.

    It is absolutely impossible to make a nuclear explosive from 3.67% U. The critical mass of 20% enriched U is roughly 400 kg (900 lbs); it is very impractical to make a weapon with a core weighing 400 kg.

  • Small steps and giant leaps, 50 years later

    On July 20 we’ll celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. While it’s rightfully framed as a national achievement, the flawless execution of a near impossible goal was really an engineering feat.
    And its hero, Neil Armstrong, was, in his heart, an engineer.

    “I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer,” he said in 2000. “And I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession.”

    Armstrong remained modest and avoided publicity for the rest of his life. That was because, as an engineer, he understood that he stood on a lot of shoulders.

    That’s one of my takeaways from this remarkable event. The second is what a massively complex undertaking it was.

    The space race involved many thousands of people – NASA alone employed 30,000 – scattered across the country.

    In New Mexico, at White Sands Missile Range, NASA had a propulsion system development facility that tested the engines for the Lunar Excursion Module under lunar atmospheric conditions. The LEM, as it was called, would take the two astronauts from orbit to the surface of the moon and back again. At a second site, the launch escape system was tested.

  • Letters to the Editor 8-30-19

    Motorcycle ride to benefit Wyatt Taylor

    Dear Editor,

    The Jemez Riders, are organizing a benefit motorcycle ride Sept. 14.

    The event is to raise money for Wyatt Taylor and a small Jemez Springs church. 

    Wyatt, a junior wildland firefighter from Jemez Springs, was injured in December of 2017 in a terrible ATV accident. He has many years of re-constructive surgeries ahead of him. Wyatt cares so much about the Jemez Mountains and the folks in our community, we thought it would be a nice gesture to show him how we care about him.

    Please plan on joining us Saturday morning at 10 a.m. in the Knights of Columbus (401 Trinity Drive) parking lot. We will begin the ride at 11 a.m., cruising down the Main Hill Road, through White Rock and Bandelier and on to the Madonna Hall in Jemez Springs. Teams of chili cook-off contestants will be waiting for the riders, and anyone else brave enough to come up and taste their amazing recipes. 

    Some will be flaming hot, others will only be…hot. About 40 area businesses have donated prizes for a raffle that will begin at 2 p.m., with the grand prize a 1999 Triumph Tiger motorcycle drawn at 2:30 p.m. As an added bonus, the Vanlandinghams will be playing live from noon-2 p.m.

  • Letters to the Editor 8-25-19

    Unable to understand those who cannot appreciate need for guns

    Dear Editor,

    I understand that some of my Democrat friends cannot appreciate what self-defense means but I will tell the tale anyway. Firearms are essential in a civil, safe society.  Guns are only as safe as the person behind them.

    My tale is that of a family in a small western New Mexico town where a family of two little boys, a mother and a father lived in an ordinary home.

    The father was a locomotive fireman and this job required him to be out of town on the other end of a run for a day or two on a regular basis. He was concerned for the safety of his family and bought a .38 caliber pistol for his wife. She was a small woman, who had been a Fred Harvey Girl at the Alvarado in Albuquerque where the two had met. They lived in Gallup where he was based.  The town had some rough areas so the gun was warranted. The little housewife slept with the gun under her pillow.

    One night, when the father was at the other end of the railroad line, there was a horrendous banging on the front door waking the family.  The little housewife took the gun from under the pillow and went to answer the door trailed by her 9-year-old. She kept trying to get her son to go back to bed.

  • Removing mini-shampoos from hotel rooms won’t save the environment

    Massachussetts Institute of Technology

    InterContinental Hotels Group will replace mini-shampoos and conditioners with possibly more efficient bulk products by the year 2021.

    But environmental activists shouldn’t rejoice just yet.

    The announcement is yet another example – such as banning plastic straws, false sustainability claims and corporate commitments that are far in the future – that seem to be more of a PR exercise than real attempts to move the needle.

    I’m a professor of engineering and the director of the MIT Center of Transportation and Logistics. As I argue in my book “Balancing Green: When to Embrace Sustainability in a Business (And When Not To),” announcements of these kinds distract us from legitimate – and more challenging – measures we need to put in place to avoid environmental catastrophe.

    Behind the headlines

    InterContinental Hotels Group CEO Keith Barr says that replacing miniature bathroom products “will allow us to significantly reduce our waste footprint and environmental impact” at the conglomerate’s hotel chains, which include InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn.

  • Los Alamos Choral Society to begin fall rehearsals

    Fall rehearsals begin on Sept. 10 for the 75th Anniversary year of the Los Alamos Choral Society. The chorus, founded in 1945 by Manhattan Project scientists, will be preparing for a gala anniversary concert on Jan. 26, 2020, in partnership with the Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra.

    The program for the concert will include Part III of Handel’s Messiah, along with works by Michael Maudlin, Mary Badarak, and Frances Meier, all New Mexico composers. The concert will conclude with a movement from the 1892 Grand Mass in E-flat by Amy Beach, the first major choral/orchestral work composed in America by a woman composer.

    Additional 2020 concerts will include a May 1 performance of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy with the Los Alamos Community Winds, Ted Vives conducting, and an informal “Dessert Concert” of popular songs and musical theater excerpts.

    Singers in all sections are invited to join the chorus, and no auditions are required. Rehearsals are Tuesday evenings from 7-9 p.m.

    Special accommodations are available for singers wanting only to perform on the Messiah portion of the program, with rehearsals for Messiah not beginning until October.

    The kick-off session Sept. 10 will begin with sign-up and refreshments at 6:30 p.m., followed by the 7 p.m. rehearsal.

  • Letters to the Editor 8-21-19

    Wise decision to toss Save As You Throw plan

    Dear Editor,
    The Los Alamos Environmental Sustainability Board (ESB) has wisely decided to postpone plans to adopt a so-called “Save

    As You Throw” plan for completely revamping trash and recycling collection in Los Alamos. This is a good thing and it is probably best if this concept is simply abandoned entirely.

    For starters, it seems like the idea is designed to address a problem that doesn’t exist. If the desire is to reduce trash output the best approach is probably an educational campaign, not a draconian fee increase and a complete change to trash collection. And, while we all want more recycling, China’s limits on purchases of American recyclables have thrown the market into chaos. It would seem that big new changes to solid waste policy should not be considered until the market for recycled products finds its footing.

    One product that is not only consistently viable in today’s marketplace is aluminum cans. Find out for yourself by finding aluminum metal recyclers in your area if you want to pick up a little spare change for your soda and beer cans.

    This might be a better approach rather than imposing onerous new regulations that won’t actually do anything for the environment.