Guest Opinion

    On March 13, 2019, a severe wind storm caused a mess in Los Alamos, causing hundreds of trees to be knocked down and road closures. 

    Unfortunately, one of those trees on Los Alamos County property, hit my home and caused considerable damage to my roof, walls, and patio door.  I am thankful that no one was home, for my homeowners’ insurance, and for the contractors that helped us.  But I am greatly disappointed, but not surprised, by the county’s refusal to accept any responsibility for this incident.  

    After the storm, the county paid to remove trees that fell on its own property, the roads, and LANL premises.   It is reasonable to expect the county to pay to remove its trees falling on private property as well.  It is the duty of the county to maintain their own property, in a safe and hazard free condition, inspect, identify, and cut down at risk and damaged trees.

    Note that in the Los Alamos’ Nuisance Code #2. “Trees/shrubs extending into a public street or sidewalks. Vegetation obstructing or impeding the safe removal of pedestrians must be trimmed back.” If the county expects citizens to keep their trees off of public streets and sidewalks, then the county should keep its own trees off of private streets and sidewalks, too.


    Finance New Mexico

    A decade ago, Roberto Mendez was broke, his real estate business wiped out by a devastating recession and his wife sidelined by a debilitating stroke. Today he runs a thriving family business built on his favorite snack food: popcorn.

    “Ten years ago, life was hell,” said the owner of Albuquerque-based Cornivore. “We were trying to survive, so we would make a couple of hundred bucks here and there” selling homemade gourmet concoctions created in a kettle corn popper to friends and acquaintances.

     Cornivore was a bootstrapped business, started with Mendez’s limited resources, as no one would lend to him at the time. First, he found a niche market—people willing to pay several dollars for a bag of fresh popcorn coated with natural flavors. Then he expanded his clientele beyond friends and family, experimenting with wholesaling and concession sales before landing a ready-made sales force in the fundraising market.

  • One Catch 22 was removed from state government during the 60-day 2019 legislative session (maybe more, I don’t know). 

    Public safety officers, people who work for police departments but aren’t full-fledged cops and who get to take intoxicated and/or incapacitated people to treatment centers or jails, can now ask the facilities to take the individuals. Curious situation for the public safety officer—being employed to take people to the facility but unable to seek commitment to the facility.

    This enlightenment, via House Bill 234, is one result of the session that saw 309 bills passed with 281 signed by new Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, double the approvals compared to former Gov. Susana Martinez in 2017, Martinez’ final 60-day session.  These new laws are now in effect. The numbers come from the Legislative Council Service’s annual “Highlights” publication that, LCS says, “summarizes much, but not all, of the legislative action.”

    “Busy” is the LCS word for the session.  Indeed. Lots of new money from the Permian Basin oil boom explains the activity.

    Guest Op-Ed

    As I read Tom Wright’s column (Los Alamos Monitor, June 26), I thought of the adage of how all it takes for evil to prevail is that good people do nothing.  Welcome to the U.S.A. in 2019, obsessed with political correctness, at each other’s throats and ignoring the real danger!

    We’re so caught up in a media-generated political-correctness frenzy centered around political correctness and Trump as arch villain that we’re not noticing our democracy circling the drain. 

    How can anyone be OK with the intolerance to others’ views, the distortion of history and outright racism (in the name of “tolerance”) of Kamela Harris, Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Beto O’Rourke, etc.? That’s not a defense of Trump, also part of the problem, but reminding that such “values” of self-righteous divisiveness are the last thing we need. 

    Presidential wannabes call anyone with concerns about immigration, racists. Joe Biden is labeled “insensitive” merely for saying that he tried to work with those with whom he disagreed. You’re either absolutely with the “correct” left or, as Wright defined, they will destroy you. 

  • The governor’s new working group created to come up with legislation to legalize marijuana in New Mexico should send up many red flags for anyone who believes in honest government.

    First, let me state that I am not attempting to wade into the shark-infested waters of saying whether pot should be legalized. I am only focusing my comments on the working group charged with crafting possible legislation.

    Last week, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the members who will make up her working group. Make no mistake, this group of people has been handpicked because of their ties to the marijuana industry or their pro-legalization stance.

    She has put the matter on the docket for January’s legislative session but it may still be a difficult task, even though her working group already appears to be high on believing in its own success.

    New Mexico became the 24th state this year to decriminalize marijuana possession. Beyond that, the medical marijuana program has been expanded to include more qualifying conditions. But Lujan Grisham wants to take this a step further and create legislation to make marijuana fully legal in the state.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    University of Pennsylvania

    Would you risk your life for a total stranger?

    While you might consider yourself incapable of acts of altruism on that scale, it happens again and again. During hurricanes and mass shootings, some people go to great lengths to help people they don’t even know while everyone else flees.

    To learn whether this behavior comes more naturally to some of us than others, I partnered with Abigail Marsh and other neuroscientists working at the Laboratory on Social and Affective Neuroscience at Georgetown University. We studied the brains and behavior of some extraordinary altruists: people who have donated one of their own kidneys to a total stranger, known as nondirected donors.

    These kidney donors may never learn anything about the recipient. That means they are not making this personal sacrifice because a relative or someone they may interact with in the future would benefit.

    What’s more, this act of altruism is costly in multiple ways. It is a major, painful surgery. Many donors end up paying thousands of dollars out of pocket for medical and travel expenses, and they can lose out on salary and other earnings.

  • 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.

  • So, we are at the halfway mark of summer. By the halfway mark, of course I mean when school starts. Have you accomplished some good family time yet? If not, let’s get on the ball.

    You might start thinking about the small, fun moments you can squeeze in there, before time slips away. If you let us know what fun things you like to do together, we can post them on our Facebook or webpage. It can be as simple as a Sunday dinner or movie night and as fancy as a trip to California, and an unexpected earthquake.

    Life for us does revolve around the Sunday dinner. I take turns making a night of someone’s favorites. I usually can get them to the table, but knowing you might enjoy your favorites, is an added bonus. Once the birds leave the nest, there really aren’t family vacations. When you have five people, five calendars and who will watch the dogs, life gets a bit less easy to organize. So, if that isn’t your issue, enjoy it while it lasts.

  • This Independence Day holiday, while many of us will celebrate with backyard barbecues and neighborhood fireworks, bureaucrats in Santa Fe will be busy updating their accounting codes to prepare for the influx of new tax revenue. It will be a happy time for fans of big government. 

    I can’t imagine that our country’s founding fathers envisioned the current governing reality in our state. The Revolutionary generation built our country on the principles of limited government and individual freedom. They enshrined our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the very document that declared our independence as a self-governing nation. 

    Unfortunately, over the last 243 years, these ideals sometimes have been used to provide cover for objectives that limit individual freedom rather than protect it.  Take the tax increases passed by partisans in Santa Fe earlier this year. 

    New Mexico’s booming oil and gas industry produced a $1.2 billion revenue surplus in Fiscal Year 2019, and it’s on track to generate an additional $1.1 billion in Fiscal Year 2020. These surpluses could grow once the final numbers are tallied. 

  • The economic development field is rapidly changing and increasing in complexity. The New Mexico Basic Economic Development Course is designed to help community leaders understand legacy economic development approaches and become current with new program initiatives and best practices.

    Held on the campus of Western New Mexico University in Silver City from July 21 to 25, the course is one of several offered by the New Mexico-based International Academy for Economic Development that prepares participants for professional certification by the International Economic Development Council.

    The five-day course covers the core components of economic development, including business retention and expansion, recruitment, workforce development, real estate, finance, marketing, and ethics.

    Karen Baehr attended the course in 2018 with a curiosity for how economic development intersects with education.

    “After a career in education and systems design, I knew that economic development and education were inextricably linked,” Baehr said. “The challenge I faced was trying to figure out how these two important community elements work together.”

  • “I’m so humbled,” Ben Ray said in the first of two emails June 24.  

    Oh, puhleeze, Ben Ray. Or should I say, Congressman Lujan. Or Rep. Lujan. Keep it respectful.

    Borrowing from Winston Churchill, Ben Ray has much to be humble about.

    He’s running for the U. S. Senate. He seeks to replace Sen. Tom Udall, who is retiring. There is an opponent – a real one – Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver.

    I get emails from candidates, masses of them. Some I save. A compulsion, I suspect. Sometimes it’s worth taking a deep breath and looking at the saved group, just to see what is said. That’s today’s agenda. Full disclosure: I’m no Ben Ray fan.

    Campaign emails, besides being a pain for recipients, provide insight into the candidate and the campaign, which tells about the candidate. I saved 14 emails sent between June 4 and 14. One day had two emails. June 24 generated three.

    The first two emails, sent June 4 and 5, were preposterous at best and probably, it seems to me, not true. These two emails were duplicates, which seems sloppy. The absurd part was the claim, “My race was just named the most competitive Senate race in the entire country.”

  • Should Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) provide industrial plutonium warhead core (“pit”) production, as opposed to its historic missions of R&D, test pit production, and surveillance? Make no mistake: “industrial” is the right word, as Los Alamos could sadly learn.

    If so, at what scale, and for how long? Is there a limit to what LANL can or should do? Should LANL be the only site making pits?

    What would the environmental and community impacts be at different scales of production? What construction would be needed, both of nuclear facilities and of support facilities such as offices, shops, and parking lots? Where would excavation spoils be dumped? How would traffic be affected?

    How much transuranic waste would be produced, and how would this compete with risk reduction efforts across LANL, especially at Area G, given the limited number of WIPP shipments available? NNSA has recently warned that pit production will take precedence over waste inventory reductions.

    It is essential that local government, citizens, and tribes understand the magnitude of what is being planned and implied. Momentous decisions are being rushed through pell-mell, entirely out of public view, not only about national policy but also about the future of Los Alamos and surrounding communities.

  • New Mexico is making it easier for voters to register to vote or update their registration, starting after the 2020 presidential election.

    This year’s Senate Bill 672 provides that, beginning in 2021, voters may register or update their registration any time up to and including Election Day.

    The bill also provides for so-called “automatic” registration when an individual applies in person for a motor vehicle license or any state issued benefits.

    It isn’t completely automatic. An eligible voter is to be offered a choice whether to register or not. The process is designed to prevent anyone who is not an eligible voter, such as a noncitizen, from being registered by accident.  

    As you might expect, the bill is full of procedural details about how this is to be done to avoid errors or duplications.

    Every voter must choose political party affiliation. If you don’t want to affiliate with any party, you register as DTS or

    “Decline to State.” Our recognized major parties are Democrat, Republican and Libertarian.

    The Green Party is a minor party, having lost its major party status some years ago. New Mexico also recognizes the

    Better for America Party and the Constitution Party. These parties have no primary.


    The Republican majority in the U.S. Senate is the only deterrence against a progressive Democrat takeover of our government. Democrats feel the 2020 election is in the bag for them and they are moving ahead with their progressive agenda, which is to restructure our democratic system and permanently alter the balance of power in their favor.

    A good bit of the progressive initiative is contained in HR1 (For the People Act of 2019), which John Sarbanes (D-MD) introduced on Jan. 3. HR1 proposes federalizing all state voting systems by maintaining a federal eligibility list, proposes Internet registration of voters, wipes out voter registration deadlines which limits voter-fraud safeguards, organizes voter registration for secondary school graduates (some states already pre-register16 year-olds), moves to make the District of Colombia the 51st state, which assures two other Democrat senators and congressmen, regulates free speech as to what you can say about elected federal politicians and requires taxpayers to fund federal elections through matching, low dollar contributions.

    Not a part of HR1 is the progressives’ proposal to add as many as six more justices to the Supreme Court, an idea which was soundly defeated in FDR’s administration and an attempt to abolish the Electoral College.

  • There are many moments in “The Shake-Up” that will make you wince and a few that might cause you to clutch your heart.

    It has heroes, victims and villains, and they’re all real people.

    The documentary, by Ben Altenberg, takes us into the lives of people thrown under the bus by a state Human Services Department decision. On June 21, 2013, HSD halted funding to 15 providers of mental health services over allegations of fraud. They were replaced with Arizona providers.

    In one stroke, HSD destroyed the already fragile service network and left much of rural New Mexico with no services at all.

    We’ve learned since that HSD began meeting with Arizona providers before the audit began. HSD tampered with a consultant’s report and also refused to release the audit. The promised smooth transition was anything but. Disability Rights New Mexico cited long waits for appointments, too few providers, and a lapse in care for mentally delicate patients.

    By the end of 2016, four of the five Arizona providers had left New Mexico, and Attorney General Hector Balderas had cleared the New Mexico providers. There was no pattern of fraud but rather simple billing errors. For that they were forced out of business with hundreds of jobs lost. Ten of the providers sued.

  • Dr. T. Douglas Reilly

    The 12 June issue of the Monitor carried the article, a representative of the project defends need for Holtec.
    Most readers are aware that the Holtec company has requested NRC to grant a license for an Interim Nuclear Waste Storage Facility in southern New Mexico between Carlsbad and Hobbs.

    I realize this will be fought strongly by organizations such as Los Alamos Study Group, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has already sent a note to Energy Secretary Rick Perry criticizing the proposal.

    I should note than the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC, is the potential grantee of a license, not the DOE. I would like to second Mr. Heaton’s support of the project.

  • The Los Angeles Times ran this editorial June 18 on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to try defendants on the state and federal level for the same offense.

    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that if you are convicted in a state court of a criminal offense, the federal government can put you on trial again for essentially the same crime, and if you’re convicted, your new sentence can be added to your old one. In our view, that’s a violation of the Constitution’s prohibition against double jeopardy.

    In 2015, Terance Gamble’s vehicle was searched at a traffic stop in Alabama and a gun was found. Gamble, who had a robbery conviction on his record, pleaded guilty to a state charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and was sentenced to a year in prison. But he was also charged by the U.S. government for essentially the same crime arising from the same incident.

    Gamble pleaded guilty to the federal charge as well, while preserving his right to challenge the second prosecution as a violation of the 5th Amendment’s command that no person shall be “subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.”

    In our view, that’s a violation of the Constitution’s prohibition against double jeopardy.

    Vanderbilt University

    If you had to choose, which would you rather have: a healthy father or a good father?
    Studies suggest men often choose being a good father over being healthy.

    Becoming a father is a major milestone in the life of a man, often shifting the way he thinks from being “me focused” to “we focused.”  But fatherhood can also shift how men perceive their health. Our research has found that fathers can view health not in terms of going to the doctor or eating vegetables but how they hold a job, provide for their family, protect and teach their children, and belong to a community or social network.

    As founder and director of the Center for Research on Men’s Health at Vanderbilt University and as a postdoctoral fellow from Meharry Medical College, we study why men live shorter lives than women, male attitudes about fatherhood, how to help men engage in healthier behavior – as well as what can be done to reduce men’s risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

    Work, sex and health