Inside the Capitol

Monday, August 30, 2004

Fooling Only Some of the People

SANTA FE -- It seems about time the three sheriffs, looking for Billy’s body, accept the fact that you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.
So far, they have avoided reporting who is paying for their shenanigans with the Billy the Kid case by changing hats. They say it’s a real criminal investigation, so its records are shielded. But everyone knows taxpayer money pays for law enforcement. “No,” they say, private donors paid. They even imply the case is their history hobby. The catch is that hat changing does not work. It is a public case, they are public officials, and public and private money are subject to audit.
When it comes to the deputizing of Capitan Mayor Steve Sederwall by Lincoln County Sheriff Tom Sullivan, it is just as slippery. Mr. Sederwall calls himself Deputy Sheriff in the criminal investigation filed by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department in which Pat Garrett is the alleged murderer and an unknown cowboy, not the Kid, is his victim. And on every petition to the District Courts of De Baca and Grant counties to dig up Billy or his mother, Deputy Sederwall is a co-petitioner.
But when I checked on his status, I was told he is a “reserve” deputy and that no paperwork was done. “Reserve” deputy is not in New Mexico statutes; special deputy and regular deputy are. The first is only for serving writs or preserving the peace. The second requires a good deal of written documentation and a sworn oath of office. Obviously none of this has been done.
So it seems Sullivan and Sederwall have tried to pull a fast one. But there’s a catch. Sederwall may be a fake deputy, but having represented himself as a public official doing the Billy the Kid case, he is now subject to public scrutiny as to money spent.
Most recently the three sheriffs have wheeled out forensic expert Dr. Henry Lee, of O.J. Simpson defense notoriety, to find blood on the carpenter’s bench on which the dead Billy allegedly lay. Paid for by Kurtis Productions of the History Channel, Dr. Lee, according to newspaper accounts, did field tests and found blood on the bench.
The only problem is the chemical he sprayed, called Luminol, also gives positive reactions to bacteria, metals, and detergents. But he’s heading with his “scrapings” to a lab called Orchid Cellmark.
I checked with forensic experts around the country and learned blood has never been proven to exist over about 50 years. Dead Billy bled 123 years ago. And lab tests can falsely indicate blood if iron compounds like rust are present along with DNA, which could come from saliva or a sneeze on the bench a month ago.
Moving on from the smoke screen of a “CSI investigation,” if the carpenter’s bench is historically real - and the only accepted bench belongs to the Maxwell family - then three generations have preserved it. Can anyone seriously believe that a family would keep that old, dirty thing for three generations because an unknown cowboy and not Billy lay on it?
And if the dead Billy was on it, the sheriffs have disproved their own case. Of course, they want us to believe they can get DNA from it and head back after the bones of Billy or his mother. But the location of their remains cannot be substantiated. There’s nowhere to go to match DNA.
What the three sheriffs need is not DNA, but more suckers. One is supposed to be born every minute, so we wish them luck. But right now the Billy the Kid case looks like a criminal case where the victim isn’t an unknown cowboy, but the New Mexico taxpayers and anyone hoping that officers of the law work on real crimes committed by real criminals.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

NM Economic Development Dept. Exodus Continues

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE – What would happen if Gov. Bill Richardson ran the Economic Development Department? Steve Lawrence, editor of Crosswinds Weekly in Albuquerque, suggests that he is -- and it isn’t working.
Economic development has been Richardson’s top priority ever since he took office 20 months ago. So it was important to him that the department be run the way he would run it. That meant big ideas, accomplished with a flourish, everyone pulling hard in the same direction, with no slacking and no complaining.
That’s the way Richardson always has run his staff since he was a rookie member of Congress 21 years ago. So the governor needed a cabinet secretary who understood his style and was willing to run the department with the same bluster and swagger.
That person turned out to be Rick Homans, who had gotten close to Richardson as his top issues advisor during the gubernatorial campaign. Homans had just finished an unsuccessful campaign for mayor of Albuquerque, raising the most money of any candidate and running a barrage of TV ads, with some innovative ideas about how to improve the city.
Except for having lost the race, Homans appealed to Richardson. He had big ideas and could raise big money from the business community. As the former owner of the New Mexico Business Weekly newspaper, he had a standing among businesspeople, not only in Albuquerque, but throughout much of the state.
So Richardson put him on his campaign staff and the two hit it off. When Richardson won, Homans got the top job at Economic Development. The two immediately began traveling together to national and international meetings and conferences.
Homans served as a great cheerleader, gushing about how the most powerful people in the world beat a path to Richardson’s door seeking counsel and advice. And as part of their audience with him, Richardson required that they listen to his sales pitch on doing business in New Mexico.
It was a great start. But Homans seemed to have trouble getting a handle on his department. Soon there was behind-the-scenes staff grumbling, then resignations began. The complaints were that Homans didn’t have a clue about how to implement his grand schemes and that he was demanding, abrasive and impossible to work for.
This column was one of the first to reveal the problems over a year ago. I got my tips mainly from local economic developers who were concerned about the turmoil and turnover among the department staff with whom they worked.
After making these revelations, I was told by Homans and others in the administration that the problem was with holdover staffers who weren’t willing to get with the new program and that as soon as all the deadwood was cleared out, the department would run smoothly.
But it wasn’t long before those leaving included people who had joined the department under the Richardson administration. As of early summer, 27 employees had left the staff, nearly half the department. This included the deputy secretary and some division directors.
Now comes word that another big defection is on the way that also will include some top hands. How much more deadwood can there be to clean out? It seems close to the situation of “firings will continue until morale increases.”
To be fair to Homans, I must say that my contacts with him have been positive and enjoyable. When he owned the Business Weekly, he carried this column.
When he had to stand in for Richardson at the Governors Summit on Economic Development, which the governor had firmly committed to attend, Homans handled the situation much like his boss handles a crowd. He was sufficiently humorous, intelligent and self-deprecating that local economic developers left feeling they had received their money’s worth.
That Rick Homans would have been a successful cabinet secretary. But the Bill Richardson style of management won’t work for everyone. Nor should it.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

There's a Sucker Born Every Minute

SANTA FE – What do promoters of Roswell UFOs, Billy the Kid’s pretenders and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have in common?
Despite abundant documentary record to the contrary, people who should know better somehow accept such claims as plausible merely because someone says it is so, despite having no factual evidence in support.
The day after the Roswell Army Air Force Base announced it had captured a flying disk, excitement subsided when “higher headquarters” explained it was a weather balloon. Nothing more was heard of the 1947 incident until 1980, when pseudo-scientists and pseudo-historians began uncovering people who “remembered” the crash.
The latest to remember, was an elderly Roswell woman interviewed on television last week. She even provided us with sound effects. Until then, we hadn’t known for sure what a crashing UFO sounds like. She said she hadn’t spoken out before because the government had threatened her.
A significant portion of American people have heard this often enough that they believe in UFOs and little gray space creatures .
Then there are those who believe that Billy the Kid’s life really wasn’t ended by Sheriff Pat Garrett. They want him to have survived so they are ready to believe trash history that portrays him living a long and happy life outside New Mexico. And every time someone comes up with a new story, it adds to the ranks of true believers.
The latest to add to this pseudo-historical nonsense are the three sheriffs who contend in court filings that there is reasonable evidence to believe Pat Garrett may have shot someone else in order to let Billy get away.
And the more talk we hear about it, the more people who will believe Billy ran free even though no evidence supports it. You can add them to the list of people who believe Elvis, Hitler and Jesse James remained among us until their doting years.
And now there are the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who insist that official Navy reports, citations and task force findings concerning whether John Kerry’s gunboat was under attack are wrong and evidently a conspiracy to help Kerry’s plan for glory.
With many news releases, interviews, two TV ads and a book, the group is repeating its contentions often enough that reportedly a majority of veterans have deserted Kerry for President Bush.
The focus on Kerry’s Vietnam experience may be helping with veterans, but it may not be doing President Bush’s reelection campaign much good, otherwise. Inconsistencies are beginning to dog the group’s message. After insisting there was no connection between the group and the White House, a top legal advisor for the president was outed as an advisor to the Fast Boat Veterans for Truth.
After insisting that Kerry never was in Cambodia because no American troops ever were in Cambodia, it was divulged that tapes from the Nixon White House reveal Kerry’s chief critic, John E. O’Neill, telling Nixon that he was in Cambodia.
Although President Bush is advocating an end to all negative ads by independent groups, the calls for him to condemn the ads maligning Kerry’s citations for bravery won’t seem to go away.
But most importantly, the Swift Boat group’s focus on Vietnam isn’t where the Bush campaign wants to be. His strength is in focusing on what he is doing now in the war on terror, rather than a focus on his military career versus John Kerry’s.
A focus on Vietnam also brings comparisons with our plight in present day Iraq that the White House has been trying to avoid for more than a year.
Possibly a continuation of the attacks on Kerry’s claimed Vietnam valor will finally change the minds of the general voting public as other frequently-told untruths have over the years and end up working to Bush’s advantage.
Or is the American public smarter than that?

Gov a Fan of Pseudo-Science?

SANTA FE – Gov. Bill Richardson appears to be headed for more trouble with his latest request for full disclosure by the federal government of everything it knows about the crashed flying saucer the military originally claimed to have found near Roswell in 1947.
Richardson made his request in the foreword of a book about a recent archeological dig at the crash site by scientists from the University of New Mexico. Both the dig and the book were sponsored by the SCI-FI Channel. Richardson says he wants to get to the bottom of what happened so he wants the case reopened and our best scientific investigation to be conducted.
That sounds suspiciously like what Richardson wants done with the Billy the Kid case. He thinks modern scientific methods should be able to reveal secrets that historians for over a hundred years have not been able to find.
The sheriffs who want to dig up Billy and his mom to compare their DNA, now have brought Dr. Henry Lee into the case. Lee, a nationally-known forensic scientist, has been asked to find Billy’s blood on a carpenter’s bench he might have been laid on, since the grave-digging project still is in limbo.
I currently am interviewing other nationally-known forensic scientists and soon will have some possibly-surprising information for you about what they think of Dr. Lee’s qualifications and research methods.
Possibly Richardson can get away with asking that the UFO investigation be reopened without harming his reputation. The late Rep. Steve Schiff, of Albuquerque, seemed unharmed by his request for a congressional investigation into the Roswell UFO. He even got some action out of the government. The Air Force switched its weather balloon explanation to a spy balloon before closing the case again.
But Rep. Schiff had such a button-down reputation that he survived any image problems. Gov. Richardson’s quest for Billy’s bones, followed by a search for UFOs, however, may cause some chuckles around the state and nation from those who don’t see eye to eye with our governor. It’s not that he’s a kook, but he may be a little too anxious to promote interest in our state.
The use of science to prove what one wants to find has cast a shadow, lately, on the scientific community that worries serious scientists. Recently, in Russia, scientist Yuri Labvin announced that a research team he heads intended to find evidence that aliens were involved in the tremendous blast that leveled hundreds of square miles of Siberian forest, without leaving a crater.
Labvin said that the intention of the expedition was to find remnants of an alien spaceship. And whadda ya know? A week later, they found one. An “extra-terrestrial technical device” and a large block of metal were recovered and taken to a laboratory for study. The complicity of laboratories in such pseudo-scientific hoaxes also is becoming a concern.
To his likely detriment, Gov. Richardson has also picked up on Los Alamos National Laboratory director Pete Nanos’ characterization of scientists who don’t follow security laws as being “cowboys.” That’s what he called them on Don Imus’ morning talk show recently. It is surprising that Imus didn’t call him on it, since Imus grew up on a ranch and fancies himself still as a cowboy.
It may not have bothered Imus, but in Cowboy Country, which includes much of New Mexico, those will be fighting words come next election.
Richardson isn’t running this time, but that won’t keep Republicans from running against him if it can help them. GOP legislative candidates from throughout the state ran against “Manny and Ray” even though they represented districts a hundred miles away. Back in the ‘80s, Republican legislative candidates still were running against former Gov. Toney Anaya even after he had left office.
With Manny and Ray no longer on the political scene and Bill Clinton long gone, Republicans have to find an unworthy opponent somewhere. And it might as well be old Bill.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Santa Fe's 717th Gets a Third Call

SANTA FE - Eighteen members of the New Mexico Army National Guard’s 717th Medical Company, headquartered in Santa Fe, are now preparing for active duty. In October, they will leave their jobs and families for additional training elsewhere in the United States and then more training in Germany. In February they will begin a year’s active duty in Kosovo.
This is the third activation of members from the unit since late 2001, when 25 soldiers were deployed to Kosovo. In 2003, another 28 went to Afghanistan. The 717th is a Black Hawk helicopter medevac group that is in great demand.
With the 720th Transportation Company, based in Las Vegas just back from Iraq and the New Mexico Air National Guard’s “Enchilada Air Force,” based in Albuquerque, recently also deployed to Iraq, our state is definitely carrying its load in supplying troops for our foreign commitments.
The latest group of medic soldiers is squeezing six months of emergency medical training into three weeks to prepare for their activation. They expect to be busy. While in Afghanistan, their unit flew 350 sorties and was credited with saving more than 500 lives.
Over half the Army’s supply of helicopter medevac soldiers are in the reserve or National Guard. Unfortunately the National Guard units often don’t get the latest equipment. Some of the seven Black Hawks assigned to New Mexico’s 717th are as much as 30 years old and are not as capable as the newer models.
The Pentagon doesn’t tend to treat National Guard units as well as those in the regular Army. Pentagon brass are all regular Army, Navy or Air Force and look down their noses at citizen soldiers although there is little reason to do so. New Mexico’s 200th Coast Artillery was the most decorated unit in World War II.
The White House has announced its opposition to a proposal to give National guard and Reserve members access to the Pentagon’s health-insurance system. The General Accounting Office estimates that one of every five Guard members has no health insurance.
But Guard and Reserve members aren’t the only ones who sometimes grumble about their treatment. The Bush administration wants to reduce funds for all military medical facilities and housing. It wants to roll back combat duty pay and it is extending enlistments and tours of duty in combat zones.
This treatment of our troops isn’t unprecedented in our history. When the Army extended enlistments during the Civil War, there were troops that marched off the battlefield, setting off frantic reenlistment drives throughout the war.
Dave Clary of Roswell, who currently is writing a book on the American Revolution, says Gen. Washington faced a tremendous crisis during the winter of 1780-81 when Pennsylvania, and then New Jersey, troops mutinied because of enlistment extensions, lack of supplies, cuts in pay, no uniforms or rations, and the manner in which their protests were received by superiors.
In January 1781, the enlisted men in the Pennsylvania Line rose up, ran their officers off, formed a committee of sergeants and began marching toward Philadelphia to deliver their gripes in person. A panicked Congress asked Lafayette, who was nearby, to meet with them. He, and a follow-up committee, eventually talked down the uprising, gave amnesty and convinced Congress to provide back pay, uniforms and supplies.
In his plea for an understanding of the situation, Lafayette supported many of the soldiers’ complaints and provided a long list of mutinies for lesser reasons in armies from Alexander the Great to that time. That proves, he said, that human patience has its limits.
Those limits haven’t been reached in the current situation, but history should serve as a warning that in a war far less popular than these two, which were fought on our soil, Americans and American soldiers will tolerate only so much.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for members of the Reserve and Guard and their employers to make militia service compatible with their lives and needs.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

A Casino in Every County

SANTA FE – At the rate we’re going, we’ll have a casino in every county by the end of the decade. If you don’t believe it, take a look at what is going down on the Indian gaming front.
Jemez Pueblo and a big-time developer, who also happens to be a Friend of Bill (Richardson), are looking at 120 acres just north of Anthony, NM/TX, for a huge casino, complete with hotels, restaurants, shopping venues and an RV park.
Nambe Pueblo is voting on whether to open a Circus Circus family-oriented casino, sandwiched between Pojoaque’s Cities of Gold Casino and Tesuque’s Camel Rock Casino.
And despite Pojoaque Pueblo’s longstanding battle with Attorney General Patricia Madrid over payment to the state of money owed under past and present revenue-sharing agreements, the reopening of Santa Fe Downs (and Casino) becomes ever more likely.
Each of these three developments, if approved, contains an interesting twist that is sure to lead to further expansion of gambling across the state.
Jemez Pueblo’s plan is the scariest. It involves the pueblo’s purchase of land nearly 300 miles south of its reservation. Before it can throw up a casino, it must convince the federal Interior secretary to declare it trust land. If Secretary Gail Norton approves, Gov. Bill Richardson can veto it.
Such requests usually aren’t approved, because they typically involve an isolated reservation trying to move into an urban area. In this case Jemez Pueblo, which is isolated 30 miles off Interstate 25, wants to take advantage of the lack of any casinos along Interstate 10 in New Mexico.
The Jemez business plan is well thought out. Its proposition is to locate a casino in one of the state’s most poverty-stricken areas, not far from the Mexican border. It wouldn’t mean any jobs for pueblo members, but it projects up to 1,000 jobs for an area of tremendously high unemployment.
Communities in the area are now surveying their residents to determine support for the proposal. If the support is there, Secretary Norton may approve. Gov. Richardson, always interested in economic development, seems very likely to go along.
And it doesn’t hurt that the developer, Gerald Peters of Santa Fe, was one of his biggest campaign contributors, who then lost out to R. D. Hubbard of Ruidoso for approval to run the Hobbs racetrack.
If the Jemez proposal is approved, expect other isolated pueblos to look for likely spots to attract tourists and gamblers from just across our state lines.
Nambe Pueblo is very close to busy U.S. 285, between Santa Fe and Espanola, but not close enough to have access. So eight years ago, when then-Gov. Gary Johnson was signing gaming compacts with any pueblo or tribe that wanted one, Nambe signed a compact and then entered into negotiations with Pojoaque Pueblo for a land trade that would give it highway frontage.
That deal required Nambe to forego building a casino for eight years. It’s now been eight years. Approval by pueblo residents seems likely since it is part of a long-range plan. And since it worked for Nambe, other pueblos may try their own land swaps.
Pojoaque, the biggest entrepreneur of all the pueblos, bought the struggling Santa Fe Downs racetrack in the late ‘90s and closed it the next year. The strategy was to eliminate competition for the gambling dollar. Since then, race tracks have been authorized slot machines by the state Legislature.
Pojoaque now sees the opportunity to reopen racing, at no profit, in return for having slot machines. Unless the pueblo gets the track declared trust land, which isn’t likely, it will have to give the state 25 percent of its take rather than eight percent, but that is feasible.
And if Pojoaque is successful, there are other abandoned racetracks around the state. And soon New Mexico will have gambling spots all along its borders, just as it did in the late ‘40s. Only these will be legal.

Prosecutorial Vindictiveness

SANTA FE – A second federal judge has had the courage to tell it like it is when it comes to overzealous prosecution by the U.S. attorney’s office in Albuquerque.
Senior U.S. District Judge John Edwards Conway has dismissed a case against Michael Payne for prosecutorial vindictiveness. Payne was a co-defendant in a case against a Roswell counterterrorism training school owner David Hudak, who was acquitted last November.
Payne, a one-time Army Ranger and decorated Special Forces soldier, held top-secret clearance before retiring three years ago to become training program manager for Hudak’s High Energy Access Tools, Inc. Two years ago, a federal indictment alleged one of their programs was being conducted without a license.
Hudak was jailed without bail for a year, while the U.S. attorney’s office tried to put together a case. Payne, with a wife in graduate school and six children to support, faced a potential 50-year prison sentence, if convicted. He entered a guilty plea, with sentencing delayed until after testifying in Hudak’s case, in order to be able to continue work and support his family.
After hearing weeks of testimony last fall, a jury cleared Hudak of all charges and asked the judge to let Payne withdraw his guilty plea. Conway delayed a decision “hoping against hope” that the U.S. attorney’s office would dismiss the charges.
But the prosecutors were unyielding, prompting Conway to accuse them of “sheer vindictiveness” and dismiss the case. The U.S. attorney’s office says it is disappointed and has not decided how or whether to proceed further.
Judge Conway, however, predicts prosecutors will quickly reach out to the Justice Department, seeking removal of “this liberal judge.”
Lawyers, statewide, are sure to be getting a huge laugh out of Conway’s characterization of himself as liberal. The judge, a former state Senate Republican floor leader from Alamogordo, has long been known for his conservative opinions, including rulings in the Hudak case.
Most of the rulings that kept Hudak in confinement, without bail and without contact even with his family, were Conway’s, as were defense motions that were consistently rejected. Conway also was the judge who kept Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee behind bars, without bail, and under some rather harsh conditions.
Conway’s reversal and his chastising of the prosecution in this case is reminiscent of federal Judge James Parker’s about-face in the Wen Ho Lee case three years ago. When the government acknowledged it didn’t have a case against Lee and dropped all 59 counts against him except one, Parker delivered an impassioned apology to Dr. Lee for his treatment by the government.
But even after Parker’s apology, the government continued after Lee in every way it could. And that, dear friends, was when the decisions were being made by Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, Attorney Gen. Janet Reno and President Bill Clinton. Does anyone doubt John Ashcroft’s Justice Department will be any less vindictive?
Judge Parker was no bleeding heart either. His previous rulings in the Lee case had gone against the defendant, for which he apologized. When Judge Conway withdrew from the Hudak case shortly before trial, he recommended that it be given to any other federal judge except Parker, possibly because he felt Parker might be too lenient.
The prosecutorial vindictiveness also continued with Hudak. After being fully acquitted, he was not released from confinement, pending a determination of whether the Canadian was in this country legally. When the Immigration and Naturalization Service ruled in Hudak’s favor, he was grudgingly released, but the government refused to return Hudak’s business assets.
Ten months later Hudak is still fighting that battle, with the court now having imposed a time limit on the prosecutors.
It is nice having the federal government so interested in protecting us, but sometimes that protection can go way, way too far.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Billy's Smoke and Mirrors

SANTA FE - On New Year’s eve last year, Sheriff Tom Sullivan and Steve Sederwall calling himself a Deputy Sheriff, filed the Billy the Kid Case murder investigation Probable Cause Statement in the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department. It is the parent document used to try to dig up Billy and his mother to solve a supposed murder by Pat Garrett of an unknown cowboy, not Billy.
And I’m trying to solve what those sheriffs are doing with their law enforcement time and budget, so I decided to look at it myself.
A probable cause statement gives legal reasons for arrest. Well, Garrett, the suspect, has been dead for 96 years. So if we leave out that a case doesn’t exist, we are left with 13 questionable pages that have pieces of history, more footnotes than Perdue has chickens, and an affidavit. It left me with questions, so I went to the man recognized as the world’s pre-eminent Billy the Kid historian, Frederick Nolan of Chalfont St. Giles, England.
Nolan’s response was straightforward. The statement made no sense. He called it “a shameful and semi-literate criminal investigation that indeed is criminal but not an investigation,” and “a charade foisted on the American people.”
It begins by saying that “investigators” of the Lincoln County War learned that “nothing was as it seemed.” Sounds intriguing, except that Nolan would like to know the qualifications of these anonymous “investigators”, since no credible expert in the highly researched field ever said that. Next it claims “newly discovered evidence.” Sounds good again, but there’s none to be found.
What follows should be a “probable cause,” meaning evidence that Garrett killed another kid. But Nolan finds only a grab bag of facts which range from the murder of John Tunstall in 1878 to the shooting of Deputy Bell in 1881, which are “totally irrelevant to the question of whether Garrett shot Billy the Kid.” Rather pathetically, there isn’t even an attempt to answer the most obvious question of Garrett’s motive. He certainly had one to shoot the real Kid. He was sheriff and deputy U.S. marshal and Billy was arguably the most notorious outlaw/murderer in the country.
Nolan notes that the “investigators” present only one fact: “On March 23, Gov. Wallace met with William Bonney (Kid) in Lincoln.” But Nolan discloses that it was March 17th. That leaves “considerable doubt about their ability to handle facts.” To say nothing of the fact that Wallace’s meeting (in 1879) is irrelevant to the case at hand.
Nolan noted that the sheriffs “make much of the involvement of David S. Turk of the U.S. Marshal’s Service.” A search by Nolan produced only two books by Turk, both by an obscure press and neither having to do with Billy the Kid. Nolan calls Turk’s involvement “window dressing.”
And the footnoted quotes either don’t prove what they claim or are misleadingly out of context. Paco Anaya is quoted from his book to prove the body was not Billy’s. Only problem is that he knew Billy well and the name of his book is I Buried Billy. And the Affidavit that ends the document is by a man who swore that in 1940 when he was nine, Garrett’s widow told him Garrett didn’t shoot the Kid. Unfortunately she died in 1936. Nolan also was incensed by a quote from historian Robert Utley’s book which just says that Garrett’s book on the Kid had errors. Not only is that irrelevant to the case, but citing Utley out of context is nothing more than shameless name dropping, he says.
Nolan feels that saying Garrett did not shoot the Kid is so bizarre that it belongs in “the birthplace of the flying saucer legend.” He contends, “The entire document is either a hoax or a tissue of inventions and half-truths which cast serious doubt upon the motives and integrity of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department.” He concludes, “This is not history. It’s just smoke and mirrors.”

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Guv May Get Himself in Big Trouble

SANTA FE – Gov. Bill Richardson continues to catch flak for contributions received from bidders on various state contracts. Once the problems have been revealed by the media, Richardson has returned the money “to avoid any appearance of impropriety.”
But he would be well advised to be even more careful. This is the sort of thing that got the Toney Anaya administration in trouble and resulted in some prison time for two of his staff. During the Jerry Apodaca and Anaya administrations, the FBI had an undercover agent watching their actions.
Both were Democrat governors during Republican presidential administrations. That situation again is the case and various federal agencies just might be watching Richardson, who is a bigger target than his predecessors because of his frequent mention as a future presidential candidate.
Fortunately for the governor, the heat may have been turned down in a couple areas of frequent criticism. The recent Border Governors’ Conference in Santa Fe was termed a glowing success and possibly something will come of it. But the biggest news was the presence of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who enjoys rock star status at political gatherings.
And because of that status, Schwarzenegger had the biggest entourage, most of it a security detail. Gov. Richardson often has been criticized for his large security detail, which he claims to be necessary because of his national prominence. Ahnold did Richardson a favor by upstaging him at the conference.
Gov. Richardson caught another break last week when it was reported that President Bush’s motorcade returning from a weekend celebration at the family’s Kennebunkport summer home seemed in far too much of a hurry.
Reporters in busses following the president’s limosine said they were careening around curves on the narrow, winding back roads of Maine at upwards of 60 miles an hour. Evidently there was some concern for the safety of the families with children that had lined the roads to see the president.
Richardson always blames his high speeds on security issues. Presidential spokespersons, however, said the hurry was so people along the route would be inconvenienced as little as possible by the motorcade. When the president travels, all roads are blocked and planes are grounded or rerouted. It can get pretty ridiculous.
When the train carrying Democrat challengers, John Kerry and John Edwards moved through Albuquerque, cars legally parked at the train station were towed on orders of the Secret Service. When owners of those cars returned from their trips to find their vehicles had been towed and that they would have to find a way to get to the towing business and pay for their cars, there were some mighty upset people.
Reportedly the Albuquerque police were in charge of implementing the Secret Service orders. They would have been smart to have had those cars towed back after the Kerry train left. The police likely never thought of the inconvenience they were causing returning travelers. With all the hectic preparations for such a visit, they probably forgot about the cars once they contacted a towing company.
But that should probably be added to the large costs taxpayers shell out every time a president or presidential candidate comes to town. They seldom come by train, so it wouldn’t happen often. It is likely the towing occurred at many Kerry stops during his cross-country trip and brought the candidate much unforeseen ill will.
The best solution at this point may be for the Kerry campaign to offer reimbursement to the inconvenienced passengers. The only other solution may be to blame it on a Secret Service dirty trick concocted by a Republican administration.
But Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez, a Democrat, could have corrected the error with advice to his police chief to exercise a little compassion.
Kerry’s rail route from Las Vegas to Albuquerque took him across a corner of the Imus ranch, near Ribera. Imus wanted Kerry to stop and was miffed that he didn’t because of a tight schedule.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Baking on the Squat

SANTA FE – Here’s an idea for Gov. Bill Richardson to aid his quest for areas of state government he can trim so he can use the savings for projects high on his priority list.
I have long watched a category of state employees the governor could wipe off the books without anyone noticing their absence. These payrollers are hidden deep within state government, far beyond contact with the real world. They are in charge of getting ready.
My mother-in-law, Genevieve Duncan, has an old country saying to describe them. It involves baking biscuits. In the rare event her biscuits don’t rise, she explains, “They squatted to rise, but baked on the squat.”
When Genevieve encounters people who seem to spend so much time getting ready to do something that they never get around to actually doing it, she’ll say, “Looks like they baked on the squat.”
These baked-on-the-squat government drones can be found in every department, doing nothing, but always getting ready to do something that sounds quite good. They don’t just sit around. They appear to be very busy going to meetings. Most of their meetings are held somewhere else.
One of the reasons for Santa Fe’s traffic problems is state employees, usually driving state cars, scurrying around town to their meetings. Santa Fe used to have one Capital complex, but as the number of people going to meetings grew, state buildings have spread south, to beyond the city limits.
As you have surmised by now, these meetings are “interdepartmental” and “cross-discipline.” That’s because there is so much need for “collaborating” to solve state problems.
Unfortunately, these folks can’t just get together and collaborate. They have to first be trained how to collaborate. We’d hate for our public servants to miscollaborate.
So that means much time is spent training. But it isn’t the kind of training you would expect. They don’t train people to accomplish a task; they train trainers how to train. And then they train each other in order to field test their train-the-trainers training.
Before participants can be accepted into the group, they must learn their sociological jargon. They don’t hold meetings; they “conduct dialogues.” They don’t talk to each other; they “share.” They don’t try to convince each other; they “seek joint ownership of ideas.”
This class of state employees can be found in middle management. But they don’t have titles that make them easily identifiable. It would be nice if that layer of state employees were called “government fat” so they could be easily line-itemed out of the state budget.
We aren’t talking here about the paper-shuffling employees sitting in little cubicles or in the middle of a huge room. Those aren’t “fat;” they are “red tape.”
They are administering all the laws and regulations that 112 legislators and over 1,000 state board and commission members promulgate. They actually work pretty hard at very tedious and boring jobs that don’t pay much.
These worker bees are paid bookkeeper wages to assure every form has been properly completed before an item is purchased, position filled or contract let. The reason for most of the rules they administer is to make government accountable for not giving any preferential treatment with taxpayer money. Those rules and regulations will likely only grow as years go by so the employees who administer them can never be cut.
But the trainers, collaborators and dialoguers make big bucks for never getting past the getting-ready stage. They can be removed. Just look for the people who are always on their way to a meeting and tell them not to bother coming back to the office.
Actually Gov. Richardson should hire my mother-in-law on a very short term contract. She could quickly spot the government fat that “baked on the squat” and have them out of there quicker than a pan of soggy biscuits.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Do You Remember VJ Day?

SANTA FE – VJ Day isn’t celebrated anymore. It’s politically incorrect, I suppose, especially after all Japan has done for us. Imagine life without Sonys, Subarus and Suzukis.
For me, it was a big day, at the time. I can remember sitting on my grandmother’s front porch on August 15, 1945, listening to the sirens proclaiming Japan’s surrender. It meant that men my parents knew would be returning to Deming after a very long absence in Japanese prison camps.
But this year I had to look up the date. The end of all wars have been combined into what we call Veterans Day, November 11, when the armistice ending World War I was signed. And that isn’t celebrated much anymore. It sort of blurs in with Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.
But New Mexicans who have been here for awhile have reason to celebrate victory over Japan. The New Mexicans from throughout the state who made up the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery couldn’t have lasted much longer in their Japanese prison camps and certainly wouldn’t have made it through a land assault by Allied troops.
Japan’s leaders had asked for twenty million kamikaze fighters to give their lives in suicide missions to repel our attack. And they may have recruited that many. It makes the current numbers of suicide bombers look pretty puny. If 20 million Japanese were willing to die, imagine the fate of their American captives.
But Japan surrendered. We won and everything was rosy, right? Listen to the words of famed CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow, three nights earlier on August 12, when it became obvious Japan would capitulate.
“Seldom, if ever, has a war ended leaving the victors with such a sense of uncertainty and fear, with such a realization that the future is obscure and that survival is not assured.”
Those words could have been uttered today. The end of World War II seemed fairly clean cut, especially when compared to the end of World War I, which concluded in such a mess that WWII was just a continuation.
But Murrow and others realized from the Soviet maneuvers in the closing days of WWII that the end was not in sight. The fall of the Soviets 35 years later again seemed pretty clean cut, but we’ve had many wars since.
Likewise the mission was not accomplished with the toppling of Saddam. We have politicians on both sides drumming up fear out of uncertainty in order to get our votes in November. The world has been facing its worst times ever for thousands of years and somehow the world hasn’t come close to ending yet.
But that hasn’t kept politicians and others from assuring us it will happen unless we surrender our wills to their kind guidance. We are now told to fear helicopters attacking shopping centers, crop dusters poisoning rural communities, limousines bombing banks, Arab tourists taking home movies in big cities, and exploding teddy bears.
Those of us who survived the ‘50s remember the Russians with their commie sympathizers in the United States hiding under every bed, plotting terrible things to turn us into compliant zombies.
It didn’t happen. And we’ll survive the current idiocy, too. No band of terrorists can destroy our republic or end our liberties. Only we can do that by handing those liberties over to the fear-mongering politicians mentioned earlier.
We are a big, open country, and it is possible that somebody could set off a bomb now and then. But it won’t be the end of everything. Other countries put up with much worse and survive quite nicely.
Besides al-Qaida can never be very effective. Have you noticed that when we catch one of them, it is always a top operative? The little guys never get nabbed. That indicates either a poor use of personnel or that they have all sheiks and no Iranians – or whatever is the politically-correct way to say that now.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

More Cowboy Scientists

SANTA FE – The column about LANL’s “cowboy scientists” engendered many responses.
Pete Nanos, director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, blames security breaches at the lab on a minority of scientists who refuse to follow the rules for handling classified information. He calls them “cowboy scientists.”
One reader comments that maybe Nanos might want to choose his words a bit more carefully, lest he lose any current support he may have from President Bush, who also has been called a cowboy by some of his critics.
One of the more ridiculous responses blamed Sen. Pete Domenici’s longtime advocacy of LANL for contributing to a culture of complacency on the Hill. There is nothing original about the charge. Domenici has been under fire in Congress for his long record of success in obtaining money for a lab with too many leaks.
Domenici’s warning to LANL last week may partly have been an effort to remove some of that heat. It should also be noted that the rest of New Mexico’s congressional delegation has consistently been very supportive of the lab.
Most of the other responses came either from people who have had close contact with the lab or who are retired from the lab. Most of them had the rather general impression that the super security is largely silliness.
The lab has always had security leaks but none of them ever really mattered. And that’s true even for the biggest security breaches, when Klaus Fuchs gave away, and David Greenglass sold, secrets to the first bomb. Germany and Japan were our enemies at the time and the Soviets never got anything they didn’t already know.
During the almost-60 years since, the lab has handled billions of pieces of secret information and only lost track of a few. That’s a very good record. Several observers feel that the 24-hour news channels, which have a need to create news, have sensationalized missing information all out of proportion.
Congress then picks up on the hysteria, thinking that it needs to appear on top of things, and conducts investigations. Could it be that our government is spending far too much time and money on keeping information secret that really doesn’t need to be secret?
As a nation, we seem to have the impression that we are the only smart people in the world. But in reality, every society has its great thinkers. Our advantage is in having the natural resources and engineering capabilities to put our thoughts into action more quickly and efficiently than most other countries. And spies can’t steal that.
But our obsession with keeping secrets will continue. In a lengthy document, one bit of secret information makes the entire document secret, even if everything else is well-known. But since there are penalties for not classifying the entire document as secret, we spend millions protecting information that mostly is not secret.
The two missing disks of current concern were part of a presentation that was to be made. There now is evidence those disks may not have ever been used for the presentation.
That’s sloppy recordkeeping. But Nobel laureates don’t really like to be bothered with recordkeeping. They are paid to think big thoughts. And it is not easy to attract them into situations where someone is constantly looking over them to be sure they are meticulously keeping records.
This tension between science and security is legend. In the previous column I mentioned a movie about the ongoing battle between Gen. Leslie Groves and Dr. Robert Oppenheimer during the early days of LANL. The movie was Fat Man and Little Boy, starring Paul Newman as Groves.
Even better accounts can be found in several books on the subject. And virtually every book written about the early days of Los Alamos contains a section on Groves v. Oppenheimer and the obsessive secrecy surrounding the building of the big bomb.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Preaching to the Choir

SANTA FE – “I love this crowd,” private citizen Dick Cheney said as he enthused about the spirited response to his soft-spoken speech.
It isn’t clear whether Cheney knew his crowd had been screened and sanitized to assure it was 100 percent supportive of the Bush/Cheney ticket. National GOP officials say limiting crowds solely to supporters is not a national policy, so unless Cheney was told the reason for his overly-enthusiastic audience, he may have thought it was just because he was doing such a great job.
Bernalillo County Sheriff and Bush/Cheney Chairman Darrin White didn’t want a repeat of the disruptions caused by Republicans at a Kerry campaign event a few weeks earlier, so he required all those who weren’t known supporters to sign a loyalty oath pledging support for the Bush/Cheney ticket and authorizing their names and pictures to be used in campaign ads, before receiving tickets to the event.
Democrats got in their licks at the successful action to cleanse the crowd. They noted that their candidate not only had not screened out hecklers, but had defended their right to free speech. They also pointed out that Cheney was a public official speaking at a public meeting in a public building. Republicans countered that he was appearing merely as a candidate, not as the vice president.
That’s good, because it means that the Bush/Cheney campaign was paying for his trip out here, not taxpayers. Usually when something like that happens, supporters are quick to point it out, but oddly, it wasn’t used as a defense in this case.
Democrats didn’t have completely clean hands for their righteous indignation, however. At the Democratic National Convention in Boston, protesters were isolated in a “free speech cage” well away from the convention hall.
At the end of this month, Republicans will have their chance to demonstrate whether they have found a better way to limit disruption while respecting free speech. Meanwhile, we’ll see how President Bush’s Q&A session in New Mexico goes tonight.
There is no doubt that New Mexico still is in the crosshairs of both parties as the campaign moves into its final three months. Often by this time, candidates have forgotten New Mexico as they race from one coast to the other, hitting the population centers.
But with the slim 366-vote margin we gave Democrat Al Gore four years ago, party strategists know we can go either way. And with the candidates running so closely, our five electoral votes could tilt the balance. Besides Republicans know Gore’s victory might have disappeared had there been time for a total statewide recount of votes.
The Kerry/Edwards ticket was in New Mexico, partially recreating former President Harry Truman’s famous whistle-stop campaign of 1948. On that trip, Truman made it to southern New Mexico also. Gov. Bill Richardson also has used campaign train trips twice in the past. Once in support of Gov. Bruce King’s gubernatorial candidacy in 1990 and once for his own campaign in 2002.
Santa Feans, accustomed to being in the middle of everything political, have had to drive to the Las Vegas, NM railroad station for whistle-stop rallies over the years because their city was bypassed by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad.
Back in the 1880s, the notorious Santa Fe Ring, composed of crooked businessmen, lawyers and politicians, calculated that the railroad couldn’t avoid coming through its namesake town. But they figured wrong. They set such a high price for land the railroad needed that the company decided that not only would it be cheaper, it also would be easier not to have to figure how to negotiate La Bajada Hill between Santa Fe and Albuquerque.
Santa Fe wasn’t the only community to make that mistake. White Oaks, NM also gambled and lost its bet that the railroad would have to go through the bustling town that produced our state’s first governor, William C. McDonald. The railroad went through Carrizozo instead.

Friday, August 06, 2004

3 Sheriffs Still Slippery

SANTA FE – The three sheriffs trying to dig up Billy the Kid and his mother are a slippery bunch of varmints. Their responses to my information requests have been full of contradictions and pieces that don’t fit together.
The sheriffs claim they are conducting an official criminal investigation, so they can’t tell me anything about what they are doing or how much time and money they are spending on the investigation.
That is important information to me because I contend that they are wasting a great amount of time and taxpayer money going after possible criminals who committed their acts over a century ago. And all they are accomplishing is the likely destruction of a legend that no longer will be able to boost tourism in Silver City and Fort Sumner.
But at other times, the sheriffs tell me the total investigation is funded with private money and they don’t have to tell me about that either. It seems highly unlikely that private money is paying their salaries and funding the operation of their offices while they spend time on their investigation, but it may be paying many other expenses.
So what are we to make of a privately-funded criminal investigation? Is that good public policy? It does save taxpayer money. But think about it. What happens if rich folks can fund criminal investigations? They can take over New Mexico law enforcement. They can go after whomever they want. It sounds like vigilante justice.
It also sounds a little like the infamous Santa Fe Ring that controlled sheriffs and district attorneys and judges back in Billy’s day. That’s what Billy and John Tunstall and Alexander McSween were fighting against.
Is history repeating itself? Well, it’s probably not that bad, but someone is putting a large amount of money into financing a criminal investigation. And we have a right by law to know who it is.
Private money entering public coffers to be used for operational purposes must be open to sunshine laws. In this case, it becomes part of an official criminal investigation by public officials, thereby “changing color” and becoming subject to public scrutiny.
But the current situation is totally different. The sheriffs are shielding the identity of their benefactor and the use of all money received. Depending on their audience, they are shielding that information either as part of a criminal investigation or as the act of private citizens doing some privately-funded research on their own.
In fact, sometimes, they’re just three good old boys out having fun, proclaiming that it will be good for tourism and maybe there might even be a book or movie deal in it.
The public has a right to know what is happening. Where is the money coming from and for what hidden purpose? This intrigue extends all the way up to the governor and apparently there is more than one anonymous benefactor. The public has a right know what, if anything, these benefactors are receiving in return.
At this point, the sheriffs are playing a shell game with us. They said they are really conducting an “ongoing criminal investigation.” That should mean taxpayer expenses. But Sullivan and Graves claim “private” benefactors and Sederwall surprisingly told the Attorney General that he was using his “own private funds.”
The sheriffs claim their “criminal investigation” shields them from releasing information. That would be information about “criminals,” but not information about where the money is coming from.
The fact is that the sheriffs can’t shield themselves from scrutiny by claiming that any of their acts are private since they are all public officials conducting a very public case.
And what about Deputy Sederwall, who seems to be doing most of the leg work in this investigation. He presents himself as a deputy, authorized to conduct a criminal investigation and dig up bodies, but when I inquired as to the conditions of his deputizing, I was told he is only a “reserve” deputy, a title that doesn’t even appear in state statutes.
We’ll keep after this until all the pieces fit together.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

LANL Cowboy Scientists

SANTA FE -- President George W. Bush isn't the only one accused of being a cowboy these days. It's also being used in reference to scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
First, in defense of cowboys, those I've known are hard-working, conscientious guys. But when used in reference to President Bush, it is more the movie version of wild west, swaggering gunslingers that his mostly-European critics have in mind. And why not? The only cowboys Europeans know about are in the movies.
Critics of the LANL scientists see cowboys as arrogant iconoclasts who view security and safety rules as a joke. How in the world did cowboys ever got such a bad reputation?
Whether cowboys or not, Los Alamos scientists are currently in a heap of trouble, charged by their longtime benefactor Sen. Pete Domenici with being dysfunctional and politically untouchable after a series of security infractions that have resulted in missing hard drives, computer disks, fraud, mismanagement and espionage.
Much of the “cowboy” problem is attributed to what many call “the culture of science” that values openness and collegiality as more important than secrecy. Scientists say they are at their creative best when they can bounce ideas off each other to jointly develop solutions. I can attest that it certainly helps when creating a column.
The battle between science and security has gone on for some time. In the matter of nuclear energy, it began at Los Alamos in the 1940s between Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, head of the University of California’s science team and Gen. Leslie Groves, head of the military component at Los Alamos. Their legendary struggles were made into a movie.
That dichotomy has continued as Los Alamos scientists have reveled in their close-knit, campus-like environment in a remote location that allows isolation from the real world. Eighteen months ago, after many security lapses, retired Navy Admiral Pete Nanos was sent in to shape things up as the lab’s new director.
That didn’t especially please the scientists. Since then LANL has come to be described as a hotbed of discord and revolt. Scientists complain that managers have become preoccupied with minor security problems.
But according to some lab managers, many of those security problems aren't minor. One even tells me that in his opinion, Dr. Wen Ho Lee was guilty of all 59 charges against him, but the problem is that many other scientists at the lab are just as guilty.
LANL's reputation as the crown jewel among our many national laboratories is becoming tarnished. Why should security be so much worse at Los Alamos than at other national labs? One answer is that Los Alamos scientists have less contact with universities and private corporations than employees at other labs.
That isolation causes them to feel little need for following security rules. So data storage devices go AWOL and don't always show up again behind the copy machine. Espionage isn't really feared to be the problem. It's likely just scientists taking disks out of the office for a little homework, combined with sloppy record-keeping when data is destroyed.
But managers say the scientists arrogantly deny the problem, failing to grasp that the lab's very existence could be at stake. They won't say exactly what sort of data is missing, just that it is critical to our national security. It has led comedians to joke that there is little wonder we can't find Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, when we can't even find our own.
It appears as though the tide may have turned against the Los Alamos scientists. Their contention that the people running the lab are more interested in security than science is beginning to fall on deaf ears, despite a clever new bumper sticker many of them are sporting on their cars: "Striving for a Work-Free Safe Zone."
But such jokes aren't likely to go over until all the missing tapes are found. Maybe they should check Sandy Berger's socks.