Inside the Capitol

Saturday, May 28, 2005

6-03 Whatever Works

Syndicated Columnist
SANT FE -- A recent column of mine urged readers to tone down their responses to a previous column I had written about the current fight between Republicans and Democrats over filibustering.
I noted that although the parties stood on high-sounding principles, they have each argued the opposite position in the past and would again in the future.
That brought a response from John Bartlit of Los Alamos, along with a column he wrote about a year ago, making the same point on a different subject. I liked it so well, I asked to use it as a guest column.
Bartlit has been a volunteer environmental advocate in New Mexico since 1969. He holds a doctor's degree in chemical engineering and is state chairman of New Mexico Citizens for Clean Air and Water.

����A moment's glance finds people forever sifting through heaps of facts, picking out a few that support their prior opinion, and peddling the result as the one true picture based on fact. I call it goal-matched fact selection.
���� Look closer, and you see principles treated the same way. A cartoon and a recent rare exception put the face of reality on the habit.
���� Every society worthy of regard has a stock of sound principles, suitable for all occasions. These stores of rigor help us remain principled when we must deal with tough problems.
���� A while ago, a masterly cartoon in the paper served to break me up, as well as portray goal-matched principles in action.
���� Two autos wait at a light, with the two drivers (one elephant, one donkey) glaring at each other. Each car has two bumper stickers. The "GOP" car's slogans cry out: "FEDERAL BAN ON GAY MARRIAGE!" and "WILDERNESS LOGGING: LEAVE IT TO THE STATES." The "DEM" slogans declaim to all: "FEDERAL BAN ON WILDERNESS LOGGING" and "GAY MARRIAGE: LEAVE IT TO THE STATES."
���� The point is not which stand is better. The point is, everyone likes to hold a principled viewpoint, so after our opinion falls to us, we tie it to a principle picked from the general store. Goal-matched principle selection meets a human need.
���� Promoters of a cause like to mention only one principle at a time--the one that supports their goal of the moment. The public wrangling makes us forget that most issues simply represent the competition among values we all hold in common.
���� That is to say, what makes an issue an issue is that values, like principles, are not involved one at a time, as is argued. They appear in combination, thus, in conflict.
���� Yet a ray of hope beams; a splash of straight talk refreshes. I bring an uncommon story.
���� Wherever you stand in the spectrum, the straight talk comes from a surprising source: the Oil & Gas Journal (OGJ), July 5. The affair in question is the secret Energy Task Force Vice-President Dick Cheney named to advise him on energy policy. Or to be precise, the issue is the task force whose names he hid from the public.
���� The OGJ editorial begins: "The second-worst part of the lingering controversy over (Cheney's) Energy Task Force is the suspicion it casts over involvement of energy experts in the making of energy policy. The worst part is the specter of secrecy."
���� The editorial goes on to compare the merits of the two competing principles. The first principle is the one employed by the administration, namely, executive privilege, or as asserted in more stately attire, "the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers."
���� The Oil & Gas Journal this time favors the competing principle, namely, openness in the work of a democracy.
���� As the editorial explains, "Democrats were going to oppose the energy policy in any case and complain about who advised the task force, if names became available, or about secrecy, if they did not. Secrecy is by far the more legitimate object of scorn."
���� This analysis seems pretty straight to me. Score one for the OGJ.
���� Roughly 98 times in 100, the game of secrecy harms the secret side more than the information would. Bipartisan evidence includes Watergate and the Lewinsky affair. Still, impulse says try secrecy.

FRI, 6-03-05

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)

I will be out of the office until June 30, cruising to WWII battlefields in the Pacific. We start at Pearl Harbor, work our way down to Guadacanal and New Guinea, then back up thru the Marianas and Japanese islands to Nagasaki.
I'm taking a laptop and will send regular columns telling about what we're seeing, including any New Mexico connections.
If you need to contact me, e-mail should work:  We'll be on the Pacific Princess, phone: 1-900-329-7447.  I won't be calling my office phone for messages.
Aloha,  Jay

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

5-30 Memorial Day

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE � This Memorial Day should be especially meaningful to New Mexicans. It comes during the 60th anniversary of World War II's end, which marked the return of our troops from foreign war zones.
And, of course, many of those troops didn't return. New Mexico's fighting men suffered some of the highest death rates in that war, mainly because almost all of the state's National Guard went to the Philippines, where they were left without food or ammunition, at the mercy of their enemy.
Today we remember those who paid the ultimate price defending our freedoms in all wars. And that includes our present war, in which many New Mexicans are participating and some are dying for their country.
Since our withdrawal from Vietnam over 30 years ago, our skirmishes primarily have been fought at long range, resulting in fewer casualties on our side. No longer do we have a world in which war deaths touch virtually every family in the nation.
The situation has led to a decreasing observance of Memorial Day in its traditional sense. The day now means a long weekend for most and the first opportunity to enjoy summer weather.
But we owe it to all our men and women who have served in the defense of our country to honor them on this day, especially now that more are being called to risk their lives.
Those who remember the horrors of war are becoming fewer and fewer. World War II veterans are now in their eighties. Most are no longer with us to remind us of their sacrifices.
But we must remember because it is those memories that put into perspective the consequences of future actions. Mothers remember. It often has been said that if mothers were in charge of war, nations would get along much better.
The same can be said of generals. They know the horrors of war. They aren't the gun-waving, testosterone-loaded leaders who get us into war. That's the pot-bellied politicos, most of whom skillfully avoided military service in their youth.
It is appropriate that New Mexicans pay special attention this year to our fellow citizens who didn't return from World War II. Most of them fought in the Pacific Theater.
A decade ago, author and publisher Eva Jane Matson compiled a list of 1,844 New Mexicans taken captive by the Japanese during World War II. Her very complete listing includes much biographical information along with service records, plus information on civilians taken captive.
She tells whether they were liberated, evacuated or exchanged. It tells if they spent the war years as a guerrilla in the Philippines. It tells if they died and where they died. It tells what prison camp they were in and what Japanese ship transferred them out of Manila as U.S. troops closed in.
All this information is contained in a book titled "It Tolled for New Mexico," from Yucca Tree Press. Additional topics include information about the New Mexico National Guard, Bataan memorials, monuments and organizations in the state, a listing by counties and hometowns of every New Mexican serving in the Pacific Theater and insights into New Mexico and the New Mexicans who served in the Guard.
This Memorial Day finds my wife and me on a month-long cruise from Honolulu to Nagasaki by way of the islands that were the sights of major World War II battles in the Pacific. Tomorrow we tour Midway Island and then head south through the Marshall, Gilbert and Solomon Islands to New Guinea and then up through the Marianas, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
I'm taking my computer and will keep you informed of what I find of interest to New Mexicans about our guys who served in the Pacific and about their efforts to fight their way toward Japan to rescue the Bataan veterans from their prison camps.
We look forward to an inspiring experience.
MON, 5-30-05

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)

I've already sent you a column for 5-30, but it can run anytime. This is appropriate for Memorial Day, so I'll count the one on 2006 political races as being for 6-1.
Thanks, J

Monday, May 23, 2005

5-30 They're Off and Running

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE � With summer drawing near, it is time for statewide candidates to make up their minds about whether they will jump into the fight.
Relax, negative campaigning isn't about to hit the airwaves anytime soon. You still have a breather there. But this is when candidates must begin their maneuvering.
Many already are hiring campaign staffs, recruiting volunteers, seeking endorsements and looking for some big initial donors. Those candidates who tarry will soon begin running into old friends who say they wish they'd known, but they've already committed to another candidate.
An early start is more important for Democrats in this state than for Republicans. Democrat primaries usually are crowded. Republicans often have no opposition except in the gubernatorial race. Here are some of the rumblings we've heard so far.
For governor, Bill Richardson has not drawn much opposition. Former state Rep. Bengie Regensberg gave the governor some headaches in the Legislature until he was defeated for his seat last year.
The Mora rancher and building contractor is considering giving Richardson another pain by challenging him in the Democratic primary.
Republicans are having problems coming up with a candidate, which is causing some sniping at state GOP Chairman Allen Weh, who hasn't done much of a job recruiting candidates for major offices yet.
The lieutenant governor race also is vacant on the Republican side. Current Lt. Gov. Diane Denish is the presumed candidate to run on the Richardson ticket again.
But Capitol observers keep watching Attorney General Patricia Madrid for signals that she might decide to give Denish another challenge. The two have tangled before and both would love to be New Mexico's first female governor.
For now, Madrid is tight-lipped, but is busily raising money for her next campaign. She has put in her maximum two consecutive terms as attorney general, so is precluded from that race.
The contest Democrat officials want to see Madrid enter is for Rep. Heather Wilson's 1st Congressional District seat. Democrats have continued to throw strong candidates into Wilson's race, but so far, haven't come close to unseating her. Madrid may be looking at those results and thinking that a race against Denish might be easier to win.
For the U.S. Senate, the GOP keeps saying it has evidence that Democrat Jeff Bingaman may be vulnerable in his reelection bid next year. But that's what Democrats keep saying about Heather Wilson, and both keep winning by comfortable margins.
So far, the only Republican challengers being mentioned are former Democrat state Sen. Tom Benavides and Santa Fe City Councilor David Pfeffer, who also just switched parties.
The attorney general's race is attracting much interest. Rep. Al Park, an Albuquerque attorney, has his campaign going strong. Former Rep. Gary King has expressed interest. King has run both for governor and Rep. Steve Pearce's 2nd Congressional District seat.
Geno Zamora, a former attorney for Gov. Bill Richardson, is said to be interested, as is State Democrat Party chairman John Wertheim. Wertheim would have to give up his party post in order to run. State Rep. Joseph Cervantes has been mentioned but the Las Cruces attorney says he's not interested.
On the Republican side, Bob Schwartz says he'll run. The former two-term Bernalillo County district attorney serves as Gov. Bill Richardson's crime policy adviser and may have some questions to answer about that relationship. Schwartz, also, is a former Democrat.
Coming up before all these party primaries is the Albuquerque mayor's race this October. As usual it promises to be a barnburner. The sparks won't fly quite as high since the mayor's former wife Margaret has quit flirting with a challenge of her ex-husband. But she'll still give him plenty of trouble.
This is another race in which Republicans want a candidate, but the GOP leadership hasn't been able to deliver.
MON, 5-30-05

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)


Thursday, May 19, 2005

5-27 America the Scared

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE � How many ways can you name in which 9/11 has changed our lives? Keep thinking, because the list is long.
We were immediately told by our leaders that we should go on with our lives as if nothing had happened, because doing anything else would mean the terrorists won.
It sounded logical, so my wife and I went to New Orleans three days later and enjoyed a week of having the city almost to ourselves. A nearly-deserted French Quarter was a scary signal that things would change.
So why didn't we heed our president's request to go on about our business? The change partly was due to the initial trauma it caused in some lives. But much more was due to the government changing the way it went about its business.
We expected the attack to produce the biggest manhunt the world had ever seen. Many of us didn't expect it would mean wars. But the biggest change has been in the way our government treats 280 million of us in order to catch a handful of terrorists that sneak into our country.
We are told to be afraid. We are asked to report any suspicious activity. We are told it is necessary to give up some rights because we are at war. We are urged to vote for those who will protect us best, because we need the government to protect us. And we are harassed.
An entire new federal Department of Homeland Security was created to protect us. From time to time, to be sure we know it is still on the job, the level of threat we are supposed to feel is raised to a scarier color.
Under the category of reporting suspicious activity, we had traffic stopped on the Brooklyn Bridge last weekend because some poor slob's truck broke down and he went to get help.
And we had the giant Clovis burrito scare, when a junior high kid was spotted carrying a rolled up 30-inch burrito to school for extra credit in a class project.
And who are our national leaders worried most about getting hurt? Themselves, of course. Two weeks ago, a lost Cessna pilot and student strayed three miles from the White House and caused panicked evacuations all the way to the Capitol.
But it doesn't take a plane to send shock waves through our leaders. A flock of birds has done it. And a few weeks ago, it was clouds -- angry clouds, I'm sure.
A new agency, the Transportation Security Administration, was established to make travel more difficult, not just for suspected terrorists, but for every single American.
A report by government auditors last week told us what we all knew. The $4.5 billion spent on screening devices to monitor airports, seaports, mail and the air we breathe has not increased the likelihood of catching a terrorist.
For this, we are charged a tax on every airline ticket bought and forced to endure the screening of toddlers and body searches of 90-year-old widows.
Even conservative columnist Cal Thomas, who could be expected to be a supporter of Homeland Security and the Patriot Act, can't stomach the Transportation Security Administration after getting his name on a no-fly list and failing in all efforts to get it off despite repeatedly proving he's not the guy.
This column has criticized the long waits in security lines, especially at the Albuquerque airport. Recent experiences indicate the problem is easing. The lines are shorter, and even long lines now are moving much more quickly.
But I preferred the days when America wasn't afraid of anything. The world War II reading I'm doing shows American troops going to battle underfed, under-armed, tremendously outmanned and still positive they were going to lick the enemy.
We're still the strongest country in the world, stronger than we've ever been in most ways. But we're becoming psychological weaklings.
FRI, 5-27-05

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)


5-25 Can You Say Villaraigosa?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE � Gov. Bill Richardson has some competition as a rising Hispanic star in the national Democratic Party. On May 17, Antonio Villaraigosa won election as mayor of Los Angeles.
Outwardly at least, our governor isn't treating the new mayor as a competitor. In fact, he sent state Democratic Party staffers to Los Angeles to help the campaign during its final weeks.
Richardson caught some flak for sending the help out of state but, he explained, that is not an uncommon practice. Members of Congress also sometimes find ways to do the same thing. The friendship between Richardson and Villaraigosa goes back awhile.
Four years ago Villaraigosa attracted national attention when he won the Los Angeles mayoral primary. He then lost a runoff election to another Democrat who put together a coalition of white and black voters. That's not surprising since Blacks and whites have fought over political power, just as they have fought over jobs.
Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest city, has an ethnic mix of 47 percent Hispanic, 30 percent white, 11 percent black and 10 percent Asian.
Despite the low percentage of blacks, Mayor Tom Bradley became the city's first black mayor in 1973 and served five terms. Just like Villaraigosa, Bradley had to run twice for mayor and had to beat the man who had beaten him the first time around.
Black and white Los Angeles residents have long been worried about the growing number of Hispanics in their city. It has prevented that segment of the population from ever gaining much political power. The last Hispanic mayor left office in 1873, when the population was less than 6,000.
Two years ago, Villaraigosa attended Gov. Bill Richardson's inaugural events in Santa Fe. It didn't receive mention in the media, but Villaraigosa was an honored guest.
After a childhood of growing up a tough kid, from a broken home, on the streets of East Los Angeles, Villaraigosa became what he calls a poster child for affirmative action. Despite being in and out of school as a teenager, he got into UCLA, based on potential, not merit, and graduated from law school.
Villaraigosa's rise in politics was meteoric. He won a seat in the California Assembly (similar to our House of Representatives.) in 1994, became majority floor leader in 1996 and speaker in 1998. Had he won the mayor's race in 2001, that meteoric rise would have been uninterrupted.
But at 52, Villaraigosa still has a long political career ahead of him, if he doesn't stumble. He is five years younger than Richardson, so has more time to wait for a spot on the national scene.
Like Richardson, Villaraigosa is a bundle of energy. He campaigned all night before the election, emphasizing that his opponent was home in bed. Richardson also pulled an all-nighter on election night and was at the KOAT-TV studios at 6:00 the next morning for an interview.
Richardson also had a fast, but interrupted, rise in politics. He was elected to Congress, on his second try, after only four years in New Mexico He labored 14 years in the U.S. House, where advancement is slow among 435 colleagues.
Early on, his wagon was hooked to Speaker Jim Wright of Texas. But Newt Gingrich took down Wright on an ethics charge, so Richardson had to start over.
Then Republicans took over the leadership in 1994 and Richardson became a member of the minority. But Richardson took a new route, becoming chummy with President Bill Clinton and serving on his cabinet
If he stays where he is, Villaraigosa has a chance at being mayor for a long time. Unlike Albuquerque, which has never elected a mayor for consecutive terms, Los Angeles has a history of returning mayors for about as long as they want.
In fact, the man Villaraigosa beat was the first mayor to be denied a second term since 1933. Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez needs to take some lessons.
WED, 5-25-05

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

5-23 Cannon Closure

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE � This may be a case of the irresistible force and immovable object. It's the Pentagon against the communities of Clovis and Portales over the closing of Cannon Air Force Base.
This year's Pentagon base realignment and closure recommendations appear to be better thought out than the four that occurred between 1988 and 1995. And I'll venture to predict that they will be more vigorously lobbied by the Defense Department than ever before.
And in the other corner is Clovis, along with nearby Portales, which have vowed an all-out fight to preserve the base. They will be assisted by a very committed Gov. Bill Richardson and a united congressional delegation.
The closure recommendation came as a shock to all concerned. One of Gov. Richardson's first moves upon becoming governor over two years ago was to establish an Office of Military Base Planning and Support, designed to head off any attempts to close a New Mexico military base.
Staffed by retired Gen. Hanson Scott, the commission looked at what it could do to strengthen all our bases. The efforts at Cannon have been substantial.
Chief among them is the soon-to-be-completed New Mexico Training Range Initiative, designed to expand the flight training space around Cannon by 700 square miles and allow planes to reach supersonic speeds at 10,000 feet, compared with the current 30,000 feet.
That will increase sonic booms in the 3,300 square-mile area threefold. Area residents have bitten the bullet and agreed to the proposal in order to keep Cannon secure.
The military has said it still plans to proceed with the training range. But the Pentagon is in for a rude awakening. Supersonic airspace anywhere in the nation is extremely hard to find. The once cooperative Curry County appear ready to turn hostile if the government decides to take 2,600 jobs and leave only sonic booms.
Cannon supporters figure they have several factors working in their favor. The Pentagon says it is concerned about economic impact on a community. The Clovis area will be harder hit than any other base site on the closure list.
Cannon's 320 days a year of flying weather ranks near the top, as does its unimpeded airspace and lack of encroachment on the base by the surrounding community. There is plenty of room to add another wing of air strength, which Cannon supporters were preparing to do when the shocking news came.
The Defense Department's justification for closing Cannon was not anything the base's backers had previously mentioned. In it's justification, the Pentagon cites Cannon's "unique F-16 force structure mix."
The base has three different levels of fighter squadrons. Each squadron is compared with bases that have similar squadrons in that category. And each of those other bases already had been determined to have a higher military value than Cannon.
If Cannon's unique force structure mix is what got it into trouble, it is interesting that none of our state leaders apparently knew. Instead of putting together a supersonic training range, maybe they should have been working on changing Cannon's mission that made it a sitting duck.
Obviously, the job of closing bases is a tough one. The process got started as the Cold War was ending. It was part of the peace dividend the first President Bush promised.
Albuquerque's Kirtland Air Force Base was caught in the fourth round of closures. A major response by our congressional delegation and an Albuquerque committee got it turned around. That committee still is functioning, with a major focus being to strengthen Kirtland's unusual mission.
Since Kirtland did it, there is hope for Cannon. But it won't be easy. An average of 15 percent of the Pentagon recommendations have been reversed in the past. But Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is arguing that these recommendations are so interdependent that none can be changed.
MON, 5-23-05

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)


5-20 Just a Game

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE � Don't let politics get you down -- or your blood pressure up. An interest in politics and a desire to see that our country has good government is what we wish from every American. Many blow it off, but some take the game far too seriously.
And that's what politics is -- a game. It's a contest between competing interest groups to influence and control government. Both major political parties merely talk about policy. They have platforms they don't follow. And neither do their candidates.
Many Americans treat party philosophy as sacred, but there is nothing sacred about it. Our major political parties do what it takes to win.
And if that requires skirting around the party's "sacred principles" of local control, individual rights, government intervention, looking out for the little guy, the sanctity of life or any number of other platform tenets, it is done with no remorse.
Party philosophy is not pure. The closest I have found to any philosophical consistency is libertarianism, but the profound lack of success of the Libertarian Party is ample proof that philosophical purity doesn't even get you in the game.
So quit thinking about your political party as if it were a religion. Religions have deep thinkers working hard to maintain church doctrine. Political parties have high-powered strategists and tacticians working hard to shape party positions into formulas for victory.
Political maneuvering is just as flexible and changeable as political philosophies. When a politician switches political parties, it proves to one side which party is best while the other party condemns the action as something that never should be done.
When a party takes over both the executive and legislative branches of government and decides to redistrict congressional seats halfway through a decade, the victors spin it as doing what voters mandated and the party that lost control calls it a violation of every principle in the book?
Texas Democrats and New Mexico Republicans used each other's arguments in 2003 without the least bit of shame.
The majority party always tries to trample the minority no matter which party is in power. And the minority always uses any means available to stop it from happening. The majority calls its ideas progressive and says the minority is obstructionist. The minority counters that its longstanding rights are being violated.
I have been thinking about the need for this column ever since I wrote about the strong feelings being generated by the Republican effort to head off Democrat filibusters aimed at blocking President Bush's nominations of judges.
The issue spawned strong emotions created by polarizing rhetoric from both parties. My column attempted to note that the situation wasn't as unique as party spinmeisters on either side were portraying it and that a little cooperation would solve the problem.
But even that column drew strong emotions. Despite my effort to be conciliatory, a larger-than-usual volume of reader responses accused me of being right-wing, left-wing, a propagandist and a liar.
That's when I realized Dr. Valium needed to step in and calm things down. This isn't an end-of-the-world matter, folks. Republicans blocked many of President Clinton's judicial appointments for years and Democrats have changed Senate rules to block Republican filibusters.
Party propagandists had to narrow both issues considerably to make them first-time-in-history events. Nevertheless, the sun will rise tomorrow. Neither party is as despicable as the opposition would have you believe.
It's just the way the system works. Both parties can deliver the same arguments with equal passion. They will stand by their inviolable principles -- until they don't fit a future argument. And then they will switch sides. And their loyal fans blindly follow.
No wonder politics is one of two subjects couples remind each other not to talk about in polite company. It just ain't worth giving Uncle Charlie a coronary.
Remember, it's just a game.
FRI, 5-20-05

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

5-18 Bill the Comic

WED, 5-18-05

SANTA FE � Gov. Bill Richardson is catching some flak about news that he paid two comic writers $1,200 for the material he used in his starring role at the National Press Club�s annual Gridiron Banquet in Washington D.C. recently.
But it may have been some of the best money he has spent from his political action fund. The gridiron event is studded with more political and media stars than any other imaginable. The invitation to be a keynote speaker was a big coup for Big Bill and he wasn�t about to blow it.
The comedy writers were surely ones who knew the gridiron formula. Poke good-natured fun at others, but save your best jabs for self-deprecating humor. And laugh the loudest when others make fun of you.
Everyone knows the routine, from the president on down. Well, everyone except for sometimes New Mexican Don Imus. Back during the Clinton years, Imus got so vicious with the president that any future invitations are sure to get lost in the mail.
Imus makes a fortune from his early-morning radio and TV show from New York. People enjoy his edgy humor and he has an adoring audience of highly-paid minions who laugh at his jokes and accept his berating. But it isn�t the stuff of the gridiron�s old-fashioned roast.
Richardson also received the supreme honor. The cast members made him the subject of one of their skits. It was a good evening for Richardson and an excellent indication that he registers on national radar.
But that�s all 2008 presidential talk. First, our governor has to win reelection as strongly as he ran in 2002. One of the prerequisites for doing that is to avoid any presidential talk in New Mexico until after the 2006 general election.
So Richardson will continue to play coy, deflecting any presidential questions with impassioned statements about how much he likes being governor of New Mexico.
Despite occasional comments about the governor being in trouble for one reason or another, he again is succeeding in raking in big bucks. In 2002, he raised $8 million, a New Mexico record for campaign spending. Guesses are that 2006 may see the Richardson campaign coffer at $10 million.
Another indication of the governor�s strength is that no major candidates have emerged to challenge him. And it�s getting to be about that time. The last two successful Republican gubernatorial candidates gave themselves plenty of time for voters to get to know them.
Gary Johnson announced in the summer of 1993. Garrey Carruthers announced in the spring of 1985. Both were unknowns, so they needed the extra time. And neither was the pick of GOP insiders. It may mean that anyone still has a chance, especially since Gary Johnson beat an incumbent.
Obviously, national Republican leaders would like to cause as much grief as they can for any incumbent Democrat governor with presidential ambitions. The good news for Richardson is that he is only one of many who fall in that category.
But since Richardson has gotten himself elected chairman of the national Democratic Governors Association, he has to be considered a frontrunner among governors seeking the presidency. Governors have a good history of getting elected president.
Four of our last five presidents have been governors. But U.S. senators seem to be the most ambitious for the presidency. Hillary Clinton and John Edwards likely rank ahead of any Democratic governors in current polling.
Nevertheless, if the state GOP can scare up a promising candidate to go against Richardson, he or she is likely to receive some solid financial support from national sources.
And those expensive jokes for which Richardson paid? Staff members say he�s getting his money�s worth, also using them in New Mexico. Since the joke writers weren�t likely to have written many about New Mexico politics, the jokes are likely ones on Richardson.
That�s no problem for the governor. Part of his charm is his ability to poke fun at himself.


Monday, May 09, 2005

5-16 Hell Ships

MON, 5-16-05

SANTA FE � Prison life was barely survivable for the men of the New Mexico National Guard. Some didn�t survive, succumbing to jungle diseases, beatings, being worked to death or simply giving up.
But not many New Mexicans gave up. They were there for each other. They stuck together as much as they possibly could, volunteering for the same work details, sharing information and tending to those in need.
Occasionally a ray of hope emerged. There were telltale signs that the war was turning. A knowing smile from a passing Filipino, increased irritability of Japanese guards and a further decrease in food rations were subtle hints. And sometimes American planes were spotted overhead.
Then there were the radios. Strictly forbidden by the Japanese guards, possession of a radio meant a certain beating, or worse. But they were vital for eventual survival. The prisoners were told that if American troops got near, all prisoners would be executed. So it was important to keep track of the war�s progress.
Occasionally, broadcasts from stations in China would bring the straight scoop. But it was possible to keep track through Japanese propaganda transmissions, telling of major Japanese victories and tremendous American losses. Once someone was able to find a map, the prisoners could track the battle locations and deduce that each Japanese �victory� was closer to its homeland.
But, tragically, the worst of our guardsmen�s ordeal was yet to come. As American and Allied planes bombed Manila and the island�s airfields, the Japanese prepared to evacuate all prisoners to the north to prevent their recapture and to alleviate severe labor shortages in the mills and mines of Manchuria and Japan.
Since late 1942, prisoners were moved north aboard unmarked ships. By 1944, mass evacuations were underway. Prisoners were crammed into the holds of tramp steamers, with no food, water or facilities. Heat mounted. Oxygen decreased. Many grew delirious.
Since they were unmarked, torpedo and air attacks sank many Japanese ships. The Americans had no idea they were shooting at their own men. Markings indicating hospital ships or Prisoner of War ships were saved for Japanese vessels of a more tactical nature.
In the opinion of most, the Japanese Hell Ships assaulted humanity worse even than the Death March. Thousands died. Those who made it through in November 1944 faced bitter winter conditions. Clad only in rags suited for jungle conditions, many froze to death.
Gradually, winter clothes were provided and conditions improved slightly. The Japanese needed the prisoners for labor. The military hired the men out to industries critical to the war effort. Many of these industries had names still familiar in the world of automobiles and electronics.
The prisoners worked as stevedores on the waterfronts or labored in steel mills, ironworks, shipyards, factories, mines or smelters. Although far from the fields of battle, the men continued to engage the enemy in as many ways as possible � from minor ego-denting annoyance to major sabotage.
They played mind games during interrogations, giving evasive answers and using figures of speech that no dictionary could clarify. Theft was the order of the day, especially for food. Ingenious plots meant no food was safe anywhere near an American work detail.
They impeded the Japanese war effort in any way they could. They were a nuisance even when they did some work. As one observed, �We never could figure why they put up with us.�
If you are interested in some of the hilarious details of POW sabotage or want to know more of the horrors of the Hell Ships, get a copy of Dorothy Cave�s book, Beyond Courage, which chronicles the experiences of the New Mexico National Guard during World War II, from beginning to end. It is a book that will make any New Mexican proud.
We�ll leave the New Mexico guardsmen for awhile and follow Gen. MacArthur�s advance up through the Pacific to liberate them. Those battles also included other New Mexicans.


5-13 X Prize

FRI, 5-13-05

SANT FE � Sunday, May 15 was scheduled to be NASA�s next space shuttle launch. But it won�t be. �Further testing and analysis� will move that timetable to July 13 at the earliest. And if experience is any indication, it will be longer.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is inching its way back into space, correcting problems that caused the last shuttle disaster and identifying other possible defects along the way. Space Shuttle Discovery is being prepped for its 31st mission and NASA�s 114th mission.
That is a lot of space launches, but very likely nowhere near the number of launches private industry will have in the 40-plus years it has taken the government to get to this point, at many, many times the cost.
And so far, though still in its infancy, private industry has been able to stick to its schedule better than the government. At about this time last year, Gov. Bill Richardson called a press conference to announce that New Mexico had landed the X Price Cup competition. Present at that gathering was Dr. Peter Dimandis, the founder and president of the X Prize Foundation.
As part if his comments, Dr. Dimandis predicted that before the end of summer, the $10 million Ansari X Prize would be awarded to one of the 24 competitors vying to be the first to reach an altitude of 62 miles twice within a two-week period. I�m sure that many in that room felt the same as I that the good doctor was getting carried away with the excitement of the moment and being more than a little overly-optimistic.
But before the end of summer� You guessed it. SpaceShipOne built by Burt Rutan and financed by Santa Fe part timer Paul Allen, accomplished the feat in a manner that appeared somewhat effortless.
The only glitches were minor and none caused the delays to which we have become so accustomed with NASA. The project cost around $20 million, compared to the billions NASA spends.
Those competitions move to the Southwest Regional Spaceport, near Las Cruces, beginning in 2006. On October 4-9, of this year, some of the competitors will stage exhibitions at the Las Cruces airport.
None of the competitors, by the way, are the big aerospace firms that build NASA�s machines. Why spend millions of your own money when you can charge the government billions in taxpayer money?
And the private efforts seem to be working better. Back in the late �90s, NASA wanted to develop a new generation of reusable space shuttles to replace our current fleet that require booster rockets.
Several designs were submitted by the major aerospace firms. Some took off and landed vertically. Some used runways and some were hybrids such as our current shuttle. But none of them worked. In the summer of 2000, the project was cancelled.
Come join us in Las Cruces this October and see similar designs that really work. Yes, it�s rocket science, but it can be accomplished by backyard scientists. Robert Goddard, the father of rocket science, did his work on a ranch outside Roswell without the help of government money.
Goddard�s principal benefactor was the Guggenheim Foundation. Some of the current efforts are being financed by entrepreneurs who made their money in high-tech fields and now want to follow their dreams into space.
It appears to be working. With the incentives being offered by the X Prize Foundation, we are seeing an explosion of energy similar to what happened in the commercial air travel industry a century ago, when prizes attracted the Lindberghs of the era.
There is no telling how long passenger air travel would have taken if the government had been doing the development. SpaceShipOne has successfully carried a cargo equivalent to a pilot and two passengers to the edge of space three times.
It may not be long before the passenger ships of the movie 2001 become reality.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Bataan Relief Organization

WED, 5-11-05

HAWAII � Even before Bataan fell, New Mexicans were clamoring to do everything they could for their 1,800 underfed and under-equipped National Guard troops.
In March 1942, the Bataan Relief Organization was formed in Albuquerque, with Dr. V.H. Spensley, as president, and Paul McCahon, as secretary. The following year, McCahon began publishing a monthly bulletin for the BRO�s 100 members.
Within a year, the bulletin was being commercially printed and nationally distributed and membership had grown to over a million, with affiliates throughout the nation.
The BRO�s stated purpose was to �obtain immediate relief for all American soldiers held as Japanese prisoners of war, their release as quickly as possible and their safe delivery home.�
The BRO barraged President Roosevelt, the War and State departments and the Red Cross with letters, telegrams, and petitions for food and medicine for their boys and planes and tanks for MacArthur.
The organization�s biggest concern was the administration�s Get Hitler First strategy. �For God�s sake,� Dr. Spensley demanded in the October 1943 BRO Bulletin, �send the General something to fight with. Our boys died fighting with bare hands and empty promises.�
Spearheaded by the BRO, New Mexico always exceeded its quota of War Bonds. The state was promised that if it sold $300,000 in bonds during a drive in early 1943, it could name a new bomber. New Mexicans doubled the amount and told the Secretary of War that we wanted our bomber to go to the Pacific to aid in the liberation of our sons.
When the answer was evasive, New Mexico Gov. John Dempsey and the BRO opened up on Washington with their full fury. By mid-summer, the bomber New Mexico had bought arrived at Albuquerque�s Kirtland Field and was christened Spirit of Bataan.
Through the BRO, New Mexico�s voice was heard out of proportion to its negligible electoral vote. Our loudest outcry occurred when the War Department revealed Japanese atrocities in January 1944 and admitted that it had known about the Death March and prison camps for 18 months.
Washington contended that it had held back the news for fear of reprisal against the POWs. But when it was learned that Roosevelt had withheld the information until threatened with British and Australian disclosures, the BRO accused the president of being fearful, not for the POWs, but of increased demand for action in the Pacific.
It also was noted that the information was released just in time for Fourth War Loan Drive. New Mexico�s Sen. Dennis Chavez demanded that this time the proceeds include 1,000 planes for MacArthur.
�No one can prove to a single mother in my state that it is more essential to send 2,000 tanks to England or Tunisia, than to send 200 to MacArthur,� Chavez fumed. �We want action in the Pacific.�
The BRO also was active in getting food, supplies and medicine sent from New Mexico families to the prisoners. Very little ever arrived at the prison camps and the little that did was mostly consumed by the guards. But New Mexicans wanted to go to the effort and hope for the best.
The BRO and Gov. John E. Miles also obtained the concrete insignia the men of the 200th had built at Fort Bliss during their training in the summer of 1941. The Santa Fe art community, ever vigilant to artistic incorrectness, already had chased the Madonna of the Trail statue out of Santa Fe and down to uninteresting Albuquerque.
Now, a member of the art community called for the �hideous object� to be removed because of its �garish colors� and �blobs of concrete.� It was noted that the colors were our state colors and the blobs of concrete were the only thing our guys had left behind.
The monument still stands. An eternal flame has been added and further improvements have recently been made. It now sits in the middle of our capital complex, near the old Capitol that now is the Bataan Building.


Corrigidor retry

MAUI – Corregidor held out until May 6. Not many New Mexicans were on the Rock, as they called the tiny island lying just off the southern tip of the Bataan Peninsula.
When the Japanese finally stormed to the southern tip of Bataan, a few New Mexico National Guard troops had the opportunity to be evacuated to the well-fortified bastion. And some of those who couldn’t find a craft to transport them swam the relatively short distance or found a floating object to grab.

Corregidor held a strategic location, guarding the entrance to Manila Harbor. Until the enemy had Corregidor, it didn’t have access to the huge harbor. The Japanese commander had tried to insist that Corregidor be surrendered along with Bataan.
But the Americans weren’t about to let that fortress go because they knew that holding it as long as possible would delay the Japanese advance toward Australia even longer. Some suggested that the additional delay made the captors even more ill-tempered toward their prisoners on Bataan.

Corrigedor was a series of tunnels where life was pretty good for an army about to be overrun. Supply ships and planes still got through occasionally, bringing food, ammunition and medicine. The men stationed there were shocked at the condition of those arriving from Bataan. For the New Mexicans who made it to the island, it was a bit of heaven.
The shoreline bristled with batteries of antiaircraft artillery. It was to those units that New Mexicans were assigned, even though most of the units were at full strength because they hadn’t suffered the casualties of those on the mainland.
On April 29, the final assault began. Japanese artillery pounded the island mercilessly, day and night. On May 3, Gen. Wainwright wired Gen. McArthur that the situation had become desperate. Most of the antiaircraft guns had been knocked out. They would soon be fighting as infantry and about the only men with infantry combat experience were the exhausted troops from Bataan.

Wainwright began to evacuate key personnel, important documents and nurses from the doomed fortress. On May 5, the Japanese landed with a vengeance. Tanks, artillery and infantry overran one fortification after another. Wainwright ordered that records, codes, equipment and money be destroyed. The dead and wounded piled into the tunnels at a terrifying rate.
The situation was hopeless. Defeat was certain and imminent. Wainwright knew that continuing the fight would delay the inevitable only a matter of hours and surrender would save thousands lives.

He notified his president, asking him to please tell the nation “that my troops and I have accomplished all that is humanly possible and that we have upheld the best traditions of the United States and its Army… With profound regret and with continued pride in my gallant troops, I go to meet the Japanese commander.”

To forestall renewed hostilities and a sure massacre, Wainwright assumed command of the remaining forces in the Philippines and ordered their surrender. It was the only condition the Japanese would accept. It took another month to effect the surrender of the remaining islands.
The Corregidor prisoners were held in conditions as bad as in any other camps. When all prisoners had been gathered, they were ferried to Manila and marched through the city on a Sunday afternoon, flaunting them before the crowds. And then it was on to the old Spanish prison of Bilibid.

For almost a month after Bataan fell, Corregidor held on, costing the enemy dearly in men and time. Like Bataan, the tale of Corregidor inspired a nation.
But now the men of Corregidor were to undergo the same inhumane treatment as Japanese prisoners of war that their comrades from Bataan were enduring in nearby prison camps. And it would continue for three-and-a-half years.
Meanwhile, in New Mexico, relatives were getting fed up with the way their loved ones were being treated by the U.S. government.

Coming soon: the birth of the Bataan Relief Organization.

Monday, May 02, 2005

5-9 Pearl Harbor

MON, 5-9-05

PEARL HARBOR � Few words carry the emotional impact of Pearl Harbor, a day etched in the American psyche.
The World War II memorials at Pearl Harbor are well worth seeing for anyone visiting Hawaii, American or not. Many foreigners, including Japanese, visit the memorials every day.
The USS Arizona Memorial is by far the most popular. It is operated by the U.S. Navy and the National Park Service. Admission is free. The wait is usually more than an hour, but an excellent interpretive center and gift shop can take up much of that time.
A 20-minute documentary film begins the tour. The current version, narrated by Stockard Channing, is an attempt to take an objective look at the event, and seemed to be well received. The group of 200, then boards a Navy shuttle boat for the short ride to the Arizona Memorial.
Have you ever wondered about the shape of the memorial that sags in the middle? According to its architect, it symbolizes initial defeat, followed by ultimate victory.
City buses from downtown Honolulu stop at the memorial. Private tours also include the memorial.
My favorite tours are private boat tours of Pearl Harbor that play tapes of the action that was taking place as the boat circles around Ford Island and views the many other memorials and wrecked hulks of ships that stand as testaments to the devastation of that day. Those tours do not have access to the Arizona Memorial, but do pause alongside the ship for a moment of silence.
Two other memorials now can be visited while at the USS Arizona Visitor Center. The USS Bowfin is a World War II submarine docked next to the Visitor Center. Bus shuttles also run from the Visitor Center to the USS Missouri, docked on Ford Island. Both the Bowfin and the Missouri charge admission. The rather substantial fee goes to the foundations that maintain the memorials.
Both vessels are worth visiting. My primary interest was in seeing the site of the Japanese surrender aboard the Missouri. I was surprised that instead of the ceremony being held on the broad fantail of the ship, it was held on a narrow starboard foredeck.
The story is that Gen. MacArthur, who was in charge, wanted the ceremony to be over and done with as quickly as possible. As one can imagine, the Japanese weren�t going to complain about getting it over quickly. So the ceremony occurred just outside the visiting officer�s quarters.
If it is possible to cram any more into a day, a visit to Punchbowl National Cemetery on the other side of town is also moving. Located in the crater of an extinct volcano, it is a beautiful tribute to the men who died at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere during the war, including New Mexico�s Ernie Pyle.
A word of warning about some of the questionable security measures that have been added since 9-11. Women�s purses and any other bags are not allowed in any of the memorials. It is not that they re searched. They just aren�t allowed. They can be checked at a makeshift tent across the street for $3 an item.
I had worn a pair of cargo pants, stuffed with cameras, recording equipment and cell phone and easily could also have accommodated my wife�s wallet, had I known in advance. As it was, I never was checked but she couldn�t even borrow a credit card to make purchases in the gift shop because they demanded photo identification before allowing a signature on a credit card bill.
I was able to take many pictures of Ford Island and the harbor from the beautiful lawn behind the visitor center. But on the bus shuttle to the Missouri, docked on Ford Island, we were forbidden to take pictures. Aboard the Missouri were pay telescopes through which I could see close-ups of everything that was off-limits from the bridge.
Rest easy. We are being protected.