Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

6-1 Culture of Corruption

FRI, 6-1-06

SANTA FE -- The Culture of Corruption. It's a phrase congressional Democrats plan to use against congressional Republicans in this year's elections.
It may work, but not without some embarrassment, because no political party can ever be sure all its members will stay free of corruption.
Republicans have had their share of corruption. There's Jack Abramoff and his slimy associates. Most of their payoffs were made to Republicans, but about the time Democrats began to have a good time with it, some of their won fell into the abyss.
People in the business of making payoffs are bipartisan. It's a matter of whatever works. Members of the party in power are the most likely candidates for payoffs, but key votes or party leaders on the minority side of the aisle often work just as well.
Rep. Tom DeLay, of Texas, was having the time of his life throwing his considerable political weight around until it snapped back and got him.
One of the charges against DeLay involves using money he shouldn't have to get the Texas congressional districts redrawn, once Republicans took over all branches of state government a few years ago. That's when New Mexico played host to most of the Texas Democrat senators for a month one summer.
House leaders have had a real problem getting caught with their hand in the wrong pocket. Back in the late '80s, a back-bench Republican named Newt Gingrich brought down Democrat house Speaker Tom Foley over an unethical book deal. Less than 10 years later, Gingrich got caught with his hand in the same jar and had to step down.
Rep. Duke Cunningham, out in California, was the paragon of patriotism until someone noticed he was living far too high even for a well paid member of Congress. Democrats had much fun with that until the FBI decided it ought to investigate Democrat William Jefferson's freezer dishes.
New Mexico Democrats should know better than to accuse anyone else of corruption. Attorney General Patricia Madrid tried it in her challenge to Republican Heather Wilson, but along came investigations of two Democrat state treasurers and a Democrat state insurance superintendent.
Generally, it's the party in power that is the most susceptible to corruption. In Washington, that's the Republicans. In New Mexico, it would be difficult for a Republican state official to get into trouble. After all, there's only one of them.
Patrick Lyons, the state land commissioner has kept his nose pretty clean, except for that charge of buying a pickup for campaigning. For some reason, one of his Democrat opponents figured there was something wrong with using campaign funds for the purpose. I still can't understand that one, but Lyons sold the pickup.
Please don't blame the culture of corruption on politics, however. It reaches much farther than that. No corner of American society is immune. We are seeing captains of industry go down one by one, claiming they didn't know they were doing wrong.
Currently major league baseball players are using the same excuse. They just thought it was magic that the lotion they rubbed on their muscles was making them miraculously bigger.
And yes, even the journalism profession gets tainted, I will admit. Reporters make up sources --and even entire stories. And the government pays them to write columns favorable to programs its agencies are trying to sell to the public.
Even a two-bit columnist like yours truly, gets his share of offers. Fortunately, I don't have to depend on this job to pay the bills. It�s a retirement amusement that keeps me busy -- but not out of trouble.
And America is not the end-all of corruption. Fortunately, it is the exception here. But take a look at many of our neighbors to the south and most of the former Iron Curtain countries to know what corruption really is.
So don't worry too much about us going to the dogs.


Sunday, May 28, 2006

5-31 NM's Greatest Governor

WED, 5-31-06

Santa Fe -- Remember a few months ago, when the descendents of a former governor rejected a legislative appropriation for a statue of territorial Gov. Edmund G. Ross? It was one of those believe-it-or-not moments in political history -- a once in a millennium experience.
We told you of Sen. Shannon Robinson, who represents a district of Albuquerque's Southeast Heights, asking the Legislature for $50,000 to honor one of New Mexico's greatest governors, who now lies in a poorly-marked grave.
The Legislature agreed, but Ross' descendents responded that although they were deeply appreciative of the gesture, they felt the $50,000 could be put to much better use for the people of New Mexico.
Several weeks ago, this column mentioned the occurrence and ventured that Ross, was New Mexico's best governor. In a later column, we will talk about his many accomplishments as governor. But today, let me tell you about the highly unusual developments that led to Ross becoming our governor.
Edmund G. Ross was a Kansan, a newspaper editor, until 1862 when he enlisted in the Union Army, from which he emerged a Major at the end of the war.
Andrew Johnson took over as president upon Abraham Lincoln's assassination. Lincoln had chosen Johnson, a Democrat from the South, as his running mate because Johnson had been the only Southern senator not to leave the Senate. Johnson was very much a man of principle but he also was highly disagreeable.
Lincoln wanted an honorable peace with the South and to bring those states back into the Union as quickly as possible. Johnson was committed to carrying out Lincoln's desires.
But a majority of Congress wanted nothing of that. They wanted to punish the South in every way possible. Congress passed bill after bill to accomplish its purposes and Johnson vetoed them. Often Congress was able to override the vetoes by a two-thirds majority, but sometimes, on crucial issues, it couldn�t.
The president had to go. A bare majority of senators would vote to oust Johnson. That bare majority included the new senator from Kansas, Edmund G. Ross, a firebrand member of the Radical Republicans, who had been a leader in hounding the previous senator for his conservative ways. Eventually, Sen. Jim Lane committed suicide.
He was replaced by Ross, whom everyone assumed would well represent the radical Republicans of Kansas in punishing the South and convicting President Johnson.
But upon Johnson's impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives, Ross mentioned to a colleague that although he opposed Mr. Johnson and his policies, he was determined to see him "have as fair a trial as an accused man ever had on this earth."
Those were not words the radicals welcomed. They were not interested in a fair trial. The charges developed by Congress were especially weak. But it had captured the majority of the public mind and was scarcely in the mood to brook delay or hear a defense.
It was then that pressure on Ross began. He was spied upon constantly and subjected to every form of scrutiny. The party press harangued him. Colleagues pestered him constantly. He received threats of political ostracism and even assassination.
With no experience in political turmoil, no independent income and representing the most radical state in the nation, Ross was judged the most sensitive to criticism and the most likely to be swayed. The threats increased and so did the offers of bribes. But Ross believed a strong Congress was trying to make a weak president even weaker, to the point the equality of the executive branch of government would be destroyed if Congress had its way.
Ross could see no way out but to vote against removal of the president. He did, and suffered the consequences. Ross said as he cast his vote, he looked down into his open grave.
It wasn't an exaggeration. A Kansas Supreme Court justice told him, "The rope with which Judas Iscariot hanged himself is lost, but Jim Lane's pistol is at your service." Moving back to Kansas was out of the question.
Ross chose New Mexico.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

5-29 New USS NM Needs a Crest

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- New Mexicans can be proud that a native son will be the first commander of our new namesake attack submarine. Cmdr. Robert Dain will take over the USS New Mexico in August.
Dain was born in Shiprock, where his father was a doctor with the Public Health Service. Later Dain lived in Tijeras and Cedar Crest, east of Albuquerque. He graduated from St. Pius High School in 1982.
Then it was on to Colorado State University where he received a degree in electrical engineering and was recruited into the Navy.
Since there aren't many military opportunities in New Mexico, Dain has spent his career out of state. But he still calls New Mexico his home state and is proud as can be that his first command will be aboard the vessel named after his state.
Dain says that isn't the way the Navy chooses its commanders. The fact that it happened in this case is a coincidence, but a delightful one.
The Navy does like to name ships after previous ships that have had a proud history. It's good for building spirit. In New Mexico's case, that was a plus. The former USS New Mexico was a battleship authorized shortly after our state entered the union.
It was the first of its class of battleship, so subsequent ships were called New Mexico-class battleships. She began her career as the flagship for the Pacific Fleet during the 1920s.
The USS New Mexico's first World War II action was in the Gilbert Islands, followed by the Marshall Islands, the Solomons and the Marianas.
Then came the retaking of the Philippines. The bombardment of Luzon began on January 6, 1945, our state's 33rd birthday. The sky was full of kamikaze planes. A suicide plane hit the New Mexico bridge, killing the commanding officer and 29 others, with 87 injured.
The remaining crew made emergency repairs and her guns remained in action until our troops got ashore on January 9.
After repairs at Pearl Harbor, she headed to Okinawa for the invasion there. This time, the enemy threat was from suicide boats. On May 11, she destroyed eight of them. The following evening, the New Mexico was attacked by two kamikaze planes. One plunged into her. The other hit her with its bomb.
In the resulting fires, 54 men were killed and 119 wounded, but she continued to fight. On May 28, she departed for repairs in the Philippines to be readied for the invasion of Japan. ON August 15, while sailing toward Okinawa, she learned of the war's end.
In recognition of the New Mexico's valiant service, the Navy chose her to be one of the ships in Tokyo Bay to witness Japan's surrender. On September 2, she entered Tokyo Bay amid much fanfare. One of my favorite pictures of her was shot that day with Mount Fuji in the background.
The USS New Mexico's proud history wasn't the only factor that got it selected, however. The New Mexico Council of the Navy League worked two years accumulating hundreds of letters and petitions for the secretary of the Navy.
Now the New Mexico members of the Navy League of the United States have another project. Our ship needs a crest. Every ship has one. They typify the history and character of the vessel and what it's named after.
If you missed out on designing the New Mexico quarter, here's your shot at designing the crest of the USS New Mexico. The league would like to see entries from all over the state. It prefers them in electronic format. Rules are at Mail can be sent to Ship's Crest Contest, Navy League-New Mexico Council, P.O. Box 91554, Albuquerque, NM 87199.
Students are especially encouraged to enter. Entries must be received by September 1, 2006. They will be submitted to the ship's first crew by September 30. The crew will select the final design.
MON, 5-29-06

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

I'll be out of the office through June 3. I can be reached by e-mail or by cell at 505-699-9982. I don't think I'll miss any columns but on family vacations, my schedule sometimes isn't mine to plan. I'll keep you posted.

5-26 Marking the WIPP Site

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- The U.S. government will spend 100 years and billions of dollars to construct a warning system to caution future generations not to dig at the WIPP site near Carlsbad.
It will take something like 250,000 years for the radioactive material buried at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant to totally decay. The plan is to design a marker that will last the first 10,000 of those years.
That's extravagant. Sure, it's responsible to protect our children, but we're talking about 500 generations of children.
WIPP is scheduled to fill up in 2033. After that, it will be guarded by the Department of Energy for 100 years. That will take care of about five generations of our grandchildren. During that period, this warning system will be constructed.
We aren't talking simple "keep out" signs. We're thinking Egyptian pyramids. The current plan is to construct a berm 33 feet high and 98-feet wide all the way around the sight. That's two miles of berm.
It won't be earthen, like the mounds built by ancients that still can be seen in various parts of the United States. It will be much tougher -- maybe ultra-hard concrete. Inside the berm would be powerful magnets and radar reflectors so it looks like we did it on purpose.
Then there will be 48 granite markers, 28 feet high, located inside and outside the berm, containing warnings in many different languages. We should be able to save a little there.
The U.S. Senate has passed a law requiring everyone to speak English. Since laws, once passed, are almost never repealed, we should be able to assume that anyone drilling in the United States in the next 10,000 years will be able to speak English.
But what if they can't? The federal government appointed a panel of scientists, futurists and historians to envision the far-distant future. Evidently they watched too many science fiction and disaster movies -- not realizing they are fiction -- and came up with scenarios that either revert our civilization back to the Stone Age or advance it to control by robots and cyborgs.
Not much attention was paid to a civilization sufficiently advanced to detect what is down there and either stay away from it or put it to a productive use.
It's true that we have discovered ancient civilizations which we don't fully understand, but we've learned much about preservation and should be able to do a better job for the future.
Obviously the WIPP planners are trying to do that. They envision many different symbols, printed on disks of varying materials, distributed throughout the site in hopes that something can be deciphered.
It's a worthy endeavor, but if our future world is inhabited by cavemen, cyborgs, aliens or Iranians, how elaborate do our warnings need to be?
And what about the forbidden fruit problem that has been around since the Garden of Eden and may always be? No amount of warnings about curses inscribed on the tombs of ancient pharaohs were successful in deterring grave robbers.
So what about leaving it to melt into the desert? What are the chances that people will ever want to dig there? There is some oil deep underneath. But this will be guarded until 2133. By then, we surely will have discovered alternative fuels.
And if someone does dig or drill into it? A large-scale disaster is pretty unlikely. The likely result is sickness and death on a very small scale. And then they stop digging.
There is plenty of time for a future group to be empanelled to decide how likely it is that the site ever will be penetrated, if unmarked, and what the consequences would be. That could then be weighed against the costs of the current plan and the possibilities of that not succeeding.
Don't blame our government for wanting to create this monstrosity. It surely was designed to satisfy the people who want to make it as difficult as possible to continue using nuclear energy.
FRI, 5-26-06

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


Saturday, May 20, 2006

5-24 DaVinci Code

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Although the French didn't like the DaVinci Code at Cannes, the impact in the United States and around the world already has been major.
Catholic Church groups have organized demonstrations and boycotts. Leaders of Christians who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible are turning out professional videos designed to show the perils of blurring fact and fiction.
These evangelical churches are not asking their members to stay away from the movie. As one pastor said, when you have a tsunami coming, it doesn't help to build a wall.
Instead, evangelicals say, they welcome the debate because their congregations are more interested than ever in knowing what the Bible has to say. So why not take advantage of it? The debate is sure to increase church attendance.
Understandably, the Catholics have been more reactionary because they are the main target of the movie, whose premise is that the church covered up the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and the daughter who was born to them.
Besides protests, some Catholic officials have suggested going to court. In the Philippines and Greece, courts have banned the movie. The possibility of a suit for damages also has been considered.
It is a bit ironic that the book's author, Dan Brown, just finished successfully defending himself against a suit by two historians claiming he had stolen their idea.
Brown's defense to the charges by both the church and the historians is that the book and movie are fiction and not meant to be the gospel truth or historically accurate.
Bob Parks, who writes a physics newsletter, says scientists understand how both the church and historians feel. "Science fiction writers have been stealing our themes for years and portraying us as Dr. Strangeloves," he says. And, he added, they also get the physics wrong.
That's the thing about fiction. It's make-believe, not belief or fact. I still remember my grandfather's words, when he took me to see Bambi in Las Cruces over 60 years ago. As I stood in front of my seat, crying my eyes out, he kept whispering, "It's just a movie. It's just a movie."
The DaVinci Code has been called heresy by those who don't understand the word "fiction." They should be going after the historians who sued Brown for stealing their writings. They were the ones who claimed them as fact.
They could be accused of heresy. Fortunately heresy no longer is punishable by death as it was in the early days of this country and much of the rest of the world.
Heresy still is punishable by death in some parts of the Muslim world. Just ask Salman Rushdie who still is on the run from a fatwa issued by Iran for his book Satanic Verses.
A Catholic archbishop in England noted the Muslim treatment of heretics and lamented that the Catholic Church is now viewed as a "soft touch." We can assume he wasn't suggesting a death edict but merely was longing for the days when the Catholic Church had the power to keep such movies off the screen.
The Catholic Church still had that power in the United States well into the 1960s with its Legion of Decency that vetted film scripts since the early days of talkies.
But that was replaced by the present day ratings system, which doesn't always work. But getting too upset likely just plays into the hands of the film's promoters. It appears that the strategy of most groups opposed to the movie is going to be to proclaim it exceedingly dull, not worth seeing and so far-fetched that no one will believe it.
To become too concerned that the movie will destroy people's faith insults the intelligence of parishioners. A better idea is to adopt the evangelicals' approach of using the film as a teaching and organizing tool.
The Santa Fe Masons took a similar approach soon after the book came out. Seeing that their order was not treated kindly by the book, they held a large public forum at their lodge hall to explain their purpose and answer all questions.
WED, 5-24-06

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


Thursday, May 18, 2006

5-22 Immigration Solutions

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Almost all conversations these days seem to quickly turn to immigration and the DaVinci Code.
It's nice having something more interesting than the weather to talk about. And most everyone has an opinion on both subjects. We'll talk about immigration today since Congress appears as though it might finally be ready to do something.
The congressional solution may be remarkably similar to what President Bush has proposed, even though the president's proposal has been getting severe criticism from both sides of the aisle.
It may have just enough of what both sides want to at least get it through the U.S. Senate. Then comes the fight with the House in conference committee.
Boiled down to its basics, we must make it much more difficult to enter this country illegally and easier to get in legally. The devil is in the details, as they say.
Is building a fence the way to keep illegals out? That appears to be the way Congress is headed. Remember that the Great Wall of China never kept an enemy out, or anyone else who really wanted to get in.
Maybe there is a hi-tech solution, today, that China didn't have, but fences and National Guard troops seem too simple a solution. As long as conditions in Mexico and countries to the south remain as miserable, people will find a way into the Land of Opportunity.
Judging from what I hear from readers, more of the congressional debate should focus on Mexico and its role in our problem. Our porous border is a great jobs program for Mexico.
Reportedly, the Mexican government has issued a pamphlet with helpful hints on how to sneak into the United States. The money sent by workers back to relatives in Mexico totals $20 billion a year.
But entering Mexico legally is a different story. I have received several e-mails with horror stories about Americans trying to go to Mexico to live or work. Mexico has threatened to go to court to gain more rights for its illegal immigrants in this country, but denies those same rights to Americans legally entering Mexico.
And newspapers have carried numerous stories of how Mexican authorities chase, rob and beat Central Americans coming through their country on the way to the United States.
Reader Richard Hannemann suggests a modern-day Ellis Island, where immigrants are welcomed not as guests but as potential citizens if they get a job and integrate into the American fabric.
Americans I talk to seem proud of our Ellis Island days. We admitted a lot of immigrants during that period. Fear that such an influx would make us an Irish, Jewish, German or Italian nation closed it down.
But in retrospect, we realize those fears were unfounded. Each culture lent its flavor to our nation. But none of them took over. They didn't want to. They came here because they wanted to be Americans.
Americans needn't fear that we will lose our language or culture. The rest of the world has much more reason to fear losing their language and culture to Americans.
During our foreign travels, my wife and I are constantly amazed to see signs and billboards, not in the native language, but in English. We have conquered much of the world economically and culturally. And as we can see from the Middle East situation, some countries take offense.
Of course, the handful of immigrants who want to take back the American Southwest for Mexico don't help. Neither do those who carry the Mexican flag in demonstrations demanding rights and respect.
Another controversy arose when a new Spanish language version of our National Anthem was released recently with the lyrics changed to fighting words. Our anthem has been translated into many languages over the years, including Spanish.
There's really nothing wrong with that as long as they are faithful translations. Some even appear on the State Department's Web site, which must be embarrassing to President Bush and Gov. Richardson, who have called for our anthem to be sung only in English..
MON, 5-22-06

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


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

5-19 Gates to Moussaoui

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Bill Gates says he wishes he weren't the richest person in the world. I'm sure we all can sympathize with him.
After all, he's a computer geek, who would prefer not to have the added visibility. And many probably can agree with him, wishing they were the richest instead.
The Microsoft co-founder is ranked by Forbes magazine this year as the world's richest individual, with an estimated wealth of about $50 billion.
Gates says great wealth brings nothing good. But he didn't always feel that way. New Mexicans will never forget that Gates and Microsoft got their start in Albuquerque, writing software programs for the world's first personal computer.
Unlike today, Gates was plagued by financial problems in the New Mexico of 30 years ago. One day he lamented to co-founder Paul Allen that he would never get rich in the computer business.
Unfortunately the young interviewer on CNBC-TV wasn't aware of that comment even though it is documented in the annals of Microsoft history.
It would have been interesting to hear Gates reflect on that observation. It might have been informative for those of us who haven't experienced the feeling of being the richest person in the world.
The second richest person also has a connection to our state. Warren Buffett, with an estimated wealth of $42 billion, is a cousin of New Mexico's GOP national committeeman George Buffett.
The Albuquerque entrepreneur says he has had the opportunity to sit down at the Berkshire Hathaway owner's kitchen table in Omaha and talk business with his somewhat distant cousin. But wasn't able to pry out any secrets.
Not everyone agrees with Forbes' rankings. No company wants to reveal proprietary data on how such decisions are made. Take Cuban leader Fidel Castro, for instance. Forbes ranked him seventh richest among world leaders. That's embarrassing for a man of the people.
But New Mexico leaders aren't complaining about recent rankings by Forbes and Kiplinger's placing Albuquerque at or near the top of lists for being livable and business friendly.
Gov. Bill Richardson is touting that information in New York City as he tries to convince bond rating companies to give New Mexico a AAA rating. Not many states achieve that status.
The United States Postal "Service" is putting out warnings that it may not be through with current rate hikes. It doesn't want us to be surprised by another one. I do appreciate the advance notice, but for goodness sake please let me use up the end of the 37-cent stamps I bought before hearing about the last rate hike.
Zacarias Moussaoui got exactly what he deserved -- life in prison. He obviously was so anxious to get the death penalty and become a martyr that I rejoiced in seeing him not get his wish.
My line of thinking wouldn't get very far in court, but it might do well in the court of public opinion. This guy had nearly four years to taunt Americans. By then there wasn't much more to say. It was time to go collect his reward in his misguided view of heaven.
But instead, he must wait around for a lifetime, locked up so tightly that no one will ever again have to listen to his perverted ideas.
Moussaoui's reason for wanting death related to the reason some jury members voted to spare his life. He was an insignificant foot-soldier in the al Qaeda army, unstable enough not to be in on the final plans.
But he wanted so much to be one of the guys that he did everything he could to beg for death. It is doubtful that anything would have been different on 9-11, even if he had told authorities everything he knew.
Some wanted his death because he was the only al Qaeda member connected with the plot that we had. Killing him would make up for the others we couldn't get. But if you wanted revenge, this is sweeter.
FRI, 5-19-06

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


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Will miss columns 5/15 & 5/17

I'll be out of the office until Wed. 5/17. I can be reached by email or cell phone 505-699-9982.

Monday, May 08, 2006

5-12 Billy Still Riding

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Billy the Kid still rides in southern New Mexico on the 125th anniversary of his shooting by Sheriff Pat Garrett.
Gov. Bill Richardson secured $200,000 from the 2006 Legislature to help communities in Billy the Kid Country observe Billy's exploits on this significant anniversary.
Some of that money may be used to reimburse extra expenses involved in assisting with media coverage of the April 21-29 Trail Ride, along the trail of Billy's last ride from Lincoln to Fort Sumner, following Billy's escape from the Lincoln County jail on April 28, 1881.
This was the fifth annual trail ride, over the Capitan Mountains, across high desert grasslands and through the Pecos River, visiting ranches where Billy stopped on his 125-mile trek.
A full contingent of 25 riders left Lincoln on their exciting adventure, organized by Wally Roberts of Hobbs, with Kim Chesser of Roswell as trail boss.
At the end of the trail, in Fort Sumner, the riders were met by Mayor Juan Chavez, the Monument Rangers and the Chamber of Commerce. More information is available at www.Billythe
Another Billy the Kid observance will be held in Fort Sumner during Old Fort Days, June 7-10. The highlight will be the Billy the Kid Tombstone Race on the final day. The event commemorates the frequent stealing of Billy's tombstone.
Also on June 10, Silver City will hold the Millie and Billy Ball, honoring two of the town's most notorious former residents.
On July 14, the day Billy died, Fort Sumner is planning a re-enactment of the shooting. And on August 6, during Old Lincoln Days you can see a re-enactment of Billy's daring escape from jail.
And to cap it all off, Billy and Lincoln County deputy sheriffs Tom Sullivan and Steve Sederwall are going to France for the Cannes Film Festival later this month.
Two years ago, French documentary film maker Anne Feinsilber shot most of the footage for "Requiem for Billy the Kid" in the village of Lincoln. Sullivan and Sederwall were the chief assistants in her effort to document the Kid's story and the current efforts to dig him up.
The 90-minute film recently was chosen for showing at Cannes on May 21. Feinsilber has asked Sullivan and Sederwall to attend the showing along with Kris Kristofferson, who did the Kid's voice-over in the film.
It's a nice payoff for the two deputies, who put in nine months of work with no compensation. But it also should be great for the film maker to have two real, live cowboys who totally look the part.
It will be like Molly Brown, invading and enchanting Europe with her husband Johnny's Colorado silver mine money. They're sure to make a pot of silver for Feinsilber.
The film sounds intriguing. It is a mixture of documentary and Western as seen through the eyes of a French woman who seems captivated with Billy and the deputies. Documentary elements of the story are intercut with voiceover graveside conversations between Billy and Feinsilber.
The feat sounds terrifically difficult to pull off without being hokey. But if the movie was selected for Cannes, out of over 1,500 entries from throughout the world, Feinsilber succeeded.
Sullivan and Sederwall won't stop at Cannes. As long as Feinsilber has them across the pond, she plans to tour them to other countries in the area to promote the film.
New Mexico is one of the first places the film should visit after its release. Wouldn't it be nice to see its release right here? Maybe it could be premiered in Lincoln, a town that has remained unchanged ever since the end of the Lincoln County War.
It takes a lot of bucks to preserve an entire town and New Mexico is lucky it has happened. But that effort always has been underfunded. The international recognition and resources from a Lincoln premiere just might help with its continued preservation.
FRI, 5-12-06

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


Friday, May 05, 2006

5-10 Public Financing of Political Campaigns

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Public financing of political races is a good deal, but it can also be a big pain. That's what three candidates for the state Public Regulation Commission tell us.
Back in the 1990s, the Legislature restructured the regulation of gas, electricity, telecommunications and insurance. One of its major desires was to eliminate the influence of big contributions from major utilities to the people who regulate them.
So the PRC became a testing ground for experimenting with laws to clean up political campaign financing. One of the primary restrictions was a $500 limitation on contributions from corporations being regulated.
As you might guess, corporate lobbyists found many ways to get around that. The latest tinkering with the law was to allow public campaign financing for those who desire.
Numerous good government organizations have advocated the idea in New Mexico for years. PRC races are a good place to test such a law because three positions are the most that will be open at one time.
This year, 13 candidates are running for those three positions. Four, including one incumbent, chose to take the public money. One of those has been disqualified for failure to comply with one of the requirements.
The remaining three candidates were still waiting for their money with only six weeks left before the election. Since companies doing business with political candidates aren't inclined to let them run a tab, campaigns are hampered.
Several other states, including our neighbor, Arizona, now have forms of public financing that seem to work. The idea is more popular with Democrats than Republicans, who see any limitation on political contributions as a violation of free speech.
Public financing can be very helpful to candidates with limited resources. Former state treasurer Michael Montoya is quoted as saying that his temptation to steal came from incurring large campaign debts in an unsuccessful race four years before he was elected.
Winning candidates don't have much trouble raising money after an election. Losers do, and it happens often. You'd be surprised at the number of people in this state with old campaign debts hanging over their heads.
Presidential candidates have a public financing option open to them. Most take it. The danger is when a candidate chooses private financing and accumulates a huge war chest.
Congressional candidates don't have a public financing option. They have to raise money practically full time. Some of the most expensive congressional races in the nation, recently, have been in the 1st Congressional District.
Rep. Heather Wilson spent over $3 million to retain her seat in 2004. Her Democrat opponent, Patricia Madrid, says Wilson had better plan on spending more than that this year.
We spent a few days last week in the Palm Springs area, where U.S. Rep. Mary Bono, wife of the late Republican congressman Sonny Bono, expects a tough race. She says it may cause her to have to raise more than the $609,000 it took to win two years ago.
The political watchers in that paradise of rich folks were aghast at the amount of political spending.
But then, Bono likely isn't in as tough a race as Rep. Heather Wilson in New Mexico. Her challenge by Attorney General Patricia Madrid makes this the sixth most competitive congressional race in the country according to one political analyst.
The race is close enough that one of Wilson's biggest political enemies in Washington is closing Republican political ranks behind her.
According to political blogger Joe Monahan, House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton allowed Wilson to be the chief sponsor of the anti-gouging bill on gas prices. Two years ago, Barton tried to kick Wilson off his committee when she broke ranks over the Medicare prescription drug bill.
Barton figured that if the GOP loses too many members of Congress, he'll no longer be a committee chairman.
WED, 5-10-06

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


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

5-8 New Mexico Bowl

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- What a good idea. A college bowl game for New Mexico. Who would have thought of our little state hosting a bowl game?
Apparently no one thought much about it until Gov. Bill Richardson got things rolling in January.
A consultant said he might be able to help get a game next year for $40,000. Instead, Richardson turned it over to Dennis Latta and the New Mexico Sports Authority and we have a game for this year.
Latta says it cost only $40. Sending a delegation to Orlando, Fla. to make a presentation to the NCAA Bowl Licensing Committee definitely would cost more than $40.
Government employees aren't accustomed to covering their own expenses while on official business. But Latta likely means we'd have had those expenses even with a $40,000 consultant.
This column took on the governor for trying to attract a National Football League franchise, but we applaud him for this effort. It was achievable and many community groups quickly climbed on board.
The bowl became almost a sure score when ESPN joined the effort with the $2 million letter of credit required for bowl applicants. ESPN even led the presentation team.
What made a bowl game in New Mexico such a good idea? Mainly because it had all the right players enthusiastically behind it. Besides ESPN, which also brought along the assurance of television coverage, the athletic conferences in which New Mexico's two biggest colleges play will provide the teams for the game.
ESPN says it would like to see either the University of New Mexico or New Mexico State in the game every three years. At least a 6-6 record is required to be bowl eligible. Rocky Long usually has his UNM team a little above that. NMSU is sure to improve on its 0-12 record this past season.
UNM's support also was important. It sometimes isn't too excited about professional teams coming into the area and creating competition for the sports spectator dollar. But this is a once-a-year event that will be held at University Stadium.
The lack of competition from big time pro sports that is faced by many other bowls also makes Albuquerque attractive. The New Mexico Bowl will be the only game in town.
But it will take much work. To remain sanctioned, bowls must bring in an average of 25,000 paying customers a year over a three-year period. Several bowls have failed.
UNM's stadium holds just under 39,000 fans. With the momentum that has been built, the chances of filling it are good. To help out, the NCAA has placed an upper limit of $30 on a ticket.
With the top bowl games running up to 10 times that amount, this is quite a bargain. And with the popularity of those bowls, many tickets are resold for well over $1,000.
And that brings up a sore point. Last December the state Tourism Department was eligible to purchase some $175 end-zone seats for the Rose Bowl because New Mexico entered a float in the Rose Parade.
Those tickets were then sold at-cost to "selected" people. That was the term used by some political writers in the state who assumed that the select few were friends of Gov. Richardson.
A few tickets were used for promotional purposes, the remainder were sold to New Mexicans who volunteered to travel to Pasadena at their own expense and put in at least two eight-hour shifts decorating New Mexico's entry in the Rose Parade.
Role was taken at each shift. There were more people than tickets available so those who had put in their request first got to purchase the tickets, but only if they had put in their two shifts.
Since I happened to have over 25 years of float building experience, I was asked to help recruit workers willing to spend a week in Pasadena at their own expense.
I can testify that the great majority of those workers are Republicans, who have never given a cent to Bill Richardson. They went because they have pride in New Mexico.
MON, 5-8-06

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


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

5-5 Day Without Immigrants

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- May 5 seemed like a much better date for illegal alien demonstrations than May 1, which has overtones of communism and workers' demonstrations.
Cinco de Mayo has a festive flavor that would have lent itself to a message that America should celebrate its Mexican workers, whether illegal or not.
Aggressive demonstrations by people who are in the country illegally don't seem like a very good idea. Not that the police were going to arrest them for being here illegally. There is safety in numbers.
The concern of public safety officials during a demonstration is to preserve the peace. Arrests of anyone, except the violent, don't accomplish that purpose. Politicians weren't going to give them any trouble either. This is a hot potato, with opposing feelings running high.
The worry for organizers of the "Day Without Immigrants" needed to be the reaction of the public, most of whom likely have some mixed feelings about the illegal immigrant problem.
Few will doubt that the process of becoming legal is a nightmare of government red tape. But demanding rights, even when illegals are providing a valuable service, doesn't sell well to most Americans. Neither do nationalistic or anti-American sentiments.
Event organizers got that message. Demonstrations in the big cities were a symphony of red, white and blue. Inflammatory statements were held to a minimum.
I didn't detect any of the rhetoric that Mexican immigrants should take over the United States and turn the American Southwest back to Mexico.
But organizers did exult over big turnouts and claim it was proof of Mexican immigrant economic power, which can be turned into political muscle. That is somewhat true, but it won't be easy.
There is a big difference between illegal Mexican aliens and all Hispanics. In the first place, not all illegal aliens coming across the Mexican border are from Mexico. Quite a few are from Central American and even South American countries.
They aren't interested in helping Mexico take back the American Southwest because they were treated infinitely worse on their journey through Mexico.
Secondly, all Hispanics do not think alike. And they're not going to vote alike. Legal Mexican immigrants have a much different slant on the problem than their illegal countrymen.
Hispanics who can trace their roots back to before Americans arrived in 1846 to take the Southwest from Mexico are almost sure to have other ideas. Most saw Gen. Kearny and his troops as illegal aliens at the time.
And then we all know about the differences among New Mexico Hispanics, Cuban-Americans, Puerto Ricans, California Chicanos, Texas Latinos and the urban Hispanics spread throughout the nation.
They will gain political clout, but fearful Americans don't need to worry about Mexico taking us over or the United States becoming a Spanish-speaking nation.
Some states may eventually have a majority of minorities. New Mexico and Hawaii already do. And they're my two favorite states -- nice and mellow and not likely to cause anyone much trouble.
New Mexico's Day Without Immigrants demonstrations were small and uneventful, except for a counter-demonstrator in Roswell. Santa Fe called its event a picnic, and that was the atmosphere.
Even if Hispanics become a majority in the United States, we won't become a Spanish-speaking nation. My experience is that most first-generation immigrants have a difficult time with English, just as I do with Spanish, but their children pick it up quickly.
If the demonstrations create a greater urgency to solve the illegal-immigrant problem, they will have served a helpful purpose. Republicans are catching the blame for congressional inaction on the matter, but Democrats are holding it up too, for political advantage.
Mexico also deserves a great amount of blame for its treatment of immigrants from any country -- legal or illegal. It can't advocate for rights of its emigrants until it drastically cleans up its act.
FRI, 5-05-06

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


Monday, May 01, 2006

5-03 The World Is Flat

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- The World is Flat. That phrase is everywhere lately. At first I dismissed it as a likely pronouncement from the flat-earthers that Columbus and Copernicus were wrong.
When I realized the words were coming from economists, I bought Thomas Friedman's book by the same name and had my eyes opened.
Friedman has taken a level playing field and extended it worldwide. His thesis is that the convergence of a number of "flatteners" in the last few years has leveled the playing field for anyone in the world with a computer and Internet access.
That means anyone in the least developed countries of the world now has the tools to become a player on the world's stage. And individuals and institutions that don't realize this will soon be left in the dust.
When President Bush went to India recently, we heard much about outsourcing. That's when companies farm out a function, such as research, to another company, maybe on the other side of the world. Computer whizzes previously came here to do that. Now they can stay home in India.
It worked so well that U.S. companies began outsourcing other functions, like call centers or accounts receivable. Now there is no telling who is doing what from where when the phone rings.
Offshoring has been around longer. That's when companies move entire factories overseas. We're familiar with incentives local and state governments offer to attract business. It's now gone global. And developing countries can seriously underbid us.
Offshoring won't stop because it's good business for the companies that do it and for the countries that attract the factories. And since Americans can buy the foreign-produced goods cheaper, they aren't complaining.
Outsourcing won't stop either. And neither will eight other flatteners Friedman describes in The World Is Flat. Those flatteners began on 11/9/89, with the fall of the Berlin Wall.
That event tipped the balance across the world from centrally-planned economies to free-market economies, governed from the ground up, by the interests, demands and aspirations of the people, rather than the interests of a ruling clique.
The second flattener came in 1995 when the Internet began to connect people throughout the world. The third flattener came in the last few years with the development of compatibility among software programs so that work can flow smoothly.
Once these three flatteners were in place, the other seven came quickly.
To the chagrin of the Microsofts, computer geeks started writing their own software programs and even their own operating systems and making them available free for download from the Internet.
Wal-Mart created a supply chain now being referred to as the Wal-Mart Symphony. Manufacturing, reordering delivery, sorting, packing, distribution and buying have been integrated seamlessly into a system such that when a computer rings up your purchase at a counter, a machine somewhere in the world begins making another of those items.
Smaller companies can't play the Wal-Mart Symphony themselves so UPS has created the opposite of outsourcing. It goes into a company and creates a global supply chain. You've seen the ad in which a company manager unwittingly names a guy in funny brown shorts the employee of the month.
Then came Google and its derivatives, bringing all the world's knowledge to our fingertips. That was followed by all the digital, mobile, personal and virtual gadgets that completed the flattening of the world.
Now all the world is America's competition. Are we up to it? Friedman tells of a sign in a Chinese factory.
"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up and knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or die. Every morning a lion wakes up and knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle or starve. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle, when the sun comes up, you better start running."
WED, 5-03-06

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