Inside the Capitol

Thursday, May 31, 2007

D-Day Offers Hope in Europe


Syndicated Columnist


      SANTA FE – June 6 marks the 63rd anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy. This year is special because it offers some hope that the new leaders of France, England and Germany are ready to begin working cooperatively for the first time in their history.

      It is a sign that Europe is moving on and that Germany is finally being treated as a good neighbor and ally after all these years. For 60 years, bad feelings flared often.

   It has been hard for many to put aside the atrocities of Hitler's war machine. In 1994, Chancellor Helmut Kohl took offense at the Allied power's refusal to invite him to the 50th anniversary of D-Day even though he had strongly promoted French-German reconciliation.

      For all these years, the fact that Germany started the war made it difficult to mourn German war dead or seek justice for ethnic Germans kicked out of eastern Europe at the end of the war.

   And of course, Germans could hardly decry the destruction of their cities by Allied bombing without being reminded that the bombing of cities was begun by Hitler.

      While traveling through Germany a few years ago, I was struck by how sensitive Germans are about any display of patriotism for fear they would appear to their neighbors and to Americans as militaristic.

   They also wanted to explain that although the rest of the world still can't understand how a civilized people could let their leaders do the things they did, it seemed a logical progression of events at the time.

      First Germans were led to fear the communists, then the Jews, gypsies and gays. When these people were rounded up and sent to Nazi prison camps, Germans were told it was because they were criminals and security risks.

   It was something the United States also did during the war when we sent residents of German, Japanese and Italian descent to camps for the duration of the war.

      Of course, we didn't kill six million of them. The Germans I spoke with said they didn't ask what was going on in the camps because the country was at war and  it was a matter of national security.

      We were in Belgium on Armistice Day that year, enjoying the parades, speeches and decorations. American flags were everywhere and the famous Mannekin Pis statue in Brussels was outfitted in an American Legion uniform.

   I asked our German guide what was going on back in Germany that day and was told it was just another day.

      The lessons of the World Wars have created a deep streak of pacifism among most Germans, just as it has among the Japanese. It has made Germany one of the most outspoken opponents of the war in Iraq.

   German leaders say they understand that dictators must be dealt with, but they also know what bombing, destruction and the loss of one's home mean for people. They argue that Germany owes it to history to stress the alternatives to war.

      With Memorial Day, Flag Day and the 4th of July occurring within a five week period, D-Day doesn't get much of an observance, except on 10th anniversaries. But it is an important day, marking the beginning of the end of World War II. It doesn't get much recognition in the United States and not much recognition in England either.

   A few years ago, my wife and I were in Dover, England on June 6. A bus driver told us that on a clear day we would be able to see Normandy across the English Channel, but I had to remind him what was going on that day 58 years earlier.

      Gen. Eisenhower knew what a huge gamble the invasion was. The tides had to be just right and the weather wasn't cooperating. The night before the invasion he wrote a press release announcing the calamity and taking full responsibility for the disaster.

   Fortunately he didn't have to issue that grim apology. But it was nice to know we had a leader with the strength of character to shoulder responsibility rather than explain that "mistakes were made."

MON, 6-06-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)


Is Spaceport Paying Twice for Land?


Syndicated Columnist


      SANTA FE -- Is the state paying twice for spaceport land? The Albuquerque Journal thinks so. In an April 22 copyright story, the Journal reports that the Spaceport Authority will pay twice for the land it will use.

      It is true that the spaceport will pay the State Land Office for the use of state trust land and it will pay two ranching families that already are leasing that same land from the state.

      But both the state and the ranchers have valid claim to the land, so it is necessary for the spaceport to reach an agreement with both. In addition, the ranchers also own some of that land. The spaceport, essentially, will be subleasing the land from the ranchers.

      The deal came about at the insistence of State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons. He could have allowed the leases of the ranchers to expire and then lease the land to the spaceport. But Lyons, who also is a rancher, knew that would completely disrupt the lives of those ranching families.

      Ranching leases are renewed virtually automatically. Ranchers depend on that fact to make improvements on the leased land and to plan their lives. Pulling leases out from under them knocks them out of the ranching business.

      That is what happened to more than 100 ranching families just to the east on what is now White Sands Missile Range. In 1942, the federal government took all ranching property, including both leased land and deeded land owned by the ranchers, for a bombing range.

      It was only temporary, said the government. As soon as World War II was over, the ranchers would get their land back. But after the war, we needed a place to play with all those German V-2 rockets we had captured, along with the scientists who built them.

      So the government said it would be a longer wait and paid most of the ranchers a flat $1,000 for their property and grazing rights. Property values were much lower back then, but you couldn't buy a ranch for $1,000.

      Besides, these ranchers had been off their land for four years and needed that thousand bucks to live on. Being patriotic people, they had willingly suffered during the war, but now they were facing an indefinite banishment, which looked like it might last a lifetime.

      And now, 60 years later, it has been a lifetime. Many died disillusioned with the government they had loyally supported. Most fought all their lives for fair compensation from Congress or the courts.

   Our congressional delegation introduced legislation every two years, but were fought by every president, secretary of Defense and secretary of the Interior.

   Lyons didn't want to see a repeat of that sad story. State Economic Development Secretary Rick Homans agreed with Lyons' desire not to push the ranching families off the land they had worked for decades. An agreement was reached.

   There are many, especially in Albuquerque, who think the ranchers got too good a deal, but they'd be real happy not having rockets going off in their pastures, buildings popping up, traffic and forced evacuations from time to time. They'd rather preserve their current lifestyle.

   Financially, they're getting a good deal. They happen to be in the right place at the right time. But for those of us who watched the disruption of a hundred ranching families' lives, seeing two of their neighbors treated right is heart warming.

   The White Sands ranchers were evicted for national defense purposes. The eviction of the Cain and Wallin families doesn't have the same urgency and would have been one more argument against the spaceport.

   For those who would like a taste of what the White Sands ranchers went through, Edward Abbey's novel "Fire on the Mountain" tells the fictionalized story of real-life rancher John Prather, who lost his way of life and fought the government to his dying day.

MON, 6-04-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Richardson Must Get Some Rest


Syndicated Columnist

      SANTA FE -- Gov. Bill Richardson must slow down a little. Fast-forward Bill has always had the energy of a 20-year-old. He can  put in 18-hour days without stopping to catch his breath.

   He's notorious for wearing out staff members  who can't keep up with him. The past two years have been a blessing for them because he had both an office staff and a campaign staff to wear out.

      But even those who know him only from the television screen are noticing a difference. He no longer looks like a bundle of energy. He's more like a tired, old man.

      Some of his apparent fatigue could be due to the fact that he will turn 60 in November. The years finally may be catching up. Running New Mexico and a presidential campaign also has to be a drag.

   He managed to stay on his game while running the state and a gubernatorial campaign last year but he was a prohibitive favorite then, and now he's an underdog.

   Our current president didn't have any trouble running for president while running Texas seven years ago. But his personality was such that he could allow others to do the work and he'd just show up. Bill Richardson wants to do all the work, too.

   And it's killing him -- or his presidential chances, at least. He looked tired and haggard and even distracted in the South Carolina debate. Then he turned in a mediocre performance on Meet the Press last Sunday.

   Gov. Richardson usually shines in a one-on-one situation like that. Admittedly, he was jousting with Tim Russert, the political world's most incisive interrogator. You don't get away with anything when you're talking to Russert.

   But Richardson has handled such situations before. His quick mind usually comes up with a rejoinder and if it doesn't, he'll charm you with that big smile of his. But a quick mind and big smile both were missing almost entirely on Sunday morning.

   From those who admire candor in politicians, Richardson may have picked up some votes.  He admitted he's made mistakes, something Hillary Clinton has suffered for not doing on her Iraq war authorization vote.

   He also said he's not perfect when asked why he initially gave Attorney General Alberto Gonzales a pass on his conflicting Senate testimony. But to most viewers, those admissions likely appeared defensive rather than straight talk.

   Richardson's answers to many questions could have been sharper. He reminded me of some sports stars who think all they need do is show up for the game and leave the practicing to others. He may have to spend more time on game simulations and less time shaking hands in the local diner.

   He has done a good job staking out some unique positions. At the debate in Nevada two months ago, Richardson proposed that all Democrat presidential candidates sign a pledge not to bad mouth each other. It wasn't something that is going to happen, but voters like the sound of it.

   Richardson has proposed that we get all troops out of Iraq by the end of the year. That is what polls say 60 percent of Americans want. All other candidates are willing to give President Bush until various times next year.

   This appears to be in concert with what I see as the national Democratic strategy of allowing the president to extend the fighting until the 2008 elections when voters will decide the only way to get out of Iraq is to elect a Democrat president and large Democrat majorities in Congress.

   On energy and immigration, Richardson's background has  enabled him to develop more comprehensive positions than his opponents. He's also unique in that he is the only Democratic candidate to receive an endorsement from the National Rifle Association.

   But Richardson has to leave himself enough time for rest so that he can effectively articulate his positions and keep the smile and sense of humor that has vaulted him into fourth place in the polls.

FRI, 6-01-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)


Friday, May 25, 2007

NM Amigos Visit President Bush


Syndicated Columnist

      SANTA FE -- The New Mexico Amigos, our state's official goodwill ambassadors, visited President George Bush recently for a quick photo op and gift presentation and ended up spending nearly an hour chatting informally with him.

      Sen. Pete Domenici arranged the visit, which was held in the Executive Office Building next to the White House in order to accommodate the 140 Amigos who attended.

      The annual goodwill flight, this year traveled to Williamsburg, Va.; Washington, D.C. and Boston. Locations to be visited are determined by the Amigos presidents. This year's president is Mike Pemberton, a Roswell businessman.

      While in Washington, the group toured the Capitol Building, courtesy of Sen. Jeff Bingaman, and the Pentagon.

   In the Williamsburg area, the Amigos visited Norfolk Naval Air Station, where they split up and toured a submarine, destroyer and cruiser. Their luncheon speaker was Robert L. Dain, a native New Mexican, who will command the yet-to-be-commissioned USS New Mexico nuclear submarine.

   The Amigos hosted receptions in all three cities. In Washington, all five members of New Mexico's congressional delegation were in attendance.

   Our governors usually join the Amigos on their annual flights. Gov. Bill Richardson has joined them in the past and has arranged for state governors to speak to them.

   But this year, Richardson was otherwise occupied, so Lt. Gov. Diane Denish joined them. Denish's father, Jack Daniels, was a charter member of the Amigos and a former president.

   The Amigos got their start in 1962 during the celebration of New Mexico's golden anniversary as a state. As part of the celebration, 85 of New Mexico's leading citizens chartered an aircraft at their own expense and visited Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, New York and Washington, D.C. to draw attention to New Mexico's 50 years as a state.

   As a result of the trip, a permanent organization was formed, a charter as a private corporation obtained and the governor of New Mexico appointed the Amigos the official goodwill ambassadors for the state.

   In all but one year since, the Amigos have chartered an aircraft and made trips to other states, Canada and Mexico to focus attention on New Mexico. The governor is invited as a guest of the organization on the goodwill flights.

   In each city, arrangements are made for the Amigos to visit and exchange ideas with large groups of the city's prominent citizens. At luncheons and receptions, the governor addresses local groups and, in turn, that state's governor and other leaders address the Amigos.

   While the annual goodwill flight attracts the most attention, the Amigos participate in many other activities to promote the state of New Mexico. Frequently they act as hosts for important groups visiting the state. They support the programs of other organizations that are acting in the interest of New Mexico.

   Amigo members are distinguished New Mexico civic, business, industrial and professional leaders who devote time and financial support to the organization.

   Amigos must be leaders in their community, decision makers in their business, company or profession and meet rigid membership qualifications. The organization is limited to 260 active members and is governed by a board of directors headed by a president.

   To remain active members, Amigos must participate in at least one goodwill flight every three years. The presidency rotates yearly. The list of its 45 presidents is a Who's Who of New Mexico, spread widely throughout the state. Last year's president was Santa Fe art gallery owner Nedra Matteucci.

   The position of secretary/treasurer does not rotate. That post has been held by Santa Fe marketing and governmental relations consultant Gary Blakeley for the past 20 years. It's Gary who makes everything work once the decisions are made.

WED, 5-30-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Remember Those Who Gave Their Lives


Syndicated Columnist


      SANTA FE -- Did you know that Memorial Day is commemorated in different ways and on different dates throughout our nation? The observance had its beginnings during the Civil War, which is a good hint that there would not be uniformity.

      More than two dozen cities and towns lay claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day, and each had its own customs. There is evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War.

      Following the war, towns in the North decided it would be a good idea to honor their military dead also. In 1868, "Decoration Day" was officially proclaimed. It was so named because the emphasis was on decorating graves of fallen soldiers.

   By 1890, it had been adopted by all northern states. Most southern states refused to observe the national day because of lingering hostilities. They continued with their own state observances, spread throughout the year.

      It wasn't until after World War I that the South began recognizing the federal Decoration Day. Many men from both North and South gave their lives in that war, making unification finally possible.

      In 1967, approximately a century after the first Decoration Day, the name was changed to Memorial Day. A year later, Congress passed the Uniform Holiday's Bill, which moved four holidays from their traditional dates to the closest Monday in order to create some three-day weekends.

      All states have now adopted the holiday, although most southern states still observe a separate day to commemorate those who died fighting for the Confederacy.

      Memorial Day customs in various areas of the country still differ. In most areas, the emphasis is on honoring the dead from all wars our nation has fought.

   Some communities, however, want to pay their respects to all their dead by cleaning cemeteries and decorating all graves. The practice may help distinguish the observance from Veterans Day.

   Recent Memorial days have meant more to Americans as our young people are dying again in the service of their country. The shift in the nature of warfare has meant that fewer lives are being lost than before.

   Most of us do not have a close family member who has been killed in any war and the media is prohibited from showing the flag-draped boxes bringing young Americans home.

      But the cost of our nation's defense is still counted in lives and not in dollars. The real cost of liberty, the real price of the freedoms that too many take for granted, is measured in lives that won't be fulfilled.

      New Mexico has contributed its share and more to the defenders of freedom. Even before we became a state, our predecessors proudly joined the Rough Riders who charged San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt.

   A half century later, we were the fighting 200th Coast Artillery, that slowed the Japanese march down the Pacific until our nation could recover from the devastating losses at Pearl Harbor.

   Few of our World War II veterans are still 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 has been said that if mothers were in charge, nations would get along better. The same can be said of generals, who understand the horrors of war. Our problem is the swaggering politicians, most of whom avoided military service and haven't had to suffer the loss of sons or daughters.

   So this Memorial Day, before we launch into a celebration of the summer's first long weekend, let us remember the sacrifices of those who gave their lives to protect the constitutional guarantees we take for granted.

   And let us also remain ever watchful that no government ever uses a national crisis to justify taking away any of those rights and freedoms.

MON, 5-28-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Richardson Edges Out of Second Tier


Syndicated Columnist


      SANTA FE -- Gov. Bill Richardson is finally gaining some traction with double-digit showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, the nation's first two presidential primary states.

      Those are the two places he is running the clever television ads you've been hearing about. Unfortunately for second-tier candidates, there no longer is breathing space before the next primaries allowing candidates with good showings to raise more money for contests in  populous states.

      So Richardson already is organizing in other early-primary states. One of those is California, the biggest of them all. And that is why he chose Los Angeles for his official announcement.

      Richardson's official announcement was even less a surprise  than his January announcement in New Mexico that he was forming an exploratory committee.

      There was nothing newsworthy about the announcement, but fortunately for Richardson, it happened to be a slow news day in California and the nation. Once again, Big Bill had Lady Luck on his side.

      New Mexico Republicans complained that Richardson didn't make this announcement in his home state too. Maybe they were planning to send protesters.

   But despite GOP efforts to undermine Richardson's candidacy, the latest popularity poll shows him at 74 percent, carrying all demographic groups. Obviously there is a factor of pride among New Mexicans in having a presidential candidate from their little state.

   The official announcement was held at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, where Richardson and the New Mexicans who helped decorate the state's Rose Parade float, stayed last year. Present were enough New Mexico officials to fill anyone's stage -- with the obligatory wide racial and ethnic diversity.

   The most encouraging sign for Richardson's campaign was that wife Barbara not only was present, she introduced him. She's not a bad speaker, very warm and from the heart. She tossed in some jokes about his weight, alluded to their long marriage and then confided what New Mexicans already know -- that this will not be an easy road for her to travel.

   Pictures taken afterward show her looking adoringly at her husband. It was perfect for national consumption that followed. Los Angeles is a major media market that is picked up nationwide. It was much more free publicity than Richardson could have gotten anywhere else. He also had a good turnout of local officials who have endorsed his candidacy.

   Another reason for Richardson to announce in Los Angeles was to emphasize his Latino roots. It's a message that isn't getting across. The governor tossed quite a bit of Spanish into his remarks.

   Although Richardson still isn't doing well in national surveys,  media people know him well and many give hints that they like him. Cokie Roberts and her husband Steve, who also is a national journalist and commentator, went a step farther in their syndicated column.

   Commenting on campaign expense reports filed by presidential candidates, they observed that Sen. John McCain and Gov. Bill Richardson report about the same amount of cash on hand but their campaigns are headed in very different directions.

   Their observation was "If candidates were investments, the smart money would be saying: sell McCain, buy Richardson."

   By surging to 10 percent showings in the first two primary states and raising more money than the other second tier candidates, some observers are beginning to put Richardson in a new second tier along with John Edwards whose support is dropping. The remainder of the candidates would be in a third tier.

   Some analysts think Richardson is surging, not because he is the best qualified candidate but because he is likable, someone you'd like to sit down and chat with.

   Also falling in that category, they say, are our current president, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

   Richardson's rap for disregarding speed limits may have been eased by New Jersey Gov. John Corzine's recent 90-mile-per-hour crash. Evidently it is something many governors do.

FRI, 5-25-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)


Monday, May 21, 2007

Can Immigration Be the Solution to Some Problems?


Syndicated Columnist

      SANTA FE -- It's not often that cooperation makes the news. We see precious little of it these days and when we do, it doesn't seem to grab as many readers, listeners or viewers as does conflict.

      If you're still with me for a second paragraph, please stick around and consider some recent examples of good news in politics.

      Sen. Pete Domenici was a participant last week in a bipartisan agreement between the White House and a group of Republican and Democrat senators who will try to sell a compromise proposal  to their colleagues on the subject of immigration reform.

   Any agreement on that controversial subject will be very difficult to reach but information later in this column may turn out to be of help.

   Three weeks ago, the U.S. Senate passed what Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee called the most important piece of legislation in the 110th Congress. The other two leaders of that effort were New Mexico Sens. Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman.

   The legislation is called the America COMPETES Act. Sen. Bingaman has spent years pushing for international competitiveness. Everyone wants it but few members of Congress have been willing to make the necessary commitments.

   But in concert with Sens. Domenici and Alexander, the trio was able to pull in chairmen and senior members of committees vital to passage of the bill. The committees agreed to waive their jurisdictional prerogatives in order to make all the parts fit together. The result was a final vote of 88-8 in the Senate.

   The core of increasing America's competitiveness in a global economy is  a much stronger emphasis on math and science. The bill calls for a $60 billion effort to double federal spending for physical sciences research, recruit 10,000 math and science teachers and retrain 250,000 more, provide grants to researchers and invest more in high-risk, high-payoff research.

   It can be done. It was in the 1960s, when America decided it must catch up with the Soviets in space. But the spending dropped as soon as we attained our goal. Now we are in the boat of trying to catch up with the brainpower advantage India and China have opened up.

   That gap has grown so wide that Asians no longer are coming in such great numbers to America to study and work. They are being educated in their own countries, which then draw jobs from America.

   The embattled House still has to act but the White House participated in the Senate effort to craft a bipartisan bill and President Bush traveled to Rio Rancho last year to push the science initiative.

   Also in Rio Rancho, last week, Intel hosted an International Science and Engineering Fair, where Intel board chairman Craig Barrett warned that American students are slipping academically compared with their international peers. He urged a commitment to produce teachers who can inspire students to create the amazing work that was on display at the science fair.

   It won't be easy. Science has come in for a lot of battering ever since the creationism debate began again. In the most recent Republican presidential debate, three candidates indicated they do not believe in evolution. A fourth waffled. They may be in the mainstream. There are reports that over half of Americans believe the book of Genesis is literally true.

   In a recent column, I joked about Iran trying to attract chemists and physicists to the jihad against the West, claiming that it can satisfy their scientific ambitions. I noted that I checked the Nobel Prize winners in chemistry and physics from the Arab world and found only two in the last 100 years.

   My comments produced a reader response that we'll never be beaten by brainpower. We'll be beaten by immigrants with their high birth rates that will overcome us.

   Another reader e-mailed an article from the May 15 Wall Street Journal Online contending that the only salvation for Social Security  and Medicare, with baby boomers retiring and fewer workers left to support them, is increased immigration. Hmmm, worth considering?

WED, 5-23-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)


Thursday, May 17, 2007

400th for Santa Fe Won't Be As Big As Jamestown


Syndicated Columnist

      SANTA FE -- Jamestown's 400th anniversary was a magnificent affair. President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney both attended, along with England's Queen Elizabeth.

      Will Santa Fe's 400th anniversary in 2010 be anywhere as grand? Sadly, no. There are many reasons, some good, some bad and some that should be embarrassing to our public officials.

      First, the good reasons. Jamestown was settled by the English, whose descendants managed to chase off the Spanish and French, who also had designs on our continent. The winners got to write history.

      Jamestown introduced representative government to the New World. It wasn't planned that way. Originally, it was based on the Old World's class system.

   Its leaders were gentlemen from the upper classes of English society. Some were working stiffs who gambled that life in the New World would be better than their current miserable existence. The rest were taken from slums and jails.

   But the system didn't work for this colony. John Smith, one of the working stiffs, recognized the problem and led a mini-mutiny against the upper class. He became the famous Capt. John Smith, leader of the group. They discovered that a system of representative government improved management of business affairs and attracted immigrants to join the colony.

   After near extinction, the colony began to flourish and those seeds of representative government grew into the Virginia General Assembly, the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. It's no accident that four of our first five U.S.  presidents were Virginians.

   Another good reason Jamestown is so prominent in the nation's mind is that it also introduced free enterprise. It happened as soon as it became evident that the settlement wasn't doing enough to sustain itself.

   Everyone was starving. Capt. Smith laid down the law that "He that will not worke shall not eate." The upper class had to go to work.

   But Jamestown also had its dark side. John Smith suffered a severe injury and had to return to England. With his negotiating skills lost, relations with nearby Indians eroded. A decision was made that they must be exterminated.

   It didn't work. The Indians managed to starve them to the point they ate all their animals and may have resorted to eating their own dead. As they were preparing to leave, a ship with reinforcements arrived and the settlement was able to regenerate.

   The original purpose of the enterprise had been to find gold. When that didn't work, it was discovered that tobacco would. The colony couldn't produce enough to satisfy the cravings in Europe. So the first slaves were brought in, leading to a division that still exists.

   A big celebration can be expected in 2020 at Plymouth, Massachusetts, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims. It may be the biggest of all because the quest for religious freedom so captures the nation's imagination.

   Santa Fe's 400th won't receive nearly as much national attention. It wasn't settled by the English. Most Americans don't seem to know we're here. Our state doesn't have the big industries that backed the Jamestown observance and will do the same in Massachusetts.

   And our public officials don't seem to have the enthusiasm of those in Jamestown. Apparently, it is the state of Virginia that heads the Jamestown effort every 50 years. In 1957, it was a huge celebration, with the president and Queen Elizabeth in attendance.

   Santa Fe could be celebrating its 400th this year. Documents have been found indicating 1607 was the first settlement. Sources on the Web appear to now be recognizing that as Santa Fe's founding date. But there was no interest, except among the hospitality community to move the date.

   Under the able leadership of Santa Fean Maurice Bonal, a local committee is drawing up plans. A visit from Spanish royalty is a possibility because they have attend other events in our state.

   But unless Gov. Bill Richardson is president in 2010, the possibility of getting our top government official here likely is dim.

MON, 5-21-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Texas Bent on Stealing Most Famous New Mexican


Syndicated Columnist

      SANTA FE -- Unless Gov. Bill Richardson is elected president, Billy the Kid remains our most famous New Mexican. But Billy is now in danger of being caught dead in Texas.

      The danger really isn't that great. Texas is just doing its usual thing of trying to steal stuff from New Mexico. First it was land. Then it was water. Now it's Billy.

      Back in 1950, an 90-year-old Texan named "Brushy Bill" Roberts came to Santa Fe to try to get Gov. Tom Mabry to grant him the pardon territorial Gov. Lew Wallace had promised Billy. Mabry listened but wasn't convinced.

      Roberts died shortly thereafter, but his legend didn't. Some locals still believed him and that has led to a monument at Brushy's grave in Hamilton, Texas; a museum in nearby Hico, where he lived and another museum along an Interstate, in Canton, Texas.

      We warned in a recent column that Billy's ghost is stirring in Texas. We now learn that Lincoln County Deputy Sheriff Steve Sederwall has asked the Hamilton City Council for permission to dig up Brushy Bill and test his DNA.

      Sederwall was one of the three sheriffs who were trying to dig up Billy and his mother three years ago in New Mexico. Court action stopped those two exhumations, although a judge in Silver City ruled that if Billy's DNA can be obtained, he'll reconsider exhuming his mother.

      The Texans have themselves a bit of a problem. Since Brushy is buried in a town that doesn't have a museum taking advantage of his bogus claim, the city council isn't particularly interested in letting anyone dig in its cemetery.

      So the Hamilton City Council rejected the exhumation request after two hearings and considerable discussion. New Mexicans might be interested to know that the objections raised by the Hamilton councilors were almost identical to those raised in Silver City and Fort Sumner three years ago.

      They were worried about relatives who might object. They had trouble believing that a carpenter's bench recently pulled out of an Albuquerque chicken coop really contained Billy's DNA. And they wondered about who has sufficient interest in the exhumation to underwrite it.

      But it isn't over yet. Hamilton officials expect those interested in digging to go to court to obtain an exhumation order.

   The only place Sederwall and his associates have been able to dig is in Prescott, Arizona. John Miller, whom many thought to be Billy, was buried at the Arizona Pioneer Home cemetery. His exact grave location is unsure because it isn't marked.

   But the investigators dug anyway, with a backhoe, and unearthed two skeletons. DNA from the one thought to be John Miller was tested over a year ago to determine if it was identical to that found on the carpenter's bench.

   Since no report has yet been made public on that test and since the investigators now want to dig in Texas, it seems reasonable to assume that no DNA match was found in Arizona.

   The people who are wanting to dig now have a different motivation than they originally did. In the beginning, Sederwall said they wanted to prove that Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett did shoot Billy, thereby preserving the reputation of New Mexico's most famous lawman.

   Sederwall had visited the Hico, Texas, Billy the Kid Museum and was incensed that it was claiming that Garrett, whose image is on the Lincoln County Sheriff's emblem, killed someone else and lied about it.

   But a few years later, Sederwall is saying he has "a lot of stuff that says history is different than what is reported." He now says he has an open mind and wants to "let science show us the truth."

   If the truth is that Billy went to Texas to live nearly 70 more years, the title of most famous New Mexican becomes a race between Smokey Bear and the Roswell aliens.

FRI, 5-18-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)


Monday, May 14, 2007

Peace Conference Not Totally Peaceful


Syndicated Columnist

                SANTA FE -- New Mexico's World Peace Conference, beginning today in Santa Fe, isn't turning out to be entirely peaceful. It wasn't difficult to make that a New Year's prediction in my Jan. 1 column. It was inevitable.

                In peace-loving Santa Fe, everything is controversial, even peace. But Santa Fe is where our state government decided to hold its world conference, even though we don't have a convention center these days or an airport that will handle anything bigger than a puddle jumper.

                Convention centers and airports are controversial here, too. Santa Feans aren't sure they want outsiders coming to town. Sure, tourism is our biggest industry, but we still fight it.

                Albuquerque could have hosted the conference and accommodated many times more people but Santa Fe is the City of Holy Faith and just seemed like the place to hold such an event.

                The problem with a government-sponsored peace conference is that the state doesn't have a position on peace so who knows what to do at a conference?

The Legislature, which appropriated $420,000 for the gathering, finally decided the focus would be peace tourism, so the Department of Tourism was given the responsibility of planning it. We're spending a lot of money on space tourism, why not peace tourism too?

No one thought much of that idea or could do much with it. So the folks at Tourism brought in some peace professionals. Yes, there are such things.

But that didn't set well with New Mexico's many home-grown peace groups, which had been working on that mission for years. Why hadn't they been involved, they asked?

So a peace conference on the peace conference was held between conference organizers and the New Mexico peace groups. Some accommodations were made but their philosophies were just too far apart.

Although government officials didn't have a firm direction in mind, they did know they wanted to keep it positive. After all, we have a governor who is running for president. And although all candidates use the word peace frequently, they know they won't be elected unless they talk tough.

The peace groups wanted to talk about the horrors of war and how we go about dismantling our country's huge war machine, much of which is based in New Mexico's national laboratories and Kirtland nuclear storage facility.

Obviously, doing away with New Mexico's national labs is not something that a state-sponsored conference can advocate. The state does have a position on that issue.

We want to keep them. Besides, they are national labs so the federal government would merely move them to another state. The war machine would remain intact and New Mexico would lose its biggest employers.

So the conference will include a discussion group on demilitarization and participants are allowed to form subgroups to discuss any related topics. Peace groups also will be allowed to rent tables to distribute literature about their approach to achieving world peace.

That wasn't good enough for several groups that have vowed to demonstrate rather than participate. But the conference filled up quickly, anyway.

Despite the controversy, organizers appear to have put together a solid conference. They know what they're up against in our warlike world.

They contend that progress can't be made by fighting reality but by building a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. They point to environmental issues, which have moved from the fringe to the mainstream in the past 30 years.

Maybe the Tourism Department wasn't the best place to assign the conference. But that department gets a lot of topics assigned to it by the governor and Legislature because it has a reputation of getting things done.

And besides, where else could it have been assigned? We don't have a Department of Peace, although that has been proposed in past legislatures and Dan Pearlman once ran for governor with that as his major issue.













Sunday, May 13, 2007

Peace Conference Not Peaceful


Following Fred



      SANTA FE -- Exactly 20 years ago, Fred McCaffrey, the writer of this column during the 10 years prior to me, took a trip to Central America and the Caribbean to find his dream retirement spot.

        Fred and his new wife, Jan Lynch, decided to settle on the beautiful isle of Montserrat, a volcanic island located in the West Indies, a chain of islands forming the eastern edge the Caribbean.

        Fred had gone through the many years of training necessary to become a Jesuit but left before taking his final vows. He told his buddies he couldn't give up women. That may noAt have been the story he told everyone.

        Because of his Jesuit training, Fred landed a job with the bishop of the Caribbean heading a school on Montserrat. It sounded like a good idea but the locals weren't sure they wanted an American curmudgeon, which is how Fred described himself, telling them what to do. Maybe it's because we columnists tend to think we know just about everything.

        So Fred moved on. Soon he was writing political commentary for one of the two newspapers on the island.  As in many small nations, one newspaper strongly supports the government while the other is the mouthpiece for the loyal opposition.

        Unfortunately, Fred was working for the minority party's paper. The night before his 90-day visa was to be renewed, four big guys showed up at Fred's door to inform him that he was to be off the island before the sun set again.

        Now, that's immigration enforcement. We should try that here. Nothing more was heard from Fred. I was sending him $350 a month for six years in payment for his column. I figured he needed the money but I wasn't going to send it to an address that no longer appeared to be good.

        A call to Joan Murphy in Sen. Pete Domenici's Santa Fe office got the State Department on Fred's trail. Several days later they called to say Fred had been located on the island of St. Kitts, not far north.

        Fred got along fine there, managing to stay out of trouble. But just as his friends in Santa Fe had figured, Fred didn't last long in paradise. Soon, he was back home enjoying the action of New Mexico politics and a little more freedom of the press.

        Perhaps Fred had a guardian angel. Less than a year after his quick departure from Montserrat, the island was devastated by Hurricane Hugo. Ninety percent of the property on the island was damaged and there were many deaths.

        Then in 1995, the volcano at the north end of the island erupted, sending residents to the less-populated south end. That was fortunate, because two years later, a pyroplastic blast buried the capital city of Plymouth in 40 feet of mud. The only deaths were those who refused an evacuation order. Fred was the type to do that, had he developed a liking to the place.

        The island is slowly being rebuilt, although the mountain continues to spew an inch of ash a day and its lava dome has grown bigger than ever, signaling at least one more major eruption.

        Last month, we took a cruise following in Fred's 20-year-old footsteps through the Lesser Antilles. Montserrat is no longer on tour itineraries but we took a helicopter ride from neighboring Antigua to see the status of Fred's former paradise. I've been to Pompeii and Mount St. Helens and this was another scene of total devastation. It has created a lot of new land too.

       We then visited St. Kitts. I have a feeling Fred wouldn't like it much anymore either. A few years ago, its government decided that sugar cane could no longer support the island's economy so it would go the route of neighboring Nevis and so many other Caribbean islands.

       St. Kitts now has a very long dock, leading to what must be the biggest shopping center in the world. I've never been to the Mall of the Americas but we walked for blocks and were told we were still a ways from the middle of the shopping center.

       I've been thinking a lot about the dear departed Fred recently. I've been writing this column much longer than any of its previous authors. Fred bought it from Bob Huber, who wrote it only a couple of years, toward the end with Carroll Cagle. Huber bought it from Fred Buckles, who wrote it for a good 10 years.

        Buckles bought it from the widow of its creator Will Harrison, who started it as the editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican. After being fired, Harrison syndicated the column in many New Mexico papers, beginning with the Albuquerque Tribune. Before Ms. Harrison sold the column, she hired another noted journalist, Charlie Cullin, to write the column.

        That's not many hands for a column to pass through in more than 50 years of existence. Much has happened in my life recently. Dreams of paradise may be getting closer.

        One final note: I appreciated the additional suggestions I received for last month's column "You Must Be a New Mexican If" We'll have to do another one sometime.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

New Mexico Has It Over Texas


Syndicated Columnist

                SANTA FE – New Mexico needs a change in attitude. It won't happen, but it should. It would be great if New Mexico's children could be treated to the same glorious view of their state's history as Texas children receive about their state.

                The basic difference is that Texans are braggarts and New Mexicans aren't. Visit Texas historical sites and you will notice that the state's history dates back far less than 200 years. New Mexico celebrated its 400th anniversary almost a decade ago.

Texas indoctrinates its children with textbooks and presentations that would make one think it has more to be proud of than New Mexico does. You and I know better, but we're in the minority.

Most New Mexicans believe the story dished out by so many of our politicians that we rank first in everything bad and last in everything good. And that spills over onto our kids.

                An objective view of history, geography and any other topic reveals few areas where Texas outshines us except for having more oil under their state.. Winning independence is about its only other claim to fame.

Some big-league bungling by Gen. Santa Anna had a lot to do with it too. Certainly Texas military leaders made a ton of mistakes, but they got lucky and extracted a surrender from Santa Anna and then proceeded to sensationalize it.

                During their decade of independence, Texas had constant trouble with Indian tribes to the north and east, so decided not to attempt enforcing its claims to those lands. An attempt to secure their western boundary claim at the Rio Grande ended in utter defeat by New Mexicans in 1841. And a further attempt in 1862 was even more of a disaster.

                The core of Texas pride involves its massive loss at the Alamo, where every man supposedly fought to the death. Mexican accounts of the battle indicate some did escape but were quickly captured and taken to Gen. Santa Anna, who ordered their execution.

The inhumanity of that act brought Santa Anna much criticism back home, especially since one of the escapees he ordered killed was the famous David Crockett, whom some of Santa Anna's lieutenants thought should have been spared because of his celebrity.

                There shouldn't even have been a battle at the Alamo. Sam Houston had sent Jim Bowie there to close it down because Texas couldn't protect it. But Bowie disobeyed orders and decided to defend the Alamo.

Mexican critics of Santa Anna faulted him for not doing a better job of negotiating some type of surrender with Col. Travis, who had taken over command by that time, thereby avoiding the heavy Mexican casualties.

                But Texas has built that loss into a sensational moral victory. It has turned drab geography, an often-unpleasant climate and a brief history into something glorious with head-pounding, heart throbbing Imax productions that send students back to the real world thinking they are part of the greatest state and culture in the world.

                And yet New Mexico has so much more to be proud about. Our human history dates back to Clovis Man, the earliest culture found in the hemisphere. We have Spanish history, Civil War and Wild West history; living Indian communities; an enormous artistic, literary, architectural and scientific heritage; the birthplaces of the Atomic Age and the Space Age and food that lures the world.

                If military action is your thing, we have our two victories over the Texans, our service as Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War and the New Mexico National Guard's courageous defense of the Philippines in World War II that gave our nation time to mobilize for the war in the Pacific.

                But the best we can do is argue over which dry textbook should become New Mexico's official history. It's time for our whining politicians to quit talking about how bad we are and think of ways to make New Mexicans prouder of their heritage.

Blood and Thunder

WED, 5/02/07


      "Blood and Thunder," Santa Fean Hampton Sides' newest book, is the best account of our nation's Westward expansion I've read.

Naturally, I like to promote New Mexico authors but I especially like books that primarily are about New Mexico. This one focuses on our state's all-important role in the "manifest destiny" of the United States to extend its borders to the Pacific.

Manifest Destiny was a belief in the 1840s, that Americans are the chosen people to take over this continent, if not a lot more. Its chief architect was President James K. Polk, who devoted his term to achieving the goal. Its most vocal apostle was Missouri Sen. Thomas Benton, whose name became familiar to New Mexicans a generation later.

And the person possibly most responsible for carrying out our nation's goal was Kit Carson, of Taos. He helped blaze just about every trail to the West. He guided Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny from New Mexico to take California. He helped put down the Texas Confederacy's attempt to conquer New Mexico. And he put down numerous Indian uprisings, including rounding up the Navajos for their "Long Walk" to Bosque Redondo, at Fort Sumner.

Since Carson is involved in nearly every episode of the story, the book appears to be about him. The title "Blood and Thunder" is a description for the dime novels that became popular telling of his adventures. But just as those novels had little to do with Carson's actual adventures, "Blood and Thunder" is not his biography.

Blood and Thunder is about America's beliefs about itself. Those beliefs have gotten us into a number of very painful miscalculations, which Sides expertly describes. Americans are an aggressive people. We hewed out a frontier and then kept going, not caring who might be in our way.

We believe we have found the answers to life and we want to extend that knowledge to everyone in the naive belief that they will all love us for it.

When Kearny took Santa Fe, not a shot was fired. He interpreted that to mean New Mexicans were totally fed up with their corrupt and disinterested government in faraway Mexico City. What a relief to be saved by these people from the East.

Kearny and the U.S. government meant to be saviors. They promised to govern openly and fairly. They reduced taxes and drew up a governing code that was the model of progressivism. Kearny conducted open office hours and was accessible to everyone.

He cleaned up the city and promised to protect all citizens from Indian attacks. He met with pueblos and tribes from throughout the state and pledged cooperation if they would desist from attacks.

Kearny's orders were to move on to California as soon as there appeared to be no possibility of revolt in New Mexico. A month later, he headed on, not understanding that it was the superior forces he took with him, and a suspected bribe to Mexican Gov. Manuel Armijo that had done the trick.

It took little time for the rebellion to begin taking shape. The happy natives weren't nearly as happy as their conquerors assumed. Despite their poor treatment by the Mexican government, they still thought of themselves as part of that country.

The invading Americans were a totally different people. They said they would respect the Catholic Church but they also said they would separate church and state. To the New Mexicans, that was a godless idea. And what about this different language the Americans spoke? Would they be forced to learn English? It looked like they were in for a whole new world.

The rebellion came four months after Kearny left. It didn't last long, but it delivered the message that not all the world is anxious to greet us as their saviors no matter how bad their plight.

The lesson was learned again in California, and with the Indians. And we continue to relearn it.