Inside the Capitol

Thursday, May 29, 2008

6-02 2008 Primary Election Wrap up

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Who will be tomorrow's big winners? That's right, primary election time is here. New Mexicans have their widest choice of congressional candidates ever. So don't blow the opportunity to have your say in this one.
Four months of intensive campaigning comes to an end tomorrow. That also means a temporary cease fire in the bombardment of television ads for and against the many candidates. But who's going to win? Herewith are some observations.
In the U.S. Senate primary, Democrat Tom Udall is unopposed but you wouldn't know it from watching TV. Republican Senate candidate Steve Pearce has been running against both his primary opponent Heather Wilson and Udall.
Pearce has been tying them together in his TV ads. And for his part, Udall has been running TV spots even though he is unopposed.
Pearce says Wilson isn't conservative enough for New Mexicans to send to Washington. Wilson says Pearce is too conservative for New Mexicans to elect to Congress.
Wilson says if Pearce wins the primary, Udall will beat him in the general because the only Republicans who ever win statewide office in New Mexico are moderates. Pearce is running ahead by a few points in the few polls that have been taken.
In the 1st Congressional District, Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White figured he had a safe enough lead that he chose not to spend money on TV ads for the primary. White already has the GOP endorsement even though parties don't normally do that in primary races. He also has Sen. Domenici's endorsement.
On the Democrat side, Martin Heinrich has it sewed up. Former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron thought she might be able to use her name recognition to overtake Heinrich but it didn't work.
Part of her problem was getting into the race too late. Her main difficulty, however, was that she couldn't raise enough money to buy even one TV spot. This, after being on TV almost constantly in 2006 encouraging voters to the polls. But that was taxpayer money.
The 2nd Congressional District still is way up in the air. The GOP preprimary nominating convention put Aubrey Dunn, Jr. at the top of the ballot but Ed Tinsley and Monty Newman are pushing him hard in a contest to get the most commercials on the air.
On the Democrat side, Bill McCamley and Harry Teague are fighting it out. Teague's personal wealth has given him a big edge in TV time, but McCamley's energy has kept him in the race.
I had picked McCamley as the surprise winner of the primary season but a late dump of $80,000 more from Teague's pocket and a surprise endorsement by Gov. Bill Richardson tilts the race back to Teague.
In the 3rd Congressional District, Democrat Ben Ray Lujan has a somewhat comfortable lead Don Wiviott, who has now put $1.3 million of his own money into the campaign.
On the Republican side, former Domenici aide Marco Gonzales should win easily over Rio Rancho contractor Daniel East.
Some of our best financed candidates haven't given us much opportunity to get to know them. Aubrey Dunn, Jr. and Harry Teague, in the 2nd Congressional District, have not have not appeared on their television commercials except for the required disclosure that they approved the message.
Don Wiviott, in the 3rd Congressional District, makes some appearances on his ads but has had scheduling conflicts preventing him from appearing at joint forums of all candidates in the race.
One race missing from this June 3 primary is the Democratic presidential contest. New Mexico Democrats chose to move it up four months to the first Tuesday in February so they could attract more visibility.
But they wound up getting lost in a super-duper primary and missing the chance to be one of the crucial states to decide the outcome between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The absence of the presidential race on the ballot will considerably reduce Democratic turnout.
MON. 6-02-08

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


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

5-30 Unkindest Political Cuts

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Negative campaigning was not unexpected in this years congressional races. With all three of New Mexico's U.S. House delegation running for the Senate and 21 major party candidates competing for those three vacated seats, it was bound to get wild.
The biggest surprise has been the 1st Congressional District, home of New Mexico's most vicious battles in the past, where none of the six candidates in two primaries has yet to notice the starting bell. They'll get a big surprise when they turn their calendars to June and see the election is only three days away.
Otherwise, it's "Katie bar the door," as my old buddy Ernie Mills used to say. Although candidates for the other three offices promised to make nice, primaries for those three congressional seats have featured some of the unkindest cuts in state history.
That bothers leaders in both parties because they know the opposition will be able to use some of those charges against the winner in the general election. Let's look at some of those unkind cuts.
The Republican U.S. Senate primary, featuring two House members who are betting the farm on returning to Washington, features a bare knuckles fight between Rep. Heather Wilson and Rep. Steve Pearce.
Pearce got things started by noting that Wilson sometimes was on the same side of issues as liberal Tom Udall. As if "liberal" weren't bad enough in a Republican primary, Pearce then noted that Wilson had voted with Sen. Hillary Clinton and Rep. Nancy Pelosi on a bill that would have created socialized medicine. Ouch.
Wilson fired back that the money was for children's health care and was supported by Sen. Pete Domenici. And how dare Rep. Pearce criticize a bill St. Pete supports?
Both Wilson and Pearce would like Domenici's endorsement. Pete doesn't seem inclined to give it. Long Pete's protégé, Wilson invokes his name often. Pearce would be happy just to have him stay out of the matter. But a supporter has printed bumper stickers saying, "For Pete's Sake -- Vote Pearce."
For her part, Wilson has called Pearce "stupid" in an ad questioning Pearce's strategy when amending a bill. Then she cut another ad dinging him for supporting a bill cutting a Social Security benefit for widows and orphans.
Never put much stock in votes that don't sound quite right. Anytime a member of Congress votes on an omnibus spending bill there will be items in it opponents can use no matter which way the member votes.
Another top item on the "Unkindest-Cuts" list is 2nd Congressional District candidate Aubrey Dunn, Jr.'s description of opponent Ed Tinsley as a Santa Fe liberal. Tinsley owns a home in Santa Fe and is receiving support from the National Restaurant Association, which has noted that restaurant work is one of those jobs that Americans avoid.
Tinsley countered with an ad pointing out that Dunn has been a Republican for only seven months and candidate Monty Newman raised taxes 19 times as mayor of Hobbs.
In the 3rd Congressional District, Don Wiviott called Ben Ray Lujan a casino dealer whose politically powerful father got him a top job in state government. Lujan countered, calling Wiviott a multimillionaire Texas developer -- three very bad words in northern New Mexico.
So far, the name-calling has been confined to television ads, with few debates or even joint candidate appearances. We saw what happened to Democratic 1st Congressional District candidate Patricia Madrid two years ago when she faltered badly trying to answer a question during a televised debate.
Rep. Heather Wilson filled the airwaves with that embarrassing moment, which may have turned the election around. Wilson is a good debater.
Pearce comes from a 2nd Congressional District tradition in which the incumbent refuses to debate. He has been playing hard to get but so far has held his own in any face offs.
FRI, 5-30-08

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


Sunday, May 25, 2008

5-28 Willing to Invest Their Own Money

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- It used to be easy to pick winners. But money in politics isn't what it once was.
Until a decade ago, I could look at fundraising statistics and predict the winners of most political contests. It especially worked in open races where there were no incumbents.
Fundraising ability tends to equal vote getting ability. But that was back in the days of retail politics when the candidates actually talked to people. The only time they see people one-on-one any more is to get a shot for a TV commercial.
In today's wholesale politics, millionaires buy seats in Congress and the governor's office. Special interests use hundreds of thousands of dollars to benefit their favorite candidates. And big sums are raised through mass Internet solicitations.
Wholesale politics made their appearance in New Mexico in the mid-'90s when Gary Johnson self-funded most of his governor's race. Indian gaming interests bankrolled much of the rest.
Then in 1998, state Sen. Phil Maloof spent millions trying to win a seat in Congress. Heather Wilson put an end to that but now with four seats in Congress up for grabs, we have a free-for-all in the 2nd and 3rd congressional districts to see who can spend the most money.
In the 2nd Congressional District Republican contest, Ed Tinsley got in early. We knew he had money from watching his previous run when Rep. Joe Skeen vacated the seat. Tinsley tossed in a "modest" $150,000 of his own money, saying it likely would take $1 million to win. He's now raised $777,000.
Aubrey Dunn, Jr. got in saying $300,000 was the most he was going to contribute personally. But now he's kicked in over $200,000 more. For a total war chest of about $670,000.
Greg Sowards jumped in with $325,000 of his own money. And then came Monty Newman with $100,000. He's raised $357,000 total but that has been augmented by almost $1 million in third-party expenditures by the National Association of Realtors. It has used much of that for television advertising.
At this point, it doesn't appear that besting his two closest opponents by $300,000, give-or-take, will win it for Newman. In fact, Dunn, the third leading money raiser may win it.
In the 2nd district Democratic contest, Harry Teague has made a big splash with some $687,000 in personal contributions and loans to his campaign for a total kitty of about $1.1 million. His one opponent, Bill McCamley is lagging at $393,000 but he's raised it all himself and is running a competitive race.
Up in the 3rd Congressional District, Don Wiviott is the champion Daddy Warbucks with a $1.3 million contribution to his campaign.
Ben Ray Lujan, running in second with a measly $200,000 in personal loans to his campaign, calls Wiviott a multimillionaire Texas developer. That's about the three dirtiest words in the northern New Mexico vocabulary. Lujan appears to be ahead in the race.
In the U.S. Senate race, Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson, who both already are in the House, have their well-developed mailing list of special interests and generous individuals churning out the money.
The interesting part comes when the winner squares off against Rep. Tom Udall. He has no primary opposition and a $2.9 million head start on the GOP winner who will be broke at the end of a hard-fought primary campaign.
It will take some help from national Republican sources to jump start their Senate candidate in that race. Unfortunately for GOP congressional candidates, the national party hasn't been doing as well as Democrats at raising money for the general election campaign.
Financial disclosures indicate the reverse is true at the state level, with the Republicans outstripping Democrats, who spent all their money on the ill-fated presidential primary caucus.
I'm not sure what it says when candidates throughout America are willing to invest their own money in a political campaign. But it's a far cry from New Mexico's longest-serving Governor, Bruce King, who never spent a dime of his own money on a race.
WED, 5-28-08

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


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

5-26 Fed Races Ranked by Excitement

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Finally, excitement is building in some of New Mexico's eight congressional primaries on June 3. Action slowed following the party conventions in March that decided ballot rankings.
The battles gained momentum in early May when television ads began appearing and many now are in full swing. When covering New Mexico's eight congressional primaries, we've always begun with the Senate races and then moved through districts 1, 2 and 3.
This time, for a change, we'll rank eight races in terms of the excitement they have generated.
The hands-down winner is the Republican race in the 2nd Congressional District. It has been exciting since candidates began filing for office. This is the only district in which we can't be sure who is leading either the Republican or Democratic contest.
But it is the Republicans who are having the biggest donnybrook. Even though the district has 33 percent more Democrats than Republicans, Harold Runnels, the only Democrat to ever represent the district since its creation in 1968, voted Republican often enough that the GOP never bothered running anyone against him.
This race offers the best Republican opportunity for a seat in Congress and five candidates are fighting hard to be the GOP nominee. The state convention put Aubrey Dunn, Jr. at the top of the ballot, followed by Earl Greer, Ed Tinsley, Monty Newman and Greg Sowards.
The odds of them ending up anywhere near that order are small. Tremendous amounts of money are being spent on the race, both from personal checking accounts and from special interests.
Second on the excitement list goes to the Democratic race in the 3rd Congressional District. This is the most likely Democratic congressional win and six of them want opportunity. The race appears to be between the two top names on the ballot.
The state Democratic convention voted to list Ben Ray Lujan first and Don Wiviott second and that likely is the way it will turn out. The two have been firing at each other since early in the race and now Benny Shendo, who is third on the ballot has joined in.
The third most exciting race is the Republican contest for the U.S. Senate, with two members of the U.S. House, Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson, giving up their seats to try for the big prize, membership in the world's most exclusive club.
The two have been getting down and dirty about who voted for or against what in the House. Pearce has come up with the unkindest cut of all by comparing Wilson with Sen. Hillary Clinton and Rep. Nancy Pelosi.
Number four on the excitement list is back down in the 2nd Congressional District. Bill McCamley, of Las Cruces, is first on the ballot, with Harry Teague of Hobbs breathing down his neck -- or leading him --depending on whose polls you accept. Teague is putting big money in the race. McCamley is putting boundless energy.
Number five is the first Congressional District Democratic race. Martin Heinrich is first on the ballot and Robert Pidcock is last. The excitement is in between, with Michelle Lujan Grisham and Rebecca Vigil-Giron duking it out on everything but the issues.
Number six, and we're getting to the mild amusement level. The GOP nominating convention put only Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White on the ballot but state Sen. Joe Carraro submitted extra signatures. Carraro is always good for a few laughs.
Number seven isn't even a race. Rep. Tom Udall is unopposed in the Democrat contest for U.S. Senate but Steve Pearce is linking him with Heather Wilson in a campaign ad. If he wins the primary, Pearce won't have to change the ad much for the general election.
And the "huh, whoozat?" award goes to Republicans Marco Gonzales and Daniel East in the heavily-Democratic 3rd Congressional District We just don't hear much from them.
MON. 5-26-08

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


5-21 Why Newspapers Matter

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE – Surveys reveal that newspaper readers are the best informed and most likely voters. I know you'll like that information because we're talking just among ourselves right now.
Rush Limbaugh proclaims that his listeners are the best informed people on the planet, but somehow newspaper readers perform better than his listeners on survey quizzes about current events.
The beauty of newspaper readers is that they are independent folks. You are the boss when you read a newspaper. You read what you want and skip what you don't want. You can read rapidly or slowly, skimming until you find the nuggets you can study closely and enjoy at a leisurely pace.
It doesn't matter when you are ready to read a newspaper, it will be waiting for you. There's no need to watch the clock, waiting for an electronic media report. And there's no need to twiddle your thumbs while waiting for the news reader to get to the subject that interests you.
If the phone or doorbell rings, if the baby cries or junior needs help with homework, no matter what the interruption, you won't miss the part that matters. Your newspaper will always be there waiting for your return.
Sure, you have to take the initiative to do the reading yourself, rather than having it spoon feed to you. But it is a quality experience with no worry about only a fleeting mention of your favorite topic on the air waves. There, before you, is much more information on a far wider range of topics than radio or television can ever offer.
And it's all yours. You can save it, re-read it, copy it, frame it, enlarge it, or mark it up with stars, underlines and highlighting pen. And when you finish, you can file it, send it to a friend or stick it in your pocket to back up an argument at your office or club.
Personally, I like to spread a newspaper on a table in front of me. None of this leaning back on a sofa, reading a section at a time. I want to get the total feel of a page layout. That's not for any intellectual exercise. I never took Journalism 101 or any other such course. I do it for the esthetic experience. Since I read many newspapers a day, I like to compare styles, fonts, layouts and editorial page placement from a purely eye-pleasing point of view.
It is unfortunate that politicians and their highly-paid consultants haven't realized the advantages of newspaper advertising. A few candidates have gotten the idea.
Mike Foster, a long-shot who was elected governor of Mississippi a few years ago, ran a series of newspaper ads formatted and sized as opinion columns. While other candidates were investing heavily in television, foster enjoyed a direct and unfiltered access to average voters, as well as political, civic, business and media leaders.
Some candidates also buy newspaper space so they can run the full text of the statement announcing their candidacy. Then, they don't have to worry about a reporter and various editors deciding what they will and won't print.
Other candidates even go so far as to buy space to print their entire campaign platform. These candidates have spent much time and effort writing a detailed platform and they want to be sure as many people as possible read it. There are people who read such things – people who have grown weary of sound bites and want some substance.
But perhaps the biggest advantage of newspaper advertising is for timing last-minute messages to voters. Typically, candidates try to do that with direct mail, but the vagaries of the U.S. Postal Service mean the message will not hit in a uniform or timely manner. Many candidates and all consultants have stories of catastrophes inflicted by the U.S. Mail.
With a newspaper ad, a candidate can decide the exact date voters will read that final appeal – even on a Sunday, when mail isn't delivered.
WED, 5-21-08

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

Oops, I didn't send 5-21.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

5-23 The Power of Dad

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- All four of New Mexico's congressional races this year have candidates who owe some of their political stroke to their fathers.
New Mexico already is unique for having all of its federal elective offices vacant for the 2008 election. It also is unique for having a candidate in each of the four races with strong family ties to politics.
This column would work well as a Fathers Day tribute but that occurs after the June 3 primary election and Dad's help might not be enough to get all of them through.
In the U.S. Senate race Democrat Tom Udall comes from a family dynasty in Western politics that has held high elective posts for five generations.
Arizona has been electing Udalls to various public offices since the late 1800s. Currently three members of the Udall family are in Congress. Tom is a New Mexico representative. Mark is a Colorado representative. And Gordon Smith is a Republican senator from Oregon.
Tom and Mark both hope to join Gordon in the Senate next year. Both of their fathers represented Arizona in the U.S. House. Tom's father Stewart went on to be Secretary of the Interior Department during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Mark's father, "Mo," ran for president in 1976.
Last week Stewart endorsed Ben Ray Lujan for the House seat Tom is vacating. As a candidate himself, Tom couldn't make an endorsement but his father, who lives next door, could. That endorsement may be important to Tom's Senate race. He needs a big Hispanic turnout in the north.
In the 1st Congressional District, Democrat Michelle L. Grisham has gone to court to obtain permission to place her full middle name, which is Lujan, on the ballot. She isn't a relative of the Lujans in the 3rd Congressional District, but her father, a retired Santa Fe dentist, is a member of the Manuel Lujan family. Manuel represented the 1st District, as a Republican, for 20 years.
In the 2nd Congressional District, the father of Republican Aubrey Dunn, Jr. was a powerful member of the state Senate representing Otero County. He also was in the newspaper business.
Aubrey, Sr. was a Democrat, but a typical southern Democrat, who was as conservative as most Republicans. He ran for governor in 1982 and was defeated by former Attorney General Toney Anaya. He was a bit too conservative to win a statewide Democratic primary but had he gotten past that hurdle, he could have been elected governor.
The fact that Dad was a Democrat won't help Aubrey, Jr. in a southern New Mexico Republican primary. For various reasons, many Democrats in that congressional district have opted not to switch their party registration even though they vote Republican in the general election. The district still has one-third more Democrats than Republicans.
But Dad's name recognition and outstanding reputation will help, especially in Alamogordo and surrounding areas.
In the 3rd Congressional District, Public Regulation Commission chairman Ben Ray Lujan, a Democrat, is receiving significant help from his father, House Speaker Ben Lujan.
Ben Lujan has helped his son with raising a sizable war chest. He might have helped scare some strong candidates out of the race soon after Udall announced he would be leaving the seat. And some think he may have helped gain Ben Ray some influential endorsements.
Having help from Speaker Lujan, one of New Mexico's most influential politicians, likely would come in handy if Ben Ray were to win the primary.
Two of the most important jobs of a 3rd District member of Congress is to assure the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis are treated well. During crises such as both installations have recently experienced, it took every connection our congressional delegation and state officials had to pull them through.
Families are important in our small state and it should be no surprise that they are playing a part in our congressional elections.
FRI, 5-23-08

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


Monday, May 19, 2008

Greetings from Mrs. Lee

Greetings from Mrs. Lee

After going through your profile through internet i decided to contact you for friendship and assistace for distribution of my inherentance. My name is Mrs.

Jenny Lee; I am a dying woman who has decided to donate what I have to you/ church. I am 59 years old and I was diagnosed for cancer for about 2 years ago,

immediately after the death of my husband, who has left me everything he worked for.

I have been touched by God to donate from what I have inherited from my late husband to you/church for the good work of God, rather than allow my relatives

to use my husband hard earned funds ungodly. Please pray that the good Lord forgive me my sins. I have asked God to forgive me and I believe he has because

He is a merciful God. I will be going in for an operation in the next 2 weeks from now.

I decided to donate the sum of $2,500,000 (two  million five hundred thousand dollars) to you for the good work of the lord, and also to help the motherless

and less privilege and also for the assistance of the widows.At the moment I cannot take any telephone calls right now due to the fact that my husband's

relatives are around me and my health status. I have adjusted my WILL and my lawyer is aware I have changed my will and he will arrange the transfer of the

funds from my account to you.

I wish you all the best and may the good Lord bless you abundantly, and please use the funds well and always extend the good work to others.
I have contacted my legal consultant and tell him that I have WILLED ($2,500,000.00) to you and I have also notified him that I am WILLING that amount to you

for a specific good work of charity. I know I don÷Ö know you but I have been directed to do this. Thanks and God bless. I will directive you further after

hearing from you.

NB: I will appreciate your utmost confidentiality in this matter until the task is accomplished as I don't want anything that will jeopardize my last wish.

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Reply me through this my most private email : (
Jenny Lee (Mrs.)

Monday, May 12, 2008

5-19 Ugly American Getting Prettier

MON, 5-19-08

SANTA FE - The Ugly American is getting prettier. Or so it seems to us after a month's cruise on a large ship with about 1,000 Americans, about 1,000 passengers from other English speaking countries and some 800 people from countries in which English is not their first language.
Since this is a ship run by British officers and all announcements are made in English, it is safe to assume everyone has some fluency in English or is with someone who does.
Ships crews are international so nearly all passengers are likely to find a crewmember who speaks their language. Thus, communication among passengers is pretty good. Sometimes a British accent is almost as difficult to understand as any foreign accent.
Among the many people with whom we visited, we felt we saw a change in attitude by Americans and toward Americans. The Ugly American of past years was characterized as loud, demanding and dismissive of foreign cultures and customs. Of course, we realize that not all of us exhibited those characteristics, but enough did to give us a reputation.
What changed either Americans, foreigners, or both? The events of Sept. 11, 2001 may have been the primary catalyst. We traveled frequently during 2002 because 9-11 fears considerably reduced foreign travel, forcing airlines and cruises to slash rates. During those days, we experienced great sympathy toward Americans. We heard statements such as "We are all Americans now." At U.S. embassies, flowers and memorials were placed at the front gates by local people.
In May 2002, we sailed through northwest Germany on the Kiel Canal, a shortcut from the North Sea to the Baltic, and witnessed farmers gathered along the waterway waving American flags and cheering.
We were in Brussels the following year on Armistice Day and saw almost as many American flags as Belgian flags. And their famous Manikin Pis statue was dressed in an American Legion uniform.
Since then, our nation's foreign policy hasn't won many friends internationally. Much of that 9-11 sympathy has dissipated. At many U.S. embassies, memorials have been replaced by armed guards.
But we think we have seen more good will toward us, as Americans, than we did a decade ago. Fellow passengers from other countries seem eager to tell us they don't dislike Americans. They're a little apologetic about our governments disagreeing.
They can't sympathize with us, however, about our high gas prices. In the countries we visited on this trip, gasoline ranged from $6 to $10 a gallon. And there was no pity about our weak dollar.
When we visited two ports in Hawaii, the shopping bags brought back on ship greatly increased in size. We think of Hawaii as expensive but it was the least expensive port on this cruise. That includes Australia. New Zealand and the resort islands of the South Pacific.
We enjoyed seeing the foreign lands but we don't plan to return. All things considered, Hawaii is the best resort island in the Pacific.
We docked in Honolulu in the middle of town for about 12 hours. Once again, we noticed that even in a city that size, we heard almost no car horns or sirens. Rental car drivers in Hawaii somehow quickly learn the rules of the road. Few things are important enough to warrant a honk or even a siren.
But we did notice the usual racket from motorcycles. No place I know in the world has figured out how to require bikers to have no louder pipes than cars. Bikers say it's a safety issue. Car drivers need to hear them coming since they can't see them as well.
But for some reason senior citizens riding motorcycles seldom make loud noises. And I never read in the papers about senior cyclists being hit in traffic. It's the tough guys with tattoos that are fearful of their safety. The minimum age for motorcyclists should be increased to 65.
Will be back in office on Thurs.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

5-16 Spaceport Should Start Movinb

FRI, 5-16-08

SANTA FE - Sierra County's overwhelming approval of a spaceport tax is a huge step toward putting Spaceport America back on track.
Although the advocates implied that the gross receipts tax approval was necessary for the spaceport effort to continue, there was enough artful wording to make one suspect that a fallback position was hiding somewhere.
This column suggested that likelihood a month or so ago. It was denied, but a week before the election Lt. Gov. Diane Denish admitted that although there was no backup in case the vote failed, a Plan B would be developed quickly.
After all, why bet a $225 million state project on the vote of 3,000 people in one small county? That would be more politically irresponsible than even New Mexicans could imagine.
Although the Sierra County vote would not have been a deal breaker had it failed, it was extremely important. The spaceport creation had been predicated on creation of a regional taxing district.
Voters in Dona Ana County had narrowly approved joining that district over a year ago. A second political subdivision was needed to create a regional entity. As it turned out, it didn't have to be a county. Had the vote failed in Sierra County, a positive vote in one of its towns, such as Truth or Consequences, would have been sufficient.
But the 2-1 approval in Sierra County, with a 42 percent turnout at the polls, was such a pleasant surprise that the stalled spaceport creation should get back on track. Basically nothing happened after the narrow Dona Ana County victory.
Once again, I'm guessing, but it's backed up by 50 years of involvement with New Mexico politics. I think the closeness of the Dona Ana victory put a damper on spaceport enthusiasm. Las Cruces was the cradle of spaceport mania. Leaders in that community had been working on the idea for over 15 years.
The opposition came primarily from the Mesilla Valley south of Las Cruces. Activists in the area said the spaceport was OK but they didn't want to pay anything, and besides, the money really should go to helping people in the poverty-stricken area.
When the Sierra County vote neared, those activists then moved up the Rio Grande to make the same argument. Many political observers predicted that the more conservative voters in the T or C area would be likely to reject the spaceport.
Virgin Galactic had signed a memorandum of understanding to be the anchor tenant at the spaceport and promised that if the Dona Ana vote passed, it would sign a lease. But nothing happened.
Rick Homans then resigned as executive director of the Spaceport Authority to go into private business. A permanent replacement finally was named this past December. But still no lease and no announced progress on obtaining a federal license for the proposed spaceport.
Other disappointments included the departure of Starchaser Industries, which had made big promises in Las Cruces and problems of the Rocket Racing League, with headquarters in Las Cruces, to find enough competitors for events it intended to begin two years ago.
Then there was the disaster at the Mojave Spaceport in California that killed three people working on development of the spaceplane to be used by Virgin Galactic at New Mexico's spaceport. Will that slow the move to Spaceport America? Since Mojave was already licensed as a spaceport, will that slow federal licensing of other spaceports?
All this bad news was not lost on the New Mexico Legislature, which still hasn't come up with all the $225 million cost originally forecast for the project. Lawmakers seem to have lost interest.
Virgin Galactic, meanwhile, is being romanced by emerging spaceports in America and around the world. Dubai is one of those suitors. It doesn't have to worry about money, licensing or environmental impact studies.
But Sierra County's strong statement of confidence in Spaceport America should be just what is needed for everyone to get back on board.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

5-14 Hillerman

WED, 5-14-08

AT SEA - I've long been a fan of journalist-turned-author Tony Hillerman. His path is one I have contemplated the past 20 years but other priorities, such as travel, have delayed that quest.
Hillerman writes in a style I admire - straightforward and without wasting a word. For several years I have intended to pick up his 2001 "Seldom Disappointed" memoir to gain some insight into his technique. That never worked out either.
But last month, while researching the recent spate of private inquiries into the 1949 murder of Cricket Coogler, I came across a reference to Hillerman talking about it in his memoir.
I remembered his comments in Charlie Cullin's documentary "Silence of Cricket Coogler" that the unbelievably botched murder investigation led not only to a dramatic change in New Mexico politics but to The Mob scrapping its plan to make Santa Fe the gambling capital of the world.
Seeing a five-week South Pacific cruise on my wife's calendar, I decided this would be the perfect time to buy Hillerman's memoir and take it with me.
I've never been much for reading fiction. I'm not entertained by trying to figure out who done it. I do enjoy Kinky Friedman's mysteries. They're so lightweight and comical; they take no effort, in case that's my mood.
But Hillerman, I like, and Mike McGarrity too, because I always learn something about New Mexico and its cultures while I'm enjoying myself. Jeanette gets after me for never truly relaxing, but Hillerman, in this book, confirms that readers such as I form a sizeable chunk of his audience.
I've never met Tony Hillerman. He moved from Santa Fe to Albuquerque in the mid-'60s, about the time we arrived here. But we know his daughter Anne, who has been a Santa Fean as long as we have been. She's a jewel so I'm sure her dad must be a decent fellow too.
Hillerman went from being editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican to a presidential assistant and graduate student at the University of New Mexico. It was a time of great political upheaval. Sen. Joe McCarthy had been looking for communists under every bed and decided that universities were a good place to find them.
Loyalty oaths had become a popular requirement for university professors. UNM President Tom Popejoy addressed an American Legion convention and proclaimed that if they wanted to go after his professors, they'd have to do it over his dead body.
Nobody was going to touch Tom. He was a ranch boy and former UNM football star, who industriously worked his way up through administrative offices to the top spot at UNM. But his stern defense of constitutional rights surprised many. Hillerman, a decorated World War II veteran, was the only newspaper editor in the state to go to Popejoy's defense
Popejoy likely decided he might need some help. Hillerman's dream was to become a novelist. And thus, the needs of two of New Mexico's best coincided to make Hillerman a graduate assistant in the president's office.
Hillerman may have stayed at UNM longer than he intended, but it was a good time to have his level head. Succeeding presidents had to deal with anti-Vietnam demonstrations, a governor's dispatch of National Guard troops to the campus and state legislative investigations.
And then there was the "Love Lust" poem episode. A graduate assistant in English included a sex-filled poem on an elective reading list. A state senator with an eye on Congress blew it into an event bigger than the bombing of Cambodia.
Hillerman's discerning advice helped the university through some tough times while giving him the opportunity sharpen his writing skills and get a good start on a long series of mysteries, mostly set on New Mexico's Navajo Reservation.
It isn't often book reviews are written seven years after publication. But the book still is very much in print. And it also contains much about Hillerman's early years, war years and family.

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5-12 Tahiti

MON, 5-12-08

NORTH FROM TAHITI - We've now completed our tour of the South Pacific island paradises. Three years ago, some will remember, my wife and I toured the World War II battlefields of the South Pacific.
Conditions were still primitive in places like Guadalcanal and New Guinea. We expected they would be very different in Fiji, Samoa, Rarotonga, Bora Bora and Tahiti. But we were surprised to find everything much the same.
The natives were friendly everywhere. The World War II islands down here were Micronesian, meaning the people were darker and had thicker hair than the Polynesians of the islands we have been visiting. But the biggest difference was that the people of the islands where the war was fought were even happier to see us because they have so few visitors and because we were their liberators from the Japanese, who enslaved them and worked them to death. They remember even though the war ended 60 years ago.
The tour transportation in the war islands was in old family vans. The transportation in the paradise islands was on converted trucks with plywood seats and a roof. And it wasn't any cooler in paradise.
But there were resort hotels. They increased as we moved east from Fiji, near Australia, to Tahiti, in French Polynesia. War didn't reach the eastern South Pacific but we did have bases on all the major islands for refueling, repairs and defense, in case the Japanese got that far.
It was a comparatively nice life for our servicemen stationed in those islands but it didn't last. When we turned the war around at Guadalcanal, and began heading toward the Japanese homeland, those troops found themselves redeployed to battles in Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
Bora Bora is where much of the movie South Pacific was filmed. It was the famed Bali Hai, with its monolithic Mt. Otemanu. And its portrayal of the war in that part of the Pacific wasn't too far off. Some servicemen who survived the war, including author James Michener, returned to Bora Bora.
You may recall that Bloody Mary was a major character in South Pacific. Michener convinced the owners of his favorite barefoot bar on Bora Bora to rename itself after Bloody Mary and feature the drink. It is now listed on maps of the island and is a mandatory tour bus stop. Outside are wooden plaques featuring the names of 250 of its most famous customers.
The U.S. military built much of the infrastructure on these islands even though the American portion of Samoa was our only possession. The other islands were territories of England or New Zealand, which were busy defending themselves, or France, which was otherwise occupied.
Fiji, gained its independence from Great Britain in 1970, but hasn't done much of a job taking care of itself. It has a lush landscape but it is trashy, poorly maintained and old, with derelict vehicles and heavy machinery cluttering the countryside.
American Samoa is much better maintained, with tidy countrysides. Little Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands, may be doing the best of all. Its islanders have maintained the roads, airports and docks built by the U.S. military. It has hustled for industry and trade and takes advantage of everything it can.
All these islands are still dominated in most ways by the native Polynesians. Most of them require native ownership of land, with only leases allowed. Religion and family are the backbone of their lives. They take care of each other from cradle to grave. The land also takes good care of them. No one is hungry or homeless even though there are many poor.
Basically, little has changed in their lives over the centuries. Missionaries have brought them Christianity, but they haven't given up their native culture. They have adopted Western dress but haven't given up native garb.
It appears the policy of the colonial powers down here has been basically the same as that practiced in New Mexico for over 300 years.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

FRI, 5-09-08

AMERICAN SAMOA - Its nice to be back in America for a day. This is the only U.S. possession in the southern hemisphere. The people are very friendly and proud to be American. Our tour guide says they want to become a state but people on the street don't seem to think that's a good idea.
My suspicion is that politicians and business leaders want Samoa to become a state because they see advantages for themselves. But the people are happy with their present status. The same thinking has been apparent in Puerto Rico and Guam. And to a large extent that was true during New Mexico's many years as a territory.
Samoa and New Mexico have other similarities. As in northern New Mexico, the basic social unit in Samoa is the extended family. However native Samoans own all the territory's property, which gives the 65,000 of them plenty of room to spread out and build houses for the next generation on their land, which is so rich it can support the entire family.
Certainly some Samoans have outside employment. They contend that jobs are available for anyone who wants one. But many choose to stay at home and farm at a subsistence level. It's not a bare subsistence, however, there is plenty for everyone. No one goes hungry and no one is homeless, according to what they tell us.
Unlike Fiji, our previous stop, the countryside is tidy. Every extended family, which they call tribes, is proud of its land. Every tribe has a large central gathering place for family functions and entertainment of guests. The many we saw had no walls but good roofs.
Despite having been cannibals, they converted rather easily to Christianity, although the first few missionaries became dinner before the natives got the idea. Many Samoan young people go to Hawaii or the mainland for college.
Fans know that college and professional football has many outstanding Samoan players. This is despite the Samoans being known as one of the least fierce cultures among the Polynesians. The problem is that everyone else in the South Pacific plays soccer.
Our tour guide told us Samoans are very religious and many go to church schools in America. She said she has a scholarship to Brigham Young University. We finally pulled out of her that an older brother is on a football scholarship at the University of Utah as a quarterback.
When we asked for his name, the last name was Seau. He isn't the first Seau to play football, but it wasn't something she was going to volunteer. Samoans are extremely humble and unassuming. She ended the tour by apologizing if she had offended anyone. That had to be very far from anyone's mind.
Something else reminded me of home. Like Santa Fe, Samoa has no houses on its hillsides. I couldn't find anyone who knew of a law against it, as there now is in Santa Fe. Maybe they think it is more aesthetic. Maybe they don't have as many rich people, as Santa Fe does, who can afford to blast trails to the top of hills.
Or maybe, since much of capital city Pago Pago is built on the slope of a partially collapsed volcanic crater, it is just too steep. But it surely makes for a beautiful bay. The South Pacific is mostly made up of extinct volcanoes. And in this portion of the Ring of Fire, a number of beautiful bays are in the calderas of old volcanoes.
A few, with small openings to the ocean, were strategically important during World War II, as bases for large naval fleets. The United States used Majuro in the Marshall Islands and Japan used Papua, New Guinea as such strongholds.
My wife Jeanette thinks we should move here. Not only is it beautiful and the people charming, but the men do all the work, including housework. And women are considered princesses.

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