Inside the Capitol

Thursday, August 28, 2008

9-1 Ex-Judge Brennan's Problems Renew Questions

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Former Judge John Brennan's new problems with the law remind us of an old and maybe even bigger problem.
Brennan was arrested on March 9 of this year and charged with first-degree felony kidnapping and aggravated battery after Albuquerque police were summoned to a house by neighbors who heard screaming.
When police arrived, the screaming continued. They kicked open a door to find Brennan with his hand over a woman's mouth and his other arm wrapped around her neck. Both appeared extremely intoxicated.
Brennan is scheduled for trial next month in Gallup. The charges since have been reduced to false imprisonment and misdemeanor battery on a household member. That reduces his possible prison term from some 20 years to less than 19 months if found guilty.
The trial was moved out of Albuquerque because all 24 district judges recused themselves. Brennan had been chief judge of the state's 2nd Judicial District for many years until his Memorial Day weekend arrest in 2004 for driving while intoxicated and cocaine possession.
Brennan bargained those charges down to a year of probation and two days of house arrest. He also resigned from the bench and surrendered his law license.
In the aftermath of the cocaine charge, many questions were raised and many charges leveled. Allegations were made that Brennan was a longtime coke user and so were some of his friends and colleagues.
Those not making allegations wondered how a 25-year district judge bought his cocaine. Did he actually go out on the street and buy it or did he obtain it through friends who also were users?
Other judges, defense attorneys and prominent business people were among those mentioned. And who knew about Brennan's use? Certainly colleagues and coworkers had to notice. And if Brennan was a user, did it affect his performance on the bench?
Much of this may have been wild speculation but there was enough concern for the state Supreme Court to remind judges, lawyers and court employees that they must report any known use of illegal drugs by a judge to the Judicial Standards Commission. No public action has ever been taken by the commission on Brennan's case or on any others.
Republican state Sen. Steve Komadina, a Corrales physician, introduced legislation the following year calling for drug testing of public officials. He received support form Gov. Bill Richardson and some Republican legislators but not enough to achieve passage.
Investigative television reporter Larry Barker received a leaked 1998 confidential report by a Department of Public Safety employee, who had been assigned to work with a federal drug task force. The employee interviewed people who claimed knowledge of four judges and several defense attorneys who did drugs.
The federal panel did not follow up on it and neither did state law enforcement authorities since it was prepared for a federal agency. But a copy of the report was filed away at the state Public Safety Department from whence Barker obtained it.
And sure enough, one of the names in the report was Brennan's, indicating there appeared to be knowledge of Brennan's problem six years earlier. No other names have been revealed. The 2nd Judicial District Court asked for an investigation, not of Brennan, but of how Barker obtained his information.
Since Brennan no longer is connected with the judiciary and no longer is an attorney, the pending case has no bearing on the judicial system.
But it resurfaces some of the old questions about how one of the best known and most respected members of the judiciary could have an apparent problem over a period of years without it ever being noticed.
And if it was noticed and not reported, maybe such activities are still continuing among the other people mentioned in the report that Barker is keeping under wraps. The rumors continue and it isn't healthy for public confidence in the judiciary.
MON, 9-01-08

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


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

8-29 Aggies Beat Lobos For Pete's Papers

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Aggie hustle has won Lobo Pete Domenici's archive material in a major New Mexico coup.
Our state's longest-serving senator had planned to split the many truckloads of material between New Mexico State University and his alma mater, the University of New Mexico, but downstate enthusiasm for doing a bang up job scored a total victory.
For awhile, it appeared the two schools would engage in a healthy battle for the papers, plaques, photographs and other memorabilia, but then NMSU forged ahead to close the deal for the total collection.
Domenici said the NMSU pitch was more enthusiastic and more comprehensive. It included authoring a book about Domenici, hosting an annual Domenici Public Policy Conference and formation of a Domenici Institute for Public Policy -- all wrapped up in what it calls the Pete V. Domenici Legacy Project.
A Domenici Legacy Committee was appointed last January to steer the projects various components. It is headed by former and NMSU dean of business Gov. Garrey Carruthers and includes many big names in politics and business from throughout New Mexico.
And, of course, it would be nice to have a big new building to house what is estimated to be at least eight semi-trailer trucks of material. That's another area in which NMSU excels. It has a history of recognizing the right person at the right time with the right connections to get a building built.
Witness NMSU's Center for the Sustainable Development of Arid Lands. It is housed in Skeen Hall and was built in 2000 near the end of U.S. Rep. Joe Skeen's illustrious tenure as chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. The subcommittee chairmen are called cardinals because of their control over appropriations to the agencies under their control.
NMSU's first priority for federal funding this year will be money for construction of the Domenici archives building. Bet on them receiving it.
UNM's experience, on the other hand, has been one of never being able to position itself correctly to take advantage of situations. Some years ago, it constructed the Robert O. Anderson School of Management building, hoping the wealthy southeast New Mexico oilman would contribute generously. He didn't.
Maybe UNM is too big to be Johnny on the spot. Big bureaucracies do move slowly. But bigger universities than UNM hustle successfully for money. My information is that the former dean of the Anderson School of Management was carrying the ball on the Domenici papers and after all the turmoil at the school last year, the ball was dropped.
It was former NMSU president Michael Martin who steered through the proposal with Sen. Domenici. Martin was a hustler. Judging from his prior accomplishments, new UNM President David Schmidly is also.
Schmidly is in the process of beefing up UNM's communications and marketing function to the tune of $4.4 million. The main idea is to improve UNM's image. It may take that much.
NMSU spent considerable money to attract President Martin and keep him for awhile. It may have not spent much money on image improvement contracts. Martin was good at that himself. And then there was NMSU's tradition of successes.
The Domenici Conference last week was pronounced a success. Not much public policy was discussed. Most of the speakers spent their time heaping accolades on Sen. Domenici, although many did mention the issues that the senator championed during his 36 years in office.
An interesting sidelight to the conference was that all the elected leaders who spoke were Democrats. That included Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Chris Dodd of Delaware, Gov. Bill Richardson, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish and Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima. Sen. Dodd also delivered a message from Sen. Barack Obama.
Rep. Tom Udall attended the conference. Rep. Steve Pearce did not attend. Rep. Heather Wilson was traveling in Afghanistan.
FRI, 8-29-08

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


Sunday, August 24, 2008

8-27 Conventions Might Be Worth Watching

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- As I recall, it was Ted Koppel, kicking off convention coverage for ABC-TV several conventions ago, who said he didn't know why the networks still bothered covering conventions because they had become so scripted and predictable.
He was right. Ever since the scary 1968 Democratic National Convention, in Chicago, both parties realized they were going to have to exert great control over their conventions to avoid embarrassing situations they knew TV networks would exploit.
Up to that point, national party nominating conventions had been exciting ever since political parties were invented in the 1790s. My first memory of the excitement was the 1952 GOP convention, when conservative Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio and moderate Gen. Dwight Eisenhower squared off.
I was a high school freshman at the time. Girls and sports seemed the only worthwhile pursuits. My father was listening to the convention on the car radio. When we got where we were going, I stayed in the car to listen to the roll call vote.
It was replete with vote switching, back stabbing, accusations and political maneuvering. I decided any group of people who played that dirty was worth my attention. I added political observation to my list.
By 1960, party conventions were on television in southwestern New Mexico and we got to watch the Jack Kennedy-Lyndon Johnson struggle. But we don't see that kind of drama anymore. Party leaders get things wrapped up far ahead of time now.
But this year may be a bit of an exception. Democrats couldn't get their presidential selection process wrapped up until after the last primary and there are many scars left. Republicans wrapped theirs very early. But theirs was not a consensus pick. Half the people at both conventions likely will not be happy.
So we could be in for some exciting times. Barack Obama's vice-presidential choice, Sen. Joe Biden will liven the party, saying things that the careful and deliberate Obama hasn't.
At both conventions, expect to see the candidates talk about the part of their lives that they haven't spoken of yet. And if they don't, the media will.
When was it that Obama supposedly became a Muslim? What was he really doing then. How did he get in to those prestigious colleges? What was he doing between the time he graduated and when he ran for the state Senate?
What did McCain do after he was released from the Vietnamese prison and he entered the U.S. Senate? How did his second wife come into his life and what happened to his first wife?
Bill Clinton used the 1992 Democratic Convention to explain where he came from, how he went to those prestigious colleges and what happened after he got out into the real world. With him, it worked. The media didn't have to fill in the details because he told the story over and over.
What will happen this time? Will Hillary make a fuss? Will her unhappy delegates eventually hop on the bandwagon or will they go off to nurse their wounds as Gene McCarthy's delegates did when Hubert Humphrey prevailed at the 1968 convention?
Who will McCain choose for a running mate and will that invigorate some of the far right who aren't happy with him being the standard bearer?
How will Gov. Bill Richardson do at the convention? He gets to make a speech. Will it raise or lower his chances for a top administration post in case Democrats win in November? Since Sen. Biden appeared to be the top candidate for secretary of state, will Richardson have a better shot at that.
This year could be a little more than the usual pep rally and giant infomercial. If it is, it will be an accident because the party choreographers don't want to have the least bit of discord. But if it's ever going to happen, this could be the year.
WED, 8-27-08

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


Thursday, August 21, 2008

8-25 State Election Code Badly in Need of Fix

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- The New Mexico Supreme Court has allowed Lincoln County sheriff candidate Steve Sederwall onto the November general election ballot even though he did not submit the required number of petition signatures.
The high court remained silent, however, about whether all the other county candidates in the state should have filed nominating petitions.
This strange situation arose when Sederwall decided last spring to run as an independent candidate for county sheriff. He contacted the county clerk's office and the secretary of state's office and was told all he had to do was fill out the necessary papers and pay a $50 filing fee.
Sederwall asked about the necessity of filing petition signatures and was told it wouldn't be necessary. But on filing day, the county clerk refused to accept his candidacy without petition signatures.
At that point, Sederwall began researching the law and determined that he did need to have signatures. He also determined that all other county candidates in the state also needed to collect nominating petition signatures.
So Sederwall took his case to court. He lost at the district court level and appealed it to the state Supreme Court. Many who were watching Sederwall's case saw this as an opportunity to determine whether all county candidates need petition signatures because a state court decision applies statewide.
But the court didn't address that part of the issue. From questions asked by the three-judge panel, it appeared to this observer that the court might be disposed toward a feeling that under the current vague election code all county candidates may likely need petition signatures.
Without a suit directly on that point, the court is not going to directly decide the petition issue. But if the state is to avoid a possibly very messy suit in the future, it will be wise for the secretary of state's office, along with the attorney general, the governor's office and legislative staff to straighten out the election code.
From oral arguments made by the attorneys for Sederwall, the attorney general's office and Lincoln County, the election code is full of inconsistencies and contradictions, especially involving the need for county candidates to obtain petition signatures.
The eagerness of Lincoln County to keep Sederwall off the ballot is worthy of note. The secretary of state's office chose not to take a side in the issue and to accept whatever the court's ruling might be. And the attorney general's office recommended putting Sederwall on the ballot.
Early during the oral arguments on Aug. 20, Justice Patricio Serna, who presided over the hearing, indicated the court's historic tendency to put people on the ballot whenever possible.
Justice Petra Maes indicated a feeling that there should be some recourse for persons who receive incorrect advice from public officials. And that is what the court did. Sederwall was placed on the ballot pending the collection of 203 valid signatures by Aug. 22.
Conversations with those attending their first state Supreme Court session revealed their pleasure with the pleasant demeanor of the court. Some had expected a stern and formal proceeding. But Justices Serna, Maes and Richard Bosson were gracious and cordial.
This column has spoken before about the surprise of citizens attending a legislative committee hearing for the first time and being impressed by the polite manner with which the audience and those providing testimony are treated.
The general tendency of most people is to make light of elected officials, but very few are the egomaniacs that many anticipate them to be. I also can say from experiences in other states and at the national level that New Mexicans are basically friendlier people.
It is amazing how a change in the election code, made in 1996, could escape the attention of three secretaries of state, scores of county clerks and hundreds of candidates during the last 12 years. It is long past time to clarify the election code.
MON, 8-25-08

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


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

8-22 Pluto Still Attracting Attention

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- The great Pluto debate has attracted much more international attention than most astronomical controversies usually garner these days.
That wasn't always true. Cosmologist Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for his ideas about an infinite universe and Galileo, the father of modern astronomy, was forced by the church to recant his views and spend the last years of his life under house arrest.
Our world still has religious disagreement with scientific views but such harsh punishment no longer is in vogue. The Pluto debate is not about religion and to a large extent, it isn't much about Pluto either.
Two years ago this month, the International Astronomical Union decided that Pluto doesn't meet its new definition of a planet. Its leadership, being scientists and not diplomats, went about the process in a very ham-handed manner, thus making it look like a demotion rather than a reclassification.
This got all sorts of juices flowing. The human tendency to stand up for the little guy who is getting pushed around surfaced worldwide. Since Pluto was the only planet discovered by an American, some scientists from this country charged that the decision was made by people who disagreed with our politics.
Also affecting America is NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto, launched in 2006 and due to arrive at the planet in 2015. American scientists asked why a decision couldn't be postponed until we find out more about Pluto.
Science textbook publishers around the world groaned at having to republish, although that would have happened anyway since the impetus for reclassification came from the discovery of a bigger planet beyond Pluto and the anticipation that there are more such objects even farther out.
And then there is Disney, which renamed Mickey Mouse's dog, Rover, shortly after Pluto was discovered in 1930. Everyone loves Pluto.
There also is division in the IAU, with planetary scientists threatening to form a new organization. The reclassification of Pluto gives them further reason because the definition of a planet adopted by the IAU is very imprecise.
And there are those who just don't like change. But science is about new discoveries, which involve changing -- after considerable debate. And that is what we are having now, in public.
Last week, Johns Hopkins University hosted a planet definition conference, which included a debate between astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson, of NOVA fame, and planetary scientist Mark Sykes. Tyson took the IAU side. There were many fireworks and no agreement.
Besides conferences held by universities and observatories, songs, poems and essays have been written about Pluto's demotion. T-shirts are offered online. A festival was held in Streator, Illinois, birthplace of Clyde Tombaugh, Pluto's discoverer, who spent the last 50 years of his life in Las Cruces, NM.
Streator has been the hub of much Pluto activity. Former Councilor Siobhan Elias, who organized the festival, also has persuaded her congressman to introduce a resolution in the U.S. House supporting reinstatement of Pluto's planetary status. New Mexicans wanting to honor Professor Tombaugh can contact their member of Congress urging support of the resolution.
The most popular song to come out of the Pluto controversy was written and performed by Elias' husband, Kevin. The CD is called "New Horizons: A Tribute to Clyde Tombaugh and the New Horizons Mission." The mission is carrying some of Tombaugh's ashes to Pluto.
Pluto supporters weren't blindsided by the planet's reclassification. The debate already had started in 1999 when the New Mexico State University Astronomy Department began an effort to influence the IAU not to reclassify Pluto as one of the nearly 10,000 trans-Neptunian objects.
The IAU effort then was to make Pluto number 10,000 as an honor. The NMSU Astronomy Department said it preferred to remain planet number 9.
The debate will continue and let's hope it captures the imagination of some young students to pursue the field of astronomy.
FRI, 8-22-08

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


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

8-20 4-Day Week Could Affect You

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Expect to see some minor impacts on your life as New Mexico state government implements energy-saving measures. The biggest change will come when some agencies adopt a four-day work week.
Earlier this summer, Gov. Bill Richardson directed the state personnel office to help alleviate the strain of high gas prices on state employees and taxpayers. How can the state personnel office lower your gas prices? We'll get to that.
Chief among the energy-saving ideas seems to be adoption of a four-day week for state government and allowing employees to work at home. They call that telecommuting.
If New Mexico follows the pattern of other states that are moving to a four-day-week, state offices will be closed on Friday. That's one day less for you to avail yourself of state government services.
The flip side of that is that office hours will be extended Monday -- Thursday so you may be able to go to the motor vehicle department after your work day is finished.
It appears likely those state agencies that choose to go to a four-day week will work four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour days.
My guess is that the agencies that choose to go with four-day week will allow employees some flexibility in how the hours are added onto the day. In Santa Fe, the state already staggers coming and going times in order to alleviate traffic.
The state personnel office presented its guidelines to cabinet secretaries and agency directors in mid-July. They are to submit their policies back to the personnel office by September 1.
Not all agencies will choose to make the switch. Some can't. Police, prisons, courts and universities will continue their normal schedules. For those that make the change, public transportation schedules will have to be altered. Day care centers also will be impacted.
What else will the public notice? Maybe less traffic on Fridays, assuming state employees stay home in order to save the gas money for which the program is designed .
There will be fewer state cars on our roads on Fridays. Those are the cars state employees use to go to meetings and we pay for the gas. Maybe that's the taxpayer savings the governor is talking about.
With new technology, teleconferencing is replacing meetings in many organizations. That would save considerable gas. More work may be farmed out to Albuquerque offices that many agencies already have opened, largely for the convenience of top officials who live in Albuquerque.
And then there is telecommuting, which not only can solve traffic problems, it can help with personal lives. Telecommuting isn't for everyone. Many prefer the personal interaction of an office. But others would welcome the peace and quiet of working from home.
It takes discipline to work at home. Administrators must find ways to measure and monitor work being done. Not every job lends itself to telecommuting but for some, such as young mothers, it can be a job saver. It also can allow for flexible hours.
I work from home and find myself working as much at nights and on weekends as during normal work hours. But then, my job produces a product and if it isn't done, 15 newspaper editors around the state know.
Utah, a state about our size, recently began a year's trial of the four-day week. It estimates about a third of its government buildings will be closed on Fridays and that the savings on lights, heat and air conditioning will be about $3 million during the year in addition to improving the environment.
Other benefits of the four-day week that have been mentioned include fewer emissions and less exposure to them, less road maintenance, fewer accidents, greater sanity, lower child care costs and more time with family.
Little has been released to employees and the press about the governor's energy-saving efforts but let's hope he takes a cautious approach.
WED, 8-20-08

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

I'll be out of the office thru Sunday. Back Monday.  Cell 505-699-9982.

8-18 Legal Wrangling Over 2008 Election

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Another interesting new twist has been thrown into New Mexico's 2008 elections.
The first was the revelation that candidates at the county level are on the ballot illegally because the secretary of state's office did not require them to collect petition signatures to submit when they filed.
Since this is the only statewide news source that has caught on to this glaring omission, much of the state still does not know about it. Inside the Capitol revealed the situation on August 1 and as of the time this is being written, no one is saying anything publicly.
A district court hearing was held in Santa Fe on July 30 on a complaint filed by the only candidate for county office in the state who was required to file signatures.
Because he was treated differently, the lid is about to come off an oversight by three secretaries of state over a period of 12 years since the law was changed. That means a clever lawyer could argue that no action by those elected officials is valid.
The district court quickly decided against Lincoln County sheriff candidate Steve Sederwall, keeping him off the ballot, but the judge offered to help fast track the case to the state Supreme Court. The decision has been appealed and will be heard on August 20.
At that hearing, the secretary of state's office, represented by an assistant attorney general, took the position that Sederwall should be allowed on the ballot. The only opposition was from the Lincoln County attorney -- and the judge.
It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court handles the appeal. The court could deny Sederwall a position on the ballot by saying the law is the law. But then what is to be done with all the other candidates and public officials who didn't follow the law? Does the Supreme Court give them an "oops there?"
I'm sure there are other solutions that better minds than mine can devise but I still worry about the defense attorney who argues that the sheriff who arrested his client, did not attain his office according to law.
The other election twist has to do with another lawsuit. It has received considerable attention. Three incumbent Democratic state lawmakers have filed suit alleging election fraud against the opponents who beat them in the June primary and asking for removal from the ballot.
The losses were surprising because they occurred to three longtime political powerhouses who lost by substantial margins. In each case non-profit organizations sent mailings to Democrats in those legislative districts criticizing the lawmakers on issues such as ethics, the environment and ties to big business.
The suit, filed by Sen. Shannon Robinson, one of the defeated incumbents, alleges that the non-profits pushed their limits impermissibly into the political realm. As such, they should have filed political contribution reports revealing the sources and amounts of contributions.
By not revealing the source of their funding, contributors were able to make tax deductible contributions to a non-profit while not having their names disclosed.
The lawsuit itself doesn't have much of a chance, according to my legal advisers, but it is making alleged election irregularities public, much as the Sederwall suit will be doing soon.
One revelation is that these same non-profits are targeting other incumbents in the general election. Mailings have been received by constituents of Republican Sens. Lee Rawson, of Las Cruces, and Diane Snyder, of Albuquerque. Democratic Sen. Lidio Rainaldi, of Gallup, also is targeted although he isn't seeking reelection.
Attorney General Gary King has become involved in this issue too, asking Secretary of State Mary Herrera to require that these non-profits file campaign expenditure reports.
The non-profits being mentioned are New Mexico Youth Organized and its parent, the Center for Civic Policy, both of which call themselves "progressive."
The attorney general has threatened suit if the secretary of state does not require campaign filing. The non-profits have threatened suit if the attorney general doesn't get off their back.
MON, 8-18-08

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


Sunday, August 10, 2008

8-15 WQe Should Be Celebrating Today

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Japan announced its surrender to the Allied Powers on August 15, 1945, thus ending World War II -- except for the paperwork. Bet you didn't know that.
You probably do know that World War I ended on November 11. Some also will remember it was in 1918. We still celebrate that occasion with a national holiday. But nothing is said about us winning the Big War.
In 1945, winning the war was cause for great celebrations in every city, town and village throughout the nation. The same was true in all the allied nations.
Next to the flag-raising on Iwo Jima, the most famous picture in the world may be of a sailor kissing a nurse on Times Square during New York City's celebration on August 14.
Get your dates straight, Jay, you may be saying. You started out telling us the big day was August 15. It was, in Japan. There's that messy thing about the International Date Line between us.
At high noon on August 15, Japan announced its acceptance of the Potsdam Agreement demanding complete surrender. Official confirmation was announced by President Harry Truman at 6:10 p.m. that same day, which was August 14 here.
I remember the day well. I was a seven-year-old, staying with my grandparents, on Melendres Street, in Las Cruces. At about 4:30 p.m., my grandmother and I heard many sirens and much horn tooting. She said she had been hearing on the radio all day that the war might end soon.
We sat on the front steps to hear all the celebrating around town. I knew it meant that the fathers of some of my friends would be returning to Deming from Japanese prison camps. It was a joyous occasion.
What I didn't know was that boys who had just graduated from high school had been drafted and would soon be on their way to the Pacific to prepare for an invasion of Japan.
They had great reason to celebrate. U.S. military leaders estimated that we and our allies might lose as many as a million troops during the invasion. Japan would suffer even greater losses because of the number of civilians who would be killed.
We learned later that Japanese military leaders were trying to recruit a million kamikaze fighters to give their lives in suicide missions to repel our attack.
Why do we no longer commemorate that glorious day when our last worldwide war ended? Perhaps it is because of another commemoration that occurred last week and has occurred every year for a great many years.
Our decision makers have been made to feel guilty for quickly ending the war with two big bombs. How could we have done such a horrible thing, anti-nuclear protesters ask.?
The bombs killed no more people than the saturation bombings of Tokyo and other Japanese cities we were conducting from Tinian Island every night.
But these bombs were different. They were bigger and they released radiation that brought disfigurement and death to many more people. They were scary enough that even though many other countries now have nuclear arsenals, the weapon hasn't been used again in over 60 years of international strife.
But in 1945, we were aware that both Germany and Japan were working on nuclear devices. Germany didn't get it's bomb finished before it surrendered. But a few days before, a German submarine slipped into the North Sea and out into the Atlantic, headed for Japan with all the makings it had assembled up to that point.
Fortunately the U.S. Navy intercepted the sub early in its voyage and diverted its cargo to the American nuclear program. But Japan was still in the war and with a little more time, it might have its weapon ready to use against us.
And if either Germany or Japan had completed their bombs before we did, what do you think they might have done with them?

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


Saturday, August 09, 2008

8-13 Can NM Elect an Unwavering Conservative?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Not only are New Mexico voters presented with a completely new slate of candidates for federal offices this year, we will have the opportunity to express our feelings about some devoted liberals and conservatives.
In our U.S. Senate contest, Rep. Steve Pearce assures us he is an unwavering conservative and proud of it. He says we can always count on him to vote conservative.
That kind of talk gets a candidate elected in the 2nd Congressional District, which Pearce currently represents. And his victory over moderate Rep. Heather Wilson in the June primary is an indication that a steadfast conservative also can win a statewide Republican primary.
But can a true blue conservative win a statewide general election? That is still to be determined. Republicans who win statewide races for major offices in New Mexico tend to be moderates.
Sen. Pete Domenici calls himself a conservative and has called his Democrat opponents liberals. But New Mexicans have always known from Pete's voting record that he is a moderate.
Back when Pete was chairman of the Albuquerque City Commission, a nonpartisan office, state Democratic officials even tried to recruit him to their side.
Likewise, Republican governors Gary Johnson, Garrey Carruthers and Dave Cargo were not hard line conservatives. Johnson called himself philosophically a libertarian. Many Republicans called Cargo a liberal.
Pearce's Democratic opponent, Rep. Tom Udall, has about as liberal a voting record in Congress as Pearce's is conservative. But Udall makes no promises about being an unwavering liberal if elected to the U.S. Senate.
Pearce calls Udall a liberal but then he called his primary opponent, Rep. Heather Wilson, a liberal also. Might that mean that Republicans who voted for Wilson in the primary might want to take a look at Udall?
Wilson's 1st Congressional District is another contest that it takes a moderate Republican to win. Wilson had a very moderate record as did her predecessor Rep. Steve Schiff and his predecessor Manuel Lujan.
The word I'm getting out of Albuquerque is that Republican Sheriff Darren White is being advised that he should moderate his views in his quest to succeed Rep. Heather Wilson in the 1st Congressional District.
But some are wondering whether White will be willing to do that. We haven't heard much from him yet to enable an assessment of his political stance. White has been busy trying to raise money.
Sen. Domenici has sent out a fundraising letter for him and one for Senate candidate Steve Pearce, who is lagging behind Rep. Udall in fundraising.
One piece of good news for White is that the injury to his back he suffered while falling off a treadmill will not require surgery. The injury put him in the hospital for a week but surgery would have put him out of commission for another month.
In the 2nd Congressional District, both Republican Ed Tinsley and Democrat Harry Teague have good conservative credentials but neither seem inclined to pledge to never vote otherwise.
Teague was by far the more conservative candidate in the Democratic primary and received much support from top Democratic officials.
It appears the national Democratic strategy is going to be to find and support conservative Democrats in districts normally won by Republicans. That strategy worked well in 2006, when Democrats took both houses of Congress from the GOP.
Illinois Rep. Raum Emanuel. The architect of the 2006 House Democratic victories was in the state this past week visiting the Democratic candidates in all three of New Mexico's congressional districts.
Of course, it isn't necessary to find a conservative to run in the 3rd Congressional District. It is about as liberal as the 2nd district is conservative. It is the 1st Congressional District that decides the balance and makes New Mexico a very purple state overall.
WED, 8-13-08

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


Thursday, August 07, 2008

8-11 Traffic Cameras Promote Safer Driving

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- What's up with Gov. Bill Richardson's "concerns" about traffic cameras? They promote safer driving. The governor is a huge advocate of getting drunks off the road. They both accomplish the same basic purpose.
Gov. Richardson says he doesn't like the "big-brother" aspect, the potential for excessive fines that allow a private company to profit from traffic citations or the use of the programs to balance city budgets at the expense of sound law enforcement and the principles of due process.
Let's look at each of these concerns. In George Orwell's 1984, the big-brother government electronically spied on all its citizens in every aspect of their daily lives. Traffic cameras "spy" on citizens only when they are operating a deadly weapon to assure they are doing it safely.
When mobile vans are used, an officer is clicking the shutter so it isn't electronic snooping. And under current New Mexico law, signs and rumble strips warn drivers they are about to get their picture taken.
A portion of each traffic fine goes to the company that provides the cameras. The governor doesn't complain about using private contractors in every department of government.
Sharing fines with them makes the program self supporting. If the fine is more than enough to meet costs, it may be excessive and constitute a hidden tax. But it could be considered a punitive action to deter further violations.
Using excessive fines to balance budgets does happen. The state of Arizona, after seeing the success of city traffic cameras in reducing accidents, decided to buy 100 traffic cameras to help balance its state budget.
Arizona makes absolutely no pretense of being interested in traffic safety. The violation does not go on drivers' records so there are no points against their license and no insurance consequences.
But there is a $165 fine. If you can afford the fine, you can speed all you want. Arizona lawmakers figure to make an easy $50 million a year, maybe much more.
Gov. Richardson also has concerns that traffic cameras are not sound law enforcement. But what is unsound about cameras freeing officers to work in other areas of law enforcement?
And how does this eliminate the principles of due process? Tickets still can be appealed. Drivers will lose their opportunity to make their case to the officer who pulls them over, but how many people manage to talk themselves out of a ticket?
So what other reasons can Gov. Richardson have for his concerns about traffic cameras? His state police drivers can still speed. Is it good politics to oppose traffic cameras? Are there more speeders among the voting populace than there are people who are concerned about speeders and red light runners?
Are the governor and lawmakers envious of this revenue source that the Legislature hasn't pre-approved for cities? Whatever it might be, the governor and Legislature came down hard on Albuquerque in the 2008 Legislature.
The Duke City is the only municipality to use traffic cameras, thus far. Lawmakers passed and the governor signed a bill imposing limitations on Albuquerque's program and confiscating part of its revenue. And the law was written to apply only to Albuquerque.
We all know Albuquerque's reputation in the rest of the state. We'd all like to take the big guy down a notch or two whenever possible. And then there is Mayor Martin Chavez, with whom city councilors, Albuquerque legislators and Gov. Richardson often clash. Were they punishing him?
The law they passed is stupid. It is punitive to Albuquerque and it is an invitation to other cities to do what Albuquerque was doing and get away with it.
It is time for a reassessment of traffic cameras. They prevent accidents by reducing speeds and red light violations. I would prefer they not be a fundraising project. The license and insurance consequences are enough.
But they are a proven means of making our streets and highways safer.
MON, 8-11-08

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


8-8 NM Contests in National Spotlight

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- New Mexico is in the national spotlight with all of its congressional contests wide open. There will be no incumbent victories in 2008 because no incumbents are running for their present seats.
Pete Domenici got it started when he announced early that he wouldn't be seeking reelection. That opened the Senate seat. Then all three of New Mexico's House members decided they wanted that seat.
The timing was a little off for Gov. Bill Richardson, who was still hanging in the presidential race. Many Democrats wanted him to acknowledge his inevitable defeat and switch to the New Mexico senatorial contest.
With Richardson in the Senate race, it is possible none of our House members would have risked their current positions to take him on when his popularity was still running high.
That would have left New Mexico with a considerable amount of seniority in the House. We would have had a freshman senator but Bill Richardson would have been at the head of his class as far as influence is concerned.
As it is, New Mexico's congressional delegation will consist of four rookies and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a 26-year Senate veteran who didn't have to run this year. Bingaman will be shouldering a heavy load seeing that our state's interests are protected.
With so much at stake, expectations were that general election campaigns would start soon after the early June primaries decided the candidates.
But activity has been somewhat less than expected. Much of that is due to most candidates having to raise and spend large amounts of money winning their primaries. The first order of business in the general election was to begin raising large amounts of money again.
One exception was Rep. Tom Udall, who had no primary election opposition in the Democratic Senate race. Udall ran TV ads during the primary and continued them, without interruption, in the general. Rep. Steve Pearce, the Republican nominee, didn't get the money together to start his ads until this week.
Two months out of the public eye has put Pearce anywhere from eight points to 25 points behind Udall. Pearce is touting the poll that put him only eight points down, but a subsequent poll shows Udall, again, with over a 20-point lead.
The race is important enough nationally that NBC's Meet the Press has asked Udall and Pearce to carry their campaign debate onto its Sunday morning show. Udall has been trying to hold joint appearances and debates down to an absolute minimum, but Meet the Press is one he can't turn down.
In the 1st Congressional District, Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White is the frontrunner, but the Republican nominee has been much quieter than expected. And now he is laid up with a back injury from a fall off a treadmill.
White hasn't raised money as easily as expected and national GOP groups haven't either. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has pledged $1.3 million to Martin Heinrichs' campaign. That race could tighten.
In the 2nd Congressional District, Lincoln County rancher/restaurateur Ed Tinsley is the frontrunner over Democratic Lea County oilman Harry Teague.
Tinsley has been in hot water about a part time home in Santa Fe but he was surely present when Ruidoso needed him to organize local restaurants to donate food for those displaced by recent flooding.
Teague is from a more populous county, is willing to put his own money into his campaign and has been targeted for $1.2 million from national Democrats, so he'll make it a close race.
In Congressional District 3, Democrat Ben Ray Lujan is a solid favorite over his Republican opponent and two independent candidates.
Lujan has outraised Republican Dan East 17 to 1 since the general campaign began. In addition, East is being sued by his primary election campaign strategist for nonpayment of fees.
At this point independent candidate Carol Miller is well ahead of East and independent Ron Simmons in the money game.
FRI, 8-08-08

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


Sunday, August 03, 2008

8-6 China Feeling Unappreciated

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- The Beijing Olympics are China's big opportunity to showcase its progress to the world. But in the process, some of China's other faces are being revealed?
The international Olympic Committee reports extreme satisfaction with the Olympic village and the competition venues. Everything is first-class and has been completed on time.
The Chinese people, after being shielded from outside influences for centuries have been carefully schooled in welcoming foreigners, speaking English and not spitting on sidewalks. Now, they need to be asked to train our baseball players.
The 2008 Olympics are likely to be one of the best ever. But they already have been tarnished by Tibetan human rights protests and support of the Sudan government during the international Olympic torch relay.
In the days leading up to the August 8 Olympics opening,, China's intense security measures are coming into focus. At this time four years ago, there was much comment about the extreme security measures for the 2004 Athens Olympics. That was a year into the Iraq War and Athens isn't far from Iraq. The security contingent numbered 70,000.
This year's Chinese combined security forces reportedly number 550,000. One for every expected foreign visitor. But foreigners don't appear to be China's biggest worry. Its attention prior to the Olympics has been focused on separatist and independence movements in far western China.
Last week a group of militants from the East Turkistan Islamic Movement were publicly executed by firing squad, reportedly as a caution to anyone else thinking of disrupting the Olympics. Fears are being expressed in China that not all of the enhanced security will be disbanded after the Olympics.
Everyone will agree with China's desire for an incident-free Olympics. But a big part of the image China projects to the world will be determined by the media coverage that will be watched by an estimated 4 billion television viewers.
If the image looks too much like a police state, China's quest for respect and appreciation will be damaged. Some reports say top Chinese officials are ordering security to be more friendly but that local officials can't break old habits.
One of the highlights of Olympic coverage is sure to be the police team riding Segways. If the battery-powered scooters work well, China hopes they will encourage some of its citizens to buy them instead of cars.
It is the new-found Chinese love affair with cars that is causing the Beijing Olympics' other major problem. Beijing's air is normally brown and difficult to breathe. My wife and I were there three years ago as China was preparing for the Olympics.
I have a scrapbook of pictures I took of the magnificent sites in and around Beijing. Next to each picture is a postcard photograph of the same site. They look the same, except that the sky in the postcard pictures is a beautiful blue.
The contrast is amazing. The first reaction of many who see the pictures is that I have altered my pictures to make the sky look worse. They can't believe a brown sky. But it's true.
Car traffic is partly responsible. So is the smoke belching from factories throughout the city. And so is the tremendous amount of construction around town.
China officials thought it would be easy to clean up. But it hasn't been. Now they are hoping for some help from wind and rain -- not something Olympic host committees usually want. Postponement or relocation of some events is a possibility.
And all this brings attention to China's refusal to sign the Kyoto Accord. China argues that the other industrialized nations of the world polluted their air as they were emerging into First World countries. And China will do the same.
A refrain now heard in China is that it has tried so hard to put on the best Olympics ever and no one appreciates the effort. They just take potshots. At least now they know how the United States feels.
WED, 8-06-08

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