Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

12-7 Pearl Harbor: The New Mexico Story

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE – On Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7, 1941, New Mexico's National Guard troops, deployed to the Philippines, knew the Japanese would attack them the same day.
They had been watching reconnaissance planes fly over every day, but had orders not to fire. Our reconnaissance planes saw the huge buildup on Formosa. Japan had captured everything to the north, including China. The Philippines were the last major obstacle on the way to Australia.
Our men just didn't know when the attack was coming. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, it was about 4 a.m., on December 8, in the Philippines, on the other side of the International Date Line. The attack on the Philippines was planned for 8 a.m., but clouds over Formosa delayed it until noon.
That gave eight hours advance notice. During that time, rumors of the attack spread among various units of our troops, but they received no orders to mobilize. Some of the delay was attributed to sabotage.
Clark Field was a prime target of the air attack. Tommy Foy, later a New Mexico state legislator, was unable to get through to Clark Field from his post. Neither could anyone else. The warning never got through. The planes and trucks, lined up with military precision made perfect targets for strafing runs.
Washington had not shared everything it knew with its military commanders in the Pacific, but many still wonder why Gen. MacArthur wasn't better prepared for alerting his troops. The 200th Coast Artillery still hadn't gotten all its guns and equipment unpacked. That task had to be finished under fire.
The story of the equipment was the same as before. It was either defective or outmoded. The ammunition was corroded and most of the shells were duds. As box after box was opened, our men realized that these were their rejects from Fort Bliss, where they had trained outside El Paso. Much of it was left over from World War I.
But despite only one out of 10 shells being good, they scored five confirmed hits the first day. Four years later, in a speech at Deming, Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright confirmed that that the 200th had been the first unit in the Philippines to fire on the enemy.
It didn't take long for the competence of the New Mexico guardsmen, who comprised the 200th Coast Artillery, to be noticed. That first night, the undermanned 200th, too small to defend Clark Field, was split.
A third of the regiment was sent to Manila and christened as a new regiment, the 515th. It was America's first war-born regiment, composed of only 500 men, instead of the usual 1,800. The following day, another 200 men were transferred to other units in need of their expertise. "The old 200th" was now down to only 1,100 men.
The equipment situation was just as bad in Manila as it had been at Clark Field. Nearly everything, including communications equipment, was World War I vintage. But our guys got everything working well enough to go into action within 24 hours of their arrival.
As our troops were approaching Manila on December 9, the Navy was pulling out, headed south to the Dutch East Indies. But reinforcements for our anti-aircraft units were on the way. Seven ships and a heavy cruiser were headed to Manila with planes, artillery and ammunition.
Later that day, however, Washington redirected the convoy to Australia and turned four troopships, bound for Manila, back to San Francisco. MacArthur was not told, nor was he informed of the secret Roosevelt-Churchill accord to "get Hitler first." Instead Gen. George Marshall radioed him to "expect every possible assistance."
On December 10, Japanese assault forces began landing, preparatory to a full-scale invasion, and Japanese bombers and fighters began massive assaults on air fields and Manila Bay.
And thus began a terrible four months, holding the line to disrupt Japan's quick advance to Australia, and control of the entire Pacific.
MON, 12-07-09

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

Just got bad news from my computer guru. He thought he could fix my ailing laptop by this afternoon but just called and said it is still locking up. We leave tomorrow morning for two weeks of Thanksgiving in Phoenix. I'll be able to get some computer time while visiting family and will try to get you columns for 12/2 and 12/9 but I will definitely miss 12-4.
Attached is column for 12/7,  Pearl Harbor Day, telling what 1,800 New Mexicans were doing in the Philippines that day. It may look familiar to some of you because I ran it a few years ago. The response to it was quite gratifying. Jay

Monday, November 23, 2009

11-30 Some Random Thoughts

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Herewith are some random thoughts that crossed my mind while floating on the Amazon last week.
When the University of New Mexico hired football coach Mike Locksley, it obviously wanted to hit the big time with more wins and national recognition it never has received.
That recognition came quickly with a botched investigation of a charge that Locksley had hit an assistant coach. ESPN quickly was all over it.
The lesson here is that internal investigations don't work. "We've investigated ourselves and found no problems," is something the public just isn't willing to accept any longer.
UNM isn't the only culprit. The military does it and so do police departments Over the years, I have talked with local police in several communities who say they dread being assigned to internal investigation units because they know they are supposed to protect their buddies even if they know they're guilty as sin.
New Mexico has had its problems with disciplining guilty police. The Law Enforcement Academy Board can take action against local law enforcement officers who are reported by local police chiefs or sheriffs.
The problem is that almost no reports are made. The LEA Board also is empowered to hear citizen complaints but has not done so because it does not have the time or staff.
At times the board has even claimed it doesn't have the authority to deal with problem officers. Complaints by courageous citizens such as Paul Borunda of Las Cruces have forced Attorney General Gary King to issue a letter acknowledging the LEA Board has that authority.
* * *
Last month, Sen. Tim Eichenberg pulled out of Democratic lieutenant governor race. His departure was a surprise because money wouldn't have been a problem for him and he was the only non-Hispanic in the race.
Eichenberg told one source that he didn't want to make the investment because he didn't think current Lt. Gov. Diane Denish could win the gubernatorial race.
When the comment became public, Eichenberg softened his words but it caused people to wonder if maybe Denish's campaign had applied some pressure on Eichenberg because he wasn't the right balance for the ticket.
* * *
How can Americans put any credence in the frequent scoldings by former Vice President Dick Cheney in which he constantly admonishes questioners to "remember?"
"You must remember" prefaces a large number of his arguments to justify actions of his administration. But his great memory completely failed him when called to the witness stand to explain how it was revealed that Valerie Plame was a CIA spy.
The revelation ended Plame's career. She and her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, and their children are now New Mexico residents.
Plame's outing came just days after her husband revealed in the New York Times that he had not found the evidence President George Bush wanted of Iraq trying to buy uranium from Niger.
* * *
To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the New Mexico GOP's death have been greatly exaggerated. When our state turned blue again last year, the New Mexico Republican Party was said by many to be in shambles.
Fundamentally that was wishful thinking. True, New Mexico's Republican majority in Congress suddenly became all Democratic for the first time in 40 years. But such things have a way of changing.
State GOP Chairman Harvey Yates has launched a 180-Degree Turnaround Campaign, which he terms one of the most aggressive and comprehensive campaigns in the history of the New Mexico Republican Party.
And the recent surprise victory of Republican R.J. Berry in the Albuquerque mayoral race will be a morale boost for the party.
MON, 11-30-09

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


Sunday, November 22, 2009

11-27 Rio Olympics Should Be Fun

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Expect the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro to be the most fun ever. Brazilians know how to party. Even if Brazil doesn't deliver on all the promises it made to win the bid, Rio will show everyone a good time, including television viewers.
I say this after two weeks of travel in Brazil. I realize that doesn't make me an expert on the subject but it did provide an opportunity to get a taste of the Brazilian way of life.
Brazil sometimes is long on potential but comes up short on performance. There is a popular saying down here that Brazil is the Land of Promise and always will be.
Brazil began talking about a master-planned capital city around the same time as our founding fathers did. We finished Washington, D.C. in 1800. Brazilia was completed in 1960.
No bridge has yet been built across the Amazon. A bridge was recently started at Menaus, a large city 1,000 miles upstream from the Atlantic. Several pilings have been built out from each shore but the locals say the engineering was wrong and 90 percent of the project will have to be scrapped. There is yet no official confirmation of that claim.
Brazil pledged a $30 billion investment on infrastructure in order to attract the 2016 Olympics. Part of that investment is to be an improved transportation system in Rio de Janeiro. But locals say they've been hearing that for 30 years and all they have to show for it is two short subway routes.
Hotels aren't up to American standards but that is true in much of the world. Handicapped access is extremely limited. And don't think about driving in Rio. The joke down there is that Brazil has so many great race drivers because they grew up negotiating Rio traffic.
There are few driving rules. Red lights are said to be more decorative than functional. Few people stop for them and no one does after 10 p.m. Pedestrians are warned they are taking their lives in their hands.
Little English is spoken, even among those in the tourism industry. In preparation for the Olympics, English is being taught in the schools. But adults speak as little English as we do Spanish or Portuguese.
In two weeks we seldom encountered tender meat in Brazil and our group of 37 Americans had difficulty finding American whiskey in the country. Scotch whiskey is plentiful. I got the impression Brazilians prefer Europeans to Americans.
Brazil handles poverty and crime basically by ignoring it. The poor and criminals live primarily in "favelas" on the hillsides of cities. There are 960 of them in Rio, some with over 100,000 residents. They are self-policing.
Drug dealers don't want the cops in the favelas and cops don't want to go in. They don't have the firepower. Shortly before our visit, a war broke out between two neighboring favelas. Police helicopters were sent to break up the fight. Two of them were shot down.
There are signs Brazil may be on its way to fulfilling promises. President Lula de Silva has had a successful presidency and isn't trying to extend his term as several Latin American presidents are.
Brazil hosted the Pan American Games in 2007. The World Cup Soccer matches in 2014 will be a dress rehearsal for hosting the Olympics. And what a beautiful venue it will be.
Sugarloaf Mountain will tower over the boat races and the magnificent Christ the Redeemer statue is visible from all parts of the city. Beach volleyball will be played on Copacabana Beach and the marathon will be run along Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. Can you imagine the camera angles for that?
Brazilians did a great job of promoting Rio to the International Olympic Committee. One of their selling points was that South America has never hosted an Olympics. If it is anything like the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, athletes and viewers will have a great time.
FRI, 11-27-09

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


Saturday, November 21, 2009

11-25 Giving Thanks For Our Blessings

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- It will be a little more difficult for many New Mexicans to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Bad economic times have hit us hard in the past 12 months causing layoffs, furloughs, business failures and bankruptcies.
But most will still want to give thanks for having been born in this great country and having enjoyed blessings that much of the rest of the world doesn't offer. And there still are reasons to give thanks for family, friends and good health.
We're told that all cultures observe some sort of day to give thanks. It seems to be a basic human need to back away from trouble, stress and daily commotion and reflect on one's blessings no matter how meager they may be.
In this part of the country, where we can boast a European presence that predates English settlements on the East Coast, we have fun claiming that America's first Thanksgiving occurred in Southern New Mexico in 1598.
That's when Don Juan de Onate and his band of settlers paused on their journey northward to feast and give thanks to God for getting them through the desert and providing them a river crossing. But it will never replace the story about Squanto and the Pilgrims.
The observance of Thanksgiving is so comfortable. Family gathers, often from afar. Sometimes good friends without family are included. Generations of cooks gather in the kitchen to discuss and prepare old recipes.
The smell of turkey and the trimmings begins to fill the air. Old stories are told, getting better every year. And after dinner, generations of males step outside to toss around a football. And sometimes grandpa is taken to the emergency room after aggravating that old shoulder injury.
Which brings us to those who can't take off for the holiday: the nurses and emergency room workers, police and firefighters, airline employees and truckers, and most of all, those who serve and protect us around the world.
For some, this will be the first Thanksgiving away from home and loved ones. Many of those will be New Mexicans serving in National Guard units called to active duty in locations far, far away. For them, the taste of turkey will have a very special meaning.
Here's some more reasons Thanksgiving is special. It's a four-day weekend for most people. Who works on the Friday after Thanksgiving? Most employers don't even expect it. Employees trade it for a vacation day or for a non-observed holiday like Presidents' Day.
Of course, mall employees work on the day after Thanksgiving, because it is the beginning of the holiday season, the busiest shopping day of the year.
Thanksgiving also is a day when it is acceptable to stuff oneself and watch sports on television all day. Well, much of the day. Do we really have to turn off the Cowboy game during dinner? The Cowboys' Thanksgiving game is nationally televised, so it's possible to go anywhere and not miss it.
Many of us in the newspaper business especially like Thanksgiving. It allows us to write clever things about politicians for whom we are thankful. And it allows others to write about everyone they want to label as turkeys.
Thanksgiving is another holiday with which American Indians have trouble. As with Columbus Day, they can't see much need to celebrate the beginning of a hostile takeover of their land.
Some teachers try to add the Indian point of view to the romanticized version of the first meetings between Indians and White settlers. Usually parental concerns put an end to that and schools leave it to families to interpret the holiday in their own traditions.

Regardless of how you celebrate Thanksgiving, please enjoy it and be happy that in this part of the world there's usually green chile in the stuffing and red chile in the gravy.

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


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

11-11 Honoring Our Heroes on Veterans Day

FRI, 11-11-09

SANTA FE ? On Veterans Day let us pause to remember those who have served our country. Many of the thoughts and words that follow come from Dave Clary of Roswell, a loyal reader and an abundant source of information, inspiration and ideas.
All those who heeded their call to duty deserve to be honored but today let us pay tribute to some of those who were our heroes.
On October 18, 1918, Alvin York, an American draftee corporal from the hills of East Tennessee (and a religious pacifist who had been denied conscientious-objector status) almost single-handedly took out three German machine gun nests, killed at least 25 enemy soldiers, and captured 138 troops. Then, with a half-dozen men surviving from his squad, he led them back through American lines.
This remarkable feat made him the outstanding American hero of World War I, winning him the Distinguished Service Cross for the captures and his country's highest honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor, for the assault on the machine gun nests.
Audie Murphy was America's most decorated soldier of World War II. Like York, he was a simple farm boy, who performed valorous deeds that not even his fellow soldiers could comprehend. Among his many awards was the Medal of Honor. He returned home a hero and was recognized as such. With his good looks, he became a movie star and eventually a movie was made of his life.
But heroes do not commonly fare well in peacetime. Whatever it is that makes a man disregard his own life for the sake of his fellows can affect him in ways he is unable to overcome. They are different from the rest of us. For whatever reason, they did more than their duty, but something far beyond. In our country the rates of drunkenness, depression and suicide are higher among surviving Medal of Honor winners than almost any other group in our population.
Audie Murphy's life speaks for many of his fellow heroes. It may have been better had his country not tried so hard to treat him as the hero he was. His acting ability was limited and he was tormented by the thought that he got there only because of his fame and looks. His persistent depression ended when he lost his life in an airplane crash two decades after receiving his Medal of Honor.
Alvin York was an exception. He went home to a farm provided him by a grateful state and lived out his life peacefully until Gary Cooper won an Oscar playing him in a 1941 movie. Under renewed attention, York served as head of his local draft board after volunteering for service in World War II and being rejected.
Veterans Day originally was called Armistice Day after the Armistice was signed by Germany on November 11, 1918. In 1954, the name was changed in order to honor all veterans.
So how should we honor our heroes on this patriotic holiday? Perhaps it is enough that we just remember them, while also remembering all those who did their duty.
Veterans Day has fallen on hard times of late. Communities don't have parades any longer to honor their veterans. Those who attend ceremonies now are veterans honoring veterans. And then Congress tried but couldn't commit the ultimate insult.
In 1971, amid the fever to make all holidays long weekends, Congress declared that Veterans Day, henceforth, would be celebrated on the fourth weekend in October. How could a national holiday, designated to celebrate the signing of the World War I armistice on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month be rescheduled to any other date or time?
It took seven years, but in 1978, veterans and others convinced Congress to restore Veterans Day to its proper place on the calendar. So it now stands proudly, along with the Fourth of July as the only patriotic holidays that aren't on a movable Monday.

I will be out of the office from 3 p.m. tomorrow (Wed.) thru Nov. 20. My next column should be sent Mon, 11/23. Jeanette's latest adventure for us is floating on the Amazon for two weeks. My understanding is that jungle drums are about the only means of communication down there. I didn't take that course so don't think I would do well getting back to you. Here's hoping I get back by 11/20. Jay

11-9 Where Sh0uld They Cut?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Where are we most likely to see further cuts in state government? They are going to have to be made. Tax increases will not fly unless the public sees them balanced with a leaner government.
By most measures, government has grown close to 50 percent during the Richardson years. It was a grand experiment in spending money to make money. For the most part, it hasn't worked -- yet, at least.
Not many big companies have relocated to New Mexico. The film industry has grown dramatically and provided jobs but we're giving back much of what the state has made in the form of rebates.
A good balance sheet hasn't been developed to prove how much of an asset the film industry has been. But it appears to be the most successful venture of Gov. Bill Richardson's administration.
The Rail Runner commuter train moved at breakneck speed laying track from Belen to Santa Fe and buying more track to reach to Raton. Had it moved slower, it might be a prime candidate for the chopping block. Selling it isn't much of an option since passenger rail is a losing proposition and depends on government subsidies.
The Rail Runner will save on highway maintenance from Belen to Santa Fe by reducing state employee commuter traffic. It also will produce environmental benefits. But it isn't helping the economy.
The slow moving spaceport could be a candidate for cuts. Most of the money hasn't been spent yet. The aerospace industry hasn't grown at the rate many had predicted. It is much less costly than the railroad and could be an economic boon. But if we build it, are they really going to come?
The money designated for highways likely will remain intact. So many of us use those highways that that cutting road improvements would be very unpopular.
Capital outlay projects are the most popular state expenditures of all. Local communities depend on them. They bring jobs. And legislators think it gets them reelected.
But the process for allocating that money is terribly flawed. When the effectiveness of the New Mexico Legislature and state government in general is rated nationally, we usually show up as a dismal low average despite some features that make us proud.
The major problem is our method of allocating that money. Instead of having it prioritized by a state agency on an objective basis, lawmakers compete for it.
Everyone gets a piece of the action but often too small a piece to do any good. And too often it isn't even wanted by the local governments for which it is designated.
The result is a huge pile of unused money, currently estimated to be around $1.3 billion. That would get us out of our hole for over a year all by itself.
Those are the big ticket items as far as projects are concerned. People are the biggest expense in government and Gov. Richardson has wanted to cut pork, not people. So there have been no furloughs or layoffs.
But the governor did institute a hiring freeze a year ago. Many lawmakers have called it a fake freeze because it allows for emergency hiring into critical positions. But there are many vacancies throughout the executive agencies that are under the governor.
Employees are doubling up to take on extra workload. Cabinet secretaries and division directors are prioritizing functions and deciding where cuts can be made. This is eliminating the fat lawmakers and the public wanted to see.
More noticeable cuts also must be made. They aren't the big money savers but they are necessary for good relations. The Legislature needs to make visible cuts to itself and to executive agencies under elected state officials besides the governor.
All political hires must be reduced, not just those under the governor. The double dippers, who draw a government paycheck and retirement check must be reexamined. Outside contractors should be looked at as well as the staffs of the state's many boards and commissions.
MON, 11-09-09

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


Monday, November 02, 2009

11-06 Revenue Enhancements Aren't Always More Taxes

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- New Mexico voters are smarter than many people think. There has been talk recently that no House member is going to vote for a tax increase in the coming 2010 Legislature because all 70 must stand for reelection next year.
Essentially they are saying voters won't stand for a tax increase no matter what the reason. And yet two polls in the past month indicate a majority of registered voters say they support higher taxes to get us through this period of economic crisis.
Neither poll asked about voting for a legislator who has helped raise taxes but the implication is that if the tax seems reasonable, voters aren't going to kick out the incumbent.
Going into the recent special session, some legislative leaders lamented that most lawmakers still weren't accepting the reality of a state budget in need of major help. A few days later, it appears registered voters were willing to face that reality.
A balanced package of cuts in government spending coupled with sensible revenue enhancements may find favor with voters. People laugh at revenue enhancements being just a politically correct way of talking about taxes.
But there are some ways to raise revenue without raising taxes. The oil and gas industry has a major effect on state revenues. Easing restrictions on drilling would improve the state's financial condition.
So would the $4-a-gallon gas that national TV ads are forecasting if the federal energy bill passes. That would make us well real quick. We'd have to pay more for gas but with the trade off of no tax increases.
This column has suggested tapping into the severance tax revenue stream that currently is used to finance pork projects. We could even raid the $3.4 billion Severance Tax Permanent Fund, which is designed for rainy day use.
Blogger Joe Monahan reports that Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, a Belen Democrat, is looking at tapping the $8.4 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund, which also is set aside for rainy days. Sanchez says it is raining.
Voters would have to decide next November whether it is raining hard enough and whether they want to use some of those funds to balance the budget instead of increasing taxes.
If lawmakers decide to raise taxes, "sin taxes" on junk food, cigarettes and alcohol will be popular, although not with the representatives of those industries.
It has been noted that a disproportionate number of poor people smoke so a cigarette tax would work too much of a burden on them. I suppose that is true, but then, they always could quit smoking.
A gasoline tax might be considered because the highway folks are moaning about their losses in revenue. But gas taxes are highly unpopular with anyone who owns a car.
Rolling back the tax cuts of the past seven years also will be proposed. Opponents say they want a sunset clause in the legislation so tax increases don't continue indefinitely.
Opponents of the tax cuts seven years ago wanted a circuit breaker that would end the cut as soon as a budget deficit occurred. Had they succeeded, we wouldn't be in the mess we currently are.
There will be another major effort to tax out-of-state corporations that now declare their New Mexico profits in other states that have lower, or no, corporate taxes. That effort will run into major corporate lobbying.
Raising income taxes doesn't appear very high on many lawmakers' priority lists, even though there were some major cuts in the past seven years. The biggest cuts were on the wealthy but everyone got some help.
Income taxes are unpopular to raise, however, because they hit all at once and because they hit almost all voters. That puts them in the same category as gas taxes and motor vehicle license fees.
We'll talk about possible cuts in the next column.
FRI, 11-06-09

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