Thursday, September 27, 2012
Monday, September 24, 2012
9-28 Super PACs causing unexpected problems
SANTA FE – Super PACs have overwhelmed the political scene this year. Their presence is gigantic. It takes 10 million $10 contributions to equal the hundreds of millions that one high roller drops in.
During the presidential primary nearly every candidate had a personal billionaire on hand for any help that might be needed. And the way these billionaires sidled up to the candidate of their choice – even appearing on stage with them – it seemed obvious that the rule about not coordinating with the candidate's campaign was a complete joke.
Comedy Channel program hosts Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart had a slapstick routine for several programs in which Colbert formed a Super PAC staffed by volunteers from Stewart's office, which was just down the hall in the same building.
Stewart, as a candidate, supposedly wanted to follow the rules and not do any coordinating. But that was rich guy Colbert's total plan. So Colbert chased Stewart all over the building with doors slamming and Stewart screaming for help.
Sadly, Colbert raised over $1 million for his Super PAC simply by making a joking request for funds one night. The donations didn't cause Colbert any paper work since names of Super PAC contributors are secret.
The ongoing routine was amusing to many of us. We knew it was exaggerated but also figured there was some truth to it. We've seen hints of that sort of activity in New Mexico.
But the Los Angeles Times came up with an interesting slant on the subject this past weekend. An article talked about the problems Super PACs were causing the Mitt Romney campaign.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent by these independent groups ripping up President Barack Obama. But the Romney campaign knows that what it needs to do now is to convince voters that Mitt Romney will make the best president.
But promoting Romney is not the aim of independent expenditure groups such as Super PACs. Billionaires Charles and David Koch, the guys behind Americans for Prosperity, which spent $18 million on media just last month, say they aren't interested in what is best for the Romney campaign. They are out to promote their own interests.
The L.A. Times article says 54 percent of the anti-Obama or pro-Romney ads we see are from outside groups while only 10 percent of Obama's ads are from outside groups.
This difference means that the Obama campaign can coordinate its ad campaign much more effectively than can the Romney campaign, which has to keep guessing what its helpers will do and then fill in the gaps.
The number of ads seen nationally by and about the two candidates are about equal but the Obama campaign is more able to have discipline in executing an overall strategy.
The Romney camp says its most important issue definitely is the economy. Polls show that is where the public interest lies. But Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS is running ads on healthcare. The Republican Jewish Coalition is attacking the president about his policies relating to Israel. And the Koch brothers are talking about free-market deals.
Another Romney disadvantage identified by the Times article is the federal law that requires TV stations to offer candidates the lowest available rate for airtime. That deal is not available to political parties and outside groups. As available airtime shrinks in key states and prices rise, candidate campaign dollars are going a lot further than those from independent groups.
This presidential campaign, likely more than any other in history, boils down to the huge difference between big money and little. President Obama has a Super PAC. It brings in some money but not a big portion of his total. That comes from hundreds of thousands of little donations.
The Romney campaign's decision to go after big donors is turning out to have some unexpected consequences. Expect to see an effort soon to extend low-cost ads to Super PACs.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
9-26 Gov's popularity continues to increase
SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez's popularity among New Mexico voters recently shot up from 60 percent to 69 percent in a recent Albuquerque Journal poll. That puts her in third place nationally according to the latest figures I find.
Such high popularity is quite unusual for a governor in a state dominated by the opposite party. It also is unusual for a member of the freshman class of new Republican governors around the nation elected in 2010.
Most of those governors have had a terrible time overcoming their initial efforts to change the direction of state government. Gov. Martinez, instead picked her battles and didn't try to take big chunks from schools or Medicaid, which are more popular with voters.
Martinez's sudden nine-point jump in popularity likely was caused by the timing of the poll which came just after Martinez's Republican National Convention speech. The speech didn't have much of an effect on the nationwide television audience but it did in New Mexico.
Since the three network channels cut away for commercials and analysis of Condoleezza Rice's speech, many missed out on Martinez. But New Mexicans apparently did some channel switching to find Martinez on PBS, C-Span or a 24-hour news channels.
Those New Mexicans who didn't switch channels to find Martinez may just have been proud to have had their governor speak to a national audience and get good reviews. She even received two standing ovations.
Some of my friends tease me about having fallen in love with Martinez. I assure you that first gentleman Chuck Franco has no worries. I have taken Martinez to task when I have felt it appropriate, especially for half-hearted support of two of former Gov. Bill Richardson's major projects – the film industry and the spaceport.
The film industry appears to be recovering despite a rather confusing cap on rebates. The spaceport, however, appears to be in trouble. The governor pushed a liability limit on space parts suppliers in the last legislative session.
It is difficult to know whether a more vigorous effort might have gotten the legislation past the trial lawyers' lobby. But the lack of immunity seems to be a major obstacle to attracting space companies that currently are going elsewhere.
An all-out effort by all parties to alleviate the several concerns of space companies is in order. If you are a spaceport supporter and one of your legislators is a trial lawyer, it would be appropriate to encourage the candidate to help the spaceport effort rather than their pocket book.
Gov. Martinez's biggest legislative priorities have been taking driver's licenses from undocumented immigrants and holding back third graders who aren't at reading level. Polls show New Mexicans support both efforts, thus another source of her popularity.
Legislative leaders have suggested that if Martinez were interested in compromising a bit, she could get most of what she wants. Former Gov. Gary Johnson passed up similar compromises.
Johnson's last year in office, he vetoed a rather significant tax cut because it wasn't everything he was asking. The following year Gov. Bill Richardson signed the bill and received national acclaim.
But despite Martinez's unwillingness to compromise she remains quite popular. Many Democrats complain her popularity is not deserved because she can't claim to have accomplished much.
It could be that is what New Mexicans want. Bill Richardson could claim a ton of accomplishments and it made him popular into his second term. But by the end of that term, the economy was sinking and Richardson's expensive accomplishments weren't paying off with the economic development he had promised.
Could it be that New Mexicans are glad to take a breather from expensive projects and are enjoying a more limited state government under a cost conscious governor?
Publicity of Martinez for being run by shadowy advisers, misusing email accounts and an insider award of a racino contract hasn't hit any raw nerves with 69 percent of New Mexicans.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
9-24 Many momentous events in mid-September
92412 Constitution Day
SANTA FE -- Constitution Day, September 17, slipped by me this year but that doesn't mean we still can't talk about it.Actually mid-September if full of truly momentous events that occurred around this date in past years.
On September 16, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo delivered his Grito to the people of Delores, Mexico, calling on them to unite in overthrowing the Spanish government. What followed was a bloody 11-year war of independence.
The little town of Delores still uses the letters cdr, Corazon del Revolution, in its address. Why doesn't Mexico celebrate its victory in 1821 instead of the beginning of the revolution? We do the same with the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.
Father Hidalgo was inspired by the American and French revolutions. So were most of the Latin American countries, many of which are celebrating their bicentennials soon.
On September 17, 1841, New Mexico Gov. Manuel Armijo and his troops captured the advance party leading a Texas invasion. The Texans were surprised that the New Mexicans didn't welcome them as liberators and benefactors. Quite the opposite, the Texans were all marched barefooted to Mexico City.
On September 16, 1940, our nation initiated its first peacetime draft when the Selective Service Act took effect. Political maneuvering retarded effective implementation of the law for over a year.
To fill in the gap, many national guard units across the nation were federalized and sent to trouble spots, especially in the Philippines. That meant some 1800 New Mexicans found themselves in the Bataan Death March.
It was a misfortune for New Mexico but there is no telling what would have happened to our nation's war plan if a bunch of raw recruits had been defending Luzon. New Mexico's more mature country boys knew every trick to holding off the Japanese until Australia could be fortified.
On September 17, 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Poland. The Germans had done the same two weeks earlier. The two pushed each other back and forth until the Soviets took over in 1945. The last Russian soldier finally left Poland on September 17, 1993.
Back in our own country, the United States Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787. Few Americans know that since we don't get a three-day weekend.
The situation bothered Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., so much that in 2004, he attached a rider to an appropriation bill requiring any education institution receiving federal money to teach about the Constitution on September 17.
The rules are flexible as to how the instruction will occur but the law is doing enough good that more students know about Constitution Day than do adults. Previously it had been called Citizenship Day. No one remembered that either.
Some schools have an assembly and invite a public official to speak. State Attorney General Gary King frequently is a speaker. King has been promoting Constitution Day since he assumed office in 2007.
U.S. history normally is taught in fifth grade and again in high school. Fifth graders are at a popular age for patriotic activities. In many schools they will present the program for school assemblies. Many of us can remember when we were in high school a course in civics or government was mandatory for graduation. Those courses gave way to studies that help students score higher on competency exams.
At some point textbook companies quit putting the Declaration of Independence and Constitution in the back of U.S. history books. In many communities, Lions Clubs distribute pocket-size booklets containing the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution.
At the state capitol yearly one can often find a class of fifth graders running around with those booklets asking legislators questions about the Constitution. It has forced some lawmakers to brush up on their history.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
9-21 State's first governor ideal
SANTA FE – New Mexico's first governor, 100 years ago, was quite a guy. Born and raised in New York State, William Calhoun McDonald, better known as Mac, heard of the mining excitement at White Oaks, New Mexico.
In the spring of 1880, the 22-year old McDonald arrived in White Oaks, 11 miles northeast of present-day Carrizozo. He had a law degree but he didn't want to spend time as a starving lawyer so he found a government job as a surveyor. If that sounds like our first president, maybe it suggests the journey McDonald was on.
He speculated in some mining claims and quickly began cultivating a network of friends and useful contacts. Those connections got him elected county assessor in 1884.
According to a lengthy article in the July 2012 La Cronica, the official publication of the Historical Society of New Mexico, McDonald prevailed over his opponent because of his integrity, ability and firmness of character.
Much of this column is excerpted from the article's author, Roberta Key Haldane, a native New Mexican and granddaughter of a pioneer Lincoln County ranching family.
Two years earlier, in 1882, McDonald landed a job as bookkeeper for the Bar W Ranch, owned by a group of stockholders from England. This was only about four years after the murder of Englishman John Tunstall by a local group associated with the infamous Santa Fe Ring.
The leader of that local group was L.G. Murphy who owned the Bar W Ranch. Murphy soon was broke and the ranch went to T.B. Catron, head of the Santa Fe Ring who sold it to the English syndicate. Obviously the recent Lincoln County War did not scare away the Englishmen from investing in the local ranching business.
McDonald also was beginning to find ranching very profitable if done right. As bookkeeper he learned the business inside and out and by 1890 the Englishmen ask him to manage the ranch.
Not having been raised on a ranch, McDonald didn't have experience as a cowboy handling daily operations. So he hired the best foreman in the area and devoted himself to running the business operation.
In the following years, McDonald expanded the ranch and bought others. Eventually he had done well enough to buy out the British interest and be in complete charge of a ranch covering much of Lincoln County.
Concurrent with his ranching business, McDonald kept up his interest in politics. He was elected to numerous positions at the local and state level where he was known as a man of outstanding character and honesty.
When New Mexico finally was approved to become a state, McDonald was nominated by the Democratic Party as its nominee for the state's first elected governor.
Supporters of statehood knew it was important to have a governor of sound conservative judgment who could keep the state scandal free. The New Mexico territory hadn't had a particularly good reputation along that line.
McDonald was elected over Holm Bursum by a vote of 31,000 to 28,000. As predicted, New Mexico's government was sound and scandal-free. Historian William Keleher called McDonald the nearest approach to an ideal governor the state had seen in his 50 years of watching.
When McDonald left for Santa Fe to begin his term as governor, he left his ranch in charge of his manager Truman Spencer, a shrewd and ambitious man who reminded McDonald of himself.
Spencer cemented that relationship by marrying McDonald's only child a few months later. They spent some time in Santa Fe during McDonald's term because of the governor's failing health.
There was no one to carry on the McDonald name but the Spencer name has been prominent in the area ever since. Dr. A.N. Spencer was a respected doctor in Carrizozo. His wife Jackie was active in local, county and state affairs for many years.
McDonald's great-grandson Stirling Spencer manages the Bar W and was the Republican nominee for state Land Commissioner several years ago.
Saturday, September 15, 2012
9-19 Log cabins and pokitical candidates
SANTA FE – Log cabins are regaining popularity. It now is possible to buy kits to build your own log cabin – sort of like life-size Lincoln Logs.
What's the attraction of log cabins? Part of it has to do with the image, some of it rubbing off from Abraham Lincoln. Log cabins carry an air of hard working self-sufficiency and part of it has to do with politicians wanting to demonstrate they came from humble beginnings.
Beginning in the middle 1800s, it became almost essential for presidential candidates to claim birth in a log cabin. According to National Park Service information, seven presidents claimed to have been born in log cabins. Add in vice presidents and losing candidates and you have an impressive number.
Evidently William Henry Harrison, our eighth president, was one of the first to make the log cabin claim. It was only a partial truth. He did retire to a log cabin of his youth but he surrounded it with 16 rooms of more modern construction.
Harrison was the first Whig candidate to win election to the presidency. He did it with some very creative political advisers. Harrison had been a general 30 years earlier. He was on the winning side of an Indian battle fought near the Tippecanoe River.
Although Harrison's troops won the battle, he was criticized for some bad decisions. But after 30 years, few remembered. So he was paired with John Tyler in the campaign slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler too."
They thoroughly trounced incumbent President Martin van Buren. Much of the credit was given to the image of Harrison living in a log cabin, which created the impression of virtue, independent thinking and a humble beginning.
Harrison's campaign also was the first to use slogans, songs and symbols. One fortuitous symbol it used to great advantage was an answer to the frequent Democrat complaint that Harrison was too old, at 67, to be president and that he was more suited to going back to his log cabin with a big jug of hard cider and living out his years.
Harrison's campaign turned that around and promoted him as the hard cider candidate. Evidently hard cider, made from apple trees in back yards throughout the nation, was very popular in those days. It became another symbol of self-sufficiency.
Candidates have since used symbols to their advantage. Bruce King was the hard working, successful "Cowboy in the Roundhouse," the title of his memoir. Presidential candidate Gary Johnson now advertises "America Needs a Handyman," the opening line for his story of humble business beginnings.
And recently deceased former state Sen. Aubrey Dunn introduced himself to voters as the ol' Apple Picker from High Rolls. Dunn ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1982. Do you suppose his problem was not making it into hard cider?
This attention to humble beginnings is occasioned by the over-the-top speeches about humble beginnings by Ann Romney and Michelle Obama at their respective conventions recently.
Both talked of living in tiny apartments and dinner on the ironing board. It brought a flood of memories to many of us watching. But both the Romneys and Obamas knew their humble conditions were only temporary. They had every reason to expect a great future.
The first lady's tale of her date's car with a hole in the bottom of the door she could see through happened when both already had graduated from prestigious law schools.
Barack Obama must have been a community organizer at the time. He worked under the direction of the very best organizers, trained by the master, Saul Alinski. He would not have been allowed to drive a decent car while working with the truly poor.
The background Obama received in organizing during that period was vital to the development of a ground organization for his campaign that was superior to any previously developed. He'll do it again this year and Mitt Romney will try to equal him.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
9-17 New Mexicans escape attack ads this year
SANTA FE – Good news. New Mexicans will not be deluged by nearly as many negative campaign ads this year as in the past. That's because we don't have any close federal races this year.
We already are being bombarded with some attack ads but, with the minor exception of one race, these ads are not from candidates or national campaign committees. The negative ads are coming from right-leaning super PACs and left-leaning non-profit organizations primarily representing environmental interests.
The one exception is the U.S. Senate campaign in which Republican Heather Wilson and Democrat Martin Heinrich are running moderately negative ads combined with positive ads about themselves.
Wilson is having to use her own campaign account to finance her ads because the National Republican Senatorial Committee has pulled $3 million originally allocated to Wilson's race.
The problem is that NRSC polling indicates Wilson isn't running a sufficiently competitive race at this point. The money will go to closer races elsewhere.
Wilson says the national GOP committee will make $1.8 million available in case the race tightens. And it could tighten. Wilson and Heinrich have agreed to four debates. Wilson has been quite effective at debates in past congressional campaigns.
As a result, Heinrich has a similar problem. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee cancelled a planned weeklong TV blitz for him. No doubt it will be standing by in case the race tightens.
The three U.S. House races have been eerily quiet. The Congressional District 1 race normally is very competitive but this appears to be a Democratic year. The state and national Republican parties have not been able to get excited about Janice Arnold Jones.
Former state Rep. Arnold-Jones was an effective member of the state House, championing government transparency causes during the administration of former Gov. Bill Richardson. She also has a strong technology background.
Arnold-Jones outlasted her primary election opponents but just wasn't conservative enough to win approval in today's Republican Party. She has had major problems raising money as a result.
Michelle Lujan Grisham, the Democratic candidate, has served as cabinet secretary of two different departments of state government. She received major help from national women's organizations in defeating two formidable primary election opponents.
Both Arnold-Jones and Lujan Grisham have discussed a wide variety of campaign issues with reporters. Either can go to Congress well-armed to represent the district. But we apparently won't see much of them during the next six weeks.
Congressional Districts 2 and 3 are the usual runaways with incumbents Steve Pearce, a Republican and Ben Ray Lujan, a Democrat far outdistancing their challengers. Don't expect to see much of any TV time for either race.
The presidential race also has been quiet this year. For the first time in quite a while, New Mexico is not considered a swing state. President Barack Obama carried it handily four years ago.
This year polls have shown him well ahead again in New Mexico so money has not been rolling in for a major effort. Last week's Albuquerque Journal poll showed Obama with only a five point lead but as of this writing, there is no evidence that either party has now targeted the state.
The Journal poll did include former Gov. Gary Johnson who is running on the Libertarian ticket. The seven percent Johnson received in the poll may account for much of the apparent tightening of the race.
The poll was taken before the end of the National Democratic Convention so Obama's convention bounce is not totally factored in. Nonetheless those who profit from New Mexico being a targeted state are hoping negative ad money will start rolling in.
Recently I asked if all this intercepting of state emails is within limits of the law. The answer is we'll be hearing much more on the subject.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
9-14 Gary Johnson fights for ballot access
SANTA FE – Who knew it ever would be so difficult for Gary Johnson to run for president as a third party candidate? New Mexico's former governor left the Republican Party many months ago to look for friendlier company in the Libertarian Party.
The Libertarians greeted him with open arms and chose him as their presidential candidate. One of the strengths of the Libertarian Party over other minor parties was that the party was on the ballot in all 50 states.
But it wasn't quite as advertised. All states make it difficult for minor parties to gain ballot access. About 10 states make it hard enough that Libertarians in those states hadn't gotten on the ballot yet when Johnson became the nominee.
So Johnson has spent considerable time in those states jumping through their hoops. The state GOP in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Oklahoma and Ohio is in court working to keep Johnson off the ballot.
Meanwhile supporters of Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who was shut out of being placed in nomination at the Republican National Convention, have split into two camps – one wanting to throw its support to Johnson and the other wanting to remain true to Paul even though he won't be on any ballot.
Check out the Internet and see that it has developed into quite a battle with some calling Johnson too extreme and others saying Paul should face reality and throw his support to Johnson.
Some on both sides call it a war. It hardly leaves Johnson time to campaign although he has picked up some ardent supporters from the group that has left Ron Paul.
Neither Democrats nor Republicans like third parties. Both do everything they can to keep other candidates off the ballot. Former President George H.W. Bush says Ross Perot kept him from a second term in 1992. Al Gore thinks Ralph Nader kept him from winning Florida in 2000.
Johnson says he is taking about equally from both sides. He says polling shows him taking a little more from Democrats in New Mexico and a little more from Republicans in Virginia.
Ron Paul managed to get delegate votes in Nevada, Minnesota, Maine, Iowa, Oregon, Alaska and the Virgin Islands. GOP convention rules require a petition signed by delegates from five states in order to be nominated from the floor. Rep. Paul's petition was signed by delegates from seven states so the rules were quickly changed to require eight states.
It was after that happened that many Paul supporters headed toward Johnson, who was in the vicinity of the convention auditorium speaking with reporters.
The experts are split on what sort of a chance Johnson has. Polling shows that nearly all Americans already have made up their mind on their presidential choice. President Barack Obama, Gov. Mitt Romney and Johnson are fighting over the sliver of voters that are left.
But Paul and Johnson supporters point to another survey revealing that only 16 percent of voters say they will be voting for someone they really like. They see the other 84 percent of voters still being in play if they can just get the message out.
Currently Johnson is working at raising $1 million on his website to make television commercials. That won't go far but Johnson isn't as flush as he was when he ran for governor.
Ron Paul does a magnificent job raising money through the Internet but he has a lengthy mailing list of names. He has been unwilling to share the list with anyone except probably his son, Sen. Rand Paul of Tennessee.
In late breaking news, Michigan has denied ballot access to Johnson because he originally ran for president as a Republican. Michigan has a "sore loser" law, which says a candidate cannot switch parties after losing a race for nomination.
But did Johnson actually lose the GOP nomination? The Michigan Libertarian Party will take that question to court for Johnson.
Sunday, September 09, 2012
9-12 Keep an eye on those Texans
SANTA FE – Is it another Texas invasion? It happened in 1841 and again in 1862. Could that be what we're seeing again?
First we elected a governor who grew up in El Paso. Now we have a Miss New Mexico who grew up in Texas and last year was Miss Dallas.
Candace Bennatt moved to Angel Fire last year and was elected Miss Ruidoso this summer. That clearly labels her as a Texan. Texans love our mountains.
Texas came out on the short end of the stick when mountains were divvied up. Guadalupe Mountain, which meanders into New Mexico down south of Carlsbad, is the highest point in Texas.
The lowest point in New Mexico is nearby. So Texans sneak over here to enjoy our mountains – and to win Miss New Mexico pageants some supporters of other contestants say.
But pageant officials assure that they have reviewed Miss Bennatt's papers carefully and found she entered New Mexico legally. She even has a driver's license. We wish her well as she represents New Mexico in the Miss America pageant, which we understand is in January, in Las Vegas.
Speaking of our governor, she still is getting bitten by a surprising number of purloined emails to, from or about her. I enjoy the juicy information but isn't there something illegal about hijacking email not meant for you?
If one does that with telephones, it is called wiretapping, for which a court-ordered search warrant is required. These culprits seem quite willing to identify themselves.
And why does Gov. Martinez dress down for her frequent visits to schools. Pictures show her in jeans with her shirt hanging out. When I taught 50 years ago, I wore a sport coat and tie. I know times have changed. Guess it's a generational thing.
Gov. Martinez was criticized for supporting conservative Democratic legislative candidates in that party's primary elections last spring.
Now we learn that Democratic members of Congress have been supporting candidates in Republican primaries whom they consider easiest to beat. Sen. Harry Reid is said to have done it in Nevada last year in order to get a Tea Party opponent.
More recently Sen. Claire McCaskill did it in Missouri in order to get Todd Akin as an opponent. Politics is becoming a wide open game.
GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan was caught in a prevarication after his convention acceptance speech for claiming to have run a marathon in less than three hours. That's quite a feat. Runner's World magazine listed his time at just over four hours.
Could it be that Ryan, who has a reputation of being a dull numbers guy, wanted to associate himself with Dos Equis beer's "most interesting man in the world" who ran a marathon because it was on his way?
Federal District Judge Bruce Black has sentenced realtor Doug Vaughan to 12 years in prison for bilking 600 investors out of $75 million in an elaborate Ponzi scheme.
Vaughan asked for leniency, which the judge denied, saying that Vaughan was a worse crook than Billy the Kid.
Besides being a distinguished jurist, Judge Black also is quite a historian so I come not to argue his comparison but to add some insights of my own.
It is true that Vaughan stole infinitely more money than Billy. The Kid didn't rob banks, trains or stage coaches. His thievery involved many cattle, some horses and cheating at cards.
What kept getting Billy in trouble was killing people. It really was 6 or 7 victims not the 21 of popular myth. But that is 6 or 7 more than Doug Vaughan. Billy had good reason for most of his killings but when he was in a group that ambushed a sheriff and some deputies, he got the rap.
The big difference between the two is that for his sins Vaughan got 12 years. Billy got death by hanging.
Thursday, September 06, 2012
9-10 Santa Feans choose sides on fluoridation
SANTA FE – The great fluoridation debate continues in Santa Fe. A city council action to remove fluoride from the city's water has been delayed once by the city attorney who advised that proper notice was not given for the council action.
Now it is being delayed by the sponsor's consideration of a possible compromise which would keep the water fluoridated for three more years while public education programs are conducted to teach people how to eat right so they won't get cavities.
What's the city council's problem with fluoride? Well, we can't be sure. Some worry about it being a foreign substance that could do more harm than good.
But then, fluoride occurs naturally in Santa Fe's water. Is that a foreign substance? Should the fluoride be removed?
None of the council members seem worried about fluoridation being a plot to poison community members. Councilors are not distrustful of government. In fact, they think we need more government.
They want to educate the people to adopt such good eating habits so they will naturally not get cavities. Call it a nanny state, if you will.
One councilor noted that Santa Fe may be way ahead of the curve. He compared it to the early efforts to stop smoking. It took many years for the public to realize just how bad smoking is for the body.
Meanwhile the federal Centers for Disease Control continues to list water fluoridation as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
The federal Department of Health and Human Services did slightly lower the recommended amount of water fluoridation recently, which prompted the move in Santa Fe.
The recommended decrease was from 0.8 parts per million to 0.7 ppm. Santa Fe's naturally occurring fluoride is 0.2 to 0.4 ppm.
The council decided that was close enough for government work and originally voted 6-1 to discontinue fluoridation.
It was noted that nearly all of the extra fluoride added is wasted on watering lawns, washing dishes and clothes and flushing toilets.
To prove it wasn't a money-saving move, councilors originally voted to donate the $32,000 budgetary savings to a local children's clinic.
It turns out that fluoridation does save money on the cost of dental care funded by the government and insurance companies.
Usually it is groups on the far right that oppose governmental actions such as the fluoridation of water. But Santa Fe elected officials are on the opposite end of the political spectrum.
Santa Fe's minimum wage is the highest in the nation. Our city council was proud of beating San Francisco, California by a nickel.
That's the sort of thing one can expect of the City Different. So the fluoridation thing is blowing people's minds. It doesn't make sense.
Despite many articles in the local press, the Capital City's rather large scientific community apparently has not awakened to the willingness of the city council to stop adding fluoride to their water.
But sooner or later it will happen and scientists will start showing up at council meetings protesting junk science that is warping their thinking.
LATE BREAKING NEWS: Last night the Santa Fe City Council lurched in still another direction. Four of its eight members want a public vote during the 2014 city election on whether to fluoridate the city's water.
If that passes, and I'm guessing it will, Santa Feans will have the better part of two years to fuss about whether fluoride is good for our teeth or if it will kill us.
The two camps already are lining up. The anti-fluoridationists contend that any intelligent person can go on the Internet and get all kinds of good information about how bad fluoride is for our teeth.
Leading the other side will be led by dentists who agree the Internet does have a tremendous amount of anti-fluoride information but it is all pseudoscience, not evidence-based science.
It will be a wild ride.
Wednesday, September 05, 2012
9-7 Bataan prisoners liberated
90712 prisoners freed
SANTA FE – As part of our state centennial observance, we celebrate today the 67th anniversary of New Mexico's Bataan veterans being liberated from Japanese prison camps.
The doors did not swing open immediately upon Japan's August 15 surrender. The prison guards had high-tailed it for sure. American agents from the Office of Strategic Services had parachuted into prison camps to brief the prisoners and organize for the evacuations. Food was dropped in 55-gallon drums.
The first order of business for American troops when they landed was to find all fighter planes that were still in flying condition and remove their propellers.
During the month following the Japanese surrender, medical cases were evacuated first. Then recovery teams methodically got all former prisoners to ports of embarkation. Troops from allied nations were given priority.
The wait was tough, but for many men who had spent four years away from home, three-and-one-half of that in captivity, it provided time to mentally prepare for their return.
It also gave some time to become reacquainted with the real food falling from the sky. Many had trouble keeping anything down for a while.
The medicine drops helped too. Medicine and other supplies often were dropped in mattresses. They were thin, but luxurious compared to the slats they had slept on.
The sick and injured received plane rides to stateside hospitals, some of them for long stays. A few others who got lucky caught hops back to the United States. The rest found themselves on slow boats back home.
That wasn't such bad duty. Navy cooks were instructed to give the prisoners all they wanted to eat, at any time of day. That meant morning, noon and evening meals ran together, as some seemed never to quit eating. Many men said they gained 50 pounds or more on the trip home.
The men wanted to look better for their wives and sweethearts. The American government wanted that too. It worried about public reaction to seeing men half their normal weight returning from prison, when many Americans were upset at what they thought was our coddling of POWs.
Liberation didn't happen as quickly for the prisoners held in Manchuria, where the Russians were invading. Many of the Japanese guards were killed on the spot, but the Russians often weren't much better hosts. They were primarily interested in plundering anything they could find rather than helping their allies, the Americans, get out of there.
The ship rides were slow. Every vessel was pressed into service and some were no longer very seaworthy. Mines and typhoons slowed them down more. Some ships stopped several times in Japan, Okinawa, Guam, and even the Philippines before heading home.
The homecoming ceremonies at dockside were big events. Bands played. Crowds lined the harbors to watch the boys come home. Many wives and families were there. And some weren't. Parents had died or wives and sweethearts were no longer waiting.
Things had changed. America had made great strides during the previous four years and they hadn't been part of it. How difficult would it be to adjust? The slang bewildered them. Popular songs were new. Customs had changed. They had to get reacquainted with their country.
Most went to West Coast hospitals to be checked out for the effects of beatings, abuse starvation and overwork. Doctors told them they likely had only about 10 years to live and wouldn't be able to father children because of the damage done to their bodies during captivity.
The bad news was taken in stride by most of them. They had become accustomed to bad news and were determined to enjoy their freedom as long as they could. And maybe they could even beat the odds one more time.
Most of them did. Among them, they can boast many, many children. Quite a few of them were still going strong 60 years later.
Even though many survived the physical abuse to their bodies, some didn't survive the mental abuse well. Most had trouble adjusting to civilian life. Heavy drinking became a problem with some.
But even without the psychological services the military offers today, our guys survived amazingly well to become productive citizens of our state.
Sunday, September 02, 2012
9-5 Gov. Martinez shines in conventionspeech
SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez did New Mexico proud with her speech at the Republican National Convention. She was given what appeared to be one of the most prime of prime time slots and didn't disappoint.
Our governor had several applause lines and brought the crowd to its feet with a story about carrying a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum as a security guard for her father's small business. That was red meat for the crowd.
Another ovation came when she told of deciding to run against her former boss for district attorney. Both were Democrats in a Democratic leaning community.
Some Republican friends invited Martinez and her husband, Chuck Franco, to lunch to talk politics. She said she liked their issues so much that when she and her husband got back in their car, she said "Well I'll be damned – we're Republicans." She didn't say but maybe there might have been a few other topics discussed at lunch. Anyway, there is talk of putting the quote on T shirts.
Another big applause came for her quote that "In America todo es posible." I've already seen that on a sign in front of a church. Republicans are thrilled that they have more Hispanic governors and U.S. senators than Democrats do. Martinez helps that along by being able to speak Spanish.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush also speaks the language quite well. Watch for Gov. Bush or one of his sons to keep the family name in Republican politics.
Many New Mexicans were displeased that none of the major network channels carried the speech. Appearing between Condoleezza Rice and the vice-presidential nominee was a real coup. But the networks had to have time for commercials and talking heads between those two major addresses.
To any veteran channel changer, finding our governor's speech shouldn't have been much of a problem. The Public Broadcasting System channels carried gavel-to-gavel convention coverage and those with cable or satellite connection could get it on C-SPAN. Fox News, MSNBC and CNN also carried her speech.
Her speech still can be seen on most newspaper and TV web sites. But the fact remains that Gov. Martinez would have been seen by many more Americans had any of the major network channels carried her speech.
So the schedule turned out to be unfortunate for the governor. Convention planners very likely knew it. But that was not the most unfortunate scheduling of the convention. The entire week was built around former Gov. Mitt Romney's acceptance speech.
The mystery guest's appearance totally messed that up. I could almost hear households around the country turning down the volume on their television sets to discuss what in the world Clint Eastwood had been thinking about with his rambling 12-minute soliloquy.
Martinez spent most of her time telling her story, an inspiring tale of political success. It is likely to inspire some young Hispanics to seek office as Republicans. The speech didn't contain much to encourage Hispanics to vote for Gov. Romney.
Immigration is an issue among Hispanics. Gov. Martinez has a comprehensive immigration stance that would appear quite attractive to many Hispanics but it disagrees with the Republican Party immigration platform so she couldn't say anything about it.
Earlier this year Martinez outlined a rather comprehensive immigration package for Newsweek magazine. This column commented on it and received notice from one of her advisors that her immigration stance had been public for some time.
But coverage of Martinez's convention speech mentioned the Newsweek article as being the source for Martinez's immigration positions so apparently most of us in the world of political reporting hadn't heard about it before Newsweek reported it.
Many of us had not heard Martinez use Spanish phrases in her public appearances. Gov. Richardson used Spanish frequently. It may be that Martinez hasn't spoken to many groups yet which contain many Spanish speakers.