Inside the Capitol

Sunday, June 30, 2013

7-3 Fate of declaration signers

70313 July 4


     SANTA FE -- Why does America celebrate its independence on the 4th of July? Mainly because it works.

   It isn't the day we achieved our independence. That was November 3, 1783. It isn't the date of the first battle of the Revolutionary War. That was over a year before July 4, 1776. And it isn't the date of the last decisive battle.

   We chose the day the Declaration of Independence was signed because that was a magical moment that unquestionably led to the foregone conclusion of American independence.

   Or so the story goes. Actually, it was much more difficult than that. Members of the Continental Congress seriously debated whether there was much chance of winning a revolution against the crown.

   The rebels had a rag tag army, not much of a navy and no alliance with any country that could be of help.

   But the decision to proceed was made and most of them signed a document pledging their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to each other. They knew they were guilty of treason and, if captured, were likely to be hanged.

   Were it not for some free lance help by European military officers such as Lafayette, von Steuben, de Kalb and others, they would have been in serious trouble.

   For the past several years, friends have sent me an essay describing the fate of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, suggesting that I use it in a July 4th column. Somehow the fate of the signers seemed too grim to be accurate.

   So, this year, I googled "Declaration of Independence signers" and quickly learned that the essay has made quite an impact. No authorship is claimed but it appears to be a rewrite of an essay by Rush Limbaugh, Jr., father of the radio personality.

   The fates claimed for the 56 signers all had grains of truth but all were considerably overstated. Nine of them did die during the Revolutionary War, but none of them at the hands of the British.

   Many did have their homes ransacked, vandalized and occupied by the British but that was because they were in the path of the war. Theirs were mostly big homes that were likely targets for both sides to use as local headquarters or plundered for supplies.

   Many lost much of their property and had to sell assets after the war in order to cover debts but none of them died in rags, as claimed.

   In short, all the signers took a huge risk and had every reason to believe that they might well be hanged. Today we should all take time to honor their courageous act. And we also should honor all the colonists who endured hardships and losses, including loss of life, in the cause of the revolution.

   The actual stories of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence are sufficiently compelling without embellishment. In our comfortable society of today, it is difficult to imagine the hardships they all had to endure. We easily could call that "our greatest generation."

   Biographies have been written for all the signers of the Declaration of Independence. I'm sure they are all good reads. If you don't have time for that, my suggestion is a recent book by Roswell's Dave Clary, titled "Adopted Son," describing the friendship between Gen. George Washington and the young Marquis de Lafayette and the wide-ranging influence it had on themselves and their countries.

   This also is a good day to pick up the Declaration of Independence and read it again. It is a brilliant and inspired argument for overthrowing tyranny that captured imaginations not just here but in Europe and the rest of the Americas.

   Upon winning our independence, we became the world's first revolutionary power, making us the oldest revolutionary government on earth, with the oldest written constitution.

   Americans have much to be proud of on this day. Let us not forget the sacrifices of our forbearers to obtain freedoms we now sometimes want to limit.



Thursday, June 27, 2013

No column for 7-1

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

6-28 Haboobs are nothing new

62813 haboobs

SANTA FE – As it turns out, longtime New Mexicans know about haboobs. We just didn't know there was a name for them.
The word "Haboob" was totally new to me and to most New Mexicans until a haboob hit Phoenix two years ago. When something hits the nation's sixth largest city, it's a bigger deal than when it hits Deming or even El Paso.
When I grew up in the dry, windy 1940s and early 1950s, I can remember several haboobs. We called them big dust storms. My wife remembers them from El Paso. They looked like a very tall wall of sand coming toward us. We knew to run inside and close the windows.
The term haboob originated in the Middle East and that is where they most frequently occur. President Jimmy Carter's plan to free the Iranian hostages in 1980 was thwarted by a haboob. In fact there were two of them, a small one followed by a big one. They sent aircraft crashing into each other and destroyed a plan that otherwise might have worked.
The lack of awareness of the impending haboobs was blamed on poor weather forecasting in the nearby vast desert region. But it turns out that haboobs form quickly on the front of desert storms. Recently both Carlsbad and Albuquerque have reported haboobs.
My research shows that in this country, haboobs often are called Arizona dust storms. That should be good news to the New Mexico tourism industry. We'll be glad to have haboobs credited to Arizona.
The tourism folks are complaining that our forest fires are keeping tourists away. Maybe so. But on national newscasts, all I hear about is the Colorado fires and, to some extent, California fires. The reason for that is that our fires have spared people's lives and property.

Here's a real attention grabber. St. Louis has been named America's new Sin City according to the online real estate blog, Movoto.
The blog doesn't sound impressive but it must have a lot of readers because of the number of blogs about the results.
Movoto used the Seven Deadly Sins as a yardstick. It then found a statistic to measure the extent of that sin in the larger cities of the nation.
Here's how the researchers set up the study. Number of strip clubs per capita (lust). Cosmetic surgeons per capita (pride). Violent crimes (wrath). Thefts (envy). Charitable donations (greed). Obesity (gluttony). Physically inactive residents (sloth).
No New Mexico cities made the top 10. For that we can rejoice. The St. Louis mayor's office says it is pleased because it will attract more tourists.
I don't think so. This isn't the type of sinning that tourists think of when they flock to Las Vegas, which came in at number 10.
I watch sports on television whenever I can. I tend to make up my mind about a city based on the behavior of its fans. St. Louis fans tend to be knowledgeable and polite. But evidently, they are closet sinners.
I got interested in the deadly sins 50 years ago when I was assigned to attend all 89 public school budget hearings around the state. The task took much of the spring so Jeanette resigned from teaching and traveled the roads of New Mexico with me.
Many of the hearings were held in county court houses. WPA art from the 1930s adorned the walls. Often there were big murals in the court room. A favorite subject of the paintings and murals was the seven sins. So we did some studying and learned some big words, such as avarice and vainglory, to impress our friends at cocktail parties.
Here are some of the other cities that made the list of places you might want to think twice about visiting. In order, they are Orlando, Minneapolis, Pittsburg, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Miami, Buffalo and Detroit.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

6-26 Disney promotes Lone Ranger to world press

62613 etc.

SANTA FE – Let's take a look at what has been happening during this busy summer.
Last week, Santa Fe was the location for a massive promotion of the upcoming Lone Ranger and Tonto movie. Over 300 broadcast journalists and film critics were flown to New Mexico from all over the world for five days of activities, including previews of the movie, which will open on July 3.
The press launch for the Lone Ranger was notable because New Mexico never had seen anything like it before. Most such events are put on in either Los Angeles or New York City.
One reason for the choice of Santa Fe may be that much of the movie was filmed in New Mexico but perhaps the main reason was that Johnny Depp, who plays Tonto, is currently in New Mexico shooting another movie.
Depp is integral to this movie because the script made Tonto not just a sidekick but a main character.
From the beginning, Depp was committed to making sure that happened by digging as fully as possible into what it means to be an Indian. By the time he finished, the Comanche made him an honorary member. Why didn't Disney Studios cast an Indian for the part? Maybe they wanted Depp's big name and drawing power.
The reason so many questions were not answered is that great secrecy surrounded the entire event. No one was allowed into the sessions but the 315 invitees. The local press was shut out. All questions were referred to the Disney people, who were everywhere but weren't talking.
Evidently this is common. Disney paid a fortune to get these people here and they wanted to be sure they controlled the message for this $200 million production. The hoteliers around town also were tight-lipped.
This is standard practice probably everywhere. Staff can be fired even for answering a question about hotel guests.

A recent survey published in the Albuquerque Journal asked who was New Mexico's best athlete.
The perhaps surprising answer was five-time champion boxer Johnny Tapia, who died unexpectedly last year. Tapia was a great athlete but also had many run-ins with drugs.
The drug problems perhaps detracted from his many public spirited deeds. But not with his fans. Tapia won the poll going away.
A recent effort to name the Barelas Community Center, in Albuquerque's South Valley, after Tapia ran into problems because Tapia's drug use would not be a positive influence with youth.
The compromise was to name the gymnasium after him.
Coming in second in the poll was football star Tommy McDonald. Since he played back in my day, he may not be very familiar so I'll catch some of you up on him.
McDonald grew up in Roy, New Mexico. He was a standout playing his freshman year at Roy. Over the summer, the family moved to Albuquerque where Tommy played football for Highland High School.
Since Highland was a perennial champion back in the 1950s, there always were stories about how the family happened to move.
McDonald was recruited by the University of Oklahoma, another powerhouse. Oklahoma never lost a game during the years McDonald played football for legendary coach Bud Wilkinson.
The Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League drafted McDonald and switched him from a half back to an end. Yes, I know those weren't the correct names for those positions now, but remember, those were the days of the T-formation in the 1950s.
McDonald excelled at going over the middle to catch a ball. Many receivers are seriously injured catching the ball in heavy traffic but McDonald's short, muscular body could take the punishment.
Besides, McDonald was fearless. With the exception of kickers, he was the last NFL athlete to play without a facemask. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame several years ago.
Coming in third in the poll was Lovington's Brian Urlacher, who recently retired from the Chicago Bears. Urlacher played his college ball at the University of New Mexico.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

No columns for 6/21 & 6/24

Monday, June 17, 2013

6-19 Manhattan Project moves forward

61913 Manhattan NHP

SANTA FE – The Manhattan Project National Historical Park has finally cleared a major hurdle. The proposed legislation passed the U.S. House last week and must now go to the Senate and to the president for his signature.
The historic project would include nuclear activities Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Hanford, Washington. These were the three facilities that had the most to do with development of the atom bomb, the most world-changing event of the 20th century.
House members from all three states have been working hard on the measure for two years and the same will happen in the Senate. The bill failed last year when it was included in a group of measures designated for expedited passage. Those bills required a two-thirds favorable vote. The Manhattan Project bill vote fell just short. It had over a two-thirds vote this time.
This year, the bill was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act. Such games are played in Washington. Few bills seem to pass on their own merits. They have to be tied to other measures containing goodies for other members of Congress.
In the Senate, the bill will go through more hearings where many additions and subtractions will be made. If it passes the Senate, the bill will go to a House-Senate conference committee where differences will be ironed out.
If the Manhattan Project survives all that, the National Defense Authorization Act will go to President Obama for his decision. As it stands now, the president will not sign the bill. His reasons have nothing to do with the historical park. They involve other defense-related items in the bill such as keeping Guantanamo open and closing some defense operations in the United States.
The chief sponsor of the Manhattan Project bill is Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington State. He is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, which gives him considerable power. Hastings also included the transfer of over 1,000 acres of unused Hanford land to a local economic development project.
Other major co-sponsors are Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, whose district includes Los Alamos and Rep. Chuck Flieschmann, whose district includes the Oak Ridge facility.
Now that the bill is in the Senate, New Mexico Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich will be involved in helping move it along.
The legislation provides that the historical park will be established within a year as part of the National Park system. It specifies the facilities and areas at each of the locations that will be eligible for inclusion in the park.
Nearly all these facilities and areas already are owned by the federal government under the purview of the Department of Energy. The measure requires coordination and cooperation between the Park Service and the Department of Energy to ensure safe and secure access to these locations.
The establishment of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park is supported by the Department of the Interior, the Department of Energy and the National Park Service. It also enjoys bipartisan support in both houses of Congress.
So if the historical park fails to become a reality, it won't be because it is not an acceptable idea. And its sponsors say it won't be because of cost. The government already owns the land and facilities. Many of the facilities now are unused and ready to be torn down at a greater cost than preserving them. It will be because of the extraneous matters, often called poison pills that are thrown in.
The historic sites not only will be invaluable in providing perspective to the decision to develop the bomb, it will be a big tourism boost to the areas involved. It is unfortunate that the military will only allow public access to Trinity Site, near the northern edge of White Sands Missile Range, twice a year. The site of the first A-Bomb explosion would be a great tourist draw to Southern New Mexico.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

6-17 Summer political excitement, for a change

61713 summer excitement

SANTA FE – Summers of non-election years are usually pretty lifeless politically. But not this year. We have gobs of scandals at both the federal and state levels.
At the federal level, we have security vs. safety vs. surveillance vs. snooping vs. privacy vs. terrorists. And no one seems to be able to figure out a consistent position.
Nearly everyone loved the Patriot Act in 2001. We'll never let those guys sneak up on us again. Top Bush administration officials even briefly considered taking everybody's guns away.
Gradually, over the years, we decided maybe the Patriot Act infringed on too many individual rights. Then came the Boston Marathon bombing. Where were our guys who were supposed to be catching terrorists before they could act?
So we began looking at more surveillance. Then a private contractor working for the National Security Agency released an avalanche of emails indicating we are being watched much more than we think.
Many members of Congress are very confused. They want to blame both problems on the administration but the best they have been able to come up with is more snooping on the bad guys and no snooping on the good guys. And it's the president's job to figure out how to do that.
The dichotomy is somewhat like the problem with sequestering. Congress cut every department across the board but told the department heads to decide where their cuts should be made. It was an impossible situation because most members of Congress have complained when their favorite programs were cut. Those were political cuts, they say. We wanted you to cut waste, fraud and abuse.
Watch for that soap opera to play out all summer and so will the dramas over military rapes, immigration and the Internal Revenue Service treatment of conservative social service groups. Congress is so busy, for a change, that it may have to give up some of its August recess.
Even South Dakota School of Mines President Heather Wilson is spicing up the summer. The inspector general of the Department of Energy thinks Wilson collected nearly a half million dollars in questionable payments from four nuclear energy labs, including Sandia and Los Alamos. Wilson was collecting $20,000 a month during the period between her two unsuccessful runs for the U.S. Senate.
At the state level, we are waiting breathlessly to learn whether the FBI is investigating the Albuquerque Downs 25-year lease, which involves members of the Gov. Susana Martinez administration. Meanwhile the State Police are investigating whether an officer was asked to record a meeting with the new Dona Ana County District Attorney Mark D'Antonio. Evidently that is a no-no.
The State Police officer, Raul Robles, says he was asked by former DA Amy Orlando and former deputy district attorney Steven Blankinship to record the meeting. Orlando replaced Susana Martinez when Martinez was elect ted governor. She then ran against Democrat D'Antonio and lost. Orlando and Blankinship are now part of the Martinez administration.
Gov. Martinez says she knows nothing about the requests. Orlando and Blankinship say they did not ask Robles to make the recording. We haven't heard the last of this one.
If and when the mid-summer monsoons ever come, we may see an end to New Mexico's forest fires. Until then, we will be in competition for federal resources.
The problem is that the Federal Emergency Management Agency's budget has seen the same sequestration cuts as everybody else. That means it will run out of money well before the end of its fiscal year. Emergency budget increases are not popular these days.
The tourism community is complaining that the broad ranging coverage of New Mexico's fires is hurting business badly. I'm not sure I completely agree. The national coverage I see centers on Colorado and California because that is where all the property damage is happening. Maybe it is good being ignored, in this case.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

6-14 Flag Day

61413 Flag Day
SANTA FE -- Flag Day, June 14, is the least celebrated of all national observances. One reason is that it never has been declared an official holiday.
    As we headed into World War I, President Woodrow Wilson tried but failed to get Congress to recognize the observance and make it a holiday.
    Flag Day was slow in getting started and only picked up steam in the late 1800s when Americans became concerned about the flood of immigrants coming to our shores during a period of generous immigration policies, prompted by the need of burgeoning industries for cheap labor.
    Sound familiar? The idea was to Americanize the children in the schools. Since most schools aren't in session in June anymore, observances in the schools have dwindled. Americanizing the younger generation hasn't been much of a problem anyway. They learn much more quickly than adults.
    Flag days began in scattered communities around the nation and that is the way they still are observed. A check of the first 200 Flag Day Web sites Google gave me indicates a real hodgepodge of observances, with each Web site having its own agenda.
    Flag Day is little enough recognized that many other organizations have their own Flag Day for completely different purposes. The Armed Forces have a Flag Day on a different date to raise money for needy veterans and active duty personnel. Donors are given a flag sticker to wear.
    I found Red Cross sites raising money on different dates. And Flag Day means something completely different to bloggers, who want a specific day to identify and flag objectionable blogs.
    Since stores don't really observe Flag Day, there are plenty of sites that sell specific Flag Day items. Many sites also have teaching materials for Flag Day.
    A major problem with community Flag Day observances is that the day falls halfway between Memorial Day and July 4th, our nation's two biggest patriotic observances.
    No wonder Congress hasn't wanted to make it a holiday. Not even the flag wavers have suggested it. They prefer to advocate a constitutional amendment banning flag burning.
    Putting together the information from many Web sites, here is the comprehensive story of Flag Day that I had hoped to find all on one convenient Web site.
    On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress adopted a resolution designating the flag's design. Most modern historians think it unlikely Betsy Ross either suggested the design or stitched the first flag.
    In 1861, the city of Hartford, Conn. held a Flag Day observance to indicate its hope that the Union could be preserved as the nation entered into a Civil War.
    In 1877, Congress asked that all public buildings fly the flag on June 14 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the flag. It wasn't until 20 years later that New York became the first state to require that all public buildings fly the flag.
    In 1885, a Wisconsin school teacher began an energetic campaign to get Congress to declare June 14 a national holiday. In 1888, a Pittsburgh schoolboy founded the American Flag Day Association. In 1889, the principal of a kindergarten for the poor in New York City, held ceremonies that attracted the attention of New York authorities.
    In 1893, the Philadelphia Society of Colonial Dames convinced the city to display the flag on all city buildings. In 1937, Pennsylvania became the first and only state to declare June 14 a legal holiday.
 Finally in 1949, during the early days of the Cold War, Congress approved the national observance and President Harry Truman signed it. Presidents sometimes mention Flag Day and occasionally issue proclamations.
    But celebrations remain a local matter. Not surprisingly, all the localities listed above celebrate Flag Day and claim to be its founders.
    Maybe adoption of our flag isn't sufficiently momentous. How about celebrating the adoption of our Constitution?


Saturday, June 08, 2013

6-12 Who is investigating who?

61213 investigations

SANTA FE – The mystery never ends. Who is investigating who in state government? We know the FBI is involved.
FBI agents in Albuquerque are investigating the local police and the FBI in Santa Fe has obtained an indictment against Susana Martinez's first campaign manager, Jamie Estrada, for email hacking.
But rumors keep popping up in Albuquerque that the FBI is being encouraged to specifically look at police handling of the Mary Han mysterious death a few years ago.
Han was a prominent defense attorney. She was found dead in her garage with her car engine running. It was ruled a suicide but many think that was too easy an answer.
In Santa Fe, some of the emails that were hijacked related to the 25-year lease of the fairgrounds racetrack and casino.
It all started a year ago when some mysterious emails became public announcing the partial fulfillment of a request for a list of names of teachers throughout the state who were not union members.
The request and response raised questions about personal privacy and the use of private email to conduct state business.
Gov. Martinez put a quick end to the email question by decreeing that henceforth all state business conducted by email would be conducted through state email accounts.
That is as it should be. Email correspondence conducted through state email accounts is subject to inspection under the Inspection of Public Records Act.
Use of private accounts to conduct state business avoids the transparency that Gov. Martinez promised.
Since the person who released the emails was Albuquerque attorney Sam Bregman and since he now is chairman of the state Democratic Party, suspicions immediately arose about the connections he used to obtain private emails. Bregman answered only that they were obtained legally. My questions about how the emails could have been obtained legally were not answered by Democrats or Republicans in the know.
But I was told by a prominent Republican that the FBI was all over the place looking into the emails.
We also heard from Gov. Martinez and top GOP officials that the awarding of the Albuquerque Downs racino 25-year contract was most definitely not part of the investigation. Evidently someone was trying to make it a part of the investigation.

Soon after, we learned that Martinez's first campaign manager Jamie Estrada was indicted by a Bernalillo County grand jury on a dozen counts of illegally intercepting electronic communications and two counts of making false statements to authorities during the investigations.
An inside job. How about that? I certainly was looking in the wrong place. I thought those geeky Democrats with their backroom computers had outmaneuvered Republicans just like we are learning how they did during the presidential campaign.
But, no. Republicans were doing it to themselves. They just don't seem to have a knack for dumping employees in a graceful manner.
First it was Jamie Estrada, then Anissa Galassini, Susana Martinez's personal assistant during the 2010 campaign.
Galissini didn't get rehired into the Martinez administration after the election. She revealed that she had been interviewed by two different FBI teams, one concerning emails and another concerning the Albuquerque Downs.
Then came the big kahuna. Andrea Goff, a highly respected fundraiser for the Republican Party revealed last week that she had been interviewed by an FBI team and the questions concerned nothing about Jamie Estrada or email hacking but were about the racino and various other activities.
Now why would someone who has been in the Martinez inner circle do a thing like that? Sounds like there has been a falling out there too.
Goff served as finance director for Martinez's campaign PAC and head of Martinez's inaugural committee. She is now U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce's chief fundraiser.
Obviously there is much more to be learned. News organizations aren't in agreement about the Downs deal. And where is Sam Bregman? We always hear from him?

Thursday, June 06, 2013

No column for Monday 6-10

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

No column for Friday, 6/7

Saturday, June 01, 2013

6-5 Only four presidents have been invited to France for D-Day

60513 D Day

SANTA FE – At this time last year, President Barack Obama was facing severe criticism for showing a lack of patriotism by not attending the commemoration ceremonies at Normandy on D-Day.
Let's hope that by now all the people who were howling last year are squared away on how D-Day is commemorated in France. If not, the following information may be helpful.
President Obama was accused of being the first president in 70 years not to attend the D-Day ceremonies. Obama cleared that up by noting that he indeed attended D-Day ceremonies his first year in office and caused quite a stir when French President Nicolas Sarkozy invited only Obama and not Queen Elizabeth.
The Queen made a big deal out of it because she is the only head of state, who saw service during World War II. She was a mechanic and truck driver. The general consensus was that Sarkozy wanted Obama to himself all that day.
But then the refrain began that Obama did not attend any of the three commemorations since then and that every other U.S. president had attended them all. That one didn't hold water either. International protocol holds that heads of state do not enter another country unless invited by that country's head of state. That's something I hadn't realized.
Evidently D-Day is celebrated in every little town and village near the Normandy beaches. National ceremonies are held only once every 10 years. That began only in 1984. President Ronald Reagan was invited and he attended. He wasn't invited the remaining years of his term. And he didn't attend.
Bill Clinton was invited in 1994 and attended. George W. Bush was invited in 2004 and he attended.
In 2009, the veterans of the Normandy landing petitioned President Sarkozy to hold a 65th national celebration because there were so few D-Day veterans still living. Sarkozy obliged. Obama was invited and went.
So, four U.S. presidents have been invited to the Normandy events and all four have gone – including President Obama. No other U.S. president has gone and no one has gone more than once.
This doesn't mean, however, that no U.S. official has been to Normandy on other D-Days. The United States has a visitors' center at the U.S. cemetery where 9,387 U.S. war dead are buried.
Then-U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates presided over the dedication in 2007.
Participation by Germany has been a sore point. In 2004, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl asked to be invited as a show of total European unity. His request was denied.
Germany tries hard to be a good neighbor in Europe. Germans avoid any shows of patriotism for fear of appearing militant. They have adopted a deep streak of pacifism opposing all wars. This led to major disagreements when the United States and Britain entered into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Germany argued that their nation owes it to history to stress alternatives to war.
We and our allies could not understand how Germans could allow people to be sent to prison camps and be killed. The Germans answer that they were at war and that the people imprisoned were said to be security risks.
America has found it difficult to argue with that reasoning because our nation was doing the same with the Japanese, Italians and some Germans.
The difference was that we weren't exterminating our prisoners. Neither side asked much about the prisoners once they were in camps. Finally, in 2009, the 65th anniversary of D-Day, German leaders were invited.
D-Day has never been a big deal in the United States. It is sandwiched in between Memorial Day, Flag Day, Juneteenth and July 4th. The American culture isn't especially celebration-oriented. We seem more work-oriented.
So even though we took two of the five Normandy beaches, Utah and Omaha, we mainly leave it to the movies to carry the message that we won the war single-handily.