Sunday, December 31, 2006

Karly and Justin

Justin went back to Syracuse on the red eye last night. He wanted to be there to propose to his girl Karly before the New Year came in. They have been steadies for over five years. He and his mom shopped for the engagement ring and settled on an Aquamarine surrounded by Opals.

You can see it on Karly's finger as they take their post proposal photo. She said yes, and you can see that conveyed in Justin's grin.

Karly will get her Masters degree in Social Work from Syracuse University in May. Justin is working on his Masters in Business Administration at Cornell University. These two kids are avid progressives and look forward to the new congress taking office. I think they are happy that the Democrats have said one of the first things they will do is lower the interest rates on student loans.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Snow Beagle

Athena had a good time in the snow this morning.

So did Beagle!

We got about 12 inches down here in the valley. Noelle's drive back to Phoenix isn't going to happen today. Hopefully, Justin's redeye to Newark and then to Syracuse will leave around midnight.

This is the gang checking out videos of the dogs in the snow.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Days of Future Passed

I had a great opportunity today to go through some 50 year old photographs from my childhood. The reason I did this was because I received a call from the past in the form of my brother's and my best childhood friends, Bobby and Billy Salazar.

They were traveling between Pagosa Springs and Phoenix and decided we should have lunch. We have occasionally stayed in touch with them over the years and it is always great to see them.

We went to Dos Amigos for lunch and talked about our growing up in Albuquerque's mid heights in the 1950's. Actually, we mostly talked about all of our near death adventures. Thinking back, it is a wonder any of us ever survived. Some of the stuff we did was really stupid but we always escaped with our limbs still attached.

We met Bobby and Billy in 1952 on the day the moved into their house about a block and a half from ours on Quincy street. Their dad was a juvenile probation officer who died suddenly in 1958 from a severe stroke. Bob and Bill moved to Phoenix with their mom about three years later. Bob worked for the Bureau of Reclamation and started his own swimming pool construction company. Bill had a long career as a banker in Phoenix. They are both still working in their retirement years.

It is great to still have contact with such old friends. They were there during our formative years and thinking back I can say we had a great childhood where we reveled in simple things that were available to us to keep us occupied. Long bike rides, building underground forts, riding the escalators at the Fedway Department store downtown, hanging dummies from streetlamps, playing football in the street, and watching Victory at Sea on Sunday nights on Television. We somehow stayed busy and our parents raised kids that pretty much stayed out of trouble. What more can you ask for?
Here are a couple of pictures of before and after! The first was taken in March of 1957 and shows Bob, me, and Roger Burnett standing in our front yard with my Man in the Moon Kite.
This other picture was taken today at lunch. Left to Right it is Bob, Jim, Tom and Billy. Sheeesh! Time Marches on!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Land Office and Cattle Farts

The State Land Office is barging ahead with its plans to deforest 100 square miles of Pinon Juniper Forest in Torrance County. The wood will be used for fuel for a powerplant and a by-product will be cleared land for more cattle grazing. There have been no scientific studies to support the wisdom of this project.

Fast forward to a report put out by the Livestock, Environment and Development Initiative, an effort funded in part by the World Bank. Read the report's executive summary here. It turns out that livestock production accounts for more greenhouse gas emmissions than the transportation sector. Cattle Farts are warming up the planet.

Yes, there is nothing I like better than my once a week Sirloin Tip steak(from Costco--the best in town), but some of the statistics in this report are truly staggering. It really brings into doubt the wisdom of burning trees, which scrub green house gases from the atmosphere to make more grazing land available for fart generation.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Power Plants

The Albuquerque Journal had two important stories concerning power plants in New Mexico in the morning edition. One is about the proposed coal fired power plant on the Navajo reservation. Although this will be a relatively clean coal burning plant, it is hardly state of the art and it alone will increase greenhouse gas emissions by over 10% in our state. The Navajo administration is pushing for its construction because of the jobs and money it will bring, but they seem oblivious to the long term harm it does to us all.

The second power plant item is in a letter to the Business Outlook. It is something I tried to make an issue during my campaign, but the media wasn't interested. It concerns PNM's biomass plant in Torrance county. This power plant will burn pinon and juniper trees to provide electricity. Those trees will come from at least 40 square miles of state land administered by State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons. Lyons did not notify anyone who will be affected by this action, including its neighbors at the Gran Quivira National Monument, Salinas National Monument or the Office of State Historic Preservation. There are lots of archeological sites there. When the source of fuel was to have been U.S. Forest Service land the deal was killed by concerned neighbors so the PNM guys went to Pat Lyons. PNM contributed heavily to Lyons. Some of their employees also sent money to me.

So, where is the public involvement in this? Is it a good idea to burn forests to create electricity and more grazing land for land office lessees? Those forests thickened up because of overgrazing in the first place. Who decides which trees and how many to take down. I understand it is the individual ranchers who will do so. Do they have any guidelines or scientific advice on how to do this? Do they realize the New Mexico lawmakers some years ago passed legislation calling for the protection of Pinon trees since they provide a high value cash crop? Will the Land Office hold hearings on the science used by them in reaching this decision to deforest large tracts of Torrance County land? What will make up for the green house gasses those trees would have absorbed?

Don't hold your breath. This land is going to auction three days after Christmas.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pass These Reforms

After having been defeated in the yearlong campaign for Land Commissioner because of our puny campaign contribution laws I am hopeful the Governor's new Ethics reform package will pass the legislature. Among many other things, it will limit the amount of money that can be given to any statewide candidate by one entity or person to $2100. That is the same amount that Federal election laws mandates for federal candidates. This would have probably cut by 60% the amount of money the oil and gas companies gave to my opponent. A full time ethics commission will also be formed under the Governor's proposed legislation. That is good because the media spends so little effort in looking at those campaign reports. This commission will hopefully do it well along with some auditors who can 'follow the money.' The news release from the Governor's office is below.

Governor Richardson Outlines Ethics Reform Package, Calls for Creation of Independent Ethics Commission

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Governor Richardson today announced a comprehensive ethics reform package during the annual KKOB business luncheon in Albuquerque. This package includes the establishment of an independent ethics commission, limitations on gifts and campaign contributions and public financing for judicial candidates.

“New Mexicans expect a government that’s honest and honorable,” said Governor Richardson. “Holding the highest ethical standards is our responsibility as public servants. It’s also the best, and only way, we can protect the public’s faith in their democracy.”

Governor Richardson urged citizens and members of the business community to help push for ethics reform. In May of 2006, Governor Richardson formed an ethics reform task force to conduct a bi-partisan review of ethics and campaign finance in New Mexico. Led by UNM Law Dean Suellyn Scarnecchia and Former Governor Garrey Carruthers, the task forward put forward a series of recommendations. Based on those recommendations and his own priorities, Governor Richardson today proposed an ethics reform package that he will seek to pass during the upcoming legislative session.

  1. Establish an independent ethics commission. This commission would provide independent oversight of the executive and legislative branches and all state employees. It would receive and investigate complaints by concerned citizens and whistleblowers. The commission would also have strong powers to investigate and discipline, including the ability to fine, censure, and reprimand public officials, state employees, lobbyists, contractors and officials.

  1. Limits on Gifts. The Governor proposed that no state official, employee or candidate be allowed to receive a gift greater than $250. During the legislative session there would be a ban on gifts greater than $100. There would be criminal penalties for those who break the law.

  1. Set campaign contribution limits. The Governor proposes that statewide races match the federal level of $2,100 per individual, per election. His package will also recommend $1,050 limits for PRC and District races, and a ban on cash of more than $100 from one person.

  1. “Clean Elections” Public Financing. The Governor’s ethics reform package proposes a phased approach toward public financing beginning with judicial elections, based on the successful Public Regulatory Commission campaign system. Using the PRC model, candidates in contested judicial elections could choose to run as a “Clean Elections” candidate. These candidates would qualify for public financing if they meet a threshold based upon the number of $5 contributions they receive from individuals. If the opposition opts out of the public system and spends more than public funding provides, “Clean elections” candidates would be given matching funds.

  1. Better campaign reporting. This package calls for more detailed reporting of campaign finances, more frequent reporting in non-election years, and cumulative totals of campaign contributions by each individual to each candidate.

  1. Amend Governmental Conduct Act. The amendments will help prevent public officials and employees from abusing public office. These amendments will expand coverage of the Governmental Conduct Act to include all public servants, including judges.

“These proposals will allow New Mexicans to know where campaign money comes from, where it goes, and how it’s spent,” said Governor Richardson. “This is not an issue that affects the few. Every citizen benefits from a government that is open, transparent and accountable. And every citizen is harmed by one that is not.”

The Governor pushed for a strong anti-corruption package in the 2006 Legislature. “Last year we had some success,” said Governor Richardson. “We were able to pass a ban on campaign contributions from contractors seeking to do business with the state. But, the remainder of the package, died in the Legislature. This time, there are no excuses. This time, reform must be done.”

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


How is it there is snow in Albuquerque and not in Santa Fe? Oh well, lets enjoy it. If Noelle were here there would be a snowman already!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Mt. Hood and Iraq

I have been following the story of the three lost climbers on Mount Hood. It reminds me of the saga of the United States in Iraq. Think about it.

Three cocky guys decide to climb a treacherous Mount Hood in December. bush, rumsfeld and cheney decide to invade Iraq with its treacherous Shiite and Sunni factions awaiting them. The climbers reach their goal, the summit, and then have trouble extricating themselves from there. bush, rumsfeld and cheney capture Bagdad and have trouble extricating themselves from there.

Huge sums of money are being spent to look for the climbers on the mountain. Huge sums of money are being spent trying to rescue the flawed invasion from total disaster and civil war.

The money to pay for the attempted Mount Hood rescue will come from the families of the climbers, leaving them in debt for a long time. The money to pay for the Iraq war will come from the nation's families leaving them and the country in a deficit for a long time. (Unless your family is filthy rich and your bush tax reductions keep you safe)

Most likely, all the climbers are dead after their careless attempt to conquer Mt. Hood in winter. Most likely the death toll for Americans and Iraqis will continue to increase after the careless invasion with no planning for the aftermath.

Of course, the big difference here is that the climbers pay with their lives and bush, cheney and rumsfeld just walk away shrugging their shoulders.

Friday, December 15, 2006


Last night on the way home from a great Chinese dinner Bobbi and I were commenting on how mild the weather still is. I actually took up the golf clubs for the first time in six months this week and the weather was very pleasant. I even worked up a sweat on the driving range after hitting two large buckets of balls.

I got to thinking about my friends who have bought winter get-a-ways in Mexico and whether they will be too hot in the winter to enjoy and if the beaches will survive rising ocean levels.

I know I am constantly on this global warming thing but everyone should read this from the New York Times today. It really is time for some radical actions on dealing with this, but I am not holding my breath. Why are we talking about more coal fired plants, tar sands, or any energy source that pumps greenhouse gasses into the air? Inertia and profits are the answer and a campaign finance system that caters to it.

Yesterday there was another complex story in the Times about putting economic values on the cost to future generations of not doing something to fix this. It is about the “social rate of time discount,” the rate used to compare the well-being of future generations to the well-being of those alive today. As I said, this is complex stuff so we really need a President who understands it after the next election.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

T or C Classroom

The Albuquerque Journal had an interesting story this morning on a class experiment at a Truth or Consequences High School. One of the classes put up 'whites only and colored only' signs on water fountains to watch student reactions for a project on racisim. One student objected and now some teachers may lose their licenses. This is ridiculous. One student out of hundreds was upset and it comes to this.

I remember my days in our sophomore civics class at St. Pius X High School. Our teacher was Father Alan Cushing. (We put his VW in a hallway one day.) He taught a course on communism. During the first part of the course we were indoctrinated to become communists. We had cell meetings, wore hammer and sickle armbands, and generally espoused Karl Marx and Lenin. We were encouraged to say that "religion is the opiate of the people." Stuff like that.

During the second part of the course Father Cushing dismantled everything we had been told during our indoctrination. He assinged us a book to read, George Orwell's "1984". It was a breathtaking class experience that taught us the danger of totalitarianism and government thought control.

Yes, we were in a private school and we could do things like that. But the object was to teach us to think and the class was one of the best I ever experienced in that catholic high school. It is frightening that kind of thinking and learning experience doesn't work in the T of C schools or maybe any of our public schools these days. The kids will be the losers after the lawyers and bureucrats finish with this. This might be the totalitarianism and thought control we learned about.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Daytime TV Commercials

As I relax after the last year's hard work I have been reading lots of novels. I have a habit that drives Bobbi up the wall though, as I read I also have the TV turned on to MSNBC or the History or Military Channel. Well, during the day time I sit at my computer a lot too and I have a little 8 inch LCD TV and keep it on too while blogging or doing my other stuff. I have come to the conclusion that four things are paying for delivery of our TV News and Documentaries. They are hair loss drugs, erection loss drugs, drugs for guys who have a constant urge to pee, and all kinds of other drugs for every ailment that ever might afflict you. In this last category you are never really informed what the drugs are for, just that you might need them and you better call some Doctors to ask them about it.

I guess this is what us baby boomers can expect on TV from here on out. Of course we can just decide not to watch commerical TV. I only really watch a few network shows. Battlestar Gallactica, Boston Legal, Invasion(if it ever comes back), and some of the SCI-FI channels mini series. I started watching the Lost Room last night and it looks to be pretty good. And, I record them all and skip through the commercials. That turns a one hour show into 40 minutes. A time saver.

Mostly I watch HBO and Showtime miniseries because they are really entertaining and thought provoking. Like Showtime's Dexter. It is about a likeable serial killer who only takes out bad guys.....slowly.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pete's Raid and Land Office Musing

Senator Pete Domenici led a raid on the U.S. Treasury at New Mexico's expense during last minute bill passage manuevers while the Republicans were still in power in Congress. He insisted on passage of a bill that gives a large chunk of newly opened Gulf Coast oil and gas lease royalties to four southern states. That money would normally go to the US Treasury for the benefit of all Americans. Domenici probably did this to get southern states support for opening up these oil and gas areas for Pete's good buddies in the Oil and Gas Industry. Now, in fairness New Mexico already gets a lot of the Federal Oil and Gas revenues that is produced in New Mexico, but the offshore reserves are usually allocated to national use. Pete was looking out more for his industry supporters than his constituents on this one.

In the meantime we are repeatedly hearing about the US Interior Department's inability to collect royalties that are already owed to the government. Hundreds of millions, or even billions, may be lost to puny auditing by the Feds. This is costing New Mexico a bundle too.

Now, one has to wonder if the Legislative Finance Committee might look into New Mexico's oil and gas royalty collections. Are they being honest with us. During the campaign for Land Commissioner I heard from some producers that there might be problems in that area as well as the 'unitizing' of state oil and gas leases. This would protect companies from having to relinquish their leases because their ten years for producing the leases had lapsed. If they weren't unitized then the land office would put then out for bid again and get bonus income. This little process would save the companies a bundle and cost the land office just as much.

Friday, December 08, 2006


They fall for it everytime. It is an old trick and it works well. This time it is working, intended or not, for my friend Bill Richardson. Apparently, he hinted or inadvertantly said he might be running for President. Then the media picked it up and Fox News said he had announced he was in the race. The Governor said he didn't make an announcement, but he got a lot of press. When he does announce then he will get a lot more press. One of those two for one deals!

I hope he does announce soon so I can get to work for him. There will be a few New Mexicans who will be negative about him running, but overall I think most of us will be proud that one of our own is going for the big one. As I write this I am watching TV and see that the AP/Ipsos poll now has bush at an all time low for his job approval. Just 27% feel he is doing a good job. My question is, how can they possibly believe that?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Woman in 8C

It never fails. Last Friday I headed to Salt Lake City for 24 hours of meetings with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. I was seated in 5D on a regional jet. They Lady in 8C was sneezing and coughing with out the aid of a handkerchief. I got back on Saturday and then left again early Monday morning for the Wyss Foundation Meeting in Tucson. Of course the oncoming cold was just making itself felt and it blewup big time early Tuesday morning. It just seems that you can't defend yourself against inconsiderate people like that lady. Yes, I took Airborne and Eachanacia but they didn't work to well.

Talk about inconsiderate the TSA in Albuquerque ranks up there too. After carefully assuring that my travel pack contained no containers with more than 3 ounces of liquid I was pulled out of line and told that I would have to go and buy a plastic bag to separate then from my travel pack. The line was long, I was upset and just marveled at the hassle. I was getting ready to 'donate' all of my stuff to the trash can so I could catch my plane when a level headed supervisor showed up and pulled a little bag out of his pocket. I thanked him, but then found out my travel companion who showed up a little earlier had to trash all of his 3oz bottles of stuff. I then noticed that in Salt Lake City and Tucson that there were a supply of plastic bags for people who didn't have them. Why not in Albuquerque? Who knows with the TSA.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Oil and Gas Royalties

There is a story in the Journal Business Outlook today about how the Federal Mineral Service has sent over $500 million dollars to the State of New Mexico this year for its share of oil and gas royalties on Federal land within the state. The story has a picture of Pete Domenici for some reason. Why not Senator Bingaman or one of the other delegation? Well, I wonder if the Journal will use Pete's picture if they get around to picking up stories on the failure of the bush administration to properly collect royalities in the first place. There are hundreds of millions of dollars in uncollected royalties that the bush Interior Department has not collected. That is now the subject of lawsuits by federal auditors wo say they were fired for trying to pursue those collections. This should be a wake up call for New Mexico because some of that money would be coming into state coffers. Will Pete Domenici press for that? Or will his oil and gas donors be awarded with silence from him?

I am off to a Wyss Foundation meeting in Tucson for a couple of days. Bobbi and Noelle will show up there this afternoon from Phoenix where they spent the weekend together and we will attend the always fun dinner tonight.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Board Meetings

It is not like I haven't anything to do since the election. There is a lot of domestic stuff to catch up on and I am still busy with Board Meetings. I need to run up to Salt Lake City at noon for a meeting of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and then on Monday over to Tucson for a meeting of the Wyss Foundation Board. These meetings are intense and fun and they will be especially interesting in light of the upcoming lame duck congressional session and a change of power following in January.

The issues we work with on these Boards won't get necessarily easier to work through congress, but at least the new committee chairs will listen to us. Over the past six years all we have had to rely on was court rulings to delay destructive bush policies. Now, we might even get some land protection bills passed a couple of years from now.

I have the sinking feeling that all the work we do on Wilderness and other land protection won't mean anything in 20 years if we don't get serious about climate change. I am going to devote more of my time to that issue over the next couple of years.