Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bank of America Gougers

Okay, no one trusts the stock market any more so they take their cash to the bank.  Sometimes it goes into a worthless rate of return on a Certificate of Deposit but the more cautious might go and rent a safety deposit box and squirrel away some cash for emergencies.  So, what does Bank of America do?  Why they raise rates 300% on the smallest boxes that they have.  In 2007, I paid $31.00 for a box.  In 2008, I paid $64.00 for a box. Now in 2010 I am asked to pay almost $90.00!

This is the smallest box there is.  I would estimate it has about one third of a cubic foot.  Maybe.  And they want $90.00 for me to keep some papers in.  Screw them.  I am going to go get those papers and digitize them and store them in numerous places and Bank of America can lower their CEO bonuses by the amount of money I keep out of their grubby hands.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Misc.

The South Korean skater Kim-Yu Na was poetry in motion last night at the Olympics.  I think she is a metaphor for the rise of the Asian countries.  She was trained by westerners and then took the prize from us.  Well, she certainly deserved it.

Bobbi and me are getting excited now.  In about ten days we will be taking off for Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina on another Holland America Cruise.  That makes two cruises in five months for us after our Caribbean sojourn with friends in November. It is kind of reckless for us to do this so quickly again but this cruise looked especially inviting to a region we  have not visited before.  We will spend two full days in Buenos Aires and will get a tour from a good friends daughter who is living there.  I look forward to some Argentinian steaks. This will be our fifth cruise.  We probably wont consider another one for at least 18 months.  Maybe.  You know, you just gotta do this stuff while your healthy and able.  Life is too short.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Shameless

The poor New Mexico oil and gas industry.  They are so picked upon that they are spending millions on TV along with their national counterparts saying that if they get taxed they will just take it out on you.(Don't forget they paid no windfall taxes when gas was $5 a gallon.)  I am as weary of those commercials emceed by unemployed busboys as I am of this constant Apolo Ono thing on the Olympics.

Now the acting director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association is quoted in the Albuquerque Journal as saying "people are getting very wound up right now"  and the "Obama administration should be more sensitive."  Or what?

This is all because of a possible National Monument designation on Otero Mesa in Southern New Mexico by the Interior Department.  This place is considered to be one thing by New Mexico oil and gas people.  A profit center.  And they want it.  No matter that  it is mostly public land owned by all Americans.  They always will fall back on the line that (even though all Americans own it) they know better as New Mexican oil and gas guys how it should be used.  And they scream once they get these resources that they get taxed to much even though it isn't really theirs in the first place.

Once again the state's republican party, led by oil and gas magnate Harvey Yates, is attacking the Obama administration because they don't bend over like the bush administration.

I am frightened that many folks fall for this paid oil and gas infomercial drivel.  It sounds like it makes sense.  But it is all a lie.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Udall

Senator Tom Udall really shined in an interview last night on MSNBC.

He made an eloquent and clear headed argument for getting rid of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate.  The U.S. House of Representatives has passed 290 bills on to the Senate, many with republican support, and they now sit there because of threats from republican Senators to filibuster.  This interview is worth watching.

Counting the Days

Governor Bill Richardson, my old boss, must truly be counting the days until he leaves the Governorship.  After his latest poll numbers show him in the tank for popularity with the state's citizens he must wonder what has happened.  I can say, from experience, that the Albuquerque Journal is what happened.  Between the paper's constant repetition of stories on State Investment Council problems which have never convincingly been connected to the Governor, and the papers increasingly republican/negative editorial views it is a wonder he is still standing at all.

I endured the same treatment as Mayor for four years.  Some of my problems were self inflicted combat with city councillors, but mainly I was dead meat at the Journal for wanting smart growth principles to take root in our planning efforts.  That didn't serve the Journal's advertisers well.  So I suffered the slings and arrows of their editorial board for four years.  It added up, just like it is for the Governor now.  It should be no surprise.

There is also something at work here I call personality fatigue.  It happened with Mayor Marty Chavez when the voters just decided he needed to go.  That may be as big a factor as Journal ranting.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Misc.

I finally found out what the total student loan debt load was in this country.  It is 527 billion dollars.  Less than the bailouts we gave to Wall Street but a burden that our young people will carry with them, along with the deficit, into their senior years.  What enrages me most is the interest rates that these kids need to pay. 7% and more.  Yet I can go buy a new car for 1.9%.  What the hell are the Congress, bankers and financial institutions in this country doing to these kids futures?  And the Universities bear lots of blame too.

Speaking of buying a new car, that is what I need to do soon.  I have leased my last four cars and have decided most likely I will buy the next one since I am retired.  I am struggling with buying a small SUV I will need because of some planned photo essays that will require a little off highway travel.  Their mileage is not great.  We own one hybrid now but the SUV Hybrids are very expensive.  What to do?  The Subarus, Hondas and Toyotas are all nice so picking one is difficult.  My one vice in life is insisting on all the bells and whistles in a new car.

I need to get busy today and write Governor Richardson a letter asking him to veto the guns in liquor licensed restaurants bill that is on his desk.  As a former state liquor director I can state unequivocally that this is a stupid thing to allow.  I asked a waitress yesterday at such an establishment what she thought about the law and she was dumbfounded anyone would pass a law like that.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Busy Bankers

I think there are a lot of busy bankers out there today.  New regulations for credit cards have gone into effect.   Bankers are busy because they will work hard to find ways around the new regs and stick it to Americans.  I kind of look at it like I look at the airlines right now.  They will make a buck anyway they can no matter how badly they have to put the screws to their customers.  Yes, their customers who pay to get from one place to another.  Now if you are a senior citizen who gets chilled easy you get to pay $8 for the use of a bacteria soaked blanket from the airline.

I wonder if corporate America really understands how fed up consumers are getting with these 'gotcha' tactics.  I know that I am trying my best to book any international travel on foreign airlines that still seem to think a customer is a valued commodity.  I am thinking about leaving Bank of America who took my mortgage payoff a few months ago and hid it for two weeks and refused to say where it had been.  Maybe it is time for a local credit union membership again.

And our republicans say we don't need to regulate the banks and airlines.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Misc.

The headline in the Albuquerque Journal today was backward.  It said "Pilot Mad at IRS Crashes into Office."  It should have said, "Mad Pilot Crashes into IRS Office."  That way there could be no confusion that this guy was nuts.  The headline seemed to lessen his murderous rage as a score evening event.

Pete Domenici Jr. said he used drugs.  Former Governor Gary Johnson said drugs should be legal.  Brothers in arms so to speak.  The media makes Pete Jr's admission a big deal but that is about all we know about him so far other than he worked for the biggest polluters in the state.  He should also admit he has never taken a Toastmasters class.

The legislature actually passed on to the Governor the bill allowing concealed weapons in liquor establishments that serve food.  As a former State Liquor Director in the 1980s I have to say this is one of the stupider things I have ever seen our lawmakers pull off.  Of course I hope the current head of the liquor department will urge the Governor not to sign this act.  Oh, the legislature still does not allow concealed weapons in the State Capitol Building where they work.  And the Governor has armed body guards in case someone comes into his office packing heat under their jacket.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Contagion

I was opining to a friend the other day that at least the New Mexico Legislature, compared with the U.S. Congress, will usually complete their work even if it takes a few days in a special session.  I wonder if I spoke too soon as I see things melted down in silly debate in the last few hours of the session today.  Is this stuff rolling around in Congress contagious?  Or is our system of politics just permanently broken because of the power of special interests and intellectually challenged radio talk show hosts?  They make quite a team.

I was at coffee this morning with a long time politics observer and we decided that in Congress, at least, the young members just need to take control of things. Form a caucus and raise hell. The leadership folks are not providing leadership and the long time members are just too entrenched to compromise.  The same may be true in Santa Fe now.  If you look at the leadership they have been around for decades and may have lost sight of why they are there.  Attempting to pass regressive tortilla taxes rather than progressive income taxes might make my point.

I still have hope for the process in Santa Fe.  Fool that I am.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Solar Update

We fired up our 3 kilowatts of solar photo voltaic panels last fall.  Here is our electric bill for each month from PNM.
  1. September 09----- $19.37 credit
  2. October 09--------  37.50 credit
  3. November 09------ 30.38 credit
  4. December 09------ 10.10 credit
  5. January 10---------14.83 
  6. February 10-------- 6.68
The credits are what PNM paid us for selling them electricity under the Renewable Electricity Credit program.  We buy from PNM for less than we sell to them, so on good long sunny days even though we use more than we generate we still get money  back from them.  As the weather got colder and we had holiday guests and cloudy days we owed them a little.  All in all, this has been a good investment and it will pay itself off in about eight or nine years.  Faster if rates go up.  We also got a great tax credit from the Feds and the State.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Staples

I just completed my yearly dance with Turbo Tax.  I am getting money back this year because of credits for installing three kilowatts of Solar Voltaic Panels on my roof.  Even after that we would not have owed any additional taxes to the Feds or the State other than what was withheld.  This is wrong.  


We did not pay enough income taxes.  Yes, I really feel that way.  You could put our annual income last year in the upper middle class and we should  have paid more in taxes but the congress and state legislature have no 'huevos' to do the right thing and rescind bush's and the state's income tax breaks.  What do our lawmakers in Santa Fe propose?  Reinstating the food tax to include staples such as rice and wheat flour.  That is unconscionable. Inflicting a regressive tax on the poor while letting the well to do off with no rise in income taxes.  It is immoral at best and I can't believe the legislature will do it. 


 Stranger things have happened though.  What is next?  Taxing children's vaccinations?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sue Them

A friend of mine has suggested that the Democratic Party sue Fox News for undisclosed in kind contributions to right wing parties and candidates.  Yes , the republicans who are the party of no.  I actually think the idea has merit.  Now that Sarah Palin, that great republican thinker, is an analyst on Fox News there can not be any doubt that Roger Ailes of Fox News is a criminal.  He is breaking the Federal election laws every time he lets this woman on the air.  He could fix this by just admitting he is using the public airways to favor the GOP.  He could remedy it by reporting the the Federal Election Commission how much he is contributing.  If he is going over any limits he should be prosecuted.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Tortillas

The Lobbyist for the Arch Diocese of Santa Fe was on TV last night railing against the thought that tortillas might be classified as junk food and then be taxed.  While I agree that tortillas are not junk food, but a staple, I have to marvel at what the catholic church is doing up in Santa Fe.  They want to protect your taxless tortilla consumption but not the ability of two same sex people to marry and live in happiness.

Do tortillas have more importance than happiness of human beings?  Do gay people eat tortillas?  Do gay priests eat tortillas?  All these questions are silly of course but it is this kind of thing that is driving so many young catholics away from the church.  And a few old ones too,

I see where the Legislature has killed same day voter registration in New Mexico again.  This is what I said about this proposed law in the Independent this week.


Paranoia runs deep. Or so the old song goes from Buffalo Springfield. Was it written for the Republican Party and its neurosis over same day voter registration? Well, not really but the GOP really hates the idea of making it convenient for American citizens to vote. They feel that massive fraud will occur. They have faith that the Democrats are well organized enough to pull of a fraud on that grand a scale. They can’t.


That is where the paranoia comes in. Even the former republican U.S. Attorney David Iglesias couldn’t be convinced there was mass Democratic voter fraud being practiced and he refused to pursue cases for the local Republicans in New Mexico. So naturally he was fired by Bush after phone calls from GOP enforcer Pat Rodgers, Senator Domenici and Congresswoman Wilson.


All joking aside, same day voter registration is something that should be enacted into law. Today’s Internet and communications systems could easily ferret out fraud as it takes place. People might not want to fool around with that since there would likely be prison terms waiting for them.


Now I will say something out of character. I think if same day registration and voting is allowed then proper identification should be on hand. And I don’t mean a water bill, but rather a real license like a driver’s license or state ID card. Maybe that could be a compromise position for the GOP. A fair trade: same day registration for a new law requiring ID.


And finally, I hope the Mayor's office will try and get our city as a pilot project for Google's new fiberoptic to the home internet system.  That would be great.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

TV News

I got hooked on watching, for the 10th time, that great movie "Network".  The Oscar winning 1976 movie predicted with uncanny accuracy what would happen to Television News in the future.  The premise was that the Network brass would allow the news operation to give commentary time to an anchorman who had gone crazy. (Think Glenn Beck and the Fox Crew.)   The ratings went up as the rantings went on.

I got a note today from someone who said Frank Magid had died.  He was a guy who single-handedly destroyed broadcast journalism with his 'happy news' format back in the early 70's.  He thought news shows should be populated with 'personalities' and banter rather than serious reporting.  His company was consulting for KOB-TV back then.  I was working as a reporter, anchor, and assignment editor at Channel 7.  Channel 4's new format was hurting our ratings.  This was back in the day when there was no cable or satellite and everyone watched local TV news.  So every rating point was worth revenue.  Of course, our management went out and hired a consultant too and journalism died at KOAT-TV, for the most part.  I remember well that I was producing and anchoring the news on the night that Nixon conducted the "Saturday Night Massacre" of Watergate fame.  I led with the story and was hauled into the manager's office and confronted by him and the consultant with leading with the story for the newscast.  They opined some dumb ass car wreck story was more important.  I left TV sometime later because I just did not fit in with the new formulas.  The General Manager at the station said I was a 'purist'.  I think he was correct.

Things have deteriorated ever since for TV News along with viewership.  Unless all you are interested in are sex related stories and poorly reported and researched political corruption stories. That is an old picture of me giving election results on the air in 1972.  One thing for sure, the technology is better.

Howard Beale: We'll tell you anything you want to hear, we lie like hell.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Am Screwed

Many people who know me realize that I have a severe hearing problem.  It started in 1969 in the U.S. Air Force when I was caught in the danger zone of a jet fighter turbine without adequate ear protection.  A student pilot at Luke Air Force Base turned the wrong way.  The ear protectors we  had were little hollow rubber plugs.  Worthless.

I have had constant ringing in my ears ever since that day and about a 40% hearing loss.  I have now spent 10K on hearing aids.  They help.  I suffered one instance of total hearing loss for three days in one ear about three years ago.  Steroids brought back some of it.

This morning the good ear went.  It had been giving me trouble and I had been attempting to get into to see a Doctor. No appointments until April 1st were available.  Today I begged them to get in and got no where.  I went to my hearing aid specialists who said I needed to get in ASAP.  So now I am going out the door to an ER in hopes they can clear the ear.

I can't get veterans benefits because I am told I make to much money. I can't get in to see a Doc because our healthcare is so rationed.  So I will need to go clutter up an urgent care where some one might have more serious problems.

And the republicans insist we need do nothing about health care in this country.

Update:  3 PM   I got into an urgent care and a nurse fixed me up.  It worked out okay.  Just some left over problem from an ear infection.  As it turns out it could have been worse.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Not Missing It and a Question

I have to say I am not missing going up the the Legislature.  Now that I am retired and out of state government service I feel that one of the biggest perks is not  having to go to committee meetings or attend uninformed and libelous floor debate.  It seems far different now than when I started going up there in the late 60's to cover the sessions for Channel 7 news as a reporter.  Back then it was an exciting place to be for a young person like me.  There seemed to be a lot of humor in the air.  I don't get that feeling anymore when in the Capitol.

Maybe it is just selective memory but the level of debate seemed to me a lot more civil back then.  You could also see members of both parties practice bi-partisanship.  Right now the only bi-partisanship seems to be in killing tax hikes, which is okay with me as far as the sales tax goes.  It is too regressive.  However, just like on the national stage, if we are to reduce deficits some revenues have to be raised and income tax increases seem the fairest way to me.

Also, I find it peculiar that the media is on such a rant about one of Governor Richardson's bill vetoes being over ridden.  Yes, he is a lame duck like any other office holder with less than a year left to serve.  But, come on, one veto! I suspect there will be more but it really shouldn't be surprising given his heading for the door.

And question of the day.  Would the Albuquerque Journal editorial writers insist the US government help out a group of Americans who were illegally taking children out of Haiti if it were an Atheist group?  I hope not.  They would just be as dumb as the Baptist group who were spiriting children away to be, ahem, soldiers for Christ.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Big Oil and the Journal

The juxtaposition of stories in the Albuquerque Journal today is remarkable.  There is a front page story that is not much more than a frontal assault on environmentalists for wanting tough emissions rules put in place.  They trotted out their traditional whiners like Teri Cole (Who I find I agree a lot with on some issues) and Harvey Yates (Republican GOP Chair and Oil Tycoon).  They are tough emission standards indeed.  The Journal does not like the fact that some environmentalists sit on decision making bodies that will chart the course for debate on this issue.  The oil and gas industry used personal attacks in the article.

The Journal then has an op-ed piece by a oil and gas lobbyist on the evils of the tough New Mexico Pit Rule(from the oil conservation division) that is meant to protect groundwater saying it will ruin the state's economy.  It wont.

And then the Journal has an excellent story on the very real possibility of a gigantic sink hole opening up and swallowing part of Carlsbad because of oil and gas related extraction of brine water from the site.  The owner of the company that caused it said it was the state's fault(the oil conservation division) for not having tougher regulations.

The thing that bothers me greatly is the assault on environmentalists for wanting to be part of the decision making process and sitting on boards and commissions that make policy.  If this is bad, then why in the legislature do we allow people who sit on the Senate Conservation Committee to work in extractive natural resource industries?  Is there a difference at the end of the day?  Oh, thats right! Legislators are elected, although it is done with oil and gas money.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

We Feel Smart

Bobbi and I are proud of ourselves for having the sense to get the hell out of Washington, DC a day early.  Baltimore airport was closed about 45 minutes after we took off.  My son Justin sent the picture above  early this morning from his Maryland home and it has gotten worse since then.  They still have power but most around them do not.  That big pile of snow at the end of the sidewalk is his VW Golf.

I talked to Ned Farquhar who is sealed up in his basement apartment in Georgetown.  He said he measured 30 inches outside.  I cant think of anything worse than being cooped up in a hotel room for three days in this kind of situation.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Leaving

We are having to come home early.  If we are lucky we will leave DC about 12 noon, just ahead of the big storm coming in to the east coast.  We had to change reservations and now will have to go through Florida to get home.  All flights are being cancelled in the region after 2PM.  Bummer.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

On the Road

I will be in Washington, DC for the next few days at a meeting of the Wilderness Society.  Bobbi is coming too and we will be able to see Justin and Karly a couple of times.  Friday evening we are going to Ford's Theater to see the play "Rivalry".  It is about the Lincoln/Douglas debates.  We are looking forward to the trip.  Our heavily armed house sitter will be here.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Buried

Think what the Albuquerque Journal would do if Democrat Governor Bill Richardson has entered into a transaction that caused a lot of heartache with citizens and that ended up being taken directly to the Supreme Court by the State Attorney General Gary King.  Do you think that story might be at the top of the front page in bold headlines?   I am pretty sure it would be.

Now think about the republican Land Commissioner Pat Lyons being in the same position.  (the operative word here is republican)  Do you think that might qualify for at least being above the fold on the front page, even if it were not the headline?  Of course not, because this little controversy does not involve the Governor.  This story was buried on the state page.  This is the kind of thing driving some people crazy.  One of our dinner guests  on Sunday said he could not stand it any more and he cancelled his subscription last week.

A couple of years ago I met with Thomas Cole of the Journal to brief him on what I thought were really suspect transactions at the land office.  It was complex stuff and required deep investigative reporting.  I never saw any thing come of it.  But, it did not involve the Governor where much of his efforts were shifted towards.  Maybe it is time to turn Cole loose on the Land Office.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Insanity Again

How would  you feel if the legislature passed a bill that said all New Mexico police officers no longer had to qualify on firearms training several times a year.  Right now the State Police are required to take training every four months.  But a bill offered by Senator Stuart Ingle of Clovis says that those 17,000 people who are carrying licensed concealed weapons in New Mexico should have their training cut in half from every two years to every four years.  Ingle says, "We don't need it."  I can tell you right now that there are several hundred State Policemen who think he is full of it.  As one of them told me about the legislation, "We are not crazy about it."

As it is these license holders can qualify for their permits "as long as they aren't blind," according to some police officers I have spoken with.  So how does less training take care of safety concerns of the non carrying public.  And, can business owners keep these weapons out of their premises.  Also, would Senator Ingle agree to let these weapon toting folks come into the Capitol building?  Because right now they are not allowed to do so.  Did the legislature feel they would be less safe with them in their midst?  If so, why is it safe for us in a movie theater or city park?

The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits. Albert Einstein