Swickard: My story of being innocent while presumed guilty

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. Several weeks ago I protested the way the media fosters the presumption of guilt for people arrested. There was lots of pushback from people who know that whoever the police arrest are guilty regardless of our constitution. I did not explain that this is personal. I have not been arrested but there was once that I came close.
      At the time I was teaching at Albuquerque High School and it was Christmas. One evening I went to the recreation room at my apartment complex and played Christmas songs for two hours. In the audience was a Bernalillo County Deputy Sheriff who was black. That had nothing to do with singing but later was important.
      This deputy sheriff was more than an acquaintance but less than a friend. The security guard that night looked in on us singing Christmas songs and then continued his rounds.
      About 9 p.m. we broke up. As I was walking out of the recreation room a woman asked for a dime for the pay phone. I handed her the dime. She looked disheveled as if things were not right.
      I went to my apartment, put my guitar away and grabbed my writing pad. At that time in my life I usually walked a mile to a Vips Big Boy Restaurant for coffee and writing. It was my preferred place to write.
      About half of the way there, on a ditch bank shortcut I was contentedly walking when two Albuquerque Police Department motorcycles came roaring up to me. I stood transfixed as they ran up to me and pointed their weapons at me. My quiet walk turned chaotic.
      They radioed, “We have him.” That did not sound good. I produced my driver’s license. They had not handcuffed me but I could tell that was next. I asked, “What is this all about?”
      One officer said, “An hour ago you raped a woman.”
      “Did not!” I said forcefully. “I was playing music the last two hours at my apartment recreation room. Do either of you know Gene, the black deputy sheriff? He was there and will vouch for me.”
       One of them did know Gene so it stalled them a bit. They were going to handcuff me and have a patrol car take me downtown. But I caused enough doubt. They radioed for a description again as we walked back to the apartments.
      The radio broadcast, “Six foot, 25 years old, white, close cut hair and he has braces on his teeth.”
Yep, that was me. They were just about to wait for the patrol car when the security guard walked out to meet us. He immediately said, “You’ve got the wrong guy. He was playing Christmas songs the last two hours. A deputy sheriff was in the audience.”
       One policeman asked the dispatcher to contact the hospital and check the description. In a short while it came back: “Five seven Hispanic dark hair and eyes.”
      Then I remembered giving the woman the dime. This poor woman had been assaulted and when asked for a description gave mine since I was the last person in her mind. At that point Gene, the Deputy Sheriff, came out and confirmed my story. So the policemen apologized and left.
      Consider if I had not been playing guitar for thirty people and as was my habit I decided to walk to the restaurant. Leaving the apartment complex a woman asks for a dime. I would have been arrested for rape.
      While I probably would have been cleared at some point, I would have been immediately fired from my job at the high school. It would have been blazed on the front page, Teacher Arrested For Rape. People would be quoted as saying, “It just goes to show you never know what evil lurks in someone’s heart.”
      At some point I would be cleared of the rape but presumed guilty by most people regardless. I have never told that story before, but for the grace of God I would have had my life ruined.
      Let us be careful to give the presumption of innocence in our media for those arrested. Americans are to be presumed innocent until convicted in a court of law.

Lawmakers want to sweeten deal for film and TV production

From KOB-TV.com - By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - Some state lawmakers want to sweeten the deal for film and TV production in New Mexico – and they’re using a new economic impact study to make their case.
     The study, done for the state by the Canadian accounting company MNP, covered the period from 2010 into 2014. It found that the industry used a state incentive fund to create nearly 16,000 jobs and generate an impact of about $1.5 billion on the state’s economy. Here’s how it works: for every dollar that a production company spends shooting a movie here, they get 25 cents back. 
     For a TV series, it’s 30 cents on the dollar. The annual limit on the whole deal is $50 million. Now a growing number of lawmakers want to get rid of that limit altogether, at least for TV production. “TV is what brings us the good sustainable long term jobs that our economy really needs,” said Rep. Brian Egolf, a Santa Fe Democrat. “Think about Breaking Bad and Longmire, Manhattan – all the series – those folks come to work every year.”
      When Gov. Susana Martinez first took office in 2011, she wanted to cut back on the incentive program, but eventually supported an increase on TV production, as long as that $50 million cap remained in place. Now her Economic Development Department says no change in policy is under consideration, but many lawmakers are thinking the way Egolf does about this deal.
       There are opponents and critics, who argue that each dollar spent generates only 43 cents in direct tax revenue – a bad deal for taxpayers. One thing is for sure – we’ll be hearing plenty of debate about this when lawmakers convene for a 60 day session in January. You can bet the ranch on that. More


Swickard: The very best fatalities

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. He was six years old with an innocent angelic face. As I was talking to his mother I noticed him looking at a sales catalog so I asked, “Did you see something you want for your birthday?”
      “Yes,” he pointed, “I want this video game.”
From the lurid description in the sales catalog, the game seemed to be extremely violent so I asked, “Why this game?” He smiled broadly, “It’s got the very best fatalities.”
      “Excuse me?” I said. Hmm, I must have heard wrong. “This game has the very best fatalities,” he repeated. His mother wasn’t paying attention as I asked, “What does the word ‘fatalities’ mean?” He looked up and said, “That’s when people die.”
      I was still puzzled, “What does ‘the very best fatalities’ mean?” He broke into a grin. “That’s when the blood spurts out and their bones show and the skin burns off while they die.”
      He went back to the catalog. I motioned to his mother who gave me the look, “Boys will be boys.” I asked her if she thought it was good that a six-year-old wants a game featuring death. She told me most young kids feel exactly the same which is why there are so many violent games on the market.
      Certainly when I was a kid we played cops and robbers with simulated gun violence and there was a certain satisfaction with the death scene when we were gotten. In my circles you did not just plop over, there were a few moments of acting.
      Still, there has been much concern about violence in our society. Some people postulate that the escalating violence is caused by a lack of communication. I believe the reason we have so much violence in America is that many Americans like violence.
      Somewhat simplistically the answer is they like to watch it and like to do it. As children they learned to like violence. The enjoyment of violence, for itself, is a product of the American entertainment industry.
      Violence in America is promulgated by those people who find violence enjoyable. Much of the violence in America happens because the perpetrator simply felt like hurting someone. Guns and knives are not the cause; rather, the source of violence is the sickness of enjoyed violence within our society.
      There are gentle people and violent people here in America. It is hard to spot any difference in their appearance. The lambs and lions look alike. They lay down together but only one gets up. The difference is lions enjoy violence while the lambs do not.Read full column

Stress just as contagious as cold, study says

From KOAT-TV.com - Stress can be just as contagious as a cold. artie Rafferty is a clinical social worker. She said stress is toxic and you can catch it just like a cold. "People tend to get irritable, impatient, or just can't focus, can't concentrate and that effects work and every phase of their life," Rafferty said.
     According to a new study by the St. Louis University psychology department, the tone of a voice, mannerisms or touch can spread stress. "If everybody is stressed, then everybody suffers," Rafferty said.
     Researchers said stress increases the risk for heart problems and depression. Studies show you're four times more likely to catch stress from someone you know. "We are aware of our surroundings and we respond to that. The tension is almost palpable sometimes," Rafferty said.
      Rafferty said the solution to stress is easy, but plenty don't bother. "I'm almost willing to bet, that almost everybody knows what to do to reduce stress," she said. "You're not being selfish when you say, yeah, I am going to have a lunch break or I am going to go home on time. You're not being selfish, you're being mindful."
     Something else that can help is spirituality, however your define it. Practice it in your own way. "Listening to some music you like, going for a walk with the dog, just looking at some good scenery, looking at the mountains and just feeling that sense of peace and connectedness," Rafferty said. More

Marita Noon: Australia shoots down climate lobby’s scare mongering

Commentary by Marita Noon - Thursday, July 17 was a big news day. The world was shocked to learn that a Russian-made missile shot down a Malaysian Airlines jet with 298 on board as it flew over Ukraine en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam. Though flight 17 eclipsed the news cycle, there was another thing shot down on July 17.
      Almost a year ago, Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott won a landslide election with a nearly single-issue campaign: repeal the carbon tax. On July 17, he made good on that promise, as the Australian Senate voted, 39 to 32, to abolish the “world’s biggest carbon tax”—a tax that was reported to “do nothing to address global warming, apart from imposing high costs on the local economy.”
           Australia was one of the first major countries, outside of the European Union, to adopt a carbon price—first suggested in 2007 and passed under Labour Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2011. Gillard’s campaign promise was: “There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.” While she attempted to brand it a carbon price, not a “tax,” Sinclair Davidson, a professor in the school of Economics, Finance and Marketing at RMIT University, said: “the electorate had a very specific understanding of her words” and perceived it as a broken promise.
     Australia’s carbon tax, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), was “recognized by the International Energy Agency as model legislation for developed countries.” WSJ reports that when Australia’s carbon tax was passed, the Brookings Institute “described Australia as an ‘Important laboratory and learning opportunity.’”  Read full column

Authorities search for suspected arsonist

From KOAT-TV.com - ROSWELL, N.M. —Authorities are looking for the person or persons who set more than 20 vehicles in Roswell on fire. The latest incident happened Thursday morning when a PT cruiser was set on fire on South Kansas Street.
     Roswell Fire Marshal Brian Powell said the incidents began in November of last year, and he believes a serial arsonist may be behind them due to some similarities in the cases. Powell said most of the incidents appear to happen in the middle of the night and south of Second Street. Powell said no one has been hurt in any of the cases of suspected arson.
     “Usually we are there pretty quick and can get it out in a timely manner. But usually by the time we respond to these incidents the vehicles are burned pretty extensively,” said Powell.
     Powell estimates the damage to total more than $50,000. There is a $1,000 reward on the Chavez County Crime stoppers website for any information leading to an arrest. More

Swickard: When big government is never big enough

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. - Government was small when our country was founded. In fact, it was between small and non-existent for most American citizens. Contrast that with our government today where for some Americans government is never big enough. It always needs to get bigger year by year.
      Much of the reach of our government today, that Americans take for granted, would be as foreign to our founding leaders as going to the Moon and returning safely. If our founding leaders were not already dead, a look today at our bloated government would kill them.
      In essence bigger government was the central fight when our current constitution was constructed. Some delegates to the Constitutional Convention wanted as little government as possible. However, the Articles of Confederation which was what they were trying to amend was clearly not enough federal government. Our founding leaders knew this.
      Some delegates saw things only a larger government could do. Of those Benjamin Franklin and George Washington especially saw the need of a stronger federal government for the defense of our country. There was the need for balance in our government and the new constitution had a balance of power which was designed to hold the power of government down.
      So our country was founded with a small federal government which inspired small state governments. But an interesting thing happened over the years. Our federal and state governments got bigger. New tasks were given to government and government reached further into the lives of Americans.
      Every year of our nation’s existence our government was said by some citizens to not be doing enough and was said by other citizens as getting too big. Citizens argued year by year about we must reign in big government or government must do even more.
      At some point it became part of the national dialog to vote money out of the pockets of other citizens and into our own pockets. The way to do that was with big government providing the muscle for such theft. Read full column

Former Gov. Toney Anaya charged in fraud scheme

From KOAT-TV.com - By Devon Armijo - ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —The SEC announced Wednesday that former New Mexico Gov. Toney Anaya faced charges in connection to a fraud scheme.
     The charges allege that Anaya, along with three others, hid the fact that two lawbreakers ran their company Natural Blue Resources Inc. The company aimed to invest in environmentally friendly companies.
     The two people in question are James Cohen and Joseph Corazzi. Cohen was previously incarcerated for financial fraud, and Corazzi was charged with violating federal securities laws.
      Anaya and executive Erik Perry agreed to the settle the charges with the SEC. The SEC said Anaya cooperated extensively with the investigation.
      Anaya signed a cease-and-desist order, which means he doesn't admit or deny the charges. He's barred from participating in any offering of a penny stock for five years. He may also face additional financial penalties.
     Anaya served as New Mexico's governor from 1983 to 1987. More

Lightning Safety: Separating fact from fiction

From KOB-TV.com - By: Nikki Ibarra, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - With New Mexico having one of the highest rates of lightning deaths in the country, it's important to understand how to stay safe. But the thing is, some commonly held beliefs about safety could be dangerous.
      Say you're outside and there are no clouds overhead but lightning is off in the distance. Are you safe? The truth is, you're not. The National Weather Service points out that lightning often strikes three miles from the center of a thunderstorm. In fact, it can hit you from 10 to 15 miles away.
      The weather service said you're only safe if you avoid anything that can conduct electricity. That includes everything from appliances, to computers, plumbing and metal doors.
      Some people have been taught to squat down into a ball or lay flat on the ground if they get caught in lightning. The idea is they reduce their chances of getting struck. But that still puts you at risk of being hit by a potentially deadly ground current. Instead, just keep moving toward shelter.
      Say you're out playing baseball – is a dugout a good spot? It's not because it's open to the outside. Other unsafe shelter includes car ports, sheds and any tents of any kinds. You should head indoors at the first sound of thunder. But you may still not be 100 percent safe from lightning in your home. More


You cannot rewrite laws to achieve your political agenda

Commentary by Marita Noon - Now that the dust has settled on the Supreme Court’s 2014 session, we can look at the decisions and conclude that the Administration received a serious smack down. Two big cases got most of the news coverage: Hobby Lobby and the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) recess appointments.
      In both cases, the Administration lost. At the core of both, is the issue of the Administration’s overreach. Within the cases the Supreme Court heard, one had to do with energy—and it, too, offered a rebuke.
      You likely haven’t heard about Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG) v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—and may think you don’t care. But with the session over, UARG v. EPA makes clear the Court’s trend to trim overreach.
      The UARG v. EPA decision came down on June 23. None of the major news networks covered it.Reviews of the 2014 cases, since the end of the session, haven’t mentioned it either. The decision was mixed—with both sides claiming victory. Looking closely, there is cause for optimism from all who question the president’s authority to rewrite laws.
      A portion of the UARG v. EPA case was about the EPA’s “Tailoring Rule” in which it “tailored” a statutory provision in the Clean Air Act—designed to regulate traditional pollutants such as particulate matter—to make it work for CO2. In effect, the EPA wanted to rewrite the law to achieve its goals.
     The decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia for the majority, stated: “Were we to recognize the authority claimed by EPA in the Tailoring Rule, we would deal a severe blow to the Constitution’s separation of powers… The power of executing laws…does not include a power to revise clear statutory terms that turn out not to work in practice.”
      Had the EPA gotten everything it wanted, it could have regulated hundreds of thousands of new sources of CO2—in addition to the already-regulated major industrial sources of pollutants. These new sources would include office buildings and stores that do not emit other pollutants—but that do, for example, through the use of natural gas for heating, emit 250 tons, or more of CO2 a year. Read full column