Government Management Prowess on Display

Unidentified Congressmen Overseeing Post Office
WASHINGTON, Aug 5 (Reuters) - The U.S. Postal Service reported a quarterly net loss of $3.5 billion on Thursday and said it will likely have a cash shortfall going into 2011. The agency, which delivers nearly half the world's mail, has reported net losses in 14 of the last 16 fiscal quarters. Revenue in the third quarter that ended June 30 fell $294 million to $16 billion from a year ago, while expenses were $789 million higher at $19.5 billion, due largely to higher workers' compensation costs and retiree health benefits. Read more here:

Martinez Office Purchases Draw Scrutiny

Susana Martinez
The office of Doña Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez bought more than $60,000 in office supplies without a contract or competitive bidding process from a company owned by one of Martinez’s then-top deputies and a political ally, the Albuquerque Journal is reporting. A former state auditor now questions whether state law was followed in the purchases, which were made from 2003 to 2005, according to the paper. Martinez, who is the Republican nominee for governor, told the paper that the arrangement was legal and had approval from two state agencies. In addition, it saved the taxpayers money, Martinez is quoted as saying. She would do it all over again as governor, “so long as there was transparency in that transaction” and a cost savings was the result, Martinez told the paper. Read more here:

Gross- Fed Will Stay Loose for Several Years

Bill Gross
Pacific Investment Management Co.’s Bill Gross said the Federal Reserve is unlikely to raise interest rates for two to three years as it seeks to keep the economy from slipping back into recession. Treasury two-year note yields dropped below 0.50 percent for the first time today after the Labor Department said the economy lost more jobs in July than economists forecast. The difference in yields between 2- and 10-year notes is 2.33 percentage points, more than double the average of 1.11 percent for the so-called yield curve over the past 20 years. The spread reached a record 2.94 percent on Feb. 18. Read more here:

Del Hanson- Wanting Excellence in Education?

For all the bluff and bluster and inches of column space devoted to “excellence in education,” Americans, by and large, are afraid of excellence in education. We have opted for equality in education and excellence has taken the back burner, and has for many years.
There is much good derived from an equal opportunity for an education. The stormy and embarrassing years of the past, punctuated by “separate but equal” laws of Jim Crow ilk, harmed both education and the credibility of our national resolve for “justice for all.” However, when push comes to shove, when the rubber meets the road, Americans don’t want excellence--they want to be comfortable and unburdened with having to think and make decisions.
For decades, and only accelerated over the past eight years with the imposition of NCLB, any attempt at teaching children to think critically has taken a back seat to “passing the test.” “Passing the test” revolves, like the elliptical paths of the celestial orbs, around rote reading and math. Wait. Have I unintentionally left out science, and history, civics, and the arts? No, unfortunately, those subject areas are NOT tested under the NCLB mandates. In fact, in many elementary schools and some middle schools across this fair land, administrators caution teachers to not spend too much time on subjects not tested. Consequently, some classrooms do not receive science, history, civics, and art or music instruction because they are not tested. Sad but true.
The United States has become increasingly dependent upon foreign students to fill the seats of university lecture halls and laboratories in science, engineering, and mathematics. In the best tradition of America being a melting pot among cultures, one can daily encounter doctors, research scientists, and engineers reflecting names from points across the globe. They often become naturalized citizens and contribute disproportionately to our success as a nation. But an evil wind is blowing across this nation of immigrants.
On my forays around the region driving the highways and interstates, I often change the channel from my book-on-cd to AM radio stations, many of which bear the talk radio moniker. I am depressed and distressed to hear the jingoistic blather from both secular and religious broadcasting which sometimes advocates “shipping those not from here in ‘merica back where they came from.” The courts do not distinguish between a post doctoral candidate at Berkeley and a day laborer from Nogales. If some have their way, we’ll deport them all. Unfortunately for our nation, we cannot exist without most of them, whether they be post-doctoral or day laborer. We are not producing enough home-grown doctors, engineers, research scientists, or even field workers to keep us competitive. But why?
One reason is that our public schools do a poor job of teaching science, even when allowed to do so, considering current math and reading priorities. State statute requires certain numbers of credits earned at the high school level in order to graduate, so there is no excuse for not taking the courses at that level. The problem is that they are often taught poorly and often by persons who do not adequately understand the course material that they teach. There are notable exceptions, and Las Cruces is blessed with some amazing science teachers. However, on the average, science is taught as a dry and lifeless corpse of a class. Even worse is that science is not taught at all to many private school students. Instead, many times religious dogma masquerading as pseudo-science mumbo-jumbo is funneled down the throats of students, to the point that some children earnestly believe that the earth is 6,000 years old. There were several candidates for president of the United States in the last election who believed similarly. Our nation has no chance to be a leader or even competitive if we produce graduates who have been taught science poorly or not at all.
When I was an administrator, I can remember the case of a young lady, bright and full of promise, who continually dropped tough college-prep and AP level classes because “a “B” might affect her grade-point average.” Her parents supported and encouraged selection of less rigorous courses so that she could attain a four-point-GPA upon graduation. She opted out of challenging classes against the advice of me, her counselors, and her teachers. She graduated with a high GPA, but had a very tough first semester in college. As it turns out, she was one of the panel members at a conference at NMSU talking about the freshman experience. When it was her time to discuss her preparation for college, she ripped her school and her teachers for not adequately preparing her for university level work. For those of us who knew her, we understood exactly why she flopped during her freshman year. For most of the audience members who already thought schools were failing, they nodded in unison agreement when the young woman railed against the school. Her parents and she didn’t pursue excellence and never will. She did earn and “A” in excuse making, however. I expect she will have a successful career in politics.
If we truly want excellence in our schools, then we have to be comfortable with the consequences of not making the grade. Some students might fail. Some students might be retained for a grade level. Some students might have to attend mandatory summer school. The school year might have to be lengthened. Not all students will achieve the “Lake Wobegon” effect, when all children are above average. Parents and students might have to assume some of the responsibility for learning. The finger pointing needs to stop and teachers need to be given the opportunity to teach. What a novel idea. Then, perhaps, we can pursue excellence instead of pabulum.

Feel Good Friday Story

Kishia Edwards and Jim Spence
Former NMSU standout basketball player Kishia Edwards (pictured left with News New Mexico's Jim Spence in February prior to an Aggie Women's basketball alumni game) gave birth to a beautiful baby girl yesterday (August 5, 2010). After some nerve-wracking complications in the delivery room, mother and daughter went to O.R. After a massive emergency prayer vigil all turned out well and both mother and daughter are doing well in San Antonio, Texas. 

Genesis Alise Johnson
Father Keith Johnson, also a former NMSU basketball standout, was on hand to see things through for mom and daughter and the early reports are that proud papa is beaming. All of us who have known and loved Kishia since she played basketball and went to school here a few years ago are quite relieved that things turned out so well. Above is a picture of Genesis Alise Johnson on her birthday. Happy Friday!


Tax holiday safe for now as budget crisis looms

From the Santa Fe - This weekend, back-to-school shoppers once again will be able to buy clothes and school supplies, including certain computer equipment, without paying state gross-receipts taxes. The annual Back-To-School Tax Holiday, now in its sixth year, is popular with consumers as well as retailers. "For our store, it's the biggest sales weekend in the month of August," Shawn Jaramillo, manager of JCPenney in the Santa Fe Place mall, said Thursday. But with a budget crunch forcing repeated cutbacks in government spending on programs, personnel and other costs, New Mexico lawmakers almost certainly will take a serious look at whether to continue the annual tax holidays. "Obviously, we'll be looking at all tax holidays, exemptions and loopholes," state Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, said Thursday. The Senate Finance Committee chairman and one of the Legislature's leading budget hawks, Smith said, "I haven't seen much in the way of proposed revenue enhancements, so we'll have to look at ways of closing the gap." The tax holiday is expected to cost state and local governments about $4.5 million in tax revenues, a state Taxation and Revenue Department spokesman said this week. That's about the same as in previous years. Read more

Social Security in the RED

Social Security will pay out more this year than it gets in payroll taxes, marking the first time since the program will be in the red since it was overhauled in 1983, according to the annual authoritative report released Thursday by the program's actuary. Meanwhile President Obama's health care overhaul has given Medicare's basic Hospital Insurance an extra 12 years of financial stability, though it did not solve all of the program's long-term challenges. Read more here:

Broken Dreams - Thomas Goes on the Record

Sharon Thomas
City Councilor Sharon Thomas went on the record on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams issue ......but not with News New Mexico. She made her views know with one of her constituents via e-mail. We will take the time to do some fact-checking of her response, which came after an inquiry to her that referred to our preliminary findings on the mess near Monte Vista Elementary School. We expect to provide an update on the Thomas position next week.


Use of Temps & Part Timers the Pattern

As orders for locomotive engines picked up this spring, the GE Transportation factory near Erie, Pa., started hiring to fill positions, which had fallen to 4,000 from 5,500 last year. At 18-employee Pilla Performance Eyewear in Ridgefield, Conn., business ramped up enough that it expanded its staff by eight. And at medical device maker Theragenics (TGX), based in Buford, Ga., an unexpected spike in first-quarter orders led the company to add a few dozen workers to its roughly 500-person head count. Finally, U.S. companies are staffing up. Read more here:

Wheat Soars to 23-Month High

Vladimir Putin
Wheat extended a rally to the highest price in almost two years on concern that other nations may follow Russia’s export ban, and may reach $10 a bushel, a price not seen since the global food crisis in 2008.  Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that Kazakhstan and Belarus should also suspend shipments as Russia’s ban was announced yesterday from Aug. 15 to the yearend. “It’s got $10 written all over it,” said Peter McGuire, managing director at CWA Global Markets Pty, who correctly forecast Aug. 3 the surge to $8.50. Wheat last traded at $10 in March 2008, and a gain to that price would be a 23 percent advance from yesterday’s close. Read more here:


Report on Albuquerque Impact Fees: Inconclusive

From the Albuquerque Journal - City Hall's top economist took a stab this week at determining whether Albuquerque's temporary reduction in impact fees has boosted development. The evidence sounds inconclusive, based on my reading of the report. That probably won't stop both sides — critics and supporters of the fees — from using it to bolster their arguments. The 10-page report examined construction activity in a recent six-month period, during which impact fees were cut in half for most developments or eliminated entirely for "green" projects. The report says residential construction grew substantially while commercial construction slowed — at least compared to the same period the year before. The catch, however, is that the trend simply "mirrors what has happened nationally." There are so many factors affecting local construction that it's difficult to tease out what impacts the fee reduction had, the report said. Read more:

Stiglitz - Anemic Recovery

Joseph Stiglitz
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz said the U.S. economy faces an “anemic recovery” and the government will need to enact another round of “better designed” stimulus measures.  The Obama administration took “a big gamble and it doesn’t look like it’s paying off,” Stiglitz told Bloomberg TV in an interview in Sydney yesterday. “The recovery is so weak that it is not strong enough to generate new jobs for the new entrants in the labor force, let alone to find jobs for the 15 million Americans who would like a job and can’t get one.” Read more here:


Linda Chavez - Affirmative Action's Coffin

Linda Chavez
The call to end affirmative action gained a new proponent this week -- and from an unlikely candidate. Gregory Rodriguez, a Los Angeles Times columnist and fellow at the progressive-leaning New America Foundation, wrote this week, "We need to find new, less divisive ways to fight inequality." I couldn't agree more with Rodriguez's conclusion but not entirely with the analysis that leads him there. Rodriguez's opposition stems from his fear that white racial anxiety is rising and that affirmative action could lead to a destructive white backlash. "The combination of changing demographics and symbolic political victories on the part of nonwhites will inspire in whites a greater racial consciousness, a growing sense of beleagurement and louder calls to end affirmative or to be included in it," he writes. Read more here:


Kudlow - The Washington War on Investment

Larry Kudlow
Will higher tax penalties on investment really spur jobs and faster economic growth? Most commentators would say no. It’s really a matter of economic common sense. But Tim Geithner says, Yes! Speaking to a group in Washington this week, the Treasury secretary said that extending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans would imperil the fragile economic recovery. He argued that government needs the revenues from those top-end tax hikes. So failure to raise taxes would harm growth. And then he went on to say that the trouble with the wealthy is that they save more of their tax breaks than do other groups. Okay. Are you confused now? Most people would be. Read more here:


Picacho Hills Utility Owner in Battle with PRC

The Public Regulation Commission (PRC) will refer allegations of perjury and witness intimidation against Picacho Hills Utility Company owner and real estate developer Stephen Blanco to the Attorney General’s office, according to PRC records and commissioners. The findings, which the PRC will vote to refer to the attorney general’s office by Aug. 12, resulted from an agency review of Blanco’s company. Read more here:

Heath - Courts & Public Information

Heath Haussamen
The New Mexico Supreme Court recently took steps to address privacy concerns related to information contained in court records. It’s considering additional steps that would reduce what information is available online. While some of the steps are logical, others are and would be troubling moves toward limiting the public’s access to information it has a right and need to know. As of July 1, court documents filed by prosecutors are only available to the public with certain information redacted: all but the last four digits of social security numbers, taxpayer ID numbers, financial account numbers and driver’s license numbers, and all but the year of a person’s date of birth. Read more here:


Las Cruces Bulletin

Ken Miyagishima
Mayor Ken Miyagishima says he would support the movement of the racino at Ruidoso Downs to Las Cruces. Read more about what the mayor says in this week's edition of the Las Cruces Bulletin.