Mexico's Presidents Are Considering Legalizing Drugs. Will the U.S. Join the Debate?

From the Huffington Post - by Daniel Sobelo - The question of whether legalizing drugs would help reduce the killings in Mexico has made front page news this week and is causing unprecedented debate around the world.Last week, former Mexican President Vicente Fox (left) called on his country "to legalize the production, distribution and sale of drugs" as the best way to weaken the drug cartels.Acknowledging that "radical prohibition strategies have never worked," Fox's recommendation echoes another former president of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo, as well as past presidents of Colombia and Brazil, who last year issued a ringing condemnation of the failed war on drugs, in favor of alternatives that include the removal of legal penalties for marijuana possession.This latest endorsement of legalization also comes on the heels of current Mexican President Felipe Calderon's own announcement that, while he opposes legalization, he nevertheless supports an open debate about ending prohibition -- the root cause of the violence in Mexico that has now claimed over 28,000 lives. Sadly, however, legalization is not even part of the policy dialogue in D.C. In fact, the U.S. drug czar has repeatedly said it's not even part of his or President Obama's "vocabulary." Read more

Bronx man to sue police for "contagious shooting."

From the New York Post - By EDMUND DeMARCHE - A Bronx man who was shot during a chaotic police shootout in Harlem this past weekend is planning a $20 million lawsuit against the city and the NYPD. Larry Garlick, 38, says he was the victim of "contagious shooting" by the NYPD when a bullet tore into his thigh in the early morning hours of Aug. 8. Police said they were responding to a report of a fight at a huge block party where there had been gunfire. Police initially said that Angel Alvarez had shot and killed rival Luis Soto at the Lenox Ave. party, but testing showed Soto actually died from police bullets and hadn't been shot by Alvarez. Police now contend that Alvarez had wrested Soto's gun away from him and opened fire at responding officers, who unleashed a volley of 46 shots in return. By the time the carnage ended, Soto was dead from five bullet wounds, and Alvarez was critically injured but miraculously survived, despite being hit 21 times. Three bystanders were also injured, including Garlick. The lawsuit charges the NYPD failed to properly train personnel to stop themselves from "contagious shooting." Read more


Treasury 10-year notes rose, pushing the yield to a 16-month low, a day after the Federal Reserve said the recovery from recession is slowing. The government sold $24 billion of the benchmark debt at the lowest yield since January 2009 in the second of three note and bond sales this week totaling $74 billion. Two-year note yields touched a record low following the central bank’s decision to reinvest maturing agency and mortgage-backed securities in U.S. debt to support the economy. “All we’ve seen is buying of Treasuries,” said Suvrat Prakash, an interest-rate strategist in New York at BNP Paribas SA, one of the 18 primary dealers required to bid at Treasury auctions. “People aren’t looking to sell. They either stop buying and rest or keep chasing yield.” Read more here:


City Council Needs To Address Acoustics

Jim Harbison
I attended another work session in the new City Hall Council Chambers this week. This $34 million building was supposed to be the solution to many problems that faced the City. It was touted as being a much better facility for the community. The Chambers were designed to provide greater public access to the Council and allow the public more opportunity to express their concerns. The City Council and Staff now sit in their elevated positions above the general public and talk down to them. Unfortunately, the public is unable to hear them. This is not a failure of the Council to communicate but rather a problem that seems to be the results of poor acoustics within the Council Chambers. It appears that the architectural firm that designed this room knew very little about acoustics.
Las Cruces City Hall
The Council Chambers part of the building seems to have been inadvertently designed like an echo chamber. It has been reported since the very first public meeting there that it was very difficult to hear because the acoustics were so bad because. The Council acknowledged from the beginning that they were aware of the problem and had ordered sound attenuation panels to mitigate it. The Council and the City staff have had sufficient time to correct the problem and yet it persists. Why? How effective is public participation when the public is unable to clearly hear what transpires at a Council meeting? Open public meetings are meaningless if the public is unable to hear what is being said. Members of the public are frustrated about this and some believe it is useless to attend Council meetings when they are unable to hear what City Council members, City staff and other agencies discuss.
Some of these sound quality difficulties could be mitigated if the Council and City staff members were more attentive to this issue. Specifically, they need to constantly be aware of the fact that there is a sound quality issue and speak directly and articulately into the microphone. One of the councilors speaks with a monotone and drops the volume at the end of every sentence and under the best of circumstances it is difficult to hear everything he says. Another Councilor begins talking into the “mike” and then turns her head away from the “mike” to address the other Council members. As a result many of her comments are difficult for the public to hear. Mayor Miyagishima and Councilor Silva are the most effective in using the microphones and are usually clearly understood throughout the Council Chambers. Unfortunately, the other Council Members apparently “don’t get it” when it comes to speaking so the public can hear what they say.
Another significant issue is the poorly designed steps that have caused the City to post warning signs about the steps after you enter the Council Chambers. Nearly every week someone stumbles or falls on these poorly lighted poorly designed steps. There are no handrails to assist individuals with mobility difficulties. If you are unable to negotiate the steps you are forced to use the ramp on the right side of the room. Why wasn’t this design followed for the center and left aisles as well? I would question if this room is in compliance with the American’s with Disabilities Act and apparently the City does not readily offer any hearing assistance devices to accommodate the hearing impaired. The City needs to focus on correcting the deficiencies in this room so it is safe and effective and so that it serves the public like it was originally conceived to do.

Armstrong Williams - Who are "THEY"

Armstrong Williams
It’s hot outside. Too hot for a summer stroll or any sort of outdoor activity. So last Sunday morning, I settled in for some riveting Washington talk show action. Aside from the usual histrionics surrounding the Sherrod racial episode and the “necessary dialogues” on race the mainstream media feels compelled to hold every other month just so it can sleep well at nights, the latest argument to follow in Washington is what to do over the expiring Bush tax cuts. Specifically, in a matter of months, the tax rate cuts President Bush and the Republican-led Congress pushed through in 2001 are set to expire, returning the top bracket to its 39.6% rate up from today’s 35%. That's right, at a time when our economy is as fragile as ever, this administration is pondering tax increases. As if the race baiting by the White House weren't enough, it's now in full-throated class warfare, pitting this faceless rich no one seems to know, against the poor, who seem to be on every corner in President Obama's mind. Read more here:

Rangel Won't Resign, Requests Ethics Hearing

Charles Rangel (D- NY)
U.S. Representative Charles Rangel of New York, accused by the House ethics committee of improper fundraising, rebuffed calls for his resignation and urged the panel to “expedite” its hearing so he can defend himself. “I am not going away. I am here,” Rangel, 80, said to applause from some fellow Democrats during a sometimes emotional 30-minute speech in the House chamber yesterday. “Don’t leave me swinging in the wind until November.” Read more here:

Free Lunch? Nope - Free Loans? Yep

The Obama administration will offer $1 billion in zero-interest loans to help homeowners who’ve lost income avoid foreclosure as part of $3 billion in additional aid targeting economically distressed areas. Under the new $1 billion program, the Department of Housing and Urban Development will offer loans of up to $50,000 to borrowers “in hard hit local areas” to make mortgage, tax and insurance payments for as long as two years, HUD said today in a statement. The Treasury Department will also offer as much as $2 billion in aid under an existing program for 17 states and the District of Columbia, according to the news release. The initiatives “will ultimately impact a broad group of struggling borrowers across the country and in doing so further contribute to the administration’s efforts to stabilize housing markets and communities,” Bill Apgar, HUD’s senior adviser for mortgage finance, said in the statement.
Unemployment, following the worst housing crash since the Great Depression, is helping accelerate foreclosures. A record 269,962 U.S. homes were seized in the second quarter, according to RealtyTrac Inc. Foreclosures probably will top 1 million this year, the Irvine, California-based data company said in a July 15 report. Read more here:


For Retirees, Savers, Pension Funds - Assault Continues

Frozen Landscape
Treasuries rose, pushing the two- year note yield to a record low, a day after the Federal Reserve reversed plans to exit from aggressive monetary stimulus. Benchmark 10-year notes gained for a second day after the central bank decided to reinvest maturing agency and mortgage- backed securities in Treasuries to support an economic recovery that the Fed said “has slowed.” The government is scheduled to auction $24 billion of 10-year notes today, the second of three sales this week totaling $74 billion. “This is a bullish backdrop for Treasuries,” said Nick Stamenkovic, a fixed-income strategist in Edinburgh at RIA Capital Markets Ltd., a broker for banks. “Growth is going to be sluggish, and inflation is not going to be a concern.” The yield on the two-year note fell 2 basis points, or 0.02 percentage point, to 0.50 percent at 7:15 a.m. in New York, according to BGCantor Market Data. The price of the 0.625 percent security maturing in July 2012 gained 1/32, or 31 cents $1,000 face amount, to 100 1/4. The yield dropped earlier to 0.4892 percent, the lowest on record. Read more here:

Borrow From Beijing - Pay Paul

Nearly $190 million is headed to New Mexico. The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a $26 billion bill that includes extra health care funding — a projected $126 million — and additional education money — $65 million — for New Mexico at a time when many say the state is in desperate need of a cash infusion. All that’s left is for President Obama to sign the bill to make it law. State Rep. Danice Picraux, D-Albuquerque, cheered the news Tuesday. “We can keep paying our teachers, keep classrooms sizes low,” Picraux said of the extra dollars headed New Mexico’s way. “In health care, we need more money.” State House Minority Whip, Rep. Keith Gardner, R-Roswell, took a dimmer view of the cash infusion. “It’s just another Band-Aid on a gushing wound,” Gardner said. “We need surgery. Instead of making spending to equate what our revenue is, we prolong the inevitable, and that’s cutting. ”The additional federal money comes to New Mexico at a time when the state’s revenues aren’t keeping pace with expenses. State officials already have projected a sizable budget gap for the fiscal year that started July 1. Read more here:

The Doom Loop of Quantitative Easing

Ben Bernanke
Fed Reverses Exit Plans, Sets $2 Trillion Floor for Holdings - The Federal Reserve reversed plans to exit from aggressive monetary stimulus and decided to keep its bond holdings level to support an economic recovery it described as weaker than anticipated. Central bankers meeting yesterday adopted a $2.05 trillion floor for their securities portfolio, pivoting toward a quantitative target for monetary policy. Treasuries surged and stocks pared losses as some investors judged the decision opened the door to a resumption of large-scale asset purchases. “The Fed is cognizant the recovery has lost some momentum and it is still willing to intervene,” said Paul Ballew, a former Fed economist and a senior vice president at Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. in Columbus, Ohio. “We always thought the exit strategy would be challenging. If you’re at the Fed, it’s proven to be more problematic than what you thought.” Read more here:

Dollar Surges Versus Euro on Global Slowdown Concern

500 Euro Bill
The dollar surged the most in three weeks against the euro after the Federal Reserve yesterday said economic growth had slowed and the recovery was weaker than it had anticipated, spurring demand for safer assets. The yen strengthened past 85 per dollar for the first time since Nov. 27 after reports showed U.K. consumer confidence dropped and China said industrial output grew at the slowest pace in 11 months. The pound fell for the third day against the dollar before a central-bank report that economists say will reduce 2011 growth forecasts. “The fact that the Fed is now acknowledging slower growth than expected in the near term has hit risk assets,” said Lee Hardman, a currency strategist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. in London. “That’s bringing back safe haven flows into the dollar.” Read more here:

Amity Shlaes - Lousy Lawmakers

Amity Shlaes
You can have low taxes, or you can have an economic recovery, but you can’t have both. That’s the message the administration is hammering this summer. Democrats argue in particular that extending the George W. Bush rate cuts on people in the top tax brackets will damage the budget to such an extent that our economy will suffer.
Tim Geithner
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, for example, said that sustaining the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans would “hurt economic recovery by undermining confidence that we are prepared to make a commitment today to bring down our future deficits.” Some centrists, and even a few conservatives, are talking a similar line. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan went further recently, saying all the Bush tax cuts, even those for lower earners, should expire as scheduled at year’s end, since it is wrong to live “on borrowed money.”
The argument that we have to choose between keeping the Bush rates on the one hand and achieve an economic recovery on the other is hypocritical. You know that’s true because our leaders aren’t alleging the same trade-off when it comes to federal expenditures.
The tax cuts Geithner would like to see expire, those for top earners, cost taxpayers by his own estimate $700 billion over 10 years. Plenty of other items in the federal budget cost $700 billion over 10 years, or a much shorter period. Yet you don’t hear the administration positing apocalyptically that those outlays will darken the future. Only lower tax rates can hurt us, Democrats want us to believe. Read more here:

Walter Williams - Cut Handouts

Walter Williams
Because of failure to heed the limitations of the U.S. Constitution, which has produced runaway federal spending, our nation sits on the precipice of disaster. Former Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming and Erskine Bowles, White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, co-chairmen of President Obama's debt and deficit commission, in a Washington Post article "Obama's Debt Commission Warns of Fiscal 'Cancer'" (July 12, 2010) said that "(A)t present, federal revenue is fully consumed by three programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The rest of the federal government, including fighting two wars, homeland security, education, art, culture, you name it, veterans -- the whole rest of the discretionary budget is being financed by China and other countries." The commission added the current budget trend is a disaster "that will destroy the country from within" unless checked by tough action in Washington. The tough action required is spending cuts in programs, including the so-called nondiscretionary, eating most of the federal revenues. Read more here:

Obama's Bennet Beats Clinton's Romanoff

DENVER - Score one for the guy in the White House. President Obama's candidate, Sen. Michael Bennet, fended off a challenge from Bill Clinton favorite Andrew Romanoff on Tuesday to win the Colorado Democratic Senate primary and avoid the fate of other endangered incumbents this primary season. Mr. Romanoff, a former state House speaker, who was endorsed by former President Clinton but ran as the anti-establishment candidate, conceded the race about an hour after the polls closed in Colorado. With 73 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Bennet led 54.2 percent to Mr. Romanoff's 45.7 percent. Read more here:

Progressive Magazine Blasts Robert Gibbs

Robert Gibbs
Boy, are they thin-skinned over at the White House! And rather than aim their ire at the Republicans, who want Obama to fail, they’re going after their progressive critics, who want him to succeed. This perverse defensiveness first surfaced in February when Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel called some progressives  retarded” for considering running attack ads against conservative Democrats who were dragging their feet on health care reform. Now, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has let loose, too. In an interview with the Hill, Gibbs went after what he called “the professional left.” “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian health care and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality,” he said, adding: “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.” Well, as a member of the “professional left,” I’d be delighted to have Dennis Kucinich president. But it’s not the role of progressives to be “satisfied” with any president. It’s the role of progressives to stand up for principles. Read more here:

Say It Ain't So

Al Gore
It hasn't been the coolest summer on record, but it's been close, forecasters say. The average temperature in July was 79 degrees, five degrees below normal, and the first eight days of this month also have been five to six degrees below normal, weather experts said. That could put Southern California on track for a near-record-low summer, but it's still too early to say, according to weather experts. The Los Angeles area, in fact, has had below-normal temperatures every month since April. Read more here:

Maxwell Named Sun-News Publisher

The revolving door in the publisher's office at the Las Cruces Sun-News continues. Financially troubled Media News, owner of the Las Cruces Sun-News, announced that Jim Maxwell will replace Ann Reed as publisher of the Sun-News effective immediately. Maxwell had been the group publisher of Media News Group's New Mexico newspaper properties, which includes the Sun-News. Reed resigned abruptly and indicated she will remain in the area and seek other opportunities.


Wilderness - Merriam Webster

Perhaps part of the controversy surrounding the current Senate wilderness proposal is the definition of the term. This is what Webster has to say:
1 a (1) : a tract or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings (2) : an area essentially undisturbed by human activity together with its naturally developed life community b : an empty or pathless area or region
2 obsolete : wild or uncultivated state
3 a : a confusing multitude or mass : an indefinitely great number or quantity

City Council Work Session Summary

New $34 Million Las Cruces City Hall Building
City Council work session meeting held on Monday, August 9, 2010
1. The pet of the week was presented.
2. The Council and the City Manager recognized Dr Sutter for his service to the City as Director of Finance. He was presented the Mayor’s Distinguished Service Award and a plaque by City Manager Moore. Councilor Silva commended him for raising the standards for all who worked around him.
3. Brian Denmark, Director of Facilities made a presentation to the Council on square footage analysis.
· The City has more than 1 million square feet of building space. The average building age is more than 20 years and they have not been adequately maintained.
· The City currently has 300,000 square feet beyond the budgeted maintenance funds
· The industry cost standards are $4 per sq ft. The City allocates $2.8 per sq ft which results in $2.4 million in underfunded maintenance.
· Provided an option to eliminate 300,000 sq ft which included E.Mesa Recreation Center, Apodaca Pool, Club Fusion, La Casa Community of Hope and other facilities.
· It will cost $750,000 to demolish the old City office center at the corner of Lohman and Alameda.
· He listed City owned facilities rated as in poor condition which included the Life Center, Frenger Pool, Amador Hotel, Felder Memorial Safe Haven Teen House, Burn Lake Storage, and other facilities.
· There is 143,000 sq ft of underutilized space.
· There is 100,000 square feet of space owned (and maintained) by the City but operated by non-City entities such as Community of Hope, La Casa, DABCC Learning Center, Airport, Rio Grande Theater, Las Cruces Visitors Bureau, Animal Service Center, East Side Community Center and other facilities.
· David Delahane discussed NM State tax credit for construction of low income-affordable housing as a method of reducing some of this inventory. Tax credits up to $.50 for each $1 of value (property value, demolition costs, etc).
· Mr Denmark presented 4 options for consideration:
· Destruction of (181,000 sq feet)
· Consolidation of agencies
· Sell excess buildings and/or discontinue leases
· Turn over City buildings to using Non-City occupants (La Casa, Community of Hope, etc). Note most of these organizations do not like this option because they will have to assume the maintenance costs of them.
· Councilor Connor wanted to know how much the utilities cost the City for these properties. She recommended Mr Denmark’s old portable building be used to replace the unserviceable portable at the Animal Shelter.
· Councilor Small wants the staff to focus on consolidation to identify the excess buildings. His priority is for recreational facilities maintenance and wants the City ot lease lands for renewable energy projects. He wants all proceeds from sale or lease of City property to be put into a maintenance rehabilitation fund.
· Councilor Thomas wants to know what the budget impact would be by each option and believes each building and its use must be evaluated individually.
· Councilor Sorg expressed a concern that the City is not efficiently using City owned properties and wants the City to consider selling vacant properties but will need a unique recommendation on each.
· Councilor Silva wants clearer rating system on building importance and associated costs. He said he was aware of several potential buyers for the old City Hall.
· Councilor Pedroza stated her support of affordable housing but was concerned that any consolidation of services could adversely impact or inconvenience the users of that service.
4. Patrick Peck, Director of South Central Solid Waste made a presentation on Curbside Recycling. His proposal included bi-weekly curbside recycling. Current recycle revenue is $805,000 per year and to implement his proposal it would require an additional $879,000 per year.
· He provided three options:
1. All 28,000 City households pay $4.98 per month including seniors (who currently do not pay)
2. All households pay $5.69 and seniors pay $2.59
3. Pass on the proposal and go back to the drawing board.
· Residents must participate and cannot opt in or out of the recycle program
· The program cannot handle all types of plastic or glass. It will accept multiple types of paper and cardboard
· The demands for recycling are the largest volume of calls to SCSWA and most come from District 6 (Thomas)
· There was some discussion on changing the rates and frequency of the “grappler” but the Council was informed that this would need to be a separate action by the Utility Rate Board and not the Council.
· The land fill site (600 acres) is in the Corralitos area and 54 acres are currently being used.
· Accountability for the program comes from the Solid Waste Authority Board which includes 3 Council members.
· The Council directed him to move forward and a formal vote will be taken by the Council at the September 7th Regular Council Meeting.
· The Council was reminded that they have not authority to increase rates or make rate recommendations. This is the authority of the Utilities Rate Board
5. Christy Logan, Las Cruces Economic Development Council provided an up on Local Economic Development. The goals and assumptions in the 2004 plan adopted by the City are still consistent and have been met but not due to actions by MVEDA. The 2004 City Local Economic Development Plan needs to be amended to include the Cultural component that was added by the State Act. A successful example of this program is Sapphire Energy which bought 10 acres in the West Mesa Industrial park and was given an easement over the adjacent 90 acres. Upon investment of $6 million and employing 30 Dona Ana County residents the other 90 acres will be deeded by the City to Sapphire Energy. The have met the invest goal and currently employ 24 people.