Our Shrinking Manufacturing Sector

Posted on 31. May, 2011 by Administrator in Economy

Part I

It’s almost impossible to walk through a major ‘big box’ store these days and not feel like Ichabod Crane riding through the dense trees of Sleepy Hollow. Surrounded by thousands of products now stamped with the ‘Made in China’ label, the feeling is one of profound loss. America has awakened to a brutal new reality. A one-time enemy turned trading partner has now become our largest creditor and one that is pulling the levers of our financial system through its investments in – and stranglehold on – the U.S. economy.

Back in the 80s, the Japanese were the bogeymen, threatening to take over New York City with offers to purchase Rockefeller Center (and other prime real estate). I was frequently asked then if I thought this was a dangerous development. My answer was, “I’d rather have foreign ownership of real estate than world domination of the currency or bond markets. What would the Japanese do if they ran into cash problems? Pack up their real estate and take it with them?” That was then when we still made things at home and sold them abroad.

The 90s changed all that with the rapid growth of the high-tech sector that sucked investment money from old-line manufacturing companies and put it into the stock market. Many U.S. manufacturers struggled to stay profitable (and protect their share values) by moving huge production volume off-shore where labor rates were lower and where foreign governments rolled out the red carpet for them in industrial parks across southern China and southeast Asia.

Back then everybody was making money (not unlike the late 1920s), and it seemed that by cleverly off-shoring production, manufacturers would be able to compete with the whiz kids of Silicon Valley and their growing dot com companies.  The trouble was that American companies were not taking their new gains made from lower production costs and re-investing them in newer technology (though their foreign partners, the contract manufacturers, did) while all that off-shore manufacturing was going on. To make matters worse, their stock prices were not rising as fast as those of the new-tech service sector, so many invested there instead.  Any new products developed were developed with a view towards overseas manufacture, thereby perpetuating the vicious circle of dependency.

At the same time, Federal tax loopholes made it more attractive for companies to move profits to tax safe-havens in a whole new set of foreign countries rather than bring them home! Neither the Feds nor the private sector thought that there would be a day of reckoning when “America’s chickens (failed investment and manufacturing strategies) would come home to roost.”  All operated on the assumption that our GDP and disposable income growth rates would continue unabated.  We thought we were on a journey towards prosperity without suspecting for a moment that what we were really doing was insuring the demise of our generations-old manufacturing supremacy. By the time that realization set in, our options to reverse the trend disappeared. We were involved in expensive foreign wars that drained our treasury; bad law-making that grew our deficits and indebtedness; and our companies began down-sizing American workers instead of reducing their foreign workforces or cancelling production contracts, overseas.

To be fair, these corporate decisions were really ‘no-brainers,’ because American consumers were used to paying low prices for their goods (and were reluctant to accept higher prices no matter where the goods were produced) AND Federal tax laws gave companies little room or incentive to repatriate their profits. In Part II, we’ll talk about Free and Fair Traders and how seemingly competing interests moved America into a dependency on major foreign contract manufacturers. In Part III we’ll discuss how a product goes from being domestic to foreign and the consequences of those decisions.

Part II

In part I of this series, we discussed the events that led up to America’s fall from manufacturing grace, but the root cause of that fall is not only our tunnel vision regarding the dangers of too much off-shoring, but also our devotion to the notion of FREE TRADE.

For many free marketers and inveterate capitalists, free trade is more than a mantra; it is an economic way of corporate life that unshackles (some would say encourages) American companies to escape the laws of regulatory gravity and move about the world seeking the highest possible profit and the best deals.  At this point it’s important to draw a distinction between Free Traders and Fair Traders. Free Traders believe in a commercial world with few or no boundaries or encumbrances like tariffs and quotas. They believe in the free and unfettered movement of goods, services, capital and workers across international boundaries with minimal or no intervention from local, regional, national or international institutions. If all Free Traders wore t-shirts they would probably say, “Free Traders do it anywhere, anytime, with anybody.”

Free Traders are also aware of the historical baggage they carry from the days when oil and mineral cartels reigned supreme. They are used to hearing themselves called monopolists and capitalist pigs, but they cling steadfastly to their contention that world commerce could simply not function in a tightly regulated trading regimen. Despite that fact, they’ve allowed themselves to be controlled by international trade agreements and institutions like the GATT and the WTO. Fair Traders, on the other hand, subscribe to a different theory of world commerce, one that is constantly looking for a ‘level playing field’ where no one country gains economic advantage or hegemony over the other. The problem with this philosophy is that ‘fair’ is a subjective term that is more often defined by politics than economics. That’s why Fair Traders are always frustrated and spend an inordinate amount of time trying to rearrange and re-position the regulatory framework to equalize the opportunities.

Both Free and Fair Traders have their share of proponents and detractors, and their ideological purity is constantly under attack by market forces, well-heeled companies, lobbyists and legislators not to mention special interest groups. Trade Pragmatists make up the third group.  These are the realists, companies who understand the rules of global commercial engagement and who live within them while they work to change them to their advantage.  Trade Pragmatists are not patriotic. Their loyalties are to their shareholders, not their country of origin, and that’s why most of their time is spent in trying to shave a few dollars off the cost of their manufacturing and sheltering their profits. Their raison d’être is survival, preferably survival at a higher level. It is precisely these companies that comprised the vanguard of the off-shorers, joined later by the Free and Fair Traders to form the perfect storm that has led to vast unemployment and decimated opportunities for millions of American workers today.

Are they the only ones to blame?

The cartoon character Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Pogo was right; Americans are also to blame. That goes for organized labor, white collar workers and consumers. Had we voted with our feet and insisted on purchasing more goods made in the USA, we might not be in the situation we’re in. I believe that most Americans are reasonable people and when confronted with a purchasing decision that would save an American worker’s job or let it migrate overseas, they would choose to save one here. The problem is that the choice has not been ours to make. Corporations don’t survey their customers on where they would like their products manufactured, nor do they offer us a choice of the same products made in two different locations (one in the U.S. and one made overseas). It is basically a take it or leave it situation, and without an alternative we must take it. Part III will discuss how a product goes from the drawing board to the store shelves and what decisions can be made along the way to add value in the USA.

Part III

In parts I and II of this series we explored the root causes for America’s ‘off-shoring’ situation and the unemployment problems it created for our economy. Now we’ll look at the entire product development chain to get a better idea of where we can still add value. I have a friend (we’ll call him Leonard) who is an experienced industrial designer and manufacturer of a line of outdoor barbecue items. Leonard has been manufacturing his assortment of products (Leonard’s Line) in China for about eight years. Like other companies he didn’t start out that way. For many years, Leonard’s Line was designed, manufactured and marketed by U.S. workers working for U.S. companies until one day, he got a call from a major manufacturer that was private-labeling his line and selling it to a nationally-recognized discount retailer. The manufacturer started to pressure Leonard on price and on delivery times. After calling his usual contract manufacturers and asking if they could make some product modifications that would cut some product costs thereby bringing the products into the price range of the manufacturer AND meet the stringent delivery times, he was told, ‘no,’ they couldn’t.

Leonard got nervous. If he botched this order it could be his last with the nationally-recognized manufacturer and even harm his reputation with the major retailer (whom he was courting with other products under his own label).  He could lose immediate sales and long-term ones as well. Leonard did what hundreds of other American manufacturers would have done in a similar situation… he started looking abroad for a contract manufacturer. China was at the top of his list, and he made some inquiries and soon found himself on a plane headed for an industrial park there. A deal was worked out and Leonard’s Line became Leonard’s International Line. After solving some thorny quality control and other manufacturing problems over a period of several years, Leonard’s Line has now become a 100% out-sourced assortment of products with average yearly gross sales in the millions to major manufacturers and major retailers.

Where’s the value added?

Aside from the product design (which Leonard still does, himself), all other value is added in China. This includes: product prototyping, manufacturing, packaging design and fabrication, point of sales displays, brochure design and printing, inventorying and shipping.  All but a tiny percentage of the total costs associated with producing Leonard’s Line are added overseas, leaving no value for American workers to add until the products land in U.S. container ports where they are off-loaded to American trucks and begin their journey to the retailers’ shelves.

When discussing the situation, Leonard feels no guilt about off-shoring his Line. He explained that, “If I hadn’t done so (gone offshore), I would have found myself out in the cold – just another rejected company by one of America’s largest retailers. Believe me, I love my country, but last time I checked there was nothing patriotic about going bankrupt. Maybe someday I’ll design a line of exclusively American-made items, but I have my doubts. Most of the quality machine shops and efficient low-to-medium volume factories have closed their doors, and even if I opened my own facility I don’t know if I could find the skilled personnel to run it!”

Leonard’s story is typical of many American entrepreneurs who’ve found themselves dependent on the price points of major retailers and a market too used to those prices, and while there appears to be a new wave of companies that are selling direct, via the internet, potential customers still want to ‘kick the tires’ and handle the products before opening their wallets.  One thing is for certain, the manufacturing paradigm has shifted, and if America’s companies want to compete they’re going to have to do it without much help from their government – or from America’s retailers. We will never be able to completely go back to the way things were. Our only hope is to make American companies, consumers and the government aware of the consequences of doing nothing.

Stephan Helgesen is a former diplomat who served in 24 countries over a 25 year period and former Director of the State of NM Office of Science and Technology. Today, he owns his own high-tech consulting company and is also the Honorary Consul for Germany in New Mexico. He can be reached at: helgesen@2ndopinionmarketing.com.

 

Where We Have Hope

Posted on 26. May, 2011 by Administrator in Education

It is such a pleasure to have the opportunity to write and contribute to the amazing conversations going on around the world on the welfare of orphans and vulnerable children.

The Goromonzi Project Inc is a 501c3 (tax deductible charity) that was founded by a New Mexican resident, Janet Shaw. Shaw who is originally from Zimbabwe was visiting the Southern African country and she came across numbers of children who were not in school. On enquiring further why these children were out of school she was shocked to learn that these children were orphans and had no one to pay their school fees. On her return to Albuquerque she immediately got some friends together and this marked the birth of The Goromonzi Project. Over the past four years TGP has assisted over 500 orphans and vulnerable children to access education, food, health and material provisions. This number can increase with your contribution. These children are no different from those in New Mexico it is only that their life circumstances are different.

TGP is currently running a program that is increasing access to early education for orphans and vulnerable children. Through this program we have managed to secure support for the renovation and equipping of four rural preschools, providing a breakfast meal for over 400 children, increasing access to health service provision for the same number of children and engaging grandparents and guardians in conversations on revitalizing community safety nets for orphans and vulnerable children. This work has had a lot of impact on the communities being served and a lot of children are getting hope for a better future. TGP works to empower the communities to take responsibility and ownership of the programs. In this way there is sustainability in the work we do and that the communities are empowered to continue caring for their children after we have exited that community. In our work over the years we have learnt that in identifying community strengths and building upon them, successful interventions in orphan care are realized. It is important to realize that these communities were looking after children since time immemorial but what changed was their economic situation, their way of life and the political system within the community and country. The community strengths therefore help us identify the mechanisms used traditionally for social protection.

Education is one of those mechanisms that can be used to enhance the social protection of children. TGP through the early learning centers is able to reach out to young orphans and vulnerable children to give them an opportunity to play and learn at the same time. Research has shown that once children are involved in the learning system they grow up to become responsible citizens who harness the opportunities that are presented to them. The children in Zimbabwe have not been able to get those opportunities because of them who are orphans do not have anyone to pay the required fees. TGP has in this case engaged the communities to make sure that the children benefit from early learning through the preschool program. Once the children are in school, as they grow their interest in education grows and hence they will stay within the school system and grow to be responsible citizens.

Once educated these children are able to live a life full of possibilities and have hope for a secure and brighter future. You too can give hope to these children, visit our website on www.goromonziproject.org or email me at patrick@goromonziproject.org to learn how you can contribute. Over the next couple of weeks I will be writing in this column about the issues affecting children in Zimbabwe and how we can all be involved. I also would love to have feedback from you on this and other issues. Happy reading, until next time!

Patrick Makokoro
Director – Goromonzi Project Zimbabwe, Africa

“All we are saying is give the truth – and your union – a chance.”

Posted on 26. May, 2011 by Administrator in Economy

Back in 1969, John Lennon famously wrote, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” Well, here in May 2011, while labor peace is not always at hand, maybe we can at least give labor truth a chance.  Unfortunately, telling the truth seems to be increasingly difficult for the CEOs of our multinational corporations when talking about “Making It In America” and saving and creating American jobs.  And Exhibit A right now is Jim McNerney, who is the Chairman, President and CEO of the Boeing Company.

The reason I am picking on Mr. McNerney is that he is defending Boeing’s decision to retaliate against its union workforce in Everett, Washington, by moving thousands of jobs to a non-union location in South Carolina, with statements that are among the most misleading and disingenuous by a major American CEO ever.  And I’ve been around long enough to have heard a lot of statements by a lot of big company CEOs.  Compounding my dismay with Mr. McNerney is that he also happens to currently hold a very senior economic advisory position in the Obama administration as head of the President’s “Export Council.”  He holds this position of crucial influence despite the fact that for years he’s been exporting thousands of his American manufacturing jobs to Mexico and China.

The facts of this dispute are pretty simple.

As reported by Hal Weitzman and Jeremy Lemer in the Financial Times (5-8-11), “nineteen [Republican] Senators are threatening to block President Barack Obama’s two appointments to the National Labor Relations Board…after the organisation filed a complaint last month against Boeing that seeks to force the manufacturer to transfer 787 production from the non-union factory in South Carolina to its unionised facilities in the Seattle region.”  The NLRB believes that Boeing selected South Carolina – a right-to-work state – purely in retaliation for a strike in 2008 at the Everett facility.  To attack the NLRB’s conclusion, Mr. McNerney, in a preferentially placed op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (“Boeing Is Pro-Growth, Not Anti-Union”, 5-11-11), said the following (the underscoring is mine):

“We viewed Everett as an attractive option and engaged voluntarily in talks with union officials to see if we could make the business case work.  Among the considerations we sought were a long-term ‘no-strike clause’.  “Despite months of effort…union leaders couldn’t meet expectations on our key issues. “We hold no animus toward union members, and we have never sought to threaten or punish them for exercising their rights, as the NLRB claims.  About 40% of our 155,000 U.S. employees are represented by unions – a ratio unchanged since 2003.”

Now, for the truth:

  • The most important right any union has is the right to strike.  Without this right, what real opportunity does it have to ensure fair and balanced treatment for workers?  Thus it is at once irresponsible for McNerney to make this unreasonable demand and disingenuous for him to then say that union leaders couldn’t meet his “expectations on key issues.”  As Christopher Corson, General Counsel of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, wrote on May 9 (“Less Rhetoric and More of the Law in the NLRB’s Boeing Action”, Huffington Post), “In every state in our nation, the law provides important protections for individual workers when they act together to improve their work lives for themselves and their families…If retaliation were permitted, there would be no protection.”
  • McNerney says that “Boeing never sought to threaten or punish [workers] for exercising their rights.”  Yet the NLRB based its finding on the very specific comment by Boeing executives that “avoiding strikes was a central reason for the decision.”
  • Yes, “40% of Boeing’s [overall] U.S. employees” today may be “represented by unions”, and yes, this ratio may be “unchanged since 2003.”  However, in the late‘60s when I was in college in Seattle and working nights as a Sheetmetal Workers journeyman, the number of Machinists and other union members working for Boeing in the greater Seattle-Everett area was around 22,000, and by the year 2000 it was around 50,000.  Now just a decade later, with McNerney as CEO for the last five years, the number of union members at Boeing in the Pacific Northwest has shrunk to around 35,000, with at least 20,000 of these jobs having moved to China.
  • In just 15 years or so, using an initiative benignly called “systems integration mode of production” which entails providing foreign suppliers and overseas subsidiaries with massive amounts of business knowledge, management practices, training and other intangible exports, Boeing has gone from producing nearly 100% of its commercial aircraft and parts in America to today producing only a small fraction of that work here.  The workhorse 727 airframe, launched in 1963, had just a 2% foreign content; the 777 airframe, launched in 1995, has about 30% foreign content; the new 787 Dreamliner, officially launching this year, will have nearly 70% of its manufacturing content coming from foreign sources, with workers in Everett accounting for only about 4% of each aircraft’s value.  This massive transfer by Boeing, and by almost every other American corporation committed to off-shoring, of intellectual property that took decades to develop with internal investment and support from government-funded research laboratories will, with its massive ripple effects throughout our economy, ultimately be an even bigger ‘drain’ on America than even the direct off-shoring of millions of American jobs over the last 15 years.

Jim McNerney’s very public and cynical efforts, however, are just another egregious example of the broad opportunism that many American multinational corporation CEOs have embraced in their continuing efforts to offshore American jobs, cut the wages and benefits of the American workers whose jobs are not being shipped overseas, and, whenever they can, BUST UNIONS.  As reported by David Wessel (Wall Street Journal, 4-19-11), “U.S. multinational corporations, the big brand-name companies that employ a fifth of all American workers, have been hiring abroad while cutting back at home, sharpening the debate over globalization’s effect on the U.S. economy.”  According to the Commerce Department, these companies cut their work forces in the U.S. by 2.9 million during the last decade while increasing employment overseas by 2.4 million, which is a big shift from the ‘90s when they added 4.4 million jobs in the U.S. and 2.7 million abroad.  In just the year 2009, they cut 1.2 million, or 5.3%, of their workers in the U.S. but only 100,000, or 1.5%, of their workers abroad.  Three highlights:

  • Between 2005 and 2010, General Electric, the nation’s largest industrial conglomerate and #6 on the Fortune 500 list, cut 28,000 workers in the U.S. but only 1,000 workers overseas.  This notwithstanding that GE’s Chairman and CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, now heads President Obama’s “Council on Jobs and Competitiveness”, which is supposed to help create jobs in the United States and not ship them overseas.
  • Cisco Systems Inc., the Fortune #62 company that makes networking gear, has also been creating jobs much more rapidly overseas.  Over the past five years, it has added 21,350 employees overseas, but only 10,900 in the U.S.  At the beginning of the last decade, 26% of Cisco’s work force was overseas; today, around 46% is.
  • Oracle, the Fortune #96 company that makes business hardware and software, added twice as many workers overseas over the past five years as in the U.S.  At the beginning of the last decade, it, like Cisco, had many more workers at home than abroad; today, however, around 63% of its employees are located overseas.

McNerney and his fellow CEOs tout many global ‘differentials’ as the reasons why they’ve been economically ‘downgrading’ some jobs (with moves to South Carolina and other right-to-work states) and off-shoring others (to China and elsewhere).  Wessel further wrote that American multinationals repeatedly say in justification that it is the “combination of the U.S. tax code, the declining state of U.S. infrastructure, the quality of the country’s education system, and barriers to the immigration of skilled workers [that is] making the U.S. less attractive to multinationals.”   Yet it is these very multinationals which every day support and maintain these differentials by:

  • Fighting to preserve the corporate tax practices that favor overseas earnings and employees (read “The Tax Man Cometh – Just Not For Everybody”, Huffington Post, 4-12-11);
  • Resisting efforts to couple government infrastructure investments with ‘Made in America’ requirements that are no more demanding than every other member of the G-20 has for its own infrastructure investing;
  • Fighting the adoption of our own Manufacturing & Industrial Policy, which we need in order to compete with the mercantilist practices of our major trading partners, often by blaming the relatively poor state of American public school education, which, while of grave concern, has absolutely no correlation; and
  • Manipulating our immigration practices so that these companies can continue to hire employees from India, Taiwan and China at the expense of qualified American job seekers.

At the end of the day, as I noted earlier, what’s really going on here is a massive, nation-wide attempt to bust unions in order to further enrich our nation’s multinational corporations.  Yet this is happening at precisely the point in time when the United States needs millions more, not millions fewer, union jobs in order to stabilize our middle class. For our country to be ascendant again, American workers everywhere – at Boeing and hundreds of other major corporations – must be treated as the highly skilled, enormously productive and wealth-producing ‘assets’ they are.  We need more union-made quality goods to sell abroad and many more union paychecks producing fair incomes here at home if we are to grow ourselves out of the dismal ongoing jobless recovery we are experiencing.

Expanding union membership will be one of the surest signposts on the road back to a vibrant, consuming middle class, more income equality, and fairness in employment.  And when we have all of this again, along with fairer trade practices, our nation will prosper as it did for the half century before unfair globalization and union-busting practices began to run amok twenty or so years ago.

In all of our manufacturing industries – not just in aircraft manufacturing – we must ensure that American workers compete on level-playing fields.  Right now, however, our workers are forced to compete against foreign workers, many of whom work for American multinational corporations, who are the indirect beneficiaries of illegal subsidies, massive currency manipulation and shameful environmental practices that swamp any measure of true country ‘comparative advantage’.  All the while here at home, with very limited mobility in general but especially in this distressed economy, workers must confront the enormous power that multinational corporations’ almost unlimited geographic, capital and technology mobility gives them.

The members of America’s unions are skilled, resilient and tenacious.  They did not win the 40-hour work week, benefits and safer working conditions in one fell swoop.  These integral pathways and others to the middle class lifestyle – a lifestyle that is now being challenged in so many of our cities and towns – were hammered out over years of negotiations with very powerful corporations.  And sometimes these women and men had to strike to ensure fair dealing.  But in exchange for their skills, hard work and productivity, these unionized workers produce real wealth that’s been shared for generations across our entire economy and society.

I can’t envision a day when unions don’t represent the best path to fair and balanced dealing between companies and workers, for without union voices workers have little or no say in their future.  And no worker anywhere should have to work without organizing protections, which is why Jim McNerney’s and Boeing’s demand that Boeing workers now agree to “a long-term no-strike clause” is so obviously unfair.

Leo Hindery, Jr. is Chairman of the US Economy/Smart Globalization Initiative at the New America Foundation and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  Currently an investor in media companies, he is the former CEO of Tele-Communications, Inc. (TCI), Liberty Media and their successor AT&T Broadband.  He also serves on the Board of the Huffington Post Investigative Fund.

Apologize

Posted on 26. May, 2011 by Administrator in Politics

The hit song “Apologize” could become the theme song of the 2012 Republican Presidential campaign.  Mitt Romney won’t shed his “Romney-care” baggage through a simple apology. Instead he is embracing his controversial plan, claiming that he is no “flip-flopper.” While he is pulling strong poll numbers, pundits believe this one issue will make it tough for him to garner the support of conservatives and may cost him the nomination.

Likewise, Gingrich was thought to be a strong candidate with layers of people and policy carefully in place. Instead of catapulting to the top, as he likely expected with his May 11 announcement, he has been in the forefront of the news with his apology to Paul Ryan for his Sunday morning gaffe regarding the Ryan Plan. He has made several fumbled attempts to recover from this violation of Ronald Reagan’s famed “eleventh commandment,” but most cannot forgive him for sitting on the sofa with Nancy Pelosi and agreeing with her that “our country must take action to address climate change.” No worry. He has not asked for forgiveness and, in fact, refuses to apologize. As recently as a year ago, Gingrich claimed that he would still do a commercial, only this time with the spin that both conservatives and liberals should be prepared to stand on the same stage.

Adding to the “apologize” theme, Tim Pawlenty, who entered the race on May 24, differs from Gingrich. He has apologized for his climate-change support. As governor of Minnesota, he supported cap-and-trade legislation and agreed to participate in the multi-state Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord—both aimed at reducing the hydrocarbon use then believed to cause global warming. Like Gingrich, back in 2008, Pawlenty was also featured in advertising from an environmental group supporting government involvement in stopping climate change. He urged Congress to “get moving” on the issue. Unlike Romney and Gingrich, he has apologized for decisions that seemed right at the time, but have become politically toxic among Republicans.  Now, he says, it was wrong. “It was a mistake, and I’m sorry.”

Setting himself apart even further, his formal announcement speech on Tuesday earned him the high praise of “downright amazing” from the Wall Street Journal. He pledged to phase out subsidies on ethanol—which was popularized to combat climate change.  WSJ political columnist John Fund said: “One of the immutable laws of modern American politics is that no candidate who wants to win the Iowa Presidential Caucuses can afford to oppose subsidies for ethanol. … By opposing ethanol despite the political risks, Mr. Pawlenty will also gain credibility to tackle other energy subsidies that drain the federal fisc to little good effect.”

It was a different political era in the mid-2000s. As TIME defines it, “Carbon regulation was not so verboten in the GOP just a few years ago.” Policies were drafted based on the then-accepted idea of man-made climate change. Apology accepted. But T-Paw needs to do more than apologize for his climate-change stance. He needs to renounce man-made global warming and government-imposed solutions. In doing so, he needs to apologize for the wake of his actions. In Minnesota, they are now trying to meet energy standards of 25% renewable energy by 2025 with un-economic wind turbines designed to provide clean, green, and free energy—which is really expensive (not to mention it destroys the serene and beautiful farming communities, property values, and lives).

Without a total renunciation, voters are left with the assumption that Pawlenty would force the same policies, Senator Bingaman has been promoting, on all of America. Such behavior is expected of green-beholden Democrats like President Obama, but to fare well in the GOP primaries, Pawlenty needs to assure voters of a true change-of-heart. In New Mexico, the major utility company is fighting the numbers to try to provide reliable and affordable electricity that meets the mandates passed under former Governor Richardson. No matter how they run the scenarios, the mandate-meeting modeling shows increased costs for ratepayers.

Like Richardson, Pawlenty has moved on. Today, neither has direct policy impact in their individual states; each has saddled ratepayers with higher energy costs. Richardson has been replaced by a governor, who is doing her best to reverse his policies. Pawlenty’s successor will likely continue to punish Minnesotans with the Next Generation Act of 2007 foisted on the people.  Minnesota and New Mexico are just two states with renewable energy standards. Many have realized the error of their ways and are working on reversing the hidden-tax mandates that raise energy costs and hurt all ratepayers, including the broken-budget cities and counties.

Mr. Pawlenty, Americans are forgiving people—but you have to ask. We know you can say: “I’m sorry.” Can you renounce the man-made climate-change scheme, apologize for the policies you put in place that are hurting the people of Minnesota, and assure your potential voters that as President, you will not pick and choose—through mandates and subsidies—which energy sources we the people can use? It’s not “too late to apologize.”

Known as the voice for energy, Marita Noon is the Executive Director at Energy Makes America Great Inc. the advocacy arm of the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy—working to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom and the American way of life. She is a popular speaker, a frequent guest on television and radio, her commentaries have been published in newspapers, blogs and websites nationwide. For more information, visit www.EnergyMakesAmericaGreat.org.

Germany and the USA: Shared Visions

Posted on 23. May, 2011 by Administrator in Social/Cultural

It is said that fully 25% of all Americans can trace their heritage back to Germany. That figure has dipped a bit only because of increased immigration from other countries, but it stands out as powerful reminder that our collective ‘Germanness’ is well-earned. There are myths that abound as well. One of them is that the German language almost became the legal language of the United States. History tells a different story.

On January 13, 1795, Congress considered a proposal, not to give the German language any official status, but merely to print the federal laws in German as well as English. During the debate, a motion to adjourn failed by one vote. The final vote rejecting the translation of federal laws, which took place one month later, is not recorded. It seems that the translation proposal originated as a petition to Congress on March 20, 1794, from a group of Germans living in Augusta, Virginia.

Past is prologue

The German/American relationship is full of exciting moments, and some urban legends like the ‘German language vote’ have become fodder for the growth of a mythology about our two countries, but as we all know, myths are not the stuff true relationships are made of. Facts are another story. Putting aside the long and proud history of Germany and the two World Wars that tarnished that pride for several generations of young and old Germans alike, let’s focus on our shared values. The immigrant Germans that came to our shores in the 18th and 19th centuries were hard-working, God-fearing people. Many were farmers, but thousands had tradesmen’s skills, and they plied them across our great land. Stonemasons, carpenters and others built our courthouses and public buildings (a trip to the German settlements like Fredericksburg in our neighboring state of Texas will prove that).

They brought with them their love and zest for life as well. Scratch the surface of a German and more than likely you will find a person endowed with a love of food, dance, music and art. Their mercantile skills led them into businesses as diverse as purveyors of goods, grain and other items needed by America’s settlers. If we fast forward to the 20th century in the years after WWII and the Marshall Plan, we saw a country that was intent on rebuilding itself as it shifted into high gear. To be fair, the decimation of Germany’s old-world manufacturing and the support of the U.S. helped them implement newer technology, enabling them to leapfrog over many nations stuck with older manufacturing sectors.

They embarked on a full-scale redefinition and retooling of their manufacturing sector. From steel production to capital goods (the machines that make the machines) and the associated technology that went with it like Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) technology helped Germany lead the way to more efficient production of not only capital goods, but also the downstream products that evolved from them. These gains enabled Germany’s premier auto companies like Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen and many other lesser-known non-automotive firms find willing buyers for their high-quality products.

Workers and unions: past and present

Germans have always supported their own industry (unlike the U.S. that has seemed to put price and the profit margin over ‘buying local’). Trade unionism, which was an outgrowth of the old guild system in Germany, worked well for them. The unique form of German worker/owner cooperation, ‘mitbestimmung’ (joint decision-making), in the factories helped turn workers into stakeholders as many key decisions of the German corporation were vetted with workers’ representatives. This worker participation has no relationship to the Communist model where the corporations were owned and operated by the people. It was, however, a daring step on the part of German firms to bring the unions and workers into the boardroom so they could see how the ‘sausage was made.’ I’m convinced that it prevented more strikes and labor unrest from happening and helped German industry plan and execute its plans better.

While German industry was finding its footing in the post-war world, German society was experiencing its share of prosperity but also moving towards a modified form of what Americans would call, ‘socialism.’ The Germans would probably prefer to call their decisions to provide healthcare, unemployment insurance, education stipends and other forms of social safety net investments as much-needed insurance against the kind of vulnerabilities that they faced before WWII in the thirties and after. The architects of these social contracts and the politicians that voted for them were themselves witnesses to the dire economic conditions of pre- and post war Germany. They were bound and determined not to put their country at that level of risk ever again.

Immigration problems?

Ironically, Germany’s success in the sixties led to a shortage of workers in the seventies, so it looked abroad and ‘imported’ workers from Turkey, Pakistan and elsewhere. It modified its immigration laws to allow for a more liberal policy that brought many unskilled laborers (so-called gastarbeiter or guest workers) into the country and gave them special status that eventually allowed them to stay on as permanent residents. That would turn into a challenge for them, later, however. Since the formation of the Hanseatic League, Germany has always had its eye on foreign markets. Exporting has been an integral part of Germany’s business plan for centuries, and they’ve been quite good at it, establishing trading houses, distributorships and agencies for their products around the world. A joke was, if you walked into a bar in some far-flung corner of the world, you would encounter three foreigners: a Dane, a Dutchman and a German – and they would all have one thing in common (besides being able to speak German) – an abiding interest in the local market.

What do we have in common with the Germans and what can we learn from them?

Our two countries were created in large part from ‘sweat equity’ and by an abiding belief in our ability to improve on the past and seize the opportunities of the future by learning from our successes and failures. Americans can learn much from the German example and from the Germans themselves. We need a viable industrial plan that invests in new technology and new industries. We need a strong partnership with our workers, one that promotes openness and a stakeholder mentality. We must look outward to new export markets and the new opportunities for growth that comes from that effort. We need to create our own unique brand of ‘safety net’ that protects us from catastrophic illness and that trains or re-trains us in the skills we need to compete in the new world economy. We must also be flexible and forward-thinking about our immigration policy, realizing that cheap labor is not always good labor.

We must begin to bring back outsourced jobs with the carrot not the stick, AND we must learn to buy our own products, backed by the realization that exporting dollars is not the way to achieve fiscal stability or security. We must save more, and our government must spend less more wisely. German society is changing, too. It has been hit hard by the world economic downturn. While its companies are prominent in many foreign markets, Germany is part of a culturally and financially diverse mosaic called the European Union with plenty of have-nots. It knows that not everybody can afford the most expensive products, and it’s doing its best to match its products to the market. Despite that fact, somewhere in every German is a little voice that whispers, “We must never be too poor to buy anything cheap.” Maybe that’s the lesson we all need to learn when it comes to valuing each other as well.

Stephan Helgesen is a former U.S. diplomat who lived and worked in Germany. He is also the Honorary Consul for Germany in New Mexico and is working on a project called ‘IQ New Mexico’ that is designed to raise the ‘Internationality Quotient’ (profile of New Mexico) among foreign companies and governments. He can be reached at: stephanhelgesen@cs.com.

National Action Plan to Be Used by Local Governments as a Framework to Develop and Implement Green Schools Initiatives Across the Nation

Posted on 23. May, 2011 by Administrator in Energy/Environment

ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability USA is proud to join The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in unveiling Local Leaders in Sustainability: A Special Report from Sundance, which outlines a five-point national action plan that local governments can utilize as a framework to develop and implement green schools initiatives. The report findings were unveiled Friday at the 2011 AIA National Convention in New Orleans and USGBC’s Annual Government Summit in Washington, D.C. The findings stem from insightful discussions during the Greening of America’s Schools Summit, held at the Redford Center in Sundance, Utah.

“The Greening of Americas Schools Summit marked an important first step in realizing that the environmental quality of our schools is essential to our future and long-term well-being,” said Martin J. Chávez, Executive Director, ICLEI USA and three-term mayor of Albuquerque, NM.   “As a result, Mayors and Superintendents came together to chart a new course toward healthy, sustainable schools where our children can grow and excel. We must now put this blueprint into action so that every child in America can attend a green school.” The major steps outlined in the five-point plan include tangible action steps and are based on the conversations that took place at Sundance and successful green schools initiatives from across the United States and include: 1) Connect with the green schools movement; 2) Engage stakeholders and raise awareness; 3) Build community support and capacity; 4) Make it happen: benchmarking, policy and financing and; 5) Celebrate success.

“Through the greening of America’s schools, we have the chance to improve the health and education of our children, inspire future leaders and create a stronger America,” said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO and Founding Chair, USGBC. “Sundance was just the beginning. This comprehensive blueprint provides local policy makers and community members ways in which they too can accelerate green schools in their areas.” The report also provides a comprehensive review of the benefits of green schools; a summary of local, state and federal policy solutions, leadership profiles of green school advocates, and case studies from both large cities and small communities. Together, these resources serve as a roadmap on the journey to green schools.

“This report should serve as a guidepost for many communities throughout the country that are looking for ways to implement green initiatives but fear the expense involved,” said AIA President Clark Manus, FAIA. “In reality, the average school is 42 years old, and energy inefficiencies cost it approximately $100,000 a year, money that could be better spent on teachers, education materials, books or computers.” The Greening of America’s Schools Summit, held in November 2010 at the Redford Center in Sundance, Utah, brought together leading mayors from across the nation and their respective schools superintendents for an insightful discussion on the importance of a greener environment and educational performance. ICLEI USA partnered with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the Redford Center, founded by Robert Redford to convene this impressive gathering of local government leaders and educators. The report can be downloaded free-of-charge from centerforgreenschools.org/actionplan.

About ICLEI USA – ICLEI USA is a non-profit membership association of local governments working to achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and tangible improvements in local sustainability. ICLEI USA supports its more than 600 member local governments by providing networking opportunities, tools, resources, and programmatic support focused on climate protection and sustainable development.  More information at www.icleiusa.org.

About the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council – The Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is how USGBC is making sure every student has the opportunity to attend a green school within this generation. From the kindergartner entering the classroom, to the Ph.D. student performing researching in a lab, the Center provides the resources and support to elevate dialogue, accelerate policy and institute innovation toward green schools and campuses. Thanks in part to generous support from founding sponsor United Technologies Corporation, the Center works directly with staff, teachers, faculty, students, administrators, elected officials and communities to drive the transformation of all schools into sustainable places to live and learn, work and play. More information at www.centerforgreenschools.org.

About The American Institute of Architects – For over 150 years, members of the American Institute of Architects have worked with each other and their communities to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings and cityscapes. Members adhere to a code of ethics and professional conduct to ensure the highest standards in professional practice. Embracing their responsibility to serve society, AIA members engage civic and government leaders and the public in helping find needed solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation and world. Visit www.aia.org.

April Real Estate Market Plods Along

Posted on 23. May, 2011 by Administrator in Economy

April 2011 New Mexico home sale numbers are down from March 2011. However, over the same period, the median price of a New Mexico property rose roughly 1.5% to $165,000.  The median is where half sold for more and half sold for less.  There were 1,077 sales reported to the REALTORS Association of New Mexico (RANM) during April 2011.  1,143 sales were reported in March.  Seven reporting counties, including Bernalillo, Santa Fe, and McKinley, did show increases in the number of sales from March to April.

Year to date sales are down over 7% from 2010 January through April numbers, but are up 7.5% from 2009 numbers.  Median prices continue to fall below 2009 and 2010 figures. Lower priced homes have seen the best sales performance both nationally and in New Mexico.  “The biggest sales increase has been in the lower price ranges, which are popular with investors and cash buyers,” Teresa Ramos, 2011 RANM President, said.  “The preponderance of sales activity at the lower end is bringing down the median price.  And as the number of distressed homes (those in which the value is below the amount of equity the owners have in them) remains high, values continue to struggle to get off of the bottom.”

According to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS’ (NAR) research, home sales are on track to outperform last year, even though the market doesn’t have the benefit of the home buyer tax credit.  This is thanks to sustained economic growth, the slowly recovering jobs picture, and historically high affordability conditions.  New Mexico reports are on track for a “better than 2009” year, but have not yet climbed to 2010 numbers.

M. Steven Anaya, RANM Executive Vice President, says, “Historically high affordability is one of the key drivers of the improved sales performance.  NAR’s affordability index is at its highest level ever, at nearly 170, which means households earning the national median income have 170 percent of the income needed to buy a home at the national median price.  Low interest rates, often below 5%, also contribute to affordable conditions.” The trends and numbers reported are only a snapshot of market activity.  If you are interested in buying or selling, consult a REALTOR familiar with your market area; he/she can provide information on specific trends in your neighborhood.

Statistical information and trends are based on information furnished by New Mexico Member Boards and MLSs to U. S. House Stats. Current reporting participants are: Greater Albuquerque Association of REALTORS, Las Cruces Association of REALTORS MLIS, New Mexico Multi-Board MLS (Artesia, Carlsbad, Clovis/Portales, Deming, Gallup, Grants, Hobbs, Las Vegas, Sierra County areas), Otero County Board of REALTORS, Roswell Association of REALTORS, Ruidoso/Lincoln County Association of REALTORS, Santa Fe Association of REALTORS, San Juan County Board of REALTORS, Silver City Regional Association of REALTORS, and the Taos Association of REALTORS. Reports represent single family residential data only.  Information does not necessarily represent all activity in any market/county.  Figures based on reports run 5/17/11.  Visit www.nmrealtor.com (housing trends) for county and board statistics.

The REALTORS Association of New Mexico is one of the state’s largest trade associations, representing over 5,500 members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate market.

Spokes of Reverence

Posted on 23. May, 2011 by Administrator in Social/Cultural

Wednesday May 18, Duke City Wheelmen Foundation together with Leigh Ann Hatcher-Inglis will host the annual Ride of Silence.  This is an international ride to remember cyclists injured or killed in collisions with motor vehicles.  rideofsilence.org There will be rides in all 50 states and many foreign countries, 315 and counting.

We will start and finish at 6711 Edith Blvd. NE, at Q Cycle.  Registration opens at 5:30 pm and closes at 6:45 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2011.  Everyone, please come early to sign a waver.  Donations accepted to cover insurance costs.   Everyone who makes a donation will receive a unique Spoke Card for the event.  Helmets required, lights if you have them. We will have one minute of silence at the start to remember Dan Montoya and to send positive, healing thought to Matt Trujillo, as well as to both these cyclists families and friends. The ride is approximately 9 miles and will proceed no faster than 12 mph so all can participate.  For a route map, visit dukecitywheelmen.org

Red arm bands will be available to represent riding for an injured rider, black armbands to represent riding for a fallen cyclists. There will be a minute of silence before Wednesday’s Ride Of Silence for Matt Trujillo and Dan Montoya, their families and friends in addition to the usual dedication of the ride to cyclists injured or killed.  For more information about this ride, go to dukecitywheelmen.org

Because we are people there will always be crashes; as a group we are just not capable of perfect driving all the time.  But the kind of crash that claimed the life of one cyclist and left another in very critical condition last week can be made less likely. One of the first complaints from motorists about cyclists is when they see a cyclist run a red light or commit some other traffic code infraction.  While I don’t think that cyclists should run red lights, can anyone site an instance where a cyclist running a red light resulted in the death of another road user?  If the NRA can say “It’s not guns that kill people, its people that kill people.” to keep guns legal, then I am going to say “Cars don’t kill people, people kill people!”  When we, you or I, drive a car in a careless, illegal or inattentive way, we are gambling with not just crumpled metal but with life.   And while some of us are more vulnerable road users than others, everyone is put at increased risk by the careless, illegal and inattentive driving habits we see around us every day.  People like Matt Trujillo and Dan Montoya can be cycling in completely lawful, safe ways, but those practices cannot protect them from all drivers.

From a KOAT online report May 12, 2011, “The bicyclist (Dan Montoya) was heading eastbound on Tramway when a car crossed the median and hit the bike head-on, (Bernalillo County Sheriff’s) deputies said.   Deputies said the driver of the car may have had a medical episode.”  Reports of the incident that caused severe bodily harm to Matt Trujillo said that he was hit by a driver who ran a red light.  Motor vehicle drivers are in control, or not, of a potentially far more dangerous means of transportation.   Our streets and highways are not a level playing field. It is not the other driver I’m asking you to look at, it’s you.  We are each responsible for our own driving habits.  Take a realistic look at your abilities, attentiveness, and habits.  What about your cell phone use, texting or talking?  Can you see well enough or do you need new glasses?  Are you healthy enough?  How is your awareness of two wheeled vehicles, motorized or human powered?   Do you obey the traffic laws?  What else do you think it is OK to do while driving, besides paying attention to the road?

Being in denial about this could have an incredibly high price.

Jennifer Buntz

 

High time to rethink hydropower?

Posted on 18. May, 2011 by Administrator in Energy/Environment

The Mississippi River and its tributaries are spilling over their banks and levees—flooding homes and ruining farmlands. In the recovery, decisions will need to be made about rebuilding or relocating.  The 2011 floods are not something new. There were major floods on the Mississippi in the 30s, 70s and 90s. Most of our dams were built between 1930 and 1970 for flood control—man’s attempt to control nature. Politics changed in the 70s. Controlling nature was no longer acceptable. Man protecting nature became the mantra. The dams of man (development) were abandoned in favor of the dams of beavers (nature).  Since that time there has been an active campaign to tear down the dams and reclaim the rivers.

If the dams of man are truly unacceptable, we should not continue to rebuild in flood-prone areas. The river would be allowed to retake the land—as it would if humans had never intervened. Roy Dakka, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Center for Geoinformatics at Louisiana State University, believes nature always wins. He said, “We should really be thinking about whether we want to continue to live in really stupid places, because nature is going to exploit our stupidity.” Deeper within the discussion is a question posed by Lazarus Long in the classic 1970s novel Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein: There are hidden contradictions in the minds of people who “love nature” while deploring the “artificialities” with which “man has spoiled ‘Nature.’” The obvious contradiction lies in their choice of words, which imply that Man and his artifacts are not part of “Nature”—but beavers and their dams are. But the contradictions go deeper than this prima-facie absurdity. In declaring his love for a beaver dam (erected by beavers for beavers’ purposes) and his hatred for dams erected by men (for the purposes of men) the “Naturist” reveals his hatred for his own race—i.e., his own self-hatred.

If Lazarus/Heinlein was right and dams built by men for the purposes of men are good, then before rebuilding the levees, dams should be built up river—dams that can generate electricity, control the flow of the river, and divert waters (via pipeline) to regions where the water is needed. If the “Naturists” are right and the dams of man are wrong, then the flood waters should flow unrestrained—retaking man’s creation: houses, businesses, and cities.

We cannot have it both ways.

Reality is that the people who live along the river generally understand and accept the risk. They will rebuild just like they did following the previous floods. Most of the thousands of people displaced, just like those who fled during Katrina, will want to go back home—even if home is a FEMA trailer on the family farm. Humans are not quitters. But, Americans quit building dams.

Today dams do more than control flood waters. They can create electricity needed for economic development—overcoming poverty, improving living standards, and attracting foreign investment. Canada has just announced plans for 3000 MW of hydroelectric resources in Quebec. Chile plans to build five new dams with the potential to generate 2.75 GW to help triple its capacity. Both countries cite low-cost energy and jobs as motivators—though both acknowledge opposition from environmental groups.

In the US, we need the same benefits. We have similar resources. We also have reoccurring floods which need the “dams of man” and we have drought-stricken regions that need water. Sadly, we have the same difficulties. George S. Dunlop, former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army, fought the idea that “un-improved” was always better. He acknowledged that new hydroelectricity in the US is unlikely, in large part, due to the actions of environmental groups.  Belief that the dams of beavers are good, while the dams of man are bad, will doom low-land dwellers to face periodic ruin, cost taxpayers billions in unemployment checks, subsidized insurance, and regional restoration (FEMA trailers, levee reconstruction, and reimbursement for those who lost everything while saving more populous areas), and raise gas prices as many refineries are in the flood zone.

We could have a win-win. Instead of tearing down flood control dams, they can now be retrofitted using modern technology to generate double our current hydroelectricity capacity—and this is just based on our current dams. Imagine if we could truly harness our clean, renewable hydroelectric resources. We could have the economic development, low-cost energy, and the “dams of man” could control the floodwaters and redirect them—allowing man to benefit. Now that’s smart.

Known as the voice for energy, Marita Noon is the Executive Director at Energy Makes America Great Inc. the advocacy arm of the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy—working to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom and the American way of life. She is a popular speaker, a frequent guest on television and radio, her commentaries have been published in newspapers, blogs and websites nationwide. For more information, visit www.EnergyMakesAmericaGreat.org.

Is Your Information Costing Too Much?

Posted on 16. May, 2011 by Administrator in Social/Cultural

Mention the information age and everybody under 30 swoons and goes into happy-time convulsions. These are the same folks that have a Blackberry, an IPAD, a laptop, a desktop computer, an IPOD, GPS system and satellite TV and radio. I’m not averse to technology.  I took my first computer course back in 1966 and worked on an old IBM 360 computer (the monster could barely fit in a two-car garage; today we have the same computing power in our laptop computers).

I got a CB radio when I was driving long distances because I thought it would help locate speed traps and avoid accidents. What it actually did was save my life back in the 70s when I began to fall asleep at the wheel and a kindly trucker shouted at me through my speaker, jolting me awake.  I bought a cellphone back in 1985 and have had one ever since. My car has GPS and satellite radio, so what’s the deal?

I’m simply astounded at what all this stuff is costing us. On a yearly basis, I spend the following: ABQ Journal newspaper subscription: approx. $150 (with the tip to the carrier), satellite TV: $1,200, satellite radio: approx. $300 for two cars, DSL high-speed line: approx. $500, email service: $200, mobilephones (one with internet connectivity): approx. $2,000, home telephone: $250/year, my computer modem (for accessing the internet when I’m not near a WiFi connection): approx. $200, magazine subscriptions: approx. $100, software to protect our computers (so that we can get the information): $60. That totals $4,960. That number does not include the hardware costs of the various appliances that use those services nor the electricity that powers them. I’m sure that if you add those in the total would be at least 10-15% higher!

Our new information age companies and their technology are helping us get more and more information every year, and manufacturers are wooing us with smarter and zippier products, and we’re buying them at amazingly high rates. I have a feeling that Americans can now append another description to ‘Land of the free, home of the brave.’ Now we can call ourselves, ‘Land of the early adopters and information junkies.’  I guess I would ask a question at this point, ‘What are we doing with all this information?’ Are we getting smarter from all of this info or are we just getting better at oneupsmanship (beating out our friends at emailing news to one another, gleaned from a blog, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook or some other moronic electronic watercooler)?

I remember a time when folks on my paper route waited near their door for me to throw them their morning newspaper (usually in their bushes), so that they could settle in with today’s news and a cup of hot java. Our telephone then was on a party line, and our neighbors regularly listened in.  Today it would be the equivalent of having the phone on ‘speaker’ setting and sitting in crowded waiting room while you blabbed about Uncle Mortimer’s gall bladder operation and his affair with Beatrice from the coffee shop. Our TV signed off at midnight with the playing of the national anthem as we watched the American flag wave in the electronic breeze just before the test pattern with a likeness of an Indian chief appeared.

In many ways those were simpler times because we weren’t privy to so much information. Our ignorance was bliss. Cataclysmic events from the other side of the world took their sweet time to reach us, but when they did, we were mortified and shocked. Today, I think the shock has been replaced with a feeling of, ‘what’s next’ (as President Josiah Bartlet of the West Wing used to say). I’m afraid our national compassion has been replaced with a short attention span due in no small measure to the deluge of mind-numbing information.

Stephan Helgesen is a retired diplomat and former Director of the State of NM Office of Science and Technology. He can be reached at: stephanhelgesen@cs.com.

 

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