November 26, 2022

Joy and Grief – Two sides of the coin of life

Posted on 30. May, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Social/Cultural

This week I met a woman who runs a center for children’s grief counseling. Her name is Katrina Koehler and she’s been ministering to hundreds of children each year for over ten years at a place called ‘Gerard’s House’ up in Santa Fe.

Most of us push the thought of death as far away from our conscious thoughts as possible, preferring instead to pretend it’s way out there someplace – like a bad tornado that’s swirling around some other community and not on a path of destruction for our town.

I guess that’s only human, but when death strikes our families abruptly like it did for the Sanchez family of Santa Fe back in 1996 after their son, Gerard, died in a car crash, the results are catastrophic, especially for the children of those families affected.

The year 1996 was a particularly bad year for teenage deaths in Santa Fe, with several resulting from auto accidents and others from suicides. The ‘walking wounded’ were the children in the affected families, many of them very young, impressionable youngsters who had never faced tragedy of this magnitude before.

Their brother was gone and wouldn’t ever play video games with them again, or their sister wasn’t around to braid their hair. Maybe their mother or father would no longer tuck them in at night or tell them another bedtime story. It could have been a classmate taken by a swift illness that left the seat in front of them at school forever empty. The pain is excruciating and often confusing.

How do we tell our children about death but more importantly, how do we help them understand their grief and go through their grieving process? That’s the goal of Gerard’s House and what prompted its establishment in 1996.

As I sat on a comfortable sofa in the center, surrounded by the colorful drawings done by grieving children, I saw their grief and pain depicted in many different ways, so I asked Katrina how children experienced such a massive shock like the loss of a parent.

She took a moment, collected her thoughts and seemed to look directly past my eyes into my soul and said calmly that while loss is universal and grieving a natural part of that loss, every single child experiences it differently.

She gestured with her arms around the room and said that this was like a ‘safe house’ for battered emotions, a place where children from the ages of 3 to 21 come together and find safety and get the permission they need to FEEL and DISPLAY their grief.  It was not a place where adults would lay out a six point plan for grief management and expect them to follow it as if it were instructions on building a model airplane.

“No,” she said. “Children need to release their sadness and their pain and even their anger at the unfairness of losing a loved one, and they need to know that they WILL recover and return to joy, eventually.  We choose our ‘companioners’ (volunteer grief counselors) carefully.

We are not here to push children through a clinical regimen. We don’t want them to look good to the outside world but harbor a profound sense of loss on the inside simply because they weren’t shown how to deal with their grief. That is just a recipe for more confusion and more pain when death occurs again.”

My last moments with Katrina were at her memorial wall of remembrance where the photos of deceased Gerard’s House’ children’s parents, brothers and sisters hung proudly, reminding all who walk by them of their special lives, cut short by untimely deaths.

I’m confident their memories will never fade and their sons and daughters, grandchildren, siblings and friends have learned to accept their deaths thanks to the spiritual triage and inherent goodness of people like Katrina and all the volunteers at Gerard’s House.

- Editor: If you’d care to volunteer or to contribute to Gerard’s House, please contact them at:  Tel. 505/424-1800 or Email:

The Wizard Artist of Dumbledore, New Mexico

Posted on 30. May, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in NM, Social/Cultural

You needn’t look farther than the East Mountains outside Albuquerque to find the fantasy of Harry Potter materialize into reality. Not only is the house reminiscent of the popular Joann Kathleen (J.K.) Rowling series of otherworldly buildings like Dumbledore Castle, but its owner, Leslie Feuerborn, could have been the model for the wizard Gandalf in Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings.

An artist versed in stone masonry, woodworking, carving, stained glass and welding, the Oklahoma-born Feuerborn came to New Mexico in 1991.

After a stint as sculptor-in-residence at Casa de Suenos in Albuquerque he fulfilled a personal dream and moved to a secluded spot, high in the East Mountains where he could build his eclectic home and pursue his art while living a simple life.

When you first look at Feuerborn’s home you’ll swear you’ve fallen through Alice’s looking glass. Parts that normally reside on cars, telephone poles, farm machinery, airplanes, and somebody’s kitchen suddenly merge together to create a transformer-like house.

Your eye wanders from top to bottom taking it all in, wondering how it came to be. Says Leslie, “It took me 13 years to get to this point and I’m still not finished. I need to fit in the stained glass and a few other embellishments.”

I ask him about the outdoor pyramid that’s 25 ft. off the ground and that can only be reached by an industrial grating ramp. At the top of the 8×8 ft. platform is a huge steel open pyramid extending  into the air offering an exceptional view of the house’ roof treatments.










Long flowing translucent plastic decorative pieces that adorn the west roof could have been part of a Viking ship or an old Norwegian stave church and are now glowing in the fading light of the sun as we descend the pyramid (Leslie uses the pyramid for sunbathing and meditation).

Living as a quasi-ascetic and self-proclaimed ‘raw fooder,’ this soft-spoken and articulate man is obviously well-read and has come to both his philosophy of life and art via a long and winding road.

Back on terra firma, we move through piles of diverse ‘MIW’ (material-in-waiting) for future sculptures and come upon a steel and glass mandala-like piece that is proudly showing off the sun’s rays through its stained glass design. It’s obvious that this is one of Leslie’s favorites but I ask him to make sure.

His answer surprises me. “I have no favorites. They’re like children that are born, grow up and leave home.” So it is with art, especially art that  is meant to be shared with as many people as possible.

There are actually two Leslies: Leslie the artist and Leslie the craftsman. Both live together enjoying each new scavenged find of new unusual materials from old buildings or job sites that can be bent, cut, hammered and shaped into ethereal objets d’art.

Where does all this creativity come from I asked. He smiles and points upward and inward at the same time. “The cosmos, my parents and past lives I suppose. My father was a master gardener and my mother was a fine musician. Some of that might have rubbed off on me, but for the most part, I’m self-taught. Everything I know about the tools and processes I use I’ve learned from observing others and of course through trial and error.”

The newest addition to the Feuerborn arsenal of tools is a sophisticated cutting device that can make short work of granite and cast iron and allow him to reproduce his intricate designs on super dense, hard-to-pierce materials. It sits outside amid the MIWs, itself a kind of industrial art of the 21st century.

I couldn’t help but notice his fondness for arches and gates that dot his estate. “Arches tell you that something important is on the other side and they help focus the energy. They’re also fun to do.”

Whimsy is a word that comes to mind to describe Leslie Feuerborn’s work that is until you see him at work and listen to him speak of things like the nature of creativity, man’s relation to his surroundings and of course, spiritual geometry.

Our interview nearly over I asked him what one of his guiding principles of life was. It took him no time at all to answer. “Be true to yourself, live an honest life and don’t be afraid to take your own advice.”

Sage words from the wizard artist of Dumbledore.

Editor – More information on the sculptures of Leslie Feuerborn that are available for purchase or for special commissioned art may be obtained through the New Mexican Voice at:


Mining New Mexico’s ‘Gray Gold’

Posted on 29. May, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Social/Cultural

A few months ago I was part of an evening cuisine group, happily feeding my face and minding my own business, but as the minutes flew by I became restless with the conversation and decided to liven things up a bit.

I asked the following question of the 65-80 somethings at the table…”How do you all stay relevant now that you’re retired?” The floodgates opened and back came the responses from about eight different people whose former careers had been pretty successful and important a decade or so ago.

It seemed that most volunteered with charities and with fraternal or non-profit organizations like Albuquerque Sister Cities, the Albuquerque Council for International Visitors, Friendship Force, etc.

One tutored teenagers.  Several worked at local museums like the Nuclear Museum, the Albuquerque Art Museum and the Biopark. Many were members of special interest organizations like the Albuquerque Association of University Women.

I was pleasantly surprised at the positive response. Nobody really felt disenfranchised from society or irrelevant though a few admitted they didn’t understand the younger generation, especially the ‘Occupy’ movement, but that kind of generational bewilderment is commonplace.

This got me to thinking about seniorism and how a fair number of our charities and non-profits would simply fold their tents and disappear without the active efforts of volunteers, especially the older ones.

Where the Gray Gold lives

According to the last U.S. Census of 2010, the percentage of New Mexico’s population that’s over the age of 55 is 25.6%, with seniors 65 and over accounting for over half of that figure. The top five counties for retirees 65 and older are: Harding 29.2%, Catron 27.9%, DeBaca 22.9%, Lincoln 22% and Grant 21.3%. In case you’re wondering how Bernalillo and Santa Fe Counties stack up, Santa Fe is at 15.1% and Bernalillo is at 12.2%. The total population that’s over 55 in our state is 529,191.

How do we mine it?

Our retirees are anything but inactive. They join. They travel. They vote. They purchase. They participate in their community’s affairs and they’re vocal – both within their demographic group and outside of it. In addition to our native New Mexican retirees we are blessed (yes I said blessed) to have thousands who’ve chosen our state as their final earthly address.

These people made a conscious decision to put down roots and make our state their own with the knowledge that they will probably always be viewed as out-of-staters.  For proof, just look at the last gubernatorial campaign when our Governor was called, Susana Tejana!

That parochialism aside, we not only need the current level of volunteer participation from the Gray Gold but we need to significantly increase it! Why? Our charities are hurting because of reduced contributions. Fraternal organizations’ events are being curtailed or at least scaled-back because of the economy. Perhaps most importantly, our state’s businesses and local governments need mentors and to be able to tap into the decades’ worth of experience that our Gray Golders have amassed over the course of their careers.

Think of your own circle of friends and of the careers they’ve had and the contacts they’ve made around the world. Imagine what would happen if we were able to harness that experience and information and have it redound to the benefit of the State!

Making it happen

I believe in the power of leadership and the positive effect it can have on all of us. In order for us to turn our Gray Gold into a currency we can use to help our state thrive and prosper we need the highest echelons of state government to organize these thousands of volunteers. There’s a lot of Gray Gold in them thar hills. Now’s the time to put it to work for New Mexico.

- Editor
















Town Hall to Address Forest Fire Policies and Water

Posted on 29. May, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Energy/Environment, Social/Cultural

It is fire season again, and this week’s blaze in the Gila National Forest is already burning nearly 21,000 acres. About 50 cabins are threatened as the fire smolders around Willow Creek, with seven residents already evacuated.

This latest blaze brings to mind the largest wildfire in state history, last year’s Las Conchas Fire in northern New Mexico.

Questions about when and where to extinguish fires, whether to let some burn, impacts on water quality, and other policies regarding forest fires will be addressed at the New Mexico Town Hall on Fire and Water. The event answers the call for public discourse about these natural disasters.

Learning from fires such as the Las Conchas and its effects on habitats, watersheds, and water quality can help protect natural resources in the future. The Las Conchas fire affected communities, as well as economic development, tourism, ecological systems, recreational areas, and municipal water supply throughout the region.

Individuals interested in attending the town hall should register at

June 5-6, 2012
TIMES: Tuesday 9:30-5:00, Wednesday 8:30-3:30
WHERE: Hyatt Regency, 330 Tijeras Avenue NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico
REGISTER: Register at
WHO SHOULD COME: Community members, business people, researchers and educators, tribal members, public officials, government employees, students
CONVENER: New Mexico’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NM EPSCor)
FACILITATOR: New Mexico First

About the Organizers:  NM EPSCoR is funded by the National Science Foundation to help build New Mexico’s capacity to carry out science research on topics that are of importance to the state.

New Mexico First engages people in important issues facing their state or community. The public policy organization offers unique town halls that bring people together to develop recommendations for policymakers and the public. New Mexico First also produces nonpartisan reports on critical issues facing the state.

These reports – on topics like water, education, and healthcare, the economy, and energy – are available at

This information was submitted by: Melanie Sanchez Eastwood, 505/241-4818






























It’s my right

Posted on 28. May, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

After talking with thousands of foreigners from all around the globe, I’ve concluded that there is at least one aspect of American life that non-Americans just don’t understand…our need to stand on and up for our rights.

Many countries have weathered difficult times, especially when it comes to their own sovereignty. After experiencing an immediate period of stress (maybe a generation or so) after a coup, an election or a war, they find their equilibrium and settle in to live according to their new-found reality.

Not so with Americans. It seems that we Americans are in constant right-assertion mode. Elections don’t settle us down. If anything, we’re locked and loaded for bear because the last election (no matter who won) ushered in a new age of ‘right infringement,’ be they voting rights, privacy rights, free speech rights, rights of assembly, eminent domain, etc.

My all-time favorite (and one I get particularly cranky about) is the right to be left alone. This seems to be a perennial favorite of both political parties but for a different reason…they can’t seem to observe it.

Lawmaking is the way they get in our ‘face’ and our wallet. It’s done through taxes and regulations in a magnitude large enough to choke a herd of Clydesdales.

I won’t call it a conspiracy because that implies that our legislators and regulators actually know what they’re doing and are organized. I think their actions fall into the ‘we’ve always done it that way’ category or the ‘aren’t we here to make laws?’ category.

There are many congressmen who’ve never met a law they didn’t like. Making laws justifies their existence. Just once I’d like to hear the Speaker of the House say, “We’ve decided we don’t need any more laws this year so we’re going back to our constituents to start listening to them.”

Maybe our bloody revolution is to blame, but many countries have had them, like France. You don’t see the French forming Tea Parties though I can’t help but wonder what they would look like if they did.

Introducing the French Tea Party (aka Café et Croissant Parti).

The first order of business would be to hold a mass meeting to which would be invited all the old anarchists from the 60s, the left wing radical students, the disaffected foreign population (Algerians, Moroccans, etc.), labor union leaders and the intelligencia (no self-respecting anti-government group would be complete without them).

There would be an election of leaders interrupted by a long coffee and cigarette break followed by the adoption of a party platform. Next would be a lengthy and heated discussion of the color and content of the posters to be carried at the protest rallies (important because French television would be covering the event and nobody would want to be accused of being unstylish)!

Following these decisions would be a long lunch with reassembly three hours later to decide on who marches on the front lines. This can be tricky, because having too many ‘unknowns’ out front would give the impression of a party not in step with the beautiful people – which of course every counter-culture movement needs. And on it would go.

Here in the U.S. of A. we are truly democratic (small ‘d’). Everyone’s welcome, and by the way, come as you are. We don’t care what color your sign is or what label’s on your jogging suit.

Everybody’s method for defending his rights is different. My motto is, “if it works for you and if it’s legal, do it.” These times do require us to stay vigilant, however, as rights in a democratic society are generally legislated away very slowly. And while we may have the right to ignore the lawmaking process, we won’t have the right to ignore the laws that it generates.

- Editor




Re: Jobs. Pick the Low Hanging Fruit – Part II

Posted on 27. May, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Politics

Last September we renewed our earlier pleas to Congress to ‘pick’ the four low-hanging initiatives that would, if the administration and Congress together would only pick them, quickly create millions of new jobs.  They were and remain:

1. Buy-Domestic Procurement Requirements.  All infrastructure projects funded and guaranteed by the federal government should require purchases to be made in America rather than overseas, consistent with our international trade agreements.  As well, in order to qualify as “Made in America,” at least 75% of the content should have to be manufactured within our borders.  Specifically, Congress should:

a) Require review of domestic content calculations to insure their effectiveness  and transparency;

b) Require review of domestic sourcing requirements for all government procurement programs (e.g., Buy American, the Recovery Act) and programs that support U.S. exports (e.g., the Export-Import Bank) to ensure that contracting agencies are obeying and implementing the requirements; and

c) Enact a successor to the 1933 Buy American Act, which is now so dated that whole federal agencies are effectively excused and massive procurement ‘loopholes’ exist.

2. Infrastructure Investment.  After years of under-investing in public infrastructure, America faces an infrastructure deficit of $3 trillion that is impeding economic growth and undermining our economy’s efficiency. We need to spend $2.2 trillion just to meet America’s core infrastructure needs, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The administration and Congress should commit to at least $2 trillion of infrastructure spending over the next 10 to 15 years using the resources of a new National Infrastructure Bank that would be an independent financial institution owned by the government and supported by a soft federal guarantee on the order of $200 billion.

This federal guarantee, appropriately structured, would not need to be ‘scored’ for budget purposes given the numerous layers of investment above it.  In turn, the Bank should be able to invite private investment, notably including state and local government pension plan investments, aggregating about $1.8 trillion.

Each $1 billion of infrastructure spending funded by the Bank would create around 25,000 permanent jobs.  Two trillion dollars of such spending could equate, over the years, to as many as 50 million new jobs.

3. Credit for Small and Medium-Sized Business.  Congress should authorize Federal Reserve-related incentives to accelerate commercial bank lending to small and medium sized enterprises, especially those in the manufacturing sector.  As it is, such lending, albeit hard to determine precisely, appears to be down on the order of 20% (or more) from its 2007 level before the Recession began.  Such incentives could include, most easily, simply an appropriate reduction in the amount of required Tier 1 bank capital.

4. Trade with China.  We need to reform our trading with China, as follows:

a) Enact the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act (HR 639 and S. 328), which would begin to normalize China’s grossly undervalued currency, which (according to the esteemed economist Peter Morici just yesterday (May 14)) remains as much 40% undervalued.  The House Republican leaders especially are the naysayers on this issue, notably out of step as they are with the Senate leadership and the currency policies of their own presidential candidate, Governor Romney.

b) Stop the U.S. government from entering into a bilateral investment treaty with China until China makes WTO-compliant its Indigenous Innovation Production Accreditation Program.

c) Go after all of China’s illegal subsidies, not just its currency manipulation.

d) Put a halt to China’s persistent theft of America’s valuable intellectual property, which the U.S. International Trade Commission has estimated would immediately create up to 2.1 million new direct private-sector jobs.   Case in point: Microsoft, one of the real gems of American ingenuity, recently sold to a large commercial customer in China one unit of its advanced business software, for several hundred dollars; however, when it sent out an upgrade to the software, the upgrade was downloaded thirty million (30,000,000!) times, which is why Microsoft’s profits from sales in China, with its 1.3 billion population, are no greater than its profits in The Netherlands, with its population of only 16.7 million.

The fundamental problem back in September when we last urged Congress to take the actions set forth above and the one which persists today is simple economic arithmetic: we need to create more than 18 million jobs in order to be at full employment in real terms, and every month that we delay we need to create at least 150,000 more new jobs just to keep up with population growth.  Yet traditional jobs programs – whether training or tax breaks or credits – are by nature ‘smallish’ and can create at most thousands of jobs and certainly not the millions we need.

With the largely jobless recovery continuing – only 115,000 new jobs created in April – it’s far past time for both Houses of Congress to work with the Obama administration to get really serious about large-scale job creation.  Specifically with Congress, President Obama needs to spend his political capital in moving initiatives forward – initiatives that will be central to his reelection campaign and top priority items during the rest of this Congressional year including the lame duck session.

The alternative of totally leaving job creation to the private sector did not work under President George W. Bush, when the Recession was just starting and the magnitude of the impending real unemployment crisis was unknown.  And it certainly won’t work in the still-troubled economy we have today, with all respect to Governor Romney who seemingly believes otherwise.

As we await enactment of the four initiatives above which are still there for the picking – and why PART 2 to our earlier writings is now necessary – must now be added: (1) especially and most urgently, the pending highway bill (S. 1813); (2) President Obama’s largely ignored initiative to immediately repair the nation’s schools in a big way; and (3) expansion of the tax credit program for investments in manufacturing facilities for clean energy technologies, which was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and has proven highly effective in job creation.

These latter three initiatives, which almost no right-minded policy maker and economist can believe aren’t being acted on, are the 2012 version of “shovel ready projects”.  Depending only on how much is actually committed to the programs, there is nothing in the very short term that could better and more meaningfully jumpstart our still troubled economy and substantially chip away at the nation’s massive real unemployment challenge.

Not only would these initiatives materially jumpstart job creation in the immediate term, but it is likely that they would at once both reignite the debate in Congress on the four ‘low hangers’ that we first began to write about years ago and, as well, give corporate CEOs the confidence they need to start spending, on their own new investments and hiring, some of the $2 trillion now sitting fallow in their own treasuries.  It’s all that eventual combined spending which will sustain long-term job creation.

The school repair and renovation opportunity is such an obvious jobs creator – and moral imperative – that it needs no elaboration and really just a major push from Congress.

As for more clean energy manufacturing tax credits, the original $2.3 billion of credits for advanced energy manufacturing facilities will, when fully used, generate more than 17,000 jobs, while the matching or companion $5.4 billion or so in private sector funding will likely generate up to 41,000 additional jobs.  These are meaningful numbers for sure, but they immediately pale when the magnitude of this energy sector is measured and the number of real unemployed workers is considered.

President Obama just announced (on May 8) that he wants Congress to extend this program and materially expand it.  When Congress has done this, the program will, if it continues to follow its statutorily specified review criteria of greatest domestic job creation (both direct and indirect) and greatest potential for technological innovation and commercial deployment, create not just thousands of great new American jobs but rather millions of them in manufacturing facilities producing everything from solar, wind, geothermal, or other renewable energy equipment to electric grids and storage for renewables to fuel cells and microturbines to equipment for refining or blending renewable fuels.

The big immediate opportunity, however, is the pending highway bill and the projected 2.9 million jobs it would almost immediately create before the summer and fall construction seasons bleed away.  This bill is, in fact, such an obvious massive, immediate job creator that if the Republicans in Congress continue to stall it from passing out of conference, there can be no better example of just how extremist in their governance they have become.

Unless the real unemployment jobs crisis – with 26.7 million women and men still unemployed in real terms and a real unemployment rate of 16.6% – is frontally challenged by pursuing all of the low-hanging job-creating initiatives – of which four has now become seven – it’s not possible to anticipate a sustained economic recovery that fully revitalizes the middle class.  But when they are picked and enacted, then the engines of economic growth will start to turn over and really roar.

This article was submitted by Leo Hindery, Jr. and Leo W. Gerard who are co-chairs of The Task Force on Jobs Creation.  Hindery is also founder of Jobs First 2012 and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  Gerard is international president of the United Steelworkers and a member of the executive council of the AFL-CIO.





























War on the Working People

Posted on 26. May, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

The President’s new campaign slogan is “Forward,” and all three of my potential opponents are openly embracing the same failed Obama polices that continues to wage war on New Mexicans.

Class warfare; the manufactured war on women; massive unemployment; the war on small businesses; the war on Free Enterprise; the war of our Free Markets; the war on the Constitution; the war on America’s job creators and risk takers; the war on personal freedom; and it is not stopping anytime soon.

Do we really want Michelle, Marty or Eric telling us they know better than we do how to spend our money? I don’t, and I can’t imagine you would either. If you agree, please take a minute and donate $25, $50, $100, or more securely online today.

Dr. Milton Friedman is right: “when we spend our own money, we are very careful; we make sure that we have the most value for our buck.” Right now in America, the debt and deficit is part of President Obama and Michelle, Marty and Eric’s “Forward” philosophy.

Spend more. Spend more. Spend more. We cannot spend our way out of this fiscal disaster.

I know our friends and neighbors in New Mexico are independent thinkers. I know you already know how to spend, save and invest what’s in your wallet. We don’t need Michelle, Marty or Eric telling us what checks we need to write.

We know that making our own decisions gives us self-respect and dignity. We New Mexicans share the same kitchen table philosophies…we can solve problems and overcome difficulties with our own initiative.

My Democratic opponents want to be your caretakers, and as we all know, government caretakers always take away individual freedoms.

This is why I’m running to represent you. I want to protect our independence and our rights to make our own choices.

You can help protect our freedoms by taking action now – Donate $25, $50, $100, or more today on the website.. We can’t afford to move “Forward” with the Democrats.

PS — Early voting for the June 5th Primary Election has begun! Though I am unopposed, I want you to know that YOU can help send a strong message by simply going to a polling location and exercising your constitutional right to elect your representative to Congress in this District.

Editor’s note – Those interested in donating to Janice Arnold-Jones’ campaign should log on to her website. The New Mexican Voice is pleased to run articles and opinions from all political candidates regardless of their political point of view. Submissions should be sent to:
























Conspiracy Brews is not your average political discussion group!

Posted on 25. May, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

If you like your coffee and your politics flavorful, served with a heaping dose of civility by a diverse group of interesting people from all parts of the political spectrum then you should be joining us every Saturday at 9:00am at the Southwest Learning Center in Albuquerque.

Started in 2007 over coffee and lively conversation by a group of concerned friends and neighbors, ‘Conspiracy Brews’ is committed to finding solutions to some of our State’s toughest problems. Our zest for constructive political discourse is only equaled by our belief that the only way forward is to exchange our views in a relaxed and friendly setting.   For additional information or to be added to our e-mail list contact:

Conspiracy Brews - Not your average political discussion group!

May 26, 2012

9:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Southwest Secondary Learning Center
10301 Candelaria Rd NE
(northwest corner of Candelaria and Morris)

We think that government should be open and honest at all times.
People from all political parties are welcome.

*** Quotes of the Week ***

“Defer not till tomorrow to be wise, tomorrow’s sun to thee may never rise.”
- William Congreve

“The fact that a great many people believe something is no guarantee of its truth.”
- W. Somerset Maugham

Suggested Topics

– What do you think of this social studies class?

– Shall we discuss the following Senatorial Candidates?

Heather vs Greg

Hector vs Martin

– If Congress doesn’t take action, what will happen after the fall election?

(Light Quotes of the week)

“Humans are the only animals that have children on purpose
with the exception of guppies, who like to eat theirs”
- P. J. O’Rourke

“I love acting.  It is so much more real than life.”
- Oscar Wilde

“There’s a fine line between genius and insanity.  I have erased this line.”
-  Oscar Levant


Other meetings that occur in Albuquerque.

South Valley Citizens for Common Sense
Fourth Saturday Every Month @ Abuelita’s New Mexican Kitchen
on South Isleta 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM

Editor – This information was submitted by the political discussion group, ‘Conspiracy Brews.’  Other political discussion groups are also welcome to submit their information. Submissions should be sent to:

Will the feds kill America’s future under a tombstone of senseless regulations?

Posted on 25. May, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Energy/Environment

It is fire season in the West. Reports say the early start is “not a good sign,” and forecasts claim the “combination of heat and dryness will only make western wildfires worse.”

The predictions were made in the same week that US District Judge Frank Zapata made a decision to deny an emergency request by the city of Tombstone, AZ, to repair its water system damaged in last year’s Monument Fire. He doesn’t think Tombstone has a crisis.

Zapata said: “Claims of a drastic water emergency related to public consumption and fire needs are overstated and speculative.”

Though he was born in a small town, seven miles from the third highest mountain in Arizona, Zapata apparently has not lived with the eminent threat of forest fire.

Having grown up in the foothills of Southern California where my family had to evacuate several times as the flames pressed toward our home, I understand the importance of water.

I got interested in the Tombstone story when I heard a promo for John Stossel’s show addressing Tombstone’s water woes. He teased the show saying that Tombstone was told they could fix their broken pipes using horses and shovels.

This piqued my interest. I’ve written a couple of columns addressing the Forest Service’s requirements for mining claims in Montana that included hand tools and pack mules. You’d think they make this stuff up just for TV, but it’s real–as is the threat of fire in Tombstone.

In short, here is Tombstone’s tale. (Click here for a long version.)

Tombstone is a small city in the Arizona desert. They get their water from the nearby Huachuca Mountains through one of the longest gravity-fed systems in the country. Tombstone has an unbroken chain of ownership to the water.

The pipeline that brings the water the 26 miles from the springs to Tombstone goes back to before Arizona was a state, way before there was a US Forest Service, or a federal wilderness act.

Last year, on June 16, the massive Monument Fire and the subsequent monsoon rains destroyed the pipelines that bring the water to Tombstone and boulders the size of Volkswagens blocked access to the springs–with some of the springs being buried under 12-15 feet of rock, gravel, and broken trees.

Jack Henderson, who was Mayor at the time of the disaster recalls, “There was nothing left. It looked like a moonscape. We lost the war up there.”

In fact, the war was just beginning–but the war was not against nature; rather it is against the essential philosophy of our present national government.

In August, Governor Brewer declared a state of emergency for Tombstone, which provided $50,000 to the city to make repairs. The city rented equipment and applied for and received permits–except for those from the US Forest Service.

By the end of October, the city grew tired of waiting. They took an excavator up to the springs. The Forest Service stopped them with the threat of arrest

Kathleen Nelson, acting ranger in charge of the Coronado National Forest, says the Forest Service has been letting Tombstone do some work to restore its water supply “as long as it complies with the 1964 Wilderness Act”–meaning Tombstone can do the work with shovels and haul the pipe up the mountain with horses (really!). More recently, workers were stopped from using a wheel barrow.

Rangers say the wheel barrow is “mechanized” and “might damage wilderness and disturb endangered species.” The feds are blocking emergency repairs that are critical to Tombstone’s survival.

Since then, crews have been able to dig out some of the springs using shovels and pick axes–just as was done in the late 1870s. Thanks to prison inmates carrying pipe, what would have taken the small Tombstone crew six weeks to do, was done in three days.

They have been able to lay PVC pipe above ground to bring water to the city–though only a few day’s supply and not enough to fend off fire. Kevin Rudd, the pipeline project manager, fears that their temporary fix will get washed away in the first rainstorm. Monsoon season in Arizona is now less than a month away.

Rudd reports that since the beginning of March, work has slowed because of the Mexican spotted owl said to be nesting in the peaks above the pipeline. The owl is not the only obstacle. Boulders have been placed in the middle of the trails. Pipeline has been vandalized, and workers have been confronted and threatened.

Steel pipe needs to replace the temporary PVC, but that requires mechanized equipment. When I asked current Mayor Stephen Schmidt why they were using convicts instead of horses to haul the pipe, he said: “Tombstone doesn’t have any horses.”

Tombstone not only doesn’t have “any horses,” they also don’t have enough manpower to restore the springs and re-lay the pipes. They don’t have the funds to fight the feds. Former Mayor Henderson has been at the forefront of the battle.

During a meeting with the rangers, Henderson says he was told: “If you want permission, you’d better lawyer up. If you don’t like the decision, you’d better call Barack Obama.” Permits are needed for nearly two dozen more springs and the town doesn’t have time to wait. If President Obama can fast track renewable energy projects, he could do the same for Tombstone.

Tombstone took the advice and lawyered up. With the help of the Goldwater Institute, the town took the Forest Service to court. At the District level, they lost. Attorney Nick Dranias has already filed an appeal to the 9th Circuit and expects the battle to make it to the Supreme Court.

He is looking for others who can file a “friends of the court,” or amicus, brief. But all of that takes time–which Tombstone doesn’t have. Without the help of the public, Tombstone, thanks to the federal government, will be writing its own epitaph.

This is where you and I come in. June 8 and 9, Tombstone is holding a “shovel brigade” similar to the Jarbridge Shovel Brigade in 2000. Individuals are encouraged to come to Tombstone and help with the restoration work—to, literally, lift a shovel.

If that is not possible, Americans who care about property rights and state sovereignty, who want to fight federal overreach, are asked to send a shovel and a $5 donation. The funds will be used to fight the legal battle.

Since the shovel brigade was announced, 400 shovels were received in the first week–thousands are expected. If thousands of people descend on Tombstone, from all parts of America, it makes a major media event–one the White House cannot ignore. (Imagine miles of motorhomes moving into Tombstone.) Like good neighbors, will the Forest Service mobilize its people to help clear debris and restore the system, or will they continue to sit in their offices and shovel paper?

Nick Dranias says: “If the Forest Service can effectively seize Tombstone’s 130-year-old water rights during a state of emergency– rights that the Service recognized as valid in 1916–no state or local government will be safe from the feds.” The issue is bigger than life or death for Tombstone. It is in the national interest.

Similar battles are playing out across America. I’ve been involved in the Otero County Tree Party where the health and wellbeing of the citizens of Otero County, NM, were threatened by fire due to the overgrown forest–with numbers of trees way beyond the Forest Service’s optimal.

But the Forest Service blocked the cutting of trees. Led by Congressman Pearce (R-NM), who cut the first tree, the county commissioners put their citizens ahead of the one-size-fits-all federal regulations and began cutting trees.

Hundreds of people were present in a remote mountain town to express their opposition to Forest Service policies drafted in far-away Washington. Like the Tombstone tale, the tree cutting is now in court. Also in New Mexico, is the sand dune lizard issue.

Any day now, a decision regarding its listing as an endangered species is expected from the Fish and Wildlife Service, under the direction of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Opponents of the listing have been told it will have virtually no impact on the oil and gas, or ranching, activity in the area–yet, the spotted owl is preying on the life of Tombstone, as its supposed presence is being used as an excuse to block progress.

Regardless of what FWS decides, the lizard decision, too, will end up in court–making the issue a true attorney-full-employment act instead of ongoing job creation.

In the same week that experts predicted a bad fire season in the West and that Judge Zapata ruled against the town of Tombstone, Government Accountability Office testimony stated that “The Green River Formation, a largely vacant area of mostly federal land that covers the territory where Colorado, Utah and Wyoming come together, contains about as much recoverable oil as all the rest of the world’s proven reserves combined.”

The Green River Formation could truly make America energy independent. Sadly, under the current administration, it is likely a pipedream. As the report points out, the Green River Formation is “mostly federal land.” The same people making decisions on the Green River Formation are also making decisions on Tombstone’s water woes, the Otero Country Tree Party, and the sand dune lizard listing. These federal decision makers have roots in environmental organizations; they are fundamentally opposed to humans, our presence on the earth, and anything we do to use our natural resources. People, bad!

This is why the Tombstone tale is of utmost importance. Let’s flood Tombstone before the monsoon season. Send shovels. Send $5. Show up on June 8 and 9!

Ken Ivory, a state representative from Utah, asks: “Why should this story matter to anyone but residents of Tombstone? If unelected, federal bureaucrats can choke off water to a thirsty wooden town, in the middle of a desert, in the midst of a drought, even despite it being a national historic site, what will they do to towns and cities, counties and private landowners in your state?”

I don’t want to find out, do you? Let’s stop them in Tombstone before the feds write Tombstone’s–and America’s–epitaph.

This article was submitted by the author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon, who serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.






























The shortest distance between two points is a straight line…also in tourism promotion

Posted on 20. May, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Social/Cultural

Tourism promotion is not a science though many experts make a good living by treating it as such with sophisticated computer modeling and creative number crunching.

Even futurists have gotten into the act, convincing us they can divine what will make or break a tourism destination by looking at demographics and possible trends in consumer spending.

Tourism is an art…and a business

Tourism promotion is an artful endeavor and requires a few key ingredients that have more in common with human nature than with science to succeed. One of those is having a good product (destination), and the second is an unwavering dedication to promoting that product in high-potential markets.

I know because I spent 20 years promoting the U.S. as a tourist destination, working the local tourism communities in over 24 foreign markets for the U.S. Commerce Department from the mid 80s to 2004. Initially, I worked with the former ‘U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration’ – the then principal U.S. government organization empowered to promote ALL U.S. tourism destinations.

USTTA was populated by a talented crew of tourism professionals. It has now been replaced by a domestic office (OTTI) located in the International Trade Administration part of Commerce.

It went from a corps of highly-motivated overseas officers to an office of bureaucrats/technocrats in one fell swoop. My point in mentioning this is to underscore that government downsizing doesn’t always result in or guarantee more efficiency or better outcomes.

As the U.S. Embassy Liaison to the ‘Visit USA Committees’ (local private/public sector organizations in the host countries) I saw that tourism promotion is a round-the-clock profession demanding much of its practitioners. Our VUSAs worked closely with local tour group operators, travel packagers, travel agents, and major companies to stimulate travel to the USA.

The USTTA, its people and its programs, were important arrows in the quiver of less well-funded states – those without mega-budgets like Florida, New York and California. It was a real playing field leveler and brought millions of new foreign tourists to many out-of-the-way or lesser-known American cities and towns, some of them in New Mexico!

Re-enter the Feds

I’ve just finished reading the Commerce Department’s National Travel and Tourism Strategy (called Obama’s Initiative) and poured over the glowing press releases from the OTTI and the U.S. Travel Association that cheer the birth of this report.

It appears to address the right points (improvement in visa application processes, more efficient airport screening, infrastructure expansion, etc.). Unfortunately, for all its good suggestions it is short on two critical ingredients necessary to keep the U.S.’ tourism momentum going: money and USG leadership.

Because of the spotlight that’s shining on government spending it seems unlikely that this situation will change in the near future. While I’m not a big government person, I do believe we need to look at our competition – foreign countries and their governments – the ones that routinely support their tourism industries with cold hard cash, and then ask ourselves, “Can we really afford to sit on the sidelines refusing to support our industries with seed money or capital?”

What can the states do? Was Charles Darwin right?

Tourism promotion has taken a turn toward Darwinism as it’s every man for himself in these United States. While some states have managed to create strong public/private partnerships or have just appropriated more money for tourism promotion, others are trying to get by on old relationships and old reputations.

The problem with that approach is, to quote an old show business saying, “You’re only as good as your last performance,” and not many new, first-time, foreign travelers have any idea what kind of performance that was or what the reputations were!

Some states are re-branding themselves, trying to appeal to new and veteran foreign travelers with specialty tourism offerings – and spending money in those markets to carry that message. Ours is not, preferring instead to grow revenues through a domestic tourism policy that stimulates in-state day-tripping.

I never understood this concept of bringing Las Crucesans to Raton or Gallupers to Alamogordo. It’s kind of like check kiting, moving money from one place to another – it looks good and buys you some time but adds no new net revenue.

We need a bold new foreign tourism strategy that focuses on attracting more foreign tourists to the Land of Enchantment, tourists who will leave a large dollar footprint here and then go back and tell their friends.

I know the argument against it; it costs money, but that dog just won’t hunt. There are many ways to get noticed in foreign markets that don’t require taking out a second mortgage.

We could start by swallowing our pride and admitting that maybe we should try something old to get something new.

(Note: All the tourism statistics you could ever want can be found at: and

- Editor

Stephan J. Helgesen

Bad Behavior has blocked 413 access attempts in the last 7 days.