August 24, 2017

Borders without Boarders?

Posted on 17. Jul, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Politics, Social/Cultural

In the Albuquerque Journal Outlook of July 8, 2013, Jerry Pacheco proved his own thesis that “Immigration reform (is) a sensitive minefield” by giving us a mere reporting of the political machinations of the issue rather than an in-depth local look at what immigration reform might mean for our state and business community. I don’t blame him for being cautious about giving his own opinion on the issue as I assume he has many interests on both sides of the border to keep happy, but I do think that his ‘ink’ could have been put to better use.

He could have examined the Senate bill and future House bills to see if they address what immigration truly is. It’s a privilege to come and work and live in our country. Those who see it as a right are mistaken, and that’s what divides us more than our physical border. Second, amnesty (or forgiveness) for breaking the law starkly separates the legal absolutists who believe in the consistent and fair application of law from the legal relativists who believe in the selective application of law.

Third, it’s a political issue for special interest groups who have an agenda like the reconquistas, businesses benefiting from cheap labor or politicians who want to ‘be on the right side of history’ by cozying up to what they think are monolithic-thinking ethnic groups who will vote for them simply because they favor absolution rather than resolution.

The parties seem to have chosen their teams and their jerseys. The Republicans portray themselves as the home team seeking to build strong fences and then deal with the illegal/ undocumented with penalties like paying fines, taxes, going to the back of the line after the legal applicants, learning English and registering themselves. The Democrats are more like the visitors team choosing to forgive and forget, willing to let bygones be bygones and accepting a little law-breaking as the price for moving the country forward.

Pacheco’s argument that both teams are jumping on the immigration bandwagon because of an impending spike in the Hispanic-American demographic may very well be true, but it is a low blow to all of us who believe in principled lawmaking. If I read him right he is saying that we must get ready to kowtow now, “Republicans will have to step lightly around this issue so as not to offend a growing voting bloc.” Boy, howdy as they say in Texas! If this is new age politics where we must avoid good lawmaking for fear of offending some group, any group, then we might as well turn in our gavels and govern by popularity poll.

I realize that we’re Mexico-centric here and it’s understandable as the culturalization of our state owes much to its Hispanic influence, heritage and history, but any comprehensive immigration bill must address ALL the illegal aliens from ALL countries residing in the rest of the USA as well as the illegal Mexicans living in southern border states.

Make no mistake, there are hundreds of thousands of ‘undocumenteds’ from exotic countries as well as from the more well-known respectable ones (it’s estimated that upwards of 40% of our illegal population are visa over-stayers). If we end up with a bill that doesn’t address those shadow figures as well it will be like the little Dutch Boy who plugged the hole in the dyke with his fingers until he had no more fingers left for the new holes.

It’s generally a tough decision to leave the country of one’s birth. I know because I talked with many immigration applicants at U.S. embassies around the world. To a man (and a woman) they were respectful of our laws, appreciative of the opportunity America offered them to come here and saw immigration as a pathway to citizenship and a brighter future.

Mr. Pacheco could have touched on the impact our illegal immigrant population has had on New Mexico’s education and healthcare services, on our criminal justice system or most importantly what impact legalization or regularization of New Mexico’s undocumented workers will have on our border economy and our trade with Mexico.

He could also have commented on what will happen to the billion dollar plus cash repatriations made by illegal workers back to their families in Mexico once legalization takes place (and their paychecks are reduced because of the new fines, penalties and taxes). I’d like to hear a few quotes from Mexican businessmen, Maquiladorans and from Mexican officials, too. Maybe Mr. Pacheco could report some of these next time the subject comes up. I’d also enjoy hearing his opinion on how immigration reform would affect small business development in our state. I’ll be on the look-out for the next Outlook.

- Editor

Crisis of confidence on Fantasy Island

Posted on 02. Jun, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

Ask any newly married couple. It’s tough to pack up the sun block and the two-piece and head back home after a dream honeymoon in Barbados.

Why? Because real life is so, well, real. There’s no concierge, no room service, no Rum Punches on the beach. It’s not playful and carefree, adventurous and provocative 100% of the time. It’s more like 10% at best. This must be how the mainstream media is feeling after their bikini-clad ox got gored at the Associated Press.

Yes, Virginia, the honeymoon is finally over. Unzip the garment bag and take out the truth. It’s time to see if it fits. After nearly five years of pushing it farther back into the closet we may have to admit that it’s probably not in fashion any more. And if it doesn’t fit, what then?  What will that say about our relationship with Barack Obama? Has he been stringing us along or have we simply deluded ourselves that he loved us.

While we’re at it, we might as well take off those rose-colored glasses that our Baby Boomer parents gave us, you know, the ones they got at Woodstock and wore for nearly half a century along with the ‘Make love not war’ buttons.  The glasses are beginning to leave marks on our consciousness. Maybe it’s time to trade them in for a magnifying glass and a spotlight so we can see what shenanigans our government has been up to since Vietnam and Watergate?

Oh, I forgot. We’ve done that already, and are still doing it — that weapons of mass destruction thing (Bush lied, people died).  I’m confused.  Have I got this right?  Do you mean we’re going to have to go after one of our own just because he went after us at the Associated Press?  Seems kind of unfair.  Isn’t there a way we can blame all these scandals on George Bush or Karl Rove or Don Rumsfeld instead of toppling our guy?

It’s tough being conflicted like this. On the one hand, I sort of like the First Amendment and the right not to be surveilled or harassed by the Justice Department or by the IRS. On the other hand, I’d miss being tucked in at night by Kathleen Sibelius and serenaded with an Al Green tune from the Crooner-in-Chief. Government can be soooo comfy.

I mean, I know that all honeymoons eventually come to an end and that we have to get on with our daily lives, but why couldn’t this one have lasted at least until 2017 (or 2025 after Hillary is done being President)?  Now we’re all going to have to listen to those low-life Republicans interrogate our heroes, reducing them to ordinary people. Can you believe that Republicans are going to be defending our rights? Bizarre!

Then there’s the BIG quandary…will we in the press have to cover all these scandals? Can’t we just let Fox News do it and then blame them afterwards for being unfair, unbalanced and highly partisan?  That would be my choice. What?  You don’t think that would fly, that the wells of the Senate and House would look too bare with only one cameraman and one reporter?  Hmmm, could be.

Wait, I’ve got it! We’ll go on a second honeymoon and come back when all this blows over. That way we too can use the most famous DC strategy for not knowing – plausible deniability (nobody told us anything that we didn’t want to hear).  It could work.  It might work. After all, it’s only a scandal.

- Editor

Will Republicans Screw Up Again? Some Are Already Overreaching.

Posted on 02. Jun, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

From The Rothenberg Political Report – Some Republicans are so excited at the thought of multiple controversies dogging the White House over the next few months (or longer) that they are already foaming at the mouth. For example, on his syndicated radio show late last week, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee compared reports of the IRS targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status to what happened in Nazi Germany. And, of course, you knew that some conservatives and Republicans (such as Glenn Beck, Oklahoma Sen. James M. Inhofe and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann) couldn’t resist mentioning… To read the entire article, log on to www.rothenburgpoliticalreport.com

Senate Majority Whip Tim Keller to Run for State Auditor

Posted on 01. Jun, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

Albuquerque – Sen. Keller shared with supporters his intentions to run for the State Auditor position in 2014.

“Today I am excited to announce I’m all in for Auditor 2014!  The State Auditor office is the best fit for how I can continue to serve New Mexico. Being our next Auditor offers the platform to champion government reform ideas I’ve worked on in the legislature, on a year-round, statewide basis.  I plan to attack fraud, waste and abuse; and also to evaluate effectiveness and cost benefits to improve state-funded programs including: education, healthcare, water and economic development policies.”

Tim Keller serves as the Majority Whip in the State Senate and is in his second term.  During his legislative career Keller has run over 100 hundred pieces of legislation and passed 30 measures.  Keller’s vision for expanding the State Auditor’s office into policy evaluation builds on his legislation accomplishments.  In the legislature Keller’s primary focus has been on government reform and tax and economic development policy.    Examples passed legislation include:

·         Restructuring and adding qualifications to the Public Regulatory Commission

·         Sweeping State Investment Council (SIC) governance restructuring

·         Requiring of the transparency and effectiveness of NM’s $1B in tax incentives

·         Expanding the In State Business Preference creating 5,000 local jobs annually

·         Rebranding Albuquerque’s “War Zone,” the “International District”

·         Enacting the state’s first Home Owners Association Act

·         Establishing the net 40% solar tax credit

Tim was born and raised in New Mexico and is an Eagle Scout.  Following graduation from St. Pius X High School, he attended the University of Notre Dame, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree studying in Finance.  He then went on to earn an MBA with honors from the Harvard Business School.

Keller closed with personal note, “Liz and I are thrilled to be expecting our first child at the end of July!”

This information was submitted by Senator Keller’s Office. Senator Keller can be reached at:

tk@timkellerfornewmexico.com

 

 

 

 

 

German Ambassador to visit New Mexico

Posted on 01. Jun, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

The German Ambassador to the United States will make his first visit to New Mexico on June 4-7. Ambassador Peter Ammon, who holds a Doctorate in Economics from Berlin’s Free University,most recently served as State Secretary at the Foreign Office. Born 1952 in Frankfurt/Main, he has close ties to the US through family relations and many long-standing friendships .

From 1999 to 2001, he served at the German Embassy in Washington,D.C. as Economic Minister. In 2007 and 2008, he was appointed German Ambassador to Paris, France. Prior to that he served as a career diplomat In London, Dakar/Senegal and New Delhi.

From 1996 to 1999, he was Head of Policy Planning and speech writer to the German President. A staunch advocate of free trade, he takes strong personal interest in what it takes to build a fair, peaceful and prosperous global order. As Director General for Economics at the German Foreign Office from 2001 to 2007, he helped prepare the G8 World Economic Summits for German Chancellors Schroeder and Merkel.

While in New Mexico, the Ambassador will meet with New Mexico’s Lt. Governor, German company CEOs and Hispanic leaders at a special “Hispanic Leaders Forum” at the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce. He will also tour the special Karl May Exhibition as a guest of the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe. He will end his visit with a tour of German Air Force facilities at Holloman Air Force base before returning to Washington on June 8th. He will be accompanied on his trip by Mr. Klaus Guehlcke, Consul-General of the German Consulate in Houston.

- Editor

Horse-trading the Presidency

Posted on 01. Jun, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

Our 2012 Presidential election distinguished itself as having had the third largest participation rate since the election of John Kennedy in 1960 and that reminds me of a phrase I heard about history. It goes something like this, “a person’s historical frame of reference begins with their own birth.”

I guess it’s only natural to focus on one’s self when looking at something as personal as history, but there’s also something very dangerous about it. Take Presidential elections, for example. Most of remember how contentious the Bush versus Gore election was, but I’ll bet we don’t remember the contentiousness of the 1876 election between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden, do we?

Let me refresh your memory…Rutherford B. Hayes was the Republican candidate and Samuel J. Tilden was the Democrat. After the first vote, Tilden had won 184 electoral votes to Hayes’ 165, but there were 20 electoral votes that were unresolved and in dispute in four states: Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina and Oregon. (By the way, Tilden won the popular vote with 4,284,020 votes (50.9%) to Rutherford’s 47.9%. It was the first Presidential election in 20 years that a Democrat had won the majority of the popular vote. )

The election was notable for other statistics as well, but historians look at this election for one REALLY INTERESTING twist of fate. It seemed that neither party was able to get the other to concede the outstanding 20 electoral votes, so a very unique compromise was made.

Basically, the Democrats gave the election to the Republicans in return for the end of Reconstruction (the post Civil War Northern militarization of the South)!  So, Midwesterner Hayes became President and Yankee Tilden became a near hero to southerners who saw Federal troops withdraw from old Dixie.

Since no one from that time is around to give us a first-hand interview, we can only speculate as to how the electorate dealt with the trade. They may have been upset, but I doubt they were as outraged as Americans during the election of 2000 when both parties went to legal war over hanging and dimpled chads AND used Federal election law and Florida State law to decide who would inhabit the White House.

When the 2000 election was finally decided by the Supreme Court, a new political Mason-Dixon Line was drawn in the sand, effectively reinforcing a Red-Blue ideological divide akin to the Blue-Grey mentality of 1876.

I suspect that it also created a boomlet of low (or no) information voters who cared less about the policies of the opposition than they did about bringing them down and replacing them with their own team.

No or low-information voters are the worst kind of voter imaginable, and a few of the founding fathers warned against them because they had no skin in the game. They owned no property but would be allowed to decide how the property of others could be treated. They had no education but could influence the workings of the educational system. They didn’t understand how government functioned but would be able to tell it how to do its job.

Americans have always been proud of the one man, one vote form of Democracy, but many, I suspect, have secretly wished that those with no real interest in the issues nor any real understanding of them would just stay home and let the rest of us who care enough to learn about those things choose the right people to represent all of us.

It’s a thorny situation alright. It’s also not talked about openly, precisely because we steadfastly protect our right to be ignorant, out of touch or uninformed. Maybe we should start discussing how to better inform our electorate before any more no/low-information votes are cast, unless of course we want another disputable election like the one in 2000 or God forbid, the one of 1876.

- Editor

Friendly Fire: Parties Slam Some of Their Own

Posted on 31. May, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

From “The Rothenberg Political Report

The National Republican Congressional Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee each blasted the other side after a near party-line vote on the Smarter Solutions for Students Act, which passed the House on Thursday, 221-198. But eight House Republicans voted with the Democrats, and four House Democrats voted with the Republicans, creating a situation where 12 House members were indirectly attacked by their own party’s campaign committee. To read the entire article, log on to: www.rothenburgpoliticalreport.com

Benghazi must continue to speak to us

Posted on 31. May, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

Along with millions of other Americans, I have been following the Benghazi hearings. From that very tragic day on Sept. 11, 2012 when our Consulate and later its annex were stormed I watched in sadness as armed terrorists crashed through the barriers of these facilities and began shooting and looting, ultimately killing four of our citizens.

Since I was a part of that diplomatic world for 20 years it brought back a flood of memories, memories of many dedicated people and the procedures they used to safeguard against, or at least ameliorate, such attacks. There are some things that the average American is not aware of, however. One of those is the Marine Security Guard Program and the tougher than nails Marine Security Guard Detachment (MSGD) personnel that are assigned to our embassies around the world. The size of the embassy and the threat level of the host country usually determine the size of these contingents of seasoned young professional Marines most of whom are in their early 20s. They typically serve one hardship and one normal tour of embassy duty before their time in the program is up. In total numbers, the program comprises nearly one full battalion of the Marine Corps.

These brave young men stand guard over our facilities and are fully prepared to give up their lives if necessary to protect the thousands of Foreign Service Personnel who are assigned to our embassies. (A little known fact, however, is that their primary responsibility is to safeguard the classified material in an embassy along with securing the facility and protecting its personnel.)

They’re constantly training, keeping themselves in top notch condition (I know, I trained with a few of them and was fortunate to befriend many more). The MSGD is headed up by a Master Sergeant or Gunnery Sergeant who reports to the Regional Security Officer (RSO) in the embassy who in turn reports to the Ambassador. The RSO is part of the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), the security and law enforcement arm of the State Department.

On a local level, the RSO liaises with host-country security forces, helps to set up training programs for them and for the many private security guards who protect our facilities overseas. They also participate in assessing threat levels at post and then communicate that information back up the chain of command.

The MSGD and the RSO are intuitive well-disciplined professionals. They know that any hole in our security plans will be exploited by our enemies and that that can cost human lives. Benghazi is a case in point. There are many unanswered questions about our security there that address the level of training and loyalty of our local guards at the consulate. There are other even more painful ones not widely discussed in the press such as: “Why did our Ambassador even go to Benghazi at a time when it was widely known to be an extremely dangerous place? Why were repeated requests for more and better security refused by the State Department?” And finally, “Why was no military unit sent to Benghazi to at least intimidate the attackers with a show of force to get them to stand down before lives were lost?”

To me, the answers to these questions are more important than ones concerning the inane and deceitful talking points offered up by the Whitehouse and State Department or which numbskull thought it entirely appropriate to cite a totally unrelated video as the cause for the attack. THAT dog will never hunt!

One of the principal reasons offered for not giving the military ‘go’ order was the time it would have taken to get to Benghazi (as if we would have known in advance how long the attacks would continue!). That attitude born of 20/20 hindsight reminds me of a joke (I know that sounds insensitive, but hear me out) that was widely told in Russia when martial law was imposed in Poland under puppet General Wojciech Jaruzelski in December 1981. It went like this…

It was the first few days under martial law and a curfew was in effect. The Russian military was called in to assist in carrying it out. Two curfew guards, Alexei and Yuri, stand on a busy Warsaw street corner. Yuri sees a man on a bicycle pedaling hard in his direction. He holds up his hand and blows his whistle for the man to stop. He does, screeching to a halt in front of Alexei.Yuri quickly asks the man for his papers while Alexei walks around the nervous man’s bike a couple of times. Then Yuri looks down at the man’s papers and then up to meet the man’s frightened gaze and asks, “Is this where you live?” The man says, “Yes,” whereupon Yuri pulls out his sidearm and shoots the man dead. Alexei is shocked and screams at his partner, “Why did you do that? He was not armed and was heading home!” Yuri flashes him a steely look and says, “I saw his address. He would have never made it home in time.”

Very macabre, but the kind of humor that was spread by people who had lost all trust in their government and who knew that that same government would concoct any story to justify highly questionable actions.  We must let the Benghazi hearings continue until we get the facts. We owe it to the victims’ families, to our fidelity to the truth and to all who willingly put themselves in harm’s way to protect us.

- Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tyranny of the uninformed

Posted on 30. May, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

Man has wreaked many forms of tyranny on the world over the centuries. Some of them, like the dictatorships of the mid 20th century, stand in bold relief to the potential for tyranny that is enshrined in our founding documents. I’m speaking of our voting laws and the cause and effect relationship between the uninformed or no/low information voter and the running of our country.

Every so often we’re reminded of just how free we are as a nation. Generally, it’s every four years when millions of people cast their ballots for the man or woman who will lead us for another 48 months.

And while there are many serious voters who do their homework on candidates’ policies, pronouncements and promises, I would guess that there are probably many more who couldn’t describe any one of them to you in detail let alone in general terms. In short, they’re uninformed and/or low/no information voters who are choosing our leaders based on entirely different reasons.

That in itself is nothing new. Americans have been voting that way for generations and they probably won’t stop anytime soon. (I remember the Nixon-Kennedy campaign of 1960 when women were voting for Kennedy just because he was good looking and had a thick head of hair!) We are a collection of tribes and we tend to act like them.

Picture this, you’re a member of an indigenous tribe in the rain forest of Brazil. The time of choosing a new chief is drawing near. Your village has been preparing for this for weeks since your old chief died. Normally, the chief would have named a few possible candidates before he died, but he didn’t get around to it, so now it’s up to the men in the village to stand for election (I didn’t say women because this is a patriarchal tribe – 20 miles through the jungle there is a matriarchal village that only chooses women leaders). All eligible candidates and voters must be at least 15 years old, have successfully undergone an initiation to manhood and be recommended by at least one elder in the village.

Three men have come forward and thrown their blowguns into the ring. Each is well known to the villagers. Candidate ‘A’ saved the village from a ferocious beast that was attacking their livestock last year, but he is, as most would agree, dumb as a bag of palm fronds. Candidate ‘B’ is known for his storytelling and keeping the youth of the village spellbound night after night with tales of other people’s heroism. Candidate ‘C’ has faithfully discharged his duties on the tribal council, helped organize successful hunting trips deep into the forest and taken in the children of a deceased neighbor and raised them as his own.

Actually, this is the optimal voting situation as everybody knows everybody else. The candidates’ exploits, successes and failures are common knowledge and the voters are well-known to the candidates. All that remains is to choose among them by remembering their deeds, listening to them speak and watching their body language. There are no information filters, no videotape re-takes or sound bites. What you see is what you get. The candidates know that a promise made must be a promise kept and decisions made must be sound, otherwise all in the village could suffer.

What does this village have that the USA doesn’t? It has an eminently workable election system based on candidate and voter accountability, proven maturity, personal responsibility, and above all a sense of community that guides everyone’s decisions. Question: What do we have that they don’t? Answer: millions of voters who never met the candidates, don’t know anyone who knows them, have never been able to ask them a question and can only turn to the media for their information. Our voters must rely on their friends’ and families’ opinions and their ‘gut’ to choose who will lead them.

I’m not advocating we trade in our ipads for an ispear or pick up and move to the rain forest. I am suggesting that when the low or uninformed among us have just as much sway as the well-informed , those of us who are better informed have an obligation to bring the others up to speed. By the way, the tribe chose Candidate ‘C’ as their new chief.

- Editor

Access to Medical Marijuana for Patients with PTSD?

Posted on 30. May, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Healthcare, Politics, Social/Cultural

Access to medical marijuana for patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Oregon passed that State’s Legislature. If signed by the Governor, Oregon will become the 4th state in the nation to recognize PTSD as an Eligible Condition. Bi-Partisan cooperation was key to the bill’s passage.

(SALEM, OR) – Today, the Oregon House passed Senate Bill 281 with a vote of 36-21 to allow people suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to qualify for Oregon’s medical marijuana program. It passed the Oregon State Senate earlier this spring.   If signed by the Governor, Oregon will join New Mexico, Connecticut and Delaware as the fourth state to specifically recognize PTSD as an eligible condition for medical marijuana.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Brian Boquist, had bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House. Patients with PTSD, who often have trouble tolerating the side effects of pharmaceuticals prescribed for a variety of PTSD indications such as sleeplessness, anxiety, and social isolation, find that medical marijuana is a helpful alternative. There is also evidence that use of medical marijuana reduces the risk of accidentally overdosing from traditional prescription drug cocktails.

“This is a great victory for the citizens of Oregon, and especially for military veterans who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and who have not been able to find relief from prescription medications,” said Jessica Gelay with the Drug Policy Alliance’s office in New Mexico. “Military veterans and victims of serious trauma and violence deserve the freedom to choose the safest treatment for their disabling conditions. They deserve access to the medicine that works for them.”

New Mexico’s medical marijuana program is a nationally recognized model for supporting patients with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.  Today, more than 3,700 New Mexican residents with PTSD are actively enrolled in New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program. Most of them are military veterans, patients living with disabilities, and victims of serious trauma and violent crime.

“When I returned home from Afghanistan I was diagnosed with PTSD. I worked with my doctor and tried many prescription drugs. Taking handfuls of pills every day, every one with a different set of side effects was hard on my body, and I still experienced some symptoms,” said New Mexico resident Michael Innis, who served in the military and who was awarded a Purple Heart after the convoy he was traveling with got hit by an IED and was then ambushed. “Cannabis was not my first choice of medicine, but I can tell you first-hand, this medicine works for me. Cannabis allows me to leave my house and has helped me to return to work.”

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation’s leading organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. DPA fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.

This information was submitted by: the Drug Policy Alliance. They can be reached at: www.drugpolicy.org or by phone at: (505) 920-5256

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