Childhood’s End

Posted on 18. Feb, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural, Uncategorized

In 1953, Arthur C. Clarke published a science fiction novel titled Childhood’s End.  In this work, Clark gave us a Teilhard de Chardinian vision of humanity’s future.  In Clarke’s work, the consciousness of certain advanced humans merged to form a new superconsciousness that departed earth in a spectacular pulse of energy, presumably for an eternal pilgrimage through the infinite cosmos.  The departure of this spirit leaves the earth a dead husk.

Under the Progressive vision for the future, childhood ends in a different way.  Progressives regularly urge an earlier and earlier start for government run educational programs.  As a result, we now speak of “‘cradle-to-career’ education” in our public discourse on national policies.  This would entail starting (mandatory?) public education when a child reaches four years of age.

Although research indicates that all advantages to an early start in school are washed out by the time a child reaches the third grade, progressives would increase this program from its current level that includes only 25% of children to 90%.  This would greatly increase the cost of public education for what may be virtually no improvement in educational achievement.

But there could be another, perhaps more troubling, aspect of the idea of an earlier start to the public educational process.  It removes children from the influence of their families at an earlier age and places them under the control and influence of government-run educational programs.

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World constitutes a chilling look at where all of this could lead, especially when “cradle-to-career” education is combined with the collapse of the family and advances in the science of in vitro fertilization.

In Huxley’s dystopia, the idea of natural birth has become anathema.  Sex is free as long as one does not develop a preference for a particular partner.  Not only does the union of sperm and egg take place in vitro, but the resulting fetus also develops in vitro.  The development of fetuses is controlled to produce people of various intelligence levels to provide workers and managers for the various tasks required by the economy and society.

One of the most chilling aspects of Huxley’s book is his description of the conditioning of young children who are raised in government facilities.  For one thing, they are taken into hospitals to view those who are dying as part of the program to inure them to the process of dying.

Having been raised in a loving, extended family, I can scarcely view the prospects for the future of childhood as anything other than bleak.  Moreover, the prospects for humanity’s future dims with the demise of a traditional childhood, if we are to believe psychologist Carl Jung, who warned us that as we move farther and farther from our natural roots we become increasingly disoriented.

Soon, we shall have reached a point in this process in which we can no longer return to a saner, safer culture, for we have become like the Nietzchean superman who not only burns his bridges, but destroys the land behind him as he sets sail on a dark, unknown sea.

This article was submitted by Don Baucom


 

 

 

Latest Bill Action from the Legislative Session

Posted on 25. Jan, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

Bill to Make Stealing Utility Hardware that Keeps NM Humming A Felony “At least put this crime on par with stealing a goat”

Passes Senate Public Affairs Today

SB 28 Neville Penalties for Larceny of Cable Hardware

SPAC Do Pass 8-0, on to SJC

Santa Fe- Currently a thief can be charged with only a misdemeanor crime for stealing a $10 copper wire that could potentially cause a power outage throughout an entire city or do even worse damage. In comparison, stealing a goat in New Mexico is a felony.

Senator Steve Neville (R-Farmington) wants to change. He does not want to change the livestock theft crime, but he wants to make the larceny of telecommunication or utility cable or hardware to be a third degree or second degree felony, not a misdemeanor. He said the type of crime and its penalty should be based on the damages to the utility and the cost of getting the utility back on-line after the theft, not based on the cost of the stolen wire or piece of hardware.

“Thieves are out there right now stealing cable and wire for the copper content with complete disregard of how that piece of equipment can potentially jeopardize an entire community,” Senator Neville said. “That stolen item could cause a power outage and do a lot of damage, everything from shutting down business operations, to shutting off the heat in people’s homes causing pipes to burst or people to freeze to death.  It could cost a utility company tens of thousands of dollars to get the community humming again.”

The bill was amended in Senate Public Affairs this afternoon, clarifying that the theft of railroad signal equipment would also be a felony. “Can you imagine how stealing a wire and disabling a Railrunner crossing signal could end up costing a motorist or pedestrian their lives. The penalty should fit the crime. These thefts should be felonies,” Senator Neville said.

Senator Neville said all thefts of telecommunication or utility cable or hardware would be at least a third degree felony, those that cost the utilities over $20,000 to restore the services would be second degree felonies.

Regarding the  goat felony crime, Senator Neville said that as he researched his bill he learned that livestock in New Mexico have historically been critical to the livelihood of New Mexicans and the theft of livestock has always been a third degree felony. “At least, let’s put this crime on par with stealing a goat in New Mexico,” Senator Neville said.

Senate Bill 28 would amend §30-16-1 NMSA (Larceny), by adding the crime of committing larceny of telecommunication or utility cable or hardware. Depending on the dollar value cost of the restoration of services following an outage caused by said larceny, the crime is categorized as a third degree (any value) or second degree (over $20,000) felony.

Sometimes We Don’t Want to Advertise ‘I’m from the Government and I am here to help” Undercover State License Plates to Help Employees do their Jobs in Sensitive Situations

SB 51- Protective and Undercover License Plates

Senator Sander Rue

Passes SCORC

Undercover state employees can avoid advertising they work for the state because of the markings on their government issued license plates under a bill Sponsored by Senator Sander Rue. The bill,   SB 51- Protective and Undercover License Plates, heads to Senate Judiciary after receiving a do pass from Senate Corporations and Transportation tonight.

“Sometimes we don’t want to advertise “I’m from the Government and I am here to help,” Senator Sander Rue said as he quoted the nine most terrifying words in the English language from President Ronald Reagan. “Sometimes advertising they are a state employee can put those employees working in the field in jeopardy and can jeopardize the critical work they are doing for the state.”

The bill sets in law a process to issue non-government license plates to state employees who work in agencies and departments such as CYFD, and to probation and parole officers who need to work undercover in sensitive situations without the public knowing they are public officials. And the law also creates a mechanism to prevent abuse.

Senator Rue said the bill is designed to protect state employees and help them do their jobs in sensitive situations without the public knowing by the license plates on their state vehicles, that they are public employees.

“CYFD employees often times have to intervene in traumatic family situations, a job that is difficult enough,” Senator Rue said. “We need to do everything we can to assist them in doing their critical work in the field without jeopardizing their situation under sensitive circumstances by advertising they are a CYFD employee,” Senator Rue said.

The bill also adds language to 66-6-15 NMSA to allow MVD to issue undercover and sensitive activity plates to Indian tribes, pueblos, counties, municipalities and other governmental entities.

Job Creation and City Revitalization Bill Heads to Senate Finance

Small Business Revitalization Funding Passes SPAC Committee Unanimously

SB 52- Mainstreet Programs

Senator  Sue Wilson Beffort

MainStreet New Mexico will drive away with $100,000 for technical assistance for the New Mexico MainStreet program under a bill sponsored by Senator Sue Wilson Beffort. SB 52- MainStreet Programs- heads to Senate Finance after passing Senate Corporations and Transportation this afternoon.

This session, The MainStreet program is also seeking up to $2 million dollars from capital outlay for the program that is a national award winner.

The program helps local commercial districts revitalization in cities throughout the state by assisting property owners rehabilitate buildings, address infrastructure needs and fund capital improvements.  It is done through a non-profit corporation, with local MainStreet organizations working in partnership with cities.

Senator Wilson Beffort said it is a job creation bill because it helps to create an inviting environment that attracts new businesses to an area, “One of my priorities this session is to seek ways to create more job in the state. The MainStreet program does that while revitalizing our cities. It is a win-win program.”

The $100,000 appropriation from the general fund will go to the Economic Development Department for the purpose of expanding technical professional assistance to enhance local MainStreet programs statewide.

The MainStreet program is part of an economic development network of more than 37 states and 1200 communities across the country that was launched in 1984 in New Mexico.

- Editor:  The above were submitted by Diane Kinderwater of the NM Legislative Office. For more information, please contact: 505/986-4702

 

 

 

 

The Real Gun Control Argument

Posted on 24. Jan, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

It’s about time we took off our politically correct muzzle, removed our rose-colored glasses and talked about the real reason many Second Amendment supporters are pushing back at the anti-gun forces with extreme prejudice.

The reason is simply this… many don’t trust their government and have lost faith in that government’s willingness to protect its citizens’ basic freedoms as guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.

These low-trust citizens are really fall-away Americans who are now viewing many of their government’s decisions with extreme skepticism. They have come to this conclusion over a number of years and over several political administrations.

I believe their distrust has deepened and grown enormously over the last four years but that it started in earnest under President George W. Bush with the enactment of the Patriot Act, which was for many an infringement on their privacy rights.

To be sure, the Patriot Act became law during a period of intense terrorism and was designed, according to the Administration, to protect our liberties rather than prevent us from pursuing them, but the result was a considerable increase in the government’s ability to surveil us, thus limiting our basic rights to privacy. (Don’t forget, fall-away Americans guard their privacy and their right to be left alone as passionately as any other freedom.)

The proof is in the decisions

Low-trust Americans and critics point to real decisions the current Administration has taken to bolster their case for withholding their confidence.

Some of those decisions were rendered by the President himself like the one that totally ignored the Immigration and Naturalization Act by slow-walking and then down-prioritizing the deportation of certain immigrant groups rather than adhering to the regulations which only permit this act for individuals.

Then there were those made by America’s chief law enforcement officer and the Justice Department like Operation Fast and Furious, the nose-thumbing of Congress on this issue, the refusal to prosecute voter intimidation cases, etc.

Others made by Administration surrogates like the Democrat dominated Congress that bullied the Patients’ Affordable Healthcare Act to passage seemed to seal the deal for the skeptics…that is until the recent Vice-President led task force on gun control.

For many fall-away Americans this task force, along with several pending gun bills and the media’s mobilization of anti-gun activists, is viewed as the Battle of the Bulge for the Second Amendment — AND they’ve dug in and are not going to give up without a fight.

That’s why Liberals should not chuckle when they see bumper stickers the likes of: “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.” These people mean business and will not go quietly into the dark night as they have checked out of the third person and checked into the active voice.

A quick look at booming NRA membership and skyrocketing gun and ammunition sales will tell even the most naive observer that something’s up and it’s not support for omnibus gun legislation spearheaded by Presidential Executive Order.

Invasions are easy to recognize

Fall-away Americans are also looking at the media and seeing the handwriting on the wall. Here I speak of the Journal News newspaper in Westchester County that recently revealed the names and addresses and interactive Google map of all gun owners in that county – an action that has put gun-owners and non gun-owners alike at risk from an escalation in home burglaries.

A loss of Second Amendment rights is often preceded by a loss of First Amendment rights. Just ask the peoples of Poland about their occupation in 1939 by the Nazis under trumped-up charges they were persecuting Sudeten Germans living there. How many weapons were confiscated from the Poles? Answer: All of them.

This falling domino method of losing rights has been used by many oppressors, but the West Germans learned their lesson after WWII. They banned the gathering of unnecessary information on German citizens and the sharing of it with other government agencies in contrast to what the Nazis and the Stasi did. The law is called the ‘Datenschutz’ (data protection), and it enshrines the right of German citizens’ privacy.

Fall-away Americans believe that by creating a federal registry of guns and gun-owners and then sharing this information with any/all government agencies will perfectly position an unethical or rogue government to keep tabs on its citizens and enable it to tax, regulate and eventually confiscate America’s weapons. Even trusting citizens should be worried about this possibility, because once set in motion, the domino could fall backwards or forwards taking other rights down with it.

We must not trifle with our Bill of Rights nor should we believe as many progressives and liberals do that it is a work in progress. No. It is like the Ten Commandments. After all, God didn’t tell Moses these were the Ten Suggestions, and our founding fathers didn’t call the Bill of Rights the Bill of Possible Options either.

- Editor

Inauguration or coronation?

Posted on 24. Jan, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

Dateline: Washington, DC – January 21, 2013?

Well, America, we finally did it. After throwing off the abusive monarchy of George III who subjugated all of us 237 years ago, we’ve come full circle with the coronation of a new king.

Today, King Barack the First, was elevated from his previous position as President to Supreme Monarch of the United States of America (soon to be renamed the Kingdom of Grand Largesse).

Americans turned out in the hundreds of thousands to fill the nation’s capitol city (soon to be renamed Victory City) and assembled on the steps of the Capitol Building (soon to be remodeled and renamed the Memorial of the Masses) to celebrate the moment and pay homage to their new ruler.

The ceremony was produced and directed by several of Hollywood’s top celebrity directors. The leading producer was Steven Spielberg who is responsible for the recent box office hit, “Lincoln and Me” (the really true actual verifiable no foolin’ life story of Abraham Lincoln who was reverse re-incarnated from Barack Obama).

The festivities took months of planning and creative accounting by the Democratic National Committee which amassed millions of dollars of tribute (donations) for the ceremony from eager subjects aspiring to key positions in the Court of the Great Barack.

The newly-formed Royal PAC called, “Organizing for Action” headed up by Obamaphiles Messina, Axelrod, Cutter, Gibbs, Plouffe, et al. will be in full operation January 22nd. The aim of the PAC will be to identify which donors to the Obama campaign will be awarded land grants in the former states of California, Hawaii, Texas and Florida.

Their secondary task will be to create a short list of possible candidates for peerage. It is rumored that among the candidates are: Steven Spielberg, George Clooney, Sean Penn, Madonna, Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the entire Chicago City Council, the entire Democratic Senate and all members of the SEIU.

While the President was being crowned, architects and designers were feverishly completing their work on a new coat of arms for the King which will replace the outdated seal of the President, a stunning new signet ring bearing the King’s picture and an eight-foot tall throne made of Republican Rino horn (it will replace the old HMS Resolute desk that had served Presidents from FDR on).

Hollywood choreographers and songwriters were collaborating on a new musical that will debut on July 4th and which will commemorate the new King’s rise to power from his humble beginnings in Hawaii. The musical’s working title is: “Obama the real American idol: From rags to swag.”

The festivities were supposed to have been emceed by radical author Saul Alinsky, but he could not be exhumed in time for the ceremony (Whitehouse doctors were also doubtful they could re-animate him had he been dug up).

Next in line was former domestic terrorist turned royalist Bill Ayers, but Mr. Ayers was unable to locate a tie. Instead, the honor went to the Senator from New York (soon to be re-named New Bama), Charles Schumer. It is rumored that Mr. Schumer will soon accept a prominent position as Court Schmoozer in the new Court of the Great Barack.

After the coronation and the singing of the old national anthem (the new royal song will be, “Let’s stay together” by Al Green) the crowd was treated to a poetic reading by MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews. The title of Mr. Matthews’ poem was, “The decapitation and dismemberment of conservatives: Ode to the common man.”

The evening will be capped off by two royal balls. At each ball the new King and his queen will be borne in to the venues on the backs of fat-cat capitalists from Wall Street, hedge fund managers, Mitt Romney, Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and former President George W. Bush.

America, rejoice, for unto you a king is given, and he will make straight the crooked and make equal the unequal. The poor will become rich and the undeserving the deserving.  He is for all time and for all men: Barack the Cool, Barack the Benificent and Barack the MAN. All hail or else.

- Editor: The New Mexican Voice welcomes equally fanciful opposing points of view. Send them to us at: editor@newmexicanvoice.com

Could tyranny come to America?

Posted on 22. Jan, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

There is an elephant in our room, and it is the unasked question: “Could tyranny come to America?” I’m told that serious-minded, intelligent people (you know, rational, modern men and women) would never ask this question nor even entertain the possibility of debating it even if it were asked.

Perhaps that’s the problem. Outside of the academic environment where theories and hypotheses are tossed around college classrooms like vulgarities on the Bill Maher show, the question is largely un-debated except among those people that are labeled by the left as kooks, right-wing crazies, wackos, nut jobs, Tea Partyers, survivalists, extremists and Republicans.

It’s not surprising then that we don’t want to talk about the possibility that our U.S. government or any of its three branches: the Legislative, Executive or Judicial might one day (or incrementally over time) turn renegade and limit some of our freedoms or remove others, completely.

Historical examples might be: Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, the internment of innocent Japanese during WWII and the Patriot Act, to name a few. Were we to talk that talk it might make the possibility actually, well, possible. Then, Heaven forbid, we’d have to think about it by shifting our focus away from the latest sports scandal.

That unspoken thought on tyranny (or abuse of power if you prefer) shares the cupboard with a lot of other unspoken thoughts tucked away on our secret shelves. Incest is one. Mental illness is another. Drug addiction and alcoholism (now called substance abuse) are a little more acceptable now that so many Americans have experienced them.

Unspoken issues share space with euphemisms we use to soften reality. For example, “Uncle Joe passed away/on/over last week.” Translation: Uncle Joe died. Passing away sounds like he suddenly left town unannounced and moved to the Villages in Florida.

Euphemisms take the edge off reality by making a perfectly normal but uncomfortable-to-acknowledge situation acceptable to society when society can’t handle the truth. They are also often the precursor for the subordination of unspoken issues (like tyranny) to the dust heap reserved for uncivilized conversation.

It may be high time to man up and talk about tyranny in relation to American life and politics. There are many forms of it, but all of them have one thing in common – an inordinate amount of power concentrated in a few hands.

The enablers of tyranny are cowardice, apathy, ignorance, lethargy, stupidity and gullibility. Tyranny also relies on lies and subterfuge to succeed. The lies don’t have to be sophisticated. They can be simple emotional appeals to our fears and our basic needs. They can come from the left and from the right of the political spectrum, and like fire, they need oxygen to survive. Their oxygen usually comes in the form of a crisis or the threat of one.

Other examples of tyranny are: an abusive parent or spouse, sexual harassment, slavery, monopolies, unfair laws, un-enforced or inconsistently-enforced laws, voter fraud, disenfranchisement or manipulation.

The tyrant is a battlefield commander that divides the opposition into smaller groups, attacks them unmercifully and then paints them with a brush of ideological repugnance and then forces them into a highly visible corner. Finally, the tyrant calls the public’s attention to them and declares them, the enemy.

While America may not be teetering on the brink of tyranny, to say it could never happen or ignore the conversation is naive and foolish. I’ve said it before though not said it first, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” To that I would simply add ‘or say nothing.’

- Editor

Our beleaguered Second Amendment

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

The recent massacre of innocent children in Newtown, Connecticut got me to thinking about the Second Amendment to the Constitution and the controversy that swirls around it.

It is probably fair to say that this amendment is the most contentious among the 27 in that great document, though there have been instances where acts of violence have occurred after citizens have exercised their First Amendment rights, among others.

“The right to keep and bear arms” means different things to different people, but the innocent victims of crimes committed with guns haven’t the luxury of parsing that amendment.

They are the tragic reminder that the criminal and the mentally disturbed in our society have both the means and the opportunity to break the sacred covenant of peaceful coexistence that the framers of the Constitution wanted for us.

Each generation of Americans wrestles with the evil that is inherent in human beings, trying to understand what motivates people to take another person’s life, especially the lives of children.

For all our introspection, however, it hasn’t brought us much clarity.  Maybe the only conclusion we can draw is that evil exists and mental illness exists, and when these factors come together we’re all in peril, especially when any weapon can be obtained by these people.

So, knowing we cannot eliminate evil or are seemingly powerless to seriously treat the disturbed in our society we cast about, trying to do something, anything that will give us some consolation and maybe close the circle of grief.

This time we’re focusing on a new ‘gun bill’ that will shortly be introduced by California Senator Diane Feinstein that will focus on limiting the tools that the perpetrators use to commit their heinous crimes.

It would seem obvious, that by eliminating the spread of high-powered multiple-round capable semi-automatic weapons that we will stop crimes committed with those weapons, and while I commend Senator Feinstein or any person who is passionate about saving lives, I do not believe that her bill will work.

There are just too many of that particular type of weapon in circulation already (millions to be exact). Her bill would probably stop the further spread of those weapons, but it will do absolutely nothing to cure the mental illness that plagues far too many Americans who would use them or any weapon to wreak havoc on the rest of us.

We must be realistic about our gun laws. With over 300 million weapons currently in the hands of Americans (most law-abiding) we must do a better job in the screening process and on other fronts.

Here are a few areas we might focus on first knowing that the confiscation of guns is illegal or impossible to affect.

Suggestion #1: Tighten up the licensing process as it refers to background checks. Each state must have a foolproof means of eliminating persons with mental illness, illegal aliens, underage buyers or felons from getting a license to purchase a firearm, period.

Suggestion #2: Make Federal Firearm License holders (dealers) the first line of defense in insuring gun safety by requiring that first-time gun purchasers who qualify to buy a gun take a short on-site gun safety course and then have the Federal Government pay the dealers to administer it.

Suggestion #3: Allow purchasers of gun safes, gun locks and those who choose to de-commission firearms to get a federal income tax deduction (their choice to take it or not) for purchasing or de-commissioning them.

Suggestion #4: Require background checks of gun purchases at bona fide gun shows. If the seller is not a FFL holder then the seller and purchaser must go to a seller at the show who does have one to do the background check for them (a token reimbursement for that service should be given the FFL holder by the prospective seller and purchaser).

Suggestion #5: Encourage all states to issue certificates of reciprocity to other states for concealed carry permit holders.

Suggestion #6: Bring outlying states like Illinois and New York and the District of Colombia into compliance with other states’ regulations for gun ownership. It is simply not right to disadvantage law-abiding citizens in those states in favor of the criminals.

Suggestion #7: Encourage all schools to hire professional armed security guards or police officers to guard their students or allow specific school personnel to carry a concealed weapon (the criteria for this would be up to the individual school district). Strengthen other security procedures as well such as CCTV.

Suggestion #8: Offer a yearly free firearm safety course to those persons already in possession of a firearm. Proceeds for these costs would come from the individual states’ budgets, perhaps from the fees charged concealed carry permit holders or with voluntary financial support from gun manufacturers and gun dealers.

Suggestion #9: Develop a Federal public awareness program about firearms and firearm safety.

Suggestion #10: Encourage gun-owner groups like the NRA to support the above-mentioned suggestions.

Finally, our mental healthcare professionals must be given more resources to help identify, early on and on a continuing basis, those among us whose mental or emotional state puts them and the rest of us at risk should they gain access to a firearm. Gun safety and responsible gun use is just as important to our communities as the regulation and safe operation of a motor vehicle and should be treated with the same level of seriousness.

- Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whither Christmas Letters?

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

Christmas letters go back a long way to a time when people actually used something called a pen and dipped it in ink, made ornate letters on a piece of paper, put it in a special envelope and gave it to a man from the post office who actually came by the house to pick it up. Aaaah, nostalgia. The good old days. Times of yesteryear.

Good thing nostalgia is seen in the rear view mirror. Times were rough in the good old days. No electricity, no running water, no fancy central heating. Cold wooden toilet seats in a drafty outhouse that was separated from the main house by at least 20 steps that must be taken over ice or snow.

The one possible great old tyme exception was Christmas itself. There were practices then that made the holiday special and memorable, some I remember well like trudging out in the snow to cut your own tree and binding it to the top of the car or a toboggan for the trip home.

Making our own decorations and popping popcorn and stringing it for the tree. Taking out the old manger scene and placing it on the ledge above the water-filled radiator. Helping with the baking and the decoration of every kind of cookie imaginable. Smelling all the wonderful smells that filled every room of the house.

Taking our sleds to the post office to rescue those last presents that might be coming from afar and then hauling them back home wondering what treasures were inside. Then there were the church services (for me two – one Catholic the night before and one Lutheran on Christmas Day).

Churches resplendent with evergreen branches and huge white candles that cast soft shadows everywhere. Voices raised in songful praise of Jesus’ birth from the warmth inside while the fidgety among us gazed out the frost-encrusted windows to the snowy streets outside.

Christmas memories are like fingerprints. No two are alike. Every one is unique and personal. And while some may share a commonality that serves to bind us together, they are really best experienced by each one of us, on our own. So it is with Christmas letters.

We all view and report our world differently. That’s how it should be which is why I love Christmas letters! There, I said it, out loud and without apology! I feel the love of the parent when he/she talks about little Johnny’s first words or marvels at his first steps.

I grieve right along with the writer about the loss of a loved one or the death of a favorite pet. I whoop inside with joy when I hear about someone’s new job or hear about a wonderful vacation experience, and I nod in approval when a friend has an epiphany about life. I hang on every word. I suppose it’s the last remnant of the child in me, the child that still believes in the magic and significance of Christmas and the importance of good friends.

I’m not the reporter type, so my Christmas letters don’t usually include a list of what I’ve done. Instead, they include the, what I’ve learned from what I’ve done. That’s trickier to write about because the lessons often come much later. However…

I’ve learned that there is such a thing as too much political reporting and too much TV and too much sugar and too little exercise and too many low information voters and too many commercials and too many empty promises and too much hyperbole and too few really good friends with really good intentions and too much unjustified distrust and too little compassion for those among us who make mistakes.

I’ve also learned that growing older is okay, that it’s not something to be feared, avoided, despised, shunned… or stopped. I’ve learned, too, that the world around me is constantly changing and not necessarily for the better, that the gulf between us is growing while the promises to bridge it are broken.

I’m still mystified about our violent nature, our penchant for calling each other names and the way we disparage motives different from our own. I’ve learned that our economy is not a well-oiled machine and that when people are thrown out of work, they are not simply unemployed; they are essentially exiled from our society. I’ve learned that iphones, ipads and other similar diversionary devices have become the false idols that keep us from realizing God’s promise for us. There’s a line in Jonah’s prayer to God that pretty well sums it up.

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of Thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed, I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.” And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Believe that experience or not as your own personal religion dictates, but sometimes I get the feeling that the world is getting ready to do the same thing to us and wake us up from this daze of self-absorption. Then I remember why it is we are up to our ass in alligators. We have not only forgotten to drain the swamp, we have also forgotten how.

Which brings me back to the subject of Christmas letters. I believe that Christmas letters should be written more often than once a year and by more people and sent to yet even more people! Maybe by doing that we would realize that there is infinitely more that binds us together as one than separates us as many. Happy New Year.

- Editor

 

Legislative Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee to hear testimony on Marijuana

Posted on 19. Dec, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

DPA: Reducing Marijuana Penalties will Improve Lives, Save Taxpayer’s Dollars and Significantly Reduce the Burden on Law Enforcement Resources

Santa Fe, NM – the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) will be testifying to the Interim Legislative Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee about the importance of decreasing penalties for adults who possess small amounts of marijuana. DPA is scheduled to present at 10 am in Room 307 at the State Capitol in Santa Fe.

The proposed legislation reduces the penalty structure for possession of up to 1 ounce to no fine or penalty, and 2 ounces to 8 ounces from a misdemeanor to a fine. Currently, in New Mexico, possession of up to 8 ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor that can include large fines and jail time.

“Although misdemeanors seem relatively insignificant they are anything but minor,” stated Dan Abrahamson, Director of Legal Affairs for Drug Policy Alliance.  “A misdemeanor can ruin a person’s job prospects, affect child custody, access to health care, and have hefty fines that low-income families in New Mexico cannot afford to pay.”

This proposed legislation is badly needed.  There is a common misconception that New Mexico’s local law enforcement agencies do not arrest people for marijuana possession.  The data tell a wholly different story.  According to the Marijuana Arrest Research Program’s analysis of the Uniform Crime Reporting data, in 2010 there were 3,277 marijuana possession arrests for a rate of 159 per 100,000. Marijuana possession arrest rates vary widely throughout the State, based in part on marijuana use levels as well as local enforcement policies.

Dona Ana, Chaves, Sandoval, San Juan and Bernalillo counties led the State in the number or arrests for marijuana possession, collectively representing 63% of the State’s total number of possession arrests (2,055 arrests).  Dona Ana County alone represented 28% of the State’s total (901 possession arrests).

“The proposal to reduce adult marijuana possession penalties is a step in the right direction by allowing police to issue a ticket rather than arrest someone for possessing tiny amounts of marijuana,” stated Emily Kaltenbach, the New Mexico State Director of Drug Policy Alliance. “This legislation is pragmatic – we are confident that if signed into law it will improve lives, save taxpayer’s dollars and significantly reduce the burden on law enforcement resources.”

Around the country, similar change is afoot.  There is growing momentum to reduce penalties for small amounts of marijuana, with California reducing penalties in 2010, Connecticut in 2011 and Rhode Island earlier this year. In the most recent November elections, both Colorado and Washington approved initiatives to legalize and regulate the recreational use and commercial production of marijuana.

This proposed legislation represents yet another important step in the growing movement to stop treating people who consume drugs as criminals in need of incarceration. Its principal impacts are reducing arrests of drug users, especially those who are young and/or members of minority groups; allowing police to focus their precious and limited resources on more serious crimes; reducing criminal justice system costs; and better enabling individuals, families, communities and local governments to deal with drug misuse as a health rather than criminal issue.

In recent years American attitudes have shifted dramatically on this issue: For the first time, support for marijuana legalization topped 50% nationwide last year, according to Gallup, and a recent Mason-Dixon poll found that 67% of Republicans believe that the federal government should get out of the way and let states enforce their own medical marijuana laws, rather than prosecute people complying with state law. As marijuana reform becomes a mainstream position, political candidates and elected officials will find it is less and less of a political third rail.

These arrests impose significant costs on individual, families and communities, as well as on police, prosecutors, courts and taxpayers generally. Furthermore, these arrests provide few if any benefits. As with the impact of most bad drug policies, the people bearing the brunt of the problem are poor, not white, and young.

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 press release was submitted by: the Drug Policy Alliance www.drugpolicy.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine America in four years

Posted on 06. Nov, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

Take just a moment before you go to vote today and imagine what America might be like under your candidate for the next four years with all of the following problems and challenges thrown his way…

A one-party dominated Congress (or Senate too) stymieing  or eliminating the possibility of bi-partisan legislation

Our enormous rise in poverty (1/6 of the country now lives in poverty)

47 million Americans on Food Stamps (15% of the population)

23 million Americans either without work, underemployed or who have given up looking for work (15% of our total workforce)

Our tepid (approx. 2.0% at best) annual economic growth

The unwillingness of America’s businesses to hire enough workers to even keep pace with the new workers entering the job markets (estimated to be over 200,000/month)

The impending costs of ‘Obamacare’ in 2013 and 2014 to businesses

The continued rise in gas prices (the price has doubled since 2008)

The fear of sequestration, triggering massive defense cuts and the loss of many more jobs

The ballooning $16 trillion debt

Our balance of trade deficit with China (over $250 billion/year) and that country’s growing economic hold over us

Our porous borders with Mexico and continued illegal immigration

The stubborn rise of American-directed terrorism

The escalation of nuclear danger in the Middle East

Our decaying infrastructure at home

Falling literacy and our weakened educational competitiveness.

Now add to these challenges our inability to even talk to one another about these issues without breaking into choruses of talking points or worse, raising our voices, slamming the door on friendships or turning off completely and you can see why strong, tested leadership is needed for America.

Candidates’ actions are always more important than their words. Do not be swayed by a clever phrase, a memorable slogan, a winning smile or celebrity endorsements.

Look at how the candidates have solved problems in the past. Look at how they spend their time, how they give to their community and church, who they associate with, how they succeeded and more recently, how they ran their campaign.

Vote for America today and for the man who has the experience to tackle her problems and who can bring both sides together.

Do not vote against someone or for a rigid political ideology.

The promise of America can never be fulfilled without honest open dialogue, tolerance, sound principled leadership or without dedicated citizens with long memories who are unwavering when holding their leaders accountable.

- Stephan Helgesen, Editor

Stephan J. Helgesen

We are all the one percent

Posted on 06. Nov, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Politics, Social/Cultural

With only one day to go before election day, I find my head in a perpetual state of jerky lateral motion over the disreputable tactics used by some of the campaigns to say nothing of the downright nasty epithets about the opposing candidate that have been hurled our way.

It seems we’ve graduated from the simple ‘flip flopper’ designation and ‘swift-boating’ techniques that worked in the 2004 campaign to one of total thermonuclear character annihilation – a take-no-prisoners, scorched Earth approach that even Dr. Strangelove would have rejected.

I watched all the primary debates and the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates along with the pre-debate and post-debate coverage. I sat through commentary by Chris Matthews, Chris Wallace, Bill Maher, Bill Moyers, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and foreign correspondents like Catty Kay from BBC.

I tuned in to NPR (and even Amy Goodman) and read Time and Newsweek, countless blogs and online newspapers.  I viewed both conventions and listened to the speeches. In addition, I poured over the analyses of pollsters from the left and right and pundits of every shape, size and political stripe.

I managed to survive the war on women, the birth certificate skirmish, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Tea Party rallies, the Congressional stalemate on the debt ceiling, the war against big business and Wall Street, the rise of Sandra Fluke on the reproductive rights fight, the seedy Mormon innuendoes along with attacks on Paul Ryan and Medicare privatization, President Obama’s fund-raisers, golf game and TV appearances, Joe Biden’s “…put you all back in chains” gaffe, along with criticism of Mitt Romney’s dog, his hair, his memory (Romnesia), his wife’s horse and his car elevator.

But the worst tactic of all has been the 1% versus the 99% argument, proffered by the President and his acolytes. This clear divide-and-conquer strategy hasn’t been used to such an extent since the 1917 Russian Revolution, and it hasn’t rung more hollow since the fall of the Soviet empire in the late 1980s/early 90s.

That is not to say it will not work on November 6th.. It may very well, especially when combined with his party’s ‘laser-targeting strategy’ of ripping apart the American electorate into bite-size separate demographics and playing to their weaknesses, envy or fear of the opposition and what America might become under an elitest administration.

Indeed, this campaign ploy to paint a whole political party and candidate for president as the party or candidate of one percent, is not something I would have expected from a President who said he would unite us. It is, however, something I’ve come to expect from certain politicians (left or right) who will do everything possible to hold on to power, no matter if they’re in the Middle East or on the banks of the Potomac River.

So there you have it, the 1% argument: us against them, good against evil, the entitled against the robber barons, poor America against rich America, undeserving wealthy people against deserving innocents, the privileged class against the working class (or the unemployed class).

Actually, when you examine the 1 vs. 99 case, it is a specious or sophistic argument at best. A reasonable person need only use some of his own life experience to measure its validity. For example, how many of your classmates were responsible for all the disruptive antics in the classroom?

Probably 1%. Or how many policemen protect all of the 155 million workers (not to mention the unemployed) in the U.S.? Answer: fewer than a million. And how many active duty military personnel put their lives on the line for the likes of you and me and 325 million other Americans? About 1.5 million – or less than 0.50% of our total population. The list goes on and on.

Just as “One swallow does not a summer make” (Aristotle: one of the top one percent thinkers of all time), neither should one percent of anything be viewed with undue suspicion or fear. Instead of vilifying the 1% let’s be thinking of ways to persuade them to stand with us.  Please vote on November 6th.  One hundred percent of America will be affected by it.

- Editor

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