The Great Taos Pot Raid

Somewhere New Mexico native Smokey Bear is hiding in a den and wishing he worked for the friendly folks at the National Park Service rather than the U.S. Forest Service.

On a Saturday not quite three weeks ago four USFS law officers rolled into the Taos Ski Valley with their drug-sniffing dog disrupting the skiing, boarding and Breast Cancer Awareness Day. The show of force ended with a few piddly violation notices for possession of marijuana, one for prescription drugs and another for an equipment violation later called a cracked windshield.

Employee and visitor complaints about the officers ranged from lack of respect to rude and out of line. One parent said he was accosted with his 11-year-old daughter, and others alleged the dog that got in the face of young children had to be muzzled after it bit one of the USFS officers.

Here you have the perfect storm of a public-relations nightmare with USFS backpedaling and covering its como se llama. Continue reading

Thank you, Arizona

Normally New Mexico points to Mississippi as the negative example keeping us from being the bottom feeder of all manner of quality-of-life rankings. When a Republican legislator who didn’t get New Mexico’s Latin state motto tried to change it, the derisive reaction included jettisoning “Crescit Eundo” in favor of “Gracias a dios por Mississippi.” That’s all just noise, of course, which doesn’t obviate our beloved and beautiful state being worst in the nation for child well-being after Mississippi moved up to 49th in the Kids Count Data Book last year.

Now, however, it’s time to thank Arizona for reminding us what’s right in New Mexico. Yes, Gov. Jan Brewer yesterday vetoed the bill enshrining as public policy religious discrimination against gays and anyone else, but students of New Mexico history recognize our neighbor’s roots running deep into the 19th century. There, but for the grace of politics and the Spanish language, our two states would look like today’s Republican Party, a single body enjoined in a fight for its soul between panicked moderates and snarling radicals.

To understand this requires a rapid and much simplified recap of local history:


Amtrak’s Sunset Limited crosses the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, into New Mexico nearly on the Mexican border. Bill Diven photo.

The United States, for myriad reasons — Manifest Destiny, spreading slavery, lust for a rail route to California — invaded Mexico in 1846. Two years later we owned the Southwest, or thought we did. We botched the survey drawing the border too far north for the rail route, but instead of sending the dragoons back in, we bought what is now much of southern New Mexico and Arizona. Continue reading

Where have all the snowflakes gone?

The weather cooperated nicely this weekend for a hike in the Sandia Mountains. Sunny with tolerable wind and the thermometer dangling from my pack reading 60 as I shuffled up Tunnel Springs trail. Even the East Coast news guy on morning TV checking the national forecast map said, “It looks like the Southwest is the place to be.” Well maybe, maybe not, since our mountains again show only white tips instead of the deep snow cover ready to feed streams, rivers and irrigation systems with the spring melt.

DSCN1322 edit Continue reading

Unfunking America

The American people aren’t stupid, just depressed. In case you’re not among the depressed, or are medicated, self-medicating or figure it’s Armageddon so what the hell, here’s a headline from last week: “American dream fading, poll says”

The McClatchy newspaper chain is behind this Marist-MaClatchy Poll, and one of its reporters led his story by saying Americans are “overwhelmingly pessimistic about their chances of achieving and sustaining the American dream.”

They see an economic system in which they have to work harder than ever to get ahead, and a political system that’s unresponsive to their needs. They see the wealthy allowed to play by a different set of rules from everyone else.

To which I say, OK, so what’s new? Since when has it not taken hard work to get ahead in this country? Since when has the political system not leaned toward big money? And since when have the wealthy not played by their own rules or at least tried to? Buying Manhattan Island, slavery, Robber Barons, invading Nicaragua, renting congressmen, Justin Bieber, anyone? Continue reading

Death Race I-25

Interstate 25 during the morning rush to Santa Fe intimidated the woman in the VW enough she couldn’t make up her mind about the 75 mph flow in the right lane. So she opted to speed up, slow down and randomly apply the brakes, slowing and braking just as I started to pass her by shifting into the 85 mph left lane. I barely dodged her and squeezed into the faster stream as a pickup grill quickly filled my rear-view mirror. What surprised me about the pickup driver wasn’t the on-my-bumper tailgating but his inattention when I turned on my blinker. I really expected him to speed up in an attempt to plug the hole in his lane before I could dive into it.

I-25 near Santa Fe. Rail Runner tracks on left.

I-25 near Santa Fe. Rail Runner tracks on left.

By Tuesday morning enough time had passed I’d almost forgotten how much one risks life and limb in the morning stampede from the south into the capital. Last time I checked the numbers a few thousand commuters from Rio Rancho came east across the Rio Grande each morning struggling to get through the town of Bernalillo to reach the interstate and turn left into the northward wave from Albuquerque. At Bernalillo three lanes become two, and Death Race I-25 begins. Continue reading

It was 50 years ago today, and 52, too

The hype and hoorah surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Beatles invading the United States takes us back to a simpler time. Their arrival came a scant 11 weeks to the day after the assassination of President Kennedy. Yes, the country kennedy-and-johnsonwas still in shock, but the deep distrust of the official explanation for the Kennedy killing had yet to set in, and the government’s deceptions about the war in Vietnam were still in the future as were most of the nearly 50,000 American combat deaths (plus a quarter million North and South Vietnamese civilians, the low-end estimate). Continue reading

Spark up the debate and inhale

The movement to reform the country’s marijuana laws already was well underway when Bob Randall smoked legally supplied government-rolled joints in a Capitol hallway before testifying at a legislative hearing early in 1977.  19710000-zig-zag-Breland-HallI stood nearby that day in Santa Fe trying to breathe deeply, but today I’m reaching for the keyboard instead of another brownie. Yeah, marijuana use shouldn’t be a crime, but peddling pot legalization the same way we did the New Mexico Lottery as a source of tax revenue for good purposes just promises another cash stream ripe for perversion. (Funny how university tuition outpaces lottery sales to the point the pyramid scheme verges on collapse, no?) Continue reading

Mom and Krauthammer

My mother and I view the world differently, which is not surprising.  Her birth came barely a year after the end of World War I and a week into the failed 12-year political experiment in alcohol Prohibition.  I arrived on the anniversary of Prohibition launching a massive criminal underworld and a few months after Chinese troops chased us out of North Korea during the Korean War.  (Funny how this country measures time by its wars, but that’s another topic).

Mom’s attempts to keep me on the straight and narrow began early, kept me from becoming a derelict or a Democrat but not a free-thinking journalist and continued last Christmas with the gift of columnist-pundit Charles Krauthammer’s new book “Things That Matter” (Crown Forum, New York, 2013),Krauthammer-cover a collection of past writings from the psychiatrist who morphed into an inside-the-Beltway espouser of all things conservative.  He’s a regular on the pages of the Albuquerque Journal, which plops daily onto our gravel road, and his screeds mesh with the paper’s conservative/libertarian/antiunion editorial slant that flavors not only its opinion pages but taints its news columns as well.  To oversimplify Krauthammer but a little, his columns in recent years sum as: conservatives good, liberals bad, Obama is the antichrist. Continue reading