Talk of the town

What would Jesus think of us today?

WE ARE LIVING in the best of times. Anyone with even the barest sense of human history would have to agree that, if one were to choose in what era and location to be born without any guarantee or choice as to status, i.e., class, race, ethnicity, sex or predilection, one would be a fool not choose today, in this place.

Yet, we are among the whiniest people on earth. If there were such a thing as a god, she would smite us with fire and sword for our lack of gratitude. In the improbable event that Christ were to return, I do not believe that he would be “irate” – as the bumper sticker so colorfully proclaims – but rather that he would be pleased at the progress our species, born in tribalism and violence, steeped in the seven sins, has made toward real egalitarianism and sharing. I think he would be sad to see that it has taken 2,000 years all soaked in blood to achieve it.

I think he would be surprised, though, to see the pharisees here still wagging the dog. I think he would be amazed to see such a large chunk of our population trying to shove a camel through the eye of the needle to the presidency of our country.

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He would nod wisely to see vindication of his words “the poor you will always have with you,” since poverty is as much a state of mind as pocketbook. He would be amazed to see how fat we are. He would be perplexed, I believe, by a society that has enshrined greed, creating a halo around entrepreneurship, while at the same time creating a class of people whom that model has utterly failed, by a society so lacking in accountability from top to bottom.

I think he would agree with me that the greatest source of our unhappiness – dissatisfaction – in this country today is the belief in each of us that we are more wonderful than we are, which translates to an exaggerated sense of entitlement all the way from the very poor to billionaires believing that they are entitled to the presidency.

ED LOPEZ

Albuquerque

Testing makes science fairs 2nd choice

I APPRECIATE the Journal’s encouragement for families and schools to participate in science fair, along with the coverage of just one of the many good things that go on at my school (“Making the science cut,” April 15).

Left unsaid in the article were some reasons why APS schools and teachers are backing away from science fair competitions. One significant reason is testing. I work at an “F” school where several of our very best teachers are labeled “ineffective.” I see what this does to morale.

Our computer labs and library – both essential to research – are closed for weeks on end to accommodate mandatory testing. Is it any wonder that many APS schools and teachers feel pressures that lead to lesson choices other than “science fair”? Other concerns teachers have: Being bound by the 44-page rule book, the $25 per student regional entry fee, the perceived/actual elitist aspect of the competition, students who won’t do the project homework – and the parents who do!

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Essential student inquiry experiences can be provided in many ways. For those teachers who think science fair is right for their students, great! But just because few APS schools participate in science fair doesn’t necessarily mean that some great science education isn’t occurring in APS classrooms.

STEVEN KAESTNER

Albuquerque

New rules for wilderness a good thing

REGARDING THE BLM’s proposed new rules for capturing methane, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported that N.M. Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn said the regulations are unnecessary and financially detrimental. He is also quoted as saying the proposed new rule is “federal overreach and intrusion” into state affairs that would result in “undue environmental burden.”

I strenuously disagree with Dunn. Can you imagine any other industry telling the public that it’s too expensive to clean up their industrial pollution or too much of a burden to a make a safe product? The auto industry is responsible for producing safe cars and recalling defective vehicles. The food industry is held accountable for pulling tainted products from grocery shelves. This is known as the “cost of doing business.”

And to say that the new rules are unnecessary and an overreach is laughable. Fracking and drilling have contributed to the methane “hot spot” over the Four Corners. If the industry would have managed its product better, it might not be looking at new rules. Further, this is indeed a federal issue when the industry involved and our state representatives do not protect us from the pollution being created on our federal public lands.

LYNNE FISCHER

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Santa Fe

Senior, poor taxpayers often harassed

KUDOS TO DAN Boyd for reporting on the attention being paid to the poor and elderly by N.M. Taxation and Revenue, slowing down low-income rebates (“Tougher scrutiny slows NM tax refunds,” April 24).

He quoted Joe Stehling, a dedicated volunteer with AARP Tax-Aide. AARP Tax-Aide volunteers help low- and moderate-income taxpayers in sites across New Mexico. At Bear Canyon Senior Center in Albuquerque, like all AARP Tax-Aide volunteers, we require Social Security cards and picture IDs for every return. This year, we copied driver’s license numbers with date of issue and expiration date on every tax return. We’ve seen these letters asking for “proof.” How much does it cost taxpayers to duplicate our diligence?

One taxpayer, a woman over 65, has received a similar letter from N.M. Taxation and Revenue for 2013, 2014 and 2015. She believes she’s being singled out for harassment and asked us why. We can’t explain. She is over 65, living on less than $16,000, has been trying to find employment, is on a “wait” list for assisted rent support and is stretching her small savings with food stamps. She dropped out of the work force early to prevent her mother moving to assisted living and she’s been left in poverty without her mother’s income. It’s likely she saved taxpayer’s dollars during those years she was her mother’s unpaid caregiver. She’s scared and she’s thinking about passing on that refund.

All the people we help have similar stories. They didn’t plan to be without jobs or without enough income. All need this bit of help that will be spent almost immediately at local stores for basic necessities. As pointed out in Boyd’s article, in circulation this money can help stimulate the slow New Mexico economy. Boyd’s article presents some questions that need to be asked.

LEA LONG

Local Coordinator,

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Bear Canyon Senior Center

New Mexico AARP Tax-Aide

Albuquerque

Hate, including KKK, still growing here

I AM UNCOMFORTABLE with Dan Herrera’s front-page article (“Looking back at a Klan rally,” April 22). It’s nice to look back where or when if you can. On the other hand, I’m afraid the tone of the article negates, or writes off, the Klan. Not yet.

See Southern Poverty Law Center’s spring “Intelligence Report.” First, the number of Americans saying racism has increased is now 49 percent – when it was 28 percent in 2011.

The Klan is the largest hate group in the USA, with 190 chapters. True, some may not be very active but, where some family members live, caution is good. With different “uniforms,” the 94 neo-Nazi and 95 white nationalist groups nationwide, among others, also are not to be underestimated. They are just as mean, if not worse, and get more headlines at this time.

It’s nice to dream; I did so, as did many others. The dream of peace amongst all, not hate, in this nation has a long way to go.

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JERRY NACHISON

Las Cruces

Truancy contributes to poor grad rates

A RECENT Albuquerque Journal editorial points out that Albuquerque Public Schools graduation rate is much lower than other school districts in our state (“APS the wrong kind of anchor on NM grad rates,” April 20).

I believe truancy is a serious problem in many of our schools. This problem affects even our youngest students at the elementary level. In many cases, truancy is driven by an attitude that education is unimportant. In just a few short years, truancy coupled with social promotion leads to students who are ill-prepared and cannot understand the instructional materials presented. These students are unlikely to graduate.

Attacking the truancy issue at all grade levels will pay big dividends in improving the graduation rate. This means educating parents and students on the importance of education. It means pointing out that educational success reduces poverty. It means having the will to adopt real consequence to parents and students for truancy.

It requires a change in culture. All of us need to realize that, unless they are sick, students must be in school. The best teachers cannot teach students who are absent from school. Reducing truancy is needed to improve our graduation rate.

ANDREW GREENWOOD

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Albuquerque

Good stewardship of public lands vital

AS A RESIDENT of Albuquerque who enjoys getting out into our national forests, I had a few thoughts regarding the grazing debate (“Grazing a flashpoint in wilderness debates,” April 22).

I offer my respect to rancher (Erminio) Martinez, who supports the idea of wilderness areas being maintained “without further exploitation.” I imagine this is not a popular view with many, and so I commend his vision and courage for that stance.

The writer of the article refers to ranchers seeking to make “improvements” as having to “jump through hoops.” His language, or that of a disgruntled rancher? They aren’t “hoops.” They are carefully crafted regulations and procedures put in place to prevent overuse and degradation of public lands.

And as far as “improvements” go, stock tanks, ramps, enclosures and man-made watering holes in a national forest are, frankly, eyesores. The fewer, the better.

Finally, a rancher is quoted as being upset that changes are being made to designated use and carrying capacity of certain parcels of land. Well, of course! Thanks to climate change, we can expect resultant changes to the environment and here in New Mexico that appears to mean more drought.

In order for future generations to enjoy our national forests, good stewardship of public lands will mean acknowledging and reflecting this new reality.

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BYRON GATWOOD

Albuquerque

Shaming DWI offenders may be harmful

AS I READ the Journal’s article, “Your DWI case may soon go viral on Twitter,” (April 20) it brought to mind Nathanial Hawthorne’s 1850’s novel “The Scarlet Letter.” In Hawthorne’s novel, the protagonist, Hester Prynne, is found guilty of adultery. For the rest of Hester’s life, she is forced to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her dress to publicly shame her. Hester and the daughter born of the adulterous tryst are left to live as social outcasts.

The city of Albuquerque has been engaging in a form of puritanical tar and feathering for years – by mandating publication of prominent photographs of citizens convicted of DWI in the Albuquerque Journal. Gov. (Susana) Martinez’s plan to have DWI case outcomes, including “generous plea bargains, lenient sentencing, absent police officers and low bond amounts” – broadcast on social media by the Department of Transportation is just more of the same.

I cringe when I think about the effect this kind of public shaming has on families. I cannot help but imagine the shame and humiliation of an adolescent or teen whose parent is the target of a DWI post on Twitter, Snapchat or Facebook that goes viral among the child’s schoolmates. New Mexico already has a problem with high rates of teen suicide and declining high school graduation rates. New Mexico Voices for Children recently reported that our state has more children living in poverty than any other state in the nation. Let’s add fuel to the fire.

Does the governor really think that the public shaming of DWI offenders – including accused DWI offenders not yet proven guilty – will keep our communities safer? Addiction is a disease that requires medical treatment. Government-promoted public shaming is not the solution.

The result will be an ever-increasing number of individuals who, as a result of this kind of stigmatization, will be less able to find and maintain jobs and housing, and will raise children all the more likely to become homeless, high school dropouts, or alcohol and drug abusers.

MELISSA HILL

Corrales

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