Tagged: New Mexico

Undocumentados obey tax laws — New Mexico refuses to hand over refunds


“How can I be Republican VP candidate if I obey the law?”

A national and a statewide civil rights group have filed lawsuits against New Mexico and the state’s tax department alleging that refunds are being withheld illegally from people filing taxes using federal tax ID numbers.

Two suits filed in state court…on behalf of a couple and two other workers seek refunds and an injunction to block what the organizations call an “unlawful and discriminatory practice.”

Plaintiffs’ attorneys say the state Taxation and Revenue Department in 2012 began a policy of denying tax refunds to New Mexico residents who file returns using their federally-issued tax ID.

They say the state has sent at least 14,500 letters to filers citing discrepancies on their returns and seeking supporting documents. Meanwhile, the same people have been receiving federal refunds from the IRS.

Since these folks can’t get a regular social security card they have acquired the federal alternative used by immigrants nationwide. Perfectly legal as witness the IRS forking over refunds when due.

The problem is our so-called moderate Republican governor hates undocumentados as much as she hates unions. So the state – which always paid refunds when owed by the Tax and Revenue Department under previous Democrat administrations – now refuses to hand over folks’ refunds.

So much for asking immigrants to obey the law. When the governor won’t.

Yup – education is SO important

Dont-care

What if there was an election and no one showed up to vote – not even the candidates themselves?…That’s precisely what happened in the recent Hagerman, New Mexico, school board election…Three candidates ran unopposed: None received a single vote, not even their own.

It was a lack of opposition and not a lack of interest in education that kept the town’s 1,034 eligible voters away from the polls, said Superintendent Ricky Williams, who supervises the three-school district of fewer than 500 students.

The fact that the candidates were unopposed – and that the election was held in Roswell 26 miles away – may have had something to do with it, he said. Polling stations were not open in the southeast New Mexico community, a decision made by Chaves County…

None of the candidates for three open seats on the five-member school board was an incumbent, so each candidate needed at least one vote to be elected…

Cindy Fuller, Bureau of Elections chief for Chaves County, said that with no contested positions, no write-in candidates and no questions or bonds on the ballot, state statute permits the clerk’s office to handle the election. There were voting convenience stations in Roswell, she said, but not Hagerman.

That turned out to be not convenient enough

BTW, in the population center of the state, Albuquerque, less than 2.6 percent of voters showed up to vote for Albuquerque Public Schools and Central New Mexico Community College board elections. Of 297,291 eligible voters, only 7,668 cast ballots.

Governor Susana manages to kill $100 million in Health Exchange funding


Not unless the governor says so!

A sharply worded letter from Governor Susana Martinez to the Secretary of Health and Human Services cost New Mexico almost $100 million in funding to build out and run our state’s health exchange, and that has exchange staff scrambling to build a new exchange without any money.

Staff of the health exchange (NMHIX) say that there appears to be no process to appeal or reapply and New Mexico appears to be the only state in the country denied funding to complete the build out of the state’s insurance exchange, publicly known as Be Well NM.

New Mexico has already received $122.3 million from the federal government ($34.3M in 2011, $18.6M in 2013, $69.4 in 2014) to set up and run the exchange through the end of 2014.

In November 2014, states were permitted to apply for additional funds to build out the remaining parts of their state-based exchanges and operate for three full years, beginning in January 2015…

But when the state submitted it’s application to the federal government for funding, it included letters from state leaders, including Governor Martinez and then-Secretary of Human Services, Sidone Squier.

These two dimwit Republicans questioned whether or not the changes would be beneficial – and they saw no reason to follow Federal uniform standards and procedures. About as elitist, parochial and incompetent as you can get.

Result? New Mexico is the only state of those applying for additional funds to update and codify a hybrid health exchange – to be refused. The Feds point out it was the letters from Governor Susana and Sidone Squier that encouraged that decision.

RTFA from ProgressNowNM. All the details, planned uses, dotted i’s and crossed t’s are there.

Shot by Albuquerque coppers — “I regret to inform you your son is deceased”

christopher torres

Stephen Torres was meeting with a client at his law office, in downtown Albuquerque, on April 12, 2011, when he received a call from a neighbor, who told him that police officers were aiming rifles at his house. He left work and drove to his home, in a middle-class suburb with a view of the mountains. There were more than forty police vehicles on his street. Officers wearing camouflage fatigues and bulletproof vests had circled his home, a sand-colored two-story house with a pitched tile roof. Two officers were driving a remote-controlled robot, used for discharging bombs, back and forth on the corner.

Stephen’s wife, Renetta, the director of human resources for the county, arrived a few minutes later, just after three o’clock. A colleague had heard her address repeated on the police radio, so her assistant pulled her out of a meeting. When Renetta saw that the street was cordoned off with police tape, she tried to walk to her house, but an officer told her that she couldn’t enter the “kill zone…”

Renetta knew that the only person at home was the youngest of her three boys, Christopher, who was twenty-seven and had schizophrenia. Two hours earlier, he had stopped by her office for lunch, as he did a few times a week. Then he visited an elderly couple who lived two houses away. He said that he needed to “check up on them”; he often cleaned their pool or drove them to the grocery store. Because he found it overwhelming to spend too much time among people, he tried to do small, social errands, so as not to isolate himself…

At around five-thirty, a female officer stepped out of a mobile crime unit, an R.V. where detectives processed evidence, and waved the family over. “She was so detached,” Renetta said. “All she said was ‘I regret to inform you that your son is deceased.’ ” She did not tell them how their son had died or where they could find his body. The Torreses asked if they could go home, but the officer said that it was still an active crime scene…

It is not clear what the officers thought they were doing at that point. In a report filed later that day, one officer wrote, “Detectives believed another person was inside the house refusing to exit. Supposedly they saw movement in the house.” Another wrote, “There may be three people still inside the residence and all were possibly armed.”

There was no one in the house. Christopher Torres’ body was in the back yard. Shot in the back, point blank, three times. He was dead.

The lies the police told have been contradicted by an eye witness.

Albuquerque TV stations, print media journalists, make a big deal about courageous investigative journalism. Most of it is laughable, useless, cow country comedy. Rachel Aviv – for the NewYorker – knows what she is doing. This is a masterful piece of writing. Detail included you never get in TV news-bites; but, nothing extraneous. Worthy of a Pulitzer Prize.

Mike, one of our regulars, emailed me the link. I sat and read it it and decided I wanted to hold off on posting it till the weekend. This is not something you dash through on your coffee break at work. Read it and reflect.

Albuquerque politicians are stuck into spin and denial. Their sell to the public, after all, is we’re Republicans, we’re going to solve these problems. Trouble is – they weren’t the ones to contact the Department of Justice and ask for an investigation into police killings. Were they, now?

It ain’t just Albuquerque’s problem – it’s America’s problem.

Here are links to the Rolling Stone article on the shooting of James Boyd and a Washington POST article on the Albuquerque PD’s response, their treatment of the DA who dared to indict a couple of their cops for murder.

Photographer captures ice halo phenomena in Red River, NM


Click to see original

A photographer from Texas, Joshua Thomas, recently captured a photo in New Mexico of a rare ice crystal halo phenomenon.

In order to point out the interesting details in the photo, the US National Weather Service of La Crosse, Wisconsin made the photo into a diagram that shows the different aspects of the halo.

The phenomenon occurs when minuscule ice crystals in the atmosphere reflect and refract light in a certain way. The halos can be created by light from the sun or the moon, and seeing one often means there will be some kind of precipitation within the following 24 hours.

Delightful. A good reason to go outdoors in the winter. :)

Hastening death and suicide are different

In recent weeks, all of America was captivated by the story of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year old terminally ill brain cancer patient. She died on Nov. 1 of her own free will with the aid of physician-prescribed medication.

Prior to her death, Maynard and her family moved to Oregon, one of only three states that have enacted legislation – known as “death with dignity” or “aid-in-dying” legislation – that sets out strict requirements for competent adults with terminal diseases who wish to end their suffering by being aided in death. Washington and Vermont also have similar laws on the books.

Two other states – Montana and New Mexico – have not passed laws on the issue but have court decisions in place that effectively allow such deaths to take place. The Montana case was Baxter v. State; in the New Mexico case, known as Morris v. Brandenberg, Second District Judge Nan Nash – whose decision is currently being appealed – wrote that:

“If decisions made in the shadow of one’s imminent death regarding how they and their loved ones will face that death are not fundamental and at the core of these constitutional guarantees, then what decisions are..?”

When it comes to making the emotional appeal for such laws, Maynard, with the aid of Compassion & Choices, a leading aid-in-dying organization based in Oregon, told her story in about as articulate, intelligent and compassionate a way as humanly possible. Yet although her story made all the major media outlets, there was one point that was never picked up by any media with perhaps one exception –- what she planned to do, as she explained in one of her video clips, was not a suicide.

Despite this, many of the media captioned her story as one involving her “suicide” or “assisted suicide” (because the medication she used was lawfully prescribed by a licensed physician)…

But when we consider death with dignity, or aid-in-dying, the words “suicide” or “assisted suicide” should forever be banished from the lexicon.

I made this point a few years ago in a “friend of the court” brief for the Baxter court case in Montana; my argument was mentioned in a concurring opinion once the case was decided…

Physicians and other health professionals point to advances in palliative care to assuage the pain and suffering experienced by terminally ill and dying patients as one reason that ending one’s own life may now be avoided in these situations. It is certainly true that such advances have been made, but on balance, a competent adult with a terminal illness or disease must have a choice to end life with dignity on terms arrived at by that person.

A law like Oregon’s permits this option, and allows for what should be a basic human right at the end of life – a right that is to be granted only to those suffering from a painful terminal illness, not those wishing to end their lives for other reasons.

Which is my only dispute with the article. Although in general I don’t find many reasons legit – I can imagine one or another coming to pass. And I would want the right to make that decision.

Before she died, Maynard brought to the public’s attention her well-formed decision-making process and showed how it should apply to people in her specific situation…

In the end, as human thought advances over time, our views on ideas once held sacrosanct change. This is part of the human condition and ingrained within the fabric of social transition. Isn’t it high time that all of us discuss and evaluate the Brittany Maynards of our existence with the proper language that excludes the words suicide or assisted suicide, including anyone who writes, speaks or legislates about the subject in an open forum?

Let’s get little stuff out of the way. Regardless of questions about death with dignity, freedom of choice, you need to take care of the legal clutter impacting anyone in the clutches of the medical-industrial complex. Yes, that’s tongue-in-cheek. I’ve had some damned decent, thoughtful doctors in my life – they can help a great deal in discussions on the topic.

Here in New Mexico, you first should sort out a power of attorney with friend, spouse or significant other. Standard info on Advance Directives is available over here from the UNM medical school. Here’s one of the forms [.pdf] they suggest. I offer the link because it’s the one my wife chose – and she does a better job at this kind of search than I do.

I have to remember to keep my fey sense of humor out of the way. We had our first Death Panel get-together with my wife’s doctor a few weeks back. I have nothing but contempt for the conservative idjits who coined that term – so, of course, I deliberately use it as a joke. My wife’s doctor didn’t smile.

And we were the first patients I think she ever had bring up the topic. My first official discussion with my own doctor is next month – who is the husband of my wife’s doctor. Not really relevant; but, interesting.

The most important thing we learned was this Advance Directives form is more important, thoughtful and primary than the DNR [Do Not Resuscitate] form often referred to in discussions like this. I have one mate up in Canada who has it tattooed across his stomach. But, he’s in terrible health with a truly failing heart. My honey and I are essentially in good health. I have several worn-out bits here and there; but, the basic meat machine still works fine.

A DNR doesn’t allow for accidents or even health disasters which used to be considered inevitably fatal, lingering or otherwise. My wife’s doctor made a sensible case for reliance on this advance directive. A DNR can be added in person or via power of attorney if you end up teetering on the edge. but, a DNR can get in the way of what is reasonable resuscitation, nowadays – with years of perfectly satisfactory life following.

And we live in New Mexico, so unless the state succeeds in challenging current case law, we can rely on assistance from our doctors in a reasonable end to a terminal condition. At least I hope so. That’s the discussion I have next month. My doctor is bright and reasonable. I just presume that includes agreeing with me. :)

Are we approaching EOL? The end-of-life for the Rio Grande?


Click to enlargeLaura Paskus

PILAR, NM — From his cabin on the Rio Grande, river runner Steve Harris watches the flows of the river ebb and peak throughout the year. When the water runs clear, he glimpses northern pike below the surface. In winter, bald eagles nest along the river. And throughout the year, foxes and beavers, bears and badgers traipse through the yard.

“This is my retreat to go back to after foraying out into the water wars,” he says, only half-joking. “Uncle Steve” has been running the Rio Grande, in one place or another, for about 35 years. And he’s been defending the river about that long, too.

As drought has intensified over the past few years, however, trying to protect what’s left of the river has gotten harder and harder…

That’s a chronic problem: For instance, as New Mexico reinitiates a statewide water-planning process dating back to the 1980s, officials have said they’re not incorporating the effects of climate change into the equation.

Yet less precipitation and higher temperatures seem to be colliding with the river’s future…

The push-up dam outside Harris’s cabin is the first diversion structure on the Rio Grande in New Mexico. It diverts water into a small acequia that sustains a few acres of pasture and a garden in the village. “Once you get below here, the river’s been diverted to some degree or another,” he says, ticking off the biggest dams and reservoirs downstream: Cochiti, Elephant Butte and Caballo. “And on this same river, if we drove a thousand miles downstream, it would be dry.”

Traveling through an arid landscape susceptible to drought, the Rio Grande has often flowed in fits and starts. But until its waters were tamed in the 20th century—by dams, canals and increasingly sophisticated irrigation ditches—the river would also overflow its banks and swell across the wide floodplain.

Those floods could wreak havoc on settlements and inundate farmland. But they also nurtured native fish species, gave birth to the cottonwood forests and helped push the river toward the sea. Today, the river is constricted and controlled, sucked dry by the demands of irrigators and cities and prevented from navigating new channels.

As drought continues and climate change ramps up, the “Big River” is on its way to being the first of many climate casualties in New Mexico. And unless we all reconnect to Rio Grande—recognize its importance as a living river—our grandchildren might not know it as a force of nature…

The numbers are sobering. But they shouldn’t take anyone by surprise. Climate scientists have long been warning that the southwestern United States will experience warmer temperatures.

Authors of the National Climate Assessment’s 2013 report noted that in the Southwest, the period since 1950 has been warmer than any period of comparable length in at least 600 years and that recent flows in the four major drainage basins of the Southwest, including the Rio Grande, have been lower than their 20th century averages. The report predicts continued warming, a decrease in late-season snowpack and continued declines in river flows and soil moisture.

From the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to the New Mexico Environment Department, everyone has been issuing warnings about New Mexico’s water future.

During the Bill Richardson administration, the New Mexico Environment Department released a report detailing the potential effects of climate change on water resources, infrastructure, agriculture, natural systems, outdoor recreation tourism, environmental quality and health, low-income communities and communities of color and Native American communities.

Now, we’re starting the new year with the second term of a Republican governor owned lock-stock-and-two-loaded-barrels by the Oil Patch Boys. She cares more about engineering a gerrymandered electorate with a predictably complex photo ID system that satisfies both Homeland Insecurity and the Koch Bros.

Lip service is about as close as New Mexicans can get to acknowledgement of climate change from Governor Susana. Especially since she’s probably hoping to be the first Hispanic woman vice-presidential candidate.

The Democrats who remain in charge of the State Senate aren’t likely to be any more courageous than their cousins in Congress.

RTFA, though. It offers a detailed and well-described look along the course of the Rio and its decline.

What a backup reservoir looks like during a drought

image
Click to enlarge — New Mexico Sailing Club’s marina at Heron Lake

The San Juan-Chama Project, which delivers water from the mountains of southwest Colorado to central New Mexico, had the first shortfall this year in its four-decade history after three consecutive years of bad snowpack.

Water managers say the impact on Rio Grande Valley water operations was small, but the implications are significant – a demonstration that a supply once seen as dependable backup to a faltering Rio Grande might not be as reliable as once thought. Albuquerque and Santa Fe pull San-Juan Chama water from the Rio Grande for their local water supplies…

The first-ever shortfall comes just a year after a federal study warned that climate change would mean less reliable supplies from the project as temperatures warm during the 21st century…

Scientists are not ready to blame the shortfall on climate change, but they point out that the pattern seen in recent years is consistent with last year’s U.S. Bureau of Reclamation study of the risks to the San Juan-Chama Project posed by climate change…

Studies using tree rings to estimate long-term water supplies showed there were risks of shortfalls even without climate change, said hydrologist Dagmar Llewellyn, the study’s lead author.

“It isn’t just climate change,” she said in an interview.

But the warmer temperatures in recent decades can add to problems caused by a lack of winter snow, Llewellyn said. With a longer growing season and greater evaporation, less of the rain and snow that does fall makes it into the region’s rivers.

“The difference is it’s hotter,” she said. “For the same precipitation, you’re going to have less water…”

Llewellyn’s study concluded that, by the 2020s, the previously unheard of possibility of a San Juan-Chama Project shortfall could happen on average once every six years.

But, hey – gubernatorial elections are every four years. Republicans should be able to lie their way into continuing control of the legislature and the governor’s mansion. Between Koch Bros/Oil Patch Boys money and Democrats whose primary concern is which wardheeler’s kid is next in line to run for office – no problemo.

Prez of NM Medical Society suspended — drinking on job, sex with patients, WTF? — UPDATED

A New Mexico doctor posed a “clear and immediate danger to the public” for numerous infractions including having sex with patients, drinking on the job and leaving some women to give birth while unattended, the state medical board ruled.

Dr. Christopher Driskill was suspended by the New Mexico Medical Board on Friday for allegedly committing several incidents of misconduct…

The board ruled the obstetrician and gynecologist kept a personal stash of alcohol in his office.

Other inappropriate behavior includes prescribing drugs to a sexual partner, being under the influence while at work, writing lewd personal notes in medical charts, delaying a c-section and leaving a patient to give birth unattended because he was having sex with another patient…

Driskill, 42, was the incoming president of the New Mexico Medical Society

The board is now considering whether to revoke Driskill’s license. A hearing date has not been set. Dr. Driskill can challenge his suspension but at this point has not.

What is there to say? I glad the dude wasn’t my doctor.

How did he get to be elected/appointed by his peers to be the new head of the New Mexico Medical Society?

UPDATE: Finally resigned his gig as head of NM MedicalSociety

Thanks, Mike

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to film in New Mexico


Morocco, Shmorocco – I can’t tell the difference either

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was scheduled to shoot in Africa, but with the Ebola virus epidemic going on there, it’s probably best to stay home. Instead, it looks like Deming, New Mexico will be filling in as a replacement location. Henry Cavill News spotted a posting on the New Mexico Film Office website, which was looking for extras for a Warner Bros. movie back in September…

According to the casting notice, entire families age 8 and older are needed to re-create an African village scene. The deserts in New Mexico can easily pass for Morocco, the location in Africa that they originally wanted to shoot at. The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice crew is expected to film in New Mexico in mid-November, right after they’re done in Chicago, Illinois…

Holy Javelina, Batman!

Thanks, Mike