New Mexico’s senators get it right

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This is exactly what I was talking about last week: the U.S. losing its edge in scientific research.

Bingaman and Alexander asked last May for a panel of experts at the National Academy of Science to investigate the matter. In their report, called “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” and presented to Congress in October, the experts said they are “deeply concerned that the scientific and technical building blocks of our economic leadership are eroding at a time when many other nations are gathering strength.”

I place a huge amount of weight in a liberal education in college, because the social science and humanities are just too damn cool. We cannot flourish as a society without them.

However, scientific advancement has driven our economy for the last century. And New Mexico’s history is deep when it comes to this: from Goddard’s pioneering work on rockets and the development of the atomic bomb during World War II, to all the research and development done at the Sandia and Los Alamos national labs since.

We’ll continue to face myriad challenges as this century progresses, and we must do everything we can to ensure New Mexico, and the United States, progress as well. For example, with Domenici’s help, we’re working on desalination technology in the Tularosa Basin, near Alamogordo. Projects like this one are the ones we need to pursue to stay competetive in the global economy, and we simply can’t do it without quality science students.

Now that’s diplomacy!

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A friend and I were reacting to this story over at KOB-TV’s site.

Three men are in jail and three Cibola High School girls are facing disciplinary action after the girls skipped school Tuesday and went with the men to drink alcohol and watch pornography.

A school spokesman says the men were taken into custody when a Cibola High security officer confronted the men on the campus and one of them pulled a loaded gun.

The girls — two are 17 years old and the third is 15 — told school security about the alcohol and porn. The girls said the men stopped them on their way to school and convinced them to come with them to a private home.

Taken into custody were 19-year-old Sean Cordova, 20-year-old Ronald Lujan and 35-year-old Frank Sedillo. They’re charged with possession of a deadly weapon on school property and contributing to the delinquency of minors.

My first reaction was to wonder just how bad the education system is in this state when watching porn and drinking with three older men is a valid course of action for teen girls.

My buddy, on the other hand, had a different line of thought:

Juicebox says:
that wasn’t my thoughts
Juicebox says:
some 35 year old guy convinced 3 girls to come to his house and drink booze and watch porn – dude – we need to get this guy in the UN
Juicebox says:
totally could have sold the iraq war
Juicebox says:
i mean what did he say?

What the heck did he say?

Water is the new oil

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From Headwaters News I see this story at the Washington Post about water wars in the West. There’s a lot of great stuff here, especially on the role of farmers and ranchers in what happens to water:

In some cases, such as Big Sky’s Poorman Creek, compromise turned out to be easy. Montana rancher Eddie Grantier, who raises 100 head of cattle on the ranch his parents founded, conceded that the ranch had wasted water for years, ultimately drying up a tributary of the Blackfoot River used by vulnerable bull and cutthroat trout swimming upstream to spawn.

After officials from the advocacy group Trout Unlimited raised $110,000 to install a sprinkler irrigation system, pump and pipeline, and a screen to keep fish from getting trapped in the intake pipes, Grantier threw in $20,000 worth of his own work to conserve water.

Oh, if only things worked out this well all over the region. Alas, no, and it seems as though states and municipalities will become increasingly desperate for water in the coming decades. Yet the same people keep saying the same things: drought is only temporary, technology will continue to help conserve more and more water, blah blah blah.

Also via Headwaters, the Las Vegas Review-Journal is reporting about a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation plan to build a reservoir on the Colorado River, near the U.S.-Mexico border.

Yeah, another dam!

With all the problems that come with dams, you would think we’d stop building them. Yet, our insatiable thirst for water (like our thirst for oil) causes us to be ignorant of long-term problems. So, we don’t think about long-term solutions.

Without getting into peak oil theory, I’ll say that there is one interesting parallel: we’re not going to suddenly come up with vast amounts of fresh water, which will magically appear. Instead, we need to develop a radical change in lifestyle. An end to drought conditions in the West will only put off the inevitable: growth is going to continue, demand for water will keep rising, and people will still expect a swimming pool in their backyard when they build their homes in Phoenix.

John Fleck has links for tracking drought conditions in New Mexico, and for the state Environment Department report on Climate Change.

Education in New Mexico

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Well, it doesn’t look like there’s much going on in New Mexico right now, because everybody is waiting for the start of the legislative session tomorrow. And, to be honest, it makes sense: today is a holiday, so most folk in the Land of Enchantment are happily relaxing on their day off (I know I’m enjoying my afternoon away from the office).

Joe Monahan brought up ex-Gov. Carruthers’ remarks on education in the state again today, and since I haven’t commented yet I figured I might as well do so now.

Carruthers, while a bit harsh in his comments, is also on to something. Minority students in this state face much tougher obstacles to obtaining a high-quality education than their white peers. One could go on and on about the numerous studies that link poverty and educational attainment.

The former gov is right on another point: the key will be better preparation for college. I’ve heard quite a bit of talk lately about the changing education landscape, and the need for more vocational schools and programs. While demand for these courses is up, we should be fighting the trend rather than encouraging it.

There will always be a place in our system for those who choose not to attend college. However, we should make every effort to persuade students that a university degree is a valid, nay, desirable goal. The U.S. is already behind Europe (and soon Asia) in several factors of scientific achievement, and the gap will continue to widen if we don’t change our priorities soon.

So, while it’s great the WNMU will likely receive $1 million for a vocational training center, I’m more pleased to hear the school plans to offer a wider array of college courses to high school students around the state. And, though I may have been opposed to need-based scholarships several years ago, I think they make all kinds of sense now. Gov. Richardson hopes to make a $50 million investment in the scholarships, and this is a step in the right direction.

However, regardless of how much help you give college freshmen financially, their families need help while the kids are still in middle and high school. A minimum wage hike, long a goal of progressives in the state, is also long overdue. It’s simply ridiculous to think that a 1997 wage is adequate for families in 2006.

Simply put, everybody in New Mexico needs to pay more attention to education: from the parents who struggle with two or three jobs just to put food on the table, to the research scientists at our national laboratories, to our elected officials in Santa Fe. We need policies that will help those who need help the most, and we need to take a serious look at our flawed system of teaching children. Stop-gap measures only serve to buy us time, and, as Carruthers pointed out, time is something that is desperately in short supply.

New Mexico’s black eye on emergency care report card

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New Mexico has received an overall grade of D- in emergency care, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican (free registration required):

Further exacerbating access to emergency care is the state’s lack of nurses; it ranked 47th among states for this measure. The nursing shortage also might explain why New Mexico lags behind most states in its supply of staffed hospital beds. Researchers said these problems contribute to emergency department overcrowding by forcing admitted emergency patients to wait hours and sometimes days until an in-patient bed becomes available.

Western New Mexico University continues to push its nursing program, and this news will only mean more support for the program throughout the state (and hopefully in the Legislature). The state’s high number of uninsured is, of course, another problem. Maybe the idea of providing health insurance to all New Mexicans will gain some more traction after this report. One thing supporters of the plan champion is increasing access to quality emergency room care for rural residents.

The report cited the state’s lack of spending on health care as one of the main problems:

In the most heavily weighted category, access to emergency care, New Mexico received a D-plus. Driving down the state’s grade was the high number of uninsured residents and the state’s poor spending on health care, including public funding of health insurance.

Overall, health care spending in the U.S. slowed in 2004, growing 7.9% over the year. While growth slowed, it still outpaces inflation. Yet, the report issued by the American College of Emergency Physicians calls into question New Mexico’s “poor spending.” As we move forward in this new millennium, we’ll have to evaluate what to do with health-care spending: take it on as a society, or continue to make individuals pay for their increasingly expensive care.

Space Tourism Catching On?

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Via Slashdot, I see that the FAA has drawn up rules for passenger space flight, ala Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is attempting to regulate the commercial space industry in a bid to ensure minimum safety standards.

It has recommended security checks similar to those for airline passengers.

The FAA also suggests space tourism companies check the global “no-fly” list, from the US’s Homeland Security Department, to exclude potential terrorists.

Joe Monohan had some tidbits of reaction from state players on the Governor’s plans to spend buku buckos on a spaceport here in Southern New Mexico. Personally, I think it’s a great idea, if it’s funded right, and I understand some people have already plunked down $200,000 a piece to take a flight.

I wonder what Jim Kunstler would say…