Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Celebrating Food Poisoning and Other Nightmare Scenarios

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 5, 2010

I just got back from a two-week vacation, but judging from my e-mail pile, I didn’t miss very much while I was gone. In fact, a huge chunk of my mail could be boiled down into two basic messages:

1) “Nanny nanny boo boo! Republicans said something stupid.”

2) “Nanny nanny boo boo! Democrats said something stupid.”

My personal favorite was one from the state Democratic Party sent late last week.

The subject line: “In case you missed it ... Green Chile Gets the Best of Michael Steele.”

Copied and pasted was a story from CNN about the Republican National Committee chairman having to cancel an appearance at the National Association of Black Journalists because he was suffering from food poisoning. The story noted that Steele had been in New Mexico at a fundraiser for GOP gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez the day before.

I could wring my hands about the state of political discourse falling to such a level that one party is celebrating the other party’s leader getting sick.

But I have to admit, the e-mail made me laugh.

Dire consequences: As the campaign progresses, expect the rhetoric from both sides to become increasingly overheated. But don’t expect it to stop when the election’s over. It’ll return with a bang when the Legislature convenes in January.

The next one will be a 60-day session where in addition to the state budget, all sorts of issues can be debated. And in the case of controversial social issues, advocates on both sides are prone to conjuring nightmare scenarios, which, they say, are sure to unfold if the other side gets its way.

The gun issue is one of the most emotional issues with which politicians have to deal. Both sides envision devastating consequences if the wrong move is made.

But consider this: New Mexico has had its concealed-carry law for about seven years now. And so far, there hasn’t been a bloodbath caused by gun-slinging maniacs, as some of the law’s opponents suggested would occur. In fact, I can’t think of any shootout in the state that’s happened because the concealed-carry law is in effect.

And even though it’s too early to judge the effect of the new law allowing concealed-carry license holders to take guns into restaurants that serve beer and wine, I strongly suspect that there’s little danger of an upswing of gun violence in such establishments.

On the other hand, even though the concealed-carry advocates claimed the law was necessary for honest people to protect themselves, I haven’t read about a single instance in which a concealed carrier was able to stop a rapist, attacker or any other evil-doer thanks to the law.

Speaking of gun violence, during a Senate debate on the bill that outlawed cockfighting, then-Sen. Shannon Robinson, D-Albuquerque, envisioned a situation in which police officers might shoot and kill cockfight enthusiasts fleeing from a bust.

There have been some arrests since the law went into effect in 2007. But so far the police commendably have restrained themselves from opening fire on cockfight organizers.

There has been no death penalty in New Mexico for more than a year now. We can argue whether or not there are some criminals who deserve execution. But so far, despite the implications of some capital-punishment advocates, there’s no evidence that the repeal has emboldened more people to commit first-degree murders with aggravating circumstances.

Likewise, there’s been no noticeable increase of drug addicts crawling the streets because of the state’s medical marijuana program, which has been in effect since 2007.

So no matter who wins the election, no matter what passes or doesn’t pass the Legislature next year, the sun still will rise the next day.