Friday, August 27, 2010

Were You Missing the Negative Ads in the Gov's Race?

Well, they're back. And this is just the beginning.

The anti-Denish ad is courtesy of the Martinez campaign.

The anti-Martinez comes from the Democratic Governors Association.

SOS Tidbit: Herrera's IPRA Request

A couple of hours after her "press conference" in which she walked away without taking any questions from the press, Herrera and her staff went to the Capitol Rotunda for a group photo shoot.

Encountering reporters afterward -- namely myself and Rob Nikolewski of Capitol Report New Mexico -- Herrera declined to elaborate on her statements about her staff being put on leave and the allegations of wrongdoing in her office.

I asked Herrera why she recently made a public information request for e-mails between Deputy Los Alamos County Clerk Sheryl Nichols — who has made critical statements about Herrera in news articles — and several people, including Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza and several members of Herrera's staff.

"I did that as a citizen," Herrera said, adding that just because she's an elected official doesn't mean she has to give up her rights as a citizen. "I made that (request) for me."

She said she used her own money in making the request. She declined to say why she wanted the e-mails or what information she found in them.

Rob took video of the brief exchange. Here's the part about the Inspection of Public Records request:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rasmussen Shows Martinez Leading

The new Rasmussen poll shows Republican Susana Martinez leading Democrat Diane Denish by five percentage points, 48 percent - 43 percent.

When "leaners" -- people who say they haven't made up their mind but are leaning toward one of the candidates -- are counted, Martinez's lead goes up -- 51 percent to 44 percent.

The poll can be found HERE.

The major good news for Denish here: "This race still remains a Toss-Up in the Rasmussen Reports Election 2010 Gubernatorial Scorecard." The margin of error in the poll is four percent.

According to the poll, Martinez is winning 2-1 among independent voters.

One of Denish's problems is that only 76 percent of Democrats say they are for her.

Despite a bitter GOP primary battle, Martinez is winning 87 percent of the Republican vote.

Rasmussen interviewed 750 "likely voters" in New Mexico on August 24.

Herrera Bolts Her Own Press Conference

Secretary of State Mary Herrera

Embattled Secretary of State Mary Herrera held press conference this morning. But then she bolted before reporters could ask questions.

Before she left, she called allegations of wrongdoing "blatantly false and ridiculous ... Thrown at the press like red meat in an election year."

She apparently was referring to allegations by an attorney for two of her current employees that there has been criminal wrongdoing in the office. Lawyer Rudy Martin represents Manny Vildasol and James Flores who were recently put on administrative leave. He also represents former elections director A.J. Salazar, who left his job in March with complaints about possible wrongdoing by Herrera.

Reading a statement, Herrera said the state is investigating the two employees -- Vildasol and Flores. She emphasized that she is not involved with the investigation.

The press conference, held in the lobby of the SOS office, had been called to discuss voter information being mailed to active voters before the general election.

As reporters began asking questions about the investigations, etc. , Herrera turned and walked briskly to the safety of her own office. Deputy SOS Francisco Trujillo told reporters he had no more to say on the subject.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

More Trouble Brewing at SOS

Another top administrator at the Secretary of State's Office -- the second in a week's time -- has been put on paid leave.

This time it's Manny Vildasol, the office manager who recently appeared on a KOB News report openly accusing SOS Mary Herrera of vague "criminal activity" and secretly recording state technicians trying to remove porn viruses from Secretary of State Mary Herrera's laptop computer.

As I reported yesterday, Herrera's spokesman James Flores was put on administrative leave last week. He was supposed to return to work yesterday, but it looks like that didn't happen.

Rudy Martin, a lawyer representing both Vildasol and Flores, said both men recently have talked to the FBI about what they see as wrongdoing in Herrera's office. The FBI can't confirm or deny that.

An interesting tidbit about Flores. According to Martin he is accused of committing what Herrera must see as the ultimate sin: communicating with Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza, a major Herrera critic, and with A.J. Salazar, who noisily resigned as election director in March, accusing Herrera of wrongdoing.

Martin said the real reason for putting the two on leave is retaliation for talking to the FBI.

Deputy SOS Francisco Trujillo did not return my phone calls Wednesday to respond to any of this.

Read my story in today's New Mexican HERE

Roundhouse Roundup: The State Government Name Game

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 26, 2010

Another reporter, one new to New Mexico, asked me Wednesday which state agency was responsible for unemployment checks. My first reaction was to say “the Labor Department,” but then realized that’s not what they call it these days. It took me a couple of seconds to remember that the department formerly known as “Labor” is now known as “Workforce Solutions.”

A high-ranking employee of said department once told me that he wishes it would go back to the old name. People tend to think “Workforce Solutions” is some kind of private agency, not a state government department.

Labor isn’t the only creature of state government that got a nomenclatural makeover during Bill Richardson’s administration.

Our state fair is a great state fair, but the state agency responsible for it is now called “Expo New Mexico.” I had to look at the Frequently Asked Questions section of the agency’s website because I’d forgotten whether “Expo New Mexico” refers to the annual Albuquerque event in September, the grounds on which it takes place, the government agency, or all or any of the above.

Then there’s the Corrections Department. No change there, but back in 2008, a prison reform task force created by the governor recommended changing the name of the Department of Corrections to the “Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.” Somehow that change didn’t get off the ground.

Too bad. Surely changing the name would make state prisons far more humane and effective — just like the U.S. brought about peace by changing the name of the War Department to the Department of Defense.

Whether Diane Denish or Susana Martinez ultimately wins the governorship in November, there’s bound to be a certain amount of dismantling of the Richardson era, for better or worse. The two candidates can argue endlessly about what’s the baby and what’s the bathwater.

But I hope both of them consider changing back Workforce Solutions, Expo New Mexico, and probably some I’ve overlooked, to their original, simple names.

Best political tweets of the day: Adam Kokesh of Santa Fe lost to Tom Mullins of Farmington for the Republican nomination for the 3rd Congressional District seat. But the young, libertarian ex-Marine still is interesting to follow on Twitter and Facebook.
Adam Kokesh
Lately he’s been weighing in on the “ground zero Mosque” controversy. And, as was the case during the primary campaign, Kokesh cannot be described as a generic Republican.

On Wednesday, he wrote, “I hereby convert to Islam! But don’t worry, I’ll only be like most Americans about their religions. I won’t really believe everything my religion says, I’ll primarily use it to judge other people, and I’ll only go to a mosque a few times a year.”

Later in the day he wrote, “As a Muslim Jewish American War Veteran, I think the churches at ground zero are an offense to Muslims (and Jews) killed on 9/11 and should be torn down immediately. However, the strip clubs can stay. I want to know what 72 virgins will look like.”

(The best comment he got for this on Facebook was from a woman who asked, “Virgins at strip clubs?”)

How does Kokesh really feel about the issue? Last week on Facebook he wrote, “Eventually, society will look back on those who are protesting the building of a mosque near ‘Ground Zero’ the same way that we look back on the Klan today.”

Kokesh hosts a radio talk show, Adam vs. The Man, at 3 p.m. on KIVA, an Albuquerque station, 1550 AM, and streaming on the Web .

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

More SOS Turmoil

Secretary of State Mary Herrera’s longtime chief spokesman has been placed on paid administrative leave.

James Flores, who has been the public information officer for the Secretary of State’s Office since Herrera took office in 2007 was put on leave on Aug. 18, deputy SOS Francisco Trujillo said today.

Trujillo said he couldn’t say why Flores was put on leave. “It’s a personnel issue,” he said.

Flores is supposed to report back to work tomorrow, Trujillo said.

Immediately before the leave Flores had taken time off to attend the funerals of two family members.

Flores’ leave came in the midst of controversial news stories about the Secretary of State’s office last week.

There were television and newspaper stories about pornographic computer viruses infecting Herrera’s personal computer, as well as my column about Herrera filing public information requests to get e-mails involving some of her own staff and some of her political critics.

Flores was not on the list of employees whose e-mails Herrera wanted.

Happy Waffle Day

First the state Democratic Party revels in Michael Steele's food poisoning, now they're kicking a guy on his birthday.

Republican Steve Pearce, running against Rep. Harry Teague down in CD 2, turned 63 today.

He has the political misfortune to be born on National Waffle Day (not to be confused with International Waffle Day, which is in March.)

Apparently today is the anniversary of Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York receiving his patent for the first waffle iron in 1869.

“After 63 years of sharing his birthday with National Waffle Day, it is no wonder that Congressman Pearce has come to be known as the Washington Waffler. Congressman Pearce has waffled on everything from privatizing Social Security to fighting for our veterans,” James Hallinan, Spokesman for the state Dems said.

Oh come on, nobody really calls him that.

Pearce, a former U.S. representative, can take some solace in the fact that his opponents already are calling him "Congressman" again.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hey, I Remember That Guy!

Gov. Bill Richardson — apparently is tired of being a punching bag for Republican gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez — made a rare foray into the 2010 campaign Friday, issuing a statement Friday listing his achievements in the area of education and saying Martinez “obviously doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”
Democrat Richardson made his statement the day after a debate between Martinez and Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, the Democratic candidate for governor. Richardson is constitutionally prohibited seeking a third term,

"All she can do is make false claims about my record and continually get her facts wrong,” Richardson said of Martinez. “Voters will see through her attempt to hide her support for school vouchers and her ultimate desire to cut classroom spending.”

“The fact that Gov. Bill Richardson is defending Diane Denish tells New Mexicans everything they need to know,” Martinez said in a statement in response to the governor’s. “As I said last night, if New Mexicans want a third-term of the failed policies of Bill Richardson, they should vote for his ‘loyal soldier,’ Diane Denish.”

Indeed, Richardson’s statement comes during a time in which Denish, who has been lieutenant governor since Richardson took office in 2003, has been trying to establish her independence from Richardson, whose popularity has dwindled during the past two years in the face of state investment scandals and a weak economy.

Asked whether Denish considered Richardson’s defense helpful, campaign spokesman Chris didn’t directly answer the question. “Thursday night’s debate was about New Mexico’s next governor, and putting Diane Denish’s ideas to strengthen public schools up against Susana Martinez’s plan to take money out of our public schools and give it to wealthy private schools.”

The issue of whether Martinez supports state vouchers to pay tuition at private schools also was brought up in Richardson’s statement. “While candidate Martinez talks about school choice, she’s really talking about supporting school vouchers. If she had paid attention during the last eight years, she would know that Gov. Richardson has made it possible for nearly 10,000 New Mexico students to attend one of 81 charter schools within the public system, while holding schools accountable for results.”

Martinez insists she would not use public money to support private schools. Instead, she says she supports giving tax credits to businesses and individuals who give money for scholarships for students to attend the school of their choice. However during the Republican primary, Martinez advocated a different proposal, telling The Associated Press in May that she supported granting tax credits to families who send their children to private or religious schools.

Richardson in his statement provided a lengthy list of several things he’d done for education, such as raising teacher pay, leading the fight for constitutional amendments to increase education funding and supporting pre-kindergarten programs, increasing funding for full-day kindergarten.

In terms of teacher salaries, according to the National Education Association the state ranks 39th in teacher salaries — which is an improvement from before Richardson’s salary increases.

Martinez in her response said Richardson had failed on his 2002 promise that “at least 62 cents of every education dollar would make it into the classroom” and “more money is wasted on the bureaucracy instead of being spent in the classroom.”

Beverly Friedman, spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Education, said Friday that 61.6 percent of the department’s operational budget is dedicated to the classroom. Richardson’s statement said one of his first acts when taking office was to require school districts to move $90 million from cash reserves into classroom spending.

As she did at the debate, Martinez on Friday noted that nearly 40 percent of New Mexico’s children fail to graduated and that the state ranks low in several education rankings. According to statistics from the federal Education Department, the state ranks near the bottom in almost every category of reading, writing and math skills for fourth and eighth graders.

My instant "fact check" of last night's debate can be found HERE.

Kate Nash's piece on the debate is HERE

Thursday, August 19, 2010


The debate starts at 6.

It's streaming HERE

You can follow our live blog here.

Roundhouse Roundup: Herrera Seeks Critics' E-mails

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 19, 2010

Secretary of State Mary Herrera apparently likes to know what people are saying about her, especially when she knows a controversial news story about her office is in the works.

So early this month, while an Albuquerque television station was working on a story about how a computer virus infected her laptop with links to pornographic websites, Herrera did what a reporter might do — file a public information request for documents under the state Inspection of Public Record Act.

Reporters who have had a difficult time getting timely responses from the Secretary of State’s Office for public records requests are surely rolling their eyes by now.

The target of the Aug. 2 request, obtained by The New Mexican, was Sheryl Nichols, chief deputy clerk of Los Alamos. Nichols is president of the state association for county clerks and has been quoted in this publication and other news media over the years making critical remarks about Herrera’s performance.

Herrera requested copies of all of Nichols’ e-mail correspondence from July 12 through July 16 from the County Clerk’s Office to and from a list of several people, many of whom have been critical of Herrera. And several were employees of Herrera’s own office.

Right at the top of the list was Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza and her deputy clerk, Denise Lamb. Espinoza last year considered running against Herrera in the Democratic primary. Earlier this month, my colleague Kate Nash reported that Espinoza is supporting Herrera’s Republican opponent Dianna Duran in the upcoming election.

Others on the list were Chief Deputy Bernalillo County Clerk Robert Adams; Albuquerque lawyer Daniel Ivy Soto — a former Elections Bureau chief for Herrera and a lobbyist for the county clerks; Doña Ana Deputy County Clerk Mario Jimenez; and six of Herrera’s own staff.

Among those was office administrator Manny Vildasol, the whistle-blower who used a hidden video camera to tape computer personnel in Herrera’s office working on her laptop.

Some of Vildasol’s footage was used in KOB’s report last week about Herrera’s laptop being infested by viruses that put porn links on the desktop of her laptop.

In that report, Vildasol accused Herrera of “covering up” anything controversial in the Secretary of State’s Office and made a vague reference to “criminal activity.”

Herrera has since blamed Vildasol for being the first to bring a computer virus into her office’s system. In April, Vildasol apparently was the victim of a “phishing” scam that caused unwarranted e-mails to be sent from his account.

It’s not clear why Herrera had to request her own staff’s e-mails from the Los Alamos County Clerk’s Office. It would seem that she could get them from the Secretary of State’s Office computer system — except perhaps if she didn’t want anyone in her office to know she was looking.

It’s not clear what, if any, records have been turned over to Herrera and what, if any, “smoking guns” were found.

At least one of her staff members on that list didn’t know Herrera was looking for her e-mails. Kelli Fulgenzi, administrator for the state Bureau of Elections, said Wednesday that she was surprised to find out she’d been included. But she speculated her role as custodian of the office’s public records might have something to do with her being included.

The time range included in the request coincides with the time KOB began poking around about the computer porn story. But nobody in the position of actually knowing what Herrera was seeking in her public records request is talking on the record.

Herrera didn’t return my call Wednesday. Nor did Nichols.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Computer Viruses Are Not Destroying State Government

It appears that the big computer virus problems in state government Secretary of State Mary Herrera's told us about yesterday might not be such big problems afterall -- at least for state government.

Of the two examples she gave earlier this week, one appears to have been exaggerated, while the other — the apparent theft of $700,000 by computer hackers — involved a victim that was not a state agency.

The SOS was responding to reports that Herrera’s own laptop had been infected by viruses that put unwanted links to pornography sites on the desktop of her computer. Other computers in her office have been hit with viruses also, including one that sent numerous “spam” e-mails from a Secretary of State account.

“Information technology professions in various executive and legislative agencies of state government have reported numerous malware attacks in recent months,” a Tuesday news release from Herrera’s office said.

“The New Mexico Educational Assistance Foundation system was even compromised by a malware package ...” The release goes on to explain how hackers were able to get a password and other information and make numerous transfers from the foundation’s bank account. The money lost totaled about $700,000.

That much is true Woody Farber, president of the foundation. The loss to the operating fund occurred just last month. However, NMEAF is a private non-profit, Farber said and while working with the state Department of Higher Education, it is not part of government. “We’re working with the FBI and Bank of the West,” Farber said.

Herrera’s news release also spoke of a “malware intrusion” at the state Legislature’s website, which infected “the legislative bill analysis site, which could have easily spread to other frequent users, including government agencies, businesses and other public users.”

But John Yaeger of the Legislative Council said Wednesday that while a possible malware intrusion was detected a few months ago, the presence of a virus never was verified.

“We did get a report from (the state Department of Information Technology) that our web server may have had some minor malware on it — something that would have impacted a user’s ability to open PDFs,” Yaeger said. “We ran the prescribed fixes and then a scan that showed a clean bill of health. All resolved in a day.”

The problem initially was reported by a state employee — who was having trouble opening some documents on the site — to DoIT, Yaeger said. The Legislative Council received no other complaints about the website that day, he said and there was no other indication of computer trouble.

The Secretary of State was correct that there have been numerous attacks — or at least attempted attacks — on state computers. According to the April DOiT newsletter, “ During the month of March, DoIT blocked approximately 300,000 critical attacks. DoIT cyber security sends out notifications to agency CIO and security staff when an attack is detected.”

Marlin Mackey, the secretary of DOiT, told a reporter Wednesday that his agency does not maintain the computer system for the Secretary of State’s Office or the Legislature — though his staff does offer assistance to those and other state agencies that have their own systems.

Mackey said his agency has recommended the Secretary of State hire forensics computer specialists, such as those at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, to help with its virus problems.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Viruses Infecting SOS and Other State Computers?

Secretary of State Mary Herrera said Tuesday that her personal laptop computer and several computers in her office have been the targets of computer virus attacks since April and that other state agencies also have been victims of computer crimes, including an agency that lost $700,000 to hackers.

One of the viruses places, according to a report by KOB television, apparently put links to pornographic websites on the desktop of Herrera’s computer. She said the malicious software, called “Defense Center” was disguised as anti-virus software.

“These unfortunate, common viruses have been capable of penetrating units with up-to-date software protection,” Herrera said in a news release. Herrera’s deputy Franciso Trujillo told KOB last week that Herrera’s computer did not have virus protection.

But, Herrera stressed that none of the viruses ever jeopardized the state’s voter registration database or her office’s program for victims of domestic violence who have their mail forwarded from the Secretary of State’s Office. Those files, which contain confidential information, are all on paper, not in the computer system, Herrera said.

Herrera said that hers is not the only state office to suffer from computer attacks. One hacker was able to steal $700,000 from the New Mexico Educational Assistance Foundation, Herrera said. The state Legislature’s website also was hit recently by computer malware, Herrera said.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Information Technology couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Herrera said the first computer infected was one used by office manager Manuel Vildasol. Her news release included an email from an Information Technology employee indicting that Vildasol had been the victim of a “phishing” scam in which he’d inadvertently been tricked into giving his computer user name and password to someone who was “spamming the world” — that is, sending numerous unwarranted e-mails from Vildasol’s account.

Vildasol appeared on the television reporter talking about the viruses on Herrera’s laptop. There he used a hidden video camera to tape computer personnel in Herrera’s office working on her laptop. He accused Herrera of “covering up” anything controversial.

Vildasol does not have a listed phone number and couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Herrera denied a report that the resume of one of her family members was on her computer.

Below is the news release. (Click on full-screen mode):

SOS Computer Virus News Release

And here's the original KOB report:

Gov. Goes to Bat for Chimps

Gov. Bill Richardson today met with officials at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. to discuss his concerns regarding the NIH plan to transfer the chimpanzees from the Alamogordo Primate Facility to a facility in Texas for medical research.

"I appreciate NIH officials listening to my concerns, shared by many New Mexicans and others around the country, about the organization's planned transfer of chimpanzees from their home in Alamogordo and the continuation of invasive medical research on the primates," Richardson said in a news release this afternoon.

More than 200 chimps are at the Alamogordo facility.

"While it appears (NIH officials) are holding steadfast to their position, I am holding steadfast to mine," Richardson said. "I will continue pressing for a humane, long-term care solution for the care of these chimpanzees which have already had to endure years of medical testing."

The governor also he believes the National Academy of Sciences should do an independent review of policies regarding the use of chimps in medical research. Richardson requested a tour of the Alamogordo Primate Facility operated by Charles River Laboratories and located on Holloman Air Force Base.

According to the agreement with the base, no research may be conducted on the chimps while they are at the facility. But NIH's contract will expire next May -- when NIH plans to transfer the chimps to Texas.

If Richardson is successful, the chimps surely will celebrate, as indicated in the video below:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Live Blogging the First Gubernatorial Debate

I'll be the New Mexican live-blogging team Thursday night when we team up with our close and personal friends at The New Mexico Independent to cover the first debate between Diane Denish and Susana Martinez.

We'll start this at 5:45 p.m. Thursday. You'll be able to follow it on this blog as well as The New Mexican Web site.

CLICK HERE to sign up for a free reminder to tune in.

(The above link, which was broken in previous version, has been repaired. )

Expanding Computer Service

New Mexico's two U.S. senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman today co-hosted a New Mexico "Broadband & Smart Grid Summit" in Moriarty that featured the announcement of more than $73 million in grants and awards to expand broadband services to rural, underserved areas of New Mexico.

According to the press release Udall led the first panel session, titled “Wiring New Mexico for the Future;” while Bingaman led the second panel, titled “Bringing Broadband to Energy – Smart Grid in New Mexico.” About 300 people attended.

“Today was a big day for New Mexico,” Udall said. “Not only did we bring experts from across the spectrum together to discuss the challenges our state faces in bridging the digital divide, but we also took an important step forward in connecting our rural areas with the announcement of more than $73 million in grants and loans.”

That's cool. Now if they could only force AT&T to make my iPhone work in the Roundhouse.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: All Press Releases Look Alike

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 12, 2010

You read enough news releases from government offices and they all start to look alike.

In this case, literally.

I’m talking about the recent announcement by Attorney General Gary King’s office that a complaint by King and 33 other attorneys general against had been brought to a happy conclusion.

Topix is an online news aggregator that handles reader comments for news sites nationwide. Because of pressure from the AGs, the company agreed to stop its policy of charging nearly $20 to expedite reviews of abusive or potentially libelous comments.

King’s office, in announcing the agreement, said, “On behalf of the numerous parents, public officials, and concerned citizens who have contacted me about, I am pleased that we’ve been able to reach an agreement with the company to put a stop to the ‘pay-to-police’ policy to expedite removal of abusive posts. I appreciate the cooperation of and look forward to continuing to work with the company to ensure that New Mexicans, particularly our kids, are not being harmed by harassing and abusive posts.”

But while Googling around to do some quick research on the issue, I came across a quote from Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway in PC World, an online publication.

Conway, one of the first AGs to complain against Topix, was quoted saying, “On behalf of the numerous parents, public officials and concerned citizens who have contacted me about Topix, I am pleased that we’ve been able to reach an agreement with the company to put a stop to the ‘pay-to-police’ policy on the message board to expedite removal of abusive posts. I appreciate the cooperation of Topix and look forward to continuing to work with the company to ensure that Kentuckians, particularly our kids, are not being harmed by harassing and abusive posts.”

Then I found a virtually identical statement online about the Topix deal from Kansas Attorney General Steve Six.

And something very similar from Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper. He too was speaking on “behalf of the concerned citizens and public officials who have contacted me about” However, Cooper is looking forward to working with Topix “to ensure that our citizens are treated seriously and respectfully in a timely manner.”

Doesn’t he care about ensuring our kids are not being harmed by harassing and abusive posts?

Burning issues: Tom Mullins a flag burner? No, nobody’s accusing the conservative Farmington Republican of burning Old Glory in protest.

A Farmington radio personality and gun-store owner who organizes an annual “U.N. flag burning” event said in a radio show, preserved online in a podcast last October, that Mullins, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Ben Ray Luján for his seat in Congress, was there.

“We had a great time at our U.N. flag-burning,” said Cope Reynolds. “... You know Oct. 24 is ‘Get the U.S. Out of the U.N. Day.’ A lot of people call it ‘U.N. Day.’ We just can’t bring ourselves to do that.”

Reynolds went on to name several people who attended the event outside of his store, including Mullins.

Asked about this, Mullins said Wednesday that he didn’t remember any U.N. flag burning. Instead, he said, the event he attended was a “flag retirement ceremony,” a respectful event in which American flags that are tattered are burned.

The U.S. Flag Code says, “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

Contacted Wednesday, Reynolds said there indeed was a flag-retirement ceremony on the same day. Indeed, in a show prior to last year’s event, Reynolds said people with old flags should bring them to the event for a proper retirement after the U.N. flags were burned.

Mullins said he has some serious problems with the United Nations, which he says is too quick to beat up on the U.S. He said the U.N. needs to be reformed, but said he’s not ready for the U.S. to withdraw from the organization.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lump Sums etc.

In recent days The Albuquerque Journal has broken two stories about Republican gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez's District Attorney's in Las Cruces.

First there was the article that Martinez's office had bought more than $60,000 from one of her deputy DAs, Janetta Hicks (now DA in Chavez, Lea and Eddy counties.) This was done without bidding and without a formal contract.

Then there was one about Martinez awarding employees thousands of dollars in extra pay, much of which in lump-sum payments, in recent years.

In Wednesday's New Mexican, I tie these threads together. It turns out that one of recipients of the lump-sum "out-of-cycle salary increases" was Janetta Hicks. She got a total of nearly $24,000 in two lump-sum payments.

Martinez campaign manager Ryan Cangiolosi defended the salary increases for Hicks and the others saying Martinez's staff earned the money because of increased caseloads and responsibilities.

Cangiolosi also noted that none of Martinez's prosecutors earned as much as a $71,000-a-year "scheduler" in Denish's office, which was noted a couple of months of in the New Mexico Watchdog blog.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

More Yakety Yak About Truth in Music

I'm not sure whether to post this one in my music blog or my political blog. Guess I'll do both.

Today The New Mexican published my story about Veta Gardner, wife of Carl Gardner, the last living member of The Coasters, being upset about an imposter version of The Coasters playing The Clovis Music Festival. Initially the festival advertised that The Coasters were playing, but after complaints, the festival website was changed to reflect that these Coasters are "Billy Richards' Coasters."

As Mrs. Gardner points out, the website still says Richards' Coasters "breathed life into classic Leiber & Stoller songs like: `Charlie Brown,' `Yakaty Yak,' (sic) `Love Potion No. 9' and many more." She also said using the phrase "Clown princes of Rock 'n' Roll" is a copyright infringement.

Richards was a member of an early '60s Coasters offshoot, started by Bobby Nunn, an original member who Veta Gardner says was fired from the band in the late '50s. But he didn't record with the actual Coasters on those songs listed above or "Along Came Jones," "Searchin'," "Youngblood" or any of the Coasters hits you might remember.

The story of "the man with the big cigar" ripping off rock 'n' roll artists in the '50s and '60s is well documented. "Imposter" bands is just another way to screw the artists who created the music.

This issue -- a phenomenon that has been going on for decades -- was discussed last year in the state Legislature. (Here's my column about that .) The House passed the "Truth in Music Act," sponsored by Rep. Al Park, D-Albuquerque, and the bill made it through the Senate Judiciary Committee. But the session ended before the full Senate could vote on it. Maybe next year.

A little story-behind-the story: The issue of The Coasters at the Clovis Music Festival was first brought to the attention of Veta Gardner, the festival, myself and anyone else who would listen by a lady named Virginia Pritchett. Though she lives in Texas now, she's a former College of Santa Fe student who was raised in eastern New Mexico. Virginia is a record collector, an "oldies" fanatic who used to be a DJ at an oldies station in California. She's genuinely concerned about imposters harming the livelihood of the musicians who created the music.

She pointed me to this 1997 article in the New York Observer about Carl Gardner's long struggle against imposters.

And here's the link to the Vocal Group hall of Fame Foundation, which is leading the effort nationwide for "Truth in Music" legislation.

UPDATE: Jeff Vee responds to my Coasters story: CLICK HERE

Here's a 2007 report on this issue by ABC's 20/20 featuring a confrontation between a real Drifter and a fake Drifters group.

Here's a video of The Coasters

Friday, August 6, 2010

Mea Culpa

In this week's Roundhouse Round-up column, when talking about exaggerated claims by folks on various issues, I wrote, "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."

Sure enough, a reader has proven me wrong.

I was just directed to this 2005 Associated Press article:

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - One man was killed and a woman was injured during an apparent domestic dispute inside a Wal-Mart on the city's southeast side, the second time in less than a week that one of the retail giant's Western stores has been the scene of deadly violence.

Police spokeswoman Trish Hoffman said a witness told authorities that a man had been stabbing the woman inside the store when another man intervened and shot her attacker.

... "It looks like it's a possibility that the guy who shot the other man will be justified," Hoffman said. "From what witnesses are telling us, it corroborates his story that the male was stabbing the female and he intervened."

So there, I stand corrected. Don't shoot.

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.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lass Endorses Republican

Rick Lass, the former Green party member who ran against troubled Democrat Jerome Block, Jr. for PRC in 2008, has endorsed the Republican running against Lucky Varela for state representative in District 48.

"Bob Walsh is a social liberal – in support of domestic partnerships, reproductive rights and strong environmental protection – but a fiscal conservative," a press release from the Walsh campaign said.

Lass, who registered Democrat after the last election, ran against Varela in 2002

A statement from Lass said:

Many of you know that I ran for PRC as a Green Party candidate in 2008 and received over 60% of the vote in Santa Fe. I believe this vote total is an indication that the voters of Santa Fe have lost faith in traditional Democratic Party politics, and are looking for an alternative.

Bob Walsh is that alternative.

As a social progressive, Bob Walsh supports fair elections, domestic partnerships, a woman’s right to choose, and the protection of our environment. I worked alongside Bob during the 2004 Presidential recount effort, and know that he has been a leader in election and ballot reform in New Mexico. For example, Bob was instrumental in establishing the state laws requiring paper ballots and voting machine audits.

I believe he will be a strong, progressive voice for change, and I urge everyone to support Bob’s campaign. With enthusiastic volunteers, a little money and great word-of-mouth, we can bring progressive change and good government to Santa Fe!

Varela, who has represented the heavily Democratic Santa Fe District since the mid 1980s, is expected to win re-election. But remember, everyone thought Ben Lujan would have an easy time in the primary against an unknown opponent and he ended up winning by only 80-some votes.

And speaking of that campaign, according to Walsh's press release, his campaign is being managed by Faith McKenna -- who was chief strategist for Carl Trujillo's primary campaign against Lujan.