Friday, January 19, 2018

Don't Take it for Granted the House and Senate Will Flip

 The two presidents who had approval ratings below 50 percent halfway through their first year in office (Ford and Bill Clinton) each saw at least 9-point increases by the end of that year.  FiveThirtyEight

FiveThirtyEight, in an excellent review (click here and see charts below) of available polling data, reminds us this morning that next November is a long way off.  Here are two things to consider.  First, don't underestimate the ability of the leadership in the Democratic Party to squander a strong lead.  I've seen nothing from Democrats in Congress recently that comes even close to inspired leadership, Instead, Democrats appear to be hoping they can continue to ignore outrageous racism, disastrous policy steps, and highly authoritarian behavior in Congress and the White House, on the theory the public will vote them into power next Fall anyway.  The polling data in this piece should make us think twice about accepting this theory.  What Democrats have, right now, after the outrages of the past two years, is moral authority.  But instead of moral outrage, and moral courage, what I see are the usual steps made to cobble together a short term tactical advantage on specific bills.

Second, employment rates, the status of wages, and economic expectations for the future tend to be more important in predicting voting behavior at the national level than the approval ratings of a president or Congress.  And the massive tax cut to corporate America that just went into effect, was intended among other things to mobilize some of the trillions of dollars corporate America has been sitting on for a long time.  A well orchestrated effort to jawbone the billionaire class into shaking some of that money loose in the next few months for building infrastructure, for improving wages, and for creating better jobs, might just work, and a quick injection of, say, a trillion dollars into the economy might make Trump's economic policies appear to have been the work of a genius.

Right now Trump's numbers are going up, as is the generic Republican vote (see below).  I don't see Democrats in Congress, in the face of outrageous insults to democracy, the concept of equality under the law, and our reputation as a fair-minded, decent, country, giving me a reason to follow their lead.  If decent people don't hold their representatives' feet to the fire, who will?
Trump's Approval Ratings, FiveThirtyEight
Generic Congressional Ballot, FiveThirtyEight

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Feelings of Insecurity Rise in Juaritos

A recent national poll shows 62% of Juarenses have stopped walking near their own homes, and 38% have stopped visiting relatives or friends, due to the rising tide of violence in the city.  Since September of last year the percentage of residents in Juarez who feel "unsafe" at an ATM has risen from 70% to 80%.  Nearly half the population (46.3%) claim to have witnessed a robbery or assault.  The number of people asserting they frequently hear gunshots near their homes has doubled, from 18% to 37%.

While these numbers indicate a significant increase in the perceptions people in Juarez have of their safety, they should be placed in context, since insecurity has increased in recent years throughout Mexico.  Ten years ago, Juarez was one of a small handful of cities in Mexico suffering a major spike in crime, extortion, kidnappings, and drug-related violence.  Today Mexico as a whole has caught up to Juarez.  The poll, taken by the Mexican Census agency (INEGI), shows that while 80% of Juarenses report feeling "unsafe," fully 76% of Mexicans throughout the country feel unsafe.
Forty one percent of Juarenses believe public safety this year will be similar to or worse than it was last year.  Source:  Diario; click here for story.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

  • Democrats Are Silent Again:  The Angry Bear This needs to be a turning point for Democrats as voters and as a party. If our leaders can’t say the word “racism,” then they can’t fight it. If they can’t fight racism, they are worthless in a national battle against a network of politically shrewd white supremacists. If they are worthless in battle against white supremacists, they are worthless in battle against Trump and the GOP...
  • The Bloody Battle for the Veracruz Plaza:  Borderland Beat  In the first 12 days of January, a dozen human heads were abandoned in the insides of four vehicles, with the advertisement that a " criminal cleaning" was going on in the southern zone of the State. The dismembered corpses of the victims, alleged criminals, according to the governor Miguel Angel Yunes Lineares - were left in black garbage bags
  • Snapshots of Inequality Around the World:  The Conversable Economist

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Juarez:  Four Homicides this Weekend:  Body Count 38 So Far This Year

Diario de Juárez reports four more victims of homicide in Juarez were added to the growing count so far this year (38 and rising), including that of a man whose "amputated body" (Diario's choice of words) had been found near the university.  The vast majority of victims are believed to be drug-gang related.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Black-White Gap in Wages is Growing:  Happy MLK Day

Average hourly earnings for men
Notice the widening of the gap and wage stagnation since 2000

 Click here for the source of this graph, taken from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's publication in September 2017 of Mary C. Daly, Bart Hobijn, and Joseph H. Pedtk, Disappointing Facts About the Black-White Wage Gap.  After 40 years of affirmative action, the gap is still not closing, but is getting worse.  In this publication the authors show the gap while not as wide, for women, is also increasing, not decreasing.  So much for the effectiveness of affirmative action as government policy.
Body Count in Juarez is Ahead of Last Year

Juárez registered at least 35 homicides in the first two weeks of the year.  If the present rate continues at this pace, the number of homicides will easily surpass the 772 registered last year.

Mayor Murillo Proposes Purchase of Golf Course for City of Anthony

On KTLA's La Politica New Mexico this morning Anthony's Mayor, Diana Murillo Trujillo, proposed the purchase of Dos Lagos Country Club, in Anthony, by the city of Anthony.  Such a move, she asserted, would assure future generations of a community-owned public space that would increase the attractiveness of Anthony as a place to live.  This would, indeed, be a bold move.

Anthony will hold elections in March for two city council members, and each will be contested by several candidates.  La Politica New Mexico, both on KTLA and here, will follow these elections.

La alcaldesa de Anthony, Diana Murillo Trujillo, esta mañana en La Politica New Mexico propuso la compra, por parte del municipio de Anthony, de la cancha de Golf, Dos Lagos.  Segun Murillo, este paso asegurara para futuras generaciones un espacio atractivo para el público.

Hay elecciones en Anthony en marzo para dos puestos en el cabildo de Anthony.  La Politica New Mexico dará cobertura de estas elecciones, tanto en KTLA y en éste espacio.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Coming Up Monday on KTAL La Politica New Mexico:  Anthony NM

On Monday, January 15, La Politica New Mexico, on KTAL (101.5) will feature the Mayor of Anthony, Diana Murillo, and Rose Garcia, along with yours truly and E. Shirley Baca.  The question on the table, as always, is how well is government working.  La Politica New Mexico runs from 8-9 AM.

Readers may recall that Anthony incorporated as a municipality in 2010, hoping for a favorable ruling on a request to locate a gambling casino nearby.  That ruling never came and, in all likelihood, the issue is dead.  But Anthony city government is still chugging along, and there are good reasons all citizens in Dona Ana County should be aware of what is happening there.

Anthony's future as a municipality is key to a larger question about the future of Dona Ana County.  As El Paso, bursting at the seams with growth, spills into Chaparral, Anthony, Sunland Park, and other communities in Dona Ana County, there is a strong need for effective planning.  Is this happening?  How well do Dona Ana County officials interface with Anthony?  What kinds of things are in the works at City Hall in Anthony?  Join me and the rest on Monday morning at 8 AM on 101.5, KTAL.

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Mexico as 2018 Begins
The Trump presidency, combined with the elusive and manipulative way television produces "news" about the administration or anything else about our government or world affairs, have revealed such rot in the national foundations of our once-powerful democratic institutions, that the ailments of New Mexico are dwarfed by comparison.  Nevertheless, states are essential units of self-governance, so it behooves us to think about how well we are governing ourselves, if for no other reason than to guide ourselves as much as possible away from the downward national spiral. 

One problem in doing this is assessing just how deeply the national scene has impoverished our possibilities of self-governance in the state.  The national disgrace of campaign financing, for example, has infected the way we select decision-makers in the state.  So too, national laws have encouraged the concentration of local news production into the hands of owners who no longer think of news production in civic terms; that is, an honest effort to keep citizens informed about government's actions, but as pieces of entertainment contributing little to deepening our understanding of the world we are supposed to shape with our votes.  Fortunately, a bright spot in New Mexico is the presence, up to now, of the family-owned Albuquerque Journal, one of the last pillars of serious investigative reporting in an otherwise crumbling statewide infrastructure for self-governance.  Kudos, too, for the Santa Fe New Mexican, and some of the bloggers on the right hand of this page.

But enough of this:  where do we stand as a state today?

Public Education:  Grade:  F.  By far the single most important indicator of a state's future condition is its education system.  In 2017 Education Week ranked NM 48th among the states in public education;  Wallet Hub ranked NM 50th.  After 15 years under two governor's who swore to improve NM's education system, our rankings have declined slightly.  Why can't NM attract bright shiny high-tech industries to the state like they do in North Carolina?  Go no further:  you don't willingly move your household and unborn babies to places where schools are bad.  And the kind of newcomers we would like to attract read real data, not the PR statements of chambers of commerce.  North Carolina's education system ranks 13th, while spending per pupil ranks 44th, eleven places lower than New Mexico. Other states have turned education around without new money.  New Mexico has not.  In the case of Albuquerque, add to poor schools a peek at the police department, as described by national magazines here, here, here, and here.  You still wanna move your kids to Albuquerque?  If there is a single failure of our state government over the past five decades, it lies in our wonderfully bipartisan failure to improve public education.  And, as the case of North Carolina and other examples show, this is not a problem of more money (MM); it is a matter of much money misspent (MMM).  What do our gubernatorial hopefuls propose, specifically, to raise us from an F to a D within, say, six years?  Ask them!  And if they promise to raise it to an A turn and walk away.  You are in the presence of a liar or a fool, or both--not what we need.

Higher Education:  Grade:  D.  Higher education is only marginally better.  For the first time in NM history the older generations are better educated than the younger generations, so something is wrong.  The root of the problem is that our governors and legislatures have failed to set statewide goals for NM's higher education needs and to hold each institution accountable for doing its part to achieve these goals.  New Mexico still does not have a statewide system of higher education, and the result is an expensive, uncoordinated, and under-performing mish-mash of schools.  NM ranks 6th in the nation in dollars spent per FTE, but ranks 47th in 6-year graduation rates for a bachelor's degree.  We grossly overproduce teachers, criminal justice majors, and social workers, while grossly under-producing STEM degrees.  UNM is a mediocre flagship university.  Better ones surround us in Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and Texas.  And among 12 research institutions in the surrounding states (only West Texas schools included) all except Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, arguably, are better than NMSU, whose National Academy of Sciences ranking of US Schools of Engineering has plummeted from the top 50 a few years ago down to about 150 today.  To be fair, UNM's School of Engineering has improved greatly (ranked around 50) and has surpassed NMSU's.

As Secretary of Higher Education in the first Martinez administration I tried moving the needle on accountability through creation of a new funding formula that rewarded STEM, graduation rate improvement, and greater success in our dismal record of graduating Hispanics and Native Americans (70% of our future population)--all things the state desperately needs from higher education--but with very little success, since the legislature refuses even today to take the formula seriously, and the major higher education concern in the governor's office during my tenure seemed to be to gossip about regents and college presidents and not getting blamed for shortfalls in the Lottery Scholarship.  What specifically will our next governor do to make higher education a priority and accountable to the needs of real New Mexicans?  Ask them!  And hold them to account.

Health Care:  Grade:  C+.  Close behind education in the people's wish-list for good governance is health care.  Here the story, while not perfect, is much brighter than education.  Wallet Hub ranks NM 29th among the states in health care.  US News and World Reports ranks NM 26th.  Life Expectancy at birth in NM, a strong overall indicator of how well the health care system is doing, is 31st among the states, only about four months lower than the national average.  While perhaps not good enough to attract people to New Mexico, health care almost certainly does not deter people from moving here, as is the case with education.  The backbone in the state's health care system, the Health Sciences Center, at UNM, while not perfect (morale among doctors at the Hospital is low), is a far better institution than UNM is as a flagship university.  Regrettably, some of the weaker, most partisan, regents at UNM in recent years have not been able to resist meddling with the HSC, and only the intervention of the stronger regents at UNM has prevented serious damage.  Does our next governor have any ideas about how to raise health care into the mid-twenties instead of the low twenties?  Ask!  And hold them to account.

This is an election year.  Education and health care are as fundamental as issues get at the statewide level.  Do not allow the current crop of candidates for governor to wander too far astray from these topics.  What they think or feel about Donald Trump, or the business climate, drivers licenses for undocumented, or the crime rate, or immigration laws, or the Wall are not nearly as important as what they might actually do to improve bread and butter issues they have control over, if they put their nose to the grindstone and work for us, for a change.   Make them tell you specifically what they intend to do, or don't vote for them.  As I said a few days ago, if you aren't happy, "throw the bastards out."  It might be high time.
2017 Juárez Homicide Rates Inching Back Up

Diario de Juárez reports preliminary homicides for the city  in 2017 total around 772, including eight on New Year's Eve, up from 546 last year, 322 in 2015, and the highest since 2011.  Should you skip your annual visit to the dentist?  Probably not.  In 2016 there were 762 homicides in Chicago, by comparison.  While the homicide rate per 100,000 population is high in Juarez (52), it is even higher in St. Louis (60), our most homicidal city, and about the same as Baltimore (51).  Acapulco has a homicide rate of 113, Caracas has a rate of 130, and even Tijuana (53) is higher, just barely, than Juárez (thank God for Tijuana!).  So why the surge in violence in Juaritos in the past few days?  Probably because a surge in homicides is normal in December, when the books are closed on delinquent accounts in the complicated business of running a drug cartel.  Things have been a lot worse.  in 2011 there were 2086 homicides and in the record year of 2010 the tally was 3115.  Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Update Juarez:
**Two men have died as a result of gunshot wounds suffered yesterday, and a third is hospitalized, from an execution-style attack in Col. Ladrilleros y Calleros, in a home on Privada de Pino Suarez Street in Juarez.  The first one to die was 15 years old, the second one was 22.
**A man approximately 20 years old was executed Sunday afternoon in Col. Los Ojitos, in the Southeastern section of Juarez. The victim was known as "Brandon."
**A woman approximately 30 years old was executed on Sunday night in the Colonias del Sur area of Juarez, on Frank Lloyd Wright Street.  The assailants fled in a white compact car.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Update:  US citizen shot and killed Thursday during robbery in resort town of Ixtapa

The victim, Douglas Bradley, was director of administrative services of Imperial Beach, CA, city government.  Ixtapa-Zihuatenejo are beach towns in the state of Guerrero.  Source:  Borderland Beat

**This evening a man was executed by gunfire in the Las Haciendas section of Juárez, on the corner of Hacienda Concepción and Hacienda Central.  Source:  La Polaka
** The man found hanging from the overpass yesterday has been identified as Luis Ángel de la Rosa Tarango, 19 años, from Casas Grandes.  His death according to authorities was caused by a bullet wound to the heart.  A televised video yesterday showed him being interrogated the activities of a gang, by heavily armed men.  Source:  Diario
**A man was executed this morning in the Palo Chino sector of  Juárez at the corner of Palo Blanco and Sílice.  The victim was approximately 19 years of age.  Source:  Diario
**A man was executed this morning in front of his home on the dirt road leading to col. Santa Rita.  His head was blown apart by bullet wounds.  His name was Erasmo Morales, 43.  The assailants fled in a white Dodge Caravan.  Source:  Diario
With these killings the Juarez homicide total for December is 80.

Narco-Violence Rising Again in Juárez

Photo:  Diario de Juárez staff

Diario reported yesterday that the body of a man was found hanging by the neck from the overpass at the intersection of the Pan American Highway and the road to Santa Teresa.  A "narcomessage" was found nearby.  On Friday a man driving a white PT Cruiser was executed at the intersection of Ejido Los Sauces and Jaime Nunó, in Morelos Zaragoza on the outskirts of Juárez.  Following a chase by the executioner(s), the Cruiser crashed into a tree.  Six bullets were found in the man's body.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Shirley Baca to Join Jose Z. Garcia on KTAL's La Politica New Mexico
On January 8 Shirley Baca will join Jose Z. Garcia on the 8:00 AM program. La Politica New Mexico.  Shirley is well known throughout the state, having served among other public roles, as a state representative, as a member of the PRC, and as a candidate for Congress in District 2.
Baca will be in Santa Fe during the 30-day 2018 legislative session, but will be available, at least part of the time, on the KTLA La Politica New Mexico program through voice recordings.

Join Shirley and Jose on KTAL's La Politica New Mexico:  101.5 January 8, 8:00 AM

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

 Coming in January!
La Politica New Mexico on KTAL LP Radio Las Cruces


The national government, as everyone knows, is a disaster, a staggering drunk belching out shameful legislation that even its sponsors won't defend with a straight face.  Tax policy, as powerful an indicator of fairness in government as it gets, was written in secret by highly partisan agents and donors, and rushed into law without revealing its provisions, which turned out unsurprisingly to be a wish list for the super-rich and the pocketbooks of key Republican senators.  How it was written and what was in it were both grossly unfair, and its advocates, lying, called it a tax cut for the middle class.  

Because trust in Congress, for good reasons, is so low, our finest career bureaucrats were asked, by overwhelming bipartisan consent, to step up as honest brokers of an election scandal that puts into serious question the legitimacy of the current presidency.  But as the facts emerge confirming already strong circumstantial evidence of serious crimes, a chorus of partisan legislators and a potential co-conspirator, the President, demand an end to the inquiry altogether, asserting the President is not beholden to the law.  As a momentous crisis of government looms, news media outlets, using public air waves, gleefully unwrap the dirty linen of celebrities and politicians, while talking heads smilingly debate the tactical intricacies of the latest tweet, their faces full of smug superiority.

The vast majority of Americans have been more outraged by these events than Establishment Washington.   Most GOP voters (who form only 25% of the electorate), while strongly supporting Trump, believe the Republican Party is leading the country in the wrong direction.  Only one Democrat out of twenty, and three of ten Independent voters, approve of Trump’s performance, and seven out of ten Independents, who now form 42% of the electorate, say they are angry at both parties.  Trump’s approval rating at the one-year mark is lower than any president in recent history going back at least to 1953.  Yet Washington continues to act as though everything, including a daily barrage of official lies and shameful actions, is normal.  Something is deeply wrong.  

What is missing in our government is a positive relationship between what Americans want—accessible and affordable health care, a fair shot at upward mobility, a decent safety net, and public institutions that do their job—and what government has been handing them—unwanted wars, reduced upward mobility, bungled health care, cuts to the safety nets, and dysfunctional government.  What meaning does the word democracy have when government output no longer reflects the public will on fundamental issues?

The defining change in America over the past forty years has been the economic stagnation of the vast majority working families despite a tripling (in real dollars) in the size of the economic pie.  This stagnation has taken place with little honest discussion or negotiation.  Large portions of our economy are now dominated by monopolies and oligarchies, accompanied as always by price gouging, poor service, and severely limited competition.  Corporate profits as a share of the economy have risen dramatically since 1952 from 5.5 to 8.5 percent (and recently to more than 10%), while corporate tax revenues as a share of the economy have plummeted from 5.9% to only 1.9 percent.  But who got the recent tax breaks?

None of this could have happened without our politicians enabling it.  In Congress, clause by clause in bipartisan lockstep, regulations meant to keep markets competitive and honest were dismantled, with little or no public debate.  One consequence was the crash of 2008, caused in great part by criminal but unpunished action within our most powerful banking institutions.  In the news media industry bipartisan agreements allowed the concentration of news production into very few hands, some of them eager to sculpt the truth in their owners’ image with little regard for basic standards of veracity.   Our loathing for the breathless , vapid, and ultimately loaded way national issues are covered on our television air waves is such that when Trump expresses his contempt for the media, a sliver of satisfaction passes through us even as we cringe at the boorishness and shady motives underlying his attack.

Do not count on current politicians in either party to rescue us from the one-sided rigging of our economy policy, the deceptive public discourse on much of television, or the current assaults on our democracy.  Congress, political parties, and important sectors of the media have long been heavily subsidized, often secretly, by powerful private interests.  These subsidies are not granted for patriotic reasons and the bills come due behind closed doors. For decades our politicians have worked for their donors, for personal power, for ideologies, and for future cushy jobs on K Street.  But not for you.  Our democratic roots have been decomposing in dark unhealthy corners for many years. As Thomas Jefferson put it, “When in course”…the people must step in.  Time to throw the bastards out, tie a short leash on their replacements, and nurse ourselves back to health.