Thursday, December 28, 2017

Dubious Record For ABQ In '17; Murder Meter At New Record, Plus: Apodaca Competes With Santa, And: Happy New Year! 

The year is ending on a bloody note in ABQ with the number of murders soaring to 75, a modern day record.

An especially gruesome discovery shook the city two days before Christmas--a decapitated body so brutalized at first its gender could not be determined. The woman's corpse was found by hikers in the Four Hills area. A drug connected slaying?

Meanwhile, south of the border Mexico is also setting records:

This year has been Mexico’s deadliest on record. A total of 23,101 murder investigations were launched nationwide between January and November, reported Reuters, citing figures released by the country’s interior ministry. That’s Mexico’s highest annual murder tally since modern records began in 1997. 2011 had previously held the ignominious title, with 22,409 murders. 

Expert analysis:

“The more you legalize marijuana, the more other drugs matter and become more profitable,” said Arturo Fontes, a former FBI agent and expert on Mexico’s drug cartels, “And right now nothing matters more than meth, heroin. This is why we’re seeing such a bloody year.”

For ABQ 2018 will be ushered in with the same set of systemic problems that has forced so many to flee--rampant drug abuse, poverty and a demolished APD are all causes that have made ABQ #1 in the USA for property crime and the state #2 in the nation for violent offenses--many of which occur in the metro.


Some would argue he's throwing this money away, but Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Apodaca has much catching up to do so he has done the unusual.

He comes with a TV ad during the holiday break--one of the lowest weeks for TV viewing. The 60 second spot, which began airing Dec. 22, is narrated by New Mexico native and former ABC newsman Sam Donaldson. The script:

Where is it that we learn to dream? Where we learn to reach for something bigger? For Jeff Apodaca, he learned watching his father, a teacher who became governor, that to change anything you must never give up. Jeff faced life-threatening cancer at 17, beat the odds, and returned stronger than ever. He’s an innovator who’s turned businesses around and Jeff and his wife Jackie raised over a million dollars for cancer patients. Now when career politicians have failed us, there’s only one candidate for governor who knows how to turn our state around. Jeff Apodaca. He will challenge the status quo. Jeff will invest a billion of New Mexico’s 23 billion dollars in rainy day funds to create 225,000 new jobs, help small businesses, expand affordable health care, and improve schools for our kids…so that their dreams are even bigger than ours. It’s time to turn New Mexico around. It’s time for Jeff Apodaca for Governor.

That reference to "career politicians" is a jab at Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the front-nunner for the '18 Dem Guv nod.

"Something new" may be Apodaca's best argument for chipping away at Grisham and getting the race in play.

No word yet on how much Apodaca spent for the ad which his campaign says will "run through the holidays."

With the mid-March preprimary convention looming and where he must show strength, you can see why the Apodaca camp decided to compete for attention with Santa and the New Year's Eve ball drop.


Speaking of the ball drop, it may be one of the coldest ever in New York City while New Mexicans bask in balmy December weather more like the Bahamas than Bernalillo. Enjoy.

Thanks for joining us in 2017 and we'll catch up with you after the calendar turns to 2018.

Happy New Year, New Mexico!

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

End Of The Year Econ Beat: More Stagnation And Comments From A "No BS" Economist, Plus: At The Movies This Holiday Season With Top Political Picks 

Economist Erickson
As of July 1 New Mexico's population was 2,088,070, a mere increase of 2,638 people, or 0.1 percent from July 1 2016. People were still leaving during that time---4,666 more left than came in, according to the US Census estimates. The increase was due to there being more births than deaths.

The glass half full crowd will point out that the state has actually lost population in several years past, but there's no denying the trend. The best educated and employable New Mexicans continue to migrate to nearby states where good paying jobs are more plentiful and where crime is less of a concern.

The AP does a yearly list of top state stories. This one didn't make the list. But it is the story of the decade. The wondrous vistas, the temperate climate, the cultural diversity, the unique cuisine--none of it is good enough for educated, working age Americans who want a slice of the economic pie and a better shot at success for their kids.

Chris Erickson of NMSU, a charter member of our list of "No Bullshit Economists," says while the outmigration continues, the problems for those remaining fester:

Our productivity in the state is falling. . . Our workers are less productive today than they were a few years ago. . . That's impinging on our ability to produce and make income. . . We can trace this back to our very poor K thru 12 education system. . . Every indication you look at tells you that K-12 education is critical for economic development. . . We are one of the few states where the local school board has almost no taxing authority. . . We fund our budgets thru gross receipts taxes collected by the state and rebated to the locals and that rebate comes with a lot of bureaucratic overhead. . . Another problem is we underpay our teachers. . . When you pay people well you are able to attract high quality people and retain high quality people to the profession. . .

And that's no BS.

The state has been transitioning to an even lower income economy in recent years and that is continuing. That's our take on the latest NM employment numbers for the month of November:

Government employment contracted by 3,000 jobs, or 1.5 percent, over the year. Local government reported a loss of 1,500 jobs, or 1.4 percent, with local government education down 300 jobs, or 0.5 percent. State government contracted by 1,400 jobs, or 2.3 percent, with state government education down 900 jobs, or 3.1 percent. Federal government employment was down by 100 jobs, or 0.3 percent.

Those government jobs are the ones with the best benefits and often the best pay. The jobs being created, for the most part, continue to be in low paying sectors such as tourism and medical services. No wonder ABQ's gross receipts collections continue to be anemic. People making less money spend less.


Word comes to us of the passing of Richard Priem, the 2016 GOP congressional candidate who was defeated by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Priem had been in failing health for some time and he died Friday of cancer.

He first gained public notice when he was awarded nearly $2 million for his role as a whistleblower:

Priem, a former project manager for Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), will be awarded $1.88 million for his role in instituting an investigation of the company’s billing for training first responders under grants administered by the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

Priem was a 21 year Army veteran. News of his death was relayed by his daughter on Facebook. She says Priem will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery "sometime next year with full military honors." Priem was 68.


From Santa Fe:

NM Film Office Director Nick Maniatis announced that the state will be celebrating the 120th year of filming in New Mexico beginning in December. This milestone in New Mexico film history will be commemorated at events throughout 2017 - 2018.

"For 120 years, New Mexico has been at the heart of the film industry. We are continuing to build on that strong tradition by attracting new productions to New Mexico and creating the film industry's greatest economic impact in New Mexico history, three years in a row." Maniatis said.

Which reminds us that we're still looking for the poster for the 1948 movie "Albuquerque" although it wasn't shot here.


Reader Eric Lucero is back to assist those with a yen for a trip to the theater this holiday season. He says there are some outstanding films of a political bent to pick from:

“Darkest Hour” (PG-13) ***** Stars out of 5. Feast your eyes on Gary Oldman’s tour de force  and Oscar worthy Churchillian performance in Darkest Hour. Oldman’s visage as Churchill is powerful, complex, and thoroughly dominates this picture. Joe Wright’s direction and writer Anthony McCarten’s script allowed Oldman to play the role of a lifetime. A strong supporting cast as well as a flowing narrative makes this two hour film informative, gripping and entertaining.

The irascible Sir Winston Churchill made his own history as he struggled valiantly to hold the British Empire together during its darkest hours. For good or bad, Churchill’s leadership and manic verve in 1940, while head of state of the world’s first superpower, altered our planet’s history forever.

The Shape of Water (R) **** Stars out of 5. Guillermo del Toro’s cinematic obsession with monsters (Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006; Pacific Rim, 2013) continues in this re-imagined homage to the 1954 classic horror "B" film Creature From The Black Lagoon. Toro’s story is set in Cold War America circa 1963, replete with all its heightened social, economic, and political hang-ups.

Toro’s bottom line is this: "What if the creature gets the girl?" A classic love story Water is not! Toro breaks all the horror/fantasy/romance genre rules, such as they are, to propel ‘Water’ as a commentary about sex and disability today.

As an added bonus, expect African-American actress Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures, 2016) to make Oscar history in 2018 in her role as Zelda. You be the judge if the Shape of Water is just and humane.

The Post (PG-13). We'll have to wait for a film highly anticipated by the political community. The Post is not yet in wide release. This Steven Spielberg historic epic is based on actual events from 1971 involving Katherine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post. She is played by Meryl Streep who equals her fine portrayal of British PM Margret Thatcher in 2011's "The Iron Lady."

The film focuses on Graham's bold decision to print specific parts of what today are known as the Pentagon Papers. What ensues is Spielberg’s own version of the 2015 award winning investigative journalism movie "Spotlight."  Expect awards galore for writer Josh Singer, for actors Streep, Tom Hanks, who plays legendary Post Editor Ben Bradlee, and, of course, for the film itself.

I’d expect to rate this film at a minimum **** Stars out of 5, when I finally get to see it in early January 2018.

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