Columns appear here a week after they're sent to newspaper subscribers.

© 2019 New Mexico News Services  1-14-19
Former governor may be angling for a job in advocating for the wall 
By Sherry Robinson
All She Wrote
            The new governor visited the border, heard a briefing from Customs and Border Protection officials, met with the National Guard, and said, “I haven’t seen anything to indicate we have an emergent crisis here on the border.”
            The old governor said she thinks the president’s plan is “smart.”
            Who’s right? It depends on your political persuasion. Nationally, nearly three-quarters of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (74%) support extending the wall, and 83 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners are opposed, according to the Pew Research Center.
            But ask yourself this: Who’s looking for a job?
            Former Gov. Susana Martinez has been trumpeting her “legacy.”
          A website,, says: “Governor Martinez took office when New Mexico was facing the largest budget deficit in state history, rampant corruption, chronically underperforming schools and an economy overly dependent on federal funding at a time when the federal government massively cut spending. She confronted these issues head-on, turning the largest budget deficit in state history into a record-breaking surplus (without raising taxes), restoring confidence in state government, enacting bold education reforms that resulted in the highest graduation rates in state history and unprecedented improvement in student test scores, and fundamentally changing and diversifying the state’s economy by growing the private sector…”
            In some parallel universe, New Mexico must have elected Superwoman.
            Here in this universe, legislative budget committees worked hard to keep our numbers in the black, and an oil boom blessed us with new revenues. She gets credit for not raising taxes, but in her pinched approach, she denied us the opportunity to increase desperately needed revenues in ways that wouldn’t have hurt New Mexicans.
          She didn’t restore confidence in state government – she eroded state government to the point that vacancies are at an all-time high and morale is at an all-time low. Her “bold education reforms” gave us eight years of controversial, top-down mandates and a teacher shortage. She can take credit for improved graduation rates, but the “unprecedented improvement” in test scores is a tiny percentage change that still doesn’t demonstrate the effectiveness of her changes.
          Martinez keeps telling us she’s diversified the economy, but it’s no more diversified than it was before, which is why New Mexico has the distinction of being the state most affected by the shutdown, according to WalletHub, which has pronounced many such dubious distinctions on the state.
          Her real legacy? Eight years of picking unnecessary fights with the other two branches of government, eight years of arbitrary and vindictive vetoes of bills that could have done some good, and eight years of slashed capital outlay and the economic stimulus that goes with them.
          It was like being tied to a chair and forced to watch “Mean Girls” endlessly.
          Leaving office with 35 percent approval ratings – even lower than the president’s – she’s not likely to run for office. And after her eight-year vendetta against the state’s courts, her prospects of practicing law here aren’t shiny.
            Now she emerges as a newly minted supporter of the president and his wall at a time when he could use a Hispanic friend, and she is, after all, the nation’s first Latina governor. That should be good for something. But not that long ago, Martinez objected to Trump’s remarks about Mexican immigrants and didn’t show up at his campaign appearances.
            After the 2014 elections, when Republicans cleaned up, I wrote that nobody should feel comfortable. Republican political consultant Frank Luntz observed profound voter dissatisfaction and frustration with Washington that had nothing to do with party.
            I wrote at the time “of a kind of snarling (public) expectation: Do something. Spare us your grandstanding and your petty little fights and solve some problems.”
            Sadly, this still applies.

Sherry Robinson photo

Maybe a zone of twilight connects New Mexicans
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
A new year, a new governor and a 60-day session of the Legislature offer an opportunity to consider the New Mexico soul. What connects us?
Decades ago, New Mexico offered adventure for Christine Chandler and Lisa Shin, both then living in the east. They settled in Los Alamos and, much later, ran last year against one another for state representative. Chandler, a Democrat, won soundly and on January 15 starts another adventure, the 2019 session of the Legislature.
New Mexico’s beauty generated comments from friends of a Boston publishing executive last year when he announced his move to Albuquerque.
Movie actors and producers adsorb the beauty and the associated spirituality. The comments, gushing almost, in a Film Office publication, include, “it was beautiful… sunsets…beautiful and magical things…rugged natural landscapes…a super magical place.”
There is gushing right back. Last year the spending in the Las Cruces area of $1.3 million by Clint Eastwood generated stories across the state. In truth, $1.3 million is the annual sales of a fairly small (but bigger than micro) business that stays put and generates jobs while Clint spent and left. But, hey, wow, a movie star.
Geography offers another framework and a challenge. A recently retired Albuquerque businessman (and sometime poet) has trouble “coming to grips” with the state because of the vast differences—Farmington, Albuquerque-Santa Fe, Hobbs.  
More land and geographic confusion come from the Socorro magma body, a volcanic pool 12 miles under Socorro. Magma is liquid rock. According to the winter 2019 issue of “New Mexico Earth Matters,” a publication of the New Mexico Bureau of Geology, the body is pancake shaped with the rock at about 2,000 degrees. It is the world’s second largest magma body.
Not so far from Socorro, about 100 miles west near Quemado, Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field is a land artwork that goes the other way from the magma body. It connects with the sky via 400 stainless steel poles mounted in a one-mile by one-kilometer grid. “Land art” is the term of art, so to speak, for “art that is made directly in the landscape, sculpting the land itself into earthworks or making structures in the landscape,” according to Britain’s Tate museum.
While drafting this column, I happened to watch a 1961 episode of “The Twilight Zone” on Netflix. We are stepping through the Twilight Zone archive one by one. This was a New Mexico show. Coincidence? Hmm… “No coincidences” is the rule for television crime fighters. The show, “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim,” begins in 1847 with a three-wagon migrant party lost in New Mexico. They are out of water, starving and the leader’s son is dying.
The leader heads, alone, across the nearest hill, confident of finding water. Instead he finds 1961 with power lines, an asphalt road, a very scary semi-truck, and a restaurant with people, skeptical compassion and penicillin. He returns across the hill to 1847, and gives the drug to his son who recovers and lives a long life. 
A connection between land and spirit (or sky, you pick) comes from Zuni fetishes. Andrea Petersen told the story in the Wall Street Journal in 2016. In 1990, Dr. Marc Weissbluth, a Chicago pediatrician and author, was overworked, sleep deprived, neglecting his family. His wife was especially unhappy. He happened into a store selling Native American handicrafts and bought a bear fetish.
“It just felt right in my hand,” he told Petersen. It also felt right in his life. He bought more fetishes and made changes. Over time his situation improved.
A twilight zone of surface land, the underground, sky, spirit, science, and the space between may be what connects New Mexicans