Commentary and Opinion

Scroll down this page for the latest commentaries and opinions from News New Mexico hosts and guest columnists.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

New Mexico Downwinder justice denied

"Justice delayed is justice denied." William Gladstone
             A group of New Mexicans have a legitimate suspicion that they were injured by the actions of our government years ago but no one today cares. I am one of them. We are called Downwinders since the suspicion is that our injury is from the downwind residue from the first nuclear explosion.
            That twenty kiloton nuclear explosion was in a remote area of New Mexico seventy years ago this July 16th. The scientists wanted to be sure the device would explode correctly when dropped over a Japanese city.
            The implosion-design plutonium device at Trinity Site was similar to the bomb detonated over Nagasaki, Japan August 9, 1945. In the seventy years since that nuclear test our world has changed dramatically and yet some of that 1945 world perhaps stays with us Downwinders.
            We suspect we are survivors of invisible pollutants from that nuclear explosion leading to our health problems. For me it was an aggressive form of thyroid cancer. Around Chernobyl it is called Radiation Induced Thyroid Cancer.
            The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident injured many people downwind of the area, however, there are robust efforts underway to identify and help those injured by the radiation. In our country our government has no interest in the radiation injury to New Mexico Downwinders. Does anyone doubt that the atomic explosion polluted New Mexico?
            Years ago one politician stated, "We beat the Japanese, what do you want?" He seemed mad that I was bringing up stuff from years ago. Politicians and journalists alike are not interested. I have written these issues in columns several times to the yawns of our leaders.
            Worse, we Downwinders are dying out. Our movement is like the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) founded in 1868 with their membership limited to Union military in the Civil War. Five US Presidents were GAR members. Then Albert Woolson, age 109, died in 1956 and then there were no longer any GAR members.
            The same will happen to the New Mexico Downwinders. One of us will be the last one alive and then the movement will end. Will we Downwinders find justice in our lifetime?
            The problem is we do not know for sure. Suspicion is not proof, but we have a right to be suspicious. Our government has not done what was done in Europe after Chernobyl where they studied carefully the people who thought they might have been sickened by the release of radiation.
            I appreciate that U. S. Senator Tom Udall held a meeting a couple weeks ago in Tularosa and New Mexico Representative Steve Pearce and I have spoken several times. But another day goes by, another week, another month, another year, and some more of us Downwinders have died.
            Why do I think it was the radiation release from the Trinity explosion that caused my cancer? Research is compelling around Chernobyl that a very aggressive form of thyroid cancer is tied to the radiation. I had that very aggressive form and was lucky that I noticed the tumor early and it was removed within ten days of diagnosis or perhaps I would not be here today.
            Again, suspicion is not proof but my government has not done anything to help Downwinders find out if our health maladies are tied to Trinity Site. These maladies are not cheap. We are out lots of money and there are quality of life issues.
            Our government is quick to throw money at other countries and other maladies in our country, why not this? Or even come up with the cost of looking at this issue. Because there is no political advantage and our people in government must always gain a political advantage.
            This issue will go away if politicians and government leaders can ignore us long enough. There is only one group who can bring justice to us if they will work at getting to the truth of the radiation.
            Journalists can continue to ignore us or they can put it on the front page until our government comes to its senses and acts responsibly. That is the role of the media in a perfect world. Justice delayed is justice denied.
 © 2015 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. Email: 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Swickard: Being superstitious about rain in New Mexico

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.   "I stopped believing in Santa Claus at age six when my mother took me to see him in a store and he asked for my autograph." Shirley Temple Black
      Christmas time is magical with the Christmas superstitious advice, "You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I'm telling you why..." It is a belief in goodness and the hope Santa can see goodness in each of us. The main point of the season in my family is the birth of Jesus. But we also enjoy Santa.
      As a child I understood the birth of Jesus, but to me the Santa story had to be taken entirely on faith. It was true that things you wanted at times mysteriously appeared. As a child I started my lifelong superstition that I somehow had control over things that were beyond control.
      This fall I have a dilemma. My windshield wipers are just barely working but I have a good reason to not change them. No, I am not cheap, this is more important. It has to do with the bountiful rain we are receiving this fall.
      It seems there are two types of people: those who confess to being superstitious and those who won't admit it. How the day begins Monday morning sets the tone for the week. Spill coffee and look out. Check comes in the mail, whoeee!
      In my everyday life if I hit all of the lights red then I start to wonder superstitiously what I, yes I, did wrong. I went back that third time to the buffet. Of course I do understand the line of red lights were more my mistake of moving to a town that makes part of its revenue inciting citizens to violate the law.
      Yep, the little slice of heaven I live in wants people to be frustrated so that they will run yellow lights. Those scofflaws then can be fined and the fines can support the police and even let them seize cars, the Holy Grail of making money off citizens. So my town synchronizes the lights to frustrate drivers. It was a sad day in city hall when the courts threw out their Red Light Cameras.
      At other times great fortune happens and I try to do all the same things that got me on the good streak. I identify with a scene in the movie, Bull Durham when the character played by Kevin Costner says, "I told him that a player on a streak has to respect the streak... You know why? Because they don't happen very often."
      Like everyone I have good days and challenging days. When I have two good days in a row I am on a streak and I try to remember how I got on the streak. It is like when out of the blue I take my dog Conrad to Sonic to munch fries. No, they are not good for him or me, but occasionally he gets a truck ride and a few fries.
      Conrad, the dog thinks, "How did I do that? Let's see, I wagged my tail, but I am always wagging my tail and I smiled but I am always smiling... how did I get him to take me to Sonic?"
      So my windshield wipers are really worn out. I still see to drive in the rain but normally I would change them in a heartbeat. But months ago I noticed they were marginal because, surprise, it rained. Know this: I did not need to see the rain personally, I have seen rain before but it was nice for youngsters to finally see rain.
      The superstitious part of me noticed when it rained two days in a row. I knew I should go put on a new set of wipers but gosh that rain was sure nice. So for all of these months the windshield wipers have languished. But the rain is wonderful.
      I might get help from Superstitious Anonymous, but it is still raining. When the rains stops as we know it will, then I will have new wipers. I park when it rains now. No Santa, don't bring me wipers, we are on a streak. Merry Christmas.
Email for Dr. Michael Swickard:

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Swickard: Come now to the aid of our oil patch

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. - Now is the time for all New Mexicans to come to the aid of our oil patch. The New Mexico oil patch has sustained us in New Mexico for decades both in products we use and as the prime financial support of our public education system. Unfortunately, with the global drop in prices our oil patch is going into a hard time.
      New Mexico has been politically pushed to fund green energy projects which do not have the generation density to be cost-effective and useful. Our oil patch has long funded the public schools, the green energy projects fund the politicians. We need public schools more than we need politicians. We will eventually abandon all of the green projects when we run out of money we wish to spend on politics.
      However, the oil patch is the real deal for New Mexico. Therefore in this price drop we New Mexicans need to recognize the opportunities an oil price war provides our state. When the New Mexico oil patch prospers, so do all New Mexicans.
      The price of oil fluctuates because of supply and demand. As more global oil comes on the market the bid price goes down. More important is why more oil suddenly floods the market. Often this reflects the desire of some oil producers to gain market share globally. Some oil sheiks want to run the USA out of the oil market for both business and political reasons.
      Their cost of oil production is much less than ours. They have no Environmental Protection Agency or environmentalists. Therefore they produce and distribute oil with no environmental regulation costs.
      Talk to anyone in the oil patch in New Mexico about how much of what they do is to comply with the state and federal regulations. The Arab oil producing nations have a big price advantage.
      This war for market share has happened before. And therein is a lesson: Congressman Steve Pearce had a company in the oil patch when oil prices declined to the point the oil patch essentially shut down. That is where we are headed so we need to take a page from Pearce's playbook.
      Steve Pearce and wife Cynthia had a well service business with dozens of employees when an oil price fluctuation stalled production in New Mexico and West Texas. They went against conventional wisdom and keep all of their employees on the payroll unlike other companies who quickly trimmed their workforce because there was no work.
      Those workers who were let go went on unemployment and then drifted into other lines of work. Steve and Cynthia's workers kept busy working in the company. They based their extraordinary risk on their personal faith and their sense of the value of their workers.
      Early on they decided to go to the very ends of their savings. It was close. Within a couple months of when they would have to shutter the company the oil patch suddenly lurched to life because prices shot up. Their crew was ready and able to work the first day those services were needed. For that giant bet on the future, there was quite a reward for Steve and Cynthia as the only company ready the first day the oil patch revived.
      New Mexico needs to go against the wave of oil production closures. Rather than slow down their oil patch companies need to drill more, pump more, build more pipelines and expand distribution channels. Much like when tornadoes and floods and fires happen New Mexico needs to come to the oil patch with low-interest loans and grants so that companies can survive.
      New Mexico's government needs to suspend onerous oil patch rules and flood the oil patch with funding for power development for wells, new roads and pipeline construction. We New Mexicans need to be at the forefront of the next boom by getting the state ready now. Keep the companies engaged and keep the workers on the jobs.
      The future of our public schools and much of our state's economy hangs in the balance. For the public schools there is nowhere else to make this money. Come now to the aid of our oil patch and we all will prosper together.
Dr. Michael Swickard is co-host of radio talk show News New Mexico 6 to 9 a.m. Monday - Friday on a number of New Mexico radio stations and through streaming. Email:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Swickard: America's war on the military

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. - December 7 is a sacred day for our military and me. My father George Swickard was a combat soldier in WWII. He retired in 1966. Growing up we lived on military bases. Our playmates were all from military families. Pearl Harbor Day and the Arizona Memorial Commemorating that day are cherished by my family.
      My Grandfather Horace Swickard served on the border following the Pancho Villa raid and went directly to France with General Pershing. I have his memorabilia from World War I, The Great War, The War to end all War, etc. My father's burial flag is proudly displayed in my home. He is buried with my mother at Fort Bliss National Cemetery.
      As to the Bataan Death March, my father has a cousin William Swickard. Read his story:
      The military and its honor is important to me. While the "Date that will live in infamy" still burns in my heart it is a date mostly forgotten by citizens of our country. Last Sunday some media did cover Pearl Harbor Day while other media had more important things to do.
      My local daily newspaper did something odd, it presented December 7, 1941 from the viewpoint of the Japanese. What were their motivations and what do the Japanese think about the second world war? There was more but I shredded the newspaper and threw it in the trash.
      Seems those in charge of that newspaper did not serve in the military. It was a slap in the face of veterans, especially those who served in World War II. I lived three years in Japan and also have studied their culture. The article about how the Japanese view that conflict might have been interesting on the anniversary of V-J day which is the day Japan formally surrendered. But there was nothing else in the paper commemorating that Sunday morning 73 years earlier.
      I still know veterans who do not buy Japanese cars or watches. The hatred between the Marines and Japanese combat soldiers was the most intense in all of our history. And when the war ended America took great pains to lift the Japanese citizens back up onto their feet much like we lifted the Germans up. Most Americans have left that hatred in the past. But if you watched your buddy get butchered, time will not heal that wound.
      Worse, it seems our society is at war with our military and the veterans. They give lip-service to loving our military but every financial cut is upon the military. Combat personnel are getting their pink-slips while in a theatre of war. Washington is cutting benefits for veterans while taking on more financial expense from people who come to our country without legal status.
      My buddy Charlie says that America is not at war: the military is at war, America is at the Mall. There is truth to that saying. We are reading that public schools are banning parents in military garb from dropping off or picking up students like something is wrong with being in the military.
      One Supreme Court Justice before being appointed banned the military from her college's campus. We hear about public high schools who do not want recruiters on campus. There is the notion that service to our country is somehow less than going to college.
      When elections come the far-flung men and women serving often do not get to vote because they tend to vote Republican. So they will give their life for our country but as quickly as possible our country turn its back on them. There have been a number of incidents where doubt is cast on this society's commitment to our servicemen.
      Serving in the military is both interesting and an honor. These volunteers are being dishonored by poor treatment even while serving. Then there is the Veteran's Administration that would rather keep very ill patients waiting while this country literally blows several trillion dollars on political actions.
      Some of the leadership is at war with our military and veterans. I know which side I am on. Time to elect a new batch of politicians who appreciate our military and throw those other bums out. We must have the military's back.
Dr. Michael Swickard is co-host of radio talk show News New Mexico 6 to 9 a.m. Monday - Friday on a number of New Mexico radio stations and through streaming. Email:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

New approach to football, I hope, with new Athletic Director

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. - The New Mexico State University Aggies need to stop selling losses. I am offended every time the administration thinks selling a loss is a good idea. They have been selling losses for most of forty years and it has brought them quick cash and lasting failure.
     Let me count the ways selling losses is a bad idea: first, every football team is judged primarily by their win/loss record. Bowl appearances are determined by win/loss records. Further, the win/loss record has a positive correlation with home attendance. Teams who give up losses each year do not go to Bowls. NMSU has not gone Bowling since 1960
     So I have protested dozens of times about selling losses. Each time I am told I just do not understand educational administration. Psst: I have a Ph.D. in that field. They trade short-term employment for themselves for long-term institutional losses.
     Every year I am told the money just does not work any other way. Yet in all those years the NMSU administration has had to shift money to the Athletic Department a number of times. Remember, "Easy money is always the hardest."
     So there is a new Athletic Director, Mario Moccia. He is a former Aggie great in baseball. In his senior year at NMSU the Aggie football team was winless. That year then football head coach Mike Knoll was fired after a 4 and 40 career. How's that selling losses doing for you Mike?
     The next coach finally stopped the skid with a victory so NMSU Football only lost 27 straight games, some of them sold losses. NMSU was playing with players hurt in sold games. Add to that, the home attendance over the decades has been poor at best and nearly non-existent at all other times.
     The NMSU administration said it had to sell losses because the fans were not coming to the games. They got it backwards. If they play and win, the fans come. Incidentally, since 1967 I have attended Aggie football. Many seasons I have six season tickets though this year we only got four.
     Not because of the sold game, I was not able to attend most games this year. It was because of the illness of a relative for whom I am the caregiver. But we bought the tickets. And we supported as we have all of these years. We are the few remaining Aggie fans.
     The Aggie mantra has been: just wait until next year. We have. Through that whole string of seasons without winning and without fan support the administration has been belligerent about criticism. They want to play the big programs for cash and for the fact that they go to the sold games and experience what a winning program looks like. Unfortunately, it is not the NMSU Aggies who have the winning program.
     So NMSU is at a crossroads. Some people say that a recent NMSU President got fired for publicly saying that NMSU was going to end the football program. I was not there but that perhaps is the reason. And I have nothing but immense respect for the current NMSU President Garrey Carruthers. No, I am not sucking up to him, he and I have known each other for a very long time.
     We now have a new Athletic Director. Can we take money from our reserves, hold bake sales, car washes, administration kissing booth, (bad idea) or whatever so that next year NMSU has a good chance to win those games that they have been selling? The NMSU football program can turn around quickly with wins, and will be mired in cow dung with losses.
     The University of New Mexico was pressured years ago to fire their successful football coach who had gotten them full stadiums and bowl appearances. How has that worked for you? Three wins in three season and then mercifully a new coach whom I like. The program is coming back. Will UNM sell losses? I think not.
     Can NMSU learn from these decades of losses. They can, will they? That depends on the new Athletic Director. Yes, we are buying our football tickets for next year regardless. It would be nice to sit in a full stadium.
Dr. Michael Swickard is co-host of radio talk show News New Mexico 6 to 9 a.m. Monday - Friday on a number of New Mexico radio stations and through streaming. Email: