Looking back at 2004’s best silliness

By Ned Cantwell

Looking back at the old year and forward to the new one….
New Mexico puts the finishing touches on 2004, still one of only two states allowing cockfighting. Its sensible new rules to protect convenience store workers are under appeal. And its laws favor strip mall payday loan bandits who screw the poor with sky-high interest rates. There’s work to do.
On the plus side, the Land of Enchantment got smart and joined the overwhelming number of states that do not tax food purchases. Think Tank New Mexico estimates New Mexicans will save about $6.50 on every $100 of groceries they buy. The reform was long overdue.

Rummaging through a cluttered desk, I find a couple of 2004 favorites.

n Favorite quotes, both from Roswell legislators unhappy with Gov. Bill Richardson. First there was Democrat Tim Jennings who opined that if “this Legislature does not stand up on their feet and defend this institution this governor will take us all straight to hell.” And Republican Dan Foley called Big Bill “drunk with power, just drunk with power.” Wow!

Favorite silly story: Not only New Mexico media, but national news outlets were entranced with the nonsensical reopening of the investigation of the century-old Billy the Kid death. It is a testimonial to the quiet life New Mexico leads that KBIM-TV in Roswell interrupted regularly programming for a BREAKING NEWS bulletin when investigators decided to abandon their court appeal to have poor Billy unearthed in Fort Sumner so they could order DNA testing.

Favorite unsung hero: Successful restaurateur Jeff Wilson (Cattle Baron et al) did not get enough public acclaim for reopening the famed Tinnie’s Restaurant and designating all its profits to establish the Second Chance Boy’s Ranch on adjacent premises. That’s good stuff. And when I called Wilson’s marketing director to get an interview, she said Jeff is the type of guy who believes that when you do a good deed you should do it and shut up about it. Rare in these days, isn’t it?

Dumbest arrest: A New Mexico Fish and Game officer handcuffed Dr. G. L. “Les” Wiley at his veterinarian office in Alamogordo when Les refused to divulge the name of an employee who brought to the office a wounded fawn she found on a road near High Rolls. Oh, my.

This column has had a good year, welcoming five additional newspapers to the fold in 2004. With the addition of the El Defensor Chieftain in Socorro, the Alamogordo News, The Daily Times of Farmington, Los Alamos Monitor and Rio Grande Sun in Espanola, we are now in 12 newspapers reaching more than 90,000 households. A special thanks to our editors and their readers.

We didn’t get into whole heaps of trouble this year, with the exception of the ACLU, which thought we took liberties with its tactics, and the convenience store industry that would find it convenient if we shut up about the new rules protecting their clerks.

Readers continue to help us with grammar. When we used the phrase “begs the question” as meaning inviting the question, Carl Spencer of Farmington pointed out the phrase means exactly the opposite, to avoid the question. Thanks. We need all the help we can get.

And as we enter a new year, this important note: As his self-appointed Reminder Czar, I would emphasize to my fellow New Mexicans that Gov. Richardson is NOT running for president of these United States.

Ned Cantwell invites response at: