Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Christmas Column in a Year Full of Hate

Merry Christmas!

Or Happy Holidays!

There are so many gifts I wish I could give . . .

To our country: a renewed sense of purpose; a government closer to all of our ideals and needs than the one that will soon commence; and a renewed ability to listen to each others' views without simultaneously forming in our minds a caustic response.

To our state:
- putting top priority on using our sunlight as an energy source, for the good of our pocketbooks and our planet;
- better funding for the judiciary, for everything from courthouse security and better salaries for judges and jurors, to programs that deal with drug addiction and mental-health problems; and for public defenders;
- legalization of marijuana, which would not only be the right thing to do but also help ease our financial problems, by eliminating the vast expenses of incarcerating marijuana users and retailers and by providing additional state revenues;
- and, last but far from least, a helluva lot of rain! And a good outcome to the water litigation and a much-enhanced appreciation of the need to conserve water in our desert southwest.

To our community:
- a repaired and improved mental health system, considerably better than what we had before Governor Susana Martinez wrongfully destroyed it in 2013 over phantom fraud allegations;
- more funding for programs like Community of Hope, Casa de Peregrinos, Casa de Niños, El Caldito, and Beloved Community;
- more people like Gerry Vest, Ann Palermo, and Carole Bernal, all of whom we lost this year (along with many other fine folks); Gerry did great work helping troubled veterans, and I never saw him without a huge smile and his two small dogs; Ann's commitment to our community was obviously deep and broad; Carole was a gutsy cancer survivor a fiercely proud grandmother, and a loyal friend;
- more support for the arts community and such members as The Big Picture, The Unsettled Gallery, Mesquite Art Gallery, Art Obscura, and Más Art, and the Rio Grande Theater, as well as NMSU and city museums, and the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum;
- and a 2017 in which no law-enforcement officer is shot, knifed, punched, beaten, or spat on – and in which no officer has to shoot anyone. Or mistakenly thinks s/he has to.

But with my sleigh at Mascitelli's, I'll have to settle for giving what I can: I'll keep writing these columns so long as people keep reading 'em, though my preferred genre is fiction. (My present to Sound-off is the fun folks have saying that the columns are fiction.) 

I'll keep telling the stories of citizens, peace officers, public employees, and others who get the short end of the stick (or get whacked with the business end) and aren't in a position to speak up.
And I hope to bring an occasional smile to your lips with photographs of sunsets, or profiles of some of our best, like Josh and Arrow.

I'll also keep working to get our new community radio station, KTAL, on the air within the next three months. Another gift the community can give itself. “¿Que tal?” you might ask. We're over some hurdles, and hope to start podcasting in January and broadcasting in March.

And I'll keep talking – and listening – to everyone, with my mind as open as I can pry it. Even if we disagree about some issues, in the desert we're all neighbors, no matter how far apart we may seem. 

So Happy New Year, neighbor!

[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 25 December 2016, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG-TV's website.]

[Reflecting on this column and on Walt Rubel's, the phrase "practice random acts of kindness" kept coming back to my mind.  (The whole saying is "Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.")  It's still a good thought -- and a good practice -- all year round, and worth a column in itself.  Occasionally in San Francisco, when I felt particularly good (and flush, I guess, and when tolls were a lot less than they are now) I used to go through a toll booth and not only pay my $2 but give the toll-taker an extra $20 with instructions to let the next ten people through without paying.  It was great.  The toll-taker's day was brightened, as were the days of ten people I never even saw -- or more, if others decided to pay for folks behind them.)
Recently I'd been thinking of trying to urge folks here to follow the practice, at least around Christmas.  Saturday at the market a friend told us about her daughter.  Her parents hadn't told her much about Christmas.  Then in a long NPR skit the daughter heard that there was an old man who went around giving gifts.  When she announced that news to her parents, they listened and remarked on how near that was -- which indeed it is.  They did not express either skepticism or belief, but just listened, letting her absorb what she might.  I liked that.  In the same spirit, urging folks to give not only to their families and friends but to random strangers or slight acquaintances -- all year but particularly around Christmas -- seems a good idea.  For all of us.  Atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, and others ought not to be put off by the association of Christmas with Christianity, because that association is slight.  Historically, there were mid-winter festivals before Christ; and more recently, Christmas is much too much of a marketing trick - "Celebrate the baby Jesus by buying more plastic trinkets," as another friend said Saturday morning.  Christmas just happens to be a time when, in our culture, folks are more receptive to the spirit of giving.  Loathing the way businesses pervert that doesn't mean we can't share in the spiritBeing generous at Christmas doesn't endorse what anyone else may be doing.  Further, even if some say or do hateful things in the name of Jesus, his story as told in the gospels is certainly a lovely one from which we can all learn.]

[I also resolve for next year that at least once a month I'd like to use the column for just a profile of a person, place, or situation that illustrates the good in our community.]

[Gerry and Carole.  Ann Palermo was pretty well-known and the Sun-News wrote about her.  Gerry and Carole weren't.  I knew Gerry casually.  A gentle, smiling guy I talked with often at the Farmers' Market.  I knew he worked with troubled veterans, and was much appreciated by them.  But to most of the community, he was probably unknown.  So was Carole.  Earlier this year I wrote a draft column about her.  What I wanted to express, aside from personal respect and affection, was respect for the folks no one knows who have good hearts and do what they can to make ours a better world.  She had a lot of tough stuff thrown at her.  She survived breast cancer, and rather than hiding that fact she turned it into a crusade to urge younger women to take care of themselves.  She and Reymundo had a long, caring marriage.  Behind many anonymous doors in our community live others who live good lives and show tremendous courage in dealing with pain and unfairness.  I'd rather write about them than Senators and Congressfolk.]

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Fitting the County Commission's UDC Meeting into a Busy Day

I rush from the County Commission UDC meeting to take my 86-year-old friend to the doctor. 

My friend was an NMSU professor here for thirty years. In 1965, he briefly made Cruces famous, when he and some other locals made a low-budget feature film, in days when only Hollywood made features. AP ran a national story on him. Now he shuffles into the doctor's office, unknown.

“Beautiful mountains,” he says, pointing at the Organs. (I could do a column on people's first reactions to the Organs.) He first saw them in newspaper articles NMSU professor Newman Reed sent after NMSU offered him a job. (When Reed started here, Solano still had cattle-gates.) 

Thinking cattle-gates reminds me of the UDC, which so many worked so hard to make the best it could be. Others tried to sabotage it, saying it's imperfect (which, like anything human-made, it is) and should be tabled, left to the next commission. “Left to die,” they mean. If they really meant improvements, then amendments could do that. Why would we want new commissioners to spend hundreds of hours, or make Planning & Zoning and scores of citizens repeat endless hours of hearings, to make unspecified small improvements? 

After the doctor, I take my friend to the bank. From the parking lot on Telshor, I let the western mountains on the horizon catch my eye. I'm glad I returned to live under this vast sky. 

A realtor told the Commission he'd heard a lot of talk about democracy, and that the UDC shouldn't be passed. He didn't really explain what was wrong with it, except that it was “restrictive.” Reasonable restrictions, while they may protect citizens, can be inconvenient for realtors.)

So I said more about democracy. The county worked on this thing for years. I feel like people have been inviting me to UDC meetings since I was about seven years old. There were countless public-input meetings throughout the county. The P&Z held lengthy, detailed meetings – some of which my wife attended, hour after hour, watching the sausage get made. Right up to the end, staff and the P&Z were making recommendations responding to public input. The P&Z made recommendations. The elected Commission acted. Commissioner David Garcia, who always seems painfully earnest about trying to do what's right, ensured that key questions concerning affordable housing and grazing rights were aired, heard from numerous citizens, then cast the deciding vote. Yep, democracy.

I stop for supper at the Co-op, a democratic institution which is celebrating its 40th year. I'm thinking about time and change and our varied roles over time in a place we call home. Tuesday the huge Commission Chambers were filled today. Forty years ago, when I was a reporter, the commission (just three commissioners then) met in the old courthouse, in a small room with hardly a dozen chairs. No one contemplated a UDC – or a county nearly so populous! Everything east of Tortugas Mountain was desert where we dirt-biked. Retired City Manager Robert Garza was a mischievous kid. Saturday we watched his son help NMSU beat UNM. 

My wife joins me at the Co-op. She talks and laughs with staff, hugs some of them, listens. Earlier she spoke passionately at the Commission meeting. After the UDC passed, she stood talking at length with people who'd opposed it, listening to their arguments, hoping to facilitate better communication between them and County staff.

We all do the best we can. The Commission did its best. We all owe thanks to the departing commissioners, even if we sometimes disagreed with them.
[The above column appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News today, Sunday, 18 December 206, and on  the newspaper's website, and will appear presently on the KRWG-TV website.]

[I wasn't happy with this column.  Maybe trying to mix things that don't mix so well: a brief account of the County Commission meeting on the Uniform Development Code and a more impressionistic portrait of a day that seemed to feature a couple of things I think about now and then, the varied roles we perform in our community in a given day and the changes in our roles and relationships over long periods of time in a particular place.  The latter fit in with part of what I wanted to say about the UDC, while the former was just something my day seemed to thrust into my thoughts.  (Before dawn I was writing a fictional scene set in 1968, a scene in which one character, listening on radio to the Chicago Convention, concludes that the only way to stop the Viet Nam war would be to start assassinating high public figures; riding to pickleball, I spent 20 minutes counseling a legal client, then spent another ten minutes talking with a second client before I got to play; I enjoyed pickleball; then I listened and even got up a couple of times to speak about the UDC; then I was sort of a caregiver for my friend; then I supped at the Mountain View Co-op, to use up the hour before my KTAL Radio board meeting.)  
Driving my friend around helped make me think about changes over time.  He got here in 1959, I think.  More than a half-century ago.  I arrived 20 years later.  He was a professor, married, with a daughter and soon a son as well.  At 40, he had never camped in the wilderness or ridden a motorcycle, although a few years later those became the focus of his life.  He got divorced.  We rode dirt bikes around outside our small town, and street bikes across the country.  He retired and became a hermit on our land at the southern end of Sierra County, building a modest home himself, for perhaps $5,000, and living out there without electricity or indoor plumbing or paved road for 24 years, until health mandated the move back into town.  Now he no longer drives, or walks very far.  His mind's still sharp, though, and he's still funny.  Friends and former students still enjoy hanging out with him, making a trip with him to the grocery store much more a pleasure than a chore.  Too, he was always an open, generous sort, inspires the same attitude toward him now.
An incident at the Co-op illustrated the change theme too.  An acquaintance joined me briefly.  Thinking about the idea of a column about people's first glimpses of the Organ Mountains, I asked about his.  He recounted a visit here in the early 1990's to his brother.  That reminded me that although I'm not sure I've ever actually met his brother, about 45 years ago we were seeing the same woman (who was actually married to someone else) for a short time.  I thought about how much that all mattered at the time, and about the fact that now I can't recall her name.  
And a community changes over time too.   This one is no longer what it was in many memories; but the populous county we are now, with all sorts of development all over, probably needs a UDC.
At any rate, sometimes a piece of writing can combine a couple of very different elements in a way that sheds a little more light on both.  I don't think I managed that here.  Sorry.]

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Fund New Mexico's Courts!

The Department of Finance and Administration (“DFA”) wants our legislators to do something really dumb this session. 

We depend on courts for justice. Our state constitution makes the judiciary one of three coequal branches of government. 

The judiciary says it needs $171.8 million this year. This funding would also help “problem-solving courts” that deal with drugs and mental health issues. (Even at this funding-level, our judges would remain the worst-paid in the nation. They deserve better.) In addition, the courts anticipate more child abuse and neglect cases, since the Children, Youth and Families Department will have more money.

The Legislative Finance Committee has recommended boosting court-system funding by 3.5 percent, to $162.6 million. DFA has proposed keeping New Mexico Courts' funding at approximately $157 million.

DFA doesn't want to face the real-life consequences its plan would have. Court officials say DFA's proposal would cause elimination of 458 spots in drug court programs across New Mexico. A DFA spokesperson claimed that local sources (which will also be reeling from cuts) could somehow make up the difference. Yeah, right!

Supreme Court Justice Barbara Vigil testified that the proposed funding level would lead to cuts in drug-court programs and court-appointed attorneys. Court security is also nonexistent in some courthouses.

State revenues are down; but cutting the courts' budget is like saving money by not repairing your brakes or putting oil in your car. These short-term cuts would create greater expenses long-term: we spend zillions housing drug addicts in our jails, and if the drug courts can cut the number of such inmates by even a small percentage, that saves us money – and human beings.

7th District Judge Matt Reynolds (Sierra County) told me recently that security is a key issue, with many judges around the state unprotected.

He said further cuts to meet a temporary fiscal emergency would be unwise.

The cuts could mean an end to the three drug courts that have grown into a significant resource in the 7th during the past decade. “If you had a pecan grove, you wouldn't chop down mature pecan trees for fuel in an extra-cold winter,” he said. As with pecans trees, it has taken years to get the drug courts to be what they are today.

He also agreed that such cuts would be illusory. Drug courts divert many addicts into programs where they not only deal with their addictions but get a GED (if necessary) and jobs. Keeping these folks in jail is a whole lot more expensive. Further, jails mostly have revolving doors: without treatment and serious help, an addicted inmate, with no lawful means of feeding his or her habit, steals soon after release and quickly returns to jail. Drug courts can sometimes deal with the root problems and stop that cycle.

“It's painful to see people just go to jail, when the drug courts could help them become contributing members of society,” Judge Reynolds said.

The numbers are significant. Most crimes here are drug-related. It's a national social problem, which Judge Reynolds called “rampant over-prescription of pain medication, and the resulting addiction.” The U.S., with just 3% of the world's population, uses 80% of the world's pain-killers. (“I doubt we have 80% of the world's pain,” commented the Judge.) New Mexico was recently ranked #1 among states for per capita drug abuse. Sierra County ranks #1 in the state for opioids.

Reynolds notes that most of the addicted individuals helped by the drug courts are parents. Thus the help done often affects the next generation as well.

Please tell our legislators and the governor these cuts don't cut it!

[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 11 December 2016, and will presently appear on the newspaper's website and the KRWG-TV website.]

[There's a lot more to say on this subject than fits into a newspaper column.  Notably, we have state courts without any real security.  We've been lucky so far with that; but civil lawsuits and criminal trials obviously arouse strong feeling -- negative ones, for folks who don't win.  (I recall years ago in San Francisco they ceased giving rulings from the bench in small claims court cases after a losing litigant bit off the winner's nose in the hallway.  They started mailing out decisions.)  Judges and jurors shouldn't have to be so vulnerable.
I know there are lots of priority programs in the state.  I'm glad no one's assigned me the chore of deciding how to spend New Mexico's more-than-usually-limited funds.  But this is important.  So is appropriate funding for public defenders in criminal cases.  Being a just society is an essential goal.]

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Belated Justice - Jury Finds against County Treasurer

Justice appears to have been done. Finally.

As most readers know, David Gutierrez has been our County Treasurer for nearly eight years. In 2014, he requested to ride along with a female employee (whom he'd sexually harassed before, I've heard) to the bank, then had her drive back by an odd route and ultimately offered her money for a couple of hours in a motel room. He then tried to convince his deputy to delay reporting this misconduct so that he could “smooth things over” with the victim.

Make no mistake: this was not sex, but a use of his power as her employer to embarrass her. In many states, what he did would not only be sexual harassment but a crime, solicitation of prostitution. Unfortunately, New Mexico's statute doesn't cover his precise conduct.

I'll disclose I have a history with this case: I worked with the County Democratic Party to help it throw him off the central committee and censure him. We also encouraged him to resign. I felt strongly that the Democratic Party should lead the effort to recall him. I also looked into the recall procedure and discussed the criminal statute with an Assistant D.A. 

I felt strongly about it because people shouldn't abuse power, particularly to harm those under their control. (As a lawyer in a big law firm, I thought that how others treated secretaries and other employees beneath them in the system was a major indication of their character.) That's particularly so with a “public servant.” It's particularly so when the employee is under some further disadvantage, such as being female or a member of a minority ethnic group.

I also thought Gutierrez was arrogant in refusing to resign when he had admitted such misconduct. It rankled that we were paying him.

There was also further information the jurors didn't hear. Once I wrote about this incident, I got several calls from people who wanted to tell me more about Gutierrez. They drew a portrait of an office in which the boss's undue interest in pretty women was systemic and unpleasant. 

It's right that the jury didn't hear such further accounts. Those were not under oath. The jurors' task was to decide just this case, on its own facts. 

I did not attend the trial. I have not researched the details of this public corruption / gross immorality provision, and offer no opinion on how an appeal would come out. (The prosecution may appeal the dismissal of a companion criminal charge.)

But the quotes I read from the defense seemed childish. His story that his proposition wasn't serious, but was meant to compliment her and cheer her up? Cow manure. His testimony is inherently weak – and doubly unconvincing because he apparently didn't say that when his deputy questioned him.
His attorney's “Donald Trump did it” argument in closing? Inappropriate. Also probably a more promising argument in Georgia than in Doña Ana County, where candidate Trump didn't do so well. Even most Trump supporters had to hold their noses over that aspect of his character – or deny it to themselves, or conclude that Trump's character flaws were part of God's plan.

Kudos to D.A. Mark D'Antonio and the trial attorneys for prosecuting Gutierrez and winning. I wondered why things took so long. There were reasons: the need for an actual request from the county, uncertainty about the victim's full cooperation, local judges recusing themselves, and the eventual judge's busy schedule. 
I'd rather have seen this many moons ago; but the wheels of justice turn at their own pace, not mine.

[The above column appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 4 December, and on the newspaper's website, and will appear presently on the KRWG-TV website.] 

[The length of time Mr. Gutierrez sat in office after admitting this misconduct not only shows something about him but indicts community leaders, including this columnist, for at least laziness in not facing the significant time-challenge of recalling him from office.  Some folks didn't care.  Some folks, including me, pushed it for awhile, but couldn't generate enough enthusiasm and went back to doing other things.  We're all busy, and pressed for time, and recalling him would have been a significant chore requiring many participants.  But we ought to have done it, rather than paying him a salary for an unnecessary year or two and letting him suppose his conduct was all right.]

[As to why he wasn't tried and convicted on the crime of soliciting prostitution:  New Mexico doesn't have a criminal offense named specifically "Solicitation of Prostitution"; but there's a statute on "Promotion of Prostitution":

30-9-4. Promoting prostitution.  

Promoting prostitution consists of any person, acting other than as a prostitute or patron of a prostitute:   

A.   knowingly establishing, owning, maintaining or managing a house of prostitution or a place where prostitution is practiced, encouraged or allowed, or participating in the establishment, ownership, maintenance or management thereof;   

B.   knowingly entering into any lease or rental agreement for any premises which a person partially or wholly owns or controls, knowing that such premises are intended for use as a house of prostitution or as a place where prostitution is practiced, encouraged or allowed;   

C.   knowingly procuring a prostitute for a house of prostitution or for a place where prostitution is practiced, encouraged or allowed;   

D.   knowingly inducing another to become a prostitute;   

E.   knowingly soliciting a patron for a prostitute or for a house of prostitution or for any place where prostitution is practiced, encouraged or allowed;   

F.   knowingly procuring a prostitute for a patron and receiving compensation therefor;   

G.   knowingly procuring transportation for, paying for the transportation of or transporting a person within the state with the intention of promoting that person's engaging in prostitution;   

H.   knowingly procuring through promises, threats, duress or fraud any person to come into the state or causing a person to leave the state for the purpose of prostitution; or   

I.   under pretense of marriage, knowingly detaining a person or taking a person into the state or causing a person to leave the state for the purpose of prostitution.   

Whoever commits promoting prostitution is guilty of a fourth degree felony.

The only subsection remotely applicable would be 30-9-4(D): "knowingly inducing another to become a prostitute."  At least arguable, had the victim consented to prostitute herself for Mr. Gutierrez, he'd be guilty of this; but she didn't.  Could he have been indicted for "Attempted Promotion of Prostitution"?]


Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Undefeated - a Visit with Merrie Lee Soules

I had lunch with Merrie Lee Soules recently.

She wasn't wallowing in whatever pain she felt over losing a hard-fought Congressional Race to the oil-and-gas funded incumbent. 

She was already working on her direct testimony before the PRC opposing El Paso Electric's continued efforts to game the system in ways that cost you and me. EPE has plenty of money and plenty of lawyers. Citizens and customers have the City, the County, and four intervenors. She's one. EPE is expected to seek extra money for additional power plants. One source alleges that EPE has overcharged $100 million on fuel costs in the past three years. 

Ms. Soules spoke not of where she'd been but where we New Mexicans are going. She expressed concern that the Democratic legislature might be too accustomed to playing defense, and not quite ready to pass all the right measures and worry later about whether the lame-duck governor vetoes some of them. Or all of them. And she was a fount of useful ideas to get our economy going again.

These included taking full advantage of our potential as an international crossroads, rather than quivering in fear because we live near a border; ending oil and gas subsidies; getting money circulating to improve the economy, partly by improving the minimum wage; and legalizing marijuana, a much discussed boon to New Mexico's economy.

When I finally asked about the campaign, her beaming face confirmed her words, that she had “no regrets” – except that failing to win might have “let down” some folks. “It was a new adventure every day.”

What did she learn?

 “My heart really is in southern New Mexico.” She marveled at “how vast, how beautiful, and how diverse this district is.” She added that the campaign experience was so rich and varied, “I wished we could make a reality TV show out of it.”

What moments stood out?

The All-Pueblo Council of Governors. It struck her that “in this meeting of nations, there are the heads of sovereign nations meeting together to work together in the interest of their people, their culture, their lands. What an amazing privilege to be there!” 

A Mescalero Apache woman invited her to a Feast / Celebration. The day before the parades and dancing her guide escorted her into teepees and arbors set up to celebrate five young girls reaching womanhood. Ms. Soules was introduced to people and helped to understand what was going on and why. 

In Rodeo, a small boot-heel community, “There was a convention of 200 people there, to celebrate the life of a recently deceased herpetologist. They'd been out all day gathering samples. The main presentation concerned snake venom research.” 

She said that pretty much everyone she met while campaigning was deeply committed to doing the right thing for New Mexico – whatever they thought that might be. “We had big differences of opinion; but it wasn't good and bad, black and white. Everyone seemed intent on doing the best for their community and state – as they conceive it.”

She found our Congressional District “filled with people who have stories to tell, fascinating people, good people. It's been a blessing.”

Our talk increased my regret that we'd all lost the opportunity to have Ms. Soules representing us in Washington. (Vastly underfunded, she carried this county handily, but lost the election decisively.) That's our loss. She's a tough-minded businesswoman with a big heart, with our interests foremost.
The fact that she's wasting no time and is already deeply involved in her next fight on our behalf only illustrates the magnitude of our loss.

[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News (or so I assume, not having wandered out to the mailbox yet) this morning, Sunday, 27 November 2016, and will appear presently on the newspaper's website and the KRWG-TV website.]

Sunday, November 20, 2016


What I think changes the world, for each of us, is being grateful.

We are so often not. We are so often focused on what we've lost, or think we've lost; or what others have that we suppose might make us happier; or on people we suppose to be enemies. There is a lot of pain to be had, in a huge, indifferent universe that barely notices us, with time and technology speeding far beyond what we can comprehend. We are insignificant creatures clinging briefly to this planet.

Yet that is also an incredible privilege. Just walking down to the compost bin with a couple of buckets of water as the sun sets, as nameless feathery grasses glow in the rich light, glancing at the reddening mountains, thinking over a day full of friends, I am suddenly grateful. Then at the front of the house I watch the love of my life hula-hooping to the mailbox to get the mail and the morning paper. The comic joy of it cannot be captured in the photograph I instinctively shoot. 

I do not know what this world is. I don't fully trust those who feel certain they do, although it's certainly fine with me if you want to thank God or Allah or the Great Spirit. But do thank someone, or something. Science has taught us that folks who laugh freely and hard every day live longer. It may also be so with gratitude. Certainly it feels better to recognize how lucky you are than get obsessed with the transitory nature of it all, or a tragic presidential election.

I do have two theories I like to play with. One is that this earth is a toy that a child is playing with in some other world that's much more complex than we can imagine. At any moment s/he may toss it away; so live as fully and as well as you can, each moment. As Dogen put it, “At each moment, do not rely on tomorrow. Think of this day and this day only, because the next moment is uncertain and unknown.”

I first read those words on a train crossing northern China. As I read them, the train screeched and shuddered to a sudden halt. Immediately below my window, a blue-clad peasant lay dying. Hit by the train. Urine was spreading on the ground under him or her. Villagers or officials and trainmen gathered a few yards away, exchanging cigarettes. Dozens of fellow passengers nearly crushed me trying to get a better view.

The universe had illustrated Dogen's words in a unique way.

My second theory is that the denizens of some more sophisticated world take human form on this Earth for periods of time. I have not quite figured out whether they do this merely as a game – a far more complex and challenging one than the best-crafted video games – or whether there's a deeper purpose. Perhaps they do it to improve themselves. Perhaps they sign up for particular human lives, forgetting their “real” world the moment they're born here, and must remain here until they accomplish some particular thing, or reach some particular plateau of wisdom or goodness, when they are suddenly released back to the world from whence they -- we? -- came. 

It seems as least as reasonable as the Christian or ancient Greek concepts.

But if you believe something else, fine! 

What matters is to recognize that each moment, as a highly imperfect being in this highly imperfect world, is beautiful. And not to assume you or I deserve any credit for that.

[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 20 November, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG-TV's website.  I hope folks enjoy it.]

[This column kind of wrote itself.  I came back up from the compost bin and sat down, and it just happened.]

[I doubt I'd ever have written any such thing before meeting my wife.  She knows about gratitude.  In fact, early in our relationship, in a city far from here, she took me to the Gratitude Cafe.  I don't know as I so consistently recognized life as something to be grateful for, until now.  She's not only made me more grateful for life, but she's also a great example.  I was not thinking when I wrote this column that this week would be Thanksgiving.]

[Dogen (Dogen Zenji, or Kigen Dogen), by the way, was a 13th Century Japanese writer, poet, and philosopher who was dissatisfied with Buddhism as it was practiced in Japan, traveled to China to find a more authentic version, and founded the Sōtō Soto School of Zen.  Zen, of course, emphasizes being truly present and mindful in the moment, each moment.

Some years ago, when I was playing around with such things, I fashioned this, and a copy hangs on a wall here:

Thinking about how we get here reminds me that much earlier, when I lived on a boat off San Francisco, I photographed one morning my good friend Gary (who lived on the next boat over, and who died last year) and his daughter; I liked the way the early-morning sunlight accentuated the difference between his lined face and her fresh one; and as in those days I often photographed the dawn or a rainbow or whatever, then matched it with a poem, I made this:

                 Dawn loves my daughter.
                Neither she nor the new sun
                speaks of the past lives
                through which they found their ways here.
                Yet I hear them whispering.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

How Bad Will It Be?

We're in deep manure.

Fortunately, I live in Doña Ana County. Trump's snake oil didn't sell here. We elected good people to the statehouse: Nathan Small, Angelica Rubio, Jeff Steinborn, Rudy Martinez; and, finally, Joanne Ferrary beat the Doctor! We defied oil companies and banks. 

But millions of voters were sufficiently angry or distressed to toss the U.S. Government in the toilet. They had reasons. (Had Clinton won, I'd still be urging both parties to take seriously the disaffection expressed in votes for Bernie and Trump.) 

People knew Trump was an unqualified wack-job. But they disliked Hillary and “the Establishment.” They wanted to punch both in the nose. They liked Trump for being a bull in a china shop; but they (and we) live in that china shop. 

What happened? Polls weren't rigged. Trump's polls and Fox News also indicated Trump was losing. Some voters dissembled. They held their noses and voted for Trump, but weren't comfortable saying so. Others decided late.

Most Trump voters I know are neither racist nor stupid. I talked to several, though most avoided saying how they'd vote. Some were women. One was a Hispanic friend I play pickleball with. He doesn't hate anyone (except me when I win) but has family working the border. Some religious friends said God uses even bad people for His purposes. I suspect some cast a “protest vote,” comfortable that Trump wouldn't actually win.

People voted less for Trump than against Washington – and Hillary, the wrong candidate. Thirty years of conspiracy theories and partisan attacks on her didn't help; but the distrust runs deeper. Her husband had an almost pathological need to be loved or admired. Great politician. Hillary was reserved, private. Running for President meant being someone she wasn't. People sensed that. (Al Gore was smart and qualified, but uncomfortable following the family's political tradition. George Bush was unqualified, but comfortable. People liked and trusted him. As with Romney, folks never warmed up to Hillary.)

It's ironic. Clinton isn't particularly dishonest, for a politician. Trump's rarely in the same zip code as the truth. 

Misogynism was probably involved. A man who mocks and gropes women won handily among men. And Comey's October Surprise probably pushed Trump over the top. A previously ethical guy who may live in infamy. But in a complete democracy, with no electoral college, the narrow popular-vote winner (Clinton) would be hiring cabinet members.

One important takeaway is the deep divisions between city folk and country folk, blue counties and red. Wholly different realities. We need bridges!

Our country and the world will suffer, ruled by an impatient narcissist who knows nothing about government. Will he do crazy things or just let himself be guided into bad policies by the very right-wing advisers he trusts? (His own instincts aren't ideologically pure.) Generations will have to live with his Supreme Court justices and ostrich-like view of climate change. Putin will play him like a Stradivarius. Will our children emulate his greed and discourtesy? 

Trump talked as if he'd bring back criminal libel laws, to control the press. Which you'd figure our Constitution would prevent, but with a Republican Congress and a Trump Supreme Court?

I hope and believe Trump won't be historically bad. Hitler was elected too. By angry people who didn't all share his racism and paranoia. I don't think Trump's quite such a hater; and our democratic traditions are deeper than Weimar Germany's.

Still, November 8th was a nativist step back from tolerance and understanding. Voters struck back against corporate globalism; but the corporations will do fine. 

New Mexico is my refuge. But I'm scared.

[The above column appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, November 13, 2016, as well as on  the newspaper's website  and on KRWG-TV's website.  I welcome comments, criticism, and questions here or on those sites.]

[My working title for this post was "How Bad Will It Be?", and I'm in a rush this morning, so I'll stick with it; but I don't really answer it in the column, because obviously I can't.
I do say it won't be Hitlerian.  Trump doesn't have Hitler's long-standing political resentment.  He doesn't hate ethnic groups the way Hitler does.  But he did exhibit prejudice against blacks in his businesses. And he has obviously found it convenient as a political candidate to say horrible things about other ethnic groups.  But I think it comes more from expediency than from deep-seated hatred.  He's not obsessed.  
Unfortunately, he comes to the Presidency with a unique sort of power: very few debts, even to other Republicans, and a victory that clearly was his own, not the party's.  The conventional Republicans who loath him mostly didn't give him a lot of help, and both he and they know that, so he has some independence.
He's closest now to some of the really farthest-out right-wing people on the spectrum. That's whom he may trust.  And that bodes ill.  But his own politics are more moderate, to the extent that he's thought about politics at all.  Yeah, he loves the rich and powerful; but his attitudes on gays and abortion and other social issues were moderate before he started seeking the Republican Presidential nomination.  Will he hunker down with his Alt-Right advisers or execute yet another change?  Does he secretly hope for the approval, admiration, and respect of the political pros the way he once hungered for respect from the upper-crust New Yorkers when he moved from Queens into Manhattan against his father's advice? I think he'll be more agreeable to letting them run a lot, so long as they genuflect and express their awe of him as a Great Man.
Either way, it'll be bad: time's running out on doing anything about the climate, and whether he pals around with Breitbart or Ryan we won't do anything for another four years; the Supreme Court will get worse and be worse for at least a decade; gays will lose out big-time, if Pence has anything to do with it, as he likely will; women's rights are likely to suffer, although we can hope his family may neutralize some of the right-wing influences on him in that area. 
Further, his election will encourage the haters among us.  I've heard women, immigrants, blacks, gays, and Muslims express their fears, and those fears are more than reasonable.  I share them.

Sadly, Trump will exemplify for our kids greed and arrogance. Most people who loathed Obama's policies recognized his personal grace and decency. Most people who voted for Trump recognize his negative personal qualities.]

[I mentioned the oddity of religious folks supporting Trump, and their explanation that God will use him.  I've never gotten a very clear answer from anyone when I ask how they know God plans to use Trump for good -- as opposed, say, to the devil using him for evil.  But I've been given plenty of examples of people who weren't the greatest in different ways (Churchill being a drunk before God used him to save England; Lincoln something undesirable, I forget what, before being used to save the Union; also the Apostle Paul (who wanted to kill Christians, at first), Cyrus in the Book of Isiah.  Or Samson, or Gideon.  One friend wrote me in a facebook message that "When God chooses one, they are changed and captive to fulfill his will. We all have shortcomings and some worse."  Well, Trump's shortcomings exceed those of most folks, but nothing God can't deal with -- if He chooses to.  He might decide we deserve what we get because we responded to a campaign based on hatred and intolerance and threats of violence.  Or he might have been trying to warn us with Trump that he wanted to use Hillary -- also a very imperfect person, as most of us are -- for His purposes, despite her shortcomings.   I'll try again to figure out how we can tell who God means to use.]

[The analogy of this election to Gore-Bush.  I do think personal connection moves a lot of voters, who either don't care about the issues or care more about feeling good about saying "That's my President."  The Gore-Bush difference was enlightening:Gore came from a powerful political tradition, and went into it as another might go into a family business; but he was never fully comfortable with it, kind of like the pre-med students I knew in college who really wanted to be poets or actors but couldn't cross their parents; and it showed, he seemed awkward somehow.  George Bush was a reformed alcoholic, the son no one had ever had any hopes for, the "good guy" who'd never make anything of himself, and when he ran for President he was surprised and happy to be emulating (even surpassing) his father's political success, when everyone had thought Jeb might do that.   A lot of folks found him charming, but couldn't relate to Gore.  Bush, like Reagan, seemed more open and friendly and comfortable to be around.  Trump, in a different way, was too.

Someone asked me election night "How do we get through this?"  First, by waiting to see how things go.  Second, by not letting our political grief affect our daily lives too deeply.  Also by being alert, watchful, and prepared; by keeping in closer touch with people with good hearts; by being ready.  If there's a contradiction there, sorry.  Life is full of those.  Like cancer, this will pass.  Or it won't.  Either way, we will do the things we can do to treat it (speaking out, despite undoubted efforts to shut us up; attending more diligently to making things better in our wonderful state and wonderful town until we can do something to help our wonderful country) and try to live each moment the best we can, without thinking about the sword hanging over our heads.  

For others' reactions, everyone from Garrison Keillor to Coach Popovich has screamed "Aww, fuck!" in more elegant language than that. New Yorker editor David Remnick calls Trump's ascension An American Tragedy, and closes:
"It is all a dismal picture. Late last night, as the results were coming in from the last states, a friend called me full of sadness, full of anxiety about conflict, about war. Why not leave the country? But despair is no answer. To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals—that is what is left to do. That is all there is to do."
I also particularly liked Aaron Sorkin's [creator of West Wing] letter to his daughter.  Though, speaking of daughters, one friend told us that while she was excited about the local victories of our friends, her three-year-old daughter said, "Mommy, it's okay to feel happy and sad at the same time."

Also see Michael Moore's Five Point To-Do List or recover Michael Moore's Five-Point Morning After To-Do List on Facebook

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Last Thoughts before Tuesday

We're hearing coyotes again, howling furiously before dawn and after sunset. Fewer hummingbirds are wintering over this year. The golden eagle visited with us for an hour Saturday. None care about the election; many humanoids don't either, for understandable reasons; but it will affect all of us.

Either you see the many serious ways that Donald Trump is an inappropriate and dangerous Presidential candidate or you don't. The lengthy New York Daily News editorial lists the grim facts better than I could.

Clinton is surely imperfect, but she's highly competent and experienced. And her girlish idealism still shines through sometimes.

Many decent people feel so aggrieved by their lives that they'll accept Trump's racism and sexism because he's a giant middle-finger they can give the system. If the system ain't working for you, why not toss in a huge monkey wrench? Mainstream Democrats and Republicans should learn from the huge support that folks gave a septuagenarian socialist from Vermont and a greedy, narcissistic TV clown from New York.

But Donald can only compound our problems.

A vote for Gary Johnson (a Koch Brothers' dream) or Jill Stein is a vote to risk a Trump Presidency that would set us back years. It's a vote for sexism and ethnic prejudice. It's a vote to keep ignoring climate change, and let corporations do as they like with our air, land, and water. (I wish hummingbirds and eagles could vote!)

James Comey's October surprises shouldn't influence you. There was no criminal prosecution over Hillary's emails because no one had intended to betray the U.S. or pass classified material to enemies. That won't change because the FBI reviews Anthony Weiner's copies of emails the FBI has probably seen already. 

Sure, Hillary violated a rule – as had previous secretaries of state; but Donald's whole life is a tapestry of greedy rule-bending, bankruptcies that hurt people, and prosecutions for racist actions. And he faces an imminent trial for defrauding students with the Trump University scam. 

I urge you to vote for Merrie Lee Soules. She'd be a breath of fresh air in Congress. 

Closer to home, Susana Martinez, Jay McCleskey, the oil and gas industry, and their allies are trying to give Martinez a pliable Legislature that will do her bidding without any critical thinking. Sadly, that's how the Republicans have behaved for six years. Unless you like her style – avoiding key issues and playing politics, without even trying to keep the State's credit rating from going down – you might wish to vote for the Democrats for the Legislature. 

There are strong reasons to defeat each of those Republican legislative candidates. Terry McMillan, reportedly a fine doctor, not only does the bidding of oil and gas but shortchanges us on a key part of the job, interim committees, because of the demands of his medical practice. Democrat Joanne Ferrary has a history of public service and is capable and experienced. McMillan's approval of the smear campaign against her is another point against him.

Democrat Nathan Small is a wonderful person capable of representing this area with particular integrity and ability, while his opponent, incumbent Andy Nuñez, faces a serious ethics investigation and seems to be compounding his problems with his frenetic efforts to deny everything and repeatedly amend his financial reports. 

Rudy Martinez was a strong representative in District 39. Current incumbent John Zimmerman follows the oil and gas playbook and gets terrible ratings on conservation. 

County offices? As I wrote weeks ago, I voted for Republican treasurer candidate Jill Johnson and Democrat Scott Krahling for clerk.

But whomever you like, do vote!

[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 6 November 2016, and on the newspaper's website, as well as (presently) the the KRWG-TV website.]

[I won't add a bunch of further comments here.  I do urge folks to vote for Merrie Lee Soules for Congress, Mark D'Antonio for District Attorney, and John Vasquez for the County Commission.  Ms. Soules mixes a businesswoman's skills with a progressive's heart, while the less said about her opponent, Congressman Steve Pearce, the better.  I don't know John Vasquez well, but he seems a solid sort of fellow, progressive but independent.]
[I think Hillary will win, both here and nationally; but FBI Director Comey's October Surprise has helped make it close.  While I understand the impulse to vote for an outsider, any outsider, rather than conventional leaders from the two political parties, I do fear a Trump Presidency.  Add his incompetence to his temperament, narcissm, greed, and impulsiveness, and you have a pretty poor choice to deal with the many problems of the world.    Add to that the folks around him -- from the "Alt-Right" extremist wing of the Republican Party -- and you have a mix for disaster, particularly if we also have a Republican Congress.  Too, we would get a disastrously one-sided Supreme Court and lose valuable time to mount a last-minute challenge to the worst effects of global weirdness.   It would also (although many, many Trump supporters are non-violent and non-haters) give license to some of the worst and most xenophobic elements of our society.  Further, the Russia connection is not a joke.  Putin is not only the leader of a major country we need to keep in check, but he's a vicious and greedy dictator who's stifled dissent and robbed his own people blind.  That Trump admires him is a further clue to Trump's own character; and that Putin is actively supporting Trump is significant.  I don't think he and Trump have talked to each other or connived together or anything; but I can guarantee Putin ain't supporting Trump because he has our national interest or the world's welfare at heart.  (If you haven't followed this, here's a recent piece on called Why Putin Helps Trump and What It Means.  I have found thehill a useful source recently, because it has contributors from all over the political landscape, including some passionate supporters of Mr. Trump.  Some of its contributors infuriate me.  Some are highly credentialed.)  Whether Mr. Putin sees in Mr. Trump a kindred spirit who can be led if you play him the right way (which I see too) or simply fears Hillary I can't say; but Putin's clear interest in having us elect Trump is one more good reason not to!]

[And, again, the Democrats have a quite good set of folks running for the Statehouse.  The Republicans have folks who range from "mediocre but well-meaning" to outright bad; and what they have in common is a commitment to oil and gas (and similar) interests at the expense of the environment and the interests of average voters like you and me.]

[I just noticed that the Sun-News endorsed Pearce this morning.  (Note later in the day: my wife reminds me that this endorsement was made a few weeks ago, just reprinted today; I must have noticed it the first time -- although I've been awfully busy.  Senior moment, maybe?)  Much as I like and respect the Editorial Board (at least, two members I know and work with; I have no positive or negative opinion of the third, whom I haven't met), and grateful as I am to be a columnist, I obviously disagree, and inserted an on-line comment.  The Sun-News emphasizes that Pearce keeps getting elected and that he has more experience in Congress than Soules. 
Initially, the editorial is a little dishonest on one point.  The editorial purports to explain "why he keeps getting re-elected" but omits the key reason, which is the massive bankroll he gets from oil and gas and other such interests, from inside the district and elsewhere. 
As to experience, if I were trying to get to Santa Fe I'd prefer a relatively inexperienced driver over one who would capably drive me to Phoenix instead, and smoke in the car the whole way. Pearce's conduct regarding the budget (and being willing to stop the government, costing us a lot of money, to make a political statement he knows will be ineffective) shows the nation's interest and ours are not at the top of his priority list, and it ain't fiscal conservatism.  Further, Pearce is in effect a climate-change denier, following the old tobacco industry playbook by saying perpetually that "we need more study of the issue" then bringing in completely unqualified and discredited hacks to pretend they're scientists and spout the oil-and-gas script.   (Pearce also appears to be Trump supporter who's a little appalled by Trump but hasn't the political guts to say so.)
I don't know what the Sun-News folks were thinking of, but it's hard to believe good government was a major criteria.  But of course, I'd vote for my cat or a stray coyote against Pearce.]

Sunday, October 30, 2016

State Rep. Andy Nuñez Could Be in Serious Legal Trouble

The New Mexico Secretary of State's Office (“SOS”) is investigating charges that State Senator Andy Nuñez embezzled campaign funds and broke election laws. 
On September 30, citizen Linda Alvarez filed a detailed complaint, including dozens of pages of documentation. The SOS wrote Nuñez that he was alleged to have violated “the Campaign Financing Law and possibly other state statutes,” inviting him to respond within 15 days. The law strictly limits campaign expenditures. Nuñez sent in a one-page response. The SOS is now doing its own investigation of his campaign reports. 
Nuñez denied embezzlement of campaign funds, or any other misconduct, but didn't confront most detailed allegations. He said he had never asked anyone for a campaign contribution; added that his accuser hadn't understood legislative per diem; and explained why he (or his campaign) hired and paid $15,000 to his daughter and grandson. (His daughter “has to come to Hatch [from Las Cruces] to not only file my reports but to send Thank-You letters” and his grandson put up signs for him.)

Alvarez accused Nuñez of using campaign funds to pay expenses incurred while he was a lobbyist, not a legislator. Nuñez lost his reelection bid in November 2012. He became a lobbyist for two irrigation districts. He apparently used campaign funds to attend several legislative and committee meetings during 2013, and some events in 2014. The SOS said that if Alvarez's allegations were true Nuñez's conduct would be illegal.

Nuñez's letter asserted that he'd “never used Campaign funds to subsidize my lobbying work, or as my position Mayor of Hatch.” 
The law reauires candidates to do their best to report the professions and employers of campaign contributors who provide more than $250. Nuñez lists under “Occupation” the word “Friend” for Don Tripp (three 2016 contributions totaling $6,000), Garry Carruthers ($250 in 2014), and other familiar names; but any casual newspaper reader knows Tripp is a State Representative and Carruthers is NMSU's President. Nuñez responds: “My entries as friends and is entered and has never been questioned.”

Alvarez alleged he'd paid his daughter and grandson “more than $15,000 for their 'help' on his campaigns.” Nuñez replied that this was true, because his daughter “has to come to Hatch [from Las Cruces] to not only file my reports but write Thank-You letters,” while his grandson “put up signs for me because he is capable and has a pickup and can do the work.”

Nuñez's letter didn't explain why reimbursement amounts for his expenses were usually round numbers – $200 or $400, rarely $349.23. He told me he rounded expenses downward, for convenience, taking less than he actually spent. Ken Ortiz from SOS commented that “for true transparency and best practice, he should be reporting the exact expenditure, down to the penny, and should be retaining receipts to substantiate them.” The SOS cannot force Nuñez to provide substantiation; but it can ask, and if he refuses it can fine him for violations and/or refer the matter to a DA or the AG.

Nuñez's letter did say “I have employed Legal Counsel to take Ms. Alvarez to court for calling me an embezzler of $32,000.02.” He added he had “included a list of her court records to show that this is not her first attempt to accuse someone of illegal activities.” SOS stated it received no such list, adding that Alvarez court cases would be “irrelevant to his campaign reporting.” Nunez's lawyer, T.J. Trujillo, says he's waiting to hear from the SOS, but “we don't feel the allegations have any merit at this juncture.”

It'll be interesting to see how this matter progresses.

[The column above appeared in the Las Cruce Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 30 Ocrober, 2016, and is also available on the newspaper's website and KRWG-TV's website.  I welcome questions and comments on any of these sitesBelow, I've copied in two relevant statutory provisions and added more specific information on what Nuñez's own campaign reports (and his many changes to them) seem to show.]

[Perhaps the biggest allegation leveled by Ms. Alvarez is that through a series of loans by him to his campaign and reimbursement to himself by the campaign for expenses Mr. Nuñez embezzled $32,000.02 from the campaign account.   I'll leave the state officials to figure that one our.  Or I'll interview Ms. Alvarez at some point.  
I can make the following observations: 

(a) it appears likely that some of the expenditures in 2013 and probably 2014 were not proper campaign expenditures under 1-19-29.1 (below);
(b) Mr. Nuñez didn't try to follow the requirement to include people's occupations in his reports if they gave him more than $250 in a campaign; 
(c) depending upon how many receipts he kept, he could be in a little trouble -- or a lot -- for all the expenditures for which he just gave round numbers.  While he sounds convincing when he says to me that he just rounded down, for convenience, the election overseers, like the tax people, are likely to want to see records, to ensure he didn't round UP -- or make up some expenditures out of whole cloth.  Either he has all those receipts or he doesn't;
(d) the $15,000 to daughter and grandson is another round number, and maybe a large one for the work he describes in his letter to the Secretary of State.  In most legislative campaigns, volunteers put up signs; and usually the candidate or a campaign treasurer, often a volunteer, fills out the reporting forms. Filing his reports, if his daughter's a CPA, could add up to  $___ per election.  Putting up the signs (not buying them, just putting some up) would seem a minimum-wage sort of job.  Depending on how many elections the $15,000 covered, his payments could be a little generous or way out of line
(e) Ms. Alvarez also alleged a "cover-up," noting that during the past three months Mr.Nuñez amended each of his official reports from recent election cycles, amending one of them ten times.  The amendments are public record.  Nuñez filed his Second General Election report for 2014 in October 2014. He amended it once in September of 2015 and then a whopping six times in September-October 2016. His Third General Election Report in 2014 was amended eight times, seven during the past two months. His Fourth? Nine times, eight in the past three months. Similarly his reports from 2010-2014 were amended numerous times in 2016.

By contrast, the ten reports filed in 2014 by Representative Jeff Steinborn have been amended a total of 0 times. Same for State Senator Ricky Little. State Senator Nate Gentry filed ten reports in 2014-2015, and amended five – but most within a month or six months, not in the fall of 2016.
Ms. Alvarez lists numerous payments to himself that she says disappeared from the reports in this amendment process.  She says they total $34,770.02.  I didn't check them all.
I did check the 2014 4th General Election report, covering mid-October to the end of November.  As submitted, it showed $7,420.36 in expenses.  As amended (final 2016 version), it showed $4,804.36.  (That shaved off better than 35% of the original amount.)  The two missing items in the final amendment were a $2,000 "debt payment" to himself on November 15th and a $616 mileage reimbursement to himself on November 29.]

[New Mexico      1-19-29.1 (Campaign funds; limitation on use) is very clear:

A.   It is unlawful for a candidate or the candidate's agent to make an expenditure of contributions received, except for the following purposes or as otherwise provided in this section: 

(1)   expenditures of the campaign;
(2)   expenditures of legislators that are reasonably related to performing the duties of the office held, including mail, telephone and travel expenditures to serve constituents, but excluding personal and legislative session living expenses;
(3)   [irrelevant];
(4)   [irrelevant];
(5)   expenditures to eliminate the campaign debt of the candidate for the office sought or expenditures incurred by the candidate when seeking election to another public office covered by the Campaign Reporting Act;
(6)   [irrelevant]; or
(7)   disbursements to return unused funds pro rata to the contributors if no campaign debt exists

It doesn't take a law degree to understand that when you are unseated effective January 1, 2013, expenses to go to meetings and legislative sessions during 2013, to lobby for a client or as mayor of a city or for personal reasons, are not campaign expenses under the law; nor should similar expenses in 2014 qualify, although if I were his lawyer I'm sure I'd argue he was taking such trips in aid of seeking election to the Legislature in November 2014.]
[1-19-31 (Contents of Report) provides:

A.   Each required report of expenditures and contributions . . . shall include:

(1)   the name and address of the person or entity to whom an expenditure was made or from whom a contribution was received . . .; [and] (2)   the occupation or type of business of any person or entity making contributions of two hundred fifty dollars ($250) or more in the aggregate per election.
Pretty obviously, Mr. Nuñez made no great effort to follow this portion of the law.]