Thursday, January 11, 2007

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: ICY ROADS, RATS & WEASELS

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
January 11, 2007


A writer known as “the lean gray wolf” of investigative journalism says the New Mexico press seemed forgiving toward Gov. Bill Richardson after the recent hundred-year snowstorm left travelers stranded on highways crossing the state.


Dan K. Thomasson, a former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service, said in his syndicated column this week that the state administration’s response to the snowstorm could detract from Richardson’s prospects as a presidential candidate.

Thomasson isn’t just any run-of-the-mill ink-stained crank. He broke the story of President Kennedy’s affair with a Mafia moll and was literally thrown out of the Chappaquiddick police station for demanding to see the accident report on the drowning death of Mary Jo Kopechne.
Described by The Albuquerque Tribune, a Scripps Howard paper, as a frequent visitor to the state, Thomasson apparently was in Santa Fe around New Year’s.

“In this land of enchantment where the deer and the antelope still play and the politically corrupt Santa Fe Ring once held sway, the old timers are betting that the next entrant in the Democratic sweepstakes will be Bill Richardson, the former congressman, Energy secretary and now governor,” Thomasson wrote.

“Before getting too excited about that prospect, consider that Richardson’s administrative expertise got severely tested by the politician’s nightmare — a snowstorm that discombobulated the state and its capital for days longer than it should have, leaving New Mexicans grumbling from Gallup to the Colorado line,” Thomasson wrote.

He noted the only downtown Santa Fe streets cleared by Jan. 1 were the ones near the hotels hosting Richardson’s inaugural ball. Of course those streets are the city’s responsibility, not the state’s. And it probably was a wise idea to clear an area where thousands of people — that is, thousands of potential lawsuits — were about to converge.


Even given the rarity of such a storm here, the Indiana native said it doesn’t look good for our governor if the snow response is any indication of the way he’d respond to more serious emergencies. But, referring to the nation’s first presidential primary, he wrote, “If the warming trend continues in the East, perhaps he won’t have to embarrass himself by mentioning how he handled what is normally an every day New Hampshire occurrence.”

Rats ’n’ weasels: With cockfighting in serious jeopardy in the coming legislative session (Richardson finally came out against this family activity, which is legal in only New Mexico and Louisiana), fans of the fighting birds might have to consider other entertainment.

Author Nick Tosches in King of the Jews, his 2005 biography of gangster Arnold Rothstein, wrote about a Water Street (that’s New York, not Santa Fe) gaming establishment run by a saloon owner named Christopher “Kit” Burns in the 1860s.

“Sportsman’s Hall offered four sporting events: rat killing by a weasel, rat killing by a dog, rat killing by a man, and dog fighting,” Tosches wrote.


“Sportsmen complained that rat killing by a weasel was too slow, as the weasel, who was a natural-born rat killer, devoted too much time to the chase. Rat killing by a dog was a better spectacle, and it made for better gambling. ... As for rat killing by a man, Burns often found it difficult to find a man willing to get into the pit, chase down a big fat river rat, seize it, and take off its wild vicious head with a chomp of a jaw. Some men would do anything for a bottle. But such men were not always adept in the pit. ... Long-moneyed bettors cheered whenever the rat took a piece of hand, lips, cheek or nose.”

Dog fighting has been illegal in this state for years. However, I don’t believe there’s anything on the books concerning rat fighting.

Cockfighting proponents say if their opponents succeed, next thing you know, animal-rights activists will go after rodeo, hunting and fishing.

But don’t worry. I understand they’re having a hard time lining up sponsors for that anti-fishing bill.

Friends of the Earth: Santa Fe lawmakers — all of them Democrats — made good grades on The Conservation Voters of New Mexico’s scorecard for the past two legislative sessions.

In the House, state Rep. Peter Wirth scored a perfect 100 percent, based on his votes on various measures. Close behind were House Speaker Ben Luján and Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela, who both got cumulative grades of 92 percent. Rep. Jim Trujillo came in last for Santa Fe with a 70 percent rating.

On the Senate side, John Grubesic scored a 95 percent rating while Nancy Rodriguez got 83 percent.

Emerging women: Players in both major political parties in New Mexico often grumble privately that it’s hard to recruit qualified candidates for state office. However, a group of Democratic women has been recruiting and training women for just that purpose.

EmergeNew Mexico, an organization co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Diane Denish and former Attorney General Patricia Madrid, just completed a seven-month program designed to train Democratic women in how to plan, fund, organize and win political campaigns. Twenty-three women who successfully completed the program will take part in a graduation ceremony at the Roundhouse Rotunda on Saturday.

Some of these might be returning to the Capitol. According to a press release, EmergeNew Mexico is a part of a national group that claims 60 percent of its graduates go on to win elections.

Meanwhile, some believe that Emerge leaders Denish and Madrid, who ran against each other for lieutenant governor back in 1994, might emerge as rivals again for governor in 2010.

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