Friday, February 26, 2010
For the week starting Saturday February 20, 2010 here are some questions I have had:
Do you consider elections, even special elections, a waste of money?
Have you ever needed or performed the Heimlich maneuver?
If you have no intention of listening to me why waste over seven hours of my time?
Have you started making any summer vacation plans yet?
Are you good with directions and reading maps?
Have you gotten your swine flu vaccination?
Is going ahead and trying to push through their health care overhaul going to help or hurt the Democrats? Will the effort be successful?
I was fortunate to spend time this week with an old friend who was my counselor as a kid, we haven’t seen each other in over 30 years, have you had that good fortune lately?
Do you like digging holes?
Will you watch the closing ceremonies for the Vancouver games?
What sport did you find yourself enjoying that you did not think you would enjoy watching?
Are you balanced?
One dish prepared by anyone you want, what is it and who prepares it?
I finished reading “Inkheart” this week at the request of my daughter, good book by the way, what “children’s” or non-adult targeted book have you read recently (picture books to kids and grandkids don’t count!)?
Did you do something this week that would make your mother proud?
Where did the Hanson Brothers go?
Is there any state you would not visit if given a week’s stay?
Aren’t paperclips an amazingly durable invention?
Do you know anyone in Wikipedia?
This coming week can you visit a locally owned restaurant for lunch and/or dinner and give them some support?
Are you ready for baseball season to get under way?
How is it that CEOs are held responsible by Congress for the actions of the entire company but Congressmen can blame staff and not see the hypocrisy?
Are you worker smarter this February than last?
Because of the extra supplies sold, work required, are snowstorms a form of economic stimulus?
Cookies or Pie?
So those are the questions, what are your answers?
Click on the hard to read “comments” button below and let us know what you think!
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The airwaves and blogrolls and editorial pages and lecterns are filled with acrimony decrying the "partisanship" in Congress, but only by Republicans. Those making most noise are either ignorant, hypocritical or stupid, and by the way it it possible to be all three.
From January 2008 well into January 2010 the Democrats have had super-majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate plus the King Democrat in the White House. For twelve months the Democrats have needed not one Republican vote to pass any legislation, but they did need every Democratic vote in the Senate. Despite this incredible legislative advantage Democrats were unable to rush through any health care legislation, evidently because of Republican partisanship.
While the votes are there to pass any legislation, the Democrats have had difficulties because the legislation they have wanted passed that has run into difficulties has been bad legislation. The problems President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid have had has not been Republican partisanship, but rather lack of partisanship within their own party. Democrats who have recognized the ruinous bills put forth by Pelosi and Reid for health care reform has either balked considerably to pass the bills, or as is the case with many Democrats in the House, have voted against the legislation.
So Obama decrying the partisanship in Congress, despite being extremely hypocritical, is right. His problem is partisanship, or rather lack of it as members of his party have rejected the hard swing left in policy taken by party leadership. Representing their constituents and not the ideals of a San Francisco liberal or a Chicago party loyalist, so called Blue Dog Democrats have refused to toe the party line. But their not being partisan has become a rallying cry and issue for attacking Republicans.
How ignorant is this form of attack? The elitist mentality that has driven the legislative agenda and pursuit of massive health care reform and full government control of the health care industry in American is one that presumes we are dumb and cannot do the math for ourselves. The arrogance of power and position has enabled Obama, Pelosi, Reid and their allies in the press to lambaste Republicans for blocking health care reform thinking you and I, and Uncle Joe in Oshkosh and Aunt Marie in Albuquerque are too dumb to know it is not Republicans that are preventing them from waltzing legislation through Congress but their own party members.
Fortunately, despite that fact that half of America is below average in intelligence, it does not take much intelligence to figure this one out. Are Republicans being partisan? You betcha! (And thank goodness.) But aren't they supposed to be? John Boehner won a Republican primary in his district in Ohio and then won the general election running, get this, as a Republican! He told the citizens of his district the values he held, the issues as he saw them and the solutions he would have. He was very clear with his positions and that he is a Republican. And he won the election. So did almost two hundred other members of the House who won Republican primaries and then general elections with (R) next to their name.
It is evidently the position of Obama, and Reid, and Pelosi, and liberal media pundits and editors, that now that they are in Congress they are to come under the messianic spell that dumbfounded the majority of American voters in 2008 and cast aside their party affiliations and vote the way our President desires. For Obama and the Democratic leadership their ideological objectives are more important than representation of the people of the United States. The majority of constituents in Pelosi's district in San Francisco are thrilled with her health care proposal, the majority of Rep. Hal Rogers' (R-KY) district however is against it. As are the majority of residents in Rep. Heath Shuler's (D-NC) district.
What is really either upsetting or hilarious is the gall of Obama to try to play the partisan card on Republicans. When he did vote, Obama voted straight down Democratic party lines during his stint in the Illinois legislature and his few years in the Senate. He voted against President Bush nominees for the Supreme Court (twice) against appointments to the U.N. and cabinet positions. Where was he when the Gang of 14 was established? Hiding in the Democratic cloakroom. Obama was a Democratic party hack while representing the people of Illinois, and now he expects the Republican members of Congress to betray their constituents and follow his extremely liberal agenda. His agenda is more important than their integrity. Talk about arrogance, my ideas are more important than your ideals--or those of the people you represent.
Maybe to get around the partisanship he is suddenly so concerned with Obama should scrap the Democrats agenda and listen to the Republican agenda. Put tort reform in any health care bill, allow insurance companies to offer health insurance nationwide to expand competition and opportunities, make permanent the Bush tax cuts. Try those positions on Mr. President and then talk to the American people about partisan politics.
When creating our government the framers of the Constitution put in roadblocks to prevent legislative abuse of power. They established a system of government based upon checks and balances with equal powers granted to the Legislative, Judicial and Executive branches. Within the Legislative branch further checks and balances were created with a bicameral legislature. For over two centuries this form of government has been better than any in the history of man in representing the people being governed and preventing run-away abuse of powers by a small cadre of leaders.
Today, because their own bad ideas, their own pushing of policy that is far beyond the desires of members of their own party Obama and Democratic leadership are failing to push through legislation that forever alters the American landscape. Being true partisans they do not put the blame for their failures where they belong, on themselves and members of their own party who are needed to pass any legislation, but instead blame their political opposition for being partisan. I ask again, ignorant, hypocritical or stupid?
When President Bush was unable to get judicial nominees through Senate confirmation because of the cloture rules (filibuster) and needing sixty votes to get to an up or down vote, being blocked by Senate Democrats like Harry Reid and Barack Obama, many Republicans wanted the Senate Majority leadership (then Republican) to engage in the "nuclear" option and change the rules so that judicial confirmations needed only a majority vote and not be subject to filibuster. Led by John McCain on the Republican side, fourteen Senators came together and agreed to a set of judicial nominees and guidelines to enable some Bush appointees, but not all, to be confirmed and seated. Today the same rules apply in the Senate because level heads prevailed.
Now to get around the rules in Congress the troika of Obama, Pelosi and Reid are cooking up schemes to push their health care legislation through Congress, avoiding their own party members and forever changing how legislation is done in Congress. A word of warning to the Democrats: you will not be in the majority forever, at some point Republicans will have control of one or both the House and the Senate and may follow any precedents you sent.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Furloughs are a difficult short term solution to a short term problem. Most private sector firms that use furloughs do so with a plan and eye to increase revenues and business to be able to eliminate furloughs within months, a year at most. Any plan that does not foresee being able to bring back employees to full time within twelve months is a plan where furloughs are not a solution.
Furloughs may save some money in the short term, but as a long term solution they are detrimental because of the accrual of benefits, especially retirement benefits. Keeping the positions on the payrolls adds more years to pensions that future taxes and fees will have to support. By foregoing layoffs and elimination of jobs through furloughs for a prolonged period of time the City, or State, is saving some money in the short term but continuing to add expenses to future budgets at an exponential rate.
Looking at the economic landscape and future for public revenues it is time for our elected officials to do what is best for the long term benefit of their constituents and future generations and quick the furloughs of public workers. As we have seen a reduction of 15% of service through furloughs have had a minor impact on the overwhelming majority of residents, ergo we can cut services and payrolls permanently by up to 15%.
Our elected officials need to end the furloughs, cut the jobs to balance budgets and reduce government spending and growth. It is time to look at the economic reality and not the political alliances.
Friday, February 19, 2010
For the week starting Saturday February 13, 2010 here are some questions I have had:
Should fat people, I mean “plus size” people, have to buy two seats on airlines or should airlines have to make accommodations?
Now that the global warming hysteria caused by fraud and political motivation is ebbing can we get the California legislature to reverse the law that will require those mercury filled and hazardous squiggly instead of good old incandescent bulbs?
If something costs $0.69 at the 99 Cent Store is it on sale?
Question not to ask your ten year old, “Am I dope or am I fly?”
Should public funds be used to pay for the arts?
Curling: Sport or Activity?
How are the ashes for Ash Wednesday prepared?
Is it fair to ask that people calling to recruit you out of the blue at least do some homework first?
Barry Manilow or Neil Diamond?
What do Cher’s kids put down for “mother’s maiden name?” Charo’s?
What is a .dat file and why do I get them?
Tiger Woods statement?
Is it negotiating in good faith if before the negotiations you are plotting to skirt the negotiations and implement your will?
What did you want for your 8th birthday?
Is it the business of city government to provide housing?
Are you watching any of the Olympics?
How do you feel about a commission to tell the government how to cut the deficit instead of elected Representatives and Senators cutting the deficit?
What is your favorite Winter Games sport?
Cookies or Pie?
So those are the questions, what are your answers?
Click on the hard to read “comments” button below and let us know what you think!
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
In the Press-Telegram (I would link the article but trying to find articles on the P-T website is too frustrating this early in the morning) an AP article touted a bill that is part of "Agenda 2010" that would end furloughs for 80,000 state workers. As a reminder Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger mandated furloughs three days a month for 200,000 state employees. Calculating a four week month that amounts to a 15% cut in expenses, and salaries for those furloughed.
Since the furloughs have taken effect I have been asking if anyone has noticed any change or been inconvenienced because of the lay-offs. With the exception of those furloughed I am yet to have someone say, "yes I have been affected..." So overall the citizens of California are seeing a 15% savings with virtually no impact to services. Not good enough for Senate Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg D (naturally) from Sacramento. Since Steinberg's district is chock full of government workers, and since Steinberg and his statewide party receive much largess from state employees for their campaigns, Steinberg is obligated to ignore the savings the rest of us are seeing and get some payback for his allies.
Steinberg's office has said the employees his bill would un-furlough are from departments not dependent on the general funds, departments where 95% of the funding comes from the feds (which is our tax dollars) and are self-funded through fees and collections, which become our funds. To wit Steinberg wishes to un-furlough employees at the State Franchise Tax Board and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Steinberg said that the state is losing $300 million a year in uncollected taxes because of the furloughed workers. What? We are losing $25 million a month because employees are missing three days a month? Sounds to me that instead of furloughing people at the Franchise Tax Board we should be firing them. And does anyone really believe these numbers? Where they worked up by the same mathematicians who brought us the false global warming temperatures? An official sounding Senate Office (of Oversight and Outcomes) calculates that for every $1 in savings at the tax board the state loses $7 in collections. This would be the same office that does budget projections with assumed revenue and fudges when spending actually starts so the budget appears balanced, but then the state runs out of cash after five or six months.
Regarding the DMV, Steinberg says the furloughs "inconveniences" motorists. Those dumbe enough not to make and appointment have to wait an average of 45 minutes instead of 27. So we are going to un-furlough thousands of workers to save people who are incapable of planning ahead for something with a known date, like a license or registration expiration, 18 minutes? We are going to add 24 hours per worker per month of salary and benefits to trade off 18 minutes per unscheduled visitor?
This is what the Democrats call saving jobs. Re-employing government workers to full time, which increase not just costs today but also long terms as it adds 15% to their long term benefit and retirement plans as well. Reading through the "Agenda 2010" website one is overwhelmed with the buzz words used that pander to the political correctness and progressive terminology that really means nothing. "Green jobs," "brown fields," "low and very low income housing," "value working families."
Green jobs? How about a tortoise preventing solar and wind farms? What about nuclear power? What about off shore drilling that would reduce millions of miles of ship, train and truck transportation of foreign oil?
Brown fields? Those areas where factories could be built? Where new companies could start up and employ Californians? Those areas that are laying fallow except for a butterfly that could support an energy plant more efficient than the one it would replace?
Low and very low income housing? More tax breaks for low income home ownership? Isn't our housing crisis because people with too little income bought homes? Does every housing bill have to only be for low and very low income families, thus attracting more low and very low income families into a community? And the subsequent impacts on schools, hospitals, emergency services?
"Value Working Families." From the same people that raised income tax rates? Raised sales tax rates? Raised state DMV fees? Cut child tax credits? Imposed ridiculous diesel particulates regulations that will cost one million jobs in the state? Value those families?
Agenda 2010 is ripe with using Federal funds and money from past propositions to pump money into other state and local bureaucracies that essentially moves funds from one government pot to another and another with skimming along the way. Government money does not create jobs in the private sector, government money takes jobs away from the private sector.
Here is my Agenda for 2010 jobs a day in California, it is pretty simple:
- Cut the corporate tax rate from 8.84% in half. It is currently the 4th highest in the nation, cutting it in half will retain existing companies and attract other companies to move from Oregon (who just raised corporate rates), Nevada, Arizona and other states where jobs have been lost.
- Cut the unemployment insurance costs. Again attract businesses and major corporations.
- Cut the sales tax by a third. Free up funds for citizens to spend and lower costs for businesses for their materials and equipment.
- Suspend the California Air Resources Board and all their draconian edicts based on false reports and science.
- Cut personal tax rates by a third. Again free up personal income for spending an investment.
- Provide five year tax breaks for companies that start up new manufacturing facilities.
- Kick back more tax revenue for five years to cities and counties that approve permits and land use for manufacturing facilities once those plants begin operating.
There are two groups that Sacramento Democrats see as their constituents, and neither of them provide jobs or have a net positive impact on the bottom line: government employees and the low and very low income earners. Our budget is incredibly skewed to these two groups and is paid for by moderate income earners, average income earners (which by math makes up about hald the work force) and high income earners. It is the last two groups who create jobs. Our state is on the verge of bankruptcy because the Legislature has sucked more and more money out of those who work at decent jobs to pay for those who work for the state or are uneducated, unemployed--generationally, and living off the free education, health care and emergency services others provide.
That pig the Democrats are trying to ride to market isn't going to make it. In the meantime the farmer has taken his horse and moved to Texas.
Google has changed their posting format and has removed the spellcheck button, having always been a poor speller this is a much needed tool for me. My apologies to those who stumble over and get frustrated with the mistakes! I, and many other bloggers, hope they correct this soon!
Monday, February 15, 2010
These words have been spoken by the forty-three men who have been elected to the office of the President of the United States of America as required by Article II Section 1 of the United States Constitution. Article II goes on to enumerate the powers vested in the President and the Executive Branch, from Commander in Chief to making treaties with consent from the Senate. Article II is very brief in its verbage, allowing for great interpretation through the centuries of Presidential power and authority.
When establishing a new form of governance for a new nation the members of the Constitutional Convention recognized the need for an Executive to manage the government. This executive however was not to be given supreme powers over the rest of the government. Article I establishes the Legislative Branch and bi-cameral bodies, the House and the Senate. Article I enumerates the many powers of Congress, as it also enumerates many limits on Congress, such as not granting titles of nobility. To create the final piece of the checks and balances of our nation's governance the Constitution establishes the Judiciary in Article III.
America has elected Presidents in four centuries. Forty-three men (there have been forty-four terms Grover Cleveland having served two terms separated by Benjamin Harrison) have entered the office of President and each has changed the office and its powers, either for better or worse depending on history. Fights with Congress, fights with States, certainly fights with the media of the day, are routine for any President, though each generation seems to think their political environment unique to American history.
Presidents have been fathers or sons of other Presidents, the Adams and Bushes come to mind, or grandfather and grandson as were the Harrisons, Roosevelts were cousins, though the exact blood lineage always escapes me, and two Kennedys were unsuccessful in following big brother Jack into the White House. Through the forty-three men's history four were assassinated (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Kennedy) and several others survived attempts, from pistols that misfired sparing Jackson in the first assassination attempt on a sitting U.S. President, through shots fired at Ford, Reagan being shot and a live grenade thrown at George W. Bush that did not go off due to a bandana wrapped around the grenade not allowing the firing pin to fully release. Actual assassinations have only taken four Presidents, political assassination--either self-inflicted or not--has claimed some piece of every President.
While equal in powers to the Legislative and Judicial Branches of government per the Constitution, the President is seen as more powerful to most Americans, often getting disproportionate credit or blame than deserved. Any person who does not recognize this should be immediately disqualified for the office. No other individual in our nation is as recognized as "the government" than the President. Sadly most Americans would not recognized the Vice-President, Speaker of the House or Chief Justice of the Supreme Court if introduced at a cocktail party, few however are those who do not recognize the President.
POTUS, President Of The United States is the acronym for the person and the office. While many feel the POTUS moniker was started by the Secret Service it came into popular usage in times of the telegraph as an abbreviation. Later when telephones become predominate, especially direct lines to the President in Eisenhower's term, POTUS was used to mark such phones. Today nicknames are given to the President and every member of the First Family for the Secret Service to use in order to facilitate communication in referring to which person under Secret Service protection is being discussed. Every nickname for the family starts with the same letter, for the Obama's it is "R" (Renegade for the President, Renaissance for Michelle and Radiance and Rosebud for their daughters Malia and Sasha).
While the politics of today are decried as especially acrimonious and divisive, they are in truth no different than at any other time in our history. Historically a nation of two major political parties, it is the nature of politics that acrimony and debate forge and define the relationships of opposition and policy making. As the leader of one party and the most visible political leader in the nation, it is the assumed role of the members of the opposing party to be that, opposition. It was true for Adams, both Harrisons, Eisenhower, Ford, both Bushes and now Obama. Any person seeking office who thinks there will not be such opposition is naive and undeserving.
Others have been elevated to as close to nobility as our culture will allow. They are the ones most commonly celebrated on President's Day. Two in particular have been so elevated, our first President who established the office as one of the people and pushed for the new republic into history, and the sixteenth who fought to keep that republic together. Washington and Lincoln had their detractors in their times as even there politics were personal and about opposition. Setting the path for all future Presidents, some who would heed his lessons and others who would not, Washington was a man of principles and values dedicated to the new nation.
Were that Washington's words to James Madison following his inauguration were heeded by all who followed where would our nation and world be today?
"As the first of everything, in our situation will serve to establish a Precedent, it is devoutly wished on my part, that these precedents may be fixed on true principles."
It is my contention that President's Day should be more than a matteress sale and a day off work. It should be a celebration of our democracy. A celebration of the non-violent transition of power and continuation of governance and principles through the centuries. A celebration of that which is uniquely American, our office of the President as the office of the people, for the people and by the people.
The White House website page on the Presidents.
Friday, February 12, 2010
For the week starting Saturday February 6, 2010 here are some questions I have had:
Can you name a better sound than hearing your children laughing together?Barbecue or sour cream and onion?
Do you think lobbyist ordinances have any impact on the behavior of elected officials?
Which Governor signed legislation allowing California State employees to unionize?
Do you know anyone who stays on the line for assistance because they have a rotary phone?
Are you surprised with President Obama’s approval/disapproval polling numbers?
You are allowed to write one provision for health care reform, what is it?
When you meet someone for the first time, other than their name, what is one question you almost always ask?
What is a question, other than your name, you wish someone would ask you when they meet you?
Chile verde or carne asada?
Flour or corn with that?
Will you watch any of the Winter Olympics?
Have most of your cars been the same color?
What was more surprising to you, the Saints Super Bowl win or sealing it with an interception return from Peyton Manning?
Have you changed how you save and invest in the past 12-18 months?
Do you have more, less or no change in your confidence in the stock markets?
Favorite President pre-Lincoln?
Post-Lincoln and not currently living?
Do the brake and accelerator issues with Toyotas have any impact on your decision for your next car purchase?
Favorite Winter Olympic sport?
One piece of advise for President Obama and/or Democratic leadership to stop the current downward momentum in the polls?
One piece of advice for GOP leadership to continue the current upward momentum (upward relative of course)?
Has Tiger’s absence changed your golf viewing/following habits?
What book are you reading right now? Do you recommend it?
Have you ever shoveled snow from a driveway before breakfast?
Cookies or Pie?
So those are the questions, what are your answers?
Click on the comments button below and let us know what you think!
Thursday, February 11, 2010
The letter was prompted by President Obama's announcement, with only an hour warning to House and Senate Republican leadership, on national television this past weekend of a "bi-partisan" health care summit on February 25th at the White House.
Messieurs Boehner and Cantor raise some excellent questions for the White House to answer before the Republican members of the House accept the inivitation.
Please read the letter yourself and then comment below. Are the questions raised valid? Is Mr. Boehner correct in his statements the past few days that if the starting point is either of the health care bills passed in the Senate or House, bills crafted and passed by Democrats, then there is no starting point for a bi-partisan discussion?
Click here for the letter: Dear Mr. Emanuel
Personally, I hope the GOP sticks to its principles on health care reform, as presented many times and ignored previously by President Obama, Democratic leadership in both the Senate and House and the mainstream media. Further, until the White House answers the letter from Boehner and Cantor, and the answers are public, that the Republican leadership decline any invitation to a staged event under the cloak of "bi-partisanship."
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
I get that a lot, someone telling me to mind my own business. Maybe I should mind my own business more, but where is the line where my business ends? What if I do mind "my own" business, and so does everyone else? What happens to our neighborhood? To our community? Is the safety of my neighbors and their possessions part of my business?
I tend to think it is. I feel that part of my social contract with my neighbors, and my community, is to mind not only my business, but extend my business to them as well. Especially when it comes to trash pickers, loiterers in the alleys, or dudes hanging out in parked cars in the middle of the day.
So it is that when walking Harrison in the morning when I see someone cruising the alleys picking through recycling bins I give them a shout and tell them to move on. There are two reasons I do this. One, because it is illegal to do so, the contents of the recycle bins in Long Beach belong to the city who benefits financially (a different story) from the contents. Those who pick out the bottles and other recyclables are stealing money from our city. Second, identity theft is easily guised as recycle bin diving.
Often when I give my shout to move on I am met with a blank stare and silence, the picker hopes I will ignore them and move on my way. That is what they want, me to move along and mind my own business, not their business and not my neighbors' business. Having seen and picked up bags of credit card receipts, opened bank statements, envelopes of paystubs, and other personal financial information found in our alleys and gutters around our neighborhood over the years, I know that personal financial information that can be exploited and used for identity theft is easily accessible in the trash and recycle bins that line our alleys.
I won't move along and ignore the picker until he moves along, until he knows that he does not belong here, in my neighborhood. I make a show of pulling out the ever present Blackberry, hold it up and tell the picker, "I'm calling the police." And I do so. "I would like to report a person picking through recycle bins, I'm not sure he is not looking for financial information and engaged in identity theft. Please send a patrol unit." I give the location and the description of the picker, if he has a car or van I describe that and give the plates.
I know I can't prevent people from picking through trash, or from engaging in identity theft. But I can try, and if I move one picker out of my neighborhood I may have saved myself or one of my neighbors from theft. Or residential burglary.
Bixby Knolls, were we are located in Long Beach, has seen a spike in burglaries in recent months. Local businesses have had an increase in burglaries, including armed robbery, as have the residential neighborhoods in the area. Brazen, daylight robbery of stores is difficult for members of the community to prevent or stop; anyone with that kind of desire to do bad or harm is difficult to stop. Many residential burglaries however can be prevented if a team effort is put forth. If people mind their business, and their business includes the protection and safety of their neighborhood.
With the State of California releasing several thousand prisoners from state penitentiary on early release, police officials across the state, particularly in urban areas, are anticipating a increase in all types of crime. While the state is trying to sugarcoat the records of those being released as "non-violent" offenders, those being released are being labelled based on their last arrest. So if a man has a prior conviction for battery and spousal abuse and subsequent to his release for that crime is picked up for commercial burglary and now is being released, the state is contending it is releasing a non-violent offender. Or "he was just in on a drug possession charge." How much drug possession does it take for a man to be locked up in the state prison system on a felony as opposed to a county facility? Perchance is the felony drug conviction a plea bargain from a more serious offense?
Released back into communities across the state, with a felony conviction or two, no residence or jobs lined up, what's a felon to do? How to support himself? How to eat? The easiest thing to do is to put into use skills used and honed through experience, steal, cheat and rob.
Burglars are basically lazy and look for the path of least resistance. Unlocked doors and windows. Homes that are isolated and obviously vacant. Homes that are obvious that have no alarm system. Neighborhoods where there is little activity in the streets, where they can cruise around streets and alleys and no one pays them attention.
The guy pushing his bike down the street slowly looking into parked cars? "What are you doing?" I ask. "Mind your own business." "I am. This is my neighborhood, I have never seen you before and you are walking a perfectly good bike. Get on it and ride away or I call the cops."
"Why are you parked here?" "Mind your own business," says the guy in the white van that has been in front of our neighbor's house for about thirty minutes. "I am. This is my neighborhood and you have been just sitting here for half an hour. We have had some robberies and I am suspicious. Why are you here?" I pull out my phone. "Hello Long Beach police, I would like to report a suspicious vehicle, a white van with license plate number IM A CRUK. He has been parked in the street for half an hour and will not tell me why he is parked here." The van drives off.
"Show me your identification, driver's license or school ID, give me the phone number of your boss." "I'm just trying to sell magazines for school." Or perhaps seeing who is home, or find an elderly neighbor whose home you can enter and steal from.
"Show me your identification and paperwork from the U.S. Census Bureau." "I left it at the office." "Then you better leave to get it because I'm calling the police."
The overwhelming majority of thieves and burglars are lazy, non-violent and not wanting any confrontation. When confronted with simple questions, "What are you doing? Why are you here? Who are you?" and the presence of a mobile phone is enough to make them move on. Are they moving on to create problems for someone else? Probably, but if enough people confront them and ask them questions they may get the hint: not in this neighborhood, not in this community, not in this city.
Look at the areas with highest crime rates. When a crime happens the police are often left with no statements from neighbors and residents. They are "minding their own business" and in doing so enabling criminals to prey on them and their neighbors. In our neighborhood I want everyone to mind their business, business that extends to my home, my family and our safety. In return I promise to extend my business to include the safety of their home and family.
Walk regularly in your neighborhood to get to know your neighbors. Know who lives where, what their schedules are. Pick up newspapers that have been out all day for your neighbors. Arrange for mail and packages to be picked up. Question those who are unfamiliar to you. Carry a phone and have the local police non-emergency number entered and on speed dial.
Our elected officials have decided that the payrolls of their campaign contributors are more important than the safety of their constituents and are releasing six thousand convicted felons early from prisons in the coming months. These criminals will be looking for ways to survive, and recidivism will be high. Don't let them prey on you and your neighbors. Be aware, be active and be engaged with your neighbors.
Mind your business.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Not to be outdone by her former co-council member on the Long Beach City Council, State Senator Jenny Oropeza has put forth her own bill that could qualify for the dumbest legislation award except her timing was bad. Oropeza's bill if passed will stop retailers from charging surcharges to customers who use debit cards to pay for their purchases. Naturally the veil she hides behind is "helping the poor" who are unfairly hurt by the fees retailers charge all debit card users, not knowing if the user is rich or poor.
Let's follow the bouncing ball and see where it lands. The Federal government spends hundreds of billions to infuse capital on banks balance sheets, also known as a bailout. The biggest banks have repaid their loans with interest and dividends. The feds also buy a car company or two with the same funds. Those funds have not been repaid. With the money being repaid by the banks the Administration shoves to other government entities as "stimulus" but is more akin to "subsidies."
Now the Administration and the majority in Congress want to charge fees to banks to repay the funds most have already repaid. They have worked up a ten year repayment schedule and expect the fees to come out of bank profits, but in reality will come from bank customers. Some of those customers are businesses, such as retail stores.
Retail stores, and other businesses, price their goods and services using a combination of costs and market supply and demand. Small stores may differentiate between customers who pay with cash and those who pay with debit cards, or even credit cards, which cost them more as a business due to bank fees.
The government raises fees for banks, they raise fees for customers, customers that are businesses raise costs on the goods and services they sell, consumers pay more as the costs are passed down the line.
If Oropeza's bill becomes law then retail stores will not be able to pass the fee associated with a specific type of transaction, a debit card purchase, to the person generating the fee. So instead of just the customers who generate the fee paying the costs prices will go up throughout the store and all customers will pay the fee. Somehow in the minds of Oropeza and others who support this bill see taxing every customer in the store for the actions of some of the customers is equitable. These are the same people who think not allowing businesses to pay for parking for their customers and employees somehow does not get passed down to them anyway through higher prices or lower compensation.
A classic model of how well the pay as you go, or pay as you pay, model is AM/PM. In our region the are almost always the lowest price gasoline I see driving around. When you buy gas at AM/PM however they have a forty-five cent surcharge if you are using a debit card to pay for your gas (they do not take credit cards). The gas for cash buyers is cheaper than non-cash buyers because AM/PM passes along their bank fee, and the convenience fee, to customers who choose to pay that way. At Mobil or Exxon everyone pays the fee whether paying with cash or card as their gas prices are higher. Under Oropeza's bill AM/PM would lose its niche market and its prices for all customers would rise.
Our State Legislature meddles in our daily lives consistently. Year after year thousands of bills are sent out of the Legislature to the Governor's desk. Thankfully our current Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has vetoed many--but not where near enough, including the final budgets each year of his tenure. Imagine a Democratic controlled Legislature with a Democratic Governor like Jerry Brown and the bills that will become law? Free parking? Debit cards? They would just be the beginning.
Our state has the initiative process whereby the Legislature can be by-passed and measures can be put directly to voters. Unfortunately this process has been abused by the Legislature putting measures on the ballot the last decade that have exploded the debt and spending requirements of the state as we pay for things like stem cell research and high speed rail; this year another couple of billion dollars in bonds is on the ballot for water. But sometimes the citizens put something on the ballot that can bring positive change to the state and lead to long term stability, Proposition 13 comes to mind which has saved millions of homes from having to be lost or sold due to raising property taxes.
Right now there are three initiatives that have been put forth by citizens of California that aim to bring some sense and reason to our state political environment.
The first initiative is from Citizens For California Reform. If passed this initiative would eliminate the full time Legislature in California and create a part-time legislature. California has by far the highest paid legislature, and the biggest budget deficits. Our current model is broken and is based on a corrupt circle of donations and contracts between our elected officials and public employees. Reduce the time the legislators spend in Sacramento and we reduce the amount of ridiculous bills and laws that burden our state and resources.
Next up is an initiative from The Citizen Power Campaign. This initiative is quiet simple and if on the ballot will face unprecedented opposition from every labor union in the state, which tells you how much it is needed. If it becomes law the initiative will ban public entities in California from collecting PAC dues for public employee unions through payroll deductions. Tremendous public dollars and resources are spent to collect, account for and distribute these funds which are then used for strictly political purposes. It is critical to the ability of the public employees unions to buy their elected representatives who then vote on their contracts, benefits and number of employees.
The third initiative that is trying to get on the ballot is the Vote Safe Now initiative. This initiative is very simple, it requires all voters to show identification at the polling place, ensure California residents serving in the military have their votes counted, and finally that election officials verify voters' signatures and identification on all absentee ballots. Our most precious right is the right to vote, but it is unprotected in California to ensure that each ballot is lawfully caste.
I ask that you visit each of the websites and sign petitions to put these initiatives on the ballot. Let the electorate decide the merits of these initiatives to rein in government, rein in special interest and rein in fraudulent ballots and elections.
Too often I receive emails or have conversations with people fed up with the politics in California, and too often they write or say something along the lines of, "oh well there is nothing we can do about it...." Bunk. There is something we can do about it, but it requires that we, you and I, actually do something about it! If you want to change California politics then sign the petitions for these initiatives so they can be on our ballots, pass the petitions around your neighborhood and place of business.
Do something. Change your political future.
Friday, February 5, 2010
For the week starting Saturday January 30, 2010 here are some questions I have had:
Can you untrain a parrot so it no longer says what you trained him to say?
Do you know your spouse’s shoe size?
Who said to President Obama, “no one in your administration knows how to make payroll?”
Who is more important to your family: Mayor, Police Chief, school principal?
Do you care more about who reports news first or who reports news best?
Should the state be able to dictate what charges and surcharges a store owner may charge customers?
What’s the difference between a Western and a Denver omelet?
Do you use pencils?
Dessert. What did you think of when you read that?
I give you ten days and $2000, where do you go and what do you do?
Michelle Obama used her own children as an example in a conversation about childhood obesity; do you think it was inappropriate or unfair to her daughters to do so?
Have you ever shoveled a driveway before breakfast?
Are you good with maps?
How many of the ten movies nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture have you seen?
Why do you think California not relevant in Washington politics? Or do you think California is relevant?
Were you inspired by anyone this week? To do what?
Stew, eat it with a fork or a spoon?
Did you inspire anyone this week? To do what?
President Obama has made a significant financial commitment in his budget to developing and putting on-line nuclear power plants, do you agree with this direction in energy policy?
Do you think the kerfuffle over Obama’s Vegas remarks is legitimate or ridiculous?
Ten dollars, one bet, put it on black or red?
Who do you want to win the Super Bowl, Saints, Colts or don’t really care? Why?
Who do you think will win the Super Bowl and why?
Sitting where you are as you read this can you point to North?
Who is America’s best foreign ally?
Have you ever been positively influenced in your decision by a negative campaign ad?
Did you meet or call your best friend this week?
Cookies or Pie?
So those are the questions, what are your answers?
Click on the comments button below and let us know what you think!
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
As I write this I realize the irony of a bunch of people in real estate coming together to air complaints and problems in the industry, many of the problems the result of solutions provided via government legislation. The most basic problem of course being the industry itself from the mid-2000's through 2007 as a housing boom was fed and price bubbles created and expanded. Almost every industry represented in the room, real estate agents, lenders, attorneys, escrow companies, appraisers, also had representatives guilty of bad ethics, bad business and bad greed that fed and fed the boom and bubble.
Those who were in the room however are the survivors of the recent market meltdowns, and have survived previous market downturns. Listening and looking around the room my guess is that the average experience in the industry was over fifteen years. Still in the business, the group is working hard for their individual businesses and clients to continue to help Americans fulfill the American Dream of homeownership. We were there to relay our stories of how our industries were being impacted in the current market. In Carly Fiorina, candiate for U.S. Senate, we found an active listener.
She attended Stanford University working her way through as a Kelly Girl, for younger readers that means she was an office temp. She worked in a beauty parlor helping with phones and the books. Upon getting a degree in Medieval History "I was unemployable, so I went to law school." Moving south to UCLA for law school Fiorina dropped out after one year--the law was not for her. She took a job as a receptionist/secretary/girl Friday for a small company known at the time as Marcus and Millichap. While there she began to learn about business and how things worked in the private sector.
Cutting her story short Fiorina said, "after teaching English in Italy for a while, getting an MBA, I became as a woman the CEO of a company worth $80 billion when I left. Now I am running for the United States Senate. Only in America is this story possible and able to be told."
Fiorina told us that she understands that most good solutions to a problem are known by those closest to the problem, and the politicians and bureaucracies of the Federal government in Washington are far removed from any problem. "Their cure is often worse than the disease." Something else Fiorina knows about having gone through chemotherapy and losing all her hair in a battle with breast cancer last year.
Regarding government waste and fraud Fiorina told of being assigned to manage a department and to cut expenses. She started with the bills being paid and quickly found problem after problem. "A billion dollar department was wasting over $100 million in bad billing. The bigger the number the bigger the waste." She knows that a billion dollars of federal money cannot be fully accounted for, it is too much and as a result millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions are lost to fraud and waste. Fiorina cited that fifty percent of government issued credit card bills contain personal and fraudulent spending--and there is little to nothing being done.
"Grow the economy," she said holding up a finger, "and cut spending" as she thrust up the second finger. "Our deficit is growing and we are trillions of dollars in debt. The solution to the problem is not to spend more money. The solution is to grow the economy and stop spending." Fiorina recognizes that the government cannot create jobs without taking money from working Americans, which costs jobs in the private sector.
Listening to Carly Fiorina speak about fiscal policy, watching her as she listened to small business owners and independent contractors detail their difficulties in helping families purchase or sell homes, hearing the questions she asks and comments she interjects, I have little doubt that Fiorina will be a capable Senator representing the people of California.
Facing off in the Republican Primary with Fiorina is Tom Campbell. Campbell has had a strong political career and made a name for himself as a strong fiscal conservative and fighting wasteful spending and expansion of government. Campbell recently dropped out of the race for Governor because the other two Republicans in that race, Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner, are prepped for multi-million dollar campaigns using mostly their own money--the race is too rich for Campbell. Running against Fiorina for the Republican nomination, Campbell figures he would rather take on one wealthy opponent instead of two.
I like the career Tom Campbell has put together, considered a moderate Republican due to his position on social issues (he voted no on Prop 8) and conservative on fiscal and economic matters. I was sorry to see him drop out of the Governor's race as it would be my preference for him to fill that position. Against Fiorina in the Senate race however I am not as sure. Given the funding and usual support that Senator Boxer will get in the coming election, I feel the best chance to defeat her will be someone with more star power and funding than Campbell may bring to the table.
Fiorina's opponent, should she win the Republican Primary, is Senator Barbara Boxer. Boxer has been in Washington as a member of Congress since 1982 and joined the Senate in 1992. She will have a deep warchest built up over decades of service to her constituents in labor and government. She is entrenched in herself as a Senator and the arrogance that often goes with it. Boxer is as far removed from Californians as I am from the Senate Cloakroom. She is part of the problem in Washington, particularly with the current majority, of not listening to the people she represents, of not worrying about future consequences of current spending and being more concerned with being a Senator and than being a representative of the people of California.
Fiorina, or Campbell, has a pretty big wall to climb running against an incumbent Democrat in California, a state that has overwhelming re-elected Senators Boxer and Feinstein in their past re-election bids, a state that overwhelming has voted Democrat for President in the past five elections. But they have a chance. Boxer's approval ratings are falling and polling is showing she is vulnerable to an upset. As the race heats up the Republican nominee can expect support from across the country if polling numbers continue to show a chance.
I support Carly Fiorina in her race for the Republican Primary as I believe in her experience and intellect. I believe she can make a difference in Washington. And I believe she can defeat Barbara Boxer in November. I hope you join me in this support.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
In his State of the Union speech last week President Obama sounded like leftist media and political types who have labelled Republicans as the "party of 'No.'" First forgetting the blockage Democrats put on President Bush (remember the Gang of 14 agreement so Bush judicial nominees could get through the Senate? Just one example.), then forgetting that Republicans have stood in the way of nothing since Democrats have had enough votes in the Senate and House of Representatives to pass any legislation they want. So because one or two Republicans would not cross the aisle and join the Democrats in bad legislation, legislation so bad it could not get passed with super majorities in both Houses, the Republicans are the party of "No."
It seems to me that the Democrats are the party of "maybe but only if you bribe me or my constituents or special interest group campaign financers." By sticking together as a party the Republicans have actually been helping President Obama from not violating more campaign pledges than he already has.
Throughout the campaign Obama pledged bi-partisan efforts if he were elected. His first year in office his only attempt at bi-partisanship was practically moving in with GOP Senator Olivia Snowe to get her to support the Senate's version of health care reform--in the Democrats eyes all you need is one vote and they can scream, "we had bi-partisan support!" Again in the State of the Union Obama said bi-partisanship was needed for Washington to work properly. We all know the definition of bi-partisan here means, "they need to put aside their principals and pledges they made to their voters and support our legislation without any changes."
Republicans rightfully rejected this definition of bi-partisanship, and Senator Snowe took back Obama's guest key. As a result the Democrats, if they were going to pass health care would have to do so alone. The bill is theirs for all the credit and all the blame. Because no health care bill has been passed, nor Cap and Trade, Obama still technically has not violated his pledge to voters to be bi-partisan. If Snowe had fallen to Obama's pressures then he, and the Democrats would have falsely screamed "bi-partisan support!" and looked like fools to the American people.
On Friday President Obama made the very unusual, and I believe unique, move of appearing before the Republican Caucus House Retreat in Maryland. He gave a televised address and had a question and answer period. Having just lit the GOP up in his State of the Union it was a political gamble for Obama to make this appearance and he gets plenty of credit for doing so.
At the GOP retreat, Obama admitted that the Republicans opposition to the Senate health care bill, and the subsequent inability of the House to pass the Senate version (thus far) has allowed Obama to keep another of his pledges to the American people (thus far).
Said Obama to the gathering:
We said from the start that it was going to be important for us to be consistent in saying to people if you can have your--if you want to keep the health insurance you got, you can keep it, that you're not going to have anybody getting in between you and your doctor in your decision making. And I think that some of the provisions that got snuck in might have violated that pledge.
So had the Senate and House Democrats passed the health care bill that Obama and his Administration were strongly pushing, and denigrating all who opposed it, then they would have passed a bill that was a consistent pledge of the President: no bill would violate the insurance you currently have, no bill would take away your doctor, no bill would get between you and your doctor, and no increase in taxes or fees for your insurance.
So if you hear anyone saying that Obama is doing a decent job of keeping his campaign promises and pledges to the American people you can tell them, "he can thank the Republicans for that because he and the Democrats in Congress wanted to violate those pledges."
But don't expect any credit to be given to the Republicans for making this President stick to any pledges made on the campaign trail, or since taking the oath of office.
Monday, February 1, 2010
Did I really need to put the (D)? For an idea like this can only be conceived and pushed as realistic by an entrenched long term California Democrat.
Senator Lowenthal wants to eliminate free parking. ""Free parking has significant social, economic and environmental costs. It increases congestion and greenhouse gas emissions."
Laugh or cry?
It is Lowenthal's idea to eliminate free parking for stores and businesses. He feels employees should pay to park, having to do will encourage them to ride public transportation to work, employers that provide free parking are encouraging their workers to drive cars. Those filthy nasty things that are increasing the temperature of our planet by several degrees each month, or so the mythologists would have us believe.
In a state with an unemployment rate over well over 10%. In a state with businesses shutting down or leaving for other states, or countries. In a state with the highest taxes on residents and businesses. In a state with the most broken budget in the nation. In this state what is really needed is one more tax on its citizens and businesses.
I'm guessing that Sen. Lowenthal's bill will have exemptions for state and local government employees. And exemptions for schools and teachers. And exemptions for businesses where a certain percentage of the employees belong to unions. I would not be surprised if exemptions are also given to medical marijuana facilities.
The basic premise for Lowenthal's bill is that free parking causes more pollution. Because free parking encourages people to drive. If you had to pay for parking everywhere you would drive less and that would save our planet. So he would give subsidies to cities that charge residents and businesses for parking. So basically cities like Mendocino and Blythe with plenty of open space would pay for parking structures in Long Beach and San Diego.
The basic principal of stupidity that applies here is the same one that has applied to a tremendous amount of California politics the past decade: the global warming myth. Lowenthal is a drinker of the Kool-Aid provided the movement that has begot the scientists who have been proven to deny publications and exposure of ideas contrary to theirs regarding man made global warming. A movement that conveniently starts and stops its temperature readings to meet their conclusions. A movement that has as a member the chief United Nations scientist who has been caught citing "science" of glacier melting to actually be an unsupported quote in a newspaper. A movement that has spawned the California Air Resources board which voted to accept a report that led to legislation on diesel emissions that has already closed several businesses in the state; a report written by a man who falsified his scientific and academic credentials and whose scientific methods were called into question.
Of course we should not be surprised that a bill to prevent free parking would find traction in Sacramento, after all these are the same people who have mandated the end of the traditional lightbulbs in the state in order to save the globe and have them replaced with highly toxic and dangerous "squiggly" bulbs. Yes the heat and radiation from my little 40 watt bulb is much better than the one filled with mercury that can kill my daughter if broken.
This bill is also not surprising coming from Senator Lowenthal. He is the who said in February 2009 in the middle of the perennial budget debates created by Lowenthal and his fellow Democrats, "it doesn't matter how we got here." A man who feels record budget deficits that will stretch out for another decade due to the structural problems created by his party and his branch of the government (albeit abetted since 2003 by the governor and at least one or two Republicans) does not care how the budget got to be as bad as it is is a perfect candidate to propose legislation as dumb as no free parking. To save the environment.
Lowenthal has been in office since 1998, first in the Assembly and now in the Senate. His tenure coincides with the explosion of state spending that has ruined the California budget and economy. Since 1998 the spending from Sacramento has doubled. Taking advantage of increasing revenues through the real estate boom and the economic growth period of the early 2000's Democrats in Sacramento, abetted at the time by Grey Davis, increased salaries, benefits and the number of workers receiving those benefits, expanded social programs beyond the needy, created new groups of recipients, and put bond measures on our ballots that voters passed. The Lowenthals of the past decade have burdened our state with structural deficits and a state on the brink of bankruptcy.
Evidently that is not enough. Now they must finish the job and push the state over the edge by further punishing businesses, shop owners and citizens. The result will be more business closings, more jobs lost and more citizens leaving for Texas or Arizona or Nevada to start businesses, invest their savings, help their new communities and prosper in a state that will allow them to do so.
I will repeat what Sen. Lowenthal said in the press release for the no free parking bill, "Free parking has significant social, economic and environmental costs. It increases congestion and greenhouse gas emissions."
I say that bad legislation has even more significant costs as we have seen and experienced in recent years in California.
The decade may only be a month old, but it will be a challenge for anyone to present dumber legislation in the coming 119 months that Senator Alan Lowenthal's No Free Parking bill.
L.A. Times story on the legistion.