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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Where Are The Eyeballs?

The decline of daily print newspapers has been pretty steady for the past several years. With many fingers to point looking for blame the two primary factors appear to be the internet and content. And one, internet, has been able to show the problems with the other, content. Not as widely reported has been the continuing decline of high profile television programming--programming that used to be driving forces in television news reporting.

For years cable news and commentary was owned by CNN and Larry King. CNN invented the 24 hour news cycle and cable news. I had the fortune to hear Ted Turner speak sometime in the late '80s at a college alumni fundraiser (Tipper Gore also spoke when she was just a Senator's wife and not the 2nd Lady--that may be for some other time). Turner, in his high pitched southern accent said about CNN, "I do a lot of traveling and my clock gets messed up. One night I'm in some town in a hotel room and around four in the morning I couldn't sleep so I turned on the television. They had my TBS Superstation and it had on wrastling. I don't always mind wrastling but that time I wanted to see what was happening. I wanted news not wrastling. So I invented CNN so I could watch news in my hotel room at any time." Simple solution to a simple problem: create a new network that will have continuous live programing all day and night, every day and night.

As the cable television industry grew so too did the number of cable stations. Soon Turner created Headline News. CNN became a more trusted source than the half hour evening news programs, in large part due to the first Gulf War when Wolf Blitzer gave us live reports with green tracer bullets and explosions streaking the background.

As the internet gained traction in the late 1990's we were able to read news reports from papers across the country and across the sea. News media began providing content on-line, for free, and slowly the free content started sucking up eyeballs and the daily paper slowly began losing subscribers. With the first Bush election in 2000 internet content exploded, as did cable news. NBC joined forces with Microsoft to create MSNBC filled with news talk shows and essentially live, visual radio programming. Rupert Murdoch entered the fray creating the Fox network and starting the Fox News Channel on cable. Lines were quickly drawn, CNN began hiring hosts that would decidedly anti-Bush, MSNBC did as well. Murdoch filled his counterpart with programming that featured pro- and anti- forces on both parties and most issues, early programing sometimes resembled playground fights.

Slowly through the 2000's as internet content and blogs exploded, the trusted content of the network news and daily papers, now labelled Mainstream Media, began to come under scrutiny. The liberal bias of major papers editorial pages became even more apparent, and slowly the bias of the news programmers came more and more to light as alternative reports of the same stories were available on-line, for free. Now instead of a ten second clip of what someone said we could watch the entire statement, instead of reading the stock AP report, or report from the New York Times or Chicago Tribune reporter, we could read more accounts from those who were at the scene. Mainstream news came into question.

The trust for many Americans blew up courtesy of an internet blog. CBS' 60 Minutes for decades was Sunday night staple for viewing. Dan Rather was a primary contributor to in depth stories on issues and people. During the 2004 Presidential Campaign Rather did a story on President George W. Bush with the angle he dodged the war in Vietnam using the Texas National Guard and connections to get favorable treatment. The center piece of evidence was a memo from the Texas National Guard files. Except the memo was a fake.

Within minutes of the memo being posted a blogger dissected the type and showed it to be unavailable type face at the time the memo was written, it could only have been written on a more modern typewriter. The memo scandal blew up on the internet and after several weeks the rest of the Mainstream Media quit protecting Rather and CBS. Eventually Rather resigned from the show and CBS News.

As a tipping point it was pretty clear the 60 Minutes scandal solidified for many Americans that the news they and their parents trusted was now in doubt. Lines were drawn and the reaction by the cable shows was to hire more commentators and hosts who moved more to the edges. CNN and MSNBC became clearly anti-Bush and pushed an anti-Iraq agenda. Fox drifted to the right, which for the Mainstream Media meant right extremist. Daily newspapers lost subscribers in droves.

Almost six years since the CBS Memogate the perceptions and actualities of cable and network news still persist. MSNBC hitched its wagon for many years to Keith Olberman who was unapologetic and unfiltered in his hatred of Bush and all things Republican. Spewing vitriol and venom he became a celebrity for the hard left. Larry King became predictable in interviewing either elected Democrats or Hollywood stars. Fox brought up from the ranks Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly. The battle for eyeballs began in earnest.

For many years now Fox News was behind CNN for viewers and playing back and forth with MSNBC. That changed during the 2008 election cycle (which probably began in 2006?). Fox began to narrow the gap on CNN and O'Reilly's viewers grew and grew. Sometime in 2007/2008 Fox surpassed CNN for eyeballs.

Today it is not even close on viewers. With little to no changing in their on-air talent or programming CNN is getting about 25% of the viewers of Fox News, most of those from people waiting for planes in airports, and MSNBC in the most recent ratings is at less than half the viewers. Larry King? He has had the worst two quarters in his show's history, down almost 10% from last quarter when he had his second worst quarter. Olberman? His show continues to decline, but at a slower rate last quarter, coinciding with his taking a month off. Fox? Ratings and eyeballs grow for all Prime Time programming.

At some point some news editor and publisher and senior network executive will realize that American is a center-right nation. We're also pretty connected and those they target for advertising and eyeballs tend to be pretty intelligent and capable of sifting chaff from wheat, or biased commentary from news reporting. Someone may notice that as the Mainstream Media and CNN and MSNBC have become more anti-conservative, anti-non-liberal, and are less and less obscuring their Obama cheerleading and pushing agendas like Cap and Trade and Obamacare, they are losing eyeballs, which means they are losing advertising dollars, which means they are creating their own demise. A demise which appears from the television ratings and subscription numbers which appears to be increasing exponentially. A demise that increases the more they and their dwindling core of supporters criticize and demonize those who have ideas with which they vehemently disagree.

Until then, those who don't get it will continue to lose eyeballs, and advertisers. And as they lose them will continue to demonize those who are picking up those eyeballs...and those who own those eyeballs. Continue to call me a misogynistic, racist, teabagging, ignorant reptile, while asking me to read your paper or watch your programming, and then ask how that approach has been working for you?

It is okay to show some bias, just don't try to hide it or lie about it--at least not if you expect to win the huge middle ground of American people and their attention and support. Speak your minds, state your opinions, but if people are tuning out or cancelling subscriptions please don't look to the government to bail you out, accept your failure to win support.

DCS 03312010

Monday, March 29, 2010

You Are Government's Line of Credit

Cheap money makes products more expensive. When borrowing gets really easy money becomes cheap. The more qualified borrowers for financing for a product the higher the demand, the more bidders for the product, the higher prices climb. College tuition is a good example. As student loans became cheaper and cheaper more and more people were able to pay for tuition and tuition rose disproportionately to the value of the product produced. Now private colleges will set a family back about $200,000 for four years for a degree that is not much more valuable than that obtained from a state university (also obtained at an inflated price, albeit lower price).

A much more appropriate market to look at is the housing market. As mortgages became easier to obtain and as the amount of money needed for down payment became less and less, home prices climbed. With the introduction of 100% financing with no income documentation prices soared. Suddenly anyone could purchase a home, no money needed, your income was not a problem, hell even if you had crappy credit you could buy a $650,000 home and then all you had to do was wait until it was worth $750,000 and you could sell and make a quick hundred thousand. Or if you liked your home, you could use the same financing to pull equity out of your home. After the first refinance that lowered your rate and your payment and pulled out equity to pay off your revolving debt, you could take out an equity line and use that to remodel your home with all the finest appliances, or buy a boat.

Money for mortgages was cheap, way too cheap, and it created a surge in home prices. But what happened when the money went away? What happened when the mortgage lenders started to fall and the credit decisions became tighter? Housing prices at first stalled and then crashed. Ten percent, twenty percent, thirty percent lower. Suddenly millions of Americans are going through foreclosure, living in homes worth 50-70% of the amount they owe on mortgages and the Obama Administration is pushing lenders to modify loans, forgive principle on debt and relieve borrowers of having to make payments they agreed to make.

At the same time 8 million Americans have lost jobs. Personal consumption, which is 70% of our nation's economy, has dropped precipitously. As a result tax revenues are down, all tax revenues, income tax, property tax, sales tax, capital gains tax. Despite the rising unemployment figures and dropping tax revenues, trends that could be seen to be coming in 2007, our state and federal governments continued on their spending binges. They were like homeowners with an ever increasing home value and lenders willing to make them easy and cheap loans.

Now that the economy has gone further south state governments who do not have printing presses, have now been faced with having to cut their budgets. Despite rising unemployment last year California Democrats, aided and abetted by three Republicans and the Governor, raised taxes, essentially going back to their line of credit--you and me. No doubt they will try it again this year to protect their special interest from budget cuts, yet further cutting budgets for school districts across the state. They see us as their equity line. A cheap and endless stream of funds for them to spend as they see fit. And one can't help but get the feeling that the underlying mentality is, "Obama and Pelosi will bail us out if it gets really bad."

And why shouldn't they have this attitude? GM got bailed out. AIG got bailed out. Homeowners are getting bailed out, or at least they are trying to bail them out. Congress passed a $787 billion spending bill in a few days that went to all sorts of non-essential projects. Why would Washington not bail out California? We are a huge part of the economy, surely we are too big to fail?

The current deficit for the federal government is $1.4 Trillion. This year's spending from Washington is $3.5 Trillion. Our federal debt is $12.6 Trillion. Trillion. I'm not sure everyone is capable of comprehending how much one trillion actually is. The number is thrown around so often it has become as easy to say as "billion" but the difference is enormous. And that is what Washington has been spending with as much thought as you may put into a new set of golf clubs, actually probably less thought since they do not have to worry about paying it back, you do.

Money has become so cheap for Congress and the Obama Administration that they are re-creating the housing bubble with government debt. A health care bill that costs a couple of Trillion dollars. Stimulus packages that add up to a Trillion dollars. Spend, spend, spend, borrow, borrow, borrow. Sound familiar?

Whereas before Countrywide, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase were the lenders for lines of credit that supplied the funds that helped create the housing bubble; today the American voter has become the lender for Congress and the creation of the debt bubble. Our borrow and consume mentality gave us some good times for much of the Aughts, has transferred to our elected officials. Go ahead and spend the money, it's cheap. We'll just have Treasury auction some more T-bills and write another spending bill.

Try to stop government spending and you are demonized. First Senator Bunning and last week the Republican Senators blocked legislation to continue unemployment benefits unless the funding was taken out of either the already passed stimulus bill and unused funds, or cuts are made in another part of the budget. How dare you hold up unemployment checks for Americans in need! Who cares where the funds come from? We are the federal government just spend it!

Just spend it. Borrow it. Rates are low and repayment is cheap. But for how long? How long can the debt bubble continue before it pops? Every month the Treasury has been auctioning hundreds of billions of dollars in various notes, 3 year, 5 year, 7 year, 10 year, 30 year debt auctions have been occurring all year. And most of them have been fairly well received, meaning there have been sufficient buyers to keep the rates on the notes sold low.

But this past week the sentiment was not that great. With the backdrop of Greece having difficulties with its debt, a tremor went through the debt markets. Not as big of a tremor as went through Wall Street when New Century Mortgage had capitalization problems and started the credit collapse, but a tremor nonetheless. Investors hesitated before buying U.S. debt.

Wait a minute. The U.S. outstanding debt is $12.6 Trillion and growing. It's GDP is $14.3 Trillion, and finally growing but at a slower rate. America's equity is mortgaged to almost 90% of its economy's value and they are still spending and increasing their borrowing on their equity line--the American consumer and tax payer. How much more can the United States borrow before its bubble bursts?

Cheap money leads to price inflation, which creates bubbles, which pop. When they pop prices drop, money becomes more expensive and markets collapse. Debt is a market. The more demand there is for someones debt the higher the price and the lower the interest rates the borrower has to pay. As demand wanes prices drop and rates increase. This past week demand was not as great as it has been for U.S. debt.

And Congress went on recess with Democrats upset because they could not spend a few billion dollars more on the credit line. Your credit line.

You, and me, are the lender for the U.S. government, we are guaranteeing debt that at this point approximates $42,000 for every person in America--that's $168,000 for my home, how much for yours? Like the housing and equity frenzy of 2002-2007 a bubble is growing rapidly. When will it pop and what will happen to the credit markets when that happens?

My daughters are 8 and 10, they haven't been to college, haven't bought a car, haven't even had a job yet and already both are over $40,000 in debt. It bothers me to think what that number will be when they start their careers in about fifteen years.

To follow our national debt, revenue and spending check out the U.S. National Debt Clock

DCS 03292010

Friday, March 26, 2010

Just Some Questions

Below are questions I have asked myself throughout the past week. Instead of writing what my answers to them would be I am interested in any answers you may have, or additional questions you have asked yourself.

For the week starting Saturday March 20, 2010 here are some questions I have had:

Wouldn’t insurance companies be irresponsible to their stockholders if they did not raise rates during the current window they have to do so before Obamacare takes effect?

With all of the media in Washington D.C. on Sunday covering protestors how is that none of them caught the alleged racial insults yelled at members of Congress?

Is anyone paying attention that Social Security is now writing more checks for payments than it is taking in for revenue?

Is health care reform really a bigger issue than Social Security reform?

Do you eat chili dogs with your hands or with a fork?

What is your favorite sound?

Should pot be legal?

What do you think of Osama bin-Laden’s threat to “kill Americans” if we off Khalid Sheik Mohamed?

What is the biggest living creature you have killed? (having a pet put down no included)

Did you have Kansas in your Final Four? Finals? Winning? (I did…sigh)

How will Tiger do in the Masters next week?

Jury duty?

Who had more partners for affairs, Jesse or Tiger?

Do you know what percentage of GDP our federal debt is?

Have you ever eaten rabbit?

What is the most important lesson you learned from your Dad?

Whose responsibility is it that your kid(s) eat crap or not?

Morning walk with a cup of coffee or evening walk with a cocktail?

Biggest sporting event you have seen in person?

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, March 24, 2010

Medical Marijuana

"Don't let us become Mexico."

That was my comment to Long Beach Bob Foster last week at a meeting at Community Hospital of Long Beach. He knew exactly what I was referring to and replied, "that is my biggest concern."

The City of Long Beach is very close to passing a medical marijuana ordinance. According to my Google search this morning there are currently ten MedPot dispensaries in the city (by the way a similar search for gun shops shows one within the city limits, guns are legal and protected under the 2nd Amendment, pot is not). MedPot advocates want the ability to have more facilities available, opponents want no facilities in the city.

Federal law considers marijuana an illegal drug and while California and several other states have laws that make use of marijuana for medical treatment legal, federal law supersedes the state law. Under President Bush the Attorney Generals raided medical marijuana dispensaries in California, enforcing the federal drug laws. During his campaign Barack Obama said he would not allow raids by the Drug Enforcement Agency, and after a few months in office current Attorney General Eric Holder called off the raids.

As a result of the change in federal enforcement pot shops have sprung up across California. Late to the game many cities suddenly realized they had no ordinances on the books to regulate the sale of medical marijuana within their city limits. With several MedPot shops open in the city, the Long Beach City Council has put together an ordinance that meets with the approval of the City Attorney and has been through two required votes, each passing 5-4, that will soon become the law of the city.

Areas of contention have been how far from any schools and parks to the dispensaries need to be? Where does the pot come from? Dispensaries providing list of "clients" or "patients", I'm not sure what the official legal term would be. And whether to limit the number of dispensaries. All valid and good concerns.

I understand there are significant medical benefits that many people suffering from debilitating illnesses derive from ingesting marijuana. I also understand there are significant numbers of people who scam the system to get medical marijuana prescriptions, or "recommendations" from doctors to sustain their pot habits legally. My concern with any ordinance in the City of Long Beach is how many pot dispensaries do we need? How many residents of Long Beach are under doctor recommendations to obtain and use medical marijuana? Are there enough individuals with legitimate needs to support ten, or more, MedPot facilities?

In 1996 the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was put into law. Enforced under the Office for Civil Rights under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The purpose of the law is to protect the privacy of individuals "identifiable health information." HIPAA set national standards for the "security of electronic protected health information." Reviewing the HHS website under "Covered Entities" it appears that if a provider does not "transmit any covered transactions electronically" it is not a covered entity and not subject to HIPAA regulations.

Unfortunately the Long Beach City Attorney Robert Shannon has advised the City Council that it may not require MedPot dispensaries to provide updated lists of clients, members or whatever they may be termed. His ruling prevents the law enforcement of Long Beach, and the state, from knowing whether those visiting and buying at MedPot shops are legitimate clients with doctors' orders, or just some dude scoring his weekend weed. Has the Long Beach City Council investigated the HIPAA requirements thoroughly as the Act pertains to medical marijuana dispensaries? Has the City received a ruling from HHS as to how it would rule if a complaint was received?

An argument against releasing such records is the privacy of the individual and the city knowing private medical information. Where I under doctors' orders for using marijuana for a medical condition I would have no such problem, since I am breaking federal laws I would want local law enforcement that is being told to look the other way for certain conditions to know I fulfill that condition. As well, the doctor is covered under HIPAA, but the dispensary is not. The dispensary is given a prescription or order for MedPot, not what the condition may be. Essentially by requiring MedPot facilities to provide client lists they are giving the names of those who are able to carry and use pot in Long Beach.

A very large point of contention in the ordinance has been where can the pot being sold be grown. This is where some of the fear for not becoming Mexico with its huge drug wars and the thousands of murders that have accompanied the struggle for drug supremacy comes in. Who ever controls the cultivation of the pot stands to reap significant income. Since Long Beach is licensing the sale of pot, who licenses and controls the growth of pot? Growers in Mendocino? Oregon? Smuggled pot from Mexico? How much product can be delivered into Long Beach and how much is really needed? By limiting the cultivation of MedPot to the facilities themselves the City is putting a limit on how much pot can be provided in the city and therefore, hopefully, limit the sale and use to those with legitimate prescriptions. With no extra pot from over-supply a lot of temptations and problems are eliminated.

From the shops I have seen so far, admittedly without having been in one, it appears that head shop owners have gotten the entrepreneurial spirit. The media I have seen on the drivers who deliver shows them to be indistinguishable from my pizza delivery guy--who may have a "prescription" for all I know, or may be combining his jobs of delivering the pot and the munchies at the same time to save gas. Those who sell and distribute the drug should be licensed in the same what that pharmacies and their workers are licensed to handle and distribute drugs.

Pot proponents have some valid arguments. Some are over done and push credibility, but many are valid. Yes there are proven medical benefits to marijuana. Yes there are millions who use pot recreationally like alcohol without significant adverse affect to themselves or others. However, pot is also a "gateway" drug to meth, coke, and heroin, just as alcohol can be a gateway to pot. And most importantly marijuana is an illegal drug in the United States. Looking the other way by the California Attorney General or Long Beach City Prosecutor does not change Federal law.

Of greatest concern to me is the illegal drug trade. It is a huge industry involving billions of dollars. It is the primary source of gang wars, theft, prostitution, murder and debilitating addictions that push and/or keep people in poverty. Mexican drug cartels are in a power struggle with the government and winning in many areas. The wars between the cartels have spilled into Texas, California and Arizona and are growing. Thousands annually are being murdered to protect and secure new delivery routes, distribution networks, cultivation acreage and most importantly more and more cash. With legal use of marijuana in California, in Long Beach, threatening their profits, where are protections against the Mexican cartels from entering the market at any point, from cultivation to transportation to distribution?

I am in favor of MedPot, but in favor of a very tightly controlled process of prescription and distribution. If the HIPAA concerns are so great then the City should limit the sale of MedPot to pharmacies that choose to sell the drug, hospitals or the Health Department. Unfortunately our city has been overly lawsuit adverse and throughout his tenure as City Attorney, Robert Shannon has repeatedly warned the council, "people will sue us over this" and the Council has reacted to avoid the possible lawsuit. In the case of medical marijuana and ordinances to control the sale and distribution of the drug I feel the Council should make the law as strict as possible to allow the sale and distribution to those in need, but at the same time allowing a tight control on who, where and how the drug is cultivated, sold and distributed. Law suits be damned this is about protecting our community.

DCS 03242010

Update: A local commercial real estate broker has sent me a list of MedPot facilities in Long Beach, the number currently operating is 33 facilities throughout the city.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Your Silence Is Your Consent

Teapot Dome. The Whiskey Ring. Tammany Hall and Boss Tweed. ABSCAM. Watergate. Iran-Contra. Add to these historical episodes of corruption and political abuse, "Nebraska Kickback," "Louisiana Purchase," "Gator Aid" and plenty of other promises, carve outs and political bribes that were successful in giving President Obama the only thing he apparently cares about: political victory for himself.

The ends justifies the means, the ends being Obama's presidency and legacy. In the end this is more important than our country's future and health care delivery. Why else would he tell the Congressional Hispanic Congress, as quoted by one member of the caucus "the fate of his presidency" hinged on the vote yesterday? Narcissism trumps duty.

For months we have seen this played out. The three most powerful individuals in American politics: the President of the United States, the Majority Leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representative, have used every dirty trick, every arm twisting threat, every strong political ally, every deception, mistruth and complete misstatement of numbers and facts. Everything they have learned, and their minions have perfected was brought to bear to first get everyone of their party members in the Senate and then barely the number needed from their party in the House, to pass legislation the people don't want and significant numbers of their party do not want.

And most of you have sat silently by and watched. Some have complained to others. Forwarded an email. Made a comment on an internet posting. Maybe gone so far as to write a letter to the editor. Living in Long Beach and in California, most of my friends and acquaintances are registered Democrats. Many, perhaps most, of them have been somewhat disgruntled or disgusted by the ugly politics and special deals that have had to be put together to pass the legislation. But what have they done about it other than murmur? Mostly they have stayed somewhat silent, not wanting to betray their party affiliation or criticize the people they have voted for. Is it because criticizing them makes it look like you made a mistake in voting for them?

No body supports or endorses everything someone does. We get disappointed or upset or disgruntled with choices and decisions of our spouses, our children, our parents, our friends, our co-workers, and we can either silently stand by or we can say, "hey, I wasn't real thrilled about that because..." It is how we stay spouses, good parents, solid friends and good co-workers. Why don't people do the same thing when it comes to their political representatives?

Why are not the many Democrats who have disagreed with the process, with the political bribery, with the dirty tactics, speaking up publicly and asking their party representatives and leaders to stop and listen? In 2008 they were calling for "transparency" and "open government" and "change in Washington." Well they got one in three, change in Washington. I can recall no Congress and White House that has so completely transformed the economic and social fabric of our nation dependent on so many closed door agreements and pay-offs. And so much silence from those who disagreed.

Are those of you who are opposed to the process that just completed and said nothing to your elected officials worried you would be labelled a "Tea-bagger?" Concerned your friends would criticize your opinion?

What happens now? The President and Congressional Democrats have seen that they can target weak members of their party and buy them off, several hundred million here, a couple of hundred million there, a ride in Air Force One for you, an Executive Order or two, that's all it takes. With your consent they can, and may, continue to govern this way. The opinions and desires of the American people don't matter. What matters is Obama getting his way for his legacy. And with your money, they have learned that can be bought.

In the past few days I have seen comments and postings on Facebook from local Democrats who work in government or are elected officials celebrating the pending passage, and then passage of the bill. In a way I can understand as their own political futures are probably tied to support from the party. But at the same time I can not understand. Why have they not been contacting our local Rep. Laura Richardson (D-duh) and demand she not vote for any bill unless the special payoffs for other states are stripped from the bill, at a minimum. In a week, a month, this summer they will complain that Sacramento is taking money from the city. And they support, or silently stand by, as legislation is passed that puts more of a burden on Sacramento with the feds pushing tens and tens of thousands more Californians onto MediCal. Creating even higher expenses and spending and burdens on local hospitals, the state will have to taken even more from local governments to fund the system. But the win for the President over rides the needs and best interests of our city, its hospitals and citizens.

California gets screwed in this bill. I thought for quite a while for a more appropriate word than screwed, but nothing else fits and still keeps this blog clean. With more people on Medicare and MediCal (Medicaid in other parts of the country), more illegal aliens, more people on public assistance than any other state, California gets nothing from this bill. Already losing businesses to other states due to high costs of regulations and taxes, added taxes and burdens from this bill will further cut into profits and desirability of doing business here. How will our state pay for this legislation? Our Senators and Democratic Representatives don't care, nor do the majority of our local officials who have been cheerleaders for Obama and any health care legislation--as long as something passed.

And the people for the most part remain silent, which is taken for consent from politicians. No letters, no phone calls, no letters to the editor, no rallies, no speaking out against a process that have been wrong. Fraught with payoffs we may never learn about, the bill passed is so bad it immediately required amendments and more pay offs for the votes cast.

What will you do? What can you do? Unfortunately I'm somewhat stuck. As an outspoken person registered with the "opposing" party, my local Representative and Senators find it easy to discount me. But I will continue to speak my opinions, contribute my observations and hope that someone, hopefully several someones, from the "right" party will speak up, will challenge the status quo and blind following of party leadership that has passed for representing the people in Congressional District 37, and in California.

Dirty politics has won. Those who spoke out vocally were able to be demonized by the Democrats and their allies in the press. Those who wavered on supporting a flawed piece of legislation were able to be visited by union strongmen threatening political paybacks and party leaders laying out their future in the party if they voted "no." Dirty politics won.

Governance for the people, by the people and of the people lost. Thankfully the First Amendment remains intact and I plan to take advantage of it. I will not consent and I will not remain silent.

What will you do?


Friday, March 19, 2010

Just Some Questions

Below are questions I have asked myself throughout the past week. Instead of writing what my answers to them would be I am interested in any answers you may have, or additional questions you have asked yourself.

For the week starting Saturday March 13, 2010 here are some questions I have had:

You are in your car, you have no insurance, you drive into a tree and crash the car, you call All State for auto insurance, should they insure you?

When asked as a greeting, “How are you doing?”, how often do you answer, “fine” or “good” when you aren’t?

Do you find it as difficult as I do to make a selection from the pie menu?

How many people in Long Beach area (population approximately half a million) have legitimate prescriptions for medical marijuana?

Did you know that Willie Mays hit a home run off a Hall of Fame pitcher in his first major league at bat?

Does Pelosi have the votes?

How would you vote if you were in the House?

How often do you look at any of the photo albums in your home?

Who will win the NCAA basketball tournament?

Did you ever get an “F” in school?

Does President Obama stand a better or worse chance of being re-elected if the House passes the Senate’s bill?

Better or worse chance of re-election if the vote fails?

Where are you going on your next vacation or family trip?

Which is more helpful, advice or support?

What school has the best nickname in college athletics?

What should the U.S. do about the drug wars in Mexico?

Have you ever smoked pot? When was the last time?

Can you define “minor surgery?”

Is there really a difference between HP, Brother, Epson, printers?

Did you make a decision this week that was a challenge between personal integrity and personal benefit?

Grilled onions or raw on your burger?

What do you want for your birthday?

If you could would you change any of the votes you made in November’s election?

Do you vote in primaries?

Do you ever wish you had a radio talk show?


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, March 17, 2010

Mary Stanton For School Board

Four years ago our community came a few votes short of taking a sharp turn South. In 2006 the Teacher's Association of Long Beach under the direction of then Executive Director Scott McVarish made the decision to take over the Long Beach Unified School District Board of Directors. Determined to win the three seats up for election in the cycle the union board put the TALB into severe debt and ran three candidates for office. In one contest current LBUSD board member David Barton, backed by TALB, defeated incumbent Jim Choura. In another contest TALB managed to get Michael Ellis on the ballot in a race that was vacated by then incumbent Suja Lowenthal as she gave up the school board race to run instead for the City Council seat vacated by Dan Baker. Though not eligible for the ballot because of residency requirements, City Attorney Bob Shannon let him on the ballot anyway. With no opposition Ellis won the election. Ellis subsequently was busted a few times for DUI, almost never showed up for board meetings and was a disgrace to the LBUSD as well as the hard working teachers in the district whose hard earned money went into his campaign.

In the third race incumbent Mary Stanton barely beat the TALB challenger. The race was close and it went to a re-count, paid for by TALB as they tried to squeeze out a third victory and control of the school district. Paramount among their agenda items was firing Superintendent Chris Steinhauser and installing a teacher's union friendly Administration. Thankfully Mary prevailed.

On April 13th Mary will once again face a challenger that is backed and supported by TALB. Jeff Price's list of supporters reads like a Who's Who list of Long Beach Democrats who are tied to public employee unions and not its residents, including 7th District Councilwoman Tonia Reyes-Uranga who is running a write in campaign to retain her seat, and her husband Roberto Uranga who is supported by the employee unions at Long Beach City College. Essentially Price's list of supporters reads like a political insider not a member of the community, someone who will follow the party line and be beholden to public employees' unions and not the residents of his district. It is as if Mary is running against the local Democratic political machine and its allies.

Long Beach Unified School District has seen its revenue from the state decline by over $100 million in the past few years. The LBUSD has not control over its revenue, it is dependent upon Sacramento and is subject to the political process of the state budget negotiations. The results of these negotiations have not been favorable to K-12 schools as you are award. Throughout the declining revenue Mary Stanton has worked hard and honestly with fellow board members Jon Meyer, Felton Williams, David Barton and new comer John McGinnis who replaced Ellis when he resigned.

As President of the LBUSD Board of Education, Mary has led the district through extremely difficult budget cuts and staffing reductions. Holding off as long as possible through the past few years to keep the budget cuts out of the classroom, this year the LBUSD has had to send out notices to hundreds of teachers that they may be laid off at the end of the school year. With the political climate and desire to not cut spending where it needs to be cut in Sacramento it should be expected that LBUSD's revenue will again decline in the coming year. Our district needs experienced, level headed and unbiased leadership to ensure the ability to continue the quality education our children receive.

During Mary's tenure on the Board of Education LBUSD has won the prestigious Broad Award for urban school education excellence and been a finalist several times. Test scores have improved while funding has decreased. Parents of many students graduating from LBUSD high schools save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in college tuition from scholarships and from college credits their children earned through Advanced Placement courses. My kids are in the LBUSD system and I look forward to their continuing through high school receiving excellent education every year.

Mary Stanton is a proven leader, advocate for students, a former teacher who knows and understands what teachers face in classrooms and a solid member of our community.

Disclaimer! Several months ago Mary called me to ask if I would be the Treasurer for her campaign and I readily agreed. I agreed because I respect and admire Mary not only as a member of our school board and the work she has done, but as a person as well. She is honest, she is committed to improving the lives of my children and yours, she is intelligent and she is kind--not always adjectives used for people running for public office. I am proud to be associated with Mary and her campaign and hope you too align yourself with her effort to be re-elected.

I wholeheartedly endorse and support Mary Stanton for Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education in the election April 13, 2010.

Please join me in this support, visit Mary's site (link below) and donate a few bucks for the future of all students in Long Beach and their future. Please, if you are concerned about the future of education in our city do not be a bystander, be involved, donate a few dollars and help re-elect Mary Stanton.

For those in the area Leslie and I will be holding a meet and greet for Mary next Monday, March 22nd, in the late evening at our home. If you are interested in attending please contact me for details.

Mary Stanton For School Board 2010 website.

Price's list of supporters.


Monday, March 15, 2010

To My Representatives In Congress

Below is a letter I have sent this morning (3/15/2010) to my representatives in Congress regarding the health care reform bill.

To: Senator Dianne Feinstein
Senator Barbara Boxer
Member of the House of Representatives Laura Richardson

From: Dennis C. Smith
Long Beach, CA

Dear Senators Feinstein and Boxer and Rep. Richardson,

I believe in openness and honest, so I will start this letter with both. I have never voted for any of you in your elections for your current offices. I have never donated to your campaigns for office; to my recollection however I do not believe I have contributed to any of your opponents either. I am a registered Republican. I am married and have two daughters in elementary school. I am a partner in a mortgage brokerage, which makes me a small business owner. I volunteer in my community, currently serving on the Board of Directors of Community Hospital of Long Beach---please note my views below are my views and not representative of the hospital, its staff or any other member of the board (though a few may agree with me). My lack of votes or financial support makes me no less a constituent of yours, just as those who have supported you are no more a constituent than me. You are my representatives in Washington D.C. as such I wish you to please represent me, and California.

President Obama is pressuring Speaker of the House Nance Pelosi, a fellow Californian, to have the House of Representatives vote to pass the health care reform bill written by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, not a Californian, without any conference between the Senate and House to iron out significant differences. The President is calling for this vote because his intention is an end run around the way the Senate and House have worked for decades on crafting legislation that becomes law, especially law that results in major social and economic reform for our nation. Mr. Obama is calling for this vote because he has invested all of his political capital on this measure and needs the House to go along with the Senate bill so he can sign a document and then tell the American people "I have reformed our health care system."

During the political campaign to get health care reform passed President Obama, Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi have disparaged the Republican party and along with many members of the media have declared the Republicans "the party of No." During this process the three of you, plus many of your fellow Democrats (though not all nor a majority as seen by the difficulty in passing the bills) have become the party of "Yes Sir and Yes Ma'am," with all due respect to Senator Boxer. Yes Sir, Senator Reid. Yes Sir, President Obama. Yes Ma'am, Speaker Pelosi.

You have followed the three leaders blindly and without a peep to your constituents, or for your constituents. The bill that the President is pushing for a vote on in the House was created with bribes, kick-backs, carve-outs, or whatever terminology you wish to use--perhaps something softer like compromise or negotiations. All I know, and most Californians paying attention, is that a State with a small portion of the number of residents on Medicaid/MediCal received assistance to cover the increased costs of the bill being passed. With more doctors than Florida treating patients covered under Medicare, California doctors are facing dramatic cuts in reimbursement, cuts that the bill eliminates for doctors in the Sunshine State. Louisiana, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nevada, Montana, North Dakota, all received special deals in the health care bill put together by Senator Reid in order to secure votes. And now you are going to vote for special consideration for other states residents at tremendous cost to your own.

Our state is broke and by all accounts should probably file bankruptcy if it could. This health care bill takes a over burdened MediCal system that bleeds funding already and forces tens of thousands of more Californians into the system--with no reimbursement from Washington. We can't pay for MediCal now, how will we pay for it if this bill passes?

Unemployment across the country and in California is climbing. In our City of Long Beach the official rate is over 14%. Every week, week after week, over 400,000 Americans file initial claims for unemployment insurance. Employers are doing all they can to keep people on payroll. During the past year as millions of Americans have lost their jobs the Federal government as added jobs, thousands. During the past year as millions of Americans have seen wages and compensation shrink Federal employees have seen pay increases. Every sector of the economy, except government employees, and more specifically Federal government employees, have suffered. This bill will create thousands of more jobs in the Federal government and over one hundred new departments. How can one of the stated purposes, simplifying the delivery of health care, be done when this bill requires more bureaucracy between me and my doctor?

This health care reform bill is supposed to be so great for the American people. If so why does it not start until after the 2012 elections? It is "scored" to be budget neutral and save money, but this number is chicanery as the taxes required to support the spending start right away with a two year head start before the expenses kick in. Why not calculate the cost when expenses and revenues are in effect? Is it because the bill then becomes a burden on a budget already Trillions in the red?

California is broke and costs are being added to our state budget as a result of this bill. Americans are out of work and added costs and burdens will be added to employers as a result of this bill. The United States is facing skyrocketing deficits and debt for the next several years, our debt burden will quickly approach 100% of Gross Domestic Product, and this bill will add billions and billions more dollars to the budget on the expense side of the ledger. This bill has special deals made to help several states to buy the votes of their representatives, paid for by Californians. This bill is not good for me, my family, my city, my state nor my country. Who is it good for?

This bill is not about what is best of the American people, nor Californians. This bill has become a political scoreboard for President Obama and the Democratic leadership. They want to say, need to say, "we passed health care reform." They are asking you, three loyal Democrats, to support them so they can win a political victory. Not a social victory, not an economic victory, not a victory of reform that benefits the majority of Americans today or in the future. But a personal political victory.

Once the House passes this bill President Obama will sign it and it becomes the law of the land. While the three leaders, Obama, Reid and Pelosi, have promised "reconciliation" to "fix" the bill; once signed there is no requirement to change it. The bill is law and they have gotten the "win." If to get votes they need to promise Democrats in the House that changes can be made to fix what will be the new law, then it should not pass. Do you not find there is something incredibly wrong with the logic of passing a law so you can then fix it? You are being asked to pass and support a broken piece of legislation.

As a constituent I ask you, my representatives in Washington, to please contact your party's leadership. Please communicate to the White House, the Majority Leader and the Speaker that Californians are against this burdensome legislation. Against a bill that must be fixed before it becomes law but will not be until after it is law. Against a bill that most Americans and Californians do not support.

Health care reform is needed. Despite what your leaders say, you know that Republicans and Democrats understand this. I believe that deep down you also know that this is not the way to go about the reform; using tricks and bribes and special deals and arm twisting. Deep down you know that this bill has become not about our country but about egos and politics. Is this really something you can be proud of? Something ten years from now you will say proudly, "I helped with this?"

Please, start over. Together show leadership for the nation. Tell Californians and America, "we believe health care reform can be achieved with the support of the American people and all members of Congress." Put forth a plan for reform, a plan showing a timeline and what issues will be tackled first, a plan that does not turn our entire health care system upside down, which despite the negative news needed to try to get this bill passed works very, very well for the overwhelming majority of Americans and Californians.

Please do not be part of a system that has to use tricks and arcane parliamentary procedure to pass a law that forever changes our nation. We deserve better, we deserve your representation and integrity to do what is best for your constituents.

Thank you,

Dennis C. Smith

To contact Senator Feinstein click here

To contact Senator Boxer click here

To contact Representative Richardson click here


Update: A DC Musing's reader in the 37th Congressional District was inspired by the post and sent a letter to Richardson as well, also requesting she vote "No" on the Senate version of the health care bill. He shared her response and granted permission for me to reproduce here.


Long Beach, CA 90807


Thank you for contacting me about health care reform. I appreciate the opportunity to hear your opinion on this issue.

As you may know, on November 7, 2009, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act of 2009. I voted for this legislation because I believe that now is the time for health care reform that American families can believe in and count on to be there when they need it most. Every 1-percent increase in the unemployment rate results in 1 million more people becoming uninsured. Providing health care for the uninsured costs insured American families $100 billion every year. With the unemployment rate at 10.2 percent across the nation, 12.5 percent in California, and as high as 20 percent in some areas of our district, it is even more urgent that healthcare reform be enacted.

I also voted for this bill because the fact that so many Los Angeles County residents are struggling to obtain and retain affordable, quality health insurance places a tremendous strain on hospitals and medical service providers. Within the past years, five community hospitals have ceased operations due to the inadequate level of reimbursement they received for providing millions of dollars in uncompensated care for the uninsured. Growing health care costs are also hampering the ability of businesses to create jobs. Health care costs for California business have increased 138% since 2006.

We need to be sure that any reform effort does not place additional burdens on the middle class or hurt our economy. I believe that real, effective reform needs to include a public option. H.R. 3962 includes a public option that will lead to increased competition and choice which will ensure that all Americans have an affordable choice among insurance providers to choose the plan that works best for their family. 1 in 5 Californians are uninsured or underinsured. These numbers are staggering and if we do nothing, they will only grow worse. Five percent of all the non-elderly uninsured persons in the nation reside in Los Angeles County. H.R. 3962 also eliminates the prescription drug donut hole for seniors so that they will always be able to obtain the medication they need.

Most importantly, I voted for H.R. 3962 because it provides American families with stability and peace of mind. Never again will they have to choose between their health and their livelihood. This bill provides American families with higher quality health care. It leaves important health decisions up to patients and doctors, not to insurance companies. This bill provides American families with greater choice. It creates a high-quality, robust, public health insurance option for families to choose from. Finally, this bill lowers costs for American families. It eliminates co-pays and deductibles for preventive care while putting an annual cap on out-of-pocket expenses for American families.

The hour is late and the need is great. I voted for H.R. 3962 because I believe we cannot squander the opportunity we have this year to reform the health care system so that it provides accessible, affordable, quality health care to all Americans. On December 24, 2009, the Senate passed its own version of the health care bill. I will be guided by these principals as the House of Representatives and the Senate enter into conference to reconcile the differences between their two bills.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me about health care reform. While we may not agree on this particular issue, I greatly value input from my constituents and I take all viewpoints into consideration when deciding how to vote. As your Congresswoman, I hope you will continue to inform me of your opinions so that I may best represent you in the future.


Laura A. Richardson

Member of Congress

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Just Some Questions

Below are questions I have asked myself throughout the past week. Instead of writing what my answers to them would be I am interested in any answers you may have, or additional questions you have asked yourself.

For the week starting Saturday March 6, 2010 here are some questions I have had:

Does it seem like the more email lists you unsubscribe from the more you seem to get?

Were you like me on Sunday night, worried that Cameron Diaz would mess up when she announced “Up” as the winner?

Have you ever dropped an electronic device, cell phone, pager, PDA, in a toilet?

Is it your inclination to initially trust or mistrust until proven trustworthy?

What is the difference between mistrust and caution?

Where does wind go?

The City of Concepcion, Chile was moved ten feet by the recent earthquake, do GPS systems recalibrate?

Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Henry Aaron or Mickey Mantle?

What happened to whitewalls?

How often do you have a scoop (okay, okay a bowl) of ice cream?

Did you give anything up for Lent?

Do you play cribbage? Any card games other than poker?

Lauren Bacall or Rita Hayworth?

Will Pelosi call a vote on the Senate version of health care reform this week?

Will it pass?

Read a book or watch a movie?

Should teachers be graded?

Favorite Disney animated movie?

If you were given the power to eliminate one Federal department what would it be?

Do you believe more government spending helps or hurts an economy?

Greatest athletic siblings?

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!

DCS 03062010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

11, 34, 44, 31, 52, 32

Here is a tough decision for you. Take $82.9 million dollars right away (less federal withholdoings), or get $134 million in equal payments of $6.7 million. Actually the decision is not that tough, take the cash, pay the IRS their $23.2 million and pocket almost $60,000,000 clear.

That is the decision John Dalkos has to make within the next sixty days after he walked into the California Lottery offices in Santa Ana on Monday with the winning ticket and the numbers shown in the title. Dalkos purchased his winning ticket at a neighborhood donut shop, whose winner will see a nice check in excess of $600,000.

Once Dalkos makes the decision we all would welcome the opportunity to make, he has some more decisions to make. While many say, "I'd just try to lead my normal life," a "normal" guy putting $60 million in the bank, and being plastered all over the media, precludes much of normalcy. Can you be "normal?" Would you want to be? As with all ethical and moral dilemmas and discussions, answer the question, "what would you do?"

Let's play a game of "what if?" What if you were the winner of mega-millions that guarantee that not only you do not need to punch a clock on a 9-5 job anymore, but if you so choose neither will your kids. What would you do?
This is a game I have played before, actually Leslie and I have played it on car trips or walks with the dog. "What if we won a big lottery jackpot and instantly had no financial concerns other than how to protect, invest, grow and allocate wealth?"

I have always said the first thing I would do is hire someone I have known and trusted for many years as an executive assistant. Toss over the Blackberry and say, "if they are not in here I don't know them and we don't talk to them and they don't talk to us." Can you imagine the creeps that come out looking to get their hands on any of Dalkos' $60 million clear? You think you get solicitations now, have the newspaper put your name and picture on the front page next to a check with nine digits on it. So step one, try to isolate from the greed headed my way.

Now we have to have some plans and think long term. Who gets what? You have family after all, what is "fair" in your mind versus their mind? How about setting up education trusts for all the neices and nephews guaranteeing their education through doctorates--as long as they not only stay enrolled but have meet minimum class requirements and grades over 3.0 (maybe 2.5 we'll see). After all we don't want to encourage career students. Get your education and go make something of it.

Do we give lump sums to our brothers and sisters? How much? How about carving out a portion and setting up an annuity that distributes a certain amount annually for twenty years? No big lump sum but a bit of help every year? That seems appropriate.

So we've taken care of the family with part of our $60 million, let's say that takes a total of $7 of it. We still have $53 million left. Okay, time to make some big divisions. For starters let's put $25 million into a foundation, $25 million into the lock-down account for growth and income, and $3 million for let's see what we may need account.

With your picture in the paper and the big check comes not only the hucksters trying to shake some of the cash out of you and onto them, but every charity and non-profit that can get in touch with you will do so. Many, most, have very compelling stories and missions, but we need a standard and criteria for donations--hence a foundation. Set up a foundation that will clearly set forth what types of charities will be given funds, all requests will be reviewed and decisions made based upon those guidelines. So we have family and community taken care of, what's next?

Oh, us! What do we do for ourselves? We have a little under $30 million left, what makes sense? Of course our lives will change, no more sweating how big the Amex bill will be or if we calculated right on our quarterly's, but how will we allow our lives to change? How about a budget? Take most of the money that is left and invest in some annuities and funds that will spin off income for either re-investment or living expenses. Protect the assets!

Will we still live in our current house? We like to think that yes we would. We love our neighborhood and neighbors. We like the house, but it needs a new kitchen, foundation work, new roof and I'd like to convert to solar. So we most likely would do a remodel and rehab on the place and move back in. As for cars, I like my Pilot, though Leslie wants a VW Bug convertible, I'm sure we can fit that in.

Vacations to exotic places? Most likely, but we need to be careful, the kids are in school and we don't want to disrupt their schedules so we would be looking at summer travel around their going to camp, or maybe a trip over Christmas break. Chances are I could finally justify $300+ green fees for Pebble Beach and firing off a score close to my lottery winnings.

Now the big question: work? Everyone asks about lottery winners, "would you still work?" I like to say, yes I would still work. What I don't know if exactly how that work would look. Because of my profession, mortgage broker, I can combine lottery winnings and work and help our company with more ability to fund mortgages while getting a return on investment. Plus I love what I do, helping families buy homes. Finally, if I weren't working and getting out of the house quite often during the week Leslie might go nuts. Leslie is the same way, she cannot sit still, even watching television at night she is writing, knitting, doing some project. Plus, we need to work to show our children what is expected and make sure they know that despite our good fortune, not working is not an option--for us or them.

Or we could go buy a bunch of land in the middle of Colorado build a big house and do nothing all day and hoard our money. Maybe a vacation home...

So I have a plan for when we win the big lottery. Of course it would help our chances if we bought lottery tickets.

What would you do? What if next week your numbers are pulled and $134 million fell into your lap?

Addendum: According to the California lottery website $0.95 (ninety-five cents) of every dollar spent on lottery tickets are "returned to the community" in prizes, commissions to stores that sell winning numbers and education. Thirty-four cents of every dollar goes into education and fifty-cents goes to winning payouts. Since 1985 the lottery has contributed over $22 billion to California schools.

Go buy your ticket, and have a plan for when you win!


Monday, March 8, 2010

Wither Accountability?

Dear Editor:
The students who came out to protest cuts to the education budgets that affect their futures will have opportunities to impact future budgets.
First they need to know that the education labor leaders who addressed them and organized the rallies represent local, state and national organizations that have pretty much supported the elected officials in Sacramento who control the majority in both the Assembly and Senate. It is they who have passed all the bills and budgets that have led to our state's financial crisis.

Locally, those students who are 18 or older should register to vote and know and remember in November that the following incumbents in the Long Beach area (all endorsed by teachers' unions) voted to pass the budgets that are costing teachers and programs at our local schools: State Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D), State Assembly member Bonnie Lowenthal (D) and Assembly member Wayne Furutani (D).

So students who carried signs and chanted at assemblies on Thursday, what are you going to do in November? Your votes matter; use them wiser than your parents did.

Dennis C. Smith
Long Beach

So read the Letter to the Editor published in the Press-Telegram Sunday morning. In case you missed it, across the state last Thursday, March 4th, organized labor helped organize protests on high school and college campuses. The stated purpose of the demonstrations was to protest the cuts to education budgets by the State government. A benefit for the organizers was the ability to deflect accountability.

Students are very malleable beings. Sitting for hours and hours in classrooms with the same teacher or professor, they spend more time listening to than their own parents--mainly because they spend more time awake with them. Teachers and professors are elevated to status of mentors and trainers. Adult role models who are greatly respected, and believed. So when the teachers and professors organize a protest and create an evil being known as "Sacramento" it is an easy transference of blame and accountability to "Sacramento."

What is missing in this case of education funding protests however, is the background. High school and college students should know to do some research on a problem. Do not accept what is presented as given, but rather determine if there are alternative viewpoints, other data, that may disprove the hypothesis presented.

A good academic paper will present a hypothesis, supporting documentation and arguments for the hypothesis, documentation and arguments against the hypothesis and then a conclusion as to whether the hypothesis is correct or not. How well the arguments are laid out and tied together determines how good the paper is.

The hypothesis presented to the students, and public, on Thursday was that Sacramento cut funding for education.... That's it. Protest the cuts. No why were the budgets cut. No who were the actual individuals responsible for the budget cuts, with the exception of Governor Schwarzenegger being mentioned from time to time because of his party affiliation. No mention of who the speakers have supported with money, volunteers and votes for decades. Just, chant, waive signs and cheer for us as we say, "Our state must spend more money on education."

And the students did, making their teachers proud.

But if the teachers and academic leaders on stage at the protests do not tell the whole story what they are doing is deflecting accountability for the current budget crisis from themselves to some boogieman named "Sacramento." By shirking their own accountability our teachers and academic leaders are teaching our students that such behavior is okay. As long as there is someone else upon whom you can focus blame go ahead and do it.

With all the problems in our education systems perhaps the greatest has been the erosion of teaching and ingraining personal responsibility and accountability in our youth. I entered school as a kindergartner in Mrs. Weeks class in Tulsa, Oklahoma in September 1967. We had punishments if we did not follow the rules. Mats moved, after class work cleaning erasers and blackboards, restocking supplies. Having moved to the suburbs of Philadelphia where I attended a few years of junior high school I, and my fellow students were introduced to detention. High school was filled with accountability from poor grades to getting pulled off teams for having negative comments on report cards. Every student was expected to perform to a given standard and behave according to the rules of the school, and society.

Kids who were perpetual miscreants were removed, quickly, not only from the school but from the system. While we lived in Pennsylvania more than a few kids were gone one day and we would learn that Jimmy had been put in the Valley Forge Military Academy, setting for the movie "Taps." For a week or so we would sit a little straighter, fidget a lot less and hop right on whatever our teacher requested. We learned of accountability.

We learned also of personal responsibility through group actions. If the teacher was unable to discern who had peppered the board wit spitballs and no one stepped forward, the whole class would be disciplined. Was it fair to Abby Burkholder or Christy Freeman who had nothing to do with the spitballs? Absolutely not, but you know that Rich McCrory and Dennis Smith heard about from them on the playground--and that we then told Mrs. Landis, "we did it." We learned to hold ourselves accountable.

Today our students are held to lower expectations. A few years ago California began requiring students must pass an exit exam to be eligible to receive a high school diploma. Protests. Cries of "unfair." A simple exam that determines if a student has learned a basic level of information that should be known to be considered a "high school graduate" was protested! Why? Because it would damage the self-esteem of those children who cannot pass the exam. Too bad. Perhaps their "self-esteem" should have been hurt more often growing up and they would have been better students, striving to learn and get passing grades. Except they are not even given grades, my children are given "evaluations" and levels of achievement.

Now our students are being led by members of their local teachers' union to protest cuts to education budgets that are impacting the students. Fewer teachers, nurses, librarians, classes and programs are the result of Sacramento's malfeasance in regards to the budget. And the students should be protesting these cuts. They should be upset by the tremendous impact on their futures because of lawmakers voted into office by others while they were in grade school or middle school.

They should also be directing those protests at their teachers and professors. They should be holding those who stand in front of them in the classroom accountable for their votes and campaign support that have elected the officials in Sacramento who have squandered their education resources and created more challenging futures.

But because over the years the concepts and realities of "accountability" and "personal responsibility" have been eroded. Because they have seen classmates, or themselves, passed through grades despite failing grades. Because they or their classmates have been slapped on the wrist, figuratively since corporal punishment is not allowed, for significant behavioral transgressions. Because they have been led to believe that the next level of education should be yours whether you can perform the work or not. Because of schools that are unable to discipline children because of parents who will go to court and sue, because of state laws that are geared to what is "fair" instead of what is best for statewide education. Because of all these factors most of our students are unclear, many even unaware, of what accountability means, of what it means to take personal responsibility. To be certain parents have greater responsibility in this than teachers, life's lessons are to be learned and instilled at home first, however on the issue of education budgets the dots connect most vividly through the education professionals.

This lack of awareness was on full display Thursday. Teachers' union leaders who have helped craft labor agreements that protect bad teachers that remove accountability screamed demands for more spending for teachers and classrooms. Faculty members who have tenure and cannot be fired and are guaranteed high salaries for life railed about the funding cuts that restrict classes and programs. I guarantee every speaker at everyone of these protests voted the straight party line of their organizations that has supported and enabled the Democratic majority to maintain a stranglehold on Sacramento for well over a decade.

A decade where spending has doubled. A decade of poor fiscal management that has led us to where we are today. A decade with no accountability or personal responsibility as those in office continued to receive contributions, mailers, phone banks and votes from the education communities.

The lessons of accountability and personal responsibility are now upon the education community. Blindly following the party line and ignoring the results and long term consequences of the actions they have supported thousands are now losing their jobs. Classrooms are having more students. Phys Ed and yearbook are being cut.

As we head towards elections in November we will see if members of the education community have learned their lessons, if they will continue to allow their donations and dues to support the same failed budget ideas from the same people they have been supporting their whole careers.

Given the failure of many to teach accountability and personal responsibility, I doubt they will be able to learn it.

Update: Friend Suzanne reminded me I had posted several moths ago on accountability and personal responsibility, "What Americans Want: Responsibility and Accountability" centered on opinion poll taken in September. Thanks Suzanne!


Friday, March 5, 2010

Just Some Questions

Below are questions I have asked myself throughout the past week. Instead of writing what my answers to them would be I am interested in any answers you may have, or additional questions you have asked yourself.

For the week starting Saturday February 27, 2010 here are some questions I have had:

Can you explain this, “A bill can be bipartisan without bipartisan votes?”

What is your favorite eatery for breakfast? How often do you visit?

What good is it to try to prevent some families from going bankrupt if you have to bankrupt the country to do it?

Why is the noun marinade and the verb marinate?

Dell or HP?

Does accountability matter to anyone?

Do members of Congress ever get audited by the IRS?

Will you be impacted at all if the Post Office stops Saturday delivery?

The earthquake in Chile is said to have shifted earth on its axis by three inches, what will that do to the global warming “science?”

“Alice In Wonderland?” Going to see it?

Who determined how the twenty-six letters of the alphabet would be laid out on the telephone numbers?

Best Actor?

Congressman who voted against healthcare bill in the House is suddenly resigning over sexual harassment allegations, coercion?

Remember when phone numbers began with a word, the first two letters of the word were the first two numbers for your phone number? (Ours was RIverside)

When guidelines are misinterpreted and the interpretation flies in face of common sense how do you react?

Best musical score for a foreign film in which no pianos were used and the conductor was left handed?

What word was used for those whose number began 7 (PQRS) – 9 (WXYZ) or vice-versa?

Best picture?

Relative of Congressman who voted against health care bill the first time through the House is appointed to Federal judiciary, bribe?

The politics of politics are worse than the subtractions of the whole from the pieces, make sense?

You can't drink alchohol in Saudi Arabia, what happens if you get off the plane drunk?

Best Actress?

Are these questions being written by my daughters or are they landing planes at LBC?

Is a legacy enough of a reason to forever alter our economy and health care delivery and burden our children and grandchildren with Trillions of dollars of debt?

Prime rib or filet?

Do you think anyone at a protest against Sacramento budgets should say who they voted for in the past few elections before making their speech?

Cookies or Pie?

So those are the questions, what are your answers?

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Your Tax Dollars At Work

Normal as these things go, the announcement came late Friday afternoon as Washington was empty except for the cleaning crews and crime reporters. Fannie Mae issued a press release announcing it lost $72 billion in 2009. Billion.

Guaranteed by the United States Treasury. Guaranteed.

By comparison the mortgage giant's little brother, Freddie Mac, seems like a slacker in losing only $21 billion in 2009. Also guaranteed.

Fannie and Freddie operated until 2008 as "Government Sponsored Entities," or GSE's. While publicly traded companies with stocks on the NYSE and upper management pulling down the requisite million dollar plus bonuses. But they were also under the supervision of a government regulator to ensure they were following their charters and enabling American families homeownership and investors mortgage backed securities in a safe and fair series of markets.

This relationship changed in 2008 when the government took over both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This was done to prevent them from collapsing and completely wiping out over half of the mortgage financing in America. Since the takeover the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury have made moves to try to ensure the flow of mortgage funds to allow Americans to pursue homeownership and refinance or modify their existing mortgages to lower monthly mortgage obligations and perhaps stave off foreclosure.

Now it starts to get a bit expensive for you. Yes, you. You pay taxes? While the media and debates have been clearly focused on the health care debates and how many Trillions of dollars may be shoved, pushed, crammed through Congress to allow President Obama to smile and say, "I did it," while this has been going on, in other sectors of the government billions are being spent with only a handful of Wall Street Journal readers noticing. So far over one Trillion dollars has been spent by the government on Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the mortgage markets.

At the time of the GSE takeover the Treasury pledged to back limited losses to ensure Fannie and Freddie could operate with liquidity needed to buy and sell mortgages. In early 2009 the Federal Reserve announced a plan to purchase $1.2 Trillion in mortgage backed securities to ensure liquidity in the mortgage markets and facilitate low mortgage rates to assist current homeowners with refinancing and prospective homeowners with lower payments. The Fed's mortgage purchase plan will end March 31st and on its exit will leave a gaping hole in the mortgage securities market. Or will it?

Now that it will own $1.2 Trillion of mortgages the Fed will need to start to unload those assets. After all wasn't it an overburden of mortgages that unbalanced the balance sheets of brokerage houses and banks? Of the mortgages funded in the past year, almost all of them have been purchased in the form of mortgage backed securities by the Federal Reserve. Not a very diversified portfolio. As the Fed looks to dump the mortgage holdings it will be competing with the new mortgages hitting the market as well as the U.S. Treasury that is issuing another Trillion in U.S. debt in the form of Treasury bills.

Not to worry however because we still have Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and you are making sure they will be able to operate with business as usual, which means lose money. Remember the movie "Arthur" where Dudley Moore played the trust fund multi-millionaire who walked around drunk all the time? That is about where Fannie and Freddie are today after Christmas Eve.

As businesses closed early on Christmas Eve and Americans scrambled to find that last minute gift for Aunt Caroline or horseradish for the Prime Rib, any news on the radio and television was focused on the Senate and the bare passage of Majority Leader Harry Reid's health care bill. This culmination of months of debate, bribes and arm twisting was the perfect cover for the Treasury Department.

On December 24, 2009 the U.S. Treasury announced that it was covering all of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's losses for the next three years--no limit. Lose as much as you want and the United States Treasury (taxpayer) will pick up the losses. Now don't get too excited because after the three years then the Treasury will become very strict and limit loss coverage to $400 billion.

Part of the reason for the loss guarantees are the programs that have been brought forth by the Obama Administration to "help" homeowners in mortgage trouble. The Administration has enacted a mortgage modification program that has gone nowhere as it is ill conceived. Trying to force lenders into cramming down principle balances and interest rates on mortgages, the Administration is essentially forcing billions of dollars of losses on the banks. With the loss guarantees banks have been able to sell billions of dollars of mortgages back to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and let them take the losses that federal programs require.

Banks do not have to modify legal contracts. The government wants them to. Borrowers call their lender and say, "what about the Obama modification plan?" Lenders now say, "need to check with the mortgage owner." And it sits for months as the communication goes from borrower to lender to investor. With the loss guarantees the hope is that more mortgages come under direct control of Fannie and Freddie, especially delinquent mortgages, so homeowners can work directly with the investor to modify their mortgages.

With over $3 Trillion in mortgages on Fannie's balance sheet there is an tremendous opportunity for greater losses as unemployment continues to grow and homeowners see the opportunity to lower their mortgage balances and payments by missing a few payments and then negotiating a loan modification. More and more Americans are making their credit card payments and skipping mortgage payments--you can use a credit card to buy your kid a pair of shoes or some hamburger meat but you can't use negative equity.

Already into the Treasury for almost $100 billion the GSEs are on the looking to substantial increase that number in 2010. Between absorbing new mortgages on the market from the exit of the Fed and their purchase program, absorbing delinquent mortgages from lenders, loan losses through modifications and on top of that foreclosures, the losses will mount quickly as the Administration uses taxpayer funds to support the GSEs.

What is happening is the Administration's policy is to try to guarantee as many American homeowners as possible maintain their homes, and if possible see their mortgage payments go down. Regardless of whether their mortgages in default or that are above their homes' values are because of cash-out refinances or where well above common sense qualifying standards, Obama wants you to help these people out and subsidize their mortgages.

Between the mortgage assets held by the Fed, the losses that will rack up through the GSEs and the philosophy of the Administration to subsidize as many mortgages as possible at a loss to the lender (U.S. taxpayer) I feel the final tab to the U.S. taxpayer will surpass two Trillion.

By the way, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has announced that any reform of Fannie and Freddie will not be considered until sometime next year. I can save the Treasury Secretary some time. Put Fannie and Freddie on the auction block and sell to the highest bidder, let the open market take care of them.


Monday, March 1, 2010

John Eastman For Attorney General

"Securing the Blessings of Liberty" is a powerful statement. Breaking it down, "securing" implies protection, strength and keeping something we already have. "Blessings" are an acknowledgement of Divine guidance and abundance enhancing our lives for which we are grateful. "Liberty" the essence of America and the freedoms and rights we enjoy unlike any other people in history. Securing the Blessings of Liberty.

John Eastman has a very impressive biography. Until he recently stepped down Eastman has been the Dean of the Chapman University School of Law. He has argued cases before the United States Supreme Court. As a clerk for Associate Justice Clarence Thomas he has had a hand in shaping opinions for the Court. Taking up cases that involve our Constitution and issues such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion and voters' rights, Eastman has taken on states and municipalities and prevailed.

Our current Attorney General in California is Edmund G. Brown, Jr., aka Jerry. Past governor of California, past Mayor of Oakland, Brown is well known for taking his own path and direction. As Attorney General of California he has continued on his own path, expanding the powers and office of Attorney General. Brown has altered some ballot initiative language so drastically that the result is not near the intention, causing supporters to re-write their initiative time and again,, costing them critical time to gain signatures and support (see Vote Safe Now).

On the Attorney General website, or "Jerry's Page," Brown touts his allegiance to the cult of global warming, "Global climate change is happening because of human activities." He must not of read the news out of England and elsewhere showing the false reports and manipulation of records that have led Brown and his fellow Travellers to this false conclusion. Brown has used his office as California's top law enforcement official to push the global warming agenda and spend resources that should be dedicated to protecting California residents and its Constitution to promoting his agenda.

It is time for Californians to be represented by an Attorney General who knows and understands the United States and California Constitutions. Time for an Attorney General who understands the separation of powers, the rights of the individual, the benefits of smaller government and the power of the people over the government. Time for California to have as its Attorney General not a career politician whose agenda involves more time as a politician, but an attorney who is an expert on Constitutional law with a track record of winning court cases instead of elections.

John Eastman is new to politics and running for office. What he is not new to is representing Californians and Americans as they sue for their rights as guaranteed by the the Constitution. Eastman is not interested in expanding the powers of office if elected, he is interested in fulfilling the obligation of the office to protect and defend the Constitution, and the people, of California. Eastman knows the office of Attorney General is to enforce California's laws, not make them. Whereas Brown has argued in defence of releasing ten of thousands of prisoners early from their sentences, elevating the rights of criminals over those of victims and citizens, Eastman will reign back in the liberal expansion of criminals rights and elevate those of victims and citizens.

John Eastman has fought many courageous battles in courts across the country to protect our Constitution from those who deny others their liberties and rights as Americans. Isn't this what we want from our top law enforcement official in California? Don't we need a strong, bright and sensible Attorney General who is not concerned with his political career but rather his job of protecting us? Eastman has already done this throughout his legal career. Now instead of representing Californians in individual cases, he wishes to represent them full time as the People's Attorney.

I wholeheartedly endorse and support John Eastman for Attorney General of California. It is my hope that you join me in this support. If you are a registered Republican you will have the chance to vote twice for Eastman, once in the primary and again in November. If you are not a registered Republican I hope you are open minded to look across the party line and find the opportunity to meet Eastman and hear what he has to say.

"Securing the Blessings of Liberty" is Eastman's campaign theme. It is a vision and a mission for him and for California. I hope you are able to agree with me and support John Eastman for Attorney General.

On March 8th Eastman is having a fundraiser in Long Beach, if you are interested in attending please let me know and I will forward details to you in the next day or two when I receive them.

Please visit John Eastman For Attorney General and learn more about him and his campaign dedicated to keeping California secure and free.

DCS 03012010