Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Los Angeles Unified School District

The Los Angeles Unified School District is always stating that they need more money. This is probably true, since they serve over 600,000 students annually, and with only about 37,000 teachers. Every school teacher I know has had to use their own money to buy things for their classroom. These things include chalk, erasers, notebooks and the like, but also often include books for their students.

Something is obviously wrong with our society when teachers (already fairly low paid) have to use their own money to buy school supplies. One of the problems here in Los Angeles is that Proposition 13 was passed many years ago. This legislation was good in that it reduced the value of houses in the state, but bad in what it has done to our schools.

Back in the 40s and 50s, many people moved to Los Angeles because they liked the year-round nice weather, and the job market was expanding. Many of these people had been stationed here during the war and wanted to stay. Houses were soon built on a large scale and suburban areas were particularly attractive, as the cost of housing was much lower than in the city proper.

Los Angeles grew and as it grew, housing values increased. This was a problem because salaries did not increase accordingly, and property taxes are based on the value of the house. A family living in a two bedroom house that cost $40,000 with the father earning $20,000 annually was doing well, but when that house increased in value to $100,000 the tax bill became so high that the family could not pay. Houses were being seized by the state in lieu of payment. Proposition 13 ended this.

With Proposition 13 your tax rate is based on what you paid for the house. That amount is allowed to increase by a very small percentage annually, but when a spike in housing value happens, it does not change your tax rate. This is all well and good, but the writers of Prop 13 went too far. It also includes houses that are given from a parent to a child or a grandchild.

These houses are often sold without the sale being declared, so the parent receives money from their child and the child continues paying taxes at the parents' rate. Property taxes are where the money comes from to fund the school districts. When these amounts are being decreased, the money to schools decreases.

We certainly need to look at Prop 13 again, not to abolish it, but to improve it. Areas where our schools suffer need to be addressed. Added to this, we need to get the parents of school children more involved in schools. We should enact tuition for all students in our district. $100 per student per year is a small amount to pay, but this amount would generate $68,000,000 in additional money for our schools.

Added to this, every parent should be required to work at their child's school for five hours per month. Five hours is a very small amount of time, and no parent can claim they cannot do this. They can forego five hours of television per month to put in their time at their childs' school.

For parents with more than one child, it was their choice to have children. Children are not free, and parents need to take more responsibility for their children. This is one way of accomplishing that.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Who Made This Economic Mess

Our nation is facing the worst economic disaster since the great depression, but where should we place the blame for it? As Americans, we enjoy pointing the finger, and both sides of the aisle will steadfastly accuse the other of being the proximate cause, and both with sound arguments. As I see it, the cause rests squarely on the shoulders of the Democrats AND the Republicans.

Republicans have traditionally been the party of big business and the wealthy, which often go hand-in-hand. The wealthy own the businesses, comprise the upper echelon of the management and own stock in the corporations. What ever is good for the business is good for their wallets, and the Republican party subscribes to that.

Democrats, on the other hand, follow a different tact. Where Republicans represent the wealthy, Democrats represent the poor. The Republicans are the owners of the businesses, but the workers are often Democrats. Both are responsible for the mess we're currently in, but they have added to the problem from different angles.

As representatives of the worker, Democrats often stand up for unions. Union workers enjoy good salaries and benefits due to their ability to band together and make demands of the business owners. While no one can argue that every American deserves a clean, safe workplace and to be paid a livable wage, unions often go above and beyond what is reasonable. Their logic is that if the businesses can afford to pay executives exhorbitant salaries, then the workers should be compensated highly as well.

This sounds all well and good, but there are problems with it. In the first place, the cost of these wages and benefits are passed on to the consumer. In the second place, mediocrity is being rewarded. Union workers are often compensated based solely on the fact that they are already employed, not on anything they have done to make themselves worth more. While anyone can spend the money and time to go back to school and get a degree, many union workers choose not to, but are still demanding wages exceeding those paid to someone with a degree.

The Democrats don't see this as a problem, and continue their union affiliations. If the legislature were to come out with a ceiling based on job and education level, the unions would have a fit, but such a measure would have done much to prevent the economic downfall in which we currently find ourselves.

The Republicans, on the other hand, continue to support the business owners. Years ago, as union wages rose the businesses decided they needed to cut costs, and one of the first places they did this was with their own operators. At one time in this country, when you called a company a person answered the phone and routed your call appropriately. Now you get a recorded voice and you must enter numbers to let the machine know where your call should be sent. If you don't fall within the parameters set up by the creator of the system, your call often goes unanswered.

All of these operators lost their jobs. Note that these were not the highest paying jobs, but they were jobs. People had them and relied upon them to pay their bills. Without these jobs, a segment of our society became unproductive, and their spending was curtailed. This, however, was not enough for the business owners. Other jobs were to follow. More and more businesses outsourced their Human Resources departments, their Customer Service departments, their Sales departments and their IT departments and much of this outsourcing was done in foreign countries. More Americans lost their jobs to the greed of the corporations, and more people had less money to spend.

Our economy has fallen apart and in order to rebuild it we need reform. Real reform. We need jobs at all levels, and those jobs must pay respectful wages and benefits. Those jobs should not pay exhorbitant wages. If someone wishes to better themselves, they should do that with education and training, not union affiliation.

At the same time, corporations must limit executive salaries. The executives of all corprorations should be paid no more than five times the salary of the lowest paid person in the company. All other benefits should be the same for all employees, be they executive or worker.

These reforms would not only end this recession, but they would ensure the prevention of another. In order for these reforms to work, Democrats and Republicans must work together. I wonder if I will ever see that happen.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

City Council Member Violates Water Restrictions

One would think from the title of this post that I would be against the Councilman, but the opposite is the case. Here in Los Angeles the Department of Water and Power ("DWP") initiated a rule to enforce water conservation. This is all well and good, but as often happens when a utility is given too much authority, the ruling they passed doesn't make any sense.

As it currently stands, residents may only water their lawns twice a week; before 9:00 a.m. and after 4:00 p.m. and for no more than 15 minutes per station. This in itself is a problem, since these are not necessarily the most optimal times for ensuring that the water does not evaporate. It also restricts the freedom of the citizens who do not have automated sprinklers, as it dictates that they must be home at certain times.

What is most onerous about the rule is that it can only be done on Mondays and Thursdays, which is a blatant violation of the rights of the citizens. One cannot pursue happiness if one must be at home watering one's lawn. While restricting water usage is a good thing, attempting to legislate days and hours when water may be used is illogical and quite frankly, stupid.

Now for the Councilman. Greig Smith has admitted that he is violating the DWP's rule by running his sprinklers not twice a week, but three times a week. What makes his way better is that he runs his sprinklers for eight minutes each time. At three times a week, he is running his sprinklers a total of 24 minutes per week. Using the DWP's method, he would be running his sprinklers for 30 minutes each week. Assuming that he uses 1 gallon of water per minute, he saves 6 gallons of water per week, or 312 gallons per year.

This is not enough for the idiots at the DWP. Joe Ramallo, a spokesman for the DWP, has stated that if the DWP witnesses Smith not following their schedule, Smith will be cited and then fined. For using less water than what the DWP allows.

I think it's time we get new people working for the DWP. Ones who think would be nice. It's also time our City Council change this legislation.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Townhall Meetings and the Democratic Response

Someone explain this to me. All across the country there have been townhall meetings held by representatives of both houses to explain healthcare reform to their constituents. This is all well and good, but apparently there have been people showing up at these meetings whose only purpose for being there is to disrupt the meeting. They aren't interested in the democratic process or in the need of healthcare for the underserved in our country, but are only interested in ensuring that these meetings are not fruitful.

What I don't understand is why they are allowed. From everything I've seen these people are being brought to these meetings by the busload. Every elected representative in both the House and the Senate have staff working for them. Are these staff members present at these meetings? If not, why not? If they are, are they checking the IDs of the people entering the townhalls to ensure that they live in the area served by that representative? If not, why not?

For the Senate, this only means the person needs to live in the given state, but for the Congress, it's much more restricted. If someone from a different district is doing the demonstrating at the meeting, why are they even there? By denying access to the meeting their freedom of speech is not being denied, as they have the right to speak to their own representative. The constitution does not give freedom of access to meetings.

It seems to me that the Democratic Party is not doing a very good job of addressing this issue, and I'm very disappointed in the party for this. I would hope to see better thinking on the part of the Democrats. We are, after all, the thinking party.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Progressive vs. Conservative Talk Shows

Many people refuse to ask the big questions. Why are we here? Why do we die? What happens next? These questions often either get glossed over or we create fantastic answers that are meant to calm our nerves, even though we don't have any evidence to prove them.

By the same token, many people don't ask questions that when answered reveal quite a lot. For example, did you know that four of Barack Obama's top twenty contributors are institutions of higher education? It's true. That amounts to 20% of his top twenty. How does McCain compare? Zero. Not one of his top twenty contributors is an institute of higher learning.

What does this mean? That the intelligentsia back Barack Obama. That people who think for a living prefer progressive politics. That people who care about education support Democratic candidates.

This explains a lot. I've long felt that the Democratic party was the party of higher intellectual ability. I'm waiting for Mensa to send all of the members a questionnaire asking us our political affiliation so I will finally have something to support my beliefs but until then, I have to look for evidence in other areas. The support of Democratic candidates by universities is a step in the right direction.

This also explains the proliferation of right-wing talk shows. Anyone with a brain can tell that these people are not speaking truths, and are intentionally misleading their listeners. Of course they are. Because they can. Their listeners are easily mislead.

This also explains why there are so few progressive shows. We don't need a talking head to tell us what to think. We can do that for ourselves.

It's the right-wing who can't.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Healthcare Reform

The following letter was sent to Senators Susan Collins, Mary Landrieu, Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Olympia Snowe and Ron Wyden. If any of them respond, I'll post their response on here as well.

Dear Senators:

I am writing to the six of you in regards to the letter you all signed urging a slow down in the time-line on the issue of healthcare for all Americans. While I agree with you that this matter is extremely urgent and must be done right, I have to disagree with you on the need for slowing down the process.

Earlier this week a friend of mine asked me to accompany him to a local emergency room. My friend was experiencing chest pains severe enough to warrant being seen by a medical professional. Unfortunately, like many other Americans, my friend does not have health insurance, and therefore we were forced to go to the local county hospital. Before being seen by a physician, we sat in the waiting room for over 16 hours. From speaking with other patients who had been to this emergency room, and from the staff of the hospital, we found that such a wait was not uncommon.
If my friend had been fortunate enough to have health insurance, he could have gone to another hospital where the wait time would have been under an hour. The lack of insurance necessitated going where he would be able to afford to pay the bill. It was only two days after this experience that I read of your letter to the Senate.

I am surprised that any of you would ask for additional time for this measure, given that all of you have been in office long enough to have had time to prepare for this. In fact, other than Al Franken, I don't think anyone in the Senate should require additional time to get this legislation passed. Joe Lieberman has been in the Senate since 1988, Olympia Snowe since 1994, Susan Collins, Mary Landrieu and Ron Wyden since 1996 and Ben Nelson since 2004. All of you have had sufficient time to prepare for passage of this legislation, but apparently, none of you have bothered to do this until it was forced upon you.

I would ask all of you to put your money where your mouths are. If you want additional time on this matter, then show the American people that you are serious about passage of this legislation. Cancel your own medical insurance for you and your covered family members until this measure is passed into law. Should you or any of your covered love ones experience an illness during that time, I can give you directions to the county hospital where I sat for nearly a full day.

After you have experienced sitting with an ill loved one for that long, then tell me that we should slow down the time-line for passage of this legislation. Until then, show some respect for the many Americans who currently do not have health insurance and get this measure passed.

Monday, July 6, 2009


There is a little-known religious group here in America that is very misunderstood. I would like to take a few moments to explain these people and their belief system. Many people scoff at the religious beliefs of others, but it is important to keep an open mind when dealing with other people's beliefs. Just because they are different than yours does not make them any less.

These people belong to the World Wide Church of the Holy Cabbage and are known as Cabbagists, for short. Their religion is often referred to as Cabbagism, although they prefer to call themselves the WWC of the HC. Cabbagism is what I shall use in this writing, whether they like it or not.

The principle tenet of Cabbagism is that God is a giant head of cabbage existing somewhere out in the universal and bestowing blessings upon his followers, but no one else. In respect to their deity, Cabbagists refrain from eating cabbage in any form, and feel that cole slaw is the destruction of their Creator and is therefore blasphemous. The eating of cole slaw is a grave sin, and an even more grave sin is the eating of sauerkraut. As the Cabbagists say, "the road to hell is paved with sauerkraut."

In certain states of this country, Cabbagists get together in the middle of the night and raid local farms where cabbage is grown. They strike while the plants are still young and easily transported, but wait until far enough into the growing season that a new crop could not be started before the seasons change. This has caused quite a bit of consternation among the local farmers, many of whom have resorted to hiring security guards to patrol their cabbage patches at night. This has resulted in an increased price of cabbage at local supermarkets.

No one is quite sure what the Cabbagists do with the cabbage plants they dig up, since they certainly can't eat them. If they tossed them into a landfill that would be tantamount to killing them, which is certainly just as bad as eating them. In all likelihood they are using them in their own gardens, but as ornamental plants rather than food crops. They use them as hedges and borders, for example. Cabbagists have very strange looking front yards, and often an inordinate amount of rabbits.

Now as it happened, one day a Cabbagist succeeded in being elected to public office, since most voters don't take the time to thoroughly check out their candidates. This one was particularly good-looking, and that might explain how he won by such a large margin. At any rate, he was not only elected to a post, but that position was as United States Senator. This was indeed a prestigious position and one that had never been held by a Cabbagist previously. This particular Senator spent his time garnering favors from both sides of the aisle, and was successful in getting both houses to pass the Cabbage Reform Act. This Act made the growing of cabbage for human consumption a crime, and outlawed the possession, sale or use of cole slaw and sauerkraut throughout the United States.

You can imagine what the outcry was against this Act, but the government passed it into law and therefore the people were forced to obey it. It wasn't long before cole slaw was found on the black market, and whole divisions of police forces were set up to fight the War on Cabbage. Many United States citizens were known to cross the borders into either Mexico or Canada where they could enjoy cole slaw without fear of retribution, since neither of these countries passed a similar law.

The economies of several major cities suffered from this legislation, as the sales of hot dogs at sporting events plummeted without the benefit of sauerkraut to put on them.

With the passage of this law came much rejoicing among the Cabbagists, as you can imagine. They could now worship their God peacefully knowing that cabbage was sacred among all the peoples of this nation.

This story comes with a moral; all religious beliefs are valid, and everyone is entitled to their own spirituality, but no one has the right to force their beliefs on anyone else. Forcing others to conform to your beliefs only invites others to do the same to you. Treat others as you would have them treat you. Respect their beliefs.

This story also illustrates why religion and politics need to remain separated. Our elected officials all have their own beliefs, but when they are acting in their official capacities, they represent us. All of us. As such they need to remain balanced in their decisions. Failure to do so might result in the loss of sauerkraut and cole slaw.

Monday, June 29, 2009

My Retirement

Tomorrow is my 50th birthday. As I sit here I can't help but wonder what the next third of my life will be like. I also have to start thinking about retirement, and what the economy will be like in my future. Many pundits tie the economy in this country to the office of the president, and there might be some merit to that. While the president certainly cannot single-handedly change the economy, he (or one day she) does have influence over it.

I was able to find historic Dow Jones Industrial Averages going back to when Jimmy Carter first became president, and the numbers are quite interesting. When Jimmy took office the DJIA was at $962. When he left the White House the Dow had dropped to $950. Granted this is a slight drop in the Dow, but it's still a loss.

Ronald Reagan took over from Jimmy and his presidency saw the Dow increase from 950 to $2,235. This is a sizable increase, and over the entire term of his presidency it averages an increase of $160 each year.

George Bush, Sr. increased Reagan's $2,235 to $3,241. Since Bush was only in office for one term, this equates to an increase of $251 per year, which was even better than Reagan's impressive increase.

Bill Clinton took office in 1993 when the Dow was at $3,241 and left in 2001 when the Dow towered at $10,587. His presidency saw the Dow increase an average of $918 each year of his presidency. This is more than George Bush and Ronald Reagan combined.

George W. Bush was sworn in on January 20, 2001 and left office on January 20, 2009. He took Bill Clinton's $10,587 and reduced it to $7,949 or a loss of $329 per year average for his eight years in office.

What does this mean for my retirement? It means if I invest in the stock market I need to hope for another leader like Bill Clinton if I want to be able to enjoy my golden years. Another George Bush, Sr. or Ronald Reagan would allow me to retire with security, although I might not have extra money. Another presidency like George W. Bush means I won't be able to retire until I'm well past my 100th birthday.

Let's see what Barack is able to do.

Update; October 10, 2013 - Well, so far Barack is doing just fine.  The $7,949 when he took office has grown by 90% to 15,126.  Since he's been in office less than five years, that's a staggering $1,435 increase per year, better than any other presidency in this survey.  And all of this in spite of the fact that he has to deal with a majority in the House who refuse to work with him.

No wonder the American people love him so much!

Monday, May 4, 2009

What's Wrong With Being Right?

When I was a younger man attending my first college (there have been seven so far, but that's another story for another day), Arlen Specter was elected to the Senate.  Like me, he was a Pennsylvanian, and like me he had firm beliefs on various topics.  Those beliefs didn't always agree with mine, but that's how life goes.  The only way to get all of your beliefs represented is to get elected yourself.  And, like me, Arlen Specter was a Republican.

That was back in the early 80s.  When I first registered to vote I registered as a Republican, using reasoning that now makes no sense at all, but actually using my registration as a means of attempting to break out of a family mold.  All of my family were democrats, going back for as far back as I can find, and all of my beliefs align with the Democratic party, so what caused me to be a Republican?  Looking back, I can only believe that it had to do with being a closeted homosexual.  That through my political affiliation I was "striking out" against the status quo.  That I was trying to make a statement, albeit in a feeble voice.

I soon came to my senses and changed my affiliation to Democrat.  This decision was easily made since I had never once voted for a Republican when I had any other option.  Now, like me, Arlen Specter has seen the light and changed parties.  No, I don't think this means that he's a closeted homosexual.

When I registered Republican, I was young and impetuous, and I didn't remain a Republican for more than a few years.  With Specter, that's not the case.  He's been in the Senate for over 25 years, always as a Republican.  He's considerably older than I am, and yet he is now switching parties, and I have to say, I'm not surprised.

The Republican Party has continued a downhill slide that has grown into an avalanche.  The party that existed when I joined no longer exists.  The current party has become one of malicious lies and those lies will continue to cause the party to implode.  The sad thing is, it's not just the elected officials who are spreading lies.

Much of America sees the Republican Party as represented by the likes of Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck.  These men are ruining the Grand Old Party.  By spreading lies about America and her leaders they cause a rift in our society, and a rift that does nothing to help ease the wounds of this nation, but lines their own pockets.  By sowing the seeds of discontent they further their own careers at the detriment of our society.

I have to wonder when the rest of America will join the likes of Arlen Specter and wise up to the antics of these ultra conservatives and their petty antics.  It is my fervent hope that one day, all of America will join in a boycott of any companies that advertise on any of their programs, or in any newspapers that give them column space.  Perhaps then, when the liars are silenced, America will have a chance to become truly, one nation, with liberty and justice for all.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The State of the State

California is in a terrible state right now, at least financially.  Our state has become a joke in this country due to our legislature's unwillingness to work together to pass a budget and stick with it, and this has caused our state to become one of the lowest in the nation in terms of credit worthiness.  

When you find yourself in financial difficulties there are several things that need to be done; first, increase your income; second, spend less and third, spend better.  Let's look at these three areas:

Increase your income: This means raising taxes, which no one likes, but if the taxes are fair, then they're acceptable.  Taxes have been increased on cigarettes, which means that smokers will pay increased taxes, but that same logic must be applied to other areas.  Alcohol, whether consumed at home or at another location, must be taxed as well.  If smokers are paying their fair share then drinkers should as well.

A tax increase has been suggested for golf courses, and this makes sense, but what about baseball fields?  How about bowling alleys?  Perhaps Miniature Golf establishments?  Why should golfers have to pay more and not people taking part in other recreational activities?  Let's make it fair across the board.

Spend less: This makes perfect sense, and I have to agree with the governor when he puts California employees on furloughs and makes them take two days off a month.  This action reduces the amount we spend on salaries, but let's look at other areas as well.  State office buildings need to be climactically controlled to keep the temperature at a fiscal level, which might not be the most comfortable setting for those people working there.  

We also need to look at our programs and see which ones can be cut and would be better funded by the private sector.  Our highways are in a deplorable condition, and they need to be repaired as they keep this state moving.  What money is already in the state budget for things less necessary?  Let's see what can be eliminated and put to better use.

Spend better: This is actually the easiest of the three and yet the most over-looked.  Looking at state employees, we never look for the best candidate for a position, but we look for the best minority, as we feel that we must follow the Equal Opportunity in Employment laws beyond their reasonable interpretation.  This needs to stop.  It's not that we shouldn't hire minorities, but that should not be the main criteria.  In all state employment the number one criteria needs to be education, and we must mandate that all employees of this state must hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree from an American college or university.  Such school must be listed in the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs of the U.S. Department of Education.  This move would ensure that the employees of this state are the best for the position, and not merely minorities.  Note that this move does nothing to impede the EOE laws, as minorities are just as able to achieve degrees as anyone else.

By following these simple suggestions, you will help our state to regain its glory, and to once again proudly be known as The Golden State.