Sunday, November 10, 2013

'Tis The Season (to stage a boycott)

Who would have thought that one day I would suggest a boycott of Hallmark, one of the most  Americana of all companies?  Yet, that is the case.  Hallmark recently introduced a new ornament, which looks like an ugly holiday sweater, with the words from "Deck The Halls" emblazoned upon it.  Well, most of the words.  Rather than the traditional, "Don we now our gay apparel," Hallmark took it upon themselves to remove the "g" word and instead they created this:

Hallmark has apologized if they offended anyone but when I went to their site, the ornament is still available.  Apparently, they don't have any intention of removing it, hence for anyone who supports gay rights (and the right of us to be considered as equals), this company should be boycotted.

I tried to write a review of their product, but their site won't allow it.  I've copied it here.  The red wording is the error message that I keep receiving.  I wonder if it would have gone in had I not given them only one star.

Here is my review from the Hallmark website:

We're sorry, but we have encountered the following issue(s):
  • Your nickname can only contain letters and numbers.
Tell us what you think
Example: Best Purchase Ever
Minimum reached.
Tell us about you
To protect your privacy, do not use your full name or email address.
Example: New York, NY
We will ONLY use your email to notify you in regards to your submission.
How are we doing? Would you recommend Hallmark products to a friend?
0 = Never10 = Definitely
This doesn't appear with your review, but will be sent to our customer service department.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

No Winners In A Government Shutdown

There aren't any winners in the recent shutdown of the government but there certainly are losers.  Chief among them is John Boehner and the Republicans in the House of Representatives followed closely by the American people.

John Boehner has worked for several years on defunding or derailing the Affordable Care Act (also known as "Obamacare").  He has brought up a vote in the House more than 40 times to halt it in one way or another and on each of these occasions the Senate has refused to vote on it.  

For anyone who doesn't know how the process works, in order to make a law the legislation is brought to the floor of both houses and both houses must agree on it.  Once an agreement is reached, it is sent to the president for his (hopefully soon her) signature.  If the president doesn't agree with it, he has the power to veto it.

In the case of the Affordable Care Act, the Senate has repeatedly stated that it will not vote on any measure that defunds, delays or derails this law.  Yet Boehner, with great zeal at wasting tax dollars wherever and whenever he can, continues to bring up useless legislation and force the House to vote.  And they have.  And it passes and goes to the Senate.  And they lose each time because the Senate does what they said they would do.

So, Boehner once again brought up a measure that the Senate told him they would not vote on.  He once again saw the measure passed and sent on to the Senate, which threw it in the trash (where it belonged) and Boehner effectively shut down the United States government.

President Obama, in true presidential fashion, refused to cave in to the demands of the Republicans in the House.  Good move on his part.  He allowed the government to shut down but in reality, much of the government remained up and running.  We still got our mail, our military was still funded, our elected officials were still working.  For the majority of Americans, we really didn't see much of a difference.

Then came the vote on the debt ceiling.  If this were not raised the United States would default on our debt and an international crisis would be on the hands of the Republicans.  We knew it, they knew it, the president knew it and the Republicans had to do something.  Sadly for them, there wasn't anything they could do but go along with the Democrats and pass the legislation that the Senate sent to them.  Which they did.

Now the Republicans have lost face with the American people.  They were responsible for the government shutdown, and hopefully, the American people will remember that the next time they go to the polls.

The American people have lost in this latest battle as well.  Our tax dollars just paid for two weeks of vacation for the employees of the government who were furloughed because of Boehner's ineptitude and gross incompetence.

I'm thinking that shutting down the government in an effort to change legislation should be seen as treason and Boehner should be dealt with accordingly.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Campaign Reform

There are several issues currently gripping our country that the majority of Americans oppose, yet our elected officials are not listening.  The main reason they don't listen is because their supporters, although in the minority, contribute large sums of money to their campaigns and therefore, the politicians listen to them over their constituents.  To eradicate this discrepancy in our system, I propose the following campaign reform:

All campaign contributions are limited to $100.00 per contributor per candidate per election.  This means that everyone, including the candidate themselves, can only contribute $100.  This would not limit the number of contributions, only the amount.

In other words, in the next election, I would be allowed to contribute $100 to a senator, $100 to a congressman, $100 to a county official, $100 to a mayor and so on.  Every election would start over but all contributions would be limited to $100.

For PACs (Political Action Committees) and corporations, the same $100 limit would apply, which is only fitting given that the United States Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are people too.

The second would deal with anyone who wishes to spend more than $100.  The campaign reform would limit the amount that can be contributed to a campaign but that would not stop someone from putting up their own billboard.  This cannot be stopped as to stop it would be to violate their right to free speech.  It can, however, be regulated.

Any advertisement not paid for by the candidate's campaign fund must have the following disclaimer on it: "This advertisement is neither paid for nor endorsed by any politician or their campaign but is wholly funded by XXX."   "XXX" would obviously be the name of the person or organization who foots the bill.  Additionally, this disclaimer must appear prominently on the ad using a font twice the size of the largest font used in the ad.  For radio and television ads, the disclaimer must be read at a normal reading speed and at the same volume as the rest of the ad at least three times.

This is very simple reform but it would take back our government from the special interests who fund the politicians.  One additional stipulation would probably not be possible to be made into a law but could be an agreement.  Only vote for candidates who agree that they will NOT meet with lobbyists.  They should be dealing with their constituents, not with the special interests.

What do you think?  Comments are always welcome.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I Have A Dream (thank you, Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Today is the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's most famous speech, given at the historic March on Washington on August 28, 1963. With the understanding that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I will paraphrase the good doctor.

Now 50 years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. Fifty years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. Fifty years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. Fifty years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

The dream has not come true. Fifty years later, this nation has not risen up and lived out the true meaning of its creed - we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.

Fifty years later on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners do not sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

Fifty years later the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, has not been transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

And fifty years later, Dr. King's four little children do not live in a nation where they are not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

The dream has not come true for many Americans. Freedom does not ring but we must be the change in our lifetime. And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Letter to Dave Jones, California Insurance Commissioner

This is a copy of a letter I sent to Dave Jones, the Insurance Commissioner for the State of California:

Dave Jones

Insurance Commissioner
California Department of Insurance

Dear Dave:

I heard on the news this morning that Anthem has decided to pull out of the small business portion of the upcoming health exchange, "Covered California," and as such, will not be part of the state-run exchange under the legislation known as "ObamaCare." In reading through articles on this topic, it appears that quite a number of insurance companies have opted out of one part of the plan or another. Added to that, several articles have pointed out that the cost of individual plans under the new exchange will actually be priced higher than before. For myself, what little has been released already shows that a plan for which I would be eligible would cost 22.5% more than that same plan costs today. Since I cannot afford the current price, there is no way that I will be able to afford the increased price.

My question to you is, why are you allowing this? We elected you to this office to protect us from the insurance companies that would rip us off, yet you seem to be disinterested in our needs. I would suggest that you implement the following regulations for the new exchanges:

First, any insurance company that offers health insurance and sells any insurance in California must sell on the exchange. This would include both individual and group plans. The only insurance companies that can opt out are those that do not write these policies anywhere. Otherwise, they must offer the plans or leave the state. I seriously doubt that any will leave.

Second, no insurance company can opt out of selling any lines within the state that they offer in other states. This means that if Aetna (as an example) wants to sell any insurance in California, it must continue to offer individual plans here as well. If it stops offering individual lines altogether, then it can stop selling them in California. If it writes individual insurance in any state, it must write it here. (While not actually part of this topic, this would also mean that earthquake insurance must be offered here by any carrier who writes it outside of the state. That would drive down rates considerably.)

Third, your office should do a thorough check of prices for policies on both individual and group levels and come up with an average rate per plan. That rate should be discounted by 40% and that should be the cap of any plan in the exchange. While we commonly refer to this as "ObamaCare" the actual name is the "Affordable Care Act." Insurance rates are entirely too high, which is the main reason why so many of us are without health insurance. The Act mandates that these rates be affordable and it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that they are. Thus far, the state has done a very bad job of this, since most of the rates that have been presented are higher than before.

Dave, we need your help. And you need to do your job. Stand up to the insurance companies. That's what we pay you for.


Mr. Patt Gavin

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Jury Duty

It seems whenever there is a high-profile legal case, the verdict that comes back is never the one that most people would have reached.  One has to wonder, then, what kinds of people we have serving on jury duty in this country.  To correct this problem, I would like to suggest the following:

Since a trial by jury is guaranteed to all Americans it seems that as nearly all Americans as possible should be allowed the opportunity to serve on a jury.  What holds many people back is the fact that they can't afford to take the time off from work.  To alleviate this, we need legislation that states that every employer must pay their employees for jury duty.  The employee would receive the same salary as if they were at work.  The employer would get this money back in a refund on their income taxes.  For employers with less than 100 employees, the jury duty would be capped at two weeks.  For employers with employees from 100 to 499 would be capped at three weeks and employers with 500 or more employees would be unlimited.

Courts today pay jurors a very small sum of money.  This would be stopped for all jurors who are employed, as they would continue to be paid by their employers.  Only the unemployed would receive payment from the courts for their jury service.

Next comes jury selection.  The courts should broaden their pool by using not only voter registration as a means of identifying jurors but also drivers licenses, cell phone contracts, cable television contracts, medical insurance, vehicle insurance, etc.  All of these companies would be required to submit to the local courts a listing of names, addresses and social security numbers.  The courts would then cross-reference the information and use this as their pool for summoning jurors.  By increasing the pool, it would be easy to then limit service to no more than once in a three year period.

Finally, we need to expedite the trial system.  The current practice of attempting to stack a jury in one's favor must be eliminated.  When a case is going to trial, 35 names should be pulled and those people should appear in the courtroom.  The judge will explain the trial and the length of time it will be scheduled to take.  If the case goes longer than two weeks, only those jurors who are paid beyond two weeks will be required to stay.  All others will be excused.  From the remaining jurors, the plaintiff, defendent, attorneys and witnesses will be named.  If anyone in the prospective juror pool knows any of these people, they will be excused.

From the remaining jurors, 12 names will be pulled, along with two alternates.  This will be the jury and the trial will begin.  The attorneys will not be allowed to question any jurors ahead of time.  This would eliminate much of the backlog at courthouses throughout this country.

We need this kind of common sense jury reform to ensure that all Americans are entitled to a trial by jury with a competent group of men and women sitting in judgment.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Gay Marriage - Where We Go From Here

In November 2008, the voters of California passed legislation that outlawed same-sex marriage in this state.  That law was immediately fought and today, June 26, 2013, four years and eight months later, it has been put to rest, being found unconstitutional.  Gay marriage is once again legal in California.

One of the reasons for the passage of the original proposition was the influx of money into this state in support of the measure.  One of the largest donors to this movement was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), more commonly known as "the Mormons."  The Mormons were in favor of this legislation and worked hard to pass it.  While the church officially recognizes donations of less than $200,000, many news sources place LDS money at closer to $20 million.  Added to this was the enormous number of volunteer hours the Mormons put in going door-to-door in favor of this initiative (and who knows better about going door-to-door than the Mormons?).

Putting this in perspective, it must be remembered that in 2008 our state was still being governed by Arnold Schwrzenegger.  "Mismanaged" would probably be a better term.  We were hurting financially and a sudden jolt of cash was just what our state needed.  Along came the Mormons to help out.  We should really be thanking them for their assistance in our time of need.

In fact, we should go even farther to show our appreciation.  Once gay marriages are again being performed in the Golden State, we should make Salt Lake City the gay honeymoon capital of America!  Happily wed gay and lesbian couples should flock to the Beehive State to spread around our money and our unique style of mirth.  After all, fair is fair.

Some newly wed gay couples may have their sites on a less domestic honeymoon site.  There is a solution for those couples as well.  While not as financially affluent as their Mormon counterparts, the Roman Catholics did their part to help pass the proposition.  The Knights of Columbus financially backed the measure and the California Catholic Conference was very vocal in their support.  As a way of saying, "thank you" to those hard-working Catholic men and women who also helped our state, we should make The Vatican our international honeymoon capital of choice.  Just picture all of those angelic gay faces, hand-in-hand strolling through the Vatican Museum, looking at the gorgeous gowns and red Prada shoes worn by Popes of the Past.  The scent of dust mingles with the odor of Axe as one astute young man points to his husband and whispers, "Can you believe she wore that?"

Yes, I believe it is time the gay community give back to those who helped our state in our time of need.  We need to stand proudly and say, "thank you" to the Mormons and the Roman Catholic Church in a way that they will truly understand our meaning.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Once Again, Abortion Is In The News

Okay, today the House of Representatives, in an incredible show of solidarity among the Republican party, voted to outlaw abortions performed after the fifth month.  Now, on the surface, many people might think that this is a good idea.  After all, at five months a fetus can allegedly feel pain and should therefore be considered a human being and worthy of all rights and privileges thereof.

All well and good.  Although, this does bring up the question of cruelty to animals, since they too can feel pain and yet we kill them with wanton abandon.  Apparently, feeling pain is only a bad thing if it's a human who is doing the feeling.

But I digress.  Back to the abortions.  In our country, abortion statistics have been tracked by the Centers for Disease Control since 1969.  Those statistics are available on the CDC site for anyone who wants to take the time to look them up.  Since they're dealing with numbers coming in from various sources, the final numbers are several years behind.  The most complete year is 2009, so those are the numbers I will use in this example.

The total number of abortions performed after 16 weeks (which is the fourth month, not the fifth) were 27,573.  That might sound like a lot of abortions but consider that this is 4.9% of the total of abortions performed in this country in that year.  

Let's put this in perspective.  All states in this country have representation from the people.  They have a governor, two senators, a number of congressmen, an upper state house and a lower state house.  In 2009, the majority of elected officials in each of the following states were Republicans; Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.  

So what?  Well, in each of these states more abortions were performed than the 4.9% of those performed after 16 weeks.  The numbers are:

Florida - 81,918
Georgia - 32,925
North Carolina - 30,596
Ohio - 28,721
Pennsylvania - 37,284
Texas - 77,630

The Republicans in the House of Representatives thought it was so important to lessen the number of abortions in this country that they spent tax payer dollars on a bill that would reduce the total number of abortions by less than 30,000.  If they had merely outlawed abortions in Texas they would have had more than twice that number.  If they outlawed abortions in Florida, it would be nearly three times that number.  If they outlawed abortions in the six states listed above, over half of the abortions in this country would be eliminated!

Republicans - it seems to me if you want to reduce the number of abortions in this country, stop having so many.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Word of God

This may seem like an out of place post, given that this is a political blog but since many people blur the lines between religion and politics, I think this is a necessary article to write.  I'm looking at the idea of the Bible as the Word of God.  The Bible is often used in politics to explain why something should or should not be.  For example, in the fight for gay marriage, those opposed to the idea will say, "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."  While it is true that the book of Genesis uses the characters of Adam and Eve, the question is, are these just characters or were they actual people?  Those who believe that the Bible is the Word of God will see them as true people who actually lived several thousand years ago. 

The story of Adam and Eve is an excellent starting point for this discussion.  The story is in the book of Genesis, which is the first book of the Tanakh or what the Christians call the Old Testament.  This is the story of creation and explains the beginning of our planet and the life on it.  In fact, the word "genesis" means beginning.  It is the origin of something, which makes the book aptly named.

Most people in America know the basic story of Adam and Eve.  It goes something like this:  Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden.  God told them not to eat the apple but the devil came disguised as a snake and tempted Eve.  She ate the apple and gave it to Adam.  He also ate it.  When God found out they ate the apple, He threw them out of the Garden and they had to raise their own food from then on.

This is the story that most people repeat in one form or another.  The problem with this story is that it is wrong.  The following is the actual story.  I'm not going to copy it from the Bible and paste it here since there are many different versions of the Bible.  I will, however, include the chapter and verse numbers so anyone who doesn't believe me can look it up for themselves.

The story of Adam and Eve begins in Chapter 1 verse 26 (1:26) of the book of Genesis.  The people aren't named but this is when God creates humankind.  In 1:29 He states that every plant is theirs to eat. 

In 2:3 He creates man.  The story is basically repeated because the Israelites had split into separate kingdoms and each had their own story.  When they came back together again, the stories were merged together.  Musch of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) is repeated this way. 

In 2:7 He makes man from the earth.  In 2:9 He puts the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the center of the Garden of Eden.

In 2:17 He tells Adam not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or else he will die.  In 2:19 he makes Eve out of Adam's rib.

In 3:1 the serpent comes and asks Eve what God said about eating the fruit.  She says they'll die if they eat it.  The serpent tells her that she won't die, she'll simply become more like God having the knowledge of good and evil.  In 3:6 she eats the fruit and gives it to Adam.  In 3:7 they realize they are naked (nakedness was seen as evil, showing that they now know the difference between good and evil).

In 3:10-11 God asks why they are hiding and Adam replies that they were ashamed of their nakedness.  God asks who told them that they were naked and asks if they ate the fruit.  In 3:12 Adam blames Eve.  In 3:13 she tells God that the serpent tricked her.

In 3:14 God curses the serpents.  In 3:16 He curses the woman.  In 3:17 he tells man that going forward he must toil to produce his own crops.

In 3:22 (from the New English Translation) "And the Lord God said, 'Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not be allowed to stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.'"

So, what does all of this have to do with the Bible being the Word of God?  According to this story, which is in the beginning of the Bible, God is a liar.  God told Adam that if he ate the fruit he would die.  Adam ate the fruit and did NOT die.  God lied.  Now, many Christians will say that man was immortal until then and that since he eventually died, God did not lie but this argument does not work because of 3:22.  God never told them not to eat of the tree of life but they never had.  They were always mortal.  Since they did not eat of it, they were still mortal and He was preventing them ever becoming immortal by banishing them from the garden.

If God is a liar and the Bible is the Word of God, you cannot trust the Bible.  If, however, God is not a liar, then the Bible cannot be the Word of God.  This makes more sense.  The Bible is the work of man and as such, it is a wonderful book of stories but it is not the final word from the Creator.

A few other points to make in this story; the story does not have a devil.  Satan was unknown when this story was written.  In fact, the concept of a devil did not yet exist in Judaism.  That idea was borrowed from the Babylonians many centuries later.   God cursed serpents for this action.  If the devil was disguised as a serpent, He would  not have cursed serpents for the action of the devil.

There is not an apple in the story.  The fruit is never named.  It is only referred to as "the fruit." 

God had to ask why Adam and Eve were hiding.  He is not omniscient.  That idea came along later as well. 

The story is wonderful and it's perfect that it is placed at the very beginning of the Bible because it sets the tone for how to read the book.  Enjoy the stories but remember, they are only stories.  Not God's laws.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Election Day 2013

Today is Election Day 2013 for the city of Los Angeles.  At least for me it is because I use the mail option of voting.  So, in case anyone is interested, here's how I voted:

For Mayor - Jan Perry.  This year is a typical, not voting for someone so much as voting against someone, kind of year.  The main contenders seem to be Jan Perry, Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel (rhymes with "cruel").  Garcetti is a lifelong politician who jumps from one office to another because of term limits.  Everyone in this city knows his name yet no one can name one thing he has done to make this a better place to live.

Wendy Greuel is about as useful as tits on a bull (as my father would say).  I lived in her district when she was on the city council and she did nothing to help that area.  Developers tore down houses by the score and put up apartment buildings, increasing traffic and sending single family house values down.  She never did anything to stop this.  Traffic got so bad that the area residents were terrified of their kids being hit by cars and her office wouldn't even help to put in speed bumps.  

That leaves Jan Perry.  She has both a bachelor's and master's degree, so she's well-educated.  She believes in reigning in the DWP (Greuel is okay with our water and power rates being increased on a regular basis and over-paying the employees of the DWP).  She seems like she'd be a good choice for mayor, so I'm giving her a shot.

For Controller - same thing.  Dennis Zine is running but I used to live in his district as well.  When I go back there and look at the street where I lived, which is two blocks from his district office, I am appalled.  The street is so torn up it looks like a war zone.  It has looked that way for more than five years now and Zine has not done anything to change it.  We contacted his office repeatedly and his mantra was always "there's no money in the budget."  This, in spite of the fact that a few blocks away, he replaced a neighborhood's street from sidewalk to sidewalk.  New sidewalks, curbs, driveway openings and street.  It seems to me had he simply refinished the street (which was all that was really necessary) he would have had the money to refinish other streets.  He mismanaged the money, for reasons I can only guess at. If he can't manage a simple budget, why would we want him as Controller?

I voted for Jeff Bornstein.  He's a business owner, so hopefully he understand how to handle money.  Really, I was not impressed with anyone who is running for this office.

For City Attorney I voted for Carmen Trutanich.  He is already a city attorney so he understands the work involved.

For the Unified School District I voted for Monica Ratliff.  She's a fifth grade teacher.  I think we need more teachers on the School Board because they know what our schools need.  Perhaps if we put more teachers on and removed the businessmen, lawyers and "advocates" our board could get something done.

For the board of trustees I voted for John Burke (Accounting Professor) because he teaches accounting so should know something about finance (I wish he was running for Controller); Ernest Morena (retired College President) because he has experience in running a college; and Tom Oliver (retired College President) for the same reason.

For Proposition A (raising our sales tax) I voted no because our sales tax is already the highest in the state.  I don't care what the city wants to use the money for, find other ways of raising money rather than increasing sales tax yet again.  By the way, Jan Perry is also against this.

For Proposition B (allowing Department of General Services police to buy into retirement credit when they become members of the police department) I voted no.  If I go to work for another company, I don't get to bring my retirement credits from previous employers with me. That's part of going to work for another company.  If your retirement benefits are so great with the DGS, stay there.  If you now want to work for the LAPD, you can start over just like the rest of us.  Dennis Zine and Wendy Greuel both support this proposition.  Another reason not to vote for either of them.

Election Day is actually March 5, 2013.