News Commentary for a Rainy Day

News Commentary

It’s been a while since I’ve let my cynical side out in public–so today a few comments on this week’s news stories.

News stories from the Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register

Lawsuit tossed in actor’s death (LA Times 4.6.16): It seems as though traveling too fast killed the people in the Porsche. The deaths couldn’t be blamed on the lack of a crash cage or a racing car fuel cell. Let’s see: drive too fast — hit object — die. If you can’t fault gun makers, when people are killed by their weapons, how can you fault car makers?

Remember The Shawshank Redemption? His Judgement Cometh and that Right Soon. . . .

Ex-undersheriff’s obstruction case handed to jurors (LA Times 4.6.16) & Jury finds (Paul) Tanaka is guilty of obstruction (LA Times 4.7.16): Gee, it seems the jury didn’t believe that it was all (Lee )Baca’s fault and Tanaka was an innocent bystander kept out of the loop by his boss. Possible 15-year sentence in federal prison. Baca made a deal with prosecutors and will get a maximum of six months. Hmmm, doesn’t sound too just to me.

Surprising News? People in power and their relatives aren’t always honest . . .

Relatives of China’s top leaders are identified in Panama papers (OC Register 4.7.16): We’re surprised that the relatives of people in power are creating secretive offshore companies to, maybe, hide ill-gotten funds? Yeah, right.

Icelandic leader quits over ‘Panama Papers’ (LA Times 4.6.16): Iceland? Heavens is nowhere safe?

Secret money is U.S. problem too (LA Times — Op-Ed page 4.6.16): Gee, really? 215,000 offshore shell companies, 14,000 clients — Putin, Poroshenko, Assad, Salman — and billions of dollars. “Nevada, Wyoming and South Dakota have all passes laws making it easier to set up shell companies. . . .” Can someone say Ka-ching?


Let the Fed handle tax rates (LA Times — Op-Ed page 4.6.16): Don’t let Congress raise and lower taxes; pass the job off to un-elected, appointed bureaucrats. Wow, great solution.


Women should vote for women (LA Times — Op-Ed page 4.6.16): Women vote for women, men vote for men, whites vote for whites, blacks vote for blacks, browns vote for browns, gays vote for gays, bigots vote for bigots. What a great solution for a polarized country where our leaders in government can’t seem to compromise. This will help.


More in O.C. are Turning to Guns (OC Register 4.6.16): 8000+ people in Orange County can now legally carry concealed weapons (guns) — 0.35% of our adult population. I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel safer to know that all of these people are secretly carrying guns. And, according to the article, that’s far below the national rate of 5.2%. Safer? Yeah, right.


Officials warn of voter ‘surge’ for June 7 primary (LA Times 4.7.16): Gee, more people are registering to vote. Hmmm . . . wonder why. Could it be that there are actual differences between our two major parties and their candidates in this year’s election. Maybe, people are interested in an election that promises to be more than just choosing between Dum and Dee.

More taxes

U.S. imposes tougher rules on inversions (LA Times 4.6.16): You’ll have to pay more taxes that you can’t re-coup by just raising the price of the drugs you sell. Ahhh . . . what a shame–no merger between Pfizer and Allergan to create another monster-sized monopoly.

[Related to the above: Pfizer deal was tax dodge LA Times 4.7.16]

Natural gas

Gas leak slows housing market (LA Times 4.6.16): The Porter Ranch natural gas leak, which lasted months, lowered the number of houses in the area being sold. Gee, contact Captain Obvious–would you want to buy a home there for $670,000?

Retirement News

U.S. adds retirement advice rules (LA Times 4.7.16): “For decades, many investment advisors have been required under federal law to put the best interest of their clients first.” Gee, who could be against that?

“But other retirement advisors, such as brokers and insurance agents, have a lower standard.” Gee, you mean they can put other things, like maybe, their own profits before the best interests of their clients?

“They are required only to make sure investments are suitable for their clients. That allows those advisors, who often receive commissions for the sale of specific investments, to recommend investments that benefit heir bottom line as well–sometimes even more than the client’s.” Hmmm . . .News -- Judgement

Random Thoughts on a Friday Afternoon

Random Thoughts–well, sort of random.

The Confederate Flag has been in the news this past week as a result of the murders of nine people in Charleston, SC. On a website registered to the accused murderer he was seen with a “Confederate Battle Flag.”

During its short history, the CSA had several flags. Its first official flag–the “Stars and Bars” (right)–looked

Confederate Flag - 1861-1863
Confederate Flag – 1861-1863

a great deal like the “Stars and Stripes” and caused some confusion of the battlefield. It was changed in 1863 to incorporate the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia in the place of the blue field and stars with the remainder of the flag being white. Eventually a large vertical red bar was added on the right.

Confederate "Battle" Flag
Confederate “Battle” Flag

What many think of as the “Confederate Flag” was the square battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia or the rectangular Confederate Navy Jack and the battle flag of the Army of Tennessee (left).

Perhaps it is time to retire this (these) flags from official and commercial sanction. For many in this country these flags stir memories of slavery and murder that are better left to our past.

There are those who say that these flags represent their history and heritage. Perhaps, they do. They have a right to fly them. Perhaps, they do. But these flags also represent slavery, cruelty, discrimination and murder to many of us. Perhaps, we should consider their feelings.

When the option presents itself, how about choosing to be kind?

“Gay” Marriage

This week the United States Supreme Court in a majority decision–not a unanimous decision–legalized same-sex marriage throughout our country. You know what? It’s not the end of the world.

I grew up in a era when homosexuality was considered by my church and parents to be a sin–in may places it was (and still is) a crime.

I’ve had students who are homosexual; I’ve had neighbors who are homosexual; I’ve had colleagues who are homosexual. You know what? It doesn’t make a dime’s bit of difference.

If they love each other, they can now get married and have (be) a family. All they want is to exercise the same rights and responsibilities as the “straight” community–they don’t want to convert you.

Get over it–spread Peace and Love not Hate.

Affordable Care Act–Obamacare

The Supreme Court also ruled this week on the ACA and the necessity of state health exchanges. This was, and still seems to be a deeply dividing issue. Compare the editorial and op-ed comments in the Orange County Register (anti) and the Los Angeles Times (pro).

Gee, now people in all of the US can get “affordable” medical care, subsidized if necessary. Those states which refused to set up health exchanges in order to keep people from getting this care are out of luck.

Bummer, huh?

The Supreme Court decided to go with the intent and spirit of the law rather than the “state health exchanges” wording. Good decision. Of course, Congress should go back and change the wording of the law. Who knows what might happen if a Republican president (with a Republican congress) comes along and appoints more justices opposed to the majority decision. Another case and this time a reversal of the decision.

After all, we are not governed by laws but by people.


California Politics—Follow the Money $

Money in Politics

Mid-Term elections are coming up in another week—Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 and we are currently being bombarded by, what seems to me at least, an obscene number of ads. These ads appear on almost every street corner, in newspapers and magazines, on radio, television and the internet. All of these ads take money. This money is contributed by individuals, organizations and corporate entities.

Seal of California
Seal of California

These individuals and others do not contribute money out of the goodness of their hearts but because they hope to get something from that contribution.

Many individuals spend their own money to get elected. Why? Ego? Impose their own standards/beliefs upon others? Think they’re better/know more than others? Gain an economic advantage by voting for things that they think will help them and those like them? (Yes, I know I’m a bit cynical, but haven’t you ever had these thoughts about, at least, one politician?)

Organizations, through their individual members, contribute money to further their own aims. The Democratic and Republican parties funnel millions of dollars to election and re-election campaigns in every state and (nearly) every election. Unions (teamsters, teachers, electricians, etc.), associations (nurses, doctors, dentists, etc.), the ACLU, LLPs (limited liability partnerships-many of them lawyers), etc.

Sometimes you will find an organization contributing money to opponents running against each other. Perhaps, the organization wants to influence the winner, no matter who that is? (Yeah, I know, more cynicism, but can you really believe they do it out of the goodness of their hearts?)

“California” Money

For the current election in California the California Secretary of State’s (Debra Bowen) office maintains a website delineating those organizations and individuals who have spent a large amount of money trying to influence the November 4th, 2014 election. This is the Cal-Access website. It contains quite a bit of information on who and what groups are spending money trying to influence the election.

By clicking on the link to the Top 10 Contributor Lists you can find the Top 10 Contributors to Statewide Ballot Measure Committees and the Campaign Finance Data for All Ballot Measure Committees as well at the same data for individual candidates.

Proposition 1 – Water Bond. Funding for Water Quality, Supply, Treatment, and Storage Projects.


Proposition 2 – State Budget. Budget Stabilization Account. Legislative Constitutional Amendment.

18 individuals and groups listed for supporting and none listed for opposing the above propositions. (Remember, this does not mean that no one opposes these propositions.)

Proposition 45 – Healthcare Insurance. Rate changes. Initiative Statute.

For: Consumer Watchdog Campaign, California Nurses Association, Kathryn Taylor, Consumer Watchdog, Thomas Steyer

Against: Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Wellpoint, Inc. and affiliated entities, Blue Shield of California, Health Net, Inc., UnitedHealthCare Insurance Company

Follow the money: could it be that the healthcare/insurance industry doesn’t want the state Insurance Commissioner to veto their increases of rates and charges?

Proposition 46 – Drug and Alcohol Testing of Doctors. Medical Negligence Lawsuits. Initiative Statute.

For: Consumer Attorneys of California and its sponsored committees, Kabateck, Brown, Kellner, LLP; Brian S. Kabateck, Robinson Calcagnie Robinson Davis, Inc., Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP, Shernoff, Bidart, Echeverria, Bentley, LLP

Against: Cooperative of American Physicians IE Committee, The Doctors Company, Norcal Mutual Insurance Company, California Medical Association Physicians’ Issues Committee, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., and The Hospitals

Follow the money: maybe the lawyers do want more lawsuits for larger amounts of money and higher fees, and the doctors and insurance companies don’t.

Proposition 47 – Criminal Sentences. Misdemeanor Penalties. Initiative Statute.

For: American Civil Liberties Union, Inc., Open Society Policy Center, Hughes, B. Wayne, Atlantic Advocacy Fund, Munger, Molly

10 individuals and groups listed for supporting and none listed for opposing the above proposition. (Remember, this does not mean that no one opposes this proposition.)

Proposition 48 – Indian Gaming Compacts. Referendum.

Against: Table Mountain Rancheria, Brigade Capital Management, LLC through affiliated entities, Chukchansi Economic Development Authority, United Auburn Indian Community of the Auburn Rancheria, Riva Ridge Recovery Fund LLC

10 individuals and groups listed for opposing and none listed for supporting the above proposition. (Remember, this does not mean that no one supports this proposition.)

Follow the money: could it be that other Indian tribes (and maybe Nevada casinos) don’t want the competition?

Other Information

There is a tremendous amount of information available on this site. All state-wide offices, the Board of Equalization (what a name), the State Senate and Assembly are included. For much of that information you have to dig through several layers, but, if you are interested in following the money, it is well worth the effort.

Be sure to read the fine print.

There is plenty of information about the contributors cited above on the Cal-Access website. Other information is available if you just copy the name and past it into your browser or search engine.

Please, if you are going to vote, cast an intelligent ballot. Do not just rely on television advertising or on the biases of others (or your own biases). Vote to bring about the greatest good or the least harm.

California Flag
California Flag
In the interests of openness:
  • I am a lifelong Democrat, who on occasion votes Republican
  • I am liberal to moderate on social issues
  • I am conservative on most economic issues
  • I was a teacher in California public schools for forty years and, for most of those years, I was active in my local union
  • I am retired

POLITICS, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage. (From The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce)


HB_FlagsThe Op-Ed page of the Los Angeles Times this morning had an article titled “Voting, California-style”. In this article Morley Winograd and Michael Hais advocated “a simple, online registration process” and “voting by mail” as two ways of increasing voter participation. I would like to add a third: extending voting hours or days.

My former car pool buddy volunteers to work at polling places near where he lives. Although polling places are open from 7 am to 8 pm, he works from about 6 am to about 10 pm. There are also other hours devoted to preparation and training. Extending these hours would mean added hardships to him and his fellow unpaid poll worker volunteers. It would also mean adding more volunteers and, possibly, paying them to work.

I have been voting by Absentee Ballot or Mail-in Ballot for the last several elections. I find it more convenient to fill out my ballot in the quiet atmosphere of my home than to go to my polling place, a fire station three hundred yards up the street, and then to stand in line and vote in a booth. I do, however, drop off my ballot at the polling place rather than mail it. (I used to drop it off at the polling place set up in the auditorium of the school where I taught.) HB_Sunset_3

One of the disadvantages to living in a country which covers several time zones is that when polls close in the eastern part of the country they are still open in the west. Votes are counted and reported in the eastern states while people are still voting in the west. If you include exit polling, the results of a national election may be “known” before millions of people have yet to vote. In their own minds at least, they are being disenfranchised. I would like to introduce some proposals to end this.

First I would propose that polls in all states open and close at the same time. Not the same hour, say, 7 am in the East, 7 am in the Central, etc., but at the same time: say, 7 am in the East, 6 am in the Central, 5 am in the Mountain, etc. They would close in the same way. If everyone opened and closed at the same time, there would be no results posted while anyone still hadn’t voted. I know that it wouldn’t do anything about exit polling and would create logistical problems.

My second proposal is related to the above and advocates having all polling places open and close as above but have them stay open the entire day – twenty-four hours. Nobody needs to rush to the polls before or after work.

Third, I would advocate making National Election Day a national holiday. Close schools and businesses and nobody would have an excuse for not voting. Don’t move it to Monday as too many people would make it a three-day weekend and not vote.

HB_Lamppost_Moon_1Or, and this is what I would really like to see, move the elections to weekends. Have all polls open and close at the same time and open for forty-eight hours on Saturday and Sunday. Can’t find time to vote over an entire weekend – I don’t think so.

Yes, I know, all of these proposals would cause problems and increase the cost of elections. I also believe that they would both increase voter participation and eliminate the perception of people living in western and Pacific states that their votes don’t seem to matter. I believe that the benefits of such changes far outweigh the costs and would be good for our country.