Lean to the Left – Watch for Falling Politicians

| Opinion | January 9, 2015

Now that a new U.S. Congress is sworn in, we are bound to see the downfall – or at least the shortfall – of Republicans in office. Any time that a Democrat is caught in some sort of compromising position, the Republicans take it as far as they can run with it.

But, don’t forget it cuts both ways. There have been plenty of God-fearing, family-focused Republicans we have watched going down in flames. Remember Louisiana Republican Congressman Vance McAllister, who won a key election in 2013, only to be videotaped a few months later kissing one of his married employees.

The Right loves to point at Illinois Democrats and their shortcomings. But, again, there was Republican Mike Bost and his, er … uh, “fiery” temper. Sometimes called “Meltdown Mike,” he is another poor Republican outed by a video. The public took notice of his over-the-top ranting and raving as an Illinois House Representative in 2012. Of course, it caused media to dig up his least flattering history, which included opposing police officers and even illegally killing a beagle – granted, back in the ‘80s.

December of 2014 proved to be a downer for a Republican Congressman from New York, Michael Grimm. Again, just months after reelection, Grimm plead guilty to two counts (and many others that he side-stepped) of felony tax evasion and admitted to other charges, including lying in a deposition. He resigned and will be sentenced later this year.

Well, we could discuss non-felonious, just offensive faux pas by Republicans (Florida Congressman Steve Southerland defending his male-only campaign event by asking his female opponent if she had attended a “lingerie party”). But, alas, there isn’t enough space in this column to even get started with that one.

Lean to the Left – Fair Trade in ‘15

| Opinion | December 27, 2014

Just for fun, I looked up some of the democrats’ holiday gift ideas. I was pleased to note that we are as clever as some of the top notch marketing experts. Among the creative slogans on T-shirts, coffee mugs and lapel pins was the name of this Gazette column – “I lean left” said some of the items.
On www.democrats.org shoppers are supporting the elections of democrats across the United States while, at the same time, ordering message bearing merchandise. There were cups with “I hate tea (parties)” and “Stop the GOP.”
One of the greatest accomplishments of the left-leaning public, I believe, is its financial support of fair trade companies and the drive to remain mindful of the less fortunate. And our world is full of the less fortunate. Whether it’s Brad Pitt’s clean water crusade or Alec Baldwin’s support of PETA, democrats pretty much have the market cornered in speaking for the powerless.
Fair trade has become more mainstream, however. There are charming stores doing a bustling business, selling baby products, home décor, soaps, clothing, etc. My hat’s off to those who will only carry fair trade products. I’m thrilled that many are succeeding.
To clarify, one way to define “fair trade” is to refer to the act of doing business with companies whose production processes adhere to certain labor, environmental, and human rights standards.
Let’s make fair trade a winning argument in 2015. Let’s ALL band together to protect foreign workers from unfair practices, to maximize the ability for those in poverty to make a living, and share the generosity that America possesses.

Stuff or Time, What’s More Important?

| Opinion | December 26, 2014

I used to truly believe that whoever coined the phrase “money can’t buy you happiness” was a real jerk, someone who was obviously born into great wealth and never had to toil in the coal mines like the rest of us, stressing and worrying about keeping up with the Jones’s, putting food on our kids’ plates, money into our retirement, and paying off a bigger mortgage every few years.

And then I paid attention to my kids. It’s funny, we always think that we have all the answers as the adults, the educated, the learned ones who have grown wiser throughout our years and learned from past mistakes. But, it’s amazing the life lessons that we adults can sometimes learn from our kids and their childhood innocence, if we’re smart and patient enough to just pay attention every once in awhile.

This year I celebrated Christmas with my kids early, last weekend to be exact, and I was so spun up and stressed out throughout the week planning and preparing that I felt as if I was back in the Middle East gearing up for a mission. Even shopping a week early was met with long lines and crazed masses trying to get to the stores early enough to buy the perfect gift for their kids, the required meal for Christmas day, and the right wrapping paper and Christmas tree decorations.

Even picking my kids up on Friday I was pre-planning distractions and diversions to keep them away from the tree, worried about how I could fill their little heads with activities so as not to be pressured constantly to open the presents before the perfect time, that crescendo of Christmas craziness after which parents can finally relax and take a deep breath.

But it never came. They saw the tree upon entering my home, and didn’t give it a second notice until it was time to open gifts. Instead, they wanted something from me that didn’t come wrapped in shiny wrappers, require batteries, or cost me a single penny. They just wanted my time. In their minds, the stuff under the tree was of no real importance … I realized the only person who had worked himself into a frenzy making sure everything was perfect was me.

The greatest gift I gave my kids this Christmas, and the one I now realize was the one they cherished the most, was time with dad. And when the wrapping paper was thrown away and batteries were installed in all of the toys, it was the only gift that they will remember, and the only one that really matters.

Please take that to heart, ladies and gentlemen. I’ve found myself over the past year pushing my schedule to the absolute limits working on the various projects I’m involved in, which in my mind was all for my kids, so I can one day send them to the best colleges and ensure they never want for anything. But, they don’t care about that; all they care about is our time, and that’s the gift that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.

Merry Christmas everyone, give your kids an extra hug for me this year, and I promise it will do you much better than any material gift on any store shelf.

Lean to the Left – All or Nothing

| Opinion | December 20, 2014

All-or-nothing views seem ridiculous to me. Right wing proponents who pay homage to any leader from the Republican Party (or worse, the Tea Party) and conservative talk show hosts (seriously?) without question are sometimes backing the wrong horse. I don’t know why they can’t tease out the hairs of each leader – making choices to support individuals, or even individual views, not just drink the Kool-Aid.

It just creates hypocrisy – you know, saying one thing, but doing another. Take Ronald Reagan worshipers, those who claim to have extremely conservative views on spending. Did you know he is the one with the first budget over one trillion dollars?

How about Republican Mark Souder from Indiana, who advocated abstinence in education, along with the usual “family values,” etc. He was brought down with an affair with a staffer.

Of course, there was the now famous fact that Newt Gingrich was cheating on his wife during the persecution of President Bill Clinton after his affair.

And how’d Arnold Schwarzenegger work for ya?

Be careful who you put up on that pedestal. They might break something when they fall.

If you think conservative talk radio will save you – think again.  A post on Savingcountrymusic.com calls it “radio’s biggest problem,” and says it’s “in a tailspin.” Rush Limbaugh is the cause of woes for the media giants, says the article, adding that Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey blames Limbaugh for the loss of millions last year. Almost every top radio advertiser in the country refuses to work with Rush Limbaugh or conservative TV host Sean Hannity.

Almost no one is on a pedestal higher than these guys. Brace yourself, because a fall by these guys could get messy.

Too Broke to Stop Spending

| Opinion | December 18, 2014

What made you most upset about the recent passing of our $1 trillion spending bill? It seems the only thing that can be agreed upon by everyone is that it’s a very bad idea. Interestingly enough, it seems to be hated equally from both sides of the political aisle, as well as the American public … you know, the people whose money is actually paying for the thing.

The part that struck me as the most odd and, quite frankly, made me upset was the defense appropriation. The lobbyists, I mean politicians (is there any difference at this point?), decided to give the Pentagon twice as much as they asked for in the defense budget.

Here’s why this makes me very upset.

Yes, I am a combat veteran, and yes I’m saying that giving the DOD too much money, especially more than the generals and staff who know better than the politicians what the military needs, is a very bad idea.

But why would I want to keep money from the Pentagon and leave our nation’s finest and bravest without the funds to buy hot meals, bullets, body armor and adequate housing?

I had the benefit of finishing my undergraduate business degree before entering the military, so I looked at many of the modus operandi during my service through that lens. The absolute waste ingrained into the system made me furious, and this is exactly why. For those of you without any governmental budgeting experience, here’s a quick tutorial; I hope it makes you as upset as it does me. My experience was on the military side, but many sources from other governmental agencies tell me it’s the same all around.

Let’s say I’m the commander of Unit X (sounds like a cool unit, doesn’t it?). My unit is given a budget of $1,000,000 this year to spend on things that I need. If I’m smart, I’ll even ask for more, because one of the bullet points on my military resume is how much money I commanded while in charge.

Throughout the course of the year I buy the things my unit needs: MRE’s, training, gear, etc. But, when the end of the fiscal year comes around, I find that I have $250,000 left over. In private industry I’d be commended for keeping overhead low, but in government that is considered a very bad thing.

You see, if I have money left over in a military unit, the budgeting overlords look at it as if I was given too much, and they’ll decrease my budget next year. So, what am I to do? I do an “end of the year buy.”

This is where most soldiers and units get their warehouse full of sunglasses, new boots, knives or things they don’t really need (or already have), but the logistical soldiers know can be purchased quickly and used to ensure that no money is left at the end of the year.

On top of this culture of waste and punishing commanders who spend efficiently, we have programs with massive waste like the F-35. The Pentagon is already planning to spend almost a trillion dollars on these fighters (purchasing 2,443 of them for $382 billion with an operation and maintenance estimate of $650 billion).

These are the same fighters, mind you, that Canada refused to buy because they “add no edge over other fighters” for their forecast of planned engagements.

It reminds me of a joke I once heard: An astronaut and cosmonaut are on the space station together.  The astronaut is bragging about his pen, which NASA developed for $20 million and can write underwater, in zero gravity, upside down, right side up, and every which way. The cosmonaut listens intently, laughs, and says that Russia gave him something that can do all of the cool tricks his $20 million pen can – a pencil.

Our culture and education system do an abysmal job of teaching our children anything about money. It falls on us as parents to do everything we can to teach our kids fiscal responsibility, but when they see our politicians doing the exact opposite and spending their future away right in front of their eyes, what lesson do you think they are learning?

Hosting Live Workshops Locally to Grow Your Business

| Opinion | December 13, 2014

By Connie Ragen Green
Chrystal wrote in to ask me what I thought about hosting live events and workshops in the city or town where you live. I am devoting this month’s column to answering her question in great detail.

I can remember years ago when I visited Home Depot and saw the schedule for their live workshops prominently featured by the main entrances to the store. For the life of me, I could not figure out why this was so important to them. Then I attended one about how to replace the tile on your bathroom countertop and suddenly the bright light went on in my brain. These workshops gave them the opportunity to show off their expertise, showcase their staff, and recommend their products. Very smart.

So, how can we emulate this model in our own business? The answer is to start small and grow over time. The first event I hosted here in Santa Clarita took place in a small room at one of the local hotels. They charged me $25 and gave me a three-hour time frame. I had five people show up, mainly because I only invited people by calling or emailing them personally. This was in 2006 and I did not yet have the confidence to ask more people to attend. It went very well. We had a mastermind style discussion, with each of us sharing our thoughts and ideas on the topic of marketing ourselves and our businesses online. And I still know all five of those original people!

Within a year, I decided to partner with a woman named Dr. Jeanette Cates so that we could host larger events and workshops across the United States. We did five of these over a two-year period until we both decided to go our separate ways. Jeanette and I remain good friends to this day and continue to support each other in our business endeavors.

With this experience under my belt, I was ready to offer more events to attract people who would be interested in what I was doing in my online business. Now I offer two live events each year, either in Las Vegas or Los Angeles, as well as three or four retreats in Santa Barbara for smaller groups. My goal is similar to that of Home Depot in my example above. I get to show off my expertise, showcase my clients, and recommend my own courses, products, and programs.

You can do the same thing, no matter what your level of expertise or your topic. This is exactly what I am recommending:
Commit to hosting a small event within the next 30 days
Choose a local venue and invite three to five of your friends
At the end, ask for constructive feedback on your presentation
Schedule another event within 60 days and invite more people
Typically I prepare a PowerPoint presentation to use throughout my event, but you can also do it with just some notes or handouts. I like to prepare a workbook for attendees to use to follow along, as well as to provide them with resources, additional information, and my contact details. I also give everyone who attends a copy of one of my books to thank them for coming.

If you want to take this to the next level, plan out in advance what you will offer people who attend as a follow up to your presentation. For example, at my last event I offered my Platinum Mastermind program to those who wished to apply. I handed out applications on the last day and several people joined my mentoring group. You may also want to offer special deals on your books, products and courses throughout your event.

I sincerely hope you choose to incorporate live events and workshops into your business in 2015. It will definitely change the way you are perceived by the community and increase your bottom line in the long run.

Connie Ragen Green lives in Saugus and has been working exclusively on the Internet since 2006. Her 10th book, “The Transformational Entrepreneur,” was recently released by Hunter’s Moon Publishing and is available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. Find out more by visiting http://HugeProfitsTinyList.com and download an audio recording for 2014 at http://NewRulesforOnlineMarketing.com.

Questions? Email Connie at crgreencrgreen@yahoo.com and be sure to put Home Business Question in the subject line. Your question and answer will be included in a future article.

All the King’s Horses and All the King’s Men

| Opinion | December 12, 2014

by Robert Patrick Lewis
The President of the United States of America is not the smartest man in the world. I know that he may be the most powerful man, but it is not his job to be the smartest.

One of the first things taught to a non-commissioned officer in the Army is the importance of delegation of duties. No matter how great, smart, or tough you are, there is only one of you, and a good leader always surrounds himself with great people to whom he can delegate important tasks.

The most powerful men in the world have known this for ages, with Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford even coining the phrase “master mind alliance” to describe their daily meetings with other accomplished and smart men for their best ideas.

Ford famously drove this point home when he was accosted by a group of men who wanted to take him down a peg by “proving” he wasn’t very intelligent. While these men thought they would prove their point by asking Ford questions drawn from textbooks and high society, he responded brilliantly, as a man of his stature should. Rather than answering their egghead questions, Ford pointed to a row of red buttons on his desk, and explained that the buttons would summon men under his command who could answer any of their questions, allowing him to keep his faculties focused on the most important task of a businessman in his position: to think about new ideas, not focus on the old.

Putting this into the context of our current age, we now focus back on the President. As a President cannot possibly entertain every problem and issue that faces this country, it is his duty to pick qualified cabinet members, to whom these tasks are delegated, so he can focus his attention on the direction of the country (or golf, as our current one does). A wise President chooses his cabinet purely on merit and achievement, while a weak one chooses based on political donors and yes-men.

The resignation (and, from my sources, it doesn’t seem like it was truly that) of Chuck Hagel marks the sixth Secretary of Defense to move out of the position in four years, and nine senior military Generals have been relieved by Obama in his administration.

Let that sink in for a moment. A President with zero military experience and no family military background is relieving all of the “subject matter” experts under him if they don’t agree with him. How do you think Ford or Carnegie would judge him for that?

Much like Humpty Dumpty, it seems as if Obama is setting himself up for a fall, by choosing to listen to people like Al Sharpton while relieving people like Chuck Hagel from their posts. And in the end, not all Obama’s horses, nor all Obama’s men, will ever be able to put Obama back together again.

Jaso vs. Doug – A Differing Opinion What a Difference a Day Makes

| Opinion | December 12, 2014

When an anticipated movie comes out, we run to see it on opening weekend. When a new restaurant opens, we promptly visit the new establishment to try the cuisine. When the latest iPhone hits the market, we have reserved it online before it is even available!

But, when there is a real need, we—“we” no longer referring to you and me, but to world leaders—tend to “plan” talks or perhaps organize a conference.

What is it about peace that is so elusive, so optional? Do the consequences of “planning peace talks,” or worse, “delaying peace talks” occur to world leaders? We’ve all heard the news report that “peace talks will resume on ….” When was the last time we heard that “peace talks will conclude” or that “peace begins

now” (as opposed to “The ceasefire commences at midnight on …”)?

Saying that peace talks will resume implies complete failure. After all, we (still referring to those world leaders) are really saying that we will accept even more preventable human death for the moment. Someone’s close loved one is going to die between now and when we resume peace talks. Someone’s mother, father, child, sibling, or all of them will be killed in an attack or in battle while we plan our peace talks.

Let’s get it together and go after peace like it’s the last damn iPhone on the shelf.
Peace now,

Lean to the Left Whose Welfare Are We Concerned About?

| Opinion | December 12, 2014

by Sylvia Turner
Right wingers love to point to welfare as the great failure of social programming. Not only do they talk as if every program is a direct comparison to the way welfare is administered, but they have drawn conclusions based on sheer anecdotes, stories through the grapevine and downright myths.

Writers at the website Cracked.com recently interviewed welfare workers to fill in some of the gaps between reality and the examples discussed at the water cooler, where people on welfare were living “higher on the hog” than middle class Americans. Most of the anecdotes I’ve heard thrown around by conservatives about wasted welfare resources involve minority mothers of numerous children who continue breeding to get more tax dollars.

The writer of the Cracked.com article pointed out that it is harder to cheat the government than to “pull one over on” private charities, because they don’t have the manpower to detect the cheating. Besides, according to an article in “The Atlantic” last year written by Eric Schnurer, when it comes to cheating the taxpayer, the majority of welfare fraud goes to those in management and government officials.

A nationwide network of food banks called Feeding America says that 83 percent of food stamps are going to households with children and/or disabled or elderly people. Also, welfare fraud accounts for only two percent of the government budget.

Just to make sure I cover all the right-wing concerns, I have to mention the overblown view that conservatives have about illegal aliens taking all their money.

Undocumented immigrants are not allowed to get government benefits, says Politifact.com. Furthermore, illegal immigrants can’t collect food stamps until they’ve been in the country at least five years. You can read it on Aspe.hhs.gov. It would surprise some to know that, according to Binyamin Appelbaum and Robert Gebeloff, who write an intelligent blog called Economix: Explaining the Science of Everyday Life, benefits flow mainly to the middle class – 69 percent.

As usual, the Right could stand a little fact-checking.

And the Beat Goes On!

| Opinion | December 11, 2014

Steve head shotby Steve Petzold

One would have hoped that after the last City Council election in April and the landslide defeat of Measure S on November 4,  that the members of the Council would chart a conciliatory course for the upcoming year. Hope may spring eternal, but I was disappointed by the initial indicators given at last night’s council meeting.

Marsha McLean has served as the mayor pro-tem for the last year, so her promotion to mayor was not surprising to most in attendance.  She has served as mayor several times in the past during her long tenure on the Council.

Nonetheless, my good friend Patti Sulpizio and I did attend the reorganization meeting and asked the council to consider nominating Councilmember TimBen Boydston  for either  the position of mayor or  that of mayor pro tem.

Councilman Boydston has served on the council several times. The first time he was selected by the Council to replace Cameron Smyth when he was elected to the California State Assembly. At the time he was chosen, he promised not to run for reelection. Surprising to some, TimBen actually kept his promise and did not run as an incumbent, honoring his pledge and distinguishing himself, in my mind, as a man of integrity.

TimBen ran for City Council in 2010 and lost that election when David Gauny came very close to defeating incumbent Frank Ferry. TimBen persevered and was finally elected to the City Council when he defeated Mayor Laurie Ender and returned to the Council in 2012 .

Marsha McLean, Laurene Weste and Bob Kellar have served mayor of our city numerous times during their many years of service. While there has been an “informal rotation” among the Council members to serve as mayor, it is now abundantly clear that TimBen is the odd man out. Many of us who observe and critique this Council find this to be unfortunate, because it deprives the City of Boydston’s skill set, knowledge, and expertise at the executive level. It also serves to undermine the collegiality of the governing body.

What many of us find disconcerting is that Bob Kellar was selected to serve as mayor pro tem after having served in that role as recently as 2013.  Why was TimBen Boydston unfairly slighted by this Council?

TimBen has always been a leader within the city of Santa Clarita. He serves as the director of the Canyon Theatre Guild, he was duly elected to the Council, and he listened to the people when we rose up in protest against the Development Agreement with Metro. TimBen is focused on issues and problem solving, not petty personality difference.

The selection of Bob Kellar as mayor pro-tem, after being nominated by Council newbie Dante Acosta without debate or discussion, is disappointing. It is the first indicator that Councilman Kellar may desire to run for office again in 2016 using the title of “Mayor” to maximize political advantage against any challengers.

Change is hard and it takes a long time. The only way to make this city accountable to the people again is to elect new council members.

Outrage, Anger…Oh Wait, Look Over There

| Opinion | December 5, 2014

by Robert Patrick Lewis
When I was interviewed last week on the radio by my friends John and Doug I was asked a question that I cannot say that I enjoyed answering, but was a very important question (and answer) that I wish more Americans had a chance to hear.

I am not the first person to be asked that question, and I’m not the first to give the answer that I did, but judging by social media and the news today, it seems as if not too many people are paying attention, or they just can’t seem to see the big picture.

The simple question that Doug asked me was: “What do you think will happen next?” He was asking in reference to the executive action President Obama enacted to grant amnesty to illegal aliens, and he was asking if the Republicans in office would take any of the actions their harsh words were alluding to.

As someone who not only has an undergraduate degree and MBA with an emphasis on marketing, but who also pays attention to local, national and global politics on a daily basis with an extremely cynical eye, I knew that one of the oldest PR moves in the playbook would be the response when I answered along the lines of, “Something else will come up, either a scandal or new media blurb that will redirect the attention of Americans.”

Sure enough, while our interview was live on Friday, today is Tuesday and already every media outlet, social media contributor and PR office have spent the day blanketing every single outlet with the Ferguson riots, whether it be phony outrage and buzz words from celebrities (well, their PR representatives) or media using classic advertising words to catch your attention and ensure that you either click the link to their story online or stay glued to their station (and, of course, advertising partners).

I’m not writing this as a conspiracy theorist ask you to don tinfoil hats and barricade yourselves in the basement, but I am hoping that maybe you’ll take a moment to reflect on the sheer number of scandals and media events in this administration that have had the uncanny timing of always taking your mind away from pondering anything that would make you question it.

Anyone remember Fast and Furious? Benghazi? The IRS and Lois Lerner scandal? Executive Action on Amnesty? Net neutrality? China and Russia going away from the dollar as reserve currency?

Of course not, who could be bothered to think about those things when we have images of stores burning, rioting and looting in a town most of us had never heard of a year ago.

I’m not saying that any of this is staged, but I am saying that other people with marketing, advertising and political backgrounds understand very well just how fickle the American people have become with their attention spans, and that all it takes is an ability to see a chain of events unfolding and having a camera in the right place at the right time.

Pay attention, America, important things are happening to change your country while you fall victim to the classic magician trick of misdirection.

Lean to the Left – Executive Privilege

| Opinion | November 28, 2014

President Barack Obama announced an executive action regarding immigration last week, and the Right chose to skewer him for using his executive privilege. Illegal? Unconstitutional?

Take a look in the mirror, critics on the Right.

President Obama has signed 191 executive orders during his presidency. George W. Bush signed 291 executive orders (that’s 100 more than Obama). Richard Nixon? He signed 346. How about everybody’s favorite, Ronald Reagan? He signed 381.

Remember George H.W. Bush’s “Family Fairness” immigration plan? Do you also remember how ludicrous his idea of “voluntary departure” sounded?

President Obama has signed the fewer executive orders per year (33 and a half, roughly) than every single president since Grover Cleveland, according to the American Presidency Project. You know how many Republicans that includes? (Hint: a lot)
Not only was President Obama’s action legal, this is part of the job. And not only do I defend his decision, I thought his speech was eloquent, clear and convincing.

His directive seeks to defer deportation for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, parents of U.S. citizens who are themselves undocumented, and children who are permanent residents. He is offering innocent individuals the chance to gain work status—not inviting criminals to stay in our country.

From the opening, he put it out there—said things we can actually all agree with, for instance: “But today, our immigration system is broken—and everybody knows it.”

There was sanity in what he was saying. It was like this: “These people—our neighbors, our classmates, our friends–-they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life. They came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America’s success.”

The most powerful statement in President Obama’s speech, I thought, was: “Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law?”

And one comment should have resonated with Republicans: “Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities, only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us? Or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs here, create businesses here, create industries right here in America?”

Let’s at least come together at square one: the system is broken and everybody knows it.

And to the Republic, For Which it Stands

| Opinion | November 27, 2014

It seems our society has misrepresented, and outright forgotten, some very basic principles of our history, and none is more apparent than the most basic one of all. As the greatest social experiment known to the history of man, the United States of America was created as a true beacon of freedom and certain inalienable rights for all the world to see, yet it seems like a misconception of that very purpose has been taught to the people through various media outlets, buzz words and disinformation.

I have heard, time and time again, people claiming that something in the United States of America is done a certain way or operates in a certain way because we live in a democracy. This is not true, in that we actually live in a republic, and the very definition of a republic versus a democracy is what separates us from the rest of the world, although some would rather you not know or understand that basic fact.

So, what exactly is the difference between a republic and a democracy? There are multiple differences between the two, but a few which I see as the most important, and which are, not surprisingly, the most violated of late.

As a conservative, the most fundamental key of a republic is the limit set on government by law. In a republic, those limits are set by a charter or constitution, which sets out certain inalienable rights that cannot be taken away, even by elected officials.

Sound familiar?

A democracy views the rights of the people as a group, meaning they impose the will of the majority over the rights of a minority or individual. The republic, on the other hand, views rights as granted to the individual, meaning the majority cannot take away certain inalienable rights.

While many people mistakenly believe that we live in a democracy and the government has power to create laws, take away and give rights as long as the majority of the electorate supports it, they are dreadfully wrong.

When you hear the media and the left skewer “constitutionalists” and talk about repealing or changing that document, they are both misguided and ignorant of what this country was actually founded upon, or worse, diabolical individuals who know exactly what treasonous acts they are suggesting. This is why every one of our men and women entering the military swear an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, not the politicians or majority.  By swearing to uphold the Constitution we swear to uphold the very foundation and bedrock of this country: the inalienable rights of the individual, not the majority.

And while there is a vocal minority and many politicians who would like to chip away at our foundation by doing away with the document which founded us and those principles which guide us, this is why the words to the Pledge of Allegiance speak to those very fundamentals:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of The United States of America,
and to The Republic for which it stands,
one Nation, under God, indivisible, with Liberty, and Justice for all.”

Lean to the Left – Bow to Boxer

| Opinion | November 21, 2014

by Sylvia Turner

Uh-oh, the right-leaning SCV is going to have to bow down to the very left-leaning Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). She may end up being the area’s hero, especially for the east side of town. Sen. Boxer has reintroduced the Soledad Canyon Settlement Act to finally put to rest the threatening Cemex Mine matter. Cemex USA’s sand and gravel mining lease at Soledad Canyon has caused concern for Santa Clarita for a decade and a half, and in 2007 the City entered into an agreement with the business, a costly compromise to attempt to make the corporation go away. Sen. Boxer’s bill calls for the Bureau of Land Management to sell lands near Victorville, California, and money would go to Cemex for the canceled contracts. The local mining project would be cancelled, in addition to any future mining in in Soledad. Not only that, part of Sen. Boxer’s bill calls for no cost to taxpayers in the resolution. Now she’s speaking the Right’s language! Of course, she’s not exactly “keeping the Government out of it.” Get your knees ready to bow down—to leftwing hero Boxer and the big bad Government. Can local Republicans humble themselves that much? I doubt it.

Are You Paying Attention?

| Opinion | November 20, 2014

by Robert Patrick Lewis
As our country shifts back into another lame duck Congress after the mid-term elections, I see quite a few things surfacing and going on in the world that make me worried about what is in store and wonder if Americans are paying attention.

As I discussed with Doug and John on KHTS last week, Obamacare “architect” Jonathan Gruber was caught on camera essentially calling the American people stupid for buying the story they were sold on the Affordable Care Act. It seems the only thing stupid to me is that the Obama administration and mainstream media are trying to downplay and distance themselves from Gruber, with even Pelosi coming out and saying she had no idea who he was, and Obama saying he was “just some adviser who was never on staff.”

But, anyone who has had any media coaching or spent time in the public eye knows that once it goes out in the media, it’s impossible to take back. Thankfully, while the media tried to sweep the story under the rug, people across the country found videos of other instances where Gruber bragged about the lack of transparency and outright falsities used to pass the ACA, as well as video of Pelosi talking about and praising Gruber, the same man she claimed not to know anything about when this story surfaced.

Obama used to openly mock Mitt Romney in the 2012 electoral debates, saying, “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because … the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.” Recent news has been proving just how little attention Obama paid during his global intelligence briefs.

While the man who the American people naively believed was the better choice to run the country was making jokes, mother Russia has been getting pretty frisky and outright defiant. We all know about their provocation and lack of care for the UN, and NATO crying foul when Russia started taunting the Ukraine, but have you been paying attention to what the country which Romney accurately called “our greatest threat” has been doing to the U.S.?

This is part of the premise of my new book, “The Pact,” and it’s downright scary that the chess pieces I’ve been seeing put into place over the past few years are being set up for what I see as a terrifying outcome. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, there are several instances of Russian provocations towards the United States in recent months. First, a few weeks ago Russian officials announced that they would be not only increasing the frequency of their bomber flights near the U.S., but also that they would be decreasing the proximity. The Washington Times even reported back in August that Russian bombers had actually penetrated U.S. airspace 16 times over the previous 10 days.

And just last week, a U.S. warship, the USS Donald Cook, was reportedly buzzed a dozen times by a Russian fighter in the Black Sea. Accounts differ widely on what exactly transpired in that instance, with some saying the fighter was equipped with technology which rendered all defensive and offensive technology useless on the U.S. warship, while the Navy made an official claim that it was a harmless incursion.

There are strange things going on in the world, ladies and gentlemen, and while the U.S. has been caught up in reality TV and news about celebrities, our old enemy seems to have been moving the chess pieces around the board while we weren’t looking. If our own Commander-in-Chief had no idea of who our greatest threats are, I have to ask: are you paying attention?

Expectations Create Holiday Stress

| Opinion | November 20, 2014

By Cary Quashen

ex·pec·ta·tion (ek-spek-tā-shən, ik-)

The act of expecting, eager anticipation, the state of being expected. Something expected: a result that did not live up to expectations. Expectations prospects, especially gain.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and many of you will sigh, a sigh of relief, after your brother or sister leave the holiday dinner, exclaiming, “Glad that’s over. We don’t have to endure this relationship one more minute until next year.”

Not to mention, you are chomping at the bit and ready to race out the door for that perfect shopping experience. No wonder the holidays are stressful. We expect great bargains, but the truth is that in just a few hours of shopping, many of us will have overspent our budgets, hurling us into massive credit card debt come January 2015. 

Movies like Miracle on 24th Street, White Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and The Christmas Story, about Ralphie who longed for that very special Red Rider BB gun, often set us up with the expectation that our lives should be perfect and we should get what we want and get it when we want it. These movies may telegraph the feeling that life is perfect if we only believe.  Often unrealistic expectations set us up for failure, holiday sadness and, for some, a dark, deep depression.

So, just how should we handle the holidays? 

• Don’t cling to visions of a Norman Rockwell family moment. That happens only in paintings. 
• Do consider family problems when planning celebratory gatherings. If your brother drinks too much, avoid a dinner party and throw a dry holiday brunch instead.
• Don’t travel out of guilt. Have an honest conversation with your family about how difficult it is for you to make a trip during the holidays. Suggest visiting, say, in February, when you’ll have more time to really see one another. If they don’t understand, consider there may be something wrong on their end.
• Do be flexible with your partner. Some traditions are definitely worth fighting for—but you may be able to let others go.
• Don’t isolate yourself. Seek out kindred souls and spend time with them. If you’re newly divorced, join a support group, volunteer at a homeless shelter, or shop for elderly neighbors so you have some human contact.

Cary Quashen is the founder of the Action Family Foundation, Action Parent & Teen Support Group Programs and Action Family Counseling.         

Poor Life Lessons From Santa Monica

| Opinion | November 15, 2014

robert lewis wby Robert Patrick Lewis

As a loving and devoted father, I spend a good portion of my day consciously thinking of how I can relate my life experiences to my children in order to help them learn about and succeed in life from an early age. Although my purpose is to try and find the most positive life lessons I can for my children, there is a scary and negative life-lesson that I see not being learned by children growing up in the nanny-state liberal conclaves of Santa Monica and West Los Angeles.

After leaving the Army and discovering we were pregnant with our first son, I gave up my dream to be a doctor and opted for the more family-friendly occupation of hospital administration.  For my position at Santa Monica UCLA, I would travel from Santa Monica to our Westwood location quite frequently throughout the week, and loved to partake in a little “people watching” on Wilshire Blvd., as I rode along in the shuttle.

Now, I know that pedestrians have the right of way in California, but the absolute arrogance and entitlement mentality of people crossing the extremely busy Wilshire Blvd. in the middle of the day struck me as very odd. Yet, it is a perfect representation of the liberal, westside mindset, and the poor life lessons it teaches children.

Where I grew up, one of the first lessons you learned from your parents was “look both ways before you cross the street.” It’s a lesson that seems so simple, yet I see it as a lesson that goes far beyond preventing physical injury. I’ve seen people get hit as they blindly set out across Wilshire in afternoon traffic. They see oncoming traffic, but just expect everything in the world to stop because they want to cross the street.

I put this in the context of life, and the mentality about life and the world that the liberal, nanny-state mindset represents. It basically teaches children that everything in the world should revolve around you, and it’s not your job to look out for oncoming traffic, but instead, that it’s the job of traffic to stop for you because, after all, you’re a snowflake and the world revolves around you.

As a man who’s had quite a few life experiences, has traveled the globe and worked with people of all types in many industries, I see it as an important example to teach my kids the exact opposite. While yes, traffic is SUPPOSED to stop for you, life doesn’t always work out like that. If you don’t pay attention to the warning signs that life sends your way (like oncoming traffic), you can very easily get run over by it if you’re not paying attention.

Robert Patrick Lewis is a former Green Beret combat veteran of Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa turned author. His book “Love Me When I’m Gone: the true story of life, love and loss for a Green Beret in post-9/11 war” is currently available, with his next book scheduled to hit the shelves in January 2015. He currently lives in Santa Clarita and works as an Investment Advisor Representative for TransAmerica Financial Advisors.

Reflecting on Measure S Results

| Opinion | November 15, 2014

by Alan Ferdman

With the vote on Measure S in the history book, it seems like a good time to relax and reflect on what transpired. Some Santa Clarita residents, like Bob Kellar, believe it was all about billboards. Bob was quoted in the Santa Clarita Gazette as saying, “The folks said that they do not want billboards on the freeway, they want them on the railroad tracks. Hey, the vote’s the vote.”

But, I believe there was a lot more to it.

This was an issue that started out small, and when city government reacted by ignoring public outcry, it just kept gaining momentum over time. First came the Planning Commission meeting, where small business owners bitterly complained about losing their ability to economically advertise, as Edwards Outdoor was being put out of business. Others complained about the Norland site being rezoned from Open Space to Business Park to facilitate the deal. Next came the 50-year Development Agreement evicting existing billboard owners from Metro property and giving All Vision, an outside company, 30 percent of the gross, while the City received a percentage of the net, with no guaranteed minimum. Lastly, in an attempt to minimize public concern, the City pressured Edwards Outdoor, a local family-owned small business, to accept a contract to take down their small billboards over three years for a payment of $1.3 million. That action just stirred the opposition even more.

As you might imagine, the remaining billboard owners were not pleased with this whole process and they teamed up with newly created community activists, Michael Oliveri, Patty Sulpizio and Steve Petzold, to help fund a referendum to put the issue on a ballot. How did All Vision react? They sent in “blockers” in an effort to prevent residents from signing the petition. What did our City do about it? Nothing, and that created another group opposed to the deal.

Yet, a referendum petition was presented to the City with 18,000 signatures, sent to the county for validation and the required number confirmed. At that time, our City Council had the opportunity to back off and reconsider, but the members decided to push forward. Based on Councilman Kellar’s position that the people signing the petition did not know what they signed, our City Council voted to spend another $208,000 plus legal fees to put the issue on the November Ballot.

As residents, we received mailers and read Sunday Signal wraps exaggerating the number of billboards affected and the revenue anticipated. There was little mention of the three large 48-foot double-sided digital billboards to be erected on our freeways. No mention about one of the billboards to be installed in the wildlife corridor or that a billboard relocation overlay zone had been created, allowing additional billboards to be placed ever 2,500 feet along the freeway. We were told about all the wonderful things the revenue would fund, but our constituents were not fooled. Measure S was soundly defeated on November 4.

After the election results were in, as reported in The Signal, Mayor Laurene Weste spoke out like a parent chastising children by saying, “The Edwards purchase was made with expectation of a revenue stream from digital billboards. Without that, the City must … spend money from the general fund that could go for other services.” Perhaps she forgot about the $750,000 City Council contingency fund or the amount withheld each year to increase the City’s reserve.

So, when you sit back and review Measure S in hindsight, it is easy to see how our City Councilmembers, less Councilmember Boydston, created a perfect storm of opposition, which increased in intensity with every step they took.  One can only hope they will profit from this experience and start listening to their constituents, because in the end, the City Council is supposed to represent its residents. When our elected representatives start to believe they know more than their constituents, they might find out otherwise at the next City Council election.

Alan Ferdman is a 49-year resident of Canyon Country and the Chair of the Canyon Country Advisory Committee.

Lean to the Left

| Opinion | November 15, 2014

by Sylvia Turner

Thank heavens for College of the Canyons. Our college is hosting a scholarly presentation next Thursday, November 20, where faculty member Dr. Phil Gussin will present a discussion on individual perceptions of bias in the media. Dr. Gussin is basing his presentation, held at the Performing Arts Center at 6:00 p.m., on results from an experiment designed by him, with Harvard professor Dr. Matthew Baum.

Finally! Let’s get someone intelligent to weigh in on the subject!

Dr. Gussin and Dr. Baum, professor of global communications and public policy at Harvard University, will challenge some common misconceptions about media bias, and the lecture may ruffle the feathers of right wing extremists (I hope) who think every media outlet is against them (excluding Fox News, of course).

The best news, from teasers about the lecture, is the conclusion that a lot of the bias seen in the media is actually a reflection of people’s own biases. Hallelujah! At last, a look at the biases of those who whine about bias in the media.

Dr. Gussin is both a political science professor as well as an instructor for the college’s award-winning Model United Nations team. He has done extensive work analyzing the extent to which visual media affects people’s perspectives. He co-authored an article in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science with Dr. Matthew Baum, entitled “In the Eye of the Beholder: How Information Shortcuts Shape Individual Perceptions of Bias in the Media.”

I just like that the right will have to take a second look at its black-and-white conclusion that news is entirely biased in the direction of the left. News has been taking the blame for years, as the paranoid right wingers seek to find a reason anyone has an opinion that differs from theirs.

Dr. Gussin gave a classic quote to Hometownstation.com: “If you’re so set in your beliefs that you’re unwilling to take in new information, you should probably find something else to do on November 20.”

For more information about the College of the Canyons Scholarly Presentation “In the Eye of the Beholder” contact the COC Foundation at (661) 362-3434.

Jaso Vs. Doug – A Differing Opinion Our Egocentricity: The Same Egocentricity that Spawned Slavery and Displaced Native America

| Opinion | October 31, 2014

What is it with our American egocentric ways? Are these 50 little United States (plus D.C. and a couple other great locations) really the center of the universe? Is this nation even the center of this world? Are we superior to any other society?

If the answers to the yes/no questions above are no—and hopefully we all can reason that the answers are no—then stop viewing things like Ebola and ISIS as threats only if one or the other breaches U.S. borders.

Threats to health and safety of humans on the African continent or in the Middle East are not remote threats. Those humans are we humans.

They are us. That being the case, our borders have been breached; our lives were threatened and lost long ago.

To think of American human safety as different from non–American human safety is racism in its purest form. Let’s not delude ourselves and say that we may only be a bit arrogant or self-centered or egocentric.

If we become anxious about reports of Ebola or terrorist attacks in the U.S., let’s call ourselves what we are: racist.

The Double-Edged Sword of the Combat Infantry Badge

| Opinion | October 30, 2014

by Robert Patrick Lewis
I am a combat veteran. As such, I wear my Combat Infantry Badge and Purple Heart as my badges of honor, and I say a thankful prayer for making it home alive every time I see them on my old uniforms or in pictures from my military days.

For those of you who don’t know exactly what it is, the Combat Infantry Badge (CIB) is a badge given to combat veterans from a combat arms position in the military. While many of our soldiers have been to a combat zone, most have never been engaged in combat, a distinction the general public doesn’t quite understand. The CIB is meant to give a little respect to those of us who have actually experienced the two-way live fire range with the enemy and survived (it can also be given posthumously to those who didn’t make it back).

But, while my CIB is a badge of honor for myself and my Brothers in Arms who wear it, I’ve found lately that it’s being used against us, now that the wars are winding down and soldier support in the media is taking a back door to things like Ebola outbreaks and incompetent government.

This double-edged sword of the CIB became apparent to me when I started going through my divorce. I love my children more than anything in the world, and although I had huge groups of people willing to fly from across the country to testify for me as character witnesses and gigabytes upon gigabytes of pictures and video proving just how much my children love me and what a great father I am, my badge of honor was suddenly being used against me as a reason to separate us.

As I started talking to my other friends in the military and sharing my experiences, I found that this was an extremely common occurrence these days. While the astronomical numbers of military suicides are getting a lot of press, the numbers of military divorces are also skyrocketing with soldiers returning home from war. More often than not, those of us with the marked distinction of combat experience are automatically seen as the bad guys in the eyes of the court.

There is even an account of a soldier here in California who lost complete custody of his daughter because he didn’t see her for an entire year; the fact that it was due to a combat deployment didn’t matter to the Pasadena judge who oversaw his case, but because he didn’t see his child for a year he was deemed an unfit parent and lost the ability to see the love of his life.

I have dozens of friends and multitudes of former Special Operations colleagues who are going through the same situation right now, and I can only say that it’s a travesty. Those of us who went the extra mile, who signed up for the military to fight for our country and protect those we love, while making the sacrifice of being away from them for long periods of time, are now being punished for doing just that.

Those of us who wear that blue badge of honor in the CIB are not savages, we are not violent offenders, we are not ticking time bombs; we are loving husbands, fathers, and pillars of our communities who love our families and country so much that we were willing to lay down our lives to protect everything that we hold dear.

So, the next time you see a CIB on the resume of a veteran or being used against them in claims made to the court, please do not fall into that trap and make a snap judgment as many have before you; understand that you are looking at a man who knows sacrifice, love and dedication more than most of the others in our country, and while we don’t ask for much, we do deserve better than that.

Robert Patrick Lewis is a former Green Beret combat veteran of Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa turned author. His book “Love Me When I’m Gone: the true story of life, love and loss for a Green Beret in post-9/11 war” is currently available, with his next book scheduled to hit the shelves in January 2015. He currently lives in Santa Clarita and works as an Investment Advisor Representative for TransAmerica Financial Advisors.

Lean to the Left – Hippocratic Hypocrites

| Opinion | October 25, 2014

sylvia turnerby Sylvia Turner

There is no shortage of complaints about Obamacare. You can hear it all day long at the water cooler—if you work somewhere with right-wingers.

“Blah blah blah … long phone call … blah blah … terrible care …”

You get the picture. Meanwhile, governmental healthcare critics don’t seem to mind taking advantage of the goodies sent their way. I don’t know a set of parents alive who did not love the fact they could keep their child on their health insurance plan until the age of 26.

Then there’s Ebola. Thanks to Republicans, we have roughly half the money needed to fight the spread of the disease in the United States. A decade of spending cuts led to a drop in discretionary funding for the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

The CDC’s emergency preparedness has been nearly cut in half in the past seven years. That means that health agencies do not have the money to prepare for serious epidemics, such as Ebola. The CDC’s public health preparedness and response efforts were $1 billion lower in 2013 than in 2002, according to CNN.com

Imagine what might have occurred in the Texas Presbyterian Hospital if health officials were ready to treat patients with the disease. Would we still have fatalities?

I’ll bet if a Republican contracted Ebola, he/she would hope for more from the government. A lot more.

Freedom of Religion?

| Opinion | October 23, 2014

It’s become such a common outcry from the left that it’s downright comical: everyone should have the freedom to say or do whatever they want … unless, of course, we don’t agree with it.

Houston Mayor demands pastors turn over sermons
When a church tries to put its backing behind any form of political candidate, the left screams “separation of Church and State” from the rafters. The city of Santa Monica was barred from a 50-plus year tradition of Christmas decorations in the public park (some even funded by Jewish families in appreciation and mutual respect for the tradition) because of the left crying “separation of Church and State,” but now, when the church is doing something the left doesn’t like, who do they send in? The State.

As a native Houstonian (I grew up in Kingwood, a suburb of North Houston), it pains me to see the news that the city’s first openly gay mayor, Annise Parker, has issued subpoenas to a group of pastors who she feels is saying things she doesn’t like. I have no issue with her being the first openly gay mayor of Houston, and no issue with any part of her lifestyle as long as she’s the best person for the job.

What I do have issue with is the serious hypocrisy that is being demonstrated in an egregious violation of our separation of Church and State doctrine. And it begs me to ask a serious question: as a man who’s spent a lot of time in the Middle East, is the left asking some of the most fiercely anti-homosexual religious representatives, the Muslim clerics, to hand over their sermons? Of course not, it doesn’t serve their agenda.

Priests forced to marry gay couples
As reported by The Blaze, two ordained ministers have filed a federal lawsuit and are seeking a restraining order to prevent local officials from forcing them to marry same-sex couples, saying they have been threatened with fines and possible jail time over their refusal.

This is a direct violation of the separation of Church and State, in that the State is directly violating the ethical code that these religious representatives feel they are upholding. Whether you agree with them or not, it’s up to them to determine their ethical and moral compass, not you, and certainly not the State. And I have to ask again: are Muslim clerics being forced to adhere to the same standards?

As a true conservative, I don’t believe the government has the right to tell people what to do in their lives if they don’t impede the safety and well-being of others, but mostly that our free-market, capitalistic society should be allowed to make decisions regarding morality using their wallets and attendance.

The Beauty of the Free Market
If you don’t like something a business is doing or what its CEO said, don’t buy the products; the government shouldn’t have to step in. If you don’t like a certain football team because it’s full of convicted criminals and domestic violators, don’t buy the jerseys or support the team. And if you don’t like what a pastor or priest is saying, don’t go to that church (unless, of course, it’s Reverend Wright preaching his hate for America, Mr. Obama).

We are quickly becoming the nanny-state that we used to joke about, and it’s infractions like this from a vocal minority that are quickly taking our country off-track; this isn’t a question of whether you support or oppose a lifestyle, but a question of whether or not you want the government deciding your own moral compass.

Robert Patrick Lewis is a former Green Beret combat veteran of Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa turned author. His book “Love Me When I’m Gone: the true story of life, love and loss for a Green Beret in post-9/11 war” is currently available, with his next book scheduled to hit the shelves in January 2015. He currently lives in Santa Clarita and works as an Investment Advisor Representative for TransAmerica Financial Advisors.

Proposition P

| Opinion | October 23, 2014

Proposition P was placed on Los Angeles County ballots as a tax hike on property owners to fund parks. While we appreciate parks and the important role they play in our local communities, this is a flawed initiative and another excessive tax on our residents.
The proponents of Proposition P assert that this is a necessary tax to fund parks and recreational programs – however they fail to mention that the County currently has $150 million in unallocated park funds and our park system will not face any budget cuts without this new tax. In addition, we are already funding parks under two separate tax measures passed in 1992 and 1996 still in existence.

Before saddling tax payers with yet another new tax, we need a comprehensive plan to spend existing unallocated revenues and a proposal to specify the need for new revenue. Proposition P was pushed onto the ballot without any public outreach, input, or discussion, with little research or engagement with the cities.

Furthermore, it will not help reduce crime or make our neighborhoods safer — the funds generated from Proposition P can only be used for capital projects (which includes unnecessary spending on waterways); and cannot be spent on community program or operations that can have a positive impact on our communities.

No one questions the importance of parks in our communities. What we can question is the validity of this ill-conceived and unnecessary measure that is being pushed on the voters this November.

Terri Crain
President and CEO
Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce

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