The CEMEX Mine Mess

| Opinion | January 2, 2014

by Steve Petzold

I am largely indifferent to whether or not the CEMEX mine is ever developed. The scary stories about air quality degradation, ground water aquifer pollution, and gravel trucks blocking SR 14 seem to be greatly exaggerated. These claims are put forth as if everyone in the city of Santa Clarita will be affected equally, and are made without reference to specific studies for independent verification.

Sitting in Saugus, I am more concerned about continued housing development within the city’s limits, which promise to snarl traffic and have a direct impact on my family’s quality of life. Witness the grading of the land north of Newhall Ranch Road, as Golden Valley is pushed through to Plum Canyon. Everyone seems to be celebrating Jim Backer’s high density urban village concept in Canyon Country known as Vista Canyon. Williams Homes has its name on a huge semi-trailer parked within view of Soledad Canyon marking its new development. There is no need for Lance Williams to pay for a billboard to market his massive Trestles Community.

Last I checked, each of these development projects required a fair amount of aggregate for construction that is trucked in from somewhere. Yet, the city leaders continue to spend substantial time and effort railing on our congressional representatives to use any means possible to stop the CEMEX mine, which would be located outside city limits.

I found it very interesting to watch the quixotic effort to push CEMEX legislation through the last days of the 113th Congress. Senator Barbara Boxer suddenly abandoned her Bill S.2771 and substituted a new bill, S.2938, which magically allowed it to have a zero score with the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO has completely lost its integrity in the wake of its “Affordable Care Act” estimates, meant to mislead the public and ensure passage.

My mother always told me, “Stevie, garbage in and garbage out” and “haste makes waste.” Boxer’s CEMEX bill is found at the confluence of these two truisms.

Buck McKeon, bless his heart, introduced similar legislation in the House, H.R.5742, in November. Using his considerable personal connections built during his long tenure, McKeon was able to convince House leadership to allow a last minute legislative sleight of hand to get a unanimous consent vote on the floor.  Buck can live the rest of his life in Virginia correctly stating that he got a CEMEX bill through the House.

Over in the Senate, a largely unknown senator from New Mexico, Martin Heinrich, put a legislative hold on Boxer’s bill, effectively allowing it to die an unceremonious death while crushing the desperate hopes of many in the Santa Clarita Valley. We are led to believe that concern for financial accountability suddenly overwhelmed Heinrich’s record of environmental activism. Not!

We will never know Senator Heinrich’s true motivation for killing the CEMEX bill in the Senate.  Ostensibly, he believes that CEMEX mining should be stopped, but BLM land should not be used as a piggybank for funding. For the moment, I will ignore that his logic defies normal human understanding of the elements that comprise a balance sheet.

I have read Senate bill 2938 and it is clear that it is not a solution, but only the beginning of a process that may lead to a resolution. It is widely conceded that the value of the land sale in Victorville (less federal royalties foregone) will be substantially less than the value of CEMEX mining rights in Soledad Canyon projected over 10 years. The only reason this legislation zero scores to the federal government is that the City of Santa Clarita is expected to pay the difference, which will amount to millions of dollars. Last time I checked, the residents of Santa Clarita are taxpayers.

It remains to be seen how our new Congressman Steve Knight will approach the CEMEX issue. Remember, he proposed his own solution during the campaign to declare State Route 14 a “national defense asset” connecting Palmdale with military assets in the Los Angeles basin. This would have supposedly stopped the mine, because we couldn’t have gravel trucks blocking the route of military convoys. Please smile if you feel the need to cry.

With the new congress coming to power, let us demand transparency from all elected officials regarding the terms and conditions of any CEMEX legislation. Is that too much to ask? Of course it is.

Jaso Vs Doug, A Differing Opinion

| Opinion | December 26, 2013

The Primitive Notion of War
We’ve all experienced the technology revolution and its rapid pace of change. Smart phones evolved out of cell phones, and now many of us no longer even have landline telephones.

In barely a century we’ve gone from being impressed with the Ford Model T to being impressed with the Google car that drives itself. The jet airplane has replaced the stagecoach. MP3 files have replaced vinyl records. We could go on and find countless examples of developments in almost all areas of life—from mechanics to medicine—that have eclipsed earlier ways of doing things. Yet, there is one area of life that is still quite antiquated: we continue to fight and kill each other.

How primitive is the notion of war! Yet, world leaders still carry on campaigns appealing to young people to sign up for training in hand-to-hand combat. Yes, we still have infantry and cavalry, foot soldiers and horse/tank-mounted soldiers that we send out onto the field of battle with weapons in hopes of maiming or killing an opponent the same way it was done centuries ago in the time of Genghis Khan, and even further back to the Roman Empire.
Humble yourselves, world leaders, and realize that we are still quite barbaric. While we have grown and developed in many ways, regarding the concept of war, we are stuck in a primitive past. War is obsolete. We should have grown out of it long before now. If computers and cell phones kept pace with war, Dell would be promoting the Abacus 3.0 and Apple might have been offering Tin-Can-&-A-String 5s for this holiday season.

The human mind has developed ways to radiate tumors; to let us know days ahead that a hurricane is coming ashore; to bounce a beam off a satellite in order to tell us the minute a rising star has done something ridiculous again. It would seem that the human mind is capable of deducing that war is counterproductive to the human self. There lies the missing link to our future. The greatest heads among us have the challenge laid before them.

Now that we have concluded that war doesn’t work, we must develop into a warless society. We must create an alternate way to find resolution to conflict.

In reality, life without tolerance for conflict already exists among us on the level of the individual. School children are simply not permitted to resolve issues by fighting. It is illegal for neighbors to resolve issues with gunfire. Get in a bar fight and you’re ejected. If violence as a source to resolve issues is not acceptable on the individual level, it is preposterous on the world level.

Can we live without discovery of the next computer app? Some of us will not live without discovery of how to eliminate war. Therefore, we call to the brilliant minds among us to get to work on mapping the road to zero tolerance for war amongst the governments of the world.

We fancy ourselves as the superior species. Yet, while the groundhog tunnels when it sees winter coming and the deer runs from fire, we keep running into the fire. Time and time again, through centuries of existence up to the present era we think we’ll have a positive result if we just try conflict resolution by violence one more time. Is that a field general I hear mumbling something? Yes, it didn’t work out so well in Vietnam, but we’re smarter now, and this is so different now in Iraq and Afghanistan!

We have a skewed memory of our past and no instincts to guide us through this issue. Children continue to lose their parents and parents lose their children with every war. It is time to realize that war is so yesterday.

Peace out,

Who Is That Flag For?

| Gazette, Opinion | December 13, 2013

By Jaso

Our community arrived on the world stage recently for actually having hosted the death of a celebrity. Several days ago, a high-speed car crash took the life of actor Paul Walker right here in Valencia. For days following, even after the news faded from national attention, some of our local news sources continued to keep the ball rolling.
The car crash that killed the celeb occurred on the last day of November. The story has maintained front page news in what once was considered a local newspaper source. It is depressingly evident that said paper is now aiming for tabloid status: since December 1 and every day thereafter through December 9 (the date of this writing) not a single daily issue failed to include an angle on the same story.

The story eclipsed Pearl Harbor Day memorial events (December 7, for those of us that missed it). Initial reporting failed to include the name of the other person who lost his life in the fiery crash. How must the family of Roger Rodas have felt? How many noticed their loss that day? Or was he not sufficiently important to mourn, as he was not of adequate social stature?

Perhaps it becomes evident that mourning is not what we are feeling for Walker, nor how we felt for Michael Jackson. Perhaps we are upset about the loss of promised future entertainment or the relationship that we feel we have with our favorite performers. Or, maybe it’s simpler than that. Maybe we’re just hooked on what’s trending.

We continue to hang on every newscaster’s word. And we feed the frenzy with every post and every tweet. Was the cause of the crash of the shiny, red, 600-horsepower Porsche a malfunction? We can’t wait for the toxicology report! Maybe there’s more to this juicy story. I heard someone stole a part off the car! Dude, that car part could be worth more one day than a piece of James Dean’s last ride! If I had it, I’d sell it to a museum!
We are a star-struck society.
Did anyone notice that Nelson Mandela passed away on Thursday, December 5? This man was as rare and precious a gift to mankind as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Statistically, it is not likely that those of us alive today will live alongside such an affecting and influential example of humanity again. Mr. Mandela didn’t just talk the talk—something we find all too often in our leaders. He walked the walk. For 27 years he lived imprisoned by the government of his homeland in an effort to win freedoms and rights for an oppressed majority. He never knew, through those interned decades, if he would ever see freedom, and was absolutely willing to die in prison for the cause.

In all of our history, the flag of the United States has only ever flown at half-staff on government buildings for four foreign dignitaries – until now. Nelson Mandela makes the fifth.

Dude, are you tellin’ me that flag isn’t hangin’ low for Mr. Fast & Furious?

– Jaso

The Mental Health Care Question

| Gazette, Opinion | December 6, 2013

By Josh Heath ‘’Remember to smile; don’t be afraid to do something goofy, and remember the consequences of those actions; ask for help when you need it; ask for help if you think your friends need it; if you don’t know what to do, be quirky; be happy; be smart.’’

These were the words spoken by Angela Adamek as she stood by the casket of her dead son, Christian, last month.

The trouble for Christian Adamek, aged 15, started when he ran afoul of the administration at his high school after streaking at the Friday Night Football game.

After being congratulated by friends and branded the legend of his high school, Christian was brought into the office of the principal, who promptly laid down his punishment – immediate expulsion and a recommended court hearing in regard to formal criminal charges. Two days later, his mother found him hanging in his room.

Instinctively, national news outlets laid the blame for the boy’s death at the hands of the principal, Michael Campbell. Social justice blogs re-ignited the long standing debate over zero tolerance policies in education. Hollywood heavyweight Judd Apatow even got into the act, calling for the principal’s resignation over twitter.

Then, on October 22, Daniel Adamek, the boy’s father, held a news conference. His voice cracking, he announced to a room full of packed reporters the real reason behind his son’s death – the inability to find proper medical care for the boy’s mental illness.

For some mad reason, after this revelation the story faded. It went from being international news covered in The Daily Mail and International Business Times pre-news conference, to a story buried onto online blogs post-news conference.

What could the reason for this be? I believe the answer lies in the first headline that comes up after you Google ‘’Christian Adamek’’: Twitter Poster, Others, Call for Apology to Principal in Christian Adamek Case. That’s right, an apology for the principal.

 It is as if, somehow, the role of mental illness tempered the tragedy as a whole, not in its aspects of sadness, but in our ability to contextualize it into our collective psyche.  

That is, when put to the tests of logic, maddening in its ignorance. A boy was born a certain way and the way he was born led to his death. It was the same for Emmitt Till.

Nearly one in five children in this country suffer from some form of mental illness. The reason for that statistic is disputed by experts; some blame the lead in the air, others an increase in drug use. What is certain, however, is that the population is growing, and much like poverty in this country, becoming too large to stigmatize.

If the mainstream media did its due diligence, they would have drawn the connection between the Adamek tragedy and the current health care fight in Congress.

The Affordable Care Act, if left into law, will hereby make it illegal for insurers not to provide mental health treatment to consumers. Additionally, no longer would an insurance company be allowed to quote someone a higher rate or deny them coverage simply for disclosing their mental health history.  These reforms could have gotten Christian the care that was needed.  

Rather than starting from this crucial premise and moving to concerns with the law, the media focused solely on the percentage of Americans who received insurance cancellation letters due to their plans’ failure to meet the ACA’s ‘’essential benefits.’’ Stories of folks who were paying $50 for the most basic care that ended up paying much more under Obamacare abounded; thus, inflaming the worst fears of the masses that the law would be nothing more than a big government mess. Which it still has the potential to be. 

However, when you paint the solution to a problem, as the problem itself, too often the reason why the debacle began in the first place becomes tragically forgotten. Our greatest politicians always understood, that, no matter what the opinions of peppered middle aged men and women turned out to be, there were millions of children who had not yet been given the chance to make up their minds on the important issues of the day. That first and foremost any solution put forth must safeguard their ability to grow up and do so.

Decades of delay on the health care question has led to the pain of the Adamek family, as well as millions of others. As a country, it is our obligation to examine the evidence and figure out what it all really means.

Blind to Justice

| Gazette, Opinion | November 30, 2013

By Betty Arenson
“Justice is blind” so we’re told. That’s the concept anyway, meant to tell us that there are no biases in the justice system, no matter what, be it wealth, social status, race, creed or color. Each of us is to be treated fairly and equally. It’s a great concept…in a perfect world…but just consider O.J. Simpson, Nicole and Ron Goldman, or Ted Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne. 
Those examples remind us that “life isn’t fair.” It certainly hasn’t been for Michael Morton of Texas.
Decades ago, Morton was convicted of murdering his wife in 1986.
At the time, a man named Ken Anderson was a 30-something-year-old prosecutor in Williamson County, where he had a tough-on-crime reputation. Reportedly, after Anderson’s 16 years as a prosecutor, he went on to be a judge for the next 11 years. He would probably still be arrogantly in his black robe on the bench, but for the revelation he’s a dirty rat – to put it very mildly.
Anderson was arrested in April 2013, but did not resign until September. The charges, and his ultimate agreement for his guilt in the Morton case, were for felony witness tampering, misdemeanor tampering with evidence (apparently not revealing exculpatory evidence that may well have exonerated the defendant), and lying to the presiding trial judge.
As a result, Michael Morton, who has spent nearly 25 years of his life behind bars (a life-sentence conviction), was set free from the conviction for beating his wife to death in front of his then three-year-old son. As an aside, that little boy said his dad wasn’t home at the time of the crime.
“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Anderson proved it.
The set-in-stone reality is that prosecutors are very rarely ever prosecuted for professional misdeeds as they are granted (carelessly, in my opinion) broad immunity.
Infamous lawyer Barry Scheck is the founder of the Innocence Project and one of Morton’s lawyers. Via the legal team’s efforts, Morton is now out of prison. DNA tests pointed to another man for the murder, coupled with Anderson’s abhorrent actions.
Here is the next crime. For all of the transgressions in his win-at-any-cost actions, the former Honorable Ken Anderson, now 61 years old, must surrender his law license, serve 500 hours of community service, pay a $500 fine and serve nine days in jail. Further, he is free until he begins that sentence on December 2.
What a travesty, what a shame.
By the tone of the reports, the legal community is shocked that a prosecutor could be prosecuted for “misconduct.” 
A man, Michael Morton, languished in prison for 25 years, did not raise his son, knew his wife met a terrible death and endured all of the emotions involved with all of that, while the imperious shyster retires, pays a few bucks and allegedly will give up nine days of his undeserved good life. 
One Associated Press article called Anderson’s punishment a “sweeping deal,” then reported, “Anderson has previously apologized to Morton for what he called failures in the system, but has said he believes there was no misconduct.”
Misconduct?  On that we can agree. The acts were cold and lawless and the unrepentant Ken Anderson will seemingly never pay the real price.  
It isn’t that justice was blind, it’s that Ken Anderson was blind to justice and that ended in life not being fair for Michal Morton. 

Man at the Crossroads

| Gazette, Opinion | November 29, 2013

Public Art in Santa Clarita

By Chris Ball
A local legal notices journal reported recently: “Most in city survey want Newhall roundabout to go bare.” That headline was deceptive. Most people do want something, but they aren’t yet in agreement as to what it should be. Spending taxpayer money for the aesthetic choices of a select few is always problematic in a democracy.

The real value of public art, particularly controversial art, is a stimulated debate among citizens about the choices made by local officials. Historic precedents include that eminent historic art critic “shoot-to-kill” Mayor Richard J. Daley, who defended a large and controversial Picasso sculpture for the Chicago Civic Center Plaza. One councilman said it should be replaced with a statue of Cubs hero, Ernie Banks. Columnist Mike Royko said it captured the soul of Chicago: “Its eyes are like the eyes of every slum owner who made a buck off the small and weak. And of every building inspector who took a wad from a slum owner to make it all possible.”

And let’s not forget that great liberal art patron, Nelson Rockefeller, who destroyed in 1934 a monumental mural, “Man at the Crossroads” by Diego Rivera, because it included an image of Lenin in one corner. With “private” wealth accumulated from their oil monopoly, the Rockefellers had commissioned a 63-foot wide public art mural for Rockefeller Center. The composition, approved by the family, was intended to contrast capitalism and socialism. It was intended to be flanked by themes of ethics on one side and materialism on the other. The artist created a huge plaster fresco, a symbolic image of workers at the crossroads of industry, science, socialism, and capitalism. It could have stimulated a democratic cultural debate for all time. But, the aesthetics were political and controversial, and the “privately funded” public art was destroyed. Rivera then exiled himself from the United States and recreated the work in Mexico City, where he added a Rockefeller sitting in a nightclub.

(Here I wanted to say something about the politician who was perhaps the greatest art critic of all time and a relentless champion of Liberty, Senator Joseph McCarthy. But, his relevance to the Newhall roundabout discussion is maybe too abstract, and I couldn’t figure it out.)

Kipling wrote about public art in “The Conundrum of the Workshops”:

They builded a tower to shiver the sky and wrench the stars apart,
Till the Devil grunted behind the bricks: “It’s striking, but is it Art ?”
The stone was dropped at the quarry-side and the idle derrick swung,
While each man talked of the aims of Art, and each in an alien tongue.

Does any of this sound familiar? Personally, I like the controversy. Doesn’t the big metal butterfly in the median remind us of some of our neighbors? Won’t discussion of a tangible statue of William S. Hart (our Ernie Banks) help us recognize our friends who fear abstractions? Public officials are advocating the beneficial use of taxpayer money to elevate the public spirit. Doesn’t that help us distinguish lowbrows from highbrows and extinguish liberals disguised as conservatives?

I like this debate. The controversy helps stimulate democracy and public participation. We can best ensure that it continues by advocating the most controversial, the most expensive and the most abstract piece possible.

Let the Newhall roundabout be a symbol, a monument to the automobile and our conspicuous consumption of fossil fuels. That’s us, isn’t it? The circle symbolizes both unity and lack of direction. Isn’t that democracy? It allows us to generally converge and yet still be divergent without ever meeting at the very center. Let us put something there that proclaims, once and for all, that we don’t know who we are or what we want and that we will never completely agree with each other.

Jaso vs Doug A Differing Opinion

| Gazette, Opinion | November 29, 2013

Mr. Ranter,
You claim the federal government should cut spending everywhere except for military expenditures and they should increase military expenditures. Last week’s rant: “We should spend more on the military to keep us the strongest nation in the world.”

Mr. Sutton, the U.S. spends many millions of dollars for military expenditures every hour on war and national security from foreign invasion, and you want to spend more? If we are the strongest nation in the world, then second and third must be Iraq and Afghanistan, because they’ve kept us at bay for well over a decade now. But if you truly feel we need to spend more on our military, then you just go on and add a little something to your tax payment this month and designate it for more ships, drones, and tanks.

However, before you write that check, please consider this: I have some sobering news for you, Mr. Ranter. National security and international peace-keeping (really, the new label for “war time”) are simply means of continuing to circulate currency in hopes of aiding our ailing economy. Have you ever wondered why it is that, with all of our incredible military technology, which is capable of launching a drone operated by military personnel with a joystick at a secure site in the U.S. to destroy a sniper on a rooftop in the Middle East, we are still unable to overpower a combatant that buries homemade roadside mines with bare hands and a shovel?

It is time to accept the realization that your federal government collects your taxes and with your tax money pays military salaries and keeps wartime factories open and operating, not with victory in mind, but with commerce in mind. The feds consume and consume and consume goods and services under the guise of military might for the sake of jobs. Your government’s expenditures on military salaries is a jobs program; not so different from President Roosevelt’s post–Great Depression Public Works Projects. The main difference, of course, is that, rather than getting new roads, bridges and buildings, we get spent ammo, wounded soldiers, and a reputation for bringing ill will and destruction throughout the world.

If you insist on keeping your head in the sand, then don’t let that news stop you, Mr. Ranter. Keep those munitions factories running by sending in that extra money you made this month along with your regular tax payment.

As for your fears of socialism, well, we just dipped into topic ever so briefly and subtly. However, your stress level is not ready to address that subject in full after just facing the true objective of your tax dollars. Perhaps we can talk next week on your fear of socialism after you’ve taken in a holiday with all its festivities to help calm your rage.

Jaso vs. Doug – A Differing Opinion

| Gazette, Opinion | November 22, 2013

On Life’s Lesson at Church:
Mr. Ranter,
Perhaps the “pure wisdom” of which your minister spoke (and was driven home by Mrs. Ranter’s elbow) that you had mentioned in your last rant could be interpreted as “humble wisdom,” rather than arrogant wisdom. Or maybe pure wisdom is to be differentiated from jaded wisdom, or maybe wisdom filtered through far right glasses, or…(you get the point).

On the Protests of Doug’s Rants:
It would certainly be an exercise in wisdom if you were to take to heart the comments last week about your rants lacking cohesiveness and focus. Either that, or consider changing the column title to “Doug’s Ramblings.”

Let’s shed some light on an excerpt from your last rant by dissecting a brief paragraph (actually a lengthy sentence) so that, not just others can see the disconnect, but you too, Mr. Ranter, might experience one of those “Aha” moments for yourself.

A paragraph from Doug’s Rant of last week: “You know what is worth ranting about that not too many seem to be doing? How about little things, like 91 million people not working, 47 million people on food stamps, 49% of Americans getting some form of a check from the government each month and our country’s debt at $17 trillion!”

In one rambling sentence you condemned aid to 91 million Americans out of work, 47 million people receiving food aid, and a great percentage of our citizenship receiving other governmental aid. This sentence/paragraph continues, as it blames these programs that aid the less fortunate for the national debt of $17 trillion. Now, were you to continue and state, for example, that $X trillion goes to assist the unemployed, while $Y trillion goes toward food assistance, and so on, all in excess of revenue coming in, then you might eventually produce a coherent point. Part of the disconnect is that the expenditures are expressed in numbers of people with no reference to actual dollar expense, while the national debt is indeed expressed in dollars. How does your readership see a relationship? (They don’t.)

The next issue with the same ranting paragraph is that you just might find that, once expressed in dollars, the annual expense to aid the hungry, the unemployed, the unhealthy/uninsured is miniscule in relation to the national debt. This discovery will take the wind out of your rant completely, not to mention lower your blood pressure and maybe even drive you to find the truest source of our out-of-control spending. “AHA!” (That was not me. That utterance just came from you, Mr. Ranter.)

On Aid and the United States:
While we’re on the topics of aid and out-of-control military expenditures (subtle segue, eh?), why don’t we give you a bit more fat to chew on between now and next week’s rant.

We Americans are generally grateful to be in a position to help others. We help our own less fortunate through ways that you mentioned above, and we help others around the globe from those under dictatorial military regimes (granted, sometimes access to oil is an additional motivation), and to others experiencing natural disasters. Case in point, U.S. ships are transporting food, water, and medical relief to the Philippines presently.

However, it should be noted that aiding the world can be very expensive. Suffice it to say that an aircraft carrier laden with food and water is the furthest thing from a Prius when it comes to miles per gallon. And so we pay. The price for aiding the world, the underprivileged, as well as those who are willing to share oil with us, so that we can continue to fuel our overweight military juggernaut, all contribute to what has become a huge national debt.

The price paid for becoming the world’s heroes and the road to heroism is reminiscent of another alleged hero.

Many years ago, Bill Gates of Microsoft went to Washington and spent a good portion of his early life defending and preserving his huge growing monopoly before Congress. He successfully kept control of the marketplace for computer operating systems for his own Windows program, crushing any hopeful competition for many years (and eventually forcing Windows 8 down our throats – but we won’t get into that.)

Eventually, as a result of having virtually sole control of the market, Gates amassed a tremendous fortune. Then, Mr. Gates created the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Today he appears quite saintly, despite former wrongdoings. Unfortunately, the U.S. has had a not too dissimilar story. Affecting markets for precious oil, even destroying foreign governments (altering societies in the act) in the course of pursuing the commodity, has indeed helped to make America a world power. And now, sending aid all over the globe, both military and monetary, the U.S. appears saintly, just like Mr. Gates. While we generally all want to aid others, we do not want to aid through dominant superiority. We just want to help. Right?


What’s Their Next Great Idea?

| Gazette, Opinion | November 14, 2013

By Chris Ball

The SCV Sanitation District recently voted for a chloride reduction plan using reverse osmosis and disposal of the salt-brine in deep injection wells. That decision disappointed the Castaic Lake Water Agency (CLWA), who favored a plan that gave six million gallons per day of our local well water to Ventura County, replacing it with water imported and sold by CLWA.

A recent article in California Lawyer Magazine discussed the problems with fracking oil and natural gas in our state.  Water is scarce in California, and fracking requires a lot of it.

From a NY Times editorial in 2009: In 2005, Vice President Dick Cheney, a former CEO of gas driller Halliburton, requested that Congress exempt fracking from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. This has been referred to as “The Halliburton Loophole.” It stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to regulate a drilling process called hydraulic fracturing. Invented by Halliburton in the 1940s, it involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals, some of them toxic, into underground rock formations to blast them open and release natural gas.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the Sanitation District can sell the salt brine for fracking. With just a few more Halliburton chemicals added, that brine can be used to fracture the deep bedrock and release the oils and gas for a profit.

CLWA is still the lead agency for cleaning up the Whitaker-Bermite ground water, which is expensive. Also, the vacant land in the middle of Santa Clarita has good access and many pads ready for drill rigs and storage tanks.

Since the recent decision by the Sanitation District thwarts the plan of the Castaic Lake Water Agency to import and sell us six million gallons of water a day, we should be anticipating its next venture. Fracking at Whitaker -Bermite with free brine water (paid for by Sanitation District ratepayers) will generate oil and gas royalties for CLWA that can be used to clean up the perchlorate. Those revenues might mitigate the agency’s losses from the recent Sanitation District decision.

Now, as far as I know, this idea occurred to me first. If CLWA or the City of Santa Clarita, or anybody else, has fracking plans for Whitaker-Bermite, I’m not aware of it. And, I’m not seriously suggesting it’s a “great” idea. But, given the recent maneuverings and manipulations, I wouldn’t be greatly surprised.

Ethnic Cleansing in Santa Clarita

| Gazette, Opinion | November 9, 2013

I’ve been pondering the effect of partitioning Santa Clarita into competing ethnic voting blocks. Is that really going to benefit Latinos? With the existing at-large voting, all five council members each represent all citizens. All candidates can pander to all voters. A majority of three can decide all issues affecting everyone city-wide.

According to the California Voting Rights Act: “An at-large method of election may not be imposed or applied in a manner that impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election.” The premise of the current lawsuit against Santa Clarita is that district voting provides ethnic representation and political influence, and at-large voting does not. It assumes that citizens want to be represented by candidates who will advocate the interests of their ethnic group.

Considering our demographics, it appears that our existing at-large method of election does not impair the ability of Latinos to elect candidates or influence elections. In fact, the existing at-large method provides more political influence for Latinos than district voting would.

The 2010 census shows that 29.5 percent of our city is Latino. We don’t know the geographic distribution. But, let’s assume, hypothetically, that half the Latinos might be concentrated in some neighborhoods. Maybe those neighborhoods can be segregated into gerrymandered ethnic voting districts. That would possibly assure Latinos of one seat on the Santa Clarita City Council. If they voted as an ethnic bloc, it would also guarantee that they would always be in the minority on the City Council. The other four council members could safely ignore Latino interests. Segregating ethnic groups into voting districts will guarantee that Latinos will be permanently disadvantaged and under-represented. Is this what Latinos really want?

With at-large voting, candidates can reside anywhere, and every candidate can address the needs and solicit votes from any citizen. With segregated ethnic voting, our city-wide community becomes partitioned into competing voter blocks. Once elected, each council person can ignore the needs of the community and focus only on the needs of one district. The cohesive community spirit in Santa Clarita that brings consensus power into one chamber will dissolve into separate fiefdoms.

The lawsuits assume that Sand Canyon and Saugus don’t care about Newhall, and Canyon Country and Valencia are not within the same community. Do we want government like L.A. County? Do we want government like the City of L.A.? Do we want Santa Clarita to become like Palmdale?

The premise of the Voting Rights Act is that Latinos do not want social integration and immersion into the American melting pot. The premise of the lawsuits is that Latinos want to exert political influence as an ethnic voting bloc and to remain a protected class.

The lawsuits advocating ethnic voter segregation are socially destructive in a cohesive community such as Santa Clarita, where all five council members look after the interests of all citizens. If our city becomes ethnically partitioned, Latinos will have less political influence.

Jaso vs. Doug A Differing Opinion

| Gazette, Opinion | November 7, 2013

The Need For Socialized Medicine or, Per Mr. Sutton, Socialist Bull Crap
Mr. Ranter,
Congratulations on the new gentler, kinder, subdued you. Eventually it will serve you well. Unfortunately, for the present, it is evident between the lines that you are still enraged like a pot of stew on a high flame. You may appear calm, but your lid is about to rumble.
Before addressing the socialist comment, we need to address the reference, “…that our country is $17 trillion in debt….” You suggested that a world-changing national health care program that is barely in its infancy is a concern as it relates to the national debt. Could it be that the current $17 trillion national debt figure was maybe a pre-existing condition? Booyah!
We probably don’t need to continue, but you’re not getting off that easy. Your readers deserve more.
Seriously, do you really think that the U.S. annual military expenditures have had anything short of a major effect on our out-of-control national debt? Since it is hard to conceive in annual figures, let’s look at it in the short term.
The U.S. military machine burns up just under $2 billion per day. That’s right. Each day.
When the goose bumps subside and when we are able to move on past striking questions that arise, like “With that kind of investment spent to combat primitive roadside explosive devices, why do we still have so many casualties?” or “Does that $2 billion/day count burial expenses for those lost in battle, as well as the almost equivalent number of those soldiers lost to suicide?” then will we get back to addressing that socialist remark.

Now that we’ve recovered, for the moment anyway, from the dismal state of military economics and what we might call military social science, we can address national health care. Let’s talk beyond the obvious fact that it is way less costly than waging war or even waging peacetime national security. National debt is a non-issue with regard to health care. Now that we’ve put that point to rest, let’s move on to the real meat of this communication.
National health care or, as you call it, “socialist bull crap,” is not only necessary, it is humane. Isn’t it quite apparent that to provide health care as competitive capitalist goods and services carries an inherent twisted disservice to the well-being of our citizens? The theory of capitalism is that he who builds the better mouse trap wins the lion’s share of the marketplace. However, we all know that theory and reality are two very different things.
Example: WalMart wins in most market places in which it participates, yet we all know they provide crappy mouse traps produced with the cheaper materials at below fair market wages. Is that what you want in health care service? Your health care provider knows that if he/she cannot turn a profit then that practice will not be operational next year. So, your health care provider, like WalMart and its suppliers, cuts corners.
Let’s explore a capitalist health care example: You go in for, let’s say, a procedure. (I understand that elderly males like yourself, Mr. Ranter, should do that on occasion.) Let’s say it’s your turn to get the camera-on-a-snake unleashed on an exploration of your underworld. You are sitting in the waiting room and you hear a conversation through those paper-thin walls (because, let’s face it, the place was put up by the lowest bidder).
“C’mon, Sally, if we continue to go over the top with the cleaning and sanitizing process after each procedure, we’ll never meet our expense goals and we’ll lose our contract. Just run that camera under the hot water for a bit after you pull it out of Fred, and it’ll be fine for Doug. He’s already in the waiting room and George follows him in 30 minutes.”
Is it just possible that competitive health care is a factor in why cases of staphylococcus run rampant in our hospitals?
We could go on for quite awhile addressing the wonderful coverage now affordable to those who recently had a heart attack or diabetes or breast cancer and heretofore could not buy health insurance at any price because of their pre-existing conditions. We could go on about how capitalist-operated health care has no plan for the homeless beyond “Let the churches and philanthropists do what they can for them.” But, if we continued on all the issues of why socialized medicine is fair medicine, there would be no room for your next rant.

Jaso Vs. Doug

| Gazette, Opinion | October 24, 2013

Chloride: Options, Deadlines, and Procrastination

What is it with procrastination in our society? It goes by many other references. Some are very cloaking: deferring a decision, getting an extension, or taking it under advisement. You can easily spot the beast by listening for precursor statements, such as: How long do we have on this? When is the deadline? How about I max out my credit card and pay for it later?

(Yes, this may sound like part two to the commentary last week on accountability. Okay, it certainly could be.)

Mr. Ranter, you wrote an article last week called “Chloride Options,” referring to the choices that lay before the Santa Clarita City Council members. The correct title might have been “Chloride Options…Now That Our Backs Are Against the Wall.” This more accurately describes how the council is addressing the options that lay before it at this point. Why at this point? Because one deadline (note the opening paragraph) passed us many years ago. That deadline was to consider the greater options that were available when the issue first arose many years ago (granted, under a different city council). At that time, the cost of the fix was much more negotiable. There was no pressure to come up with an immediate plan. The city could have taken competitive bids on water treatment solutions and chosen an affordable option. Presently, the city is not in a very good negotiating position to take bids on water treatment as the State of California’s deadline is October 31. That’s right, less than seven days away. Did I say “less than seven days away”? I meant to say, “… is once again less than seven days away.” Yes, we recently missed a previous state deadline for the same violation, which resulted in a fine of $225,000. Boy, that would have made for a nice down payment on a roundabout.

Perhaps there is a commonality to observe. The nation’s citizens recently paid a price because both the Congress and the President were okay with buzzing right on past the deadline of a government shutdown. The citizens of Santa Clarita paid a price for its local government also riding right on through a deadline.

Just for fun, for a moment let’s follow the process of a common political officer rising through the ranks. State officials most often rise from the ranks of the more successful local political leaders. Federal representatives are gleaned from the most successful state officials. That said, maybe there needs to be a requirement for running for any governing office. Maybe, in addition to the usual requirements like age or citizenship, there should be some additional gatekeeper-types of questions: Did you used to write your term papers the night before they were due? Did you ever ask for an extension on filing your taxes? Did you ever apply for a credit card because your other one was maxed out?

It has been said that deadlines are what get things done. But, what do you do when the powers-that-be ignore deadlines? Maybe weeding out characteristics like procrastination is just what local, state, and national budgets need for success.

Ask the Real Estate Coach

| Gazette, Opinion | October 20, 2013

Dear Coach,

I have been pre-approved for a loan to purchase a home, however interest rates have been rising and now, with the government shutdown, do you think I should wait to make a purchase?
Betsy in Saugus

Dear Betsy,

I actually think you should be more aggressive with your search right now and I’ll tell you why. The Federal Housing Administration’s Office of Single Family Housing is endorsing new loans during the shutdown, and fixed mortgage rates have fallen for three consecutive weeks. Some lenders are adopting revised policies during the shutdown that will allow for processing and closings with income verification to follow, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

While there may be some delays along the way, for the most part, we are able to fund loans in a timely manner. Find that perfect home and write your offer so you can lock in on an interest rate that is more affordable than you’ve seen in months.

If you have a Dear Coach question you’d like answered in this column, email it to dearcoachbecky@gmail.com or email becky@beckysill.com for an immediate response.
Becky Sill
BRE #01802609
Troop Real Estate, Inc.

Jaso vs. Doug, A differing opinion

| Gazette, Opinion | October 17, 2013

Mr. Ranter,
In your rant of last week you stated, “America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership.” Congratulations on openly crossing the aisle and agreeing with a Dem, but you are mistaken again, Mr. Ranter.

Using your terms, “failure” and “problem,” let’s express the real issue in your words. America has an accountability problem. America has a failure of responsibility. More specifically, America fails in collective personal responsibility. (“Collective personal” may sound like it contradicts itself, but really it doesn’t. Stay with me and see.)

The most immediate (and unsound, not to mention mentally unhealthy) alternative to accepting responsibility is seeking to place blame.

Both the Congress and the Obama administration have continually used the immature strategy of blame for every topic from the economy to health care and beyond. It has become a staple of the two dominant political parties to blame the other side of the aisle for all of the nation’s woes. The motive for blaming an elected public officer is slightly disconnected and grossly selfish. Politicians who employ the tactic of blaming hope that the move promotes his/her own party and helps his/her own career growth and, ultimately, brings greater financial success along the way. If such a move helps the politicians’ constituents, it is too often only by coincidence.

The issues of personal responsibility on the stage of national and world politics are not so different from issues in our personal lives. The seemingly infinite capacity for national debt, to the point of lowering our country’s credit rating, is something we would frown on as a trait in ourselves or in a family member or a friend. Yet, rather than deal with an out-of-control national debt, our leaders would rather accept it and leave the consequences for another generation.

Our leaders need to own the national debt. How proud would you be of a president, a senator, or a representative that stood up and took it on as a personal goal to work to control debt? Wouldn’t you feel like you had a great leader if someone in Washington had the courage to say that we have to set the standard for credibility? Instead of looking up at a virtuous goal, our current leaders are looking at economically devastated nations and asking, “How much closer are we to the conditions of Greece or Spain today?”

You, Mr. Ranter, and other parents try to live as fine examples for your children to observe and to absorb. You want to be financially responsible (among the many other virtues, such as moral, etc.) and hope that your children will follow and emulate. In turn, adults in our society have our leaders to follow. It should come as no surprise that many in our society live over their heads when the message from our leaders is: “It’s okay to have growing debt. It’s okay to have our credit rating devalued. It’s okay to be personally, and as a national leader, professionally irresponsible.”

We need our leaders to step up, Mr. Ranter. All of them.

Senators, Representatives, Mr. President, stop the name calling and blame. Look in the mirror and say firmly, “I am responsible.” Repeat it louder and louder in the first person singular form. Not “we,” not “they,” but “I.” Then get back to work and conduct yourselves responsibly. You owe it to your country and to its citizens that gave you your jobs.

Jaso vs. Doug, A differing opinion

| Gazette, Opinion | October 11, 2013

Mr. Ranter,
Prior to the current status of the United States government, you cried out, “Shut ‘er down!” In essence, Mr. Sutton, you agreed with Congress on their most recent move.

Let’s take away all the vagueness that may cloud the facts of the government closure. This will allow us to have a closer look at our federal government that has “shut down” and allegedly ceased to operate. By clearing away the clouds we will determine who has been short-changed and who continues to flourish through this crisis.

Emergency and national security operations continue to operate. But, really, that is just part of the vagueness, so we’ll ignore that point for the moment and return to the ongoing operation of national security shortly.

Presently food assistance to the poor and less fortunate has been drastically reduced; staff at the Center for Disease Control has been cut back; a portion of Head Start programs throughout the country have been shut down; and FDA has suspended most routine food inspections. Likewise, OSHA is suspending the major part of its safety inspection process. Additionally, up to half of civilian staff working with the Department of Defense can expect to be furloughed.

Now let’s see. Are members of Congress being furloughed or reduced to a skeleton crew? Well, no. Okay, sort of. Senators and Congresspersons have indeed been sent home. However, unlike those that are furloughed, Congress has been sent home with full pay. Oh, yes, with full medical too. So, in essence, members of Congress are receiving their full annual salary for a reduced work year or for as long as the government ceases to operate. Whose idea was it to shut down the government and give Congress an extended paid vacation, while the CDC, FDA, OSHA, DOD, and key public safety agencies close up or lean down? Congress, you say?

Shut ‘er down, you say, Mr. Sutton?

Oh, wait. We almost forgot to return to the issue of uninterrupted national security. While national security is not to be sacrificed in the least, paychecks to active duty military will be delayed during the federal government shutdown. So, members of Congress all fly home for a brief vacation (because air traffic control has been ordered to continue working) and relax with the full confidence that the dedicated military will continue to protect despite the fact that soldiers’ pay will not be arriving with the same uninterrupted commitment.

We all have responsibilities of one sort or another. We may be committed, or more accurately, we have promised to serve any variety of things from flower beds to children, from patients to constituents. The travesty of Congress abandoning the citizens they promised to serve—something unacceptable of parents, teachers, nurses, physicians—is nothing short of abhorrent.

Please, Mr. Sutton, the next time you consider yelling “shut ‘er down,” you might be more considerate in designating who is not allowed to be short-changed as well as who is not permitted to be grossly negligent of those they swore to serve!

Hello readers. While I was looking for something else, I ran across the following article that I wrote nearly 15 months ago. Sadly, it not only applies today, but it’s worse today.      Are we better off yet?

| Gazette, Opinion | October 4, 2013

By Betty Arenson
Keep your pictures and your dictionaries. You’ll need them for authentic reference for the United States of America you once knew. United? Less everyday. States? Only as sovereign as this president dictates. America? Weakened and continually threatened. You’ll want to remember words like freedom, liberty, democracy, U.S. Constitution and responsibility. You’ll know dependence, socialism, Marxism and communism, because you’ll be living it.

President Obama repeatedly declared he would not raise taxes in any form on the middle class by “one single dime,” yet we have compulsory Obama Health Care (OHC) pulsing solely as a tax. The “Affordable Health Care Act” (AHCA) of nearly 3,000 pages passed exclusively by democrats was not read by any of them, but for the autocratic provision that opts all of them and their friends out. Nancy Pelosi parrots “It is good for America.” It’s so good that the administration granted 1,372 waivers by June, 2011 (per GAO). Of the 204 waivers issued in April, 2011 alone, nearly 20 percent were in Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco District. The 2012 numbers are yet to be reported.
One fact is solid. Whatever you call it: PPACA, OHC, AHCA, ObamaCare, etc., the democrats own it! Be forever mindful of that verifiable truth.

Premiums, co-pays, etc. have all increased significantly since 2010’s March Madness, when democrats bulldozed OHC. These detrimental costs will be outdone by all of the newly mandated taxes, like on medical devices and higher capital gains and Medicare taxes. When you sell your home for $400,000 you will swiftly pay the IRS $15,200, due to the new 3.8 percent tax on home sales.

Democrats, led by Barack Obama, are indeed TEA Party members. It’s the Tax ‘Em Again Party and they are in high gear.

President Obama often orates, “It’s the right thing to do,” as in his January, 2011 State of the Union address, discussing the Dream Act and passing OHC. In one speech at Youngstown, Ohio in May, 2010 he spoke it 18 times. Only in this imperialistic administration could an enthusiastic bunch of hypocritical politicians celebrate a forced healthcare system onto unwanting, hard-working Americans telling them “It’s the right thing to do,” while at the very same moment exclude themselves, their staffs and their political friends from the right and good deal.

“Affordable” to many translates to “free.” But those whom Democrats deem able to pay, will. Workers will not be able to keep their present insurance or their chosen doctors if employers opt to pay the tax because it’s cheaper. Doctors will depart, because OHC will pay each doctor the same rate, irrespective of specialty (HB3200 pgs. 241 & 253), with the government setting the rates. How many will enter medical school? Glaringly, the dollars from the tax will not go to healthcare; they will go into that governmental abyss called the U.S. Treasury’s general fund. The uninsured will remain uninsured, and when they do seek treatment, the rest of us will pay, just as we do now.

A more veiled OHC downside is the oppressive unemployment burden.

The oligarchical actions of this administration leave businesses unsteady with the inability to prudently plan their existence. Businesses are begging for relief from expensive, onerous regulations. The Small Business Administration reports that federal regulation costs have exceeded $1 trillion since 2005. The Federal Register published 3,807 new rules for 2012 (over 10 per day), and 212 are “economically significant,” meaning they cost more than $100 million per year.

Senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center and former Bureau of Labor Statistics commissioner, Keith Hall, offers that, should “disengaged” Americans, the six million who haven’t looked for work in just the prior four weeks, file for unemployment, the rate would jump to over 11 percent (CNNMoney 5/3/12). Further, the Gallup report of the underemployed in the April 2012 U.S. workforce was 32 percent for 18- to 29-year-olds and 12.7 to 14 percent for those 30 to 65 and over.

Believing the Obama-bent media blitz of an 8.2 percent unemployment rate is as naive as residing in Candy Land. America would be a different place if the Democrats had been the frenzied zealots for jobs as they were for socialized medicine. This lack of growth despotizes capitalism and promotes their class rule.

Close your eyes, breathe and think of all of the unilateral dictates by this administration, like forcing Obamacare in March, 2010 and the lurid protections of Fast and Furious and the New Black Panthers voter intimidation. Now imagine these unbridled decrees being done by Republicans.

Betty Arenson

Jaso vs. Doug A Differing Opinion Your Rant and Back At Ya

| Gazette, Opinion | September 26, 2013

By Jaso
Doug ranted on September 20 in protest of an anticipated increase in the California minimum wage rate. He complained about a particular burden placed on the business owner. He fussed about the plight of a relative few with no regard for the plight of millions. Oh, Mr. Sutton, your rant has earned an even greater rant in return. Simply read on.

It was not a famous American statesman, president or civic leader of any kind, but rather an alien (can’t say for sure if he was legal or illegal) who gave us these parting words of wisdom as he was only moments from passing on: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” When that humble folk hero uttered these words he had survival of others in mind, rather than the well-being of the self. That’s how we have to think, Mr. Sutton – in terms of the survival and well-being of the many others. (Okay, yes, it was the legendary Mr. Spock that gets credit for that quote.)
We need to attend to the conditions of the mass of citizens that compose our world community. The workforce of the world is much greater in number than those who sign their paychecks, and they are in much greater need of attention. And, yes, this points to a crowd way beyond the American workforce. There needs to be a worldwide minimum wage.

Presently an hour of work at minimum wage in California, where life is wonderful relative to that of most of the world, is roughly equal to one meal at McDonald’s. So the first three hours of a worker’s shift each day, at minimum wage, goes solely to sustenance, three meals a day. And, let’s be honest, most nutritionists would not consider a McDonald’s pseudo-burger to be sustenance, but rather a desperate act of consumption. The fact is, if Mr. Minimum Wage Worker has any hopes of paying all the usual monthly bills in our economy, such as rent, utilities and transportation expenses, he had better plan on putting in some overtime hours or getting a second job, rather than returning home at the end of his shift.

Maybe you thought that Bill Gates hooks you up with an overseas technician as a way of entertaining his clientele with an exotic accent as you acquire assistance with your new software. Perhaps you thought it was one of those little extras you are entitled to when you purchase a Microsoft product. Well, the fact is, this is how ol’ Bill (and many others of course) circumvent the already pathetic minimum wage rates within the U.S. He pays absurdly low wages to get the job done.

Here’s an idea, Mr. Ranter. How about putting yourself on an allowance equal to minimum wage for a month and see how things pan out. If it’s too tough, try DOUBLING the minimum wage for your allowance the next month and see if that goes a bit easier. Wait! Not done. After that experience at twice the minimum wage, I urge you to open an email discussion with Mr. Gates on the topic. Now, that dialogue will make for some interesting editorial copy.

Real Estate Coach

| Gazette, Opinion | September 14, 2013

Dear Coach,

I had to short sale my home about a year and a half ago. How much longer until I can purchase a new home?

Recovering in Newhall

Dear Recovering,

I’m happy to hear that your short sale is behind you and that you have the desire to be a homeowner again. You could potentially purchase in two years from the time of the short sale; however, there are a lot of components that go into being able to purchase again. Some of them include, but are not limited to: how much the short sale affected your credit score; if you were behind in your payments or current at the time of the sale; how the short sale lender reported the short sale to the credit reporting agencies; and if it was a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan. In addition, you will have to do a full loan application, which will look at your income, debt, and ability to pay. Since I don’t know your specific set of circumstances, I would recommend you contact a trusted lender and do a pre-qualification now. You might be able to get approved sooner than you think. By looking at your overall credit history, the lender can let you know your timeframe and assist you in getting prepared for your next purchase.

If you have a Dear Coach question you’d like answered in this column, email it to dearcoachbecky@gmail.com or contact becky@beckysill.com for an immediate response.
Becky Sill
BRE #01802609
Troop Real Estate, Inc.

Here We Go Again, Another Race Case

| Gazette, Opinion | September 12, 2013

By Betty Arenson
No one could sanely argue against the statement that the nation has been overly saturated with the events of Martin-Zimmerman. Irrespective of the thoroughly sopping topic of skin color, we can now sit and watch the New Orleans, Louisiana saga of Coulter-Landry.
Marshall Coulter is 14, black and hospitalized. Merritt Landry is 33, white and shot Coulter.
Details to follow.
We will see if the major media follows its usual pattern in reporting such headlines. I predict, with no doubt, they will indeed. It’s already started.
The two sub-headlines are: “In a city where fear of crime pervades, the response to a shooting of an unarmed black teen by a white man has been muted”…..”New Orleanians united by fear.”
Al Sharpton’s buddy, Rev. Raymond Brown, wasted no time dealing the race card. He attended a “unity meeting” that was organized by Nadra Enzi, the founder of Brothers Against Crime. So wonderfully and unexpectedly, other attendees shouted Brown down. 
Here’s the crux of the story as set forth in the (Aug. 29) Los Angeles Times.
Landry is married with one toddler and a pregnant wife. He was a football player at Holy Cross High and has been described as “the kind of boy you’d want as your brother or son.” He is a building inspector for the city of New Orleans, with no reports of any prior run-ins with the law.
The Landry residence is surrounded by a fence of 7-foot high steel bars, plus steel spikes, with a “pneumatic ram…larger than a man’s arm” that secures the gate to the property within. Friends dubbed it “the cage.”
The surrounding neighborhood is anything but crime-light.
Nathan Harrison, a worker at an office across the street, was mugged by “young kids. Like 13 or 14.” A neighbor, Steven Spehar, was “jumped…by three kids, maybe 15 years old, tops.”
A man was killed on the same street within hours of the Coulter-Landry incident.
Another neighbor, Charles Hazouri, has a security camera that videoed Coulter and a friend as they watched the Landry home, trespassed onto the property and leaned their bicycles up against the house. 
Hazouri could not decipher exactly how the two got into Landry’s enclosed property, but he saw a “white tank top rising higher and higher…then dropping into the cage.” 
It was nearing 2 a.m.
In short summary, Landry’s dog was roused, it barked, Landry grabbed his gun and went to the cage. Reportedly Coulter is 30 feet away, makes a gesture and gets shot. Shot once and inside the gated property.  
Landry is arrested and he and his lawyer aren’t talking at this point. Sounds like a very smart move.
Coulter’s 23-year-old brother, David, did talk, and described his younger brother as a “professional thief.”
David’s not talking now.
It didn’t take long for the flames of judge-connections and race to be fanned. Landry’s dad said he would put up his home as bond and the arrestee was released…within hours versus days. The area’s NAACP demands the judge be investigated by numerous agencies.
Like some states, Louisiana has a home-defense statute or “castle” law, but the drums are beating. Already political pressure abounds, with the parish’s D.A. “weighing his options.” 
The Times’ article contained its usual share of speculation by outsiders. However, the basic facts are bold and clear.
The streets around the Landry residence are inarguably frequented by crime. A homeowner prudently tried to protect the sanctuary of his home, his pregnant wife and two-year-old with an open-and-obvious 7-foot, steel-spiked fence and hugely barred gate.
At 1:45 a.m. on July 26, 2013, two intruders take extraordinary measures to breech what should be a family’s safety zone and one gets shot.
How dark was it in that space at 2 a.m.? Did Landry know the color of Coulter’s skin and, moreover, is color really a factor, considering the fearful heat of that moments’ circumstance?
A threat is a threat. Threats are not designated by colors.
Most of all, why should Merritt Landry be saddled with any undue responsibility for Marshall Coulter’s safety while, with clear evidence, both Coulter and his parents voluntarily waived their absolute duties?


For Better or Worse!

| Gazette, Opinion | September 8, 2013

By Jim Lentini
Change, driven by health care reform, is accelerating, as carriers and agents/brokers are finalizing their 2014 plan designs and pricing. Covered California is gearing up for the launch of its exchanges. Executive Vice President of SeeChange Health Insurance Alan Katz notes, in trying to answer that question, a good rule of thumb is to never assume a conspiracy when incompetence explains everything. And, Katz says to never assume incompetency when accidents explain things even better. So, how did we get here?

Katz states that creating a new world is always messy, and the new world of health care coverage is no exception to this rule. “What were they thinking?” has been asked by every consumer, broker, carrier and regulator, as we all try to make sense of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Steven Pearlstein, in his business column in the Washington Post, gave voice to this view.

“Among the range of options for healthcare reform, there’s one that is sure to raise your taxes, increase your out-of-pocket medical expenses, swell the federal deficit, leave more Americans without insurance and guarantee that wages will remain stagnant,” he wrote. That is the option of doing nothing. The facts backed him up. Between 2002 and 2011 inflation increased, on a cumulative basis, by 29.3 percent. During the same time period premiums for medical insurance increased by 153.5 percent. Change was needed. Change was inevitable. The only question was, what change would we get?

What we got was the PPACA. It is unloved, not because it represents a disappointing compromise, but because what became law was merely a draft, says Katz. Look at how many changes to the law Obama has made in the last 30 days – and many are questionable as to legality. Congress is working in a joint conference committee, attempting to settle on the final plan. The committee (or their staff) debug the legislation, including fixing flaws, both obvious and subtle. For complex legislation like the PPACA, passage through a conference committee is critical.

The PPACA is one of the most far-reaching bills to pass through Congress since the New Deal. It may also be one of the worst drafted because it is only a draft, a draft Congress never got to polish. The result is a new world that is challenging to understand, implement, regulate or explain. To further Katz’s report, remember what the Chief Actuary of Medicare stated 60 days after Obama passed his PPACA in 2008 – that by 2019 there will be 22 million of the current 30 million still uninsured, and costs will greatly increase for premiums and taxpayer support.

Currently, healthcare counts for one-sixth of our economy. This figure will greatly increase for the taxpayers, employers, and insureds who must pay for their insurance. Plus, you have seen the reports that doctors and services under government control will greatly affect their commitment for services and quality of care. And, many of the great ones will retire early, as noted. Be sure to advise your congressman of your feelings.

Jim Lentini,CLU,ChFC,IAR is President of Lentini Insurance & Investments. He can be reached at www.lentiniiandi.com. Or 661-254-7633.

Viral Marketing For Small Business Is Worth Your Time

| Gazette, Opinion | September 7, 2013

By Connie Ragen Green
Roger wrote in to ask me about how he could best get the word out about his business. It’s a brick and mortar business and he also has a website to make it easier for people to find him. I recommended that he go viral with his marketing.

Viral marketing may be a new concept for you, and you need to know that it is one of the biggest keys to attracting new prospects and clients to your online business. Most businesses don’t take advantage of this like they should, and you can set yourself apart if you take some time to learn about it. So, what exactly does “viral” mean?

It’s essentially the process of having other people and websites recommend you and your product to others. It’s another word for referral advertising. It’s different from affiliate marketing in that no commission changes hands. This is quite common in the offline, brick and mortar world and is now catching on in the online world as well.

The great thing about it is that it doesn’t require any additional expenses on your part. And if your prospects or customers provide word-of-mouth advertising, this will give you more credibility. This is because what others say about you matters more than what you say. When you visit a site that has several testimonials, you automatically assume they are more credible, right?

So, how do you make your marketing viral? Here are five of the best ways:

1. Offer A Compelling Free Giveaway

Also referred to as an “ethical bribe,” your free giveaway must be irresistible to your target market. One way you can instantly get more opt-ins for your newsletter is to spend the time to put together the exact information your prospects are looking for. Then encourage those who opt in to share it with others. Try this – it works!

2. Freebies

Another excellent strategy is to give away your own and other people’s products (with their permission and preferably through an affiliate link) to your community. I do this regularly with several sites that offer excellent information and business training every week.

3. Provide Excellent Resources

The best way to generate referrals is to give away a lot of valuable free information. A lot of times marketers don’t give good content with the free eBooks, because they are trying to save the best information for the product.

The problem is, if your free content isn’t good, people are going to assume your paid content isn’t going to be worth it either. The free information is supposed to whet their appetites. This gets them thinking, “if the free information is this good, just imagine how good the paid stuff will be.”

4. Create Excellent Content For Your Website

Probably the best way to go viral is to simply have excellent and relevant content on your blog and other sites. Use a plugin to allow visitors to easily share your content, and encourage them to do so regularly. In many instances, other sites will pick up your content and post it on their sites. This will give you additional traffic without having to do any more work. However, you have to stand out from other sites for this to happen.

How do you stand out?
Storytelling remains the best way to stand out from the crowd. Incorporating your story into the body of your writing and relating it to your topic can be crucial to your success. I’ve shared stories related to hosting young people from eight different countries in my home over the past seven years, stories about my involvement with Rotary and other charities, and even stories about being a multiple cancer survivor. Storytelling fleshes us out as three-dimensional beings to those who only know us online. 

5. Use Channels To Share Your Information

Putting videos on YouTube and other popular video directories will encourage people to pass them around. Again, just make sure the content is good. Record your teleseminars and add them to iTunes as podcasts. Create pages on Facebook to get the conversation going.

The bottom line is, making your marketing viral is how to skyrocket your efforts. The best way to do this is to create and then give away lots of great free information. Get started with this marketing strategy today and watch your business grow.
Keep your questions coming, and best of success with your online marketing endeavors.
Connie Ragen Green lives in Saugus and has been working exclusively on the Internet since 2006. Her ninth book, “Living the Internet Lifestyle,” was released by Hunter’s Moon Publishing this month and is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Find out more by visiting http://HugeProfitsTinyList.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.

Ask the Real Estate Coach

| Gazette, Opinion | August 22, 2013

Dear Coach,
What is title insurance and why am I required to have it?

-Wayne in Valencia

Dear Wayne,

Title insurance is for your protection in owning a property, to ensure that you are the rightful owner of the property without any other liens and encumbrances. Since land endures over generations and transfers many times, a title company will do an extensive search on the property to make sure that there are no recorded documents against the property that would prevent the sale, and also that the person selling the property to you is the rightful owner and has the authority to sell.

Even with careful scrutiny, though, it is possible for a title flaw to have gone undetected and the title insurance policy will protect you if any issue was to surface in the future. Some of the most common issues include forgery, a mismatch of a similar name, or previously unrecognized rights of a spouse or undisclosed heirs.

There are two policies that are purchased during a transfer of property. One is an “Owner’s Policy,” which protects the home buyer for the entire purchase price of the property. The other is
a “Lender’s Policy” covering the lending institution for the life of the loan. The beauty of it is that there is one premium due at the transfer of title and there is no monthly premium.

If you have a Dear Coach question you’d like answered in this column, email it to dearcoachbecky@gmail.com or becky@beckysill.com for an immediate response.

A Differing Opinion

| Gazette, Opinion | August 22, 2013

By Jaso


The entertaining part of Doug’s Rant of August 16 is the continual request to “stay with me.” Perhaps that should be the new title! Doug’s “Wait, Stay With Me. Really, This Is Going Somewhere.”

Mr. Ranter laments over the state of Detroit and the threat that such a condition may one day become a condition that is pervasive in our nation. Mr. Sutton dares to suggest that such a depressing existence may come about as a result of individual citizens depleting government resources through a growing number becoming dependent on assistance programs.

Really, Mr. Ranter? Do you really believe what you’re saying? Let’s remember, Detroit is known as the home of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler, all infamous corporations at the center of our nation’s recent bailout catastrophe.

Are you suggesting that the bailout of General Motors, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Fannie May, Freddie Mac, and many other corporate giants has had no negative effect on our nation’s condition? While billions in bailout money was supposed to return to our federal government with interest, a significant amount is still out there and likely never to return home. Beyond that, 97 percent of TARP money—grant money (not loans) intended to reach homeowners threatened with imminent foreclosure—never reached homeowners and stopped in the hands of lending institutions, aka banks. Please remember you and the rest of us taxpayers shouldered this travesty, Mr. Sutton.

We all know or have an Uncle Fred and Aunt Ethel who own a mom-and-pop sewing machine repair shop, dry cleaners, or donut shop. And we all know that if that little shop got behind, there would be no bailout. Ironically, Fred and Ethel have been helping foot the bill (through taxes) to save GM, B of A, and the rest. They’ve been helping keep America on track, despite abuse in the corporate world.

If the demise of Detroit spreads nationwide, just blame abhorrent corporate ethics and greed for drying up the national wellspring. Don’t even think about placing the blame on the needy.

Breaking Gnus De Fence of Liberty

| Gazette, Opinion | August 16, 2013

by Amos Flingspreader

Breaking Gnus has learned that a possible compromise has been reached on Immigration Reform between the Senate and House.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell praised House Republicans for their creativity.

“We are not calling it a compromise,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R Ohio).  “We don’t compromise on our principles.  Somebody once said ‘The price of Liberty is eternal vigilance.’ Well, our party watches that price very closely. The Senate wants a better border fence, and we’ve found a way to pay for it and get the votes needed from our side of the aisle. If we can just electrify the border fence with enough free copper wire, we’ll have enough votes to pass immigration reform.”
When McConnell was asked, “Where will we get all that copper?  Won’t it cost a fortune?” He just winked and said, “Our country has a huge reserve of copper that’s not being used, and we’ve just found a better use for it.”

The opinions of Amos Flingspreader are not necessarily shared by the owners and editors of this publication.

Page 46 of 49 1 44 45 46 47 48 49

Doug’s Rant – Video Edition

  • WatchDoug’s Rant June 22
  • WatchDoug’s Rant June 15