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Lean to the Left – Open Minds About Open Space

| Opinion | July 19, 2014

While watching a Smithsonian Channel TV program, I saw a dovetailing of two issues my mind had never connected in the past.

As I tuned in mid-show, I saw people hiking in familiar scenery and decided to wait and discover where they were located. The narration informed me that these were mostly residents of Baldwin Hills taking on the terrain of Baldwin Park. It held my interest, because the interviews and voiceover were discussing the transformation of the area from oil fields to present day open space. Some of the features lauded included an antidote to obesity and a taste of countryside for city dwellers.

I learned that in Baldwin Park’s past it was made up of oil fields. Its transformation was the result of devotion by locals who believed in the benefit of the outdoors and natural environments.

What?! Environmentalists? Say it ain’t so!

A common refrain from the political right is that environmentalism is an enemy to the health and welfare of the people (mostly business people). I couldn’t help but view the footage of Earth Day plantings and clean-up projects while questioning how these participants could be supplying the enemy.

Interviewees used phrases like “benefit of green space” and “re-wilding L.A.”

Not only that, images of vacations spent in such places as Yosemite and the Giant Sequoias, not to mention local hiking, reminds me that conservatives will fight tooth and nail to develop, develop, develop … but when summer rolls around you’ll find them dragging their families to state and national parks across the U.S. How ironic.

Where’s the dovetailing I spoke of? The issue of environmentalism comes to the fore when discussing the preservation of land and parks, but when the same TV program moved from Baldwin Park to Angel Island in Northern California, and then to the history of Allentown, California, I saw the issue of racism/ immigration raise its ugly head. What could be more timely? Tune in next week to this column, where I’ll continue the discussion.

Lean to the Left – What a Guy

| Opinion | July 12, 2014

By Sylvia Turner

To listen to ONE WORD that the uproariously ridiculous Rush Limbaugh has to say – about anything – is utter foolishness. For a fat, thrice-divorced drug addict to be looked upon as a fount of wisdom, or even a trickle of anything worth hearing, is laughable. Only an idiot would tune their radio within a hundred megahertz of his voice. Sit up and take notice – especially you Christians out there – fat (healthy living?), three times divorced (what a great example to our young people!) DRUG ADDICT. I’d laugh if it wasn’t so pathetic.

By HUGE and utterly obvious contrast, let me offer up a man with class, integrity, and a lot more north-pointing morality than your guy. Unfortunately, the chronically biased rag on him and rag on him ad nauseam. I am talking about President Obama, of course.

Even those who no longer support his decisions are glad they voted for him. Why? Because he is a thoughtful guy, coming into office with his own thoughts about what would make the world a better place. He has been attempting to make peace with groups of people, such as the gay population. He shows compassion when he launches social programs.

Just because he sees things differently, you and your guy decide to claim he’s a Muslim (who’d care if he was, though he’s not), claim he wasn’t born here (that’ll get him!) and rip his decisions to threads.

From the get-go, President Obama has experienced the political drag of an uphill battle due to the economic crash. And, regardless of what you think of all of his other policies, he is the husband of one wife, a hell-of-a-lot more spiritual/religious than your guy, and a tremendous symbol. I, for one, cried while watching his inauguration on TV … moved by even the possibility that we would see a black President of the United States. It’s just beautiful.

So, take a closer look at who you’re quoting, who you’re following. And don’t put your guy up against my guy … because you’ll lose.

Lean to the Left – The Tea Party – Based on False Facts

| Opinion | July 5, 2014

by Sylvia Turner
I have recently been interested in what people think of the Tea Party. Mostly I get, “They are too extreme, but had some good ideas when they started.” The Tea Party makes the claim that its members understand the original thoughts and goals of the writers and signers of the Constitution. This claim has been used by many people. For instance, both sides of the Civil War claimed that they were the ones who were adhering to the minds of the Founding Fathers (which is why the Southern flag had 13 stars, though they only had eleven states join them in revolt). So, let us review some of the claims and the reality behind the claims of this new group.
Claim: President Obama is taxing and getting America further and further into debt.
Reality: The problem with this is that President Obama can’t spend. He can propose new spending, he can try to cajole Congress into passing new spending—but he can’t take funds to spend on new or existing programs. That’s how our system works. Congress has the “power of the purse,” and the most the President can (formally) do is sign or veto. Raising the debt limit doesn’t change that. So, why would the Tea Party make this claim? I believe it is easier to have a villain with a face, rather than dislike a concept. So, we pick the President to be the villain. The talk show hosts on the far right invite audience members to pool their ignorance and people call in to blame all their worries and concerns on one villain. There is no fact checking, just people claiming whatever thoughts come to their minds.
Claim: The Tea Party is the party that wants to get America back to the Founding Fathers.
Reality: Many of the Tea Party folks (like the overwhelming majority) talk as if the founders were all of one mind, and that’s just not the case, on just about any issue of the founders’ time. Many of them couldn’t stand one another. For example, John Adams once said of Benjamin Franklin: “His whole life has been one continued insult to good manners and decency,” to which Franklin replied that John Adams was a man who “means well for his country, is always an honest man, often a wise one, but sometimes, and in some things, absolutely out of his head.”
The most commonly repeated sentiment of the Tea Party members seems to be “limited government,” and it was a common enough platitude of the time. But not everyone, then, meant the same thing, even when they used the same term. People like Alexander Hamilton wanted a very powerful government (a strong central bank, creation of the national debt, a national tax system, tariffs to protect “infant industries,” subsidies for iron makers, chemicals, (cannons, gunpowder, etc.), a strong Army and Navy – it’s a pretty long list and Hamilton, with Washington’s and Adams’ help, got his way, mostly, in the 1790s.

Others, like Jefferson, didn’t like any of those things, and wanted a much smaller government.

It might be more accurate to say that the Tea Party folks sort of instinctively favor people like Jefferson (not realizing that that makes them, more or less, the opponents of people like Washington, Hamilton, Adams, etc.)

There’s one caveat there: Tea Party-ers don’t seem to have the same fears of concentrated power and wealth that Jefferson had.

Claim: The Tea Party is the new face of the Republican Party.
Reality: I am not a Republican, but find an interesting quandary that the Republicans are in. The Tea Party is powerful within the Republican Party, in certain alcoves of the country. But most of the country thinks they are entirely too conservative. For a Republican candidate (especially for President) to get nominated, he/she must court the Tea Party. To court the Tea Party is to ostracize the majority of the country. So, to get the nomination means that this candidate will lose the election. This was the view during the last presidential election, as heard from a CNN Republican commentator. The only hope the Republicans have is to ditch the Tea Party and become more centrist. But that is an idea for another article.

Lean to the Left

| Opinion | June 27, 2014

Is it normal to think back on the good ol’ days? You bet it is.

By Sylvia Turner
I have been reading the book “Better Angels of our Nature” by Steven Pinker, who discusses the decline in violence over the years. He uses a lot of examples from the past to make his point.

It occurred to me that it is normal for our memories of the past to be slightly skewed – whether it is Walt Disney thinking of his childhood in the 1890s (thus the old Main Street in Disneyland) or our own memories of childhood, “when kids could ride their bikes in safety and people could trust their neighbors.” I see it in the Tea Party’s goal to understand the Constitution as the authors who penned it. But, how much fact is actually in these old memories?

Pinker’s book points out that, when you review your memories, there must be some statistical evidence to back them up in order for others to follow your line of thinking. We may think back to a time when we could go outside and do nothing but play sports all day in the summer, forgetting that someone (dear old dad, perhaps?) had to make that possible. It wasn’t the world that’s changed, just a different stage of life.

I also think back to fond memories of the good ol’ days. We can all be sparked by old advertisements that have not been seen for decades, such as “Winston tastes good like ….” or “I’d walk a mile for a …..” For the smokers out there, they may remember that you could smoke anywhere. My pediatrician smoked in his office. While current smokers may look back on that with fondness, we have a tendency to forget about the hundreds of thousands of deaths that have been caused by cigarettes. Education has driven the national smoking numbers from 42 percent of the population in 1965 to about 18 percent in 2012, according to www.cancer.org. Now, I would guess that few people would support a return to a society that approved of cigarette smoking in almost every location and environment.

I believe that many of our fond memories are fond to us, perhaps because there are fewer memories of pain than we may experience today. But, what of the minority citizen? Do you think that a glance back a decade, two, three or more feels as good to a a gay individual, certain ethnic groups, or even a fair number of women?

We think back to “the greatest generation” and its ultimate sacrifice during World War II. I, for one, do think the long term traumas that went with, first, living in the Great Depression, and then a major war, where it was unknown whether or not this nation of citizens would end up occupied, is cause for this group to be considered “great.” But, what of the Japanese Americans who were forced to give up their properties, businesses, and freedom because they could be a threat? We didn’t do it to German Americans.

It is no wonder why, when you see leadership of the Tea Party or the Republican Party, it is led by white men. I know there are some females, and the Republicans love to parade its small group of ethnic members, but for the most part, they are white males. Why is that? I believe it is because they have better memories of the Good ol’ Days.  They do not have a memory of not being allowed to eat at the restaurant of their choosing. They do not have memories of being called terrible ethnic slurs or being afraid that someone may beat them up for their sexual preference. They want to go back to when “right was right” and “wrong was wrong.” However, those who decided “right” and “wrong” were also white males. So, the next time you see the leadership for the Tea Party or the Republicans, take note as to why they want to go back.

Jaso Vs. Doug – A Differing Opinion You Can’t Let It Happen

| Opinion | June 21, 2014

Dear Mr. Ranter’s Friends & Family,

It’s time to get involved. Just as friends don’t let friends drive drunk, friends and family do not let their friends and family say utterly stupid things. Good friends and family say things like, “Dude, you might want to think twice about arguing with that cop …” or “Honey, are you sure you want to march into work and tell off your boss today?” And your responsibility is only heightened when that loved one writes a column or has a radio show (or both).

On Friday the egocentric Mr. Sutton wrote in his rant in favor of some absurd theory that his God has forsaken us all, ever since we gave up prayer in public schools in 1962. Apparently our misguided Mr. S really believes that his God actually cares more about us (Californians? U.S. citizens?) than the rest of humanity. He blames increases in unmarried mothers, divorce, violent crimes, and even low SAT scores on our lack of prayer in schools. Somehow Mr. Ranter must reason that God is listening to his high school team’s prayers and not the opponent’s when they each pray to kick the crap out of the other guys.

Mr. Sutton, your thinking suggests that—as long as we keep our school prayers—God will favor us over other lands and nations. So, let’s get this straight: when our forefathers were colonizing much of the world, growing affluence at home and making sure poverty and absence of medical and technological development continued in said colonies, God was behind us as long as we continued with our prayers?

There just aren’t enough pages in The Gazette to give this rant an adequate response.

Friends and family of Mr. Ranter, please consider your responsibilities in helping to maintain the reputation of Mr. Ranter by peeking over his shoulder occasionally when you notice him pecking away at his keyboard.

Opposing team player,

Jaso

Lean to the Left

| Opinion | June 21, 2014

By Sylvia Turner

Time to Take a (yawn) Different Stand
I was at a wedding a couple of weeks ago in the Bay Area. A friend of mine was also there, who has lived for decades now in Louisiana and holds most of the typical Southern viewpoints. He is a conservative Christian and he is, of course, a political conservative. When the topic of politics came up, he said something that I found very insightful.

He said, “Both parties want the same things for the country … it is the way they go about getting there that is the difference.”

I believe that to get to some sort of compromise to solve the most pressing problems of the nation, both parties need to realize that neither party wants high unemployment rates, high taxes, foreign threats, poverty, etc. It’s hard to remember that. Yet, there are many individuals who bore us with a never-ending refrain about their problems being entirely due to actions by the government. It seems as though they think that President Obama gets up with his first cup of coffee, thinking, “How can I ruin this one individual in Santa Clarita, California?” Forget the world economy, Russia and the Ukraine, youth violence, the highest prison population in the free world. The nation’s leader is instead mulling over: “How can I get an opportunity to destroy small business, raise taxes and ruin this poor son-of-a-gun?”

The conservative right tends to think that “life was better back then.” Which “then” are these individuals wistful about? It depends on the topic at hand. For instance, I once heard a local pastor state that life in the 17th century was a superior period in which to live because protestant church members were forced, basically, to do whatever the church leaders instructed. (Think he had an agenda?)
Or there are the masses who hearken back to the time of Honest Abe (a Republican, of course), “before high tax rates and large deficits.” With a closer look, we find that the cost of running the federal government before Lincoln took office was $1 million a week. By the end of his term in office, it was $3.5 million dollars a day. The inflation rate was 180 percent from the start of the Civil War to the end of the war, says business book author John Steele Gordon in an article entitled “The High Cost of War,” printed in Barron’s. I would guess that many Americans would agree that there are times when creating a deficit to save the country is a good thing.
I think what it comes down to is a very subjective argument. We don’t care if everybody else stays in a high tax bracket, but we gladly take our write-offs (mortgage interest, student loans, church giving), and we want our tax dollars spent on our personal priorities (border patrol, small business loans, or debt forgiveness for student loans, for instance), but not for the other guy’s picks (farming , welfare, education, maybe). We get so caught up in the arguments for our side of an issue that we forget that there is likely just as strong an argument for the other guy’s position. Possibly stronger.

The Conservatives often want to go back to earlier times in American history. Okay, fine. But accept that these are also the times when we had no Social Security for the old and disabled, individual health options and dental care were terrible, there were no national roads or highways, etc.

How did we get to the point where a vote in Congress is purely along party lines? There is such partisanship that (supposedly adult) members of Congress do not seem to consider whether a bill would be good for constituents, but whether it would make the President or the other political party look bad.

It’s really, really predictable. And really, really boring.

Since we cannot change each member of Congress or “the other guy,” can we at least become mature enough to think for ourselves? Can we challenge the facts of radio or TV voices, considering whether or not they may have agendas for their positions, or if they have objective facts to back up their views? If not, perhaps it’s time we did our own research and developed a position without parroting what is spoon fed to us by other sources. Let’s get less predictable pleeeaaase. It’s a lot less boring.

Iraq Again?

| Opinion | June 19, 2014

By Chris Ball
Iraq is in turmoil, and we are somehow “surprised.” Sunni rebels from northern Iraq took over territories patrolled by Iraqi soldiers, mostly Sunni, who deserted, abandoning the weapons we gave them. Of course, some in Washington are blaming our current President for this problem, because he hasn’t found a way to embroil us in the Syrian civil war.

Our government has known, and we are now finding out, that minority Sunnis were excluded from the Shiite-dominated government headed by Nouri alMaliki. That insurgency has been expressing itself with urban bombs for many years, but we are now “surprised” they became a guerilla force.

The remaining Iraqi army defending Baghdad is mostly Shiite and U.S.-trained. That army is 20 times larger than the Sunni insurgents’ forces, but our war hawks want us to interfere now and bomb the “terrorist” rebels before the Iraqis have even made a stand to defend their own capital.

When our troops were still in Iraq, and before the Supreme Leader of Iran told al-Maliki to make us leave, our commanders had patched together a kind of temporary peace with the Sunnis by promising them more involvement in government. After we left, minorities were excluded from government, and now we are “surprised” by the uprising.

Our previous President started a war with Iraq on the false pretext that they were a threat to us. Al-Qaeda was in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but not in Iraq. Al-Qaeda originally became our enemy because of our military presence in their holy land, Saudi Arabia.

We invaded Iraq and took over in Baghdad in two months. George W. Bush installed Paul Bremer as the temporary Governor who reported to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld was the guy who said “we don’t know what we don’t know.” They had the bright idea of disbanding the somewhat disciplined and mostly Sunni army that had maintained order in Iraq for generations. That organized force could have stopped the looting and kept the peace. But, under our wise interference, the Sunnis became insurgents, and we fought them for another eight years.

Our occupation of Iraq enabled Al-Qaeda to recruit more young men and they are reportedly affiliated with the Sunni insurgents. Now, the same war hawks who gave us the Iraq war want us to bomb the young men who have multiplied because of our previous involvement. Where will it end? We went to war in Iraq to defend against terrorism, and now there are 10,000 more Al-Qaeda fighters. What a “surprise.”

By some estimates, our war against Iraq caused over 200,000 civilian casualties. Is there any chance that some portion of the survivors might hate the United States? Saddam Hussein was a real bad guy. When they hanged him he got what he deserved. But, are we more secure? Iraq was a counter-balancing force against Iran before the war. Now our war hawks want us to bomb the enemies of Iran and create more religious martyrs among the Muslims. Really? It seems the more we interfere, the worse things get.

If you’re like me, you are probably getting really tired of hearing about Sunnis and Shiites. Eventually, they might prefer democracy and cooperation to death and destruction. Catholics and Protestants now co-exist peacefully in Northern Ireland. Mandela embraced De Klerk, and South Africa avoided a civil war.

Our democracy was founded on high ideals and principles that were enshrined in a constitution with just one flaw. Our own civil war was a supreme test of democracy. Both sides in our civil war fought for their political principles that were eloquently expressed. In five years with the sword, we quickly paid back all that blood that had been drawn by the lash over two centuries. We shed our own blood for our own principles, and we survived to become a stronger democracy. Would we deny that to Iraq before they meet the challenge?

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood won a political victory, and then they excluded their opposition from government. Riots ensued and then a popular impeachment. Hundreds from that deposed political party have been sentenced to death in courts as bizarre as the Mummy’s Curse. Egyptians just elected another military strongman. Eventually they might see the wisdom of minority inclusion in a democracy, but not in the foreseeable future. They seem to be evolving without our “help.”

In Syria, our war hawks have been promoting a more active American involvement in that civil war. Will weapons for one side or the other enhance our national security? Israel’s philosophy is: “When your enemies are fighting each other, don’t get involved.” If we help Jordan and Turkey with more refugee aid, that would support regional stability, build goodwill among the survivors and advance our long-term security.

What will be our guiding principle in this so-called crisis? Are we going to kill one Muslim sect to save another? Do we owe it to the dead to create more dead? Is that what America stands for?

After WWI, Great Britain and France arbitrarily partitioned the Middle East with straight line borders. Kurds are in Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Kurds want to be self-governing. Sunnis and Shiites are at war with themselves in several countries. If we stop interfering, Iraq will eventually do one of the following:
Replace al-Maliki with someone who has leadership skills.
Revert to area tribalism governed by warlords.
Re-form into self-governing ethnic regions.
We went bankrupt trying to give Iraq democracy. They didn’t want it, they didn’t earn it, and they don’t know what to do with it. We allow our own children to make mistakes, and they learn. We know they must grow up, and we can’t live their lives for them.

To defend “democracy,” the war hawks in Washington, D.C. want us to attack a minority group that is fighting for freedom against a non-democratic government that excluded them. Haven’t we created enough martyrs and terrorists from our military presence? Do we advance our national security by creating more? Haven’t we learned anything in our own lifetime?

The same loud voices in D.C. condemn our domestic social programs, because they create a class of dependency. Isn’t “Democracy in Iraq” just another failed American social program? We’re out. Let’s stay out.

Jaso Vs. Doug – A Differing Opinion Is it Politically Correct Bull Crap or the Bigger Picture?

| Opinion | June 5, 2014

Dear Mr. Ranter,
You intentionally faked approval of the NFL team name, “Redskins,” just to pull me away from my work on the revolutionary front lines, didn’t you? Surely this was just a pathetic ploy to weaken the Forces by leaving them one man short (or woman, you’ll never know which).

Certainly you don’t agree with racism, particularly when it is acted out, do you? Surely you feel some measure of sadness when you think about the plight of the Native American—the germ warfare (smallpox), broken treaties, the Death March. Or perhaps it is accurate when you say we don’t “give a rip” (your words). Perhaps, based on our history of accepting and endorsing national atrocities, collectively we don’t give a rip.

Then again, as we continually try to right our wrongs, bringing up the consideration of eliminating the name Redskins from the NFL suggests that we recognize the follies of our atrocious past. No doubt, while we cannot change our past, we have a long way to go to make right all of our wrongs that still linger.

Actually, Mr. Ranter, at this moment we have no choice. Now that we have come to look openly at the issue of derogatory team names, if we do not move forward and correct the politically incorrect and culturally disgusting situation, then we are approving it. We may provide proof again that if we do not involve ourselves in bringing about a solution, we personally become part of the problem. So, by failing to act, we take responsibility for the racist act by approving of the current situation.

Our choice is clear: we need to change the name of the Washington Redskins. Perhaps then we can move on to address, respectfully, the problems of the grossly high alcoholism and unemployment rates in Native American communities.
This is heavy stuff, Mr. Ranter. As they say, go deep –

Jaso

What You Can’t Do To Conserve Water

| Opinion | May 29, 2014

By Chris Ball

If you are building a house in Los Angeles County, here are some things that you can and can’t do to save water:

You can recycle washing machine water to flush toilets by installing an expensive treatment plant and placing a sign on each toilet stating: “Don’t Drink This Water!” But, you can’t flush toilets with water from your shower, because it may have urine in it.

You can have pigs and chickens and horses and goats and donkeys and llamas on your rural lot. And those animals can defecate and urinate all over your property. But, you can’t urinate in your shower and then use that water to water your trees.

You can irrigate your landscaping with recycled water from either your washing machine or your dishwasher, but no matter how many acres you have, you can’t recycle from both without an expensive treatment system and permit.

You can’t conserve drinking water supplies by installing an advanced septic treatment tank to irrigate your landscaping with reclaimed water, unless you have first proven that effluent from a conventional septic tank can percolate into the ground.

If your private well has trace amounts of arsenic and is otherwise drinkable, you can spray untreated well water on your lawn and let the kids play in it. But, you can’t bring untreated well-water into your house to flush toilets or to wash clothes unless you first remove the arsenic, which has not been proven medically harmful at our naturally-occurring low local levels.

Based on arbitrary decisions made by county administrators having no special knowledge of water chemistry, you must install expensive chemical treatments for your private well to meet the Federal EPA standards for arsenic levels in public water supplies, but those same EPA regulations exempt transients and private wells. The EPA admits there is no medical research data for the low levels of arsenic found locally in private well water. Nevertheless, L.A. County arbitrarily requires the expensive chemical treatment.

In this drought, if you own your own well and private septic tank, you can’t do a large room addition or build a new house if you are near a public water and sewer system. You must draw water from public wells and you must discharge your septic waste into public sewers. You can’t be permitted to be self-sufficient, with your own water and septic tank. You must buy public water and pay the chloride sewer surcharges.

If any of the above makes no sense to you, please be comforted by knowing there is a county employee enforcing regulations that your elected representatives never approved.

PLEASE REMEMBER TO VOTE YES ON 42.  Without a Public Records Act, there is no way to hold your local officials accountable for their arbitrary decisions.

Letter to the Publisher

| Gazette, Opinion | May 16, 2014

Ballots are arriving for the June 3rd election. It’s crucial to elect the right person for California’s 25th Congressional District; the area mostly comprised of Santa Clarita, Palmdale, Lancaster and Simi Valley.

Here are some of the reasons why the indisputable, stand-out choice is Steve Knight.

Steve Knight is not a career politician. His service history includes:
• U.S. Army—eight years;
• LAPD officer—18 years;
• City councilman—two years;
• California legislature (Assemblyman and Senator)—six years;
Steve has always lived in the community he serves and knows home turf. Opponent Tony Strickland resides outside.

Steve is solid. Strickland has a history of raising big money in one District then switching to another.
Steve’s endorsements:
17 out of 20 (District) City Council members;
L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich;
Ventura County Supervisor Peter Foy; former and present state assemblymen;
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association PAC;
L.A. Police Protective League.

Steve’s campaign contributions are local sources, not out-of-area beholden monies from big-names who will not be living under this election’s victor.

Steve will continue the fight against CEMEX ‘s massive filthy intrusion into SCV daily lives. Opponent Strickland and his (former Assembly-woman) wife have accepted three contributions from CEMEX.

“Veteran’s for Steve Knight” recognize he has introduced more veteran bills than any other legislator in his six years of service; authoring and co-authoring at least 30.

Strickland’s number is ZERO.

The smart choice is clear.

Betty Arenson
Valencia

Letters to the Publisher

| Gazette, Opinion | May 15, 2014

Dear Doug,
As a fan of your weekly rants, I thought you might like to see the attached Frank & Ernest cartoon which appeared today in that other SCV publication. When reading this cartoon, I immediately thought of you. (The cartoon featured drawings of Sir Lancelot and Sir Rants-A-Lot.)

Keep up the good conservative fight with your timely rants. I greatly enjoy reading them each week.
Regards,

Dennis

Stop The Insanity!

| Gazette, Opinion | May 15, 2014

I don’t have to watch Fox News to find out what’s going on. I’m blessed to be on the list of email blasts from local great thinkers who repeat and rebroadcast what they thought they heard last night, however incomprehensible it might be.

I received yet another “I Hate Obama” message about Benghazi that said (in part): “The White House Ignored Calls From These Men” (showing photos of Ambassador Chris Stephens and three others).

I replied: “I think Monica Lewinski is behind the congressional investigation into Benghazi. She’s back in the news after writing an article for Vanity Fair. Next we’ll find out she’s been seen under John Boehner’s desk. There’s an agenda here to cause embarrassment to Hillary Clinton. Maybe it’s being orchestrated by Elizabeth Warren.”

My thought was to counter nonsense with more nonsense, but this was the reply: “Don’t think Clinton needs any help and sits right there in a hole with Obama! Tell me Chris, how well did she puppet hiding Benghazi for Obama and allow four Americans killed to protect his reelection? And, you want to protect her to be president?”

Well, I can’t quit now after my witty nonsense has been smothered in utterly incoherent nonsense. After all, we are both speaking to an audience of a couple dozen “cc” friends.

I asked the following questions:
Did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton really allow four Americans to be killed to protect Obama’s reelection? Really? That›s what you really think?
Isn’t it true that the Benghazi attack was pre-meditated by terrorists to occur on 9/11/12, which happened to coincide with the violent protests against the American Coptic porn video about Mohammad?
Isn›t it also true that a State Department ambassador and a Foreign Service officer were deliberately killed in the pre-planned attack, and also true that two CIA operatives were killed while coming to their aid?
And isn’t it also true that our military decided that a rescue or defense of our Benghazi people was too inconvenient?
And isn’t it true that Susan Rice was told to lie about the true nature of the attack? We now know she was told to say that it was a spontaneous protest against the Mohammad porn video. But, why was she told to lie?
Might it also be true that in the short period after the attack, our government did not want to reveal information about the CIA operations in Benghazi, because maybe they didn’t want to compromise other operatives? Might it be true they were prohibited by law from talking about it?

Now I realize that I get my news from C-Span and Al Jazeera, and you get yours from Rupert Murdoch. Most of what I›ve written here is from my failing memory. But, do you really think Hillary Clinton allowed four Americans to get killed to protect Obama’s reelection? Is that what you think really happened?

I think those men were killed because Americans are hated in the Middle East. The ambassador put himself at risk by being in an unprotected outpost, but the two CIA operatives were heroes. I think our military didn’t attempt to rescue the embassy, because those commanders have a strange view of their jobs. I think Susan Rice lied about the true nature of the attack because of the CIA operations. And, I think Republicans hate Hillary Clinton because they didn›t get their money›s worth from Ken Starr.

I suppose that the new Benghazi trial being prosecuted by South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy might shed some new light on the subject, but I doubt it. By the way, I don›t like Hillary Clinton about as much as I can›t stand the Roger Ailes noise machine.

Jaso Vs. Doug – A Differing Opinion What Is It with You and Christians?

| Gazette, Opinion | May 15, 2014

Dear Mr. Ranter,
Last week you ranted in defense of a community member who has had behavioral accusations made against him. What in the world prompted you to go with “Joe is a strong, Christian man who has done countless good things”?

How do you suppose there is logic in attaching “good” or “strong” to a popular religion and figure that it is any kind of persuasive argument? Do you really think you are convincing anyone that he is a good guy based on that presentation? “Oh, he must be a great guy. He’s a strong Christian; a good Christian, just like that Tony Alamo fellow.” Your argument stands as much chance as a snowball at a July outdoor revival meeting.

Has it occurred to you that you just might be putting off Muslims, Jews, or Hindus when you pose that ridiculous sales pitch? And what brand of Christian? Catholic or non-Catholic? Protestant? Other? How about a good, law-abiding atheist? The real question on people’s minds is: Would you apply the same descriptive word for another faith? If Joe were of the Jewish faith, would you defend him with “Joe is a strong Jew who has done countless good … ”?

Where is your editor over at the Gazette? Doesn’t someone over there get paid to make sure you don’t stick your foot in your mouth, or at least to think twice about the manner in which you piss off people? Did you sneak another article in during your editor’s vacation week?

Still love ya after all your offenses,
Jaso

Blogging in 2014: Set Yourself Apart From Others in a Lucrative Way

| Gazette, Opinion | May 8, 2014

This week Alejandra wrote in to ask me if blogging was still a viable way to get a business off the ground. The answer is a resounding Yes! This week I’ll share exactly how and why this is true, and even more so at this point in time than ever before.

First of all, what is a blog? Blogs got their start in the early 2000s as “web logs” or online journals. Entries called “posts” display in reverse chronological order, with the most recent ones showing at the top of the page. When business people saw how well they ranked in the search engine, this quickly caught on as a way to market your business on the Internet and to create an online presence that would set you apart from others in your niche market.

For years I have taught that your blog is your “Home on the Internet.” But, this does not refer to a free blog such as those available with Google’s Blogger, Tumblr, or free WordPress sites. Instead, a solid and viable business is built using hosted WordPress. Sign up for hosting at a site such as http://BlueHostSolutions.com, purchase a domain name at GoDaddy.com, and you’re good to go. For about seventy-five dollars a year you will have a hosted WordPress site that you own and control.

So, what will you blog about? The answer is that it depends upon your industry and business model. If you have a service business, share information on the services you provide and how people can best reach you. I helped an insurance agent with his blog for several years and I encouraged him to share more details about the various types of coverage his company could provide. He included photographs related to homeowner’s and auto insurance, as well as videos of natural disasters. Everything he included on his blog gave him increased visibility and credibility for his business.

If you own a retail business, share exactly what you sell and how it will help us to achieve our goals. No business exists without serving its clientele, so jump right in and let readers know what your products will do for them when they make a purchase. With so much competition, both online and off, your blog gives you the opportunity to let the world know why they should do business with you.

The technology behind blogging has been simplified immensely since I came online eight years ago. If you get stuck, just head over to Google or YouTube and do a search for what you need. This is how many small business owners and entrepreneurs learn how to add pictures to their posts, create new pages and categories, link back to their business website, and much more. I believe that learning in small chunks builds your skill set more quickly and easily than attempting to digest it all at once. Let me know if you need help setting up any part of your new blog site.

I maintain two primary blogs (http://ConnieRagenGreen.com and http://HugeProfitsTinyList.com) where I teach more about marketing online and getting started as an online entrepreneur. But I am also able to share more personal information, such as the fact that, currently, two of my books have been nominated for Small Business Book Awards, the work I do with Rotary, and how I am able to run my business from Santa Clarita, Santa Barbara (I live there part-time), or from wherever in the world I happen to be. These blogs have become “lifestyle” sites where I share the more specific details of my life and business.

Your new business blog begins with a single post. Tell us something about yourself and your business and then publish it to the world. Email me and I will share your blog with our readers here. Be creative and know that blogging for business is a valuable way to get the word out about who you are, what you do, and why that will serve other people in a positive way.

Connie Ragen Green lives in Saugus and has been working exclusively on the Internet since 2006. Her ninth book, “Living the Internet Lifestyle,” was recently released by Hunter’s Moon Publishing and is available on Amazon and 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.

Jaso Vs. Doug – A Differing Opinion Our Substandard High Standards

| Gazette, Opinion | May 8, 2014

Good morning, Mr. Ranter,
Let’s reverse things and respond to an anticipated topic you may be pondering, the latest trending topic that keeps our attention the way a toy mouse captivates a house cat: the NBA and Donald Sterling.

On one hand, Mr. Sterling has done nothing illegal. Let’s face it. Voicing his racist views is a daily occurrence for Rush Limbaugh. On the other hand, Sterling is being treated by much of society as though he committed a crime for his racist request that his girlfriend stop associating publicly with minorities.

The NBA did what they could by penalizing him financially with virtually a $50 fine ($2.5 million for the multi-billionaire) and socially, according to our Western social caste system, with a forever banishment from the NBA. Some might consider these actions a matter of keeping standards high.

Well, let’s look at the standards of the NBA. While Sterling committed, shall we say, a crime against society, another prominent member of the NBA community committed a real crime by law just a few years ago and received NOTHING in the way of punishment from the league. Early in 2005 Kobe Bryant agreed to settle out of court a charge of rape in Eagle County, Colorado. Call it what you want, a settlement is another way of saying, “I did it. Now let’s forget it happened and move on.”

Hats off to the NBA for its stand on racism … with a big, giant asterisk. Shame on the NBA for its absent opinion on rape. This lack of action toward Bryant taints the actions taken against Sterling. One must ask, was it just a matter of handling a greater public outcry? Was it that Sterling carried more clout with advertising sponsors than Kobe Bryant did? (Let’s face it, Kobe carries zero charisma in front of a camera when compared with Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, or Charles Barkley.) Or was it just a maneuver to prevent a possible boycott by the league’s players right at playoff time, i.e., financial suicide for the league?

So, Mr. Ranter, how would you feel about an employee of yours that was accused of rape and managed to settle out of court?
Love,
Jaso

Prom Season is Upon Us – Adults Don’t Give Teens Alcohol…Get It????

| Gazette, Opinion | April 11, 2014

By Cary Quashen, CAS

Tony and Susan throw the best keg parties in town. The beer flows and a designated teen collects car keys at the door. Teenagers mill around, shouting over the pounding music, hugging and “high-fiving” Tony and Susan.

What’s wrong with this picture? Tony and Susan graduated high school 25 years ago, and this is their son’s party. The family is planning a few more beer bashes during the summer. Unfortunately, they think beer pong is a harmless party game. NOT!

Some parents see drinking as a sign of adulthood. There is a belief that once someone has graduated from high school, they are an adult. But they’re STILL under 21 years of age and drinking is illegal.

Some parents seek the approval of their teens, and want to be heroes in the teen arena. I am astounded parents think as long as they are serving the alcohol, they can control their kids and other kids’ actions.

Often times these parents think they should be nominated for “Parents of the Year.” They regard themselves as enlightened crusaders for their teens. They walk the teenage walk and talk the teenage talk. They’re so desperate to be considered cool by their kids; they believe the law doesn’t apply to them. They think they’re wiser and better than the parents who won’t provide the alcohol.
When you add drinking to natural teenage curiosity and pleasure seeking, the results can range from the lowered self-esteem of a girl who had sex with several guys at a party to tragedies like driving into a brick wall, fighting and injuring or killing someone. These parents know that kids are going to drink, but they’ve decided to be the responsible ones and supervise their drinking.

The mixed messages parents send when they “bargain” with teens and allow them to drink at home may be to blame for excessive teen drinking. Do you know that permissiveness at home affects adolescent choices more than peer pressure? Many times parents send the message that fun revolves around a can of beer. Many parents feel they are “buddies” with their teens when they allow them to drink.

It’s pathetic if parents rely on their teen’s definition of fun. Of course, I liked to drink in high school and thought it was really cool when certain parents let us drink in their home. Underage drinking is a factor in nearly half of all teen automobile crashes. It also contributes to suicides, homicides and fatal injuries, and is a factor in sexual assaults and date rapes.

Parent-sponsored drunkfests make it harder for the kids who don’t drink and parents who won’t let their kids drink. It’s almost an inherent challenge these parents lay down by saying, “I’m sponsoring this because I think your teen is mature enough to drink responsibly.”

Some parents feel like they would be ostracized if they said their kid couldn’t go to a prom or graduation party because there was drinking going on. But, I don’t understand how parents can justify serving 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds beer and hard liquor.

Parents need to understand that too many drinks ingested, either accidentally or intentionally, can result in alcohol poisoning, which can often result in death. Alcohol is a drug that numbs the brain. If too much is used, it paralyzes the nerve center in the brain and puts the brain to sleep. When the brain slows down, so does the respiratory system. When the lungs and heart stop sending oxygen to the brain, breathing stops.

Making it “safe” for kids to drink is a complete contradiction of terms! There are laws regulating use by age because of the lack of physical maturity and psychological maturity. People under the age of 21 have dramatically impaired judgment.

I urge parents to rethink just what “responsible drinking” is for someone under the age of 21. Parents think THEY did it, so their kids can do it too. After all, parents don’t want to say that the things they did as teens were wrong. Guess what, in this instance, it’s okay to be a hypocrite.

Teens need you to point them in the right direction and keep them safe. You’re supposed to give them wisdom, not a keg party in the backyard or the garage.
Cary Quashen is an expert in the field of addiction treatment and recovery and is the founder and president of Action Family Counseling. He can be reached by calling (661) 297-8693.

The Need for New Blood on the City Council

| City Council, Gazette, Opinion | April 3, 2014

Four years ago I agreed with Councilman (Bob) Kellar when he said that we needed new blood on the City Council. The three Council members running at that time were re-elected, yet again. It is time for a change. Twenty years is too long to serve on the City Council. I applaud those in the local press and on social media who have said it is time for fresh ideas and new faces. As our city grows and grows up, we need new leadership. There are many excellent candidates running for office this year, some for the first time. In the years to come, some will prove their mettle and dedication and hopefully also serve on the Council. Santa Clarita is fortunate to have so many qualified individuals who want to represent our citizens, and I look forward to working with whoever wins the seats.

My endorsements for City Council are for people that I believe will do a great job, but by no means the only people that can do the job. I believe we need individuals who are, above all, independent thinkers, intelligent, hard working, and respectful of the citizens who come to us. They need to actually listen to the citizens, even when being criticized. They need to be able to work with the City Manager and staff with respect, and take the time to understand staff recommendations. They must also have the intelligence and courage to be able to disagree with those recommendations when their judgment and study shows the need.

They need to be able to engage in public debate in a respectful manner, as this is the cornerstone of a democracy, and to not be afraid of being in the minority. They should have the courage to always give the reason for their vote, and answer the questions of the public to the best of their abilities. They must always remember that they are in their job to serve, not to be served. They need to be strong enough to admit mistakes, apologize, and then find solutions, not excuses.

This is a tall order, but representing the people is a sacred trust. The people pay for their government and deserve to have their tax dollars managed wisely. And do I always achieve these ideals 100 percent myself? Of course not, but the key is to never stop working to become a better representative. The following are three people who I believe are like-minded in the pursuit of these ideals – not perfect people, but people who have shown that they are committed to the principles above.

Alan Ferdman, a smart, retired manager and engineer from the aerospace industry who works full-time for free as a community advocate, helping people interface with their government and trying to make our city an even better place to live. He has an excellent grasp on processes that will benefit the city by helping make it become more efficient. He has a heart for the people and is always trying to help the “little guy.” His respect for diversity and his appreciation of people’s strength through their differences is huge. His ability to understand and relate to all sides of an issue makes him an excellent leader.

Maria Gutzeit is an intelligent businesswoman, who also has an engineering background. She is an elected official serving with distinction on the Newhall County Water Board and is skilled in coalition building. As a mother of a young child and also a caregiver, she understands the challenges of families in Santa Clarita. Her husband is a small business owner, so she understands the need for good paying jobs and a dynamic local economy. Working in the environmental business, she understands the importance of finding the optimum level of regulation based on science, not politics.

Gloria Mercado-Fortine is an accomplished educational consultant with a background in education, who currently serves on the William S. Hart School Board. She has experience working with many companies, so understands the world of business. Being in education, she knows the importance of good jobs and the education needed to get them. Through her collaboration with the City she has helped create a safer environment for our children to grow up in. Her work with at-risk children and alternative education has given her a heart for the disadvantaged.

The City of Santa Clarita was founded to give its people the power to determine their own fate, to be able to address their government and be heard, and to do the will of the people. Our city is not a for-profit corporation, and although we must be fiscally prudent, we must not make our decisions based on how much money we can make, how big we can grow our bureaucracy, or which special interest group has better connections.

The people of Santa Clarita need to take their City back. The power is in your hands. Vote April 8.th.

At Your Service,
TimBen Boydston, Councilman

We’re In Your Corner with Ed Bernstein

| Gazette, Opinion | March 22, 2014

Driving around town, it is hard not to notice all the signs for political candidates for the election coming up on April 8. I became curious about the “Who is Alan Ferdman?” signs popping up all over town. At first, I thought they were from Alan Ferdman’s campaign, only to find out later that his campaign was not behind the signs, and he did not know who made them or put them up.

I began to hear people saying that someone put the signs up to create a negative result, but I think the people behind this did not get the results they were looking for.  Being an Ayn Rand fan, every time I see these signs I think of “Who is John Galt?” in her book, “Atlas Shrugged.” This has been a famous phrase for over 54 years and the meaning behind the phrase represents a capitalist hero who championed business people, believing they were entitled to the fruits of their labor and that government should not take their “fruits” away from them, simply because they could. So, if the anonymous person/people who put up the “Who is Alan Ferdman?” signs did not want to make Alan Ferdman synonymous with a representative for the people, they missed their target.

There is another sign around town that I think needs pointing out also –  “Vote for NO Incumbents.”  After my recent personal experience with the billboard proposal and City Council, it is blaringly clear that we need new Council members. Please vote on April 8 and encourage your friends, family members and co-workers to get out and do the same. I hope that this election year will be different and that we vote new City Council members in office. As children, we were supposed to understand that there are consequences for our actions, and so should our City Council.

The United States Opposes Democracy in Crimea

| Gazette, Opinion | March 14, 2014

By Chris Ball

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” said Thomas Jefferson.

In the last few years, we have witnessed many popular impeachments, and our government has, more or less, supported the overthrows of Gaddafi, Mubarak, Morsi Assad and others, including the recently ousted Ukrainian president, Yanukovych.

The 23-year-old Ukrainian government is now in disarray. Since 1991, the region of Crimea has been a part of the Ukraine nation, but Crimea has its own constitution. The constitutions of both the Ukraine and Crimea refer to “The Autonomous Republic of Crimea.”

Recently, the Crimean parliament voted 78 to 8 to secede and join Russia. There will be a local public referendum to ratify that decision. The United States has condemned that vote, stating that all of Ukraine must vote to approve the secession of a region. And, our government has also condemned the occupation of Crimea by Russian forces, which had been lawfully stationed at the Russian base in Sevastopol.

Great Britain is resisting the secession of Scotland. Spain is resisting the secession of Catalonia. L.A. County resisted the secession of Canyon County, and the City of L.A. resisted the secession of the San Fernando Valley. There is talk of dividing up the State of California. In all those instances, government said that a majority of the entire territory must approve the secession of a minority. That’s what President Obama has said about the Crimea and Ukraine.

Citizens in the Santa Clarita Valley could not get county-wide support, so we incorporated, creating our own local government with only a simple majority vote of the community.

The citizens of Crimea are stuck. The democratic West prefers to support a fragile, brand new government that is asserting control over a region that did not vote for that government. President Obama is citing Ukrainian constitutional law. Let’s look at that.

In 2004, the new Ukrainian constitution was amended to shift power towards parliament because of abuses by Yanukovych’s predecessor. In 2010 the BBC reported that the Ukrainian constitutional court had recently been packed with supporters of Yanukovych. That court announced in Kiev: “The court has ruled that the 2004 amendments to the Ukrainian constitution were unconstitutional, due to violations of constitutional procedures in their examination and adoption.”  That ruling shifted power back to the president and away from parliament, and it was very controversial.

Six years after the reforms to an eight-year-old constitution, the European Commission for Democracy through Law published a report reviewing the Ukrainian court decision:

It is “highly unusual that far-reaching constitutional amendments, including the change of the political system of the country – from a parliamentary system to a parliamentary presidential one – are declared unconstitutional by a decision of the Constitutional Court after a period of 6 years. … As Constitutional Courts are bound by the Constitution and do not stand above it, such decisions raise important questions of democratic legitimacy and the rule of law.”

The Ukrainian constitution seems to blow in the wind, yet a former professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago, President Obama, has said the democratic Crimean vote is “unconstitutional.”

Obama and other NATO countries have called the Russian occupation an “unlawful aggression.” But, a reasoned discussion of Russian strategic interests in Crimea has not been heard in the frenetic noise coming from the “Leader of the Free World.”  Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO has expanded three times, adding 12 countries, marching steadily toward Russia. But we are now accusing Russia of aggression.
The independent Stars and Stripes newspaper reported in March:

“Sevastopol [Crimea] has been a seat of Russian naval power from the imperial 18th century to the Soviet era, giving its forces access to the Balkans, Mediterranean Sea and Middle East. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia began leasing part of the port from Ukraine. That deal, scheduled to end in 2017, was extended to 2042. The move was heavily criticized by the opposition forces now in power in Kiev.”

If the new Ukraine joins NATO and retains control over Crimea, what happens to a balance of power with Russia? How far can you push the Russian Bear into a corner before he bites back?

The Monroe Doctrine was a foreign policy of the United States that declared interference by European nations with countries in North or South America would be viewed as acts of aggression requiring U.S. intervention. Why can’t we comprehend that Russia is guarding its only warm water access to the world under a threat of NATO expansion? Shouldn’t we expect some Putin pushback?

Abraham Lincoln warned in his second inaugural that “every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword.” The simmering hatred that was repressed in Yugoslavia was expressed in Bosnia with bloodshed. The tyranny in Libya and Syria and the repression of democratic voices in Egypt has been expressed in blood by their huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Public outrage in Kiev over the corruption and abuse of power by Yanukovych has refreshed the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

If a large majority of Crimea democratically and peacefully votes to align with Russia, and if peace is maintained while preserving Russia’s vital strategic interests, why do we care? That could free the rest of Ukraine to peacefully align with Europe. Santa Clarita found a democratic path to local self government, so why deny that to Crimea?

Jaso vs. Doug, A Differing Opinion

| Gazette, Opinion | March 13, 2014

Oh, That Amusing Confused Mr. Sutton

Dear Mr. Ranter,

You quote me accurately (thank you) and accuse me of being an idealist. Thank you again.

In some ways, you are not so far from being idealistic yourself. You mentioned concern for the financial well-being of the families of your adult children. Frankly, they may be on the brink of needing government aid. You mentioned how your company gave generously in the past when times afforded such generosity. (Perhaps we are not so different in our altruistic values, despite other big differences.)

You may become enraged by this next notion, so others in your workplace might want to take cover about now: You give what you can when you can. You take what you need. Yes, Mr. Ranter, you have a bit of Karl Marx running through your veins.

What exactly was that projectile just launched across your office?

Perhaps we should leave that volatile notion to itself for a moment. Let’s move on to your contradictions.
Mr. Sutton, you want fewer taxes spent for “…museums, national parks, protecting animals, stuff like that.” (Geez, what else can I say to that?) Yet, you blast the President for announcing cuts in military spending. Apparently you are good with spending more of your tax money for military expenditures. Mr. Ranter, pay less attention to your cronies at the country club. Here is good news for you in terms of taxes: in this age of drone and missile warfare, we do not need as large a standing army to feed and house daily, to equip with costly handheld armaments and outrageously expensive transports, via both ground and sea, from here to there and then back again. It is possible to divert a tremendous amount of military tax expense toward those who really need assistance, such as your family members and homeless individuals living in the river bed right here in town! (See previous responses to your rants.)

Love, peace, more aid & less armaments,
Jaso

Jaso vs Doug, a differing opinion

| Gazette, Opinion | February 27, 2014

Touchy Feely Crap, You Say?!

Dear Mr. Ranter,

Your last article centered on your obsession with money and financial security above the well-being of all. First, you fussed about challenges that your successful business incurs as a result of having to pay its fair share of taxes. Then you whined about your kid in college having tough times. Ultimately, you turned your crosshairs toward those of us who still care for the less fortunate during hard times. In fact, your exact words were: “Liberals (including Jaso) only seem to be concerned with the touchy feely crap, which the majority of Americans aren’t!” You actually accused Americans of, like you, caring more about the economy than about social services and the medical needs of all.

It’s not the hardship of the middle class you should be concerned with, Mr. Ranter. It’s the battle of the lower class. You call it touchy feely. Others call it compassion.

Your business may have its share of challenges, but it’s nothing compared to many Americans. There are families living in cars, people living on the bed of the river that runs through your town. Their worry is not how much they owe in taxes. Their worry is the weather because their budget says food or shelter, not both. That fact is abhorrent, Mr. Ranter. We need to collect more taxes in order to help those who only wish they were in a position to be taxed more and help others.

The saying goes, “In foxholes there are no atheists,” Mr. Sutton. In tough times, where does the love go?

Jaso

Privacy Rip-Off Clubs

| Gazette, Opinion | February 21, 2014

By Chris Ball

Consumers have been attracted to the club price discounts now offered by many retailers. In exchange for discounts, customers have been happy to give up their privacy.

For example, a teenager was buying pre-natal vitamins at Target. Her father went into a Target store to complain that his daughter was receiving coupons for cribs and baby clothes in the mail, and that’s how he found out his daughter was pregnant. Target had accurately predicted his daughter’s pregnancy. It was reported that the father later apologized to Target, but I can’t imagine why.

In another, somewhat less satisfying transaction, Office Max sent an advertising letter addressed to “Mike Seay, Daughter Killed in Car Crash.” In an effort to solicit new business by personalizing their junk mail, Office Max had hired a company to provide personalized mailing lists. Mr. Seay’s 17-year-old daughter had died in a car wreck with her boyfriend within the last year, and the newsworthy personal information had been vacuumed up by a data-mining service.

Personally, I can tell you that I stopped buying liquor from Rite Aid when the company started charging extra for cash customers. Rite Aid adopted a privacy rip-off club. You could get the lower prices, but only if you gave up your privacy. The first time they asked me for a club card, I said I was paying in cash, and I still wanted the lower price.  I walked out, leaving all the items on the conveyor belt. I still don’t understand how giving up my privacy lowers the merchant’s costs to justify the discount. Why can’t a cash customer pay the discounted price? How exactly does giving up your privacy justify a lower cost purchase?

I stopped going to Rite Aid and drove a little further to Stater Brothers. I don’t want my drinking preferences peddled to marketers in India or anyone else in the global economy. And, I can do without the “Thank you, Mr. Ball. You saved $4.20 by telling everybody what you bought today.”

Walmart does a brisk morning business in ammunition. All sales are anonymous transactions conducted in cash, leaving no record of what guns may be owned by citizens who value their privacy. Except for bare necessities, such as ammunition, there’s nothing I would want to buy at Walmart, including food.

Most Walmart customers don’t realize that they are supporting the export of American jobs to China and adding to the outrageous unearned wealth of the Walton heirs. They are the country’s richest family. They inherited their wealth from good old Sam. They don’t pay a living wage to their employees. American taxpayers subsidize Walmart by providing health care and subsistence benefits to Walmart employees. You can see no better an illustration of the disparity between rich and poor than by taking a good look at Walmart.

It’s probably true that a majority of people don’t care about their personal privacy, as long as they can cheaply increase their body mass with Coke and potato chips from Walmart. And, a majority of Americans don’t make the connection between the depression of the middle class and the Walmart-China partnership, even when the made-in-China junk falls apart.

I think there is a large and unsatisfied consumer demand for some kind of anonymous buyer’s club or credit card service that will shield consumers’ identities so that personal information about their private drinking habits and gun ownership is not peddled to the world economy. I’m willing to pay a little extra for that privacy, but not the 10% privacy tax being added for cash customers.

Billboards, an American Hustle

| Gazette, Opinion | February 20, 2014

The billboard proposal set to hit the Santa Clarita City Council next week is a lesson on many things – sign law, ethics in government, the outdoor advertising business – but, most importantly, it’s a lesson on the price our neighbors pay when we don’t pay attention to the happenings going on at City Hall.

The neighbor, friend, and family member in question on this occasion is Julie Edwards, the owner of Edwards Outdoor Advertising, one of the oldest family businesses in Santa Clarita. According to the proposal, Metro is set to cancel the lease on Edwards’ billboards (along with several other billboards from CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel) in exchange for the city granting Metro three lucrative digital billboards along city-owned land by the 5 and 14 freeways.

For more than a decade, the city has targeted the billboard blight along the railroad. With this deal, the blight would finally be taken care of. In addition, the City, Metro, and All Vision, Metro’s consulting firm, are set to bask in the royalties from the boards, estimated to be close to a $100 million pot of gold, according to city documents.

Edwards, on the other hand, will lose 50 percent of its income, a debilitating blow. There wasn’t even talk of compensation for Edwards until Julie Edwards gave an impassioned plea for equity during January’s planning commission meeting.

“This company was my father’s piece of the American Dream,” she said, adding that her parents supported five children with the income.

Julie Edwards further explained that her business was necessary, due to her affordable rates and quality signage, for small business to thrive. ‘’It is important to think about us little people,’’ she added.

At the end of the meeting the commission brought the proposal to a vote, where it passed with a majority. The commission unanimously agreed, however, that Edwards Outdoor must receive some sort of compensation.

The genesis of the proposal starts a few years back, when Metro first came to the city with the concept for the deal, which seem to have gone like this: We will cancel leases for the railroad billboards, they said, if you acquiesce with three digital ones. Negotiate a deal with the billboard owners directly, and we cannot guarantee we will not contract with other advertising companies to build new billboards on the right of way.

Negotiate with the agency and we can put in writing not another billboard will go up, as well as cut you in on, eventually, $1.2 million dollars’ worth of annual revenue.

On the face of it, how could the City refuse? Sure, Edwards would close, but the City of Santa Clarita would take care of the ultimate goal of getting rid of billboard blight, at no cost to City Hall. (Per the deal, all construction will be handled by Metro and All Vision.)

Sixty-two billboards gone, in exchange for three.

And, with those terms, the freight train left the station, headed directly for Edwards Outdoor.

During the two-month PR campaign to sell this deal to the community, City officials have continuously restated the Metro talking point, that this was only to beautify the railroad, and that if they had partnered with Edwards and the other companies, they could not be protected along the right of way.
Either they are lying or their attorneys did shoddy preparation work. Section 5405.6 of the California Business and Professional Code explicitly states that Metro has to respect local regulations when building billboards along their right of ways. The only reasons why the current billboards are there is because they were erected before the City passed its sign ordinance in 1990, effectively banning all billboards within the city limits.

So, in reality, if the City was to go the other way, and do this billboard swap with the actual owners of the billboards, Metro would not be able to replace the boards with another company. Julie Edwards, in turn, would avoid the crushing blow to her business.

Industry sources say the city would be wise to cut a deal with the billboard owners, who would likely agree to take down not just the billboards along the railroad, but a majority of the other billboards they own within city limits. Such is the lucrative effect of digital billboards, which make a minimum profit of $8,000 per ad.

The city’s current path is setting the stage for lawsuits from CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel. It is a curious situation for city officials, who are expected to negotiate with the companies to buy out their other signs within Santa Clarita.

In light of these glaring complications, town cynics and “political realists” are asking the question whether this is about beautification at all. It is well known that Metro and the City of Santa Clarita are frequent collaborators, and that Metro holds the keys to several important city projects in the future, including the new Lyons to Dockweiler connector.

In the end, the City may have bitten off more than it can chew. In addition to potential action from the Feds over a Highway Beautification Act violation, (mentioned in the adjacent headline in today’s paper), City officials are likely to hear an earful from residents of Canyon Gardens, the Canyon Country community set to get a digital billboard 400 feet from their driveway. The planning commission report dances around the subject, mentioning a series of “mechanical louvers’’ that will mitigate potential adverse effects and “focus the viewing area and light transmission towards the intended freeway viewers and away from surrounding properties and surrounding habitat.’’

The design is nice, but nonsense in times of preventing glare, says Jerry Watchel, leading national traffic expert.

“Louvers restrict light from going upwards, they restrict light from going directly downwards, but the billboard still has to direct light at the cars going by on the freeway,’’ Watchel said. “As long as the surrounding homes are on the same level as the freeway, light will get in.’’

Watchel also noted the damaging effects that billboards have on surrounding home prices. A 2011 study by urban planner Jonathan Snyder said that homes within 500 feet of a billboard were worth $30,286 dollars less than homes that weren’t, on average.

So, to sum it up in full, the City is cutting a deal with a state agency, which is set to put out a small business that was going to go without compensation until the planning commission objected. Furthermore, the stated premise for doing the deal – to get protection on the railway – turns out to be false, and a potential alternative deal could end up with the City achieving its goals even more so than the deal at hand.

And, to top it all off, one of the billboards is set to be outside Canyon Country driveways, during a struggling housing market, where homeowners are in dire need to keep their property values through whatever means they can, let alone having to be bothered by a digital billboard illuminating their area. But hey, at least they’ll know what Coca Cola© has been up to, and GE and Geico® and Toyota and Chevron®…

On Free Enterprise, Your Greed-Based Economy – Jaso Vs. Doug

| Gazette, Opinion | February 13, 2014

Dear Mr. Ranter, my worthy adversary,

You are very perceptive to key in on my “inability to relate to free enterprise.” (And no, I’m not a government employee. Keep guessing.)

It is amazing how you miss the true motivation of free enterprise, aka capitalism. While there is no doubt that the motivation for profit has led to some wonderful inventions and improvements on older inventions, you must admit that motives are frequently not pure.

A wonderful example of the fruit of free enterprise was the research and development of the smart phone. A horribly unhealthy result of free enterprise was the development of the depraved fast food industry. And then there is Wal-Mart’s idea of free enterprise: make it of poorer quality, lie about it being made in America, and sell it for less than it costs to bring to market until the competition goes under. There are, of course, even uglier examples of free enterprise, like the drug trade and human trafficking. But, it seems from last week’s rant that you have a distaste for my examples. Why, Mr. Ranter? They are simply facts!

The impure motives that lie at the root of capitalism led to the deaths we talked about last week. What a shame. All in the name of profit.

If we’re going to live with free enterprise, Mr. Ranter, we’re going to have to live with regulations—expensive and extensive regulations—for we are not all trustworthy and certainly not all virtuous.

Meanwhile, be careful what you purchase and make sure you take your car in for any recalls on, say…mass produced defective brakes or seat belts.

Jaso

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