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A Different Church Experience

| Gazette, Opinion | April 5, 2013

By Keith Michael
On Good Friday, my wife and I decided to pay a visit to a church we had heard of, but never attended. I have been going to church for almost 40 years and my experiences at protestant congregations are rarely new.

We usually sing a few songs (which, for the most part, is like going to some secret meeting where everyone knows what’s going on, except for me). Then there’s the part I’m least comfortable with – greet the people around me, with the awkward smile and forced “hello, nice to meet you” spoken.

It is equally surprising to see any departure from the “same sermon, different day” that often follows. And don’t forget, in between all of this predictable modus operandi, there are the unwritten rules, which are sometimes communicated to you as if addressing a bad child: “Oh, you can’t bring coffee into the service” or “You know you’re late – the sermon’s starting.”

This year we had a refreshingly new Good Friday experience when we attended Real Life Church. The service started at 6 and we strolled up a little after the hour. The first thing we noticed was a huge screen in a courtyard area in front of the church featuring the service going on inside. People were seated at outdoor tables watching the screens, eating, drinking or just listening.

There was a coffee, water and light snack bar in the front, and the volunteers encouraged visitors to take something along as they walked. Our eyes were drawn off to the side where there was something you don’t normally see at church: a live giraffe. Yes, a live Giraffe (who appeared to have been raised by fairies, as it was the nicest animal you could imagine). Kids from the Sunday school classes (are they Sunday school on Friday?) were being brought in by groups and a slew of helpers to see the giraffe. On the other side of the church was a petting zoo for the preschoolers, and those kids appeared to be having a great time throwing the animal bedding into the air, on the goats, chickens and lambs and themselves.

We wanted a cup of coffee and the volunteers directed us into the Real Life coffee house. There were screens to watch the service from the coffee house as well.

At this point we actually went into the service. No one bugged us for taking the coffee with us, in fact the seats had cup holders. We sat at the top of the stadium style seating. Real Life had met in a movie theatre for years, so they kept the same feeling when they designed and built their sanctuary.

The sermon was low key and during the offering they had special music and the amazing work of a sand artist. I had never seen sand art before, and for those who have not, it involves an artist manipulating a bin of sand, while it is projected on an overhead screen. When the artist moved the sand, a picture came to the forefront, such as Jesus being scourged, on the cross, etc.

Children’s Petting Zoo at Real Life Church on Good Friday

Though we have no young kids, the children’s program appeared first rate. They had computer check-in to avoid disasters and confusion. There were a lot of young people as staff, also lots of volunteers who would answer questions about where to go and how things worked.

I think that the next time I get in the mood I will drop by there, have a coffee, sit in their beautiful garden and listen to a sermon. Maybe they will have some large animal for me to see then as well.

April Fools’ Joke Not So Funny To All

| Gazette, Opinion | April 4, 2013

An April Fools’ Day joke played by KHTS AM 1220 Monday. garnered strong reaction from local residents, with responses ranging from amused to confused and even, in some cases, offended.

The radio station, which serves the Santa Clarita Valley, ran a story claiming that a toll booth had been placed on Soledad Canyon Road that would charge residents who wished to travel to the Valley’s west side. KHTS has since announced that the story was nothing more than a prank.

While some residents immediately saw the humor, others say that the topic of travel between the east and west sides of the Valley was not appropriate for satire. Some members of the Canyon Country Merchants Association, an organization of business owners attempting to improve the reputation of Canyon Country and increase travel to and from that part of the Valley, have expressed their discontent.

The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce reported receiving complaints about the issue, as did the mayor, other City staff members, and at least one local media outlet. One listener reportedly suggested that the story was an effort by the mayor to test the resistance the City would face if it actually did try to install such a booth. The station denies that claim, asserting that the booth story was nothing more than an April Fools’ prank.

KHTS has since apologized for running the story and has promised to run more positive stories about Canyon Country in the coming weeks. The station says that, in retrospect, it understands the criticisms and welcomes any editorial response.

staff members, and at least one local media outlet. One listener reportedly suggested that the story was an effort by the mayor to test the resistance the City would face if it actually did try to install such a booth. The station denies that claim, asserting that the booth story was nothing more than an April Fools’ prank.

Most thought it was a harmless April Fools’ Day joke, but the various Facebook and e-mail comments make it clear that many were not so pleased. 

*Note: Comments are printed as is, without editing spelling, grammar, etc.

*Although of course I appreciate the wit and time spent on the piece, I found it to be offensive to the residents of Canyon Country… We wanted to improve the quality and public perception of the business climate in Canyon Country. Your piece has the opposite effect of our goals. Fortunately for you, your business does not rely on the residents of Canyon Country, but mine does.

*Terrible article, not FUNNY at all. Way to promote more division and discrimination within our Valley… April Fool’s Day pranks should not be at the expense of others. Shame on you.

*This is like the old saying “One negative out shines ten positives”
                         
*This was in poor taste I understand it was an April Fools joke. But those of us that live in Canyon Country are sick of those of you that trash talk us. We are proud of where we live and we know who our neighbors are. You have no promblems when your high school needs to RENT our stadium to play football cause you don’t have one or yours has no lights we are good enough for you then! Stop bashing Canyon Country and APOLOGIZE to all of Canyon Country for your small minded article we find NO HUMOR in it.

*I’ve done some edgy April Fools jokes in my industry and inevitably a small number of people are going to be offended with these. It’s a shame that some just can’t play along for a one day joke. This wasn’t a slam on Canyon Country, it’s just a joke. And Carl, I know you live on this side of town. I realize people are a bit tense with life’s stresses, but I think people should just lighten up.

*Geez…it was a JOKE. I guess people want to read in more that that into it. The key to a good April Fool’s joke is to make it completely outrageous and this one included many of the personalities the make Santa Clarita such an interesting place to live. I think it was great. Unfortunately some are too uptight to just see it for what it was. Nice work!

*OMG you got me for a second!

KHTS has since apologized for running the story and has promised to run more positive stories about Canyon Country in the coming weeks. The station says that, in retrospect, it understands the criticisms and welcomes any editorial response. (See article at bottom of page)

Readers, send us your ideas of a tasteful April Fools’ Day joke! E-mail Doug@scfree.net.

KHTS Explains
Our KHTS April Fool’s prank of placing a toll booth on the Camp Plenty Bridge received thousands of comments. While 99 percent of these have been positive, about a dozen residents are not happy with our humor.

For those who do not see the humor, we apologize. Our intent, like most humor, was to heavily exaggerate to allow everyone to see the issues from a different perspective. My wife and I are strong supporters of Canyon Country. We have lived in Canyon Country for 22 years. Our kids went to public school in Canyon Country. Both our KHTS studios and transmitter site are in Canyon Country.

Over the years, we have been one of Canyon Country’s leading supporters. That’s why we felt that if anyone could justify having a little fun with the east side of the valley, we could.

There is a small minority of residents who do not see the humor in our story and are truly upset. We appreciate their feelings and apologize for anyone we may have inadvertently offended.

We have also heard feedback from City (of Santa Clarita) staff who have mentioned that upset KHTS listeners and readers have contacted them regarding our fake news story. Now is as good an opportunity as any to mention that City of Santa Clarita staff and officials had absolutely no involvement or prior knowledge of our prank.

The Assemblyman Scott Wilk quotes were not authorized — actually they were made up out of whole cloth. However, it is still the opinion of both radio station co-owners that he is “boyishly good looking.”
We also did not speak to any representatives from Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon’s Beverly Hills office.

By Carl Goldman; printed with permission from KHTS

Todd’s Thoughts

| Gazette, Opinion | March 29, 2013

The sequester – coming to a town near you.

If you have picked up a paper or watched television lately, I am sure you have heard about the “Sequester.”  The sequester was originally passed as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), better known as the debt ceiling compromise.

It was intended to serve as an incentive for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (aka the “Supercommittee”) to come to a deal to cut $1.5 trillion over 10 years. If the committee had done so, and Congress had passed it by Dec. 23, 2011, then the sequester would have been averted. Obama told Congress he would veto any attempt to stop the sequester but, obviously, that didn’t happen. On the first of March the sequester went into effect.

Not only did Obama lie to the American public, saying in a debate with Romney that “the sequester will never happen.” Obama never told the American public that it was his idea. Then Obama  surrounded himself with a group of emergency responders whose jobs, he said, were on the line. He said the looming “sequester” of $85 billion would weaken national defense, disaster response, health care, education, energy development, medical research, border security, FBI investigations, federal prosecutions, air traffic control and airport security. All this and he naturally blames the republicans for the disaster he claims it will cause.

With all the misinformation, exaggerations and downright lies about sequestration, it’s time for some actual facts.

Fact 1: The sequester doesn’t cut federal spending at all. It only limits projected future spending. Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute points out, “Even if the sequester goes through, the federal government will spend more every single year. In fact, in 2023 it will be spending $2.39 trillion more than it does today.”

Fact 2: While the president claims the sequester would “cut” $85 billion in spending this year, because of ongoing federal contracts that can’t be touched, spending would be reduced by a paltry $44 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That’s just over one percent of the federal budget.

Fact 3: Entitlements won’t be impacted by sequestration. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are exempt from the reductions in future spending.

Fact 4: Discretionary spending will be impacted the most. Even still, with a reduction of only eight percent, the sequester “would leave domestic discretionary spending, after adjusting for inflation, at roughly the same level as 2009,” according to Tanner.

The real problem with sequestration isn’t that this invented “crisis” will destroy government’s ability to provide services for Americans, it’s that it doesn’t go far enough in cutting unnecessary spending and reducing the size and scope of government.

President Obama, now that the sequester has gone into effect, has tried to hurt the American public. Congress has given him the ability to lead the country and make cuts where they would “hurt the least,” however Obama has chosen to let the cuts hurt us all. A perfect example of that is that he allowed 2,600 criminals to be released from jail without even warning the public. This happened before the sequester even took effect. He told us thousands of teachers were being laid off, but after further investigation it was found that two teachers were laid off and not because of the sequester. He even closed the White House to tours by school children.

We as Americans need to stop allowing our president to lie to us and hold him accountable. The truth is, this kind of politics has no place in our great country. The sequester, plain and simple, is a two percent cut in an increase of spending. It is not an actual cut. America will spend close to a trillion dollars more this year than last year. Our national debt is almost 17 trillion dollars and we have a president who tells us all we don’t have a spending problem.  America will be $20 trillion in debt by the time Obama leaves office.

This is not a Democrat or Republican problem. This is an American problem. This is a moral problem. America’s next generation will bear the burden of our politicians out of control  spending today. They will have less opportunity, freedom and that is unacceptable.

Theatre Review – Hairspray

| Gazette, Opinion | March 28, 2013

by Michelle Sandoval

The Canyon Theatre Guild in Old Town Newhall is inviting Santa Clarita back to the ‘60s with its latest production of “Hairspray.” Playing now through April 21, the show will transport you to a time when sock hops were all the rage and bouffants were the hottest hairdos. And with a very talented cast, great musical numbers and quirky dance moves, the show is definitely a must see.

“Hairspray” is based on the 1988 John Waters film by the same name. The production features music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman. It tells the story of Tracy Turnblad, a plump teen whose only dream is to be part of “The Corny Collins Show,” a dance program on local television in her hometown of Baltimore. Overcoming the negativity thrown her way because of her size doesn’t stop Tracy from auditioning, and her killer dance moves eventually land her a spot on the show, where she becomes an overnight sensation. She then sets out to try and integrate the show in a time when racism was at an all-time high. Aside from the charming story of a young girl reaching for her dreams, “Hairspray” also touches on the injustices of American history, and does not hold back while doing so.

Patti Finley directs a stellar cast and does not apologize for the somewhat racy material in the show. She jokingly introduces the production with a warning that it will probably offend everyone in the audience. Objectionable or not, Finley and her crew have successfully created a show that is exceptionally charming and fun, with just the right bit of edge.

Brittany Thornton, who is proudly making her CTG debut, leads the ensemble. She embraces the role of Tracy wholeheartedly and radiates on stage, pulling the audience in with her positive energy. Her strong vocals hit all the right notes and her dance moves are always on step. Her talent and charisma are as impressive as her outrageous hairdo.

Colin Robert goes a great job as Link Larkin, teenage heartthrob and Tracy’s love interest. Not only does he croon his way into Tracy’s heart, but the audience’s as well. He delivers a performance that is both smooth and calculated, much like every perfect strand of hair on his dreamy little head.

Kara Slocum and Jennifer Alexopoulos play the Von Tussles, “Hairspray’s” villainous mother-daughter duo. Both ladies play their parts well, bringing ample amounts of scandal, tantrums and controversy to the plot. Despite their questionable behavior in the story, you can’t help but fall under their mischievous spell.

Barry Agin shines as Edna Turnblad, bringing countless laughs as the overweight and overbearing mother to Tracy. Just try to keep a straight face as he dances across the stage in homely dresses and heels. John Morris plays Edna’s husband, Wilbur, and the two deliver one of the most magical moments of the show when they perform “You’re Timeless to Me,” a musical ode to their endless love.

The entire cast is incredible. Lori Battle as Motormouth Maybelle delivers strong and captivating vocals. Taylor Lane portrays Penny Pingleton with just the right amount of bubbly energy that the character demands. Joey Langford is perfect as Corny Collins and manages to stand out, even when the stage is crowded with fervent dancers. Everyone truly gives their all in this performance and their passion and dedication shine bright, making the show great entertainment for all ages.

So, put on your dancing shoes Santa Clarita, and brush up on the Mashed Potato, because the CTG has succeeded in creating a production that will leave you with a burning desire to dance in the aisles.

“Hairspray” is playing at the Canyon Theatre Guild, located at 24242 Main Street in Newhall. For more information or to purchase tickets call 661-799-2702 or visit www.canyontheatre.org.

Retirement Planning & Health Insurance

| Gazette, Opinion | March 22, 2013

Traditional retirement income planning emphasizes investing in tax-deferred vehicles, such as 401(k) plans and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA’s). Choosing to do this could be a ticking time bomb, as it may trigger higher Medicare premiums. As one financial advisor states, “All the taxes that have been deferred come home to roost at age 70.”

That is when the combination of Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) from tax-qualified retirement plans, the taxable portion of Social Security benefits, and, in some cases, a pension can boost income to a level that triggers a permanent increase in Medicare premiums. If your modified adjusted gross income, which is defined as adjusted gross income (including the taxable portion of your Social Security benefits), plus tax-exempt interest exceed $85,000 for single people or $170,000 for those who are married, you will pay more for Medicare coverage.

This would result in a single person paying the extra cost of $42 month, or $504 per year, for Medicare Part B premiums. Higher income beneficiaries also pay more for Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. And, that is before factoring in a supplemental Medigap insurance policy to cover most of Medicare’s deductibles and co-payments. Since Obamacare took effect, these costs have been steadily increasing and the benefits of Medicare have decreased.

For married couples with a MAGI of between $170,000 and $214,000, the high-income surcharge in 2013 will double the usual Part B monthly premium to $209.80 from $104.90 per person. Wealthy individuals with income above $214,000 or married couples with joint income that tops $428,000 will pay $335.70 per person per month for Medicare Part B premiums alone. This is more than $8,000 in annual Medicare premiums for married couples before they pay any Part D and Medigap costs!

These factors hammer home the point that Medicare is now a mandatory expense, and you, the taxpayer, will be penalized for having too much income. It’s not very comforting for Americans that have to contribute to Social Security, because then you are surcharged for having earned too much money. Yet, members of our government leadership, who work for the taxpayers, are exempted from these mandatory plans and have a superior “Cadillac” plan that the taxpayer must also pay for. There is something definitely wrong with a system where the tail is wagging the dog.

Jim Lentini, CLU,ChFC,IAR is a financial advisor and president of Lentini Insurance & Investments, Inc. He can be reached at 661-254-7633 or jim@lentiniiandi.com.

Todd’s Thoughts

| Gazette, Opinion | February 15, 2013

Although Obama won with only 51 percent of the vote – and is the first president re-elected to a second term receiving fewer total votes than in his first election – he actually believes he received a huge mandate last November. He rejects the notion that the nation is in effect evenly divided and is still center-right.

This misconception has caused the Narcissist-in-Chief to reveal his true self. Compromise for Obama means “my way or the highway.”

This ego-centric attitude should come as no surprise. Obama watchers have been sounding alarms for years that, he believes he is the anointed one destined to lead a nation of dopes. This is the man who said: “Understand where the vision for change comes from, first and foremost. It comes from me”.

What has Obama told us about his vision for his second term? He has told us a few things that we should all be very worried about and a few things he hasn’t said that should make us worry even more.

What he hasn’t said even during his inaugural address was anything about our severe fiscal problems. He and others in his party don’t even believe we have a spending problem in Washington. They want us to believe that being 16.4 trillion dollars in debt is okay and there is really no need to worry. Anyone who can balance a checkbook knows this is not good for our country. He never mentioned the unemployment rate still at unacceptable levels with more than 24 million people still without work. He obviously doesn’t believe that this unemployment crisis is a crisis at all. He just ended the “Jobs Council” without ever using any of the recommendations that they provided to him.

What we do know is very disturbing as well. We know our economy has grown slower than 1.8% which is the worst recovery since the great depression. We know our economy needs to grow over 3% just to stay ahead of new people entering the workforce.

We found out that the 4 people who died in Bengazi will not get any justice. We know that the epic failure in Washington has done nothing but give us more questions without anyone being held accountable. We know 4 families will never know the truth because Obama’s administration is more worried about the polls than protecting American’s.

We know that Obama will use any crisis to further his agenda. They have taken a tragedy in Newton Ct. and tried to infringe on American’s 2nd amendment rights. The truth is you cannot legislate evil or stupid. We have over 50 years of data concerning guns and gun bans. There have been 51 different studies done including one by Bill Clinton’s own team, the CDC and the FBI and they all conclude gun bans don’t work! Matter of fact they show crime goes up when guns are banned. Why don’t we look at the glaring statistic that every mass shooting in the last 50 years except one has been committed in “Gun Free Zones”.

We know the Fiscal cliff was a manufactured event by politicians to advance their agenda. Let’s face it; nobody is cutting anything in Washington. The only things they are telling us are cuts are merely slowing the rate of growth. The same logic would be to say I bought a $100 pair of pants for $50 on sale and that I cut $50 from my shopping bill. This is absurd.

We found out Obama believes it is okay to kill Americans and violate their rights with Drones but it’s not okay to capture and water board these people.

We Know Obama has ordered 2717 armored tank vehicles, 30 thousand Drones and Billions of rounds of ammunition for domestic use. Why?

American’s need to wake up and look at the facts. Our economy is failing, our government has a “Kill American” policy and now they want our guns. Does this sound like America to you?

America is not Obama’s Communist nation he needs to follow our Constitution and put our country back on the road to prosperity. We will not stand by and watch our country destroyed.

Congress, Obama & Compromise

| Gazette, Opinion | February 8, 2013

Congress and the President have agreed to buy themselves more time before being forced to come to grips with the budget deficit, but they would be wise not to squander it on partisan bickering and petty one-upmanship. Not only is the country frustrated by our leadership not taking care of business, but so are global investors, according to a recent poll.

The house last week passed a bill that the Senate has agreed to pass, and the President has indicated he will sign, postponing a default on the debt and budget for at least three months. It also stipulates that members of neither the Senate nor the House will be paid beyond April 15 if they fail to pass budgets. If nothing else, the bill averts yet another crisis in Washington.

The last time Congress and Obama played chicken on extending the debt ceiling, Standard & Poor’s lowered the nation’s credit rating and the stock market plunged. In the end, the debt ceiling was raised, but only after the nation was forced to endure the blundering of its political representatives. This time, our politicians may not have bought themselves an extra three months to hammer out a budget deal, but only about five weeks.

That is because another date – March 1 – is looming in the budget saga. That is the date when $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts, formally known as sequestration, begins to take effect. Neither party wants to see the across-the-board cuts that sequestration would entail. But their track record on working together has been pathetic. Most are acting for their own agendas or positioning, rather than acting for the good of the people. What happened to the slogan established by our forefathers, “government by the people, for the people?”
Lurching from one deadline and crisis to the next isn’t doing our country any good. Besides an erosion of trust in Washington by the American public, this soap opera is trying the patience of global investors. A Bloomberg News global poll taken January 17 of investors, analysts and traders found that 36 percent of the respondents cited the U.S. fiscal problems as the biggest threat to the world economy, compared with 29 percent who chose Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, and 15 percent who pointed to a slowing Chinese economy. In spite of a rising stock market, 47 percent said that the fiscal squabbling is discouraging them from investing in U. S. financial markets.

Despite the latest agreement to suspend the debt ceiling deadline temporarily, there is little to suggest that either Democrats or Republicans truly are committed to compromising on the budget. Democrats are still trying to protect most spending programs and prefer additional taxes to whittle down the deficit. Obviously, they don’t understand that it is business that makes the economy grow, creating jobs, thereby reducing the debt. But, you cannot continue to spend more than you receive, nor overtax the people that create the jobs. They will move the jobs elsewhere.
Obama spent most of his inaugural speech talking about his social agenda and little time on fiscal policy. In repeated polls and interviews, most voters have indicated that they want their elected officials to act responsibly and to produce results. The only clear path to achieve those ends is willingness to compromise. Not everyone gets everything they want, and most Americans understand that. Congress and the President should act like they understand it, too.

Jim Lentini, CLU,ChFC,IAR is President of Lentini Insurance & Investments, Inc. Since 1964, the firm believes in “helping others plan for tomorrow”. He can be reached at 661-254-7633. www.Lentiniiandi.com

Attract The Right Clients With One Simple Web Page

| Gazette, Opinion | January 24, 2013

If you are a small business owner, author, coach, consultant, or entrepreneur, you have more than likely discovered that having an Internet presence is crucial to your success. This online presence can take shape as a blog, a traditional website, or even a Facebook page, yet the one page that will help you to attract all of the clients and business you want is none of the ones I have just mentioned.

I am talking about setting up an opt in page, which is also referred to as a “squeeze” page, “landing” page, or “shy yes” page. This single web page serves the purpose of letting visitors find out who you are, what you do, and how you can best serve their needs. I have many of these set up for my business, and they all continue to bring in excellent leads every single day.

Diane had written to me a couple of weeks ago to ask if she should start a blog or a web site first, and this is when I explained to her why an opt in page makes more sense in the very beginning.

Your opt in page will start with a headline at the top, stating the problem your target audience is facing and needs to solve. For example, if your business is dog training, your headline might read something like:

“Are You Tired Of Your Dog Jumping On People Every Time Someone Visits?”

You would then go on to introduce yourself to the reader, and to tell them that you had a similar problem with your own dog. Then you would tell them that you have a free report or a video that will help them to solve their problem quickly. The idea here is to sell them on the idea of signing up for the free gift, and not to tell them about all of the other services you provide and products you sell. There will be plenty of time for that later on, after they have opted in.

Include three bullet points to describe your free gift, such as:

Learn how to get your dog to behave around visitors
Find out what it means when your dog is aggressive around strangers
Receive 5 tips for turning your dog into a docile and loving pet

At the bottom of your opt in page you will invite readers to enter their first name and email address to receive their free gift and more information. This is required by federal law to ensure they have given you permission to contact them via email.

If you’re an author, set up an opt in page where people can receive more information on your topic after they’ve read your book. I have done this for each of my books, and you can see an example of one of my recent ones at http://TimeManagementForEntrepreneursBook.com. You can see that the page is a simple one that promises to deliver more training on effective time management strategies for entrepreneurs. I receive new leads at this site regularly, and once they have opted in I am able to connect with them on a deeper level than if they had only read my book.

Your free report can be just a few pages in length. I recommend combining three or four of your blog posts into a report on your topic. The idea is to provide the very best information possible to build your credibility with your new prospect and to begin establishing your “know, like, and trust” factor from the very beginning.

This marketing strategy works in every niche and for every topic. It’s simply a way for you to reach out to potential prospects by showing them how you can solve their most pressing problems.

You will want to experiment with different opt in pages to see which ones work best for you. Also, try using video on some and just written text on others to see what your target audience responds to best. You can see two examples of opt in pages at http://YourOnlineMarketingPlatform.com and http://ViralReportMarketing.com.
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. 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.

Boomers & Financial Doom

| Gazette, Opinion | January 18, 2013

Now that we have averted the “fiscal cliff,” to start the new year, what has really been accomplished? At first notice, when it was announced they had reached an agreement, it was only raising taxes for single individuals earning more than $400,000 and couples earning more than $450,000. But, in reality, later reports state that it raises taxes on 77 percent of taxpayers. What needs to be answered is – when are our legislators going to address spending cuts? It’s obvious by the news reports we haven’t seen anything yet to address the big problem of government spending.

A successful businessman and billionaire, Pete Peterson, states, “The current deficit is not the problem. I wouldn’t enact any measures to reduce the deficit until the economy recovers properly.” He further stated that his overriding concern has always been the long-term outlook, the massive structural deficits that we face as the baby boomers start retiring in large numbers. This is one of the many problems of legislators who have refused to deal with aging generations for the last 20 years. Now we have over 10,000 people turning age 65 every day.

The facts are hard to dispute. In 1900, one in 25 Americans was over the age of 65. In 2030, just 18 years from now, one in five Americans will be over age 65. In 1975, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid made up 25 percent of federal spending. Today, they add up to a whopping 40 percent. Within 10 years, these programs will take up over half of all federal outlays.

What is pathetic is that the bean counters still count Social Security as an entitlement! An entitlement is welfare and Medicaid! All taxpayers that are not government employees pay into SSI from their paychecks, and their employers pay as much as their employees for their SSI and Medicare benefits!

If our government leadership had not taken funds from SSI for other “entitlement” plans, SSI and Medicare would be solvent today and not in trouble. If it was treated like a private “Defined Benefit Plan,” and invested in conservative investment, like government bonds, each participant would have several times the total income than the maximum benefit allowed today. If a trustee of a private pension plan had invaded funds, as was done to our funds in Social Security by our legislators, the law would have put them in jail!

Another problem facing boomers is the rising cost of health care caused by Obamacare. The following is a report recently by Byron York, chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner. Much of Obamacare is based on adding millions of Americans to that program for the poor. But the Supreme Court decision upholding the health care law also ruled that states, which pay for part of Medicaid, don’t have to go along. At last count and reporting, we had 18 states opting out of Obamacare. Of course, California is not one of them. Together all of this could equal one big mess. And, if it is a big enough mess, it could have a significant, and decidedly negative, political effect on the democrats who passed Obamacare and who will now put it into practice.

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

Todd’s Thoughts

| Gazette, Opinion | January 3, 2013

Politicians are now using the tragedy in Newton CT. to take away your rights.

As we try to find answers for this tragedy, politicians see it as an opportunity to push their liberal agenda. This is a pathetic display of “never letting a tragedy go to waste.” (Obama Administration)

I have to admit I am struck by politicians who are jumping on the bandwagon without doing any research or fact checking on the “gun control” matter. The facts regarding gun control are very clear, and we have years of research and studies done on their effect on our society. No matter what anyone tries to tell you, the facts are clear. Gun control not only doesn’t work, but it has the opposite effect on society as the gun control advocates would want you to believe. The FBI, CDC and numerous other studies have found that “banning” guns or limiting the kind or type of weapons a person can own does nothing to curb bad people from killing good people. The sad fact is, when evil or disturbed people want to inflict harm on people, they will find a way. We have to remember, Timothy McVeigh used fertilizer to kill hundreds of people, and terrorists used box cutters to bring down the World Trade Center, killing thousands of innocent people. Senseless violence has been around since the beginning of time and will never be eradicated from our society.

We, as a society, need to understand and locate those individuals responsible and hold them accountable. Making laws that affect the masses does nothing to stop the real issues in our nation. Remember that in the history of the world, never has a gun pulled its own trigger.

The fact of the matter is, we as a society have not only allowed these tragedies to happen, we have listened to politicians tell us that by making laws that take away people’s rights, somehow they will make us safer. Not only do these laws not make us safer, they do just the opposite.

We advertise that areas have no protection with “gun free zones”! These are the areas where these crimes are committed. You never see any of these criminals going into a police station or gun show and opening fire. In fact, it’s just the opposite. “Evil” people prey on innocent victims who are not protected. Every mass shooting in recent years has been where unarmed people were and signs were posted telling everyone that they are “gun free zones”. In Aurora, Colorado, the shooter had seven different theaters to choose from. He chose the “gun free” one.

We have to, as a society, start thinking for ourselves. Politicians cannot legislate away “evil.” Chicago, for instance, has the strictest gun laws in the entire nation, yet 466 children have been killed there this year. The point is, it is your responsibility to make sure you are safe. It is your right to protect yourself by whatever means necessary.
There is absolutely no excuse for the senseless killing of innocent children – or anyone, for that matter.
As sad and emotional as these instances are when innocent lives are lost, we cannot rush to judgment or try to make others pay for a few bad people’s mistakes. We see celebrities and politicians making public service announcements telling us all we should lose our 2nd amendment rights, and at the same time have armed security around themselves 24 hours a day. Why should they be any safer than my family?

I can’t stand an administration lecturing me about gun control when they gave 1,400 weapons to killers and drug dealers in Mexico that cost a border agent his life in the “Fast and Furious” scandal. This is the same administration that tells us all that murdering 3,700 babies every single day in Planned Parenthood is okay, but wants to tell me I shouldn’t be able to protect my loved ones. I don’t think so!

The bottom line is that our second amendment has made it possible for us to be a free nation! Japan’s Admiral said in the 1940s that no one would ever invade America because there would be a gun behind every blade of grass. History tells us mass killings really start by disarming a nation’s population!!!

“FISCAL CLIFF” 2013

| Gazette, Opinion | December 21, 2012

The statement “Fiscal Cliff” has become part of our discussions and news from the media as the deadline approaches. Our debating politicians continue to battle with no compromise from either side. Why? Because it is obvious that the White House feels strongly about its position, Obama does not have to compromise any tax cuts, but only proposes more spending. Hopefully, most members of Congress understand that their constituents are not going to be pleased as they continue to suffer from the depressed economy and possible recession.

Here in California the taxpayers understand and are concerned about the deteriorating economy and recession problems that continue to rise. Two of the main problems that contribute to California’s growing economic problems are: 1) 2012 report last summer of our legislators not addressing government workers’ pensions being underfunded, growing, and not being addressed by unions and legislators. The report stated and quoted figures from two counties, Ventura and Kern, which, respectively, had 84 percent and 77 percent of government employees who are retired and making more money than when they were working! 2) A report posted the first of December, 2012 from the DOL noted that one-third of all welfare recipients live in California.

Another growing problem for the fiscal cliff is the growing cost of healthcare caused by the rules and regulations of Obamacare. When signed into law in March, 2008, and implementing rules beginning in June, 2008, the cost for the largest health insurer in the state – Anthem Blue Cross – to comply with the law was estimated to be over $100 million. This was for the first year! Of course by law, these costs are passed on to the insureds. Obamacare is proving to be a headache for agents and brokers, as the law has created more work and regulations to comply, and more costs to the consumer. If you are on Medicare, you have experienced an increase of Part B costs of 400 percent in five years, a reduction of benefits, and the increasing costs of supplemental coverage.

If our government leadership had asked for the experts in the healthcare field, providers and insurers how to correct the rising costs of healthcare, it would have been evaluated that three items needed to be addressed to reduce costs and stabilize and improve healthcare for Americans. The three items I for the government to better serve our needs are:

The government should help in controlling fraud by providers and insureds.

Work with doctors to lower the cost of their mal-practice insurance. Keep doctors responsible for their action, but create a reasonable cost insurance program. The average cost of insurance for many doctors is between 30-40 percent of their gross income.

Work with Pharmaceutical Companies to lower the cost of drugs. A recent report noted that the cost of drug companies to get approval of a drug through the FDA can be up to $80 million. Of course, this cost must be passed on to the consumer. A report about 10 years ago stated that drugs were about one-third of all medical costs!

If these three items were addressed by our esteemed leaders, I believe healthcare costs could have been lowered by 30-50 percent, depending on how efficient the initiated government programs worked! But then, our leaders didn’t ask the experts in the medical and insurance fields for advice or direction. They, in their infinite wisdom, acted on their own political and personal agendas. And we, the taxpayers, are expected to pay these costs. In closing, let me ask you this question: why are our employees (all government employees from the President, Congress, state, and municipalities) not required to be covered by the same plans as we the taxpayers, since we pay for all their Cadillac plans?

Let us not be so busy working to feed our families, educate our children, support our businesses that create the economy, and pay our taxes that we don’t see that the horse has gotten out of the barn. It appears that the tail is wagging the dog. Don’t you think it’s time to go back to the principles that our Founding Fathers created for our Country?

Jim Lentini, CLU, ChFC, IAR is President of Lentini Insurance & Investments, Inc. Since 1964, LII has served SCV in helping others plan for tomorrow in insurance & retirement planning.

Soaring Healthcare Costs

| Gazette, Opinion | November 23, 2012

Healthcare in retirement is becoming a focal point for financial advisors and their clients. Many people are concerned about a strategy of dealing with increasing costs and reduced benefits in their healthcare and how it will affect their retirement income planning. Handling expenses related to healthcare are a big concern for many baby boomers in particular.

A recent AARP poll of 1,331 voters over the age of 50 found that 53 percent are concerned about incurring health expenses they cannot afford, making the topic one of the top five worries for this age group. The participants included 536 baby boomers, 59 percent of whom said the economic downturn has meant they expect to rely more on Social Security and Medicare than they did in the past. Another study from Fidelity Investments found that a 65-year-old couple retiring this year will need $240,000 to foot out-of-pocket costs not covered by Medicare. The census on this study assumed the husband would live to 82 and the wife to 85.

The life insurance industry study a few years back stated that with a couple age 65 that were non-smokers, one would be alive until age 92. With these facts and rising costs, it is most important for financial advisors to focus not only on accumulating assets for retirement, but making it a priority to prepare for health care expenses as they continue to be a growing issue.

Since Obamacare started in 2008, seniors on Medicare have experienced a continued increase in costs for not only their Part B premiums, which have increased about 300 percent in four years, but increased co-payments and reduced benefits for Part A and Part B of Medicare.

Since Medicare only covers about 80 percent of medical expenses, a supplemental plan is necessary. Due to the continual reduced benefits from Medicare since 2008, the supplements have to increase the benefits to cover the balance of costs. Providing the additional benefits result in increased premiums. Supplemental insurance before 2008 and Obamacare only increased the premium every five years after age 65. Now, the premiums for supplemental coverage increase annually, because Medicare is reducing benefits annually.

Another concern for seniors is Long Term Care insurance. Medicare only covers 100 days in a nursing home. Since we are living longer, the need for LTC must be addressed when addressing your retirement planning needs. Many people don’t realize that when you stop getting better in a hospital, medical insurance stops, and you are moved out into a nursing facility for care. And, you don’t have to be a senior to need LTC. You could be disabled due to an accident or illness at any age and not be able to perform the Activities of Daily Living, (ADLs).

If you have a comprehensive LTC policy, it will cover both nursing home and home care as well as other potential needs. The latest statistics state that 70 percent of individuals over age 65 will have the need for long term coverage. LTC insurance is like life insurance – it will be less expensive the younger you are when purchased. Also, you will be guaranteeing your insurability to purchase coverage while insurable at a more preferred rate. In addition to planning for the funding of increased medical care, good planning will also include research and provide long term care coverage options in a balanced retirement planning program.

Jim Lentini, CLU, ChFC, IAR is president of Lentini Insurance & Investments, Inc. LII has provided insurance and retirement planning since 1964. He can be reached at 661-254-7633 or www.Lentiniiandi.com.

A Sad Day for America – Todd’s Thoughts

| Gazette, Opinion | November 19, 2012

Was the election a teachable moment? What have we learned?

Well, we learned a few things that are quite disturbing. We learned that many millions in the American public are not concerned about their fellow Americans.

Millions of people are without jobs and are living on welfare, struggling just to get by, to feed their families and to make ends meet. Millions more will lose their jobs and become a burden to our nation.

We learned these people are not worried about America’s economy on the verge of collapse. Our country is already 16.2 trillion dollars in debt and with this president’s plan we will see 25 trillion in the next four years. Our country is only growing at 1.3 percent. This doesn’t move us forward it doesn’t even keep up with population growth. We already borrow 4 billion dollars a day – now imagine that number at 9 billion a day, or 80 cents of every dollar going to pay our debt service.

We have learned that these people are not worried about gas prices or energy prices. Our country will see gas prices climb to $8-10 a gallon, and electric bills will skyrocket under Obama’s current plan.

We have learned that these people don’t seem to care that millions of jobs will be lost in the aerospace, coal industries and manufacturing.

We learned these people don’t care about paying taxes. Under the current path it is estimated our taxes will be more than 75 percent of what we make. Can you live only getting 25 percent of the pay check you are getting now?

We have learned that socialism is okay with these voters. They don’t seem to care what direction our country is going or the collapse that is imminent. It appears what JFK said years ago, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” is not what is believed today. Obama voters want free stuff and don’t care who or what it hurts in the process. Free phones, free healthcare, free food, free birth control and the list goes on and on. As any educated person knows, nothing is free and the burden will be borne on the working people of this country. Government can’t give anyone anything without taking it from someone else first.

We have learned that these Obama voters are more worried about themselves than for their fellow American. There just can’t be any other conclusion.

I am saddened knowing half of this nation has decided that free stuff is worth their freedom and security. We cannot have a strong military or a strong defense when we cannot afford to pay for the equipment or personnel to defend our country or our allies around the world. When we lose these things, our standing in the world and friends around the world are and will be in great danger. The world we live in right now is in serious chaos, and without a strong military we have no other conclusion to draw except we could potentially be attacked again, or worse.

Will this be a teachable moment? That remains to be seen. However, I can say this. When the money runs out and the free stuff is taken away, this country will fall into chaos just like every other country that has tried this experiment before us. We have seen this throughout the world before, and socialism always fails. Sooner or later you just run out of other people’s money.

What will happen now? I predict those with money will protect their money and hold off investing. This will cost more jobs, unemployment will rise substantially and the average household income will drop 8K in the next four years. Your taxes will go up tremendously and inflation will grip our nation, causing food prices to skyrocket.

This is not a time for people to be upset about the results in this election. Patriots around the nation need to stick together and inform and educate our children and our neighbors. It is time to pray for our nation. The following years are going to be very rough on many and, whatever your political views, we need to stick together to pull our country through this very bad decision. People need to educate themselves to keep this kind of game from ever being played on the American people again. You may not believe it right now, but you will. YOU WILL!

Is Marketing Just For Businesses? How To Market Yourself To Achieve Your Goals

| Gazette, Opinion | November 9, 2012

Before I came online to work exclusively in 2006, I worked as a classroom teacher in the San Fernando Valley and as a real estate broker and residential appraiser throughout Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties. I have said many times that if I had known as much about marketing then as I do now, my real estate business would have been much easier and more lucrative.

But is marketing only applicable to business? I think not.

We market ourselves on a regular basis in our daily lives. It’s our way of connecting with others and building something referred to as the “know, like, and trust factor.” Allow me to give you a concrete example of this strategy.

Two of my friends, Tom and Dina, have a daughter, Caroline, who is a senior in high school this year. Caroline is a top student, yet she is shy and introverted when it comes to getting involved with activities at school. Two years ago the school counselor told them that unless Caroline could show that she was more than just academically outstanding, there would be little chance of her getting into the college of her choice.

That’s when they came to me for help, and I began the process of “marketing” Caroline to the world. My goal was to showcase her gifts and talents in a way that would suit her personality and get her noticed by the college admissions offices. I met with the family every week for about six weeks to put many things into place that would build her credibility and increase her visibility.

The first thing we did was to make a list of Caroline’s accomplishments: She had played the piano since she was eleven; she used to play soccer in elementary and junior high school; and she excelled in mathematics. We needed to show that it would be a benefit to have her as a part of any college freshman class.

Because Caroline is shy and reserved, my approach was to turn her into a minor celebrity who could say almost everything she needed to from the solitude of home. We set up a blog for her, and also a channel on YouTube. She began posting about her love of music, and then invited readers to watch the videos she was making where she was playing the piano. She posted about her school’s soccer team, and gave a detailed analysis after each game of what they could have done differently. She posted about various math topics, and then offered to help anyone who had questions or was having difficulty with their homework.

All of this was put into place to build Caroline’s credibility, but none of it would matter unless we could get the word out about what she was doing to increase her visibility. To do this quickly, I recommended that she connect with at least three other students who were key “influencers” in the high school community. After a long discussion and strategy session, we narrowed it down to three students she knew fairly well. Her assignment was to tell each of them about her blog, and to ask them to let others at school know about it as well.

The results have been nothing short of amazing. She became a minor celebrity at school very quickly by leveraging the power of the Internet. The music department asked her to join them for their upcoming events; the math department asked her to start a program for after school tutoring, and the soccer team asked her to be a student advisor for their next season.
Caroline was able to stay true to herself, while also getting involved in activities she was passionate about. When she filled out her college applications she had so much more to include that showcased her talents, skills, and abilities. She is currently in the process of applying to schools that meet all of her criteria so that she will have a bright future.

What about you? Can you see by this case study that marketing is not just for business?

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. 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.

2012 Medicare & Obamacare

| Gazette, Opinion | November 2, 2012

By Jim Lentini
When the Supreme Court voted to sustain the Affordable Care Act last summer, it substantiated that the Act was constitutional. It had to be, or else Medicare wasn’t. You can’t allow government to tax people to pay for medical care for citizens over the age of 65 and not allow government to do the same for those under 65.

At the same time, and despite the best efforts of the Obama Administration to camouflage the reality of the situation, the act demanded that people pay money to be part of the system. Chief Roberts called it a tax because it was the clearest path to constitutionality, as reported by political writer for Time magazine, Joe Klein. Klein said it is quite clear and noted from the outset of this Act that Obama and his handlers have shown a distressing tendency to not speak truthfull-y to the American people on this crucial issue.

Political courage requires clarity. The Obama Administration did not want to take the political risk of allowing opponents to call it a tax increase. That was stupid. The Republicans called it a tax increase and now it was verified by the Supreme Court. One of the worst aspects of Obamacare was that it moved 30 million people into Medicaid, a very troubled program.

The states have rebelled against this mandate, and Chief Roberts ruled that states could opt out. The Act has steadily increased the cost of healthcare since implementation three years ago, and it was structured to not fully be implemented until after the election next week! When passed in March, 2008, the first implementation of the law was begun in June 2008.

The largest insurer in California, Anthem Blue Cross, estimated the cost – to just comply with the law the first year – to be $100 million! Of course, by state and federal mandate control of health insurance premium, this cost is pasted on to insured’s. Health insurance premium increases can only be approved by the State Insurance Commissioner and loss ratios must be over 80 percent in California.

We have only seen the tip of the iceberg with Obamacare. When the “exchanges” are implemented in 2014, then small employers (fewer than 500 employees), which constitute 80 percent of our economy, will have to provide Obamacare plans or pay a fine per employee. The fine is designed to be cost effective to employers to pay the fine which is less expensive than providing even a basic group medical plan formulated by obamacare. This way, rules of Obamacare will drive employees to the government run “exchanges.” Can you remember how convenient it was the last time you went to the DMV, another government run program? And that’s only for vehicle registration and license.

Now, you will have to go to a government run agency for all your decisions about the right health insurance plan for you and your family. You will have to consult and inquire for the right information and questions on the best plan for your demographics, needs, and wants, if your doctors are in the network, etc. All of these questions and answers you normally get from your broker or agent for one of the most important and costly aspects of the health and welfare of you and your family. Do you really think a DMV type system will satisfy your questions, needs and costs?

Speaking of costs! Medicare is provided to all Americans and comes from Americans’ required tax contribution into Social Security from their lifetime of earnings and is a part of their retirement income. Since Obamacare was implemented in 2008, those over age 65 have experienced an accelerated increase in cost for their Part B and Part D coverage, deductibles, co-payments and supplemental costs. Instead of increases of premiums every five years before Obamacare, now seniors get increases annually, and soon it will increase dramatically with Obamacare’s planned withdrawal of over $700 billion from Medicare benefits for other entitlement programs. Tell me, what is more important than protecting our seniors from increasing costs and decreasing benefits of plans they have worked for all their lives?

Unfortunately, those who have planned Obamacare – the president and his followers – did not ask the experts in the field of medical benefits for advice in how to revise the increasing cost of providing medical coverage for Americans. Had they done this before spending $4 billion of taxpayers’ money, they could have found the following to correct the increasing cost of health care:

Government should help the industry stop the fraud in health benefits.
Government should provide an oversight medical malpractice program so doctors don’t have to spend 20-30 percent of income for insurance.

Government should provide incentives and deductions for pharmaceutical companies to research new drugs. This way, companies do not have to pass on the cost of R & D to consumers. One-third of all medical expenses today are the cost of drugs. What we had to do surgery for 25 years ago is now corrected or controlled with drugs.

If government had executed these three factors, health costs could have been reduced by as much as 50 percent! But then, they forgot, or didn’t want to, ask the experts before spending our money for a plan that is too expensive and won’t work for the taxpayer in America! No, it will only work for those who don’t pay any taxes. Did you know that in California we already have nine programs that provide guaranteed medical coverage for those who can’t afford it or are disabled?

Jim Lentini, CLU, ChFC, IAR is President of Lentini Insurance & Investments, Inc. Since 1964, they have provided insurance and retirement planning. “Helping others plan for the future”.

Todd’s Thoughts

| Gazette, Opinion | October 19, 2012

People have forgotten why our country is in the mess we are in. I thought it might be a good idea to refresh everyone’s memories before the election.

These are the leading culprits who actually caused the subprime mortgage collapse, which then caused the current worldwide deep recession.
Jimmy Carter pushed for and signed into law the Community Reinvestment Act, which forced banks to lower their standards so that previously unqualified people could get mortgages.
Bill Clinton then doubled-down on the Community Reinvestment Act by greatly lowering mortgage standards to allow a lot more unqualified borrowers to get loans.
Bill Clinton’s Attorney General, Janet Reno, then intimidated banks with threats of legal action if they did not give loans to unqualified borrowers who would not have the income to pay the loans back.
A member of the Clinton administration, Franklin Raines, was then put in charge of Fannie Mae by Bill Clinton. Fannie Mae bought up a majority of the bad loans made by banks to unqualified borrowers. Raines then falsified Fannie Mae financial reports so he could collect bonuses, which totaled over $90 million for five years.
Senator Chris Dodd, head of the Senatorial Financial Committee, suppressed efforts by President George W. Bush and congressional Republicans to rein in the corruption at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He got a very favorable loan by a bank associated with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as large political campaign contributions from those sources.
Barney Frank, head of the House of Representatives Banking Committee, also suppressed efforts by President George W. Bush and Congressional Republicans to investigate corruption at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Barack Obama, while he was an attorney, filed lawsuits against banks on behalf of ACORN in order to force banks to give loans to people who could not afford to pay them back. Obama, while he was a U.S. Senator, also suppressed efforts by President George W. Bush and Republican Congressmen to investigate and rein in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This all boils down to the policies of democrats. You cannot expect to give people “free” stuff and expect that it will not damage our economy and take away our freedoms.Obama and the democrats want you to believe we should be happy about 8 percent unemployment. (Although the real number is closer to 12 percent). Look at what has been done in four years under Obama.

We have spent $1 trillion on stimulus. We have $5.4 trillion in new debt, we have tripled our money supply and devalued our dollar using QE 1,2,3, causing our gas prices to skyrocket and inflation inevitable. We have a $2.7 trillion healthcare bill for which we will have to borrow the money from other countries. We have record numbers of Americans on food stamps and welfare. We have spent 90 billion dollars on a “Green Energy” scam.

Guess what! We are right back to where we started when he took office!
This is insane to me that there would be anyone that would ever vote for a democrat again. America deserves better and the lies and propaganda has to stop. The facts make it very clear why our country is in this mess and that giving “free stuff” to people is the cause. Democrats say they are the champions of the little guy, but looking into the past shows this just isn’t true. The poor and middle class have been hit the hardest by the democrats; after all, a bad economy isn’t hurting the rich.

Americans of all stripes need to pay attention and stop this nonsense.

Here are some things you need to ask yourself when you listen to a politician. Is this the governments job ? Is it in the Constitution? If the answer is no to either one, then that politician is a problem and has got to go. The politicians’ pandering to get votes is not what this country needs right now, and our children shouldn’t have to pay for a society that is to worried about what they are going to get rather than what they are going to give.

Our Country is not the greatest in the world, and it’s because of our government! It is the greatest country in the world because of its people. Our country was not built on handouts – it was built on hard work and determination.

Start paying attention, America— to what’s really going on. Do your homework! It’s your civic duty to stop this madness.

Comments Off on Do You Squidoo? Get The Word Out With A Free Website

Do You Squidoo? Get The Word Out With A Free Website

| Gazette, Opinion | October 13, 2012

Thanks to all of you for reading this column each month. I’m starting to get lots of questions, and today I will address two of them. See the end of the column to learn how to reach me with your questions on the topic of online marketing and visibility for a small business or home-based business.

Michael wrote in to ask how he can get started online without any cost. He has a local business he wants to promote, as well as the desire to start a home-based operation to sell his information on coin and stamp collecting. Here is my answer:

Typically, I recommend that you start out with a hosted WordPress site. This entails getting a hosting account (I use BlueHostSolutions.com because of their fair pricing and excellent customer service). Hosting runs less than $70 per year and allows you to host an unlimited number of websites. Then you must purchase a domain name for each site you set up, or redirect to an affiliate link. This runs about eight dollars per year, per domain. You only need a few domains to get started, but this will increase steadily over time. I have an inventory of almost 600 domains, so this can be costly in the very beginning. I only renew a domain if it is earning me at least 10 times as much as the renewal fee. WordPress is a free installation, so you are now in business.

An alternative to going the “hosted WordPress site with your own domain” route is to set up a completely free website on a third party platform. The very best choice for this is Squidoo (Squidoo.com). Squidoo is the brainchild of author, entrepreneur, and public speaker Seth Godin. In 2006 he and his team launched this site as a way for anyone with access to a computer and an Internet connection to be able to easily create their own websites.

Squidoo continues to be one of my favorite marketing strategies. This is where you can create a ‘lens’, which is a web page on a specific topic. This topic could be your local business, a course or eBook you have created, or a product available on Amazon you wish to recommend and earn money from. While I tend to set up my lenses strictly to promote my articles, my own products, courses and books, and niche sites I create on a variety of topics, you can certainly do this to get the word out about a local business or to set up a site quickly based on your stamp and coin collecting hobbies you mentioned in your email to me. Anyone can become a “lensmaster” on Squidoo, and this will give you a much better idea of how you want to proceed in the future.

Let us know when you set up a Squidoo lens so we can take a look. I recently set up a lens on baby monitors to recommend the one I believe is the best on the market. You can take a look at what I did at http://www.squidoo.com/sony-baby-nursery-monitors.

Tatiana also emailed me recently. She has an idea for a business on helping parents to teach their own children to swim.

My recommendation here is to create several lenses on Squidoo to see which keyword phrases are most appealing to your target audience. Keywords are the words people type into Google when they are searching for more information on a topic, and your target audience would be parents who have decided that their child needs to learn to swim. In order to make your business venture worthwhile, your goal is to find out if enough parents want to teach their own children, or if they would prefer to have someone else teach them. By setting up lenses with keyword phrases such as “teach your child to swim” or “swimming lessons by parents” you will be able to do your research at no cost. A Squidoo lens is made up of many modules, so be sure to add the module called “Guestbook Comments,” where parents will be able to share their thoughts with you.
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. 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.

USPS, “We Care”

| Gazette, Opinion | September 29, 2012

Our Postal Service letter carrier delivered us a Certified Mail envelope from its “HazMat” department. Evidently, somebody sent us some hazardous materials that were leaking, and sirens were going off at the post office.

The USPS letter said our “package has HazMat markings, is leaking or has been leaked on and therefore can not be advanced.” (underlined by the sender)
It said we had to mail or fax within two days, “granting permission to open and dispose of the package.” And “Please be advised, you may be responsible for any disposal costs incurred.” They also said we could drive across town “within two days…to retrieve your package…”

Being an official threat warning from the government, of course the letter was unsigned. But it closed: “Sincerely, Monica ‑ Hazmat Unit.” Like the Postal Service itself, it was not quite personal and not quite official.

Well, who wouldn’t be concerned? Was there a clumsy Unabomber out there? Or worse, somebody on a rant who knows us, somebody like Doug Sutton?

The HazMat notice identified the sender’s name and address, and we recognized it was one of our employees who works from his home. We called him right away to find out how disgruntled he was or what stuff he might be sending us. Was it a leaking battery? Was it more sausage and smoked cheese from Hickory Farms, perhaps mutated by global warming and escaping? He said, “No. Nothing that might leak.” The package was just some paperwork and a CD. No batteries. No liquids. No cheese.
Believing we probably weren’t in jeopardy from our own mistakes (this time), my wife drove across town to pick up the package. She brought back a sealed, see-through plastic bag, and our HazMat mail was inside. I could see inside it was grease-spotted, as if some French fries or mayonnaise were spilled on it.

The plastic bag was pre-printed with a very nice apology, and it said “WE CARE.” (see inset) The plastic bag was much friendlier than their letter, and about as personable as the Postal Service is likely to get.

I opened the bag, and sure enough, it smelled of French Fries.

So I read through the letter again. Why did we have to drive across town to retrieve a package that was dripped on by some postal worker when he ate his lunch? Did they really need to send us a certified mail HazMat notice?

At least they apologized for the damage to our mail and also for the inconvenience. I’m thinking that downsizing the Postal Service may not be such a bad thing after all. Oh yes, they forgot to cancel the stamps!

Health Care Gaps

| Gazette, Opinion | September 28, 2012

by Jim Lentini
The Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But there is still a major gap in our nation’s comprehensive health care, because there is no sustainable long-term care program. As a result of healthcare reform, businesses across the country will begin reviewing their insurance offerings and benefit packages over the next few months. Now, more than ever, agents and brokers need to advise and educate their clients about adding multi-life worksite long-term insurance (LTCI) solutions to help employers and employees supplement their benefit needs.

As all seniors receive their annual summary of benefits for Medicare and Part D (Rx), it reminds me that our government is treating all of us like frogs. The old adage says, “If you throw a frog into boiling water, he jumps out, but if you throw him into cold water and slowly turn up the heat, you cook him.” As seniors receive their change of benefits and costs for 2013, (I just received mine last weekend), it shows how much the premium increases, and what benefit changes are effective next year. How many seniors know that we have a deductible for Medicare that started Jan 1, 2012? You never heard anything of it from the media, and most seniors don’t read the booklets sent each year telling of the changes, increased co-pays, and increased premium.

Nearly six million U.S. businesses represent mid-size workforces (those with less than 500 employees) making up more than half of all private-sector workers. About 70 percent of people will eventually need long-term care services in their lifetime. With our continued extended longevity, there has never been a more critical time for businesses and employees to understand and be offered the options of multi-life LTCI that are available for the workforce of mid-sized companies. Offering LTCI on a multi-life basis has great benefits for both the employer and employees of these companies.

Having more people privately insured can reduce the strain on the nation’s health care and Medicaid system. Unlike traditional group plans, multi-life LTCI plans are flexible enough for businesses of all sizes, even those with just a few employees, and program administration has never been easier. One of the benefits of multi-life cases is that, with just a minimum number of lives, guarantee issue is offered by a few major companies and portability when an employee leaves or retires. Also, with a voluntary program, it costs an employer nothing other than payroll deduction to offer this valuable protection for the benefit of employees and their spouses.

The SCAN Foundation offers the following statistics for California:
By 2030, the number of Californians age 65 and older is projected to increase to almost 9 million, or 18 percent of the state’s population.
The population of people 85 and older (those most likely to need LTC services) is expected to grow almost 40 percent by 2030 and 206 percent by 2050.
The number of Californians age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to increase 38 percent, from 480,000 in 2010 to 660,000 by 2025.

For many mid-size employers, having a thoroughly researched and well-designed LTCI plan from a reliable carrier can be a smart way to provide valuable protection for both their employees and corporate goals. LTCI is not a well understood and explained necessary benefit. And, with the increasing costs of government, deficit spending, and reduced benefits to seniors and increased cost of benefits, it is imperative for employers to address this necessary and needed benefit for everyone.

Jim Lentini, CLU, ChFC, IAR is President of Lentini Insurance & Investments, Inc. Since 1964 LII has provided individuals, businesses and employees with Multi-life benefits and retirement planning. He can be reached at 661-254-7633. jim@lentiniiandi.com.

Todd’s Thoughts

| Gazette, Opinion | September 6, 2012

In recent months I have been struck by the divisive nature in this season of politics. In particular, the supposed war on women. I have never seen so many lies and deception aimed at women in any other election in my lifetime. I have to think this is caused by a failing president trying to do whatever he can to be re-elected. Whatever the cause, I find this rhetoric disturbing.
The truth of the matter is that for anyone to believe this hateful rhetoric you would have to assume quite a few things to come to the conclusion that Republicans hate women.
You would have to believe that women think that birth control is more important than a failing economy.
You would have to believe that women think social issues are more important than high unemployment.
You would have to believe that women want a bureaucrat between their doctors and themselves, which would be the result when ObamaCare takes over one-sixth of our economy.
You would have to believe that women don’t care that Obama has taken 716 billion dollars out of Medicare and don’t believe that it hurts the entitlements for future generations.
You would have to believe that women don’t understand that a deficit of 16 trillion dollars is bad for the economy and takes away from the freedom and future of their children and grandchildren.
You would have to believe that women don’t care about the path this president has put this country on. Nor the fact that that he has lied to the American people at every turn.
You would have to believe that women don’t understand that more women have lost their jobs during the Obama recovery than in U.S. history.
You would have to believe that women want to be on entitlements like food stamps, unemployment and want the government to run their lives.
Democrats must believe that women are just that stupid.
I take exception to remarks like this because I happen to have, know and listen to some great women in my life. I was raised by a single mother who worked two jobs to make ends meet. She never asked for a hand out. She brought me up knowing that if I worked hard and had integrity, I would succeed in this world in whatever I wanted to do. My dreams were only limited by myself, and she always asked me to consider how big I would dream if I knew I couldn’t fail. She believes in the American dream.
Now that I am older and have found my way in my own family, I look back over the years. From the time I started my successful business (Hallway Plumbing), I have never believed I did that on my own. Great women like Cathy, my wife, have always been there to push me to achieve, think out of the box and be a better father through the good and bad times. She wouldn’t let me quit or slow down.  She works in the business as well and along the way would never let me be anything except the very best.
WE DID BUILD THIS.
These women and many others in my life have been a driving force in shaping who I am, not only as a person, but in business. They all understand the country is in trouble and expect politicians to talk to them like adults.
These women are not stupid and know when they are being lied to. They are very upset at the way the country is being run and the hypocrisy in which our president involves himself. They don’t need to be told the economy is bad, or gas, food or anything else is more expensive. They see what a failure this president is and the question I hear time and time again is, “Why does Obama think he deserves another four years?” Nothing is better. A lot more is worse. He has divided the nation and forced us to buy healthcare we never wanted. He has given us the largest tax increase in American history and has taken billions from the military. Many of them voted for Obama, only to see that the Hope and Change isn’t at all what he promised. They consider themselves Americans first and think we deserve much better. They are all great business women and ALL agree, he has failed to produce what he promised.  It’s time to let him go.
Hats off to all the strong, successful women out there that understand the economy and jobs are the issue in this election.

Halloween Before Labor Day? Online Marketers Plan Early

| Gazette, Opinion | August 31, 2012

By Connie Ragen Green
Even though we’re still dealing with double digit temperatures here in the Santa Clarita Valley, thoughts of the upcoming holiday season are on the minds of those setting up niche websites to take advantage of holiday shoppers on the Internet. According to the National Retail Federation, it is estimated that consumers will spend approximately $11 billion on Halloween this year, and more than a third of that will come from online sales.
Ted wrote in to ask me what types of sites he and his wife could put up to earn extra income, and the ones I’m going to discuss here certainly fit the bill. The idea is to always be thinking ahead to what people will be interested in, and one of the very best ways to start getting used to this type of thinking is to set up sites related to the holidays, also referred to as “holiday niche sites.”
We’ve all seen how the retail stores, and even the grocery stores, bring out the holiday merchandise earlier and earlier each year. They are doing this for good reason; the sooner they put it on the shelves, the sooner we all have it in our minds to start planning and purchasing for that holiday. I tried to resist this marketing strategy one year, and ended up going to several stores the week before Easter, only to find that everything I wanted in order to make my traditional Easter baskets had already sold out. Now I am one of the first in line to buy what I need sooner rather than later.
Right now I am setting up two new sites for Halloween. They are simple, three-page websites that will be used to recommend costumes and other accessories that are sold on Amazon. The idea with these is that people searching online for specific Halloween items, such as costumes, masks, makeup and more, will be able to find my sites as a solution to their problem.
Always remember that you are a problem solver first and foremost if you are going to achieve success as an online marketer. If someone has been invited to a Halloween costume party with a political theme (remember that this is an election year) and they wish to dress up as one of the candidates, they are much more likely to at least begin their search on the Internet.
We are all busier than ever before, so it just makes sense that we want to save both time and money by seeing what might be available before we head to Target or to the mall to find what we need.
Start by purchasing a domain with the name of the holiday included. An example might be something like PoliticalHalloweenCostumeIdeas.com. This domain would be very specific and let people know what to expect to find there.
Set up a WordPress blog and add some royalty-free graphic. These are pictures that we are able to use on our sites without having to worry about copyright infringement. Add some content by writing about your topic and keeping it relevant to what you will be promoting. Make sure you are an Amazon affiliate and find some items to promote that are related to what your site is about.
Once you have set up your site, let others know about it. Add it to your signature line in your emails, talk about it on Facebook and Twitter, and tell all of your friends to share it with their friends as well. Between now and Halloween you will have built up a nice following, made some money, and have a site that is ready to go for next year. Over time, Google and the other search engines will list your site, allowing people who type in the keywords of what your site is about to find it more easily. That’s really the best thing about holiday niche sites; once you set them up the first time they are already primed for the same holiday the next year.
Connie Ragen Green lives in Saugus and has been working exclusively on the Internet since 2006. 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.

More Reasons to Repeal ObamaCare

| Gazette, Opinion | August 24, 2012

Deroy Murdock, a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service, wrote an article in April, 2012 that was reprinted in our local paper, The Signal, April 14, 2012 concerning the reasons we need to repeal ObamaCare. The following are excerpts from his report.

Mr. Murdock stated, “The Obama administration is quietly diverting roughly $500 million to the IRS to help implement the president’s health care law.”

Team Obama is handing the IRS one half of $1 billion to implement funding supervision by the Health and Human Services Department. This money will help the IRS hire 300 employees to oversee the individual mandate for health insurance. These new IRS agents also would handle ObamaCare’s $22.2 billion in new taxes on drug companies and $60.1 billion in new taxes on health insurers. The IRS also has asked Congress to finance 537 other new staffers to administer ObamaCare’s subsidies for low-income patients.

Mr. Murdock further states that the main reason to repeal ObamaCare is the study called “The Fiscal consequences of the Affordable Care Act.” Murdock says it should be redubbed “The Unaffordable Care Act.” This 2,801-page law continues to threaten individual liberty and America’s wobbly finances. Obama promised in a joint session of Congress on September 9, 2009, “I will not sign it if it adds one dime to the deficit, now or in the future, period.” Alas, this is yet another sad float in Obama’s disappointing parade of shattered promises.

Over the years 2012-2021 ObamaCare is expected to add at least $340 billion and as much as $530 billion to federal deficits, while increasing federal spending by more than $1.15 trillion over the same period, and by increasing amounts thereafter. These figures were concluded by Dr. Charles Blahous, in his fastidious, 52-page monographs for the free-market Mercatus Center.

Blahous, who earned a PhD in computational quantum chemistry at University of California, Berkeley, is a veteran entitlements expert. In October of 2009, Obama appointed Blahous to the board of the Social Security Trust Fund. “The enactment of the ACT has seriously worsened a federal fiscal outlook that was already untenable over the long term,” Blahous found. “The ACA both increases a federal commitment to health care spending that was already unsustainable under prior law and would exacerbate projected federal deficits relative to prior law.”

Jeff Sessions, the Senate budget committee’s top Republican, had his staff calculate ObamaCare’s long-term unfunded liability. That figure is $17 trillion. This surpasses today’s $15.6 trillion national debt by nine percent.

Murdock concludes his article by stating that the American people need to stop this law that is untenable, not wanted, and unaffordable, even if America’s economy was healthy, which it is not.

Jim Lentini,CLU,ChFC,IAR is President of Lentini Insurance & Investments, Inc.

Market Outlook August, 2012

| Gazette, Opinion | August 10, 2012

The Department of Labor released figures on Friday, August 3 that our national unemployment has risen to 8.3 percent. The markets report that the second quarter of 2012 was largely a case of finally perceiving that some things might be amiss. A return of somewhat subdued volatility was added to slow growth in China, more second guessing in Europe, and slowing growth domestically. We, here in America, (that is, any worker and most business owners), are ever reminded of why this is happening.

Our economic markets and the actions by our government – both in Sacramento and Washington – are making our citizens feel like a boater on a river that thought he was on a long, placid carefree float; however, the markets, workers and business owners can now hear a distant, unsettling roar. In this case it is not a giant waterfall, but a fiscal cliff composed of equal parts of tax cut expirations, budget deficits, and public pension shortfalls all coming due at the end of the year. One example of pending disaster we are facing is a recent report that said that, out of 8,500 states, counties and municipalities, 8,200 have $3.3 TRILLION of underfunded pension plans.

The City of San Bernardino this week filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, and the feds are spending our money advertising for people to apply for food stamps. In the last four years our federal government has increased dependency on entitlement programs, and is preaching that we need to tax those making over $200,000, which are mostly those who are small business owners. The last report of economic growth I read was that 80 percent of the economy was produced by the small business, which is those businesses having 500 employees or less.

With the negative reports of the markets and what the federal and state of California is doing , is it any wonder that businesses are not expanding? Why would a business take the risk of investing money to expand and hire more employees, when the government is hitting businesses for funding entitlement programs for illegals, increasing growth of underfunded pensions, and planning to increase all forms of taxation?

Usually, during an election year the markets at least hope for a new direction and fresh ideas, and sometimes this is enough to blunt the effect of bad fundamentals. Today, the businesses and workers are attempting to secure their assets and retirement funds, and are very concerned how our children will handle the growing deficit spending that will be difficult to deal with, no matter who is elected in November.

By Jim Lentini

Todd’s Thoughts

| Gazette, Opinion | August 9, 2012

I would like to start out this week with my condolences to the families of the men, women and children who lost their lives in the senseless shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin. Our prayers are with you.

Unfortunately, when tragedies occur I am struck that some people look to further regulate and ban weapons, essentially trying to take away our rights as citizens of the United States to defend ourselves. You hear that if we had tougher gun laws these kind of things wouldn’t happen. This is nonsense. The percentage of assault type weapons used in a crime is one-fifth of one percent (.20), a number so small they can hardly even track it.

Banning weapons won’t stop the problem. Chicago, for instance, has one of the toughest gun laws in the nation, yet hundreds of people have been killed there since the beginning of the year. I looked into the numbers and found, ironically, that the states with the more lenient gun laws have lower gun violence. Over half of the gun related deaths are suicides, and most gun deaths are caused by 18-25 year olds in the inner cities.

This tells us some important points about the issue. For one thing, mental health issues are not being taken care of properly. And 75 percent of the people from the inner city who are committing crimes are being brought up in households without fathers. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people, and have been since the beginning of time. You have to ask yourself – could you protect yourself and your family from crime if it occurs? And do you really expect a police officer to show up before or while a crime is being committed? The odds are 95 percent that you are on your own until after the crime has been committed.

The laws are designed to keep guns out of legal gun owners’ hands, not out of criminals’ hands. So, why are the politicians on the left trying to enact more gun laws? Simply, to take away your rights. You only have to look back in history to find leaders like Hitler, who took people’s guns away and then took whatever they wanted after that, including lives. We as Americans have to stand up for our rights and keep any politician from trying to take them away.

We have an administration that has been bound and determined to take our rights away, as evident in this last month’s Chick fil A problem. I have never seen anything like the assault on religion like I witnessed during this left wing debacle. Left wing mayors spoke out against a CEO for his personal opinion and told him they couldn’t open the business in their cities. This is not only absurd, but illegal. People in this country, like it or not, have the right to free speech, and are free to practice whatever kind of religion they choose, without the interference of the government. Do we really live in a society where people boycott businesses because of religious views? And, if we do, God help those that don’t conform with the political flavor of the month. Remember, president Obama didn’t believe in same sex marriage until a few months ago. Funny how nobody was picketing the White House when he had the same views as the CEO of Chick fil A.

I have an interesting perspective on this issue, as I have two gay children. I spoke with them about this and had them look at what would happen if the tables were turned. What would they do if they were boycotted for being a gay business? The business outlook doesn’t look very favorably on those only catering to that demographic. My opinion is that a business should stand on its own merits. Its executives should be entitled to their own opinions and, unless they are doing something illegal, like discriminating, they should be allowed to open a store wherever they want. Last I checked we are still in America. We buy products and services because we like them – not because of their personal views.

I would hate to think someone who didn’t like that I am a conservative would hire someone less qualified just to make sure their views were the same. Mr. President, I built my business and I built it on integrity. My customers call because they like quality. Not my opinions or beliefs.
By Todd Hall
**The Views expressed in this column are those of the writer, not necessarily those of Valley Publications.

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