Friday, July 31, 2015

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy: Veterans continue to die while waiting for treatment from the VA, and this must change

 House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) brings us up to date with this weekly report.

 "On the first day of this Congress, the House passed the Hire More Heroes Act. When our veterans return home, Washington shouldn’t put up any roadblocks when our heroes are finding a job. However, that’s exactly what the Obamacare employer mandate does. So the House unanimously
passed this bill that excludes veterans from Obamacare’s punitive employer mandate threshold if they already have health care through TRICARE or the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). For the sake of our veterans and all the small businesses who want to hire them, I am pleased that today this legislation was signed into law.

 "However, much work remains in changing the culture at the VA. Years after major problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) came to light; our veterans still aren’t getting the care they deserve. The VA continues to have a culture of unaccountability, and our veterans are suffering the consequences. To date, only three people have been successfully fired for manipulating wait times at the VA.  Yet dozens of veterans, if not more, have died waiting for care and more continue to wait. This is unacceptable.
 "The problems in the VA aren’t caused by one or two or even three people.  It is caused by a lack of accountability and a system of job security that protects employees even at the expense of the veterans they are supposed to serve. This bill to bring accountability to the VA is not about punishment. This is about putting our veterans, their health, their well-being, their choice, and their care above a job protection for a VA employee who would rather change the numbers and get a promotion than save lives.
 "We owe it to our veterans to send a message that their lives are more important than protecting the jobs of those who failed them.
 "In addition to our work helping our veterans, House passed this week H.R. 427, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act that reins in the regulatory actions of federal agencies that place more and more burdens on our small businesses and entrepreneurs.
 "The Constitution demands a separation of powers between coequal branches of government. That separation has been blurred under the Obama Administration. The executive branch now acts as the legislator, administrator, and judge of regulations created and enforced by unelected bureaucrats. This is not only an affront to our constitutional order, it also blocks the people from having ultimate authority through their elected representatives over the laws that govern them and affect their lives. That means more costs get added on to workers, businesses, and communities across this country without them having any say.
 "With this bill, Congress is reasserting its role as the sole legislator and making government more accountable to the people. Unelected bureaucrats shouldn’t have unchecked power, especially if a regulation is going to significantly affect our economy.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A major university issues a "bias free" language guide that says the use of the word "American" can be offensive ... really? And artist Betty Leonor dies after battling liver cancer

    * ... LANGUAGE: Here's another sign of the times we live in: a "Bias Free Language Guide" has been put together by faculty and staff at The University of New Hampshire. The guide recommends, among other things, that we drop the reference to being Americans" because that could be offensive.
Seriously. Said the guide: “North Americans often use ‘American’ which usually, depending on the context, fails to recognize South America. American assumes the U.S. is the only country inside these two continents.” Instead, the guide recommends terms such as “U.S. citizen,” “resident of the U.S.” and “North American or South American” as “preferred.” Some other recommendations in the guide:
    Problematic: Opposite sex. Preferred: Other sex.
    Problematic: Homosexual. Preferred: Gay, Lesbian, Same Gender Loving
    Problematic: Normal … healthy or whole. Preferred: Non-disabled.
    Problematic/Outdated: Mothering, fathering. Preferred: Parenting, nurturing.
    Problematic/Outdated: Obese, overweight people. Preferred: People of size.

 * ... LEONOR: Our community lost a shining light this week when local artist Betty Leonor died after a long battle with liver cancer. Betty was know for her stunning self portraits in oil which were exhibited several times locally at The Metro Galleries. While battling cancer she returned twice to her beloved Dominican Republic where she established a foundation to help impoverished youth. Her husband is former CSUB baseball coach Bill Kernen.





 * ... PASSING: I was also told that Pat Patterson, the very first freshman class president at East High School in 1938, passed away this week. She was also a long-time teacher and counselor at Bakersfield High.

* ... MUSIC: A big Americana music festival is coming to the CSUB amphitheater in October, and this weekend country radio station KUZZ 107.9 is giving listeners a chance to score tickets before they go on sale. Sets of tickets to the 99 Music Festival will be given away this weekend only on KUZZ. The music festival, featuring Ray Wylie Hubbard, James McMurtry, Sam Outlaw, Monty Byrom and others, is a tribute to the unique sound that has been called "Americana" music. Tickets are going for $40 and can be purchased beginning next Friday at www.99musicfest.com.




 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER:" I feel like there’s something missing in my life and I don’t know if it’s a person, a puppy, or just a burrito."

 * ... BASEBALL: Congratulations to a local Bakersfield baseball team that has earned a berth in the World Series in Klamath Falls, Oregon. The Northwest baseball 18U won the Pacific Southwest Regional (California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Colorado) and will leave next Thursday for the World Series. The team is comprised of players from 10 different Kern County schools and is a true representation of Bakersfield at its best.

  * ... TREES: The Bakersfield City School District dropped me a note regarding a reader who complaining about trees being cut down at Munsey Elementary School. Said Steve McClain from the business office: "We would like to share with your readers that Munsey Elementary School’s tree removal was part of the district’s school safety improvement plan which includes the extraction of deteriorated trees. In place of the damaged trees, we are planting three new Chinese Pistache trees that will grow alongside two recently planted Oak trees. Over time, these trees will provide shade for the student bus loading area and the hard court play areas for primary grade students. Thank you for the opportunity to respond to this public concern as we strive to improve our schools for children.






Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The long slump in the energy sector continues with more layoffs, more on that nasty run of car break ins about town and a Zippo lighter tells a soldier's story about Vietnam

 * ... ENERGY: It looks like the long slump in the energy sector is not about to end anytime soon. The big oil service companies like Halliburton and Baker Hughes (they plan to merge) are signaling
yet more layoffs as the price slump continues. Energy prices are down 20 percent over the past six weeks, thanks to expectations that new Iranian oil make flood the market. Said The Wall Street Journal: "Oilfield service providers have announced job cuts deeper than initially declared and warned of more layoffs to come. Halliburton Co. and Baker Hughes Inc.... disclosed last week that they cut 27,000 jobs between them, double the 13,500 announced in February. ConocoPhillips has already cut nearly 1,500 jobs so far this year but is planning more layoffs this fall that could number into the thousands... The impact of low oil prices isn’t limited to U.S. energy companies. Firms world-wide have shelved $200 billion of new-project spending, the Financial Times reports."


* ... CRIME: A resident in the Northwest awoke to find the windows smashed in on his daughter's car parked in front of the house. When the repair people came out to replace the window, they said this is happening a dozen times a night across town.

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Might wake up early and go running but I also might win the lottery. The odds are about the same."

 * ... VIETNAM: Making the rounds on Facebook the other day was a picture of an old Zippo lighter inscribed with this bit of wisdom: "NAM 71-72: We the unwilling, led by the unqualified to kill the unfortunate die for the ungrateful."



 * ... SCAMS: I have mentioned this scam before, but it is worthy of a reminder. This from Judy Hanson: "My elderly parents live in central California. Someone called their home phone saying they were from Microsoft. They said that my parent’s computer was messing up a lot of other people’s computers. Microsoft needed to fix it. They convinced her to give them numbers off of her computer. They also tried to convince her to give them her credit card to charge her $150 to fix the problem. They didn’t get her credit card, but they did remotely wipe her computer and my parents had no back-up. They lost everything, address book,  photos, everything."

 * ... GRANTS: The Bakersfield (family) Foundation is now accepting letters of inquiries for its fall grant cycle. The foundation will award three grant amounts: one at $100,000, a second at $50,000 and a third at $25,000. All applications are due on Friday, August 28. There is no particular theme for this grant cycle, though the foundation is primarily interested in capital projects as opposed to funding operating expenses. The winners will be announced in November. For information go to the www.bakersfieldcalifornianfoundation.org.

 * .. DUTCH FRONTIER: I was stunned by the number of messages I received after writing about the Dutch Frontier restaurant in Ducor. It seems almost everyone from Bakersfield has visited it, and folks universally rave about its local ownership. I am told there are still some tables open for Thursday, August 6, when The Mark restaurant pays tribute to the Dutch Frontier by recreating its menu.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Remember the Dutch Frontier restaurant in Ducor? Local restaurateur Lee Marek will have a tribute to the Dutch Frontier on August 6 at his downtown eatery The Mark

 * ... DUTCH: The Dutch Frontier restaurant in Ducor has always had a big Bakersfield following, and by some measures offers some of the best steaks and customer service around. One of its biggest fans in Lee Marek, one of the owners of The Mark restaurant on 19th Street. In honor of the Dutch
Frontier, The Mark will be recreating the Dutch Frontier's menus for one special night on Thursday, August 6. Said Marek: "I really wanted to spark everyone's great memories of their visit to Dutch Frontier and hopefully convince them to drive to Ducor again. After much conversation and initial reluctance, his family agreed. They will bring their menu, their meats, their French onion soup, their lemon drops, etc. to The Mark on August 6."



* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Why do I wake up tired and go to bed wide awake?"

 * ... OVERHEARD: A woman is telling a friend: "Oak Street between San Emidio and California Avenue is the new Union Avenue. I live there and it has everything: drugs, prostitution, gangs. It's a mess."

 * ... GOOD FORM: Pat Mahan sent a shoutout to the city of Bakersfield's mobile app that allows folks to report potholes and other problems. "I sent in a request regarding horrendous potholes at the intersection of Tulare Street and California Avenue. Within seven days the potholes cease to exist. My car thanks you."

 * ... DATA: Research data tells a lot about our community and how we spend our leisure time and money. Here's a tidbit that may (or may not) surprise you: only 6.4 percent of Kern County adults report going to a symphony concert in the last year, while more than 60 percent regularly go to the movies.

 * ... ADVICE: Sal Cruz of Delano has some free advice for all you young people who travel in the passenger side of a car with your bare feet on the console. "I see it all the time and it's dangerous," he said. "If something happens your feel fly through the windshield. Now that the weather is warmer I see it all the time traveling to Bakersfield."

 * ... BIKE SAFETY: Warren Rooney is an avid bike rider, and he has ridden the trails about town literally hundreds of times. But this weekend, we crashed while headed out to Enos Lane on the bike path, and he credits his helmet with saving his life. "I went over the top of the handlebars landing on my head and face. One eye was swollen shut and the other was full of dirt so I was almost blind. Thankfully, several cyclists stopped within a few minutes, the first on the scene called 911, others called my wife, gathered my belongings and my bike and gave me both assistance and emotional support. I am very thankful for everything these very caring fellow cyclists did. Additionally, I wanted to stress the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet every single time that you get on your bike. This was the 'safest' part of my ride. It is a flat, wide bike path that I have ridden well over 100 times and I was going less than 15 miles per hour. It couldn't have been much safer yet, in a split second, I was on the ground with a shattered helmet. I think that helmet saved me from a cracked skull, a broken neck and possibly saved my life. Please wear a bicycle helmet no matter how fast or slow that you ride. I am recovering from a black eye, a very sore neck, many abrasions, and a whole lot of swelling. But, thanks to the helmet, I was treated at the hospital and released later that day with no broken bones or serious injury."


Friday, July 24, 2015

House Majority Leader McCarthy: Nuclear deal with Iran is worse than it looks, is nearly impossible to enforce and it leaves the anti-U.S. bias in place in Iran

 House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield gives us his weekly view from Capitol Hill.

 "The more we find out about the Iran nuclear deal, the worse it looks. Each new day Congress reviews this deal, we discover more information and more reasons why this deal is simply
unacceptable:


1.    Though the deal was originally being negotiated to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, in its final form the agreement would allow just that when it sunsets in 10-15 years.

2.    This deal will accelerate regional nuclear proliferation. Saudi leaders for instance have said that this deal is worse than the nuclear pact former President Bill Clinton made with North Korea.

3.    Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said this deal will give Iran “hundreds of billions of dollars to fuel their terror and military regime.”

4.    Sanctions relief isn’t tied to Iran complying with the deal, meaning Iran gets massive amounts of relief before they’ve demonstrated strict adherence.

5.    And the money can’t be taken back once Iran gets it.

6.    That relief can be used to expand Iran’s malign and destabilizing influence in the region that has exacerbated sectarian conflict.

7.    The money can also be used to further fund Iran’s terrorist proxies like Hamas, Hezbollah, Assad, and Houthis in Yemen.

8.    In fact, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that Iran will not change its anti-American policy.

9.    To enforce the deal, world powers must first know if Iran violated the deal but that is an unclear process that can be delayed for weeks while Iran would be able to hide and obfuscate banned activities.

10. Iran doesn’t have to come clean on its past nuclear activity, leaving world powers little ability to verify future illegal advances.

11. Iran’s foreign minister interprets the deal very differently than the Obama Administration does.

12. For example, he believes that the scale of foreign investments would effectively prevent the world from re-imposing sanctions on Iran, making the “snapback” provision of the deal effectively meaningless.

13. He also said that Iran could deny inspectors access to nuclear and military sites under the deal.

14. He also said that Iran would not be violating the deal if it broke the UN resolution prohibiting the purchase of conventional arms and missiles because the arms embargo is implicitly out of the scope of the nuclear agreement.

15. Even if Iran adheres to the arms embargo, the embargo is lifted in 5 years, giving Iran access not only to conventional arms to further fuel terrorism and their drive for regional dominancy.

16. In 8 years, the missile ban will be removed, allowing Iran to acquire missiles that could carry nuclear payloads.

17. The Obama Administration pushed for the UN to vote on the deal in an attempt to jam Americans and their elected representatives before they’ve even had a chance to review the deal.

18. Iran will be allowed to conduct advanced research and development that will pave the way for centrifuges that are modern and efficient. They will be able to enrich huge amounts of Uranium that will shorten their breakout time for a bomb.

19. The deal also provides sanctions relief to Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani, leader of the elite Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, who is a designated terrorist who is responsible for the deaths of at least 500 U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

20. On top of that, the deal lifts sanctions on two Iranian atomic scientists who worked on Iran’s illegal nuclear program and a nuclear proliferator who has previously helped smuggle nuclear components.

21. The murderous Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called this deal a “great victory” and congratulated Iran on their achievement.


Congress will continue its work reviewing this deal over the coming months. The people have a right to know exactly what the Obama Administration negotiated, and Congress won’t accept a deal that isn’t in our national security interest.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Is Trump a bully or a breath of fresh air, puppies are hot in the rental market (seriously) and California pins its hopes on a strong El Nino

 * ... TRUMP: So what do you think of Donald Trump and his "no holds barred" campaign style? Is he a breath of fresh air, a mean-spirited bully or a candidate who has the guts to say what others won't?Peggy Noonan, a former speech writer for Ronald
Reagan and now a respected conservative columnist for The Wall Street, was not charitable when she recently described Trump this way: "Mr. Trump is not a serious man, which is part of his appeal in a country that has grown increasingly unserious. He’s a showman in a country that likes to watch shows—a country that believes all politics is showbiz now, and all politicians are entertainers of varying degrees of competence. At least Mr. Trump is honest about it."


 * ... PUPPIES: And speaking of the Wall Street Journal, it carried a story the other day about the popularity of rental puppies (that's right, rented puppies) at a child's birthday and bachelorette parties. I am serious here. Across the country people are actually renting adorable puppies to entertain children and adults. One business in the Los Angeles area has access to 70 puppies with rates starting at $200 an hour for up to 10 pups.


 * ... EL NINO: There is a lot of talk about the increasing chances that California could get some relief from the drought with a strong El Nino this year. Said The Washington Post: "The present El NiƱo event, on the cusp of attaining 'strong' intensity, has a chance to become the most powerful on record. The event — defined by the expanding, deepening pool of warmer-than-normal ocean water in the tropical Pacific — has steadily grown stronger since the spring." Even a strong El Nino won't erase four years of drought, but it's a start.


 * ... THIEVES: There is a Facebook account dedicated to catching the thieves that break into our homes and cars. It's called 'Bakersfield Thieves' (search for it and then ask to join) and it features posts by victims about local crime. One recent post: it turns out as the price of gas goes up, thieves are routinely crawling under cars and stealing the entire gas tank.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "If you're an astronaut and you don't end every relationship by saying 'look, I just need space' then you're wasting everyone's time."

 * ... COHN: Chain, Cohn, Stiles, the local plaintiff's law firm, is getting ready to move into its new downtown headquarters at the corner of 18th Street and Chester Avenue. Originally built as a bank in 1874, the 30,000-square-foot building has been gutted and remodeled and now bears a fresh coat of paint, a welcome addition to the heart of downtown. For most of the building’s history, banks have called it home: Kern Valley Bank and Crocker National Bank to name a few. The lawyers and staff will be moving this weekend and will be at the new location beginning next week.

 * ... HIGHWAY 58: A regular reader posed this question: "Can you please tell me when Highway 58 is going to be completed for the lanes go straight instead of looking like a maze being pushed to the right and the left by all these little orange pylons?"

 * ... GOOD ADVICE: Here's some sound advice I received in a local horoscope the other day: "Some people believe other people's lifestyles are somehow an affront to their own. Let them argue it out while you're busy making money."

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A weekend of wild weather in Kern County, and what kind of mother takes her small children to a movie about the death of a heroin addict?

 * ... WEATHER: What a glorious, and unusual, weekend of weather. It's always the talk of the town here when it rains, but sprinkle in some wind, lightning and powerful thunderstorms and it was an evening to remember. I spotted some trees down, but the southern Valley came out relatively unscathed. Folks in Frazier Park said the rain was near biblical in its strength. We could use more shows of nature like that.
(Photo courtesy of KERO-TV, viewer submitted)



 * ... SPOTTED: At the Kidfest celebration at the Kern County Museum Saturday a rather large, tall man was spotted wearing a T-shirt with this message on the front: "Fat people are hard to kidnap."

 * ... BAD FORM: Since when it is okay to bring your small children to an R-rated movie? That's what happened this weekend when I dropped by the Valley Plaza cinemas to catch the heart breaking and bitter-sweet documentary called "Amy," the tragic story of British jazz singer Amy Winehouse who died of a heroin and alcohol poisoning in 2011 at the age of 27. It's a terrific profile of a woman that Tony Bennett said was the best jazz singer since Ella Fitzgerald, but it wasn't appropriate for the two very young girls who were seated with their mother.



 * ... OVERHEARD: Anthony Bernal picked up this conversation at a grocery store between a man and a woman chatting on her cell phone. "I didn't want to say anything while you were on the phone, but you're in America now. You need to speak English. If you want to speak Mexican, go back to Mexico. In America we speak English." The woman's reply: "Sir, I was speaking Navajo. If you want to speak English go back to England."

* ... BAD FORM: If there is a universally despised bit of 'bad form,' it has to be folks who walk their dogs and allow them to poop wherever they desire. Said reader Joe Chavez: "I live in the country  club area, and there's a person who walks three dogs at a time. I've  seen that this person has no control over them and every time they leave excrement on my sidewalk. I work very hard to keep my area clean and I would like to tell this person to please carry something to pick the poop up. Would be much appreciated."

* ... TREES: Michelle Claxton sent this note about the trees being cut down at Munsey Elementary School on the corner of Real Road and Belle Terrace. "I presume the city school district thinks the kids do not need shade or a soft grass area for playing ball and running and physical activity.  I completely and fully understand the drought. Our city has closed the local park swimming pools, water spray-parks, and must limit the water usage to keep plants alive, but when is it over kill? Maybe the school district will be replacing the trees with large shade structures and that would be okay, but I doubt that expense will be forthcoming."

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Instead of drought shaming, why don't we try drought praising? A local writer seems to have the answer. And heaping some praise on a local plumber after a nasty flood in an old home

  * ... DROUGHT: Kelly Damian works for Kern Green, a local environmental non-profit, but I know her as a gifted wordsmith who has penned some memorable essays. Recently she contributed a thoughtful post on "drought shaming" to a blog called 'afloweraday' and it's worth sharing. Said Kelly: "If we stop
pointing fingers at our neighbors, how should we fill the void that is created in our lives? I propose we do something radical. Let’s start drought praising. Let’s post pictures of beautiful drought-tolerant landscaping. Let’s compliment our neighbor on the lovely golden shade of his lawn. Let’s say thanks to the woman driving the dust covered car. And… What should we do when we see our precious water being sprayed onto the street? We should get out our phones, put it on selfie mode, check to see if there’s anything in our teeth and then go walk up to the person in charge and say, 'Hello. How are you today? I Just wanted to let you know that your water is running. Have a good day!' Being direct and polite might not provide the self-righteous tickle that drought-shaming does, but it might be just what we need to come out of this drought with our relationships intact."


 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Some people pass through our lives just to teach us not to be like them."

* ... BAD FORM: Ever wonder about all those yard sales that pop up on vacant lots throughout town? Cynthia Williams does, specifically one on a vacant lot west of Valencia on Niles Street. "He had at least eight tables of tools and equipment. He didn't even clean up the debris. He left a truck load of trash for the owner of said property to clean up. Apparently the owner of this lot is fed up with weekend yard sales on his property because Thursday he placed 10-plus metal signs on his property that read 'private property-no trespassing' thinking this would do the job. On Friday someone removed all the signs he had bought and Saturday and Sunday there were at least five more yard sales set up and again left all their trash for the owner to discard. This is an ongoing eyesore and something needs to be done. What will the owner have to do next... put up a six foot chain link fence to keep people out? Where are code enforcement people that should be monitoring illegal yard sale use every weekend on other people's property?"

 * ... GOOD FORM: They say if you live in a old house, you better be comfortable with imperfection. Well, I got my dose of imperfection recently when the original galvanized steel pipes of my 1935 downtown bungalow blew, flooding my basement and triggering a complete repiping of the house. This is no small task (carving through walls of plaster, replacing corroded steel with flexible PEX color-coded piping, digging up the yard etc) but I was in good hands with Tony Warren and his crew at Bakersfield Plumbing. I have dealt with Tony, and before that his late father Jerry, for more than 20 years and his is the type of company you want in your corner when the wheels come off.



 * ... MISSING DUCKS: Mary Durham asked me to pass this query along. Said Mary: "My friends called my attention to the fact that six of the eight white ducks that are always at the Hart Park lake are missing. I made phone calls to the city and county recreation departments and they directed me to the Fresno Fish and Wildlife Department. Their response was that the ducks are domesticated and therefore didn't belong to anyone. All three of the ladies I talked to about the ducks were very nice and helpful but the ducks are still missing. Does anyone know where the six missing ducks are?"

 * ... OILDALE: There's another Oildale clean-up day set for this Saturday at 8:45 a.m. right behind Trout's. It's sponsored by the Oildale Foundation and organizers say they won't need more than 90 minutes of your time. Gloves and trash bags will be provided.