Saturday, February 6, 2016

McCarthy: Defense Secretary Ash Carter cites work being done at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake

 Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Leader from Bakersfield, gives us his weekly view from Capitol Hill. In his words:

 "This week, I was pleased to hear Secretary of Defense Ash Carter describe the work being carried out Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake as of “critical importance” to our county’s national security.  On Tuesday, the secretary took a tour of the facility and briefed the media.

 "It was encouraging to hear the Department of Defense is intensely focused on research and development, and innovation within all of its entities. “China Lake is in the sweet spot of DOD’s strategic transition, and with heavy emphasis on research and development, some of its high-end, innovative capabilities are reflected in his budget request,” Carter said. “R&D spending is consistent with our determination to remain innovative.”

 "I agree with the Secretary that the research, development, testing and evaluation that is conducted within our community at China Lake and Edwards cannot be replicated anywhere in the world. Both provide vital resources to support our brave men and women in uniform who fight to defend our freedom. This is why I will continue to ensure everyone in Washington understands that these installations are strategic national assets.

 "Meanwhile in Washington we’ve also taken steps to ensure defense innovation.

 "Last week, I introduced a bill that will stop our military’s reliance on Russian-made rocket engines. Our bill aims to repeal a provision of the FY 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill that essentially allows the unlimited purchase and use of engines manufactured by a Russian company with close ties to the Putin regime for national security launches.

  "I took this step because I believe securing access to space is a national security priority and it is strategically foolish to ask American taxpayers to subsidize Russia’s military industrial base. American taxpayer dollars should not be wasted on Putin, who has destabilized Ukraine, continues to harbor and support the Assad regime, and is supplying weapons to Iran. This ban will also provide an opportunity for the aerospace industries within California to help build the engines necessary to carry out national security launches.

 "Overall, the past two weeks have reaffirmed the commitment our country must make to policies that enable and promote defense innovation so that our future will be even brighter than our past.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Fentanyl, a drug 100 times more potent than morphine, is spreading across the country largely under the radar and the local SPCA says all donations stay here in Kern Country

 * ... FENTANYL: If you are the parent of a teenager or young adult, listen up. A dangerous drug is making the rounds with young people that is 100 times more potent than morphine and some 50 times more potent than heroin. It's name is fentanyl and it is classified as a synthetic opioid analgesic that is commonly prescribed as a pain suppressor in cancer patients. There are now synthesized versions on
the market, one version a white powder called "China White" and another in lollipop form called a "percopop." I first heard about fentanyl on National Public Radio where experts said it is killing more young people today than heroin or other substances, yet it is largely unknown by many people. Experts told NPR that fentanyl often kills on the first dose and is making the rounds in communities and college campuses.

* ... SHOP LOCAL: If you need another reason to support local non profits, consider this from Chuck Nordstrom over at the local Bakersfield SPCA. "I enjoyed reading your blog today as I always do and noticed the article about buying local. When the article mentioned the ASPCA and Humane
Society of the United States as wasteful, I just want to make it clear to the readers that the Bakersfield SPCA is a separate stand alone shelter and does not receive money from the ASPCA when people make contributions. One hundred percent of the money donated to the local Bakersfield SPCA remains in Bakersfield and helps take care of the local animals care, spay/neutering and boarding until they find there new adopted home. Many people don’t understand the difference between the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Bakersfield SPCA."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "My Dating Profile... Pros: Good as hell tweets, eyebrows. Cons: Anxiety disorder, married, four kids."

* ... DROUGHT: How many times do you drive through town during a rainstorm and see sprinklers on? For Betsy Gosling, it is far too often. "It amazes me still to see people watering their lawns, not only every day, or even on the opposite days they are suppose to, but two days after we get almost 1 inch of rain. What are these people thinking?  Where are  their heads?  Certainly not thinking about anyone else but themselves. I heard Jim Scott on Channel 17, announce one time to the viewers to turn off their sprinklers after one of our recent rains.  You would think the city of Bakersfield would have asked all the TV stations to make those announcements."

 * ... QUILTS: If you appreciate the beauty and workmanship of a handmade quilt (or better yet purchase one as a gift) head out to the 35th Biannual Cotton Patch Quilt Show the weekend of Feb. 13-14 at the Kern County Fairgrounds (Exhibit Hall 3). There will be 200 quilts on display (most are for display only and not for sale) as well as vendors offering quilting materials, jewelry, clothing and gift items. The price for this two-day event is $10 for adults, along with free parking.

 * ... KUDOS: Congratulations to A-C Electric Company’s Solar Division which was recently recognized as the top solar company in Fresno by the Fresno Business Journal’s annual Book of Lists.  In addition, out of the top 500 solar contractors in North America, A-C Electric Company earned the eighth ranking on the Solar Power World 2015 list of Top Commercial Solar Contractors.  Said company executive David Morton: "We feel this is quite an achievement.  Being able to draw on the resources and experience of a 70-year old electrical construction company has allowed us to scale up to meet the market demands of our commercial, agricultural and non-profit customers while maintaining the quality and service they expect from a local company."

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Good news: California allows dogs in restaurant patios, the price of cauliflower soars and a new political commentator from CSUB appears on NewsTalk 96.1 FM

 * ... DOGS: I wrote earlier about the opening of new outdoor seating areas at local restaurants,
prompting several readers to ask if dogs are allowed while dining alfresco. "When we are on the coast," one wrote, "we can take our dog to the local lunch spot and eat outside. Is it permitted here?" The short answer: California state law allows dogs to accompany their owners in patio seating areas, but individual businesses can set their own policy. So it's best to inquire before you show up with your beloved canine on a leash. Over at Pyrenees Cafe, owner Rod Crawford told me they have had service dogs in the patio and as long as they are well behaved, he has no problem with it.

 * ... CAULIFLOWER: So who knew there was a shortage of cauliflower? That's right, apparently cold weather in California and Arizona has created a shortage and prices have spiked so high that it made the front page of the Wall Street Journal. In Michigan, a head of cauliflower was going for $8 a pop in supermarkets. Elsewhere, the price has soared to a more reasonable (yet still expensive) $3 a head. Cauliflower is a favorite among weight watches because it is low in carbohydrates and can be used in multiple ways.

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Here's a depressing thought: it's less than a year before the 2020 presidential campaign begins."

 * ... OVERHEARD: A local businesswoman is telling a colleague: "I know we need the rain but honestly, I am tired of it. Bring me some sunshine!"

* ... CRABFEST: The annual Saint Francis School CrabFest, always one of the hottest tickets in town, is set for this Friday at the Kern County Fairgrounds. This marquee event features a fabulous crab and rib dinner followed by both a silent and live auction. This year, Maureen Beck and Don Lucas and his wife will be presented with the Saint Francis Legacy of Excellence Award. For information on tickets (if there are any left) call (661) 326-7955.

 * ... KRAYBILL: Here's a somewhat tardy welcome to Dr. Jeanine Kraybill, a new assistant professor out at Cal State Bakersfield. Kraybill joined the faculty last August, teaching political science, and is now a political analyst for the election this year for KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM. Kraybill is originally from Chino and earned her PhD from Claremont Graduate University. She will be appearing regularly on First Look with Scott Cox.

 * ... BUY LOCAL: Bud King wrote to weigh in on the scandal involving the Wounded Warrior Project, which is under fire for spending lavishly on retreats, dinners and travel. Said King: "After the Wounded Warriors Project article you posted, I checked into it and found you to be so right about it. A few years ago I checked in to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States, and found that there was a lot of waste of money, and I stopped donating to them. I only donate to the local animal rescues. The only national charity I donate to is the Salvation Army, otherwise I keep it all local. We have so many local rescues, like Marley's Mutts and the Bakersfield Pitt Crew that can use our money locally."

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The local Wounded Heroes Fund seeks to distance itself from the Wounded Warrior Project, Pyrenees Cafe opens a popular patio bar and Albertsons returns to the Southwest

 * ... VETERANS: I received notes from several readers reminding me that the Wounded Heroes
Fund of Kern County is in no way affiliated with the Wounded Warriors Project. Why is this important? Because the Wounded Warriors Project, a national organization, has come under fire for lavish spending on staff and salaries, and folks from the other organization, which is locally focused, worry this could hurt their own fund raising. This is an important distinction and worth a reminder, so here it is: if you want to support veterans, and you want the money to stay here in Kern County, support the Wounded Heroes Fund of Kern County, where the executive director and the board of directors are not paid and 100 percent of the money goes to local veterans.

 * ... DINING: Bakersfield is not a town known for its outdoor dining (not real popular in the heat of summer) but those restaurants that do offer it do very well. The gold standard of course is Luigi's Delicatessen, where the outdoor patio and bar are always in high demand. Tahoe Joe's in the southwest has a nice patio, as do Cafe Med, Uricchio's Trattoria and The Mark. The latest entrant in patio dining is Pyrenees Cafe and Saloon, where owners Rod and Julie Crawford have converted an outdoor storage area into a dynamic area of seating under umbrellas with a full bar and food service. Pyrenees caters to a younger crowd and there is almost always live music, and it is certainly worth your visit.

* ... BAD FORM: Dale Stewart dropped me this note on folks who run red lights, one of my pet peeves. Said Stewart: "In your continuing commentary about Bakersfield red light runners, I thought you might like this one. The other day I was traveling east on Truxtun. I stopped at a red light at Chester. The light turned green for me. Then a car came from the north and turned east on Truxtun against the red light. This was followed by a second car and then a third car. The third car was a black and white driven by one of Bakersfield's finest!"

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Okay. So I took the road less traveled. Now where the hell am I?"

 * ... GOOD FORM: Count me among those who are thrilled that Albertsons has returned to its old location in the Stockdale Town and Country shopping center. Not only has Albertsons returned, but it brought back many of the familiar employees who have worked at the same store for years. Albertsons replaced the short-lived and ill-fated venture of Haggen markets into Kern County.

 * ... SCAMS: Will Bailie has won a multi-million dollar Spanish lottery not once, but twice. At least that is what a "Spanish lottery official" told him in a letter. The catch: to collect the $4.5 million prize Bailie had to wire money overseas to "claim" the prize. Bailie was not taken in by this scam, but  worries others may be too gullible. "I am sending you this so you can mention it in your column and it might save someone some considerable money," Bailie said.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Wounded Warrior Project is in crisis mode after a damning investigation into its lavish spending, Wiki's Wine Dive offers a lunch special and the Bakersfield Arts District Foundation gets off a big night

 * ... VETERANS: One of the largest and most prominent non profits that serves veterans - the Wounded Warrior Project - is in crisis mode after a damning report that calls into question its spending on lavish dinners and parties.
Among the findings of a New York Times investigation: the charity flew 500 employees to Colorado Springs for an "all hands" meeting at the exclusive Broadmoor Hotel, employees routinely buy business class seats and others stay at $500 a night hotel rooms. More troubling: the charity spends 40 percent of the money is raises on overhead, as opposed to other groups like the Semper Fi fund that spends just 8 percent on salaries and overhead. The organization raised some $372 million last year, mostly small donations from people over the age of 65.

* ... BOB ELIAS: I spotted an interesting picture on social media the other day that originally appeared in the Taft Midway Driller. The fading black and white photo showed local celebrities Buck Owens, Don Meridith, Frank Gifford and Gifford's mother, Lola, at a Bob Elias Hall of Fame banquet in 1976. Thanks to Sheri Horn Bunk, director of the Taft College Foundation, for sharing.

 * ... GOOD MESSAGE: And speaking of Sheri Horn Bunk, I can always rely on her to pass on some inspirational wisdom. From her Twitter account: "A person will soon forget what you said, and people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "There was a glorious time, before social media, when you would just lose touch with people."

 * ... FOODIE BEST BET: One of the best lunch deals in town is over at Wiki's Wind Dive and Grill in the Sully's shopping center at Seven Oaks. Simply cut out the coupon that has been running in The Californian and get enjoy a "buy one, get one free" lunch. The popular watering hole also features more than ten items at under $10 each.

 * ... ARTS DISTRICT: It was nice to see a good turnout for the new Bakersfield Arts District Foundation kick off reception at Metro Galleries the other night. Among those who appeared to support this new foundation focused on the downtown arts district included former Supervisor Karen Goh, Dignity Health's Robin Mangarin, Assembly candidate Vince Fong, the Art Council of Kern's David Gordon, David Cohn and George Barrientos from Chain Cohn Stiles, Lisa Kimble Edmonston, the Tree Foundation's Melissa Iger, Bakersfield City School District board member Andres Gonzales, Bike Bakersfield's Jason Cater, the Bakersfield Chamber's Nick Ortiz and Hillary Hanes, Kati McKeown from Congressman Kevin McCarthy's office and her husband, Bakersfield High teacher Sean McKeown, Mento Buru's Matt Munoz and Miranda Whitworth from the Kern Federal Credit Union and finally D.R. Horton's Jason Martin and daughters Ellie and Lillie.

* ... GOOD FORM: Congratulations to Deborah Durkan, who recently retired as head of MARE (Mastering Abilities Riding Equines). Durkan spent more than 20 years at this important non-profit, helping it grow and expanding its programs serve a greater number in our community with special needs and disabilities. In a letter to MARE supporters and staff, Durkan thanked everyone "who has blessed my life through MARE ... and 'May the Horse be with you.'"

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Despite our fascination with tiny houses, American's prefer bigger homes with more rooms and garage space, and a former Kern County deputy shares his near death experience at the hands of a gang banger

 * ... HOUSING: Despite the popularity of reality television shows like HGTV's "Tiny House Hunters," Americans still have a love affair with bigger, wider open spaces. According to The Wall
Street Journal, the average size of a new American home increased to 2,720 square feet, up from 2,660 just a year earlier. About half of the new homes had four or more bedrooms, and 25 percent of them had room for three or more cars. Analysts said one reason is that many of the new homes being built now are at the high end of the market, but it's clear a nation of tiny house hunters is little more than a dream.

 * ... TOM MORGAN: I spent part of Tuesday morning interviewing Tom Morgan about his brush with death and how - many years later - he has found forgiveness for the gang banger who critically wounded him while he was a deputy sheriff. Morgan is now deputy county counsel, but his ability to forgive, and even express pity, for the now 34-year former gang banger was inspiring. It turns out Morgan's kindness is well known in our community, as Tom Pavich told me after listening to the interview on KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM. "Tom Morgan is one of the finest persons I have ever had the pleasure of meeting," Pavich wrote. "I met him as the result of an unfortunate event in my life: a mountain bike crash during a race in the Hart Park foothills five years ago. There were no witnesses to my crash and somehow I picked up myself and finished the race without any memory of the crash.  It wasn't until I crossed the finish line, when Tom and others questioned me, examined my helmet and jersey, that they realized I had crashed. Tom, without hesitation, volunteered to take me to the ER at Bakersfield Memorial for examination and stayed with me for over four hours of X-Rays and MRIs.  With no broken bones and only a minor concussion, I was released and Tom returned me to my vehicle so that I could drive myself home. Although I thanked Tom at the time, I would like to take this opportunity to thank him again publicly. After listening to your interview with him, one can see it is obvious that this man possesses a caring, loving and forgiving exceptional character. You are a good man Tom Morgan."

* ... OVERHEARD: At a local restaurant a man is telling a friend: "The older I get, I care less about more."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Nothing tests that whole 'for better or worse' thing like the question, 'Does this look infected?'"

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: A sign is posted along a road that reads: "Just because you are offended doesn't mean you are right."

 * ... TRUMP: Retired oil executive F. Lynn Blystone had this thought about Donald Trump: "It appears that Donald Trump is becoming the political equivalent of Lawrence Welk, about whom it was said that nobody liked him except the audience."

* ... DOWNTOWN: Good news for all you art lovers: a new non-profit has been formed to promote the emerging arts district, the first of its kind locally. It's the brainchild of Don Martin, owner of  Metro Galleries on 19th Street and the man who created the concept of First Friday, the popular monthly celebration of the arts that has helped rejuvenate downtown. Called the Bakersfield Arts District Foundation, the non-profit has picked up funding from Dignity Health, which is sponsoring a "Breath of Fresh Air" campaign, a public art exhibit designed to raise awareness about lung cancer screenings, early detection and treatment. Martin's organization fills an important void downtown by focusing solely on the arts, moving the entire First Friday operation under the non-profit and introducing new arts educational programs for younger students.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Thomas Morgan, assistant county counsel, comes face to face with the gang member who tried to kill him years ago. What constitutes justice? And mercy?

* ... TOM MORGAN: Back in 1997 Thomas Morgan was working as a Kern County deputy sheriff when he was shot by a 17-year-old gang member. The weapon: a single shot .410 derringer. The shot entered his neck, causing traumatic damage to his larynx, pharynx and vocal chords. In the struggle,
the gang member grabbed Morgan's backup weapon and tried repeatedly to shoot him again. Morgan survived, miraculously, and recently found himself face to face with the assailant during a parole hearing for the shooter. In the end the shooter was denied parole, but he will be up again soon. The question: what is justice? And should the shooter be eligible for parole after serving only a fracture of a life sentence? Morgan is now an assistant county counsel, and Tuesday he will join me at 9:15 a.m. on KERN Newstalk 96.1 FM on First Look with Scott Cox. Join us in a conversation about our criminal justice system as we dive back into this dramatic event.

 * ... OUR IMAGE: Peter Wollesen had a smart reply to the negative view of Bakersfield portrayed in the new dark comedy called Baskets. Said Wolleson: "I remember that old business proverb: Under-promise and over-deliver. Baskets, Johnny Carson, et al have set up the under-promise, and when visitors see Rancheria Road or Wind Wolves (Preserve) in the spring, or see a show at the Crystal Palace, or have a Basque dinner at Woolgrowers, the over-deliver is easy."

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "By the time you learn the rules of life, you’re too old to play the game."

* ... GOOD FORM: And Shirley Castro had this shoutout to some of the folks over at the Bakersfield Police Department. "The car seat that I have in my car for my grandson had become loose to the point it would be dangerous. I called the Bakersfield Police Department and was able to make an appointment with Rachel Rivera to adjust it for me  She was able to give me an appointment for the next day. Once there, she and Alysen Gelinas worked to secure it very tightly. If you have ever installed one of those, you know this is not an easy task. I really appreciate their friendly, professional manner in handling this for me. What a great free service this is to Bakersfield's citizens to help keep us safe. My sincere thanks to Rachel and Alysen. I hope you will be able to publish this in your column to let people know about this service."

 * ... MORE GOOD FORM: Meanwhile over at the Maui Pho restaurant off Ming Avenue Frank Fish and his wife were treated to a free dinner by a friendly (and anonymous) party of four. "Our server told us of this gracious gift when we asked for out bill. Wow, were we shocked. Thank you so much, whoever you are. We look forward to doing that for someone else.

 * ... DISEASE: And Donna Cazacus wrote with this warning about a a disease called pulmonary histoplasmosis that her cat contracted. "Warning for all pet owners: My indoor cat has pulmonary histoplasmosis, an extremely rare disease here in California. There's a blood test for it, if you suspect it. We had to do an extremely expensive test to discover it. Our vet has seen very few cases of it over her career, but has seen six or eight in the last six months to a year, mostly in southwest Bakersfield.  She's wondering if all the construction and the Westside Parkway have contributed to this. You can't get it from a sick animal, but you can get it from the same spores that affected my cat."

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The new year ushers in some tough economic worries, ammunition sales take off and a dark comedy starring Zach Galifianakis is set in the "garbage dump" that is Bakersfield

* ... LOCAL ECONOMY: It's hard to be optimistic about the local economy when we start the year with $26 a barrel oil, a stock market in full retreat and local Realtors warning the housing market will stall or even reverse. "It's going to be a tough year," one local businessman told me. "It's tough now
and it is going to get tougher." Still, as reported by John Cox in The Californian, several notable retailers are scouting the Bakersfield market for possible locations, including Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Cafe Rio Mexican Grill and Yard House and two national entertainment companies, Cinemark Theatres and Harkins Theatres.

* ... AMMUNITION: Lost in the recent series of stories about surging gun sales is the fact that ammunition sales are also going through the roof. Local gun store owners tell me that customers are routinely buying as much ammunition as they can for two reasons: the price of ammo is going up and there are fears the government will start requiring background checks for ammunition in addition to handguns and long guns. Said Gene Thome of Bear Mountain Sports: "Every time a politicians starts talking gun control, I can't keep anything in stock."

* ... BASKETS: A new dark comedy starring Zach Galifianakis is set in Bakersfield, and to no one's surprise it doesn't put us in a good light. Called "Baskets," the new FX series has Galifianakis as a rodeo clown who is forced to move back to Bakersfield to make ends meet. Here is how The New Yorker views it: "The show is set in California, though not a sun-kissed Apatovian Los Angeles, but instead a sun-blasted Bakersfield, where the most coveted job around appears to be behind the counter at Arby’s, and where one character remarks that the town is pretty, like a 'garbage dump.'" Should we care? Probably not, but you would think the script writers could find similar 'garbage dumps' much closer to home.

* ... OCSARS: The New York Post, the always irreverent tabloid, ran this headline combining the east coast snowstorm with the controversy over a possible Oscar boycott: "This weekend will be Whiter Than The Oscars."

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "The difference between in-laws and outlaws? Outlaws are wanted."

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "OMG......was almost just killed by a lady driving the wrong way on 24th Street."

 * ... MEDIA MOVES: Meteorologist Colin Jackson has left KERO TV to take a job as chief meteorologist for  the NBC affiliate in in Reno. No word yet from KERO who will be Jackson's permanent successor.

* ... ACHIEVER: Hats off to Malcolm Rivera of Arvin who is now serving as chief justice of the Associated Students at the University of California at Davis. Rivera graduated from Arvin High School in 2013 and and is attending UC Davis as a Gates Millennium Scholar. Said his proud mother Regina Rivera: "We, his family, are so very proud of him and he is making a name for himself as a leader."