Friday, June 12, 2009

McCarthy to Geithner: use TARP repayments to pay down national debt

Another week in our nation's capital for Bakersfield Rep. Kevin McCarthy. The wee, in his words:

"It was a full week in Washington. An unexpected event happened at my House Administration hearing. On Wednesday, I was chatting with the Committee Chairman and mentioned my bill (the Military Voting Protection Act) that I have been working to move through Congress for two years, and Chairman Robert Brady was gracious and said, let’s just take up your bill today. That bill was approved by the committee unanimously.

Here is how the week went:
On Monday, I sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Geithner urging him to use Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) repayments to pay down our national debt. As media reports began to come in that day that the Treasury would allow recipients of TARP funds to pay some of those funds back (almost $70 billion), 19 other Members of Congress signed on. The letter asked Secretary Geithner to make sure repaid TARP funds go directly towards paying down the national debt, rather than using them for a revolving fund for more spending. Back in April, I introduced legislation that does just that. Hardworking American middle-class taxpayers were promised fiscal accountability with the TARP legislation, and I believe Congress should ensure repaid TARP funds actually repay the ones footing the bill – the taxpayer. On Friday, I followed up on the letter to Treasury Secretary Geithner with another letter urging the Administration to clarify subsequent confusing statements issued by the President, and then by his Administration officials, on plans for TARP repayments. If you want to see the text of these letters that were sent to Geithner and the Administration, check out my website: Now more than ever, as Washington spends and borrows record amounts of money, we must insist on accountability of these billions of dollars of taxpayer funds.

"On Tuesday, I spent some time on the House floor as the House passed the resolution I introduced to commend the Mojave Intermediate Space Challenge Competition that takes place every May at the Mojave Air and Space Port. I was pleased to have my good friends, Congressmen Buck McKeon and Jim Costa, join me in cosponsoring this resolution. The Space Challenge is a great event to help strengthen students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics career fields. I am glad that the House recognized this Mojave event and placed emphasis on the growing need to challenge and grow our children’s interest in science and math. If you would like to see my floor statement, I have posted it on my YouTube channel --

"On Wednesday, the bipartisan Military Voting Protection (MVP) Act I mentioned above, took a major step forward. The MVP Act helps ensure timely delivery of overseas military absentee ballots so they are counted. Now it is ready to be considered by the full House of Representatives, and I hope that House Democratic leadership will allow these military voting reforms to come up immediately for vote by the whole House.

"Also on Wednesday, to follow up on the renewable energy summit I co-hosted at Cal Poly a couple of weeks ago that included Linda Parker from the Kern Wind Energy Association, Patrick Lemieux, professor at Cal Poly, and Matthew Woods from REC Solar, I joined my colleagues in introducing the American Energy Act. As Speaker Pelosi moves ahead with a national energy tax plan that unfortunately would raise energy costs for American families and cause job losses, my colleagues and I wanted to offer Americans a clean alternative. The American Energy Act would put our country on a path towards a cleaner environment, lower energy costs and increase jobs in the American energy sector. We can do this with American wind, American solar, American oil, American nuclear, and American geothermal energy – through the American Energy Act. The American Energy Act works to create an energy plan to help small businesses and create jobs.

"Over the next few weeks I am also looking into our state’s need for federal judges in the Eastern District of California and what common sense solutions can be implemented. Have a good weekend."

When good kids do stupid things, or why high school brings out the idiocy in our kids

If you haven't yet read The Californian's exclusive story today on the Stockdale High bullying case, make sure you do so before the day is over. (link to the story here) It's a incredible piece of reporting that should be read by every parent in Bakersfield. First, it's the type of reporting only a newspaper does any more: detailed, time consuming and thoughtful, and it's precisely this kind of stuff that we need more of, not less. But that's besides the point. I happen to know a lot of the players in this sad episode, in which a freshman on the forensics team was tied up in Saran wrap by upper classmen. The picture of the youngster, run on the front page, is heart breaking. Some of the kids involved were friends of my daughter, who graduated from Stockdale last year and is off in college. These are good kids, high achievers, funny, witty, most of them bound for greatness. Many of them are now off to prestigious universities and eventually this case will fade, but not after it cost them dearly, both monetarily and emotionally. But it's a lesson that even good kids make absolutely stupid decisions, and in today's highly charged environment, what starts as a stunt, a joke or an off-hand remark can land you expelled from school, or worse. High school is a perilous time in which our kids - near grown ups but still capable of making incredibly stupid decisions - need to know the consequences.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

When passion alone isn't enough: a lesson of survival when your business is turned on its head

Picked up this hilarious video off The Daily Show website on the challenges facing newspapers, in this case The New York Times. There are few bigger fans of the NY Times than me, yet I couldn't help be surprised at the tone of the Times managers. Don't know if it was smugness or self importance, but these guys came across as virtually clueless as to what is happening around them. I'm sure they are passionate about what they do, but passion alone is not enough in itself. And that's one of the problems with the mass media these days. Reporters and editors revel in their passion for the business and believe that this passion for their craft should be enough to save their jobs. After all, isn't what they do important? And if it's important to them, shouldn't society value it? But passion alone entitles you to absolutely nothing. It doesn't solve changing reader habits and interests and it certainly doesn't address the revenue issues. The problem is this: passion can mask the real problems facing an industry, and simply being passionate about it falls well short of becoming part of the solution.

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A doctor may be passionate about medicine and helping people, but if he doesn't hire people to deal with the insurance companies, she'll soon be out of business. A documentary film maker may be passionate about her subject, but if she doesn't find someone to market and help fund it, no one will never see it. I'm sure the GM workers were passionate about making cars in Michigan, but if no one is buying Pontiacs, what value is that passion? Likewise, reporters and editors talk about their passion for their business, but it's a passion as only they choose to selectively define it. Passion is only valuable if it comes with the ability to change and accept that everything you may do tomorrow may be different. To be part of the solution, and not to simply whine that things have changed and the rules have changed. Unions love to cling to their "rules," but many times these rules have been rendered obsolete by the market. So simply clinging to the work as you define it may reflect your passion, but it's a recipe for eventually being out of work. I'd trade a pound of passion for an ounce of flexibility and problem solving in a minute.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

When the tribe holds onto the past, often it just takes one uninhibited dancer to trigger change

Came across this video from the Sasquatch music festival on Seth Godin's blog (see his blog here). It struck me that in times of stress and traumatic change, organizations often become paralyzed by fear of the unknown even when they know they simply must change to survive. This is particularly true in the mass media business (newspapers, radio, TV, magazines) which are undergoing a seismic upheaval that calls for a total rethinking of our roles. And yet, even when presented with overwhelming evidence, we tend to hold onto the past because it it familiar, and comfortable. The tribal instincts of organizations are strong, and few want go to against the "us not change" mentality of the herd. And yet, as in this video, often is only takes one or two people to initiate and embrace change. From Seth's blog:

"My favorite part happens just before the first minute mark. That's when guy #3 joins the group. Before him, it was just a crazy dancing guy and then maybe one other crazy guy. But it's guy #3 who made it a movement.
Initiators are rare indeed, but it's scary to be the leader. Guy #3 is rare too, but it's a lot less scary and just as important. Guy #49 is irrelevant. No bravery points for being part of the mob.
"We need more guy #3s.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Laid off or earning a six-figure salary: it's time to crack a book and get curious about the world

Have a friend who hit me with this the other day: "What's the big deal about Twitter? I don't get it." In fairness to him, a lot of folks don't "get" Twitter and in truth it's not for everybody. But the fact that it's the fastest growing social networking site in the world right now indicates that somebody sees the value in it. So maybe it isn't for you, but does that mean you shouldn't understand it? Or are you so comfortable in your routine that it's easier to simply write it off as another flash in the pan? Thought of this today when I read marketer Seth Godin's blog on lifelong learning. Seth is a master marketer (and yes, some folks don't "get" Seth either) who writes books and sends out a daily musing to those who sign up on his blog. (read the full blog here)
His piece today was aimed at recently graduated college kids who are looking for work, but I think it applies to all of us, no matter our age, our employment status or our interests. The world is full of folks who stopped thinking, and learning, years ago. They're satisfied with having others think for them, stopped reading long ago and are so set in their views of the world that nothing can move them. It's time to crack a book, challenge our assumptions and open up a bit. Seth's recommendations to the college grads:

* Spend twenty hours a week running a project for a non-profit.
* Teach yourself Java, HTML, Flash, PHP and SQL. Not a little, but mastery. [Clarification: I know you can't become a master programmer of all these in a year. I used the word mastery to distinguish it from 'familiarity' which is what you get from one of those Dummies type books. I would hope you could write code that solves problems, works and is reasonably clear, not that you can program well enough to work for Joel Spolsky. Sorry if I ruffled feathers.]
* Volunteer to coach or assistant coach a kids sports team.
* Start, run and grow an online community.
* Give a speech a week to local organizations.
* Write a regular newsletter or blog about an industry you care about.
* Learn a foreign language fluently.
* Write three detailed business plans for projects in the industry you care about.
* Self-publish a book.
* Run a marathon.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Another life cut short by a drunk driver sparks a tribute that ignites cyberspace

How many more times are we going to read the same story: local kid with promising future dies when drunk driver smashes into her car. The latest local victim is Carey Curtis, a 26-year-old emergency room worker at Kern Medical Center. She had two children, lived in Shafter and was on her way home after a night shift when the accident happened. Beyond the tragedy of Carey's death is the curious and very modern way that death in mourned these days. I was on Twitter, following my pal radio host Rachel Legan over at KGFM 101.5, when Rachel sent out a note saying Carey's friends were posting farewell messages on Carey's MySpace page. (view it all here) View for yourself but the page is not unlike any young woman's personal profile, lots of personal stuff about friends and music and longings. The postings today after her death are simply heartbreaking. Wrote one friend:

"HEY GIRLIE... I LOVE YOU. Its CRAZY how short life is. I just talked to you friday night about how much our lives changed since we were younger, and just one short day later I find out that life has changed dramatically overnight. I was so proud of you for getting ready to go back to respiratory school. Do me a favor girl... keep in touch k... my mom's up there... she'll look out for you... I'm gonna miss you Carey...

This is stuff that will just about break your heart, particularly if you have children of your own. In the old days, there'd be a story in the paper, a mention on TV and radio, perhaps an impromptu roadside memorial. Now the expressions of pain and joy and loss are expressed in cyberspace: on Twitter and MySpace and Facebook and on and on.

* ... MEA CULPA: Speaking of the press, I owe KGET TV an apology for an earlier post in which I accused the TV station of failing to report on its own substantial revenue problems and forced two-week furloughs for its employees. John Pilios, longtime news director over there, called me on the carpet and insisted they ran a piece on it last Friday at 5 p.m. I sure didn't see it and he conceded they didn't run it at 5:30 p.m. or 6 p.m., and failed to post it on the KGET website. One thing about John Pilios: he's a man of his word and after he dressed me down, he made sure the story was posted on their website. But by any account, I got it wrong. Mea culpa.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

From Shelby Cobras to Colnagos, a weeked of toys

Out and about this weekend and snapped some shots of the classic car show over off Rosedale Highway and the cycling race around Round Mountain. We all have our toys, be they a restored Shelby Cobra Mustang or a $6,000 Italian racing bike. Some scenes from the weekend: