Saturday, March 31, 2012

McCarthy: Obama's budget double downs on a dysfunctional structure that saddles our nation with debt

 Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield and House Majority Whip, gives us his weekly report from Capitol Hill. In his words:

 "Just like American families sit around the kitchen table and prioritize their spending to make ends meet, so too should the federal government. I believe that structure dictates behavior and, unfortunately, the budget that the President proposed this year doubles down on a dysfunctional structure that saddles generations to come with our crushing debt.
 "Since the President took office, federal discretionary spending has skyrocketed, piling on $5 trillion more in debt.  After a record-breaking four straight years of trillion-dollar deficits, our national debt now exceeds our GDP, and we continue suffering from unacceptably high unemployment. The President’s latest budget proposal increases spending by $1.5 trillion, amasses another $11 trillion in debt over ten years, and still doesn’t balance the budget.  Fortunately, the House recognized that the President’s budget blueprint would move our country in the wrong direction; when it was brought to a vote, it failed 0-414, a bipartisan and unanimous repudiation to the status quo of overspending and over-borrowing.

  "The budget that ended up passing the House – the new Path to Prosperity budget (H. Con. Res 112) – tackles the drivers of our debt with comprehensive structural reforms and a true all-of-the-above energy strategy that will spur entrepreneurship, create new American jobs, and put us on a path to fiscal sustainability and a balanced budget.  
 "The Path to Prosperity budget would cut over $5 trillion in spending and reduce deficits by over $3 trillion, eventually creating the budget surpluses necessary to pay off our debt by 2040. By simplifying our tax code and closing loopholes, this budget blueprint keeps taxes low for Americans and sends a welcome signal to job creators. The House Republican budget also makes America more competitive through pro-growth domestic energy initiatives. With gas prices approaching $4.50 per gallon locally, the President now claims to support an all-of-the-above energy policy – something I agree with and have supported since coming to Washington – but his rhetoric doesn’t match his Administration’s actions. Our budget proposes increased renewable and alternative energy development and responsible domestic oil and natural gas production that will keep gas prices affordable, create American jobs, and secure our energy independence.

 "Finally, as the Supreme Court wrestled with the constitutionality of Obamacare this week and is set to rule on this later this spring, I will continue working with my colleagues to repeal the fundamentally-flawed healthcare law and replace it with stronger reforms that preserve the doctor-patient relationship, prevent government bureaucrats from rationing care, and safeguard Medicare for current and soon-to-be beneficiaries.

 "Americans expect real leadership from Washington, and Republicans have pulled their chairs up to the kitchen table and passed a budget blueprint that delivers on that expectation. Path to Prosperity isn’t just a band-aid fix – it actually reforms the structural problems driving our debt. This budget is a step in the right direction to ensure that the America we pass on to our children and grandchildren is as bright and full of opportunity as the one we inherited.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

New dormitories could transform Cal State Bakersfield and celebrating a good deed

* ... CSUB: There's an important development over out at Cal State Bakersfield that has been overshadowed by the serious cutbacks affecting the entire university system. The Cal State Board of Trustees has approved the funding for new dormitories that will feature 500 beds for students, the first phase of a project that will slowly allow CSUB to evolve from a commuter school to a more residential environment. Why is this so important? It's all part of President Horace Mitchell's plan to bring a more authentic college experience to the campus, and that can only be achieved by having students live on the campus. Can you imagine the campus with 500, 1,000 or even 5,000 students living there? The smaller older dorms (now 40 years old) will be phased out, replaced by the new dorms featuring suite-style rooms with bedrooms connected to a bath. The master plan calls for three phases of dorm building on the soccer fields fronting Stockdale Highway. If things go as planned, the first phase will be ready for fall 2014. The funding is coming via new revenue bonds.

 * ... SPOTTED: A young couple braves the rain recently to take a hot cup of coffee to a homeless man who was standing in the downpour protecting his belongings.

* ... SAM THE HIPPO: Harry Love, a retired teacher at Foothill High School, chimed in with his memory of Sam the hippopotamus who once lived at the old Larson's Dairy in town. "I was teaching Social Studies at Foothill High School. I think it was in the early 1970s. I had students who were passing out bumper stickers that read 'Save Sam the Hippo.' They went to different classes, charging $1 for them. It was a publicity stunt to get the county to purchase land for Sam and other animals at the small zoo in Hart Park."

* ... PAJAMAS: A reader's note mentioning she "spotted" a mother walking her children to school while wearing a robe and pajamas has triggered a healthy little debate. Is this another example of how lazy we've all become, or should the mother be applauded? Raymond S. Pederson wrote to send "kudos to Pam Cheatwood for pointing out the simple but unavoidable truth that getting children to school, even in if mom wore pajamas, is a noble act.  How many people would not have taken their children to school under these conditions. You would think that with the present rate of drop-outs in Kern County, getting the kids to school so that they might move on to eventual graduation represents a true effort on the part of the mother, regardless of outward appearances. Thanks to a mom who cares enough to make sure her children get a good start on the path to a better future through education."

* ... THRIFT STORE:  A new thrift store has opened to serve the neediest in our community. It's called the Blessing and Bargains Thrift Store and is located at 2141 South Chester Avenue. This is a project of the Chester Avenue Community Church, which member Paul Warner describes as "small but we have strong faith." Stop by sometime and if you have leftover items from a garage sale, or other donations, they will be happy to take them off your hands.

 * ... WHO KNEW? Did you know that the giant fiberglass Indian statue now at Ethel's Old Corral Cafe is a “Muffler Man Indian” and once stood on the Garces Circle? The Vision 2020 Image Committee says there are different versions of Muffler Men all over the country. There is even a website devoted to Muffler Man sightings.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spending too much time on Facebook? You may be a narcissist at heart, "obsessed with self image and shallow friendships." Or so say some researchers

 * ... FACEBOOK: If you're spending too much time on Facebook - posting pictures of your latest love interest or announcing to the world what you did today - you likely have extreme narcissistic tendencies. That's according to the British newspaper The Guardian, which reported that researchers have established "a direct link between the number of friends you have on Facebook and the degree to which you are a 'socially disruptive' narcissist, confirming the conclusions of many social media skeptics." Surprising? Maybe not when you consider all the folks who post updates of their latest boyfriend or girlfriend, achievement or interest, but then that's the nature of the beast isn't it. But he Guardian added: "People who score highly on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory questionnaire had more friends on Facebook, tagged themselves more often and updated their newsfeeds more regularly. The research comes amid increasing evidence that young people are becoming increasingly narcissistic, and obsessed with self-image and shallow friendships."

* ... SPOTTED: Jim Hankins and his wife were stopped at a red light last weekend in the fast lane of northbound Stine Road at Wilson. "We could see a box like object in the middle of our lane on the other side of the intersection. I contemplated how I was going to maneuver around it. We then saw a well dressed older gentleman get out of his car in the southbound left turn lane. He pulled a box fan from the lane to the center divider, reentered his car and made his turn when the light turned green. My wife and I swelled with pride for our neighbors in Bakersfield. Kudos to that gentleman."

 * ... CLOSE CALL: Here's a story you really don't want to experience yourself. Duane Keathley, a partner at the local CB Richard Ellis commercial property group, was headed to Mammoth recently with his 17-year-old son Robert, a student at Bakersfield Christian High School. Thirty miles south of Bishop, at around 9:30 p.m., Keathley's new black Chevrolet Suburban slammed into a cow crossing Highway 395. "The airbags went off in an instant and it all happened in a flash," he told me. "Robert asked me if I was okay and instantly the OnStar system came on and asked if we were okay. The CHP was there in two minutes." The Suburban, the airbags, OnStar and the CHP all performed as expected and father and son continued, rented a car and enjoyed a fly fishing trip that held its own special memories.

  * ... BASQUE FOOD: Gary Corbell tipped me off to a story in the latest Smithsonian magazine titled The Basque Revolution. "The first two paragraphs spoke of Bakersfield, Merle Haggard, Buck Ownes, Dewars, Luigi's, Pyrenees, Benjis, Wool Growers and Noriega Hotel. Interesting reading to know that the Basque influence has helped put Bakersfield on the national stage. My only regret is that they did not mention the Chalet Basque especially when it was owned by J.B. and Maria. At that time, in my opinion, the Chalet was second to none in Basque cusine in Bakersfield." (photo of Noriega's courtesy of The New York Times)

 * ... POST OFFICE: How is your service at your local local Post Office? Carole Cohen wrote to defend local postal employees, whom she described as "kind, courteous, and extremely helpful.  I especially enjoy visiting the downtown post office. The lines are short, there is always plenty of help, and they have - on more than one occasion - gone way out of their way to find me an appropriate shipping box, pack my items for me, and look for the most expedient and inexpensive way to ship.  All this without knowing from day to day whether or not they will have a job!  Hats off to anyone who deals with the public on a daily basis and can maintain their sense of humor as well as provide good service."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

New restaurants choose downtown Bakersfield as their venue, and Californian Radio examines medical marijuana and a proposed voter initiative

 * ... EATERIES: Opening a bar or restaurant is always a risky venture, and it's sad to see some of them struggle and close. Among those that have closed recently are the Thai Orchid and the Hourglass, both located off Brimhall Road. While they closed, others are opening, and many of them are choosing the downtown arts district. Chef's Choice Noodle Bar (19th and Eye streets) has been a huge success, and it will soon be joined by a steak house called The Mark also on 19th Street, and Muerto's Kitchen near the Alley Cat bar in the Wall Street Alley. Another restaurant is apparently going into the building that Fishlips occupied.

* ... MEMORIES: Received a wonderful hand written letter from Linda Polston talking about Bakersfield back when it was a smaller, much simpler town. She shared the story of going to Bill Lee's Bamboo Chopsticks every Friday night in the 1950s and being greeted by Bill Lee himself, smoking a cigar and making small talk with all the diners at their tables. "His wife didn't speak much English and she'd always say to me, "want a sucka?' and hand me a sucker she kept at the checkout counter.... We joined the big celebration after  Bill Lee's was remodeled .... They reopened with a dancing dragon and fireworks and other entertainment. We still use the commemorative chopsticks they gave out that night."

* ... MARIJUANA: The battle over medicinal marijuana, derided by law enforcement but praised by those who use it to treat illnesses, is heading to a decisive period this election year. One of the latest developments is a proposed voter initiative that would "provide that neither the state nor any local government may prohibit operation of a medical marijuana patient association, including a storefront, unless a court finds it is an actual nuisance." Local attorney Phil Ganong is behind the initiative and will be my guest on Californian Radio KERN 1180 Monday at 9 a.m. Tune in to hear Ganong bring us up to date on this controversial local issue.

* ... COMMUNITY: Dan Raytis passed along this story, yet another testament of the goodwill that lives within all of us. "About six weeks ago my wife’s family experienced an unimaginable tragedy of unexpectedly losing a 13-month-old baby. In the week that followed, there was much to do planning for the funeral.  Our good friend (and local photographer) Torrie Nicholas agreed to help by putting together a video for the funeral, which included the task of transferring home movies to DVDs. As time was running out, she took the home movies to Henley’s to see if they could transfer them to DVDs.  Jimmy (an employee at Henley’s) and his friend Michael had a difficult time, but spent an entire day on the project and ultimately got the videos onto DVDs.  If that wasn’t enough, then they stayed late after closing to explain how the DVDs worked.  And they did it all FREE OF CHARGE. This is exactly the great, local service that makes Bakersfield such a wonderful community.  Please pass along a tremendous thank you both to Torrie Nicholas Photography and to Henley’s for going way above and beyond."

 * ... PAJAMAS: Is it bad taste to walk your children to school wearing pajamas and a robe? Pam Cheatwood doesn't think so, and she offers this reasoning. "I just want to say how disappointed I was to read that a lady walking her children to Standard School in her pajamas was newsworthy. You see, I work at Standard School District and we are thrilled anytime a child gets to school and has the opportunity to learn. I say kudos to the mom, who possibly was ill, who made sure her children were at school regardless of her situation.  Personally, I think you should have a permanent section in your blog for the positives that are happening at all school districts throughout Kern County. If you want to stop by Standard School District, I would be happy to tell you about all of the wonderful things going on for the students there."