Friday, July 19, 2013

McCarthy: Obamacare is a disaster, a crazy Jenga like puzzle that will punish employers and give workers fewer and more expensive choices

 Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House Majority Whip and a Bakersfield Republican, gives us his weekly update from Capitol Hill.

 "Earlier this month, the President decided to unilaterally suspend the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act for one year over concerns that his Administration, three full years after enactment, simply is not ready to implement its own massive overhaul.  In fact, it seems the President is finally seeing for himself what we’ve been telling him all along:  this bill is a disaster."

 "As many of our small business owners know, the employer mandate will impose penalties on employers if they do not comply with new regulations included in Obamacare.  This mandate is just one block of the complicated Jenga puzzle that is Obamacare.   When you start pulling out the pieces, the entire puzzle becomes unstable, and that is exactly what is happening to the law.

 "This mandate has the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which has 47 separate powers under Obamacare, requiring businesses to report employee benefit information to them in order to verify and enforce the mandate’s standards.  And we know the IRS is not prepared nor should they have this role.  Given the ongoing investigation of the heavy-handedness of its tax-exempt unit, who believes that the IRS right now can be entrusted with new authority?  I do not.

 "In addition, while the employer mandate may be suspended for one year, the individual mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance presumably still goes into effect on October 1st of this year. But if the employer mandate is bad for businesses, it is just as bad for individuals. Throughout our community, we are beginning to see premiums and costs rise. As the law prepares to implemented, however, my biggest concern lies in California itself.

 "As one of the 16 states choosing to set up its own exchange, California is attempting to set up an extensive bureaucracy to attempt to enroll California residents.  The State Insurance Commissioner and anti –fraud groups have expressed concerns that the exchange is falling short in ensuring that these people are being adequately screened to perform a job that involves the handling of personal and confidential information.  And even worse, because HHS won’t enforce the standards of the employer mandate until 2015, they’ve decided that they will not require the state exchanges to certify an individual’s qualifications either.  Instead, the state-run exchanges can simply use an “honor system” of personal attestation, verifying individuals’ social security numbers, household income, and insurance status solely on their word.   It is an open invitation to fraud and improper payments. That type of policy is unthinkable and irresponsible.  I believe state-run exchanges should be held to higher standards for the sake of protecting personal confidential information, and to ensure that scarce taxpayer dollars aren’t subject to waste or fraud when handing out subsidies without proper verification. 

 "The decision to delay the employer mandate by the Administration did not happen overnight. It required substantial review by departments throughout the Executive Branch. My House colleagues and I have written to the President demanding to know the type of analysis conducted to come to this decision and the legality of the decision to unilaterally delay this portion of the law, but not the rest of the law.  Americans deserve to know this information of the true impact of Obamacare.  It’s insulting to American families and job creators that President Obama believes a one year delay can solve the long-term problems that Obamacare causes for our nation’s job creators.

 "There are common sense solutions that address the real cost drivers of health care costs, such as tort reform and expanding health insurance options across state lines that will benefit consumers.  Unfortunately, Obamacare does not do this, and instead includes bad and unworkable policy.  I know it, and now we’re seeing it.  That is why I have supported repealing the law entirely, and voted to repeal Obamacare in its entirety on May 16 this year.  Unfortunately, the Senate has refused to act on that bill.  Now that the Administration is unilaterally deciding what parts of Obamacare it wishes to enforce, the House took action this week.   As a former constitutional law professor, the President should understand that the Congress, not the White House, has the sole authority in amending written law.  Therefore, in response to his decision to administratively delay the implementation of certain provisions in his own law, the House passed legislation (H.R. 2667) that statutorily amends Obamacare to delay the employer mandate until 2015.  Additionally, the House passed H.R. 2668, which parallels the delay of the employer mandate by ensuring individuals and families are treated the same way as employers by delaying the individual mandate until 2015 as well.   Both bills passed by bipartisan majority votes.  It is difficult to believe that this Administration wouldn’t want to give hardworking American families the same needed reprieve from the law’s crushing mandate as they gave corporate America.  Be assured that I will continue to fight the flawed implementation of this health care law that threatens to affect the way we receive our health care.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

If there really is a heaven, there must be a special place for veterinarians; and my take on the bone headed called by Rolling Stone to run the Boston bombing suspect on its cover

 * ... BELOVED PET: There is a special place in heaven for the veterinarians who care so deeply for our pets. This story comes courtesy of Mark Powell, a colleague of mine at The Bakersfield Californian. In his words: "Last Thursday, I had to put down my dog, Molly, a 15-year-old- Australian Shepherd, due to a combination of just old age and some inoperable tumors. It was a very emotional and scary time for me and my family since we've had Molly since I picked her out at the SPCA when she was 6 weeks old. The staff (at Rosedale Veterinary Hospital) was incredibly helpful, caring and informative, and they made Molly's last few moments of life go from panicked to peaceful. They took great care to see that the procedure was as easy and painless as possible for Molly, even though she hasn't always been the most willing patient. They took very good care of her, and us as well. I cannot tell you how much they helped us through this transition. They even told us Molly would be returned to the earth via a Paso Robles vineyard following a communal cremation. I couldn't have imagined a better way to go through such a heartbreaking situation." (Photos courtesy of Mark Powell)

 * ... OVERHEARD: At the downtown Post Office, a woman is telling the story of a conversation with her 4-year-old grand daughter. "So she comes home from pre school and says, 'Nana, did you know you can't bring guns to school?' I thought: what a world we live in!"

 * ... ROLLING STONE: It is easy to understand the angry backlash to the decision by Rolling Stone magazine to feature an appealing picture of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover. But make no mistake, this is not a First Amendment issue, but rather one of taste. Rolling Stone is certainly within its rights to publish it, but just because it can doesn't mean it should. My take: it is an insult to those who died in the bombing or were left critically wounded. Bad form.

* ... ROAD WARRIOR: Anthony Bulygo is a retired master auto mechanic and wrote to lament how folks drive and maintain their cars today. In a recent trip from Bakersfield to Salem, Oregon, he "witnessed 48 vehicles where one, two, or all three brake lights were in fail mode. There were 62 vehicles with at least one tail light not functioning. And ... 21 vehicles traveling with one noticeably very low tire (these are the ones that may/will fail and cause loss of vehicle control).  One vehicle had a tire that was so bald that the steel belt was causing sparks as it traveled down I-5 in Oregon at about 80 miles per hour. And, Richard, here is the topper for me. While traveling on I-5, the posted speed was 70 miles per hour. I was in the slow lane at 75 miles per hour (flowing with traffic) and the fast lane had slowed to 75 as well. We had traveled about two miles like this when a car came down the shoulder at no less than 85. What's wrong with this picture?  Thanks for allowing me to vent.  This should be a notice to everyone to learn how to check your lights and tires regularly.  The life you save may be mine."

 * ... MEMORIES: David Gallagher not only remembers the old DiRico's restaurant, but the prices as well. And for good reason: he worked there. "A cheese pizza was 85 cents and spaghetti and meatballs $1.50. DiRico's was originally on South Chester and Belle Terrace, they moved for a short time across from Mexicali downtown and then to 4th and Union where the Great Castle is now located.  Scott Hanson and myself (1958-60) made the pizza dough from scratch and occasionally tossed the crust in the air in front of the window. Irene DiRico made the raviolis and Art made the sauce. Two of my brothers also worked there, Dennis and Barry Gallagher. Great Memories!"

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: You may be a Bakersfield old timer if you remember when the old PGA tour stopped here for the Bakersfield Open Golf Tournament. John Pryor was involved in helping organize it and said the 1961 tournament was won by Jack Fleck, and the next year by Billy Casper.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A dying man reaches out to share life lesson; if you had to do it all over again, what would you change in your own life?

 * ... MARK: After a 35-year absence, I recently reconnected with Mark James, a friend from Georgia who is battling an unforgiving form of lymphoma. He is allowing me to share selected excerpts of his notes to me, simply because I think his they resonate in all of our lives. Weakened and alone, he wrote
this to me: "What I have learned is I took far too many people for granted. I made it all about work and wealth. I became a millionaire CEO but am going to die childless, spouseless and alone. All that money is sitting there waiting to be swooped up by nieces and nephews whom I hardly know. All those people I knew in my career cared deeply during the first year of this cancer but when I lived longer than expected they moved on. Not that I expect anything else. They are busy people with families and are still working every day. If I had a do over, I would find more time for those I love. I would be there for weddings, funerals, graduations and first communions. I would send gifts and cards and they would have known their importance to me. I would have been brave and walked out of a deep, dark closet many years ago, found a partner, and enjoyed life with him. But we don't get a do over. So I try not to spend energy on regret. I hope you can learn something from my situation. I simply never anticipated an early departure."

 * ... GOOD FORM: For every litterer or inconsiderate employee in town there are folks like this. "This morning I had a very nice experience at Costco on Panama Lane," wrote Mary Ellen Agan. "First I was checked out by a very pleasant checker, and as I was putting the load into the trunk of my car a young voice asked if I wanted help. This was a darling little boy of about eight or nine years of age. As his mother and little sister waited, he loaded most of the rest of my groceries for me. What a sweet boy he was, and what a tribute to his mother who waited patiently and has raised such a thoughtful young man. That made my day, and I won't forget it."

 * ... BAD FORM: And then there is this, from reader Sue Braman. "My husband and I made a morning trip up to the Richbar area in the Canyon the Monday after the 4th of July, and we were sickened at the site of the picnic areas. PILES and PILES of trash in a heap along the riverbank, and other areas. Would you believe someone hauled in a metal BBQ, sat it on a plant stand, and of course, left that behind too? As we drove into the parking area, we saw someone had dumped a TV! What has happened to caring about the beauty of nature and the respect that it deserves? Instead, it is a reminder of the mentality of a whole lot of people who could care less about their trash left behind and I imagine their homes and yards look the same. Pathetic isn't it?"

 * ... MEMORIES: Mona Martin wrote to share her memories of the old restaurant Senor Joses. "It brought back great childhood memories, as my mom would take me there for a very 'grown up' dinner experience that she and I shared on special occasions. The location of the restaurant back in the late 1960s, early 1970s was at the corner of Union Avenue and approximately 18th Street. It most recently housed the nightclub Aldo's. The drive-in with carhop service Stan's had been on the backside of the building earlier in the 1960's era, which also brought back delicious memories as well! I remember the interior of Senor Jose's as being very adult, with candles on the tables and a small dance floor with tables bordering it. I always felt like a grown up young lady when my mom would treat me to a delicious 'Mexican pizza' when we would dine there. Thank you for reviving these great memories!"

 * ... MORE JOSE'S: And finally this from reader Susan Seaman: "This short lived venture of Joe Mooney, my great uncle, was located in the building now occupied by The Black Bear. Joe and wife Martha also owned The Pancake House, J's Resturant, and the Ranch House located up on the Grapevine. His first venture was an ice cream shop on union ave, close to the dairy. This info should evoke more memories!"

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A dying friend reaches out to touch base, radio show host Ralph Bailey gets some good news and remembering DiRico's Italian eatery

 * ... MARK: You don't know Mark James, and I had not heard from him for years until he reached out to me on July 3. Back when I knew him, some 35 years ago, I was a young reporter and he was an ambitious young aide to a Georgia congressman. We knew each other on a professional level, we both moved away, the years passed and we went about living out our lives. That is, until I heard from him.
Mark is now dying, suffering from a cruel lymphoma that has depleted his strength and left him alone in his thoughts, reflecting on a life that passes by in a seeming nano second. And yes, he has regrets. I asked Mark if I could share his thoughts, because I have found them so profoundly powerful. It is a story of success, joy, loneliness, fear and regret, both sad and uplifting. From time to time I will share Mark's story. I will begin with his first email:  "After 40 years, I suddenly had you on my mind, so I Googled you and am so happy you did so well in your career. I met you when you when I was a kid working for Congressman John Davis. A few years later I decided politics was hopeless and decided to make money. I spent the bulk of my career running an American commercial real estate company based in Manhattan for a wonderful Saudi family. I'm declining now from a rare Lymphoma. The chemo didn't work and I'm lingering, homebound, with much time on my hands. You probably don't remember Mark Stroup (I've been Mark James for 30 years) but I remember you. When I was so young, and quite stupid, you treated me with respect. So this is to thank you, and to let you know you made a difference in my life. I am most grateful."

 * ... BAILEY: Local radio talk show host Ralph Bailey got some good news last week when he was told he would not need surgery for a suspected heart ailment. "It was the scariest call I have ever received," Bailey told me. "But it was good news!" Bailey was told he may need a stent, but after a review by Dr. Brijesh Bhambi and his staff at Central Cardiology Medical Clinic, he was given a clean bill of health. Bailey will be my guest on First Look with Scott Cox on Tuesday at 9 a.m. to talk about his health scare.

 * ... ACHIEVERS: Hats off to the Bakersfield College culinary department team which recently won top honors during a competition in Mammoth. Said Bob Mullin, whose granddaughter was on the team: "They beat out four culinary schools for the championship.  They were the only junior college to compete. The other teams were cordon bleu schools and an art institute.  My granddaughter, Victoria Menna, was also one of twin students to be selected to intern under the master chef at the Playboy mansion in Los Angeles. Way to go Tori!"

 * ... MEMORIES: Vickie Burke Schallock wrote to thank Darlene Stewart for evoking memories of Art DiRico's Italian Restaurant, which was located on the southeast corner of South Chester and Terrace Way (not Belle Terrace). "As a child in the 1950s, I recall our family visiting the restaurant and I also recall the red/white checkered tablecloths and the candles dripping the multicolored wax onto the wine vinegar bottles placed on the tables. Fun times! Along that line, does anyone recall another long-ago Mexican restaurant, I believe it was called SeƱor Jose's, and I think it was located in the southeast corner area of Chester and California. My siblings and I also enjoyed visiting there with my always received some kind of small toy upon leaving the restaurant!"

  * ... MORE DiRICO'S: And this from Jerry Beckwith: "In the late 1950s Art DiRico tended bar, Dave Blanco was the chef, Dave Gallagher was the pizza boy and I was the pearl diver. Some nights after closing we would go to the Terrace Drive In, via the exit gate and watch the late feature film. When security came by to eject us, out popped a container of spaghetti and it was all good. Art's mom made all of the ravioli and the New York style cheesecake at home. Yum."