Saturday, November 9, 2013

McCarthy: Veteran's Day is the time to thank those who have served to protect our freedoms

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip and a Bakersfield Republican, gives us his Veteran's Day views.

 "As Veterans Day approaches, I was honored that South Korean Ambassador Ahn Ho-young graciously accepted my invitation to come to Kern County on Wednesday to honor our veterans,
especially our Korean War veterans who served and sacrificed so that the South Korean people may be able to enjoy the freedoms they have today. Standing in front of the Kern County Korean War Memorial at Jastro Park, Ambassador Ahn presented medals that were made with the old barb wire from the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that was melted down. To see our local veterans honored in such a way is something I will never forget.

 "Since our nation’s founding, America has been blessed with men and women who courageously served in the name of peace and freedom. They sacrificed and demonstrated strength, determination, and bravery. Around the world, our veterans have always been there to defend all of us and we owe them a debt of gratitude.

 "In 1775 on the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts, an event occurred that would forever change the world. The words of American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson describe it best:  “By the rude bridge that arched the flood, their flag to April’s breeze unfurled, here once the embattled farmers stood, and fired the shot heard around the world.”  He refers to the first shots upon British soldiers by Americans acting under orders.  This small skirmish marked the first organized attack by American troops, the first British retreat, and the beginning of America’s fight for independence.  More significantly, it sent a message to the rest of the world that these American colonies would not live by the rule of a tyrant across an ocean - a belief that molded the identity of the American citizen.

 "On that bridge in Massachusetts 238 years ago stood individuals that were much more than farmers; they were our first servicemen, our first defenders of liberty, and our first veterans.

 "This Veterans Day, we recognize the contributions of all our veterans - some of them having made the ultimate sacrifice to protect and carry the torch of liberty.  In America today, less than one half of one percent of the American population serves in the armed forces.  Nonetheless, there are nearly 23 million veterans in the United States and nearly two million of them live in California.  I am proud to that say our Congressional District is home to one of the highest concentrations of veterans in the state - nearly 55,000 people have answered the highest call to service.

 "Because of our veterans, we live in freedom. And for those who currently serve, they will eventually join this special group that will forever have our gratitude. Let us all take a moment to say thank you for serving our country and making our community proud. I encourage everyone in our community to take part in as many of the Veterans Day activities this weekend and on Monday to honor our veterans.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Home ownership rates slide in the United States post recession, and Elon Musk kicks off the CSUB speaker series in grand style

 * … REAL ESTATE: An interesting statistic came out this week noting that home ownership in the United States is at its lowest level in more than 20 years. The home ownership rate is now sitting at
65.1 percent, down from almost 70 percent in 2004. Experts say this points to the activity of investors buying up property when the market tanked, but apparently investor activity is now leveling off as prices rise. The cash offers from investors also squeeze first time buyers out of the market, and make it more difficult for those who are underwater on their mortgages to refinance.

 * … MUSK: Cal State Bakersfield could not have found a better speaker to kick off its Distinguished Speaker Series than Elon Musk, the South African-born entrepreneur and founder of PayPal who spoke at the Dore Theater Wednesday evening.  Musk, who also founded SpaceX and Tesla Motors electric car company, challenged the audience to think more broadly and was refreshingly honest in his opinions on things like High Speed Rail. (He called it an embarrassment based on 40-year-old technology.) Hats off to CSUB President Horace Mitchell for kicking off an important speaker series that will certainly enrich our community.

* … FOUNDRY: I was sad to learn that one of our downtown art galleries is shutting its doors. Opened in 2010, The Foundry Art Gallery has been a staple of the downtown scene, particularly on First Fridays. Christina and Ty Sweet, the owners, struggled to keep the gallery afloat but eventually were forced to close it. Christina Sweet told me she will go back to painting and will work with Don Martin, who owns The Metro Galleries next door, on an annual Foundry exhibit. (file photo of Christina Sweet)

 * ... DIAPERS: This comes from my friend Esther, a resident of La Cresta. She was walking her dog on the Panorama Bluffs last week when a car pulled up and five young people piled out. "There were two women and one had a baby in a stroller. They put the baby in the stroller and walked off. When I went to cross Panorama, I saw they left a fresh diaper right there on the curb. I was so mad. Then I saw they left their sun roof open so I tossed the diaper inside."

 * … HIGHWAY: Reader Sam Rodriguez poses this question: "I would like to know who is the brains behind eliminating the left turn lane heading east on Highway 178 to turn on to Masterson. Now you have to literally come to a stop on 178 to turn left onto Masterson. Needless to say this is very unsafe.  My daughter takes my grandson to school at St. Francis every morning and she says after dropping him off and coming home she has almost been rear ended twice. Just a very unsafe thing having to stop on a busy highway to make a left turn in front of westbound travelers on 178.

* … GOOD FORM: Hats off to Kerry Ryan and the crew at Action Sports for taking the time to conduct a bike maintenance class to Boy Scout Troop 147. Said Tom Saba, father of one of the Scouts: "This is the second time this past year that he has volunteered his time and resources in this manner. This helps the boys complete their cycling merit badge course."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Younger people are avoiding signing up for the Affordable Care Act, and CSUB gets ready to kick off its men's basketball season

 * … OBAMACARE: Now that the Affordable Care Act is law, it appears its clunky website is only a small part of its many problems. The bigger issue, according to experts, is the reluctance of young people to sign up in the exchanges. Why? Most young people are healthy, broke and just starting out in their
careers, and the idea of paying $200 to $300 a month for a plan they rarely use is asking a lot. The problem: the economics of Obamacare depends on younger people subsidizing older people, and if this doesn't happen, the system will collapse under its own weight. Stay tuned.

 * … CSUB: Keep an eye on the Cal State Bakersfield men's basketball team this year as it competes in the Western Athletic Conference. Coach Rod Barnes is now in his third year and told me his team enters this year healthy and ready to compete for a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Runners kick off the season with an away game this Friday against the PAC 12's Washington State, followed by their first home game at the Icardo Center on Monday against UC Merced.

 * … ACHIEVER: Bakersfield High principal David Reese shared with me a story of a local Driller who has gone on to make her hometown proud. She is Dr. Katrina B. Mitchell, a 1996 BHS grad who is now a general surgery resident at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with summa cum laude in history from Bowdoin College. She has now been honored with the Surgical Volunteerism Award for her outreach during residency and her contributions toward improving surgical care and education in Tanzania.

 * … MUSIC: Hats off to a few friends and colleagues of mine who have found a way to bring fresh new music to our town. Four friends - Herb Benham, Rogers Brandon, Harry Starkey and Jeff Pickering - formed a non profit called "Passing Through" to bring new musical acts to town. Over the weekend, upcoming solo artist Patrick Park sang for a crowd of 80 people at the beautifully decorated Metro Galleries. It was an eclectic mix in the audience, everyone from musicians Jim Shaw and Monty Byrom to former congressman Bill Thomas and his wife Sharon to Secure Systems owners Bruce and Molly Bussaca. If you ever get a chance to take in one of these concerts, you should do so. Up next: the band Houston Jones on Sunday, Nov. 17.

 * … FUND RAISER: Don't forget to make reservations for the big fund raiser for Catholic Charities Harvest for Hope set for this Saturday at the old satellite wagering building at the Kern County Fairground. Monsignor Craig Harrison will be there to hold court and the proceeds will go to help the neediest in our community. Doors open at 6 p.m. and tickets are $100 each. Call (661) 281-2130 to reserve your tickets.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Bakersfield traveler witnesses the LAX shooting death of a TSA agent and a warning to parents to beware of stalkers around schools

 * … SHOOTING: Arnold Johansen was at Los Angeles International Airport to witness the horrific shooting death of a TSA security agent last week. He was at Terminal 3 waiting to board a flight to Chicago on Virgin American when the shooting took place. His account, in his words: "I didn’t witness the start of the incident, but was at gate 36 close to where the shooter was stopped, (shot). The shots
sounded like firecrackers going off. People were running and going through emergency doors to escape the building. The alarms were going off and people were taking any door they could to get out of the building. After the shooting  stopped, I looked around the post to see the body laying on the floor and someone with a gun about 50 feet away. At that point I took off through one of the open doors and made it to the tarmac with hundreds of other travelers. You could see people coming out of  all the doors. After ten to twenty  minutes they picked up all of us in buses and took us to the Bradley International Terminal where we were locked down for five to six hours. They eventually brought bottled water and some airline snacks for everyone. There must have been two to three thousand people in the building. Felt sorry for those with little kids. What an experience. Still waiting to get my luggage. The airlines said they would deliver it once the FBI, etc. reopened the building/crime scene. I hope it shows up sometime this week. I decided to skip Chicago since all flights were cancelled and I couldn’t get my bag. It took me two hours to get to my car and get on 405 to head back to Bakersfield. I have never seen so many cops and CHP officers and cars in my life. People were walking to the terminal for over a mile because the streets were blocked by law enforcement." (photo courtesy of ABC News)

 * … HEADS UP: For all you parents out there, I am sharing this warning I spotted on Facebook. A mother wrote that on Thursday, her "two precious girls were walking to a friends house after school because there dad wasn't home yet and an older man around 50 years old in a white Dodge truck stopped and tried to get them into his truck. THANK GOD they knew better and ran as fast as they could to a neighbors house! They were in Rosedale off Verdugo by Almondale Elementary School. Their dad called the police and made a report, please please please re-post this and if anyone see's a white Dodge with a faded hood call 911 so we can get this guy off the streets!"

 * … ACHIEVER: I ran into Riley Scott the other day, the witty and gregarious son of KGET anchor Jim Scott and Memorial Hospital's Robin Mangarin. The Garces Memorial High School product graduated from Cornell University this past May and is currently the marketing account manager for The Bako sweet organic produce line for Valpredo Farms Country Sweet Produce. He manages the Southern California Whole Foods account where he just began in store demonstrations promoting the microwavable sweet potato packages for the holidays. Good to see these local young men and women doing so well.

* … CAT PEOPLE: The Cat People organization will be taking photos of children and their pets in December to raise money. This is an annual event held at Petco on Rosedale Highway the first two Saturdays in December from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The photos are available the same day. The cost is $8.95 for one 4 X 6 photo, additional CD of images available for $10.

House Majority Whip McCarthy to President: Where is the accountability, transparence and fairness you promised with Obamacare?

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

 “…Because of the requirements of the new laws, we can no longer offer your current Anthem policy.”

“…You will need to change health benefits plans because your policy will no longer be available after January 1, 2014.”

 "The above quotes are from letters that have been sent to families and individuals in our community and across the country. Compare the quotes above to the ones we heard over and over again from President Obama: 'if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan' or 'nothing will change, period.'
"As the bad news continues to build on Obamacare, I ask the President: Where is the accountability, transparency, and fairness that you promised to the American people?

 "This past Thursday night, CBS reported a shocking, but not surprising, revelation on the enrollment figures for the October 1st Obamacare exchange rollout.  According to documents handed over to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) convened regular meetings after the online exchange’s initial crash.  By the end of first night, only 6 people had successfully enrolled. By Wednesday afternoon, only 100, and by the end of Wednesday night, only 248 were able to purchase health insurance policies nationwide.

 "This must be why two days earlier on Tuesday, Marilyn Tavenner, who heads CMS, the agency in charge of constructing, testified before the House Ways and Means Committee.  When repeatedly asked by both Chairman Dave Camp and other members on why she would not disclose enrollment figures, she continuously answered that such figures would not be available until mid-November.

  "It is very clear why the Obama Administration and his senior officials refuse to shed any light on something as simple as enrollment numbers. The simple answer is that they know the rollout is, and has been, a major failure.  On top of that, they are doing everything possible to keep that fact hidden from public scrutiny.

 "And as Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week, was not functioning properly. 

  "Hardworking Americans are facing an unfortunate reality - cancelled plans and higher premiums. It is time to examine real health care solutions that remove this command-and-control mentality in health care and empower consumer choice and market competition.