Friday, December 6, 2013

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy: Obamacare weighs on U.S. economy and impairs our 'engines of prosperity' from running at full throttle

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

 "In this stale economic climate, this morning’s unemployment numbers were encouraging, but one thing remains clear:  America’s engines of prosperity are not running at full throttle.  This week,
the President accused Congressional Republicans of not offering solutions to the pressing issues of our day.  He should know that as the first session of this Congress comes to a close, nearly 150 bills passed by the House have yet to be acted on by the Senate.  More importantly, dozens of those bills seek to not only boost job creation nationwide, but also strengthen our local and state economy.  From increasing domestic energy supply by opening up federal lands for production,  to reforming job training programs, reducing unnecessary regulations and providing more flexibility to working families – these bills have been collecting dust as the Senate refuses to serve the will of the American people.

 "We cannot talk about our country’s business climate without pointing out the obvious weight of Obamacare on employers, employees, and families.  I refuse to accept the President’s logic that Obamacare is the only single way towards affordable health care.  While he claims that Republicans have never offered any ideas of their own, back in 2009, both House and Senate Republicans introduced several patient-based alternatives to Obamacare.  These alternatives, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), would have reduced average health insurance premiums in the individual market 5-8 percent while simultaneously cutting the federal deficit by $68 billion over ten years.  These alternatives would have offered safeguards for individuals with pre-existing conditions, and allow the purchase of insurance plans across state lines.  Most importantly, our plans would not result in the skyrocketing prices in the way Obamacare does.  

 "This week, while the President touted enrollee numbers of 29,000 during another “re-launch” of, he ignores that the law has resulted in the cancellation of 5.6 million insurance plans.

  "It’s time the Senate begins considering the jobs bills gathering dust on Harry Reid’s desk to put Americans back to work, and it’s time for the President to come to the table and have a real conversation on improving our business climate and jumpstart our economy.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

New report shows the San Joaquin Valley and Inland Empire lagging behind coastal counties in job grow and economic recovery, and did you hear about the mice drop in Guam?

 * … ECONOMY: There was little surprise in the latest UCLA report on the California economy, which showed an uneven recovery across the state. Coastal counties, from San Diego north, have shown strong gains in employment and housing, while here in the San Joaquin Valley we actually may have lost ground. Some areas of the coast boast jobless rates about half of what they are here and in the Inland Empire.

 * … COURTESY: Most of the random surveys you see online - covering everything from sex to intelligence to healthy communities - aren't worth their weight in salt, but that doesn't mean we don't read them. Which is why I am passing along this survey from the online news aggregator ranking the most and least courteous states. This information was gleaned from hundreds of telephone surveys, or so I am told. The most courteous states: South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, Louisiana and Georgia. The least: Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Indiana, Tennessee and Ohio.

 * … SNAKES: And speaking of odd stories, did you hear the one about the U.S. government dropping thousands of dead mice on a U.S. military base on the island of Guam? That's right. Apparently they did it to thin the population of the brown tree snake, an invasive species that has
"caused millions of dollars in wildlife and commercial losses since it arrived a few decades ago." The mice were pumped full of painkillers. As NBC reported: "The unlikely invasion was the fourth and biggest rodent air assault so far, part of an $8 million U.S. program approved in February to eradicate the snakes and save the exotic native birds that are their snack food."

 * … STEPANOVICH: Mike Stepanovich, executive director of the Bakersfield College Foundation, has announced he will be retiring next year. The gregarious Stepanovich, known for his knowledge and love of wine, has long been active in our community. Next year, Stepanovich will serve as president of Breakfast Rotary. Previously he worked at Cal State Bakersfield as well as The Californian.

* … FIRST FRIDAY: The Bakersfield Art Association's art center will be holding a Christmas open house party this Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. There will be a raffle for workshops and art supplies valued at $600. And make sure you stop by the art center, located an 1817 Eye Street, on First Friday to view the works of more than 40 local artists.

* … MEMORIES: Reader John D. Mixon wrote to say he remembers the old World War II military housing site near the airport.  "After I returned from the Korean War in the summer of 1951, I bought a house on Margo Lane from Ralph Smith. Brand new three bedroom, hardwood floors, for $7,600, with a GI loan of 4 percent... just south of the Wingland School which was built later, around 1955. (Reader) Russell (Rink) should remember the 'Little Green Store' which was just southeast of that complex, and the fact that you could see clear to the old airport terminal."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

U.S. 15-year-olds lose ground to other nations in math, science and reading on international tests, but at least we have First Friday to look forward to

 * … SCORES: A new international research survey shows that U.S. 15-year-olds have lost ground to their counterparts in other countries when it comes to math and science. The study showed that the
American students slid from 25th to 31st in match since 2009, from 20th to 24th in science and from 11th to 21st in reading. All this does not bode well for students who are growing up in a global economy. While we slide, other countries like Poland and Ireland improved and moved ahead of the United States.

 * … FIRST FRIDAY: It's time for the December First Friday downtown, and there's no better place to pick up unique Christmas gifts. My suggestions: Start at the Ice House Framing and Gallery on 19th Street, then head to Kuka's Folk Art across the street or In Your Wildest Dreams across from The Padre Hotel. Or pick up gift certificates from any of the locally owned downtown restaurants, including Muertos, The Mark, Uricchio's Trattoria, Chef's Choice Noodle Bar or the fun and funky pet store Biscuit Boutique. The downtown art galleries open at 5 p.m. Over at The Metro Galleries, a stunning new show will feature the work of Pasadena artist (and former Bakersfield resident) Faith Taylor while The Foundry will hold its last exhibit before closing its doors for good. (photo of one of Taylor's paintings).

 * … PHOTOGRAPHY: Meanwhile there is another interesting show this Friday at the Ice House Framing and Gallery on 19th Street. The business will be featuring the photography of Anthony Ghighia, a well known surf photographer whose images are breathtaking.  The La Jolla-based Ghiglia is a senior photographer at Surfer Magazine.

* … HELMETS: The Bakersfield Family Medical Center/Heritage Physicians Network are running a commercial on local television that has some folks scratching their heads. Among them is Elton Kelly, who noted the commercials show a mother, father and two children on bicycles at a local park, not wearing helmets. Said Kelly: "I have a vested interest in wearing a helmet as 20 plus yearsm ago I crashed and smashed my helmet - but, saved my head."

 * … MEMORIES: Russell L. Rink has a question for all you Bakersfield old timers: "I was wondering if anyone remembers the old military complex in Oildale that was bounded on the north side by Douglas Street and was called Veterans Square.  The complex was converted to apartments for veterans after WW II.  I lived there in the late 1940s. We lived on Highland Drive.  It was just east of the Kern County airport and east of the now existing Wingland School."

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Bako Bits: Bicyclist is assaulted on the bike path near Chester Avenue and more stories on dirty diapers discarded in the most unlikely places

* … LONGEVITY: Some interesting tidbits from an essay in the Sunday New York Times on again: "Just 10 percent of the population - mainly the elderly - consumes about 80 percent of health care expenditures, primarily on expensive chronic illnesses and end-of-life costs. Historically, the longer lives that medical advances have given us have run exactly parallel to the increase in chronic illness and the explosion in costs. Can we possibly afford to live even long - much less radically longer?"

* … ASSAULT: For all of you who use bike path near Beach Park, always be aware of your surroundings and personal  safety. The bike path is typically safe, but I spotted this warning on a cycling email thread posted by a Bakersfield teacher. "On Tuesday, November 26 a friend of mine was riding at 4:30 in the afternoon under the Chester overpass. A black male approximately 6-foot, one-inch leapt from the rocks and knocked my friend from his bike. A lengthily tug-of-war ensued but the rider eventually scored a solid left to the temple of the would be thief which caused him to stagger off at a quick pace.  The cyclist got on his bike to chase and ran into a police officer who was making a double arrest only 600 feet away but somehow the assailant escaped.  Be careful and make sure to keep a proximity to others when possible."

* … DIAPERS: Mike Sullivan dropped me this note about his own brush with bad behavior. "I hope you wouldn't mind hearing another note with reference to the totally sick behavior inflicted upon society by mindless diaper changing antics. This past week I had the honor to escort my sister and niece into one of California's and our great nations treasures, Yosemite National Park. Upon going thru the tunnel they experienced the majestic site of the valley for their first time. After having a late lunch at the hotel we were getting into the truck, when lo an behold there lay a neatly rolled dirty diaper. This was within 50 to 60 feet from a trash can."

 * … ACHIEVER: More positive news on local Bakersfield products going out into the world and making a difference. Dick Taylor, director of the Kern County Veterans Service Department, shared this information his nephew, Matt Barnes. Barnes, now 41, is the men's soccer head coach at Lubbock Christian University. He was introduced recently as the Premier Development League soccer franchise's third coach in its six-year history. He graduated from Judson University and previously served on the staff of the CSUB men's soccer team. He also coached at the high school level at both Centennial and Stockdale high schools.

 * … SPOTTED: Gerry Huggins, a Bakersfield native and saxophonist who moved to a small community in Missouri, recently shared this on Facebook: "Almost all of the convenience stores here have drive ups. I have never seen or even heard of this in California! You can pump your gas first, then pay for it. I think they abolished this in California when I was a kid."

 * … BAKERSFIELDISM: You know you're from Bakersfield if you remember the "house below the (Panorama) bluffs," an old water company house built to manage the weir.