Saturday, March 15, 2014

McCarthy: President Obama's administration guilty of one broken promise after another

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

 "At a 2008 campaign event, then-Senator Barack Obama proclaimed: 'I take the Constitution very seriously. The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the Executive Branch and not go through Congress at all.  And that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m President of the United States of America.'

"Let’s mark that down as yet another broken promise.

"The Obama Administration's willingness to ignore Congress and unilaterally change laws that don’t suit his purposes are actions that directly conflict with our constitutional system of separation of powers.

 "The examples are numerous. After it became apparent that millions of Americans would not be able to keep the health care plans they liked, the President issued a temporary exemption to the minimum insurance requirements established by Obamacare. And when that temporary reprieve was not enough to avoid further political fallout, the Administration just last week extended the compliance date by two years. In total, the Obama Administration has modified its signature health care law—without statutory authority—over 20 times.

 "The President’s overreach has extended beyond just health care, though. Last August, Attorney General Eric Holder announced changes in federal mandatory minimum sentencing policies for non-violent drug offenders, reforms that are constitutionally required to come from Congress. And in July of 2012, the Obama Administration waived the statutory work requirements that were a critical element of the bipartisan 1996 Welfare Reform Law.

 "That’s why Congress this week passed legislation to address the increasingly alarming Imperial Presidency. First, we passed the ENFORCE the Law Act. This bill allows the House or the Senate to bring a lawsuit against the Executive Branch when it chooses to ignore or nullify duly-passed pieces of legislation. We also passed the Faithful Execution of the Law Act, which requires the Attorney General to notify Congress anytime a federal agency sets a policy that would cease enforcement of existing law. Congress is a co-equal branch of government, and we at least deserve to understand how the Executive Branch is enforcing or ignoring the bills that are signed into law.

 "When America’s Founding Fathers framed our Constitution, they designed a separation of powers system in which each branch was given specific duties and responsibilities. The Legislative Branch was tasked with writing law, and the Executive Branch was instructed to “faithfully execute the law.” President Obama’s decision to “go it alone” threatens this balance. It is the Constitution that has held our nation together during her trying times, and it will be the Constitution that leads America to even better days.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The rash of accidents and speeding-related deaths around Bakersfield raises new questions about obtaining a driver's license, and kudos to Henley's Photo shop

 * … SAFETY: The rash of speeding-related accidents around town - the last one on Saturday
when a 54-year-old man was killed on Gosford Road - has folks talking about road safety. Stephen A. Montgomery offered his view: "One thing that should happen is make greater restrictions on who is granted a driver's license. In the industrialized world the U.S. states appear to have the easiest path to getting a drivers' license requiring little beyond an easy test and a quick drive to get one. Most countries serious about driver safety require the applicant to actually show they have the skills and attitude to properly and safely operate a motor vehicle."

* … HENLEY'S: Glenn Porter reached out to me to praise the customer service at Henley's Photos, which recently changed hands. "Our family has done business with Henley's for years, but recently had the experience of working with the new owner, Jimmy Bunting, and was absolutely awed by the number of positive changes he has made to what was already great.  He brings together extensive knowledge with film photography utilizing cameras that are well over 100 years old, melds that superior knowledge of digital photography and videography and caps it all off with brand new, state-of- the-art printing technology. They even have classes to help you learn to use the features your camera has so that you can take professional looking photographs.   The store is currently undergoing a major rehab, but even now you will be greeted by friendly, knowledgable photo experts, which is a refreshing change from what you get at with the kiosk approach at drugs or membership stores. Congratulations to the new owners of Henley's for making a great store even better."

 * … ST. FRANCIS: It's that time of year again and St. Francis Parish School will be hosting its Pot of Gold celebration to raise money for St. Vincent De Paul and Mercy without Borders. All week the students have been collecting donation and are hoping to top the $2,000 they raised last year.
The celebration will be held on Monday, March 17, from 7:50 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. at St. Francis Parish School. The children and staff (along with Monsignor Craig Harrison) will be performing the Irish Jig.

 * … MEMORIES: One of my regular contributors, Elinor Grant, submitted this memory of old Bakersfield: "I have fond memories of the meat market at 23rd and L streets. My grandmother and I would take the street car up town and walk over to the market. Among other things she would purchase a pound of wieners, the good old fashioned kind.On the ride back to our neighborhood she would open up the package and we would each eat a wiener. And does anyone remember the Japanese fish market in the same general area?"

 * … SALAD BOWL: Ilona Wilson of Sacramento sent me this note: "I was wondering if you could help and give me the address for the Old Salad Bowl Restaurant that used to be on Chester Avenue in the 1960s?  Is it still there or was building torn down? What store or restaurant is there today?  Was thinking of stopping by on our next trip to Los Angeles." Can anyone help the Wilsons?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Has Gosford road become our version of the German autobahn? And who posts pictures of themselves smoking pot, posing with guns and flashing gang signs? Youthful indiscretion or just plain stupid?

 * … GOSFORD: The recent accident on Gosford Road that took a Rohnert Park man's life was beyond senseless, especially if it's true that a 22-year-old man was speeding and he caused it to happen. Betsy Gosling was in the Town and Country Shopping Center at the time.. "I saw
the most horrendous collision I have ever seen. I heard the fire truck siren coming, several women standing on the northbound sidewalk, one appeared to be very emotionally upset. There were two cars in the northbound lanes, completely destroyed, one upside down… As I  attempted to maneuver through the debris across the southbound lanes, I prayed for God to  have  mercy. My prayers are for all those  families involved, especially the family of the man who was killed," she said. "What is it going to take to stop this reckless driving? My daughter describes Gosford, going south, as the 'autobaun' Bakersfield Police at that intersection issuing tickets might help. Possibly  the victims would consider donating those cars to the CHP and place them on the high school grounds for the kids to see what happens when you speed on city streets and run red lights... SLOW DOWN and live." Witnesses said the Civic was speeding, but the investigation is continuing and police have yet to bring charges. (Bakersfield Californian photo)

 * … WRECK: When horrific accidents like this happen, people will often search social media sites like Facebook to learn more about the people involved. And sure enough, it wasn't long before people were sharing links to a Facebook page of a young man with the same name as the driver of the white Honda Civic. Who knows if it is the same person, but this is a lesson in what many people think is appropriate to post for all the world to see. This particular Facebook page owner posted pictures of himself flashing gang signs, posing with weapons, presumably smoking pot, and with cash and drug paraphernalia strewn about a countertop. Whoever owns this account - and I stress there is no certainty it is the same person involved in the accident - should grow up and take these photos down. Youthful indiscretion aside, it's simply bad form.

 * … JURY DUTY: Steve Robinson was sitting in jury duty recently and had plenty of time to think about the process of what he called an inefficient system. "All of us dread the inevitable summons, but the most agonizing component of jury duty is not the task itself, but having to waste a day observing a part of our civic duty that can be streamlined.  Reporting time is 7:30 a.m. but the earliest you get called to action is 9 a.m. You then sit in a room for two more hours before you enjoy a two hour lunch. After lunch, you sit for two more hours and are then sent home at 4 p.m.  If you get called to a courtroom, you then sit for the better part of an hour listening to juror instructions. Wouldn't it be a better use of time to use the 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. time period to read jury instructions to an already captive audience in the juror room so the judge could just call the prospective jurors into his chambers and get down to business?  On the other hand, is it too much to ask for courtrooms to organize themselves in a way so they are prepared to call prospective jurors first thing in the morning rather than make hundreds of people wait an entire day to see if they are called to duty?

 * … TUNNELS:  Yet another reader remembers the tunnels that snake under downtown Bakersfield. Said Ronal Reynier: "I remember seeing the entrance to one when years ago they tore down the old 'REX' theater. What I most remember is the painted billboard that was exposed on the wall next to it.
I do not recall the name of the establishment. but it advertised a 'Free lunch, with a 5 cent (10 cent?) beer.' I have no idea when it was painted, but have wondered about it for years. I believe that
the Bakersfield Californian took photos of it at the time. I have wondered what type of lunch you received with that beer. It had a drawing of a sandwich on a plate with pickles, I believe. It was faded but quite a work of art. Was it done for free beer?"

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Merle Haggard plays at the Fox Theater, a professional tennis tournament takes over the Bakersfield Racquet Club, and was I guilty of bullying in remarking on Kim Novak's appearance?

* … TENNIS: I stopped by the Bakersfield Racquet Club on Saturday to watch the qualifying round for a big USTA tournament there. The club has never looked better, the players were phenomenal and I was pleased to see that Randy Martin and his crew from Covenant Coffee had taken over the snack
shop and were doing a brisk business. The tournament runs this entire week, and there is no cost to come watch tennis on a professional level. Drop by this week to catch the action.

 * … MERLE: Merle Haggard performed before a sold out crowd at the Fox Theater Saturday, and longtime Californian photographer John Harte (now retired) shot the concert. "My favorite Merle Haggard song is and always has been 'Silver Wings, ever since the day my longtime friend Bill Wheeler introduced me to his music, driving around Taft in the 1970s in his Datsun pickup. 'Mama Tried' is my second favorite. When I got the assignment to photograph Merle for The Californian, it came with an odd request: He was asking that we shoot songs 4, 5 and 6. I've been covering concerts for 35 years, probably hundreds of them, and this is the first time anyone has ever made 4 through 6 the songs we can shoot. It has always been the first two or three. Anyway, I waited out the first three songs, and song four started. Guess what? Yep, 'Silver Wings.' Then '[I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink,' and then, yep, 'Mama Tried.' This, my friends, is the first version of a story I will tell forever, the story of the night Merle Haggard gave me my own personal concert!"

* … BULLYING: After one reader accused me of "bullying" by questioning the appearance of Kim Novak at the Oscars, John Sarad wrote in with his take. "I usually smile when I read your blog. I did not when I read today that you are officially a bully. It’s about time we decide what bullying really is.  If you say something that is not threatening or coercive, but with which someone with thin skin takes offense or merely disagrees, is it really an act of bullying?  Is calling someone a bully under those circumstances actually bullying as well under that definition. I recall when the neighborhood bully beat up on the nerds and was an actual threat. My mom always told me to defend myself and remember what is now so out of favor…'Sticks and stone will break my bones, but words will never hurt me!'  What an age we live in."

 * … MORE BULLYING: And there was this from Phillip Anderson commenting on Kim Novak: "I agree with you. Way too much work. I am their age and look at me! Wait… forget that. But I do think you can comment on their looks as they are celebrities and they're the ones showing poor taste in their appearance."

 * … BAD FORM: Kathryn Guerra was driving to Tehachapi on Highway 58 when she witnessed some appalling behavior. A truck driver was passing another truck, and correctly signaled his intentions as he passed and then pulled back into the slow lane. But apparently he didn't do it fast enough for a car of young people that was behind him. "The 20 somethings paced themselves next to the truck, rolled down all four windows in the vehicle and proceeded to direct a one fingered wave at the truck driver for almost two miles," she said. "Do these young people not have any patience? Do they not realize that trucks deliver many of the things they use daily? ...Why must people be so rude? The truck signaled in plenty of time and did what was necessary."

 * … VILLAGE GRILL:  We all make our own traditions, and one that has been going on for over 10 years happens the first Monday of every month at the Village Grill. It's a reunion of a group of retired Bakersfield High School teachers, many of whom retired in June, 2004. Among them are Marjorie Bell, Jim Cowles, Maria Polite, Vicki Bousquet and Donna Long. "Darn good food and service," Bell told me.  "And our waitresses have always been great about writing separate checks. And don't forget to mention their special coffees.