Friday, July 11, 2014

House Majority Leader McCarthy: the IRS scandal may be the tip of the iceberg and the Obama administration deals with scandal after scandal

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

 "As a Conservative, I believe in limited government. Freedom is the engine that drives America’s greatness, but the unprecedented growth of the federal government in recent years threatens to undermine this freedom. While President Obama and Washington Democrats used their
supermajority to greatly expand the Federal government from 2008 to 2010, the increasing power wielded by unelected bureaucrats in Washington is equally troubling. And nowhere has this become more apparent recently than with the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

 "The revelation that the IRS unlawfully targeted groups because of their political views was shocking, to say the least. But the recent claims that two years’ worth of emails from former IRS official Lois Lerner are now “lost” is unacceptable and simply hard to believe. This week, the House Oversight Committee released an email chain between Ms. Lerner and an IRS technology specialist from April 2013, less than two weeks after the IRS scandal came to light. In the thread, Ms. Lerner inquired about the ability to search for instant messages sent on the IRS email server, telling her colleagues about the “need to be cautious about what we say” since Congress could later request to see these messages. When told that the IRS software was not set to automatically save these messages, Ms. Lerner replied: “Perfect.” The disappearance of Ms. Lerner’s emails, in combination with her refusal to testify on multiple occasions and the latest revealed memo to her staff to cover their tracks, leads me only to believe that she has something to hide, and the House will not stop until we get to the bottom of this scandal.

  "In addition, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing on Tuesday in which several whistle-blowers offered shocking testimony detailing extreme dysfunction in the VA. They confirmed troubling reports of a VA that has neglected veterans, falsified records, and harassed those employees who attempted to expose such failings. Personnel change is a necessary first step in reforming the VA, but these problems will persist until there is a complete change in the culture of the VA. The men and women who have fought so bravely for us deserve nothing but the best, and I will continue my fight to ensure increased accountability within the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, and provide greater care for our veterans and their families.

 "Our government should represent the representative democracy that our Founders envisioned and established. Yielding more and more power to unelected bureaucrats to intervene in our everyday lives runs counter to that vision and I will continue to work to rein them in.

Bakersfield cyclist severely injured while cycling near Lake Tahoe, fights for his life

 A Bakersfield man was severely injured Thursday when his bicycle was hit by a semi-truck near Lake Tahoe. Police it it happened in the Cave Rock tunnel where 49-year-old Mike Aldridge was cycling.
 Apparently there isn't a bike lane in the tunnel and the east bound truck ran over Aldridge. The accident happened around 9:40 a.m. on Thursday.
 Unconfirmed reports say Aldridge is in danger of losing one leg. Prayer requests were appearing on social media websites as Aldridge underwent surgery. (photo courtesy of the Reno Gazette-Journal)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Is public opinion moving toward banning fireworks? And when will the Bakersfield City Council put public safety over the needs of the non profits who sell fireworks?

 * … FIREWORKS: Until our City Council puts public safety over the needs of the non profits, Bakersfield will continue to endure the danger that both legal and illegal fireworks pose every July Fourth. But it does appear that public opinion appears to be moving in favor of a ban. Take for example Kathy Scott, one reader who has always enjoyed small firework displays in her neighborhood, until recently. "This year our home was rattled with what seemed to be bottle rockets, fireworks setting homes on fire in nearby neighborhoods, and several nights later this is still continuing." Then, her daughter in Indiana called to say her own daughter had been burned by remnants falling from the sky. Kathy's solution? Outlaw home fireworks but provide plenty of venues for controlled displays.

 * … THE MARK: A beautiful new patio with outdoor seating is getting ready to open at The Mark, one of downtown's newer upscale eateries. The restaurant leased a small parking lot next door on19th Street, cordoned it off with New Orleans-style wrought iron, and is installing an outdoor bar and seating. It should open in about a month.

 * … FOOD DEALS: And speaking of local restaurants, the Wall Street Cafe on L Street is now offering 50 percent off all bottles of wine on Wednesdays. And over at Uricchio's Trattoria downtown, they are offering a $6 happy hour artichoke pizza that is outstanding.

 * … HALL OF FAME: Congratulations to Bakersfield's Hal Stewart and Kernville's Paul Mooney for being inducted into the California Skeet Shooting Hall of Fame. Along with Keith Phelps and Fred Sanders of Southern California, Stewart and Mooney were inducted after last weekend's state championship that was held at the Kern County Gun Club. Stewart worked at KMC as director of pharmacy services for 27.5 years and the last seven years for Kern Health Systems as its corporate pharmacist. Mooney is a broker/owner with Century 21 of Lake Isabella Realty.

* … WATER: If you want some tips on how to deal with the drought, head over to Urner's Appliance Center this Saturday where the Water Association of Kern County and other agencies will be giving out free advice on water saving appliances, landscaping and more. It runs from 9 a.m. to noon.

 * … OUR THIN SKIN: I've been thinking a lot about how our community reacts to criticism (the latest was the salvo from actor Eric Roberts who stayed in town long to determine that we "suck.") It reminded of a recent column by the New York Times' David Brooks in which Brooks - unlike Roberts - catches the nuances of life, community and self esteem. In his words: "People with a crooked timber mentality tend to see life as full of ironies. Intellectual life is ironic because really smart people often do the dumbest things precisely because they are carried away by their own brilliance. Politics is ironic because powerful people make themselves vulnerable because they think they can achieve more than they can. Marriage is ironic because you are trying to build a pure relationship out of people who are ramshackle and mess." And finally Brooks concludes, and this is for you, Eric: "Have you noticed that people from ugly places love their cities more tenaciously than people from beautiful cities?" And that is because happiness is earned through friendships and human kindness, not geography or a view.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Actor Eric Roberts puts his foot firmly in his mouth and celebrating the "michelada," a beer spritzer perfect for a lazy day on the beach

 REALLY BAD FORM: Hollywood is known as the home of inflated egos, but what happened to decorum and common courtesy? This came to mind when KBAK TV aired an interview with actor Eric Roberts (brother of Julia Roberts) who is town filming a movie. After asking a KBAK cameraman if he lived here, Roberts said:  "Then you know how it is in Bakersfield. Bakersfield sucks. It's simple. It's a terrible place, geographically, weather-wise, everything. But, the people are the coolest. What can I tell you?" Gee, thanks for the compliment, Eric. I think.

* … MICHELADA: One of my pleasant surprises on a recent trip to Mexico was the discovery of the "michelada," a wonderful cocktail consisting of lime juice, ice and local beer served with salt around the rim. (I was berated by my older daughter for not knowing about it) It's available at a few places in town, but I am surprised it's not more popular during our sweltering summer.

* … GOOD FORM: Juliane Knowles wrote to share a good deed that happened at the El Pollo Loco in the Southwest. "My friend's dog had jumped out of her window as she was in the drive thru at El Pollo Loco. Two lovely women in a green compact car had noticed him and put him in their car and then circled the parking lot looking for the panicked owner. My friend and I wanted to let them know how grateful we are. Thank you for being great citizens!"

 * … FIREWORKS: Count me among those who agree with Lois Henry that it's time to ban fireworks in Kern County. The sheer number of reported illegal fireworks this past Fourth of July was simply stunning, not to mention the damages from roof fires and personal injuries. Enough should be enough.

 * … VETERAN: Here's a little tidbit that should bring a smile to your day. Jim Lopez is a 77-year-old Vietnam veteran who recently ate at the IHOP on Buck Owens Boulevard. "As I was enjoying my breakfast a nice looking gentleman with a white beard, glasses and a beautiful wife, came up to me and thanked me for serving my country," he said. "Being a Vietnam veteran, we didn't get many gestures of gratitude upon our return from combat except from each other. I want to let this man and his wife know how grateful a simple thank you can mean to a veteran… I hope he has the opportunity to see this note of thanks for being so kind and for being a patriot of this grate nation."

 * … ACHIEVER: And more in the good news department, this comes compliments of East Bakersfiel High principal Lee Vasquez. "I am very pleased to inform you that one of our alumni, Victoria Warner, has graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo University, Summa Cum Laude and will be attending Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Massachusetts this coming fall. Victoria is a 2010 graduate of East Bakersfield High School and she is the daughter of Mike and Diane Warner.  Mike is the instructor for our East Bakersfield High School Historical Archiving Class, is president of the Ken Historical Society and has been a Master Teacher for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in the State of  Virginia for 19 Summers. Mike designs curriculum, teaches workshops and trains teachers in American History instruction in a re-created 18th Century America total immersion program. What a great example of a Proud Bakersfield family."

Sunday, July 6, 2014

He's back from vacation, some kudos for our Kern County Parkway bike path, and more bad form after trashing our local city parks

 * … HE'S BACK: Yes, I am back from a two week vacation. It's amazing how time off can cleanse and sharpen one's focus, and when I travel, I am always in awe of what a small world we share. In Zihuatanejo, Mexico, I met a cabbie who lived for three years picking grapes in Delano. The work
was backbreaking, he was working without documents, and he went home. Another acquaintance told me he spent six years in Fresno and Los Angeles and knew Bakersfield well. And finally in Barra de Potosi, a picturesque fishing village, I met a young man named Hugo who spent several years in the same neighborhood of Atlanta where I was raised. And as always, no matter how good the time off, it is always good to come home.

* … BIKE PATH: Sometimes we all need the perspective of a visitor to appreciate what we have. This from my colleague Rachel Cook, assistant managing editor of BakersfieldLife magazine. "My mom and her husband were visiting from Idaho this weekend and we took two rides on the Kern River Parkway bike path. They raved about how wonderful the trail is and how well maintained it is. My mom in particular gushed that it was nicer than trails she's ridden in Vail and Boise because it's so smooth. They also noticed that the people of Bakersfield are very friendly and welcoming. Altogether, Bakersfield made a great impression on them!"

 * …. TRASH: And there was this from an anonymous writer: "It is a shame the amount of trash that has been left at Jastro Park following a large gathering yesterday. I don't know if the city requires a permit to have a party at the park, but whoever reserved the park should be charged for the cleanup. It is a disaster."

 * … PISMO: In contrast, the beach at Pismo was thoroughly cleaned by 8 a.m. the day after the Fourth of July celebrations.

* … PITBULL LAWYERS: Reader Margie C. Casado rose to my defense after I referred to lawyers H.A. Sala and Daniel Rodriguez as being pit bull attorneys. "I did not read where you referred to counsel as pit bulls but, I would agree with you on that term. I own pit bulls and I am Hispanic. I fail to see the connection that Julie Womack was making and I don't know why she made a big deal out of your comment. Anyone living in this town knows what great attorneys H.A. Sala, Daniel Rodriquez and David Torres are. There are lawyers of other ethnic groups that are good at their profession also. I am glad you answered Julie the way you did without apologizing. To me, you were paying Mr. Sala and Mr. Rodriquez a compliment by calling them pit bulls."

* … MEMORIES: Ronal Reynier wrote to comment on the historic front pages that have been reprinted in the pages of the newspaper. "It would be interesting to see a reprint of sales advertisements.
Some years ago, while researching at the library, I pulled up the Californian printed on the day I was born. It must have been a slow news day. They did not even announce my birth. They did tell me that the city had about 37,000 people and 74,000 in the county. There had been 801 marriages and 800 divorces in the county. The most interesting page though was a full page advertisement by our local Ford dealer. They were announcing that 'credit is now available' on a car with a sales price of
only $909. That was real deal as at today's price it would be only $15,600. You could buy this car with only $303 down and finance the balance over three years at only 30 percent per year. Now is that a deal or what? "