Friday, May 1, 2015

McCarthy: House passes bill to streamline the Veterans Affairs department and to support and rebuild America's infrastructure

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

 "This week within the past two days, the House moved in quick succession to pass the first two appropriations bills for fiscal year 2016.

 "First, the House passed the Fiscal Year 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs funding bill.

 "This bill will accomplish a lot, but one of its most important functions is increasing reform in the VA by modernizing electronic health records for veterans and tackling the disability claims. The lack of proper health records and continued disability claims backlog have remained problems for years now, even as the House has called for reform multiple times. Taking more steps to resolve these issues is a start to bringing the VA into the 21st century.

 "Finally, this bill will also renovate military facilities and help streamline the building process and fight back against mismanagement and delays that have already wasted the taxpayers millions of dollars.

 "Second, the House passed the Fiscal Year 2016 Energy and Water appropriations bill which provides necessary resources for America’s infrastructure, including our electric grid, nuclear stockpiles, and critical water projects.

 "As California endures the worst drought in a century, the Bureau of Reclamation continues to drag its feet on feasibility studies for new water storage projects. This bill will force the Bureau of Reclamation to finally make a decision on these studies that have been stuck in the bureaucracy for upward of five to ten years. When completed, the projects could increase our water storage capacity by 1 to 1.5 million acre-feet, which is almost the same amount of water estimated to be saved by Governor Brown’s rationing mandate. Frankly, it’s inexcusable that these projects have waited so long for approval.

 "This bill also addresses important safety and water storage projects in Kern County and Tulare County. It includes close to $50 million for the important Lake Isabella Dam Safety Modification Project and directs the Army Corps of Engineers to move quickly on the dam enlargement project at Success Lake.

"This positive work was a team effort from members of the California delegation. Amendments from Representative David Valadao, Tom McClintock, and Doug LaMalfa took measurable steps to restore sanity to the mismanagement of California water. Our drought is a crisis that cannot be ignored or passed off as an incentive to simply ration more.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Today's callous idiot award goes to the driver of a white pickup who ran over a mother duck and her ducklings crossing Truxtun extension at the lake, and more on our long drought

 * … BAD FORM:  What happened on Truxtun Extension the other day is not only bad form, but also extremely bad karma for the driver of a white pickup truck. Consider this: anyone who commutes on Truxtun knows about the ducks that occasionally cross the road to the medical offices on the other side. Most times, folks slow down, stop and enjoy the parade of a mother duck and her
ducklings waddling across the road. But recently, a driver in a white pickup was not so courteous, got impatient, hit the gas and ran over at least one of the baby ducks and its mother, shocking the other drivers and sparking an outcry on social media. Witnesses are calling for the driver's head which, all things considered, seems a reasonable punishment given the callousness of the act. As one person said: "If you told your boss you were late for work because you stopped for ducks crossing the road, who wouldn't understand that?"

 * … NY TIMES: Ronal Reynier shared his thoughts about a New York Times' food review covering Bakersfield. "His conclusion about Bakersfield was that we are a land of 'oil derricks, low-riders and truck stops with Punjabi food.' We have not had 'oil derricks' for 50 years. We do have pumping units that produce 90 percent of the oil in California. I checked all three truck stops and found no Punjabi restaurants. The only stop he must have made was at Buck Owens Crystal Palace for a few drinks for lunch. We do have 13 'Indian' restaurants. I can only guess he is calling them 'Punjabi.' This is a small total of the 1,818 restaurants in town."

 * … PLEIN AIR: If you want to see some absolutely stunning paintings by California's top plein air artists, head over to Metro Galleries on 19th Street where a new exhibit has opened featuring more than 55 works. The show is part of the inaugural Kern County Plein Air Festival launched by the Arts Council of Kern. All the works in the show have been created over the past two weeks. Some of the artists in the exhibit include Bryan Mark Taylor, Anton Pavlenko,  Paul Kratter and  Bako's own Keith Wicks.

* … WATER: Dwayne Ardis had this interesting take on our drought. "As we all know, we in California have a water problem. I have an idea that might help curb our thirst for water. What happened when we were asked to cut back on our electricity usage? We got tax credits for putting in solar panels and insulation.  What happened when we were asked to not burn wood in our fireplaces?  We got a rebate for installing gas burning fireplaces. How about the water companies and California provide us with a tax credit and rebate for putting in artificial turf in our yards? That would reduce our water consumption and we could enjoy a weed free green lawn year round."

* … SMALL WORLD: This from Julie and Sunny Kapoor: "While moving our son, Nigel, into The Ohio State University last fall, Sunny and I happened upon this little gem, Bakersfield (tacos, tequila, whiskey), in Columbus, Ohio. We had to go inside and check it out. It was the middle of a Friday afternoon and it was hopping. We spoke to our waitress about the origins of the owner and she told us the owners were from Cincinnati but they loved the 'Bakersfield' sound and themed the place around Buck Owens. They have karaoke (of course they do!) on the weekends with lots of Owens, Haggard and Cash requests."

 * … ACTIS: Kudos to the students over at Actist Junior High School who recently raised more than $2,400 for the March of Dimes. Said reader Cathy Palla: "The inspiration for the DIMES WAR, came from teacher whose friend had a preemie baby. The week of fundraising had classrooms challenging each other to see who could raise the most money. These kids had a great time ,collecting money for a charity, that is so important to our entire community. OH… and most of the money came in as DIMES!"

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Can a bad person be a strong leader? Or is a moral compass necessary for leadership? David Brooks explores it all …

 * … GOODNESS AND POWER: David Brooks is a talented essayist with The New York Times, and he recently posed this question: Can you be a bad person but be a strong leader? His question was
triggered by a recent poll that found 60 percent of independent voters believe Hillary Clinton has strong leadership qualities, yet 61 percent also view her as dishonest and not trustworthy. Brooks conceded that politics is a sharp elbow game, and he did not opine on Hillary herself, but said this:"It is a paradox of politics that people who set out obsessively to succeed in it usually end up sabotaging themselves. They treat each relationship as a transaction and don't generate loyalty. They lose any honest internal voice. After a while they can't accurately perceive themselves or their situation. Sooner or later their Watergate will come."

* … SPOTTED: On a friend's Facebook page was this nugget: "I changed my password everywhere to 'incorrect.' That way when I forget it, it always reminds me, 'Your password is incorrect.'

 * … GOOD FORM: Patricia Chandler gave a shout out to the staff at the recent Western Nationals Hot Rod show. "I just wanted to give five stars to the event staff at the fairgrounds.  Bathrooms were spotless and there wasn't so much as a napkin on the ground the entire weekend. Of course it may be that we hot rodders are exceptionally clean people, but it was uplifting to see people performing a rather thankless job with such pride.  Wish we could hire them for city parks."

 * … BAD FORM: We all love the Westside Parkway, but we don't love the weeds growing in the bark. Said Gary Crabtree:  "I was reflecting on your comments on the Westside Parkway yesterday when I happened on the artist’s renderings of the parkway versus what we actually received was the Westside 'Barkway' and now morphing into the Westside 'Weedway.'"

 * … FUND RAISER: Hats off to Donna Hylton, former executive drector of the Kern Literacy Council, for helping raise $75,000 at the Stockdale Christian School Band Gala. The money will help pay for a band trip to Carnegie Hall. Said Hylton: "There was not one expense for the night--- all the expenses were donated or underwritten by someone. I just wanted to thank the community, parents and Stockdale Christian staff for this wonderful opportunity to help these young musicians."

 * … ACHIEVER: Local veterinarian Cliff Van Kopp. (his son, Sam Van Kopp, is the outstanding young man who recovered from a near fatal injury in Afghanistan) shared this bit of news about Kirsten Scott, daughter of veterinarian Kathy Lehnhard. She is a 2001 graduate of Bakersfield High School and later went on to UC Davis where she was the school's "Woman Graduate of the Year." Then, off to Cambridge University in England and later into the PhD program at Harvard. Recently, he said, "she was awarded her PhD in public health policy. Oh, by the way, she has spent the last nine months in Africa with (husband) John working for the Rwandan Ministry of Health while finishing her dissertation. Kirsten applied to medical schools and was accepted by Harvard, Boston University and Tufts. She will attend Harvard this fall." Interestingly, Kirsten ran in the ill fated Boston Marathon two years ago, finishing a minute or two before the bombs went off. She ran in the marathon again this year, and is now headed back to Rwanda. Not that is what I call a local achiever. And oh, by the way, her brother Gavid Woody, also a Driller, graduated in the top 2 percent of his class from West Point. He left the Army as a captain and later earned and MBA from Stanford.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Welcome to a new century of air travel, a world of cramped seats, canceled flights, angry passengers and flight attendants caught in the middle of it all

 * … AIR TRAVEL: I got a glimpse at the future of air travel and trust me, it's not pretty. On a flight from Denver to Chicago last week, I boarded a beautiful spanking new United Boeing 737 800/900, richly
trimmed with leather seats and adorned with soft blue lights. The problem: the seats were so cramped only a would-be dwarf king like Peter Dinklage from Game of Thrones could possibly find them the least bit accomodating. A flight attendant told me that United squeezed four to five extra rows of seats into the new version of the aircraft. "Please write United," she told me. "This is going to be a nightmare and we are going to take all the heat."

 * … MORE UNITED: And it doesn't stop there. On the way home, I learned passengers on a United flight from Chicago to Denver suffered a nightmarish indignity. The flight was supposed to leave Chicago at 7:30 a.m. but because of mechanical issues the passengers were loaded and off loaded three different times until the flight was finally canceled at 5:30 p.m., a full 10 hours late. "People were furious," a flight attendant told me. "One guy was throwing F bombs and two families headed to Hawaii for vacation missed all their connections." And once United finally canceled the flight, everyone had to go to customer service to rebook their own flights. Welcome to commerical air travel in the 21st century.

 * … OVERHEARD: A waitress at a coffee shop is overheard telling a customer about some advice she received as a child from her great grand mother. "She always told me that men were like shoes," she said. "You have to find the exact right size. But also, remember that just because you put black polish on a brown shoe,  it will always be a brown shoe." Sounds like good advice to me.

 * … BAD FORM: Since when did spitting in public become acceptable? A middle aged woman told me the story of driving down Chester Avenue when a woman pushing a stroller let out a huge wad right in front of her car as she passed by. Then, later the same day, another woman accompanied by her small children did the exact same thing on Columbus. "In full public I am telling you," she said. "This was no small thing. The wads were so big they were clearly visible from inside my car. It was disgusting."

* … SCAMS: If it's a new day, it must be time for a new telephone scam. Kristin Moore has received more than six calls from a strongly accented woman claiming to be from Delta Air Lines.
"She stated that she was from Delta promoting their new reservation center 'here in Bakersfield '…  They offered me two free round trip tickets within the U.S. I said great, and I was then put through to her supervisor who then went through the whole line … she asked me if I was married I said no (I am married) and then asked me about my significant other. I said I did not have one, so she then told me that they would call back. The free tickets are couples only. I questioned the legitimacy of the call then CLICK. So weird. Not sure what they were going for. The ladies actually got really mad when I challenged them. Delta Air Lines….. Sure!"

  * … JAZZ: And don't forget the 29th annual Bakersfield Jazz Festival is coming up May 8-9 out at the CSUB amphitheather. This is always a terrific two days of jazz that benefits some worthy CSUB scholarships. And trust me: you don't have to be a jazz aficiando to appreciate the talented musicians and singers that will appear on stage.