Friday, January 20, 2017

11 Names I Called Our Former President

I would like to bid our fearless leader a not-so-fond farewell by ending our eight years together with a list of the nicknames I not-so-affectionately bestowed upon him during the course of the time in which he had influence over my life.

Ride off into the sunset, HisHighness. I truly hope that I never see or hear from you again. Oh, and for all of you libs out there, my disdain is for the lacking of his character, not the color of his skin. Thank goodness that for at least the next four years, when I disagree with Taco Bowls, you won’t all immediately think I am a racist.

Who can forget when the Bush girls revealed to the world that their mom’s nickname for their dad was “Bushie”? I still call George the Great Satan Junior that to this day. So, when it came time for a new President to take office in 2009, I lazily just applied the same moniker to him until I learned a bit more about him. Hence, HisHigness’s first nickname was “Obamie”.

But that nickname did not last long at all. After watching our new President get a Nobel Peace Prize for simply winning the election and having a new skin color for an American President, and then going on a whirlwind apology tour where he bowed to everyone from Saudia Arabia to Japan and back again, I applied the new official nickname of “The Leader”. This was a two-part nickname. One part was to serve in irony for the complete and total lack of leadership I felt HisHigness showed on the world stage during that first year by calling him “The Leader”. The second was a very affectionate nod to my love of The Simpsons and an episode where Homer and a large number of the town’s people followed a highly unqualified false prophet and cult leader known as “The Leader”. I really felt this nickname was apt and thought it might stick for some time, but alas, it would not last long, either.

By the end of 2009, it was becoming apparent that HisHighness had sold everyone on all of the amazing magic that he was going to accomplish – things like transparency and reaching across the aisle. These were some of the very reasons that a lot of people voted for him, but by now, it was becoming apparent that none of these magical concepts were going to come to fruition. Also, it was becoming apparent that some of the other magic reasons that people had voted for him – race baiting come to an end, people not having to make their car payments, and everyone getting free cell phones – were not coming to fruition, either. And henceforth, at least until the next nickname, I knew HisHighness as “The Magician”. Of course, this nickname was also thanks to the magic of what we would later come to know as Obamacare.

Here is an excerpt from my December 5, 2009 blog post: “I call him The Magician because I think the only way for his Healthcare initiatives to work as he is selling them would be through magic. He says that he is going to find and cut all of the existing spending necessary to pay for $1 trillion in new spending after the money has already been spent (a common practice of politicians who end up never cutting the existing spending after the fact), cram people who have no money to pay for services into the healthcare system without increasing its capacity, and somehow reduce the cost of care to the people who are paying for the system, and somehow still increase the quality of care that everyone is receiving. There is only one way that this can be achieved...magic!”

Not long after being christened as “The Magician”, HisHighness was christened “The Messiah”. This was his nickname for a small chunk of 2010 that stemmed from the fact that despite the realization that the healthcare reform magic numbers were never going to come to fruition, people still blindly followed HisHighness no matter what. Everyone was realizing that it was all a magic show, but rather than criticize, they had faith and kept following no matter what. They kept telling us to have faith, too – to give him time – he had only been in office for a little while, but was still going to accomplish his miracles despite the odds, kind of like you-know-who.

I shook my head as his followers offered no words of criticism and began to accuse anyone who did criticize with a certain form of –ism. But it was actually a movie – a Russell Crowe movie at that – that would end HisHighness’s “The Messiah” nickname and convert it to “The Master & Commander”. That was the movie where Russell Crowe played a ship’s captain – its master and commander, if you will – during which no matter what happened, no matter how bad his mistakes were, and no matter how much he harmed the ship and its crew, he still thumped his chest and said he was “The Master & Commander”. Come hell or high water, we were stuck with this horrible captain.
“The Master & Commander” nickname actually stuck the longest of any of the early nicknames, though from 2010 to the early part of 2012, I peppered in some other nicknames like “The Weakling-In-Chief” and “The Fence-Sitter In Chief”.

But, it was during a little thing known as the U.S. Presidential election of 2012 that the next nickname became painfully apparent. It was started when a certain hopeful female presidential candidate’s staffers, I am sure with absolutely no blessing whatsoever in any way, shape or form from her, started to once again bring up questions about HisHighness’s birthplace. The fact that I read some bits and pieces of that propaganda autobio book and watched a lot of news footage of HisHighness’s ancestral homeland probably also helped me bestow upon him the name of “The Kenyan”.

And “The Kenyan” nickname he would remain until HisHighness came out and said that he was sick and tired of everyone calling his horrible Affordable Care Act debacle Obamacare. As the man tried to distance himself from his namesake legacy legislation as we all came to realization that we were right about how bad it sucked, he wanted us to stop calling it Obamacare, so I started calling him “Obamacare” instead, so we would never forget who gave us the steaming pile that it still remains to this day.

I did call HisHighness “Obamacare” for quite some time, but in December of 2013, I lovingly began to call him “President What’s-His-Name”. That truly stemmed from the fact that at this point, a good chunk into his second term, I was truly ready for a change and because I was thinking what most of us were thinking - isn’t it time for “President What’s-His-Name” to go already?

I know I switched back and forth from all of the nicknames at this point for a little while as well, but it was in December of 2015, motivated by all of the presidential orders that he decreed upon us once he could not get the rest of his legacy laws passed legally, that I began to call him “HisHighness”. And that is the name that has stuck through to today, HisHighness’s last day in office.

The man who took office with so much hope for change – that this time, it was going to be different – not only gave us very little transparency, but also gave us such ironies as forcing his will on a majority of people that did not agree with him through decree and becoming the first Nobel Peace Prize Winner with a kill list and drones that rained death from above. Truly, he was a king’s king, ruling the land with privilege like $100 million in tax-payer funded vacations all the while blaming everything that went wrong during his reign on the privilege of others and doing more to divide his people than any other leader in their history.

So, HisHighness, today, I bid you and all of your nicknames farewell. Today, I celebrate the end of your ability to influence our lives and divide the people of this great land.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Those Who Seek To Divide Us...

I have long believed that deep in her heart, America is not as divided as the media, career politicians, and other power seekers would like us to think. I believe that deep down, most Americans want a better life for their families, want to be left alone to pursue their dreams, and wish to simply live life as they see fit. I know that is all I want – to be left alone, to be allowed to keep the fruits of my labor, and to live life as I see fit according to my beliefs.

Naturally, while I do believe these are the things we all want in life here in America, I do recognize that we currently have differences in opinion about how we can obtain these dreams. I would argue, however, that the dividers like the media, politicians, and other power seekers, for their own benefit and to the detriment of the rest of us, have created these differences in opinion by continuing to divide us into pre-defined groups. The side effect of which, has been the distraction of far too many Americans from attaining their dreams, and instead, an unnecessary, continued concentration on the overly inflated differences between us.

Those who seek to divide us for their own prosperity and continued existence, seek to divide us according to things like gender, race, career choice, and net worth, when instead they should be using their voices to unite us as a nation. They should be using their voices to bridge the real gap between us – those who see America as the land of opportunity where anything can be achieved regardless of those very things the dividers use to divide us, and those who have been so pummeled with the divisive message that they have come to believe it, and wrongly, now live their very lives by it instead of fighting against it.

Here is an example of how these dividers quietly accomplish this goal, which also leads to the revelation that this divisiveness is what has put us into the two camps that, in turn, the dividers point to and say is the reason we are divided, instead of admitting that, in fact, they are the source of our divisiveness.

Each year, Time magazine selects a person of the year that they claim, for better or worse, has been the most influential person in the world. This time around, they naturally have chosen Donald Trump. In the video in which Time Editor-in-Chief, Nancy Gibbs, explains why they chose Trump, she states: 

“One of the things that was remarkable in going to see him to interview him is to be in that penthouse, which is the most ostentatious imaginable marble and mirrors and gold, and see him in the suit and the diamond cufflinks. There’s a kind of dissidence that we pressed him about of how is it that the billionaire is the tribune of the working man? He said he thought that it had to do with that he wasn’t a phony – that there have certainly been wealthy politicians before who in some cases would bend over backwards to make themselves appear like the common man, or do anything that they could, eating the corn dog at the Iowa state fair, and wearing a flannel shirt in New Hampshire. I think he had a very strong instinct that his wealth and the flamboyant display of his wealth was not a liability, that it was actually an asset.”

This statement got me thinking about one of the most staunch and apparent differences in what the Time magazine cover calls “The Divided States of America”, as well as the root cause of this difference. I agree that we are a nation divided – a nation divided in principles and a nation divided in hopes and aspirations. And while I agree there are racists and homophobes and all sorts of others –ists –isms and –phobes living out there on the fringe ends of the political spectrum in this country, I also believe that a large majority of Americans are actually none of these things that the dividers use to steer us to their desired end through fear.

I do, however, believe there is a very real chasm between two sides in this country, and it is one that we must address – one that is clearly pointed out in Nancy Gibbs’ statements about how a billionaire could possibly serve as the tribune of the hard working people of America, and we can explain this phenomenon in two words: aspiration and perspective.

Ask a conservative who they blame for their plight in America today and they will say the government. Ask that same conservative what the key is to prosperity and they will tell you business. Ask a liberal who they blame for their plight in America today, and they will say business. Ask that same liberal what the key is to prosperity and they will tell you government. Granted, reality is not as clearly defined as this example, but you can easily see the relevance of this take on the American political spectrum today.

If you do not believe that you can achieve anything in this country because there is an entire group of people – business people – holding you back, then you see a successful businessman like Trump as an embodiment of the evil that is conspiring against you. If you believe that you can achieve anything in this country because those business people build companies and provide jobs, then you see a successful businessman like Trump and the embodiment of hope and aspiration.

If you believe that the entire corporate structure in America has been stacked against you, then you look to the government for salvation. If you believe that the entire government superstructure in America has been created to steal the fruits of your labor, then you look to business for salvation.

And this is why you can pluck one working man off of the street – one who has bought into the liberal idea that the cards in America are stacked against him and that there is this mythical group of –ists, -isms, and –phobes constantly working against him – and have that working man tell you that Trump is history’s greatest monster, yet can pluck another working man off the street – one who has bought into the conservative idea that America is the land of opportunity and anything can be achieved if he plays by the rules and works hard, and that there is no mythical group of –ists, -isms, and –phobes, only a bloated government that needs his hard-earned money to survive and perpetuate itself – and have that working man tell you that Trump is an aspirational figure that represents that working man’s own potential for success in America today.

I hate to continue to narrow the differences caused by the divisiveness perpetuated by the media, politicians, and power seekers down to such a clearly defined line, but let me give you one more example. You take a young person in their early 20s who has just started their career and you show them a picture of what embodies success to them, and then ask if they too can achieve that success, and you will get one of two responses.

I believe the person who was raised on the idea that they were born in the greatest country in the world that provides people with the greatest opportunity to make something of their lives will tell you that they most definitely aspire to the success in the picture, and that their aspirations of success are achievable.

I also believe the person who was raised on the idea that they were born in an oppressive country that is filled with –ists, –isms, and -phobes that are constantly working against them will tell you that the type of success in the picture can only make someone miserable, that success of that type can only be achieved on the backs of others, and that not only is the scene in the picture not attainable for them, but in fact, is the last thing that they would want for their life, even though the image actually and truly embodies that person’s very definition of success.

And this is where the dividers have left us. They have successfully used their voice to classify us into every category under the sun and divide us into all these tiny little groups, which have led us to unite these groups into two camps – the so-called haves, and the so-called have-nots – even though each one of us has the same opportunities in life here in America. Yes, not entirely exactly the same, but still, the best opportunity of anyone else in any other time on this planet. Then, we all fight amongst each other while the dividers perpetuate their message of division, further solidifying their own existence in this world by point to us and blaming us for the divisions they have created.

I propose that the time has come for those of us that the dividers have divided to no longer allow them to divide us. We should hold journalists to what they call themselves – being journalists. We should also hold the elected representatives of the people to what they call themselves as well. And lastly, we, the divided, should come together to remove the division that is being imposed on us by no longer allowing the dividers to classify, categorize, and split us apart.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The People That Keep Us Moving

I recently read about a solemn ceremony held every year at the International Towing and Recovery Museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee that hit me with something that I know I never think about.

Each year, probably like many of you, I send some money off to the Automobile Association of America without much thought. Our AAA membership is just something we renew each year as a precaution should one of us become stranded while driving.

It has probably been a good five years since we actually called AAA. The battery in my wife’s car died while she was at work, and I cannot even remember when we used our membership for roadside assistance the time before that.

Regardless of how often we use it, we send that money off to AAA every year because it provides us with the reassurance that if, for whatever reason, we become stranded, while in one of our cars, or even someone else’s, help is just a phone call away.

AAA members make a call, sit and wait, and usually within a pretty reasonable time frame, a tow truck driver that AAA trusts and has certified shows up and either charges a battery or puts on a spare tire, no matter where in America a member may be inconvenienced by a stalled vehicle or a non-functioning tire.

And while we’re thankful for the person that has made it their job in life to be the person to answer that call no matter what time it might be, how often do we actually think of the peril that person may be putting themselves into to help us get back on the road? I know that I seldom think of their job as dangerous. 

But the solemn annual ceremony in Tennessee I mentioned earlier is to honor the people whose names are being added to the Wall of the Fallen at the International Towing and Recovery Museum. This year’s ceremony saw the addition of 22 names to the over 400 that have been added to the wall over the past decade.

These are the names of Americans who get up and go to work everyday and at certain points in their career put their lives at risk to help us keep moving and to get us out of danger. This job actually puts these folks so much at risk that over 400 of them have lost their lives in the past 10 years.

Before reading about this ceremony, I must admit that even after spending over 25 years on the road, I never truly considered the danger that these drivers sometimes place themselves in to assist us.

For this very reason, in many states, including California, tow trucks have been designated emergency vehicles and are afforded the same protections for their operators as any other emergency vehicle.

This means that when drivers in these states approach a tow truck on the side of the road, they are strongly encouraged to slow down and move out of the lane directly closest to the tow truck or other emergency vehicle if at all possible. This gives tow truck operators and other first responders some space between their person and you car, which I cannot argue to be anything other than a pretty good idea.

Robert T. Bouttier, Chief Executive Officer of AAA, writes: The next time you see the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle, please remember to slow down and move over when it’s safe to do so. It’s a simple way we can all help these heroes of the highways to do their job safely.

So, the next time you see a tow truck with its lights flashing, I hope you remember this article and give the driver the same courtesy you would any other first responder. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Hours 38 to 40: Profit And Your Personal Finances

Once upon a time, when I was working with a consulting company that billed its customers hourly for their time, its CTO offered up an amazing perspective on profitability for its team of consultants during a team meeting. He explained that when it came to generating profit to put back into the business and to fund increases in employee compensation and benefits, the company’s consultants needed to keep in mind that while the company leadership appreciated everyone’s hard work, it was important to ensure that they billed a full 40 hours a week because all of the company’s profit projections were based on a 40-hour billable week.

He went on to explain, approximately of course, that it was hours 1 to 37 for each week that covered the cost of the expenses, but it was hours 38, 39, and 40 that yielded the profits the leadership put back into the business, and for that reason, while consultants might feel that billing close to 40 hours a week was close enough, it was, in fact, actually not.

This lesson in hourly billing and profitability not only resonated with me when I heard it, but still does to this day, because it makes me think of the very same concept as it applies to personal finances as well. While most people would never look at it this way, their personal finances are very similar to the financial models this consulting business and its CTO were addressing that day.

Much like this consulting business, and any business for that matter, each of us as individuals also have expenses that when deducted from our income, yield either a profit or a loss. If you get paid hourly and only work 37 hours per week, but your expenses take up your full amount of pay, which you anticipated being for 40 hours per week, you actually are going to bring in less money than you need to cover your expenses. While this comparison is quite literal, the same holds true for however you are paid, be it hourly, salary, in lump sums as a consultant, or any other way.

The bottom line is that you should always know exactly what your expenses are and should always ensure that your income never falls below the amount of those expenses no matter what you do. In fact, you should always strive to ensure your expenses are as small of a percentage of your income as possible. You should view the difference between your expenses and your income as your profit, and without profit, you cannot reinvest in the things in life that you enjoy and that are important to you and your loved ones.

Your personal profits are the money you use to pay for things like vacations, education, luxuries, or whatever other experience or items you and your loved ones enjoy. By looking at this money left over after paying your expenses as profit, you can very easily identify and dedicate your efforts in ways that increase that profit.

So, the next time you feel 37 hours is close enough, or spending just a little more than you earn is no big deal, remember that without profits, you will have nothing to reinvest in your life, and what is the point of all of that hard work if all you ever do is just cover your expenses or dig yourself deeper into debt?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Don't Be A Rhino At Work

Are you a rhino at work? Do your coworkers reference bulls and china shops in the same sentence when they describe what it is like to work with you?

Now, when I say rhino, I’m not talking about you physically storming through the halls, leaving twisted and mangled bodies in your wake, but I am talking about how you treat and speak to the people with whom you work.

Granted, some of us are more soft spoken, or out spoken, than others, and some of us are more imposing, or less imposing, but I am specifically talking about those individuals who time and time again end up rubbing their coworkers the wrong way and leave the rest of us marveling at what they just said, how they just handled a given situation, and more so, at how they just do not recognize the intimidation, uneasiness, and generally unwelcome environment that circles around them as they storm through the office.

The best way to tell if you are a rhino at work is to listen to yourself when engaged in conversation with your colleagues, your bosses, and your subordinates. There should not be stark differences in the tone and intensity of your conversations between the three. The same voice and tone you use for your bosses is the same voice and tone you should use for your colleagues and your subordinates. 

Also, look around at others in the office when you are engaged in conversation. Are people purposely looking away, looking down at their desks, or trying very hard to avoid eye contact with you? Are people shaking their heads or shifting uncomfortably in their chairs? Your office conversations should not make people who overhear them feel uncomfortable or uneasy, nor should they make people not want to work with you.

I know it can’t all be roses and sunshine at work, but your coworkers deserve to be treated fairly, reasonably, and with respect. People should not have to endure conversations that make them feel belittled or intimidated. There is just no place for this type of behavior in today’s business environment.

So, be sure to listen to yourself and take note of the reactions of those around you when you are engaged in conversation with people at work. By doing so, you can make sure that you are not your office’s rhino.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

When It's Time To Give, I Choose Family...

None among us wants to ever be seen as uncharitable, but with the overwhelming number of times we are solicited for donations, coupled with the fact that it is very difficult to gauge the trustworthiness of so many charities and individuals out there, each of us can struggle to find a balance between giving and ensuring that our giving goes to a worthy cause.

I, however, have found a solution with which I am quite comfortable, and have chosen to implement this solution for the foreseeable future. While it can still be difficult to say no to unproven outlets for my giving, I know my solution is the best course of action for my peace of mind, and my hard-earned money.

I can often be heard saying, usually under my breath with a sigh, “Everyone wants our money.” When I go shopping for groceries and come out of the store, even at 6:00 AM on a Sunday, there is a person there with a table, a lockbox, and a sign, asking me to make a donation. How often am I paying for something in a store, and the cashier asks me if I would like to make a donation to a cause the store is supporting? A couple months out of the year, every time I buy a movie ticket at the ticket window, I am asked if I’d like to make a donation to the charity the movie theater is supporting at the time. At least twice a week when I go to the mailbox, there is an envelope in there from a charity soliciting a donation through the mail. And obviously, each November and December, these solicitations for donations increase exponentially.

In addition to each of these forms of organized donation solicitation, the number of times I am solicited by individuals for money is also overwhelming. It happens to each of us, I am sure. We are walking into or out of a store, driving into or out of a shopping center, or maybe just driving down the street, and we are asked to part with some of our money by someone who is personally asking for help. Sometimes they ask directly, and other times they are holding a sign. Sometimes they are alone, and sometimes they have their family or a pet with them to pull at our heartstrings.

It can be someone asking if I have some spare change, or someone asking for something specific like money for gas to get somewhere while I am at the gas station. Sometimes the person will disclose a bit of their story, like that they are a veteran, or just lost their job, or as was the case with one guy I encountered in Santa Barbara in the mid-90s, just needed a beer and was out of cash. The people asking vary in age, stature, and are from obviously varying backgrounds. I’ve even encountered some that I know also work part-time at local retail stores and other businesses I frequent.

I know if someone was to see me smile and acknowledge the person that was sitting right outside a store I was walking into, yet not hand them some of my money when they ask for it, they would most likely think me to be uncharitable, and perhaps to that individual, I am being uncharitable.

And while I believe it is not only right, but fulfilling, to gift some of my hard-earned money over the course of each year, the bottom line is, when it comes time to gift my money, I prefer to ensure it goes to what I know will be a worthy cause by gifting it to a member of our extended family, usually one of the kids on their birthday or during the holidays, or when it comes time for back-to-school shopping. I would much rather see that money go into something that puts a smile on one of those little faces than simply hand it to someone or some organization that I know little or nothing about.

But, nonetheless, I still must admit that I feel a little bad when I deny my money to someone who has made the effort to ask for it, but at the same time, I also feel that by simply handing that person the money which I have earned through my hard work, I am aiding in whatever situation landed them in that spot in the first place. It’s all very “teach a man to fish” in my eyes.

It’s especially challenging for me to say no when the person claims to be a veteran because I truly feel that if our government should take care of anyone by confiscating part of my earnings, it should be our veterans. Sadly, however, I have been burned before and simply cannot take a person’s word at face value. I’ve donated in the past to organizations that I knew without a doubt provided care for veterans, but I’ve also been burned in the past by organizations that spend far too much of the donations they receive on administrative costs. Ultimately, in the end, this led me to the decision to restrict all of my giving to people I know personally.

I find a great deal of comfort and peace of mind in knowing that the money I gift in this manner is going to enrich the life of someone that I care deeply for and truly appreciates the gesture. With all of the questionable charities and individuals out there, I find this direct gifting to not only satisfy my desire to do my part, to give back, to share the wealth as they say, but I know it also fills the recipient of my gift with the same joy I feel when I see them enjoying the fruits of my hard work and dedication.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

John Quincy Adams On Immigration

In honor of what is turning out to be the most closely analyzed transition in the history of the American presidency, I am happy to share a piece I have been working on here and there since before the election got into full swing. As we wait to see where the chips will end up on everything from taxes to trade to immigration, I offer an in-depth analysis of a well-known writing from former President John Quincy Adams when he was serving as Secretary of State and provided his views on immigration to a German member of high society who was contemplating a move to the new U.S. nation in 1819.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Death Of Our Coastal Towns

When you grow up along the sparkling Southern California coastline, one of the most difficult things you can do is attempt to solicit sympathy from anyone in the world. Beautiful beaches, moderate temperatures, amazing quality of life, and a pretty chill attitude across the board, all make everyone in every other part of the world think you’d never have a care. For some, it is a life of economically based privilege, but for most, it is a life of hard work that yields worthwhile rewards.

But, when you grow up in the beautiful little coastal towns of Southern California, one of the most-desired places to live in the world, one of the saddest things you witness year after year is the eventual and permanent transformation of those towns into a place that is unrecognizable from the one you loved so dearly while growing up.

Towns grow, landscapes change, small businesses close and city governments change from focusing on maintaining an enjoyable life for citizens to attracting more tax revenue and tourism dollars.

Local, long-time residents are pushed out as they seek to re-find the quaint little towns that have been pulled out from underneath their feet by the passage of time. Streets and neighborhoods are transformed from sleepy, cozy, little burgs with character to bustling, big box, trendy cities with urban flair. And sadly, avoiding busy areas filled with tourists grows from a summertime chore to a year-round endeavor.

But perhaps the worst aspect for those who grew up in this paradise is watching these beloved towns commit cultural suicide. You see quaint downtown streets lined with small houses and mom-and-pop shops where locals congregate turned into multi-story urban apartment complexes with underground parking garages and first-floor brand name retail outlets. Cultural uniqueness and flavor is slowly and methodically replaced by uniformed, trendy urbania.

So, if it’s not the residents who want this change, then why is town after town falling victim to this urban sprawl? It is a two-pronged attack from the government-industrial complex. City governments that need to bring in more revenue to support a growing population and urban developers who want to make the most profit from increasingly valuable coastal land are joining forces, and there is no doubt that, willingly or not, they are destroying the character of Southern California’s coastal towns.

I call it cultural suicide because residents of the community that serve in local government or own or work for the development companies are committing the act of destroying these cities from within. Whether knowingly or not, these people are killing the culture and character of the communities that surround them.

The suicide starts with one or two local businesses, spreads down the street, begins to consume entire neighborhoods, and then, eventually spreads throughout the entire town. Local governments seeking more revenue raise the rents on government properties, forcing the local businesses that occupy those government properties to shut their doors or move. Increased rents on government property lead to increased rent on private property, and the local businesses that occupy those private properties shut their doors or move. The government land is sold to make even more revenue and the private buildings are gutted and torn down, then replaced with bigger, more sterile buildings with less culture but more space that can be rented at a higher cost to larger corporations that can afford the higher rents. This urban sprawl spreads like an incurable virus until its host no longer resembles its former self.

I recently read a fantastically written article from a locally focused online news and interest rag called Thrillist that really drove this point home. The article was about a well-known restaurant at the Santa Monica Airport that was forced out of business by the City of Santa Monica as part of that local government’s efforts to close the iconic general aviation airport and its businesses. The forced closing of the airport and its businesses, like this restaurant, will deal a definitive blow to the local culture and long-time patrons of these businesses as the city guns to fill up its coffers with the inevitable millions it will gain by selling the land on which the airport sits to developers who will no doubt sweep in and build yet another array of those multi-story earth-toned, wood and metal accented, five-story apartment buildings with underground garages and first-floor name brand retailers that I mentioned earlier.

And much like the Los Angeles of old that we only see in movies, old photographs, and our dreams, the airport that has served local aviators from Hollywood stars to the most anonymous among us, will soon be just a memory. The restaurant, called Typhoon, had a single owner, a local businessman who spent a good portion of his life serving amazing cuisine, supporting the local jazz scene, and providing a place that pilots around the world will still talk about for years now that it’s gone. Why did is this restaurateur call it quits, even while his establishment flourished? The City of Santa Monica raised his rent by 200% because they wanted him, his long-time patrons, and the culture and flavor of the Santa Monica of yesteryear gone. To them, it is a small price to pay to keep the city government afloat.

The city needs money and urban developers are chomping at the bit to get that airport land, and sadly, in Southern California these days, that is all that matters to city government and urban developers. Local culture, flavor, long-time residents, long-time family businesses, and the heart and soul of the communities can all be damned!

And this is just one establishment inside one historic Southern California coastal town and iconic location. This is just one of many thousands of places that are, or soon will be, long gone, never to return.

One such other iconic feature of these costal towns that is changing forever is the pierside main street that once housed local mom-and-pop restaurants and a slew of boutique specialty and surf shops. And nowhere has Main Street and its surrounding area gone through a more gut-wrenching overhaul than in Huntington Beach, or Surf City as it is called in the onslaught of tourism marketing materials.

Those of us who grew up in Huntington Beach from the 50s to the 80s enjoyed a colorful and diverse row of one-story shops and restaurants that lined a quiet little street that was overly busy only a few select hours a week and during the peak of summer traffic. We enjoyed small mom-and-pop shops and a quiet local scene of local surfers and beachgoers. But then, the big construction cranes and land developers came in and the Main Street and surrounding area that we knew and loved was changed forever. Today, the quaint little pierside area we loved is gone, replaced by multi-story condos, brand name retail chains, and sprawling hotel complexes.

Locals once spent lazy weekend mornings beachside having breakfast and enjoying early dinners. Now, if you’re a local resident, there is a good tourist-filled four or five months in which you don’t even bother trying to get down there, if you even bother trying at all. For those of us who grew up in the area and spent a good chunk of our childhood there, it is so sad to no longer be able to enjoy the places you love because they are either so crowded, or worse, just gone.

Locals who have had enough can do little but move on to quieter areas or quieter towns and hope that the government-industrial complex will not overrun their new home just as quickly. And this pattern is going to continue to spread and grow. Trendy urbanites will rush in and the long-time residents who built our coastal towns with years of hard work will rush out, heading north, south, or inland, attempting to recapture their quaint little towns somewhere else.

For now, we watch the mom-and-pop shops come down, and watch the ever-taller, ever more sprawling hotels, retail centers, and apartment and condo complexes go up, remembering a time when our towns belonged to us, the folks that built them.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Remember That America Is Bigger Than Any One Person

When an election does not go your way, it can definitely create an aura of uneasiness and uncertainty. This can especially be the case with a presidential election, and more so when it is an election that will not only change the party of the sitting president, but place into power a new president with some pretty different views than the sitting president. As someone who tends to not be a fan of change, I can definitely understand how people on the losing side of this election are feeling right now.

What can be even scarier about the outcome of a presidential election is if the two-term president that is outgoing is the only president you have ever known or can remember. Such was the case for me when Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush’s three-term Republican presidency changed hands to Willy Jeff Clinton. Yes, I know that seems nothing like what the youth of today in America are facing now, but at the same time, hind-sight definitely eases in your mind today about what may have been perceived at the time as the potential for uncertain, drastic change.

But what has made this country the greatest democracy in the history of this planet is its ability to be pulled in different directions across the political spectrum and still bounce back, only to pulled the other way again, back and forth, back and forth, for generations, and still remain the most solid democracy in the history of our species.

With the exception of the War Between the States, following every presidential election, the fabric of our society has endured, and the framework of our democracy and the peaceful transition of power have remained. We may be a nation divided in principle, but our similarities still outweigh our differences, and with the exception of the most extreme on both ends of the political spectrum, to paraphrase our sitting president, we are all still on the same team.

Keep in mind that had this election gone the other way, the supporters on the opposite side of the fence from you would be feeling the same uncertainty that you are, which is also the same uncertainty that the losing side of the presidential elections in America have been feeling for 240 years. Yet, here we are, still the greatest democracy in the world. There will be another presidential election in four years, and then again, four years after that, and so on.

While you may not have experienced it personally, these presidential elections have occurred 60 times. 59 of those times, people on the losing side have been faced with uneasiness and uncertainty, yet the nation and society have prevailed, democracy has won out, and four years later, another election was held. Sometimes, the sitting president who caused all that uncertainty and uneasiness remained in power, and other times, that president was voted out of office.

The extreme fringes of society have been there over the course of those 240 years, and they will always be there, but remember all you have been taught about this country, its framework, its checks and balances, and its rule of law. This will mark the 27th two-year period since 1901 that the presidency and both houses of congress have been controlled by one party, yet, we’re still here. We got through two world wars, the Great Depression, the Great Recession, and the Cold War, and yet, we’re still here.

As Donald Trump takes office, just like every single president in the history of this country, he will be subject to a system of checks and balances that will keep him from unilaterally imposing his will on the people of this country. Now, I understand that a lot of you worry about things like gay marriage, legalized marijuana use, and immigration, but keep in mind that one thing the President of the United States cannot do, despite being the single most powerful person on the planet, is circumvent the law. He cannot wake up one morning and decide that a particular group of people, or activity is illegal. He must work within the legal system and our government’s framework to change the law if he wants to accomplish any single act on his agenda.

And that is exactly how it should be – as the constitution was designed – is it not?

Now, I know you are saying to yourself, what about all of those presidential orders that Obama signed that Trump can overturn? Well, that is the problem with a president acting unilaterally, isn’t it? That is the problem with a president deciding that something should be and then acting outside of the congress and the will of the people and just making something so. Because they are not laws passed by congress, they can be overturned. This is why you should have opposed presidential orders, even when the guy issuing them was someone you agreed with, because as we have now seen, maybe one day the guy issuing the presidential orders will NOT be someone you agree with.

But, as scary as this power Trump has to overturn Obama’s presidential orders might be, this is exactly how it should be. This is why laws need to be passed instead of presidential orders being signed. This is why Obama should not have taken the easy route and ruled by decree, but in fact, sought to work with members of congress from both parties to pass laws instead. This is also why we should, as a nation, come together to ban the presidential order. Maybe now that Trump’s the one issuing them, all of you more liberal leaning folks will join me in that feeling.

And while Trump can walk into office on that very first day and rip up each one of those presidential orders issued by presidents past, what he cannot do is walk into office and start ripping up laws that have been passed by congress.

With all of that being said, there is also another check and balance in place that you might not be thinking about, the career politician. Despite the presidency and both houses of congress being controlled by one party, as you saw in the Republican primary process, not everyone within the Republican Party is 100% in agreement with Trump on everything. Embedded, entrenched career politicians like McConnell are going to fight Trump on things like term limits because they want to remain career politicians. This will give them leverage to work against our incoming president and to keep him in check. People like Paul Ryan and John McCain, just to name a couple, will fight Trump when they know it is the right thing to do. I, for one, will do the same. And I know there are millions of conservatives out there who will also do the same.

Just because there are Republican majorities in both houses of congress, you will not see all of the members of both those houses of congress throw their hands up and not stick to the political process. This has never happened before, and it will not happen this time, either.

Everyone in office, every Republican, every Democrat, every Independent, is bound by the constitution, and that has not changed. Trump does not have the power to change that, either.

Also, Trump is going to be surrounded by cabinet members that, despite being chosen by him, still have a duty and an obligation to uphold the constitution. Trump will appoint people that will be the best suited to serve in these positions, and they will also serve as another check and balance.

And finally, while yes, there are some crazy extremists nut-jobs out there who voted for Trump because of their own agendas, most of the people who voted for Trump are extremely reasonable people, and while they were very supportive of Trump against Hillary Clinton, they will also be just as critical of President Trump. I count myself among those people.

And, I imagine that a lot of you who are die hard Hillary and Obama supporters, or are perhaps even further to the left than that, were raised by some really amazing people who are Trump supporters. Do you think that those people would allow things to get so far out of hand that the very fabric of our democracy and society would be threatened?

All I am saying is that while we are most definitely faced with uncertainty and uneasiness about our next president, it is no different than the uncertainty and uneasiness that the country faced 44 other times in our history. Stay aware, stay vigilant, and stick to your principles, but also, have faith in the 240 year history of the greatest democracy on the face of this planet which has proven time and time again that our system of government is far stronger than the person sitting at that big desk in the Oval Office.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Remember To Reward Yourself

When the conditions are just right on a Sunday morning – cooler temperatures and, even better, a cloudy day during one of the Non-Summer months – at 8:00 AM, you will find my wife and I walking through the turnstiles, just about to head up to catch the monorail into Disneyland via Downtown Disney. This Sunday morning ritual that we try to undertake at least once a month for nine months out of the year is one of the most enjoyable non-working experiences of my life these days.

Once inside the park, we undertake a loosely standardized regiment that consists of a good amount of walking, a number of our favorite rides, and thanks to the off-time and early morning, not a lot of standing in line. A normal Sunday sees us head right to Small World, followed by stints at Pirates, the Haunted Mansion, the Jungle Cruise, Indiana Jones, the Rivers of America boat ride as well as Star Tours. Sometimes we deviate and walk along Main Street or head over to walk at California Adventure, occasionally going on a ride or two on that side instead.

Usually by 11:00 AM, the park has filled up a bit and the clouds have either burned off and/or the temperature has increased enough that we’ve had our fill and are ready to move on to our next activity. Sometimes we have lunch at Downtown Disney, sometimes we have breakfast in the park, and we were even known to pay the inflated cost for the all-you-can-eat BBQ at Big Thunder Ranch before it was closed to make way for Star Wars Land. And while you may think this is some attempt for us to relive our childhoods, it is, in fact, almost the opposite. Our childhoods didn’t involve a lot of trips to Disneyland – definitely many fewer trips than we see kids in our neck of the woods making these days.

See, if I can make it to Disneyland nine times in the course of a year, in that year, I will have walked through the gates into the theme park more times than I did in the first 18 years of my life. While I am forever grateful for all of the people who worked hard and sacrificed to make those trips over the course of my first 18 years possible, the true bliss of these Sunday morning walks and rides is the sense of accomplishment we feel in the fact that we can now go there so often.

I whole-heartedly believe it is important for each of us to work hard and accomplish as much as we can to benefit not only ourselves but also those around us. It is important for each of us to discover what we have to offer an industry, a market and/or an employer, as well as the people in our lives. But I also feel it is just as important for us to take a step back every once in a while, put down all the electronic devices, and do something that allows us to feel rewarded for all of that hard work. These Sunday morning trips to Disneyland are just one of the little rewards we give ourselves over the course of the year.

I encourage each of you to not only work hard and find your niche in this world, but to also find something you can do to reward yourself for those accomplishments in a meaningful way. Find something that not only brings you joy, but also provides motivation to keep up the hard work – the motivation to keep driving yourself forward to surpass even more of your goals. Always remember that while hard work and dedication is paramount to your success, if you don’t take the moments to enjoy the fruits of your success, then you just might miss the point of all of that hard work. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

My Guide To Taxifornia's 17 Propositions

I’m giving you a choice, loyal reader. You can just follow the quick, one-line Proposition Guide I have provided just below this paragraph and take my word for it, or, you can read my over 5,000-word explanation of how I reached my conclusions below.

Yes on 53, 54 and 56 - No On All the Rest!

17 state propositions, Taxifornia?! In one election cycle? Are you kidding me?! Group that with all of the local measures and then all of the national, state and local candidates, and you are all but guaranteeing that no one is going to do all of the homework necessary just to be informed enough to make intelligent decisions on every one of these propositions by Election Day.

But, Taxifornia, isn’t that your point? Isn’t that what you are trying to accomplish in the first place with your cancer-like, virus-like, perpetual, self-interested growth? It’s as if your job has changed from serving the people in their time of need to so overwhelming them with your laws and regulations, and your 17 propositions on one ballot, that they just blindly either throw their hands up in the air and don’t vote, or rely on those horribly misguiding television commercials to make up their mind. It’s as if you want us to just cover our eyes and blindly guess while voting either yes or no, probably without fully understanding what a yes or no vote means.

Well, Taxifornia, I, for one, am not going to take it. I am going to read your 223-page General Election Voter Guide because I am certain there is probably some really costly, horrible stuff in there that you and the lifetime politicians that coarse through your black veins are trying to sneak by us.

Oh, I don’t know, say something like a bond issue where you get $9 billion in income so that you finally put some money into our schools despite the fact that our property taxes are supposed to pay for that very same thing. What are you doing with our property tax money that you need more money for the schools? What exactly are you wasting, I mean spending, that property tax money on, Taxifornia?

And naturally, in government’s typical fiscally ridiculous modus operandi, getting that $9 billion in income today is going to result in return payments over the course of the next 35 years that total $17.6 billion. So, say you and I are at lunch and your lunch costs $9, but you forgot your wallet, and I told you that I would loan you the $9, but that when you paid me back, I wanted $8.60 in interest for a total of $17.60. What would you say? Well, probably right after calling me a credit card company, because those are definitely take-it-from-behind credit card company interest rates, I’d hope that you’d tell me where to go. But, this is the fantastic interest rate our beloved state of Taxifornia is willing to pay to get its hands on that $9 billion. And for that reason, I will VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 51. Our government needs to learn to be much more fiscally responsible with our money through not wasting it so horribly as they do, and not paying almost twice as much as the principle in interest on bond issues. Make better use of our property tax money, Taxifornia, before you strap us with even more debt.

Proposition 51 is a no-brainer for me. For 52, there is more of a fence to sit on. Basically, with Proposition 52, a yes vote means that a fee the government charges to private hospitals just for existing, which is set to expire on January 1, 2018, would instead continue indefinitely. There is also language in the proposition that calls for ensuring the fees go to help provide medical services for low-income families. If only Taxifornia were not famous for passing propositions that mandated funds go to one area, only to turn around and still divert those funds to other things later, oh say, like the lottery money that was supposed to go to the schools. Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely for providing medical assistance to those with low incomes, but at the same time, I always have a problem when our state taxes someone or something just for existing. Let me share the “CON” argument from the Taxifornia Voter Guide. “Removes all accountability and oversight of over $3 billion of taxpayer dollars.” No, that’s not the case, pro-fee people. This does not remove oversight, but, in fact, removes the money completely from the government’s hands and leaves it in the hands of the people who made it – the folks who own and operate the hospitals. The CON argument goes on to state, “Gives $3 billion to hospital CEOs with no independent audit and no requirement the money is spent on health care.” Once again, the CON folks are trying to mislead us. This is not government money that is going to the hospitals instead. It is the hospitals’ money that the hospitals are keeping instead of sending it in to be wasted by Taxifornia. See the slight of hand they are trying here? If it’s the hospitals’ money, they should be able to spend it on whatever the hell they want to, just like me and how I should be able to spend my money on whatever the hell I want to. And, let me provide one more argument here to show you why I will VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 52. The “NO” narrative under “WHAT YOUR VOTE MEANS” in the Taxifornia Voter Guide states “An existing charge imposed on most private hospitals would end on January 1, 2018 unless additional action by the Legislature extended it.” So, what that means, boys and girls, is that even if you vote no on this proposition, like I am going to, at some point between Election Day, which is November 8, 2016, and January 1, 2018, over a full year later, if your money-hungry Taxifornia Legislature votes to extend the fee anyway, guess what happens? That’s right, even if we all vote no and tell the bureaucrats we don’t want it, they can still say “F U voters!”

So, what the hell, Old Man Savastano, are you going to vote no on everything? Actually, no. I’ll tell you something I am voting yes on, and that is 53. I will VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 53 because it will require a statewide vote on any state revenue bonds totaling more than $2 billion. Right now, there is no limit on the amount of a bond issue and there is no voter oversight. I personally think it is a great idea for the voters to at least be made aware, as well as have a say, when our Taxifornia bureaucrats are going to borrow over $2 billion dollars that we taxpayers are going to have to pay back, especially when those geniuses have shown time and time again that they have absolutely no problem paying close to $4 billion for every $2 billion they borrow. We need to end this ridiculous cycle of borrowing and paying horrible interest rates. The CON argument, which wants a no vote on 53, is saying that this oversight by the taxpayers on what gets borrowed will have an impact when money is needed for local infrastructure repairs, but I have two arguments back against that. The first, if it’s a local infrastructure project, shouldn’t the local taxpayers be the ones taking care of that? Should a taxpayer in Southern California be paying for a bridge retrofit in San Francisco, or should the people who drive on that bridge every day be taking care of that? And the second, I am sure that local infrastructure people, when faced with this $2 billion bond cap, will simply push their projects through in smaller amounts split amongst more projects. Government gets its money no matter what, boys and girls, but let’s at least make it a little more difficult for the Fat Cats in Taxramento to waste our money.

And why don’t we go ahead and keep the pattern going! I will VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 54, too. This one is actually a great idea! It’s one that I know has every Spendocrat in Taxramento tossing and turning in their big luxury beds every night. Passing Proposition 54 “Prohibits [the] Legislature from passing any bill unless [it is] published on [the] Internet for 72 hours before [the] vote. Requires [the] Legislature to record its proceedings and post [them] on [the] Internet. Authorizes [the] use of recordings. Fiscal Impact: One-time costs of $1 million to $2 million and ongoing costs of about $1 million annually to record legislative meetings and make videos of those meetings available on the Internet.” Now, you know I normally oppose government spending, but paying a few million dollars to put this little cap on the voting actions of our Taxocrats is a fantastic idea. Now, you and I might not have the time to check that website for each bill these horrible spenders pass, but rest assured, it is going to make the digging tax advocate organizations do much easier. Plus, if you’ve ever been in charge of a child, even though they might not see you, as long as they know you are there and could pop your head into that room any minute, what happens? Definitely a lot fewer bad things than if that child knew you weren’t in the house. Let’s all keep a better eye on the whiny babies who waste too much of our money in Taxramento by passing Proposition 54.

So, do we keep the yes momentum going for Proposition 55? No. Much like the classic politician, I will flip-flop back and VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 55. Proposition 55 extends for another 12 years a special income tax that the state of Taxifornia imposed on the evil bastards who make more than $250,000 a year with that money going to schools. So what gives, Old Man Savastano? You hate schools, or something? Well, let me ask you this. There are property taxes that are supposed to cover the schools, and if you remember, Proposition 51 is asking for $9 billion for the schools. So, that $9 billion is on top of the $4 to $9 billion that the tax Proposition 55 wants to extend for another 12 years. How many times over are we expected to pay for schools? Oh, and by the way, there is language in the tax that Proposition 55 will kill that says if the schools have enough money, then instead of the money going back to the taxpayers, it goes to healthcare for low-income families.

So, let’s look at this for a second. Property taxes and local taxes go to fund the schools. Then, on top of that, this tax on the evil bastards who don’t deserve to keep their money is designed to cover the costs that go beyond those taxes. But, in certain years, there is enough money for the schools and the money from the evil bastards tax then goes to pay for healthcare for low-income folks instead. Well, if there is left over school money after the property and local taxes and after the evil bastards tax, then what the hell is the money from the bond issue under Proposition 51 for? Do you see the pattern here? Taxocrats do all they can to get all the money they can out of us, and boy, do they love disguising it as something for the children. To quote Helen Lovejoy, “Won’t somebody please think of the children?!” Sorry, Helen, I am not buying it. The more taxes that pass, the more idiots like me end up having to pay them, so no, Taxocrats, I’m voting against Proposition 55, just like I will with Proposition 51.

Well, folks, we’re plugging right along through these 17 propositions, and let me warn you – get ready to pick yourself up off the floor because fiscally conservative Old Man Savastano is about to throw you for a loop and vote for a tax increase. That’s right – Proposition 56 raises the tax on a certain product an entire $2 every time someone in the state purchases it. And honestly, I have absolutely no problem with that. If you’re a smoker, you will, but hey, I believe at the end of the day, or in the morning perhaps, we all make our own bed.

Communism sucks. I oppose it vehemently, however, thanks to the nanny state, I am forced to participate in a particularly horrible form of it – health insurance. I am now required by the United States of America to have health insurance no matter what, regardless of whether or not I think I need it, or whether or not I want it. Such is the case for every single person in America. That means that we are all now communally responsible for each other’s health. Believe me, I sure don’t want to be responsible for anyone else’s health, nor do I want to be paying for their medical needs. Yet, thanks to the Communists in Taxington, D.C., here we are, so, sorry folks. You and I both know that paying $2 more a pack is not going to help you quit smoking, but the Taxocrats think fines and taxes deter behavior, just like all those speeding tickets they give us, so that’s why this one’s on the ballot. And for you e-cig folks out there, my apology as well, but this one is going to cost you more money, too. But, you know who its not going to cost more money? That’s right, those of us who do not smoke, but are still paying into the same healthcare system that you are going to use once all that tobacco and “harmless” vaping starts to kill you. I just think that if anybody should be paying for that, it should be you, and not us, so that is why I will VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 56, even though it is a tax increase.

Now, you might see some ads for the folks that are opposed to Proposition 56 in which they are crying fowl because not all of the money from the additional $2 per pack tax is going into the state coffers, but is also going to the Fat Cats at the health insurance companies, but you know what? I’d much rather have it come out of your pocket now and go into the health insurance system than out of mine later, or worse, just go to be wasted by the state of Taxifornia, solely because you should be the one responsible for your actions, not me. It’s all about personal responsibility and accountability with this fiscal conservative.

Well, loyal reader, you may not have agreed with me entirely up to this point, but chances are, if we are going to disagree on one of these 17 propositions, Proposition 57 might be it. 57 “Allows parole consideration for nonviolent felons. Authorizes sentence credits for rehabilitation, good behavior, and education. Provides [that a] juvenile court judge decides whether juvenile will be prosecuted as an adult.” This one was not too hard to reach a decision on. I do think that adding an extra set of eyes to cases where juveniles are going to be tried as adults is a good idea, but I must admit I am opposed enough to early parole for felons that it outweighs my agreement on the juvenile court judge oversight, therefore, it is my duty to VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 57.

I definitely want to see every single prisoner truly reform and rehabilitate. I want to see them come out of prison and never commit a single crime again. But, I would argue, they have the capability and the means to do so right now, without the passing of this proposition. I believe we all make choices in life, and while some might be right and some might be wrong, when it comes time to dole out the consequences of those decisions, it should be up to us to pay for own actions. It should not be up to the voters to provide a blanket easing of sentencing like this. Each case should be judged on a case-by-case basis based upon the laws currently in place. The saying “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” was coined for a reason.

And this leads us to Proposition 58, the first one of the 17 that I really had to dig into to make a decision. This was because both sides’ descriptions were purposely cryptic, and both claim to have the best interest of students in mind. Even the state-written summary in the Taxifornia Voter Guide was misleading, but here’s the crux of it. Voting no on 58 means that children who enter the California public school system who do not know English will still be placed in classrooms where they are “taught English as rapidly and effectively as possible.” This means they first go into an immersion program where they may be with children not necessarily their own age, but of similar English-speaking ability, and are then taught primarily in English until they learn the language. Once proficient, the students are placed in the regular class for their age.

A yes vote on 58 means that the language, “taught English as rapidly and effectively as possible” will be removed from California law, thus removing the restriction that new English language learners be placed in these immersion programs. Instead, local school districts will be allowed to design their own programs based on what local authorities deem to be the most successful. I truly believe this is something that should be standardized across the entire state, and I also believe that immersion is the best way to learn a new language. Therefore, I will VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 58.

Now, we get to Proposition 59, which literally does absolutely nothing other than give a quantifiable percentage of the people who either vote yes or no for it to be used as a public opinion poll to tell the Taxifornia Taxislature whether or not Taxifornians believe that corporations and labor unions should be able to spend all the money they want on influencing political campaigns. This measure DOES NOT change campaign finance laws, DOES NOT change the fact that corporations and labor unions cannot donate directly to candidates, NOR DOES IT CHANGE the amount of money anyone can spend to say anything they want to about any ballot measure or any candidate on the ballot.

To be honest, I don’t care which way anyone votes on this one. If you think corporations and unions should be able to spend whatever they want influencing political campaigns, then join me and VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 59. If you think there should be caps on what entities can spend on influencing political campaigns then vote yes. Either way, THIS PROPOSITION DOES ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO CHANGE ANYTHING. It is the same as any wasteful, costly resolution that any local government passes declaring it Bozo The Clown Day within a city. And yes, I am also voting against Proposition 59 because I think putting do-nothing measures like this on the ballot is a complete waste of resources and everyone’s time.

So, if 59 wasn’t a big enough waste of resources and time, here we go with Proposition 60, everyone’s chance to weigh in on whether or not the actors in porn should be forced to use condoms. It also requires porn producers to pay for vaccinations, testing and medical examinations to ensure that all the folks screwing, I mean acting, in porn are as clean as they possibly can be. Taxifornia estimates it will cost about $1 million a year to send regulators to make sure porn folks are using condoms. Now, there’s a government job! This is another one of those measures that I could honestly take or leave, but I will say that being as how I am opposed to the nanny state, wasteful and unnecessary regulation, and the further tossing of my tax dollars out the window, even though all those STDs floating around the porn set are going to raise my healthcare costs, I will still VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 60. Plus, all this is going to do is put money in lawyer’s pockets and increase regulatory and court costs.

And speaking of government waste, Proposition 61 is also a complete and total waste of taxpayer money and resources. 61 aims to fix a problem, the high cost of prescription drugs that are provided to citizens by government entities, but goes about it the wrong way. The Taxifornia Voter Guide provides a great way to look at Proposition 61. It says to equate government entities buying prescription drugs to a consumer purchasing a car. The car has a published MSRP, but a lot of times consumers can haggle with the dealer to get extras included in that price, or pay a reduced price. When government entities buy prescription drugs, the same exact thing happens. And while nowadays, consumers can usually find online what other people are paying for the car they are wanting to purchase, the drug companies don’t provide their customers with this luxury. Due to non-disclosure agreements, no one really knows what the government entity is paying for the prescription drug other than the person at the government entity actually making the purchase. This means that the VA can be buying a drug at a much higher rate than other state or federal entities. It also means that when government entities are negotiating prices, they have no idea what others are paying so it puts them at a real disadvantage. Proposition 61 proposes using a VA database in which the highest price ever paid by the VA is listed to cross-check the top price government entities in Taxifornia pay for the prescriptions listed in the database, and make it illegal for Taxifornia entities to pay more for the drug than the top price the VA ever paid. This is going to cost money to enforce, and cost money to monitor and prosecute. Instead of wasting money on this, Taxifornia really should concentrate on collective buying and negotiating. Why are seven different government entities buying the same drug in seven different transactions at seven varying prices instead of using the collective purchasing power of all government entities in negotiations with the drug companies? Because government is inherently stupid, asinine, and horrendously inadequate when it comes to fiscal responsibility. Proposition 61 has its heart in the right place, but it’s just going to be a waste. Instead of voting for it, we should all VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 61 and demand our Taxifornia government entities pool their resources to get better prices on prescription drugs.

Proposition 62 is one of those that you fortunately don’t really need to read too much into because you should already know the particulars, especially if you’ve lived in Taxifornia and watched the news for any length of time. When Charlie Manson was out there being Charlie Manson, we had no death penalty in the fine state of Taxifornia, and that is why we are blessed with his presence to this day. We clothe, house, feed, and put up with marvel after marvel during his regularly scheduled parole hearings. We do not endure this with Richard Ramirez because he’s dead. If you think that folks like Charlie Manson should be allowed to grace us with their presence for their entire natural life, then you’re for yes on 62. If you’re like me and you think we should still be using the chair, you’ll want to VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 62.

Now, there are some ancillaries to this one. They want the murder that lives out his or her natural life to work in the prison system to earn money by making license plates (and other fare) so they can pay restitution to the families of the dead. If you’re like me, you’d probably much rather have the bastard dead than earning $1.25 an hour to try to make up for the loved one they murdered. Yes, the death penalty is mostly symbolic at this point here in Taxifornia. Only 930 people have been sentenced to death since 1978, but I’d say some of them really had it coming. Plus, let’s not forget that staving off the death penalty in exchange for life is a great bargaining tool for prosecutors to use when building cases against criminal entities and leaders. If we do away with the death sentence, prosecutors will lose that bargaining chip. I hope you’ll join me in keeping it in place.

Now, on to Proposition 63. Let’s start with a history lesson. Back in 1988, I wrote an essay for my High School Freshman English class on gun control. And thanks to the ineptness of government in targeting legal gun owners instead of targeting criminals and criminal activity, oh, let’s say like illegal immigrants who get released back out in sanctuary cities and go on to kill people instead of being deported, I was able to turn that same essay in again in 1989, 1990, and 1991, then again in college in 1993 and 1995, and also sold versions of it for others to turn in well into the late 1990s. Now, in its infinite wisdom, while we are seriously talking about not deporting criminals, there is a measure on the ballot, Proposition 63, which would require background checks to buy gun ammunition. The libs, of course, say this will keep ammunition out of the hands of the bad guys. Yeah, just like all those gun control and immigration laws are keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and illegal immigrant criminals from committing crimes. Proposition 63 is not going to do anything other than cost the taxpayers and law-abiding gun-owners money. It will not stop crime. It will not prevent crime. It will just create an even bigger black market for ammunition like prohibition did for alcohol. Yes, we need to do something about gun violence and crazy people getting guns, but this proposition is not it. I will VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 63.

And as we move on to Proposition 64, here we go with legalizing pot again. People are still dying in drunk driving accidents, so let’s just hope and pray that they will not get high and then drive, right? You know, just how we hope and pray they don’t drink and drive. Government wants this proposition to pass so it can tax and regulate pot and earn more revenue that it can just waste like it wastes so much of the revenue it gets now. All you stoners out there can keep growing your shit in your closet and smoking it in your own home or buying it from your Cousin Larry, so you don’t need us to legalize it so you can get high. We all know you’re going to anyway. What this is going to do is make getting high more socially acceptable and that is going to lead to more people thinking it is perfectly all right to get high then do things that are going to endanger the rest of us. This alone would give me grounds to VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 64, but wait, there’s more!

Let me quote once again from the Taxifornia Voter Guide, even though I am hesitant to do so because it illustrates that Dianne Feinstein and I actually agree on something, which honestly makes me a little sad, and nauseous. “Proposition 64 purposely omits [a] DUI standard to keep marijuana-drivers off our highways.” This means there IS NOT a DUI clause in this proposition that addresses the penalty and enforcement of those who are high on marijuana while driving once it is illegal. I have a YUGE problem with that. “[Tax]ifornia Association of Highway Patrolmen and Senator Dianne Feinstein strenuously oppose. Legalizes ads promoting smoking marijuana, Gummy candy and brownies on shows watched by millions of children and teens. Shows reckless disregard for child health and safety. Opposed by California Hospital Association.” Need I say more?

Onward now from life to death in Taxifornia to the greatest evil ever devised by man…the plastic bag. Yes, that’s me laughing at you, Taxifornia. Not only because you are so worried about plastic bags while we’re going to hell in a handbasket, but because Proposition 65 stipulates one of the things that is going to happen if Proposition 67 passes. Only in backward-ass Taxifornia would 67 come before 65.

So, you’ll excuse me if I go out of order here slightly so I can attempt to alleviate some of the confusion that government has absolutely no problem burdening voters with. Proposition 67 seeks to make it illegal for grocery stores to provide customers single-use plastic or paper carryout bags. I totally get why you’re trying this, but Taxifornia, local governments throughout Orange County already tried it and, frankly, it didn’t do shit. It didn’t keep plastic bags off the ground, out of the ocean, or out of the waterways. All it did was take our money when we had to pay for bags and inconvenience the hell out of us when we were shopping. Huntington Beach tried this for two years and ended up repealing it because of all the headaches it provided. And, it didn’t cut down on plastic pollution in the environment one bit. Proposition 67 also has a flaw, too, and it is that none of the money collected from penalizing customers for not using reusable bags actually goes to the environment. Either way, plastic bag bans don’t work and have already failed all over the state, so I will VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 67.

Going back to Proposition 65, now. If Proposition 67 passes, and Proposition 65 passes as well, then Proposition 65 will require that proceeds from the penalization of customers who don’t use reusable bags will then go to environmental causes. I will still VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 65. While I do think we need to be conscious of the environment, I just feel that plastic bag bans which lead to consumers having to pay for bags to carry home the things they buy because it is mandated by the gub’ment is just wrong on so many levels.

Sixteen down, only one left to go! Are you still with me or have you done what Taxifornia wants and given up? Proposition 66 seeks to make changes to the death penalty and how it is implemented. It wants to put time limits on challenges to death sentences and revise rules so that attorneys who refuse to accept death penalty appeal cases would be forced to do so. Also, most notably, it would allow condemned inmates to be housed at any state prison, instead of at specially appointed prisons designed to do so as is that case now. You’ll forgive my laziness in quoting the Taxifornia Voter Guide again, but the CON position states, “Prop. 66 is not real reform. We don’t know all of its consequences, but we do know this: it adds more layers of bureaucracy causing more delays, costs taxpayers money, and increases [Tax]ifornia’s risk of executing an innocent person. Prop. 66 is a costly experiment that makes matters worse.” Basically, a no vote on Proposition 66 means that nothing will change with the current death penalty process, so I will VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 66.

And there you have it folks, my completely biased, self-centered take on the ridiculously overwhelming 17 Taxifornia Propositions on the ballot. Sorry I’ve only given you less than a week to read up on them, but hey, I was busy earning money to pay my taxes so I didn’t have time to read up on all the ways that the libs in Taxifornia want to tax me even more.

So, good luck out there. Read and learn as much as you can about the propositions and the politicians running for office before you vote. And for God’s sake, please vote…oh, unless you’re a lib, then I’d say don’t worry about it. These aren’t the droids you are looking for.