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Monday, June 29, 2009

All partisan groups agree that the American $2.5 trillion healthcare system is broken. Why not have everyone agree to agree that healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Then let's really roll up our sleeves, put the interest of the patient first, dissect the components, and reclaim a healthy healthcare system. Allow the insurance companies to compete against the Single Payer Healthcare Program. Won't that be a change we could believe in, wink, wink?

However, according to the U.S. Institute of Medicine, the government projects the nation will spend $2.5 to $3 trillion on health care costs this year, compared to $912 billion in 1993. Between 1999 and 2008, the average annual employee premium contribution for family coverage rose from $1,543 to $3,354, the panel said. (Tue Feb 24, 2009). You ask why! Several elements are going on at the same time:

The pharmaceutical companies are upping their costs for simple medications into the stratosphere. So if you require more than one medicine, get ready to mortgage the family heirlooms or reacquaint yourself to friends in Mexico and Canada, where the Pharma is a lot less expensive.

Demographically, the baby boomers are moving through the life cycle snake; ever since WWII we have caused a shift in the economy, education and every other industry we move through because there are so many of us born during the same time period being that need to be accommodated.

The insurance companies are doubling and tripling their premiums because their increasing overhead is 1/3 more than what it used to be. Depending on whom you talk to, they are just plain old greedy!

Preventive medicine is not practiced as it should be in our society, so American takes larger risks, needs major lifestyle changes, and has more accidents.
Litigation is rising because of bad medicine and poor medical practices. Ask a doctor to show you their premiums.

There aren't enough doctors and nurses to go around to care for the seniors and infirm.
And I could go on and on and on but one element, greed is causing lot of headaches, sleepless nights and 75% of the current bankruptcies.

I believe my role in all of this is to educate. I say it constantly, know your opportunities and then make the decision, but you have to go out there and learn, read, discuss and find the knowledge.
I strongly agree, that those that can afford more healthcare privilege, should be allowed to pay for it. Those doctors who are enjoying the high life with the high-income privilege should allow that privilege and billing. This is still a free country, right?

Those that like the insurance that they are currently receiving should be allowed to continue that policy, providing the employers are willing to continue paying the shared costs.
In the meantime, the rest of us, believed to be 80% of the population, who can't afford the "bankruptcy challenge", set up a pool to keep costs down and extend the Medicare/MediCal program. Let's get serious and let's put a stop to the fear mongering being used by the insurance and pharmaceutical companies.



Obama originally told us, if he had it to do all over again, he'd put single payer, also known as universal healthcare reform in place of the chaos we currently have. Obama did accept, it is believed, $41 million dollars from insurance companies. So is he in debt to these folks? You bet he is. There is no mystery, as Obama is informed on the issues, he has changed his position and is leaning to find balance in the debate. But some members of the PDA Progressive Democrats of America believe he should use his popularity capitol and make single payer his mandate.
I would assume anyone in the political profession who is honest may find that campaign promises will get mired in the details, discovery, and often financial reality. Once in office, candidates may need to change promises as one grows to understand, meet, study and become more educated on the policies. Does he want to run for another term? Obama has not said. Will he need the funding from the insurance companies? You do the math. What makes Obama different? The transparency. Is it Single Payer Healthcare? NO! Let me say it again, it is not Single Payer Healthcare! It is a compromise.

He is admitting (and everyone is beating him up on this one) that he is changing course and growing in his understanding of what he "can't immediately change". Something we never heard from the Bush Administration, however, opposition, jealousy, vengeance of people in the party, as well as the opposing party, who are notorious for playing unfair in the political sandbox, are hammering Obama. Okay, the Republicans lost this presidential round, but it doesn't mean they'll be on the "Island of Lost" forever. They'll get their new marching orders, once they determine who the next 60+ male with a wide midriff, receding hairline, angry, carnivore, eye bucking, sneering, snarling fear mongering chauvinist anointed party leader will be. And I am not excusing Michael, just because he happens to be a Black Man. Come on Colin Powell, give up the ghost, and join Arlen Spector's "out of the dark" progressive resurrection. They aren't going to appreciate you. Oops, I deterred.

I can see a single payer healthcare reform occurring in the response to recalcitrant insurance industry from reading everything I can find at this time, I'd recommend any of the following:

1.) Since paying back educational loans is one of the screaming reasons that medical doctors and medical staffers claim they are in need of higher salaries, in addition to the mental sweat, gruesome hours of study, discipline and practice (which are priceless), why not allow subsidies for their medical education. This would reduce new medical staffers educational debt, encourage more individuals to go into the profession (nurses are needed everywhere all the time) and decrease the ratio of patients to care needed in the United States. And while they are at it, I have school loans too that need to be paid. Subsidize education period. I wouldn't mind working three years at any institution if it would defray four years of graduate school loans and I don't mean debtor prison.

2.) Demand a review panel on the legions of malpractice insurance, determine where the holes are in the system, publicize and education the public, then immediately close those holes. The panel should consist of highly knowledgeable bipartisan medical, legal and medical policy experts. Maybe they can solicit the help of former Senator John Edwards since he has been successful in medical litigation. Create a bipartisan medical arbitration board period. Oh, I know I am pissing off some attorneys here, but let's set some limits on the dollar amounts, however, the more egregious the medical crime the greater the reward. That's only fair. Cut the frivolous crap. Yes, the sophisticated crap.

3.) Review the amount of malpractice insurance that practicing physicians have to pay to keep the doors open, have a medical group that reviews these malpractice actions, and release physicians from their oaths who poorly practice medicine. Through these three items, we just might find a way to decrease healthcare and medical costs considerably. Then from JoeJoe's playbook on the American Perspective Blog Site:
Photo Credit: American Prospective

4) Require businesses and other employers to either cover their employees or help finance their health insurance. IF they can't finance health costs for their employees, then allow the employees to participate in a national pool and base the fee on companies comparable to the employees premium cost. Make the companies bid for portions of this pool.

5) Make insurance affordable by creating new tax credits, expanding Medicaid and SCHIP, reforming insurance laws, and taking innovative steps to contain health care costs. Those that chose not to go in would be penalized as they do auto insurance.

6) Create regional "Health Care Markets" to let every American share the bargaining power to purchase an affordable, high-quality health plan, increase choices among insurance plans, and cut % costs for businesses offering insurance. But hold everyone to their commitment. I guess you would need medical police.

7) Make it a mandate that all Americans have health insurance and make allowances for those who make less than $7,000 a year. Yep, I guess I'm pissing off the republicans about now, they hate to be their brother's keepers, why don't their mother's teach this very important Christian lesson, I guess they missed this day in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School.

8) Encourage a Federal Health Benefit Program that IS a euphemism for Single Payer, universal healthcare, the Hillary Clinton Plan, the John Conyer's Plan, the California Mark Leno Plan . . . drum roll please . . . done done done done DOOOOONE!

And I understand that this all will take gradual steps to get there. I believe this is where Obama is. Gradually change the system this way so no one is left out of the loop and this will forewarn greedy insurance agents to get their greed in check, find another business profession and realize, health is a human right and it is no longer for sale!
On June 27th, 2009. There were two huge community discussions rippling with questions and answers:

The first Townhall meeting was at 10am at the Venice Peace Center in Justice and the Arts, 2210 Lincoln Blvd. (on the corner of Victoria), Venice, CA and the second townhall meeting at 3:00PM The State Building in Van Nuys 6150 Van Nuys Blvd, Van Nuys, CA 91401. Headlining the event is:

*Dr. Jo Olson: Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at USC, Full time practice in Adolescent Medicine at Children's Hospital LA. A grassroots activist, her primary focus is implementation of a single payer healthcare program for all Californians. Past Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party & 42nd AD delegate

*Steve Tarzynski M.D., M.P.H.: Practicing pediatrician. Long time health care reform activist. Board member of California Physicians Alliance (CaPA) the state affiliate of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), a national organization of 16,000+ physicians advocating for a single payer solution.

*Don Schroeder: Emmy award writer, producer, director of the PBS documentary "No Greater Love" on the miracle of organ donations. Will present "California One Care: Full Care, For All, For Less,": Why healthcare system is in crisis and the comprehensive health care system that will save families, businesses government money. Co-founder, SFV chapter of Health Care for All California. Co-Chair of the California One-Care Campaign.

These meetings were designed to draw bipartisan supporting groups emerging in one location to express their positions. We only hope everyone is pretty civil. They even invited AARP. Don't lose the opportunity to understand universal healthcare, single payer healthcare, employee assisted healthcare, insurance option healthcare and all the differences, similarities and confusion.

Confusion you ask? As a girlfriend who is a strong healthcare advocate says:

"Quality and Affordable" are two words that are being thrown around to confuse us. Those two words mean NOTHING and stand only for rejection of any fundamental change, and yet they are propagating wildly in the mass media, driven by slick diversionary ads, and perhaps you have unknowingly and unconsciously even uttered them yourself already. Nobody can "afford" NOT to have health care, regardless of the cost, up to their entire net worth. Believe that there are "quality" doctors and nurses, but note our largest problem is getting "heartless" insurance mega corporations to authorize our quality doctors to treat us. Mortal sworn enemies of real health care reform got together and concocted a deceptive marketing campaign, as they saw that the compelling majority of the American people favored and were pressing for REAL change. They literally sat down in a room to conspire on what marketing words they could use to SELL their status quo system of gouging us as something new and different. The enemies of real change have been trying to brand single payer health care with supposedly negative coined expressions like "socialized medicine", while at the same time branding their own fake reform initiative with those OTHER words (the Q word and the A word), which we must ALL agree to never utter again.

Do you get it? Do you really get it? It is the marketing campaign of our policy change enemies, and for us to prevail, the Q word and the A word must be surgically excised entirely from our own discourse and replaced with the "economical and efficient" mental transplant. Start looking for "efficient" and "economical".

A second healthcare advocate sent me these words:

It is your right as an American citizen to know the healthcare options. It is your health services that are on the table, and to eventually advocate with others who share your point of view. See more at:

A third healthcare advocate suggested these words:

You can tell the Obama people that this is where his campaign promise has got to stick! We want Single Payer and anything short of that is a compromise. We didn't compromise on McCain and Hillary and we won't compromise because he is willing to. We need to bring it to him that Single Payer can't be a compromise and stop calling it as one PDA friend described it: "Universal coverage is not universal care", this is a MISNOMER; we want "H.R.676".
Yes, there is the option to do nothing and allow others to make decisions for you. However, don't accuse others, when you become less accountable and less responsible for actions taken on your behalf and without your permission. The time for complacency is over. An opportunity exists to make changes on what is agreed to be a broken American healthcare system. So now you have it, and I haven't even factored in the Republican

CHILDREN'S SAFETY PLEASE

I can only imagine the wretching outcry and the confused anguish in hearing over 100 little voices, ranging from one to five years old, screaming out for help as they are engulfed in a grease fire. Imagine being 4 years old and the windows are too high to reach up, the doors padlocked closed, and the front door locked. You have no idea where your teacher is. Your classmates are all scurrying about running in circles or the more frightened kids are squatting, huddled together frozen in absolute shock under a Playschool bridge. Your heart doubles its beat and you feel fear consuming you as it becomes more difficult to breathe and the plush yellow duck toy isn’t providing any comfort. All you can do is scream out for your mother. But she can’t hear you.

I can only imagine being a parent, getting the phone call at work or on the home phone, running to your car or asking a coworker to drive you to the scene, in any case you can’t get there fast enough. Later you hear that some parents were able to retrieve their youngsters after one man suddenly jumped into his Chevy truck. He rammed the side of the building three times, not anticipating his own injuries or exhaustion, before a section of the building finally gave way, releasing several bricks. Following him, two other parents gun their cars in reverse straight into the fiery building also. The third truck rams open a hole wide enough for several children to scamper out to the opening arms of panic stricken relatives and community members. Imagine seeing the head of your child as he or she escapes from the visible black smoke and the gnawing smell of oil and burning wood. Two children who manage to wonder aimlessly, collapse to the ground as soon as they inhale oxygen; it is more than their little bodies can handle. Screams are echoing in your head, your heart pumps faster, and everything around you seems to go into slow motion as you observe the ambulances, onlookers and frantic parents screaming at the top of their lungs. Your arms almost smothering your youngster. You are both crying from relief.

As you walk away, your feet barely touching the ground you notice the local police running, waving at one another towards the building. Some officers stop to console the crying parents and then out of nowhere large military trucks unload heavily attired military. That’s right, this is the land where gangs play hard ball and anyone can be taken prisoner. But was there someone’s child in the building who is at odds with the gangs? Is the business next door to the day care center owned by someone who hasn’t paid their protection? Is this just a simple mistake of someone with a blow torch who accidently ignited some flammable object in the auto repair shop?

I can imagine seeing a woman fainting from the unbelievable inner pain of such a disaster loss as reported by TV Azteca. She is being fanned, while a woman runs to a nearby leaking faucet, tears from her own blouse and runs back to bring the woman comfort while another woman cuddles her body. But this is what I read, heard and saw this morning while checking “the news”. You continue reading, hearing and seeing the video describing the 31, now 35, and finally 41 tiny lives lost. 27 are on the critical list and there are still questions regarding scrapes and burns on possibly 100 more. It is assumed that there were 142 children registered at this location. One child is burned so badly that they are risking bringing him to Shriner’s hospital in Sacramento. The number of transfers will increase as children are prepped for the risky air travel to a Guadalajara hospital.

But even the onlooker, who has never been in a fire before, who has never had children, who doesn’t live in the neighborhood, who doesn’t know any of the victims can share the human pain and wonderment of whether or not all the children made it out. Who was in charge of this center? What are the building requirements for an educational center for children in Mexico? Where were the teachers? With this many children, why don’t they have floor monitors? Were there any administrators on the site, and if so, why didn’t they get the children out immediately? Had the children ever had a fire drill? Why was the front door locked at all? Why would children be caged in a brick building where they couldn’t look out? They say this was a working class neighborhood. Were children allowed to take phones? My nieces and nephews carried phones when they were young, for the “just in case” call. How does Mexico answer this frantic and horrible situation at a state run daycare center?

http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/06/05/mexico.daycare.fire/index.html#cnnSTCVideo
They say the way that a nation treats its youngest and weakest is a strong reflection on their overall attitude towards its people. Are people dispensable in Mexico? The CNN videos brought tears to my eyes and made me think of a long time friend who is teaching in Seoul, Korea. I wondered what kind of building they teach in. Are the windows so high that children can’t peer out? I don’t know about you, but I can remember being one of those dreamy kids that wondered how much longer I’d have to sit in this room and watch this teacher , because by then I know I wasn’t listening to a word he or she were saying. The clock wasn’t moving fast enough; Many times I’d try to count the dots in the white tiled ceiling and for some reason every time I would lay back in the seat to lift my pencil in order to keep the rows straight in the counting and the teacher would inevitably call on me. But that was OK because it seemed like I already knew the answer, which was why I was as frustrated as the teacher in my being in the “required” class. I enjoyed school but I never liked the regimentation part. Why do we have to stand in a straight line? What was wrong with a crooked one? Why did I have to pay attention to the middle part of the back of Kathy red hair. But the building was never on fire and I never had to experience this horrific situation.
SATURDAY, you hear that there is a mass grave being dug for six victims of Friday’s fire. The town 200 miles south of the United States border is in mourning according to varying CNN reports. We learn that some children were taken to ‘Ciudad Obregon’. And two more to Shriner Hospital’s Burn Center in Sacramento. We learn the fire was hot enough to cause the ceiling to collapse. Several more children are reported to have died from the toxic fumes in the ventilation system. CNN reports that “President Felipe Calderon traveled to Hermosillo on Saturday. The president arrived with Interior Secretary Fernando Gomez Mont and Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova to get first-hand updates from doctors and investigators, the state news agency Notimex reported.”

The cause of the fire is still “unknown”. Meantime, Calderon has requested the attorney general to investigate the fire. We learn that six adults were also in the building. There is no mention of their condition either.

Part of this is a composite of the various news releases and the quotes are from the various sources that gave me the idea of pulling these thoughts together.

Sincerely, I wish the parents and family members my deepest prayers and my heart goes out to them for having to experience such a tragedy and the loss of their little ones.

MINERVA LEAH WILLIAMS, is a freelance writer who resides in Santa Clarita Valley. As an avid reader her breath was taken away just reading the accounts of this story.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

“Crash Proof: How to profit from the coming economic collapse“


The book by Peter Schiff, who is called one of Wall Street's chief prognosticators and global strategists, was edited by John Downes and published by John Wiley and Sons, New Jersey, 2007 (ISBN: 9-780470-043608). The contents are a necessary read and predicted over four years ago today's economic troubles.

"We are going to collapse like the 'dot com' bust of the 2000's, but this is going to be more serious then the depression. And the government can't afford to continue bolstering it up for the inevitable . . . they (the government) want everyone drunk on the Kool-Aid so they do not realize what is happening to our economy."

Schiff is president of Euro-Pacific Capital (www.europac.net), a financial broker. He understands the movement of the dollar and sees that it is steadily declining. According to his website, he holds degrees in finance and accounting from U. C. Berkeley along with FINRA series 4, 7, 24, 27, 53, 55, and 63 licenses. Schiff is an economic theorist and specializes in foreign current. He was an economic advisor to the 2008 Ron Paul presidential campaign. Schiff insists that it is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. He states that "Inflation is out of control, more severe than perceived. The reality is of course many world economies are going to prosper. Non US dollar investments, foreign equity, stocks and conservative companies against the US dollars will prevail." He understands the weight of the American economy.

He has been writing commentaries for the past four years, constantly updating the newsletters, and offering archives of his writings and radio shows. Research reports are available free. His forecasts are more accurate than the mainstream brokerage firms because they heavily advertise their claims. He wants people to know what he said in the past first, before you call him. But we are on a sinking ship and he is offering a life raft.

Schiff gets to the point, "Fundamentals of the economy are not sound." He believes that Obama is accelerating us into oblivion. If we don't stop protecting companies who lied about their worth and were involved in excessive borrowing and abuse of their lines of credit and don't allow the market to settle the score, we are poised for a serious economic collapse. People laughed and scoffed at him on various talk shows programs such as the December 31, 2006 Biz Alert, the Fox News "More for Your Money" segment, the July 2, 2007 "Inflation Fears" on a segment of Kudlow & Company and the August 18, 2007 Fox Studio's "Bottom line: Subprimes and Hurricanes: Financial store or Opportunity!". Nevertheless, all that he said has now come to roost.

He mentions the financial mismanagement of many corporations was eventually coming and would destroy lending as we knew it. He encouraged bankruptcies so we could determine the bottom and encourage borrowers to be charged at the highest interest rates conceivable to discourage borrowing. He said we needed to tighten up our belts and quit purchasing items that we wanted, knowing that we would have to sacrifice for those items we needed. He cautions that Americans need to stop being such heavy consumers of credit and borrowing when we know we do not have the money or the ability to pay it back. He gave examples of how our spending for new comfort toys would eventually come and haunt us.

So what went wrong and what is the government hiding from us?

Schiff said during the real estate bubble, people were being offered liar and Ninja (No Income, No Job, no Accountability) loans. Naturally the assumption was that the value of the real estate would increase and even if lost, the value would increase according.

We have become the great federal corporate and individual debtor nation. We are running out of "non portable goods" because we do not make anything anymore. To see this, we only need to observe what has happened to what was considered the pride of America, the automobile industry. We have become a nation of consumers, not producers. Our currency is being devalued and decreasing in worth. He said that the real estate was in a bubble and would eventually burst and combined with the over leveraging of mortgages would cause many to lose their homes. I believe that we are now aware of this. Look around in your neighborhood and see how many homes are boarded up, with padlocks on the front doors, lawns yellowed, and for sale signs in front of every other house? Have you looked at your property tax statement recently? We may rejoice at having to pay less in property taxes, but at the same time pine away over the corresponding loss of our home equity.

He offered that we are having our mistakes purchased through borrowing from the Japanese and the Chinese. One day we were going to wake up and realize that we are owned by the Japanese, the Chinese and the Arabians since our money will be worthless. They might then decide to massively dump the US dollar onto the world market and make our currency as worthless as toilet paper. "The world", he exclaimed, "will eventually see the over inflated values and realize there isn't any core to our business operations".

The Consumer Credit crunch was part of the solution. After pages and pages of gloom, he presents economic restructuring to solve the solutions:
Rethink your stock portfolios and invest in foreign currencies, they will provide higher yields.

Review your assets, especially gold silver and fine jewels. They are universally accepted in the place of cash.

Keep a reserve of cash and liquidate everything that you do not need. This may be difficult for those with huge consumption habits. The advantage is that you will be in the position to take advantage of the huge sales that will be around the corner.
In addition, there are more suggestions, but you will need to buy the book to appreciate the pearls of wisdom he avails us.

It was revealed on the recent Jon Daily Show that Schiff is considering a political career and is running against Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT). Schiff has also been featured on CNBC, CNN, FOX News, Fox Business Network and Bloomberg TV. He has had his articles published in Barron's, Investor's Business Daily, The Arizona Republic, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution , The Chicago Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, The Dallas Morning News, , The Financial Times, The Miami Herald, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. He is the author of "The Little Book of Bull Moves in Bear Markets: How to Keep your portfolio up when the market is down", published October 2008 by Wiley and Sons.

His company Europac.net is physically located at 10 Corbin Drive, Suite 3B, Darien, CT 06820; Phone: 203-662-9700 or toll free 800-727-7922. Fax: 203-662-9771 with locations in Los Angeles; Newport Beach; New York, Palm Beach and Scottsdale, AZ.
NOTE: The authors have not received or offered any compensation for the writing of this article.

References:
Commodity Radio: http://www.europac.net/media/schiff%20minesite.mp3, www.europac.net
http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=230058&title=peter-schiff

Minerva L. Williams [Formerly of the LA TIMES, BA Journalism, teaching credential] and Todd L. Hoover, [BS in Business Management and BA in Spanish] is a computer system analyst at Northrop Grumman. They are freelance writers residing in the Santa Clarita Valley area of Southern California. They are both webmasters, event planners and avid readers. They enjoy amusing subjects, brainstorming current trends and events, jazz and exploring problem solving.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

CALIFORNIA BUDGET

Summary: http://www.californiareport.org/archive/R906160850/a

A $24 billion problem will add to the California economic problem. This number is exponentially rising and state cash is running out. The Governator says that the public sector jobs are part of the problem and to privatize the state's prisons will lower the costs substantially. So what is the real problem?

"They are smart individuals (legislators)", he says, "who know where all of the bloat, fat, fraud, and other misrepresentations are". He refers to various social services programs and the role the unions play in keeping the state budget inflated.

"The question is whether or not the Democrats are willing to have the guts to make the necessary cuts". Schwarzenegger says, "I'm not concerned about my legacy but I am quick to defend my record".

The California Report states that the budget went up 24% in the first year that Schwarzenegger was in office and has been steadily increasing. Schwarzenegger says that he defends the numbers because he has also been paying down the debt left by the previous administrations. Starting with Reagan, who increased the state budget by 13%, every other governor has increased the annual budget from 3% to 8.5% (each year). In his final days in office, many politicians on either side of the fence say that Schwarzenegger is calling their bluff and only grandstanding to keep the attention on him. The May 19th vote indicated that grassroots Democrats are against increased taxes. Because of cuts on the social services, conservationists http://www.ecovote.org/news/endorse040909.html , Libertarians http://ca.lp.org/pr20090407.shtm and Republicans http://www.electionforum.org/special-may-19th-election-alert.html , http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs012/1100358257512/archive/1102527559657.html all but seem ignored.

"Meantime, the legislature kept borrowing and borrowing from the future", Schwarzenegger said he is trying to stop this but insists that a budget must be reached so the next governor doesn't have to deal with this problem. He is requesting a complete solution on his desk. But is he making this goal to balance the budget so that it will be his legacy?

Apparently, anything smaller than the $24 Billion solution won't be enough. To date $7 billion worth of cuts have been proposed. The Governor's goal is to accomplish much more than this. "We are in an economic crisis, and a revenue crisis. We need to solve the problem and cut the size of our spending," he offered.

"Kicking the can down the alley is what they have been doing for years and years. I have held up the budget because of this. They would eventually have to make the cuts. They originally tried to solve the problem with money we don't have. The State Controller, John Chiang (pictured to the left) says we will run out of cash in July. Yes, we need a grant and they (legislators) know what needs to be done. http://www.sacbee.com/static/weblogs/capitolalertlatest/cat_controller_john_chiang.html

In the meantime, the credit rating of the state, the seventh largest economy in the world, has been deteriorating since February http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123370579471145581.html

"They are smart people. It has more to do with their will. They know exactly where the fat, fraud and abuse in government is, but they need to make the decision as to what is more important: to serve the people who need the services or to serve the needs of those people providing the services.

Schwarzenegger states that "February was a good middle ground solution", but to balance the budget and to find a combination of a solution to oil, tobacco, tax spending, revenues and credits, needs to be more wisely determined."

This isn't the first time that this question of taxes and cuts has come up. After 18 years of no tax increases, the problem has become one of revenue. So that now an increase in taxes needs to be made. All four legislative leaders realized and promised that the financial problem would get worse and bottom out if they didn't come up with solutions. So now they're going to work on obtaining short-term cash and revenue and make further cuts in the May.

As for the possibility of having extensions, Schwarzenegger said, "we didn't know the word 'extend' at that time, because everyone was clear, no more taxes or fees with cuts." He said all four legislators knew what California was up against. We can't go back."

The California Report agreed that during the Pete Wilson Administration, they didn't want more taxes but they kept spending and not living within their means. We need to be more responsible. People rearranged things in order to stay in business and provide the important services and then it is up to the legislators to trim the fat out of the bloated programs.

Trimming the fat entails looking at what you have available and seeing which parts you can do without. You might even have to come up with new legislation to reach those goals. But you also have to have a plan. Stick to those goals and execute them with determination. He gave an example of how they change the way the state pays brokers. Brokers' compensation was reduced and the savings ended up netting the state 60% to 70% more revenue. Schwarzenegger believes this type of action can occur across the board.

He said that cuts to the CALWorks and Healthy Families programs are not something that can be done easily. California Report asked him "why not more temporary solutions instead of wholesale cuts?" Schwarzenegger says that there are many additional monies that can be taken out of these two programs if we research how they are run. We could take $200 million from in-home health services and prisons, which are two big items where we are spending billions of dollars. Because of how prisons are run, they are very inefficient. We could make them more efficient by privatizing them. He insists that if we are willing to change the law regarding how these institutions are built and run, we could realize significant cost savings.

"The way the laws are written all I can do is straight cuts and they know this. They have to rattle the cages, take the options and change the way things are done," he added.
Spending limits and tax increases will eventually cause the bottom line to improve. He makes the correlation that "when you lose sometimes, you may had to review what you did, take the hit but you never give up. No one will fault you for trying." He believes he is doing this by requiring the legislators to come up with a "solution" and not another Band-Aid response that will require them to have to return to the table again in another three to six months. He believes California residents deserve no less. He implies that we also need to re-examine capital gains tax.

"We don't have much of a rainy day fund and we need to remedy this. We need to redo our taxes", he offers.

When questioned regarding his legacy, he says that he is not concerned about his legacy. He believes his mission to reform the budget is more important. He had hoped to fix the budget so we don't have these drastic fluctuations. "Even when I am gone, I will continue to fight for the stability in the budget."

"It is unfair to say that I have made the problem worse. I have increased the budget less than any previous governor. They have been picking the numbers that they want to include in the budget. When we came into this office there was a huge debt."

The state had been borrowing from pension funds, local government funds, and transportation funds. All these acts needed to be rectified because they were illegal. The State had to repay these other entities. To have pay them back is now considered spending, but it is not."
Schwarzenegger insists that these numbers are distorted. "The current budget is low revenue income with 3.5 -3.7% spending," he said. Davis couldn't get spending cuts, raise taxes and balance the budget at the same time, hence Schwarzenegger says he was voted out of office. "Both houses were fighting him", he said, ". . . the next governor, " he adds, "I don't care whether the next governor is Republican or Democrat, but the next governor will require the best person with the greater vision of California", and that is the person he says he will campaign for and support.

"I enjoy thoroughly the campaign, have a vision, goal and plan to get there. They can say whatever they want, if it helps them by criticizing me, if it helps them accelerate their future political careers, so let it be, but it will require working together to get there", and this is all he says he is working towards.

You be the judge and see how the budget is met, whether or not the two legislatures of the state compromise and how those compromises are accomplished. Action requires that the citizens of California pick up their phones and start calling their legislators. The cost of running the state is increasing, the deadline for solutions is almost up and the Governator doesn't want to be known as the California Terminator.


By Minerva and Todd Hoover, Freelance writers, Santa Clarita Valley

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Death Penalty Forum

LOS ANGELES, CA. Sunday May 31st. Proponents of abolishing the death penalty, those convicted under the “three strikes” law for petty crimes or for exhibiting mental disorders, and inmates needing drug rehabilitation may be thanking their lucky stars for the possibility an early release because of the effort currently underway to solve California’s budget problems. At least this was what was expressed by several speakers at the Fame Renaissance Center of the First AME Church, located at 1968 West Adams Blvd.

California has the seventh largest economy in the world. Will the federal government ignore California’s desperate plea for backing on short-term loans necessary to continue to meet its critical financial obligations? This was one of the questions being asked in the Death Penalty presentation.

In attendance were guests Judge Mike Davis, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, State Senator Gloria Ramirez, actor Mike Farrell, assembly district delegates from the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, representatives from the ACLU, community advocates, and local citizens.

Congresswoman Maxine Walters opened the meeting by introducing the impressive list of guest speakers: Gloria Ramirez, Charles Ogletree, Jon Streeter, Gloria Killian, and Azim N. Khamisa.

State Senator Gloria Ramirez announced her bid for California State Superintendent of Schools and provided statistics on the amount of taxes allocated for education versus the prison system. “They’d rather spend money incarcerating our children rather than educating them. The number of prisoners who cannot read and write is staggering”. She pledged to remedy this situation whether she wins the position or not.

The prominent law expert, Dr. Charles J. Ogletree Jr., who was born and raised in Merced, California, was the facilitator. Many in the audience knew the Harvard civil liberties law professor. He estimates that the death penalty is costing California taxpayers $1.9 billion a year. Ogletree offered, “The death penalty needs to be abandoned in this state because it is categorically immoral, wrong and financially expensive . . .now to find 25 more items like this in the budget might solve California’s budget crisis.” Snickers and claps of approval engulfed the room.

Jon Streeter, Ph.D. from the American Bar Association and mentee of Ogletree when he was a student at Stanford University reflected on the years that it takes death penalty cases to run through the judicial system, “it is slow, a labyrinth of technicalities and requires attorneys who are diligent and understand the various levels and the procedures”. He added that the expense is enormous, and the wrong attorney can greatly increase the prisoner’s chances of a life sentence, while many attorneys do not have a good understanding of the process.

Gloria Killian was a law student when she was implicated in a robbery and murder. She fought for over 15 years to get the case overthrown. She at least understood the judicial process when she was wrongly accused. Her incarceration however, did inspire her to help win exoneration for other women prisoners who couldn’t read, write or understand their cases. Since her release, she has started a nonprofit organization and often assists female prisoners on a “pro bono” basis.
All speakers provided riveting commentary and testimony, however one stood out more. The wisdom provided by Azim N. Khamisa, an attractive, humble and serious speaker against the Death Penalty because of its spiritual impact.

Spiritual impact - now there was a different concept. What does spirituality have to do with our economy?

“January 21, 1995”, Khamisa lowered his voice and pulled up on the podium, “my life was changed forever; it was the most that I could do, to get out of my bed after hearing such bad news”. He explained the grief, disappointment, and anguish he went through when Tariq, his only son, was robbed and killed. His son was charismatic, handsome, full of life, 21 years old (at the time), a senior at San Diego State University, and engaged to be married. “He was in the wrong place at the wrong time”, as he calmly states the facts of the situation. A silence fell over the audience, and you could hear a pin drop.



Khamisa was and still is a successful international investment banker, so he had the money to provide his son with all the luxuries of life but “my son was determined to work and save his own money for college the following semester”.

Khamisa looked forward to sending him to Harvard University, Khamisa’s alma mater. “My son had a promising future. He had the determination, grades, drive, discipline and the support of a proud mother and father. He would decide whether he wanted to become a successful banker, like his dad or an attorney. He hadn’t made up his mind yet, which profession, but he knew, he was going places”. Friday and Saturday pizza delivery didn’t pay exceptionally well, but it is what was available, and allowed Tariq freedom, some loose change and the enjoyment he got from meeting other people.

Along the way, Tariq met Tony Hicks, a 14-year old gang banger. Tony was to rob and kill the pizza man. Neither person knew one another and that opportunity never came. Tony did not have the promising career, the education, nor a life of luxury. His mother had him at 15 years old, his father had long gone, and he wasn’t doing well in school. Instead, he was being initiated into one of San Diego’s roughest gangs and Tariq was the initiation victim.

Khamisa said he beat himself up trying to figure out what he could have done differently so that the situation wouldn’t have happened. Khamisa put his deepest thoughts together in a book called “The Secrets of the Bulletproof Spirit: How to bounce back from Life’s hardest hits. ISBN: 9781741757934; Published by ALLEN & UNWIN April 2009. The book is co-authored by the renown spiritual advisor and radio host, Jillian Quinn, who also shares her personal experiences. The book assures you that our thinking can also cause us to “create our own reality, and that you can use it to take control of your life”.


According to the book’s preface (http://www.bulletproofspirit.com/) here are some of the topics:
  • The potentially damaging mental routines you’re running on autopilot
  • the vital connections between your upbringing and your “resiliency quotient”
  • spiritually affirming thoughts that may help you make more spiritually empowering choices.

Khamisa offers that he had to go through three steps to be able to forgive his son’s killer.

“First”, he said, “you have to admit that you have a tragic loss and you can’t change what has occurred. You have to give yourself time to grieve”. Time he said is “relative”, some people take longer than others. He assured us that you have to get to the place where you realize what happened, and that denial does not help the process.

“ Second”, he said, “you have to give up the resentment, rage and revenge. You have to learn to replace it with love and forgiveness.

Then the third stage, he said, is where you must reach out to the offender that has caused you wrong with unconditional love and compassion. You must learn to forgive.

Khamisa, a peace activist, insists that life is not a destination; it is a voyage that no matter how hard you might think you control the elements in the universe, the universe provides you with lessons that make the journey tug at your intellectual, emotional and financial heartstrings. He offers hope in this book of “thirty essential keys to emotional and spiritual resiliency.”

He offered that we need to be careful with resentment, quoting Nelson Mandela, who didn’t originate the words, but who made the quote famous. “Resentment is like drinking the poison and waiting for or expecting someone else to die or expecting it to kill your enemies”. I knew I had heard this quote before, but it seemed like he had added some additional resentment to the quote.

At the presentation, Khamisa insisted that the world is not kind and maybe was never intended to be, but it does offer those of us who believe in a higher authority the wisdom to grow. We are here to help one another, to be more grounded in our spiritual selves, and to allow the universe to use us for love and compassion. I believe we are here to help someone else who is not as advantaged as we see ourselves. And like Khamisa, I too don’t believe in the Death Penalty nor capital punishment and could understand that the death of his son only challenged him to be more still within himself, allowing the arms of God to envelope him until the explosion subsided and he was able to heal.

So how did Khamisa respond to the death of his son?

First, he had to get to the point of understanding, which isn’t easy for many family members to realize that “no matter how angry and disappointed I was, I couldn’t bring my son back”. He was determined that Tariq’s death was not going to consume his every waking hour. He admitted that it took him five years before he could go and meet the child who was now 19 years old. He said he looked him in his eyes and he felt he touched his soul. “There wasn’t a murderer there,” he offered, “he saw a victim of a gang initiation, a victim of society and he realized that he, Khamisa, had to take responsibility for his share of the child not having the guidance he needed”. He got to know Tony and met his family. He wrote to the young man and offered him not only hope, but also a job so that whenever he is released, he has somewhere he can go and call home.

Khamisa became a surrogate father to Tony. He provides him with materials to read, and has encouraged him to finish his GED. He also began to realize that Tony had lost a father at an early age. While he no longer had a son, Khamisa did not stop at just helping Tony.

Khamisa started the Tariq Khamisa Foundation to break the cycle of youth violence. He said the foundation has helped six million children in the past 13 years to teach forgiveness. He has six programs at the foundation. He has hired a staff of recently released prisoners, provided them with counseling, job placement, housing, and an opportunity to get a new lease on life. Several of these individuals are now spiritual counselors and motivational speakers. They can speak firsthand of the mistakes that they made in life. They can relate to young adults in a way Khamisa says that he cannot. Their life experiences can relate to the feeling of being a lost, hopeless, and isolated. Tony is scheduled to be paroled in 2027, when he will be 40 years old.

I agree with Khamisa that we all have an opportunity to study ourselves and our children to determine what is it in our society that causes us to be ‘so mean, hateful, full of rage, and constantly believing in destroying people, objects, and ideas that we don’t appreciate’. It is worth the challenge to watch television without the sound and observe how many negative messages are in two commercial hours of evening programming. Take time to check out the movie offerings. Which ones net the highest income? Listen to the songs on the radio. What messages are being relayed? We are a morally poor, spiritually bankrupt, and a corrupt society. Is this why some countries balk at the idea of American products?

While driving home Todd and I took a look at the reasons for our economy faltering. Does greed, lying, stealing, exaggerating costs, finding loopholes, abandoning financial discretion, blaming others, misleading investors, hiding fine print, rushing the sale, withholding the truth, passing the buck, cronyism, self righteousness, lack of spending limits and budgets, Ponzi schemes, hidden interest rates, and hidden fees all seem too familiar?

That is because these are the basis for which many American corporations are driven to achieve their business practices. No, not all Americans are doing this, but someone in the ivory castle has pulled the wrong levers and we are not only suffering in the United States, but causing others to suffer throughout the world.

It may seem odd that financing the death penalty has come on the table, not because we spiritually know that it is wrong, but because financially, we just cannot afford to spend $140K - $170K more in court costs, housing inmates and providing “special facilities”. We were told to multiply this number by 621 inmates. Only seven on death row are from families of means who can pay these costs. The rest are poor, mentally ill, or completely indigent. Over half (65%) are African Americans. “Don’t tell me race doesn’t matter”, Khamisa declared.

Nevertheless, deep inside we can only hope that Khamisa is right. The universe is teaching us that the transformative power of forgiveness is a lesson, that taking someone else’s life for whatever revengeful feeling we may have requires a spiritual re-evaluation. We are not God.
I am looking forward to Khamisa’s accepting my invitation to come to the Santa Clarita Valley so we can hear him firsthand.

REFERENCES AND NOTES:

NOTE: Charles Ogletree, 54, is a prominent Harvard Law Professor, founder and executive director of Harvard Law’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice. He was a mentor to Michelle and Barack Obama when they were Harvard students and is part of the Obama Administration’s inner circle. He is known for his frankness and outspokenness regarding legal theory, complexities in legal issues, racism in America and civil rights. He is often referred to by colleagues as “Tree”.

Quinn lives in Dutchess County, New York and is a wife and mother of three young children. She is a radio host on WHVW 950AM, excellent speaker, teacher, workshop facilitator and an associate minister at the Interfaith Temple in New York City (http://www.jillianquinn.com/).

Khamisa Is CEO and Founder of Sovereign Capital Markets, Inc. He has conducted business ventures in Africa, Middle East, Europe, Asia and the Americas. Mr. Khamisa was educated in England in Mathematics & Finance and is a well-traveled multilingual U.S. citizen residing in La Jolla, California. He received the Search for Common Ground's prestigious international award for building Peaceful Communities, along with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In 2006, he received the Circle of Courage Award from Reclaiming Youth International. Azim is also the recipient of the California Peace Prize.

For more information visit: http://www.tkf.org/; http://www.azimkhamisa.com and http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4833368n. Also, check out his other book, From Murder to Forgiveness.

MINERVA LEAH WILLIAMS is a freelance writer and enjoys reading on subjects that stimulate the gray brain matter. Formerly of the LA Times, she resides in Santa Clarita Valley with her life partner Todd Hoover, a computer technician. They both oversee several websites and enjoy writing on interesting people and topics.