Friday, May 28, 2010
By Matt Kokkonen

All over America, voters are rejecting the lies and half-truths of politicians.
They are rejecting “business-as-usual” politics, secret political agendas, and
the influence of Big Money on our elections. They are demanding greater
transparency and accountability from public officials. They rightly believe
that America’s legislative chambers are controlled by special interests –
be they Big Business or Big Labor or any number of others -- which demand
favors in return for campaign contributions. They truly believe America’s
political leaders are up for auction to the highest bidder.
This corruption of our political system is being played out right here in the
33rd Assembly District, although the local media tries to ignore it.
One candidate has received over $86,000 in funding from a dummy political
committee ( which until a few days ago was not even registered with the
California Secretary of State! ) established primarily for the purpose of
evading campaign contribution limits ( limiting contributions to Assembly
candidates to $3,900 per person ) and pumping tens of thousands of dollars
into his campaign indirectly to pay for slick television ads.
The group in question calls itself the “California Taxpayers Advocate” and
the candidate involved is 33rd Assembly District candidate Katcho Achadjian.
There is no information on the Internet about “California Taxpayers Advocate.”
Nor does this “organization” have a website. Its address is a UPS Store in
San Diego. Its media buyer is an ex-California State Senator.
Sound fishy? Certainly.
By law, committees such as this must legally file paperwork with the Secretary
of State when they spend money in support of or in opposition to a political
candidate. This is the only way we can determine who is paying for “California
Taxpayers Advocate.” The most recent filing deadline was May 27 and this
is what we find:
Among the contributions to this group is $31,000 from the California Dental
Association PAC, $25,000 from the California Medical Association PAC, $10,000
from PG&E, $15,000 from the California Building Industry Association, and
$20,000 from the giant grocery chain, Food4Less.
Why exactly do these special interests want to elect Katcho to the Assembly?
Why do Big Medicine, Big Utilities, Big Developers, and Big Grocers need
Katcho in the Assembly? Why do they need to be funneling tens of thousands
of dollars into his campaign through surreptitious means? Sure, it may be legal
( if everything is properly reported ), but that isn’t the point.
Do Big Business interests, public employee unions, and other entities -- which
spend millions of dollars every year lobbying our legislators -- make large
political contributions simply out of charity or because they have nothing better to
do with their money?
Of course not. They are buying access. They are seeking special consideration.
Frankly, they are buying votes. It has not been unprecedented to hear of
legislators who actually skimmed through their contributor lists to determine
which visitors to their hallowed offices they would choose to meet with. This
is simply wrong and it is unethical. Our legislators are elected to represent
the voters of their districts, not PG&E, the CMA, or Food4Less.
Katcho Achadjian has been a county Supervisor for a decade. He is an expert
politician and the master of the kind of closed-door, back-room deal-making
that the people are increasingly fed up with. In this campaign, he had an
opportunity to break with his long-standing image as a political wheeler-
dealer and opt instead for a fully transparent campaign. He has chosen not
to do so and the voters of the 33rd Assembly District are undoubtedly the
Posted at 15:57 PM By admin | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Will We Have the Resources to Fight?
By Gretchen Hamel

Memorial Day is an occasion to remember all of the brave men and women who gave their lives for our country.  Indeed, America has a proud history of defending freedom the world over.  Yet this weekend, Americans should also consider the future.  Will we have the resources to fight the next time our country is called to duty?
Fighting a war requires more than just heroes, of which the United States has an abundance.  It also requires money and resources.  During war times, the government steps up spending and consumes more of the economy.  Yet today, our government is expanding not in the cause of our nation's defense, but just because the government is assuming responsibilities that were once left to the people.  This growth of government means we will have less to invest in the military if we do confront a major future conflict. 
Consider this history.  In 1930, government spending accounted for just 3.4 percent of GDP.  During that decade, when the country faced the Great Depression and President Franklin Roosevelt rapidly expanded the federal government, spending grew to account for 9.8 percent of the economy.  It's worth noting that during that decade the economy actually shrank:  in 1930 GDP was $97.4 billion, while in 1940, GDP was just  $96.8, having dipped all the way down to $57.6 billion in 1933.
Yet shortly thereafter, as America committed to entering and winning World War II, government spending exploded.  The economy grew from less than one hundred billion in 1940 to $221.4 by 1945—that's more than doubling in just five years—but government grew even more rapidly.  Government went from consuming less than ten percent of the economy in 1940 to 43.6 percent in 1943, a level it stayed at until the war's end in 1945. 
After World War II, government appropriately contracted, though it never returned to its pre-war or pre-depression level.  By 1950, government accounted for 15.6 percent of GDP.  It slowly rose during the next decades.  Since that time spending has hovered around 20 percent of GDP, rising slightly above that level during the 1980s in response to the Cold War, and falling below 20 percent for most of the last two decades.
Today, Washington is permanently expanding the government's share of the economy.  Government's spending jumped to 24.7 in 2009 in reaction to the financial crisis and economic downturn.  Yet that financial crisis can't explain why the Congressional Budget Office estimates that in 2020, if the President's current budget proposal becomes law, the federal government will still consume 24.1 percent of GDP.
These estimates are likely to understand the severity of the crisis we face.  Consider that government spending per household doubled during the last 10 years, and is on course to double again in the next 10 years.  As a result, each American family's share of the debt will balloon from about $115,000 today to nearly $200,000 in ten years.  By that point our national debt will exceed $20 trillion and interest payments to service our debt will be four times higher than they are today. 
In 10 years, interest payments and entitlement programs alone will take up 90 percent of the federal government's revenue.  How will we pay for our military?  What will be left to spend if disaster strikes and our country is again called to fight for freedom? 
Americans have always risen to challenges in the past, and our brave men and women in the armed services stand out in their service to our country.  Today, we need Americans to rise to a challenge again.  This time it's not war, but the threat that we are permanently weakening our country by allowing Washington politicians to grow government and accumulate such a massive debt.  We need an army of citizen soldiers to honor the men and women who have defended the country in the past to stand up and send a message to our elected representatives:  we need to preserve and protect this country from a mountain of debt by cutting government spending now. 
Gretchen Hamel is the executive director of Public Notice, a independent, bipartisan, non-profit organization dedicated to providing facts and insights on the effect public policy has on Americans’ financial well being.  For more information please visit www.thepublicnotice.org.
Posted at 14:23 PM By admin | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Relative Values
By Harris Sherline

As much of the world has mourned the loss of “pop icon,” Michael Jackson, since his death in June of last year, it has been difficult to avoid comparing the impact that his untimely passing may have on the larger world around us. Reports indicated that the European T.V. audiences watching his memorial services were much bigger than here in America, and I can’t help but wonder why. 
While a large segment of the population was fixated on a memorial service that was turned into a media driven entertainment extravaganza, events that will certainly have a far greater and more meaningful long-term impact on mankind continued to take place around the world: North Korea’s saber-rattling, firing off missiles and threatening the U.S. and Japan; Honduras deposing a leftist leader; Hugo Chavez’ (Venezuela) non-stop denouncing of the United States and financing other left-leaning leaders throughout Latin America; Iran’s brutal repression of the dissent of its population in the streets and continuing its push for the nuclear bomb while continuing its threats to wipe Israel off the map and exterminate the entire Jewish population – and, of course, Russia, moving to re-assert power over eastern Europe and influence around the world. Russia will no longer tolerate being ignored.
If these aren’t sufficient cause for concern, there were the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the endless parade of strife in Pakistan and India, al Qaeda and the Taliban, and the Sudan, among others/
We also continue to have a very full plate on the home front, trying to deal with such problems as the state of the economy, the unbridled overspending of our own government at every level, spending money we don’t have, seemingly without any consideration of the consequences, and incurring record debt that threatens to destroy the U.S. economy, as well as over-expansion of government with the attendant loss of freedom. These are all issues of great concern that will have grave consequences for the future of America. 
I can remember a time not too many years ago when the leaders of third world countries were often the subject of jokes. Tin pot dictators, strutting in front of T.V. cameras while they printed money without any backing, armed with the most sophisticated weapons they could buy or steal, threatened other nations in their regions and invading their neighbors, causing mass starvation and deprivation in a list of horribles that seems almost endless.  
Today, everywhere we turn there are still major problems, any or all of which will surely transcend the historical importance of Michael Jackson. Without question, he was a superstar and will likely continue to remain one in death. Greater than Elvis? Who knows? Greater than the Beatles? Perhaps, but in my opinion, which is probably not worth much in such matters, not likely.  
What about the great American music that was written during the glory days of Tin Pan Alley, or the memorable music of the Broadway shows that has been written over the years, dating back to George M. Cohan, or before? Or, it might be argued that the truly important composers were people like Bach or Beethoven or Wagner, many of whom struggled to put food on the table and died in poverty.
However, my purpose is not to try to assess the relative merits or importance of the music of any period or any composer or performer – but rather to consider their significance when viewed through the prism of world history and the events that shape them. 
It is in this context that I view Michael Jackson’s passing and the importance of his contributions against the backdrop of events that will very like shape the future of the world. Viewed from that perspective, in my opinion, he is or was not really important at all.
His music will probably continue to be popular for many years to come, and he will live on as the entertainment idol of a generation. But ultimately, 40 or 50 years from now, he is more likely to be viewed as an historical artifact in the entertainment world, nothing more, much the same as Rudolph Valentino. Michael’s life will not have had any impact of consequence on the truly important issues of his time. He will not have been the catalyst for world peace or even for calming the unceasing turmoil of the world in which he lived.
No disrespect intended, I just think Michael Jackson is or was not all that important. To me, he was just another tragic victim of his own success, which sheltered him from the excesses of his lifestyle and whose money insulated him from overcoming his unfortunate inability and unwillingness to grow up.
© 2010 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
Posted at 08:39 AM By admin | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)

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