CONTEXT

September 25, 2017

Many happy returns

Best birthday wishes to my fellow celebrants Barbara Walters, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Barbara is 88 today.

lo in field

Lola in the tall grass at the Douglas Family Preserve

To the Douglases, my thanks again for their rescue of 70 acres overlooking the ocean in Santa Barbara and their creation of the Douglas Family Preserve – my dog and I think it’s the best work they’ve ever done.

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September 18, 2017

One for the books

With 24 hours remaining in the recent legislative session, the California Assembly actually passed three housing bills Thursday night and on Friday the Senate approved them. Now it’s up to Jerry Brown.

jerry

Jerry Brown being sworn in as governor in the Seventies.

Call his office and ask that he stick to his promise to sign them.

They aren’t the best of the 132 bills submitted this session, but they are definitely something. SB-2 is basically an increased fee for filing at the county level and will raise – according to the Sacramento Bee – more than $250 million for low-income housing, beginning in 2019.

The state will take 30 percent and the rest will be returned to local governments. It’s not a lot obviously, but it will provide a steady, if modest, flow of funding for new housing.

What you want to do now is keep a very sharp eye on your Planning Board, Mayor, or City Manager – however your local government is set up. Who will manage the money? What is the plan? Is there a plan?

SB-3 allows a bond measure to appear on the ballot next year – it will raise $4 billion for low-income housing and another billion specifically for veterans’ housing.

Finally, SB-35 provides a ‘streamlined’ approval process for affordable housing. You want to watch when the government uses the word ‘streamlined.’ It often means unregulated, so I will take a closer look when time allows.

What is heartening about this news is that a number of representatives commented on the urgency of the housing problem and actually used the word ‘crisis.’

Yes, it’s a drop in the bucket, but finally they are paying attention.

Call Jerry at (916) 445-2841.

 

September 14, 2017

Wakey, wakey, Californians!

Filed under: commentary — jchatoff @ 3:09 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

1200px-Vista_panorámica_del_Hemiciclo_de_sesiones_del_Congreso_del_Peru

[This is not the California Legislature – it is the Congress of Peru, but you get the idea…]

I’ve been a California resident for 25 years now, and I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve seen or heard something about our state legislature.  That of course is because I live in Southern California and the media here aren’t all that clear on where Sacramento is.

Admittedly, all politics are local, but for Los Angeles, they are downright parochial. So wake up, Southern Californians – the crisis is real, the crisis is here and steps must be taken.

California should be building about 180,000 housing units a year, but is – and has been for a while – building about half what it needs. And most of those units are high-end because that’s where the money is.

It isn’t that the state and city are unaware, but they seem to be moving at a rate that would shock even FEMA. There were 132 bills related to housing introduced in the legislature this year, but I only know of three that made it to the floor. (I could be wrong here, so I invite you to go to the Ca.gov site and check my numbers – but not until you retire, because they don’t make it easy.)

And in case you haven’t heard, tomorrow is the last day of the current session. Bills that aren’t voted on by the end of the day are dead. Try again in January.

So am I urging you to call or text your rep? No, I am not – I know a trick worth two of that.

We have three months to get organized, to read what’s been suggested so far, urge it’s re-introduction and contact our reps. Or suggest something better. But by the sacred soil of Tara, we will get it together so that no Californian ever goes homeless again!

Next week, specifics.

 

 

 

 

June 30, 2017

Under the Wire!

Filed under: Uncategorized — jchatoff @ 4:42 pm

Just made it – but it’s still June so I can observe my seventh anniversary of blogging on WordPress. A total of 530 posts. They are thin on the ground these days, but I plan to return to a regular schedule soon. In the meantime, resist.

May 31, 2017

The merry month of May

Filed under: Uncategorized — jchatoff @ 8:35 pm

…during which our Glorious Leader continued to eviscerate as many environmental protections as he could get his hands on, dismantle federal efforts to transition from fossil to renewable fuels, created a budget that is positively malicious, cut the Census Bureau budget so severely that the director resigned and shoved the Prime Minister of Montenegro out his way.

Census? Nah, we don’t need no stinkin’ census. Just reminds everybody how many poor people there are.

Montenegro, btw, is a tiny slice of what used to be Yugoslavia. The Prime Minister was at the Nato meeting for the first time ever because Montenegro just became a member. It turned out to be an even bigger day than the PM expected once the king of rude demonstrated his lack of manners and it all went viral.

Doctors are saying that DTSD is on the wane and that the population is recovering from Trump shock, but I don’t believe it – anxiety and depression are probably as elevated as ever. It’s just that long-term hysteria is unsustainable.

But it is possible to turn off the tv, avoid social media, and use your phone only to make calls. To spend much of the day talking to plants and animals is truly a nourishing pastime. I have been speaking to the Early Girls for five weeks now and in one or two more they should be ready to pick. I don’t much care what they taste like – I have just been grateful for their company.

early

Early Girl tomatoes really are – they went into the ground six weeks ago and are ripening fast now.

 

March 31, 2017

The Peter Principle

When last we spoke I promised in all innocence to provide you with a thorough analysis of what happened to anti-trust law during the Reagan administration.

O those were the days.deer

It was only four days into the current administration and I had no idea I was about to become a deer in the headlights. Now, after more than two months of the new regime, I am still in a defensive posture, trying to focus on the most recent insult to my core beliefs before the next blow falls.

Yet, above all the greed, corruption, destruction of our national value system, intensifying of inequality and just plain meanness – abolish Meals on Wheels? Really? – hovers the golem of ineptitude.

The common fallacy that a good businessman can govern is nonsense by definition; business is not government. Apparently they are no longer explaining the distinction in elementary school.

Part of what we are seeing is what Laurence J. Peter predicted for every organization: since promotion is based on past performance rather than potential to adjust to new requirements, every employee will sooner or later rise to a position for which he or she is completely unqualified.

In short, The Peter principle states that ‘In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.’

I give you the Trunp Administration. A veritable clown car full of Keystone Kops – which would be hilarious if it weren’t so terrifying. I think we must all remain in a defensive posture.

hair-on-fireMeanwhile – in the category of hair-on-fire – supportive as I am of a vigorous free press, I find the alarmist headlines about our ISPs selling our browsing history a bit over the top. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t our searches currently available to whoever? How else to explain the ads I keep seeing for storage facilities from here to Kansas City since I looked up the cost of renting a storage pod a couple of weeks ago.

January 24, 2017

I’m A Believer

Filed under: Uncategorized — jchatoff @ 2:10 pm

For a very long time, I was convinced that if we could not have Paul Goodman’s Jeffersonian anarchy, we should at least strive for universal socialism. But I finally came to the conclusion that socialism only works for small heterogeneous states – in short, for Scandinavia.

These days I espouse full-bore capitalism and I am shocked at how few real capitalists there are.

I doubt there is a single CEO that believes in real capitalism. Never mind what they say – their goal is real monoplo\y. It’s the only explanation for their devouring interest in politics.

Real monopoly wants the world to rely on half a dozen companies for fuel, a handful of media outlets, and privatization of all utilities – just for openers. Real monopoly is well on its way towards owning our water and this – courtesy of Oxfam – is where our food comes from: chart

Real capitalism is defined by competition in free but regulated markets. Just like law enforcement in cities, the government should be there to encourage good behavior and discourage cheating.

That’s why we got the Sherman Anti-trust Act. It prevented the 19th century commercial practices of price-fixing, monopoly and other unethical trade practices.

[Incidentally, did you get your invitation to sign up for a rebate from the dairy industry? If you’ve used any dairy products in the last ten years you can join the class action claim to get your $10 settlement – the industry was found guilty of rigging the price from 2003 until the present in the following states:

Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, or Wisconsin.

To sign up before the end of the claim period on Jan.31, go  to BoughtMilk.com.]

Because I am a true capitalist I plan to spend a lot of email-writing energy urging my representatives to restore Sherman to full strength. How it got so sickly will be the next topic.

December 31, 2016

Moving on

Filed under: Uncategorized — jchatoff @ 6:45 pm

There is a great deal to say about 2016, but it is much too soon to say it. Let me mull it over for a bit and I’ll get back to you.

In the meantime, I am celebrating the heavy rains that freed Northern Califormia from the grip of the drought this fall -We went from 40 to 20% of the state officially drought-stricken this year, though we in the south are still on short rations.

Best wishes to all for a happy and prosperous New Year.

15776504_10211924019684287_1152937904_o-1

 

October 19, 2016

‘Neither Snow nor Sleet, nor Aging of the Fleet…’

I am a huge fan of the US Postal Service, so their recent years on the Republicans’ Ten Most Wanted list of government agencies has been painful to watch.

truck Joshua Reading at Foreign Policy magazine summed it up nicely: “The biggest obstacle to a more efficient post office may be the U.S. Congress, which has failed to approve reform efforts such as setting up retail outlets in post offices, raising prices, shuttering less-used offices, and ending six-day delivery. (As part of its new cost-saving measures, the USPS has managed to circumvent Congress by keeping only parcel service on Saturdays so that, technically, there’s still some service six days a week.)”

But things are finally improving for the venerable USPS – someone had the bright idea of playing to their strengths. They do after all go everywhere and now they do it for Amazon, Fed Ex and even UPS.  That last mile has turned out to be very profitable for them.truck

And that means they can finally replace their geriatric truck fleet – the Northrup Grumman trucks that were new in 1987 were set to be retired after 24 years, but were declared usable – by necessity -for another six years. Now the deadline is upon us and so the USPS is taking bids.

This is a $6 billion contract which does not seem like small beer to me, but maybe it is, because Ford, Nissan and GM, who were all automatically short-listed, failed to make the cut;  I suspect they weren’t interested. (For more, go to Motley Fool.)

Here are your finalists:

  • AM General
  • Karsan Motors
  • Mahindra
  • Oshkosh
  • Spartan Motors
  • VT Hackney

AM General evolved from Jeep via American Motors and gave us the Humvee. Karsan is a Turkish company, Mahindra is Indian and VT Hackney is a subsidiary of VT Systems, which is a subsidiary of a company mostly owned by the government of Singapore.truck

Apparently the old rules no longer apply, because I thought federal contracts had to go to American companies, preferably with union workers.  So call me old-fashioned or ultra-nationalist or whatever you like, but I think American tax dollars should support American workers. Oshkosh is one of the top 100 federal contractors already, so I vote for Spartan, which was started by  four engineers from Diamond Reo when that company closed down years ago. I think six billion will matter to them and be a good thing for the state of Michigan.

In any event, all six finalists have gotten $37 million to build a prototype, which should be available for testing next year. The USPS is looking for fuel efficiency of course and any other green breakthroughs the companies can come up with.  Pretty soon the little truck on the corner wil be brand spanking new and we may have not just the largest (six thousand pieces of mail go through the USPS every second) but the most efficient postal service in the world.

truck

 

 

August 31, 2016

What I did this summer

Filed under: commentary,history — jchatoff @ 7:17 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Not very damn much, to tell the truth. June and July just kind of slid by, the weather generally mild – often below normal – and pretty benign compared to the rest of the country.

At least until this month, when the wild fires started. They got quite close and for several days the air was nasty and cars were covered with ash.

IMG_5134

Sunset through fire smoke.

It didn’t last too long though and soon things went back to normal here in Pleasantville – normal until Sunday night, when an aggressive raccoon decided to make a meal out of my little Doxie-MinPin mix.

She’d barked just once and then run out of the room, barrelling through the screen door to chase the intruder off the porch. Seeing her mistake almost immediately, Lola turned and headed for the safety of the living room.

But the raccoon wouldn’t let go of her back leg until my sister-in-law grabbed a broom and whacked the crap out of him.

So we wound up in the pet ER and Lo came home with a big bandage on her foot and a pack of meds. The docs and techs were great and she seemed to be the only patient, so while we waited, we got into a little convo with the receptionist and I don’t know how – probably my doing – we started talking about Social Security.

She was shy of 30 I think, and mentioned in passing that she doubted that there would be any benefits for her by the time she retired and it just made me feel so sad.

It isn’t only the pitiful job market, student loans and climate change that have been dumped on Millenmials, it’s also the shocking inadequacy of mass media, which delights in fear-mongering and which can’t be bothered to provide actual facts.

Here’s a fact: Raising the cap or raising the tax – or both – would make benefits available for the indefinite future.

As it is, we are good until 2030.

At the moment, the cap is $118,500. After that amount, no SS tax is deducted. If you make 300,000 or 3 million, you pay FICA only on the first 118,500.

Raise that by 100,000 and every Millennial can enjoy a spartan but predictable old age like the rest of us.

For more actual facts, check out The Motley Fool: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/02/10/6-key-facts-about-social-security.aspx

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