Jesus Christ Superstar Starts Final Weekend Run

The Temecula Valley Players production of Jesus Christ Superstar enters the final weekend of it’s 3 week run this Thursday, April 21 at the Old Town Temecula Theater. Some of you old Hippies will not doubt remember the debut of this exciting piece of musical theater from your halcyon days. For the rest of you, JCS was first staged on Broadway in 1971 as the first rock opera. Staged by Andrew Lloyd Weber with lyrics by Tim Rice,  the piece roughly follows the last week of Jesus’ life – provided of course that Jesus had a good voice and was surrounded by lots of singing, dancing Apostles, priests and hookers.

jcs

The Temecula Valley Players version is true to the original production and brings together a diverse collection of some of our Valley’s most talented thespians. For Director Marc McCullough, staging this production has been a lifelong passion. Jason Call, who channels Ted Neely as Jesus, first played a minor part in the
production when he was 14. Now some 24 years later he has achieved his dream to bring the lead role to the stage. Several of the other players have also had an abiding fascination with this unique piece of theater and have eagerly endured months of rehearsals to fine tune the production.

The cast of nearly 50 people includes youngsters of 7 and 8 years old up to a couple ‘senior members’ of nearly 60. Many of the actors are what we refer to as
‘triple threats’, they are equally adept at singing, dancing and acting. I am actually the antithesis of a triple threat in that I can’t really sing or act and I certainly can’t dance, but I do have a certain presence. Thus the role of High Priest suits me fine as foil to the scheming Annas and the evil Caiaphas.

priests

If you haven’t had a chance to catch this local production, tickets for the final 5 performances are gong fast but a few seats remain available. For more information and showtimes visit: Jesus Christ Superstar.

Spirit Cleansing – how to move that house that just won’t sell.

Move over Feng Shue, look out Wabi Sabi,  there’s a new process home buyers and sellers are turning to in an effort to make sure a property is livable – spirit cleansing. I kid you not.

We’ve always known that some homes appear to be haunted – heck I own a 120 year old home myself that some folks will swear has a spectral resident. There are entire industries that have sprung up around that phenomenon including exorcisms, TV shows and movies.

bad vibesBut there’s a new form of home that’s appeared on the market – the house of bad vibes. Apparently what we in the business casually refer to as a ‘distressed’ property may actually be distressed in more ways than financially. It may have all sorts of negative vibes, residues or ‘energy imprints’ associated with it as a result of arguments, emotions, money problems and loss.

And of course where there’s an opportunity, there are opportunists. While it’s not unusual for some religious or ethnic groups to have their homes blessed occasionally, this new group is at the beck and call of home buyers and sellers to help rid a house of the funk either before it is put up for sale or before it closes escrow.

Practitioners of the art utilize a wide variety of customs and items in their cleansing treatment. Ringing bells, according to some, breaks up the negative energy. Iron, especially iron swords, are effective at keeping evil spirits away if placed before windows and doors. Kosher salt, candles, fresh flowers, scented oils, spices and incense can also play a role in the ceremony and in maintaining the ongoing positive aura of the home.

abaloinePractitioners of native arts insist that the same power can be derived from smudging ceremonies involving sage, cedar and sweetgrass applied to the person and the home. If you prefer this method, make sure to use a clay or stone bowl rather than an abalone shell. As we all know, abalone shells should only be used in water ceremonies, not burining rituals,  at the risk of offending Grandmother Ocean.

Consultants, astral healers or in some cases, witches, advise on a number of procedures including a thorough top-to-bottom house cleaning and airing-out as a precursor to the spiritual cleansing or invocation. Herbal mixtures, or just a sea salt and water concoction, can be used to sprinkle the house or actually wash down the place if the vibes are really bad. This is accompanied by a blessing, incantation or charm session, lighted candles in every room and the application of more herbs and fresh flowers to keep the negative energy at bay.

But as always, there’s a caution. Advocates warn that by doing this you are entering into a relationship with an unseen power of the plants and spirits which must be treated with respect and honor. Worse yet, you may actually remove a beneficial spirit that will result in even greater harm to you after the ceremony. You are advised to know what effects the spirits are having on your environment before you take any action.

As always, as with any phase of our business, it’s best to hire a professional.

Dancing with the (local) stars for a good cause. Watch me Rhumba.

When they asked me to do it I thought they were joking. “Have you ever seen me dance” I asked? Because that’s something I rarely do and people who have seen me still snicker openly decades after the spectacle. My own children brutally mimic me to the delight of complete strangers. If you’ve ever seen Elaine dance on Seinfeld – you get the picture. Except I’m 6’2″, 275 and have two left feet – both size 13.

But the cause was right so when the local YMCA approached my for a ‘Dancing with the Stars’ event to celebrate their 10th anniversary – I couldn’t say no. Starting last week I’ve begun rigorous training with my professional partner – the charming Marisa, learning ‘The Rhumba’. Yeah, that dance! What is commonly referred to as ‘The Dance of Romance’ will be performed as the Baby Elephant Rhumba by yours truly.

Between now and October 2nd, I’ll have a couple lessons a week and. amazingly, I’m making progress. And Marisa still has both feet intact and manages to stifle the occasional urge to snicker. Well why not? She gets paid and I’m probably not THE WORST dancer she has ever seen – although she’s young and will no doubt carry the vivid memories of this for the remainder of her life.

So if you happen to be looking for a good time on October 2nd, come on out to Wilson Creek Winery and help the YMCA celebrate a decade of service to our community. A good time will be had by all. After all, it’s not everyday you get to see Dan Stephenson waltz, or Roger Ziemer do the Hokey-Pokey (last time I saw Z he couldn’t even remember what dance he was supposed to be doing – I feel better). And you certainly will never again have the opportunity to see yours truly Rhumba (if your luck holds). Plus they have an open bar – that should help make my movements more ‘fluid’. It will be a thing of beauty and a sight to behold.

Now if I could only get my hips to move like the sweet Marisa, I might be a contender.  I’m gonna go practice. Shut your eyes.

rhumba

Guests will be treated to quite a show as local dignitaries battle it out on the dance floor.
Dancers include Janet Beck, Dan Stephenson, Beverly Stephenson, Gene Wunderlich & Roger Ziemer.
Similar to you favorite celebrity dance competition, ‘Dancing with the Y’ features local community
leaders waltzing for your entertainment in hopes of raising funds to support local families.

Willingly giving up your privacy via FourSquare/Places/etc? Are you nuts?

From The Electronic Frontier Foundation :

“Locational privacy is the ability of an individual to move in public space with the expectation that under normal circumstances their location will not be systematically and secretly recorded for later use.”

privacyMany of us are justifiably concerned about the intrusion of government and other entities into our privacy. We sue cities over infringement by stoplight enforcement cameras. We worry about electronic swipe cards and FastTrack cards that chart our location and that our GPS cell phones can be monitored to disclose our location. We fret that Google will track our searches and that free WiFi locations will steal our identities and that the US Census will give the IRS omnipotence over our lives.

So I’m amazed at how willingly some of my friends are just giving up their privacy. I guess it’s the ‘cool technology’ part of it that sucks us in – as though we denizens of the internet have a shred of privacy left to begin with. I’m talking about those of you who are taking the Twitter compulsion to a whole new level with apps like FourSqare and FaceBook Places and Yelp and the host of other new programs that allow you, nay, encourage you, to let everybody know where you are anytime, anyplace complete with a map and photos.

I recently read a great blog on ActiveRain about a guy who organized a little impromptu after work gathering at a bar. He posted it on a couple of the check-in sites and as his friends showed up he noted who had arrived. He was amazed when at least half his friends were less than thrilled to have their whereabouts disclosed without their approval. One friend was righteously pissed off because he had told his wife he had to work a little late and was going to have ‘some splaining to do’ when he got home.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

privacyI had a little fun with a friend of mine over the weekend (well, fun for me anyway). He’s new onto FourSquare and feels the need to let everybody know where he is, what he’s doing and map his every move and he posts the results to FaceBook. Saturday night he posted a map of where he and his wife were dining. Now ‘Bob” lives in a different city than I do but the same county – not that it matters, and I did not know where he lived. I jumped onto one of three sites I have that will give me people’s home addresses and looked him up. Two of these sites are Realtor-centric (i.e. title company or mls sites) the third is the public records tax database from the county recorder available to anyone. I use these although WhoWhere, 411.com and a host of others will give the average Joe much of the same info.

In less than 2 minutes I had Bob’s home address and posted a comment on his FaceBook update – “Bob. Thanks for letting us all know where you & Jenn are going to be for the next couple hours. Check your email.” On a private email I sent the following – “Bob, just pulled your home address from a public website . You know I’m too lazy to drive over to your house tonight but somebody else might be in the neighborhood and glad to know you’ll be gone for the next couple hours. Hope the TV is still there when you get home. Check out PleaseRobMe.com for more info.”

They didn’t cut their dinner short but they also didn’t order desert and they did call the babysitter three times. He was of mixed mind whether to thank me or be pissed at me. But I noticed he either didn’t go anywhere Sunday or at least he wasn’t posting a map of where and when he was.

privacyLike most people, they didn’t realize how easy it is for almost anybody to access your public information on-line and find your address in the blink of an eye. That’s childs play these days. But most people either don’t know or don’t think it will apply to them. I know I’m guilty too – posting when I travel to NAR or on vacation. I feel a little safer because I live in a gated, guarded community and my house is registered under a corporation – but I probably should think twice anyway.

Electronic media has forever changed the way we do business and the way we conduct our personal lives. As our personal privacy dwindles, we might want to think twice about abdicating the few remaining areas we can protect. After all, the IRS already knows where Bob & Jenn had dinner and what they ate and how much they drank. They know if they drank too much to be driving safely, if they went to a movie afterwards or dancing or had more drinks. If they wanted to they could track exactly the route they drove to and from their location, if they drove too fast, ran any stoplights, and, if they were in New York, they could use facial recognition software to track them walking down the street via the overhead mounted cameras.

Maybe with all that level of intrusion it’s just paranoid to worry about giving up my location to any thug with a laptop. Of course just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re really not after me. I value my privacy please.

privacy


Assemblyman Jeffries Updates the Budget Process

A Whole Lotta Nothing Going On!

On one hand your pocket book should feel a little bit safer knowing that the members of California State Legislature were sent back to their Districts this month when the top leaders in both houses could not agree to adopt the budget as proposed by the Governor. It’s really very difficult to raise your taxes, increase regulations and chase more businesses and jobs out of California when the legislature has been sent home.  You can sleep well for a few more nights while the Capitol looks like a ghost town. Now of course, not everything runs smoothly when a budget is left in limbo. Most state bills don’t get paid. Vendors who provide important supplies and services don’t get paid and a lot of employees are going to try and make home and car payments with no paycheck.

Now this part is a little boring, but it helps to understand the process (or lack thereof). Usually the state budget process develops on two tracks. The first being the customary review of the Governor’s proposed budget by numerous budget sub-committees, then the process moves to the Joint Budget Conference Committee. This powerful Senate and Assembly committee has a total of 6 Democrats and 4 Republicans who decide minor to major budget issues on majority votes. Whenever big budget items cannot or will not be resolved by the conference committee (which is every year), the big issues then move on to the closed doors of the “Big 5” (Governor, 2 Democrat majority leaders and 2 Republican minority leaders). Once they have a “deal,” we all have the pleasure of waiting to see the details in one of a dozen or more budget bills (legislation).

This is when the real fun starts.  Sketchy-details, back-room negotiations in the wee-hours, midnight votes, votes on budget bills that have not been presented to the public or most legislators, locking-down legislators for one or two days so that they cannot leave the Assembly (or Senate) floor. It’s all ugly, and it will all very likely occur again sometime within the next 30 days (I’m being optimistic).

Even with the largest California tax increase having occurred in February 2009 ($12 billion), the current budget deficit is somewhere around $19 billion, and big deficits are projected for several more years to come. So what is going to happen this year to fix the problem, you ask? Well, don’t hold your breath waiting for that fix. I recently flew back up to the Capitol ghost town to do a little fact finding of my own.  After a flurry of one-on-one private meetings – I concluded what I pretty much already knew:  If a budget is going to pass this year – it’s going to use a lot of baling wire and duct tape, and it’s going to kick the can (real tough fixes) down the road to our next Governor (whoever she or he may be).

The financial problems for our state are massive. There is no doubt in my mind that if we were a city, county, or a private business we would in fact be bankrupt.  And if we were a corporation, the Members of the Board would likely be facing federal fraud charges!  I firmly believe that large scale re-structuring of our state government MUST occur, but so far EVERY reform bill I have introduced was killed or (more often) not even given a hearing.  The entire process in which our state budget is developed, implemented and then reviewed (or audited) by the State Legislature must be completely re-written.

Furthermore, the key to our revival is not only to re-write the legislative process, but more importantly to unshackle jobs and businesses. On average, it takes roughly 25 private sector jobs to pay enough taxes to support one government employee. We have been regulating, taxing and chasing businesses and good paying jobs out of this state for so many years, that we forgot who really pays the bills. Now before you fire-off a nasty-gram, yes I know that the national and international economic problems have also hurt us. And NO, I’m not advocating that every regulation should disappear overnight and that businesses should be allowed to dump pollutants in our rivers and lakes. I’m talking about good-ol’-fashioned common sense. Can we relax (or postpone) some regulations until our state economy rebounds? Can we reduce fees and burdensome permit processes until many of our unemployed can find jobs? Can we reduce the size of state government until we can afford its price tag? The answer is Yes, Yes, Yes.  We really can’t afford not to.  But will we?

Respectfully,

Kevin Jeffries

P.S. Many of you respond to my monthly newsletters or Mushroom Alerts with thoughtful suggestions, information, or even some well reasoned complaints. Each week when I return from Sacramento I will usually have a pretty good stack on my desk to read. Although I try, I don’t have enough time to respond to each and every letter and email. But please know that they do make it to my desk. Keep them coming!

The Living Last Supper – Opens Tonight in Temecula.

Tonight at 7:30 the curtains will part at the Old Town Temecula Theater on the Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece, The Last Supper. It won’t be the actual painting, mind you, but a life size portrayal of the momentous event in the life of Christ and the 12 Apostles. Not only is the portrayal life size, it is actually alive in that this is a presentation known as ‘The Living Last Supper’, a recreation of the original artwork that includes vignettes by each Apostle during the course of the evening about his travels with Jesus.

Frozen in the moment, each speaker disengages from the picture to provide his dialogue, then melds back into the fabric. Audience members can sometimes forget to listen to the stories as they concentrate instead on trying to ‘catch’ somebody moving. Believe me, holding one pose for an hour is not as easy as it sounds.

This is my second year as Peter, The Rock. This year my son, Dane, has also joined the cast as John, The Beloved. About 2/3 of the cast are returning members having performed the play for the past 3 or 4 years, while a few are new comers to the stage. In the one non-speaking role, Jesus has rejoined the cast flying in from his current home in Indiana (who knew?) to reprise a role that he closely resembles in the original artwork. We’ve got 3 Realtors (Dane, Mike O’Donnell and myself), 2 teachers, a cop, a couple students and a couple retired fellows in the cast and all deliver moving dialogue as their character is called upon to question which of their brethren will betray Christ this night.

The performance runs March 29, 30 & 31 at 7:30. Tickets are a paltry $17 for adults, $15 for Seniors and children and if you’ve got 10 friends you can enjoy the evening for just $12. It’s like no play you’ve ever seen before and I think you will find it very entertaining. You might even pick up a few things you didn’t know about the portrayal of this momentous event. Hope to see you there.

last supper

Washington Staffers – What Can You Expect?

isaksonAll Realtors® should be familiar with Senator Johnny Isakson from  Georgia. Sen Isakson has been a Realtor® for 43 years and spent 36 of those years in politics as well. Sen. Isakson has championed many Realtor® causes over the years, has been an outspoken advocate for private property rights and was the leading force in the recent extension and expansion of the First Time Homebuyer Credit.

Senator Isakson’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Joan Kirchner, recently provided a synopsis to a Realtor® group on what you’re likely to encounter when you visit his office, or the office of any legislator for that matter. I know in California, a by-product of term-limits is that legislators rely more and more on staff and lobbyists to do the legwork, draft resolutions, talk to constituents and, in some cases, run their business and make their decisions. If you need any more reasons to get involved and invest in the Realtor Action Fund – read on.

So here’s who’s really in charge:

The majority of staffers walking the halls of Congress, drafting the laws of this country and advising your elected officials to vote are “20 somethings”.

The average age of our staff is 31 years old (and by the way, that’s only because at age 45 I bring their average way up). The kids in the office – I call the kids because I’m old enough to be their mother – the kids love to joke and ask me questions like, “Hey Joan, didn’t you cover the signing of the Declaration of Independence when you were an AP reporter?”

So anyway, the average age of Johnny’s staff is 31.

  • 60% have never been married
  • 70% don’t have children
  • 60% have never owned their own home

So if you come to Washington and you schedule a meeting with a staff member of your Congressman or Senator, you are likely to be sitting across the table from someone who is in their 20’s, who has never paid a mortgage, who has never attended a PTA meeting and who may still be getting subsidized by Mom & Dad. And we are fairly typical of staff on the Hill.

So while many Congressional staffers are enthusiastic and incredibly smart and have degrees from some of the best universities in the country, they have little real world experience.

And if you come again next year, you’re likely to see a new person on that same job. Turnover on Capitol Hill is very high. They stay on the job for about two years and they leave the Hill for good after five years – that is, if their boss survives the next election. It is a constantly revolving door.

It’s a little scary and that’s another reason why we desperately need you to get involved, to pay attention to what Congress is doing – or not doing – and to educate us on how it really works in the real world – outside the Washington Beltway.

Joan Kirchner
Deputy Chief of Staff
U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson

21 Things Your Burgler Won’t Tell You.

21 Things Your Burglar Won’t Tell You:

1. Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.

2. Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.

3. Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste … and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.

4. Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it.

5. If it snows while you’re out of town, get a neighbor to create car and foot tracks into the house. Virgin drifts in the driveway are a dead giveaway.

6. If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don’t let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it’s set. That makes it too easy.

7. A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom and your jewelry. It’s not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.

8. It’s raining, you’re fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your door- understandable. But understand this: I don’t take a day off because of bad weather.

9. I always knock first. If you answer, I’ll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. (Don’t take me up on it.)

10. Do you really think I won’t look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.

11. Helpful hint: I almost never go into kids’ rooms.

12. You’re right: I won’t have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it’s not bolted down, I’ll take it with me.

13. A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm system. If you’re reluctant to leave your TV on while you’re out of town, you can buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates the flickering glow of a real television. (Find it at <http://faketv.com/faketv.com.)

14. Sometimes, I carry a clipboard. Sometimes, I dress like a lawn guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook.

15. The two things I hate most: loud dogs and nosy neighbors.

16. I’ll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he’ll stop what he’s doing and wait to hear it again. If he doesn’t hear it again, he’ll just go
back to what he was doing. It’s human nature.

17. I’m not complaining, but why would you pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and leave your house without setting it?

18. I love looking in your windows. I’m looking for signs that you’re home, and for flat screen TVs or gaming systems I’d like. I’ll drive or walk through your neighborhood at night, before you close the blinds, just to pick my targets.

19. Be sure to tell all your FaceBook friends when you’ll be on vacation. It’s easier than you think to look up your address.

20. To you, leaving that window open just a crack during the day is a way to let in a little fresh air. To me, it’s an invitation.

21. If you don’t answer when I knock, I try the door. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and walk right in.

Sources: Convicted burglars in North Carolina, Oregon, California, and Kentucky; security consultant Chris McGoey, who runs <http://crimedoctor.com/crimedoctor.com; and Richard T. Wright, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, who interviewed 105 burglars for his book ‘Burglars on the Job’.

CA Senate Illustrates Egregious Cluelessness In Pursuit of Reality

Just when you think our Legislature might get a clue as to what’s going on in the world they are quick to remind us – they are so far out of touch it’s almost comical. Two items from today’s news:

#1 – Our illustrious State Senate passed a bill yesterday cracking down on… FREE PARKING. Yeah, you read that right, FREE PARKING. They don’t have enough to do figuring out how to make up a $20+ Billion budget deficit or how to get water to 70% of the state – they’ve got to stick their nose into yet another local issue.

Sen. Alan Lowenthal, a Democrat (there’s a shocker for ya), says there’s just too darn much free parking. It encourages people to drive instead of walking, riding a bike or taking a bus. All that driving caused by free parking is contributing to traffic jams, pollution and, of course, the ever-present bogeyman of global warming. “Free parking has significant social, economic and environmental costs,” according to Lowenthal. “It increases congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.”

Want to decrease greenhouse gas emissions Al? Try shutting your pie-hole. Meanwhile I’ll try to explain to people living in Southwest California why they should be riding their bikes or walking 70 miles to work in your city. (We’ve got no buses.) And why you feel their employers should eliminate free parking if the lazy schmucks do feel the continued need to drive their car to work.

Dumb Ass. And all your Democrat colleagues who voted for this too. Dumb asses.

#2 – Even Obama figured this one out but it’ll apparently take a 2X4 to the side of the head to get the attention of the jack asses in our state senate. One headline in todays paper – datelined Washington DC – ‘Healthcare Bill is on Life Support’. You know it, everybody else in the country knows it… BUT, in an adjacent article datelined Sacramento – ‘California Senate OK’s single payer healthcare plan’. They don’t know it.

Sen Christine Kehoe, a Democrat (there’s another shocker for ya), says “If it’s not to be done at the national level, let’s take the lead in California.” The proposal by Sen. Mark Leno, a Democrat (yet another shocker), establishes a commission (ooooh, we need more of them) and will give them $1 million to decide how to pay for this ‘plan’. Well, what’s another million against the $20+ billion we’re already in the dumper, eh Mark?

Let me put on my ‘Carnac the Magnificent’ hat for a minute a see if I can predict the future. After burning through the initial million, and needing several more before the end of the year, the commission will determine we need to a) increase taxes on the wealthy, and b) increase ‘fees’ on everybody else. The commission will still be draining money from our state budget in 2099.

Republican Sen. George Runner says “This plan is to the left and more radical of what wouldn’t get out of Washington,” A spokeshole for the Gov. sums it up “… they are clearly out of touch with what the voters need and deserve.”

Yeah but I’ll bet they all get re-elected in November. Who’s the dumb asses now?


Howard Jarvis Tax group releases 10 worst tax gimmicks of 2009

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has just published their 10 worst tax gimmicks of 2009 in California. In this state it’s got to be a challenge to narrow it down to just 10 – we have such a plethora to choose from.

I do believe they missed the boat on #9 however. California’s marijuana harvest rivals or surpasses most other agricultural crops in the state in both revenue and quality, and all that potential tax revenue is just going up in smoke. Add to that all the money spent on our ineffective ‘War on Drugs’ and the millions wasted prosecuting and incarcerating weed smokers, and you have a potential shift of billions in state spending and income.

At a time when our state has been mandated to release some 30,000 convicted felons back onto our streets we still have Sheriffs bragging about how they’re cracking down on pot smokers including those using the services of legal medical marijuana dispensaries – not to mention the dispensaries themselves.

Of course they’d have to set up a whole other government bureaucracy to handle this so most of the revenue gains would probably be off-set by another state agency boondoggle – but sooner or later this element will prevail. I know I disagree with many of my conservative legislators & friends on this issue but sometimes you have to step off the party platform and look at what makes sense.

Of course that’s just my opinion – I could be wrong.

T A X P A Y E R   U P D A T E
From the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

The Year in Review: Top 10 Worst Tax Gimmicks of 2009

Sacramento — It’s been a rough year for taxpayers in California. As 2009 comes to a close, Californians find themselves clutching their wallets more than ever.

Below, a look at the diabolical, dangerous, and downright worst Tax schemes of 2009:

#10: As part of last summer’s Budget deal, Legislators agreed to sneak an additional 10% Income Tax Withholding from Californians’ paychecks … just in time for the holidays.

#9: Claiming he could solve the State’s budget crisis with a single puff, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano introduced AB 390.  He claimed the bill would close California’s budget gap to the tune of $12 to $18 billion by legalizing – then Taxing – marijuana sales.

#8: Desperate to find revenue, Governor Schwarzenegger threatened to solve the Budget crisis… one Golf course at a time.  His plan to tax “greens fees, monthly dues, and golf cart rentals” got caught in the rough.  Perhaps he feared a nine-iron to the rear windows of his black Suburban?

#7: Three words… Tax the Internet! (AB 178)

#6: Despite the recession and California’s record high unemployment, the Legislature manufactured its own version of Cap and Trade.  AB 32 will cost Californians up to
1.1 million Jobs, place a $49,000 burden on California’s small businesses, and cost the average family $3,857 per year in increased living costs.

#5: Proving it’s a “dam shame” every time the State Legislature gets involved in solving a problem, the Legislature passed a bill to place an $11 billion Water Bond on the ballot during the worst economic downturn since The Great Depression. The bond will dole out billions of dollars in taxpayer monies, establish more government bureaucracies, and do little to address the water crisis in time to put farming communities back to work.

#4: As Californians struggled to keep their jobs and their homes, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass authorized pay increases for bureaucrats who work in the State Legislature. After the media discovered the raises, she revoked them.

#3: Still searching for more revenue, the Governor vowed to raise Taxes on beer and other alcoholic beverages… just when Californians could use a stiff drink.

#2: In February, the Legislature passed the largest state Tax increase in U.S. history, which now has California competing for the highest tax burden of all 50 states.

And the #1 Worst Tax Scheme of 2009:

#1: Proposition 1A, the massive $16 billion Tax increase — more than double the February tax increase – was placed on the ballot by the governor and Legislature, funded to the tune of $28 Million by special interests, and described as “budget reform” without the promoters once uttering the word “Tax increase.” (Their Initiative, by the way, failed by a landslide 2-to-1 margin.)


For more information on the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, visit
www.HJTA.org.

Foreclosure Rescue Agents Beaten, Robbed.

In a case that smacks of poetic justice, though not necessarily justice served, 5 people in Los Angeles have been charged with torturing and robbing two men they claim swindled them in a foreclosure rescue scheme.

Prosecutors claim that two of the individuals hired two loan modification agents in hopes of saving their home but believe the men just took their money and did nothing. WOW! That’s hard to believe, eh? Prosecutors claim the ‘victims’ were lured to an office where they were held for hours, beaten and robbed before one of them escaped and notified authorities. “The two allegedly sought loan modification assistance from the victims but believed that nothing was being done and wanted their money back,” a statement from the district attorney’s office said.

What makes this case noteworthy (at least to me) is that in customary news media fashion, the names of the the accused have been well publicized but the name of the alleged swindlers is being withheld for their protection. This is one reason fraud continues to flourish – the names of the true victims is often published while the perpetrators (in this case identified as ‘victims’) is withheld.

Of course I am not in a position to know whether the ‘victims’ in this case were truly victims or if they were scam artists who got a much deserved ass-whooping. I suspect if more fraud perpetrators were treated to a good old fashioned ass-whoopin’, we would start to see a lot less prevalence of the problem.

I’m hoping the LA Prosecutor manages to devote as much time to finding out if these people were really innocent legitimate business people or if they were among the multitude of scam artists cluttering up our industry. I’m hoping the next headline I see is: ‘Torture Victims Released From Hospital – Taken Directly to Jail For Mortgage Fraud Scheme.’

Ironically, this happened the same day Los Angeles housing advocates launched a campaign warning consumers of  mortgage rescue scams.

The world is all topsy toivy.


Gov to SF Assemblymember – FU?

In a nod to bi-partisanship, Gov. Schwarzenegger has sent a clear message to one his Democratic legislators. Gov. Arnie always includes a note attached to a bill that he signs or doesn’t signs letting the bills author know why he is taking the action he did. It’s usually a boilerplate note either congratulating them on proposing a bill that serves the people, or telling them to try harder next time.

In addition to his boilerplate note, he attached the following missive to a bill he didn’t sign authored by San Francisco Assemblymember Tom Ammiano. It should be noted that Ammiano was a prominent heckler of the Gov when he attended the State Democrats Convention last month at the request of former Speaker Willie Brown. Among other taunts, Ammiano is reported to have called the Gov a ‘liar’ and shouted that he could ‘kiss my Gay ass’ as he walked out of the event. So here’s the Gov’s message:

1027arnold.jpg

Now that in itself is hardly newsworthy – except that some sharpie noticed another message embedded in the text. And it’s not that hard to find – just one of those simple ‘Read Down the Left Margin’ kind of things. If you’re having trouble seeing it, the message begins with ‘F’ and the second word is YOU.

When asked about the note,  the Gov’s office replied:

“My goodness. What a coincidence,” said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear. “I suppose when you do so many vetoes, something like this is bound to happen.”

Silly stuff – and if you want to read what the San Francisco Guardian had to say about the matter (as if you can’t imagine what the liberal blogs are saying) just click here: Arnold to SF – FU

Voting record for controversial assembly vote is a goner.

Maybe once or twice you hold your nose –  but 71 times in the last 6 years? When you see the scary crap that already comes out of Sacramento, one can only imagine the depravity of bills that merit total expungement from the record.

Like maybe a Democrat voting FOR off-shore drilling?

If the Republicans had been able to pull this off, we still wouldn’t know which members voted FOR taxes last budget go-round.

Is it any wonder most people don’t trust politicians as far as they can hurl them.

The following news story appeared in the Los Angeles Times on August 6, 2009:

California Assembly expunges votes on oil drilling bill

By Patrick McGreevy Reporting from Sacramento — Although 28 members of the California Assembly supported a measure to allow new oil drilling off the Santa
Barbara coast, their votes are nowhere to be found in the official state database.

After the measure failed, Assembly leaders expunged the vote altogether, sparing lawmakers running for reelection an official record of
their controversial decision. The voting logs made available to the public on the Legislature’s website do not indicate who voted for and against the
controversial bill on July 24.
One critic calls it ‘a legislative coverup.’

It wasn’t the first time the Assembly has done this. The little-known practice of purging votes, which experts say serves little purpose
other than to allow lawmakers to hide actions from the public, is quite common in the lower house, legislative records show. In the last six years, 71
votes on bills in the Assembly have been cleansed from the record.

“The message to the public is ‘this vote was an inconvenient vote and we would rather you not look at the man behind the curtain,’ “said Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine), who wrote the oil drilling bill.

Read the rest of this story at:

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-purge6-2009aug06,0,1598055.story

What ‘they’ are saying about the budget – and ‘they’ should know.

In just a few minutes I’ll be listening as the Governor discusses the newly signed California State Budget. This is bound to be entertaining as all get out – especially given the statements attributed to various and sundry about the event… Ain’t politics grand?

What They Are Saying…
The Job Is Not Done

Steinberg: We May Not Be Done Cutting Yet
“Still more cutting loomed. ‘Frankly, we may not be done (cutting) yet,’ Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg said after the agreement was reached. He said the state has confronted a $60 billion cumulative shortfall since Jan. 1.”
Anthony York, “Governor, Legislative Leaders Agree On Pain-Filled Budget,” Capitol Weekly, 7/20/09

Hollingsworth: This is Not An End All Be All Budget
“Still, legislative leaders wondered whether California’s fiscal troubles are over. … Added Senate Republican leader Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta: ‘This isn’t a be-all and end-all. It’s simply a solution to what we face today. We hope it lasts.'”
Peter Hecht and Steve Wiegand, “Lawmakers Send Budget To Schwarzenegger,” Sacramento Bee, 7/25/09

Governor: We Are Not Finished
“Schwarzenegger pushed for numerous changes to ‘business as usual’ in state government – from eliminating various commissions to killing automatic cost-of-living increases in welfare grants – as part of the deal to close a $26.3 billion shortfall. ‘Of course, it’s a never-ending process, so we should not think we’re finished with it, and we should continue reforming,’ Schwarzenegger said in a telephone interview Wednesday.”
Jim Sanders, “Schwarzenegger Claims Progress On Reform,” Sacramento Bee, 7/23/09

Sen. Feinstein: California Has A Cost-Of-Doing-Business Problem
“[California Senator Dianne] Feinstein said Gov. Schwarzenegger and the California Congressional delegation are examining the possible use of federal stimulus money or changes in state labor regulations to help save the plant and its 4,500 jobs and the thousands more that would be indirectly affected. … ‘But one of the things California has to come to grips with, is that the competition here is Kentucky and Mississppi, and you have this cost-of-doing-business problem,’ Feinstein said. ‘That’s a big problem.'”
Carolyn Lochhead, “Feinstein: High Costs In California May Be To Blame,” San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/09

California Among Worst Business Climate In The Nation
“The state’s periodic social and economic upheavals have always generated that kind of media attention, something along the lines of ‘tarnish on the Golden State.’ But the current spate has an even edgier tone, suggesting that this time, it’s worse and at least semi-permanent. One example is California journalist and futurist Joel Kotkin, writing in Forbes magazine: ‘But the fundamental problem remains. California’s economy – once wondrously diverse with aerospace, high-tech, agriculture and international trade – has run aground. Burdened by taxes and ever-growing regulation, the state is routinely rated by executives as having among the worst business climates in the nation. No surprise, then, that California’s jobs engine has sputtered, and it may be heading toward 15 percent unemployment.'”
Dan Walters, “Out-of-States Gleefully Delve Into California’s Woes,” Sacramento Bee, 7/15/09

Additional Reforms Are Needed
“Against all odds, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature last week agreed on a revised budget that will end the state’s cash crisis, stave off insolvency and give the state some breathing room to regroup, then tackle the problem again in a few months. If the state’s finances were a hospital patient, they would be out of intensive care, in critical but stable condition, and still in need of life-saving surgery. The question now, for the entire state and not just its political class, is what kind of surgery will lead to the strongest long-term recovery.”
Editorial, “This State Budget Is Just The Beginning,” Sacramento Bee, 7/26/09

Driving to Beat Autism – Great Day / Great Cause

I make no pretense at being a golfer – let me get that out right up front. But as they say, a bad day golfing is better than a good day working. THEY say that. I say that about fishing, which I prefer to golf, but if you can’t go fishing, golf will do. Golf is another one of those ‘sports’ where you can drink while you’re practicing it, or playing it or whatever it is you do with it. I like that in a sport. And unlike fishing where you have to haul your own supplies, in golf there’s a sweet young lady that travels the course in the ‘beer truck’. That’s right – they bring it icy cold right to you. That puts it right up a notch above bowling – where you sometimes have to walk several feet to a bar.

cross creek

There’s also a lot of cussing in golf I’ve noticed. If you haven’t been, here’s what it sounds like in the T area:

daneGolfer #1 – Thwack / sunava %}}@~.

Golfer #2 – Thwack / Mother 4w%%$3.

Golfer #3 – Thwack / {?**^> ball/club/wind.

Golfer #4 – Thwack / well you catch my drift.

Again, not really a negative to my mind. And golf cussing is pretty mild. Heck, I grew up in a mining town – those old boys had cussing down to an art form.

mikeBut I digress – I do enjoy golf. I get my moneys worth when I golf because I  spend way more time on the course than the average bear whiffing around in 3 or 4 hours in his brightly colored shorts ensemble. If I don’t start before noon, I might as well take along a sleeping bag and some freeze dried grub. If somebody invented glow-in-the-dark balls I’d be a happy man. (That may have come out wrong.) Actually, when I lived in Minnesota I played with bright orange balls which were very easy to see, as you might imagine (again, don’t go there). When I moved to California some a** took pains to point out that those were ‘snow balls’ – orange so you could play in the snow. Only a total doofus would sport them in SoCal.

Thank you very much Mr. Chartreuse Shirt Man.

I also feel it’s my tribute to the designer of the course, to come to know the intricacies he designed into the course. They planned those big sandy areas, trees, rivers and lakes all for our enjoyment yet most golfers only try to avoid them. They also placed courses in beautiful wildlife areas and it’s fun to explore the surrounding flora (& fauna). You don’t even want to know how many homes I’ve ‘come in contact with’ playing Bear Creek. (Thwack / Krink – that’s the sound of a well driven ball off a Spanish Tile roof).

driveBut it’s always a pleasure to play for a good cause and this past Saturday we had an opportunity to do just that. I’d never played Cross Creek before and it is a gorgeous course lying in a bowl surrounded by oak and avocado trees and, in the distance, some exquisite homes. It’d a very unforgiving course too, I might add. Keeping score as I do is a function of balls lost X beer consumed / good company = score. Others keep a more numerically based algorithm which only works for me when I play a scramble or best ball event. Again, assuming I’m with 2 or 3 other people who know what they’re doing.

My son and I enjoyed an afternoon with friends Mike & Eric – who carried our team to a 7 under finish. I never thought I’d experience that pinnacle in a tournment that did not allow Mulligans. And we scored honetly, not like those pikers that claimed they shot 60.

nicholasThe event was ‘Driving to Beat Autism’ with Our Nicholas Foundation. The foundation was started by Mark & Kathy Anselmo to honor their son Nicholas. While researching what they could on the topic after their son was diagnosed, they discovered a dire shortage of information, of the tools necessary for teaching & therapy, and funding for research & basic classroom necessities.

One of Our Nicholas Foundation’s early successes has been their Peer Buddies Program which integrates special ed students with ‘typical’ students in a classroom environment. It has fostered compassion and understanding among the student population while providing a sense of well being and inclusion for the autistic.

They are also developing an extensive Autism Resource Library and can provide parents with local resource guides. Having experienced a 400% increase in autistic students enrolled in local classes in just the last 4 years shows the critical need for the products, services and research needed to enrich the lives of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

If you or anyone you know has been touched by autism and would like to find out more about this amazing organization, please contact www.OurNicholasFoundation.org

California Budget Town Hall

Friends – are ya feelin’ a little backed-up and bloated? Has your breakfast burrito turned to spackle in your lower GI. Well tune in  to the California Budget Town Hall at 6 this evening. I guarantee you’ll be sh*tting bricks long before the scheduled fini’.
budget
Click here

CAR Legislative Day – Some Good, Some Bad, Some Ugly

I’ll be posting more specifics for you from our Sacramento Legislative trip last week, but just wanted to share a couple observations.

Wednesday was Legislative Day. In addition to our CAR Directors, we always bring up a few folks with us for that day – folks who have made an investment in our Realtor Action Fund of at least $197. It’s always a great day – including a terrific speech by former  (and future?) Governor Jerry Brown, legislative updates from our lobbyists, our march on the capitol photo op, visits with our Legislators and the Capitol Reception in the evening. For people who only think real estate is about selling houses, you should come with us next year.

march

That same Wednesday, the Assembly had a deadline for closing out their docket because anything that wasn’t passed to the Senate, either dies or reverts to a two year bill. Needless to say it was hectic and our schedules had to remain flexible as we sought to discuss our housing agenda with our electeds. Assembly Member Kevin Jeffries was literally on lock-down until the bills got passed and had been so all week. He managed to visit with us outside the chambers for a few minutes and joined us later at the reception after they had completed the session.

And there-in lies the tale. Between seeing Assemblyman Jeffries and our reschedule with Senator Hollingsworth, we had an hour to spare. So we sat down in the basement coffee shop in the Capitol and had a soda. They have several TV’s on the walls all broadcasting the current floor session. There were about a dozen of us talking and laughing about the days adventures. After about 5 minutes the folks fell silent – consumed by what they were seeing on TV. Over the span of the next 45 minutes we saw 19 bills passed. With one exception – every one of the bills passed on a 42 – 22 vote, (+/- 2). Not only were these bills passed hastily and on strict party line votes, virtually every bill involved some sort of spending or new committee creation.

After having their asses handed to them on our May 19 Proposition vote, these Assembly Democrats still don’t get the message on spending. They can’t help themselves. It was a real eye opener for our political neophytes who have never seen the process up close and personal. It’s times like that I’m reminded of Otto von Bismarck’s caution that – ‘People should never see either sausages or laws being made‘. It’s true – I’ve seen both and don’t advise it. The difference is with sausage you can just avoid consuming the product if it’s too unpalatable. With legislation, regardless of your efforts, you are forced to partake – and it’s generally going to cost you more money or less freedom.

You should be pleased to note that both Assembly members Jeffries and Nestande consistently had their votes tabulated among the paltry smattering of ‘red’ votes. The Assembly considered over 1,000 new pieces of legislation this session in spite of getting a late start. It took them 5 months to consider and vote on the first 500 bills, only 5 days to consider and vote the last 500. Is it any wonder we’re in the shape we’re in?

The Senate only produced about 1/4 that many bills in this first session. Here’s hoping the Senate is somewhat more in touch with Californians than 2/3 of their Assembly counterparts are when they sit down to consider the truckload of crappola the Assembly is delivering to them.

Oh, the one bill that didn’t pass 42 – 22? It was a bill introduced by Speaker Karen Bass. The Speaker does not come on the floor to introduce her own bills – she sent it in with a messenger. They trick to this one? They first had to waive the 1 day read rule. That means within the span of 2 – 3 minutes

  1. a copy of this bill was either laid on their desk or appeared on their PC and
  2. they were concurrently being asked to waive the 1 day read rule and then to
  3. vote on the bill.

Honest. And the vote was unanimous. They musta been a shell-shocked as we were.

If you’ve never seen the process by which our state is governed, take your tax rebate and book a trip to Sacramento. Maybe by witnessing first hand the fiscal depravity which our leaders display, the wanton pandering to special interests and (in some cases) their shocking lack of command of the English language, you will come to undertand how we arrived at the brink of collapse. Hopefully you will come to the conclusion that, in good conscience, you CANNOT continue to vote the same incompetent louts back into office time and again.

Or not.

Understanding Stock Market Terms Today

Along with revising history to suit our needs, we are remaking the definitions of several commonly used terms:

CEO -Chief Embezzlement Officer.

CFO- Corporate Fraud Officer.

BULL MARKET – A random market movement causing an investor to mistake himself for a financial genius.

BEAR MARKET – A 6 to 18 month period when the kids get no allowance, the wife gets no jewelry, and the husband gets no sex.

VALUE INVESTING – The art of buying low and selling lower.

P/E RATIO – The percentage of investors wetting their pants as the market keeps crashing.

BROKER – What my broker has made me.

STANDARD & POOR – Your life in a nutshell.

STOCK ANALYST – Idiot who just downgraded your stock.

STOCK SPLIT – When your ex-wife and her lawyer split your assets equally between themselves.

FINANCIAL PLANNER – A guy whose phone has been disconnected.

MARKET CORRECTION – The day after you buy stocks.

CASH FLOW- The movement your money makes as it disappears down the toilet.

YAHOO – What you yell after selling it to some poor sucker for $240 per share.

WINDOWS – What you jump out of when you’re the sucker who bought Yahoo @ $240 per share.

INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR – Past year investor who’s now locked up in a nuthouse.

PROFIT – An archaic word no longer in use.

Thanks to Mirela Monte of Myrtle Beach, SC for this gem.

And a couple famous (or should be) quotes of the day.

Lord, the money we spend on government, and it’s not one bit better than the government that we got for one-third the money twenty years ago! Will Rogers

Why does a slight tax increase cost you two hundred dollars and a substantial tax cut saves you thirty cents? Peg Bracken

If Thomas Jefferson thought taxation without representation was bad, he should see it with representation! Rush Limbaugh