Posted by: coastcontact | August 27, 2015

A Gun Happy Nation

Alison Parker and Adam Ward It’s all baloney. CNN headline is “Our Hearts are Broken” as they display photos of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. Horror and dismay along with weeks of coverage after the massacres at a Colorado movie theater by James Holmes and Sandy Hook elementary school and the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. But we just can’t give up our guns.

After each event there are flowers laid at a critical location and a call for a gathering to remember those who have been killed. They call it a “vigil.” Then we all go on with life knowing that there will be another horrifying killing within the next few days.

The Los Angeles Times had an article about this very topic in the morning’s edition before the latest killing in Virginia. The article says that the United States is the leader in the most mass killing of any country in the world.

Where is our congress? On vacation forever on this issue.

So despite the killing of nine in a Black church in South Carolina and the killing in Tucson, Arizona that left Gabrielle Giffords maimed for life; Our love for guns trumps all other events. Our preference to own a gun has no limits. There is no price too high to pay that will change our love of guns.

When our leaders say we are the exceptional country is gun ownership part of that? The answer must be yes. Is there another reason we allow everyone to own a gun?

Posted by: coastcontact | August 26, 2015

A Balloon Art Exhibit

A little over a week ago the news media started publicizing a balloon art exhibit at McArthur Park in central Los Angeles. It’s not in downtown. It is just west of downtown. The area is poor and has a large immigrant population. The park is named for General Douglas McArthur of WWII fame. Previously the park was named Westlake and contains a modestly large lake for a city park.

The exhibit of the hand painted balloons was a delightful sight in an area populated by the poor and homeless. From both Wilshire Boulevard and 6th Street you can see an outstanding view of the downtown skyline.

It was a cloudy day and a few drop of rain fell thanks to monsoonal clouds that drifted in from Arizona.

All photos taken with Panasonic FZ200 camera.  A total of 18 photos were taken. 17 are useable.  All will be displayed on my Flickr page in the Balloon Art Exhibit album.

Balloon Photo #7

1/640 sec;   f/4.0;   ISO 100

 

Balloon Photo #5_edited-1

1/800 sec;   f/4.0;   ISO 100

Wilshire Blvd looking east at downtown skyline_edited-2

1/1000 sec;   f/2.8;   ISO 100

Posted by: coastcontact | August 25, 2015

Blowhards Lead the Campaign for President

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 05: Donald Trump attends the

NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 05: Donald Trump attends the “Celebrity Apprentice” Red Carpet Event at Trump Tower on January 5, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Pont/FilmMagic)

Donald Trump has made the issue of illegal aliens his hallmark campaign issue. It may be a crowd pleaser for Republicans and other anti-immigrant groups but it is a distraction. The real issue, that Trump has touched upon, is middle class jobs. After all those illegal aliens aren’t taking jobs from the middle class. They are taking jobs from the poorest Americans who have limited skills.

None of the candidates for president have offered any consequential ideas about reinforcing and expanding middle class opportunities. Mr. Trump says he will make America great again. He says he will obtain the support of people like Carl Icahn who know how to bring jobs back to the USA. Details of how this will be accomplished. Who needs details?

“Hillary Rodham Clinton enters the Barnes & Noble to sign her book “Hard Choices” at The Grove, Thursday, June 19, 2014. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles Daily News)”

Meanwhile Hillary Clinton in her first major speech on the economy stood in front of a crowd called for companies to share more profits with their employees. Look at the listings of those people on the board of directors of any listed company. Their members are heads of other companies. It’s a closed system.  Why should they share their wealth?  The capitalist system does not call for sharing.  It calls for make as much as you can. It’s everyone for themselves.

The leading candidates for president are both too wealthy to really care about you and me.

Posted by: coastcontact | August 23, 2015

Canada’s birthright citizenship

It turns out that Donald Trump’s commentary is not new.  Canada and the United States are the only countries in the world that offer birthright citizenship.  Birth tourism is a thriving business in southern California.    I was born in Canada.  If Donald Trump is elected president of the United States will Canada take me back? From Toronto Life on May 20, 2014.

Jan Wong: Canada’s birthright citizenship policy makes us a nation of suckers

Pregnant women are travelling to Toronto from all over—China, Iran, India, Dubai, Jamaica—to have their babies on Canadian soil, and who can blame them? We’re a nation of suckers

Jan Wong: Motherlode

I don’t know about you, but I constantly congratulate myself on winning the jackpot in the lottery of life. Thank you, revered ancestor, for your wisdom in choosing Canada. My grandfather, Hooie Chong, came here as a coolie in the 1880s to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. Once it was complete, he paid a special tax to stay on and continue working, as a laundryman. Later, he paid triple head taxes to bring over my grandmother, their son and his wife. Family lore has it ­that Grandfather Chong was the 10th Chinese person to become a naturalized Canadian (albeit without any right to vote).

Now there’s a much easier path to ­citizenship: birth tourism. Foreign companies are helping pregnant women take advantage of our breathtakingly generous birthright policy, which grants automatic citizenship—and all the rights and ­benefits it entails—to any baby born on Canadian soil. You don’t even have to touch the soil: in 2008, a girl born to a Ugandan mother aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Boston was deemed ­Canadian because the plane happened to be in our airspace at the moment of delivery. Currently, Canada and the U.S. are the only two developed countries bestowing birthright citizenship.

For pregnant women actively seeking to jump the immigration queue, birth tourism agencies offer comprehensive package deals. One such agency is the Canada-U.S. Childbirth Counselling ­Services Company, based in Nanjing, China. According to their website, “the best gift you can give your newborn is a Canadian passport.” The company’s $36,200 package includes airfare, assistance with visas and paperwork, coaching on how to get through the border, private accommodation with Wi-Fi and “a special person to cook and look after your personal needs.” Among the advantages that come with Canadian citizenship, the company lists “great educational resources” and social benefits, including welfare payments of “$500 to $700 a month for a single person,” plus a Canadian passport that provides visa-free entry to more than 200 countries, including the U.S., Japan and western Europe.

Birth tourism consultants recommend that clients apply for tourist visas early and fly before they start to show. Otherwise they are advised to wear loose clothing to the airport. While some airlines such as Air Canada require a doctor’s note to fly after 36 weeks of pregnancy, in this age of political correctness, a woman is unlikely to be questioned about girth. Once at the border, birth-tourism agencies advise expectant mothers to say they’re visiting Canada to sightsee.

From there, the visitor’s experience is fairly straightforward. When she goes into labour, she’s automatically admitted into one of the many local hospitals offering high-quality obstetric care. Wendy Lawrence, in-house legal counsel at Mount Sinai, says the hospital considers every labour a medical emergency. “No matter what, we help them deliver the baby.”

Once the baby is born, the hospital opens a file and assigns a number. Hospital staff aren’t required to check the ­mother’s citizenship, and they don’t. The province (which is responsible for birth registration) doesn’t ask about the ­mother’s citizenship either—a lapse Ottawa says it will address. When mother and baby leave the hospital, they move into a short-term rental. Thanks to Canada’s streamlined application process, the parental paperwork is a breeze. It takes just 25 minutes online to register a birth, apply for a birth certificate and acquire a social insurance number. Official documents arrive in the mail a few weeks later; a passport takes another month.

Posted by: coastcontact | August 19, 2015

Owning a Home in North America

Vancouver Skyline from the bay in Stanley Park

Vancouver Skyline from the bay in Stanley Park

Just this past July 22 we returned from a trip that included five days in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. While there we rode one of the Hop On Hop Off city tours. The guide was obviously quite knowledgeable about the city. It is a city of many very attractive 20 to 30 story high buildings. She informed us that the cost of the apartments in those buildings started at $1 million (Canadian). Although the Canadian dollar is currently about 30 cents lower in value than the American dollar it has been almost identical during the past few years. So the cost of living in Vancouver is high.

Meanwhile here in California the cost of homes has been equally as high.  The median home price value in San Francisco is over $1 million reports Zillow. They say it’s a 12.7% increase during the past year and predicts even higher prices in the coming five years.

Down here in Los Angeles Home sales reached a nine-year high in July, prices climbed 5.5% from a year earlier, according a report out Tuesday from CoreLogic a company that tracks home prices throughout southern California. The Los Angeles Times reports that Zillow says “Los Angeles and Orange County are the least affordable housing market in the country.”

Interestingly Portland, Oregon is the city that has experienced the least impact of the inflated home prices with median home prices of about $327,000. However not to be out done their prices have also risen over 10% in the past year.

However as the price of homes has risen the average family income has not risen by comparable amounts. In Portland, Oregon median family income was $55,571 in 2013. In Los Angeles that number was $48,466. Using the old standard of qualifying to buy a home 2½ to 3 to times your family annual income that calculates to a home costing $150,000. No wonder so many young adults are still living with their parents.

What is causing inflated home prices? Googling that question shows lots of analysis but no answers. Here is my take.

Most cities have run out of space for new building. That translates into more high rise housing. Those kinds of structures are expensive to build. Those buildings are townhouse/condominiums translate into expensive homes. Even Los Angeles, a city known for single family homes, has turned to more apartment housing because travel times have become too long (a 1½ hour drive to the airport or to work has become the norm). Average families simply cannot afford that style of housing so they move to the outer edge of the city. That’s where I live.

Thousands of people from other nations have been buying homes in the United States and Canada because it is a safe place to invest their money. That demand has driven up the price of American and Canadian homes. There have been a series of news items and opinion pieces in the Los Angeles Times that have pointed to this growing trend. 47% of Vancouver is now populated by Asians. The San Gabriel Valley area of metropolitan Los Angeles has experienced a growing Asian population to the point that many long time residents have voiced their concern about the changing demographics. Those voices made their way into the newspaper.

http://www.bankrate.com says, “International homebuyers have been pouring billions of dollars into the U.S. housing market as they take advantage of lower home prices and a weaker dollar.” “When buying a home in the United States, foreign buyers often pay cash because it’s a much easier, quicker process, says real estate agent Baro Shalizi of Shalizi Real Estate, in Santa Fe, N.M.” When an elderly acquaintance of mine sold his home for more than $700,000 the buyer paid for it in cash. That all cash offer made the sale easy and eliminated all other offers.

Now cities are confronted with the question of providing decent housing for young families that have median incomes. Without the needed homes there is an impact on the buying habits of those families. They will live with their families. That translates to reduced purchases of refrigerators, lawn mowers, and everything else that homeowners buy.

There will be one of three consequences or perhaps some combination. 1) Government does nothing and young families double up to buy a home or continuing living with parents. 2) There will be subsidized housing for the median income families. 3) More people living farther from the big cities in order to buy a home and that results in more commuters.

Posted by: coastcontact | August 15, 2015

The Power of the NRA and Gun Manufacturers

Just last week Fareed Zakaria pointed out on his program, GPS, that 150,000 people have been killed in homicides since September 11, 2001 and 74 people have been killed by terrorists since that date. Few seem to be concerned about the killing by guns in America even though those events happen on a daily basis.

American attitude is that this is a cheap price to pay for our right to own a gun. No other industrialized country in the world has the high rate of deaths from gun violence that is experienced here. Are there more people that have mental disease in the United States compared to other countries? That is not likely.

We have accepted the NRA and gun manufacturers arguments that we are safer with more guns. Can you imagine how many more people would have been killed in a dark movie theater in Aurora, Colorado if someone else has started shooting to defend themselves?

Posted by: coastcontact | August 14, 2015

How To Think About the Iran Deal in One Photo!

Bill Clinton on North Korea

There have been a total of eight seasons beginning in years (1952, 1953, 1958, 1969, 1976, 1977, 2004, 2006, 2013) classified as “weak” El Niños, eight years (1951, 1963, 1968, 1986, 1991, 1994, 2002, 2009) as “moderate”, four years (1957, 1965, 1972, 1987) as “strong” and two years (1982, 1997) as “very strong” El Niños.

Of the 10 costliest flood years in California since 1950, only four happened during a season when there was an El Niño. Two others occurred during seasons with La Niña, and the final four were when the temperature of the tropical Pacific was near normal.

I have been collecting rain measurement in my backyard since the beginning of the 1997 El Niño year. That year the rain accumulation was 48.3 inches in my backyard. That was the highest annual total since I started collecting data. However the highest single 24 hour period was March 11, 2011. In that year rainfall amounted to 26.2 inches of rain.  Heavy rain that previous December, 2010 totaled more than 9.6 inches and the news media called the heavy rain a “pineapple express.” That was not declared an El Niño year.

The annual rain fall in southern California is so erratic that averages are worthless. They predict nothing. The year following the 26.2 inches only 13.6 inches fell.

Let’s not hold our breath. We should plan for the worst. In other words plan for drought and hope for more rain.

Occasionally I post an article appearing in a local newspaper or a magazine article that I view significant.  This is one of those times.  Michael Hiltzik is a regular columnist in the Los Angeles Times.  Although this is a long column it will be worth your while to read.

The most surprising takeaway from last week’s Republican presidential debate — next to the difficulty of puncturing Donald Trump’s helium-powered candidacy — was the mass anointing of Carly Fiorina as the Candidate to Watch.

Carly FiorinaPraise for the former Hewlett-Packard CEO’s performance at the introductory undercard debate spanned the full range of news outlets. The conservative National Review remarked on her “poise and her well-crafted answers,” and CNN paid homage to her “sharp knowledge of the issues.”

Fiorina told the latter that she went into the debate aware that “only 40% of Republicans even know who I am.”

She must be talking about people outside the state of California. Here in the Golden State, we know Carly Fiorina very well. We know her as the under-performing CEO of one of Silicon Valley’s marquee corporations, and even better for her losing campaign against Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2010.

So as a public service, let’s share with the rest of the country what we’ve learned about Carly Fiorina. We’ll start with her dismal political record.

Even before her 2010 campaign against Boxer could get off the ground, it was poleaxed by the revelation that she had failed to cast a ballot in 75% of the California elections for which she was an eligible voter. She missed presidential primaries in 2000 and 2004, and the primary and general elections in 2006, including a Senate reelection run by Democrat Dianne Feinstein. She skipped the primary and general elections in 2002, a gubernatorial election year, as well as the historic recall vote that brought Arnold Schwarzenegger to the governor’s seat.

In an Orange County Register op-ed announcing her Senate candidacy in 2009, she explained lamely: “I felt disconnected from the decisions made in Washington and, to be honest, really didn’t think my vote mattered because I didn’t have a direct line of sight from my vote to a result.”

Posted by: coastcontact | August 11, 2015

The Need for Common Core Educational Standards

The U.S.A. ranks 36th from the top in math in the world.

Common Core is the academic standards now being implemented in 43 states and Washington, D.C. Common Core was created by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. It was not created by the Federal government.

Jeb Bush was in support of Common Core until he realized that many Republicans oppose it. Now, based upon his comment at last Thursday’s debate, he only supports higher standards but not federally created ones.

The question is how does the United States compare with other nations? You can find the information you want to support your preconceived answer to this question.

I believe this organization is about as good as it gets to finding the answer to the above question. https://www.studentsfirst.org/pages/the-stats

Compared to other countries, we fail in math and science.

In the growing global marketplace, students will need to excel in both math and science to compete internationally as engineers, scientists, physicians, and creative entrepreneurs. Yet, in a 2012 analysis of student performance on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the U.S. placed 27th out of 34 countries in math performance and 20th in science performance.4

Of course you can deny studentsfirst claims. They might have an agenda that really is not intended to help students excel. I just can’t find it.

The 36th ranking was developed by The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, results from PISA 2012. This is not news. It was discussed by Fareed Zakaria on his CNN GPS progam. The discrepancy between 27th and 36th probably lies in the evaluation of separate parts of China.

The leading nations or cities were:

  1. Shanghai-China
  2. Singapore
  3. Hong Kong-China
  4. Chinese Taipei
  5. Korea
  6. Macao-China
  7. Japan

13. Canada

16.   Germany

17. Viet Nam

25. France

26. United Kingdom

34. Russian Federation

36. United States

Those fighters against common core seem to want to defend their preference for mediocrity.

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