Posted by: coastcontact | August 23, 2017

There’s No Place Like Home


Vacationers dreaming of overseas travel are facing so many limitations that it seems the best place to visit is their own home town. OK maybe it is safe to visit any place in their state. Wait that might not be accurate either. Is it safe to visit Time Square in New York City?

Here is a list some of the State Department’s latest travel warnings and alerts.

Mexico Travel Warning:
We issue a Travel Warning when we want you to consider very carefully whether you should go to a country at all.

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens about the risk of traveling to certain parts of Mexico due to the activities of criminal organizations in those areas. U.S. citizens have been the victims of violent crimes, including homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery in various Mexican states. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mexico issued December 8, 2016.

Baja California (includes Tijuana, Rosarito, Ensenada, Tecate, and Mexicali): Exercise caution in the northern state of Baja California, particularly at night. Criminal activity and violence, including homicide, remain an issue throughout the state.

Baja California Sur (includes Los Cabos and La Paz): Criminal activity and violence, including homicide, remain an issue throughout the state. Exercise caution as Baja California Sur continues to experience a high rate of homicides.

Puerto Vallarta: U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to areas that border the states of Michoacán and Zacatecas because of continued instability.

Other parts of Mexico are also listed as unsafe that include most cities One big exception is Mexico City named by the State Department is Mexico City.

Europe Travel Alert:
We issue a Travel Alert for short-term events we think you should know about when planning travel to a country.

The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the continued threat of terrorist attacks throughout Europe. This Travel Alert expires on September 1, 2017.

Recent, widely-reported incidents in France, Russia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom demonstrate that the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS or Da’esh), al-Qa’ida, and their affiliates have the ability to plan and execute terrorist attacks in Europe. While local governments continue counterterrorism operations, the Department nevertheless remains concerned about the potential for future terrorist attacks. U.S. citizens should always be alert to the possibility that terrorist sympathizers or self-radicalized extremists may conduct attacks with little or no warning.

So after September 1, 2017 it will be safe? Given the terrorist attacks in Barcelona, Spain I am guessing the travel alert will be extended.


The list of other countries that there are warnings or alerts is long. Go to to see if your destination is included.  You may be surprised at the number of countries that have warnings or alerts.

After the attacks in Nice, France and Barcelona, Spain we canceled our long planned European cruise and land excursions.

We will be spending six nights in Toronto, Canada and six nights in NYC.

Posted by: coastcontact | August 20, 2017

Jerry Lewis – A Great Comedian

I remember the funny part of the movie that made Martin and Lewis famous. It was My Friend Irma. A 1949 American comedy film.

The storyline follows two women, Irma Peterson (Marie Wilson) and Jane Stacey (Diana Lynn), who room together in New York. Irma is a somewhat dim-witted blonde who deep down has good intentions. Jane is an ambitious woman who dreams of marrying a rich man. She winds up as a secretary for a millionaire, Richard Rhinelander (Don DeFore).

In that movie Martin and Lewis had a small part as operators of a street cart where they sold freshly squeezed juice. Jerry was the squeezer and he did it by hand not with a machine. He held up his hand as if squeezing a piece of fruit and said “I can’t even shake hands with my girl friend.” Of course it was the way he said it and his protruding jaw that made the scene so funny. Lewis had me laughing and the Martin and Lewis comedy team lasted for about ten years.

Posted by: coastcontact | August 18, 2017

Pride in Southern Heritage Does Not Require the Confederate Flag

Associated Press Report:
Robert Castello literally wears his Southern pride. The visor, suspenders and ring he donned Thursday were all emblazoned with the familiar design of the rebel battle flag.

Castello, whose Dixie General Store sells Confederate-themed hats, shirts, stickers and signs in rural eastern Alabama, said he doesn’t have any use for overtly racist groups like the Klan. Read More…

Posted by: coastcontact | August 16, 2017

World’s 10 most livable cities in 2017

According to Business Traveller magazine these are the most livable cities in the world.  Of course these surveys are not the final word  but it is interesting to see the list.  My opinion is that Calgary and Helsinki are too cold to be very livable.  Perhaps those cities have some mitigating feature.

1. Melbourne, Australia
2. Vienna, Austria
3. Vancouver, Canada
4. Toronto, Canada
= 5. Calgary, Canada
= 5. Adelaide, Australia
7. Perth, Australia
8. Auckland, New Zealand
9. Helsinki, Finland
10. Hamburg, Germany
Posted by: coastcontact | August 13, 2017

White Supremacist America

White supremacists have been an issue for the United States since its inception. When “all men are created equal” was written into the Declaration of Independence apparently not everyone was in total agreement. It seems that some thought those words only applied to White Christians. Thus the alternate idea was written into our constitution when it was determined that Black slaves would count in the population as three-fifths of a person.  Chinese came to America to help build the railroads but were not granted citizenship.  Similarly Latin Americans were denied citizenship in the 1800s.

To this day millions of White Christian Americans believe they are superior to all other people. That belief is the source of discrimination in America today. It is not just discrimination against Black people. It is discrimination against all other races and religions.

Thus it is no surprise that the KKK and Nazi groups are flourishing in this country.

Donald Trump has evaluated this situation and placed a bet that there are enough White supremacists in this country to sustain his re-election in 2020. Therefore there is no need to condemn the riot in Charlottesville, Virginia. There is no need to condemn the KKK and Nazi groups.

Sadly I believe Mr. Trump has correctly come down on the side of the electoral majority. The message to all non-White and Non-Christian emigrants is ‘You are not welcome in America’. Oh! Wait! We will welcome you to do the jobs we consider beneath us.

Posted by: coastcontact | August 11, 2017

Self-driving Car Timeline for 11 top Automakers

As I drive a 2001 Nissan Maxima that has gone about 118,000 miles and is still a smooth operating car with dirty upholstery and cruise control that has stopped functioning, I believe it is time for something new.

Aren’t self driving cars about to be the next big thing in just a year or two?

I found the following summary of when this is likely to happen.  Abridged article from dated June 4, 2017

Should I wait another few years?  After all the car still runs quite well.

A company by company examination of public investments by leading car makers and statements from their top executives makes it clear that most car companies are betting self-driving technology is inevitable, and they’re all jumping in with investment and initiatives.

Defining “self-driving” by level

Level 1 automation: some small steering or acceleration tasks are performed by the car without human intervention, but everything else is fully under human control

Level 2 automation: like advance cruise control or original autopilot systems on some Tesla vehicles, the car can automatically take safety actions but the driver needs to stay alert at the wheel

Level 3 automation: still requires a human driver, but the human is able to hand some “safety-critical functions” off to the vehicle under certain traffic or environmental conditions. This poses some potential dangers as the major tasks of driving are transferred to or from the car itself, which is why some car companies (Ford included) are interested in jumping directly to level 4

Level 4 automation: a car that can drive itself almost all the time without any human input but might be programmed not to drive in unmapped areas or during severe weather. This is a car you could sleep in.

Level 5 automation: full automation in all conditions


GM: Rumors of self-driving vehicles by 2018

Unlike other big car makers, GM has not laid out a specific timeline for its self-driving cars, but the company has made it clear it’s moving aggressively in that direction. In December, GM CEO Marry Barra wrote, “We expect to be the first high-volume auto manufacturer to build fully autonomous vehicles in a mass-production assembly plant.” The focus will be on ride-sharing, rather than the individual buyer.


Ford: Truly self-driving vehicles by 2021

Ford Motor CEO Mark Fields told CNBC that Ford plans to have a “Level 4 vehicle in 2021, no gas pedal, no steering wheel, and the passenger will never need to take control of the vehicle in a predefined area.” Ford actually plans to skip right over Level 3 automation and go straight to Level 4. In the company’s tests, chief technology officer Raj Nair found that Level 3 automation would lead to engineers dozing off and not being situationally ready to take over when called on. CEO Mark Fields claims that Ford will have cars with no gas pedal and no steering wheel driving people around in select cities by 2021.


Honda: Self-driving on the highway by 2020

At the end of last year, Honda announced it was in discussions with Waymo, an independent company of Alphabet, to include Waymo self-driving technology in Honda’s vehicles.


Toyota: Self-driving on the highway by 2020

Toyota has been one of the most skeptical car companies when it comes to autonomous vehicles, but in 2015 it made a big investment to catch up. Toyota is investing $1 billion over five years in the Toyota Research Institute to develop robotics and AI technology. The company hopes to launch products based on its Highway Teammate programs in 2020, which would also be just in time for the Tokyo Olympics.


Renault-Nissan: 2020 for autonomous cars in urban conditions, 2025 for truly driverless cars

Renault-Nissan is counting on its new partnership with Microsoft to help advance the company’s autonomous car efforts. Renault-Nissan plans to release 10 different self-driving cars by 2020.


Volvo: Self-driving on the highway by 2021

Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson said in an interview, “It’s our ambition to have a car that can drive fully autonomously on the highway by 2021.” He envisions that full autopilot would be a highly enticing option on a premium vehicle and will initially be priced at $10,000.


Hyundai: Highway by 2020, urban driving by 2030

Hyundai is working on self-driving vehicles but with more of a focus on affordability. In an announcement, Hyundai claims it is “developing its own autonomous vehicle operating system with the goal of using a lot less computing power. This will result in a low-cost platform, which can be installed in future Hyundai models the average consumer can afford.”


Daimler: Nearly fully autonomous by early 2020s

Daimler announced this month a high-profile development agreement with Bosch, one of the largest parts suppliers. The goal is to bring both Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous vehicles to urban environments “by the beginning of the next decade.” This announcement came less than a month after Bosch announced its own collaboration with chip maker Nvidia to develop self-driving systems.


Fiat-Chrysler: CEO expects there to be some self driving vehicles on the road by 2021

Fiat-Chrysler also teamed up with Waymo last year to test some self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.


BMW: Fully self-driving vehicles possible by 2021

Last year, BMW announced a high-profile collaboration with Intel and Mobileye to develop autonomous cars. Officially, the goal is to get “highly and fully automated driving into series production by 2021.”


Tesla: End of 2017

As a smaller startup car maker, Tesla has always focused on pushing the edge of technology. Last year, Tesla began making sure all its cars had the hardware needed for full self-driving capabilities, even before the software/data was ready. Tesla constantly updates its car’s software to improve safety.

I have no car payments now and  the car still runs quite well.  Maybe some new tires and I will ask the mechanic what is the cost of fixing the cruise control.  

Posted by: coastcontact | August 5, 2017

Homelessness in the West Valley is a Serious Problem

While this commentary by Councilmember Blumenfield explains the issue of homelessness it lacks any solutions. We all know homelessness is a crisis and “work with the community to help our homeless while also protecting the values and integrity of the West Valley” really means preventing any homeless people from living in the West Valley.

Neither  Blumenfield nor any other councilman has a single worthwhile idea on how to solve this problem.  However the city council does have ideas on raising taxes and voting to hold the Olympics in this city.  For this we pay city council members $184,610 per year.

New Editorial from Councilmember Blumenfield for the Valley News Group- Homelessness in the West Valley is Serious and Must be Taken Seriously

Homelessness is a crisis, and although we may feel worlds away from downtown Skid Row, the West Valley is not immune. We are seeing encampments in neighborhoods that never had them before. People are visibly panhandling, and the human misery of addiction and mental illness is evident and creates a depressing and sometimes dangerous environment for the housed and the homeless. I share the frustration of residents who are very disturbed by what we are seeing. Though my district has the fewest homeless people compared to every other district in the City, homelessness in the West Valley is serious and must be taken seriously.

The reality is that it’s not illegal to be homeless, and asking strangers for money is protected by the first amendment. The courts struck down City laws that prohibited living in a vehicle or sleeping on the sidewalk. However, the City Council was able to pass laws prohibiting sleeping in a vehicle that is parked in a residential zone and limited times and places where someone can erect a tent on public property.

In September 2016, I brought together LAPD and homeless advocates for a Town Hall on homelessness. I continue to meet with constituents at mobile office hours and community events, hearing many opinions on what needs to be done. Some say the problem is addiction, or lack of mental health care, or the economy, or PTSD, or Prop 47, or a lack of affordable housing. They are all right to some extent. It is a complicated problem with a complicated road to resolve.

Recently, I introduced City legislation that will help with one related problem concerning illegal human waste being dumped on our streets. Over 2,300 RVs in Los Angeles are being used by homeless people with only two public sites for dumping waste, one by the airport and one in San Pedro. We must do something to stop illegal dumping and provide a feasible option to prevent disease and blight.

Additionally, my office coordinates “Homeless Connect Days” to connect people to services, organizes community and encampment cleanups, and promotes patrols on the LA River. I also meet regularly with LAPD Senior Lead Officers, command officers, and officials from LAHSA to discuss the tools they need to do their work. My office pushed for and funded “no loitering” signs under all freeway under passes and tunnels in my district to help LAPD connect the homeless to services. These are some steps of many that I am taking.

Thanks to voters passing Measure HHH, which my colleagues and I put on the ballot, and Measure H in the County, there are funds coming to help with housing and services. But nothing will immediately prevent homelessness. That’s why my website has links to help residents find nonprofits in the West Valley that operate locally. The idea is that a “help up” is often better than a “hand out.” So, please consider donating clothes, food, hygienic products, and funds to these organizations. Go to to donate and learn about the many efforts I am involved with regarding homelessness.

Though there is no easy fix, I will continue to work with the community to help our homeless while also protecting the values and integrity of the West Valley.

As Senator Al Franken says, “You have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, but first you have to have the boots.”

Posted by: davidbancroft | August 5, 2017

I was the Shabbes Goy of Sterling Place and Utica Ave.

by Joe Velarde

(Joe Velarde became the fencing coach of Columbia University in the 1940’s-50s and was an early advocate of civil rights in sports, eventually retiring to California.)

Snow came early in the winter of 1933 when our extended Cuban family moved into the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn . I was ten years old. We were the first Spanish speakers to arrive, yet we fit more or less easily into that crowded, multicultural neighborhood. Soon we began learning a little Italian, a few Greek and Polish words, lots of Yiddish and some heavily accented English.

I first heard the expression ‘Shabbes is falling’ when Mr. Rosenthal refused to open the door of his dry goods store on Bedford Avenue . My mother had sent me with a dime to buy a pair of black socks for my father. In those days, men wore mostly black and Navy blue. Brown and gray were somehow special and cost more. Mr. Rosenthal stood inside the locked door, arms folded, glaring at me through the thick glass while a heavy snow and darkness began to fall on a Friday evening. “We’re closed, already”, Mr.Rosenthal had said, shaking his head, “can’t you see that Shabbes is falling? Don’t be a nudnik! Go home.” I could feel the cold wetness covering my head and thought that Shabbes was the Jewish word for snow.

My misperception of Shabbes didn’t last long, however, as the area’s dominant culture soon became apparent; Gentiles were the minority. From then on, as Shabbes fell with its immutable regularity and Jewish lore took over the life of the neighborhood, I came to realize that so many human activities, ordinarily mundane at any other time, ceased, and a palpable silence, a pleasant tranquility, fell over all of us. It was then that a family with an urgent need would dispatch a youngster to “get the Spanish boy, and hurry.”

That was me. In time, I stopped being nameless and became Yussel, sometimes Yuss or Yusseleh. And so began my life as a Shabbes Goy, voluntarily doing chores for my neighbors on Friday nights and Saturdays: lighting stoves, running errands, getting a prescription for an old tante, stoking coal furnaces, putting lights on or out, clearing snow and ice from slippery sidewalks and stoops. Doing just about anything that was forbidden to the devout by their religious code.

Friday afternoons were special. I’d walk home from school assailed by the rich aroma emanating from Jewish kitchens preparing that evening’s special menu. By now, I had developed a list of steady “clients,” Jewish families who depended on me. Furnaces, in particular, demanded frequent tending during Brooklyn ‘s many freezing winters. I shudder remembering brutally cold winds blowing off the East River . Anticipation ran high as I thought of the warm home-baked treats I’d bring home that night after my Shabbes rounds were over. Thanks to me, my entire family had become Jewish pastry junkies. Moi? I’m still addicted to checkerboard cake, halvah and Egg Creams (made only with Fox’s Ubet chocolate syrup).

I remember as if it were yesterday how I discovered that Jews were the smartest people in the world. You see, in our Cuban household we all loved the ends of bread loaves and, to keep peace, my father always decided who would get them. One harsh winter night I was rewarded for my Shabbes ministrations with a loaf of warm challah (we pronounced it “holly”) and I knew I was witnessing genius! Who else could have invented a bread that had wonderfully crusted ends all over it — enough for everyone in a large family?

There was an “International” aspect to my teen years in Williamsburg . The Sternberg family had two sons who had fought with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain . Whenever we kids could get their attention, they’d spellbind us with tales also introduced us to a novel way of thinking, one that embraced such humane ideas as ‘From each according to his means and to each according to his needs’. In retrospect, this innocent exposure to a different philosophy was the starting point of a journey that would also incorporate the concept of Tzedakah in my personal guide to the world.

In what historians would later call The Great Depression, a nickel was a lot of mazuma and its economic power could buy a brand new Spaldeen, our local name for the pink-colored rubber ball then produced by the Spalding Company. The famous Spaldeen was central to our endless street games: stickball and punchball or the simpler stoop ball. On balmy summer evenings our youthful fantasies converted South Tenth Street into Ebbets Field with the Dodgers’ Dolph Camilli swinging a broom handle at a viciously curving Spaldeen thrown by the Giants’ great lefty, Carl Hubbell. We really thought it curved, I swear.

Our neighbors, magically transformed into spectators kibitzing from their brownstone stoops and windows, were treated to a unique version of major league baseball. My tenure as the resident Shabbes Goy came to an abrupt end after Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941. I withdrew from Brooklyn College the following day and joined the U.S. Army. In June of 1944, the Army Air Corps shipped me home after flying sixty combat missions over Italy and the Balkans. I was overwhelmed to find that several of my Jewish friends and neighbors had set a place for me at their supper tables every Shabbes throughout my absence, including me in their prayers. What mitzvoth! My homecoming was highlighted by wonderful invitations to dinner. Can you imagine the effect after twenty-two months of Army field rations?

As my post-World War II life developed, the nature of the association I’d had with Jewish families during my formative years became clearer. I had learned the meaning of friendship, of loyalty, and of honor and respect. I discovered obedience without subservience. And caring about all living things had become as natural as breathing. The worth of a strong work ethic and of purposeful dedication was manifest. Love of learning blossomed and I began to set higher standards for my developing skills, and loftier goals for future activities and dreams. Mind, none of this was the result of any sort of formal instruction; my yeshiva had been the neighborhood. I learned these things, absorbed them actually says it better, by association and role modeling, by pursuing curious inquiry, and by what educators called “incidental learning” in the crucible that was pre-World War II Williamsburg. It seems many of life’s most elemental lessons are learned this way.

While my parents’ Cuban home sheltered me with warm, intimate affection and provided for my well-being and self esteem, the group of Jewish families I came to know and help in the Williamsburg of the 1930s was a surrogate tribe that abetted my teenage rite of passage to adulthood. One might even say we had experienced a special kind of Bar Mitzvah. I couldn’t explain then the concept of tikkun olam, but I realized as I matured how well I had been oriented by the Jewish experience to live it and to apply it. What a truly uplifting outlook on life it is to be genuinely motivated “to repair the world.”

In these twilight years when my good wife is occasionally told, “Your husband is a funny man,” I’m aware that my humor has its roots in the shticks of Second Avenue Yiddish Theater, entertainers at Catskill summer resorts, and their many imitators. And, when I argue issues of human or civil rights and am cautioned about showing too much zeal, I recall how chutzpah first flourished on Williamsburg sidewalks, competing for filberts (hazelnuts) with tough kids wearing payess and yarmulkes. Along the way I played chess and one-wall handball, learned to fence, listened to Rimsky-Korsakov, ate roasted chestnuts, and read Maimonides .

I am ever grateful for having had the opportunity to be a Shabbes Goy.


Mario Cuomo, Colin Powell & Pete Hamill were also shabbos goyim


Posted by: coastcontact | August 2, 2017

Homelessness, Panhandling, and Fear of the Poor

Please go to my blog Los Angeles – Love It and Hate It for my posting on the poor in Los Angeles.

Posted by: coastcontact | July 26, 2017

Poverty in California

It’s hard to believe that there is significant poverty in California. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority say there are over 57,000 homeless in this county alone. That reality is made obvious by the growing number of homeless encampments that have sprung up all over the city.

More than a third of California households have virtually no savings and are at risk of financial ruin. That data was compiled by Prosperity Now, a Washington, D.C.-based organization seeking to help people — particularly people of color and those with limited income — achieve financial security and prosperity. Even if the data is half as bad as reported it would still mean that about 15% of the population is in serious trouble.

The report says that more than 37 percent of California households have so little cash saved that they couldn’t live at the poverty level for even three months if they lost a job or suffered another significant loss of income.

No emergency fund
The scorecard also shows that 46 percent of households in the Golden State didn’t set aside any savings for emergencies over the past year, a higher percentage than the national rate of 43.7 percent.

It doesn’t help that 21.1 percent of California jobs are in low-wage occupations. The scorecard found that 21.4 percent of Californians experienced income volatility over the past year, a situation that most often results from irregular job schedules.

Households of color
It gets worse for households of color. They are nearly twice as likely to live below the poverty line as white households — 18.2 percent compared to 9.7 percent — and they are much less likely to own a home or other assets that could help boost their long-term financial stability.

Less than half of California’s households of color (43.9 percent) own homes, compared to 62.5 percent of white, non-Hispanic households. Moreover, 60.7 percent of Latino households and 56.7 percent of black households have virtually no savings and are considered “liquid asset poor,” compared to 28.2 percent of white households fitting that category.

“Beyond providing a cushion to get families through emergencies, increased savings and wealth allow families to invest in their futures and gain ground for future generations,” Prosperity Now President Andrea Levere said in a statement. “It’s clear that far too many people are stuck in economic limbo.”

High housing costs
Lars Perner, an assistant professor of clinical marketing at the USC Marshall School of Business, said California’s high housing costs have put many households on shaky financial ground.

“The cost of housing in California is exorbitant,” he said. “That’s a big part of the problem. People pay a disproportionate amount of their income toward housing.”

The report finds that nearly 20 million U.S. households (16.9 percent of the total) have zero or negative net worth. That means they owe more than they own.

Getting on track
The scorecard suggests several policies that could help get struggling households on track, including adopting policies that encourage saving, increasing the minimum wage, providing better access to home ownership and boosting retirement security.

Workable solutions are lacking. Meetings by various community groups might be interesting to attend but none of our elected government officials have any worthwhile ideas.

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