Thursday, July 30, 2009

Joe Biden crashes White House beer summit

So how did Vice President Joe Biden get invited to the White House kegger with the president, the professor and the cop? I figure the Veep must have crashed it.

But there he was with President Barack Obama, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley. As we all know, Obama called the beer summit after he said the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting Gates at his house. That set of a national backlash so the president decided to make this a "teachable moment" on race relations. That might take the political pressure off him.

What better way to teach a lesson than to have a bunch of guys sitting around and getting hammered on beer. After some belching and tall tales about beer-drinking in their college days, they'd all be pals.

Biden joined the group Thursday evening, which makes me wonder what would happen if the president had to call a beer summit every time Biden said something stupid. I also wonder whether the D.C. police set up a DUI checkpoint outside the White House.

So what was the beer of choice? From press reports: "Bud Light for President Barack Obama, Sam Adams Light for Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates and Blue Moon for Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley. Vice President Joe Biden joined the group with a glass of Buckler, a nonalcoholic beer."

Hold on here. How can you have any fun when two guys are drinking light beer, one is drinking non-alcoholic beer and only the cop is drinking real beer?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Job applicants literally slug it out while applying for grocery positions

We know jobs are tight, and tensions are high among applicants for the few jobs available. But if police arrest you while you're applying for a job, you probably don't have a chance at the position.

The Fresno Bee is reporting that police had to use pepper spray to stop job applicants from fighting while waiting in line for their employment interviews at a grocery story. There were more than 400 people in line in Southeast Fresno Monday when five men and two women started fighting. The seven were arrested outside a WinCo foods store. That reduced the WinCo applicant pool to 393.

Police said the altercation started just before noon on a very hot Fresno day. The verbal argument quickly became a physical one and the next thing you know there was a near riot. It took 12 officers to quell the disturbance.

The arrested applicants should polish their standing-in-line skills before they move on to the more rigorous parts of finding a job.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Guv's pup bites hand that pets him

Whoops. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick didn't quite plan his town hall meeting in Boston to go that way. His new puppy nipped a woman who tried to pet the 9-week-old black Lab.

Tobey has been popular since the governor got him recently and must have been tiring from all the attention. News reports say the woman was bitten when she bent down to pet the puppy but continued to play with him. She had a red mark and later went to the hospital to make sure the bite wasn't serious.

California gets balanced budget, but is it really?

I'm predicting the California Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will be back at the negotiating table in a few months because this "balanced budget" actually has a lot of accounting gimmicks and borrowing. But there are signs that the economy is beginning to improve and that will help if revenues increase through more retail sales and other taxes tied to the economy.

Schwarzenegger said he's proud the the Legislature for making tough choices last week and finally passing a revised budget that closes the $26 billion spending gap. The governor says California is coming back, and the California Dream is strong as ever.

He didn't mention that the state is limiting college enrollment in the public universities and raising fees substantially on students already there. These are the people who will drive the California economy in the future and it's terrible short-sighted to damage the university system so severely.

By not acting responsibly earlier on the budget, the state was put into a no-win situation. But it was of the lawmakers' own making. The state was out of cash, forcing officials to send IOUs instead of payments to thousands of state contractors and other doing business with the state.

It's definitely time to reform state government.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Obama won't legalize marijuana

The nation's drug czar says President Barack Obama opposes making pot legal. “Legalization is not in the president’s vocabulary, and it’s not in mine,” said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy. His statement was reported by The Fresno Bee.

Kerlikowske was in the Fresno area after checking out a raid on a foothill marijuana farm that was on U.S. Forest Service land. This is the nation's top farm-producing county and it's no wonder pot grows so well. But it won't be a legal crop if the feds have anything to say about it.

In a joint operation with federal, state and local agents, marijuana plants valued at about $1.3 billion have been confiscated and 82 people arrested in recent days in Fresno County. It's called Operation SOS — Save Our Sierra — and is aimed at eradicating marijuana in eastern Fresno County.

Kerlikowske told The Bee that he can understand why California legislators are talking about taxing marijuana cultivation to help cash-strapped government agencies in the state. "But the federal government views marijuana as a harmful and addictive drug," the newspaper reported. "Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit."

Starbucks getting healthy?

Starbucks makes great coffee, but it's been a bit lacking in the food department. The food items sold at Starbucks are very average, contain too much sugar, artificial flavors and dyes. So the world's No. 1 coffee company is changing the food menu and is now offering healthier fare.

We'll see if it's an improvement. If any of our readers have tried the new foods, let us know what you think. Starbucks has a real opportunity to capitalize on the healthy-eating trend so this is a good strategy.

Starbucks has announced a new advertising campaign to go along with the food changes: "Real Food. Simply Delicious."

Reuters reports that Starbucks has changed 90% of its baked goods, with the new items including, salads, oatmeal and smoothies. Preservatives have been removed as much as possible, according to the news reports.

In Dallas outlets, Starbucks is experimenting with a healthier Frappuccino formula. I'm not so sure my Texas pals are into healthy eating, but we'll see how the new-fangled Fraps go over in the Lone Star State.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Thief leaves note telling owner to lock car

This thief had some time on his hands so he left a note in the car that he was robbing in North Dakota last week. The note advised owner Mark Neary to "lock your car in the future."

Neary acknowledges that is good advice, and says he has learned his lesson, according to news reports. The thief took his driver's license, credit cards and other items from the car last week before leaving the message behind.

The thief also praised Neary's taste in music, calling it "amazing." But Neary was very lucky. He also left the keys in the ignition, but the thief chose to leave the warning note rather than also steal his car.

In this crime-ridden society, sometimes the thieves engage in teaching moments.

Health care reform must be done properly

President Barack Obama is correct to push for health care reform, but it must be done the right way or this generational chance to fix our badly flawed system will be lost. The president's allies in Congress must realize that the current bills need to be amended and debated.

If a terrible reform package is passed by Congress, we will only be exchanging a bad system for another bad system that will cost the federal treasury even more than it does now. The goal must be to cover everyone and control the skyrocketing costs of health care. The current bills don't do that, according to most reviews.

This is what the director of the Congressional Budget Office said about the bills in Congress: They don't “reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount.”

Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite: "And that's the way it was"

Journalism legend Walter Cronkite died today at age 92 and there won't be another like him. Cronkite was so good at his job as the CBS news anchor that he was called "the most trusted man in America."

Cronkite was America's news anchor at "CBS Evening News" from 1962 to 1981. I remember him telling the nation in 1963 that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. I was 14 and Cronkite made an indelible impression on me.

As I reviewed the news coverage of Cronkite's death, I came across this fact that so so much about his impact on television news: "He was the broadcaster to whom the title "anchorman" was first applied, and he came so identified in that role that eventually his own name became the term for the job in other languages. (Swedish anchors are known as Kronkiters; In Holland, they are Cronkiters.)"

The tributes are pouring in, and CBS is preparing a special called "That's the Way it Was: Remembering Walter Cronkite." It will air at 7 p.m. Sunday. This will have a lot of special footage of Cronkite covering the defining news stories of his generation.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Future of Yosemite National Park being debated

A federal judge in California has ordered the National Park Service to come up with a new plan to limit the crowds in the most sensitive area of Yosemite National Park, and the Park Service is looking for public comments on the direction this crown jewel of our park system should take.

Beginning Monday in Fresno, the public will have nine opportunities to weigh in on Yosemite. The Fresno Bee sizes up the complex Yosemite questions in this editorial published on Sunday.

There also will be hearings in Oakhurst, Mariposa, Lee Vining, Yosemite National Park, Groveland, Pasadena, Foster City and Sacramento.

"The key to the plan is establishing how many people can visit the Merced River without trampling vegetation, eroding the banks and harming creatures in the area," according to The Fresno Bee. "The Park Service's previous plan did not have a firm limit, and proposed a monitoring program so limits could be adjusted depending on the river's condition and the number of visitors. That idea was overturned by the court. Now a new plan is being drafted."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Michael Jackson is a ratings machine

There are many who say they've heard too much of Michael Jackson, and wish the media would just let it go. That's missing what drives media coverage -- the audience. If people wanted the coverage to stop, it would. The media are driven by ratings, and the Michael Jackson death and its many details has a huge audience in this country and abroad.

You may not be watching, but your family members and neighbors are, even if they are telling you how excessive the coverage has been. The dirty little secret is they can't get enough of Michael Jackson.

Quite simply, Jackson's death has made a lot of people money, including the tabloid newspapers and the cable television shows that even have commentattors saying how terrible this obsession with Jackson is. And it's the public who is providing this monumental audience.

Here's one example of the Jackson phenomenon: Three of the Top 10 selling albums on the iTunes Music Store this week are Jackson albums. No. 1 is 'The Essential Michael Jackson," No. 4 is his "Numbers Ones," and No. 6 is "Thriller."

Tuesday's memorial service was so popular among computers users, the streaming video slowed down the entire Internet.

But if you think the memorial service was the final act for the King of Pop, it wasn't. There will be all sorts of sordid details coming out, and we'll be examining other parts of his life in detail. We'll want to know what will happen with his kids, and what really killed him. We'll want to know about his plastic surgeries and the child molestation charges. And where will he be buried, and can we visit the grave.

So no one wants to hear anymore about Michael Jackson -- except everyone you know.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How to pay for health care reform

The biggest obstacle in the way of health care reform is the method of paying for it. Tax increases don't seem to have support in Congress, although there could be some targeted increases on wealthier Americans. But it appears that reform would have to be paid for through savings in other areas and federal subsidies. It could cost as much as $1 trillion to reform health care over the next 10 years.

That seems like a much better investment than the $1 trillion the feds gave banks, which then continued to refuse to lend to consumers and used part of it for bonuses for their executives.

But this nation needs health care reform and President Barack Obama is right to push for it immediately. Congress, beholden to the insurance industry, will find many excuses for not acting on this needed reform. But Americans deserve a fair system that covers everyone, no matter their pre-existing conditions.

Tell Congress to fix this badly brokern system now.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Palin is resigning before Mark Sanford?

If there's a Republican governor who should resign, it's South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. But the news came Friday that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would resign at the end of the month.

That means Palin can now concentrate on running for president in 2012 without that messy business of having to stay in Alaska and look after the state. This way it's easier to raise money and make political conenctions in the crucial Midwest, South and Northeast.

The Associated Press says Palin will leave office on July 26 -- which means she won't finish her first term as governor of Alaska.

Here's a quote the AP is reporting from Palin:

“I know when it’s time to pass the ball,” said Palin, almost tearfully announcing that she would hand the office over to the lieutenant governor. “All I ask is that you trust me with this decision...”

"Some are going to question the timing of this,” she said in an impromptu news conference at her home. “This decision has been in the works for a while.”

Thursday, July 2, 2009

It's time for Mark Sanford to resign

South Carolina residents have been stunned to find out what a flake their governor really is. The one-time conservative hero needs to resign as governor of South Carolina immediately. No state business will get done while this saga plays out.

It's one thing to get a little gossip on a philandering politician, but we've been getting too much information about Sanford's lover in Argentina, and other sordid details of his private life. He needs to shut up, resign and get his life back together.

Sanford only has 18 months left in her term, but he needs to go now.

Six of his state's major newspapers have called for his resignation, as well as more than half of the Republican caucus in his state legislature. There's no doubt he'll resign. The only question is when.