Saturday, May 14, 2011


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You can now find Qmuze (the s is now a z!) at:


POLITICS with passion and an independent perspective; CULTURE from the blurry-eyed view of a mom of teenagers; and ENTERTAINMENT--movies, books, fashion & more

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Tragedy of Tragedy

The shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was indeed tragic but the response, by the media and the government, has been tragically irresponsible.  At the risk of sounding insensitive (I'm not) or NOT politically correct (I am) let me just say that I have, at turns, been bored and disgusted by the media circus, and disappointed, but not surprised, by the government response.

There was continuous coverage of "events" as they unfolded, and reporters earnestly interviewed anyone and everyone who knew one of the victims.  One morning I heard a school administrator tell a reporter how they would have grief counseling for the students that lost their nine year-old classmate--of course they are, this is not news, it's fodder for tragedy seekers.  Teary children and their parents were interviewed and asked how they were doing--it made me want to look away, to give them some privacy for their grief, and, out of embarrassment for the obsequiousness of the reporter.  This is way too much attention: in effect, it glamorizes the horrible doings of a mentally disturbed person and does nothing to help the victims or prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again.

Pundits and politicians on the left blamed the right suggesting that harsh rhetoric from Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh was somehow responsible for the shooting.  It's shocking that these "blamers" don't see the irony of their words; that maybe civility could start with them.  While the left played the blame game, the right refused to concede that tougher gun laws, especially on large capacity magazines, may have prevented as many people from getting shot.

The medical experts that I've heard interviewed have all agreed that the Arizona shooting was the doing of a man that is clinically mentally disturbed.  Most mentally disturbed people are not violent, and as a society we have decided that we will risk the occasional tragedy over locking mentally ill people away and I doubt that this will change.  Maybe the media could do something useful and interview experts on how parents can talk to their kids about mental illness and signs on when you need to get out of a classroom or restaurant if someone seems threatening.

President Obama did a good job at the service that was more pep rally than memorial.  His speech was not the words of a politician trying to make political hay, but those of a leader. Unfortunately, other Washington elites did what they generally do best: show up for the photo opportunity. I was amazed at the turnout from Washington at the memorial--both Obamas, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Eric Holder, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to name a few.  I was also surprised that Congress declined to vote on anything for the week out of "respect" for Congresswomen Giffords.
I'm just wondering: do any of these Washington elites know how many troops died in Afghanistan and Iraq in the past two weeks?  Do any of them care?

The real tragedy of a tragedy is when humans are self-serving instead of humanity being served.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


On November third, voters created a wide, red swath across the maps radiating from our TV screens, with the notable exception of California, and especially, the Bay Area. Staying "true blue", California elected a democratic governor (Brown) and senator (Boxer) in two big races that were being watched nationally. In another race, democrat Nancy Pelosi defended her seat effortlessly.  Democratic candidates from other parts of the country stayed as far away from Ms. Pelosi and her health-care bill as possible, but Bay Area voters chose to continue their embrace.  Also going into the “blue” column, Prop B, the proposition that asked city workers in San Francisco to contribute some, or in the case of fire and police personnel, to contribute a bit more, to their retirement funds, failed. 

Historically, California leads the charge for change, but this election cycle California dug in its heels and continued to support old-guard Washington and Sacramento favorites.  Does the rest of the country know something that California doesn’t?

I was baffled at the animus hurled at Meg Whitman for spending so much of her personal wealth in an effort to get elected governor.  Spending your own money and not being beholden to any special interest should be a good thing.  Mr. Brown does not have Ms. Whitman’s personal wealth, but what he does have is the support of the unions and the mega-dollars that go with it—a combination that proved formidable for Meg Whitman, as it does for most politicians.

Ms. Pelosi is another darling of the labor unions.  The Washington Post recently reported:

Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said Monday that “America’s public employees and all working families have never had a greater champion than Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.”Barbara Boxer was also a beneficiary of the union’s largess.  Big labor loves democrats.  So what's the problem?

CALIFORNIA IS BROKE:  it borrows 40 million dollars a day from the Federal Government. The Wall Street Journal reported today that Governor Schwarzenegger has called a special session to make mid-year budget cuts to deal with California's deficit, which next year will grow to $25.4 billion dollars, double previous forecast.

Unions at the municipal and state levels are taking California to its knees by demanding salaries (which on average are twice that of private sector salaries) and overly-generous pensions and health-care benefits.   More money is directed toward unionized California prison guards than to our once-enviable, but now-declining, California State University system.  When the UC trustees recently announced yet another tuition increase, they also made clear that more student aid would be available for low-income families.  Wealthy families will still be able to afford to send their children to one of the University of California schools, and so will low-income families because of tax- payer support.  The big losers in this game are the middle-class taxpayers that aren't union:  between higher taxes, fees, tuitions, and trying to save for retirement (unlike union workers, these private sector workers have to fund their retirement plans themselves), these middle-class worker's paychecks are stretched too thin and they are starting to wonder why they are sticking around.

For the first time California did not add congressional seats after the census. More people are now leaving the state than moving in.  Businesses have fled the big-labor, big-tax state in droves.  Politicians love to wax poetic about jobs and protecting the middle class, but when push comes to shove, their main goal is simply to get re-elected--unions win, the middle-class loses.

The rest of the country has watched the labor strife in Greece and France and has taken heed.  Fiscally conservative candidates were overwhelmingly elected this month to state and federal offices.  Even liberal and labor-loving New Jersey has seen the light--earlier this year they elected Chris Christie to bring the unions in line with private sector workers in an effort to save their state.

At seventy-two, incoming governor Jerry Brown could decide to retire in four years, in which case he might stand-up to the unions and put California on the road to fiscal health. If not, instead of California Dreamin’, the state will be singing the "bankruptcy blues."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


From Greece to Vallejo, California, countries and cities have been fighting to stay solvent.   San Francisco could soon be facing its demise if pension reform is not addressed.  Public Defender, Jeff Adachi, in a bold move, has decided to take on the powerful unions in an effort to save San Francisco from fiscal disaster by spearheading pension reform. 

At a recent gathering at the home of a concerned citizen, I learned more about SF Smart Reform (which will appear as Proposition B on your ballot in November) and was surprised, in fact shocked, by the numbers supporting the need for pension reform.

Government workers have historically received generous pensions because they made lower salaries than their private sector peers.  Not anymore!  At a $93,000 average per year salary, City employees earn over double that of private sector employees who average only $46,000.  An April article on stated: “More than 1 in 3 of San Francisco’s nearly 27,000 City workers earned $100,000 or more last year – a number that has been growing steadily for the past decade.”  

Take a look at The San Francisco Employee Retirement System (SFERS) vs. private sector retirement plans:  Private employees fund their retirement accounts (generally 401(k) or IRAs) and when they retire they get back what they put into these accounts plus (or minus) any monies made (or lost) via investments.  While 401(k) and IRAs are generally conservatively invested, they are not guaranteed.  Public pensions on the other hand are guaranteed, if they lose value the taxpayers have to ante-up the difference.

San Francisco’s pension and health-care costs rose from $175 million just five years ago to $525 million this year; it is expected that within two years the city will be paying $675 million.  This is simply NOT sustainable—even with a healthy economy.  Mayor Gavin Newsom has said that he has already addressed pension reform.  For specifics go to this site:  An advisor to Governor Schwarzenegger who is intimate with the numbers assured me that Mayor Newsom’s efforts at pension reform were akin to “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”  Very few politicians are willing to tackle pension reform in a meaningful way, and for good reason:  unions are huge contributors to their campaigns.  Make no mistake:  PENSIONS WILL HAVE TO BE REFORMED BY THE VOTERS.  Politicians will continue to ask taxpayers to pay more taxes and fees rather than take on the unions.

Union leaders will frame this debate as David vs. Goliath—and they are right—but what they won’t tell you is that they are Goliath.  They bused protesters, replete with band, to the meeting that I attended.  They WILL turn out to vote.  They want you to believe that this proposition takes their pensions and health-care away.  It doesn’t.

What Prop B will do as quoted from the Yes on B website:

Require all city employees, including elected officials, to contribute 9-10% of their salaries toward their own retirement pensions and pay $96 per year for their own health care, far less than most workers in the private sector pay.
Save taxpayers over $120 million a year, money that can be redirected to schools, fire protection, street repair, children and senior services.
Prop B does not cut health care costs or pension benefits for any city employee or their dependents; it just requires city employees to contribute towards these costs.

Almost half of  City employees pay nothing toward their pensions and some of these workers can retire at 55 with 90% of their salary for life.  Mr. Adachi told me that those in the private sector would have to put away 65% of their income to match City employees’ pension values.   

I’ll leave you with this startling number: 1 in 5 taxpayer dollars goes toward City employee pensions and health-care benefits—that’s 20% of taxpayer dollars going to support less than 4% of the city’s population. (This number is expected to jump to one third of every dollar within five years!)  This means potholes aren’t being fixed, summer schools get canceled, and our parks are being neglected.  We are supporting overly generous pensions to City employees at the expense of our present, and to the detriment of our future.  PLEASE VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION B.

For more information follow this link:

Thursday, July 29, 2010


The histrionics over Arizona's immigration law have reached peak levels as the law (albeit with its teeth removed by a federal judge)  goes into effect today.  The extremes are evidenced from the pictures above. 

Unfortunately, the law hasn't generated a legitimate debate about immigration as much as it has led to both a backlash against Arizona (cities, sports teams, and corporations have boycotted the state) and irresponsible political maneuvering by politicians--on the left and the right--in an attempt to get re-elected.   

Contrary to the cries of "Gestapo tactics," the law states:  "for any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency...where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person..." This is not randomly stopping people and asking them for their "papers."  This isn't taking your kids out for an ice cream only to get arrested or deported as the president irresponsibly suggested. Authorities must have legitimate reasons for stopping people. U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton's ruling yesterday bars police from demanding immigration documents.  It also blocks the enforcement of penalties for not carrying immigration documents and the punishment for illegals who seek work.  Even before it was eviscerated, Arizona's sb1070 was in-line with federal law. In fact, Title 8, Section 1304 of the federal law states that illegal immigrants 18 and over must carry their certificate of alien registration at all times.

The federal government (both current and past administrations) has been derelict in its duty with regard to immigration reform. President Reagan granted amnesty to a couple million illegal immigrants with a promise to secure our borders.  The borders were not secured and now we have over 11 million illegal aliens in this country--the gift of amnesty served as a magnet and border states like Arizona are suffering the heaviest consequences.
Phoenix is second in the world, only behind Mexico City, for kidnappings.  However, Arizona is not only having to deal with crime.  The state has approximately 500,000 illegal immigrants, putting a big burden on the schools, hospitals, and prisons that are servicing these people, without the benefit of collecting taxes from them.  Our federal government has ignored Arizona's plight while the Mexican government seems to think it's the least Arizona can do. 
Mexican President, Felipe Calderon condemned Arizona's illegal immigration law as discriminatory and threatened that Mexican-American relations will suffer because of it.  Illegal Mexican immigrants send billions of dollars back to Mexico every year boosting Mexico's economy -- a possible explanation as to why Mr. Calderon has been so vociferous against Arizona's law.   In an interview in Sunday's New York Times' magazine, former Mexican President Vicente Fox  responded to the immigration law, saying, "xenophobes have taken over."  When asked if he thought the United States was causing Mexico's crime wave he retorted: "Absolutely, yes." Deborah Soloman's pandering interview did not ask Mr. Fox about the double standard of Mexico's harsh immigration laws, if he thought drug use in Mexico contributed to the turf wars of the cartels, or his opinion as to why so many Mexicans risk their lives to come to America.  Note to Messrs. Fox and Calderon:  Thank you for your opinions, but your attempts to usurp America's laws with your threats and finger-pointing have been seen for what they are -- self-serving and a failure to create jobs at home.
Immigration is vital to the success of America.  Whether it be a farm worker or a PhD graduating from an American university, we welcome people from all nations that come here legally and live honorably.  We cannot take everyone who wants to come to America, nor is it our responsibility to do so.  Washington needs to secure our borders and implement a valid worker visitation program.  If you are here and want to stay here permanently you should have to go home and then follow the "rules" to get back to America legally.
American laws make for a civilized and therefore "livable" country -- our government has every right, indeed a responsibility to its citizens to enforce our laws.  By not enforcing federal laws, the government abdicates its power to the states.  Arizona's governor has promised to appeal the restrictions to sb1070.  I don't expect the 9th Court of Appeals to side with Arizona but the Supreme Court probably will. Hopefully, this will force the federal government's hand and it will do its job.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


RN74, a Michael Mina restaurant in San Francisco, completely wowed me and "the blondes" on a recent, and regular old Wednesday evening.  Dressed in our Sex and the City finest, we made the trip to hip South of Market for an evening of what was to be delicious food, great wine, and impeccable service, all served up in an atmosphere that transported us to a place way more glamorous than our everyday lives.  The picture above, taken from the restaurant's website, doesn't do it justice--the people and the decor give the restaurant an energy that moves you to another place.  In the bar you could fancy yourself at Gare Du Nord in Paris waiting to board a train to Burgundy for the weekend--the "departure" boards along the wall list the names of wines instead of destinations.  Once seated you can imagine yourself on the Orient Express, having a great meal on your way to St. Petersburg.  One of the "blondes" mentioned that the lighting was perfect, beautiful in reality and effect.  According to another blonde (her second trip) the people are a mix of all ages with the commonality of cool, sophisticated chic.  The champagne (a sparkling wine from Burgundy) was even a beautiful color--rose' with a hint of gold--perfect for blondes and non-blondes alike.


Brad Pitt shaved--finally!  His graying, scruffy goatee (that he was inclined to wear in a ponytail) is now a normal, hip, trimmed goatee.  Maybe he heard that my sixteen year-old daughter said that he looked like "an old Chinese man."  What is it with very attractive people defacing themselves?  If it's an attempt to become invisible then I have big news:  time will take care of that problem for you, and it will happen sooner than you think!


I tried to watch the USA vs. England World Cup soccer match but those incessant vuvuzela horns put me right to sleep.  I woke up, watched the 30-second highlight reel, and knew everything about the game that I needed to know.  Horns that create a beehive sounding white noise should not be legal at games where a high score is 3 to 2.  World Cup soccer has just passed golf for the "best sport to sleep to" award.

On the other hand, if you even blink during a basketball game you miss something--especially if it's the Lakers vs the Celtics.  In game seven Kobe had a hard time making his shots, but even the best players' shooting can go "cold."  To his credit (and one of the reasons he'll go down as one of the game's best) he took up his own slack by hitting boards--getting 15 rebounds, and by not losing his temper or his focus.  Tiger Woods should take some "Kobe lessons" for life on, and off the court/course.


A couple of summers ago mid-way on a flight from Boston to San Diego I finished the book I was reading.  I must have looked panicked to be book-less because the nice woman sitting next to me quickly offered me a book that she had finished.  Water for Elephants, thoroughly researched by author Sara Gruen, takes place amid a traveling circus in the 1930's.  Spending over three hundred pages and three hours with circus people would not normally be my idea of a good time.  I started reading and found out that Jacob Jankowski, the protagonist felt the same way.  After a series of tragedies Jacob drops out of Cornell Law School just short of graduation, suffers a breakdown, jumps on a train that he soon finds out is a circus train.  Like me, Jacob had nowhere else to go so he makes the best of things by putting his veterinarian skills to use, falling in love (with a woman and an elephant) and finding out that humans can be more wild and dangerous than animals.  In the end, we both enjoyed our adventure.


Friday, June 11, 2010


POLITICAL ROUND-UP…Tuesday was a big day for mid-term politics so I though I would make a few observations.  

Three of the most interesting races featured women:

Meg Whitman won, some would say, bought, her primary.  Frankly, it’s her money and if that’s how she wants to spend it, fine by me.  Her campaign was probably the biggest boost to California’s economy the past six months!  And, given the choice of a candidate spending his or her own money or special interests' money, I will choose self-financing any day.

Carly Fiorina won her primary and then made the mistake of making a quip into a hot mike (unbeknown to Carly) about Barbara Boxer’s hair.  This is bad on so many levels.  The main rule broken here:  If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.  Second:  On a day when we want to revel in how well women performed in the political arena, you had to go and make us look catty instead of relevant.  Find another hot mike and apologize publicly to Ms. Boxer and then pick up the phone and do it privately.

The media seem to think that Arkansas senator Blanche Lincoln came close to losing to a union-backed opponent in her primary because she voted against “card-check” and because she spoke out against a public option for health-care.  I’m from Arkansas, so I made a few phone calls.  Contrary to what the media is reporting, the consensus is that people were angry with Ms. Lincoln for voting for health-care (never mind the public option), and that they wanted a “left-wing” guy to win the primary so the conservative republican could win big in the general election.  


Speaking of girls…

Have you seen Sex and the City 2?  Yes, it got horrible reviews but it was playing at one of my favorite theaters ( they serve fresh, hot caramel corn), so what's a girl to do--stay home?  The girls looked great!  Samantha (Kim Cattrell) is the oldest but has aged the best--it must be all of the, uh, "fun" she has.  SATC2 has no more, or less of a plot than most "guy" movies.  Instead of over-the-top car chase scenes, SATC2 has over-the-top clothes, and instead of the requisite pole dance scene, SATC2 has a pool full of rugby players in speedos--what's not to like?!?


And more girls…

I was at lunch recently with two girlfriends who were dressed in two of my favorite color combinations.  One had on pale blue, beige, and white; the other beige and white--both looked fabulous.  Beige is the "it" color for summer.  I especially like it on shoes, they tend to disappear, making your legs look forever long!