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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

YOU fix the Budget !!!

I looked at the headlines on Yahoo this morning and, surprise surprise, my wonderful state of California did not pass a budget. Again. What kind of morons are running this state? And why are we paying them? I think we should recall all the elected officials and just grab some smart looking suits from off the street and bring them in to figure out this mess. Couldn't be any worse than it already is.

So do YOU think you could do better? (I sure do.) Well folks, here's your chance. The LA Times (how did they find the time with all the Michael Jackson stories this week?) has come up with an interactive "YOU Balance the Budget" game which allows you to make cuts and/or raise taxes to balance California's Budget once and for all. You can find it here.

I'm playing it right now. First I'm going to cut K-12 and community colleges to the Prop 98 limit (whatever that is....) It says that districts could cut one week from the school year to compensate and I've just shaved a cool 5.3 billion off the budget. I'm on a roll baby!

Next I'm going to eliminate 33 state boards that the governor has labeled redundant, cut the legislature in half, and add a third and fourth furlough day for all government workers. There, I've saved another 1.2 billion.

OK, now it's getting tougher. I guess I will eliminate health and dental for state retirees. (Hey, I don't have those things, why should I pay for others to have them?) That's 1.2 billion. And I'll end contributions to the teacher pension fund (sorry guys but you make like 3 times more than I do....) There's 1.3 billion. Hmmm..... still 15.5 billion to go and every teacher in the state hates me. Yikes!

I can save 100 million by changing sentencing laws for lower level offenders, turn 19,000 illegal immigrants now in state prison over to federal authorities for deportation (that's a duh!), and reduce prison time for parole violations. That saved about 380 million.

Crap, still 14.7 billion to go. What's left? I'll cut Medi-Cal for LEGAL immigrants to only allow emergency services. I'll cut Medi-Cal waivers, rollbacks and dental coverage. Savings: 550 million. I'll cut state pensions and reduce health benefits. I'll end In Home Services to the Disabled, eliminate welfare to half a million Californians, and release some inmates. Phew! It's easy once you begin..... like ripping off a bandaid!

Still 10 Billion to go. OK, I'm ending the Cal Grant program. Sorry. Cutting Disability for the Developmentally Disabled. Cutting Child Welfare Services. No more cash and food for Blind LEGAL immigrants. Thank God they can't read this (oh, that was bad!!!) In home workers - your salary has to be cut to minimum wage. SSI to the disabled, gone! Healthy Families Program, over! Drug and Alcohol Programs, who needs 'em!

I'm going to eliminate the Office of Emergency Services (what do they do anyway?) and close the California Conservation Corps. No more funding for state parks. I'll drop coverage for more Medi-Cal families.

Crap, still 8.2 Billion to go. I can't touch law enforcement, because with all the new hungry, sick and homeless (not to mention all the criminals) walking the streets this state is gonna need 'em, believe me!

Damn, still not there. Not by a long shot. OK, so it's like this. I can either completely shut down both the community college system and the state college system AND allow offshore drilling off the Santa Barbara Coast, or I'm gonna need to raise taxes. Again. And a lot.

Your choice. I'm off to a buffet dinner. It's a free meal for me (though it costs California taxpayers $225 a plate). It's the end of the fiscal year, baby, and I'm going to celebrate!!!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Death of an Icon: Michael Jackson

It's been a crazy week. I had this long to do list on Monday but then life happened. Earlier this week my neighbor committed suicide and that sort of tripped me out. Then Farrah died. Although that was expected, it was still so sad; I'd felt like I'd gotten to know her a little through her documentary chronicling her battle with cancer. Her death was expected, so it wasn't exactly shocking, just sad.

But then of course later in the day Michael Jackson died. Not so much expected. More than a little shocking. So, like millions of other people, I spent the rest of my free time this week reading articles and watching television specials, remembering times gone by. It's hard to believe that someone as iconic as Michael Jackson can be gone. His music and just his presence in the world have been a constant throughout my life. And now he's gone. Just like that. It's disturbing.

And just how did Michael Jackson get to be 50 years old? Seriously?!!! That's gotten me thinking about my own mortality. Time has a way of creeping up on you, my parents warned me, but I never listened. I was too busy working and raising my son to notice just how quickly time was passing. I'm 47 now. 47!!! How can this be? I still feel the same inside and I really don't think I look that different. OK, if I take an honest look in the mirror I maybe see a couple wrinkles here and there, a bit of gray hair. But I'm still the same person inside. Still think I'm cool. Still like the same types of music, wear the same clothes, watch all the new movies. (Still can't moonwalk.)

Today I'm feeling old and a little lost. People my age are dying. Dropping dead like flies. Is this going to happen to me? Will I go to bed one night and just not wake up? Do I even have enough time left to finish all I have started? Probably not. Nobody does. And that's a little disconcerting. We all have a limited amount of time on this planet. We don't know when ours will run out.

I read a quote today from Reinhold Neibuhr: "Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime." That was strangely comforting to me. Rather than fearing there's not enough time to complete what I've begun I will just continue to do. If I drop dead tomorrow, someone else will pick up the torch and carry it on a little farther. All I can hope is to make some small contribution to the world. And I will. Because we all do in one way or another. Most not on such a grand scale as Michael Jackson or Farrah Fawcett, but we all make an impact on the world, touch lives. We all make a difference.

Rest in peace, Michael and Farrah. Thanks for rocking our world and entertaining us. You will be missed.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


My neighbor was found dead this afternoon. Suicide. I found out about it from another neighbor's boyfriend, Richard, who had knocked on my door to pass along the information. Bad news travels fast.

I put on my sandals (the dangerous ones) and walked down to the mailbox so I could retrieve my mail first, figuring I'd look less conspicuous and nosy if I had something to carry in my hand as I wandered over to where all the cop cars were, like I had just stumbled upon the scene on my way back from checking the mail.

There was a fire truck and three cop cars. Lots of neighbors milling around. I picked out a guy walking a beagle and asked him what had happened. Apparently the poor man had just gotten out of the psych ward the day before and he came home and killed himself. Maybe he had been suicidal before and that's why he had been in the hospital. Maybe while he was there they put him on one of those wonderful antidepressants that have "thoughts of suicide" as one of the side effects. Who knows?

What I do know is that I'd see him every day when I'd go for my walk, sitting on the steps, smoking a cigarette. Sometimes we'd make eye contact and I'd smile or say hi. He never said anything back to me, he just sat there looking kind of depressed. Maybe he needed a friend.

I hope there was someone out there that cared about him. He must have had someone, right? A friend or family member? God, I sure hope so. Everyone needs a friend. This world's too hard to go it alone.

He was the kind of guy that you probably don't usually take notice of. Reddish hair, big build. I can't really picture his face. But still. He was a human being. With thoughts and feelings and hopes and aspirations. The world is diminished because of his death.

I didn't even know his name. And that makes me sad.


Here's a good article from the Mayo Clinic about what to do if a friend or loved one is suicidal.

Here are some suicide and crisis hotlines you can call if you are depressed or suicidal.