Sunday, September 28, 2008

An expensive lesson in social engineering

How expensive? Well, it looked as though the bill would start with the 700 billion Congress planned to borrow to help the financial markets stabilize. Now, who knows what will happen? The 'rescue plan' or 'bailout plan' depending on who was selling the idea, would have infused the markets with cash to add liquidity, so banks will start loaning to borrowers and each other again. The 700 billion dollar would have taken decades to pay off. I am not optimistic about these assets gaining value and turning from red ink to black anytime soon, if ever.

What ever action the government takes, it will be too late for those who have already lost their homes to foreclosure. Some borrowers who had good credit may have bitten off more home than they could afford, but the root cause of this crisis is political. Many people with questionable credit or no credit, saw their friends and neighbors buying and selling homes during the last ten years, and they wanted in on the action. With the backing of Democratic politicians along with a handful of Republicans, they were offered a seat at the table, with disastrous consequences.

The Community Reinvestment Act first passed by the Carter administration, was changed dramatically in 1995 under President Clinton. To help low income residents buy homes, the banks were requiring to lend to them or face penalties. Think of it as affirmative action for banks, you either loan money to sub-prime borrowers or the feds will come down on you. Many of these loans were funneled through liberal 'community organizations' like ACORN. With the banks making so many loans to people who could not qualify for them traditionally, an influx of buyers who had no business being in the market for homes drove prices through the roof. Enter Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, ran by former Clinton officials Franklin Raines and Jamie Gorelick, they bought billions of dollars of these sub-prime loans from investment houses like Bear Sterns. The investment houses packaged the risky loans into mortgage-backed securities and sold them to other financial brokers along with Fannie and Freddie. Franklin Raines and Jamie Gorelick also made millions in bonuses while cooking the books.

With willing buyers taking this 'bad paper' off their books, banks started to really get 'creative' with their sub prime mortgages by offering teaser rates, variable rate loans and interest-only loans. Once looked upon as very risky loans, they were offered to buyers as a way to buy a home they could not afford. Some of these loans were NINJA loans, No Income - No Job- no Assets, just write down your income and we won't even check. With home values rising every year, the banks and the borrowers hoped it would only be matter of time before the value of the house caught up with the loan-to-value of the mortgage and they could refinance to a 30 year fixed. That was the plan, and as I always say, 'hope is not a plan'.

With all the new buyers in the market, builders went into overdrive, building suburbs with an endless sea of rooftops. Everyone was making money and no one stopped to ask if the annual double digit increases in home prices was a good thing. Like a hot dice roller at the craps table in Vegas, everyone was betting on the come. When all the money was on the pass line, the dice came up 7. All these variable rate and interest only loans started to mature and with a huge supply of newly built homes on the market, home prices started to level off and then started to fall. Buyers who could not refinance their loans saw their mortgage payments shoot up while the value of their homes dropped just as fast. The snowball grew larger and gained speed as foreclosed homes added to the supply and prices plunged.

The politicians are blaming Wall Street, but they were warned about the coming crisis in 2004 by then Fed Chair, Alan Greenspan. The democrats denied there were any problems with Fannie and Freddie's mismanagement and quietly killed a banking reform bill in the Senate. Congress caused this crisis by changing the lending rules banks had followed for centuries. The lending rules of ten to twenty percent down payment and proof of income are there for a reason. In an effort to 'be fair' and make the American dream 'available for everyone' the politicians manipulated the free market, creating a false economy. When told they were heading for a cliff, they did nothing.

Government does few things well, I would be happy if the mail came on time. Trying to make the free market 'fair' is something far beyond its ability. It is also way beyond its intended design.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman, dead at 83

Growing up as a boy on a ranch, I loved cowboy movies. I guess I still do. One of my favorite movies was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The humor, the action, and of course, one of the best endings in a western.

Butch Cassidy: Hey, wait a minute.
Sundance Kid: What?
Butch Cassidy: You didn't see Lefors out there, did you?
Sundance Kid: Lefors? No.
Butch Cassidy: Oh, good. For a moment there I thought we were in trouble.
[They both run out of the building, only to be met with gunfire from all sides from the Bolivian army]
It also has the best fight scene in western history....

I was of fan of both Newman and Redford from that day forward.

Turner Classic Movies is a wonderful way to find great movies. I stumbled across the 1963 movie "Hud" a while back and I loved it. Newman's performance is remarkable as a hot headed, hard drinking, unprincipled ranchers son.

If you ever get a chance, throw of bag of popcorn in the microwave and enjoy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's always 'them'

No matter what issue, no matter what crisis, there is one thing you can count on. Politicians blaming other politicians. The latest example of finger pointing is our current financial predicament. I was watching C-SPAN the other day, yea I know, I am a political geek, listening to the Democrats in Congress rail against the lack of oversight and pointing their fingers squarely at the Republicans and the administration for the mess.

Chris Dodd, Democrat-CT, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, sat in his leather chair and with a straight face lectured us on how the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's failure was someone else's fault. Okay, Mr Dodd, lets step into the way-back machine and take a look at how this crisis could have been averted. has an excellent piece on this.
Some might say the current mess couldn't be foreseen, yet in 2005 Alan Greenspan told Congress how urgent it was for it to act in the clearest possible terms: If Fannie and Freddie ``continue to grow, continue to have the low capital that they have, continue to engage in the dynamic hedging of their portfolios, which they need to do for interest rate risk aversion, they potentially create ever-growing potential systemic risk down the road,'' he said. ``We are placing the total financial system of the future at a substantial risk.''

What happened next was extraordinary. For the first time in history, a serious Fannie and Freddie reform bill was passed by the Senate Banking Committee. The bill gave a regulator power to crack down, and would have required the companies to eliminate their investments in risky assets.
So you would think with such dire warnings like the one issued by Greenspan, the Senate would set aside their partisan politics and act to avert a financial crisis, right?

Not a chance. This is Washington, a place where lobbyists and special interests always get their say, no matter who is in office. They did not want new regulations to tighten up the lending rules, and in the end, they won. Democrats and a handful of Republicans killed this legislation without it ever making it to the floor. Now we the taxpayers are left holding the bag and writing the check to bail them out.

So which Congressmen were on the receiving end of all that Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac money? If you guessed it's the same people who are 'outraged' at our current financial crisis, you get a gold star. Here they are, the top 5 recipients of Fannie Mae money.

Chris Dodd - Democrat-CT $133,900
John Kerry - Democrat-MA $111,000
Barack Obama - Democrat- IL $105,849
Hillary Clintion -Democrat -NY $75,550
Paul Kanjorski -Democrat-PA $65,500

Any of these names ring a bell?

Any guess who co-sponsored the bill that might have prevented this mess, the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005?

John McCain.

Watch the video - You see, I'm not making this stuff up!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I've been 'clinging to my Bible' for the past few days, boy are my arms tired.

I know for some of you out there, spending two days at a Christian musician's conference must mean I am one of those 'bitter people' who cling to their religion when I am not busy shooting up the countryside with my firearms. Well, one out of two isn't bad. I have not had a chance to do much shooting this year or I would be two-for-two.

Being around a few hundred talented musicians is a bit intimidating, especially when you play guitar as poorly as I do. Luckily for me, there are dozens of different breakout sessions each aimed at various disciplines, instruments, voice training, song writing and tech training. The Thriving Musician's Summit was held at Bayside Church in Granite Bay. Each morning starts out with a general worship session, Friday was Paul Bolache, Saturday morning we were treated to Jeffrey Scott. Both performances were special, first because they truly are wonderful musicians, secondly the audience response.

In a room with a hundreds of people who can actually sing, and they are singing their love for lord, the experience is nothing short of amazing.

Friday night they held a concert featuring Hillsong, and the CD release of Lincoln Brewsters' "Today is the day". If you don't know Lincoln's music, he is a fantastic guitar player. He played with Steve Perry from Journey in his wilder days, but now he plays with a different purpose, a much more important purpose. He still has wild hair.

I enjoyed every session I attended and met some wonderful people, a fellow from Oregon that I sat next to Friday morning, we spoke about the changing dynamics going on inside today's church and my 'adopt a church' idea that I am trying out here in Esparto. I had lunch the next day with and older pastor from Senora, we shared stories about writing, church denominations, children and life. Great conversations, great fellowship.

I came home Saturday evening with a notebook filled with pages of ideas, and more importantly, renewed and recharged, ready to serve.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The days are long, but the years are short.

Last night I had a chance to talk with a friend of mine from church. He is the young father of an adorable little boy. Owen had just celebrated his first birthday and my friend was marveling at how fast the last year seemed to have passed by. He asked if I remembered how it felt when my son turned a year old. I said I did remember my oldest turning one, and I couldn't believe it was so long ago. It seemed like yesterday.

I shared with my friend a phrase I learned not long ago that sums up this feeling quite well;

The Days are long, but the Years are short.

Every day we have with our children is a gift from God. Don't get me wrong, there are days I feel like trying to find that receipt so I could return these gifts, but in almost every case, I find most of the problem is the guy in the mirror.

When my wife and I brought our first child into this world, I remember thinking, I am a parent now, this is my job. First and foremost, I am a father. Looking back on those years past, I find myself dwelling on my failures as a parent. The many times I lost my temper, the many more times I was 'too tired' to play with my children , something I promised myself I would not do. For most of my son's first few years I was working all the time, I needed to, I was broke. I worked out of town for weeks on end, by the time I came home, I was spent. Those years were tough, on the whole family.

However, when my introspection subsides, I step back and really look at my son and daughter. I realize how wonderful they are, in spite of my shortcomings as a parent. That is when another reality hits me. I am amazed at how much of their young lives have already passed by, time I can never get back.

Every summer, I always want to take my son to an A's game , and every fall, I realize we didn't make it, again. I promise to take my daughter down to the aquarium in Monterey, but we haven't made that trip either. Even now when I have a steady, stable job with fixed hours, I am still overwhelmed with all the things that pull me in every direction, all at the same time. At the end of some days, I am so wrapped up with my life, I forget about my first job, my real job, being a father to my children and a husband to my wife.

Time to stop, time to put first things first. Time to make more time for my family. Life is happening right now, right in front of us. Don't let it pass you by.

The Days are long, but the Years are short.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Alright, I need a breather from the prison debate.

So tonight, I was at the Woodland High School gym for a youth ministry event. I had a great time as I was running the inflatable jousting game.

Kind of like this, only inside a gym with about five other inflatable games and three hundred screaming kids. Some as young as 10, but most were teens. After the games and music, they sat in the bleachers to listen to a message aimed right at today's kids from youth pastor Donny Burleson. What a powerful message, what a night. A few hundred Hot dogs, bags of chips and bottles of water later, the kids had a great time, the adults had a lot of cleaning up to do and many young people started a relationship with Christ.

A night like this helps me put things in perspective.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

For lack of a better word, this sucks.

I hope the votes cast today by Supervisors Matt Rexroad, Mike McGowan and Helen Thomson are put on a sign like this, right in front of the prison. Like a NASCAR billboard. Speaking of NASCAR, if you are going to take their money, you need to put your sponsor's name on your suit.

I hope this is not the last word on prison, but I am not holding my breath.

Hey guys, why not ask the Feds is they need a place to store the spent nuclear fuel? I hear Rumsey has only 50 voters up there, they won't make much of fight. This could add up to billions if you play your cards right.

Yolo County Supervisors; isolated and insulated

As I write this, waiting for the 3:00PM time scheduled for public comment on the proposed Madison re-entry prison site, I can't help but think about a figure I heard this morning at the Board of Supervisors meeting on the new General Plan. One of the presenter said the cities inside Yolo County accounted for more than 88% of the population while they represent only 7% of the county's acreage. Think about that.

Each of the cities, Woodland, Davis, West Sacramento and Winters all have local governments, each representing their citizens. With such representation all ready in place, why is it those same cities, excluding Winters, receives 4 of the five seats on the Yolo County Board of Supervisors? Why not re-draw the Supervisors districts, dividing all of Yolo County geographically between the 5 districts?

The citizens of Woodland, Davis, West Sacramento and Winters have city councils, mayors and a local governments to represent them. They are not going to call on Yolo County to fix their potholes, build a new school, or to protest a new building fee. So why do they have such an over representation on the rest of us living in the other 93% of the county?

I know this is probably a crazy idea, but I would like to see what the process would be to redraw the existing Supervisor's districts. Those of us who live in Duane Chamberlain's 5th District have grow accustom to Duane being the lone voice of reason in a sea of liberal, feel good policies, with Matt Rexroad on our side more often that not. However, the 5th district is huge.

The cattle ranchers, organic farmers, small vineyard operators and orchard owners in the Capay Valley have far different concerns from the large row crop farmers in the middle of the county, not to mention the city of Winters. Why not split up Yolo County's districts to better reflect the County as a whole?

I keep looking at the County's new General Plan and I see that the County seems to talk a good game about the importance of the rural areas.
  • Principles and Objectives
Principle 1: The success of Yolo County depends upon the success of agriculture.

Principle 2: The benefits of open space and natural areas are essential to our quality of life.

Principle 3: Each community is distinctive, but all share the same values and a common vision for the future.

Principle 4: Safe and healthy communities allow residents to fulfill their individual potential.

Principle 5: The safest and most efficient way to move goods and people is through a variety of transportation alternatives.

Principle 6: Technology, information and communications advance our

Principle 7: A strong economy is key to the long-term sustainability of our farms, towns, cities and governments.
If these truly are the principals and objectives of Yolo County, why do we only have one vote on the BOS? Why are the County's decision made by a majority of people who will not have to live with the impact of those decisions? Get the Supervisors out of their cozy neighborhoods and have them mingle with the 'little people' out here in the hinterlands. It would be a great education for them and I am sure we would learn a few things as well.

Crazy? Maybe, but I'm sure removing the barriers of representation between the rural and urban areas will be better for the entire County.

Don't worry, I'll buy a pair of rubber boots for each of the Supervisors out of my own pocket so they can visit their new constituents when its flooding out here in their 'new' districts. I won't worry about Duane, I know he has a good pair of boots, I see him checking his irrigation in the mornings.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I may have to rethink Sarah Palin, apparently, she sucks.

So says noted political pundit and commentator Lindsay Lohan.
Just a piece of her insightful commentary;

… Also interesting that she got her passport in 2006.. And that she is not fond of environmental protection considering she’s FOR drilling for oil in some of our protected land…. Well hey, if she wants to drill for oil, she should DO IT IN HER OWN backyard. This really shows me her complete lack of real preparation to become the second most powerful person in this country.

I wonder if Ms. Lohan and her new girlfriend have ever heard of Anwar? Far be it from me to assume Lohan's last stint in rehab failed to produce lasting results, but if she is clean and sober, one has to wonder where the little pop star cupcake is getting her news? The Daily Show? Countdown?

Could someone in Hollywood please give her a job? Please.
I think 'Herbie the Lovebug goes Hybrid' is in the works.......

Friday, September 12, 2008

Biden preps for the Vice Presidential debate.....

Okay, first thing Joe, you're going to have to act a little more real, more down to earth, can we loose the engraved cuff links and just go with a plain white shirt?

Ahh, do I have to? I just had these custom made, the guy at the jewelry store said they made me look very sophisticated.

We don't need need sophisticated Joe, we need regular American, Joe Six Pack. Get it?

Gotcha, kinda like when I go to those pancake breakfasts out in Iowa, or those photo shoots at the Philly Cheesecake places, man those things are messy and they have to be a foot long!

Cheese steaks Joe. They are called cheese steaks! C'mon Joe, we gotta win Pennsylvania or the whole thing is over.

Right, right, let me see if I got it; regular guy, six packs, cheese steaks. Won't this make me fat? I mean I do have one or two suits that are cut a bit large around the.....

Dammit Joe, we are loosing to a moose shooting, hockey mom! You better get your poop in pile or she is going to mop the floor with you!

Yea, yea...right...... she is kinda hot don't you think? I mean in that 'naughty librarian' kind of way....

C'mon Joe, get serious. She isn't just some dumb woman you are going to be debating , she's smart and a damn sight tougher than you are. What are you going to do if she asks you a question you can't answer? What are you going to do then?

I am going to turn to her, and hold my hand kinda like this. It makes me look sorta like moose right? She will look at me and think, where did the moose come from, am I back in Alaska? It will really throw her off her game I think.....

Is there a chance I can get a double shot of Wild Turkey on the rocks? Anybody?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

This is going to be fun.

One of my favorite things in life is to watch liberals, and their pals in the media, blow a collective gasket. The nomination of Governor Sarah Palin to the republican ticket has sent the left into a new dimension of desperation. They are scared to death, as well they should be.

Governor Palin is genuine, that is something people intrinsically feel when you have it, and they know it when you don't. This ability to connect with ordinary people is not a skill you can acquire at an Ivy League school, or by spending a few decades in Washington D.C.; you either have or you don't. Ronald Reagan on the right and Bill Clinton on the left are recent examples of politicians who could go around the media and speak directly to the people, but these days a politician with an approval rating in the mid-80s is almost unheard of, unless you count Kim Jong Il.

Palin's capacity to energize the base of the republican party, get them to volunteer at their county republican offices and open up their checkbooks is the reason why the left is taking swings at her like a candy-filled pinata at a fat kids camp.

Sarah scares the living daylights out of the liberals right now. Who knows how this will play out, she may make a series of gaffs in the next two months or the excitement factor could die down a bit as the election becomes more focused on McCain and Obama, but right now Sarah is in the spotlight.

I'm ready for my closeup.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Time to double down

If there is one thing I have learned following politics and politicians, it is this; the world is run by those who show up.

I am sure it has been this way since the dawn of time. Those who show up, learn about the issues, know who makes the decisions, and know what motivates the decision makers and what does not, those are the people who can make real change happen. A bit of warning here, not all changes are for the better. Changes are made with all kinds of motivations, both good and bad.

For the average person these days, it is easy to get lost in the busy lives we live. I know I do. Between work, family, and volunteer activities, where are we supposed to find the time to 'show up'? Well folks, we better make time, because others people are showing up, and they may not have your best interest in mind. As a matter of fact, I am sure they have only one interest in mind, theirs.

I would like to personally thank everyone who showed up at the Yolo County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday to make it perfectly clear, we don't want this prison in our small towns. For residents in Esparto and the West Plainfield area, it seems they heard your message loud and clear. As much as I would like to say we have won this battle, to keep a prison that obviously needs to be in an urban setting out of Esparto and West Plainfield, the County still wants to approve the site in Madison.

For residents of Esparto, Dunnigan, Zamora, West Plainfield and other in rural Yolo County, this is not the time to relax, this is the time to do more research into this County's process of picking the 'recommended sites'. Did the County offer any of the incorporated cities a share of the 30 million dollars from the State? I hear a lot of talk from the Supervisors about how this prison will have a positive affect on the community. Okay, since they have publicly stated that the 30 million dollars from the state will be spent however, and on whatever the County chooses, why not cut a deal and share this money with one of cities?

Is it the facility that you want in Yolo County or the 30 million dollars? I think it’s the latter, and if you can stick the prison in a rural part of the County where your constituents don't have to see it or live next to it, all the better.

I keep hearing that these proposed sites are already zoned for commercial or industrial uses and the people in these small towns will have to deal with something being built on these parcels. This is true. A hardware warehouse, a manufacturing company or a commercial nursery is one thing; a prison is something else entirely. I am certain if the Supervisors had advised the residents of Esparto, Madison and West Plainfield in advance, one of the things that could be built with this zoning is a 500-inmate prison, they would have soundly rejected it.

We all need to 'show up' at the next Supervisors meeting to make our voices heard once again. The Madison site is a terrible choice for the prison, too far from the jobs, the volunteer base etc, etc. The only compelling reason for the Supervisors choosing Madison over the other two sites is there are fewer voters in Madison. I will try to schedule that day off so I can be there. I hope you will too.

We need to also show up and support our hometown citizen's advisory committees. Learn about what is going on with our government; make our elected officials more accountable to us, those they are supposed to represent. For everyone whose eyes are being opened wide by this process I give you this advice; stay involved, stay informed, and show up. Your community will be better for it.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Matt, don't make me do it!

I'm not sure I would be breaking any laws, but I might be outside the Supervisor's Chambers Tuesday. If the board votes to put it in Esparto, I may have to serenade each Supervisor at their home, for a month!

Getting down with the Vikings, Palin style

I have been to the 'Oakie Stomps' they used to hold in Madison.
I have been to the Willow Oak Fire department's sausage feed.
I have been to the Bullshippers dinner at Red Bluff.
I have been to Dutton's deer camp.
However, I never dressed up as a viking and had a mug of grog. (not that I know of anyway, I used to do some pretty stupid things in my drinking days)

Looking at the photos, I want to book a flight for next year's Little Norway Festival in Petersburg Alaska.
If it's good enough for Sarah Palin, its good enough for me, although I will not be partaking in the grog these days.

My friend Dan says he has a photo of me with a big bottle of Jack Daniels wearing a plastic viking hat, I have offered to purchase the picture, he says he waiting for me to run for office.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Base to McCain: keep your heading a few degrees to starboard

With the republican national convention in the books and with the pick of Sarah Palin, Senator McCain is riding high in the polls. If early last week you asked me to bet the ranch on which convention would attract more television viewers, I would be living in a cardboard box under Steven's bridge on road 94b.

An average of 34.5 million Americans tuned in to watch the republican convention. That is the largest viewing audience in the history of political conventions. However, a word of warning to the maverick John McCain; nice convention kid, don't get cocky.

With the conservative base still in shock over their shiny new Vice Presidential candidate, McCain has to be very careful in the next 60 days not wander too far from the themes of the convention. For all the admiration of his personal story, his service, his courage and the self sacrifice McCain received over the past three days, he may forget just how unpopular some of his ideas are with those same millions who tuned in to watch and the thousands in Minneapolis who stood and cheered for him.

I did not follow the conventions too much this year, but I'm pretty sure Senator McCain did not mention the cap-and-trade legislation he proposes to limit greenhouse gasses in America. This legislation is economic suicide as well as a huge expansion of the role of government. Didn't we just hear about how that's a bad idea Thursday night? He didn't mention giving million of illegal aliens amnesty, an idea that will cut the legs out from under the base like nothing else.

As McCain takes off on his campaign tour across the nation, my fear is the farther from the base of the republican party and the red states he travels, the more he will stray away from the message that united republicans and independents behind him at the convention. '

Right now Senator McCain is enjoying the honeymoon period of his candidacy. Most of the conservatives, including me, are willing to overlook McCain's faults because he is the best candidate for President, by a factor of twelve. However, my motivation will wain if I start hearing this cap-and-trade nonsense and amnesty for all. No matter how many stirring speeches Sarah Palin gives on the campaign trail, if 'the Maverick' starts to twist the noses of his base too hard, the grassroots ground game will take a huge hit. That folks, is where this election will be won or lost, who can get out their vote. The Democrats are fired up and enraptured with the junior Senator from Illinois, they will be door knocking, walking precincts, and making phone calls to get their voters to the polls.

If John McCain starts turning left of republicans, the honeymoon will be over, and this marriage will become one of convenience. That is no way to win an election.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Shut up and take it.

I set out to write this story from an objective point of view. Try as I may, I find I cannot.

The turnout for the public meeting to hear about the proposed re-entry facility Tuesday night was so large, at the last minute they moved it to the Esparto high school auditorium. I did a quick two-by-two head count and I estimate that close to 200 residents attended the meeting.

On the panel were Yolo County Supervisors, Matt Rexroad, Helen Thomson, Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto and 3 members of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Also in attendance, but not on the panel was 5th district Supervisor Duane Chamberlain. During the first twenty minutes of the meeting, the representatives from the CDCR explained the origins and purpose of the 500 bed re entry facility, as well as the existing manner in which current Yolo County parolees are released back into the community. At that time, the meeting was opened to questions from the public and they came fast and sometimes furious.

Why Esparto or Madison? Has the County exhausted all possible site in more urban areas? Will there be inmates from other neighboring Counties housed in the facilities? Why build it next to a school? What about traffic? What about the fact there is no public water and sewer services near the property in question? Of the parolees in this 500 bed facility, how many will be from Esparto or Madison? A half a dozen? The residents of this community were upset and it showed as comments and questions were shouted from those inside the auditorium. For those on the panel, they must have been waiting for the people to break out the torches and pitchforks.

I would like to apologize for the lack of decorum at the meeting, but I will not.

To understand the frustration felt by the citizens of the Capay Valley, you must understand what we have experienced in our dealings with Yolo County. It seems whenever someone comes to the County and says they have a huge amount of money to give them, if they give a green light to a certain project in a rural area, the green light is given. When the citizens of the affected area object, the County tells them, ‘we need the money, shut up and take it’. The first expansion of the Cache Creek casino? We need the money, shut up and take it. The second huge expansion of the casino? We need the money, shut up and take it. Now the proposed re entry prison, you guessed it, shut up and take it.

The County Board of Supervisors has a job to do, provide services to the citizens of our county with a 326 million dollar budget. I also understand the fact that free money is a rare and welcome luxury. However, this ‘free’ money does have a cost attached to it. A cost that is not easily seen from the cities of Woodland, Davis, West Sacramento. As rural residents of the county, we are told to shut up and take it as our small-town quality of life deteriorates for the common good of the urban citizenry of the county.

Yes, Yolo County needs this type of facility; anything that could lead to a decrease in the recidivism rates of parolees is a benefit for us all. However, putting this facility out in a rural area, far away from urban centers with few employers, few volunteer organizations and where a tiny percentage of the prisoners families live, is setting up the program for failure before it starts. This a brand new program, there are no other facilities like the proposed re entry prison in the State. No one can tell us how this will affect our local community. After being separated for years from their family member in a far away prison, how many families would try to find low-income housing near the re entry prison? How would that affect our schools, and our crime rates? Any answers you get to these questions is pure speculation.

Here is my question back to the county. If this decision is about the success of the re entry facility, what are the odds of achieving success if you put the facility within three to six miles from thousands of jobs, hundreds of citizens who would volunteer to help these inmates acclimate back into society, where the support of their families is near by and within easy distance of public transit? I would bet those odds are pretty high.

Take the same facility and put it twenty to thirty miles away in a small, rural town and a long way from those same resources. What are the odds of success now?

If success does not figure high on your choice of sites, then you are just shipping your problems to our communities and we are being asked once again to shut up and take it.

Not this time.

Monday, September 01, 2008

What if we won the war in Iraq, and no one reported it?

As the Labor Day holiday ends and political season finally kicks off in earnest, the media and the internet are buzzing with the story of Governor Sarah Palin's seventeen-year-old daughter being pregnant and the near miss of New Orleans by hurricane Gustav.

Sensational stories? You bet they are. Video of Bristol Palin and her high school, hockey star boyfriend - soon to be husband, along with the compulsory images of reporters bracing against hurricane force winds are on every news channel and taking up space on the frontpages of our newspapers. We are creatures of the 24-hour news cycle, what's new? what's now? what's next?

With all the sensational stories making headlines and with the Republican convention sucking up much of the media oxygen this week, one could easily miss this story from half a word away.
U.S. Hands Back a Quieter Anbar:

Two years ago, Anbar Province was the most lethal place for the Americans in Iraq, with a marine or a soldier dying here nearly every day. The provincial capital, Ramadi, was a moonscape of rubble and ruins. Islamic extremists controlled large pieces of territory, with some so ferocious in their personal views that they did not even allow the sale of bread.

A resident of Fallujah, in Iraq’s Anbar province, at the foot of the Fallujah Bridge on Monday. In March 2004, the bodies of American security contractors were hung from the bridge after they were ambushed.

On Monday, following a parade on a freshly paved street, American commanders formally returned responsibility for keeping order in Anbar Province, once the heartland of the Sunni insurgency, to the Iraqi Army and police force. The ceremony capped one of the starkest turnabouts in the country since the war began five and a half years ago.

In the past two years, the number of insurgent attacks against Iraqis and Americans in Anbar Province has dropped by more than 90 percent.

For everyone who doomed the 'Surge' strategy to failure even before it started, they all seem very quiet right now. The media has packed up and gone home, leaving a scant number of reporters to cover this successful turnabout in the war. Why is this? Why is it that winning the war garners far less media attention than car bombs and civilian casualties? I remember the network anchors were all waiting for their Walter Cronkite moment, waiting for the chance to declare the war officially lost. Some came breathtakingly close to doing just that, as if their opinion on the state of our military effort had any relevance what so ever.

All across Iraq, our soldiers have defeated al Qaeda and trained the Iraqi military to the point where in most parts of Iraq, they now control their own country, their own cities and their own streets.

When our outstanding young men and women in uniform perform their duty in a hostile place, under extreme conditions, away from friends and family and the comforts of home, one would think we could at least stop to recognize their accomplishment. This is similar to crushing an enemy and handing back an area almost five times the size of Belgium.

Not bad for a strategy doomed to failure?

The anti-war crowd may soon get their wish as US forces come home from Iraq, not in defeat, not with an enemy emboldened and in control of Iraq, but with heads held high, assured in the knowledge of what they did there and that the price they paid there, will not be forgotten.

God bless them.