When anyone can spend, it really doesn’t matter where the money comes from, as long as it comes from someone else.

When anyone can spend, it really doesn’t matter where the money comes from, as long as it comes from someone else.

California has a long history with the ballot initiative process. Most famously, Proposition 13’s passage in 1978 heralded the Tax reform wave that swept the nation in the 1980s. Proposition 13 however, impacted  how the state collected revenue, but it did not impact how the state could spend tax dollars.

The larger history of the California referendum process involves the the spending of state dollars. Bond sales feature prominently in these these ballot initiatives, always couched in a “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if we could…” sentimentality.  Stem cell research. High Speed Rail. Mandatory School Spending. California First 5 (Proposition 10).

Frequently, these ballot measures result from the California Legislature’s abject failure to do their jobs. If there is a remote possibility that legislation will not pass the assembly of the elected representatives of the people, there is a mad sprint to the ballot. Framing an issue that couldn’t pass the review of the legislative electoral body as the “will of the people” in a ballot measure proved to be successful in enacting desired legislation. Further, this has the added benefit of shielding legislators from being responsible for their votes.

Often attempted, but never successful in the modern California political era, several tax increase measures are targeted for the 2012 California ballot. Governor Brown has modified his income tax increase (higher taxes on millionaires, i.e. $250K earners – and a quarter cent sales tax increase) to bring a competing tax increase measure into his efforts. Los Angeles lawyer Molly Munger’s efforts, which she has already funded to the tune of  nearly $6 million (and is prepared to spend much more on) is looking to fund education by increasing income taxes on all Californians.

Peter Schrag notes in California Progress Report, that Munger refuses to step aside so that Brown’s tax increase measure can continue unfettered by the competing measure. However, as Schrag observes

The gimmicks in Brown’s proposal are not all bad. In California’s strait jacketed fiscal system and its dysfunctional initiative-driven governmental processes, almost every inch of wiggle-room is probably a good thing.

There are several assumptions here. Tax increases regularly fail as a ballot initiative. Competing tax increase initiatives would be bound to fail. However, Brown, as he has proven in two centuries, is an effective campaigner. If he ties some spending reform to his offering, it might be enough to get some buy in from average Californians. Coupled with the concept of taxing “someone else“, those insensitive millionaires who simply don’t pay their fair share, Brown might garner enough movement in the electorate to get his measure through a general election. Especially since California’s budget gap continues to grow apace. Further bad numbers in respect to the budget deficit as June approaches might convince enough voters that something must be done to solve the decade long budget shortfall. If that something is a tax increase that the voter can inflict on someone else,  a villain that Brown can define, like a millionaire, it makes it all the more palatable. Ignore, for the moment, that Governor Brown’s Tax measure as currently constituted will not even cover the existing deficit.

Munger’s plan, while targeting all Californians, effectively pulls at the heart strings of funding education. If there has been one thing Californians have pulled the lever for via ballot initiates, it’s Education funding. Never mind that regardless of any increases California has implemented in  education funding, more dollars end up paying for administrators, and the percentage than sees its way to teachers, or measurably, into the classroom, the state’s educational ranking nationally continues to fall.

What happens, if both initiatives pass?

California is a Republic, not a direct democracy. When citizens have an opportunity to spend tax dollars via the ballot initiative, they have and will continue to do so. When Legislators can abdicate their responsibility to spend California’s tax dollars with measured restraint, laying the blame at the feet of the voters, they, too, have and will continue to do so. A not too insignificant portion of California’s budget morass can be found in bond repayment obligations, generally inflicted by well intentioned voters via the ballot initiative.

Pundits, lobbyists, political activists and politicians bemoan California’s broken initiative process, while encouraging more dysfunction via the very same process. Perhaps it is time to look at reforming the ballot initiative process to exclude spending. The responsibility for spending has always laid with the legislature. Why not amend the California constitution to prohibit spending measures from the ballot and leave the initiative process simply for reforms to the Constitution?


29 Days in 2011.

29 Days in 2011.

[Train of thought reflections on a very bad 2011 – written in 8 minutes, no editing.]

“Mom has leukemia.”

My oldest sister Becky was calling on a Saturday afternoon early in March 2011.  Mom had been describing vague flu-like symptoms for the better part of a month, and had finally relented about going to the doctor’s office.

It seemed unreal.

Mom has leukemia.

It mad no sense.

Mom has leukemia.

Mom can’t go to the circus.

This is a joke. It cannot possibly be real. Is it real? How bad is leukemia for the elderly? They’re doing amazing things to save kids with leukemia these days? Is it treatable? What kinds of leukemia are there? Why don’t I know this? I should know this.

In the next 30 days we learned all we ever wanted to know about leukemia. It was too much, in too little time.

The six of us assembled at Becky’s house within the hour. My older brother Chris was at his home in Texas. We hadn’t told Mom yet, and were game planning this as we went along.  We agreed we would all go over to Mom’s house together.

Mom first thought that something was wrong with my sister Mary – she had been feeling ill for a while as well. As always, even though she had just come back from the Doctor’s office herself, her first thought was about someone else.

The Doctor’s office had been explicit: Take her to the hospital NOW. Of course the hospital rooms were not designed for a patient and six of her children . From the hallway I did overhear the nurse asking Mom “How long have you had leukemia?”

Mom’s response: “About an hour.”

We soon learned that the docs needed to determine which type of leukemia Mom had. A blood test would take a long time, but a bone marrow test would tell us exactly the type of leukemia Mom had. She was also started on a blood transfusion – which made her feel much better very quickly. The doctors promised they would call us when they were ready to do the bone marrow extraction from Mom’s hip. However, they took the bone marrow when none of us were there. Mom seemed to handle it  very well. I guess after having seven kids, a little bone marrow is no great hurdle.

Between Chronic and Acute leukemia, you want chronic. Chronic leukemia can be treated, and patients can buy some added time by undergoing various treatments (chemotherapy, radiation, or even, simply,  pharmaceuticals). It seemed very strange to be rooting for one form of terminal cancer over another, but we were cheering for chronic leukemia. We didn’t get our wish. Mom had acute leukemia. Without treatment, she could expect 30 to 45 days before she would succumb to cancer.  Mom had witnessed far too many friends and family suffer the misery of chemotherapy. The Doctor advised that the chemo might give her a month more. She would have to stay in the hospital for six weeks for chemo – and she might not ever be able to leave the hospital even after the chemo. But he was not gentle in describing how awful the experience would be. In the balance of things, Mom was going to die. In 60 to 75 days if she suffered through the chemo. In 30 to 45 days if she let the disease run it’s course. Mom had already told us her choice even before the test results came back in.  Mom wanted to go home. Selfishly, I wanted her to try some form of treatment. I thought that she owed herself at least a chance. She would want any one of us to grab onto any option available. She would never let us ignore an opportunity for a chance. But none of us had lived the life she had. She knew what she wanted for herself. In the end, I had to respect her wishes.

Mom stayed in the hospital for several days, and had one more blood transfusion.

We arranged for hospice care, and Mom went home.  She was up and about, but we babied her. She got mad at us. We were blessed with the fact that my niece, Meeshea, my Mom’s very first grandchild, was an in home medical assistant. Hospice came and checked on Mom infrequently.  She had morphine and a few other prescriptions at the house, but she didn’t use any of them.

We stressed over getting my older brother Chris to come back to Sacramento from Texas. He initially didn’t think he could get to California until April. We had to explain – April could conceivably be too late.  Also, we thought it would help both Mom and Chris if they could spend more time together while she was feeling relatively well. We were able to get Chris to California by the end of the week.

She seemed to be weak but OK at home. We hovered. We didn’t give her much space. She worried about us. My wife and I told our young daughters, who each spent their first three years at Gramma’s house everyday when we went to work, that she was very sick. Our oldest understood what cancer was – although very young, she remembered cancer claiming my Dad in 2005.

After a good week together, Chris had to go home to Texas. The Saturday he left was the hardest day yet. This would be the last time Chris ever saw Mom, and she him, and we all knew it. We all thought about how we would handle our last moments with Mom. But Chris had the burden of being the first. How he was able to pull it off, and stay as strong as he did, I’ll never know. He said exactly the right thing. He said it for all of us.

Mom, I have to leave now. I know you’re sad, and I know you’re afraid. I will miss you. I’ll always remember you. I will always love you. And I know we will be together again someday.

That day, when Chris left, destroyed us all. Yet, somehow, his final words to Mom also fortified us.

Mom worried about my sister Jennifer. She had lived with Mom since 2000, following her divorce. They were essentially a married couple by now, Mom and Jennifer, Jennifer and Mom. We made sure that we had Jennifer prominently in our planning, but she put up a stronger front than we had thought possible. I believe that this helped Mom find a little more peace as she struggled with her health.

My brother Ken, who had handled Dad’s cancer for more than a year, was outwardly strong, as he always was. This was different than Dad. Dad loved us, and provided for us, but Mom took care of all of us. I know that while he was a rock, a sentinel of strength for us all, inside he was being consumed. Deep in his eyes, I could see the hurt. A good man with pride and strength, I just didn’t know how to make anything better for him. For any of us.

Meeshea continued to help us care for Mom. Coming off a 24 or 48 hour shift, she would get a few hours of sleep, then come over and relieve us for the hours she could.

Ken and Dawn spelled each other at home – Spring break provided Dawn time to stay with Mom during the day, and several nights. Another blessing.

Brian had always been the most quiet out of all seven of us. He has always been the most funny. He definitely puts on the best show. But he is measured. Again, as hard as it had been with Dad, this was worse.

My wife took several days to stay with Mom. Mostly, she took care of me, and our daughters. The most glorious thing she could give to me was more time with Mom. Which was completely unfair to her, since she and Mom had been more than Mother in law and daughter in law for more than 20 years. They were more than even mother and daughter. They really were best friends. Mom had a guiding influence in the way we raised our girls.

Becky was at the house more than any of us. The sad burden of being the first born had fallen to her. She simply did what needed to be done, at every turn.

Mom continued to get weaker. She refused a catheter, and we all spent many nights with her, making sure she was as comfortable as possible, or just helping her get to the restroom. She preferred to sleep on her couch in the living room. We futilely kept trying to get her to eat something. I cannot recall how many nights I slept on the floor, next to her, but each of us spent many long hours with her at night. We worked in shifts, covering time, the precious time we had left, so that she was never alone. We stepped on each others’ toes, got in each others’ way. In essence, we continued to act as the family we have always been.

Hospice arranged for a hospital bed, and an oxygen pump. The hospital bed made a big difference in her comfort. The house was very small, so the hospital bed went right in the living room. The oxygen pump helped her breathing, but it was vulgar. A loud, accusing reminder that this vile disease had clutched onto Mom. Cancer only does one thing. It takes.

How it does take.

With a large family, we had many people coming and going. Visits from nieces, nephews, grandchildren, great grandchildren, friends, neighbors, everyone.  Earlier, we had asked Mom if she wanted to take a ride. Head up to Lake Tahoe, if only just to look out the car window.  But now she was getting so weak, we weren’t sure that she could make it.

In her third week at home, the hospice nurse visited and told Mom she should go to the hospital and get another blood transfusion, or she would only have a few days left at best. So the ambulance came and collected Mom in the afternoon. The expectation was that they would have to do an image of her heart to make sure that no fluid had built up around it, or the transfusion would be pointless, or make things worse. They did the test around 4:00PM, but the lab had closed at 5:00PM – so we waited in limbo. Finally, an angry angel from the Oncology Ward got someone to get into the lab and get the results. The transfusion was approved. This was around 7:00PM. I spent the night next to her in the hospital room, sending Meeshea home, calling the nurse for another unit of blood whenever the bag on the IV tree ran out. The nurse brought a package of foam swipes on a stick that we could dip into water, and sooth Mom’s terribly chapped lips. Suddenly Mom had an unquenchable urge for ice chips. She couldn’t get enough. The following morning Mom’s gums started bleeding from all the ice chips she had been eating. The concern at this point was that she could start bleeding and not stop because her blood was so poor that it couldn’t coagulate, and she would bleed out. For some reason, she did stop bleeding, and she was transported home. She had much more energy, similar to when she had had her earlier transfusions, but this time it faded quickly. Getting Mom to the restroom was becoming more and more overwhelming – for her and for us. There is absolutely no dignity in cancer. Blood started appearing in her urine. And not just a little. We talked about the morphine, and the other drugs that would help her labored breathing. She finally acquiesced on the medicines, but still refused the catheter.  That Friday Mom had a very good visit with her sister Gayiel, and our cousin Rick. She was very engaged, and alert. After they left that afternoon, Mom went to sleep. We wouldn’t know it then, but she never fully woke again.

That evening I called the hospice for the catheter. They couldn’t promise a time when they would be there, but after waiting through the evening, I finally went home to get some sleep leaving Becky, Jennifer, Mary and Brian with Mom.  Hospice came late in the evening and placed the catheter for her. She didn’t really wake up, but Brian and Becky were mortified – it was simply a horrible experience. Becky called at 5:00AM the next morning, because they couldn’t wake Mom up, and her breathing had become excessively labored. We really thought that the end had arrived. When my brother Ken had arrived, he spoke very loudly to her, and Mom opened her eyes briefly. I arrived a short time later, and Mom also responded when I spoke loudly to her. Her eyes opened, and quickly closed. The six of us, and a rotating audience of grandchildren, children’s spouses, and Mom’s sister spent the day in the living room, just talking to her. Mom’s still very labored breathing filled the room. As the day started to fade, Mom’s breathing seemed to normalize – it was still consistent, but not as loud, or nearly as labored as it had been. Hospice told us that she could easily go days like this. She remained this way into the next day. Late that evening, I returned home to try to sleep again.  It was Sunday night.

Becky called me Monday morning, April 11, 2011, in the very early pre dawn hours. She let me know that I had better get down to the house. I was the last of the children to arrive. Mom was gone. She was peaceful and had attained the rest that she had worked her entire life to earn. I kissed her, and said goodbye. We were all a wreck. The Coroner came and took Mom away. I started making the calls that I had known I would be making, to family and friends,  in far off places.

The Oncologist was right. He had given Mom 30 days. She passed on the 29th day.

Mary noticed it first. April 11th. Mom had waited a day to let Dad’s birthday pass. That didn’t really surprise any of us.

There is no real lesson here. No life changing revelations.

People live. They love. They get stronger. They get weaker. They become forces in each others’ lives. They die.

I hate cancer.

A mother’s love is possibly the strongest force in the world. I could never even begin to quantify the blessings that Mom brought to our lives. Honestly, it’s immeasurable.

The single item I take away is this: Besides her unyielding love, the greatest gift our mother ever gave us, was:


each other.



Gentle rest, loving angel

Nan Davey

May 15, 1934 – April 11, 2011

Nan Davey

Darrell Steinberg wants a tax increase: But 2 out of three are bad.

Darrell Steinberg wants a tax increase: But 2 out of three are bad.

In a Sacramento Bee article, California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D Sacramento) notes that the possibility of sending competing tax increase measures before the voters is fraught with peril. Make no mistake, Senator Steinberg wants a tax increase to pass. Because California’s highest earners aren’t paying enough?

Steinberg said it “scares the heck out of me” that if the other tax measures remain on the ballot, Brown’s might fail. For Brown, he said, it’s a “tough time” to be governor.

“In some ways the system is designed, especially in the modern era, it invites a lot of chaos,” he said.

It’s a little bit of direct democracy run wild.”

Spending initiatives passed by California Voters are part of the California Budget problem. But Senator Steinberg is speaking out of both sides of his mouth. Spending (and taxing),  is the responsibility of the Legislature. Senator Steinberg wants to abdicate his responsibility to “the will of the people”.  He would prefer not to be holding the bag, voting for a tax increase in the Senate, especially if it barely passes. Passing a tax increase by a Democrat majority would mean that he would effectively own it. Much easier to bestow that ugly mantle of ownership onto the voters.

So it’s convenient to use the electorate to do what the Senator has not the will, (nor the support) to so himself, but competing measures are direct democracy run wild. Which is it Senator? You can’t have it both ways. Either the initiative process is democracy at it’s purest, or it’s chaos.

But indicative of the all the competing tax increase initiatives, is the concept of class warfare. “We need more money, so I ask you to vote to take it from someone else.” The idea that the government can choose who to make pay for reckless spending should be frightening to one and all. That they elect to couch it in terms of “making millionaires” pay higher taxes is just populist pablum. If the support for higher taxes is present in the electorate, then just pass a tax increase in the legislature, and have the Governor sign it into law. But instead of acting boldly, and because they know there isn’t any real support for tax increases, regardless of who would have to pay for it, they want to leave the smoking gun in the hand of the voter. They want to profit from robbing the citizen, but have the voter pull the trigger, and face the consequences. The California elected class are simply Street Gang Lords – they invite the crime, and the chaos, but choose to hide behind the voters, their gang, when it comes time to pay the cost of the crime. Cowards.

The Teenage Mindset: Go sit in the corner.

The Teenage Mindset: Go sit in the corner.

Saw this in the comments at The Bleat today.

“We even have an entire political party arguing that telling someone to pay for their own stuff is the same as telling them they can’t have it – the very essence of the teenage mindset.”

Keep it simple. Just because I don’t want to pay for something you want, doesn’t mean I don’t want you to have it. I just don’t want to pay for you to have it.

Stop worrying about what I want to pay for, and go worry about how you are going to pay for what you want.

December 7th, 1941

December 7th, 1941

The seminal event that saved the world.

Sir Winston Churchill interpreted the eventual outcome correctly as soon as he learned of the attack. Fascism, from Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Tojo’s Japan, would soon fall:

Being saturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful.

Even though we suffered tremendous loss of life, and it plunged the world further into the darkness of fascism, this was the beginning of the end. For the world we inherited today, we owe to the many thousands who sacrificed to earn the peace, beginning on that day.

We were wrought low, to our very knees, but we would not submit. We helped to free the European and Asian continents, and cemented the greatness of the American Spirit into the annals of history.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.


We could use a little bit more of our righteous might these days.


A Love Affair

A Love Affair

Veterans Day. Every year we take this one day to thank those who have served. As we should. The truth is that there is no possible way that we can offer enough thanks to those who have served.

On Memorial Day, we honor those who have died in war, wearing the Uniform of the United States. It is easier to grasp the enormity of that sacrifice, because the measure of the sacrifice confronts us immediately: An American who gave their life in war. There can be no greater sacrifice. Armed Forces Day honors those currently in service in the military of the United States.

But Veterans Day is a bit different. We honor all who have worn the uniform in service to the United States, during peace time or during war. The measure of that sacrifice takes a bit more effort. Since 1973 military service has been voluntary. The sacrifice of veterans since that time is something to note. Many veterans from 1940 through 1973 were called to service through the Selective Service Act. But all veterans since 1973 had a calling to service. While the distinction is small, the sacrifice of any veteran, conscripted or voluntary, is exactly the same, and our gratitude should be of equal measure. The veteran has offered the very best of themselves, not only at their own expense, but tendered also with the sacrifice of their families.

In truth, the American people have an enduring love affair with those who have worn the uniform. Despite what many would see at a protest today, the men and women of the United States Military ensure that this country exists in peace. To those that willingly step forward and say “I give myself, in totality, to my country, and family” we can only offer the sincere love and gratitude of a humble nation. We must keep faith with our Veterans, we owe them an unpayable debt. The greatest nation on the face of this earth exists and prevails due to the service of these fine Americans. God bless each and every one of them.

Veterans Day
Joseph Ambrose, an 86-year-old World War I veteran, attends the dedication day parade for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982. He is holding the flag that covered the casket of his son, who was killed in the Korean War
Remembering Andrew Jay-Hoon Kim

Remembering Andrew Jay-Hoon Kim

Andrew Kim

“He never wanted to be in the spotlight, but the spotlight always managed to find him.

Andrew Jay-Hoon Kim was 26 years old. A graduate of Columbia University, Andrew worked at Fred Alger Management on the 93rd floor of One World Trade Center. And while Andrew had a bachelor’s degree in Engineering, it was music and faith that dominated his world. Andrew played guitar, clarinet, and piano. Blessed with a beautiful signing voice, Andrew was a member of a Jazz ensemble.

Andrew helped coach the Leonia High School Girls’ Junior Varsity Tennis Team. The tennis courts in Leonia have been renamed and dedicated to his memory.

Though he lived in Leonia NJ, he worshiped at Bethany United Methodist Church in Wayne NJ, where he helped fellow parishioners meet the calling of their faith.

Andrew’s Legacy.com Guest Book can be found here

A small memorial for Andrew can be found here

The world is so much poorer for the passing of this remarkable young man.

Remembering Montgomery McCullough Hord

Remembering Montgomery McCullough Hord

Montgomery McCullough Hord was 46 years old. He was born in Grand Island Nebraska, and raised in Central City Nebraska. He and his wife Lisa Sharp Hord had three children, Molly, and twins Sophie and Jackson. Montgomery was survived by his sisters, Sara Beck and Debra Taylor, and his brothers, Dan Hord, and Stacy Hord

Montgomery was Vice President and Partner of Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center. He was a fan of the military, and every year on Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day would call and thank his Father in law Fred Sharp for his service in the Air Force in World War II.

A Legacy.com memorial page for Montgomery can be found here

A New York Times portrait of Montgomery can be found here

Remembering Eli Chalouh

Remembering Eli Chalouh

Eli Chalouh

Eli Chalouh was an employee of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance in the World Trade Center. He was 23 years old. He came to the United States with his family from Syria when he was 14. He had graduated from Long Island University in 2001. Eli was a member of the Long Island University Honor Society, and was named Outstanding Accounting Student of 2001 by the University staff.

Eager to make his way in this world, he was a kind soul, who spoke Arabic, and English, and learned Hebrew in Brooklyn. Eli filled his far too short 23 years seeking to better himself, and to help those around him.

“Whatever you asked him he would do, and whatever you wouldn’t ask, he would volunteer to do,” said a supervisor at work, Eddie Jaeger. “He was an unbelievably nice kid.

Eli’s Legacy Memorial Page can be found here

A small memorial page can also be found here

A prayer page for Eli can be found here