Things are going great and everyone knows it

Gallup has just released the results of its annual Mood of the Nation poll. The nation is in a great mood.

Ninety percent of Americans are “satisfied with the way things are going in their personal life” and two out of three say they’re “very satisfied.” These are the highest numbers in 40 years.

The historical low in the mood ranking was 73%. That was measured in July 1979, during the period when Americans were ticked off over an oil crisis. That’s also when then-President Jimmy Carter gave an Oval Office address blaming the country for a “malaise” that was interfering with his plans to persuade Americans to adjust to sweaters and scarcity.

A year after Gallup measured the nation’s record-low mood, Carter was defeated for re-election by the sunnier vision of Ronald Reagan.

Analyzing the latest poll, Gallup writes, “It’s likely no coincidence that Americans’ heightened satisfaction with their personal life comes as confidence in the U.S. economy and their personal finances are also at long-term or record highs.”

The pollsters report that Americans’ views on their own financial situation have been climbing since 2018 and are “at or near record highs in Gallup’s trends.” Last year, 50% of Americans said they were better off financially than they were the year before. This year, 59% of Americans said that.

The previous high in the poll for the “better off financially than the year before” question was 58% in January 1999. The all-time low was 23% in May 2009.

Another interesting figure from the poll measures optimism about future personal finances. Gallup found that 74% percent of U.S. adults think they will be better off financially a year from now, which is the highest that Gallup has measured since 1977, when it first began asking the question. The previous high was 71% in 1998.

You may remember that 1998 was the year polls showed voters didn’t want Bill Clinton removed from office. The Republican House impeachment managers didn’t come out of the experience as political winners

Then the nation’s mood was hammered by the 9/11 attacks and everything that followed, right through the housing crash and the Great Recession. The climb back has been steep and slow.

Now, a decade after the low of 2009, people are feeling better about their lives and their prospects for financial success.

This is the point where partisans will have a knock-down, drag-out fight over whether we’re experiencing the consequences of three years of Trump’s policies or the slow-motion, delayed success of Obama’s.

Trump previewed his side of the argument during the State of the Union address. “If we had not reversed the failed economic policies of the previous administration, the world would not now be witness to America’s great economic success,” he said.

Democrats may dispute that, but it won’t be easy to persuade Americans to change horses in midstream.

There’s a period of time, probably a minimum of 40 years, after which people forget the pain of a problem and become willing to blame the earlier era’s solution for current problems. One example might be the present controversy over vaccinations. Years ago, when Americans had personal experience with polio and other diseases within the previous decade or two of their lives, no one would have been able to persuade them that vaccinations were a bad thing.

Another example is the Depression-era legislation Congress passed in 1933, four years after the stock market crash, to separate investment banking (issuing and selling stocks and bonds) from commercial banking (holding deposits and making loans). The purpose of the law known as the Glass-Steagall Act was to prevent losses in the investment banking business from bleeding the commercial banks, drying up the credit markets, and strangling the economy.

A similar firewall was built in 1956 by the Bank Holding Company Act. It separated insurance underwriting from banking. The idea was to prevent losses in the insurance business from bleeding the commercial banks, drying up the credit markets and strangling the economy.

However, by 1999, Congress had completely forgotten the feeling of a sharp stick in the eye that had triggered the firewall legislation. How much more efficient it would be, they reasoned as they pocketed campaign contributions from the financial services industry, to merge investment banks, commercial banks and insurance underwriters.

Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, repealing Glass-Steagall and all those other stuffy bureaucratic regulations that modern people are too smart to need.

It took nine years for the financial markets to go from stuffy and boring to thrilling and catastrophic.

Today, we’re barely a decade past the 2008 crash and the plunge into the Great Recession.

Everybody remembers the pain.

So when Gallup finds that Americans’ confidence in the U.S. economy is at its highest point in two decades, that is a political story of some consequence.

Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index is currently at +40, the highest measurement since it hit +44 in October 2000. The Economic Confidence Index measures Americans’ ratings of current economic conditions and their opinion on whether the economy is getting better or worse. Today 62% of Americans rate the economy as “excellent” or “good,” and 59% say it’s getting better.

This “likely reflects the U.S. unemployment rate’s continued stay at a 50-year low,” Gallup wrote.

Turns out the Iowa Caucuses got it exactly right. This year, there’s no winner in the Democratic Party.

Susan Shelley is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. Susan@SusanShelley.com. Twitter: @Susan_Shelley

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Who is too big to fail in California?

Those to the left of the political centerline often complain — with good reason — about using taxpayer funds to bail out large corporations that are insolvent, or nearly so, due to mismanagement.

The criticism erupted 41 years ago when the federal government saved Chrysler Motors from extinction and was aired again a decade ago when Chrysler, General Motors and major banks were rescued during a global economic crisis.

These corporate bailouts gave rise to the phrase “too big to fail.” Similar questions are being raised these days about Pacific Gas & Electric, the nation’s largest investor-owned utility, which declared bankruptcy a year ago due to immense potential liabilities for devastating California wildfires.

Whether PG&E survives as a corporation or is forced into becoming a consumer-owned cooperative, as some officials suggest, or a government-owned entity is still very uncertain. PG&E’s owners and managers must not, critics say, be rewarded for bad corporate behavior.

As the PG&E crisis runs its course, some big governmental entities are also testing whether they are too big to fail.

One is the Los Angeles Unified School District, which appears on everyone’s list of managerial basket cases. It constantly flirts with insolvency by persistently overspending revenues and looks to Sacramento for bailouts.

In 2015, for instance, researchers at UC Berkeley concluded that LA Unified had shifted most of the extra money it received to improve the educations of poor and English learner students into general purposes, such as salary increases.

A coalition of local civil rights groups complained to the state Department of Education, which ruled that LA Unified was wrongly diverting funds and ordered it to redirect nearly a half-billion dollars to the required purposes.

Did LA Unified change its ways? Of course not.

A “realignment exercise,” blessed by state education officials, allowed LA Unified to recategorize expenditures to make them legal, just changing some computer codes without actually changing what it was doing. It was an under-the-radar bailout that shortchanged hundreds of thousands of children at high risk of educational failure.

Another example is the San Francisco Community College District.

In 2012, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges gave the City College of San Francisco eight months to prove it should remain accredited, citing multiple managerial and financial shortcomings, and ordered it to “make preparations for closure.”

That same year, the state’s Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance team declared the college to be in a “perilous financial position,” caused largely by “poor decisions and a lack of accountability.”

The local political response was a denunciation of the critical authorities and eventually, a  bailout slipped into a state budget “trailer bill,” giving the district tens of millions of extra dollars to close its persistent deficits. Local voters also approved new “parcel taxes” on property.

Although it regained its accreditation for seven years, the district has not mended its profligate ways, consistently using unrealistically high enrollment and revenue to generate budgets that are balanced only on paper.

Recently, an auditor hired by the district raised “substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern,” after discovering that it spent nearly $14 million more than it took in during the 2018-19 fiscal year, had been deficit spending for at least three years, and had allowed its reserve to fall below the 5 percent threshold required by the state and the accrediting commission.

Too big to fail? We may soon learn whether there will be another bailout or the district will suffer the self-inflicted indignity of a state takeover of its finances.

CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/commentary

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California community college report ignores reality

The Legislative Analyst’s Office, which advises state lawmakers on budgetary matters, prides itself on taking an independent, nonpartisan and even nonpolitical approach to important policy issues.

That well-established tradition continues in a new LAO report on a pilot program that allows a few community college districts to offer four-year degrees in a few obscure subjects.

However, by divorcing itself from the program’s political aspects in this case, it’s also separating itself from reality.

The reality is that California’s economy needs more well-trained and well-educated workers, but obtaining a four-year college degree these days is very difficult given the inability of the state’s public universities to handle the demand.

That’s especially true for low-income students from the state’s less-populated regions because they must also cope with high living costs as they are forced to leave home to attend college.

Community colleges, which offer close-to-home, low-cost educations, do provide lower-division courses, but students still must transfer to four-year universities to complete their degrees.

Other states, facing the same dilemma, have responded by broadly authorizing community colleges to offer baccalaureate programs and California’s pilot program has been an effort to replicate that rational approach.

However, political reality has made that expansion difficult. The state university system guards its place in the academic pecking order jealously and as a result, the pilot program was very limited, allowing the community colleges to offer degrees just in a few relatively obscure subjects that the universities ignored.

Ironically, the state universities’ resistance to what it regarded as competition for money and students mirrors the resistance that the University of California displayed when the state universities wanted to begin offering some doctorate programs.

The LAO report ignored these three-way turf struggles, which have bubbled up for decades, in its lukewarm report on the community college pilot program.

“We found little evidence that graduates from these pilot programs were better prepared to fill these positions compared to those with other bachelor’s degrees or that pilot program graduates were helping employers fill hard-to-staff positions,” the LAO said. “The most common benefit of the pilot cited by students was the relatively low cost of attending the community college bachelor’s degree programs.”

Having four-year programs in the community colleges would be unnecessary, the report suggests, if the two- and four-year systems would simply cooperate more on developing targeted training programs and better aligning course offerings to make transfers from community colleges to four-year schools easier.

Well, that’s stating the obvious — but only if, as the LAO does, one ignores the fact that we don’t have a well-integrated system of public higher education in California, despite the existence of a so-called “master plan” for the last half-century that assumes we do.

We have three separate, often competitive systems and as long as we do, we should embrace allowing community colleges to offer as many baccalaureate programs as they are financially and institutionally capable of doing, thereby giving students more options and the state more of the well-educated workers it needs.

California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said it well in a statement responding to the LAO report:

“These programs are serving many students who might not otherwise have a path to a bachelor’s degree. The programs are of high quality and lead to meaningful jobs for graduates.”

CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/commentary

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Presidential candidates offer freebies for everyone

The Iowa Caucus, the real start of the 2020 presidential primaries, is next week. Who’s favored to win? Sadly, as I write this, the smart money says it’s the candidate who’s promised Americans the most “free” stuff.

Six months ago, my staff and I tallied the candidates’ promises. All wanted to give away trillions — or more accurately, wanted government to tax you and spend your money on the candidates’ schemes.

At that point, Senator Kamala Harris led. Fortunately, her promises did not bring her sustained support, and she dropped out.

Unfortunately, now the other candidates are making even more promises.

So, it’s time for a new contest.

We divide the promises into four categories:

Education

Joe Biden would make community college free, cut student loans in half, increase Pell Grants and modernize schools.

Added to his previous campaign promises, he’d increase federal spending by $157 billion per year.

Elizabeth Warren would spend much more. She wants government to “provide universal child care for every baby in this country age 0 to 5, universal pre-K for every child, raise the wages of every childcare worker and preschool teacher in America, provide for universal tuition-free college, put $50 billion into historically black colleges and universities… and cancel student loan debt for 95% of the people.”

She’d outspend Biden — but not Bernie Sanders.

Sanders would forgive all student loans — even for the rich. He also demands that government give everyone child care and pre-K.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg also promises free child care, more pay for teachers, more career education, free college and Pell Grants, plus the refinancing of student debt.

Good try, Pete, but Sanders “wins” in the education category, with nearly $300 billion in promises.

Climate

All the Democrats pretend they will do something useful about climate change. Biden would spend $170 billion per year, Buttigieg $150 billion to $200 billion and Warren $300 billion. Sanders “wins” this category, too, by promising more than $1 trillion.

Health Care

Even the “moderate,” Biden, now wants to “build out Obamacare” and to cover people here illegally.

So does Buttigieg — but he’d spend twice as much on it.

Warren complains the Buttigieg plan “costs so much less” than her plan. She’d spend $2 trillion a year.

Sanders is again the biggest spender. He’d spend $3 trillion of your money on his “Medicare for All” plan.

Welfare

In this category, Biden, to his credit, plans no new spending.

But Buttigieg has been cranking out lots of new promises, like $45 billion for “affordable housing” and $27 billion to expand Social Security payments beyond what people paid in.

Warren would also spend more on “affordable housing” and give kids more food stamps.

Sanders “wins” again. He promises to guarantee everyone a job, provide “housing for all” and give more people food stamps.

Miscellaneous

Then there’s spending that doesn’t neatly fit into major categories, like Biden’s plans for new foreign aid for Central America, Sanders’ high-speed internet, Buttigieg’s expanding national service programs like the Peace Corps and Warren’s plan to force government to buy only American-made products.

Finally, we found a spending category that Sanders doesn’t win. With $130 billion in new plans, Biden wins the “miscellaneous” round.

And what about that incumbent Republican?

Donald Trump once talked about “cutting waste,” but government spending rose more than half a trillion dollars during his first three years.

Now Trump wants $267 billion in new spending for things like infrastructure and “access to high-quality, affordable childcare.”

At least Trump wants to spend less than the Democrats.Biden and Buttigieg would double Trump’s increase. Warren would quadruple it. She’d increase spending by almost $3 trillion.But Bernie Sanders blows them all out of the water, with nearly $5 trillion in proposed new spending!

“I’m not denying we’re going to spend a lot of money,” he admits.

He’ll probably win in Iowa next week. Whoever wins… taxpayers lose.

John Stossel is the author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.”

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CIF-SS boys soccer polls, Jan. 21


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The CIF-SS boys soccer polls were released Tuesday, Jan. 21.

BOYS SOCCER

(Selected by the CIF-SS Boys Soccer Advisory Committee)

DIVISION 1

1. San Clemente

2. Cathedral

3. Loyola

4. Palos Verdes

5. Mater Dei

6. Santa Barbara

7. Santa Ana

8. Paramount

9. Millikan

10T. JSerra

10T. Godinez

DIVISION 2

1. Simi Valley

2. Dos Pueblos

3. Channel Islands

4. St. John Bosco

5. Alrington

6. Santiago/GG

7. Fullerton

8. Brea Olinda

9. Sunny Hills

10T. La Habra

10T. Long Beach Poly

DIVISION 3

1. Tustin

2. Redlands East Valley

3. Norwalk

4. Hart

5. Peninsula

6. Chaffey

7. Oxnard

8. Bell Gardens

9. Valley View

10. Damien

DIVISION 4

1. Hesperia

2. Schurr

3. Canyon/Anaheim

4. Sierra Vista

5. Desert Mirage

6. Bellflower

7. La Mirada

8. Cajon

9. Culver City

10T. Kennedy

10T. Pasadena

DIVISION 5

1. Granite Hills

2. Nogales

3. Coachella Valley

4. Baldwin Park

5. Oak Hills

6. Ayala

7. Rancho Cucamonga

8. La Canada

9. Eisenhower

10T. Chapparal

10T. Anino Leadership

DIVISION 6

1. Brentwood

2. Silverado

3. Ganesha

4. Dunn

5. Pomona

6. Temple City

7. Crossroads

8. Aquinas

9. St. Genevieve

10. Indio

DIVISION 7

1. Linfield Christian

2. Calif. Military Academy

3. Northview

4. Foothill Tech

5. Paraclete

6. Woodcrest Christian

7. St. Anthony

8. St. Bonaventure

9. Lennox

10. Rowland

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Segerstrom standout quarterback Angel Vega transfers to rival Santa Ana

Segerstrom quarterback Angel Vega, selected the Big 4 League co-offensive player of the league in the fall, has transferred to city rival Santa Ana, Saints coach Charlie TeGantvoort said Tuesday.

Vega passed for 1,545 yards and 24 touchdowns while only being intercepted three times last season to help the Jaguars (10-2) finished second to Marina in league and reach the CIF-SS Division 10 quarterfinals.

Segerstrom lost to Katella and soon-to-be retired Coach Fred DiPalma 22-17.

The 6-foot, 185-pound Vega passed for 1,623 yards and 24 TDs  in a breakout sophomore season.

This coming fall, Vega will give the Saints their second high-profile transfer of a Santa Ana-area player in three seasons. For the 2018 season, Godinez running back/defensive Patrick McMorris left Godinez and starred at Santa Ana for his senior season after observing the sitout period.

Santa Ana won the Orange Coast League title in 2018 and reached the Division 8 semifinals. Last season, the Saints (6-5) finished second to Orange in the league and lost to Aliso Niguel 21-6 in the first round of the Division 8 playoffs.

Vega’s arrival in the Orange Coast League sets up a showdown with Orange junior quarterback Daylen Pedroza. Both project to be two of the best passers in the county next season.

Santa Ana and Segerstrom were league rivals as recent as 2017 in the old Golden West League.

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Friday’s basketball highlights: Servite gets first Trinity League victory since 2017; Tustin wins in OT


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A roundup of the Orange County boys basketball highlights on Friday:

Servite won its first Trinity League game since 2017 by beating Santa Margarita 45-44 on Friday at Servite High.

The win snapped a 21-game league losing streak for the Friars and was the first time Servite (15-6, 1-3) has beaten Santa Margarita since 2013.

Servite wins it 45-44 against Santa Margarita! Leading scorers- Miller 15, Bagga 12, Cook 11. #credo @ocvarsity @latsondheimer @SteveFryer @C_Morrissette @MAlvarez02 @ServiteAsylum pic.twitter.com/tfbBevbHh6

— Servite Basketball (@ServiteBSKB) January 18, 2020

Sophomore Tajavis Miller led the Friars with 15 points. Kunal Bagga and Andrew Cook scored 12 and 11 points, respectively.

Santa Margarita (9-10, 1-3) is in a three-way tie with Servite and Orange Lutheran for fourth place in the Trinity League.

The Eagles on Wednesday play at St. John Bosco, which is tied for first place with Mater Dei and JSera.

Servite will play Buena of Ventura in Coach Mike’s Long Shot Challenge on Monday at Corona del Mar High. The Friars resume Trinity League play on Wednesday when they host Orange Lutheran.

In other games Friday:

Dana Hills 46, No. 18 El Toro 41: Dana Hills went on a late run to beat El Toro in an important Sea View League game at El Toro High.

The game was tied with just over two minutes remaining when the Dolphins went on a 6-1 run to grab the victory.

Grayson Holtby scored 16 points to lead Dana Hills (15-6, 2-2) and Miles Ettinger added 15.

The Dolphins are 2-2 at the midway point of league play and sit in third place behind undefeated Tesoro and San Juan Hills. El Toro (12-8, 1-3) is in fourth place.

St. Margaret’s 64, Sage Hill 37: St. Margaret’s routed Sage Hill in an Academy League game at St. Margaret’s to give coach Chris Nordstrom career win No. 300.

Nordstrom is in his first season as St. Margaret’s coach after a successful tenure at Orange Lutheran.

“It’s an awesome feeling to get to this point,” Nordstrom said. “A lot of it is tenure, it has taken a bit of time, but it is really a reflection of the great players, coaches and family that have helped me get here.”

Congratulations to coach Chris Nordstrom as he celebrates his 300th career victory! @ocvarsity @OCSportsZone @SouthOCsports pic.twitter.com/X1h9tbt1ph

— SMESAthletics (@SMESAthletics) January 18, 2020

St. Margaret’s (14-6, 3-0) went on a 12-0 run to open the game and never looked back. Will Kenner led the Tartans with 19 points. Charlie Wohlgemuth scored 15 and Anthony Constantino added 10.

The Tartans now have sole possession of first place in the Academy League. Sage Hill (8-13, 3-1) was previously unbeaten in league play.

Tustin 47, Pacifica 41 (OT): Tustin rallied to beat Pacifica in overtime to pick up a crucial Empire League win at Pacifica High.

Tustin (15-7, 2-2) was led by Jason Naranjo, who had 19 points. Kyan Patel scored 14 points and Benjamin Ahinaquah added eight points and 15 rebounds.

Patel made a 3-pointer with 13 seconds remaining in overtime to put the game out of reach for the Mariners.

Brandon Bui made a layup for Pacifica (13-9, 1-3) with three seconds remaining in regulation to send the game into overtime.

Tustin is tied with Valencia for third place in the Empire League standings.

No. 25 Aliso Niguel 62, San Juan Hills 54: Aliso Niguel snapped a three-game losing streak by beating San Juan Hills in a nonleague game at San Juan Hills High.

The Wolverines are 8-0 against San Juan Hills.

Sophomore Tyler Weaver led Aliso Niguel (12-10) with 16 points. Jacob Morris and Nick Steiert each scored 12 points.

Adam Weingard led San Juan Hills (9-12) with 14 points.

San Juan Hills is tied for first place with Tesoro in the Sea View League standings. The Stallions host Tesoro on Wednesday.

– Michael Huntley

Estancia 103, Orange 62: Estancia (19-3, 4-0) scored a season-high in points with the help of 19 3-pointers as it routed Orange to stay unbeaten in the Orange Coast League.

Cameron Khoury came off the bench to lead the Eagles with 31 points and made 10 3-pointers. Brandon Pearson had 14 points and Frankie DeBraum added 10 points.

No. 3 Capistrano Valley 52, No. 19 Trabuco Hills 46: Capistrano Valley went on a 6-0 run in the final 1:30 of the game to get past Trabuco Hills in a South Coast League game at Capistrano Valley High.

Conner Gleason had 20 points for the Cougars (19-1, 3-0) and Brody Sumner scored 15 points while hitting four 3-pointers.

Neon night in the @CVHSCAGE to go with the bumblebee throwback uni’s. #WeAreCV @SoCalSections @ocvarsity pic.twitter.com/TogfrE4SSW

— Capo Valley HS (@CapoValleyHS) January 18, 2020

Aryan Talle had a game-high 21 points for Trabuco Hills (13-9, 1-3) and Tyler Woods finished with 11 points.

No. 2 JSerra 66, Orange Lutheran 49: JSerra (18-3, 3-1) had three players score in double-figures in the Trinity League victory over Orange Lutheran (13-6, 1-3) at JSerra High.

Ian Martinez led the Lions with 16 points, including three 3-pointers, while Justin Williams scored 14 points and Hugo Clarkin added 10 points. David Hornung chipped in with nine points by shooting 3-for-4 on 3-point attempts.

No. 14 Laguna Beach 55, Marina 48: Nolan Naess scored 15 points to lead Laguna Beach to a win in its Wave League opener.

Laguna Beach (14-7, 1-0) also received contributions from Jackson Sirianni, who had 10 points, and Lucas Kravitz, who added eight points.

– David Delgado

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Santa Ana cop union targets truth-tellers

The Santa Ana police union-funded recall campaign against councilmember Cecilia Iglesias last month submitted 16,000 signatures to the Orange County Registrar of Voters, which has until February to verify the signatures before putting it on the ballot. The union has dropped $220,000 on the effort — and another $100,000 on a separate (but now stalled) campaign to recall Councilmember Juan Villegas.

What have these elected officials done to deserve this harsh reaction? They had the audacity to tell the truth about the city’s finances.

They opposed massive police raises that the city couldn’t afford and that drained funds from a previous tax hike that slapped residents with a county-high 9.25 percent sales tax.

They refused to be intimidated by over-the-top rhetoric from Police Officers Association officials.

The union has enormous influence on the council, which in part explains why it voted 4-2 in last year to approve $25.6 million in retroactive raises over three years even though it had not identified how it was going to pay for them. The approval pushed the city’s deficit from $600,000 to $4.8 million in one fell swoop.

In September, the Register reported that money from Measure X — the tax hike that promised to fund street and park maintenance, neighborhood safety, homeless prevention and other needs — was not apparently being spent as promised, according to oversight committee members. The money, members feared, might mainly to cover these police raises and pension obligations. By the way, the city projects a significant budget deficit for the coming year.

Members of Measure X’s oversight committee also feared that the tax boost was a Band-Aid and that the city is locking itself into unsustainable long-term expenses.  That echoes the warnings that Iglesias and Villegas had previously made.

H.L. Mencken wrote that the politicians Americans “detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.” We think the curmudgeonly late journalist was being overly cynical. After Santa Ana voters evaluate the Iglesias recall, we suspect they will stand by a council member who levels with them rather than trades in fiscally imprudent fantasies.

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Musings from the ‘public nuisance’

Now that the Christmas shopping season is officially over, my mailbox is no longer as full as my gut; no more pamphlets on the price of rump roast at Stater Bros, coupons from Domino’s or pleas for donations to the Salvation Army.

Hell, even Bed, Bath and Beyond is giving it a rest.

Which is why I noticed a letter from the Palm Springs Police Department immediately.

In the first paragraph, the city declared me to be a “public nuisance.”

Yep. I’m accused of damaging the ambiance of my neighborhood.

I guess you could say I’m the Dennis Rodman of Palm Springs.

Why?

Well, after sending an investigator to my house to take pictures of my driveway, the city of Palm Springs concluded that the placement of my trash cans violates city code because they are in partial view to the public.

Apparently, some nosy neighbor of mine — I don’t want to get sued, so let’s just call her “Mrs. Kravitz” — claims that my garbage cans are visible from the street.

Sure, maybe if you have the Griffith Park telescope trained on my house. But to the naked eye they’re well-concealed at the very back of my very long driveway under some fruit trees.

Frankly, these charges are pure garbage.

Maybe I should just start putting my trash in old Amazon boxes and leaving it out for porch pirates to steal.

The best part is, if I don’t fix the problem immediately, they’re gonna fine me and force me to pay the city’s expenses because they allege that I’m the one wasting their time.

“You are hereby notified that a Municipal Code Violation defined as a Public Nuisance has been determined to exist on the property described below. You are specifically responsible to ensure that this violation is corrected in compliance with this notice. Your failure to do so will result in the issuance of an Administrative Citation with fines of $100.00 per violation, with subsequent citations carrying fines of $250.00 per violation and $500.00 respectively,” the letter said.

“If further action by the city is necessary in obtaining compliance with the Notice, you may be charged a fee equal to the actual costs incurred by the city, including, but not limited to, subsequent inspection costs, staff time, overhead and legal expenses, including attorney’s fees.  Current fees for the city costs are as follows: General staff and inspection time @ $101.00/hr. City attorney time @ $200.00/hr,” they threatened.

No wonder the city is going broke — they’re paying somebody $101.00 per hour to take pictures of my driveway. I can only imagine what they pay the guy who draws the chalk outlines at crime scenes.

Maybe it does pay to be an art history major, after all.

But I digress.

The point of this whole saga is that when a city wants to enforce an ordinance, it does. And when it wants to look the other way, it can do that, too.

Like other cities in California, Palm Springs has a huge homeless problem.

It also has ordinances against public camping, vagrancy, public urination, drug use in public and the like. But those crimes are ignored daily, as the homeless are treated as a protected class.

Taxpaying, law-abiding homeowners like me are being harassed for nonsense while homeless people in Palm Springs can break any laws they want with impunity. Maybe the city would leave me alone if I was actually living in one of my garbage bins.

Which seems like more of a nuisance to you, my garbage cans, or somebody in downtown Palm Springs using a public fountain as a bidet?

If the city of Palm Springs has the time and money to investigate my trash cans, it has the time and money to enforce other, more important, ordinances too.

Until then, when it comes to being hassled about my refuse, I refuse.

John Phillips can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “The Morning Drive with John Phillips and Jillian Barberie” on KABC/AM 790.

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Ukrainian airplane crashes near Iran’s capital, killing 176

By MOHAMMAD NASIRI, NASSER KARIMI and JON GAMBRELL

SHAHEDSHAHR, Iran (AP) — A Ukrainian passenger jet carrying 176 people crashed on Wednesday just minutes after taking off from the Iranian capital’s main airport, turning farmland on the outskirt of Tehran into fields of flaming debris and killing all on board.

The crash of Ukraine International Airlines came hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers, but both Ukrainian and Iranian officials said they suspected a mechanical issue brought down the Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy extended his condolences to the families of the victims. His office said he had cut his visit to Oman short and was returning to Kyiv because of the crash. The country’s Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk confirmed the casualty toll.

“Our task is to establish the cause of the crash of the Boeing and provide all necessary help to the families of the victims,” said parliament speaker, Dmytro Razumkov, in a Facebook statement.

The plane had been delayed from taking off from Imam Khomeini International Airport by almost an hour. It took off to the west, but never made it above 8,000 feet in the air, according to data from the flight-tracking website FlightRadar24. The airline did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It remains unclear what happened. Qassem Biniaz, a spokesman for Iran’s Road and Transportation Ministry, said it appeared a fire struck one of its engines. The pilot of the aircraft then lost control of the plane, sending it crashing into the ground, Biniaz said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

Hassan Razaeifar, the head of air crash investigation committee, said it appeared the pilot couldn’t communicate with air-traffic controllers in Tehran in the last moments of the flight. He did not elaborate.

Ukrainian authorities have offered to help with the investigation of the plane crash. “We’re preparing a group of specialists in order to help with the search operation and the investigation of the cause of the crash,” Honcharuk said.

The plane, fully loaded with fuel for its 2,300-kilometer (1,430-mile) flight, slammed into farmland near the town of Shahedshahr on the outskirts of Tehran. Videos taken immediately after the crash show blazes lighting up the darkened fields before dawn.

Resident Din Mohammad Qassemi said he had been watching the news about the Iranian ballistic missile attack on U.S. forces in Iraq in revenge for the killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani when he heard the crash.

“I heard a massive explosion and all the houses started to shake. There was fire everywhere,” he told The Associated Press. “At first I thought (the Americans) have hit here with missiles and went in the basement as a shelter. After a while, I went out and saw a plane has crashed over there. Body parts were lying around everywhere.”

The plane carried 167 passengers and nine crew members from different nations on its flight to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, Biniaz said. The crash killed all on board, Iranian emergency officials and Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said.

The majority of the passengers were Iranian nationals, Russia’s RIA Novosti agency reported, citing Iranian authorities. Staff at the Boryspil airport in Kyiv, where the plane was headed, told the AP that passengers on this flight are usually Iranian students coming back to Ukraine after winter holidays

AP journalists who reached the crash site saw a wide field of field of debris scattered across farmland, the dead laying among shattered pieces of the aircraft. Their possessions, a child’s cartoon-covered electric toothbrush, a stuffed animal, luggage and electronics, stretched everywhere.

Rescuers in masks shouted over the noise of hovering helicopters as they worked. They quickly realized there would be no survivors.

“The only thing that the pilot managed to do was steer the plane towards a soccer field near here instead of a residential area back there,” witness Aref Geravand said. “It crashed near the field and in a water canal.”

The Boeing 737-800 is a very common single-aisle, twin-engine jetliner used for short to medium-range flights. Thousands of the planes are used by airlines around the world.

Introduced in the late 1990s, it is an older model than the Boeing 737 MAX, which has been grounded for nearly 10 months following two deadly crashes.

A number of 737-800 aircraft have been involved in deadly accidents over the years.

In March 2016, a FlyDubai 737-800 from Dubai crashed while trying to land at Rostov-on-Don airport in Russia, killing 62 onboard. Another 737-800 flight from Dubai, operated by Air India Express, crashed in May 2010 while trying to land in Mangalore, India, killing more than 150 onboard.

Chicago-based Boeing Co. was “aware of the media reports out of Iran and we are gathering more information,” spokesman Michael Friedman told the AP.

Boeing, like other airline manufacturers, typically assists in crash investigations. However, that effort in this case could be affected by the U.S. sanctions campaign in place on Iran since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in May 2018.

Both Airbus and Boeing had been in line to sell billions of dollars of aircraft to Iran over the deal, which saw Tehran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. But Trump’s decision halted the sales.

Under decades of international sanctions, Iran’s commercial passenger aircraft fleet has aged, with air accidents occurring regularly for domestic carriers in recent years, resulting in hundreds of casualties.

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Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writers Adam Schreck in Bangkok; Mehdi Fattahi in Tehran; Daria Litvinova in Moscow, and Inna Varenytsia and Dmytro Vlasov in Kyiv, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

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