Thursday, January 28, 2010

Robin Hood is Alive and Well

I live is a very nice area of Costa Mesa called Mesa Verde. If my neighbors and I got together and decided that one of the folks living in our community was much better off financially than are we, so much better off that it just wasn't "fair," and we decided to pull a gun on him and relieve him of some of his wealth, which we then redistributed to those of us who participated, that would be called Grand Theft. We could be hunted down, arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated. Flash forward to Oregon...

Yesterday the good people of Oregon decided via a special election to raise income taxes on the "richest" Oregonians to 11%, the very highest marginal rate in the nation. Even higher than tax-happy California, New York and New Jersey. Those "rich" Oregonians make $125,000 per year or more and their neighbors think that's more than they need. They think those wealthy people can "afford" to pay more so that the rest can live more comfortably. And because they can afford it, according to the majority, they should be forced to cough it up for the good of the proletariat. This is Grand Theft without the messiness of all that arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating thing.

I heard a radio interview yesterday with the president of the largest employer in Oregon. He stated that his company would be relocating post-haste from the land of Robin Hood to some other business-friendlier state. Not surprising news, if you are blessed with common sense. Something that's in woefully short supply these days.

When the populace decides that they can vote themselves stuff at the expense of the minority, you have the beginning of the end of democracy. And it can only end badly. Businesses will flee, jobs will be lost, tax revenues will decrease, unemployment will skyrocket, property valuation will tank and property taxes will bottom out, the same trends we're seeing here in California. Apparently the citizens of Oregon couldn't bring themselves to look across their border and learn from the mistakes made in Sacramento. They're now destined to repeat them.

Stealing from the rich doesn't benefit the poor. After all, when was the last time a poor person hired anyone?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Good Veeno!

Do you like wine? I don't mean the stuff that comes in a box or what you get for two bucks at Trader Joe's. I mean the really good stuff. The stuff you buy for that really special occasion or that somebody gives you when they come a'callin. Most folks tend to think really good wine has to come from Napa or Sonoma, or maybe France, and has to cost a lot of money. NOT TRUE! Some of the finest wines in the world are available to you just a short drive away. The Santa Ynez Valley is located just north of Santa Barbara. There are nearly 100 wineries located in the Santa Ynez-Los Olivos-Solvang-Buellton-Lompoc-Santa Maria area. Most of them feature tasting rooms and offer samples of their best efforts for only a few dollars total.

Some wonderful Rhone varietals are produced there, including Granache, Syrah, Rousanne, Marsanne and Viognier. Some great Pinot Noir is handcrafted in the Santa Rita Hills (that small area between Hwy. 101 and Lompoc). Also great Chardonnays there too. Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot are produced further east in the SYV where the summer temps can reach 110 degrees or even higher. This area makes a great 3-day, 2-night trip. You can relive the movie "Sideways" and pick up some great wines in the bargain.

Just to the southeast of O.C. is the Temecula Valley. It gets short shrift from the cognoscenti, but deserves a better shake. They've been making some really good wines there for more than 30 years. There are 36 wineries in Temecula as of this writing with another 30 or so on the drawing board. Of that number there are at least 10 that can rival anything produced in California. Really good Zinfandels, Cabs, Merlots, Syrahs, Viogniers, Chards and Sauvignon Blancs are produced in Temecula by some very good growers and winemakers. It's just an hour portal-to-portal, so you can be tasting in no time. A good day trip would be a winery, some lunch in any of several great restaurants, another 2 or 3 wineries in the afternoon, and then some gaming at any of four area casinos. Great accommodations, too! Over the coming weeks and months I'll be adding some helpful hints on where to go and what to do in both area of the Golden State's wine growing regions. My wife and I take frequent trips to both areas and have some insights to share which can make your visits more productive and enjoyable. Happy to share.

By the way, a "veeno" is just like a "wino." Except the wines cost more...

Health Insurance Profits

Remember early last year when the whole Health Care Reform thing got started? Then the town hall meetings and Tea Parties with the angry old folks erupted. It turned out that dog just wouldn't hunt. So the nice people who run things in D.C. decided it was time to retool the message. Voila! "Health Insurance Reform" was born. That worked a lot better. You know, demonize those Armani-clad, grossly-overpaid fat cat healthcare executive pirates sitting atop their lofty perches in those green glass skyscrapers for the unconscionable profits their industry was reaping at the expense of the elderly, the poor and the infirm.

Interestingly, the reliably progressive Associated Press chose to post a fact check note on October 24th on just how profitable these companies really are. According to the AP, the healthcare industry ranks number 35 out of 53 in the Fortune 500 for profitability. The average profit they earned in '08 was 2.2%. That compares, as example, with Big Railroad, which earned a 12.6% profit. HealthSpring was the best performer in healthcare insurance with 5.4%. You should know that the makers of Clorox Bleach and Coors beer did better than that. UnitedHealth Group, one of the most profitable in health insurance at 5%, was able to trounce Jack in the Box restaurants which made only 4%. Clearly the health insurance industry is way too profitable to be permitted to retain those egregious earnings.

I urge you to contact your Congresspersons and demand that they immediately adopt the Public Option/Socialized Medicine/Universal Healthcare or whatever they may choose to call it next and put an end to the infernal pillaging and plundering by far-too-profitable Big Health Insurance before it's too late! Once that's over we can go after Big Burgers, Big Bleach and Big Beer.

By the way, don't you find it interesting that the AP's review wasn't considered important enough to be given reportage by the dinosaur media?

O. C. Unfair

I was there. I attended (or, rather tried to attend) the auction on January 14th at the Orange County Fairgrounds. I arrived about 9:40 a.m.. for a scheduled 10:00 a.m. event, which wasn't early enough to secure one of the coveted 40 spaces allocated by the State to gain entrance to the Administration Building. Why, when you have 150 acres to play with, the Grand Thinkers of Sacramento chose to tuck the proceedings into a tiny space, is anybody's guess. Mine would be that they were attempting to minimize disruption from protesters who disagreed with this whole smelly auction process. And the crowd gathered outside vehemently disagreed with the process.

We were told we could dawdle outside and hear the proceedings on loudspeakers. Or we could trundle a couple of blocks away and watch it on CCTV in another building. 50 or so of us took them up on that option. Imagine our surprise upon arriving when we learned we could watch the auction unfold, but we couldn't hear it. No audio. So, we could either see it but not hear it, or hear it but not see it. How emblematic of the performance we've come to expect from Sacramento.

By the time many of us walked back to the Admin. Building the auction was over. Just like that, the hammer fell at a bid of about half the State's low dollar expectation. The Fair Board spent $30 Million over the past year or so in improvements at the Fairgrounds, and it "sold" for about twice that. Now the otherwise unemployables in Sacto must decide whether to accept this minuscule amount. If they do, they'll realize a gain of about one day's interest on our bond debt. Or they can reject it, bringing to an ugly end this ill-advised and ill-fated effort. In either case this saga will add a bold and enduring asterisk on the Guvernator's soiled legacy.

Arnold dropped a car on the Fairgrounds when he was running to unseat Davis. Something about "blowing up the boxes." On the 14th he dropped the full weight of the State on the Fairgrounds. Something about Fascism. Memo to the City Council: Proceed at flank speed with the initiative process to lock in current usage of our Fairgrounds. Let me know where to donate toward this effort. My check will be the first one received...

Do you the difference between the Boy Scouts of America and the California Legislature? The Boy Scouts have adult leaders.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Charnak the Magnificent's New Years 2010 Predictions

Each December 31st my alter ego, Charnak the Magnificent, bursts forth with predictions for the upcoming year. He has proven remarkably accurate in previous predictions, no doubt due to a hefty dose of common sense and a gullet load of fine Cabernet Sauvignon. Why an alter ego? He can get away with things I'd never be able to say in polite company. And, by the way, our friends at the Daily Pilot were kind enough to publish 15 of the 19 predictions offered up by Charnak, however many of the punch lines were snipped off like so much unwanted bris. And, by the way also, number 5. below has already more or less come true. This, therefore, will by my first real posting for the New Year, and will offer up the totality of Charnak's predictions for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

1. Having started every speech, email, Op-Ed piece and Facebook and Twitter posting with the phrase, "My Friends," John McCain, upon discovering that he has no friends, will make the solemn New Years' resolution to never use that salutation again.

2. I predict the new health care reform legislation finally passes both houses of congress in late February. Thank God! But wait a minute! The taxes and fees and fines will kick in or January 1st, but no one will get any new health insurance until 2014, or maybe 2015. Can you say Ponzi scheme? Didn't Bernie Madoff go to jail for something like this?

3. In his feverish quest to create jobs, not knowing that the only jobs government creates are government jobs, the President will force the passage of legislation requiring all restaurants to hire unionized government Calorie Marshals. These folks will compare the Body Mass Index of every restaurant patron with the calories of the meal to be ordered before allowing the transaction to proceed. predictably, over 500,000 restaurants will close within the first month.

4. Republicans, having been frozen out of all debate, discussions and influence by both house of the Democrat-controlled Congress, will decide to go home and get a real job for a change.

5. I foresee that Sarah Palin will be given her own cooking show by the Food Network. It will be entitled, "Moose: It's What's for Dinner."

6. Fox News will hire a female anchor who is neither gorgeous nor an attorney. I predict their viewership will drop by 20%. Those same 20% will give MSNBC a try, and all will immediately fall ill with what will be called "a stomach virus."

7. The crime rate in Chicago, which, as a direct result of having banned handguns, has been worsening annually for the last 40 years, will improve markedly during the New Year. That's because most of the really big Chicago crooks have relocated to Washington, D.C. to work in the new administration.

8. Cindy Sheehan will continue picketing outside G.W. Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch. No one will notice and no one will care.

9. Stung by criticism from the millions of critics of mandated health insurance and the ever-growing federal debt, who gathered to protest throughout the summer and fall of 2009, I predict the Obama Administration, over the objections of Tetley and Lipton, will outlaw tea. No tea, the thinking will go, no parties. Makes sense to me.

10. The latest seasonal blizzard on record will hit Colorado in July. I'm seeing drifts of 10 feet deep with all major highways and airports closed for several days. Al Gore will fly in on his thirsty Gulfstream 2 and offer this climatic event up as absolute proof that global warming exists and that we're all going to die a fiery death if we don't start riding our bikes to work. Environmentalists will burn a Chevy Tahoe in celebration, which will significantly pollute the atmosphere.

11. I predict that the partnership of Orange County and Costa Mesa will submit a competitive bid to buy the O.C. Fairgrounds. Unfortunately, before the bid can be opened Sacramento will have closed.

12. I predict a Force 5 hurricane will strike the Southeastern Seaboard in August. Congress will convene a committee to assess blame. They will determine it was George W. Bush's fault.

13. Owing to the 12,000,000 miles flown since Mr. Obama took office, and as a result of the alarm sounded by the enviro-centric eco-weenies, worried that he will single-handedly kill the Earth, I predict the U.S. Congress will pass legislation proclaiming that Air Force One emits no greenhouse gases at all, thus ending the controversy.

14. The ACLU will sue the Federal Government, contending that those who use the term "illegal alien" are guilty of hate speech. The President will agree and will issue an executive order banning this term. The new and approved description for this segment of our society, according to the President, will be "Undocumented Democrats."

15. Joe Biden will give a speech late in the New Year during which, for the very first time ever, he makes no gaffes or mistakes, and utters no malapropisms or non-sequiturs. The reporters who are present, having fallen asleep, will fail to notice.

16. Congress will stop messing around and finally increase taxes on the evil "rich" to 100% of their income. The rich will pack up their goodies and move to Panama, Costa Rica and the Cayman Islands. All remaining Americans will have then finally achieved total equality. They will all be equally poor.

17. Upset that the American people and choosing not to buy hybrid and electric cars manufactured by government- and union-owned GM and Chrysler, preferring rather to continue buying pickups and SUVs from Ford, the only company that didn't belly up to the bailout bar, Congress will simply outlaw pickups and SUVs, thus solving the problem forever.

18. Harry Ried, Majority Leader of the Senate, will lose his campaign for reelection. The final vote will be 2,874,328 to 1 (his wife will vote against him!). I predict he will be offered a job as a greeter at the new Wal-Mart in Searchlight, NV. There will be so many complaints about his dour, gruff and condescending demeanor he'll be unceremoniously fired within a week.

19. The last person will leave Detroit this year, and he actually will turn off all the lights.

Let's keep score and see how many actually come true! And remember, Charnak gets all the credit.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Beginning of the Beginning

What do you do when you have more to say then there's places to say it? As many others have found, including my good friend Geoff West, the only option is to start a blog. And so, one of my primary New Years' Resolutions is well on its way to being kept (the other was gaining ten pounds). Announcing "Chuckmeister Unleashed!"

I was given the name "Chuckmeister" by a German friend because I was pretty handy with a pool cue before my aching back began to get in the way. In fact, I played professionally for more than a decade before a wife, kids and a business took center stage in my life. And "unleashed" is what I intend to be when my offerings are no longer filtered through the politically-correct prism of newspaper editors.

I am not burdened by political-correctness, which I believe to be the single biggest threat America faces. Number Two is hypocracy, which is in abundant supply in Saramento and Washington, D.C. these days. And I intend to skewer those elected leaders who choose to squander our trust. No quarter will be given. This will serve both as an opportunity for me to vent and for the reader to gain insight into what may prove to be another - and potentially valuable - perspective on a subject or issue. I'll not take your readership for granted. I'll endeavor to write clearly and concisely to make my point, promising ever to do so with a little country humor thrown in for good measure. It's a brand new year. Let's experience 2010 together...