It’s Draining Cats and Dogs: Senate Bill 250

The state of California is in for a very interesting succession of years. And that is putting it mildly! In the words of it’s governor: “California’s day of reckoning is here … Our wallet is empty. Our bank is closed. Our credit is dried up.” Next year, the state will have a 24 billion dollar budget hole and efforts to anticipate it so far have failed. Among programs that are now up for the chop are education, health care, and social welfare. Also, as was mentioned earlier, state politicians have indicated that they will not shy from taking more from resident “sinners,” and – an increased tax on cigarettes and alcohol being all but confirmed -  we may, if we maintain close attention, be able to catch the definition of “sin tax” expand as the state coffers empty. While this news may provoke smokers and drinkers to frantically reach for their respective product, there is one group of Californians that welcome the states expanding grab for cash. The marijuana lobby (which, unfortunately, is not yet a spot where we can go to chill out) is enjoying a burst of positive press, and support from state and federal politicians. But this is old news. The economic crunch becomes interesting when it manifest itself in unexpected areas. Here is one: the budget deficit has measurably changed the state’s attitude towards pets; and, as it turns out, Fido’s dollar value is not that high. Continue reading

Up the Down Staircase?

“Man on Wire” is the title of a 2008 movie documenting Philippe Petit’s 1974 high wire walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center, a quarter of a mile above the streets of Manhattan.  The movie enchanted me.  More importantly however, the film maker’s camera revealed a truly vital life lesson. During the entire forty-five minute stunt, I never once saw Philippe look down.

This really resonated with me because when I first learned to ride a motorcycle, my instructor insisted that when going into a curve, “Fix your eyes on the end of the turn.”  Focus your eyes on where you want to go because where you look is where you will end up.

Well, I seldom ride motorcycles and I never walk a tight rope but many times each day I do have the opportunity of focusing my vision on the destination I wish to reach. I am sure you do too. Continue reading

MOVIE REVIEW: AWAY WE GO–Good

If you get a sense of deja vu on seeing the one sheet poster for this film, it’s with good reason.   After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and given the tough competition in theatres this summer, a shining jewel like AWAY WE GO needs all the help it can get to grab your attention, and movie posters are a good place to start.  But once that poster grabs your eye, make sure you don’t miss AWAY WE GO – a charming, emotionally engaging, humorous and heartfelt look at what happens when it comes time for adults to finally “grow up” (particularly given that they are expectant parents), come face to face with who they are and where they are going, accept responsibility and figure out that home really is where you heart is. (And if that brief description reminds you of a film that dealt with a teenager named Juno facing some similar issues,  you would be right.)

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TILLER THE BABY KILLER GUNNED DOWN IN CHURCH!

Dr. George Tiller was attending church in Wichita Kansas when a lone gunman walked in and shot him once, a single bullet, bringing a violent and sudden death to one of the great mass murderers of our time. Warning: if you are a person that believes in the right to choose, or more simply put, that abortion is the innocuous evacuation of random uterine tissue—this post might not be for you. I’ll say this as plainly as I can. I am not a religious man. But I believe that life begins at conception and that abortion is the taking of an innocent life—the worst type of premeditated murder.

All of the world’s major religions agree that abortion is the taking of life and should not be practiced, except in the case of saving the mother’s life, and abortion was not practiced without major restriction in the United States until Jan 1973. At this point it would be urbane to launch into a major dissertation on Roe v. Wade, but I’ll spare my dear readers the girth of judicial malpractice arguments made by much wiser men than I—including Justice Rehnquist.

Suffice it to say that most of the great legal minds of today believe that Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that made abortion legal in all states, was a bad and severely flawed decision. If there are those among you who wish to comment on how the Ninth Amendment right to privacy translates to the right to commit murder in a case in which a plaintiff in her third trimester sued for rights she believed women in general are due in their first trimester—please do. I’ll be happy to respond.

So, the reality of legalized murder is what our country has had to exist with for the past 36-years. Again, it would be urbane to discuss the decline of our society from 1973 to date, but the facts of this are self-evident beyond any need for description. Not to say that there were no social ills prior to this benchmark, but they were not of the insidious nature of the ills of today. However, I digress. The discussion I would like to have, if only with myself, is how I feel about the murder of the murderer Dr. George Tiller.

George Tiller killed 60,000 babies during the course of his abortion spree and made a million dollars a year doing it. He was one of three doctors in America that would kill a baby in the third trimester. I’ve heard him in his own words say that he had the right to do this. “I have a right to make a living,” were his exact words. He went on to say what he was doing was legal. Right.

I believe in the rule of law. I believe that it is through legal means that unjust laws should be changed. In the past I chose to break laws I considered unjust—I don’t do this anymore. And yet because an unjust law has cost the lives of so many millions of our fellow Americans I can’t help, but to feel some relief that a man who has profited so much from legally sanctioned murder is dead. Continue reading

In Praise of Sport Notes on Great Feats of the Recent Past-Part 1

An unknown Kenyan.  How many times have we heard that before?  Yet again, a young man from that most prodigious nation of long distance runners came from out of nowhere, (in the sense that he was an an-almost-unheard-of runner in his second 26.2-mile race ever), to set a course record in the 2009 LA Marathon.  Wesley Korir, 26, ran the race of his life, finishing in two hours, eight minutes and 26 seconds, 14 seconds faster than the previous best time set in 2006

On the spot he was awarded $160,000 and a 2009 Honda Accord EX-L.  The largest part of his cash prize was the $100,000 Banco Popular Challenge award to the first finisher of either gender.  The elite women are given a head start that is determined by the difference between the women’s course record and the men’s course record.  This year, it was 16 minutes, 57 seconds.  In the four years of this practice the sexes are tied at two each.

Mr Korir didn’t think he had a shot to win, let alone break the course record. Continue reading

MOVIE REVIEW: CAPTAIN–Good

There are two things that jump out at you during the 13:22 minutes of CAPTAIN, a leading contender in the Short Film Competition at this year’s Dances with Films Film Festival.  First, is the exquisite cinematography of Emily Topper and second, although only on screen a scant few seconds, the oh-toooo-cute and adorable CAPTAIN.  Both are images and qualities that stay with you after the film’s end.

A frustrated writer, to make ends meet, Steve has been relegated to the job of a dog-walker.  Staring at a blank computer screen for endless hours, he gives new meaning to the term “writer’s block.”  Mentally tormenting himself over the fact that he is 36 years old and written nothing while F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “The Great Gatsby” at age 29, you get the idea as to the extent of self-flagellation going on.  Making matters worse, a few months earlier he was kicked out of a writing class because, as his instructor Carl put it, he wasn’t living up to his potential Continue reading

Obama Must Either Try or Release Guantanamo Detainees

Foreword by Stan Lerner: Ben is a brilliant, rising star in the downtownster universe, whom in the case of Guantanamo detainees I disagree with vehemently—always the test of an editor. But it is the mission of downtownster to bring its’ readers the best of free speech—and as usual Ben makes a compelling case.

By his own admission, one of the toughest issues President Obama will decide as commander and chief will be how to handle the closing of Guantanamo Bay and what to do with the 245 detainees it contains. The facility, which is located on the 45 square-mile area of U.S. leased land in Cuba, was created by the Bush Administration in 2002 to imprison “enemy combatants” captured during the War on Terrorism. Beginning in 2004, the legal status and privileges of inmates housed in Guantanamo has been in flux, and it continues to be the subject of debate in U.S. courtrooms, legal journals, and cocktail parties to this day. Moreover, the practices of the interrogation officers have drawn not just legal challenge but also widespread condemnation from the media, politicians, scholars, and large swaths of the public. Even in closing, which Obama has ordered to happen on January 22, 2010, Guantanamo Bay is fraught with controversy.

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Berger Continues to Amaze

May was a good month to taste wine at Ralphs downtown and here are some of the highlights:

Cellar Night.  When you see these two words on the wine tasting calendar at Ralphs you probably expect some high-end Gallo wines and maybe a well-chilled Reunite.  I mean it’s Ralphs Market, right?  If you think that, you haven’t met Mike Berger, the impresario of downtown wine tasting.  For him Cellar Night means a trip to the locked, built-in wine cellar which keeps in optimal condition the most valuable bottles in the vast inventory under his purview.  There he will select a breadth of flavors to astound even the palates of regulars who have come to expect surpassing experiences at his tastings.  He will also take into account the preferences of his expected clientele and design delights specifically for each cherished guest. And, as he showed on May 23rd, he’s willing to make adjustments on the fly. Continue reading

Hello Wine Lovers!

Hello wine lovers it has been  a few days since I have written. I was invited to the Los Angeles International Wine Competition.  The event was held at the Los Angeles County Fair grounds in one of the exhibition halls. The 50 plus judges were set into 5 and 6 person panels Judging started at 8:30 Wednesday morning. Wines were served according to panel order. This first panel consisted of 40 cabernets in the range of 1.00 dollar to 14.99 per bottle. Continue reading