Monthly Archives: May 2018


The California so-called “Open Primary” Election is here for a visit next Tuesday.  Fortunately, this time we have only five ballot measures to deal with so it’s not as bad as usual.

Before we get to the propositions and what to do with each of them, let’s talk about our ill-conceived primary system.

Six years ago the voters of California bought a “pig-in-a-poke,” promoted by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, called the top-two primary system.

The seismic shock changing the rules for legislative and congressional primaries promised to tone down the extreme candidates from either spectrum and produce more moderation in our elected officials.

In the 2016 primary races for 80 assembly seats, we got 20 (25%) where two Democrats were on the November ballot, in addition to six races where two Republicans faced off.

Voters of all persuasions choose from a single list of candidates, no matter the party.  The two who receive the most votes, even if from the same party, move on to the general election.

I’m not sure that’s what we hoped to accomplish with what some call the “Jungle Primary.”  What we did accomplish was we now appear to attract many more candidates to get into the fray, and maybe that’s a good thing.

In a state where one party overwhelms the registration numbers, this system will never work.  It was a system conceived in theory with too many practical pitfalls to achieve its goals.

It has helped diminish the strengths and role of the political parties, which I think is counter-productive to a functioning democratic system.

It has attracted a much longer list of candidates that may seem like a good idea, but practically with all the costs and all the candidates, it’s hard to find a candidate you want to support.

The bottom line is this top-two primary system has not led to more moderate candidates or increased voter turnout.

This year, the top two vote getters for governor who will face off in the general election may well likely be both democrats.

Now let’s go on to the propositions.

Keep in mind my predisposition in all ballot measures is to vote no, unless I see a definite need.

Prop 68:  Authorizes $4.0 billion in bonds for parks, resource protection, climate adaptation, water quality and supply, and flood protection.  Vote:  YES.

Prop 69:  Requires new transportation revenues be used for transportation purposes—legislative constitutional amendment.  Vote:  YES.

Prop 70:  Requires super majority legislative vote to approve use of cap-and-trade reserve fund—legislative constitutional amendment.  Vote:  YES.

Prop 71:  Sets effective implementation date for ballot measures—legislative constitutional amendment.  Vote:  YES.

Prop 72:  Permits legislature to exclude newly-constructed rain-capture systems from property tax re-assessment.  Vote:  YES.

That wasn’t too bad.  Wait until November when we see more propositions and perhaps the most hair-brained scheme of all time.  It’s called Cal 3 and proposes to carve California with the fifth largest economy in the world into three separate states; California, Northern California and Southern California.

Suffice it to say, it will be a huge waste of time and money.  We’ll talk and explain more about it in the fall.

So, be sure to vote next Tuesday.

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A good part of traveling is “shopping.”  To see different products, fashions, art and accessories in various parts of the world is definitely part of the adventure.

You can find some shopping excitement in small towns and out-of-the-way-places everywhere.  This week we outline the biggest and best shopping areas.

BAHNHOFSTRASSE, Zurich, Switzerland

The Banhhofstrasse, Zurich’s resplendent, tree-lined exclusive shopping avenue, stretches almost a mile.  You’ll find some of Switzerland’s top shopping along its length, from leading clothing designers to high-end options for shoes, furs, accessories, china, and jewelry.  And, of course, Swiss watches.

RODEO DRIVE, Beverly Hills, California

Rodeo Drive manages to pack in enough audacious glitz to qualify as one of the world’s most glamorous and expensive shopping stretches.  Just off Rodeo Drive lies Two Rodeo, a strip of boutiques modeled after European boutiques, with cobblestones, fountains, and bistros.  Perhaps its least known amenity is the free two-hour valet parking.

LAUGAVEGUR, Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik’s main shopping street hosts numerous clothing boutiques and an assortment of shops offering accessories, leather goods, cosmetics, lingerie, books, music, and the finest handmade knitwear and woolen goods.  If you buy an outfit from one of the local fashion houses, rest assured it will be original.

THE GINZA, Tokyo, Japan

The Ginza, comprising eight blocks, is Tokyo’s most exclusive shopping area.  It boasts some of the most expensive real estate on Earth.  Luxury and exclusive retailers stand side by side with Tokyo’s landmark department stores, Mitsukoshi,  Wako, and the 14-story Marion.  The latter actually houses seven movie theaters and two department stores.  Many store windows feature elaborate displays that showcase typical Japanese culture.  At night colorful neon and fluorescent lights flood the Ginza with light, bringing the otherwise gray city to life.

FIFTH AVENUE, New York City, New York

Large landmark department stores (Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Macy’s) and small high-end designer name boutiques (Ferragamo, Harry Winston, Versace, Emanuel Ungaro, Gucci, Henri Bendel, Tiffany, Christian Dior) make New York’s Fifth Avenue a shopper’s paradise.

In December, the stores mount elaborate displays—doormen dressed as toy soldiers at FAO Schwartz, 26-foot sparking snowflake floating over the street outside Tiffany, winter wonderland scenes in Macy’s windows—that attract holiday shoppers and sightseers.  Strolling the crowded sidewalks of Fifth Avenue at this time of year is a special treat.

MAGNIFICENT MILE, Chicago, Illinois

Just a few blocks off Lake Michigan, North Michigan Avenue is home to such shopping greats as Gucci, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, Brooks Brothers, and Hermes, as well as Bigsby and Kruthers, both renowned local retailers.  Be aware that the Magnificent Mile can be overwhelming on weekends.


Avenue Montaigne, in the “golden triangle” between the Champs-Elysees and the Seine River, is the fanciest avenue in Paris.  The fashionable and the well-moneyed shop in the myriad luxury boutiques—Bulgari and Louis Vuitton among them—and haute-couture houses—Emmanuel Ungaro, Guy Laroche, Christian Dior, Nina Ricci, and Chanel—that lie within the avenue’s elegant buildings.


World-famous fashion houses, jewelers, and art galleries line the sweeping Avinguda Diagonal.l which forms part of Barcelona’s five-kilometer (three-mile) shopping line.  Some of the finer shops are found on Passeig de Gracia, Augusta, Carrer de Tuset, and the exclusive Avinguda Pau Casals—small, elegant streets just off Avinguda Diagonal.  You will stroll through a mix of Gothic and modern architecture.  The avenue has fun and fine cafes to stop in for tapas.


Milan is a fashion paradise and the center of style, with matching high price tags.  In the Duomo area, Via Monte Napoleone, Via della Spiga, and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele house elegant boutiques and posh cafes inside romantic landmark Victorian buildings.

In addition to the internationally known fine fashion names, the area has inside favorites, such as La Rinascente, Milan’s most famous department store; Peck, a renowned food store; and Provera, a favorite for its vintage wine selection.  In the streets, there’s always a parade of well-heeled Italians casually modeling the latest fashions.

BOND STREET, London, England

Bond Street is home to the most elegant and expensive shops in London.  You will find designer clothing, perfume, art and antiques, jewelers, and more Royal Warrant holders (supplies to the royal family) here than anywhere else in London.  Old Bond Street, the short section at the southern end of Bond Street that joins Piccadilly, has been distinguished by the poshest shops since the 1850s.  Asprey and Agnew, Sotheby’s, and Phillips, to name but a few, all appear against a backdrop of elegant houses turned shops that once were home to a host of distinguished politicians, artists, and writers.

Our home in Marina del Rey is full of art and artifacts and memories collected in small villages, on ferries, in duty alleys, in town squares and even major department stores.  Our many travels come back to us as we walk around our house.  It was fun to acquire these momentos and just as much to reconnect with them regularly.

Keep looking everywhere you go, you’ll be surprised and delighted at what you’ll find.

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What a month!  The news and events of this last month have been as volatile as the stock market.  Trump, Comey, Mueller, Stormy, Rosenstein; it’s been a war of words and innuendos, as well as a torrent of unethical (maybe illegal) leaks and claims.  Along with it has come an ongoing turnstile of White House and administration nominees and officials.

It’s amazing with all the turmoil how much has been accomplished.  More on this later.

Views on the Holocaust

The conference on Jewish National Claims Against Germany released the results of a survey of 1,350 American adults with some disturbing facts.

  • 2/3 of Americans did not know what Auschwitz was.
  • 11% of Americans and 20% of millennials were not sure they had heard of the Holocaust.
  • 30% of Americans and 40% of millennials believe no more than three million Jews died in the Holocaust. Experts believe the number is six million.

Best Airline

Qatar Airways nabs title of world’s number one airline.  Qatar Airways was tabbed as the world’s best airline in 2017, according to the annual World Airline Awards published by Skytrax.  Gulf rivals Emirates, which finished first last year in the rankings, dropped to No. 4 this year, behind No. 2 Singapore Airlines and No. 3 All Nippon Airways.  Cathay Pacific rounded out the top five of the rankings.

U.S. to Exit Iran/Nuke Deal

Keeping another campaign promise, President Trump, as well as Israel, Saudi Arabia, and a number of other observers, felt we gave away too much in the 2015 deal.  The only thing they did was put their nuclear arms program on hold—nothing more.  They have continued to enrich uranium and develop their ballistic missile program to carry nuclear warheads.

We removed all the crushing economic sanctions and gave them $11.9 billion over a two-year period, which they have spent spreading more terrorism throughout the Middle East.

Since the deal, the mullah’s in Iran have increased their military budget 40% while their economy and their people continue to suffer.

Comments on the Economy

According to Gregory Daco, Chief U.S. Economist at Oxford Economics, the U.S. economy is doing pretty well.

Despite an uncertain outlook for the future, the U.S. economy activity remains solid.  Consumer confidence remains strong.  Employment continues to grow strongly.  Wage growth is gradually picking up.  There’s a stronger growth in exports and business.  The travel industry has been outpacing the economy and the trend appears positive.

Based on hard data readings, the U.S. economy is growing at a 2%.  Although the growth percentage is not as high as expected, Daco provides some encouragement.  He will “take 2% any day if it’s sustainable.”

Changes at the “Scouts”

After about 108 years the Boy Scouts of America, more familiarly known as the Boy Scouts, has made a significant change.  In February, girls can join the Scouts, now to be known as Scouts BSA.

Much to my surprise, the membership of the Girl Scouts is three times the size of the Boy Scouts.

I am puzzled by the name change and even somewhat incredulous that girls can or want to join the Scouts—in their own units.

So why did they bother with these changes?  I think to avoid the harassing of the politically-correct police led by the ACLU.

BlackRock Wants CEOs to Show They do Good

Larry Fink of BlackRock is sending a letter to CEOs of public companies saying that they must show how they contribute to society, or risk losing the money-management firm’s support.

The leverage:  BlackRock has $6 trillion under management, making it the biggest investor in public companies in the world.

Mr. Fink’s letter pits the investment mogul against many of the companies that he’s invested in, which hold the view that their only duty is to produce profits for their shareholders, a position long held by Nobel Prize economist Milton Freidman.

IG Report Delayed Again

Michael Horwitz, the Justice Department’s Inspector General, has once again delayed issuing his report on the conduct of the FBI and its top executives.  Maybe’ he’s waiting for a new suit.  This is long overdue.

A snippet of the report was leaked in April excoriating Andrew McCabe, one of Comey’s key deputies, for his unethical work in the Clinton email probe and violations of FBI policy.

It seems almost certain when the final report is released Comey will get similar treatment.  Releasing the report a little earlier could have cost Comey some book sales, but saved the rest of us a lot of noise and commotion.

In Spite of All the Battering

With all the Trump haters and a hostile antagonistic media trying everything they can to derail the Trump presidency and his administration—like nothing we have ever seen, in at least my lifetime—has still managed to accomplish a fair amount of positive governing.

Since the election of Mr. Trump in November of 2016:

  • The economy has grown almost 3%
  • The 2017 tax plan appears to be generating positive results in raising wages and creating economic expansion
  • The 3.9% unemployment rate is at its lowest point in almost 20 years
  • Hispanic and black unemployment are at the lowest point in history
  • Our military has put ISIS on its last legs
  • The stock market is up over 20%, although quite volatile
  • Positive steps are unfolding on the Korean peninsula. Three Americans just released and a summit planned in Singapore on June 12th.

Pretty good for someone the haters claim is unfit to govern.

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Please acknowledge your mothers this Sunday.  She brought you into life, nurtured you into adulthood, and has been something of an inspiration ever since.

The origin of Mother’s Day, as celebrated in the U.S., dates back to the 19th century.  In the years before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start Mother’s Day Work Clubs to teach local women how to properly care for their children.

At the end of the conflict, the clubs became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided over the Civil War.  In 1868, Jarvis organized Mother’s Friendship Day, at which mothers gathered with former union and confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.

Another precursor to Mother’s Day came from the abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe.  Howe, who wrote the stirring theme of the Civil War “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” later became a fervent anti-war activist.  In this regard, in 1870 she published an anti-war Mother’s Day proclamation which we have excerpted here:

“Arise then, women of this day!  Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be of water or tears!

“Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.

“Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience.

“We women of one country will be too tender of those of another to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

“From the bosom of the devastated earth, a voice goes up with our own.  It says, ‘Disarm, disarm.’

“As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

“Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.  Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar but of God.

“In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions and the great and general interests of peace.”

Other early Mother’s Day pioneers include Juliet Blakely, a temperance activist who inspired a local Mother’s Day in Albion, Michigan in the 1870s.

The official Mother’s Day arose in the 1900s as a result of efforts of Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Jarvis.  Following her mother’s 1905 death, Anna Jarvis conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.

After getting financial backing from John Wanamaker, the Philadelphia Dept. store owner in May 1908, she organized the first official.

In 1912 many states, towns and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday.  Jarvis’ persistence paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

There is some evidence that the Greeks and Romans celebrated their mothers long before the U.S. made it official.  Today, like most holiday commemorations, Mother’s Day has become a bit over commercialized.

More phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year.  These chats with mom often cause phone traffic to spike by as much as 37%.

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Last week we outlined the first part of a practical guide to reducing your individual carbon footprint.  We asked you to consider the impact of your travel—car, bus and flying.  We also talked about what you eat, especially the big contribution of emissions from red meat, as well as what is best to eat.

We finish up the guide by N.Y. Times writer Livia Albeck-Ripka by summarizing the contribution of what you eat and continue on with the impact of waste, what you can do in your home, the positive merits of recycling, and how to dress sustainably.

Weighing Your Options

In the case of food, most greenhouse gases happen during production, rather than transportation.  What you eat is more important than where it comes from.  Eating local is not necessarily the answer.

Waste Less

On average, Americans waste around 40% of the food they buy.  Here are some simple steps to cut waste and save you money:

  • Taking stock—organize your fridge regularly to see what you have and make shopping lists before you go to the store.
  • Be wary of bulk—low priced foods aren’t a good idea if you don’t end up eating it before it goes bad.
  • Plan—don’t cook more than you can eat and adapt recipes to your needs and the number of people at the table.
  • Get creative—reuse leftovers instead of throwing them away.
  • Doggie bag—take home half of over-sized restaurant servings.
  • Skip disposable dishes—washing dinnerwear by hand or in a dishwasher is more environmentally friendly.
  • If you order take out, wash and rinse the plastic containers that food often comes in.

In Your Home—Save Energy and Money

The average American home uses 25% of its energy to heat spaces, 13% to heat water, 11% for cooking, and the rest on appliances according to the National Resources Defense Council.  Making even small changes in any of these areas can make a big difference:

  • Turn down the heat—use a smart thermostat and/or keep blinds closed to keep temperatures stable inside.
  • Lower the water heater—120 degrees Fahrenheit is sufficient.
  • Turn off lights and appliances when not in use. Turning off appliances at the power outlet will save even more energy.
  • Stream movies through your smart TV, not your game console and you’ll save 90% of the energy.
  • Use a laptop rather than a desktop computer. It uses less energy to run and charge.
  • Replace lights—LED lights use 85% less energy and lasts up to 25x longer than incandescent lights.
  • Set your fridge and freezer according to the U.S. Energy Dept.
  • 30 to 38 degrees for the fridge and 0 degrees for the freezer, according to the U.S. Energy Dept.
  • Look for an Energy Star symbol when buying new products—it means this product has met energy efficiency standards for the U.S.

How to Recycle

Americans generate roughly about 258 million tons of trash each year.  159 million tons, about 60%, ends up in landfills and incinerators, according to a 2014 report from the EPA.  Americans recycled and composted the 69 million tons of municipal solid waste that some year which served the same amount of energy as generated by 25 million homes.

Here are some tips to make sure your waste ends up in the right place:

  • Look for a number inside a triangle on the bottom of plastic containers. Those indicate what kind of resin was used and whether the container is recyclable in your city or state.
  • Empty and rinse food containers before putting them in the recycling bin.
  • Recycle paper, steel and tin cans.
  • Before throwing anything away, ask, “Can I reuse or repair this”?
  • Donate broken or working electronics.
  • Contact your local municipality or car dealer to recycle dry cell or car batteries.

Make Your Home Energy Efficient

Small upgrades to the insulation of design or your home can help reduce your carbon footprint.  Before starting, you can do an energy audit or have a professional come in and score your home’s energy efficiency.

  • Seal your home well—including the attic, windows or doors where heat and A/C can escape.
  • Insulate your home to help keep it temperatures stable.
  • Install a cool roof that reflects light away from your house.
  • Plant trees and shrubs around your hose. This is an easy and pretty inexpensive fix, especially for older homes.
  • Check for incentives you may be eligible for, like tax credits or utility rebates.

How to Dress Sustainability

According to the World Resources Institute, 20 items of clothing are manufactured per person per year.  As the price of clothes drops, the environmental costs increase.

Minimize your impact when you purchase clothes:

  • Look for a fair-trade or similar logo which indicates the clothes were made sustainably.
  • Shop vintage—you’ll save money and the environment.
  • Ask yourself: “How many times will I wear this?”  Don’t buy clothes that will wear out quickly or you’ll barely wear.
  • Consider the fabric—think wool over synthetics.

Living Sustainably

You shop for a lot more than clothes; groceries, home goods, toys, etc.  Sometimes you shop and/or can’t avoid doing things that contribute to your carbon footprint, but you can support projects and initiatives that affect these initiatives.

Try to make as many contributions as you can.

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