Stormy Monday: Let the Layoffs Roll

David S. White
Principal of the Law Firm of David S. White & Associates, West Los Angeles, specializing in litigation, arbitration and mediation of real-estate-related disputes and litigation since 1977;

Mental health professionals say there are a handful of things that can happen that can really knock you off your perch and leave you lying, severely wounded, by the side of life’s road – at least for a while. Losing your job is right up there with the Three Big D’s: Death, Divorce, Depression (both economic and of the individual mind). No less than Sigmund Freud put working at a job right up there with sex, family, loved ones and life’s other undeniable virtues – things that still provide a solid bedrock for us as we race madly about, living and consuming (well, we used to consume before last Fall’s economic debacle kicked into high gear) here in our 21st Century Age of Information.

Monday’s NYT had this disturbing headline: “Big Companies Around Globe Lay Off Tens of Thousands,” (Jack Healy, Jan 26, 2009), recounting in agonizing detail the numbers of all those people who will come home to their loved ones, families, cats, dogs, goldfish and whatever, with the really bad news that they no longer have a job. Most mature adults, without a fortune salted away to take them out of the Rat Race, define themselves by their jobs, mentioning what they do for a living right up front with our names and the obligatory ‘who do you know,’ when we first meet others in social settings.

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Patrick Dorinson
Host of The Cowboy Libertarian Radio Talk Show in Sacramento

Granite Workers to Get Part of Stimulus Plan – Speaker Pelosi has announced that, under the stimulus plan now before Congress, a special commission will be formed to find a suitable mountain near Mt. Rushmore to carve the likeness of Barack Obama. This will be a big boon for the granite workers of America who have been struggling as the need for granite countertops in suburban kitchens has declined dramatically with the foreclosure and credit crisis. “President Obama is such a transformational figure that we believe he should have his own mountain sculpture near Mt. Rushmore”, said the Speaker.

Obama Inks Book deal for White House Memoirs – After a brutal bidding war between America’s top publishers, Simon and Schuster has purchased the rights to President Obama’s memoirs for a cool $1 billion. Simon and Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy said in a statement that, “We believe that in eight years this book will beat the #1 bestseller of all time, the Bible.” She went on to say that, while the company does not have the $1 billion to pay President Obama, they hope to have raised it by 2016 through “a series of bake sales and car washes to be held around the country.”

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SAG Travels Dangerous Road

Charles Crumpley
Editor and Publisher of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal

Will the Screen Actors Guild do to Los Angeles what the United Auto Workers did to Detroit?

It’s starting to feel that way. Consider the situation.

The most radical faction in the 120,000-member SAG is in the leadership. They want authority to strike. A couple of weeks ago, moderates tried to negate the leaders but got beaten back. It’s unclear that the leaders will get their way, but the point is those most agitating to strike still have a leading role in this drama.

Besides this internal blood feud, SAG has a second fight that it believes is the big one. That is the external fight with the studios over how to divvy up revenue streams, including future new-media residuals.

But has SAG lost sight of the fact that it is in a third fight? That third fight really is the big one, because it is about survival.

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OMG, Text Law Makes me LOL!

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

The other day, while sitting in rush hour traffic, I looked around and noticed several drivers talking on their cell phones or texting while they waited for the opportunity to move forward a few feet.

Then in struck me—too many vehicular laws designed to enhance safety are completely ignored and almost impossible to enforce.

After reaching this conclusion, I asked a police officer friend about enforcing the new ban on texting while driving. “It’s very hard,” he said. “To actually catch someone in the act, you almost have to be in their car watching them to prove that they weren’t just looking for a phone number to call.”
So there’s your alibi (at least in this particular jurisdiction): just explain that you were trying to locate a phone number in your mobile device.

What about citing drivers who talk on their phones without the required hands free apparatus? “That’s easier to enforce, but often there are other crimes taking place that take priority,” commented my friend in blue. “Also, the driver can say that the conversation was on speaker.”

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Fiddling Away While Rome Burns

David S. White
Principal of the Law Firm of David S. White & Associates, West Los Angeles, specializing in litigation, arbitration and mediation of real-estate-related disputes and litigation since 1977;

There is a popular misconception about how the Great Depression (we may have to rename that soon) actually occurred, starting in 1929. Most think it all happened in one sad day that Fall when the market crashed and then there were bread lines, soup kitchens, and all those pathetic black and white photos. Actually, it was much longer and more protracted as the many economic and business gurus of the day argued and dickered and dithered over what to do and how to do it – kind of like we are doing right now on both the US national level and the California state level.

World War I used to be called the Great War; then we had World War II. The Great Depression that Boomers of my age grew up hearing about endlessly from our parents and grandparents may be seen as Depression I shortly and what we are living through right now may shortly be known as Depression II. You may have noticed, as Depression II unfolds further, that we are not exactly in agreement about what to do about it. People like Robert Reich and Paul Krugman are screaming from the rooftops that this is a whole lot worse than anybody imagined and that Obama’s current $800 plus Billion Stimulus Package, now delayed until mid-February as Congressional Wordsmiths have at it, as huge as it may be, is actually just too mild and modest for the conflagration that we face.

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California, Golden State of Constant Crisis

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

California, the media like to tell us, faces an unprecedented fiscal crisis. The budget deficit is $40 billion and growing. The state is so short of cash that, within days, it may issue IOUs, rather than checks, to pay its bills. The Legislature, bitterly divided, seems unable to agree on a way out. The governor warns of “financial Armageddon.”

How should we prepare for apocalypse?

Before you hide under your bed, check out a few books by some of California’s leading journalistic interpreters of the last 160 years.

You probably won’t have to read very long before you’re reminded that big deficits and threats of fiscal crisis aren’t exactly new here. In fact, the notion of California as a place where current resources don’t meet present needs is at least as old as the Donner Party. And the state’s leaders have always been — in the eyes of journalists — fools and knaves, unable to resolve persistent financial problems.

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Shine the Jewel, Don’t Smash It

Charles Crumpley
Editor and Publisher of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal

I attended an event last week at the Los Angeles hotel everyone still calls the Century Plaza, and I was reminded of what a truly nice structure it is.

Walk into the interior, and you’re quickly put at ease. That’s a bit surprising, since the décor is sleek and the space is cavernous. Instead of being put off, you want to linger in its comfortable formality. You’d be forgiven if you sat and ordered a martini because there’s an honest mid-’60s glamour to the place that survived the hotel’s recent and very expensive makeover. Shaken, not stirred, please.

But outside is where the hotel is at its best. It’s a building that’s not ashamed to be simple. The front of the building makes that perfect arc, a curve that seems to reach out and embrace visitors. The room balconies form nice symmetrical rows. The entire appearance makes the hotel seem sturdy yet graceful.

And the building fits perfectly amid its neighbors. It faces and complements the 2000 Avenue of the Stars building directly across the street. The horizontal mass of the hotel nicely offsets the towers that have sprung up, and continue to spring up, in Century City.

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How bad is this recession?

Loren Kaye
President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

The worst since the Great Depression? Since the early 1980s? In our lifetimes? It’s too early to tell, of course, but so far in California this recession has been neither the mildest nor the worst during the past several decades. However, none of the economic signs on the horizon are encouraging; most of the leading indicators point south.

Employment is a lagging indicator of recessions, so the worst is probably yet to come. One-year into the downturn, California’s employment losses have been material, but not nearly as bad as the two most recent recessions. Ultimate job losses from the 1990–93 recession amounted to a stunning 4.1 percent of employment from the 1990 peak. To reach that level of employment, California would have to lose another 365,000 jobs, about half-again the number lost so far.

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Just A Local Hero – “Sully” Comes Home

Judy Lloyd
President of Altamont Strategies

This past Saturday, the Town of Danville welcomed home Captain C.B. “Sully” Sullenberger for the first time since that heroic day when this courageous and talented pilot performed a “near miracle’, making a perfect landing in New York’s Hudson River that saved 155 lives.

My town rolled out the red carpet for Sullenberger, his family, and the several thousand guests who packed the town green. With the usual flourishes about to begin, I stood with my 11-year old son, an aviator-to-be someday, whose father, grandfather, and two uncles are pilots. In a family like this, you learn a lot more about the pinpoint precision, steady hand, and clear mind required with all flights – this one being nothing less than remarkable.

As Springsteen’s “Local Hero” passed through my head, the ceremony began. I thought about what “Sully” would say, how he would say it, and what the crowd’s reaction might be. I thought about when Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s Iron Man record appearing in the most consecutive games (then 2,130) in Major League Baseball history.

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Crafting a Green Tax Policy

Michele Steel
Orange County Supervisor (2nd District) and Former California State Board of Equalization Member

“Think globally, act locally.”

It’s the most fundamental principle of the modern environmental movement. But, for all the big talk from green politicians, government continues to block individuals from taking the small steps that will ultimately save the planet. Nowhere is this problem better demonstrated than in the state’s tax regulations of bio-fueled vehicles.

Bio-fuels, which include even that leftover fryer grease from McDonalds, are one of the most promising carbon neutral alternatives to fossil fuels. The LA Times reports that as many as 250,000 vehicles nationwide run on used cooking oil. In Orange County, Beach Benz has capitalized on the idea by offering vegetable oil conversion kits for its customers. Last year, state and local media outlets profiled the environmentally responsible actions of Dave Eck, a Bay Area mechanic who converted his Hummer to run on used vegetable oil.

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