Mailing Money

Column by Loretta Redd

With a story that begins in 1792, I’m not sure I’ll get to all the details in one brief article.  But if you don’t mind speed dating through the history of our Postal Service, we’ll at least hit the high points.

It was President George Washington who first recognized the importance of postal delivery;  he understood that mail enabled anyone access to information, especially in rural areas.   Our forward thinking President made the Post Office a Cabinet level department, naming Benjamin Franklin as the first Postmaster General.

Roughly fifty years later, Congress granted the Post Office a monopoly for delivery.  By 1860, parcel post service was instituted and mailboxes were installed, for which Hallmark card recipients should be eternally grateful.

What I didn’t know, and few of us recall, is that the Postal Service also operated as a banking system.  Following the financial panic and bank closures of the 1900′s, the Postal Service began allowing citizens to open small savings accounts, as well as make check withdrawals.

By the end of WW II, the Post Office had over $4 million in accounts, and more than $3 billion in deposits.  These financial services, mostly used by low to moderate income Americans, were offered through the postal system from 1911 until 1967.

And they could be again.

bankMassachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, has proposed the reinstitution of the post office bank, “If the Postal Service offered basic banking services–nothing fancy, just basic bill paying, check cashing and small-dollar loans– then it could provide affordable financial services for underserved families, and, at the same time, shore up its own financial footing.”

Our mail delivery system has weathered some difficult challenges over its history, including Congress which seems to have systematically ravaged any efficacy and efficiency from today’s USPS.  The inscription on the New York post office building may read:  “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from swift completion of their appointed rounds,” but it didn’t take Congressional greed into account.

The post office came close to collapsing under its own success in the mid 1960′s, given the volume and demands of mail service.  Unfortunately, the Postal Department was not allowed to make investments or to borrow money for infrastructure.

With the 1971 Postal Reorganization Act, Congress abolished the United States Postal Department and created an independent agency, called the United States Postal Service.  The “new” USPS was to be based more on a corporate model:

” The United States Postal Service shall be operated as a basic and fundamental service provided to the people by the Government of the United States, authorized by the Constitution, created by Act of Congress, and supported by the people. The Postal Service shall have as its basic function the obligation to provide postal services to bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people. It shall provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities. The costs of establishing and maintaining the Postal Service shall not be apportioned to impair the overall value of such service to the people…”

Unfortunately, Congress did not see fit to reestablish the banking portion, but did leave the post office open to stiff competition from private industry in other areas, like package delivery, copying services and ‘payday’ check cashing .

An article in the Nation cites a discussion paper by the United Nations Department of Economic Affairs,  “The essential characteristic distinguishing postal financial services from the private banking sector is the obligation and capacity of the postal system to serve the entire spectrum of the national population, unlike conventional private banks, which allocate their institutional resources to service the sectors of the population they deem most profitable.”

The United States was not the only country to offer banking services through the postal system.  Other nations such as China, Japan and Germany still do, most with very lucrative assets.

Most of today’s challenges to the fiscal soundness of the United States Postal Service are due to Congressional meddling and “oversight.”  In 2001 the General Accounting Office discovered a piggy bank…the USPS had overfunded its pension obligation by more than $80 billion.

In a sane world, the USPS would be allowed to use this overage to pay down debt, invest in technology and expand services,” writes an investigator in the Huffington Post.  But since the Post Office is part of the Federal  budget  the capacity to use the overfunded money for investment would in effect, raise the deficit, so it was held for other services.

Elaine Kamarck of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government summed the post office conundrum up this way, “Congress wants it to be self-sufficient, but doesn’t want it to make money.”

What could have been a boon for the USPS in the age of e-commerce, Congress would not allow discounts for parcel shipping.  Lobbyists for alternative delivery and mail services, such as FedEx or Mailboxes, Etc, have continually used financial influence to decimate proprietary postal services.

It would seem, then, that Congress strongly favors competition with the private sector…well, until it comes to the banking industry and their well-heeled lobbyists.  Restoring the Post Office bank would compete with banks, and take away from the very profitable “payday” check cashing companies.

“Yes,” you say, “but their customers are high risk, irresponsible low-life, so they have to charge more.”  A Pew Charitable  Foundation study found that separated or divorced women, ages 25-44 with incomes under $40,000 were the least able to secure normal forms of credit or to qualify for standard banking services.

So, single women are largest users, or ‘victims’ of these services that have a finance charge of $14.99 to cash a $100 check, which is an APR of 390.8%.  That’s a lot of dollars with President Washington’s face printed on them.

Senator Warren’s legislation will not only return stability to the USPS, it will pressure the predatory practices of these check cashing companies, give ‘big banks’ some competition, and be a pathway to pride and fiscal responsibility for millions of Americans.

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Mission Santa Barbara

This week, Santa Barbara View will take you on a journey of discovery as we share the history of the five Missions that grace our local community; Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa (5th), Mission San Buenaventura (9th), Mission Santa Barbara (10th), Mission La Pursima Concepción (11th) and Mission Santa Inés (19th).

Mission Santa Barbara

sbmissionweek2Mission Santa Barbara was founded on December 4, 1786, the feast day of Saint Barbara, by Father Fermín Lasuén, who had taken over the presidency of the California mission chain upon the death of Father-Presidente Junípero Serra. It was rededicated December 16, when the new Governor of California, Pedro Fages, could attend. Mission Santa Barbara is the tenth of twenty one California Missions and is known as the “Queen of the Missions.” It is the namesake of the city of Santa Barbara.

Mission Santa Barbara is the only California Mission to remain under the leadership of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor (O.F.M) since its founding. Today its parish is a church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The Mission itself is owned by the Franciscan Province of Santa Barbara, the local parish rents the church from the Franciscans.

Santa Barbara was the third mission established in the land of the Chumash people, this one near the native site of Xana’yan, a Chumash village that existed in Mission Canyon. The neophytes (baptized Indians) were referred to as Barbareños (after the mission).

Bill Heller Photography

Bill Heller Photography

Early missionaries built three different churches during the first few years, each larger than its predecessor. The earthquake of 1812 destroyed the third adobe church of 1794. The present church, built in stone, was started in 1815 and dedicated in September 1820, it had only one tower. In 1831 a second tower was added, it fell in 1832 and was rebuilt in 1834. In 1925 another earthquake damaged the Mission and in 1950, cracks began to appear in the façade as some of the materials used in the 1925 repairs weakened the church and it had to be rebuilt again with steel-reinforced concrete. The stone facing retains the contours, dimension and appearance of the original.

The Neoclassic facade was inspired by a mission archives copy of the Spanish edition of The Six Books of Architecture by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, a Roman architect of 1st century B.C. The work is one of the most important sources of modern knowledge of Roman building methods as well as the planning and design of structures, both large (aqueducts, buildings, baths, harbours) and small (machines, measuring devices, instruments).

The appearance of the inside of the church has not been altered significantly since 1820. The original Moorish fountain built in 1808 is still intact near the entrance to the Mission.

The Mission church is filled with original and noteworthy paintings and statues, including a unique abalone-encrusted Chumash altar dated to the 1790s. The two largest religious paintings in all of the missions are at Santa Barbara. One painting, 168″ high by 103″ wide, depicts the “Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin.” It is thought to have originated in the Mexico City studio of Miguel Mateo Maldonado y Cabrera (1695-1768) and was acquired by the mission in 1798. “The Crucifixion” (168″ by 126″) is not attributed to a specific artist. Mission Santa Barbara has the oldest unbroken tradition of choral singing among the California Missions and of any California institution. The Mission archives also contain one of the richest collections of colonial Franciscan music manuscripts known today.

Note: Content was gathered from many online sources. If you see any discrepancies, they are unintentional and we will be happy to correct them.

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On the Docket: Dealing with the Drought

Today, the Santa Barbara City Council will pickup the discussion about drought. In May, the Council declared a Stage Two Drought in response to a continued water shortage forecasted for next year and the need for the community to reduce water usage by 20%. The City Council requested that staff keep them informed and here is the monthly report:

“The Water Supply Outlook remains unchanged from the May 20, 2014 Stage Two declaration. The earliest our region generally receives significant rain is late October, and staff continues to work on securing additional supplemental water, accelerating drought related capital projects, and sustaining a strong message for extraordinary conservation.

Santa Barbara View photo: Cachuma Lake, April 2014

Santa Barbara View photo: Cachuma Lake, April 2014

The City has secured supplemental water to meet the projected shortages for next year, provided that the community can achieve the 20% reduction in water usage, and our wells are able to be operated as planned. Staff continues to work with the Central Coast Water Authority to identify additional opportunities for supplemental water, should it be necessary.

Staff is moving forward with the design and construction of capital projects to assist with water supply during the drought. This includes the acceleration of groundwater well replacements, including the use of poor quality groundwater wells in place of potable water for irrigation, and preliminary design work to restart the City’s Desalination Facility, should it become necessary.

Staff has increased the Water Conservation Outreach Program through an enhanced drought media campaign, including:  Continue Reading →

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Mission San Buenaventura

This week, Santa Barbara View will take you on a journey of discovery as we share the history of the five Missions that grace our local community; Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa (5th), Mission San Buenaventura (9th), Mission Santa Barbara (10th), Mission La Pursima Concepción (11th) and Mission Santa Inés (19th).

Mission San Buenaventura
sbmissionweek2Mission San Buenaventura was founded by Father Junípero Serra on Easter Sunday, March 31, 1782, it would be the last of the California Missions that Fr. Serra founded and one of six he personally dedicated. The Mission was intended to be the third Mission, after San Diego and Monterey, and was to be named for Saint Bonaventure “in order that he defend it.” St. Bonaventure, known as Bishop and Doctor of the Church, is regarded for his leadership of the Franciscans of the Order of Friars Minor (O.F.M) as well as his great intellectual contributions to theology and philosophy.

It’s not known what caused the twelve year delay, but it’s been said that troubles at other missions required many guards and military escorts could not be spared. At last, in 1782 a large group of settlers including eight soldiers and their families, arrived at the location of the new Mission; a Chumash Indian town of about 500 inhabitants.

They quickly set about building a chapel, a dwelling and a stockade. Local Indians gladly helped with this work and were paid in beads and other trifles. That said, they were slow to give up their freedom for confinement behind the Mission walls.

Mission_San_BuenaventuraThe first Mission church burned down within 10 years and a new larger one of stone was started in 1792, although half finished in 1795, it was not completed and dedicated until 1809. The violent earthquake of 1812 severely damaged the Mission and it was feared that the Mission itself would be swept into the sea. The Mission survived and was reconstructed in 1816, it was fully restored in 1957 to approximately its original form.

Today, the church functions as a parish church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Note: Content was gathered from many online sources. If you see any discrepancies, they are unintentional and we will be happy to correct them.

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Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

This week, Santa Barbara View will take you on a journey of discovery as we share the history of the five Missions that grace our local community; Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa (5th), Mission San Buenaventura (9th), Mission Santa Barbara (10th), Mission La Pursima Concepción (11th) and Mission Santa Inés (19th).

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa
sbmissionweek2Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was founded by Father Junípero Serra on September 1, 1772. It was the fifth mission to be established in California and was named in honor of Saint Louis, Bishop of Toulouse, France.

The site for the mission was located between two creeks providing ample water sources and was near Llano de los Osos, “Valley of the Bears” (now simply Los Osos), so named by Don Gaspar de Portolá as he traveled through the San Luis Obispo area in 1769 when he encountered an abundance of bears. This is significant because in 1772, 3 years after the first mission was founded, supplies dwindled at the then four missions and people faced starvation. Remembering the Valley of the Bears, a hunting expedition was sent to bring back food in the summer of 1772. Over 25 mule loads of dried bear meat and seed was sent to relieve the missionaries, soldiers, and neophytes (baptized Natives). It was after this that Fr. Serra decided that the area would be an ideal place for the fifth mission.

The Mission was attacked by hostile Indians on three occasions prior to 1774, thatched roofs were set ablaze. As a result of the fires and to protect the mission from further damage from flaming arrows, the padres developed curved roof tiles, recalling the tiles of their native Spain, to protect the structures. These are said to be the first such titles made in California. The titles were copied in all other missions as new ones were built.

SLO MissionThe present building was built 1793-1794. The belfry and the front of the church were added about 1818, when the mission bells arrived from Lima, Peru. The bells were recast in 1878. The mission was restored in 1933-1934. Interior restoration was done is 1947. It has the distinction of being built with a combination of belfry and vestibule, found nowhere else among the California missions. It is also the only “L” shaped Mission church.

At different eras the Mission was under the authority of various powers. From 1835-1845 the Mission was under the rule of Mexico. In 1845 the Mission was sold and its title was given to buyers for $510. Then in 1859 the Mission was returned by the United States Government to Bishop Alemany, the Catholic Bishop of Monterey and the parish has remained a Catholic church of the Diocese of Monterey serving the area ever since.

Note: Content was gathered from many online sources. If you see any discrepancies, they are unintentional and we will be happy to correct them.

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Missions of California

Last year, Santa Barbara View presented a series on the History of the City of Santa Barbara, ten major historical periods, according to the general plan – use the top-right bar to search History of the City. Over the next five days, we will take you on a journey of discovery as we share the history of the five Missions that grace our local community; Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa (5th), Mission San Buenaventura (9th), Mission Santa Barbara (10th), Mission La Pursima Concepción (11th) and Mission Santa Inés (19th). They are all just a one day horseback journey away. Go visit them all!
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Missions of California Overview
The Spanish missions in California are comprised of twenty one settlements established by Catholic priests of the Order of Franciscan Minors (O.F.M.) between 1769 and 1823. They were part of the first major effort by Europeans, notably Spain, to colonize the Pacific Coast region of California, the most northern and western of Spain’s North American claims.

In 1769, the Portolá expedition, led by Don Gaspar de Portolá and accompanied by a group of Franciscans including Junípero Serra, a member of the Order of Franciscan Minors, was the first land-based exploration by Europeans of California. The expedition established the overland route from San Diego to San Francisco which became known as El Camino Real (The Royal Road). The route was essential to the settlement of coastal California by the Spanish Empire and made it possible for the Franciscan friars to establish the Spanish Missions. The first mission was founded on July 16, 1969 at San Diego, the second a year later, and 650 miles away, at Monterey.

The settlers introduced European fruits, vegetables, cattle, horses, ranching and technology into the region; however, the Spanish colonization also brought with it serious negative consequences to the Native American populations with whom the missionaries and other Spaniards came in contact.

Today, the surviving mission buildings are the state’s oldest structures and the most-visited historic monuments.

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Dream Foundation & The Flower Empower Program

Ali Azarvan volunteered for 25 local non profits in May and shares his chronicles:

Dream Foundation
During my May Days marathon I’ve been exposed to some amazing nonprofits – and I’ve been asked by many people “if you could work at anyone of them, which one would you pick?”. I’d have to say that my answer would probably be Dream Foundation. You’ll understand why very soon.

Before May, I didn’t know much about Dream Foundation. All I knew was that my dear friend, Diana Wilson, was at one time on their board of directors. Diana has been my main consultant / therapist / witch doctor throughout the development of Just a Little Push. Diana is one of the coolest and most intelligent women I know – oh yeah, and she was the president of Deckers and just so happened to take them public. So, yeah, she’s kind of a superhero and I’m lucky to be able to pick her (huge) brain!

Anyways, since Dream had a special place in Diana’s heart, I had to check them out. I called them and was immediately put in touch with Kaitlyn Turner their Manager of Volunteer Services. Kaitlyn seriously could not have been more excited about my project and asked me to stop by and take a tour of their offices and brainstorm with her. If I have one random skill I can be proud of, it’s that I’m pretty damn good at getting a good read on someone as soon as I meet them – and I immediately liked Kaitlyn. Note- she is now my buddy – another new friend I have gained from my May Days campaign!

I stopped by their offices and Kaitlyn literally introduced me to everyone in the office – and I thought that was so awesome. I can honestly say that they have assembled one of the kindest teams I’ve ever been exposed to. This tour was perfect as it truly gave me an idea of what Dream actually does.

What do they do? They literally make dreams come true for adults facing life-threatening illnesses (Sort of a Make-A-Wish for adults). Just think about that for a second. Picture this as your job – a woman who is dying of breast, spine, liver, and lung cancer comes to you. She is a poet and writes on yellow notepads. Her only wish before she dies is to have her poetry published. This is your job – make her dream come true. This sounds like such an awesome and exciting job to me. By the way, this is an actual dream that this amazing charity fulfilled – check the story out here.

Needless to say, I became a believer immediately and couldn’t have been more excited about my day with Dream. Kaitlyn thought the best way to spend my time would be to team up with her and Valerie Banks, an awesome big-hearted lady who heads up their brilliant Flower Empower program. Flower Empower is a volunteer-driven program that delivers hope and compassion – in the form of beautiful bouquets – to those in need.

I got to the farmer’s market in Santa Barbara at 8am to meet the Flower Empower team and make bouquets. I have to admit – I have a black thumb. I should not be allowed to be around plants of any sort. Lucky for me, Val and the team of volunteers helped turn my absolutely terrible bouquets into borderline-attractive bouquets by the end of the day. It honestly couldn’t have been more fun and the crew was great to work with. I’m a marketer – so I really appreciated what they had going on there. We were at the entrance of the farmer’s market – there is a ton of foot traffic. Everyone naturally stops by to ask “hey, what are all these beautiful bouquets for?” (note – not once did someone point to my bouquets and ask this question). It was such a great way to “spread the word” about the amazing things Flower Empower and Dream Foundation are doing.

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We then loaded up the customized van for a day of delivering flowers. We delivered these gorgeous bouquets around town to senior living homes and hospice care facilities. A few things in particular stood out to me:

  1. Flowers literally bring smiles to every single person who receives them
  2. Val and Kaitlyn have a special ability to connect with those who are literally on their deathbeds – I found myself struggling for words and feeling awkward.
  3. I was lucky enough to deliver flowers to an amazing man and wife who were literally celebrating their 28th anniversary that day! He was a referral from Hospice and looked like he was having a great day
  4. Flower Empower is such a needed program – and I can understand why it’s been around for so long

We ended the day delivering flowers to a former dream recipient, Arthur. Arthur used to sing opera professionally throughout Europe. He is now 93 years old and suffers from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases). His dream was to attend the Opera Falstaff at the Granada Theater in Santa Barbara. So, guess what? Dream Foundation made it happen. Not only did they send him to the Opera with his caretakers. They also send him to Bouchon (an amazing local restaurant) as well. To top off the night, he got to hang with the performers at a nearby bar (Arlington Tavern) until almost midnight!

To be totally honest – Arthur was having a rough day. He was on oxygen and couldn’t get out of bed. It was difficult for me. I felt a connection to him after hearing his story and it was tough for me to see him in that condition. With that said, he was visibly happy to receive the flowers and was even more happy to receive an amazing album of pictures that a few high school volunteers put together documenting his dream. The staff and volunteers navigate these difficult situations beautifully. It’s truly amazing to witness.

To learn more about this awesome charity, please visit their website . . . to donate and help make more dreams come true, visit here.

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Athena the Barn Owl

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.

Athena the Barn Owl
This week I made it over to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Although I was especially looking forward to the Butterflies Alive exhibit, on the way to the pavillion we bumped into this beautiful creature. (You may have noticed, she’s not a butterfly!) This is Athena, a barn owl who was rescued after being hit by a car left her with limited eyesight. With limited depth perception she has trouble landing on perches and would not be able to catch food in the wild. Athena and her friends (a group of seven raptors, including Max a great horned owl and several falcons) were adopted by the Santa Barbara Audubon Society when it was determined for various reasons they could not be released back to the wild. You can learn more about them at their website. And you can meet them at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History most afternoons (check their online calendar for times).

Oh and, we did eventually make it to the Butterflies Alive exhibit, and they were absolutely amazing too!

-Bill Heller

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EcoFacts: Sunlight and Water‏

By Barbara Hirsch

cycleNo one can doubt the abundance of solar energy potential, and that it can provide fuel to use in place of the more polluting ones. Solar panel technology has been improving the amount of electricity generated per square foot, but other entirely different methods are being discovered, e.g. artificial photosynthesis. As Nature Magazine stated, it is Springtime for the artificial leaf!

Hydrogen fuel cells currently employ fossil fuels, primarily natural gas to produce hydrogen fuel, but soon may be much greener. Our government and the private sector are funding such research in the hopes of finding cheap, clean and efficient hydrogen energy production and storage. Just in the last couple of weeks funding for transformational fuel cell technologies has increased by more than $50 million.

A company in Santa Barbara is one of only a few in the world to be working in this exciting field as you read. Hypersolar is partnered with scientists in the Chemical Engineering department at UCSB and is using sunlight and a photoelectrochemical process to separate hydrogen and oxygen from any source of water, including dirty water, “to produce clean and environmentally friendly renewable hydrogen”. And this could be done near the point of use (distributed generation), eliminating problems with transport.

Tim Young, the CEO of Hypersolar, is a great guy, and I am so proud that this fantastic work is happening right in our own backyards! (Guess I am a Y!,IMBY.)

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Saturdays with Seibert, Poison Looking Pretty

Dan Seibert

On Saturday I attended a party at Elings Park. As a passenger in the car I got to look out the windows as we drove down Los Positas. I was struck by the amount of red plants on the hillsides. Everywhere, both sides of the road were covered with red plants. Once I got out I investigated and was surprised to see it’s acres of poison oak. Acres and acres of it. In the afternoon light it was quite beautiful.

I went back this morning and took some photos. I think the local landscape painters will be thrilled with this new color.

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Vintage Views of Santa Barbara, California

by West Coast Franciscan Vocations
vintage
Franciscan Friars in 1885 are working the fields at Old Mission Santa Barbara. All friars of the Province of Saint Barbara are encouraged to work with their hands. In the Testament of Saint Francis he states:

I worked with my own hands, and I am still determined to work, and with all my heart I wish to have all the rest of the brothers work at employment that can be carried out without scandal.”

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Advice for the Soul of Body and Mind

IT’S YOUR LIFE, with Dr. Kathleen Boisen

Question???
I recently went on a first date with someone I found very interesting. He chose for us to go for a wine tasting in Santa Ynez valley. I noticed that he had a beer before the wine tasting, then he had a full tasting at three different tasting rooms. At dinner he also had two glasses of wine. I added it all up and wondered if this was too much alcohol to be driving back to Santa Barbara. Should I be concerned? Should I be interested in dating him further?? – Denise of Santa Barbara

Boisen cartoon June 10, 20140001

Illustration by entera-theartist.com

Congratulations, you are asking the right questions at the perfect time. after your FIRST date. Before going further with this gentleman, it is time to do a little drinking math. I am told that a typical wine tasting will total to a full glass of wine, so technically he had three glasses there, plus two glasses at dinner, plus the beer before dinner. Most definitely he was over the limit, it was dangerous to let him drive back to Santa Barbara. Highway 154 is a safe highway, but the number of people over the drinking limit make it potentially hazardous, especially late at night. The Highway Patrol will confirm that.

It is said that you can know a lot about a person on the first date. Unfortunately romance can bring out the blindfold for many people, and they ignore dangerous signs of behavior. I would suggest that if he drank and drove that much on a first date, you could observe a second date’s alcohol math very carefully. Also if you drink absolutely nothing alcoholic it can allow the topic of drinking to come up.

You’ll hear people say that they feel they don’t over drink, its just a hobby. In reality wine is meant to be a part of an ancient art, a savoring of all that creates wine rather than a drinking overload.

The art of selecting a wine with a meal is to enhance the flavors, to savor the food and it is true that a glass of wine can enhance health. But a glass means, a measuring cup full of wine, watch out for those gigantic glasses.

Wine tasting has come of age, especially in Santa Barbara County. It is hard to believe, but just 25 years ago there were few vineyards and driving up Highway 101 you did not see rows, and rows, and rows of them. Sometimes I feel as if I’m in southern France, and vineyards are a beautiful thing. Making wine is a time honored tradition.

So how much is too much?? That depends on how terrified you are of getting a DUI.
Most conservative people limit their drinking to one glass per two hours. So if a person drinks a half bottle of wine (two glasses), within an hour and a half dinner, they might want to call a taxi.
Who we date and end up potentially marrying is one of the most important decisions of our lives. It is wise to question behaviors early on, before the heart will over rule what the mind knows is not a good choice. I often ask patients who are going through an unpleasant divorce, what was their first clue. They often say, it was right there at the first date….but what was I thinking?

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UCSB Graduation Snipers

by Dan Seibert

Last Saturday I was at a birthday party and a friend of mine showed up after attending the UCSB graduation ceremony. He told me about an unsettling moment when he noticed some figures on top of the theater. The photos are from his cell phone and might not be clear, but he said there were two snipers with rifles.

I know some will say, “this is the world we live in,” but this is not the world I live in. Graduations are for grandparents and family members, not snipers.

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Snipers

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Gunning for Retirement

Weekly column by Loretta Redd

PensionsWhy is the word “pension” so often preceded by the term, “unsustainable” these days?

Nothing is “unsustainable” in either private investment or in public funding…it just mean we pay a whole lot more.

There are two camps of retirement funding, Public and Private.  The private 401k plans have “defined contributions,” and the public employee pension plan has “defined benefits.”   Each seems to think the other is the devil incarnate, and both are up to their eyeballs in greed, political favoritism and questionable investment returns.

And, by the way, the “public” (that’s you and me) is on the hook for both of them.

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Summary of Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 and Related Changes to the Public Employees’ Retirement Law

The anti-public pension campaign is gaining strength in the media and in the courtrooms, and for good reason.  Whereas public service once denoted hard work, dedication and civic mindedness,  paying lower wages but with the promise of a guaranteed pension, today’s government employees have been painted as mostly lazy, overpaid grifters living on the public dole.

We often hear about “generous retirement packages” of the six-figure variety, attributable to union greed and worker ‘entitlement.’  The fault and inequity among public servants, however, lies mostly at the feet of our elected representatives.

Mathew Brouillett, president of Common Wealth Foundation, states, “Pension benefits have been used as a political football.  Politicians are able to make promises today that they hope they can pay for tomorrow, hoping tomorrow never comes.  Deals between union and politicians have left teachers, cops, firemen caught in the middle and demonized because public opinion has turned against generous benefit packages.”

I admit to being a little tired of the golden trilogy of teachers/fire/police to invoke public sentiment for higher wages and retirement, because they represent only a small proportion of government retirees.  But Mr. Brouillett has a point:  there is little equanimity among public sector retirement packages, with shameful evidence of political sell out.

As an example, in the State of California prison guards can retire seven years earlier than teachers, with benefits that are 77% higher.  Forget the logic of better paid, higher quality teachers resulting in fewer people in prison, apparently the image of iron bars and handcuffs is a more powerful motivator in Sacramento than chalk board and dunce caps.

Conservative groups continue to vilify those in government service, apparently with growing success.  While strategically working to get pension reform on State ballots, they’ve mounted a very interesting campaign of “educating” Judges on retirement benefit law.  A symposium in Charleston, South Carolina, hosted by George Mason University and paid for by various corporate interests, offered continuing education units to sitting judges on “The Economics and Law of Public Pension Reform.”

At the same time, those wanting to reduce employee and union benefit packages deflect attention from lavish payouts to corporate executives, from the uncertainty of future Wall Street investment returns, from the cost of the bank failures of 2007, and especially from the $80 billion in annual corporate subsidies and tax breaks.

I don’t know which is more offensive…pension spiking or corporate bail outs.  But I know that whether the money comes from increasing taxes and decreasing services, or increasing prices and decreasing oversight, neither system has our financial interest at heart and both look to lawmakers to make them money.

“Sustainability” apparently has less to do with labor these days than it has to do with lobbying.

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Milpas Moves!

“This was our latest Milpas Moves! Class – Zumba,” writes in Sharon Byrne. “Turned out really well. People are getting fit on Milpas!”

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