Archive for October, 2010

Fall in the Sierra

Aspen grove south of Truckee, CA

Fall color is reaching its peak in the Sierra.  There is still time to enjoy the display.

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Improbable Victory

What does a football team do when its first three quarterbacks are injured (Aaron Corp was lost for the season with a knee injury) and your remaining passer was slated to be redshirted and limited in practice to running the scout team?

Adding to the challenge, the top three receivers are in varying degrees of recovery from injuries, and four starters from last year’s offensive line graduated.

It gets worse.  The opponent is ranked number eight in the FCS with only one loss – a heartbreaker – 42-37 against Michigan in a game played at Ann Arbor. 

I am talking about U Mass, a team averaging thirty points a game.

Did I mention it was homecoming for U Mass and 16,000 of their fans showed up for the contest at Amherst to cheer the Minutemen?

But that was the situation where the Richmond Spiders found themselves.  They were caught in a web with seemingly no escape.

Final score:  Richmond 11, UMass 10.

The Spiders’ defense has been steadily improving since the first three games of the season where they tired in the fourth quarter of each contest, allowing opponents to break open tight games.  The defense was fairly intact from last year’s squad, so it was a disappointment when they ran out of steam in two losses (Virginia and Delaware) and in a victory over Elon, a top team from the Southern Conference with playoff aspirations.

When Corp was injured in the first series of downs against  New Hampshire the week before, the defense kept the team in the game despite five interceptions thrown by the third-string quarterback on a windy day, giving up only ten points  (New Hampshire also scored a TD on an interception).

The defense was operating on all cylinders against UMass, including a stand that shut down UMass in a first and goal on the one situation, midway through the fourth quarter.  It gave the Spiders inspiration and they made the best of it.

Montel White, who is a true freshman, made four completions in five attempts during the do-or die series in the fourth, including the game winning TD with seconds left on the clock.

Montel White, Richmond QB

That’s character.

The victory keeps Richmond’s playoff hopes alive.

Photo credit: David Molnar

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There was much pride expressed by Controller Greuel upon release of the long-awaited audit on the  management of the city’s workers compensation program.

I am not challenging the results: the report confirmed what was suspected – Rocky Delgadillo was asleep at the switch.  I also read a report written a few years ago about why Custer was defeated at the Little Big Horn.

These reports have two thing in common: both were too late to have averted any damage and there is no recourse against the culprits. One is buried at West Point, the other is still alive and well despite an embarrassing showing in the State Attorney General primary race. 

Nowhere in Greuel’s cover letter is former City Attorney Delgadillo’s name mentioned, only a reference to the “previous City Attorney.”  The casual reader might assume some of the findings occurred on Trutanich’s watch.  It is not until the last paragraph that any distinction is made between the current and former office holder. 

One might conclude that Trutanich was as much a target as Delgadillo. Trutanich has been the driving force behind reforming the program, yet there was no mention of his progress.

It is hard to believe that Delgadillo reportedly had Presidential ambitions at one time

What the report does not address is if any of Delgadillo’s former staff he foisted on Trutanich had anything to do with the inept management and control of the workers compensation program.

Greuel is the type of person who will not name individuals responsible for wasting taxpayer money. Perhaps she is too close to key tenured City Hall employees to shine the light on them. We need to know who is failing us and insist on appropriate discipline.

I do not think that is too much to ask, but it might be too much for Greuel.

The length of time to conduct the audit is unacceptable.  The workers compensation program is a process with a paper trail and auditors with appropriate experience in the field should have made relatively fast work of it.   In a meeting I had with Carmen Trutanich in January,  he expressed concern that the firm Greuel selected to perform the engagement was not certified to handle such audits.

The “audit” was conducted by Harvey M. Rose Associates, LLC

Reading through the qualifications and background of the firm’s principals and staff, it appears only Harvey Rose is a CPA.  Prior to this engagement, there is nothing I can find in the backgrounds of either Mr. Rose or his staff that any of them had prior experience with workers compensation.

They appear to have extensive backgrounds in reviewing management of public sector entities, but workers compensation is a very specialized field, whether in the private or public sector.

By all accounts, most elected officials and key staff at City Hall knew there was a problem with Delgadillo’s handling of the program.  Why wasn’t a firm with heavyweight experience engaged?

Was Rose Associates a political favorite of the city? 

Greuel blamed the lawsuit filed by Delgadillo (without mentioning his name) as the reason for the audit’s tardiness, but if a qualified firm with measurable workers comp experience had been engaged as of January 2010 (when I talked with Trutanich), a report could have been available months earlier and a clearer path established for Trutanich to follow that much sooner.

Potentially, Greuel is wasting more money with her reports as Delgadillo was with running the workers compensation program.

With audits, timeliness and follow-through are essential to facilitating constructive change – a concept lost on Greuel.

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If Omar Loera , the alleged killer of Chere Osmanhodzic, will be subject to the death penalty if convicted, will Mexico extradite him?

That’s the thought that crossed my mind when I read the article about his arrest  in the Los Angeles Times.

“Prosecutors also charged the parolee with the special circumstances of murder during a burglary and arson, which could make him eligible for the death penalty,” reported the Times.

I thought Mexico did not allow extradition if the death penalty was on the table.

If anyone out there is familiar with the nuances of Mexico’s rules on this issue, please share your thoughts with us.

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“It’s the economy, stupid.”  – James Carville, 1992

Mr. Carville’s statement, which characterized Bill Clinton’s campaign message when he ran against President George H.W. Bush, would have been sage advice for Jefferson F. Davis, upon being appointed the President of  the Confederate States of America, at Montgomery, Alabama in February 1861.

It has been said that the American Civil War was the first modern war.

Many people attribute that description to new technology and tactics employed during the conflict. While those elements were important, the real reason was because it was the first major war of the Industrial Revolution.

The North’s economy was the epitome of industrialization; the South’s was largely an undiversified agrarian system.

Obviously, Davis and his planners did not adequately consider the impact of the economic differences on the possible outcome of the war.  Southern spirit, passion and the world demand for cotton was all that counted when their strategy was developed.

The South assumed trading cotton for manufactured goods from Europe was all that was necessary for offsetting  the North’s industrial advantage.  While  logical, this view ignored the dynamic advantage of a diversified modern economy and the disadvantages of a system of trade dependent on a single product.

As little as one major glitch in the cotton market would be enough to stifle the Southern economy.  There were at least two significant glitches – Egyptian cotton production increased while the South’s piled up in its own ports due to the Union blockade.

By contrast, the North’s economy continued to surge even though access to the Gulf of Mexico was blocked for over two years. 

As manufacturing grew in the North in the decades prior to 1860, so did the railroads.  Trains and factories complement each other even today.  Not only did railroads facilitate the transfer of goods, they allowed regional specialization to thrive above the Mason-Dixon line.  Farmers in the midwest (or what was considered part of the west at that time) could ship output to any city to the east with relative ease.  Labor and capital in the east could then concentrate on manufacturing and shipbuilding.  Finished goods could be shipped anywhere in the nation or the world – including farm equipment to the west. It was a perfect symbiotic relationship.

The sum of the parts were greater than the whole, as you would expect with economies of scale.

The South, on the other hand, had many fewer miles of rail, but that was only part of its problem.

The Southern railroad network was designed to deliver cotton and other cash crops to ports.   It was not designed to distribute goods among towns and cities; therefore, specialization was not facilitated.  That proved fatal to the South’s economy and military logistics.

It was ironic that the South was able to feed itself prior to hostilities, but near-starvation was prevalent in its major cities throughout the war and Confederate armies always struggled to keep troops and animals nourished.

An ineffective distribution system was the root cause.

Imagine if the population of the San Fernando Valley moved to Bakersfield over the course of several days.  One can only imagine the chaos that would emerge as millions of people cleared out all of the supermarkets in the San Joaquin Valley hub.  It would take weeks before shipping patterns could be restructured and warehouses constructed to accommodate the population shift.

We saw that very same challenge during Katrina.

Well, that’s what the South experienced.

Major cities grew in population almost overnight. Richmond saw its population quadruple over the course of the war.  

Imagine the impact of a Confederate army of around 60,000 men, with thousands of horses, trying to feed itself near Fredericksburg – a town accustomed to supporting a population of  under 5,000, with no direct rail connection to the farms of the Shenandoah Valley. 

You get the picture.

The Confederacy had only one major iron producing facility.  It was the Tredegar iron works in Richmond, Virgina.  It was a world-class factory, but it could not match the aggregate output of its Northern counterparts.

Tredeagr Iron Works (Library of Congress)

On paper, the economic advantages of the North should have resulted in a slam dunk victory for the Union.

Victory proved to be painful and drawn-out.  For that matter, the outcome was still in doubt as late as the fall of 1864, more than three years after Fort Sumter.

The influences of people and politics were just as important – maybe more.

That’s the subject of the next installment.

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Community Message has been issued by the LAPD Headquarters.

Tuesday October 12, 2010 5:53 PM PDT

The arrest of a man believed to be Omar Armando Loera, suspected of  the brutal
July 24, 2010 murder of Chere Osmanho

October 12, 2010
This afternoon at about 2:15 pm Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) North
Hollywood Homicide Detectives were notified by members of a United States (US)
Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force of the arrest of a man believed to be Omar Armando
Loera, suspected of  the brutal July 24, 2010 murder of Chere Osmanhodzic.

Since that time detectives have worked to locate Loera and to develop the case.
An arrest warrant was issued for him on September 16, 2010.

Based on a variety of tips and leads, homicide detectives developed a strong
suspicion that Loera had escaped to Mexico. The LAPD notified the US Marshal’s
Southwest Regional Task Force. The Task Force began working with the Mexican
Authorities to locate Loera.

Today the Baja State Police located a suspect believed to be Loera in the border
town of Mexicali. US and Mexican authorities are in the process of following
standard protocols to transfer a US Citizen in Mexican custody, to the US.  It
is expected that Loera will be transferred to US authorities without delay,
possibly as soon as tonight or tomorrow.

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Not enough people know that deleted files on a computer are recoverable.  That’s fine if you need to recover them. 

It’s not fine if someone else does – someone with nefarious objectives.

That can happen if you donate your computer, it is stolen or seized as evidence.

I use Webroot’s Window Washer, but there are similar products as well.

With Window Washer, you can select the standard of wiping – I use Defense Department or higher.  Such standards make it virtually impossible for even the most sophisticated experts to piece together your deleted documents, pictures and spreadsheets.

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Corp Injured

Aaron Corp suffered a knee injury in Richmond’s first series of downs against New Hampshire.  He was carted off the field. 

He did return to the sidelines in a brace during the second half.

He will undergo an MRI when the team returns home.

That’s all I know.

Richmond had to go the rest of the way with the third string quarterback as backup John Laub had a wrist injury.

The defense played tough in the 17-0 loss, but the offense is now completely injury- ridden with its best receivers and now both of its primary quarterbacks hurting.

All of this is on top of fifteen starters graduating last year.

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In a state known for celebrities and politicians who rely on cosmetic surgery to project superficial beauty, it should come as no surprise to all of us that this year’s state budget makes the unscrupulous fowls of the Foster Farms chicken commercial all natural by comparison.

There was plenty of hugging among our legislators when the budget was approved

There is only one problem – there is no budget.

A real budget exists when the assumptions are sound; this one will unravel before the ink is dry on the Governor’s signature.

By now, many of you have read numerous articles about the overly optimistic and irresponsible assumptions that pretend to serve as the foundation for the plan.  The biggest involve $5 billion in aid from the Federal Government, over a billion from a state economic turnaround and another $660 million net from the sale of state-owned office buildings.  That last one ignores the fact that the state will have to start paying rent on the very same properties starting next year if the sale-leaseback transactions go through.

This is so typical of what we have come to expect from our state and local governments – relinquish long-term revenue streams for a one-time influx of cash.

Meanwhile, the Governor is patting himself on the back for the “concessions” agreed to by the SEIU that Democrats helped negotiate.  The concessions are being characterized as pension reform by some. Nothing could be further from the truth. The deal is a patch at best since it still relies on a defined benefit pension plan with the taxpayers bearing all the risk.

Also, in return for civilian employees paying an additional 3% of their wages and using less generous pre-1999 pension calculations for new hires, furloughs will be limited.

That may come back to bite the state when the budget falls apart later in the year.  Furloughs are one of the few tools that enable the government to rein in spending on short notice.

The prospects for true reform – one calling for a defined contributory plan along the lines of a 401-K – will be unlikely regardless of who wins the Governor’s race.

Brown is too tied to the civilian unions and Whitman committed herself to protecting the pensions of the peace officers.

So, just who is a “whore?”

Both of them?

Now that the Brown campaign has accused Whitman of being a member of the oldest profession, who will sex workers support?

Since they do not have a state pension plan at stake, my guess is neither candidate.

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He’s out there; probably still in Southern California, if not the LA metro area.

Someone or ones are probably harboring or assisting him.

There is a $50,000 reward on his head. 

His name is Omar Armando Loera and he is the suspect in the murder of Chere Osmanhodzic of Valley Village, the bride-to-be who never got to celebrate her wedding day because of this worthless reject from the human gene pool.

Council Member Paul Krekorian (CD2) organized a press conference and appeal for assistance on behalf of the victim, her family and residents.  Packets of wanted posters were distributed and the residents in attendance were asked to distribute them throughout the community.

The press conference was covered by most of the news outlets; I will post video links as they become available.

Council Member Krekorian, Officer Arreygue, Chere's Mother

Suzanne Lewis and I represented Neighborhood Council Valley Village.

A member of the press asked why Chere’s fiance was not present and seemingly suggested possible culpability on his part.  Certainly, that was a sensitive question, but Mr. Krekorian reiterated that the fiance had been totally cleared and that he, too, was devastated.  It would be unfair to expect him to appear at every event and subject himself to the anxiety and anguish that would accompany an appearance.

I asked if authorities in Mexico had been notified.  Mr. Krekorian stated they had, along with all officials involved in border enforcement.  It has been suggested Loera is an American citizen who has falsely stated he was a Mexican citizen in order to elude jail time in the United States.

The wanted poster, including the reward information, was prominently displayed on the Clear Channel digital billboard at the corner of Lankershim and Chandler, across from the North Hollywood Red and Orange Line stations.

Spread the Word

There was a potential sighting of the suspect in a Hollywood hills park near Sherman Oaks a few weeks ago.  It set off a massive LAPD air and ground search.

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