To Be or Not To Be Ruled by Money – That is the Question.

Los Angeles, we have a problem.

The 2010 Supreme Court’s 5-4 Citizens United decision removed limitations on corporate spending in federal elections. It also eliminated the requirement placed on candidates to disclose their sources of funding to the public. Spending for the 2012 election cycle exceeded all estimates and expectations at $7 billion, according to FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub.

That kind of money can only be acquired from the wealthiest of donors, the special interests of big business and/or their lobbyists. Are elected officials beholden to big money interests as a result?

The “trend to spend” has spiraled out of control.

In July 2012, I got an e-mail from the Obama campaign with “good news and bad news.” The “Good news” was that June was the best fundraising month and more than 706,000 people stepped up and pitched in for a grand total of $71 million raised for the campaign and the Democratic Party. The “Bad news” was that Romney and the RNC pulled in a whopping $106 million in 1 month.

From Obama:
“We’re getting outraised — a first for a sitting president, if this continues. Not just by the super PACs and outside groups that are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into misleading ads, but by our opponent and the Republican Party, which just outraised us for the second month in a row. We can win a race in which the other side spends more than we do. But not this much more.”

Then my President asked me to contribute more money to stop the madness.

With all due respect, another shot of heroin won’t stop the pain. Isn’t it time for our political process to come clean and stop sucking money away from hard-working Americans?

How can we continue to reward those who would spend millions just to be elected while schools are closing, public safety officers are reduced and people are loosing homes to foreclosures.

Is anyone else getting sick of the amount of money being poured into local and national political campaigns? When will enough, be enough?

In May 2013, over $7 million was spent in the race for LA Mayor (and 70% of Angelinos didn’t even bother to vote).

At the local level in LA County, if a person accepts Voluntary Campaign Limits in Proposition B, which passed in 1996, then they can spend no more than $1,971,921; however, there is no limit now because one candidate did not agree to the Voluntary Expense limits.

On April 2, 2014, the Supreme Court issued its decision in the McCutcheon vs. FEC case which eliminated aggregate individual campaign funding limits.

Before today, an individual could donate $123,200 per election cycle (more than twice the annual median income in the country).

After today, one individual can write a single check for $5.9 million to any candidate, political party and political committee.

If the Citizens United case is a precedent, our political system will be flooded by enormous amounts of special interest money coming from a very small number of exceedingly wealthy individuals.

If you believe Democracy is not a Spectator Sport, then join the hundreds of thousands of Americans of all political persuasions who are fed up with an increasingly polluted campaign finance system and are actively organizing for change and do two things:

1) Learn about the issues. Good websites to start with are democracyisforpeople.org, moneyout-votersin.org and movetoamend.org.

2) Talk to your family and friends about this issue and help us stop the insanity.

The future is yours, or maybe it’s not. You decide.

 

Dear Mr. President:

I am praying that you will lead the United States on a path towards prosperity and peace, not despair and war.

I will leave the constitutional and legal arguments as to why you can’t start a war with Syria to the experts, but I hope you will not be persuaded by people who want you to stick to any proverbial “red line.”  The drawing of red, white or blue lines should be done by children on a playground, not by a leader of one of the greatest countries on Earth.

Will you cause more blood-shed in the name of “core national interests” or because you don’t want to lose “credibility”?

The world is now watching whether you respect the United Nations and International law or not. You received the Nobel Peace prize for a reason.  I hope and pray that you will show the world what a true leader looks like.

Will you to continue to work with the United Nations to impose meaningful consequences on the Assad regime, or will you go it alone?

United the world stands, but divided the United States falls.

With deep respect, gratitude and love,

Pamela Conley Ulich

 

Urban Outfitters, the Navajo Nation and Malibu

Urban Outfitters is coming to town. It already has about 200 other stores across the nation, and now it will call Malibu home.

What would the Navajo Nation say about our new neighbor?

According to NPR, “The Navajo Nation is accusing the retailer of trademark infringement. Members say Urban Outfitters sold goods that used the Navajo name and symbols without permission. [S]ome Native Americans find certain uses of the Navajo name offensive.” Sasha Houston Brown, a member of the Santee Sioux Nation, wrote a letter which claims there’s nothing honorable or historically appreciative in selling items such as the Navajo Print Fabric-Wrapped Flask, Peace Treaty Feather Necklace, Staring at Stars Skull Native Headdress, or the Navajo Hipster Panties.” (NPR story can be found here: http://www.npr.org/2012/04/05/150062611/navajo-nation-sues-urban-outfitters-over-trademark)

The New Mexico U.S. District Judge C. LeRoy Hansen on March 26 held that the Navajo Nation alleged adequate facts under the Lanham Act to show that Urban Outfitters has been using the term ‘Navajo” in a trademark sense, and that the retailer didn’t accompany the term with other distinguishing marks so that a buyer wouldn’t be deceived into thinking they were a purchasing a Navajo Nation product.

“The factual allegations are … sufficient to show that the mark is likely to create confusion in the marketplace,” according to Judge LeRoy. (http://www.law360.com/articles/429688/urban-outfitters-loses-bid-to-toss-navajo-trademark-suit)

For many years people have tried to convince Councilmembers to start a local “City of Malibu” branding campaign which could raise funds to benefit various needs of the City from non-profits to safety on PCH.  It seems like everyone from car makers to liquor producers to t-shirt designers have cashed in on the Malibu to benefit their bottom line, maybe the City of Malibu could sell merchandise that would reflect the Malibu “Way of Life” to benefit and serve all people who live and visit Malibu.

Recently, the City Council spent $90,000 to hire a New York firm called Excel to “develop an official logo, and also to pay expenses when he [Excel's vice president of licensing, Rob Stone Robert Stone] approaches manufacturers at events like the apparel show in Las Vegas.”

Stone also stated “The first collection we are going to be doing is sort of a lifestyle fashion line,” he said. “Envision Hollister meets Abercrombie meets the Gap, and then mix all those together and sell them at Urban Outfitters.” (http://www.cnbc.com/id/100519582)

What is wrong with the logo designed by local Ray Singer when the City became official in 1991? Even if the logo is “old school”, why couldn’t the City of Malibu give local artists the opportunity to design the logo just like the City did for the Malibu song?  What is wrong with selling Malibu merchandise at Pinnacle, Sunlife or other local stores in Malibu which give back to the Malibu community?

I wonder how the Navajo Nation would feel if they learned the City of Malibu was going to sell our new New York designed logo brand at Urban Outfitters?

How do you feel about this Malibu?

 

Lessons from Sheen’s Dog Sh** Tweet.

According to a recent news report, Charlie Sheen is not is not apologizing for encouraging his fans on Twitter to deliver “a rotted egg a roll of toilet paper or some dog s***” to the school where he said his 9-year-old daughter Sam was once bullied, even though she is no longer a student there.” (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/entertainment/2013/03/charlie-sheen-attacks-bully-school/)

Bullying is never acceptable, and I hope his 9 year-old daughter was not hurt by unkind words uttered from another child, but how could any father encourage people to do harm to a school where children are present? Especially now in the wake of the horrific attack at Newton Elementary, why would anyone encourage violence at a school?

We can all learn something from the Sheen rotten egg / dog s*** Tweet . We can have an open dialogue about bullying and give our kids the tools to protect themselves against Bully’s they encounter in the world. Information and tool kits can be found here: (http://www.eyesonbullying.org/pdfs/toolkit.pdf) We can also pray that parents will practice love and not encourage violence especially when it comes to children.

United: A Way of Strife.

Before we took off from LAX on the United 757 bound for New York we were asked to shut off all devices. What is a girl with a Nook to do, but grab the March 2013 edition of “Hemispheres” magazine?

The article entitled “A Winning Attitude” declares “Delivering excellent customer service is a way of life for flight attendant Jane Doucette.” The article explains the phrase “Sit back, relax and enjoy the flight ” isn’t a cliché, but a “personal reminder of a great responsibility and a call to action.”

About half way through the 5 plus hour flight, I went to the restroom. On my way out, I passed a young mother with her adorable 4 month–old daughter, Beatrice. She was travelling by herself and was pushing the door open with her scrambling child in her arms. The two flight attendants didn’t offer to help hold the baby, and only watched as the poor mother struggled, so I offered my help. The mom looked relieved and gladly gave me her baby to hold so she could use the restroom.

I asked the flight attendants if they had children and whether they liked to hold babies. They replied that they did and previously helped rock babies to sleep, but the new United policy prohibited the flight attendants from helping mothers traveling alone because of “liability.”

When the mother came out, she informed me that there wasn’t even one baby changing station on the entire plane! Instead, the mom had a choice to change Beatrice on the toilet seat (where one passenger had just thrown up), or on the floor previously sprayed with chemical cleaners.

I asked the same flight attendants how this could be possible. They explained that the plane was old and would need a new certification if United were to add baby-changing tables to the bathrooms, which would; you guessed it “cost lot’s of money and time.”

How could Jeff Smisek, the Chairman of the Board, President and CEO, write a letter “Investing in Our People” and boldy assert in Hemispheres magazine, “We invest a lot in our business and in our customers” but what about the babies? Are they not worthy of customer status?

I hope United won’t just talk the talk and will walk the walk by installing baby-changing tables and allow the flight attendants to help mothers in need.

It has been said that you can judge the health of a society by how it treats the oldest and youngest. I hope and pray that my United 757 flight experience isn’t telling of the future of our country, society and the airline industry.

Anything but Politics as Usual

At the request and urging of family and friends, and especially an 11 year old boy-wonder named Dylan Strickland, I am considering resurrecting Team Love and starting a revolutionary campaign which doesn’t ask for your money contributions, but for you to contribute whatever is in your heart to make LA County better.

With the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, over $1.5 million was spent for the 50th Assembly Seat this past year and over $6 billion was spent on presidential campaigns. I fear the pendulum has swung so far that people are starting to believe you need to spend more to win votes. It also seems like politics is filled with agenda’s pushed by campaign contributors and big money, instead of the people.

We are putting together an advisory committee to decide whether Team Love should resurrect for the 3rd Supervisor Seat. Zev is termed out November 2014.

If you would like to join the Team, contact us at (310)699-0424.

If you think this is a terrible idea, we would like to hear that too. E-mail us or post a comment.

Sending you love and good wishes for the coming year – - -

Team USA: Swim It to Win It

China may dominate table tennis and the over-all medal count, but swimming is as Ameri-”can” as apple pie thanks in part to a boy from Baltimore named Michael Phelps and the next generation he has inspired. In London this summer, Team USA garnered 30 medals overall in swimming (16 gold), while China won only 10 swimming medals (5 gold).

Michael Phelps came to London with a heavy load. He was carrying around the weight of 6 gold and 2 bronze medals won in the Athen Olympic and 8 gold Olympic medals won in China.

On Day 1 of the London Olympics, Phelps swam the 400-meter individual medley. Surprisingly, Phelps failed to win, place or show – coming in 4th well behind USA team member Ryan Lochte who came in first. You could see he was sad when he exited the pool and his broad shoulders were a bit slumped. According to a London2012.com news article, after this first race Phelps said, “I am a bit frustrated. I’m not feeling that great. I just want to put this race behind me and move on. It’s not the start that I would have liked to have but I’ve just got to move up. I have a bunch of other races and hopefully we can finish a lot better than we started. That’s what I’m going to try to do.”

Things went from sad, to bad when that same day team USA came in 2nd losing to France in the 4 times 100 meter freestyle relay despite the fact that they were in the lead for most of the race. Phelps also suffered another set back when he came in 2nd in the 200m Butterfly.

The slump didn’t last too long; Phelps and Team USA literally swam their hearts out throughout the rest of the games. Dana Vollmer was one such swimmer. She managed to garner 3 gold medals including one world record in the 100 m Butterfly with a time of 55.98 and an Olympic record in the Women’s 4 times 200 m Freestyle relay with a time of 7:42.92. Winning gold medals is no small accomplishment, but when you consider the fact that Dana had heart surgery in 2003 to correct a serious heart condition and has a secondary that can cause her heart to stop at random, then those 3 gold medals are more than incredible. Vollmer is forced to carry a defibrillator with her in case of an emergency but said, “ I would rather die swimming than not do it at all.” (London2012.com siting Washington Post, August 9, 2004).

Phelps managed to put his frustration behind him and made history again when he became the first person to win the same event (the 200 IM) 3 Olympics in a row over the span of 12 years. He also became the most decorated Olympian of all time with 20 medals after he finished his career with the victory with the 4 times 200 m freestyle.

On the same night Phelps won his final individual gold medal in the 100 m Butterfly race, 15 year old newcomer and Team USA member Katie Ledecky won gold in the 800 m freestyle. During the race, I was sitting next to Sid Cassidy, a long time Coach at St. Andrews in Baca Raton Florida. Cassidy noted, “It is fantastic to be here to witness the incredible Phelps and watch him close out his career with style, then on the other end of the spectrum see a 15 year old rookie take the baton and open her career with a historic win.”

In addition to the 15 year old, amazingly, the second most decorated athlete of the Olympics with 4 Gold and 1 Silver medal is the young 17-year old Missy Franklin from Pasadena.

Regardless of the medal count, I was most impressed with how the Olympic swimmers inspired my own children. While we in the Aquatics Center one night watching the races, my 11-year-old informed me that he decided to forego playing football in the fall and opt to swim instead. He also insisted that we visit a local London public pool so he could work on his form because “every second counts.”

When Michael Phelps looks back on his career and retires to “travel the world”, I hope he knows that he won much more than medals these past few Olympics, he won over hearts and taught us to dream big, dive deep and swim it to win it!

Rainy with a Chance of Gold

August 5, 2012 – London Olympics

The day started off with a proper English shower of rain followed by puffy clouds and fresh air. I was finally able to wear the big rain boots that took up way too much room in my suitcase. I used this opportunity to walk through puddles while the crowds next to me had to weave in and out of the sidewalk puddles on the trek to Wimbledon to watch the women’s singles and men’s doubles golden matches.

Yesterday, we witnessed Serena Williams blow Sharapova off the grass. Sharapova grunted loudly every time she hit the ball, but the grunts didn’t help her win more than 1 game the whole day. Serena was dignified and as elegant as ever and won 6-0, 6-1. The tennis-player/fashion designer was dressed for success. I knew she was expecting to win the gold because she wore a big golden hair tie that matched her gold medal perfectly. Talk about accessorizing! The ceremony was beautiful, but eventful when the USA flag flew right off the hinges and hit the ground. The flag faux pas didn’t keep Serena from smiling and jumping up and down in joy after the National Anthem finished.

The Bryan Brothers followed suit with another Golden performance beating the French team 6-4, 7-6. The games were filled with volleys and hits, but the Bryan brothers never lost their composure or the pep in their step and bounced up and down between points like the bunnies in the Duracell battery commercial. The twins worked in unison as one and seemed to know what the other was thinking without having to speak much, while the French team consulted with each other nearly every point.

This morning the indefatigable determined William’s sisters won yet another Gold for team USA in Women’s doubles easily defeating the Czech Republic duo Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 6-4, 6-4. This victory was a repeat of last month’s Wimbledon final, when the Williams sisters also won in straight sets on Centre Court.

By all accounts team USA is the Tennis Powerhouse with 3 out of a possible 5 Gold medals and 1 Bronze, but this Sunday, sunny Sunday, was the “big day” for England. England, despite hosting one of the world’s most famous tennis match, has not won a title at Wimbledon for 76 years and has not won a single gold medal in tennis for over 100 years. In 1908, when London hosted the Olympics, England, was Great Britain, winning all 6 Gold medals, where they hosted 4 gold matches exclusively for men (Mens’ singles, doubles, indoor singles and indoor doubles and 2 gold matches for women (Women’s singles and doubles (no indoor event for women). I have no idea why Women were not allowed to play indoor tennis, but that is for another article.

Today, the Swiss cool-as-a-cucumber Roger Federer would face the English smiling-man Andy Murray. Only four weeks ago, to the day, Federer had blown Murray to pieces and won the Wimbledon title, but today was different in many ways.

The normally austere Wimbledon crowd filed with “proper” people who whisper and say “SHHH” after points, was replaced by screaming Union Jack fans doing waves and screaming after nearly every point. It reminded me of being at a USC UCLA football game, only all of the fans were rooting for one team – GB!

It started to get hot, and I knew Federer was getting tired when he kept asking for a towel. Meanwhile Murray was jumping around on his side of the court soaking in the home-town advantage. Although Federer appeared to have more pep in his step after he ate a banana during a break, his bubble soon fizzled.  Murray beat Federer in three straight sets, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4.

Federer immediately left the arena after the loss, while Murray jumped into crowd giving his girl friend, mother and even a young fan hugs. The crowd went wild. It was as if they had won more than just a Gold medal, they had restored their pride in their country.  The match left many inspired with renewed hope that anything is possible.

The Power of the London Flower

"London Olympics in Bloom"

Power to the London Flowers!

London 2012

We arrived at Heathrow last Wednesday July 25. Like the calm before the storm, the airport was empty. No lines at passport control. No lines leaving customs. No lines for cabs.

A friendly Olympic greeter wearing a bright pink Olympic shirt was the first to welcome us to London and walk us out of customs. Next, we were greeted by the Olympic mascots, one-eyed space like creatures named Wenlock and Mandeville.

On our way to the hotel, our cab driver told us he believed no one would be going to the Olympics because getting a ticket to an event was harder than winning the London Lottery.

We left the empty airport surrounded by green fields and blue skies and drove to the City brimming with people sporting Union Jacks. Shops were filled with flags in the display windows. Like a flower ready to bloom, London and Olympic Park was filled with colors. From the flowers in the Olympic park to the recycled rubber walkways filled with orange, pink, green, yellow, red and purple.

The opening ceremony was nothing short of phenomenal. It was like riding a roller coaster on an emotional gamut from peaceful, to funny, to sick, to, sad to hopeful. It was a virtual smorgasbord highlighting everything English.

On the way in, we passed many people in the hallways with drums dressed like Burt from Mary Poppins waiting outside the entrance. I also saw some cows and sheep and wondered what in the world? When we sat down and looked out over the arena, it felt like we were in a time glass looking at England’s past with gorgeous green pastures, trees, and children playing. It was magical watching the fields of green transform by the muscle of women and men to a gritty grey industrial village. The musical montage with James Bond and the Queen parachuting into the ceremony and comedian Bean playing Chariots of Fire theme filled the arena with cheer and laughs.

The 300 or so hospital beds highlighted Britain’s National Health Care program (They will be donated to hospitals in Tunisia) and made me think about our own Obama Care program in the US.

During the ceremony, I didn’t understand the significance of the faces of people who were shown on the big display, but I later learned that part of the ceremony was meant to honor those who were killed by terrorist bombs the day after the Olympic bid was awarded.

In short, London, like a strawberry that has grown ripe, is ready to feed the entire world with sweetness. – - – Strawberry Fields Forever!

Our Uniforms May Be Made in China, but Hopefully Team USA Won’t Fade to China!

Soon the whole world will be in London, England watching with the Olympic games. Thanks to modern technology, you don’t even need a ticket to see athletes compete toe to toe and head to head wearing uniforms made in China!

This summer’s Olympic games are exceptional already. For the first time, the U.S. Olympic team will have more women than men, with 269 of the 530 spots on Team USA going to women. The USOC released its official roster Tuesday, and CEO Scott Blackmun said the female majority was “a true testament to the impact of Title IX,” the law that increased opportunities for women in sports, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year.

My son is sad that the men’s soccer team failed to qualify, but my daughter is glad – In the USA, soccer has gone to the girls! Thank goodness we live in the USA and not in Saudi Arabia where, up until this year, women have been excluded from competing for their National teams.

Team USA will take center stage wearing “Made in China” apparel with the big Ralph Lauren Polo Logos, instead of clothes made by good old fashion American workers, but I guess it could be worse. Spain’s uniforms were designed by Bosco Sport, a Russian company that is doing uniforms for Russia and Ukraine. Let’s hope that even if our athletes wear uniforms made in China, they won’t fade to China in the games. All is not lost, and it appears that Ralph Lauren has agreed to make future Team USA uniforms in the USA!

Regardless of the gloom economic and weather forecast, the Olympic spirit is in the air. For two weeks, we will all be swimming, running, jumping, kicking and simply playing together as individuals, teams, families and citizens – united in our love for a good game or righteous race when athletes leave every bit of themselves on the court or in the lane. It is a thrill of seeing dreams comes true and people doing more than is humanely possible. The Olympics also help us look beyond our backyards, our borders and see the whole wide world on a more intimate level.

I have been fortunate to visit Olympic villages in Athens, Salt Lake, Vancouver and Beijing.

Ten years ago, just after the 2001 terrorist attacks, I witnessed Michael Phelps, the Wonder boy from Baltimore, win Gold medal after Gold medal swimming in Athens. In China, I was able to see Michael Phelps win a few of his 8 gold medals, but was in missed his last gold medal because of security lines which lasted over an hour. I also had a big fall on the great wall, which left me in a wheel chair. At the airport, it was difficult to wheel and carry my luggage at the same time. A young woman in line offered to help me. This young woman turned out to be Katie Ziegler, a USA swim team member who had participated in the Olympics and was on her way back from grueling losses. I am happy to report that both Phelps and Ziegler will be swimming again for Team USA.

I look forward to being able to visit the Olympic games again this summer. The rain coats and umbrella’s are packed – Fee Fi Fo Fum, ready or not London here we come!