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April 12, 2007

Politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.

Charles de Gaulle, French military leader and first president of

France’s Fifth Republic, 1890 - 1970


In This Issue

1.     Can Nature Learn from Art?

2.     How Little We Know, Part 4

3.     Announcements

4.     Fun Facts about Oregon

5.     The Flashback Quarterback

6.     About Montebello E-News and “My Montebello”


 Online Community Lesson

 Can Nature Learn from Art?

          We have heard of the phrase “nature imitating art” in reference to an idea, perhaps first expressed in a book or movie, which then is used by people.  But can nature learn from art?  Learning is different from imitating;  learning might involve deliberation and heretofore-untried solutions.

          Example.  There is a popular television series, “24”, which airs on FOX Monday evenings.  In recent episodes the President of the United States and the Vice President were in a power struggle, because the President had been severely wounded in a terrorist blast and the Vice President had thought him incapable of leading the country.  The struggle was to be decided by the Supreme Court, until the chief of staff caught the Vice President in an illegality and forced him to withdraw from the showdown. 

          There was nothing in those episodes to imitate, but there was something to learn.  When a policy decision has far-reaching implications and ramifications, should that decision ultimately be left up to one person?  In “24” the Vice President was about to launch a nuclear strike against a Middle Eastern country until the President, awakened from a coma by a drug, resumed his office. 

          A far-reaching decision is made not only by the President, but, also, by officials at all levels of government.  Even when a city council decides to spend a million dollars, its decision is far-reaching.  Thus, the question must be asked, “Whenever a far-reaching decision is to be made, how many people are in the decision-making?”  The answer should be, “The more, the better.”           

          Recently, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi headed a delegation to the Middle East.  She was criticized by Vice President Cheney for meddling with American foreign policy.  Admittedly, a country must have a single foreign policy, if for no other reason than to avoid confusion leading to contradictory and crippling applications of the policy.  At the same time, when something as important as America’s relations with millions of people are at issue, should that be left to one person to decide? 

          The “episode” of Speaker Pelosi is related to the point made in the essays “The Eleventh Commandment” and “Is Everyone ‘LOCO’?”  Each of us is overwhelmed with or deprived of information, making it difficult to reach the most prudent decisions.  Involving more people in making a decision would be logical.  In fact, a variation of the Eleventh Commandment would apply:  the more far-reaching a decision, the more people should be involved in making that decision, up to a limit based on practicality, not politics.       

            If you answer the multiple-choice questions below and e-mail to with “Lesson answers” in the subject field, you will be credited toward a “certificate of recognition in community affairs” to be awarded in 2007 by a local nonprofit organization. 

1. The implication of this community lesson is that

(a) we should have a different foreign policy in the Middle East.

(b) the more far-reaching a decision, the more people should be involved in making that decision. 

2. Given the type of democracy and the process of making law in the United States,

(a) involving more people in decision-making will take a long time.

(b) we must content ourselves with trying for a change through a Presidential election.

(c) an immediate alternative is to work through nongovernmental organizations which promote cross-cultural understanding, economic development, and local democracy. 



How Little We Know, Part 4

The main focus in my life now is to open people's minds so no one will be so conceited that they think they have the total truth.  They should be eager to learn, to listen, to research and not to confine, to hurt, to kill, those who disagree with them.

Sir John Templeton, American-born businessman and philanthropist  

In part 1, we saw that we could not have precise or complete knowledge.   In part 3, we tried to remedy that by suggesting that candidates for elective office go through a “judicial process”, so that the public get accurate information from them.  In this part, we apply the judicial process to elected officials. 

One could point to Congressional hearings, state committee hearings, and city council meetings as a judicial process.  In most, if not all, instances, lawyers are present.  There is fact-finding and then a determination.  There is some of this when Congress or a state legislature votes as a body, as when opposing viewpoints are aired. 

However, there is a big difference.  Money.  Judges and juries are less vulnerable to the influence of money than are elected officials.  We have attempted to muffle, if not muzzle, the influence of money by heaping an ever-increasing number of rules upon elected officials.  (We have many rules for candidates, coming through the Federal Elections Commission and the California Fair Political Practices Commissions.)  What we have found is that money is like mercury, hard to get a handle on. 

Can anything be done?  This parallels, but is different from, the community lesson in this issue of Montebello E-News.  While the lesson speaks about increasing the number of people involved in decision-making proportionate to the magnitude of the consequences of the decision to be made (sounds axiomatic?), this essay looks at the accuracy and sufficiency of information.  If more people were involved in the Congressional and state hearings, could we have more, and more accurate, information? 

Yes, if the people who were involved in the hearings were independent of the elected officials and the lobbyists, and, furthermore, had the power to call witnesses and do discovery, that is, request and receive relevant documents. 

To distill the four parts of “How Little We Know” into a sentence, we would say that we should be careful about our decisions, as we would never have sufficient and completely accurate information, but the more people involved in gathering information and deciding, the closer we would come to making the best decisions, this optimistic conclusion tempered by LOCO, explained in another essay.



FOR EVERYONE.  Businesspeople, take note, as sponsors are sought.  The City of Montebello is requesting your assistance with “Community Cleanup Day”.  This is your opportunity to wipe out graffiti.  Saturday, April 21, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Come to the city corporate yard, 311 South Greenwood Avenue, for the volunteer check-in at 8 a.m.  Volunteers must be thirteen and over.  Barbecue for all volunteers following the event.    

FOR YOUTH AND TEACHERS.  The Asia Society,, and the Goldman Sachs Foundation,, have announced the 2007 Goldman Sachs Foundation Youth Prize for Excellence in International Education. 

The 2007 competition asks students to select a problem or challenge that affects their local community as well as a community outside the United States; to create an in-depth written, audio, video, or animated feature that compares and contrasts how these two communities have addressed the issue; and to explain why these approaches reflect the different cultural backgrounds of those involved, and what lessons the different communities could learn from each other. 

Five winners will be selected and will receive up to $10,000 each as well as an all-expense-paid trip to New York City in early November 2007, where they will be recognized at the Asia Society's gala annual dinner. 

FOR ELECTED OFFICIALS AND COMMUNITY LEADERS.   The Pew Research Center released a study recently entitled “Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007”.  The study finds a pattern of  rising support since the mid-1990s for government action to help disadvantaged Americans.  More Americans believe that the government has a responsibility to take care of people who cannot take care of  themselves, and that it should help more needy people even if it  means going deeper into debt.  These attitudes have undergone a major change since 1994, when the 

Republicans won control of Congress. In particular, 54% say the government should help more needy people, even if it adds to the  nation's debt, up from just 41% in 1994.  All party groups are now  more supportive of government aid to the poor, though Republicans  remain much less supportive than Democrats or independents if it  means adding to the deficit. 

More broadly, the poll finds that money worries are rising. More than four-in-ten (44%) say they "don't have enough money to make ends meet," up from 35% in 2002. While a majority continues to say they are "pretty well satisfied" with their personal financial situation, that number is lower than it has been in more than a decade. 

In addition, an increasing number of Americans subscribe to the sentiment "today it's really true that the rich just get richer while the poor get poorer."  Currently, 73% concur with that sentiment, up  from 65% five years ago. Growing concerns about income inequality are most apparent among affluent Americans; large percentages of lower- income people have long held this opinion.  Excerpted from “Quote-of-the-Day” by Don McCanne, M.D.



Fun Facts about Oregon

 Oregon has more ghost towns than any other state.  

The hazelnut is Oregon’s official state nut.  Oregon is the only state that has an official state nut.  The hazelnut is also known as the filbert.  

In 1858 the richest gold find in the Cascade Mountains was discovered in the Bohemia Mining District at Sharp’s Creek near Cottage Grove.  

Eugene is rated by “Bicycling Magazine” as one of the top ten cycling communities in the United States. 

Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States.  It was formed more than 6,500 years ago.  Its crystal-blue waters are world renowned.  

A treaty between the United States and Spain established the current southern border between Oregon and California.  The treaty was signed in 1819.  

The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, built in 1880, is currently used as the site of the final resting place of up to 467,000 cremated individuals.



The Flashback Quarterback

In the essay “How Little We Know”, found in this and preceding issues of Montebello E-News, we were told about the insufficiency and inaccuracy of the information which we receive.  An example from the Los Angeles Times, Saturday, April 7, 2007: 

A new global warming report issued Friday by the United Nations paints a near-apocalyptic vision of Earth’s future:  hundreds of millions of people short of water, extreme food shortages in Africa, a landscape ravaged by floods and millions of species sentenced to extinction.

Despite its harsh vision, the report was quickly criticized by some scientists who said its findings were watered down at the last minute by governments seeking to deflect calls for action. …


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