Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Trump looked at the solar eclipse without glasses on

Mod: I'm telling you, he just refuses to listen. And what are we going to tell the kids? What if he starts running with scissors, too? Not that any of this should come as a surprise, though. His vision is pretty screwed up anyway.

Trump looked at the solar eclipse without glasses despite a shouted warning from an aide (Business Insider link): President Donald Trump took in the solar eclipse from the Truman Balcony of the White House on Monday, even briefly glancing at the sun directly despite a shouted warning from an aide.

Sporting eclipse glasses — for only part of the viewing — and standing alongside Melania Trump and their son, Barron, Trump viewed what was a partial eclipse in Washington, DC. It began at 1:17 p.m. ET, peaked at 2:42 p.m., and was set to end at 4:01 p.m., The Washington Post reported. The moon covered 81% of the sun at the eclipse's peak in Washington.

At one point, Trump did look up at the eclipse without wearing the glasses, which can cause eye damage. According to a White House pool report, one of Trump's aides shouted "Don't look!" when Trump came out and pointed at the sky.

Much of the nation focused on the event, the first total eclipse to cross the country in nearly a century. The path of totality, where the moon fully eclipsed the sun, stretched from Oregon to South Carolina, but much of the rest of the country could view at least a partial eclipse.



Monday, August 21, 2017

Jim Bakker: Eclipse is God’s Punishment for Obama Years

Mod: While most believe that today's eclipse is due to a giant dragon eating the sun, you are about to know better. According to televangelist Jim Bakker it is God's retribution on the American people for electing Barack Obama.

Bakker: Eclipse is God’s Punishment for Obama Years (BizStandardNews.com link): Televangelist and survivalist Jim Bakker has blamed the impending lunar eclipse on President Barack Obama. “God came to me in a dream and said I should tell the world that I am plunging the world into darkness to remind people I’m still mad at the Obama years,” said Bakker on his online radio show.

Obama legalized witchcraft, sexual deviants getting married and schools started teaching transgenderism.”

Bakker said it would take eight years of Donald Trump for America to “get right with God.”

Bakker isn’t the only Evangelical Christian who is misinterpreting an astronomical phenomenon as a religious sign. Anne Graham Loetz, daughter of famed preacher Billy Graham, said the eclipse was a sign of impending doom. Franklin Graham, Loetz’s brother, has frequently accused President Barack Obama of being a Muslim.

“While no one can know for sure if judgment is coming on America, it does seem that God is signaling us about something. Time will tell what that something is,” said Loetz in a blog post.

Will 2017 solar eclipse cause secret planet 'Nibiru' to destroy Earth next month? (The Telegraph link): Certain theorists around the world are claiming that a planet will collide with Earth this September - and that the coming total solar eclipse will signal the apocalypse's beginning.

David Meade, author of 'Planet X – The 2017 Arrival', asserts the planet Nibiru (also known as Planet X) will crash into our own on 23 September 2017.

Although scientists deny the planet's existence, Meade is convinced he is right after finding bible passages to support his claims.

Earlier this year Meade asserted that Nibiru would crash into Earth in October, however he has now moved the date forward a few weeks.

The Great American Eclipse - the total solar eclipse which will enshroud parts of the US in complete darkness on 21 August - now apparently indicates the planet's arrival.

Where does this theory come from?

Despite a lack of evidence, David Meade - along with a number of other theorists - claim bible passages and the solar eclipse's existence support the idea that the end of times are nigh.

Meade told The Daily Star earlier this month: “The Great American Eclipse of August 21, 2017, is a major - huge - harbinger.”

The theorist points to warnings in the Old Testament book of Isaiah, Chapter 13, verses nine to 10, which reads: "See, the Day of the Lord is coming – a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger – to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it.

"The Stars of Heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising Sun will be darkened and the Moon will not give its light."

Mod: It's not like you weren't warned. Wear sunglasses. Or, even better yet, a helmet.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Arnold Schwarzenegger's message for President Trump and Neo-Nazis on Charlottesville violence

Link to video here.

'Whatabout' Those Other Historical Figures? Trump's Question Answered (NPR link):

"So this week it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson's coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop? ... [Jefferson] was a major slave owner. Are we going to take down his statue?" — President Trump, Aug. 15, 2017

The president made this statement Tuesday while jabbing at reporters over a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., where white nationalists protested the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

And he used one of his standard rhetorical techniques, "whataboutism."

While defending the protesters and claiming that they weren't all white supremacists, he changed the subject to attack others. "What about the alt-left?" he said, when asked about the white nationalist alt-right. ("Alt-left" is a term seemingly invented for whataboutism, making liberals seem like the moral equivalents of the "alt-right," whose members coined that term themselves.)

"Are we going to take down statues of George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson?" Trump asked, given Washington's and Jefferson's slave ownership. He added, "You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?"

Well, let's take on those questions. The president is not the first person to ask.

Washington did own slaves — and does not get a pass for freeing them at the end of his life. Jefferson was a "major slave owner," too — and is even more to be criticized, because he understood that slavery was wrong, calling it a "moral depravity" and a "hideous blot."

Nor were they alone among our Founding Fathers: James Madison was a slave owner; even Benjamin Franklin owned two slaves before the practice was banned in Pennsylvania. Slavery was so deeply entrenched in the economy that it touched nearly everyone who lived before the Civil War, even those who did not own a slave.

This is an awkward reality for the keepers of memorials and historic sites. Keepers of the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson's home, have been forced to wrestle with the reality that he took Indian land, used enslaved laborers on multiple plantations and even personally chased escaped slaves. The Hermitage has responded by expanding displays showing the dark side of this historic figure, but it is not planning to tear down the house.

So "whatabout" them? Must they all go if Robert E. Lee goes?

Not necessarily, because they are not all the same.

Some figures stood for something larger. Washington guided the foundation of a country that eventually preserved freedom for all. Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence, in which a single phrase — "that all men are created equal" — became a hammer that later generations would use to help smash the chains of slavery.

It's possible to make a case for honoring such men, so long as we are also honest about their flaws. They were participants in a great experiment in self-government, which has expanded over time to embrace more and more people of all races, not to mention women, too.

So "whatabout" Lee? What did he stand for?

Lee, who is connected by marriage to the family of Washington, resigned from the Army to fight against his country, on the Confederate side in the Civil War.

Then and later, Confederate apologists dismissed the idea that they were fighting to defend slavery. They said they were fighting for "states' rights" or against Northern oppression. But conflict over slavery was what drove the fight for states' rights and divided the country for years before the war. The election of Abraham Lincoln, a president who was critical of slavery, triggered the rebellion.

And the Confederate vice president, Alexander H. Stephens, was more frank than others in stating the rebels' aims. In an 1861 speech, he declared that the "cornerstone" of the Confederacy was "that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition."

Other Confederates may have fought for different reasons; it is said that Lee went over to the rebel side because he could not bear to fight against his native Virginia. But Stephens' "cornerstone" speech accurately describes the larger cause that Lee willingly served and generally accepted: a drive to overturn the idea of equality, which Stephens called an "error." This cause was the reason that many Confederate statues were built in the era of Jim Crow segregation, from after Reconstruction to the civil rights movement starting in the 1950s. Aside from Southern "heritage" or "pride," many explicitly represented white supremacy.

There is still a case to be made for Lee as a brilliant general, who won battle after battle and kept his army together for years, even though it was massively outnumbered and undersupplied. He is a significant figure in the American story.

Ulysses S. Grant, the general who defeated him, gave the best epitaph of Lee, saying the Confederate general "had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought."

But let's be honest. In Charlottesville over the weekend, the "Unite the Right" protesters chanted "blood and soil"; others listened to Richard Spencer, who has called for an all-white homeland. Members of one group, Identity Evropa, "seem to revel in goading counter-protesters into violent clashes," according to a profile of a member on KQED. Counterprotesters were indeed goaded into clashes — and a car, allegedly driven by an Ohio man on the white-nationalist side, drove into them, killing a woman.

Is it remotely possible that Spencer and Identity Evropa and the driver of a Dodge Challenger came to defend the statue of Lee because of his skill in military tactics and strategy?

To have such defenders says a lot about the cause that Lee represented. To have the president of the United States compare Lee to Washington is simply, factually wrong.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Las Vegas Sun: Embraced by neofascists, Trump is the 1st un-American president

Mod: Best editorial yet on some of the latests events of Trump's very strange and quite bizarre 
presidency. Link here.

Embraced by neofascists, Trump is the 1st un-American president - As became clear Tuesday at Trump Tower, we now have a president who is loath to fight Nazis. The unimaginable has happened.

The leader of the nation that sacrificed more than 400,000 of its sons and daughters in a desperate fight to prevent global conquest by white supremacists in World War II once again blamed counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Va., for helping cause the violence there over this past weekend.

Offered an opportunity to heal wounds that he caused by waiting two days to issue a rote condemnation of neo-Nazis for the horrific situation, President Donald Trump instead offered cover for them by echoing sentiments he expressed on Saturday via a statement that the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer raved about as being “really, really good.”

“OK, what about the alt-left that came charging them?” Trump said. “Excuse me. What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?”

With that, what might have seemed inconceivable at one time became reality. A U.S. president defended neofascist racists who swarmed into Charlottesville from elsewhere over counterprotesters, many of them residents of the community, who countered them by representing our nation’s cherished values of equality and inclusion.

Yes, the rally did draw members of Antifa, short for anti-fascists, a group that has occasionally used vandalism and acts of violence in opposition to neo-Nazis and other hate groups. And if activists from Antifa or any other group instigated any violence, they should be prosecuted.

However, there’s no question that the torch-bearing neo-Nazis, not counterprotesters from groups such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter, were overwhelmingly responsible for the tragedy, in which 32-year-old Heather Heyer died and 19 other people were injured when a 20-year-old man Nazi sympathizer and was fascinated with Nazi ideology drove his car into a group of counterprotesters. In addition, two state troopers died when the helicopter from which they were monitoring the situation crashed.

With his comments Tuesday, Trump showed clearly that his condemnations from Saturday and Monday — the latter of which he read woodenly from a teleprompter — were hollow. Trump knows that white supremacists are part of his base, and he’s not about to alienate them.

If you think that’s an overstatement, consider the response Trump received from white supremacist David Duke via Twitter: “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa.”

Disgusting. This is a president who routinely invoked the names of World War II generals on the campaign trail to appeal to pro-military voters, and he now is drawing praise from believers in the ideology that those same generals — along with those 400,000-plus service members who sacrificed their lives and 16 million-plus who served — risked all to oppose.

“Racism is evil,” he said Monday, “and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

Those words were true, and there was no need for Trump to do anything but continue to condemn the thugs who incited chaos and violence in Virginia.

Trump doesn’t get it. Americans fight Nazis and other fascists. Americans revile the existence of those groups’ ideology. Americans will wall off their demonstrations, marginalize them in society, oppose them relentlessly and condemn them unconditionally. Period.

It’s worth repeating: We now have a president who won’t do the same. He’ll attack the media with impunity, will vilify Muslims and will even besmirch members of his own administration and party, but he practically has to be cattle-prodded into putting white supremacists in their place.

There’s no rectifying this with an apology or another statement.

The president of the United States may be American by birth. But he’s clearly too cowardly to fight groups that Americans will not tolerate — neo-Nazis, the KKK and other white supremacists among them. That alone has made him the first un-American president, because this nation stands for fighting those hate groups, not coddling them.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Kersting Court Lowdown: Once Again Chelsea Plays Her Bagpipes Under The Watchful Eye Of The SMPD


You may recall that Sierra Madre's favorite bagpiper had been summarily ordered to cease and desist from her playing and vacate Kersting Court by the local gendarmes a few weeks ago. This was not well received in the community, and much unhappy commenting occurred not only here, but on certain Facebook sites as well.

After all, Sierra Madre is a place rightfully celebrated for its support of the arts.

That said, Chelsea was playing again yesterday, and the SMPD was out as well. But as far as we know the performance was allowed to take place without any unfortunate incidents.

The backstory is Chelsea was robbed a while back, and in order to get to Scotland where bagpipes are not only understood but revered as well, she has been busking downtown in hopes of raising some travel cash.

Here are a couple of photos commemorating yesterday's event.

As far as we know Chelsea was not arrested. At least not this time.

But please remember, if you hear something, say something. Hopefully nice.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Sierra Madre Weekly: Carl Foote’s Body Discovered Near Jones Peak, Bailey Canyon, Sierra Madre

Mod: The Sierra Madre Weekly has come up with what looks to be the most comprehensive version of the many news stories covering the Carl Foote tragedy. To link to their website click here.

Carl Foote’s Body Discovered Near Jones Peak, Bailey Canyon, Sierra Madre - The Sierra Madre Police Department and the Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Team with the assistance of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue along with search teams from Altadena, San Dimas, Antelope Valley and Montrose concluded an exhaustive search for Carl Foote Saturday afternoon. Foote had been missing since Sunday Aug. 6.

Sierra Madre resident Carl Foote was reported missing by his wife on Sunday, Aug. 6 at approximately 6:30 p.m. Carl was last seen walking in the vicinity of Merrill and Highland Avenues at approximately 10:30 a.m.

Foote was a lifelong resident of Sierra Madre an avid walker, hiker and cyclist, and familiar with the trails in Sierra Madre and the surrounding vicinity. Officers investigating the incident soon learned that Carl’s personal belongings, cell phone, wallet, bicycles and vehicle were all left behind at his home in Sierra Madre. An initial Missing Person Flier was forwarded to surrounding police agencies in the San Gabriel Valley.

When Foote did not report to work on Monday Aug 7, Sierra Madre Police Department utilized their partners from the Sierra Madre Search and Rescue. The foothills of Sierra Madre were searched for Foote throughout the week. News travelled fast and community members, friends and family also helped with the search efforts.

Local church and community groups also formed and joined in the active search for Mr. Foote.

The Sierra Madre Police Dept. issued a press release Saturday night stating that “…at about 4:10PM this afternoon{ Saturday} a person matching the physical description and clothing of our missing person was located by search teams about one half mile, northeast of Jones Peak. The person has not been positively identified at this time.

The SMPD Is working in conjunction with Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Division, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office in this ongoing investigation.”

Sources with knowledge of the investigation said this was indeed the body of Carl Foote.

Carl Foote, 59, was an active board member on the Foothill Unity Center, Monrovia.

Former Mayor of Monrovia and a Foothill Unity Board member Mary Ann Lutz posted the following on Facebook: “Our worst fears have come true. Carl Foote, my friend and fellow Foothill Unity Center Board Member is gone. Devastation is the best way to describe these events. My love and prayers to Carl’s wife and family! We never know what is in-store for us, make sure those around you know you love them.”

More on the Foothill Unity Center

Mod: Here is a link to the Foothill Unity Center. They describe themselves this way:

"What is Foothill Unity Center? Founded in 1980, Foothill Unity Center is the primary provider of food, case management/crisis help, and access to health care resources across eleven San Gabriel Valley cities in Los Angeles County, California. As the federally designated Community Action Agency for the Foothill Area, we operate two locations, in Monrovia and Pasadena, serving clients in Pasadena, Altadena, South Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Arcadia, Monrovia, Bradbury, Duarte, Azusa, Baldwin Park and Irwindale. 79% of our clients are at or below the National Poverty Level. The number of people served by the organization has more than tripled over the last five years, making community funding contributions and volunteer support more critical than ever."


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sierra Madre's Water Bond Ratings Improve To "A"

Mod: I know, good news on The Tattler. It doesn't happen everyday, but sometimes you just have to throw all caution to the wind and let it rip. And this really is good news. Up until recently the water bonds Sierra Madre owes millions of dollars on were rated junk. Meaning that should the city wish to refinance what has been something of a financial disaster, it would be forced to pay exorbitant interest rates to do so. Which would kind of defeat the purpose. This came to me from Gabriel Engeland, and I am pleased to break the news to you here.

Mod: I did a kind of impromptu interview with City Manager Gabe Engeland about this surprising development. Here is how that all went.

Tattler: Question that just popped up on my blog: ".22c out of every water dollar goes to debt. That is now. What happens when the bond payments double in 2020?"

City Manager Engeland: The 2002 Bond payments increase in 2019-2020, but the 1998 Bond payment is retired the same year.  In 2019 payment of all debt in the Water Fund will be $846,720. In 2020 payment of all debt in the Water Fund will be $663,190. We actually will lower the overall debt burden in the Water Fund when the payments on the 2002 bond ratchet up. However, because of the way the 2002 bond was structured, this debt will eat up a larger portion of operating revenue even as the total payments decrease—and this is after the interest only portion is complete. If we are successful in the restructuring of the debt we can avoid some of this, but we won’t be able to avoid all of it.

Tattler: Does Sierra Madre's low Moody's bond rating play any role in this refinancing? I have been told this will make it more difficult.

City Manager Engeland: The bond rating will be a factor in the restructuring process along with other items, like reserves, operating revenues, customer base, etc. The market will determine our creditworthiness and the current rating will be one of the first things it considers. The bond rating is actually somewhere in the “A” range right now (I forget the exact rating) and the outlook has moved to “stable.”  Previously the bond rating was in the “B” range and the outlook was negative. Both of these are improvements over the past and are due in large part to the work our Assistant City Manager has done on this bond issuance. She’s fantastic. The rating essentially means we have the ability to meet our commitment but we may be influenced by changes in economic conditions or other circumstances.

Tattler: That is good news. The last Moody's notice I saw was in 2015 and had the bonds rated at Ba1. Maybe Moody's can send out an update? They're usually not that shy. It could be received as a big win in town.

City Manager Engeland: We’re on the same page.  We contacted them a few days ago to send the official letter.  What they initially sent was the “rating history” which showed the improvement. It’s odd they didn’t send a formal letter when it happened.

Mod: But wait, there's more! S&P isn't the only bond rater that has upped Sierra Madre's from somewhere in the junk realm to an "A". Which, by the way, isn't the best of all possible ratings, but certainly is much better than where it was in 2015. This piece of happening news comes to us from something that calls itself EMMA, which stands for "Electronic Municipal Market Access." It shows that both Moody's and KBRA (Kroll Bond Rating Agency, Inc.) are also piling on the wild joy as well. None are quite as high as they could be, but certainly this is a vast improvement.

Mod: Link to EMMA here. More news as it arrives.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Carl Foote Search Is Over

I have been waiting for more news on this story, but none has been forthcoming since this August 12th story in the Pasadena Star News.

Link here.

An article that ran on the Pasadena Now site on Sunday noted the following (link):

Foote is known for his support and Board role at Foothill Unity Center. Founded in 1980, the Center is the primary provider of food, case management/crisis help, and access to health care resources across eleven San Gabriel Valley cities.

In Carl's memory this would be a good organization to support. Link here.


Monday, August 14, 2017

SMFD's Employee Association: Is It Engaging In A Labor Action?

Cee Lo's favorite volunteer Fire Department
Mod: Recently I posted an article here called "Is It Sierra Madre Tax Raising Deja Vu All Over Again?" You can link to that here. Nothing against the Sierra Madre Fire Department, they work hard and do an incredible job for Sierra Madre. Along with the paramedic services the city is fortunate to have them. I mean, the next time you're having a heart attack you'll be happy to see them, I'm am sure. However, and while receiving almost no news from City Hall about what has been happening, or at least not yet, there has been a possible negotiation going down regarding salaries and benefits for a fire department that until recently had been a volunteer one.

All in a city currently challenged by its considerable debt, which is at the heart of the problem. As it is with the Library, the past City Councils that created Sierra Madre's crushing water bond and CalPERS exposure continue to do a lot of damage to some of this city's most beloved institutions.

This topic has apparently been agendized for a City Council meeting next month, so it is time to start getting ready. It could get wild. With all of that said, an interesting conversation broke out last week in the comments to that post last week, and I thought I should repost it here today.

Mod: As we have all seen in previous negotiations of this kind, especially with the SMPD, the emphasis by the employee association was always on the services provided and how essential it is that they continue, and not about the money. But if it is not about the money, then what is it really about?

Why would City Hall be talking about contracting out for these services if it wasn't about the potential for savings?


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Charlottesville: Under Trump America Is Going Insane

Mod: With Neo-Nazis like Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon calling the shots at the Trump White House, is it any wonder that the murders in Charlottesville happened yesterday? Even Republicans are starting to call Trump out. It is better late than never.

GOP Senator: My brother didn’t die fighting Hitler so Nazis could go unchallenged here (DeadState.com link): This Saturday, GOP Senator Orin Hatch spoke out against the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, saying that it’s a slap in the face to veterans who died in World War II fighting the Nazis, one of whom was his brother.

“We should call evil by its name,” Hatch tweeted, making sure to note that the tweet was composed by him and not his staff. “My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”

President Trump condemned the clashes but raised eyebrows when he said that “many sides” were to blame.

Hatch was 8-years-old when his brother was killed in WWII, and he’s said that his brother’s memory is what compelled him to go into public service. His bother, Jesse, was 20-years-old when the bomber he was a turret gunner on was shot down over Austria.

Previously, Hatch had tweeted that the tiki torches the white nationalist marchers used “may be fueled by citronella but their ideas are fueled by hate, & have no place in civil society.”

‘The alt-right is a terrorist movement’: Ex-Bush ethics czar blasts Trump administration’s support of racists (Raw Story link): During a segment of a special MSNBC broadcast featuring Joy Reid, former ethics czar to President George W. Bush Richard Painter blasted President Donald Trump’s stubborn refusal to denounce white supremacists and his attempt to equally blame the left for the violence that killed a 32-year-old woman in Charlottesville, VA.

“What this is all about is not the National Socialists or the Ku Klux Klan,” Painter said. “This is an umbrella organization or movement called the alt-right and the alt-right is a terrorist movement.”

He went on, “And that’s what we have seen: deaths today in Charlottesville because of the alt-right terrorist movement. It was given a platform by Steve Bannon at Breitbart News and the Trump administration needs to remove from the federal government anyone who has had any association with this so-called alt-right movement.”

“People are dying because of it,” Painter said. “It’s a threat to our national security and these people need to be out.”

Painter has been a gadfly on the Trump administration, saying that people like White House aides Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon are dangerous right-wing ideologues.

Republican lawmakers criticize Trump response to Charlottesville (MSN News.com link): Republican lawmakers went after President Trump on Saturday over his statement on violent clashes in Charlottesville, Va., with one senator going as far as saying Trump needed to call it a "terror attack by white supremacists."

"Mr. President - we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism," Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) tweeted.

Gardner was joined by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in directly calling out Trump.

"Very important for the nation to hear [President Trump] describe events in Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by white supremacists," Rubio said on Twitter.

Trump condemned the "egregious," racially-charged clashes in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday, but avoided putting more blame on any particular group, instead saying hatred by "many sides" were to blame.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) took to the social media platform to say white nationalists were taking part in homegrown terrorism.

"What 'White Nationalists' are doing in Charlottesville is homegrown terrorism that can't be tolerated anymore that what any extremist does," Grassley said.

Donald Trump's incredibly unpresidential statement on Charlottesville (CNN link): A group of white supremacists -- screaming racial, ethnic and misogynistic epithets -- rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday. One person was killed and 19 others were injured when a car sped into a group of counter-protesters.

This is what the President of the United States said about it:

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time."

It's hard to imagine a less presidential statement in a time in which the country looks to its elected leader to stand up against intolerance and hatred.

Picking a "worst" from Donald Trump's statement -- delivered from his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club -- isn't easy. But, the emphasis of "on many sides" -- Trump repeated that phrase twice -- is, I think, the low ebb.

Both sides don't scream racist and anti-Semitic things at people with whom they disagree. They don't base a belief system on the superiority of one race over others. They don't get into fistfights with people who don't see things their way. They don't create chaos and leave a trail of injured behind them.

Arguing that "both sides do it" deeply misunderstands the hate and intolerance at the core of this "Unite the Right" rally. These people are bigots. They are hate-filled. This is not just a protest where things, unfortunately, got violent. Violence sits at the heart of their warped belief system.

Trying to fit these hate-mongers into the political/ideological spectrum -- which appears to be what Trump is doing -- speaks to his failure to grasp what's at play here. This is not a "conservatives say this, liberals say that" sort of situation. We all should stand against this sort of violent intolerance and work to eradicate it from our society -- whether Democrat, Republican, Independent or not political in the least.

A reckoning in Charlottesville (BBC link): In the middle of Emancipation Park in Charlottesville on Saturday, two young women, one white and one black, took each other's hands and held them tightly, and with their other hands they gripped the steel barrier in front of them.

A few feet away, a young white man with a buzzed haircut and sunglasses leaned towards them over a facing barrier. "You'll be on the first f*****g boat home," he screamed at the black woman, before turning to the white woman. "And as for you, you're going straight to hell," he said. Then he gave a Nazi salute.

For the third time in a few months, white nationalists had descended on the small, liberal city of Charlottesville in the old Confederate capital of Virginia, to protest against the planned removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee.

This time they came under the banner of the so-called "alt-right", for a rally they called "Unite the Right". They were a motley crew of militia, racists, and neo-Nazis, and some who said they simply wanted to defend their Southern history.

They gathered early in the morning at Emancipation Park - formerly Lee Park - where the statue sits, some dressed in full tactical gear and openly carrying rifles. Others wore black shirts, helmets, and boots.

In a column they surged into the park, using sticks and their fists to shove aside anti-fascist counter-protesters. Then they blocked off the entrance with shields. Inside, David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, grinned and waved as the crowd, almost entirely white and male, cheered him on, chanting his name and putting their arms up in Nazi salutes.

‘Unite the Right’ Rally-Goer Tells Fox News ‘The F------ Jew Lovers Are Gassing Us!’ (Mediaite link): In the midst of violent clashes during today’s ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, one apparent white nationalist gave Fox News his unfiltered thoughts on the use of tear gas to disperse the crowds.

With Fox News reporter Doug McKelway walking alongside a group of rally-goers, many of whom were armed with shields and clubs, one marcher responded that he wasn’t “exactly sure” when asked by McKelway where they were heading.

He then offered up this following observation on live TV:

“They’re f------ gassing us. The f------ Jew lovers are gassing us, man!”

“Pardon his French,” McKelway noted.

The two men then continued to talk, with the rally-goer claiming he was at the march for “America” and the right to protect his right to say what he wants to say.

Last night, ahead of today’s since-canceled rally, hundred of torch-bearing white nationalists marched on the University of Virginia, chanting “white lives matter” and “blood and soil.”


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Catching up with CalPERS: Transparent California, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star News

Mod: Three stories for you today. We'll kick this one off with some CalPERS news from Transparent California.

CalPERS paid out over $20 billion in benefits last year as ‘100K club’ grows to nearly 23,000, new data shows (Transparent California link): Today, TransparentCalifornia.com — the state’s largest public pay and pension database — released 2016 pension data from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS). The data reveal that CalPERS made 646,843 individual payments totaling over $20 billion last year, with 22,826 retirees earning pensions of over $100,000 — a 63 percent increase since 2012.

The top 3 CalPERS pensions went to:

Former Solano County administrator Michael Johnson: $390,485.
Former Los Angeles County Sanitation District GM Stephen Maguin: $345,417.
Former UCLA professor Joaquin Fuster: $345,180.

The average pension for a full-career CalPERS retiree was $66,400.

With the recent addition of CalPERS data, TransparentCalifornia.com now has over 1.1 million pension records from 33 California public pension plans. Statewide, at least 52,963 retirees collected pensions of at least $100,000 last year, according to the data.

The continual rise in pension costs demonstrates the importance of making this information public, according to Transparent California research director Robert Fellner.

Californians will spend over $30 billion on pension costs in the coming year, a price tag which entitles them to full transparency regarding how that money is being spent.”

Mod: If you want to see the CalPERS list for Sierra Madre, click here. For Arcadia, click here. The Pasadena Star News picked up on Transparent California's revelations and posted this report:

10 percent of Pasadena’s retirees make $100,000 or more in annual pensions (Pasadena Star News link): Roughly 10 percent of Pasadena’s retirees earned at least $100,000 from annual pensions through the state’s retirement system in 2016, according to a report released Wednesday.

Transparent California, a government watchdog group, ranked cities, including Pasadena, Riverside, Long Beach, Anaheim and Torrance, among the 25 public agencies with the most pensioners receiving six-figure retirement income in the state.

Pasadena, at No. 20, has 149 retirees collecting at least $100,000 in benefits a year.

The number of retired public employees with pensions of at least $100,000 has grown 63 percent statewide since 2012, the group found.

The average pension for a “full-career” retiree under the California Public Employees’ Retirement System better known as CalPERS was $66,400 statewide, about $15,000 less a year than in Pasadena, according to Transparent California’s data.

Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek did not find the numbers shocking as the payouts are in line with other large cities, such as Burbank and Glendale. He attributed Pasadena’s ranking to the city’s efforts to stay competitive.

Pasadena’s practice in the past has been to pay its personnel in the top 25 percentile in order to get the best people,” Tornek said, adding the city abandoned the practice “some time ago, because we can’t afford it anymore.”

Now facing deficits, Pasadena anticipates significant leaps in pension obligations — from $30 million to $80 million per year — in the next two decades.

Still, Tornek said Transparent California’s ranking doesn’t factor in cost reductions over the years as labor groups, particularly police and fire, took salary cuts in exchange for maintaining higher pension payouts.

In Pasadena, residents have high expectations about the services they receive, he said.

“If you have chest pains and an EMT shows up to take care of you, you want to make sure he gets there fast, that he is well equipped, well-trained and that he saves your life,” Tornek said. “At that point, you’re not getting upset that he is getting paid in the top 25th percentile of the region.”

Mod: Well, there you go. Pay out six figure pensions or grandpa dies. Mayor Tornek makes it sound a bit like ransom. Or blood money. The Pasadena list is here. Little Loyalton California became quite famous this week for its CalPERS woes. There were many news articles telling their sad story. The Los Angeles Times filed the best one.

This tiny Sierra Valley town voted to pull out of CalPERS. Now city retirees are seeing their pensions slashed (Los Angeles Times link): The tremor in John Cussins’ right hand worsened as he described restless nights haunted by worries about paying the bills. After suffering a stroke in 2012, he retired as a 21-year employee of the city of Loyalton, Calif., where he oversaw the town’s water and sewer systems. Cussins, 56, believed his city pension and the Social Security payments he and his wife received would bring in enough to provide a decent retirement in the tiny, old timber mill town in the Sierra Valley.

Then a letter arrived in October. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System was cutting his $2,500-a-month pension by 60 percent, bringing it to about $1,000 a month.

“I was really shocked when I found out about it,” Cussins said. “We thought the pensions were there for the rest of our lives.”

Loyalton’s four retired city employees became the first in California to see their pensions sliced by CalPERS because of a city defaulting on its payments to the fund, but hundreds of other government retirees across the state may soon face a similar fate. At the same time, financially strapped local governments that considered pulling out of the state pension system, some hoping to find more affordable alternatives, have found it next to impossible to do because of the large termination fees they must pay CalPERS if they do.

As the nation’s largest public pension fund, CalPERS manages a $300-billion retirement system that services more than 1.8 million members and a retiree healthcare program that serves close to 1.4 million more. CalPERS functions as a money manager, investing the funds paid into the system by state and local governments. But those governments decide what pension benefits they will provide their employees and are ultimately responsible for ensuring there is enough money in their pension funds to provide the benefits promised.

Cussins was a member of the Loyalton City Council when the pensions were cut, but he said he had no idea it was coming. More than three years before he was elected, the council voted to pull out of CalPERS when its last pension-eligible employee retired, deciding the monthly payments were too steep for a town that for years flirted with insolvency.

CalPERS levied a $1.66-million termination fee on the city. Loyalton, home to about 760 people, has a single full-time city worker and an annual budget just shy of $1 million. The city didn’t pay the fee, so the four retired city employees saw their pensions slashed in November.

Mod: There is some intriguing information further on in this Times' article dealing with the unfortunate fate facing those cities that attempt to quit CalPERS. It ain't a pretty picture. As an example, bankrupt Stockton debated getting out, but when faced with a $1.6 billion dollar penalty decided they really ought to rethink the notion. Golden handcuffs, as they say.


Friday, August 11, 2017

South Pasadena Review: City Pulls Interim City Manager Elaine Aguilar Out of Retirement

Mod: Don't know how I missed this one. The following is from May 26, and was pointed out in the comments yesterday by an attentive reader. Bruce Inman had also been appointed an Interim City Manager, this in the City of Bradbury, but has since moved on.

City Pulls Interim City Manager Elaine Aguilar Out of Retirement (South Pasadena Review link): In her own words, Elaine Aguilar “left a pretty good thing,” talking about coming out of retirement to serve in an interim role as South Pasadena’s city manager.

Aguilar said that South Pasadena’s solid reputation of being a well-run and well-managed city lured her back to city government, replacing former city manager Sergio Gonzalez. Gonzalez held down the post for the past five years, but worked in various roles for the city for 13.

While Gonzalez stepped down to assume the city manager position in the City of Hermosa Beach, Aguilar moved in to make what appears to be a seamless transition.

“I knew coming in I wasn’t tackling a big mess, needing something to be fixed,” explained Aguilar, noting there are a number of key issues she’ll be focusing on while a search for a permanent city manager is underway.

The decades-old fight against the 710 Freeway tunnel, improving roadways and infrastructure, along with efforts to update the city’s general plan and seeing that the 2017-18 budget gets approved are high on her list of current projects.

“The City Council wants to make sure we continue the momentum on those items,” said Aguilar. “I have a real passion for local government. I would not have been doing it for 33 years if I didn’t have that passion. The ability to bring my expertise and experiences for a period of time to help such a wonderful city, I couldn’t pass it up.”

Most of her professional career has been spent in the San Gabriel Valley. She served as Sierra Madre’s city manager prior to her retirement. “I have a lot contacts at the local, state and federal level, so I’m familiar with who is who,” she said. “I have built relationships with other city managers in the area, so coming over here was just a natural fit. It wasn’t a situation where I was going into an area that was totally foreign, an unknown. It was a perfect opportunity at a great time.”

Aguilar was born and raised in nearby El Sereno, just off Huntington Drive, and lived there until she was 24. In her youth, she attended a private middle school in South Pasadena before moving on to Woodrow Wilson High School in Los Angeles, followed by Cal State L.A., and USC.

Aguilar initially was on the path to become a certified public accountant until she took on a six-month internship at the City of Paramount while at USC “and just fell in love with the profession and realized this is where my skills were a better match,” explained Aguilar. She discovered that being a “people person” was a real asset in “finding consensus on things, and solving problems” when taking on tough issues.

It was suggested she just might want to stay on permanently and oversee the city government in South Pasadena. “Oh no, no, no, I’m ready for retirement when that day comes,” she said with a laugh. “I have three grandchildren who are greatly disappointed. They’re looking forward to grandma being much more available. I told them, ‘just a little six month delay and I’ll be back.’”


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Last Night's Sierra Madre Water Forum Was Not Too Bad

".22 cents out of every water dollar goes to debt." - Gabe Engeland

You need to learn about perspectives if you want to get things right. Put yourself in other peoples' shoes and look at it all through their eyes. To mix up the metaphors a bit. And at a packed Hart Park House last night, that is what this was all about. Water and perspectives.

There were a lot of people there who were quite upset about how much they have to pay for water. And when you consider that they have been paying upwards of $1,600.00 for that irreplaceable wet stuff, they do have a pretty good point. These are very real, and obviously quite unfortunate, events in their lives. Intolerable events. But that isn't quite how I see this. Sympathetic though I may be.

From my perspective what they were talking about are the consequences of some pretty bad decision making from a long time ago. Likely way before many of them even hit town, so why would they care? They just want these water problems solved so they can then move on. Pipes, crazy billing and everything else. That is what most of the folks there last night were looking for.

That is what the city hopes to do as well. Plenty of agreement on that. There are now new people running City Hall, and they really do want to get past all of this. They have to. It is expected that they do so, and after all it is their job.

I want that to happen, too. It's just that there is a little business that I'd like to see taken care of first. I want to solve the mystery of how things got to be quite this bad. There is a deep and rich history here. What is going on today is the direct result of events that happened when I first got involved in the political and governmental affairs of Sierra Madre, and still am today.

It's why I started this blog. Think of it as crime solving. Detective work. And since it is my blog, that is how it will have to be. If you don't like it, well, go and read something else. No hard feelings.

Here's the deal. Back around 2006/2007 there was something called the Downtown Specific Plan (DSP). Certain politically connected individuals, some of them the actual politicians themselves, plus more than a few suckers I must add, were going to turn downtown Sierra Madre into this big, and quite atrocious in my opinion, development project. Blocks of that funky downtown area we have all grown to love were going to be torn down and replaced with a kind of generic three story mixed-use okey dokey kitsch that typifies places like, say, Rancho Cucamonga. Or a million other equally indistinguishable California towns. Take a ride on the 210 Freeway and check it out.

Millions of dollars were invested by people who believed they were going to make a lot of dough off of this development scheme. Plans were made and all that remained to be done was get everything approved by the city, and then built.

Except there was a problem. The majority of those living in Sierra Madre didn't want it. They liked things just the way they were. And to stop this Downtown Specific Plan they put something on the ballot called Measure V. An initiative that, once passed, would make building the DSP legally impossible. And despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by Sacramento based organizations such as the BIA and CAR (look them up) to defeat it, Measure V passed. It remains the law in downtown Sierra Madre today.

So where does this leave the water bonds that are such a financial disaster for Sierra Madre now? Here is where some of that mystery comes in. In 2002/2003 the City Council decided to issue a $6.75 million dollar water bond. The theory being that this was necessary for what would soon become known as the Downtown Specific Plan. The water infrastructure at that time not being adequate for the kind of bumping big development project they were planning for downtown.

They didn't really have the capital needed to float this water bond, but it didn't matter. Once the DSP was built there would be enough tax money flowing into the city's coffers to deal with it. They linked their water bond to a Federal grant and built some fine water tanks that are still in use today. They even have water in them.

However, when Measure V passed, the Downtown Specific Plan died an unhappy death. And since there would be no mighty tax bounty raised from the now defunct DSP, the City Council at that time had no money to pay for their $6.75 million dollar water bond. Meaning the interest only payment arrangement they put into place on what was hoped to be a temporary basis had to be left as it was. All the way to the year 2019. Which at the time must have seemed like a long ways away, but now no longer is.

Because of this large amount of unnecessary debt there is today far less money to replace the rusted out and leaky pipes that were discussed at length at last night's water forum. Or anything else for that matter. The hands of the city have been financially tied for a long while, and the consequences are obviously still with us today.

From 2020 to 2034 the City of Sierra Madre will be forced to pay off in excess of $640,000 in bond debt every year. More than double what the city has been paying in interest-only payments up until now. And because Sierra Madre's water bonds are rated junk by Moody's (how could that be otherwise?), no matter how the deckchairs on the Water Titanic are rearranged that bill will still need to be paid pretty much as is.

That is where your water use penalty money is going. And other money, too. No new pipes for you, cowboy. Prepare to cough up.

We'll have more on all of this in a few days. Including how the SGVMWD charges Sierra Madre much more for its water than some of the other area burghs. There will also be an intriguing conspiracy theory about how certain City Councilmembers back in the day were not only responsible for the 2002/2003 water bonds, they were also DSP investors.

Which, if ever proven true, would be quite a story.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Going to the big meeting? Here are some questions you can ask at tonight's Sierra Madre Water Forum

As you are probably aware, once a tax or fee or anything involving the creation of revenue being sent to City Hall is put into place, it never goes away. Remember, the Utility Users Tax (UUT) was originally supposed to only be temporary, and thanks to your vote it will now continue into eternity.

The above passage comes from a brochure sent out by the city a while back called "The Consumer Confidence Report." The question it appears to be dealing with here is why should water usage fines continue now that Jerry Brown had done away with the drought emergency he had imposed to cut water usage?

Tucked inside that drought emergency was the threat by Sacramento of some pretty draconian penalties for those cities that did not curb the water usage of its residents. Sierra Madre was at risk of incurring some pretty big ones.

But now that the drought emergency is finally over, some are asking, why should the City of Sierra Madre continue to fine its residents over their water usage? And at a pretty stiff clip. You may recall the folks on E. Highland who protested their $1,000.00 water bill at the most recent City Council meeting. I'm fairly certain this was the incident that lead to tonight's get together.

So here is the question. Will Sierra Madre's water fines ever go away? Or have they become yet another permanent revenue stream being used by a city that is literally drowning in its debt? And if so, exactly how would you justify making residents continue to pay those fines when that money is being used for whatever purpose City Hall sees fit?

This will naturally lead to someone from the city mentioning the high cost of water being supplied to Sierra Madre by the unhappily exploitative SGVMWD. At which time you would need to counter, "How exactly did our water representatives back then manage to negotiate such an awful deal? And why isn't the city trying to get us a better one now?"

I'd do this for you but I'm working late tonight.

Don't get lost!

The location of the meeting might change. According to the City of Sierra Madre website if the crowd becomes too large for the Hart Park House, the meeting will move to Council Chambers at City Hall. Of course, those arriving early at the original location won't know that the crowd is going to be large until it is, so they should be prepared to have to give up their good seats.

This should have been held at City Hall from the beginning. Council Chambers isn't all that big, anyway.

One thing you should not do is try to use the web address provided on the city's website for the Mountain Views News. It is kind of wonky. Maybe the person who typed that one didn't graduate from UC-Berkeley, either?

As always, try and have some fun. It's better that way.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Curbed LA: Sierra Madre Craftsman bungalow with pleasant yard seeks $1.5M

Mod: Today's post comes to us courtesy of the noted real estate blog Curbed LA. This truly is a nice house and all, and that $1.5 million dollar price tag is very Sierra Madre these days. One more sign that preserving the community and not allowing stupid DSP-style development in is making some residents a boatload of cash. But, and as you will see from the comparison pictures I've posted below, don't those interior shots look an awful lot like the now butchered Henry A. Darling house?

Sierra Madre Craftsman bungalow with pleasant yard seeks $1.5M (Curbed link): This sweet Craftsman in Sierra Madre is just lovely. The house, built in 1921, is clad in redwood exterior siding and has an oversized front door. And, inside, there is a lot more glorious wood: white oak floors, wainscoting of mahogany, fir and redwood. French doors and casement windows abound.

The house’s three bedrooms are spacious and bright, and the bathrooms all feature vintage-looking tilework.

Saltillo tiles cover the floor of the dining room, which over looks the spacious rear yard. The house sits on a nearly 11,000-square-foot lot that includes a spa and views of the San Gabriel Mountains nearby.

The house in the foothills last sold in 1979 for $97,500. It’s now listed for $1.499M.

Mod: Here are some interior shots from what once was the Henry A. Darling house.

Mod: I guess it now depends on whose hands these houses fall into.

Avid Hiker, Walker Reported Missing in Sierra Madre (KTLA link): Police are asking the public’s help in their search for a man who disappeared from Sierra Madre two days ago.

Carl Foote was last seen about 10 a.m. Sunday in the 100 block of East Laurel Avenue, according to a news release from the Sierra Madre Police Dept.

Foote was described as an avid hiker and walker. He stands 6 feet 9 inches tall and weighs about 200 pounds with hazel eyes. Foote has brown hair with a gray patch behind his right ear. He was possibly wearing a white t-shirt, khaki shorts, socks and tennis shoes.

Anyone with information was asked to call the Police Department at 626-355-1414.