Saturday, April 22, 2017

Good Luck Signing Up For Sierra Madre's New "Village View" Newsletter

You may not have seen this brand spanking new City Hall generated newsletter yet, even if you wanted to. Which I did, though I had to have it forwarded to me. Somehow they left me off the list. Here is how the header appears.


If you received this and did click to sign up (you can't do that here because it's just a screen shot), you would have been rewarded with the following message:


Yep, not quite ready for prime time. I suspect things will remain this way for at least a couple of days since it is the weekend. I can't imagine anyone at City Hall hotfooting it into work today to get this problem fixed. Not that you'll have missed all that much.

The "Village View Newsletter" proclaims itself to be the replacement for the City Manager's Report. I just don't see it. The CMR used to provide us with important particulars like the list of potential future City Council meeting topics under consideration by the Mayor, insights into some of the tougher issues the city is currently facing, and general "hard news" information those interested in the internal workings of city government would need to see.

This newsletter, on the other hand, is kinda fluffy. Here are examples of what I mean.



"Size of smaller" indeed. Good stuff to know and all, but hardly the kind of information those concerned about the city's internal governmental workings are going to take much interest in. Though I suppose you could look at compost as a metaphor for many of the local governments found in this region.

The City Manager's Report was first made public during a time when city government transparency had become a big issue here in town. It was an important concession by City Hall because up until then it was an internal only document, prepared solely for the eyes of the City Council. This replacement is a big step backwards in that regard. It is decidedly "public relations," and hardly the sort of thing it is proclaiming itself to be.

Here is one other issue I found with the city's latest effort to put some distance between itself and its more exasperating residents. Check this out:


Considering the outrageous rates they're charging for their dank chloramined water, I am not sure I'd ever refer to the SGVMWD as a friend. And, as always, we continue to have a problem with gender neutral Water Wise Owl. The Jar Jar Binks of local government agency mascots.

That said, should you click on the blue link provided above you will be taken to this:


I never thought I'd ever be saying this, but can we bring Elaine Aguilar back yet?

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Friday, April 21, 2017

Los Angeles Times: ATF’s focus on firearm sales by police may be tied to gun seizure at Pasadena officer’s home


Mod: More info on the ATF raid of Pasadena PD officer Vasken Gourdikian's Sierra Madre residence has become available. While the state of the case against Gourdikian still remains a closely held secret, possible reasons for the raid are now emerging. 

ATF’s focus on firearm sales by police may be tied to gun seizure at Pasadena officer’s home (Los Angeles Times link): A letter from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to law enforcement agencies across Southern California warning about an “emerging problem” of officers engaging in unlicensed firearms sales came just weeks after a Pasadena police officer’s home was searched and guns seized.

The March 31 letter from Eric Harden, special agent in charge at the ATF’s Los Angeles Field Division, said the agency has discovered officers buying and then reselling handguns without a federal firearms license. That violates federal gun laws.

The ATF letter, first reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune, came after a Feb. 16 search of the home of a high-ranking Pasadena police officer. News reports at the time said several large gun cases were removed from the officer’s Sierra Madre home and loaded into ATF vehicles.

No arrests were made, but the Pasadena Star-News reported that an officer was placed on administrative leave after the search.

A city spokesman said the ATF search did not have anything to do with the officer’s work with the department. Pasadena city offices were closed Friday. Authorities did not release the officer’s name, and a spokeswoman for the ATF declined to comment on ongoing investigations.

Harden’s letter said the agency recently has discovered officers who had purchased more than 100 “off-roster” guns. Those are guns that are not on a California list of approved handguns that can be purchased by the public. Some have been recovered at crime scenes.

The law, however, carves out a specific exemption that allows police officers to purchase such weapons.

The letter from Harden, which was distributed to sheriffs and police chiefs, talked about “the growing trend of law enforcement officials engaging in the business of unlicensed firearms dealings.”

Mod: The rest of this article is available at the link posted above.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Planning Commission Discusses Solar Energy for City Facilities Tonight

Please don't get me wrong here, I am all in favor of solar energy. I have 51 panels on my roof, which is a lot. We love to use electricity here. Everything we own runs on sunshine, including our two cars which are Chevy Volts. When we do buy gasoline for them (they have gas fueled generators that produce electricity when the batteries are spent), we usually spend no more than 5 bucks. I am averaging about 125 miles per gallon in my Volt. We're quite big on disruptive technologies here and I can't understand why everyone hasn't seen the light. So to speak.

I don't pay Edison much of anything, and the gasoline industry is just going have to get along without me. I'm sure they will. They practically own the current administration.

There are those who complain that solar, along with my choice of cars, only exist because of government subsidies. My answer to that comes in two parts. Please name a corporation in America (or anywhere else in the industrialized world) that doesn't receive government financial benefits. Either in straight cash handouts, tax breaks, or other considerations. You can't. Don't even bother trying.

Also, I have paid a lot in taxes over the years, as have you I'm sure. If an opportunity comes along to get some of that money back, why should I be among the few that doesn't get to take advantage? Seems unfair. Can you believe that there are some people who actually drive Fords to protest the GM bailout? Talk about adding insult to injury.

I have very little respect for the politics of selective outrage. And yes, I have digressed.

Tonight the Planning Commission will have the joy and privilege of parsing some of the more granular aspects of taking the City of Sierra Madre's government buildings and facilities solar. It is about time. City Hall is way behind the curve on solar, and you can only guess why. Eight years of misrule by a SoCal Edison employee might have had something to do with it. You know, the one who proclaimed himself the greenest to ever live, yet never found it in himself to put solar panels on anything the city owns?

Here is how James Carlson introduces this worthy effort (link).


By the way, if you spend some time with this agenda report, you will see that in addition to Connor Energy an outfit called ConEdison is also involved. As far as I know they have nothing to do with Southern California Edison. So don't go there.

Here are where my concerns come in. 


Here are my questions. This lengthy agenda report offers nothing to us about how much all of this is going to cost. If the City of Sierra Madre is going to take on even more debt than it has now, shouldn't there have been at least one small paragraph detailing how much new debt that is going to be? Perhaps this is more of a City Council consideration than a Planning Commission one, but the courtesy of sharing those numbers tonight would have been appreciated.

My other question is was there a bidding process? I know that Connor Energy specializes in putting up solar for municipal governments and businesses, as does their partner ConEdison. And I'm sure that working with them was convenient. But did you know that there are over 7,000 solar companies in the United States? Seriously. Many of whom would drive over their loving mothers to get the business of a place like Sierra Madre.

Most of these solar outfits are practically giving the stuff away. The competition is fierce. Has City Hall taken any advantage of that? Can it be that the lack of financial transparency in this agenda report is because they have only been talking to one party?

It wouldn't be the first time that has happened. Hopefully some of this will come up tonight. If anyone can do that, it would be the fine people of the Planning Commission.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The California Drought Is Over - So Why Is Sierra Madre Still Levying Huge Water Fines?

Mod: Water fines. Is the City of Sierra Madre still going to continue with its outrageous water fines?If you go over your allotment in Tier 1, the charge goes from $2.58 a unit to $10.72 a unit. That is a huge increase, right? How can that be acceptable when the water situation in California has changed as positively as it has? Can any of this still be justified? I don't think so. Please read on.

Sierra snowpack bigger than last four years combined, says NASA (CNBC link): California's snowpack level is near a record high. New data from NASA show that this past winter's snowpack levels in California's Tuolumne River Basin, located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, are higher than they were in the last four years combined.

Melting snow along the Tuolomne is an important source of water for both California's Central Valley — the heart of California's agricultural sector, and the crowded San Francisco area.

On April 1, NASA's Airborne Snow Observatory measured the Tuolumne Basin snowpack at 1.2 million acre-feet, which NASA says is enough snow to fill the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, nearly 1,600 times. The snowpack is twice the volume of last year's, and 21 times larger than 2015's level, which was the lowest on record.

NASA's ASO is the only program that measures snow water equivalent, which is what it sounds like: the amount of water present in a measurement of snow. NASA found that combining April 1 snowpack measurements from 2013 through 2016 yielded 92 percent of the snow observed just this year.

In much of the Central Sierra, snow lies 25 feet deep (8 meters). In some high mountain basins, it's deeper than 80 feet (24 meters). And since April 1, it has continued to snow.

Mod: There is also this.

Gov. Brown declares California drought emergency is over (Los Angeles Times link): Startlingly green hills, surging rivers and the snow-wrapped Sierra Nevada had already signaled what Gov. Jerry Brown made official Friday: The long California drought is over.

Brown issued an executive order that lifts the drought emergency in all but a handful of San Joaquin Valley counties where some communities are still coping with dried-up wells.

Mod: So why is the City of Sierra Madre still fining its citizens at such spectacularly high levels? Is it really just all about the money? All that debt?

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Why some national-security experts say Kremlin-gate will lead to Donald Trump's impeachment

Mod: An interesting article from a newspaper way up north called The Oregonian. It is nice to see that there are still some actual  patriots remaining on the political right. Too bad we see so few of them here.

Why some national-security experts say Kremlin-gate will lead to Donald Trump's impeachment (The Oregonian link): "There are known knowns," former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously said in 2002. These are often called facts. Sounds obvious enough, but Rumsfeld was actually making an important point about the nature of information and how we process it. He continued: "We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know."

In the Kremlin-gate scandal, we -- meaning the public in general -- remain mostly in the realm of unknown unknowns. We're probably going to have to wait for the FBI's investigation to be completed -- or the emergence of a Deep Throat for a 21st century Woodward and Bernstein -- before we move into known knowns that allow us to determine whether Donald Trump's presidential campaign last year colluded with Russian spies and hackers to tilt the election.

But some people are further down the Rumsfeldian road than others. Conservative national-security specialists -- who tend to be Trump critics -- have been cultivating their sources in the U.S. intelligence community for months. And they are increasingly convinced that the Trump campaign did indeed collude with the Russians -- and that Trump himself knew about it and inevitably is going to face impeachment and maybe even worse.

Here's how a post from Louise Mensch's Patribotics blog opened on Sunday:

"Sources linked to the intelligence community say that General Mike Flynn's trips to Cambridge and across Europe will form a key part of Donald Trump's impeachment and the prosecutions of dozens of his associates. According to several sources within the intelligence community, Michael Flynn was coordinating, with and for Russian agents, the drafting of messages that Vladimir Putin was using to attack democracy in not only the United States, but across Europe. Furthermore, Flynn was doing this with the full knowledge of the Trump campaign, including Donald Trump himself."

Mensch, a former Conservative member of the British Parliament and the founder of Rupert Murdoch's Heat Street news site, has been called a right-wing conspiracy theorist, but she's been out front on -- and right about -- key aspects of Kremlin-gate going back to last fall. Flynn, of course, was President Trump's national-security adviser until he was forced to resign for lying about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. It was revealed last month that he was seeking immunity from the FBI or Congress in exchange for his testimony.

Much of the information that is fueling reports such as Mensch's apparently comes from communications intercepts -- the routine monitoring of foreign agents by the National Security Agency. It seems that various Trump campaign officials and advisers ended up on these intercepts talking with known foreign agents.

"Just got an EM fm [sic] senior IC friend, it began: 'He will die in jail,'" former NSA analyst John Schindler, now a conservative columnist, wrote on Twitter in February. The "he" Schindler's IC friend was referring to is President Trump.

Mod: You can read the rest of this article by clicking on the link above. 

Russian ties sink "CalExit"

Calexit backers drop 1 California secession bid, try again (Pasadena Star News link): Supporters of one long-shot bid to make California an independent nation ended their effort on Monday, while another group said it will launch a new campaign for a statewide vote next year.

The drive to make the nation’s most populous state its own country, with what would be the world’s sixth-largest economy, has drawn extra interest after last year’s election of Republican Donald Trump as president.

But the Yes California Independence Campaign faltered after its president, Louis Marinelli, revealed ties to Russia. Marinelli said in a lengthy message to supporters Monday that he is seeking permanent residence in Russia because of his “frustration, disappointment and disillusionment with the United States.”

Mod: I wonder how the Russians will treat Traitor Louie now that he is no longer of any use to them. 

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Monday, April 17, 2017

Why is the Phil Hosp campaign advertising an endorsement from an EB-5 Green Card Attorney?

Marty
Tomorrow there is an election for a City Council seat in Pasadena. Like all Pasadena elections, this one has become a big money effort run by the usual frantic and quite omnipresent campaign managers. Obstreperous gents who are often far more interesting than the politicians they're shilling for. The candidate of political chameleon Martin Truitt (you know, the Republican who ran the dishonest pro-tax Yes on Measure UUT effort in Sierra Madre that so many of you knuckleheads fell for) is a personal injury attorney named Phil Hosp.

What is odd here is that Truitt is running his pie-eyed cutout as an anti-development candidate. As you must be aware, Pasadena is one of the most miserable traffic glutted over-developed logistical nightmares in the San Gabriel Valley these days, so I am going to assume Truitt's research identified this as a popular campaign issue to run his boy on. But is Hosp's opposition to more SB375 style development glut in the Rotten Rose sincere? Considering the cynicism of the source, I highly doubt it.

Recently I was perusing the always interesting Pasadena Star News website. The PSN, as you know, now resides in a building owned by one of the preeminent developers in the state. Truitt, who loves placing ads for his candidates on that site, had one for Phil Hosp up there. Being an adventurous fellow I clicked on it and was immediately taken to the following column (link).


Yes, Ms. Chen's personal life is fascinating for us all. Her column goes on in this self-reverential way for about eight more paragraphs. There are also 11 reader comments attached, which are far more fun.

Since Ms. Chen does bring up the fact that both she and her homebody hubby are lawyers, I thought it would be far more interesting to discover what kind of pettifogger she might be. It didn't take too long to find out (link).


As many of you are certainly aware, Green Card mills and developers have an interesting symbiotic relationship. Here is an article that ran in the New York Times a while back that shed some needed light on the topic (link).

Look into Phil's eyes
Want a Green Card? Invest in Real Estate Like many of her fellow classmates at New York University, Yanchu Zhao has a busy schedule. A college junior, she has a double major in economics and journalism, and juggles classes, an internship and life with roommates in a rental near Herald Square.

But unlike many of her fellow classmates, Ms. Zhao came to the United States on a student visa. “A lot of students talked about how hard it was to get a job in New York and in the United States,” she said. “My parents heard that if I can get a green card, it would be easier for me to succeed.” So two years ago, Ms. Zhao’s parents invested $500,000 in a hotel project on Bryant Park, knowing that their investment could be parlayed into green cards for the family. Three months ago, their paperwork came through and the Zhaos became permanent residents of the United States.

While Ms. Zhao’s father has remained in Beijing, her mother joined her in the United States and is now renting a studio on Roosevelt Island and studying English. Investing in real estate projects in exchange for legal immigration status has become big business in New York City. Through a federal visa program known as EB-5, foreigners, more than 80 percent of them from China, are investing billions of dollars in hotels, condominiums, office towers and public/private works in the hope it will result in green cards. 

Twelve-hundred foreigners have poured $600 million into projects at Hudson Yards; 1,154 have invested $577 million in Pacific Park Brooklyn, the development formerly known as Atlantic Yards; and 500 have put $250 million into the Four Seasons hotel and condominium in the financial district. The list of projects involving EB-5 investments also includes the International Gem Tower on West 47th Street and the New York Wheel on Staten Island.

There is a lot more for you to read. Click on the link to the NYT above to discover more. It is worth your while.

So is there a connection to be made here? Perhaps. Certainly there are some questions that need to be asked.

Here's one. Is Phil Hosp going to somehow make Pasadena into the pleasant tree lined California gem it once was? Don't make me laugh.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Does Past Volunteer Work Excuse Later Bad Behavior?

I have been doing this blog on an almost daily basis since late in 2008, and many interesting themes have developed over that time. And one theme that has consistently been with us all along is what I like to call the "Volunteer Defense."

The notion here being that no matter what sorts of shenanigans someone has recently been involved in, the fact that this person had done some past volunteer work for the city would somehow wash away all of his guilt.

A corollary here would be that criticizing someone who has done such volunteer work, whether related to the particular topic under consideration or not, somehow makes you ungrateful. Even if the topic being examined has nothing to do with that work.

As an example, the following exchange posted to Friday's Henry A. Darling home article took place late last night.



So I guess the question would be does having done volunteer work for the city get you a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card? Useful should you do something later that is not quite above board, and you need to be forgiven and loved?

Enjoy your Easter Sunday.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Vaskenator: News related to the Pasadena Police Lieutenant Vasken Gourdikian case finally emerges

 The Vaskenator
As many Tattler readers will recall, the Sierra Madre home of Pasadena Police Lieutenant Vasken Gourdikian was raided by the Feds last February, and crates of what are suspected of being high powered and quite illegal weaponry were seized and carted away as evidence of criminal wrongdoing. The boldest original reporting on this event came from the Pasadena Weekly, who limned the goings on this way (link):

A Pasadena police officer has been placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation after agents with the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) searched his home last Thursday. Property records obtained by the Pasadena Weekly list Lt. Vasken Gourdikian as the owner of the Sierra Madre home that was searched. A source close to the investigation who asked for anonymity confirmed Gourdikian is the officer in question. 

According to CBS Channel 2 News, the officer’s Sierra Madre home was raided as part of a criminal investigation. Reporters said they saw numerous gun cases in the garage which was opened when ATF agents arrived. The door was closed almost instantly and dozens of the cases were loaded into an SUV and a van. “There were so many it took two vehicles to haul them away,” stated CBS reporter Jeff Nguyen.

Now if you or I were the subject of such a colorful investigation we'd probably find ourselves uneasily resting in jail today, and the subject of a lot of uncomfortable media attention. However, this story almost immediately disappeared from all local news sources. And even then nearly all of what coverage did emerge initially dared not even mention The Vaskenator's name.

Why is that? Because under California state law police officers enjoy extraordinary legal privileges and protections, even when they are busted by Federal agents for allegedly stashing an arsenal of illegal weaponry in their garage.

That "thin blue line" hype you've heard so much about recently apparently exists behind a legal shield so daunting it turns even the most intrepid news reporters into something quite timid and runny.

After nearly two months of no coverage, this story has now come roaring back to life. In an article that appeared yesterday on the news powerhouse Pasadena Now website, intrepid crime reporter Eddie Rivera cracked open the following information (link):


There is a lot more to Eddie's excellent story, and you can check it all out by hitting the link I supplied above. However, and outside of fact that this story also only identified the city of residence and not the name of our alleged gun happy flatfoot, here is the part I found the most annoying:


Like I said, if it was you or I that was busted for such a thing we'd likely be sweating it out in sunny Guantanamo by now dressed up in an orange jumpsuit. But a police officer? The silence becomes deafening. This gent is still even collecting his quite handsome Pasadena paycheck (link).

The Modesto Bee printed an article a while back that describes the extraordinary protections police officers enjoy in this state. Check this out if you're up to it (link):


More news on this story will appear on The Tattler if and when it ever becomes available.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Friday, April 14, 2017

Is the Henry A. Darling House now being left to rot?

That most eagerly anticipated showdown between William Kefalas and the Planning Commission has now been canceled. This after having been repeatedly delayed starting late last year. Here is the news from an Agenda Report for next Thursday.

Discretionary Demolition Permit 16-01 (DDP 16-01) (link): A request to allow the reconstruction of the roof and exterior walls of the residence located at 126 E. Mira Monte Avenue. The applicant, William Kefalas, submitted an application for Discretionary Demolition Permit 16-01 to allow the reconstruction of the roof, exterior walls and foundation of a single-family residence located on the property at 126 E. Mira Monte Avenue.

The Planning Commission considered the request at its November 3rd and December 1st, 2016 meetings. At the December 1st meeting, the Commission voted to continue the meeting to January 19, 2017 to allow the applicant to submit an application for a certificate of appropriateness; at that meeting, the Commission voted to continue the meeting to February 15, 2017 upon the applicant’s request for additional time. At the February 15 meeting, the applicant submitted another request for continuance, and the Commission voted to continue it to the March 16, 2017 meeting, and at the March 16th meeting, the applicant submitted another request for continuance, and the Commission voted to continue it to the April 20, 2017 meeting.

Since the last continuance, the applicant has submitted a written request (attached herein) to withdrawal the application for Discretionary Demolition Permit 16-01(DDP 16- 01).

Here is the very brief letter Mr. Kefalas sent to City Hall.


The blacked out names Cc'd on this pithy e-mailed document are Richard McDonald and Scott Carlson. Two exceptionally fine Pasadena pettifoggers who must be making quite a handsome living litigating against cities such as Sierra Madre.

This unhappy development can lead us to some speculation. The first being how Mr. Kefalas is dealing with the bank that lent him the money to purchase the property. That amount, estimated at around half a million dollars, must have been lent to him with the understanding that a house was involved. Now that this historic structure has been reduced to toothpick sculpture, where is the collateral value? If the bank knows about it, they can't be happy.

It is also possible to speculate about a possible strategy here. Is this an attempt to stoke community anger by threatening to leave an eyesore festering in the midst of what is one of Sierra Madre's more notable neighborhoods? A stick in the eye of Mr. Kefalas's neighbors, stuck there in the hope that they will become angry enough to bring pressure upon City Hall to allow this obstreperous gent to finish his project as he sees fit?

Despite city laws that clearly state he has gone about this in an improper and apparently indefensible way?

It could also be that Mr. Kefalas and his bounding attorneys no longer feel they stand any chance of getting what they want from the Planning Commission, or perhaps even the City Council, and have now decided to sue the city instead.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see how this all turns out.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Congressman tells angry constituents the idea that they pay his salary is ‘bullcrap’

Mod: If you didn't know better, you might begin to think they're all idiots.

Congressman tells angry constituents the idea that they pay his salary is ‘bullcrap’ (McClatchy DC link): An Oklahoman congressman is under fire after he seemingly dismissed the notion that his constituents pay for him to go to Congress, calling the idea “bullcrap” in a viral video making the rounds on social media.

Markwayne Mullin, speaking at a town hall Tuesday in Jay, Oklahoma, was responding to a question from the audience when he responded to a claim that constituents pay for him to work in Congress.

“You say you pay for me to do this. Bullcrap. I pay for myself. I paid enough taxes before I got there and continue to through my company to pay my own salary. This is a service. No one here pays me to go,” said the 39-year-old Republican who represents Oklahoma’s second district, which covers much of the eastern part of the state.

When several audience members pushed back against this claim, Mullin went on, “I’m just saying this is a service for me, not a career, and I thank God this is not how I make my living.”

Court Approved Wiretap on Trump Campaign Aide Over Russia Ties (New York Times link): The Justice Department obtained a secret court-approved wiretap last summer on Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign, based on evidence that he was operating as a Russian agent, a government official said Wednesday.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court issued the warrant, the official said, after investigators determined that Mr. Page was no longer part of the Trump campaign, which began distancing itself from him in early August. Mr. Page is one of several Trump associates under scrutiny in a federal investigation.

The Justice Department considered direct surveillance of anyone tied to a political campaign as a line it did not want to cross, the official added. But its decision to seek a wiretap once it was clear that Mr. Page had left the campaign was the latest indication that, as Mr. Trump built his insurgent run for the White House, the F.B.I. was deeply concerned about whether any of his associates were colluding with Russia.

To obtain the warrant, the government needed to show probable cause that Mr. Page was acting as an agent of Russia. Investigators must first get approval from one of three senior officials at the Justice Department. Then, prosecutors take it to a surveillance court judge.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Where is CalPERS Investing Your Money? Would You Believe Trump's Mexico Border Wall?

Mod: As if driving entire cities into bankruptcy wasn't enough.

CalPERS says divesting from border wall, Dakota pipeline could hurt taxpayers (Sacramento Bee link) Leaders at CalPERS are voicing concerns about a set of bills in the Legislature that would compel that $310 billion pension fund to divest from politically unpopular projects, such as President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall and the Dakota Access Pipeline. Two of CalPERS’ top officers visited The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board on Tuesday to reiterate their worry that divesting from companies could hurt taxpayers and surrender the pension fund’s vote as a major investor.

“When you divest, you basically take our voice out of the debate,” said CalPERS Chief Operating Investment Officer Wylie Tollette.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System is watching three bills that could force it and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System to shed certain investments.

They are:

▪  Divesting from companies that work on the Trump administration’s proposed border wall. Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, is behind AB 946.

▪  Divesting from companies that build or finance the Dakota Access Pipeline. Assemblyman Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, wrote AB 20. The CalSTRS board last week voted to oppose the bill unless it’s amended in such a way that it does not demand divestment.

▪  AB 1597 by Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, D-Los Angeles, which would compel CalPERS and CalSTRS to cut their investments in Turkey. The bill is written as a response to the Armenian genocide of the early 20th century.

In February, dozens of environmental advocates crowded a CalPERS board meeting to urge the fund to divest from the Dakota Access Pipleine, the 1,100-mile project that would move oil through the Upper Midwest. The board declined to divest, but wrote a letter calling on banks financing the project to pressure its builder to consider rerouting the pipleline away from the American Indian tribe that led protests against it.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is under fire for saying Hitler didn't use chemical weapons (Los Angeles Times link): White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer appeared to forget about the Holocaust when comparing Hitler with Syrian President Bashar Assad during a cringe-worthy televised briefing with reporters on Tuesday.

“You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to chemical weapons," Spicer said, in an attempt to argue that Russia and other countries that are not standing up to Assad are on the wrong side of history.

Spicer's rendering ignored the horror of the Holocaust, where gas chambers were used as part of a genocide campaign that killed 6 million Jews as well as millions of others including Gypsies and gay people.

Mod: No words can describe the idiocy of these people.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Topic That Will Not Be Discussed At Tonight's Sierra Madre City Council Meeting

On April 7 (link) we ran a piece that detailed Pasadena's $1.5 billion dollars in pension debt. Sierra Madre also has a vast amount of such debt. And while it is nowhere near as large as that suffered by Pasadena, at over $40 million dollars, with pension debt per household at $8,472, it is proportionally significant. Below is how Sierra Madre's pension woes are laid out by a site called California Pension Tracker, a site put together by Dr. Joe Nation, Project Director at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. Link here.


Here are some definitions that will help make this a little more clear.

Market Liability: Present Value of future benefits for current members, discounted at a market rate of return, ranging from 2.82% to 4.82%.

Actuarial Liability: Present Value of future benefits for current members, using discount rates reported by most systems, typically 7.5%.

Value of Assets: Market Value of Assets, as reflected by the current market price.

Market Pension Debt: Market Liability minus Value of Assets.

Acturial Pension Debt: Actuarial Liability minus Value of Assets.

Actuarial Liability minus Value of Assets: Discount rate for terminating CalPERS agencies, based on 10- and 30-year Treasury yields, ranging from 2.82% to 4.82%.

This, of course, is the real reason why Measure UUT was on the ballot and pushed so fiercely in 2016. Trust me, it wasn't really about the Library.

It is also why the City of Sierra Madre will be pushing for additional tax increases in 2018. Again, and despite what you will be told, it won't really be about the Library, the Fire Department, Paramedics, the Huck Finn Fishing Derby or Baby Rhyme Time.

This is also something the city government here adamantly refuses to agendize and discuss at City Council meetings with those who are actually paying the bills. Why this city won't level with its constituents is baffling.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Monday, April 10, 2017

Is Our Favorite Drug Rehab Facility Claiming Special Privileges, and in an R1 Zone No Less?

A Sierra Madre resident living on West Carter, and not too far away from the now infamous Dedicato Treatment Center, has had the very good fortune to have an excellent nanny. The nanny was taking care of children when she was approached by someone from Dedicato, who then told her she could not park her car along the street around 22 West Carter. He went on to say the spaces were reserved for his recovering addict clientele, individuals who apparently don't enjoy the inconvenience of having to walk very far.

Staff members from Dedicato routinely park on the street, rather than inside of the property. Many of the area residents have to weave around one particular staff car, a white Ford, license plate XXXXX, which frequently is parked for hours close to the stop sign on Baldwin and Carter, making the turn on that corner more difficult.

According to the currently under-enforced Sierra Madre Police Code the restricted parking area in front of the Dedicato prohibits the employees of that business from parking in front of that location during day time hours only. The parking (in question) is reserved for visitors to the Dedicato and residents or visitors to the area that need to legally park a vehicle on this public street.

There is more. This bad neighbor of a business is lit up like a California desert prison all night long. There are 12 lights that have a very negative impact on the ambience of the neighborhood, and make a mockery of the Dark Sky provisions in the General Plan. If they want to light up their institution, they should be required to do so with proper shielding and orientation of that lighting, directing that grim glare into their own unhappy business, rather than causing a casino like-blaze that spills out into the whole general area.

You have to wonder why the place is it up like that. Is it so the wardens can spot escaping inmates fleeing their imprisonment? Has that afflicted stretch of Carter become a no-man's land?

Every week, the Dedicato's many trash cans lined up on the street are overflowing, stuffed with so much garbage that their lids can’t be properly closed. As soon as the weather warms up, they will draw bears down from the National Monument like magnets. This lucrative junkie rehab business, which is no doubt making money for someone hand over fist, ought to be able to spring for more garbage cans, and bear proof ones at that.

Plus, how much of that overflowing trash is medical waste?  Does this business have a special collection process for medical waste? Would anyone running the city actually know an answer to this?

Every single home in town is potentially vulnerable to becoming a 6 bed rehab business. Isn't it time City Hall paid a little attention?

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Sunday, April 9, 2017

NC pastor to Trump supporters: Stop calling Trump a Christian—he's everything Jesus stood against

Mod: A little homily for a Sunday.

NC pastor to Trump supporters: Stop calling Trump a Christian—he's everything Jesus stood against (Daily Kos link): North Carolina Pastor John Pavlovitz continues to call out the hateful rhetoric and actions of Donald Trump, as well as the religious hypocrisy within the church. Over the past year, the popularity of the North Raleigh pastor has grown and many find his public essays to be  straightforward, compassionate and thought-provoking. In one piece, Pavlovitz addresses Christian women and warns them about the misogyny that is perpetuated by extreme right-wing Christian males, who seem okay with Trump’s sexual assaults, and thus really don’t care about and/or respect women.

Though Pavlovitz writes a lot about the perilous Donald Trump, he has also written some stunning pieces about others including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former U.S. President Barack Obama. With a social media platform that now reaches millions of people who are believers and non-believers, Pavolvitz has become a strong voice of truth and faith in a country that is torn. Given his unabashed views on Trump, one might say Pavlovitz is an integral part of Christian #Resistance.

Pavlovitz recently published a piece urging folks to stop referring to Donald Trump as a Christian. Who would have thought during Trump’s early campaign, he would ever have been referred to as a man of God. But “somehow” Trump found Jesus on the campaign — just in time to garner millions of Christian voters. Pavlovitz reminds us that Trump’s life shows contempt toward the good that Jesus lived and preached: “humility, generosity, respect, empathy, kindness, peace.” But high-positioned and high-profile evangelists were able to convince many in their flocks that the real Donald Trump is a new Christian — who has now seen the light and is headed for the Promised Land. Pavlovitz adds:

Sure, he was on his third marriage and was heard on video boasting of his infidelity to his current wife. 

Yes, he said he could grab a woman by the genitalia. 

Yes, he advocated that protesters at his rallies be “roughed up.” 

Sure, he made fun of a disabled man. 

Certainly, he talked about walling off Mexicans and banning Muslims and taking away healthcare

But Donnie loved Jesus now — so all should be well with our souls.

Pavlovitz says he struggles with the hypocrisy of the millions of fundamentalists who use the word of God to condemn the LGBTQ community, Muslims, entertainers, Atheists, Democrats... yet these same fundamentalists have suddenly become a people full of grace for Trump, saying we should not judge lest we be judged,” because “God looks at the heart” and how dare we assess another’s professed faith. Pavlovitz questions how this kind of mercy was somehow never in play over the eight years fundamentalists spent crucifying Barack Obama. Their obsession with President Obama most likely had nothing to do with religion. It was more to do with “pigmentation” — the color of President Obama’s skin.

After being a pastor for 20 years,

In his piece, Pavlovitz cites the words of Jesus in a passage from Matthew 5:

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. “

In accordance with the above passage, the NC pastor asks what kind of fruit comes from:

- Eliminating healthcare for tens of millions of poor people?
- Banning refugees and leaving them stranded at airports?
- Walling of Mexico and demanding they pay for the gesture?
- Driving an oil pipeline through sacred Native American land?
- Filling your Cabinet with billionaires?
- Demonizing and banning Muslims?
- Appointing a white supremacist to the highest level of government?

Pavlovitz calls Donald Trump’s fruit putrid and rotten and tells Christians:

“You can continue to support this man, but don’t say you’re doing it because he is a man of God, a follower of Jesus, someone striving for Christlikeness.”

Though Pavlovitz says he cannot know what’s in Trump’s heart, what is clear is that there is little if any love, benevolence, or compassion towards others — “and that does matter to Jesus.” If Christians really care about all people coming to know Christ, then using Trump as an example will not help that effort, only hinder it. And until Trump shows some resemblance of benevolence and love, “we need to stop using him and Jesus in the same breath, because it distorts Jesus by association.” Pavlovitz makes many more good points in the full essay, which is a quick and very worthwhile read.

In his conclusion, John Pavlovitz speaks to Christians who may be tempted to argue with him about Trump’s so-called “Christianity” and beckons them to first read Sermon on the Mount and then suggests they spend some time in ”reflection and prayer” before attempting to show where they see Jesus in Trump’s life.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Saturday, April 8, 2017

ABC News: Syrian military knew the US raid was coming and evacuated personnel and equipment

Mod: Can it be that President Trump's first big expenditure of Tomahawk Cruise Missiles took out an empty airport? And that the enemy he claims to have punished so badly had actually been warned in advance and moved out their personnel and aircraft?

ABC NEWS: Syrian military knew the US raid was coming and evacuated personnel and equipment (Raw Story link): Sec. of State Rex Tillerson revealed late Thursday that the U.S. warned Russia that they would be bombing the airfield in Homs, Syria since there was Russian military in the vicinity.

ABC News reported early Friday that the Syrian military seemed to know that something might happen. Eyewitnesses claim the military then evacuated personnel and moved equipment before the strike took place.

The United States dropped 59 Tomahawk missiles on the Shayrat airbase at approximately 8:40 p.m. EST. The bombs were aimed at refueling stations and aircraft. The Pentagon explained that the strike was aimed at preventing another chemical attack on Syrian civilians in the future.

Donald Trump, who’s totally not Vladimir Putin’s puppet, warned Russia before airstrikes on Syria (Salon link): It turns out that President Donald Trump gave a heads up to the Russian government before launching his missile strike against Syria on Thursday night.

Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line,” said Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis in an official statement. “U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield.”

In response to the attack, Russia has announced that it will help Syria strengthen its air defenses. It also may have prepared Syrians for the attack by tipping them off, as eyewitnesses observed personnel and equipment being moved from the Shayrat airbase in advance of the attack.

The authoritarian state expressed predictable displeasure with Trump’s decision. Although Syria has been under intense criticism for using chemical weapons against its own citizens, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad has a close alliance with Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin.

MISSION FAILED: Trump’s Plan Got Out And Syrian Army Evacuated Beforehand (Occupy Democrats link): President Trump took the most significant military action of his short presidency tonight with a barrage of Tomahawk missiles against the Syrian regime’s air forces in retribution for a recent sarin gas attack against civilians that killed 86 people and wounded hundreds more. His impulsive show of force, however, wasn’t nearly as effective as he would have hoped it would be. ABC News reports that the Syrian military was aware that a strike was incoming and the missiles hit the mostly deserted al-Shayrat airbase in Homs province.

Early reports indicate that a Syrian soldier was killed, a dozen jets were damaged, and the runway sustained heavy damage – but otherwise, the Syrian regime’s ability to slaughter civilians from the skies has not been greatly hindered.

The Pentagon told the Russian military, which has a huge presence in government-controlled Syria, where the strike was going to be in order to prevent any Russian casualties.

The Russians obviously then told the regime where the strikes were going to hit, and Trump ended up spending $70 million dollars for a firework show.

Mod: At worst this might have been little more than a lover's quarrel. But it is not the only big issue we're dealing with today.

But does he like it?
Pat Robertson Says He Is Being Dominated By Homosexuals (Patheos.com link): Pat Robertson believes he is being dominated by homosexuals, and worries that gays and lesbians control the culture.

Appearing on his program The 700 Club earlier this week, the televangelist went on a rant about a supposed “left-wing bias” in the media. Blaming the supposed bias on gays and lesbians, Robertson declared:

We have given the ground to a small minority. You figure, lesbians, one percent of the population; homosexuals, two percent of the population. That’s all. That’s statistically all. But they have dominated — dominated the media, they’ve dominated the cultural shift and they have infiltrated the major universities. It’s just unbelievable what’s being done. A tiny, tiny minority makes a huge difference. The majority — it’s time it wakes up.

As usual, Robertson is wrong. The numbers refute any claim that the media is being “dominated” by gays and lesbians. According to the latest  “Where We Are on TV” report from GLAAD, only about 4.8% of television roles are LGBTQ characters.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Friday, April 7, 2017

Pasadena: Estimated $1.5 billion pension debt; City employees earn 131% (median) more than residents; 69% of full-time employees earn over $100,000/year.

Mod: The following comes to us from the California Tax Limitation Committee, a quite conservative organization that seeks to limit the size of government and slash taxes. Here is a portion of what they sent out yesterday in the form of an e-mail.

Shocking Pasadena Budget Highlights: Estimated $1.5 billion pension debt; City employees earn 131% (median) more than residents; 69% of full-time employees earn over $100,000/year. Pasadena is sitting on a ticking time-bomb of catastrophic debt and unsustainable spending and taxation. These are the most critical issues in this upcoming election.

We are currently preparing for a 2018 statewide initiative for California pension reform which will put all future public employees into 401(k) retirement plans and into the social security system.

A recent review of the Pasadena City budget, salaries and pension debt (see facts and solutions below) tell us all we need to know about the City's municipal crisis.

There are two candidates, incumbent Andy Wilson and newcomer Phil Hosp, who are in a run-off election in District 7 slated for April 18th.

Visit their websites and address your questions directly to them over the coming days to determine for yourselves which candidate is going to be most capable of taking on these dire issues.

We've heard good words that the new mayor, Terry Tornek, is making an effort to address the fiscal crisis facing Pasadena. Stay tuned as we learn more about this over the coming year.  Let's take this opportunity to work with our City Council and get our finances in order.

FACTS AND SOLUTIONS

I.   City Employee Salaries & Benefits 2011 to 2015
TransparentCalifornia.com (link)
Median pay for full-time city employees has risen 12% from $82,439 to $91,910.
Median pay and benefits for full-time city employees has risen 13% from
$110,530 to $124,736.
Meanwhile in 2015, full-time city employees earned 131% more than full-time employed residents:
City employees:  $124,736
Pasadena residents:  $53,916

Total city overtime pay has risen 38% since 2011:
2011 - $14.6 million
2012 - $14.9 million
2013 - $15.6 million
2014 - $18.7 million
2015 - $20.1 million

II.  The City is in Debt
Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (link)

Under the California pension system, taxpayers are obligated to continue paying city employees up to 90% of their salaries for the rest of their lives after they retire.  Consequently, the City has accumulated a catastrophic pension debt.

As of 2015:
CalPERS (the California pension system) says Pasadena taxpayers owe $377.4 million.  This is bad enough, however . . . .

Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research estimates the debt to actually be closer to $1.5 billion (and growing).

III.  City Budget Facts 2011 - 2015 According to the Adopted Budgets
as reported in the Adopted Budgets on City website

Year after year, tax revenues increase steadily while the City continues to increase total spending, give lavish raises to city employees and to accrue more and more pension debt.  Yet so often the City claims to be facing "budget shortfalls" and reaches deeper and deeper into the pockets of taxpayers.  The City does not have a revenue problem, it has an spending problem.

Over the last ten years since 2006:
General Fund revenues are up 23% from $182.7 million to $224.2 million

General Fund expenditures are up 14% from $193.2 million to $219.8 million

Total revenues are up 22% from $583.6 million to $713.4 million

Total spending is up 6%
from $651.2 million to $690.5 million

There have been large budget surpluses since 2011:
2011 - $50.2 million
2012 - $57 million
2013 - $40.9 million
2014 - $11.4 million
2015 - $69 million
2016 - $22.9 million

IV.  2015 Highlights of City Employee Salaries over $90,000
TransparentCalifornia.com

Sampling of Highest Pay & Benefits 2015

Out of 1,455 full-time city employees, 69% make over $100,000 a year:
782 city employees earned between $100,000 and $200,000
221 city employees earned between $200,000 and $300,000
7 city employees earned over $300,000
City Manager -  $394,271
City Attorney - $319,590
Assistant City Manager I - $317,670
Assistant City Manager II - $306,441
Chief Information Officer - $274,532
City Engineer - $269,612
Director of Planning & Development - $264,554
Director of Transportation - $264,225
Director of Library and Information Services - $259,794
Assistant General Manager Water & Power - $253,934
Engineering Manager - $253,501

Mod: We will have the numbers for Sierra Madre and Arcadia soon.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Feds raid San Gabriel, Arcadia locations over visa-fraud scheme involving criminals on China’s most-wanted list

Mod: This isn't a GemCoins scandal, but it's close. When it comes to big time organized crime in the San Gabriel Valley you're almost always talking about EB-5 green cards and the millions to be made selling them.

Feds raid San Gabriel, Arcadia locations over visa-fraud scheme involving criminals on China’s most-wanted list (Pasadena Star News link): The FBI and federal immigration agents on Wednesday searched a hotel and two homes in the San Gabriel Valley for evidence related to an alleged $50 million visa fraud scheme that gave green cards to Chinese nationals, including criminals on China’s most wanted list.

Agents served search warrants at an office located at the Hilton hotel at 225 West Valley Blvd. in San Gabriel, a house in a gated community in the 700 block of Carriage House Drive in Arcadia and a townhouse on Larry Beard Drive in South El Monte.

Officials said they believed that the alleged scheme that began in 2008 bilked investors through the EB-5 visa program, which allows foreigners to get a green card in exchange for investing at least $500,000 in an American business that must also create 10 new jobs.

FBI Special Agent Gary Chen alleged that Victoria Chan, an attorney who lives in South El Monte, along with her father, Tat Chan, exploited the visa program by persuading over 100 Chinese nationals to invest more than $50 million through a fund operated out of offices on the ground floor of the Hilton in San Gabriel, according to the 113-page affidavit filed in support of the search warrants.

But instead of investing the money with American businesses, Chen said the suspects spent the money on personal items, cars and homes. They are believed to have bought more than a dozen residences in cities across Southern California, including Diamond Bar, Arcadia, Bradbury, Rancho Cucamonga and Riverside. Five of the nine homes are worth millions.

Chen said the duo’s fund, identified as the California Investment Immigration Fund LLC in the affidavit, and other related companies refunded investors while their immigration petitions were pending, a violation of the EB-5 visa program.

“As a result of the fraudulent scheme, many foreign nationals were able to improperly obtain U.S. green cards through the EB-5 visa program, even though those foreigners did not in fact truly invest in U.S. businesses, nor were new (full-time) American jobs created,” Chen wrote in the affidavit.

Mod: The rest of this article can be read by clicking the link provided above.

San Gabriel Valley raids target scammers who helped wealthy Chinese get U.S. visas, feds say (Los Angeles Times link): After years of sleuthing, federal agents Wednesday raided San Gabriel Valley homes and an office that investigators have linked to an alleged multimillion-dollar immigration and finance scam that allowed wealthy Chinese investors to obtain U.S. residency.

The suspects in the case are accused of collecting $50 million from scores of Chinese nationals, who were granted permission to live in the United States in exchange for investing the money in development projects that authorities say never occurred.

The money, investigators claim in court records, fueled a luxurious life of multimillion-dollar homes and high-priced cars for the alleged masterminds of the scheme — Victoria Chan, an attorney; Tat Chan, her father; and Fang Zeng, the father’s friend.

The raids come as money has poured into the San Gabriel Valley in recent years from China, causing home values to soar and fueling a boom in upscale development catering to wealthy visitors from the mainland.

Mod: Now for something completely different.

It’s now illegal in Russia to share an image of Putin as a gay clown (Washington Post link): Russia has banned a picture depicting President Vladimir Putin as a potentially gay clown.

Russian news outlets are having trouble reporting exactly which image of the Internet's many Putin-gay-clown memes is now illegal to share. Because, you know, it's been banned. But the picture was described last week on the Russian government's list of things that constitute “extremism.”

Item 4071: a picture of a Putin-like person “with eyes and lips made up,” captioned with an implicit anti-gay slur, implying “the supposed nonstandard sexual orientation of the president of the Russian Federation.”

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Los Angeles Times: Our Dishonest President

Mod: On April 2nd the Los Angeles Times launched a 6 part editorial series that discusses the dangerous unsuitability of Donald Trump. Here is the first. 

Our Dishonest President (Los Angeles Times link): It was no secret during the campaign that Donald Trump was a narcissist and a demagogue who used fear and dishonesty to appeal to the worst in American voters. The Times called him unprepared and unsuited for the job he was seeking, and said his election would be a “catastrophe.”

Still, nothing prepared us for the magnitude of this train wreck. Like millions of other Americans, we clung to a slim hope that the new president would turn out to be all noise and bluster, or that the people around him in the White House would act as a check on his worst instincts, or that he would be sobered and transformed by the awesome responsibilities of office.

Instead, seventy-some days in — and with about 1,400 to go before his term is completed — it is increasingly clear that those hopes were misplaced.

In a matter of weeks, President Trump has taken dozens of real-life steps that, if they are not reversed, will rip families apart, foul rivers and pollute the air, intensify the calamitous effects of climate change and profoundly weaken the system of American public education for all.

His attempt to de-insure millions of people who had finally received healthcare coverage and, along the way, enact a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich has been put on hold for the moment. But he is proceeding with his efforts to defang the government’s regulatory agencies and bloat the Pentagon’s budget even as he supposedly retreats from the global stage.

These are immensely dangerous developments which threaten to weaken this country’s moral standing in the world, imperil the planet and reverse years of slow but steady gains by marginalized or impoverished Americans. But, chilling as they are, these radically wrongheaded policy choices are not, in fact, the most frightening aspect of the Trump presidency.

What is most worrisome about Trump is Trump himself. He is a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation. His obsession with his own fame, wealth and success, his determination to vanquish enemies real and imagined, his craving for adulation — these traits were, of course, at the very heart of his scorched-earth outsider campaign; indeed, some of them helped get him elected. But in a real presidency in which he wields unimaginable power, they are nothing short of disastrous.

Although his policies are, for the most part, variations on classic Republican positions (many of which would have been undertaken by a President Ted Cruz or a President Marco Rubio), they become far more dangerous in the hands of this imprudent and erratic man. Many Republicans, for instance, support tighter border security and a tougher response to illegal immigration, but Trump’s cockamamie border wall, his impracticable campaign promise to deport all 11 million people living in the country illegally and his blithe disregard for the effect of such proposals on the U.S. relationship with Mexico turn a very bad policy into an appalling one.

In the days ahead, The Times editorial board will look more closely at the new president, with a special attention to three troubling traits:

1. Trump’s shocking lack of respect for those fundamental rules and institutions on which our government is based. Since Jan. 20, he has repeatedly disparaged and challenged those entities that have threatened his agenda, stoking public distrust of essential institutions in a way that undermines faith in American democracy. He has questioned the qualifications of judges and the integrity of their decisions, rather than acknowledging that even the president must submit to the rule of law. He has clashed with his own intelligence agencies, demeaned government workers and questioned the credibility of the electoral system and the Federal Reserve. He has lashed out at journalists, declaring them “enemies of the people,” rather than defending the importance of a critical, independent free press. His contempt for the rule of law and the norms of government are palpable.

2. His utter lack of regard for truth. Whether it is the easily disprovable boasts about the size of his inauguration crowd or his unsubstantiated assertion that Barack Obama bugged Trump Tower, the new president regularly muddies the waters of fact and fiction. It’s difficult to know whether he actually can’t distinguish the real from the unreal — or whether he intentionally conflates the two to befuddle voters, deflect criticism and undermine the very idea of objective truth. Whatever the explanation, he is encouraging Americans to reject facts, to disrespect science, documents, nonpartisanship and the mainstream media — and instead to simply take positions on the basis of ideology and preconceived notions. This is a recipe for a divided country in which differences grow deeper and rational compromise becomes impossible.

3. His scary willingness to repeat alt-right conspiracy theories, racist memes and crackpot, out-of-the-mainstream ideas. Again, it is not clear whether he believes them or merely uses them. But to cling to disproven “alternative” facts; to retweet racists; to make unverifiable or false statements about rigged elections and fraudulent voters; to buy into discredited conspiracy theories first floated on fringe websites and in supermarket tabloids — these are all of a piece with the Barack Obama birther claptrap that Trump was peddling years ago and which brought him to political prominence. It is deeply alarming that a president would lend the credibility of his office to ideas that have been rightly rejected by politicians from both major political parties.

Where will this end? Will Trump moderate his crazier campaign positions as time passes? Or will he provoke confrontation with Iran, North Korea or China, or disobey a judge’s order or order a soldier to violate the Constitution? Or, alternately, will the system itself — the Constitution, the courts, the permanent bureaucracy, the Congress, the Democrats, the marchers in the streets — protect us from him as he alienates more and more allies at home and abroad, steps on his own message and creates chaos at the expense of his ability to accomplish his goals? Already, Trump’s job approval rating has been hovering in the mid-30s, according to Gallup, a shockingly low level of support for a new president. And that was before his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, offered to cooperate last week with congressional investigators looking into the connection between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

On Inauguration Day, we wrote on this page that it was not yet time to declare a state of “wholesale panic” or to call for blanket “non-cooperation” with the Trump administration. Despite plenty of dispiriting signals, that is still our view. The role of the rational opposition is to stand up for the rule of law, the electoral process, the peaceful transfer of power and the role of institutions; we should not underestimate the resiliency of a system in which laws are greater than individuals and voters are as powerful as presidents. This nation survived Andrew Jackson and Richard Nixon. It survived slavery. It survived devastating wars. Most likely, it will survive again.

But if it is to do so, those who oppose the new president’s reckless and heartless agenda must make their voices heard. Protesters must raise their banners. Voters must turn out for elections. Members of Congress — including and especially Republicans — must find the political courage to stand up to Trump. Courts must safeguard the Constitution. State legislators must pass laws to protect their citizens and their policies from federal meddling. All of us who are in the business of holding leaders accountable must redouble our efforts to defend the truth from his cynical assaults.

The United States is not a perfect country, and it has a great distance to go before it fully achieves its goals of liberty and equality. But preserving what works and defending the rules and values on which democracy depends are a shared responsibility. Everybody has a role to play in this drama.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com