Monday, December 31, 2012

2012's 12 Months In 12 Posts

It is New Year's Eve and they're about to change the yearly number again. Those guys, whoever they might be, do it every year and this one is no exception. I suspect it is some kind of a deal they have with the calendar companies, though I have no proof of this.

I wanted to do some sort of Tattler year end 2012 review, but with 360 or so articles stacked up back there I don't know how it could possibly be done. So instead I took an article from each month, one that received a lot of hits and comments, and posted excerpts here. 12 months, 12 different articles. A snapshot of what was going on at each of those 12 moments, and a look back at what it was we were talking about at the time. And what a time it was.

So here you go, 2012's 12 months in 12 posts.

January 2012: Meaglia-Mania, and John Buchanan Hangs It Up (click here): Fay Angus got up and delivered an elegant speech about the negligence shown by Mayor Buchanan in the face of the Matheson affair. She read some of the Pasadena Star News article about the child pornographer's personal ties to some of this city's most elite society figures and politicians, and then wondered why the City's leadership had said nothing about the matter. In particular the "significant silence from our Mayor." When the City needed reassurance that everything was under control, Sierra Madre's political leadership remained silent ... Colin Braudrick, in perhaps a moment of weakness (there is no other way to explain it), then stepped up and proclaimed that he doesn't want to hear anybody blaming anyone for being involved in the criminal behavior of Bob Matheson. Which was an absurd thing to say since nobody has made that kind of accusation, especially Fay Angus ... Child pornographers, as Colin stated, operate mostly in secret, with even their closest friends usually being completely unaware of their crimes ... What this looks like to me is that Colin was somehow talked into carrying the offal bucket for the Morans. There is a huge difference between accusing someone of being involved in Matheson's crimes and poking fun at the poor fool who tried to convince a newspaper reporter that he'd never met Bob before. All while that reporter was looking at photos on his computer screen of the two happily hanging out together at various gala Sierra Madre functions ...

February 2012: The Matheson Return: Did the City Make the Right Call? (click here): Back on February 4th we posted an article entitled "Has Sierra Madre Prepared for the Return of Bob Matheson?" It turns out that the answer to that question is yes, it did prepare something. At least for itself. However, given the fact that Bob Matheson had been arrested and imprisoned in Canada for possession of a laptop containing 2,820 pictures of naked young boys, along with 285 videos of boys having sex with adult men, the City's conclusions might not be as restrictive or punitive as many in this community would expect ... Apparently what the City of Sierra Madre did was build for itself the case that it had to do nothing. And that Bob Matheson could return to his home and resume life here in whatever way he might wish. A conclusion which, given the characteristic passivity of this City's government in the face of challenges of this magnitude, was not quite as surprising as it should have 
been ...

March 2012: John Harabedian's "Law Enforcement Endorsement" Postcard. Is It Legal? (click here): It seems apparent that by appearing on a John Harabedian for City Council 2012 campaign postcard, Officer Delcoure and Corporal Doyle are indeed engaging in political activity. Done in support of a political candidate that they, as the SMPOA's executive leadership, have endorsed. And, unfortunately for them, they also appear to be wearing their police uniforms ... California Government Code Sections 3300-3313 can be accessed by clicking here. The relevant portion of this Government Code is Section 3302 (a). 3302. (a) Except as otherwise provided by law, or whenever on duty or in uniform, no public safety officer shall be prohibited from engaging, or be coerced or required to engage, in political activity ... One irony here is that John Harabedian, during the recent debates, proudly cited his attorney training as a reason to elect him. As a "consumer of much legal product" (a phrase he used to describe Sierra Madre), John informed the attending residents that his fine legal skills would come in quite handy when conducting City business. If elected, he would be the only lawyer on the City Council ... So if Harabedian's legal skill-set is so good, why didn't he inform Officer Ed Delcoure or Corporal Esther Doyle that they could quite possibly be breaking California state law if they appeared in uniform on his campaign material? Didn't John know? Or if he did, didn't he care?
... Kind of reminds me of an old adage. It is always dangerous for the commoner to try and get too close to royalty.

April 2012: Some Reasons Why You Need to Vote Today (click here): The reasons for this are fairly clear. People are tired of a City government whose only solution to its problems is to repeatedly ask us to cough up more and more money. And nothing will change if we keep putting into office elected officials who only seem to know how to spend it ... The rule of thumb is this. Candidates Braudrick, Goss and Harabedian don't have a problem with raising taxes. Or at least that is what they said when they first began their run for City Council seats a few months back. They were for it before they were against it. But once elected they will most likely be for it again ... Candidates Capoccia, Koerber and MacGillivray want to break the raise taxes and spend cycle this City has been on for the last few years. They want to give control of this City back to the people who pay for it, not just leave it in the hands of those who take our money ... It's now up to you. Vote.

May 2012: Is SB375 a Greenwashed Form of Gentrification? Plus Other Stories from the Redevelopment Wars (click here): Can it be that SB 375 not only greenwashes development, it also helps to greenwash gentrification as well? And did it really never occur to the involved Sacramento social engineers and state central planners that there are already people living in these urban core neighborhoods, and that when you "redevelop" these existing areas to build yuppie transit ghettos, you are also taking away the homes of less affluent people who have lived there for decades? ... And then there is this warning to city planners who would succumb to the false arguments of the supporters of SB 375 ... Professors Kotkin and Cox believe that the desire to live in suburbs will continue, and point to examples of high density infill projects that have been abject failures. In his article "The Suburban Exodus: Are We There Yet?" Cox states: "Misleading ideas sometimes have bad consequences. The notion that suburbanites were afflicted with urban envy led many developers to throw up high-rise condominiums in urban districts across the country. Sadly for these developers, the Suburban Exodus never materialized, never occured. As a result, developers have lost hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars and taxpayers or holders of publicly issued bonds could be left 'holding the bag."

June 2012: Did Gil Aguirre Take Down Nick Conway? (click here): Breaking News: Richard van Pelt, who serves on Sierra Madre's CRA Successor Board with John Buchanan, Bart Doyle, Marilyn Diaz and Water Wise Owl, was placed on leave today by Pasadena City College due to a criminal bribery probe being conducted by the DA's Public Integrity Division head Dave Demerjian. Demerjian, as you likely know, has been quite busy in the San Gabriel Valley over the last two days. His early morning visit with the SGVCOG's Nick Conway yesterday is detailed below ... It's a scandal a day in the SGV. Back to our regularly scheduled story ... Gil Aguirre has shown up on this blog before, and has been a source of information for us on matters related to the SGVCOG and it's Executive Director, Nick Conway. We have run several accounts of shenanigans at the COG, with the suspicion always being that Nick, by funneling official and government related COG business through Arroyo Associates, a company that he fully owns, he has been engaging in a clear conflict of interest, and one that profits him personally ... And apparently Deputy District Attorney David Demerjian shares in those suspicions as yesterday he executed search warrants at both Nick's home and the Alhambra offices of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments. A search warrant being something that requires the signature of a judge, so obviously there was judicial sanction for these searches as well.

July 2012: Mayor Josh Moran Receives a Surprise 4th of July Parade Measure V Message from The Tattler (click here): Photo 1: Sierra Madre Mayor Josh Moran, who is widely believed to be engaged in skullduggery designed to steal the Measure V vote from the residents of this town, is about to drive into a carefully planned trap ... Photo #2: Oblivious to the danger awaiting him, Mayor Josh Moran's "Deliverance Mobile" drives into the prepared "bummer box." How sad that their 4th of July Parade joy is about to be harshed! ... Photo #3: Voices call from the sidewalk. Josh, along with Jimi Hendrix (who apparently was along for the ride), turn to see who these well-wishers might be. Bill Coburn scampers over to the Mayor to bring the unfortunate news ... Photo #4: "Oh God, it's the Tattlers!" winces Josh. "Why wasn't I warned about this in advance? Where in the bloody blue blazes is Chief Giannone?" Jimi Hendrix tries a little "Purple Haze" on them, but no luck. They're '70s people, and therefore immune ... Photo #5: Oh well, there's always the dunk tank ... One more thing, can anyone identify what it is they're sitting on? Anyone missing a dog?

August 2012: 1 Million Hits (click here): ... Back when we started this project in late 2008 the general opinion around town was that if you wanted to reach a lot of people, you had to print the news on paper, and then distribute it free to every house in town. Which is, as you can imagine, a very expensive proposition ... Nowadays even Sierra Madre has embraced Internet journalism, to the point where you have to wonder about the relevance of our once upon a time rival in town, the quite pulpy Mountain Views News. A weekly newspaper distributed almost exclusively downtown, and whose current addiction to reprinting press releases and current events articles that have have been seen elsewhere makes you wonder if even they get it. Have they given up? The sole purpose of their existence today apparently being to get paid for printing legal notices, with only a couple of hundred people actually seeing them ... It also shows that people in Sierra Madre are interested in reading real news, and that if you lay down the facts people will seek you out. The notion that in Sierra Madre everything must be kept nice and sweet, and that if you offer people here too much of the hard stuff they might become confused and sad, has now been consigned to the trash bin of local history. The insulting and condescending assumption that people here just can't handle reality hasn't stood the test.

September 2012: Measure A: PUSD's "Big Lie" Finally Exposed (click here): As a regular Tattler reader I am certain you recall Measure A, the Pasadena Unified School District ballot initiative that radically changed the responsibilities of each Board of Education member from districtwide to seven different subdistricts. Resulting in each district then having its own exclusive representative. This new regime was largely built along ethnic lines, two Northwest Pasadena districts where Latinos are in the majority, a West Altadena district that is a majority African American, with the remaining four being largely white districts. Including one that lumps Sierra Madre in with Southeast Pasadena ... A kind of resegregation of the Pasadena Unified School District, and in the eyes of some a return to the bad old days of the 1970s ... A big problem for us here in Sierra Madre is that while a majority of these districts will be allowed their own exclusive subdistrict representative in 2013, for some strange reason we won't get ours until 2015. Something that still seems patently unfair. The reason given by various shady PUSD apologists being that recently re-elected Board of Education members such as Tom Selinske needed to be able to serve out their entire terms in office. With Sierra Madre being called upon to make the noble sacrifice for these solons of scholarship ... This was ratified and made ballot ready by a specially appointed PUSD so-called "redistricting taskforce commission." One where our representatives, Joe Mosca and later Bart Doyle, sat passively by (if they showed up at all) and allowed this city to be stuck with a form of second class citizenship. And while a bizarre form of political correctness was given as a rationale for all of this, the real reason has now been revealed. Stick around and I will tell you what that was, and why we were misled by those who were supposed to represent us.

October 2012: I Have Been Contacted By the FBI (click here): Yes, it's true. I have been contacted by the FBI. Of course, a lot of other people have been contacted as well. Hundreds, in fact. The case they're working on involves some guy who ran a series of rather seedy websites, and used them to attempt to extort money from people. I was one of those people, though he didn't get a dime of my money. But I can't say I wasn't sorely tempted at one point to take the offer. It would have solved what for me had become a source of some serious personal concern. And the ploy was apparently effective because many others did pay ... So how did I become a target in what was a quite large extortion operation? And why am I now getting interesting e-mails from the Feds? Believe it or not, the story goes back to our 2012 City Council election. This really is quite a story, friends. Pull up a chair... Going into the 2012 Sierra Madre election there was a concerted, though laughably ineffective, attempt to take this blog out. It had become obvious to certain parties in town that a lot of people were starting to get their local news from the Sierra Madre Tattler. We certainly weren't reaching everyone of course, but it was being read by most of those in town who actually bother to vote. And what was being said here was certainly not helping push forward the campaigns of the candidates they were supporting last April. So they decided to go after us ... The initial vehicle was a blog called The Sierra Madre Tattler Tattler. Run by someone using the name of Lady Elizabeth Wistar, it attempted to cast this site as a hotbed of uncivil and highly politically incorrect behavior. With most of the attacks being aimed at my charming self. Unfortunately for Ms. Wistar, not many people were interested in reading a blog that did little more than run down another blog. And Ms. Wistar apparently wasn't up to the job, either. After 5 posts that dealt mostly with her burning obsession with me, she pretty much ran out of malarkey. Today the site sits somewhere out in there in the ether unread and forgotten.

November 2012: Tony Brandenburg On This Week's PUSD Board of Education Meeting (click here): Armed with a newly cleaned and earth friendly eco-suds'd and air dried under a waxing crescent moon for two days Censure Honowitz shirt, we parked with our friends at the PUSD office to put up our recycled and green “Censure Honowitz”, and “Stop Bullying in Sierra Madre” signs on our SUVs and F150s, and then proceeded to directly challenge the status quo with our eighth on the street picket. We then attended the first part of the November 13 public board meeting ... Gone are the good old days when the PUSD administrative staff would call the police on us when we showed up with our signs. At some point they must have figured out that citizens have the right to peaceful assembly ... Don’t laugh. These are the very people in charge of teaching your children civics and teaching them the Constitution of the United States ... Ah, yes. The good old days. I still think my favorite visual picture was watching one of the lumbering unicorns scramble to make a cell phone call to report that someone posted a poster stating Inclusion Free Zone on the marquee of Sierra Madre Elementary School. I waved as I drove by. Toodles! Always the good neighbor, I am. That statement was  almost as good as the truck parked across the street from the school the day the Gayle Bluemel Auditorium was christened. It had one bold four letter word emblazoned in red paint across it: LIAR.

December 2012: Will Bart "El Monte" Doyle be the Next Executive Director of the SGVCOG? (click here): You do realize that there are no real secrets in Sierra Madre, right? Just things that The Tattler hasn't found out about yet. But we eventually do get the story, of course. Patience in everything, as they say. All in due time ... Some people have criticized this blog because of the enlightened approach we take regarding anonymous contributions and reader comments. Complaints that we have heard quite often here, and mostly from people posting anonymously ... But do you know what? The whole anonymous thing really does pay off for us. Not only because it encourages people to speak their minds freely and comment on whatever they wish, but it also allows those possessing really sensitive information to share it with us, done in the full confidence that we will protect their identities. The Tattler prides itself on that. We have never divulged the name of a news source that requested we keep their identity a secret. Not once. Nor will we ever...We now have it on very good authority that the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG) is on the verge of hiring Sierra Madre's own Bart Doyle as its new Executive Director. The previous holder of that rather notorious crown, Nick Conway, having been recently hauled into Court by the Los Angeles County District Attorney on multiple felony conflict of interest counts. The charges based on Nick having laundered money through a company he set up for just that purpose, and done so that he could illegally pocket large sums of taxpayer cash. If convicted Nick could be going away for a long time. Very few will miss him... Now you'd think that after having gone through a year or so of debilitating controversy generated by the shenanigans of Nick Conway, the SGVCOG would want to do the smart thing and hire Mr. Clean. Somebody so above reproach that certain special Federal agencies in Washington would want to open the cash spigots up once again. The money supply from Uncle Sugar having pretty much dried up due to the SGVCOG's well-earned reputation for amorality and corruption ... But apparently they are very close to hiring Bart Doyle instead. Which really has to make you question the sanity of those running the COG. Even more so than usual.

There it is. 12 months, 12 posts. With vast amounts of equally important (some unimportant) stuff completely left out. It is all still there if you care to read it, though. And now on to 2013. I have no idea how this one is going to break down, and neither do you I suspect. But we'll be around to write about it. Somebody has to do it.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Last Tattler Sunday News of 2012

"Will you just look at the time!"
Where did the year go? Same place all those other years have gone, I'm afraid. And I am just not certain where that might be. I have been looking for a couple of them.

Personally I think we put an awful lot of faith in chaining everything to the time it takes this planet to revolve once around the sun. There could have been other criteria for the year, you know. Like maybe the length time it takes an oak tree to reach 25 feet. Or perhaps how long it takes your newborn son to grow a decent beard. Some never do. However, I am going to have to let this go, at least for now. The calendars are already printed, the parties planned and the caterers have ordered champagne. It is too late to change things. Maybe next time.

So here is the last news. At least for 2012. Hopefully I'll get this "year thing" all worked out and we won't have to have another one of these for a while.

China Requiring People To Visit Their Parents (click here): Visit your parents. That's an order. So says China, whose national legislature on Friday amended its law on the elderly to require that adult children visit their aged parents "often" - or risk being sued by them.

The amendment does not specify how frequently such visits should occur.

State media say the new clause will allow elderly parents who feel neglected by their children to take them to court. The move comes as reports abound of elderly parents being abandoned or ignored by their children.

A rapidly developing China is facing increasing difficulty in caring for its aging population. Three decades of market reforms have accelerated the breakup of the traditional extended family in China, and there are few affordable alternatives, such as retirement or care homes, for the elderly or others unable to live on their own.

(Mod: Now that is frightening. Given the rate new laws are passed in California, someone in Sacramento is likely to hear about this and there go our perfectly good Thanksgivings at the bowling alley. Look at it this way, this could halt the westward migration of young people to California. Think about all the people who moved here just to get away from their folks in New York. And here is something even more scary. What if they're living in the Kensington? Perhaps all of those planned store fronts will end up being rented by lawyers.)

All the new laws enacted in Sacramento for the year 2012 (click here).

(Mod: There are 56 pages of these newly "enacted bills," with approximately 8 to 12 listed on each page. It must have cost millions of taxpayer dollars just to to pass all these damn things. I do have a favorite, though. AB 2274, "vexatious litigants." As opposed to civil litigants, I suppose?)

Pet chicken alerts family about house fire (click here): They say heroes come in all shapes, sizes, and now species. When Brad Krueger raised this chicken on his farm, he never knew it would one day grow up and save his neighbors. "I've heard animals waking people up but not a chicken," he said.

It all started Thursday morning when the fire department says a huge fire broke out at a home in Alma Center. The smoke detectors were not working, the people inside were asleep. That is, until the chicken sensed something was wrong.

"She said she heard the commotion of the chicken and all that stuff," Krueger added.

The people inside the home also told Krueger the cat started making noise. They smelled fire, opened the garage door, and it was full of smoke.

"We were halfway into town and you could look into town and all you could see was an orange glow," said Jeff Gaede, the Fire Chief in Alma Center.

He says the home and everything inside is a total loss. Because the house sits up on a hill beyond a private driveway, we were are not able to show you video of what is left. But even Gaede is surprised how the family got out. "I guess at first I was really amazed, we've never run into a chicken before," he said.

(Mod: Perhaps we were entirely too dismissive of Mayor Moran's efforts to amend our chicken ordinances.)

Caltrans to raise rents on tenants living in the path of 710 Freeway (click here): Caltrans mailed letters out Friday notifying 310 tenants of the homes it owns in the Long Beach (710) Freeway extension path that their rents will increase starting next year.

Rents will begin increasing in 10percent increments starting on March1, 2013, until they reach "fair market" rates, said Caltrans spokesman Will Shuck. Caltrans' other 250 tenants will either pay the same or less rent.

The letters come in response to a state audit released this summer that slammed the transportation agency for "poor management" of the more than 500 properties it purchased decades ago to make way for a surface freeway from El Sereno to Pasadena.

The audit, commissioned by former Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena, said Caltrans cost the state millions in lost rent revenue.

"The Bureau of State Audits ... noted that many of the Caltrans-owned properties along SR710 were renting below fair market value, in violation of the state constitution's prohibition on providing a gift of public funds," Shuck said. "Subsequent legal advice has concurred with the auditor's view, so the department must revise rental rates to operate the program consistent with the law."

(Mod: Caltrans being, of course, the people we are expected to entrust with the spending of $10s of billions of dollars to dig a truck tunnel under Pasadena. This when they cannot even follow the law on managing rental properties.)

Steven Greenhut: New Year's predictions for California (click here): California's Democratic leaders are giddy about the future now that they have gained everything they wanted in the recent election – voter-approved tax increases and two-thirds supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature, thus rendering Republicans little more than an annoying irrelevancy who can no longer block tax hikes.

Will Democrats just ramp up the taxing-and-spending spree or will some semblance of a "moderate" Democratic caucus emerge to offer a limited check on those tendencies? Either way, it's hard to find good news for taxpayers or business owners, although the state's public-sector unions ought to be stocking up on champagne.

(Mod: Of course I am a big Steven Greenhut fan, who isn't? If you go to the article you'll see that Greenhut lists his 10 predictions for 2012, none of them particularly sunny. Which is fine with me. The underlying theme being one party government isn't going to be a good thing for our already disastrously governed state.)

Ford C-Max "Fastest selling hybrid vehicle ever at launch" says Ford (click here): Ford Motor Company says its C-Max Hybrid became the fastest-selling hybrid vehicle ever upon its launch, selling one car shy of 9,000 examples through October and November, the first two months the C-Max Hybrid has been on sale in America.

In a press release, Ford was bold enough to predict C-Max Hybrid sales through December would be more than 40% higher than the combined first three months’ sales of the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight hybrids when they were unleashed on the American marketplace in the year 2000.

C.J. O’Donnell, group marketing manager of Electrification at Ford, said, “Dealers are seeing an overwhelmingly positive response to C-MAX hybrids and are excited to finally take on Prius, with some offering comparison test drives right on their lots. Our customers also are excited to have a fresh hybrid option, with leading fuel economy that does not sacrifice driving fun, performance and technology– choices typically not offered with hybrids.”

(Mod: Thank God America now has some credible competition to the Prius.)

Joel Kotkin: California's Demographic Dilemma (click here): It's been nearly 20 years since California Gov. Pete Wilson won re-election by tying his campaign to the anti-illegal immigrant measure Proposition 187. Ads featuring grainy images of presumably young Hispanic males crossing the border energized a largely white electorate terrified of being overwhelmed, financially and socially, by the incoming foreign hordes.

The demographic dilemma facing California today might be better illustrated by pictures of aging hippies with gray ponytails, of legions in wheel-chairs, seeking out the best rest home and unemployed young people on the street corner, watching while middle-age families drive away, seeking to fulfill mundane middle-class dreams in other states.

The vital, youthful California I encountered when moving here more than 40 years ago soon could be a thing of the past – if we don't address the root causes of an impending demographic decline. The days of fast population growth have certainly passed; the state's population growth barely equaled the national average in the past decade. In the urban strips along the coasts, particularly in the Los Angeles Basin, growth has been as little or half that level.

To be sure, particularly in this region, few would want to see a return to breakneck population growth. But there's little denying that California has shifted from a vibrant magnet for the young and ambitious to a state increasingly bifurcated between an aging, predominately white coastal population and a largely impoverished, heavily Hispanic interior. This evolution, as suggested in last week's essay (click here), has much to do with what passes for "progressive" policies – high taxation, regulation and an Ecotopian delusion that threatens to crush the hopes of many blue-collar and middle-class Californians.

(Mod: We're about to become the new Florida? Probably explains the ALF and whatever it is they're about to spring on us at the British Home. Geriatopia Madre. And doesn't "Ecotopian delusion" describe the Green Committee's devious designs rather nicely?)

I hate to end the year on such a negative note. Well, OK, not really all that much. But have a Happy New Year anyway.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tony Brandenburg: For Brevity's Sake

D. Boon and Mike Watt
For Brevity's Sake
Last night I edited a letter - well, actually an editorial about um, uh, duh,  Ed Honowitz (click here) - from 1386 words down to 850 so that it could be submitted to a newspaper. This type of letter writing is something I haven’t attempted in some time, and it was a rough edit. However, because I didn’t bother to research the parameters, I had to edit it again -  this time to the desired 650 word maximum - and that was flat out brutal. Next time I should probably follow the directions the first time (click here). At last edit, I admired the finished product: a skeleton of a once powerful statement, whittled down to a toothpick for easy picking - now just regurgitation, or worse; food between the teeth. It was nothing close to the meal it once was.

Taking a Ride (click here)
Most weeks I work every day except the two that my union makes sure your unions honor - that is if you ever want to see your kids in the daylight. This week, however, my union chose to use our “Don’t call it Christmas or even a holiday it’s Winter Break” at a different time from the more local union- the one where my children are edumified, PUSD. That is the beauty of secularism, no one knows what anyone else’s schedule will be. In the hodge-podge that generally follows, we get a week of jockeying them to their edumacation stuff, and then they get a week where they are totally unsupervised - unless your family is like mine, and one parent is always home ruining all the good times.

A Brief Statement for the Time Impaired (click here)
On these periodic days, Mary, my partner and friend, gets half of the mom duties comped by me, who now, twenty staples lighter and a third net implant later - is opiate free, pain reduced, and behind the wheel of the mean unclean ungreen machine. This week I have been set for taking the older two kids- the girl child (16) and the elder boy child (13) - through the frenzy that is the morning ride to school ...

Here, eat this dried bread with saturated oil slop and that cup of coffee, here, take this napkin or you’ll have food all over your face like your father. Grab that bag with the organic fruit chews and that processed meat food stuff and this calcium enhanced water for your midday nutritional break, and  hurry up and get in the car or you’ll be late again. We’re at 17 late days in a row, guys, let’s try to not make it 18 (click here). Yeah, yeah. Stop talking and chew. You guys enjoy breakfast, and let me enjoy traffic.

45 Glorious Revolutions
There was a time when things were simpler (click here), and when life was more enchanting; a time when I could run my fingers across the edges of a 45 RPM slab of ebony wax, gently blow the dust away, place it, spin it,  drop the needle down on her gentle grooves, and marvel as she waxed perfection in tones and vibrations of magnificent sound throughout the house (click here).

No time for that now. Move it, Maxwell, let’s go. Chop, chop.

iGrab the iPod and the smarter than I am iPhone.  There are 8,000 music files in there with every version of any song I could possibly desire on both of these gadgets, but I swear I can never find the songs I actually want to listen to. The barrage of useless misinformation and insignificant minutia attacks randomly - so quickly, and with such force -  that it’s a balance or tug-of-war between apathy and migraine every fourteen seconds. Twelve times a day I revisit the crossroads (click here)  and choose whether to bargain with one (this), or the other (that).

It’s to the point where even the things I love are so compressed, and so compacted, and so emaciated that even the soul of this planet has been subsidized.

Play it in Under a Minute
A file opens on the mini computer music player thingy,  and out from the pod comes an elegantly disjointed blast. It begins filling the machine with the story of my life passed, and infuses into my life present. Paranoid Time (click here), a seven song six minute blast of jazz-pop-funk-punk by one of the greatest of the bands to come out of the early 1980’s Southern California hardcore scene,  the Minutemen of San Pedro (click here). Playful in their name - their songs usually clocked in at a minute- and easily one of the more dedicated of the bands from that time period - I always enjoy when one of their songs pops up on the Ipod shuffle mp3 music player thingy.

We listened to the first  couple three songs in silence as I internally reflected on my brother, how the Minutemen were one of the first bands he saw,  and how they so generously gave him a record to remember that night. He kept that record until the day he died.

Timesteps (click here)
Someone in a hurry cut me off on the road, so I waited at the light for a while, and the three of us kept listening, chewing, listening, chewing, tempo, chewing, traffic, music, chewing, rhythm, silence. Deafening, uncomfortable, calm. Check the clock.

More Reflection
The day I was told that Dennes Boon (click here) had been killed in a car accident. My God. December 22, 1985. Twenty seven years ago. Has it been that long? Eyes squinting, I remember the tears, and depression that followed. He was 27 when he died.  Why did this decide to come up on the ipod this morning? Why today, of all days, and why now? I have to get these guys to school.

No. I will not let my head go to that place right now, too late. Then another flash of memory, a burst of fire, then confusion, an epiphany, and then clarity. I check the clock again. That lasted thirteen seconds. I took a deep breath, and hit the pause button

“Hey, do you guys know about McCarthyism? Have you heard of Joe McCarthy?”

A Brief History for the Time Impaired
The boy child shook his head, the girl child said, “They haven’t taught us that in school yet, but I have seen it in my books. I’ve hear you talk about it, so I looked it up and learned about it.”

And for a couple of glorious minutes we three talked about Senator Joe McCarthy, and the Cold War, we discussed free speech, and the spectre of hate. We contemplated paranoia, and fear, and bullying, and targeting, and the adversarial behavior of ignorance. We talked about loyalty to friends, and the high cost of silence.

I asked, “Do you know what the blacklist was?” My daughter shared what she taught herself by researching, about the list of people who could no longer work, about the people who were shunned, and stunned, about being excommunicated from the community and moving to Europe. I nodded, listened, and watched this woman child, a magnificent thinker, as she spoke through my right periphery. The boy child said one sentence, “Like what they did to you and Mom.”  I checked the rearview mirror and tried to smile, but I felt clouding. I wiped my eye like if it was a speck of dirt.

“OK you guys, listen closely to the words.”

Joe McCarthy’s Ghost (Watt)

Can you really be sure
Of the goddamn time of day?
Can you take the dirt
From the fist of a foreigner?
Are you going to fight
When they call out your number?

Can you toe the line?
Can you repeat what you’ve been told?
Can you bite the bullet?
Can you see the enemy?
Can you point the finger?
Can you prove your loyalty?

Get a Move on or You’ll Miss Something Important
So. What do you think guys? If the accused were communists, why not just say so? If they weren’t, why not just deny it? If they knew people who were communists, why not just turn them in? I mean, what was the big deal? Was it better to hide behind the 5th amendment like cowards, or stand up and make a declaration of pride, “Yes, I am a Communist!” or “Hell no, I’m no Communist!” Wouldn’t it have been wiser to just crumble and give up the names of their friends?

Because, Dad, the Government had no right to ask them any of those questions in the first place. The 5th Amendment wasn’t being used to protect them, they had committed no crime to begin with, and they were not hiding. They were not cowards.They were refusing to allow the Government to interfere in their personal lives. They were asserting their right to live freely, and without shame either way. It was a witch hunt, dad, and you don’t really believe most of those things you just said.

I avoided two collisions and pulled up to the curb at the school.  Crap. Late again. Day #18. The principal is in front of the school preparing to lock the doors and start with a tardy sweep.

Ok, talk to you more about this later. Hurry up, before they lock the gate. Apologize for being late and tell them to call me if they have any concerns. Bye. See you after school.

A Brief Finale
I watch them scurry, struggling with bags heavier than they are, up the stairs that they still fumble on, and through the door, which swings shut behind them.

I ask myself , “Why? Why so many rules, so many important little details,  why so much stress? Why do they have to worry about all of this junk? Good grief, they are still just kids.”

I pull the beast out and drive a couple of blocks and then pull over. I don’t feel right. Something’s been eating at me all morning.

I contemplate Connecticut - but not the flame wars on the internet over gun control, or autism, or school safety, or parenting. For the first time in a few days I focus on the teachers and those kids and the last things that they learned on this planet, and I then I realized that I was in such a hurry I didn’t even tell my own kids to have a good day, let alone hug them goodbye (click here).

For the first time in ten years, I wept.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Friday, December 28, 2012

Civility Might Be Bad For Your Health

There has been a rather odd debate in Sierra Madre over the last few years. It goes back to our 2010 City Council election, and in some ways still influences our public affairs conversation today. That being which side of the political spectrum is more civil and decorous in the way it presents its viewpoints. It was born out of the need of one candidate that year to change the debate from issues where he did not fare so very well to something entirely different. His message instead being that you should only want to vote for candidates that are "nice," and to focus on the notable shortcomings of an incumbent candidate seeking reelection, no matter how awful his record might be is, to use the term of the day, "uncivil."

That it worked showed us that when it came to government here in Sierra Madre many people had little concept of what those issues might be, or the possible consequences of allowing inept people run City Hall.

2010 became more of a contest based on how the voters felt about themselves than any actual discussion of the issues, most of which seemed hostile and discordant to people out of touch with what was really going on. And with many having little notion about the serious matters at stake, they chose instead to go with decorum and civility. It was a concept far easier to understand.

It is now nearly three years later and the consequences are a City facing financial crisis, crumbling infrastructure, endlessly rising taxes and fees, unspoken agendas, inept leadership in the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem positions, endless process-based tautologies, and no real direction when it comes to getting a true grip on our problems. Sadly, civility politics in no way translated into quality government.

One of the great ironies here is that the candidate most responsible for injecting the civility issue into the political discourse of that election later indecorously resigned his office midterm and then abruptly left the country. Something that has yet to be adequately explained by anyone, civil or otherwise.

None of this is unique to Sierra Madre, of course. Kristin Rawls is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in publications spanning the political spectrum. The Christian Science Monitor, GOOD Magazine, Truthout, Religion Dispatches, The Huffington Post and Global Comment being just a few. Here is how she defines the phenomenon:

Notwithstanding the fact that "love" is perhaps the vaguest, most unhelpful political prescription of all time, this kind of thinking removes any analysis of power from the conversation. It falsely presumes that we all enter the conversation on equal footing. Indeed, everyone is so busy preaching "unity" and "loving one another" that there is never any interrogation of privilege or power. It's a bit different out in mainstream society, but the message is clear. Love your oppressors ... (We) are accustomed to being silenced because we have a "mean tone." We're asked to speak more respectfully so that we can earn a hearing. We're taught to submit to our oppressors. We're being angry and irrational, and it's our job to make everyone comfortable.

All of which is good and needs to be said. But now it appears that there is another important reason to avoid putting too much emphasis on the psychological constraints of civility and not just letting your true feelings be clearly heard. It could be bad for your health. This from United Press International (click here):

Holding back emotions may reduce lifespan -- German researchers say exercising self-restraint and holding back negative emotions -- what Britons call keeping a "stiff upper lip" -- may reduce lifespan.

Researchers Marcus Mund and Kristin Mitte at the University of Jena in Germany said the findings might explain why the generally more emotional Italians and Spanish live almost two years longer than the cool English who "keep calm and carry on," MedicalDaily.com reported.

After analyzing more than 6,000 patients, Mund and Mitte found people who internalized their anxiety suffered from an elevated pulse, suggesting those exhibiting self-restraint and holding back negative emotions -- who they call repressors -- could have serious repercussions for physical and mental well-being.

Over time, an elevated pulse can result in high blood pressure and increase the risk of developing a wide range of conditions including heart disease, cancer and kidney damage.

I'm telling you, you're really better off just getting a grip on what is really going on and speaking your mind. It is good for you.

More on the "Reverse It!" Question

Yesterday we had a pretty lively conversation about reverse mortgages. The Mayor of Sierra Madre, Josh Moran, works in that field as an account executive for a company called Reverse It!, a division of the Urban Financial Group, which in turn exists beneath the corporate aegis of Knight Capital.

As was discussed, the selling of reverse mortgages is quite controversial as it involves exchanging the home equity of seniors 62 years of age and older for some quick cash. Often in a lump sum that can quickly disappear when placed in the hands of people ill-equipped to manage such things. There is also the notion that many seniors do not fully grasp the potentially negative ramifications of reverse mortgages, and therefore can be easy prey to unscrupulous sales representatives looking to take advantage.

A sharp-eyed commenter picked on a Wall Street Journal report that suggests all might not be rosy with the reverse mortgage business at Knight Capital (click here).

While recent ideas on the value of Urban Financial Group to its parent company Knight Capital Group (NYSE:KCG) have suggested the company provides upside in the wake of near-financial ruin experienced by Knight in early August, a Wall Street Journal report on the company’s current position suggests otherwise. Knight says, however, it remains committed to the business.

Having announced this week the appointment of new leadership to Knight’s board of directors, new information obtained by WSJ indicates the company may be interested in the sale of Urban Financial Group.

“Urban Financial, Knight’s reverse-mortgage division and part of the institutional unit, represents a capital-heavy business that carries reputational risk; it is seen as a potential target for trimming, according to a person familiar with the thinking of one of the new investors,” WSJ reports.

The key words here being "reputational risk." It seems that even Knight Capital is now holding its nose.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Tattler Answer Man: What Is A Reverse Mortgage?

Can Pat be trusted?
Sierra Madre Mayor Josh Moran makes his living selling reverse mortgages to seniors. Given that our town has a large senior population that concerns itself with such matters, I do get questions about this particular branch of the home loan business. So I figured today I should take a minute and see what exactly there is to find out. There appears to be quite a bit of information available on the Internet, and once you cut through the vast piles of paid for propaganda placed by the concerned financial industry itself, you'll find that some of it does raise certain issues.

One interesting thing that I discovered on-line right away is what appears to be a confidential e-mail from Josh to a new hire at the reverse mortgage concern he works for, an outfit called Reverse It! (click here). What this item is doing on-line is a mystery since the e-mail is clearly marked confidential. I am going to assume a disgruntled former employee put it on the web. What this e-mail communicates to us is Josh was apparently training a fresh recruit named Pat O'Neil to the ways of the reverse mortgage business. And thanks to whomever posted this on-line, you too can pretty much take the same training as Pat. Just click on the appropriate links and learn your way to an exciting new career in home equity loans to the retired. The videos would be of interest to computer systems geeks.

I went through this material for a bit and to me it looks a lot like the kind of sales management technique you would find at Amway or Avon. That is you either produce or starve. You can almost imagine an earnest "reverse mortgage specialist" showing up on your stoop one morning and proclaiming, "I am going door to door to tell people about some exciting new loan products from Reverse It!" Perhaps the NRA could use this as an argument against gun control.

So what exactly are reverse mortgages? Wikipedia has the following to share with us (click here):

A reverse mortgage is a form of equity release (or lifetime mortgage). It is a loan available to home owners of retirement age, enabling them to access a portion of their home's equity. The home owners can draw the mortgage principal in a lump sum, by receiving monthly payments over a specified term or over their (joint) lifetimes, as a revolving line of credit, or some combination thereof.

In a conventional mortgage the homeowner makes a monthly amortized payment to the lender; after each payment the equity increases by the amount of the principal included in the payment, and when the mortgage has been paid in full the property is released from the mortgage. In a reverse mortgage, the home owner is under no obligation to make payments, but is free to do so with no pre-payment penalties. The line of credit portion operates like a revolving credit line, so a payment in reduction of a line of credit increases the available credit by the same amount. Interest that accrues is added to the mortgage balance.

Title to the property remains in the name of the homeowners, to be disposed of as they wish, encumbered only by the amount owing under the mortgage.

A reverse mortgage line is often recorded at a higher dollar amount than the amount of money actually disbursed at the loan closing. This recorded lien is at times misunderstood by some borrowers as being the payoff amount of the mortgage. The recorded lien works in similar fashion to a home equity line of credit where the lien represents the maximum lending limit, but the payoff is calculated based on actual disbursements plus interest owing.

Wikipedia also lists some of the criticisms of the reverse mortgage game.

- High up-front costs make reverse mortgages expensive. In the U.S., reverse mortgages can cost $8,000 or more to enter into, as compared with other types of loans which often cost less than $5,000.

- The interest rate on a reverse mortgage may be higher than on a conventional "forward mortgage" even though the collateral – the real property – is the same.

- Interest compounds over the life of a reverse mortgage, which means that "the mortgage can quickly balloon". Since no monthly payments are made by the borrower on a reverse mortgage, the interest that accrues is treated as a loan advance. Each month, interest is calculated not only on the principal amount received by the borrower but on the interest previously assessed to the loan. Because of this compound interest, the longer a senior has a reverse mortgage, the more likely it is that most or all of the home equity is depleted when the loan becomes due. That translates to "less cash for your estate or to pay your bills." That said, with the FHA-insured HECM reverse mortgage, the borrower can never owe more than the value of the property and cannot pass on any debt from the reverse mortgage to any heirs. The sole remedy the lender has is the collateral, not assets in the estate, if applicable.

- Reverse mortgages are confusing. Many seniors entering into reverse mortgages don't fully understand the terms and conditions associated with the loans, and it has been suggested that some lenders have sought to take advantage of this.

The ethical reputation of the reverse mortgage industry has been shaky, and many commentators have written about the predatory nature of some of the parties who aggressively market this financial product to the elderly. I have selected a few articles that back this contention up. The first comes from the Huffington Post (click here):

Reverse Mortgage Foreclosures On The Rise, Seniors Targeted For Scams: Reverse mortgages, a lifeline for seniors struggling to pay bills in allowing them to turn home equity into cash, are entering into foreclosure at an "alarming" rate, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray said Wednesday. 

One out of every 10 seniors with a reverse mortgage is in default or foreclosure, Cordray said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday timed to coincide with the release of a reverse mortgages report prepared for Congress.

The agency also found that seniors often don't really understand the terms of the loan, a problem exacerbated by deceptive mailings and other advertisements, Cordray said.

"We will work with our partners at the federal, state and local level to root out these kinds of scams," Cordray said. He described one flier that portrayed a reverse mortgage as a "government benefit," which is wrong, and that contained "blatantly false information about loan repayment options." He did not go into further detail about who sends out these notices but said that the agency has authority to ensure that the reverse mortgage market works well for consumers.

The New York Times, in an article titled "A Risky Lifeline for the Elderly Is Costing Some Their Homes" (click here) details problems that reverse mortgage recipients have faced:

Reverse mortgages, which allow homeowners 62 and older to borrow money against the value of their homes and not pay it back until they move out or die, have long been fraught with problems. But federal and state regulators are documenting new instances of abuse as smaller mortgage brokers, including former subprime lenders, flood the market after the recent exit of big banks and as defaults on the loans hit record rates.

Some lenders are aggressively pitching loans to seniors who cannot afford the fees associated with them, not to mention the property taxes and maintenance. Others are wooing seniors with promises that the loans are free money that can be used to finance long-coveted cruises, without clearly explaining the risks. Some widows are facing eviction after they say they were pressured to keep their name off the deed without being told that they could be left facing foreclosure after their husbands died.

Joan Serioux-Forde, 72, thought that she couldn’t feel more devastated after her husband, Christopher, died last year. Then, roughly a month after the funeral, she received a letter from Generation Mortgage, a reverse mortgage lender, informing her that unless she paid $293,000, she would lose her home in San Bernardino, Calif. Ms. Forde said she was never informed that if she wasn’t on the reverse mortgage deed, she would have virtually no right to stay in her home unless she bought it outright. “It’s a nightmare,” she said. Generation Mortgage declined to comment.

Minnesota State Attorney General Lori Swanson found some of the effects associated with reverse mortgages to be of such concern that she posted the following on her official website (click here):

With the cost of everything going up—from living expenses to health care to utilities—many senior citizens find themselves financially squeezed like never before.  And with the baby boomers growing older, there are a lot more senior citizens than ever before.

Seeing these trends, some companies are marketing the “reverse mortgage” as a way for seniors to convert some of the equity in their home to cash to pay other bills. Reverse mortgages are now a $20 billion industry.

For some seniors, a reverse mortgage may be a suitable loan, but for others it is not.  If you are considering a reverse mortgage, be sure to find out the “pros” and the “cons.”  Carefully evaluate whether a reverse mortgage is suitable given your needs and circumstances and consider whether there are other alternatives that may be more suitable for you.  Steer clear of predatory lenders and scam artists who may want to steer you into a high-cost loan or sell you a reverse mortgage in order to get at your money.

In February, 2008 the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging held a hearing on reverse mortgages.  Testimony showed that, in the face of the subprime mortgage crisis and with other investment sales tactics coming under criticism, some bad actors have switched to convincing seniors to purchase a reverse mortgage and then tie up the proceeds in long-term deferred annuities or bad investments, or sell the senior unwanted products.  Make sure this doesn’t happen to you. 

An article on the NewsObserver.com site titled "BofA ending reverse loans" shows that large traditional lending institutions such as Bank of America are getting out of the racket (click here):

Bank of America will stop offering reverse mortgages, products that late-night TV advertises to the elderly as an easy way to get quick cash.

The move is meant to free up resources so the bank can focus on making traditional mortgages and helping struggling homeowners get modified mortgage loans, said spokesman Terry Francisco. It's also the latest of several big moves the bank has made to try to right its money-losing mortgage unit.

Reverse mortgages are useful to some borrowers, but they have many critics. In a reverse mortgage, the bank pays the borrower instead of the other way around, meaning that the borrower loses equity instead of building it. They're available only to borrowers who are at least 62 years old, and banks tout them as a way for seniors to get cash without having to sell a home they love.

But the loans are often misunderstood. Borrowers do have to repay the bank, just not in cash: When they move or die, the bank sells the house and keeps the money, leaving out any heirs. The loans also carry high upfront fees, and a borrower can almost always get more money by selling the house instead. In general, reverse mortgages let borrowers access only 45 to 75 percent of the equity in their homes. The older the borrower, the bigger the percentage.

Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance, said that Bank of America is trying to minimize its exposure to potential lawsuits. "You're dealing with the elderly; you're talking about taking away their homes when they die," Cecala said. "That's a bad set of variables there."

Finally, Bloomberg reports that there may be other, even larger, consequences at play here. In a post titled, "Reverse Mortgages May Be Next Subprime, Center Says," the following is revealed (click here):

Reverse mortgages may be the next subprime crisis, according to the National Consumer Law Center.

Some of the same U.S. lenders that helped drive the real estate boom with loans to home buyers who couldn’t afford the payments are now targeting seniors, the center said. Brokers, who are given financial incentives to sell the loans, may be making misleading claims to potential customers, according to a report titled “Subprime Revisited,” that was released today by the Boston-based NCLC.

“This market is designed to serve seniors, so when we find abuses cropping up and migrating from the subprime market to the senior market, that sounds an especially loud warning bell,” said Rick Jurgens, an advocate at the NCLC, who contributed to the report.

That is it today for the Tattler Answer Man. I hope this has been helpful. If you have any questions that you would like to see answered on this forum, please be sure to send them to sierramadretattler@gmail.com.

Enjoy this beautiful day.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

As a Federal Crime Victim I've Been Offered Assistance by the U.S. Department Of Justice

Readers who have been following events here on The Tattler over the last few months are aware that the FBI has determined that I am the victim of a Federal crime. During the last Sierra Madre City Council election cycle campaign advocates for the candidates that I didn't support, operating under the collective pseudonym of "Lady Elizabeth Wistar," paid to have my name put on a slanderous website run by an individual out of Portland named Cyrus Andrew Sullivan. Cyrus, it turns out, is an internet extortionist now residing at Multnomah County Jail in Oregon, awaiting trial for his criminal behavior. "Lady Wistar's" prison pal was arrested by the FBI in June of this year and will likely be facing the keen legal minds of United States Department of Justice prosecutors when he goes on trial in Federal Court. The odds are very good that Cyrus will stay in jail for quite a long time.

I have written about the involvement of "Lady Elizabeth Wistar"in this nasty business earlier, and once the trial of Mr. Sullivan is over I will be free to reveal their names. These individuals are not themselves charged in any of this extortion business, though having paid to put my name on that particular site, along with the insidious information and photograph that they themselves provided to Mr. Sullivan, does put them in a rather unfortunate light. Doing business with an extortionist, whether knowingly or not, didn't show very good judgement or character on their part.

If you wish to read about all of this you can access the appropriate Tattler article by clicking here.

Recently I received a letter, along with some very informative literature, from the FBI Victim Specialist assigned to my case. Here is the introduction from her letter:

As a Victim Specialist within the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Portland Division, I am contacting you because we have identified you as a possible victim of a Federal crime. A Federal crime victim is entitled to receive information about public and private programs that provide medical and social services, counseling, treatment, and other support. Please contact me if you would like information or referrals for service. For further details, please refer to the enclosed brochure and/or Title 42. 

The letter than goes on to assist me in accessing the U.S. Department of Justice "Victim Notification System" websites where I can follow the progress of Cy Sullivan's woeful journey through the legal system and right up to the trial itself. Things that I sadly cannot share with you here. As Sullivan is being held on $1 million dollars bail, there is little chance that he will be let out of his box before his face time time with the judge. No date has been set yet for the trial.

There are various FBI victim aid programs tailored to the kinds of crimes that they investigate. These include child pornography victim assistance, children affected by crime, coping after terrorism for injured survivors, criminal aviation investigations, financial crime, victims of bank robbery, victims of crime, and victims of human trafficking.

The category my situation falls into is "victims of crime." Here is how my rights are explained in the FBI's "Help for Victims of Crime" paperwork:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is responsible for investigating a wide range of federal crimes. Part of the FBI’s work involves providing information and assistance to victims of those crimes. Crime can have a devastating effect on victims and their families who may need help coping with the impact of victimization. FBI Victim Specialists are highly trained professionals who can assist you and coordinate with other agencies in providing you with the support, information, and resources that can effectively meet your needs. Victim Specialists are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A federal investigation can be both complex and lengthy. It may involve several agencies, some federal and some local. This brochure provides information to help you deal with the needs and questions that often arise during an investigation. It describes your rights under federal law and the types of services that may be available to you. Please contact your FBI Victim Specialist if you have any questions.

As a Crime Victim, You Have the Following Rights under 18 United States Code, Section 3771:

The right to be reasonably protected from the accused;
- The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any public court proceeding, involving the crime or of any release or escape of the accused;
-The right not to be excluded from any such public court proceeding, unless the court, after reviewing clear and convincing evidence, determines that testimony by the victim would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at that proceeding;
The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving the release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding;
The right to confer with the attorney for the government in the case;
The right to full and timely restitution as provided in law;
The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay;
The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy.

We will make our best efforts to ensure you are afforded the rights described. Most of these rights pertain to events occurring after the indictment of an individual for the crime, and it will be the responsibility of the prosecuting United States Attorney’s Office to ensure you are afforded those rights. 

You may also seek the advice of a private attorney with respect to these rights.

Additionally, should I feel in any way threatened by those involved in the crime in question, there is also this:

Your safety is paramount. If anyone threatens you or you feel that you are being harassed because of your cooperation with this investigation, there are available remedies. If you are in immediate danger, contact your local law enforcement agency immediately. Also, you should contact your Victim Specialist or the Case Agent and inform them of the situation. There are penalties for harassment and other threats; therefore, it is important that you report any incident as soon as possible.

It really is nice knowing that such powerful law enforcement is looking out for those who have been victimized by criminal behavior. I sincerely doubt this kind of protection will be necessary in my case
since it appears that Cyrus Sullivan acted alone and, as he is being held in prison in lieu of $1 million dollars bail, the only threat he presents to anyone is himself. But you never know.

Finally, there are various support services available to me as the victim of extortion, which is a Federal crime.

All states have crime victims compensation programs that help cover some expenses resulting from violent crimes. Your state program may pay for medical and mental health care costs, lost wages and support, and funeral and burial expenses not covered by insurance or other benefits. Your FBI Victim Specialist may be able to help intercede on your behalf with employers and creditors, when appropriate. In addition, your Victim Specialist can refer you to other types of programs and services, such as emergency housing, counseling, support groups, and credit counseling. If the offender is convicted or pleads guilty, the court may order payment by the offender, called restitution, which may help cover expenses and losses caused by your victimization.

So what is the purpose of all this? The one thing the Department of Justice and the FBI need more than anything else to help put criminals in prison is motivated trial witnesses. And over the decades they have discovered that if they take really good care of the victims of such crimes, when the time comes to put the crooks in jail they will have happier, more secure and confident, witnesses.

Just so you are aware, I personally had a series of e-mail exchanges with Mr. Sullivan a year or so ago. I had no idea what his name was at the time, or even what country he resided in, but my requests that the slanderous material be removed from his site were met with a demand for money. In other words, in order to have the material supplied to him by "Lady Elizabeth Wistar" removed from a very public website that he maintained, I would have to fork over a considerable amount of cash. This was, of course, extortion. Abetted and in part financed by people living right here in Sierra Madre.

I saved all of those e-mails and turned them over to the FBI earlier this year. It is very probable that should this case go to trial, and not be settled by a plea bargain, I would be a key witness.

Something I will be more than happy to do.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Monday, December 24, 2012

It Is Time To Give Christmas Its Due

A selfless volunteer hard at work
(Mod: It's Christmas Eve and it is time to give the year's biggest holiday its due. I'm going to take a day or two off, and I should be back on Wednesday. But rather than just leave a picture of Santa, which is what I'd originally planned to do, I thought I would repost a lightly edited version of what we put here last year on December 24th. It shows a few of the concerns of that time, which mostly had to do with some of the zaniness surrounding the upcoming City Council election. Plus after rereading this I figured it was pretty good and could stand up to another round on the front page. Merry Christmas everyone, and I'll see you again in about 48 hours.)

I don't always know a lot, but I do know this for sure. You would have to be beyond the acceptable limits of popularly accepted sanity to go anywhere near any large metropolitan shopping area or mall today. I don't know what comes over people when the need to purchase gifts reaches such an unhinged frenzy, but it does.

This might sound kind of common, or even trite, but maybe it is so because the truth in it is so obvious. I really do think that whatever religiosity might be left in the Christmas brand after having been crushed beneath more than a few billion dollars worth of advertising is entirely and utterly lost in all the major shopping centers on this day.

Personally I believe that you really ought to go in an entirely different direction. A walk in the mountains is where you will more likely find God. Or in your home with your family. Give the simplest of gifts, that is where you are the most likely to find the joyous complexity in the hearts of those you love. You should never be afraid to share with them your own joyous complexity as well.

I have this theory that God, being almighty, does find that there are places He would not care to go. And that if you are so unwise (or unlucky since we are infinitely fallible and can't possibly know everything about God's preferences) to be in such a place when the cold hand of death decides to take you, then you cannot go to Heaven. Instead you get stuck forever in whatever Godless place you may happen to be at that awful moment. A shopping mall on the 24th of December might very well be one of those. I thought I should warn you.

You'd be much better off doing your last minute shopping here in Sierra Madre. Flawed though we all may be, I don't think the place has been forsaken quite yet. The doors of Heaven are still open above us. Though we will have to see how long that holds.

I have been mulling over the dark heart of the message the so-called "civility crowd" has yet again been attempting to beat us into silence with these last few days, and while I have not been able to put my feelings about this oppressive and ironically uncivil concept into words just yet, somebody I know and respect (a lot) has sent me the words of someone who has. The author's name is Kristin Rawls, and here is what she has to say:

Notwithstanding the fact that "love" is perhaps the vaguest, most unhelpful political prescription of all time, this kind of thinking removes any analysis of power from the conversation. It falsely presumes that we all enter the conversation on equal footing. Indeed, everyone is so busy preaching "unity" and "loving one another" that there is never any interrogation of privilege or power. It's a bit different out in mainstream society, but the message is clear. Love your oppressors ... (We) are accustomed to being silenced because we have a "mean tone." We're asked to speak more respectfully so that we can earn a hearing. We're taught to submit to our oppressors. We're being angry and irrational, and it's our job to make everyone comfortable."

Or, as Alice Roosevelt Longworth so famously put it, "If you haven't got anything nice to say about anyone, come sit next to me."

There was a rather unfortunate incident at the Frosty the Snowman unveiling last night in Kersting Court. Apparently Lady Elizabeth Wistar and some of her peculiar friends decided to stage something of an impromptu demonstration at the event, complete with strange music and God knows what else. A film crew from Austria (of all places) was on hand to film our beloved Frosty event, and they captured the following footage. Which, wouldn't you know, has now gone viral on the web. Let me warn you, much of it is shocking, and you may wish to shield the eyes of the more sensitive. Click here.

A Wikipedia Christmas Eve

I was scouring the Internet to find something inspirational to end this post with, and I couldn't find anything that quite rose to my expectations. But I did stumble across an interesting piece on Wikipedia about Christmas Eve. That being a very matter of fact and almost anthropological essay on the Night Before Christmas. I think that the person who wrote it did so from the perspective of a social scientist rather than a believer. Something that is, of course, a belief system in itself. Here is a Wikipedia Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve refers to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that takes place on December 25. It is a culturally significant celebration for most of the Western world and is widely observed as a full or partial holiday in anticipation of Christmas Day.

One reason celebrations occur on Christmas Eve is because the traditional Christian liturgical day starts at sunset, an inheritance from Jewish tradition, which in turn is based in the story of creation in Genesis: "And there was evening, and there was morning - the first day." This liturgical day is followed for all days in the Eastern rite and the custom of beginning Christmas celebration (as well as Sunday and the other major festivals) in the preceding evening is preserved in western Churches that have altered the liturgical day to start at midnight, for example the Roman Catholic Church. Many churches still ring their church bells and hold prayers in the evening before holidays; for example the Nordic Lutheran churches. In some languages, such as the Scandinavian, Christmas Eve is simply referred to as "Christmas Evening."

Since Christian tradition holds that Jesus was born at night (based in Luke 2:6-8), Midnight Mass is celebrated on Christmas Eve, traditionally at midnight, in commemoration of his birth. The idea of Jesus being born at night is reflected in the fact that Christmas Eve is referred to as "Heilige Nacht" ("Holy Night") in German. "Nochebuena" ("the Good Night") in Spanish and similarly in other expressions of Christmas spirituality, such as the song, "Silent Night, Holy Night."

Nominally religious people, or people who are not formal with definitions, may see the whole day as a day of celebration or as just the day before Christmas. Millions of people around the world with no Christian or religious affiliation or background also celebrate Christmas and Christmas Eve. The emphasis of celebration on Christmas Eve varies from country to country and region to region.

The Blogger's Union (Local 14) doesn't allow me to work on Christmas, so I will be taking tomorrow off. The Tattler will resume its normal publishing schedule on Wednesday, December 26. With something controversial, I'm sure. Isn't that why so many people come here?

Have a great Christmas!

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Tattler Sunday News & Review: The Tony Brandenburg Stoops to Conquer Edition

Yes, my hat is sideways
(Mod: Here at the Tattler Compound my two sons and I have been celebrating our Christmas vacations with a marathon series of Risk games. Risk being the Parker Brothers game based on world conquest in the glorious Napoleon Bonaparte style. My sons are fierce board game warriors and extremely good with dice. Luck having to be the reason why game after game I end up in Elba ... This week's Sunday News kicks off with the Pasadena Sun column that Tony Brandenburg has written in response to a disingenuous Ed Honowitz piece previously published there announcing his approaching departure from the Pasadena Board of Education. Needless to say, the Peter Dreier manque Honowitz gets his head handed to him. The Pasadena Sun, in case you are not aware, comes out every once in a while as a local news supplement to the Los Angeles Times. However, we don't get it here in Sierra Madre, most likely because they don't respect us. Tony's column is linked here to their website.)

Outgoing school board member left out a lot (click here): In the Dec. 16 guest column, “A 12-year education in public school reform," Pasadena Unified School District board member and Sierra Madre Elementary representative Ed Honowitz presents a laundry list of things he believes occurred under his watch. As a parent whose first of three children hit that same 12-year watermark through the entire period, I am a knowledgeable consumer, and I don't see there's been positive change. Honowitz vigilantly supported programs that served his own political belief system and established a dominant philosophical position for those interests when he makes his move from the education arena into the next juncture. It's what Honowitz fails to mention and his revisionism that are most enlightening.

We're to assume that after serving 12 years on the school board, Honowitz is still receiving “an education” in the working mechanics of reform. This faux ideal — that “we're all learning together” — sounds more like a drug recovery program than an educational growth model. As a board veteran, Honowitz is neither novice nor learner. He's a leader with a specific agenda and, promising to remain active in the future via Community Schools, he'll likely return as a private corporation poised with rhetoric promoting the common good. The Pasadena City Plan is designed precisely for this type of consultant to flourish.

Under Honowitz's watch, PUSD enrollment has decreased approximately 25%. Enrollment for most ethnic groups has decreased, most dramatically African American enrollment, which decreased at a rate five times higher than other populations. If the measure of success in public education is enrollment, these statistics demonstrate failure. Since 2005, PUSD suspension rates have been two times higher than Los Angeles County's, with African American males and special education students most negatively impacted.

A formal request for censure was requested by parents of a disabled child citing protocol violations that Honowitz, as regional delegate to the California School Board Assn., was familiar with. His continued endorsement of CSBA fails to justify the $35,000 dues and travel expenses paid out of PUSD funds over the two years since CSBA Executive Director Scott Plotkin resigned, having lied about using a company credit card in a casino.

Historically, Honowitz focused on luring investors and capital to PUSD by citing decreased funding for public education. With Americans with Disabilities Act funds drying up, the asking of alternate sources to compensate for revenues lost because of low enrollment is absurd and equates to setting a plate for a guest you know isn't coming to dinner.

Citing programs he believes to have initiated, Honowitz fails to disclose they existed in prior forms. Without demonstrating how these innovative programs support student achievement, or whether they've brought students back to PUSD, or how they'll retain students who never left in the first place, we are simply served old wine in new flasks.

In celebrating that PUSD schools reached 800 API, he fails to mention this trend is the common target all schools will eventually meet — yet one that no PUSD high school has achieved. Has Honowitz forgotten them? Does he even care?

Honowitz for years neglected Sierra Madre families who were held hostage trying to receive enrollment information until pledging $130 to the annual school fund — overseen by the Honowitz-affiliated PEF, while these shanghaied donations funded time-out rooms which denied educational access.

The summer school programs he lamented aren't gone; they're available through the PEF for about $400 per course.

A 21st-century resume was presented last week, as Honowitz looks “... forward to our joint City Council/School Board meeting in February that will institutionalize these growing partnerships.” Readying to reap the harvest sown for the last 12 years, aligning the Community Schools agenda to the Pasadena's housing proposals, and with a significant population of children having already left PUSD, Honowitz now sits poised to exact the same exodus from the entire city.

(Mod: Congrats, Tony. If anyone wants to see a monument testifying to the PUSD disaster that Ed Honowitz's dozen years of tyranny have been, head on over to the Sierra Madre Middle School and check out what $350 million dollars in Measure TT bond money has bought us. Then contemplate not being allowed to vote in next year's PUSD Board of Education elections.)

Alarcon child endangerment case isn't felony status, D.A. says (click here): The Los Angeles County district attorney's office concluded Thursday that the child endangerment investigation involving city commissioner Andrea Alarcon does not rise to the level of felony charges and sent it to the city attorney's office for possible misdemeanor prosecution.

Michael Gargiulo, head deputy of the district attorney's Family Violence Unit, said in a two-page report that Alarcon left her 11-year-old daughter unattended for three hours on Nov. 16, the night of a gala at City Hall. Because the girl was found by security officers within 45 minutes, she was not in circumstances that would have caused "great bodily harm" — conditions that could have made Alarcon, who is president of the Board of Public Works, the subject of a felony prosecution, he wrote.

"This matter is more appropriately filed" as a misdemeanor child endangerment case, "which does not require that the circumstances be likely to produce great bodily injury or death," Gargiulo wrote. A spokeswoman for Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey would not discuss the matter further.

The LAPD initially referred its investigation into Alarcon to City Atty. Carmen Trutanich on Nov. 19. At that time, Trutanich referred the matter to the district attorney's office on the grounds that Alarcon is a client of the city attorney and that her case could pose a potential conflict of interest.

William Carter, Trutanich's chief deputy, said his office would "more than likely" refer it to state Atty. Gen, Kamala Harris.

Alarcon, an appointee of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, was a block from City Hall with two adults when she was approached by her daughter, the district attorney's report states. Alarcon, 33, instructed her daughter to go back to City Hall and wait for her — and told her she was "walking two individuals to their car and would be back in 10 minutes," Gargiulo wrote.

The girl returned to City Hall. But Alarcon was not located until after 1 a.m. at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Little Tokyo, the report said. Alarcon "appeared intoxicated" when she arrived at the Los Angeles Police Department's Central Division to get her daughter, Gargiulo wrote. Law enforcement sources previously have told The Times that Alarcon did not show up until about 2 a.m.

Alarcon did not respond to a request for comment.

(Mod: Please note that felony prosecutions to do apply to any member of Napoleon Villaraigosa's royal retinue.)

Newt Gingrich: Marriage Equality Inevitable, OK (click here): Longtime social conservative Newt Gingrich has made a surprising admission, saying he accepts marriage equality as inevitable and he’s OK with it.

Voters’ legalization of same-sex marriage in three states in November’s election changed the debate over the issue, and conservatives have to come to terms with it, the former House speaker and Republican presidential aspirant told The Huffington Post. “It is in every family,” he said. “It is in every community. The momentum is clearly now in the direction in finding some way to ... accommodate and deal with reality. And the reality is going to be that in a number of American states — and it will be more after 2014 — gay relationships will be legal, period.”

The thrice-married Gingrich, a convert to Roman Catholicism, said he recognizes the distinction between religious and civil marriage. He and his church consider the former to be limited to male-female couples, but he has no problem with the state giving legal recognition to same-sex pairs, he said.

This is a significant departure from Gingrich’s previous stance; just this year, while seeking the Republican presidential nomination, he told religious right supporters, “The effort to create alternatives to marriage between a man and a woman are perfectly natural pagan behaviors, but they are a fundamental violation of our civilization.” He also signed an Iowa conservative group’s pledge to support the Defense of Marriage Act and to seek a federal constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage.

(Mod: Kind of a gutsy move on Newt's part. It has always been my observation that a substantial percentage of the gay community is, by nature, conservative. Even amongst those who are not in the closet. Should the Republican Party ever climb off its social conservative pedestal I believe they would find a sincere welcome there.)

Pot farms wreaking havoc on Northern California environment (click here): State scientists, grappling with an explosion of marijuana growing on the North Coast, recently studied aerial imagery of a small tributary of the Eel River, spawning grounds for endangered coho salmon and other threatened fish.

In the remote, 37-square-mile patch of forest, they counted 281 outdoor pot farms and 286 greenhouses, containing an estimated 20,000 plants — mostly fed by water diverted from creeks or a fork of the Eel. The scientists determined the farms were siphoning roughly 18 million gallons from the watershed every year, largely at the time when the salmon most need it.

"That is just one small watershed," said Scott Bauer, the state scientist in charge of the coho recovery on the North Coast for the Department of Fish and Game. "You extrapolate that for all the other tributaries, just of the Eel, and you get a lot of marijuana sucking up a lot of water.… This threatens species we are spending millions of dollars to recover."

The marijuana boom that came with the sudden rise of medical cannabis in California has wreaked havoc on the fragile habitats of the North Coast and other parts of California. With little or no oversight, farmers have illegally mowed down timber, graded mountaintops flat for sprawling greenhouses, dispersed poisons and pesticides, drained streams and polluted watersheds.

(Mod: Damn hippies.)

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