Saturday, June 24, 2017

Was the Heavily Armed Fellow Arrested at the Sierra Madre Villa Gold Line Station Hunting for Zombies?

Mod: They have a different take on the Christopher Harrison Goodine case at the website. Apparently the weapons he was carrying in his duffel bag are very similar to those found in zombie killer movies. And rather than being on some sort of terrorist mission designed to wreak havoc on the greater Pasadena metropolitan area, perhaps Mr. Goodine had actually come here to save us all from the scourge of a zombie invasion?

Zombie Killer knife that Goodine was carrying.
Man busted with zombie kit including suppressed Hi-Point ( link): According to the above press conference at the Hall of Justice and the accompanying release, Christopher Harrison Goodine, 28, of Union City, Georgia, was arrested Wednesday for a slew of charges including possession of a silencer (illegal in California except for law enforcement and licensed dealers), as well as possession of an “assault weapon” and of a “high-capacity magazine.”

Deputies apparently saw Goodine taking a leak at the Sierra Madre Gold Line Station, a light rail public transportation hub, and when they contacted him he refused to speak to the officers. This interaction led to an arrest after they found what officials describe as a “cache” of weapons in his duffle bag. These included a loaded AR-15 with a pair of 30-round mags, the first frowned upon without being featureless and the latter verboten in California after this year even if pre-ban.

There was also a really sweet $29 zombie killer/ninja mega knife katana (that’s how they are advertised), and– hold your breath this is the best part– a Hi-Point .40S&W that somehow had an ersatz suppressor device attached similar to those seen in the Walking Dead.

Scene from the "Walking Dead" with Goodine appropriate weapon in use.

Police also found a rope and “a notebook with unidentified writing inside.”

As noted by the good folks over at The Firearm Blog, it’s farfetched that the Hi-Point flashlight suppressor would work for more than one shot in the likely absence of a recoil booster (Niesen Device), but hey, we can dream can’t we?

Goodine was booked at East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station and is being held in lieu of $50,500 bail.

News video featuring zombie hunting weaponry link.

KTLA reports Goodine was previously arrested in 2015 in Key West, Florida and again at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel “wearing a bullet-proof vest, an empty gun holster, and a ski mask.”

Mod: So maybe this Goodine guy was actually here for a different purpose than the one many have suspected? Sometimes the good intentions of individuals are misunderstood.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Joe Mathews: Don’t Believe the L.A. Transit Hype

Mod: I was looking for more info so I could follow up on yesterday's story about the heavily armed Gold Line vagrant arrested Wednesday. I then stumbled upon the following 2016 Joe Mathews piece. Here is a good portion of it, with a link that will take you to the entire article.

Don’t Believe the L.A. Transit Hype ( link): I wish this were a happy column about the advance of California public transit. I wish I could report that my own life is better now that I ride the brand-new Metro Expo Line extension to work in Santa Monica. And I wish I could validate all the triumphant talk of the great metropolis of Los Angeles becoming a fabulous train town again, with the restoration of a vital rail link between its city center and the Pacific.

But I’m a rail commuter in Southern California now, so I no longer have time for fairy tales.

Or much of anything else.

Perhaps I expected too much. For four long years, I’ve commuted between the San Gabriel Valley and Santa Monica—always at least an hour each way, often 90 minutes or more—while dreaming of the day when the Expo Line would extend to downtown Santa Monica and my commute, and with it my life, would change for the better.

That day arrived two weeks ago, and immediately my dreams were dashed. I had been ready for the hiccups and kinks of a new line, and I had been warned that the trains would be slower and crowded until Metro could add enough cars and drivers for full service.

But I was unprepared for just how slow—and painful—a commute via light rail could be.

On my first day—the fourth day of service on the new line—I dropped off my two younger boys at preschool and drove five minutes to a Gold Line station in Pasadena, parked, and walked three minutes to the train. I was happy and eager for the new routine.

Then I waited 20 minutes for a train to arrive—the wait is supposed to be less than 10 minutes at that hour. And the train moved slowly—it took more than 40 minutes to reach Union Station downtown (the train schedule says it should take 30).

There I had to switch to the subway to go three stops to pick up the new Expo Line. But the switch was mismanaged by a Metro staffer who inexplicably packed two subway cars with people—while refusing to let anyone onto two relatively empty cars. That train left, stranding hundreds of us for another 10 minutes before another subway arrived and we were allowed to board.

The switch to the new Expo Line at the Metro Center station for the third leg of my trip was smooth. But the Expo Line was painfully slow. Metro had advertised a 48-minute ride, but it took more than an hour. The track runs down the middle of streets—and the train stops for traffic lights at some intersections. In Santa Monica, after a six-block walk, I arrived at work two and a half hours after I had reached the Pasadena station—25 miles away. In that same time, I could have flown to Las Vegas, played the airport slots, and flown home, jackpot in hand.

The return trip was even more frustrating. I waited another 20 minutes to board and depart on a train from the downtown Santa Monica station. Once on board, a fellow passenger started screaming how much Jesus loved me (even as I wondered if the transit gods had forsaken me).

I opened my laptop, something I can’t do in my car, and got some work done with the aid of my office’s mobile hotspot. Yes, it’s BYO wifi. My attempt to conduct a phone interview failed (the train was too loud). And after about 45 minutes of typing with my computer on my legs while sitting on one of the train’s hard plastic chairs, my back started to hurt.

As I boarded the Gold Line, I had been in transit for nearly two hours. I needed to go to the bathroom, but no such luck. Metro trains, not exactly designed with multi-hour voyages in mind, don’t have bathrooms. And I couldn’t work on the Gold Line—the two-car train was so full it had no open seats.

I had allowed myself two and a half hours to return to Pasadena, grab my car and pick up the boys at preschool by 5:45 p.m. It wasn’t enough. Metro’s very affordable $1.75 fare—less than a buck an hour!—had become a $31.75 trip, with the $30 preschool fine for late pickup. I had spent nearly five hours commuting—and just four and a half hours at work. Yes, our car culture isn’t sustainable—but neither is public transit like this.

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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Deputies Arrest Man Seen Urinating at Sierra Madre Gold Line Station, Find Cache of Weapons in His Bag

Mod: You have to wonder why Goodine decided that he wanted to get off at this particular station.

Deputies Arrest Man Seen Urinating at Sierra Madre Gold Line Station, Find Cache of Weapons in His Bag (KTLA 5 link): A man was arrested Wednesday after deputies saw him urinating in a planter and found him to be in possession of a cache of weapons at a Gold Line station in Pasadena.

Twenty-eight-year-old Christopher Goodine, of Union City, Georgia, was taken into custody after two Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies noticed him urinating in a planter at the Sierra Madre Gold Line Station in Pasadena at about 9:20 a.m. He originally gave deputies a false name, but then he said his identification card was in his duffle bag.

The deputies placed Goodine into a patrol car and searched his bag.  Inside they found a loaded AR-15 rifle, two loaded 30-round magazines, a loaded .40-caliber handgun with extended magazines, a machete-type knife, a rope, several rounds of live ammunition and a notebook with "unidentified writings," Sheriff Jim McDonnell said at an afternoon press conference.

A preliminary investigation did not show any intelligence to indicate terrorism, but officials said it was too early to determine what Goodine's plans included.

"When you have someone walking around with this type of weaponry, this much ammunition the outcome would not have been good no matter what he was going to do," McDonell said. "Their proactive actions are commendable and may have saved a lot of lives on the transit system this afternoon or in our communities."

Deputy Katherine Zubo, who arrested Goodine alongside Deputy Juan Gonzalez-Valencia, said he was not acting suspicious or displaying erratic behavior.  Instead, she described him as, "a transit patron with a duffle bag," who was only noticed because he was standing on the sidewalk and urinating in the planter.

She said she did not see Goodine on the train. Investigators said Goodine got on a train in Chinatown and exited at Sierra Madre.

Goodine was booked at the East Los Angeles Sheriff's Station on suspicion of possession of a silencer, possession of an assault weapon and possession of a high-capacity magazine. He was being held on $50,500 bail.

Records show Goodine was arrested in 2015 in Key West, Florida and at New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel wearing a bullet-proof vest, an empty gun holster and a ski mask.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Why Is PUSD Board of Education Member Scott Phelps Denouncing "Collaborate PASadena?"

Elitist Spendthrifts?

I have always admired Pasadena Unified School Board member Scott Phelps. Not because I always agree with him, or even understand what it is he is going on about sometimes. He can be a little obscure once in a while. But that is hardly a problem for me. At least Phelps cares about something more than mere self-aggrandizement or personal wealth creation, and in these troubled times that is a good thing. The guy is a truth-teller in a place where that can be an exception, and certainly his longstanding dedication to the needs of PUSD's kids cannot be easily questioned.

Which is why Scott's denunciation of something called "Collaborate PASadena" has to be viewed with some interest, and concern. In an exhaustive Pasadena Star News op-ed piece called "Blame for Pasadena Unified’s woes is on those who’ve left" (link here), Phelps makes the following potentially damning observations:

Board Member Scott Phelps
On the larger, long-term topic of the current prospects and climate for success for any superintendent in PUSD, we should be very concerned. The once-promising city-school work plan has been taken over by nonprofits that changed its name to Collaborate Pasadena

Colloborate Pasadena now has expensive staff, something it was not intended to have. It is funded equally by the city of Pasadena and the PUSD. The criticism of the district by these nonprofits and the powerful circle of activists who express the desire to help the less fortunate, but who send their own children to private schools, is on full display.

The last two joint meetings between the City Council and the school board have shown that there really isn’t any collaboration going on or concern for the district involved, but rather the public airing of false allegations and statements about the PUSD without checking with PUSD staff.

Of course, PUSD supporters know full well that many nonprofits and most private school parents have a fundamental conflict of interest involved in their assessment of the district. If the situation is not made to seem worse than it is, and the nonprofits aren’t made to be the saviors, then they don’t receive as much funding. If the schools aren’t portrayed as sufficiently bad, there would be no reason to spend the large sums of money on private schools. No reasons they would admit to publicly. 

So what is "Collaborate PASadena?" Here is how they are described on the City of Pasadena website (link).

Collaborate PASadena is a framework for the Pasadena Unified School District, the City of Pasadena, the unincorporated community of Altadena and the City of Sierra Madre to work together to build a commitment toward a shared vision to create better outcomes for children, youth, families and all residents. First jointly approved by the Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education and Pasadena City Council in February 2013, Collaborate PASadena is also a planning process intentionally designed to build more trusting relationships and a way to align resources to more effectively deliver services to better serve children, youth and families.

Then there is this from the Collaborate PASadena website itself (link):

What is Collaborate PASadenaCollaborate PASadena is an initiative, based on Collective Impact research, that:​
- Develops and nurtures new community partnerships
- Establishes better working relationships
- Improves communication between all partners and stakeholders
- Shares accountability for results
- Supports the alignment of resources
- Allows for meaningful participation of diverse stakeholders

So what is the truth here? Is Collaborate PASadena what it claims to be, a kind of selfless do-gooder organization completely dedicated to the success of the PUSD and its students? Or is it the expensive, over-staffed and self-serving impediment to public education Board of Ed member Scott Phelps describes above?

Apparently the taxpayers are paying a lot of money for this mishegoss. Perhaps it is time for Sierra Madre, and especially the Collaborate PASadena city council representative, John Capoccia, to take a long hard look.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

KPCC: California bill would relax supervision of sex offenders

Mod: Remember the "crusading civil rights attorney" Janice Belluci and her organization, California Reform Sex Offender Laws? Now rebranded and known by the name "Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws" (link), they have certainly been quite busy. If you could go to their now defunct old website you'd stumble across an article identifying Sierra Madre as one of the cities Dear Janice beat like a drum in court over its sex offender ordinance. Here is that article.

Mod: Janice Bellucci has sued a lot of cities over the years, and has won in court every chance she got. But apparently opening cities up one lawsuit at a time for the residential convenience of registered sex offenders is not really enough for her. Now she is working through the state legislature to bring the entire State of California to heel. Here is how KPCC tells it.

California bill would relax supervision of sex offenders (KPCC link): State lawmakers, with support from many in law enforcement, are considering an historic rollback of California's lifetime registration requirement for sex offenders.

The state's sex offender registry is the largest in the country, with more than 100,000 names, according to Janice Bellucci, executive director of the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offender Laws. She estimates that 90 percent of the people on the registry are lower level offenders who pose no threat to society.

The Alliance backs SB 421, which would create different requirements for how long sex offenders must register, based on the severity of their crime.

California is one of just four states that continue to require lifetime registration for all sex offenders.

The legislation would create a three-tier system for sex offenders.

Under tier one, the least serious offenses, people convicted of a range of crimes including indecent exposure and possession of child pornography with intent to distribute would be eligible for removal from the registry after ten years.

Under tier two, people convicted of crimes such as rape or lewd conduct with a child under 14 would be eligible for removal after 20 years.

Anyone convicted of repeat child molestation, repeat rapes and others of the most serious offenses would still be required to register with police for the rest of their lives.

Another change would allow people who have been on the list for more than 30 years to be removed. California created the registry 70 years ago, and in the early days required gay men to register.

Some victim’s rights groups oppose the measure.

"The sad part is that we keep talking about the human face of offenders," Mika Moulton told KPCC’s Airtalk. Moulton operates Christopher’s Clubhouse, a non-profit organization that teaches families and kids about safety in the Coachella Valley.

"What about the face of victims," asks Moulton, whose 10-year-old son was kidnapped and murdered in 1995. She supports changes to the registry but believes people should be required to stay on it longer than proposed.

Governor Brown has yet to say whether he would sign the bill.

The Alliance  for Constitutional Sex Offender Laws held its national conference in Los Angeles over the weekend, and in a sign of the stigma surrounding the issue, the gathering, attended by sex offenders and their supporters, was closed to the media and other outsiders.

Mod: SB 421 was passed by the State Senate, so you might want to write Jerry Brown and tell him you are not happy. Anthony Portantino abstained. Oh, and you know who was one of the sponsors of this bill? Scott Wiener, the same State Senator who has been fighting so hard to bring back a revitalized and more potent RHNA. What a blessing he has been for this state! Well, OK. Maybe not.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Pasadena Star News: When a Pasadena police officer becomes a gun dealer

Chief Sanchez in his junta hat
Mod: Another intriguing development in the Vasken Gourdikian Pasadena PD gun running scandal, as conducted out of a garage in Sierra Madre. This time the excitement is in the form of a Pasadena Star News editorial that ran in our local daily newspaper of record a couple of days ago. Just in case you have joined that vast community of folks who wouldn't pick up a newspaper at gunpoint (so to speak), here it is for your perusal. It is big news, and we could be close to some actual arrests in this case. Arrests that could go to the top of The Rotten Rose's police department.

When a Pasadena police officer becomes a gun dealer: Editorial (Pasadena Star News link): Citizens don’t give up their fundamental rights if they become police officers — including the constitutional “right to keep and bear arms.” But, outside the firearm needs that come with their jobs, neither do they suddenly gain new Second Amendment rights allowing them to become major armaments dealers without any restrictions on what guns they may sell and to whom they may sell them.

Given the scandal swirling through the Pasadena Police Department after Lt. Vasken Gourdikian was put on paid leave earlier this year when federal authorities raided his Sierra Madre home and confiscated guns that he had a large side-business selling, Chief Phillip Sanchez was certainly correct last week to put a halt, temporarily at least, to a department practice that encouraged such arms dealing.

There is every reason to believe that in the future the halt ought to become permanent.

What the department is suspending is a practice of issuing letters that help officers bypass 10-day waiting periods to purchase guns in their private lives. The move came less than a week after it was finally announced that Gourdikian, an officer very much in the public eye in recent years as deparment spokesman and a top aide to the chief, received seven such waivers over a four-year period.

Augusto Pinochet's junta hat
He was apparently selling quite a large number of guns out of his house — dozens of them between 2013 and earlier this year, when his online handle at a firearms website ceased activity after the raid by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Some of the guns he sold were not available to the general public, and required the waiver that was so often signed off by his superiors.

Again, peace officers have rights to legally buy and sell guns, though the public might wonder, given their line of work, how many extra firearms they want to see on the streets. And here it’s clearly a question of quantity. Gourdikian has not been charged with any crime, and the investigation has been very hush-hush. But over the last four years, he offered to sell more than 70 firearms and gun parts, including 45 pistols, 15 rifles — some of them semi-automatic ones — and three shotguns. At least 63 were later marked as sold.

The Police Department’s waiver policy deserves a thorough review, and future restrictions are in order.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sierra Madre Crime Wave: So Whose Fault Is It Actually?

You see these kinds of press releases from the Sierra Madre PD every once in a while. Usually around the time crime has spiked and people have grown concerned about it.

And while what you will read below might be useful and feel good tips for preventing crime from ever coming to your home or car, I have often thought there might be another motive at work as well. That being, should you ever become the victim of criminal activity, the fault could be yours. You must have not taken advice and done your due diligence.

The question that never gets asked being, "What can the Sierra Madre Police Department do to prevent any such increases in crime?" Which I think could be the point. The SMPD doesn't have much of a handle on the situation, and would prefer that any blame be focused on the residents rather than this city's green and inexperienced police force. Expectations and perceptions must be properly managed.

"The burglaries all took place because the vehicles were not locked." Seriously? Is this actually true?

This is from the Sierra Madre Weekly website (link):

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Hill: Trump disapproval hits 64 percent in AP poll

Mod: He's now being investigated by the FBI and other government entities for both obstruction of justice and even treason, and if that isn't an indication of how badly things are going for this loud-mouthed fool of a president, what is? The results have been devastating for the fellow, and historically low approval ratings for a POTUS at this stage of his administration are pretty much the rule. Here is the latest on all of that rhythm from The Hill.

Trump disapproval hits 64 percent in AP poll (The Hill link): Nearly two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the job President Trump is doing in the White House, according to an Associated Press/NORC poll released Thursday.

Sixty-four percent of respondents in the survey said that they don't like how the president is handling his office, while just over a third, 35 percent, approve of Trump.

The poll also found that 65 percent of Americans believe Trump has little or no respect for the country's democratic institutions and traditions. Only about 34 percent said they believe he has a great deal or even a fair amount of respect for such institutions.

While that sentiment appeared most common among Democrats and independents — 9 in 10 and 6 in 10, respectively — a third of Republican voters said Trump had little or no respect for democratic institutions in America.

While the president entered the White House with relative unpopularity, the AP noted, his dwindling approval numbers and perceived disrespect for the country's institutions show mounting challenges for Trump as he seeks to cast himself as a unifying figure.

Trump also faces disapproval in some key policy areas. Sixty-six percent of Americans said they disapprove of Trump's handling of healthcare. That comes two months after House Republicans passed a measure to repeal and replace parts of the Affordable Care Act. The Senate is hammering out its own healthcare bill.

Nearly as many Americans, 64 percent, disapprove of Trump's climate change policies. The president announced earlier this month that he would withdraw the U.S. from the 195-nation Paris climate deal and has made a concerted push to undo Obama-era environmental regulations.

The poll surveyed 1,068 Americans from June 8 to 11, and respondents were interviewed either by phone or online. The survey's margin of error is 4.1 percentage points.

Special counsel is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say (The Washington Post link): The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Scalise Shooting is not the fault of The Tattler, nor is anyone here happy about it

Pot-Kettle black.
Mod: Yesterday some thoughtless commenter expressed the belief that I posted the local pot story over the Congressman Steve Scalise shooting story because I was OK with what happened in Arlington, VA. I thought that was unfair, and I set it aside so that I could discuss the comment here with you today. This is what that unhappy soul wanted to share with you yesterday.

"The mod runs national stuff 80% of the time. This story didn't comport to the mod's Trump-bashing, so it didn't get any mention. At least the mod is reinforcing his own radical leftist agenda. It doesn't take any longer to copy from one web site versus another. " - Anonymous at 5:21 PM

I don't agree with this reader, and I want you to know that I am against people shooting other people. I am also opposed to people attempting to make political hay by accusing others of being sympathetic to those who do such shootings. Which is what the above individual was obviously attempting to do.

As we can see from the inset above, the words and sentiments of radical rightwing Tea Nuts are no better than their doppelgangers on the radical left. They're all part of the same ideological mental illness, and each feeds off of the other. A pox on both, I say.

Here are the articles the above quotes were taken from.

Sharron Angle Floated ‘2nd Amendment Remedies’ As ‘Cure’ For ‘The Harry Reid Problems’ (Huffington Post link)

California GOP Candidate Wants To ‘Issue Hunting Permits’ For Conservatives To ‘Thin’ The Liberal ‘Herd’ (Think Progress link)

Sullivan apologizes for remark about "killing a couple" of senators (Tulsa World link)

The real problem with Joni Ernst’s quote about guns and the government (The Washington Post link)

Ted Cruz: 2nd Amendment Is ‘Ultimate Check Against Government Tyranny’ (Talking Points Memo link)

A Year Ago, Rand Paul’s Account Tweeted That 2nd Amendment Exists ‘To Shoot at the Government’ ( link)

Donald Trump Suggests ‘Second Amendment People’ Could Act Against Hillary Clinton (The New York Times link)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

If pot becomes legal in Sierra Madre this guy could emerge as downtown's most successful merchant

Future Chamber of Commerce President?
Mod: The thin line between crime and what we might want to consider legal and normal commercial activity can be a very tenuous one at times. Such could be the case with this unfortunate fellow as detailed in the latest on-line edition of the Pasadena Independent.

Sierra Madre Cops Nab Pot Dealer With 600 Plants (Pasadena Independent link): Dealer in possession of estimated street value of $100,000 of marijuana arrested. Recently, the Sierra Madre Police Department received an anonymous tip that a subject was loading “multiple boxes of marijuana into a truck and trailer from a home located in Sierra Madre.”

Officers responded to the area and located the described vehicle. Sierra Madre Police officers conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle for a vehicle code violation and contacted the driver, Jason Walker, who was the sole occupant of the vehicle.

Walker was driving on a suspended driver’s license and had an outstanding warrant for his arrest. A search incident to Walker’s arrest revealed he was in possession of over 600 marijuana plants in various stages of growth, approximately 125 pounds of mature marijuana bud and a large amount of U.S. currency. The recovered marijuana plants and bud have a street value of over $100,000.

Walker declined to provide a statement of how he came into possession of the items and was booked at the Pasadena Police Department Jail.

Mod: Photos such as the following are being used to help highlight this arrest, and some can be found on the SMPD's vibrant and new Facebook page (link).

Mod: By coincidence I am sure, this week the Planning Commission will be considering the possibility of legal marijuana becoming commercially available (or not) in Sierra Madre's downtown business zone. In California marijuana recently became legal via a statewide vote of the people, though local jurisdictions can still have their say in this matter. Here is a brief description from the Agenda Report for this item (link). Please note that the actual Staff Report is not available on-line at this time. Something that is both annoying and possibly south of what is legally required under state law in regards to the noticing of such meetings.

Mod: Remember, and as one informed reader noted yesterday, "the person arrested is a potential downtown entrepreneur who could be paying taxes to this city rather than sitting in the pokey." As always we will be keeping an eye on this thin line for you.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

At Last Night's Sierra Madre City Council Meeting Water Rates and Rent Control Were Discussed

Last night's City Council meeting is exclusively linked here.

Two issues that were jiving people all the way down into the very depths of their souls last night were water rates and rent control. Both led to nowhere in particular, but in their own special ways. The meeting also went on for nearly three hours, so language was not always used economically. And yes, it was a process.

Rent Stabilization: A lot of people turned out to discuss this, much oxygen was consumed and previously ingested groceries burned, but nothing much came of it. It turned out things aren't so bad after all, and in the end this item was merely received and filed by the government agency. No landlord is going to be forced to lower their rents to $750 a month, as some claimed to fear. Great waves of unnecessary paranoia broke upon the rocks of reality, and then slipped back out into the primordial psychic seas from which they had originally flowed. 

Just one more indication that many landlords have way too much time on their hands.

You really have to wonder what people were thinking when this was brought forward for discussion. Was it, as Councilmember Delmar wryly suggested, a way to energize the community and get people to actually attend a City Council meeting? I guess the best that can be said is it kept folks out of the taverns. Or at least until the meeting finally ended.

Water Rate Study: The latest masters of the Sierra Madre Water Company disaster now want to change their bills to two tiers. The first tier, which would be less expensive, will be based on your consumption of the local non-imported stuff. The second tier, which would set you back even more, is what you would then have to pay for consuming that more costly water imported from the gonifs of the SGVMWD. This is supposed to make things simple, create trust, and give people a true understanding of why their costs are as they are.

The shocking claim is this is not being done to raise the water rates of consumers. Rather just pushing around what is currently being charged, then molding it into something more appealing and understandable. 

However, it was also said that none of this can be implemented until the State of California gets around to deciding how much water you should be allowed to consume before any punitive financial consequences are imposed. That has not been worked out yet, and won't be in place until the end of this summer. Or maybe even later. Nobody knows for certain.

Apparently this also involves state planes flying over Sierra Madre and taking photographs of everyone's houses and lots. Do wear your nicest hat so you will represent well.

So is it true? The City of Sierra Madre is going change its water rate tiers, but not in order to ask for more money? That does seem quite out of character for City Hall. I find it hard to believe, but perhaps that's a symptom of my own personal PTSD from previous water rate experiences in the past. I guess we'll know this for certain when the changes are made without a Prop 218 process being initiated by the City Attorney.

It does sound way too good to be true, however. Certainly there must be a catch. You know?

Two things that were not discussed. Sierra Madre's bizarre and troubling water bond debt situation, which is not surprising. We'll have to get back into that some other time. But also, why does this city have to pay the SGVMWD more for their water than other cities do? And why can't that be remedied? 

It seems discriminatory and unfair.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Israel Successfully Hacked ISIS Computers; Trump Leaked It to the Russians

Mod: The Israeli newspaper Haaretz shares some news about one of the worst leakers in the Trump administration, that being the Putin-happy President himself. 

Israel Successfully Hacked ISIS Computers; Trump Leaked It to the Russians (Haaretz link): The source of the classified intelligence that U.S. President Donald Trump shared with Russian officials in May was information Israel obtained after hacking computers belonging to ISIS, the New York Times reported Monday. According to the Times, which cited a U.S. official, Israeli "cyberoperators" managed to penetrate an ISIS cell of bombmakers based in Syria several months ago.

According to the report, the information was so good that it allowed the United States to learn that the terror cell was working on explosives that could fool airport security by passing as a laptop battery.

According to the report, the information helped support a ban since March on carrying electronics such as laptops on incoming flights from number of predominantly Muslim countries to the United States and Britain.

According to a May article in the New York Times, the source of the classified intelligence was Israel. The report cited a current U.S. official and a former one.

The intelligence was shared at a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. The unnamed officials said Israel had previously urged the United States to be cautious with the information. The revelation that Trump shared sensitive intelligence with Russia raises the possibility that the information could be subsequently leaked to Iran.

The New York Times report said Israeli officials refused to confirm that Israel was the source of the information. But BuzzFeed News quoted two Israeli intelligence officials as saying that Israel had shared information with the United States on an Islamic State plan to sneak explosive-laden laptops onto airplanes. The New York Times' report that the U.S. president had shared Israeli intelligence with Russia was Israel's "worst fears confirmed," one of the officers was quoted as saying.

Poll: 47 percent back impeachment for Trump (The Hill link): Nearly half of registered voters support President Trump being impeached, a new poll finds.

Polling firm Public Policy Polling's new poll released Monday shows that 47 percent of voters support Trump being impeached, while 43 percent oppose it.

Trump’s approval rating sits at 41 percent in the new poll, with 52 percent of voters disapproving of job performance. Thirty-six percent of voters think that Trump has delivered on his promises while 56 percent say he has not.

Trump also scored low marks in the poll for his ongoing feud with fired FBI Director James Comey. Fifty-one percent said Comey was the more trustworthy of the two men, while just 39 percent said Trump was. And just 13 percent said the FBI's chief should do whatever Trump tells them to do, while 77 percent disagreed.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Kiwanis Climate Expert Blames Trees For Sierra Madre's Drought?

At a presentation given to the Kiwanis Club on May 9, the same day that the latest water rate bomb was dropped at a Sierra Madre City Council meeting, NASA Jet Propulsion climatologist Bill Patzert presented the attendees with the following astonishing fact. "There are way too many trees in Sierra Madre, and they are all dying because there are so many," quoth Patzert.

Which is kind of ludicrous if you think about it. The trees in Sierra Madre are dying because they are not getting enough water. And why are they not getting enough water? It could be in part because should residents water their trees, they would fall subject to the rather draconian water fines the City of Sierra Madre currently imposes upon its residents.

Here is the Mountain Views News article where this astonishing news was first broken to its dozens of readers. Or at least that is what the paper's City Editor, Dean Lee, is telling us.

According to the article, Patzert said that the city would most likely continue with water restrictions in the years to come - if not forever. Why? Is he able to predict the future? Before you cut down your trees, do remember that this is the guy who predicted, and with great certainty I might add, the "Godzilla El Nino."

Which, as you may recall, did not happen. Apparently Bill is not exactly a foolproof soothsayer.

Governor Brown has declared that the drought is over, so why are the residents of Sierra Madre and its trees being deprived of water? Patzert blames the San Gabriel Valley Metropolitan Water District for this, even though the other municipal customers of the SGVMWD have now rescinded their water restrictions and fines.

If you click here you will be taken to the Arbor Day Foundation webpage where Sierra Madre is listed amongst those so honored as a Tree City USA. You can only wonder how long Sierra Madre, the home of too many trees, will be allowed to remain on this list.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Is Sierra Madre City Hall is laying the groundwork for yet another water rate increase?

At Tuesday evening's City Council meeting more groundwork will be laid for yet another water rate increase. As Councilmember Harabedian might put this, it is a process. It could also be called "rolling out the same old baloney." You can link to the presentation by clicking here. It is pretty much the same platitudinous boilerplate as last time, and nothing you haven't seen before. Though the colors used for this year's report have been changed. They're brighter.

Perhaps the largest contribution to the need for yet another water rate increase in Sierra Madre is its water bond debt. There is no mention of that anywhere in the materials prepared for Tuesday evening's City Council meeting, which is not surprising. This is a scandal many years old now, and hardly the kind of thing anybody on the current City Council enjoys dealing with. Reasons would have to be given, and names would need to be named. That would be unpleasant. Especially for those responsible.

There is a river in Sierra Madre?

Again, here is a breakdown of that debt. And yes, you've seen it here before. Note that the city has only been paying the interest on its water bond debt since its inception in 2004. Not the best business practice, as anyone who uses a credit card can tell you. That madness all ends in 2019, after which the principal will need to start being paid. This results in more than a doubling of what Sierra Madre will have to shell out on a yearly basis, and will continue to need to do so until the year 2034.

When this water bond was first created the entire bill was $6,750,000. Sierra Madre's policy of only paying the interest on this debt caused that amount to balloon to $14,925,486. All of which is being paid for by you, the somewhat detached ratepayer. In ever increasing amounts.

Isn't it odd that the only place you are hearing about this is on a blog?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The most chilling line of Comey’s testimony

Mod: Pretty good column from Dana Milbank of the Washington Post. In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee former FBI Director James Comey repeatedly called President Donald Trump a liar. Not a single Senator there, not even the Republicans, objected to that characterization. Apparently at the highest levels of our government Trump's lying is an accepted fact and doesn't need to be questioned.

The most chilling line of Comey’s testimony (The Washington Post link): There will be much for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to unpack after this last week’s momentous testimony of James B. Comey: Did President Trump’s actions amount to obstruction of justice? Did Attorney General Jeff Sessions violate his recusal from the Russia probe? Should Comey have acted sooner?

But such legal considerations, though important, miss the real significance of Comey’s testimony heard ’round the world. In the three hours I sat transfixed in Room 216 of the Hart Building, 15 feet behind the fired FBI director, the line that chilled me more than any other was Comey’s account of why he wrote extensive, real-time notes of his conversations with Trump. “The nature of the person,” Comey explained in part. “I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, and so I thought it really important to document.”

The nature of the person.

This was the essence of Comey’s testimony: that the president of the United States is at his core a dishonest and untrustworthy man. It was judgment on character, not a legal opinion, and even Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee made no real attempt to dispel it.

By itself, it’s neither a high crime nor a misdemeanor for a president to be dishonorable. But it’s a stain on the country, and it defines this moment. This is why Trump can’t get legislation through Congress and can’t get allies to cooperate, and why so many worry that he will disregard constitutional restraints. The president is not to be trusted.

The Founders did not anticipate this, a defect not just of private misconduct (which we’ve seen before) but of public character. “The process of election affords a moral certainty,” Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 68, “that the office of president will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single state; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of president of the United States. It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue.”

But the moral certainty of the Enlightenment broke down with the election of something more medieval. When Sen. Angus King, the Maine independent, asked Comey whether he took as a directive Trump’s expressed “hope” that Comey drop the FBI’s probe of ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn, Comey reached back to the words of 12th-century autocrat Henry II that led to the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket. “Yes,” Comey said, “it rings in my ear as kind of ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ ”

The former FBI chief and top official in the George W. Bush Justice Department was unsparing in his challenge to Trump’s character, saying that Trump’s administration “chose to defame me” and the FBI with “lies, plain and simple.” Comey noted that he never felt the need to document his conversations with Presidents George W. Bush or Barack Obama, telling Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), again, that he got “a gut feeling” about Trump “and the nature of the person that I was interacting with and my read of that person.”

Republicans on and off the panel largely accept Comey’s assessment of Trump’s character. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) suggested that “the president’s new at this” and “probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols.” But, he added, “I’m not saying it’s an acceptable excuse.”

Republicans on the committee defended Trump on some technical points but not on matters of integrity. Sen. James E. Risch (R-Idaho) called Comey’s testimony “as good as it gets” for legal writing and accepted that “we know exactly what happened” between him and Trump. Collins said Trump “never should have cleared the room, and he never should have asked you, as you reported, to let it go — to let the investigation go.”

Trump is growing lonely in his protestations of his own probity. Friday morning he inexplicably claimed “total and complete vindication.” Trump’s spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders vouched that “the president is not a liar. I think it’s frankly insulting that that question would be asked.”

No, what’s insulting — to America — is that the question didn’t need to be asked. Comey, until last month the nation’s top lawman, confirmed what we already knew.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Pasadena Independent: Chief Sanchez Suspends Issuing ‘Firearm Waiver Letters’ To Officers In Wake Of AFT Raid On Pasadena PD Officer’s Home

Junta Hat and Gourdikian

Mod: Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez suddenly found himself thrust to the center of the Vasken Gourdikian gun running affair last week, and apparently is not enjoying the kinds of publicity he is receiving because of that. In a breaking news story that the Pasadena Independent's Terry Miller released late yesterday afternoon, here is a classic example of an under duress senior police officer trying to close a swinging barn door well after the semi-automatic horse already lit out for places unknown.

Chief Sanchez Suspends Issuing ‘Firearm Waiver Letters’ To Officers In Wake Of AFT Raid On Pasadena PD Officer’s Home (Pasadena Independent link): In the wake of the ongoing story on a February 16, 2017 ATF raid of Pasadena police lieutenant’s home in Sierra Madre, Pasadena Chief of Police Phillip Sanchez made a public statement via William Boyer, the Public Information Officer for the City of Pasadena, regarding the so-called “waiver letters” that he signs for officers to buy weapons not available to the general public.

These ‘waiver letters’ have garnered a huge amount of local media interest as well as the ongoing investigation into why ATF raided the Pasadena police officer’s home in the first place.

Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents served a search warrant of Pasadena police officer Vasken Gourdikian’s home in Sierra Madre, February 16 and confiscated numerous weapons in an ongoing investigation. The weapons confiscated included high power rifles as well as handguns.

In May, The United States Dept. of Justice listed details about the weapons the ATF seized from a high ranking Pasadena police officer’s home in February. Many more questions came about than answers.

Why the Pasadena police officer’s home was raided remains sealed and is under investigation. The ATF and FBI will not comment on any ongoing investigation.

Eric D. Harden, Special Agent in Charge for the ATF Los Angeles Field Division issued a letter dated March 31, 2017 advising law enforcement that officers are required by law to obtain a Federal Firearms License (FFL) before engaging in the selling/buying of firearms.

Harden went on to say that “ATF discovered some law enforcement officers (who do not have an FFL) are purchasing ‘off roster’ firearms. California law restricts FFLs sales of theses firearms to law enforcement only and reselling those firearms to non-law enforcement entities for a profit.” This is a violation of federal law.

Last week, reporter Andre Coleman from Pasadena Weekly published an extensively researched article on the gun waiver letters citing Calguns website where Gourdikian allegedly bought and sold weapons.

Pasadena Independent as well as other news agencies have officially requested public records from the regarding the issuance of these waiver letters in connection with Gourdikian. We expect to have copies on Monday.

Pasadena Police Dept. says the ATF investigation is not connected to Gourdikian’s work at the PPD. However, there is an internal ongoing investigation in the local dept. The former Pasadena Police Dept. spokesperson and adjutant to Chief Sanchez remains on indefinite leave.

On Thursday, Sanchez announced he is temporarily suspending his Police Department’s issuance of waiver or authorization letters to officers for their use in firearm purchases.

“I am suspending the practice of issuing these letters until I have a chance to more thoroughly review our process,” Chief Sanchez said. “The Pasadena Police Department is among the finest law enforcement agencies in the country precisely because we continually assess our practices and make operational improvements to better serve our community.”

Up until now, Pasadena police officers—similar to other sworn law enforcement officials throughout California—have been able to request such letters from their employer as allowed by California law. The letters can be used by officers to seek a waiver of the 10-day waiting period for personal firearm purchases or other authorization to purchase rifles not available to the public.

More than 40 law enforcement agencies throughout the Southern California area recently contacted by the Department indicated those departments also issue similar waiver letters. Of the same agencies surveyed, 15 also issue authorization letters for rifle purchases, Sanchez said.

Out of an abundance of caution, however, Sanchez said he has ordered the Department to proactively re-evaluate its program on issuing these letters.

The Chief’s action today does not limit officers’ access to firearms or any related equipment to protect and serve the community. The department continues to issue all necessary on-duty equipment to its officers although officers still have the option of using personal firearms approved by the Department.

Officers also can purchase, or sell, handguns just like any eligible member of the public as allowed by applicable state and federal laws.

Chief Sanchez said there is no timeline for the review process by his Command Staff.

We asked PIO Boyer how many letters were issued have been issued by Chief Sanchez. While he couldn’t be specific pending the PRR, he did acknowledge that there were “a lot” issued.

We also asked William Boyer which guns were not available to the public but were to law enforcement. To which Boyer replied that the weapons essentially are “assault rifles like AR 15’s.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Some Possible Results of Former FBI Director James Comey's Testimony Today

click here for video
Mod: I have no set idea on how this is going to go today, though eventual obstruction of justice charges against the President of the United States is a possible result. Should that happen the following could come into play. The posted video is pretty interesting, too.

Trump's New Impeachable Offenses: Obstruction of Justice, Conspiracy, Abuse of Power (Democratic Underground link): There is absolutely no doubt Trump's motive in firing Comey was to eliminate the person investigating #TrumpRussia and to obstruct the FBI investigation. That is criminal action.

The action was taken be three persons, Trump, Sessions and Rosenstein, and therefore conspiracy statutes prevail:

18 U.S. Code § 371 - Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud United States - If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

18 U.S. Code § 372 - Conspiracy to impede or injure officer - If two or more persons in any State, Territory, Possession, or District conspire to prevent, by force, intimidation, or threat, any person from accepting or holding any office, trust, or place of confidence under the United States, or from discharging any duties thereof, or to induce by like means any officer of the United States to leave the place, where his duties as an officer are required to be performed, or to injure him in his person or property on account of his lawful discharge of the duties of his office, or while engaged in the lawful discharge thereof, or to injure his property so as to molest, interrupt, hinder, or impede him in the discharge of his official duties, each of such persons shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six years, or both.

The conspiracy began earlier, with truth-suppressing acts by co-conspirators Sessions, Flynn, and Kushner. Given perjury, false declarations, or assertion of a false affirmative statement by an individual testifying under oath accompanied by other obstructive, evasive testimony, such as a false denial of knowledge or memory, legal offenses exist. Sessions committed perjury in his confirmation hearing, Flynn lied to the FBI and about his Russia contacts, Kushner failed to disclose his Russia contacts in his security clearance. These acts and Trump's firing of Comey are part of a pattern of actions, a cover up related to the Trump campaign, and have been carried out for a unified purpose and in a concerted manner.

18 U.S. Code § 1621 - Perjury generally - Whoever—
(1) having taken an oath before a competent tribunal, officer, or person, in any case in which a law of the United States authorizes an oath to be administered, that he will testify, declare, depose, or certify truly, or that any written testimony, declaration, deposition, or certificate by him subscribed, is true, willfully and contrary to such oath states or subscribes any material matter which he does not believe to be true; or
(2) in any declaration, certificate, verification, or statement under penalty of perjury as permitted under section 1746 of title 28, United States Code, willfully subscribes as true any material matter which he does not believe to be true; is guilty of perjury and shall, except as otherwise expressly provided by law, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. This section is applicable whether the statement or subscription is made within or without the United States.

Obstruction and impeding any inquiry or investigation in Congress is also criminal. Director Comey was a witness before Congress in both public and classified hearings in the very days before his dismissal.

18 U.S. Code § 1505 - Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress

Shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.

History repeats. The first charge in Nixon's impeachment resolution was obstruction of justice. Abuse of power and politics can continue to impede investigations. An independent investigation is an immediate imperative.

The best path forward remains unresolved. There were reasons to impeach Trump before this latest action, but political will was lacking. That too is changing, more so behind the barriers of secrecy imposed by classified information. As more information from the multitudinous investigations is revealed, the demands to end Trump's despotic tenure will grow. I doubt partisanship will be set aside to restore justice and undo an election outcome that never should have been. However, we don't have all the facts yet and when we do, even that may happen. Meanwhile, let the impeachment begin.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

SB 35 & Wiener Housing: The Return of RHNA and the Coming Loss of City Control Over Development Planning

The Wiener Way
Mod: We used to talk a lot about RHNA numbers and unwanted state housing mandates on this site. However, as more and more cities discovered they could just slough all of that off and continue to do as they wish, much of the pressure to comply with Sacramento's central planning authorities went away. Sadly, a newly elected State Senator from San Francisco, a certain Scott Wiener to be exact, has a bill up for consideration that could bring back the bad old RHNA days, and so very much more. The following comes to us from an article published in The Marin Post, and the references are mostly to things happening in the northern part of this state. But it still has a lot of information that you do need to know.

SB 35: Housing Accountability and Affordability Act (Wiener) (Taken from the article "Three dangerous bills being pushed by State Senator Nancy Skinner," published by The Marin Post link): SB 35, the brainchild of San Francisco State Senator Scott Wiener, would force cities that haven’t met all their state-mandated Regional Housing Need Allocations ("RHNA") to give by-right approval to infill market-rate housing projects with as little as 10% officially affordable housing.

SB 35 is anti-free speech and civic engagement. No public hearings, no environmental review, no negotiation over community benefits. Just “ministerial,” i.e., over-the-counter- approval. SB 35 is also pro-gentrification. As a statewide coalition of affordable housing advocacy organizations has written:

Since almost no local jurisdiction in the State of California meets 100% of its market rate RHNA goal on a sustained basis, this bill essentially ensures by-right approval for market-rate projects simply by complying with a local inclusionary requirement [for affordable housing] or by building 10% affordable units. The practical result is that all market rate infill development in most every city in California will be eligible for by-right approval per this SB 35-proposed State law pre-emption.

And as Berkeley Housing Commissioner Thomas Lord has pointed out, the RHNA program itself is a pro-gentrification policy. It follows that the passage of SB 35 would further inflate real estate values and worsen the displacement of economically vulnerable California residents.

SB 35 is pro-traffic congestion. It would prohibit cities from requiring parking in a “streamlined development approved pursuant” to SB 35, located within a half-mile of public transit, in an architecturally and historically significant historic district, when on-street parking permits are required but not offered to the occupants of the project, and when there is a car share vehicle located within one block of the development.

Other projects approved under the measure would be limited to one space per unit. Absent the provision of ample new public transit, the prohibition of parking in new development will worsen neighborhood traffic problems. SB 35 says nothing about new transit.

The construction of on-site parking is expensive, up to $50,000 a space. A measure that exempts new development, as designated above, from including parking without requiring developers to transfer the savings to affordable housing is a giveaway to the real estate industry.

Nor does SB 35 say anything about funding the amount of infrastructure and local services—fire and police, schools, parks—that would be required by the massive amount of development it mandates.

Are local jurisdictions expected to foot the bill?

The lineup of SB 35’s supporters and opponents reveals serious splits in the state’s environmental protection and affordable housing advocates.

Opponents include the Sierra Club; the League of California Cities; the Council of Community Housing Organizations; the California Fire Chiefs Association; the Fire Districts Association of California; a handful of cities, including Hayward, Pasadena, and Santa Rosa; the Marin County Council of Mayors and Councilmembers; and many building trades organizations, including IBEW Locals 1245, 18, 465 and 551, and the Western States Council of Sheet Metal Workers.

Fortunately the League of California Cities loathes SB 35 
Mod: I haven't been much impressed with "The League" in the past, but they are doing the right thing on Wiener Housing. Click here for information on what you can do to stop this knucklehead from robbing cities of their rights to protect themselves from predatory development.

Mod: If you don't think what is described about won't obliterate all the nice things Sierra Madre has set in place lately to protect what people like most about this place, then you are living your life shrouded in darkness. Without a flashlight, either. Our nefarious local developers must love SB 35, and are probably writing love letters to the likes of Chris Holden and Anthony Portantino about it. If passed, all that these developers would need to do is walk into City Hall, collar the nearest too eager to please city employee, and get them to sign off on whatever they want. No Planning Commissions need apply. Or you, for that matter. Especially you.

Oh, and here is yet another question. Why is it people in No. Cal are up in arms about Wiener Housing, yet down here in Lo-Cal you never hear any mention of it? Odd since the devastating effects would be felt statewide.