Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Tattler Where Did November Go Weekend News

ISON Survives
(Mod: I don't know how things went for you over the last 30 days, but November was the quickest month I have ever lived. It just blew by, and I am not quite sure how it disappeared so soon. If you have seen it hanging around anywhere, please send it back here. I would like to get it back if at all possible. And I don't need the whole thing, either. Maybe you can just get the part that began around the 19th. That would be good enough. In the meantime, here is the Weekend News. Read it as quickly as you can, because I don't think it is going to last for long, either.)

Comet ISON, Presumed Dead, Shows New Life (New York Times link): Astronomers are marveling at the death and apparent resurrection of a comet that dove close to the sun on Thanksgiving.

NASA posted on Twitter, “It’s likely it didn’t survive.”

ISON, which spent several billion years at the frigid edge of the solar system before starting a long journey toward the sun, had been billed as a possible “comet of the century.” Its demise seemed to be an anticlimactic ending to the story.

But “then it appears again,” said Karl Battams, an astrophysicist at the Naval Research Laboratory who has been observing the comet from Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. “We see something come out.”

Images taken by spacecraft showed an increasingly bright point at the head of the comet. Dr. Battams said that current data could not offer a definitive answer, but it appeared Friday that part of ISON’s nucleus was still holding together.

“It’s definitely maybe alive,” Dr. Battams said. “There’s a strong definite chance it might be, may be alive.”

(Mod: Late Thanksgiving evening, while everyone in the house was sleeping off their turkey dinners, I sat at my computer watching videos of Comet ISON apparently being melted into vapor by the sun. Almost every expert declared its demise was certain, and that this 4 billion year old lump of ice and rocks had met its end. But now it is back, alive and kicking. There is hope for us all.)

Four out of five people stop breathing correctly when typing an email (Natural News link): Four out of five people regularly stop breathing while typing emails, according to studies conducted by former Apple executive Linda Stone. The condition, which health professionals are calling "email apnea," may lead to serious health consequences.

"If people are in a stressful situation, perhaps having to deal with some stressful communication, they might end up holding their breath," said Edward Grandi, executive director of the American Sleep Apnea Association. "It's not just email, it's email and texting."

Gizmodo blogger Adam Clark Estes wrote that he had noticed the condition in himself, whenever he was concentrating on writing an especially difficult paragraph.

"I must've slipped a little too deeply into the zone," he said. "A head shake and a couple breaths later, and I was back at it."

But the pattern is hard to break, Estes noted. "Within minutes, the same light-headed feeling was back. I'd stopped breathing, again."

(Mod: Email apnea could be one of the key reasons why the comments Steve posts here on The Tattler read the way they do.)

Black Friday Death Count (link)

(Mod: Not an article so much as a tally of Thanksgiving weekend shopping fatalities. Don't leave home without it.)

Walmart officials comfortable with security after Rialto ‘Black Friday’ brawl sends police officer to hospital (The San Bernardino Sun link): Walmart officials say they are comfortable with the security in place Thursday night, despite three fights at a store here Thursday night.

“The fight at the Rialto store was an unfortunate and isolated incident to an otherwise very safe event,” corporate spokeswoman Betsy Harden said. “Providing our customers with the best and safest shopping experience is always our top priority.”

Police officers descended on Walmart in Rialto after a brawl between two men injured a police officer who tried to break up the fight Thursday night.

The injured officer was transported to St. Bernardine Medical Center in San Bernardino with a broken wrist, police officials said. He was treated and released late Thursday night.

(Mod: There are a number of articles up about Black Friday shopping melees at Wal-Marts right now. Including this video - link. They'll need to add these to the Black Friday stats chart.)

Santa Claus got himself arrested at Wal-Mart (The Trentonian link): Santa Claus came to a California Wal-Mart on Friday — not to hand out presents or spread cheer — but to protest what company employees are calling unfair wages and working hours.

His plan was to leave in handcuffs.

“I’m going to get arrested for civil disobedience,” said Karl Hilgert of Claremont, who came dressed as Santa to support Wal-Mart workers.

Hilgert got his wish, along with nine others, who sat on the ground in a circle and refused to leave despite warnings from police.

More than 100 warehouse workers and other Wal-Mart employees from various Southern California stores gathered at the location in Ontario, Calif. at 6 a.m. for the protest.

They marched in front of the store, chanting in English and Spanish and carrying signs with messages such as “Livable Wages Over Greed.”

The group then marched to the nearby intersection and waited for police to arrive. After three loud-speaker announcements for participating in an unlawful assembly, officers in riot gear approached, read participants their Miranda rights and then arrested them. They were taken to the police department, issued citations and then released.

(Mod: At least Santa didn't become a Black Friday retail violence statistic. Sometimes being arrested is better than shopping.)   

Gunman found dead inside cell phone store after standoff in La Crescenta (Pasadena Star News link): An armed robbery suspect was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after barricading himself inside a Foothill Boulevard cell phone store Friday, officials said.

The incident began shortly after 4 p.m. at a shopping center in the 2600 block of Foothill Boulevard, just east of Raymond Avenue.

A man in his 30s showed up at the Rite-Aid Pharmacy and asked for pills, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Burton Brink said. When employees refused, he pulled out a handgun and demanded pills.

The gunman fled the pharmacy with the pills, Brink said. It was not immediately clear what type of pills were taken, or how many.

But instead of attempting a getaway, the armed man ran into a nearby cell phone store, ordered everyone out and a standoff began, Brink said.

The cell phone store is labeled with “Verizon Wireless” signage, but Verizon officials said it is an affiliated retailer operating under the name “Connect Wireless.”

The standoff lasted for more than four hours.

(Mod: Can you hear me now?)

Thanksgiving In Jail For World's Most Busted Man (The Smoking Gun link): The World’s Most Arrested Man, a Kentuckian who has been busted more than 1500 times over the past four decades, will spend another Thanksgiving in jail, records show.

Henry Earl, 64, is locked up in the Fayette County Detention Center -- which one day should bear his name -- following his arrest last month for public intoxication. Earl was collared outside a fast food joint by Lexington cops, according to jail records.

Earl is due in court for a December 5 pretrial conference and a probation revocation hearing.

Earl, whose arrests almost uniformly have involved alcohol, was first nabbed in Fayette County in July 1970, when he was 20, for carrying a concealed weapon. He would rack up 33 more arrests that decade, while adding 230 collars during the 1980s (most of which involved public drunkenness and/or disorderly conduct).

Remarkably, Earl’s arrest rate increased in the following decades, in part because he rarely spent more than a couple of days in custody before being released (to offend again). Over the past year, however, Kentucky judges have been less lenient on Earl, who has begun spending two to three month stretches in custody per conviction.

(Mod: A warm place to sleep and a good meal can motivate a man sometimes. And who knows, maybe jail is preferable to Earl than his life on the street.)

California lawmakers set for 5.3% pay hike (Los Angeles Times link): California lawmakers are set to receive a 5.3% pay raise Monday, but a dozen say they won't accept it in the wake of a tax hike approved last November and while many residents are still struggling to recover from the recent recession.

The raises were approved by the citizen panel that determines state officials' compensation. The base salary for most legislators will go from $90,526 to $95,291 — still below the $116,208 that lawmakers received in 2007, before their pay was cut during California's budget crises.

"I didn't think taking a raise … when we had just raised taxes on all Californians with Prop. 30, really made sense," said Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach), one of a dozen legislators who said they were turning down the increase.

Many rank-and-file state workers will receive pay hikes of 4.5% phased in through July 2015, but some lawmakers note that many in the private sector are hurting.

"Since California's economy continues to struggle, with many Californians unemployed or underemployed, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to accept a pay raise," state Sen. Mark Wyland (R-Escondido) wrote to the state controller, asking that no raise be included in his paycheck. Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Assembly Speaker John PĂ©rez (D-Los Angeles) are taking their pay increases.

"I have accepted previous decisions by the independent Citizens Compensation Commission to adjust legislative pay and benefits," Steinberg said in a statement. "I will continue to accept their decisions now."

(Mod: It's always Christmas in Sacramento.)

Poverty in California Not so golden - America’s biggest state has America’s biggest poverty problem (The Economist link): As director of development at the Second Harvest food bank in Riverside, California, Tracylyn Sherrit is used to fielding tales of hardship. But these days they sometimes come from unexpected quarters. An elderly woman in Palm Springs, a reasonably prosperous tourist town in eastern Riverside County, recently called, desperate for help: her family were visiting for Thanksgiving and she could not afford to feed them.

Riverside County is part of the Inland Empire, a vast sprawl east of Los Angeles that was whacked by the housing bust. California’s inland areas, such as the Inland Empire and, to its north, the agricultural lands of the San Joaquin Valley, have long lagged the coast on indicators such as employment, income and education.

At the California Economic Summit, a recent gathering of state worthies, all the talk was of “two Californias”: the wealthy coastal part and the struggling inland bit. Cities like San Bernardino and Fresno reek of poverty and sadness.

But two recent reports suggest that poverty in California’s coastal areas may have been significantly understated, thanks largely to high housing costs. The US Census Bureau’s traditional measure, which pegs the poverty line at $23,492 for a family of four, ignores geographical variations in the cost of living, as well as non-cash benefits such as tax credits.

Include these and the poverty rate in Los Angeles County (America’s largest by far by population) climbs from 18% to 27%, according to a recent report from the Stanford Centre on Poverty and Inequality and the Public Policy Institute of California, a think-tank. Most other cities also see big jumps; San Francisco’s rate nearly doubles.

(Mod: I don't imagine that there will be much in the way of raises for these folks this year.)

California water woes hit hard in driest year on record (Reuters link): To nurture his acres of pistachio trees, Tom Coleman has long relied on water from California's mountain-ringed reservoirs, fed by Sierra streams and water pumped from the massive Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

But the driest year on record has left the reservoirs so depleted - and the delta so fragile - that state water officials say they may be able to provide just 5 percent of the water he and others were expecting for next year.

Other sources of water, including resources from a federal project that also pumps from the delta, are also drying up, prompting cities to dip into reserves and forcing farmers to scramble.

"It's scary, because you don't know how you're going to come up with the balance of your water," Coleman said. Last week, he agreed to pay $160,000 for water from other sources - about three times the amount he usually spends.

The water districts that supply Coleman and farmers like him in the state's San Joaquin Valley were told last week that barring an unexpectedly wet winter, the state would be able to provide 5 percent of the water that districts had contracted to buy for next year.

A federal project that also controls water in the state has not yet said how much will be available in 2014, but its allocations are also expected to be low.

"We hope things improve with this winter's storms," said Mark Cowin, director of the California Department of Water Resources, "but there is no guarantee that 2014 won't be our third consecutive dry year. Today's allocation is a stark reminder that California's fickle weather demands that we make year-round conservation a way of life."

This year is shaping up to be the driest on record in California, officials said, and urban areas are also feeling the pinch. The Metropolitan Water District, which serves about half of heavily populated Southern California, has been using reserves to meet residents' needs, and plans to do the same next year, said spokesman Bob Muir. If 2015 is also dry, rationing may be required, he said.

(Mod: So what if Sierra Madre needed water from MWD and there wasn't any to buy?)

On that happy note, we will end it here.

Friday, November 29, 2013

What Pat Alcorn and David Crochetiere Had to Say Tuesday Evening About the Hart Park House Affair

The Hart Park House
Mod: At last Tuesday's City Council meeting a discussion about the fate of the two outside restrooms attached to the Hart Park House became a little heated. The goal of Mayor Walsh and her clients on the Senior Commission being to gut the women's lavatory and replace it with a storage room, while converting the remaining men's lavatory into a single user unisex bathroom. Taking the other side of the argument were Pat Alcorn and David Crochetiere of the Community Services Commission. Pat delivered her statement from the public comment podium. What she presented there was something of a timeline, much of it written with the intent of setting the record straight. Here is what she had to say:


1) In March of 2011, the Community Services Commission voted to use CRA monies to install a Kodiak restroom in Memorial Park and to restore the restrooms adjacent to the Hart Park House.

2) In reviewing the tape of April 12, 2011 the City Council voted for the Kodiak and for “staff to develop plans for renovating current restrooms and an alternative storage plan for the seniors for a later date.”  Councilmember Moran remarked that “the more bathrooms in that park the better” and it would be good to be able to get rid of the portable toilets. . . .

3) In May of 2013 a staff report was brought to the CSC from the Senior Services Commission requesting to replace the women’s restroom with storage for the seniors and to convert the men’s room into a family restroom.  The Commissioners  asked staff to bring back more information including alternatives to the conversion of the rest rooms, and asked that the Senior Commission look into alternative storage options, something that was asked of them in April, 2011.

4) For the CSC regular meeting in September a joint meeting was scheduled by staff to discuss this issue.  Senior Services Commissioners did not have any alternatives to suggest and firmly held the position that the conversion was necessary.

5) At that meeting Mayor Walsh spoke and declared that the CSC was disingenuous in our discussions because we were previously in favor of storage and a unisex restroom.  This is not true as evidenced in minutes of the CSC as well as reviewing the City Council April 2011 tape. We never considered a conversion to storage.

6) The majority of the CSC members object to converting to storage for the following reasons:
a - The restrooms are Community restrooms, not senior restrooms. They are used by the community using Memorial Park.
b - The CSC is responsible for parks and facilities and must consider what is best for the community as a whole, not just one segment of the community.
c - Turning a restroom into storage does not make any sense as park facilities are needed for park use and there would be a loss of three fixtures:  a men’s urinal and commode, and two women’s commodes, to be replaced with one commode in the proposed unisex restroom.
d - One facility would not be practical in that area because it would be used by day workers as well as children and families using an area designated for children ages two to five. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against day workers. However there are many who stay in the park for extended periods of time, and the men’s restroom is heavily used by them. - Pat Alcorn

Mod: Pat's Community Services Commission colleague David Crochetiere had a work obligation and could not attend Tuesday evening. Instead David sent the following letter to the City Council, which was read aloud at the meeting by Councilmember John Capoccia. Here is what he had to say:

Council Members

I regret that I cannot be at the meeting of the City Council tonight because of work demands, but I wanted to offer my opinion as a member of the Community Services Commission on the proposed conversion of the restrooms in Memorial Park into a partial storage unit. I appreciate the time you take to read my thoughts on this matter.

As I hope you realize, I try to come before you only on issues about which I feel strongly. While the conversion of a restroom would not at first blush seem like an issue to be passionate about, when the issue came before our Commission on two separate occasions the more I looked into the proposal, the more ill-conceived it appeared. Indeed, even as I write this I remain surprised that it seems to anyone a good idea to eliminate one of the few bathrooms in a park well used by our community, and often used by crowds, to gain a little storage space for tables and chairs. I urge you to reject this proposal and look into other ways to meet the storage needs of the Senior Center without such a counter-intuitive and permanent impact on the resources we already have in the park.

So let me state the obvious:

1. It is unwise, and unprecedented, to take a space that is fully plumbed and useful as a bathroom, and turn it into a closet. Closets are improved to become bathrooms in your house, not the other way around.  There are so many other options for storage space (the lowest possible use for a space) that improved areas like a bathroom simply should not be used.

2. The balance of competing interests here clearly weighs in favor of keeping the restroom as is. There are already too few restrooms in a large park. The plan eliminates three fixtures (two commodes and a urinal) and replaces them with one commode in a unisex restroom. On the other side of the scale, though I looked hard for it, I could not see a desperate need for storage in the Hart House. The pictures we were shown showed some tables against the wall, and we have been told that some people would rather not have to cart items back and forth each week for their projects. When a member of the Senior Commission suggested at our joint meeting that a small game room be used for storage, the response was that people like to play games in there. No doubt true, but not a reason to destroy a functioning bathroom.

3. The fact that the Senior Commission will pay for the renovation is generous, but self-interested. Senior groups advocate for the interests of Seniors, and I get that. But your Council and our Commission have a broader mandate - to look out for the interests of the community as a whole. Tennis enthusiasts might pay to pave the park to put up more courts, but we need to strike the balance we cannot expect them to strike.

4. The idea that we will get a brand new updated restroom (albeit with one stall) and save on the cost of renovations of the existing restrooms is nice, but too costly in other ways. Many of our facilities need renovations, and outside money is nice, but renovation of the park restrooms now is not an emergency. We can wait until we have the money to maximize the value of what we have already invested in, not sell off more than half of it to improve what is left.

5. It became apparent when I started asking questions at our meetings discussing this project that it had not been thought through carefully. Some examples:

-  Men would use the unisex bathroom along with women and families. No one had considered how the new unisex restroom will look, and how attractive it will really be to families after a few months of use. I know what men rooms in parks can look like.

- The door of a unisex restroom will have to be locked to avoid the other sex coming in. If you are parent at the play structure with a little girl, do you trust her to use a bathroom that a man can walk in if she fails to lock the door? In other words, would you feel safer sending her off to a women's only bathroom? Interestingly, with all the discussion of how desirable a unisex bathroom would be to parents with small children, no one seems to have consulted them on the project.

- No one had really studied how much these bathrooms are actually used, and whether one fixture instead of four would really suffice. How about concerts in the park? The problem is the renovation proposed is permanent, destroying the existing fixtures, and it unlikely we will have money anytime soon to rebuild them after a mistake.

6. There is apparently a political history behind this proposal which came up at our joint meeting and which, frankly, I am not interested in. The issue is whether this project makes sense today, and it does not.

I have spent a lot of time over the past few years on the Commission taking stock of what resources we have in our parks, and how we can maximize the benefit of them with the budget restraints we have. Severely reducing the number of bathrooms in our main park so that a few tables and chairs can be stored is, frankly, foolish and a decision we will regret almost immediately.

So please ask the Senior Commission to really think about storage alternatives, not just pay lip service to the issue. Ask them if they would generously spend their money on a storage shed, or shelving in the building, or renovation of the game room. You, and we on the Commission, are charged with balancing interests for the benefit if everyone in the community, and this proposal fails that test. Its not even close. It benefits the users of the Hart House and no one else. That's why they are willing to pay for it.
David P. Crochetiere

Mod: The City Council vote was a 2 to 2 tie. The 5th City Councilmember, Chris Koerber, was absent because of a flu. Josh Moran, who was expected to vote with the Mayor, in the end declined to support her position. It was both a telling moment and a significant defeat for Nancy. The entire matter was then sent back to the drawing board. Expect this to return to the City Council at a future date.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Dr. Reese Halter: Humans and Animals - An Inseparable Bond

Greyfriars Bobby
(Mod: Reese Halter forwarded me this article a few weeks back, and I've been hanging on to it because I thought it would make a great Thanksgiving Day post. I also believed that it might strike home here in Sierra Madre, a town where so many enjoy the companionship of their dogs, cats, birds and other animal friends. Not to mention those many interesting visits we receive from all the wild animals who live in our hills. Especially the bears, our celebrity creatures who somehow always manage to bring their paparazzi news choppers along with them. Have a great Thanksgiving!) 

This week as the brutal 'War Against Nature' rages on - the conscious world fought back as hundreds of thousands of people from around the globe united in their disgust of a meaningless, callous woman named Melissa Bachman as she gleefully boasted of killing a lion. Apparently, she has an aversion to owning a digital camera and a fear of being unarmed and up-close with a wild beast.

Hundreds of millions of people around the globe love and protect animals. And animals know it and show their unstinting respect and love for humans. I dedicate this story to each and every person who believes it's time for an amnesty with the Animal Kingdom - now!

Over 150 years ago a Skye Terrier named Bobby became an icon known as 'Greyfriars Bobby' for mourning his master's loss. Bobby belonged to John Craig an Edinburgh policeman who was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard cemetery. For 14 years Bobby sat on his master's grave until he too died, and was buried close to his master. How's that for loyalty?

In 2006 Miguel Guzman died in Central Argentina, his German Shepherd named Captain ran away from home and has not left his graveside since. How's that for faithfulness?

How did these dogs know where their respective master's were buried?

Renowned conservationist Lawrence Anthony died on March 2, 2012. He dedicated his life to rescuing and rehabilitating elephants in Zululand bush, South Africa. Anthony was famous for his gift of calming these magnificent beasts when they were upset, earning the moniker: "Elephant Whisperer."

Two distinct herds, which had not visited Anthony's home for at least a year and a half walked, singled filed, for over 12 hours and arrived within less than a day of one another to say good-bye to the man they loved. Elephants are known to grieve and mourn their dead for many days.

At least twice in our short history (that I am aware of) honeybees have attended their beekeepers funerals. In 1934 when Sam Roger's died in Shropshire, England - his bees paid their farewell at his graveside funeral. They landed on a nearby tombstone and as soon as he was buried they departed.

When John Zepka of Berkshire Hills near Adams, Mass. died on April 27, 1956 - thousands of his bees clustered inside the tent at the open grave site to pay their respect to the beekeeper who never wore any protective gear. As his coffin was lowered into the earth - the bees left the tent and returned to their hive on Zepka's farm.

How did the elephants and bees know their trusted and loyal human friend had perished and furthermore where to go to mourn their loss? Their collective consciousness knew -- that's how.

Humans currently have dominion on Earth but unless we agree to stop 'The War Against Nature' there will be no elephants, tigers, lions, rhinos, orangutans, polar and grizzly bears, bluefin tunas, seahorses, sharks, rays, dolphins or whales left. And as Chief Seattle of the Suqwamish and Duwamish so eloquently put it: "If all the animals were to vanish mankind would die from a great loneliness of spirit."

Moreover, without apex predators to remove old and weak prey, diseases become epidemics and ecosystems collapse, quickly.

There's a nauseating sense of entitlement by certain inconsequential, male, big-game hunting, billionaires and their offspring i.e. Bob Parsons of GoDaddy and Donald Jr. and Eric Trump; and the nation of Japan -- who on December 1 intends to launch its tenth consecutive campaign to slaughter whales in the Great Southern Ocean within an international whale sanctuary in contempt of the Australian court's ruling that whaling is illegal.

It's clearly time for 'The War Against Nature' to end because if all the animals die, we die!

This holiday season please give the ultimate gift - life - by supporting any or all of these worthy organizations: Sea Shepherd Australia - Operation Relentless, Peta, Humane Society, Orangutan Project, International Elephant Project and Wolf Song of Alaska.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fact Checking Nancy Walsh and Josh Moran

It was the Prevaricator Playoffs at last night's City Council meeting, with Nancy Walsh and Josh Moran duking it out to see who could deliver the biggest whopper of the evening.

Perhaps it was the absence of Chris Koerber (out with the flu) that caused them to believe they could play so fast and loose with the facts. Without that adult supervision, their imaginations did run wild. And the contest was very close. We're calling it a draw, but perhaps you will not agree. We will detail here how this all came down, and why it really matters.

First off we'll discuss Mayor Walsh's moment of unvarnished reality creation. An honor I will bestow upon her because she got quite angry with me for bringing up the error of her ways. Apparently when Nancy is in the process of fact invention, she demands your undivided attention.

As you all know, Nancy's great passion these days is to bring a single user unisex bathroom to Memorial Park. The idea being that the Hart Park House, which has become mainly the domain of this community's seniors, needs a storage room for pingpong tables and other similarly sized items. And in order to accomplish this goal the external women's room there would need to be taken out. And for some reason, the remaining men's lavatory would need to be reduced to a single user unisex affair.

This single user unisex restroom would service the playground side of Memorial Park, which is heavily used by the town's children. How parents of the hundreds of little kids who frequent this place weekly would feel about this change, or having their children share a bathroom with day laborers and whatever other random dudes happen to be in the area, was never properly considered. Apparently they were not asked.

As Pat Alcorn pointed out, the City needs to take into account the needs of all of its residents. It is sad to think that this very basic responsibility escaped our Mayor.

In order to drive her rather sketchy point home, Nancy delivered one of her famous tirades. The message this time being that by denying seniors their storage room, they would be victimized and discriminated against by the rest of us. A rather unsettling "Shame on Sierra Madre!" being loudly repeated several times. It was at this heated moment that she claimed, and also more than once, that 70% of the population of this town are seniors.

Here is how the Wikipedia page detailing the demographics of Sierra Madre describes the age differentials here in town (link). This information is taken from the 2010 United States Census.

The population was spread out with 2,095 people (19.2%) under the age of 18, 539 people (4.9%) aged 18 to 24, 2,524 people (23.1%) aged 25 to 44, 3,864 people (35.4%) aged 45 to 64, and 1,895 people (17.4%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 46.6 years. For every 100 females there were 89.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.3 males.

Quite obviously Nancy was just making it all up. When I attempted to point this out to some others in the room (I lugged around my laptop with this census information up on the screen), I was called out by the Mayor and publicly reprimanded. Which just goes to show, Nancy will not tolerate the intrusion of actual fact into any conversation where it is not convenient for her.

Josh Moran's moment of feckless fallaciousness came about during a conversation regarding the UUT do-over ballot initiative, which looks like it will be up for a vote by the residents next April. Apparently the 2012 voter decision on this matter is not being recognized by the City. Celebrated meeting gadfly Barbara Leigh Kline had just brought up a fairly well-known (and for some inconvenient) fact here in town. We are not paying down our water bond debt as we should be, and she asked the City Council when this will ever be properly dealt with.

For those who might not be aware, our 2003 water bond issue, which started out as a $6 million dollar sale, has since ballooned to over $15 million in debt. The reason for this being that we are making only the interest payments, and will continue doing so through the year 2020. It is only then that the City of Sierra Madre will begin to start paying down some of the principal. An act of egregious fiscal irresponsibility that is at the core of Sierra Madre's financial woes, and what is helping to drive the city's need to repeatedly ask for higher taxes and service rates.

But Josh was having none of that. Cocking a sneer in the direction of Barbara Leigh, Josh snorted derisively about some vast conspiracy of residents in town who have created and are spreading rumors about how this city has mishandled its water bond debt finances. It was then that he stated something to the effect that:

"Anyone can look at the record and see that we are paying down our bond debt every month."

Unfortunately, this just isn't true. On the largest portion of this City's nearly $20 million dollars in crippling long term debt, the 2003 water bonds, we are making interest only payments. Which pays down nothing. Sadly, it is all that this City can afford to do, and these bonds are at the heart of the city's financial crisis. That is what Barbara Leigh had brought up, and what Josh Moran apparently doesn't want you to trouble your pretty little head over. So much so that he is willing to state things that are just not true.

It is sad to think that during one of the most difficult periods in this City's history, our fate is in the hands of people who think that all they need to do is manufacture reality as they go along, and somehow politically convenient fibs represent effective leadership.

And as far as Nancy and Josh go, the truth is apparently beneath them. It is a very strange kind of arrogance.

Much of the rest of the meeting was dedicated to spending money that is not in the budget, and would have to come out of General Fund reserves. $2,500 was spent to join Bart Doyle's rather superfluous San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership. Along with SCAG, the SGVCOG and The League of California Cities, this would be yet another unnecessary group of oddly interested parties that we will be sending money to year after year. For what possible good purpose I really don't know. Maybe they just wanted to give Bart a Christmas present.

One claim that needs to be brought up here. MPT* Haribedian was of the belief that joining the SGVEP will somehow cause businesses to want to set up shop in Sierra Madre's somewhat troubled downtown area, and that therefore the $2,500 spend was justified.

But isn't that why we spent $30,000 for Buxton's so-called "Market Demand Study" a year or two back? How much money do we have to keep throwing at this problem, and to no good effect?

The City Council is also contemplating spending $42,500 of unbudgeted General Fund reserve money on something called "wayfinding signs." Pasadena has them, and apparently imitating our much larger neighbor to the west is seen as a solution to our downtown woes. Just in case you cannot find the downtown of a three square mile city.

Here is the point. In a City where we are being asked to pay more in utility taxes, along with increased water and sewer rates, plus myriad other rates and fees, the City Council here cannot seem to control its spending. You cannot go screaming poverty and demanding more money on the one hand, and then go seeking approval on idiosyncratic cash outlays that are just not essential.

It was not a particularly good meeting last night, and I don't think that the majority faction of the City Council quite comprehends just how bad of a job they're doing.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Blogging Tonight's City Council Meeting ... Or Not

It is your choice.
I won't say that going there is the best choice, because it is not. It would be more effective politically than staying home and sharing your opinions here on this blog, but by no means would that be the more pleasant of the two available options.

Plus we are now under the thumb of a Mayor and two bobblehead councilmembers who have already made up their minds about all they want to do. That being tax high (and then higher), charge more (and then even more) for city services like water and sewers, all while spending money like there is never going to be a tomorrow. Which there will not be if they don't somehow learn to stop the madness.

So really, what would be the point in going? You're more likely to get a better outcome at traffic court. Or just about any other place where they could care less about your opinions, and prefer that you simply leave.

Another thing is these folks aren't even all that nice about it. The sense of entitlement and privilege is suffocating. It may be your money, but it is their universe. Enjoy your services, because soon you're going to be paying a whole lot more for them. Or else.

For what it is worth, I will be down there in the slough, along with a few of the other regular attendees. And it should be a pretty interesting meeting. The utility tax (UUT) do-over ballot initiative is on the agenda, as are some of the wackiest and most unnecessary cash spends in recent Sierra Madre history. Which is saying a lot.

Watching the UUT 3 try and justify a colossal $150,000 spend for boutique downtown commercial street signage at one moment, while the next crying poverty and claiming they have to raise every tax and rate available or the world will end, is just great theater. And then there is Nancy Walsh's strange $60,000 Memorial Park uni-sex bathroom obsession. I am not sure I even want to know what is up with that.

If you didn't know any better you'd think you were watching a situation comedy about the most dysfunctional small city government ever imagined. And perhaps you are.

It all kicks off at 6:30. Be there, or be someplace else. Through the magic of the Internet, the choice is yours.

Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center: A 40 Unit High Density Housing Project On Consecrated Land?

(Mod: There was a meeting of concerned residents last night. I didn't go because I only found out about it at the last minute, and opted to eat dinner instead. I should have gone. Fortunately a good friend did go, and she was kind enough to bring me the handout distributed there. Long story short, the Passionist Fathers are believed to be in the midst of helping turn a significant stretch of the Mater Dolorosa land they currently control into a 40 unit housing development. Which, should it happen, would be the largest development project here in Sierra Madre in decades. This would also be a tragic event for many in the area. The Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center plays an important role in the spiritual lives of thousands of local believers, and witnessing as much of its beautiful and timeless grounds are turned into a housing project would be a devastating experience for many ... The handout consisted of a "Mountain Views News" article, and two letters. I thought I should post the two letters here.)

From: Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center
Date: November 19, 2013

Dear Neighbor of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center

You may have read recently in the Mountain Views News a story regarding possible development of a portion of our property. We had hoped to communicate with you before any news story appeared. In any case, because you live close to our property, we feel you deserve some word directly from us.

The Passionists of Holy Cross Province with the Board of Directors of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center have begun exploring the sale of a portion of our property for development. The portion being considered is the open field parcel located immediately north of our gates on Sunnyside Avenue.

We undertook our planning process because as good stewards of our resources, we have to plan ahead in order to care for our aging Passionist priests and brothers, and to strengthen our various ministries in the United States and elsewhere.

Our planning process is in its preliminary stages. Any comment or speculation about how this parcel may be used would be premature. As plans begin to take shape, we promise to keep you informed and to listen to your input.

We can assure you that the quiet setting of Mater Dolorosa and its retreat ministry will in no way be diminished by the sale of this parcel. Our retreat center is healthy and our ministry strong and vibrant.

We will likely see change coming to a portion of our property. What remains unchanged is that we want to continue being good neighbors of Sierra Madre, as we have been for 90 years.

Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P.
Retreat Director

(Mod: No matter who employs this controlling term, whenever you hear the word "process" it is fairly certain that you are not going to be told much that is useful. At least until the "process" has run its course and it is too late to do anything about it. I also question the use of "parcel." If this is to be the 40 unit housing project many believe it will be, then the land being exploited for that purpose can hardly be called a parcel. Unless, of course, this is to be a highly dense housing project of the kind favored by SCAG and some of the other central planning state bureaucracies. Which then means it will be aggressively out of character with the neighborhood surrounding it …  Here is the second letter.)

Attn: Archbishop Gomez
From: The Coalition to Save the Monastery
Date: November 25, 2013

Dear Archbishop Gomez,

There is a rising groundswell of concern about a plan to sell a portion of the Mater Dolorosa Monastery in Sierra Madre. My wife and I have been coming to this monastery for over 20 years. It has been a special place of solitude, serenity and spirituality that has been a great source of solace to us over the years. From the feedback I have been receiving from people, many share in these sentiments.

While you will realize some financial gain from the sale of a portion of the property, that benefit will only be temporary. However, such an action would permanently change the character of the monastery forever. Once it is sold, it is gone forever. Mater Dolorosa is a refuge, an oasis amidst our current frenetic and oftentimes coarse society. The land surrounding Mater Delorosa is what makes it special. The vast open space is a refuge not only for people, but for wildlife of all types. As you ride up the long driveway you seem to leave civilization behind and enter a sacred place where time stands still. The monastery needs that buffer of land. To remove the land changes the whole complexion of the monastery for those that reside there, and for retreatants who hunger for the spiritual experiences found in that special place.

I am also concerned about the effects of the protracted battle that would be waged by those against and those in favor of this plan. Mater Dolorosa is one of about ten landmarks listed in the Sierra Madre General Plan. It is inextricably linked with the history and culture of Sierra Madre. Aside from the people who will forever lose the essence of what made Mater Dolorosa special, those who live around the monastery will also be adversely affected. Those homes on the border will see a significant decline in property values. Those living nearby will also see increased traffic and congestion - the opposite of everything that Mater Dolorosa represents.

Whatever financial reasons caused certain people to consider such a decision, I know there must be alternative solutions short of carving up the monastery. And what is going to happen five or ten years down the road when more money is need for some particular purpose? Do you sell off another chunk of land and move the gates even further up the hillside? This becomes a very slippery path.

On behalf of the Coalition to Save the Monastery, we humbly ask that this decision be reconsidered. If anyone would like to discuss this further, please contact me. We will shortly have an informational website and email address for all of those who are concerned.

Matthew N. Bryant

(Mod: You can sign me up.)

Monday, November 25, 2013

The "They're Spending It Like They Already Got It" Tuesday Evening City Council Meeting Preview

You do know that the UUT 3 has some grandiose plans for the vast windfalls of cash the City hopes to receive from the 60% water rate increase. That plus the double digit utility taxes they hope to, er, augment. Or is that embellish. But as most of the more civil elements in this town are aware, it is just bad form to start spending the public's money before the tax and rate payers have even voted to approve such a thing. And yes, the rumors are correct. Tuesday evening the City of Sierra Madre will actually consider spending $150,000 on downtown "wayfinding signs." This is a part of Mayor Walsh's Buxton born "Marketing and Branding System." Something that has already cost the taxpayers a fortune and paid off with, well, just about absolutely nothing.

To be sure, this should be a rather instructive evening for the taxpaying public of our Foothill Village. It will show us how our money will be spent should the residents here somehow fall for the City's demands that we extend our utility taxes at the same State of California leading double digit levels they're at now. And all the way through to the year 2022.

Think of it as a boutique spending mentality in a dog food tax environment. With the taxpayers getting the pooch's end of the deal. So please, at least for this moment in time, won't somebody take the Mayor's credit cards away from her?

OK, so I have gotten way ahead of myself. There are a lot of other things on this week's meeting agenda that must be discussed before any of that.

First, the lawsuits portion of the meeting, which is always conducted in a private room. This because, as you know, we are not permitted to know what they're up to back there. It's lawyer stuff. For this evening's meeting there are three legal cases in effect, but we don't have a clue about two of them. So we'll pass on discussing those. But this other one is kinda interesting.

Pursuant to Calif. Government Code Section 54956.9(a)
The City Council/Agency finds, based on advice from legal counsel, that discussion in open session will prejudice the position of the local agency in the litigation.
Existing Litigation: Paul Woloski v. City of Sierra Madre - Case No EC061376

As has been my lot in life for the last 5 or so years of doing this blog, I scoured the Internet in search of any evidence of the existence of a Paul Woloski, and what I found was intriguing. Apparently Paul Francis Woloski resides on Sierra Madre's legendary Orange Grove Avenue, and is the President of something called the Delta Dawgs Foundation, aka "The Dogs of War." You can view what is quite a colorful website by clicking here.

This organization purports to raise money for military veterans and their families, which would be a good thing. I am fairly sure that this has nothing to do with the lawsuit, but who knows? I guess we'll find out someday. Oh, and "Calif. Government Code Section 54956.9(a)" means litigation has been formally initiated.

Let us now get to the money spending portion of Tuesday evening's event.


The demands the agenda speaks of total up to $553,513.75. A relatively modest sum for a City Council meeting these days. Some of the more notable remittances flying out the door include $37,998.48 for Third World Edison, our electric power source. At least when the weather is good. $25,342.75 is for something called a "Smart Classroom 2012 State Homeland Defense." Ordinarily you don't read the word "smart" in any sentence that includes the term "homeland defense," but I am sure it is grant money so we should act nice. City Hall's personal law firm, Colantuono & Levin, gets $22,002.95 for providing legal cover for various outrages visited upon the residents. Our Washington DC lobbyists, The Ferguson Group, get $5,000. Since they will soon have to tolerate the jejune presences of Nancy Walsh and Johnny Process in Washington DC for a couple of days, they've probably earned it.

All very routine, I'm afraid. Let's move on.


Our very own one woman Greek Choir, Finance Director Karin Schnaider, will come on down to share with the City Council the parlous state of the City's finances. From now until the April 2014 UUT do-over extension vote, just about everything Karin says will point to certain financial disaster should it fail at the polls. Which it did by over 60% in 2012. How a City with the highest utility taxes in the entire State of California can be this broke is mystifying. But Karin, who is a nice lady and actually lives here (a rarity for staff members these days), will do her very best to convince you that this is the case. It is a job, I suppose. Bring your cleanest hankie.


Karin Schnaider gets to speak on this item as well, which makes you wonder about the current state of her Karma. A ways back the City Council approved penalties for the excessive use of water. This was done in hopes of lessening the demands upon our highly at-risk aquifers and water wells. The wells went dry anyway, so our waterless water company had to go and beg the SGVMWD to send us some from their supply, which they did. However, this made any fines for the over use of water here superfluous since we no longer needed to be concerned about our wells running dry. It already happened.

This item is basically a city face saving exercise. Karin will claim the fines are being rescinded because the residents conserved water, but should we behave irresponsibly they could come back. Which is silly. The fines went away because the wells ran dry.


The Staff Report has an Executive Summary for this item, and since we are all obviously managerial material, I thought I should share this information with you here.

The City Council will consider Ordinance No. 1348, amending Chapter 17.22 of the Municipal Code to revise various zoning standards related to Second Units, including minimum and maximum allowable floor height, parking and affordability requirements. The proposed revisions implement a housing program objective of the 2008-2014 Housing Element adopted by the City Council in June 2013, to encourage the creation of second units and meet the City's regional housing needs (RHNA). At its September 5, 2013 meeting, (the) Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the second unit code text amendments to the City Council.

The tragedy for small California cities today is that our corrupt state government in Sacramento has confiscated most development planning authority from such places as Sierra Madre. They ostensibly did this by claiming it would somehow help the environment, but that has been proven to be pretty much a crock of merde.

The real reason? Land use is big money, and the elected crooks that run the central planning regimes of this state know they can get beaucoup money (and free tickets to Josh Groban concerts), by peddling development planning rights to such rapacious interests as the Realty and development lobbies.

The Second Unit thing is a nice idea and all, and gosh it just might help us deal with SCAG head and Soviet expatriate Comrade Hasan Ikhrata's (linkSierra Madre RHNA number, at least for a little while. But the end result will be higher development density levels here, resulting in more congestion, more traffic, and therefore higher greenhouse gas levels.

Sometimes you just have to let Sacramento know that you're on to their lying.


We'll just cut to the chase here. The City is saying that our utility taxes need to remain at the highest levels anywhere in the State of California because otherwise we will lose our public safety services. A claim that is both an act of ugly cynicism and dishonesty on the UUT 3's part. However, this is the story the hostage takers on our City Council will bleat about endlessly all the way to next April's election.

The actual reasons behind our continuing to have to pay double digit utility taxes is city employee union negotiated pensions, benefits costs and salaries. That along with this city's disastrous $15 million dollars in 2003 water bond debt, which currently we are only paying minimal interest on.

Personally, I don't see why I should have to pay a state leading 10% utility tax rate to financially support city employees for the rest of their lives. But that is what this is all about. Hopefully enough people will get it.


Mayor Nancy Walsh, using the Senior Community Commission as her human shield and funding source, is pushing just as hard as she can to spend $60,000 in resident cash and turn the public restrooms at the Hart Park House in Memorial Park into a "unisex family bathroom" and a storage space.

The current lady's room will be turned into a storage space for the Hart Park House crowd, while the current men's room will be transformed into a unisex lavatory that will be able to accommodate only one person at a time. Real excitement if you have more than one kid.

The thing is, this building has two public restrooms now, and families have been using them for decades as they are right next to the playground. So what we are actually being asked to fund is turning one of the restrooms into a space for storing bingo boards and plastic birthday party cutlery, and the other into a unisex one-at-a-time lavatory. Wait'll this one starts making the rounds.

Along with the $150,000 "wayfinding signs" mentioned above (and below), this brings Mayor Nancy Platinum Card up to $210,000 in completely unnecessary expenditures, and in just one meeting. And we haven't even voted on the do-over UUT extension yet.


The San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership is run by former Sierra Madre Mayor Bart "El Monte" Doyle (click here), the author of such Sierra Madre catastrophes as the $15 million in 2003 water bond debt we are currently paying interest only on because we cannot afford to do otherwise. That plus the Downtown Specific Plan, a nasty predatory development scheme that led to a city-wide citizen revolt, Measure V, and a level of resident hostility Sierra Madre had never seen before, and has yet to recover from.

The SGVEP is essentially an organization run by utilities, banks, Realtors, developers and various large corporations that would love to be able to make some dough by throwing this town wide open to the kinds of development most Sierra Madreans don't want here.

Expect Nancy Walsh, Johnny Process and Josh Moran to fall all over themselves to try and convince everyone that we need to join this awful organization. We've always known that they are in Bart's pocket.


Nancy Walsh wants the City to shell out $150,000 it doesn't have yet for something called "wayfinding signs." These would be like the ones you can find in Pasadena directing to you to such attractions as Old Town Pasadena and the Rose Bowl. We don't have any of those, but you do know how beneficial to the unique character of our community aping Pasadena would be.

This is a ridiculous amount of money to pay for a handful of signs. I think that if you were to put this one out to bid it could be done by a local sign company for around $2,500. And perhaps one of the arts organizations in town might take on some of the design aspects, and for free?  That would be a good use of their talents, I think.

Please, stop the madness. Take away Nancy's credit card.


This little tin can got kicked down the road at the last CC meeting because nobody thought it was important enough to make some time to discuss. So here it is, back again. This is what I said last time:

This thing just never seems to go away. It just mutates. I swear that if I ever have to read things such as "Preserve our Small Town Character with a Vibrant Downtown" or "Maintain Financial Stability and Sustainability," or "Attract, Develop and Retain Quality Staff," I am going to do something desperate. Like wash my car. Or comb our long haired cat.

These are meaningless concepts. You should require no further proof that this city needs a new City Manager. The one we have now is fresh out of ideas.

I am sticking with that. See you at the meeting.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tony Brandenburg: Risperdal - Hit the Road

What on Earth is Risperdal?
Risperdal is the trade name for the drug Risperdone. Risperdone is an antipsychotic drug used for treating schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, and treating people with autism (click here). Risperdal had been developed by Janssen-Cilag (click here) a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson and approved by the FDA in 1993.

Currently there are various generic versions available. Risperdone has been the focus of many lawsuits dating back to 2006, and is currently in the news again after a $2.2 billion settlement recently levied against Johnson and Johnson.

Why I Care, and Why You Should, Too
Any time something is prescribed to "treat" behaviors associated with autism, my radar goes up. Risperdal was initially slated to treat schizophrenia, but was expanded to other uses, including to treat autism. Only problem is that schizophrenia and autism are not the same thing.

There are other issues I have with the use of medication for autistic people. I personally don't believe in, nor seek a "cure," for autism. Many others feel the same way.  The first thing to keep in mind regarding Autistic people, or anyone else for that matter, is that generalizations in logic and everything else are recognized as a fallacy. All autistic people are not the same, and the needs of autistic people cannot be treated as if they are.

Furthermore, I consider the use of medication to treat autism to be a form of chemical restraint. A chemical restraint is the use of drugs to control behavior (click here). I oppose the use of chemicals to restrain the behavior of children. Period.

Drugs are often marketed to the populace "promoting" some desired outcome, generally to help the drugged individual cope with or fit into some "normal" life cycle. Whatever that is. Doing it to kids is just wrong. They depend on us to look out for them. What on earth can be gained from it?

The use of antipsychotic drugs should be of a concern to every American who plans on aging in this country. It should also be of concern to those who advocate for other dependent groups such as the elderly. It is estimated by the FDA that as many as 15,000 elderly patients die in nursing homes annually from the use of antipsychotic medications (click here).

Evidence of links between stroke and Risperdal go back to 2003 (click here):

Two highly promoted, best selling neuroleptic drugs (also called, antipsychotics) are linked to life-threatening drug-induced conditions. The Boston Globe reports that elderly people who are prescribed Risperdal are at increased risk of stroke. The manufacturer, Johnson and Johnson, sent letters of warning to Canadian physicians and pharmacists last October, citing 137 reports of stroke or related events like blood clots or hemorrhages, including 16 deaths, among patients who have taken its drug. However, the company has not yet sent out similar warning letters to U.S. healthcare professionals. Johnson & Johnson announced that ''An update to the Risperdal label is indeed being made, and we will be sending out letters to health-care professionals soon.''
I am highly suspicious by nature, and especially suspicious of the manufacturers of drugs. Johnson and Johnson had this information but stalled its disclosure in2003. Why? Well, it could have been due to their exclusive rights expiring at that time, which it did the following year.

The lawsuits that have come forth regarding Risperdal have been, for the most part, either due to side effects related to the drug not being disclosed, to illegal marketing of the drug. As serious as side effects are, the marketing aspect is what caught the interest and eyes of Mary and I.

Risperdal and Gynomastia
Information linking Risperdal and Gynomastia are so frequent right now that three new updates and articles popped up in my searches today alone. Many of them come from law groups offering to represent clients. I know,  I know. There are some would call them digital age ambulance chasers. There are others who would call them saints.

Gynecomastia is the growth of abnormally large breasts in males due to the excess growth of breast tissue, not excess fat tissue. In September, 2012, a lawsuit filed by Aron Banks (Banks v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, January Term 2010, No. 00618) linking Risperdal to Gynomastia was settled by Johnson and Johnson on the first day of trial (click here). At that time there were "… about 420 against J&J and its Janssen unit that allege personal injuries caused by Risperdal ... About 130 of the suits involve claims that the drug caused young males to grow breasts ..." Research suggesting a possible link between Risperdal and breast growth in males that goes back to 1999 (click here).

Peddling Risperdal to Kids
What was equally alarming in the settlement was that Banks was that the case disclosed that the plaintiff was given the drug when he was a child. The problem is that it was not approved for use by children.   In October, 2012, former FDA Commissioner David Kessler  said that Janssen/Johnson and Johnson had broken the law in marketing Risperdal to children and adolescents (click here).

The marketing of Risperdal has brought even more bad press onto Johnson and Johnson as pointed out by (click here): Johnson & Johnson has faced allegations that it illegally marketed Risperdal as a treatment for children with autism and other psychiatric disorders. In August 2012, the company reached an agreement with 36 state attorneys general to settle Risperdal illegal marketing lawsuits for $181 million.

But it went a lot further than that earlier this month when Johnson and Johnson got dinged $2.2 billion. If you ask me, that isn't nearly enough. According to Bloomberg, on November 7th Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) plead guilty to misbranding its anti-psychotic medication Risperdal (click here) as part of a $2.2 billion settlement with U.S. prosecutors, the largest for a single drug.

Healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals (J&J), will pay the federal government more than $2 billion in civil settlement and criminal fines to settle charges that Janssen Pharmaceuticals illegally marketed the blockbuster antipsychotic drug Risperdal. “This is the largest civil criminal settlement in the history of the qui tam False Claims Act for a single drug,” says Stephen A. Sheller, founding partner of Sheller, P.C. (click here).

What they did is evil, plain and simple. And they did it two the most dependent groups in our society. Our children, and our elderly.

Ad Nauseam?
Go ahead, critics. Tell me again that what happened to my kid - placed into restraints and locked in seclusion, was OK.

That it was somehow his fault for being autistic, or my fault for standing behind him.

We live in a sick world where treating children and the elderly like they are subservient and need to be compliant is seen as the norm, instead of treating them with dignity and respect, as we should treat all living and breathing human beings.

I hear you, and I have heard you. You're tired of hearing about my kid and what happened to him in Sierra Madre? Really?

The difference between what I do and what they did:

-I support children and my community.
-I wouldn't dream of trying to throw someone out of the community, its schools, or its houses of worship.
-I wouldn't consider drugging anyone as the solution to their "behavior" because that behavior is the only way they have left to communicate.

You're tired of hearing about my kid and what happened to him in Sierra Madre? I'm tired of your complacent apathy.

Fire away.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Where Would We Be Without The Looney Views News?

This was supposed to be a part of MPT* Harabedian's big media announcement and PR launch today. I can't imagine he is too impressed with his adjudicated buddy Harriet Susan Carter Poole Henderson (etc.) right now.

Your Executive Summary of the Tattler Weekend News

(Mod: As a busy decision maker we know that you don't have very much time for nonessential information. You need the right data at the right time, delivered in a concise and easy to digest format. Which is why we have prepared for you an Executive Summary of the Tattler Weekend News. Bite-sized accountings of important current events that will add gravitas to your presence in the boardroom. Concise information such as this helps create for the user a certain mystique that informs those nearby that they are in the presence of someone who truly is in the know. And about everything that really matters. No waste delivered with undue haste, just good taste for those who dare to run the race. In times like ours it is what you need to make the big things happen. As do us all. Here is that news.

Skyrocketing DWP Water Rates Draining Ratepayer Wallets (LA City Watch link): Our water rates are going berserk. Over the last year, water rates have shot up by about 25% to 30% because our Department of Water and Power has been forced to rely on more expensive purchased water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California as our supply from the Owens Valley has been curtailed because of environmental regulations and a below average snow pack.

In addition to the pass through of the higher costs of purchased water from MWD, DWP is expected to request a multiyear base rate increase of 6% to 7% a year in January.  Based on rough estimates, this bump will total at least $250 million over the next three to four years, adding another 20% to 25% to our bill.

These new revenues will be used to upgrade the Water System’s aging distribution system and to implement numerous water quality initiatives, including those related to open air reservoirs and the use of chlorine as a disinfectant.

However, there appear to be other projects that Ratepayers will be asked to finance through these higher rates.

DWP has embarked on a strategy to reduce its dependence on MWD and its supplies from the Bay Delta in Northern California, and, to a much lesser extent, the Colorado River.  As part of this strategy, DWP is pursuing an aggressive strategy to recycle waste water at the Tillman Reclamation Plant to use in the replenishment of the groundwater in the San Fernando Basin and in its purple pipe program for the irrigation of large open spaces such as parks and golf courses.

At the same time, the Department is embarking on a plan to remediate the toxic groundwater supplies in the San Fernando Basin so that it will be suitable for everyday use in our homes.

These two ambitious initiatives are expected to cost over $1 billion. Yet, we have not seen any financial analysis that indicates that these two projects are economically viable.

(Mod: Yes, there are always reasons for raising water rates. Ours are going up by 60% over the next couple of years. Or, should you add in the 2010 water rate increase, nearly 100%. Next to us these DWP guys are pikers.)

In California, $1 million in unpaid fines for assisted living centers (The Mercury News link): The California Department of Social Services issued more than $2 million in fines against assisted living facilities throughout the state from 2007 to 2012. But a ProPublica review of department records shows it collected less than half of that. Indeed, the agency failed to wrest any money from the vast majority of facilities it hit with the most serious sanctions.

Of the 50 largest fines assessed over those years, the review showed, the department collected no money in 39 cases. In one instance, a facility in a tiny Shasta County town that was operating without a license accrued more than $250,000 in penalties and paid none of it.

The fact that the fines were not paid is a concern, said state Sen. Leland Yee, a Democrat who represents San Francisco and San Mateo County. The reason we have fines is to deter individuals from breaking the rules and breaking the laws.

The revelations come as state lawmakers, advocates for the elderly, and news organizations have heightened their scrutiny of the department's performance. Last month, in a case that garnered national publicity, the department failed to take prompt action after the owners of a Bay Area facility abandoned its residents, effectively leaving 19 frail or impaired seniors to fend for themselves. Working without pay or training, a janitor and a cook tried to care for the clients.

While the federal government regulates the nursing home industry, it has left oversight of the assisted living business to the states, which, over the past two decades, have crafted a hodge-podge of widely divergent laws. Today some 750,000 elderly Americans reside in assisted living facilities, many operated by national chains.

Home to more assisted living facilities than any other state, California is widely seen as one of the loosest regulatory environments in the country. ProPublica s examination of the state s regulatory records lends evidence to that view.

(Mod: What Nevada is to gambling, California is to ALFs. But don't be closed minded. If we put slot machines in the lobbies of these ALFs, wouldn't we have the best of both worlds? Plus look at how it would speed up the pace of senior equity retrieval.)

Portland school sees racism in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ( link): In an effort to combat perceived discrimination, one Portland school seems to have gone off the deep end by suggesting peanut butter and jelly sandwiches carry racist connotations, Twitchy reported Monday.

According to the Portland Tribune, Verenice Gutierrez, principal of Harvey Scott K-8 School, "picks up on the subtle language of racism" on a daily basis.

"Take the peanut butter sandwich, a seemingly innocent example a teacher used in a lesson last school year," the Tribune said.

“What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?” Gutierrez asked. “Another way would be to say: ‘Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?’ Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.”

"Insert flabbergasted face," the Twitchy staff wrote.

One person asked on Twitter: "[W]hat's the verdict on grilled cheese? Racist? Sexist?"

"The food at my kids' schools hates everyone," tweeted Melissa Clouthier.

With the suggestion that a sandwich is racist, Twitchy said the discussion on race "has moved beyond slack-jawed incredulity into total self-parody territory."

"What is racist about a child’s lunch, one might ask? Peanut butter and jelly, of course! You racists probably even use black currant jelly sometimes. On white bread," Twitchy added.

The Tribune noted that the school started the new year with "intensive staff trainings, frequent staff meetings, classroom observations and other initiatives," to help educators understand their own “white privilege,” in order to "change their teaching practices to boost minority students’ performance."

(Mod: I have now entered into a period of intensive self criticism for posting this article.)

Dove is in the air: Couples release 100 of the white birds to mark their joint wedding…but are horrified to see locals round them up to eat (The Daily Mail link): It was supposed to be romantic - 100 white doves launched into the air would provide a stunning backdrop to five Chinese couples' cherished wedding photographs. But the newlyweds were left horrified when, instead of flying off into the sunset, the hapless birds ended up being captured by guests who took them home to eat.

In all five couples brought about 100 doves between them to the wedding venue at Hefei, Anhui province, central China.

After the snaps were taken, the doves were caught by hungry guests determined not to let a free meal flutter away. Local Yen Lin said: 'After the couples went to a local hotel for wedding feasts, the other guests and a few locals moved in.

'With nets and their hands they caught the birds, bashed them over the heads and took them home to cook.'

'It was sick to watch. They were ruthless, the doves tried to flee but they had no chance. Those people were determined to get a good meal.'

Virtually all the doves ended up in the pot.

(Mod: Did you ever stop to ask yourself why these doves are white?)

McDonald’s to employees: Break your food into small pieces to feel full and sell your Christmas presents for cash (Raw Story link):The fast-food giant McDonald’s is urging employees to break up food into smaller pieces to feel full or sell their Christmas presents for extra money.

The restaurant chain made the recommendations on its “McResource” employee website to help workers manage stress, health and finances.

The company recommended “breaking food into pieces” to feel more full on less food, singing away stress and taking two vacations a year to lower the risk of heart attack, as well as “selling some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist could bring in some quick cash.”

The recommendations were publicized Tuesday by the group Low Pay Is Not OK, which advocates higher wages for fast-food workers, but McDonald’s claims the advice was taken out of context.

“This is an attempt by an outside organization to undermine a well-intended employee assistance resource website by taking isolated portions out of context,” the company said in a statement, noting that the site’s content was provided by an independent company.

The advocacy group released a recording last month of a McDonald’s worker calling the company’s McResources hotline to ask for assistance, and the operators urged the 10-year employee to seek help from food pantries or apply for federal food stamp or Medicaid assistance.

That same employee, Nancy Salgado, was arrested last month after confronting McDonald’s USA President Jeff Stratton during a speech in Chicago, saying her $8.25 hourly wages left her unable to afford shoes for her children.

A study published about a week before Salgado’s phone call found that 52 percent of families of front line fast-food workers were enrolled in one or more public assistance programs, compared with 25 percent of the workforce as a whole.

The study found that taxpayers spend about $7 billion each year subsidizing the wages and benefits of fast-food workers.

(Mod: Maybe they should eat McDoves. But that said, it is good to see that our tax dollars are going to help so beneficial a business deal with its staffing expenses.)

After 30 years without an answer it's time to find out who protected the infamous Paedophile Information Exchange (The Daily Mail link): Did previous Tory and Labour governments fund the infamous Paedophile Information Exchange? That's the remarkable claim made to me by a former Home Office insider this week.

PIE was established in 1974 to campaign for the age of consent to be lowered to four years old. Many former members have been imprisoned for child abuse crimes.

People long dead like Peter Righton, who fooled the social work establishment that he cared for the safety of children, when all the time he was grooming kids for his own despicable ends.

PIE included many establishment figures like the highly qualified Dr Morris Fraser, who by day practiced as a child psychiatrist in Belfast but by night, was accused of preying on young vulnerable children.

The retired insider told me that he recalled raising his concern that the Volunteer Services Unit of the Home Office was directly funding the work of PIE.

(Mod: Government does seem like it would be a natural venue for such people.)

Coca-Cola Feeling the Heat After Secret Funding of Anti-Labeling Campaign (AlterNet link): Coca-Cola has been having a rough time. The company owns Honest Tea, Odwalla, Powerade, Vitamin Water, Simply Orange, and other products marketed to health-conscious consumers.

But it is best known for making Coke, a product that is utterly devoid of nutritional value and is often  blamed for contributing to the obesity epidemic -- an epidemic that is  costing hundreds of billions of dollars and causing hundreds of thousands of deaths each year.

With demand for the company's carbonated and artificially flavored sugar water  declining, hope for Coca-Cola's profitability has been increasingly resting on the brands it markets as healthier alternatives. reports that sales of Coca-Cola-owned brands like Honest Tea, Powerade, and Simply Orange are the company's new profit center.

But there's a problem.

In October, campaign finance reports  revealed that Coca-Cola had secretly contributed more than a million dollars to the fight against GMO labeling in Washington. It took the state's Attorney General  suing the Grocery Manufacturers' Association (GMA) for what turned out to be an $11 million violation of the state's campaign finance laws to reveal these secret contributions.

But now that the truth has been exposed, some healthy food activists are fighting back.

Andrew Kimbrell, founder of the Center for Food Safety, comments:

Consumers of healthy beverages want to know what's in their food. By using money from sales of natural brands to secretly fund an anti-choice agenda that deprives consumers of the right to know what they're eating, Coca-Cola has been betraying the public interest and standing on the wrong side of history.

(Mod: So far nobody has reported how those lovable polar bears in Coke's yearly Christmas ads feel about the GMO information suppression issue. But we are looking into it.)

California city eyes smoking ban in single-family homes (Houston Chronicle link): Berkeley, Calif., where residents take pride in exercising their personal freedoms and resisting government intrusion, is the site these days of a much different kind of movement - one to ban cigarette smoking from single-family homes.

A City Council member says a proposal to ban cigarette smoking in apartments and condos, where smoke can waft through ventilation systems, is not tough enough or fair. Councilman Jesse Arreguin says his fellow council members should consider expanding the proposed ban to include single-family homes where children, seniors or lodgers are present.

Cigarette smoking is already prohibited in Berkeley's commercial districts, parks and bus stops, and within 25 feet of any building open to the public, and the council plans to extend the ban to all apartments, condominiums and other multiunit buildings where secondhand smoke can spread.

But if Berkeley is really serious about protecting nonsmokers, it should ban smoking in the specified single-family homes as well, Arreguin argues in a proposal to toughen the proposed law.

Councilwoman Susan Wengraf, who supports the planned ban on smoking in multiunit dwellings, said prohibiting smoking in single-family homes might be going too far.

"Our enforcement division is so overwhelmed right now. I think it would be very difficult to add more to their list," she said, adding that she has empathy for the plight of smokers. "I smoked for 10 years. It's not easy to quit. I feel for these smokers."

(Mod: Now there is an interesting nexus of issues. The personal freedom to do as you like in your home versus concerns over one of the major health issues of our time. I just wish someone would tell me what I should do.)

School officials threatened to be ‘lined up and shot’ after Fox News ‘misreporting’ (The Raw Story link): A school board member in South Dakota is calling on Fox News to apologize because he says an erroneous report led to threats that officials be “lined up and shot” over the Pledge of Allegiance.

Sioux Falls School Board member Kent Alberty told KSFY that Fox News picked up the story after a local television station reported that the board had defied a group of veterans and dropped the pledge at high schools.

“A school board there has decided there’s just no time in the day to recite the Pledge of Allegiance despite a desperate request from a local vets group to keep the pledge,” Fox News host Megyn Kelly told viewers on Nov. 14.

“The veterans, by the way, say they are not giving up,” reporter Trace Gallagher noted. “They say they will continue fighting to see if they can get the pledge reinstated.”

In fact, the board had sided with the veterans and voted unanimously to expand the use of the pledge for middle school students, elementary school students and at high school assemblies.

But because of the way Kelly and Gallagher framed their reporting, Alberty said that it left the mistaken impression that the board was against the pledge.

Sioux Fall high school students had not been required to say the pledge since 1970, and Alberty wants an apology from Fox News for suggesting that it had been dropped.

“It wasn’t dropped. That wasn’t true at all,” Alberty said. “And that is what people were reacting to was the headline – not what we actually did. And then Fox picked that story up — and again — it was the headline they used, not the actual facts of what we did at the School Board meeting.”

“The person that they gave the byline to wasn’t at the School Board meeting, didn’t interview any members of the School Board, didn’t interview the person who spoke to the School Board, but then they ran this story and didn’t have in the story the fact that we actually expanded the policy,” he added.

After receiving a number of threatening emails and phone calls, board members reported the threats to the Sioux Falls Police Department. All personal information about the members has been removed from the School Board website.

“The one that I guess got my attention the most was that this person feels that all five of us should be lined up and shot,” he recalled.

(Mod: Hopefully when that happens each of these school board members will not be offered a last cigarette. This due to the possible second hand smoke health risks it might pose to their executioners.)

Monrovia man arrested after confronting burglar with swords, knife won’t face charges (Pasadena Star News link): A Monrovia man arrested last week on suspicion of assault after confronting a burglar with ninja swords and a pocket knife will not face criminal charges, officials said.

Jesse Runge, 35, was initially booked for assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the incident, which unfolded late Nov. 12, according to Monrovia police and Los Angeles County booking records.

Prosecutors reviewed the case Friday and elected not to file charges against Runge, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales said.

“The case was declined due to insufficient evidence.”

Runge returned home shortly before midnight Tuesday to find his house ransacked and several items missing, both police and Runge said. Runge said he immediately suspected acquaintance Jeremi Weber, 30, as the culprit, and called police to report the break-in and the identity of the possible suspect.

While still on the phone with police, Runge said tracking software on his cell phone alerted him that his iPad was located at Weber’s home nearby in the 400 block of East Foothill Boulevard. He said he handed the phone with which he was talking to police over to his fiancee and rushed to Weber’s home to confront him and get his property back.

As he exited his car, Runge said he grabbed two sheathed, ornamental ninja swords that were in his vehicle. He alleged Weber had previously bragged to him about having guns.

“I admit it was stupid to walk to the door with those,” Runge said, but added that the swords never left their sheaths.

(Mod: Hopefully the burglar got the point anyway.)

I guess that's enough of this for now.