Sunday, January 21, 2018

Did You Receive This Flyer About The Next Library Forum In The Mail? Can You Find The Big Mistake?

This flyer is the work of the Friends of the Library. I confirmed that with the always accessible City Manager, who answered my email on a Saturday. So did you catch the big mistake? January 24 is on a Wednesday this year, not Thursday as this flyer erroneously states. Which could mean that some sadly misled folks will be getting their worthy selves to this latest Library Forum a day late, and will miss out on the most up to date demolish the library marketing pitches.

Just so you are completely aware, the correct date for Library Forum 2 is Wednesday, January 24. This event will be taking place at the Recreation Center, located in Sierra Vista Park. Not exactly what I would call a neutral site since that is the place where both the Library Board of Trustees and the erstwhile Friends of the Library want to move all of those books once the current Library is mulched and the property sold off. I am pretty sure this is not a coincidence.

The format for this get-together is quite different from the first forum. Apparently it is a special meeting, with some of Sierra Madre's leading visionaries on hand to explain the Library relocation stratagem to anyone who happens to wander by that evening.

Here is how the Agenda Item reads:

Have I ever told you that the fix is in? Who amongst the situationally elevated listed above is going to actually come out and say that they want to keep the Library where it is and save everyone a whole lot of money and bother? Well, perhaps one or two will. Maybe. But that is it.

Think of it this way. Some of the most influential people behind the Library demolition plan also brought to Sierra Madre its interest only payment water bonds scheme, the One Carter lawsuit mill, along with the Downtown Specific Plan

So what could possibly go wrong?

Belly Laugh Day

There is a silver lining to this ominous dark cloud. January 24, which I hope by now you know falls on a Wednesday this year, is also Belly Laugh Day.

Here is how Belly Laugh Day is explained on a website called Calendar-365.Com (link).

Maybe that flyer, with its bollixed up Library Forum meeting date, is actually a Belly Laugh Day prank? That certainly is one possible explanation.

I'll let you know if I hear differently.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

City Watch: Pushing Back Against City Hall Cheaters

Mod: Since it looks like the bad old days of development double-talk could very well be on the way back to town in the form of City Council candidate Arcadia Andy, I thought I'd introduce you to one of my favorite writers on the topic of building babble. His name is Dick Platkin and he writes for the site City Watch. Here are the lead-ins for two of his most recent articles. Very LA-centric, but then again what isn't?

The “Build More Market Housing” Quack Miracle Cure for Los Angeles (City Watch link): PLATKIN ON PLANNING Jan. 11, 2018 - Los Angeles is heading toward a perfect storm of gentrification, well-camouflaged behind spurious claims of boosting transit ridership and addressing LA’s housing crisis through zoning and environmental deregulation.

This perfect storm is propelled by huge tail winds from the State Legislature in Sacramento, with big city Democrats fronting for the real estate interests that fund and mentor them. San Francisco State Senator Scott Wiener and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti are their current favorites, but many more are lining up at the trough.

To begin, there is a treasure trove of successful programs that they could turn to if they really wanted to increase transit ridership and address the housing crisis, but they are totally mute on these options.  As for their cheerleaders, their silence is also deafening since the following public programs are at odds with their “build more market housing” miracle mantra for LA’s urban ills.

Pushing Back Against City Hall Cheaters (City Watch link): PLATKIN ON PLANNING - Jan. 18, 2018 - City Planning has developed a host of ways to assist real estate developers building for the high end of the real estate market. Their helping hand, though, is based on cheating, and it also hides behind several totally spurious claims. While they don’t yet concede their bait-and-switch approach, their friends, like Senator Scott Wiener, unabashedly support real estate speculators with many outlandish predictions.

According to Wiener and friends, the new market housing will boost transit ridership, reduce residential segregation, slow down gentrification, and meet the housing needs of the homeless, the overcrowded, and the rent-stressed. Since I debunked most of these claims in last week’s CityWatch column, this week I will zero in on the cheating.

City Hall’s first cheating tactic is to rely on inflated population forecasts from the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) for the plan horizon years of 2035 or 2040. With these inflated numbers in place, the media and the public are then told that Los Angeles will soon experience another population boom. It must, therefore, loosen up its planning, zoning, and environmental regulations to make sure there is enough housing for these newcomers.

One of the best-known cases of these inflated SCAG population numbers was the General Plan Framework Element, an otherwise exemplary planning document. Based on SCAG’s extrapolation of prior decennial census data, SCAG’s 2010 population forecast for Los Angeles was 4,300,000 people. But, when the Bureau of the Census released its 2010 data, Los Angeles, only had 3,790,000 people. Without any explanation, 500,000 people never materialized.

Despite SCAG’s subsequent silence, it is not hard to figure out why the 2010 numbers were so incorrect, and why SCAG’s 2040 forecasts will suffer the same fate. SCAG’s methodology relies on historical trend data. Since Los Angeles was once a boomtown, it is easy to extend long-term historical trends into the future and predict enormous population growth.

Then, when the inevitable mistakes become apparent, there is too much resistance from local municipalities, especially Los Angeles, to make mid-course corrections, explain why the forecast methodology was so flawed, and to detail how it will be corrected in the future. Given this uncertainty and the prominent role of the urban growth machine in local politics, the political winds invariably blow in the direction of inflated population numbers. Boosterism, not sound social science, prevails.

Inadvertently dubious headline

Mod: This comes to us from the news site "The Hub" (link):

I hear you, man.

Friday, January 19, 2018

U.S. Voters Split On Whether Trump Is Stable, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds

Mod: The raging man/child in the White House might feel especially good about himself after a hard day of beating up on the help, but in the real world he is not impressing all that many folks. Here is a series of polls that are bad news for the Orange Man. Especially the one where people say that they think he is likely nuts.

U.S. Voters Split On Whether Trump Is Stable, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds (Quinnipac University Poll link): Wide gender, racial and political gaps leave American voters divided on whether President Donald Trump is "mentally stable," as 45 percent say he is stable and 47 percent say he is not stable, according to a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today.

President Trump is stable, men say 53 - 40 percent, while women say 53 - 39 percent that he is not, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds. White voters say 51 - 43 percent he is stable, as black voters disagree 71 - 15 percent. Republicans say 89 - 9 percent that Trump is stable. Democrats say 80 - 10 percent he is not stable. Independent voters are divided as 46 percent say he is stable and 45 percent say he is not stable.

American voters disapprove 57 - 38 percent of the job President Trump is doing.

Trump is doing more to divide the nation than to unite the nation, voters say 64 - 31 percent. Every listed party, gender, education, age and racial group says the president is dividing the nation except Republicans, who say 70 - 24 percent that he is doing more to unite the nation, and white voters with no college degree, who are divided 48 - 46 percent.

Majority Of Americans See Trump's First Year As A Failure (NPR link): As President Trump approaches the one-year anniversary of his inauguration, a majority of Americans think his first year in office has been a failure — and that he's divided the nation.

A new NPR/PBS News Hour /Marist poll finds that by a 53-to-40-percent margin, Americans deemed Trump's first year a failure. And by an almost 2-to-1 margin (61 to 32 percent), Americans said they believe Trump has divided the country since his election.

Americans give Trump relatively positive marks on his handling of ISIS and the state of the economy — no small things. But on just about every other issue, they disapprove of his handling of them or they think things have gotten worse — from their views of the tax plan to the state of race relations and women's rights to immigration, health care, the deficit and foreign policy, including his approach to North Korea. Seven-in-10 Americans are now concerned about the possibility of war breaking out with the rogue nuclear nation.

"The first-year grades for Trump are not good," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. "He remains with his base intact and not much else. People remain doubtful in the institutions of our government, doubtful in how he's communicating things and how he's handling things. It's not a pretty picture for the president after the first year."

Poll: Under Trump, global approval of U.S. leadership hits historical low (Politico link): Other nations’ approval of U.S. leadership under President Donald Trump hit a historical low of 30 percent in 2017, according to a Gallup poll released Thursday.

The measure, the lowest since Gallup began tracking it worldwide in 2007, signals an 18-point drop from a year earlier, when 48 percent approved of the national influence under former President Barack Obama. It is the single largest year-to-year drop in approval of U.S. leadership — or of any country examined — to date.

Gallup found that approval dropped by 10 or more points in 65 of the 134 countries and areas surveyed. Regionally, the image of the U.S. was weaker in virtually every part of the world, registering record lows within multiple countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Disapproval of U.S. leadership, meanwhile, soared, increasing by 15 points from 2016 to 2017 and notching the highest mark — 43 percent — for any of the four major global powers surveyed over the past decade.

History professor predicts Mueller will reveal Trump crimes that will ‘shock the nation’ — and force GOP to impeach (Raw Story link): Historian Allan Lichtman is known for making accurate predictions — and he’s more certain than ever that President Donald Trump will be impeached this spring. The American University history professor has correctly predicted the winner of every presidential election since 1984, including Trump, and he has recently updated his book, The Case for Impeachment, that was released in April — before the president fired FBI director James Comey and special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed.

“There’s as strong a case of obstruction of justice as there was against Bill Clinton on a vastly more important matter than a blue dress,” Lichtman told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Remember, virtually every Republican voted for an obstruction article against Bill Clinton.”

He said the special counsel investigation almost certainly had more damning evidence of illegal cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia, which he said would soon be revealed.

“It’s a conspiracy,” Lichtman said. “I believe we have the tip of the iceberg of what the special counsel knows about the relationship between Trump and the Trump team and the Russians. There’s a fair chance that the reason they were covering up all of those calls from then to be national security adviser with the Russians was to cover up a possible quid pro quo, the Russians will help us and in turn we’ll ease those sanctions. Why else make those calls and why else lie about them?”

The historian said the public had already seen strong evidence of obstruction, but he said there’s plenty of reason to predict charges on a “host of crimes” — some of them deadly serious — related to a Russian conspiracy.

Trump Reportedly Told Stormy Daniels to Spank Him with an Issue of Forbes (New York Magazine link): There are new details about the president’s alleged relationship with adult-film star Stormy Daniels. According to a report by Mother Jones, Daniels once claimed that the president made her spank him with an issue of Forbes magazine.

The information came from an email exchange between two campaign consultants who worked with Daniels back in 2009, when she was considering running for Senator of Louisiana (one of her potential campaign slogans was “Stormy Daniels: Screwing people honestly.”) When one consultant, Andrea Dubé, expressed surprise that Donald Trump was listed as one of Daniel’s possible campaign contributors, the other consultant replied: Yep. She says one time he made her sit with him for three hours watching “shark week.” Another time he had her spank him with a Forbes magazine.

The consultant apparently told Mother Jones that the copy of Forbes in question featured a picture of Trump on the cover. Mother Jones confirmed that Trump was in fact on the cover of a 2006 issue of Forbes, alongside Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka, under the headline “400 Richest People in America”.

Trump says privately that a terror attack could save him and GOP from 2018 election bloodbath (Raw Story link): Faced with the likelihood of a “blue tsunami” in the 2018 midterm elections, President Donald Trump is holding out hope that terrorists will attack the country, reported the Washington Post on Wednesday.

“In private conversations,” said the Post, “Trump has told advisers that he doesn’t think the 2018 election has to be as bad as others are predicting. He has referenced the 2002 midterms, when George W. Bush and Republicans fared better after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, these people said.”

Matthew Yglesias at wrote, “(T)his is a frightening line of thought for an incumbent president and his team to be entertaining.”

“(I)f the president and his top staff are not so concerned with democracy but purely political power, that’s a terrifying proposition,” said Yglesias.

Mod: You do know that this guy is a dangerous idiot, right?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Election Musical Chairs: Sierra Madre Has Three Open City Council Seats and Four Candidates

Andy's Gang
It had all the looks of a rather uneventful election season in The Foothill Village, but apparently that is no longer the case. In addition to the three incumbents, Gene Goss, Denise Delmar and Rachelle Arizmendi, a newcomer to the political scene has arrived. His name is Andy Bencosme, and he sells homes for a living. He'd be pleased to meet you, I'm sure.

Among the achievements of Sierra Madre's current City Council are the restraints it put into place curbing aggressive mansionization here. While this development nuisance has been the bane of neighboring Arcadia, Sierra Madre has remained the village of small homes it always was. Paradoxically it is becoming quite prosperous because of this. Homes that only a decade ago would have set you back $250,000 are now pushing the million dollar mark once they are put on the market.

Slow growth, which was once wrongfully considered an impediment to increased property values, has become the engine that is driving Sierra Madre's stunning real estate success story. When you consider where things were during the market crash not too long ago, it is something of a miracle.

For that you would have to give at least some credit to this City Council and its commitment to the sensible development standards that helped to stave off a McMansion glut here. In that important way they saved Sierra Madre just by keeping it the place it always was.

Why anyone would want to go messing around with that kind of success is beyond me. While I personally am not crazy about everything this City Council has done, you would need to have on some pretty large blinders not to see just how well many people in Sierra Madre are doing these days. What used to be only a house has for some become the best investment they ever made.

From Andy's Linked In page.
So anyway, who is this new guy you are probably asking. He's been around the area, but only arrived in Sierra Madre just a relative short while ago. Around 2010 he was on the Library Board in Monrovia (link). And then in 2013 he was the president of the Arcadia Association of Realtors. A group that, at times, has been quite outspoken in its support of unrestricted development in Arcadia. Which, of course, contributed to the unfortunate mansionization blight there.

Below is an example of how the Arcadia Association of Realtors (AAR) contributed politically to that around the time Andy Bencosme was its president. A candidate they helped elect there was a big time mansionization supporter named John Wuo. Also a past president of the AAR. You probably remember Mr. Wuo as the former Mayor of Arcadia who was forced to resign in disgrace over his alleged role in the Gem Coin scandal. Something that brought such infamy (along with the FBI) to the town (link) in late 2015.

Here is the story of how the Arcadia Association of Realtors helped elect John Wuo.

I suspect they will try and do the same for Andy Benscosme. It should be an interesting election. Don't take any Gem Coins.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The World Journal goes all in for Arcadia's Old School McMansionistas this City Council Election Season

Sho Tay and Bulldozer Bob chewing the fat (link).

You and I might not read The World Journal too much because we are not Mandarin speakers. Otherwise I am certain we'd be eagerly awaiting each insightful new issue and tearing into it just as soon as the paper hits the doorstep. No, as an English speaking denizen of this corner of California's Happiest Valley you would be turning to The Arcadia Weekly or the Pasadena Star News for your election coverage. There you would discover that the issue defining the candidates most is aggressive development. You would also get both sides of the story. It is how polite journalism gets done.

However, if you are getting your news from The World Journal, there is a decidedly pro-McMansionista bent to this year's City Council election coverage. As there was the last time. That, coupled with some rather nutty conspiracy theories about an evil cabal of certain politicians, "historical preservation," HOAs, and, of all things, Arcadia's Planning Commission, makes for some decidedly colorful reading.

There is also an unfortunate "us versus them" feel to The World Journal's election presentation. This comes off as being a sadly cynical approach to the development topic because, rather than trying to bring the City of Arcadia together on an important issue, it instead attempts to pit Arcadia's residents against one another. I can only assume that this ugliness is being promoted in order to further the interests of the usual McMansion developers who, of course, are only interested in making a lot of money. No matter what the consequences to the community, or who gets hurt.

It is hard to believe that in the 21st century people are still falling for this style of old school ethnic based election hacking, but there it is. Like a bad penny it just keeps turning up. Some things never change.

Here is a translation of a recent World Journal article on this year's Arcadia City Council election. There are some notable inaccuracies, especially on who would be running for office. But the overall feel is pretty much as described.

On 11/30 Bob Harbicht met with around 10 Asians to start the warming up process to an election season.  It is the beginning of December and Arcadia City Council election is about to start.  Especially after the passing of the ordinance for districting, all candidates must be able to standout to get noticed and be elected as the next city council.  There are 3 seats available from 3 different districts.  In mid December, candidates will start to submit their applications to run for the city council seat.  There are already quite a few candidates that have already started their campaigns.  They are working hard to gain Asian votes.

Bob Harbicht has won many past Arcadia City Council seats. Due to his failing to win a seat in the last election, he is restarting his engine, again.  This time, he is especially focusing on trying to win the Asian vote. Last election he won 3,658 total votes. A substantial amount of those voters were from the Asian community.  On November 30, he met with over 20 Asian people to hear their opinions and their concerns about the City of Arcadia.

It seems like what people are concerned about the most is crime, safety and historical preservation.  It should be decided by the homeowners instead of "others". At the same time, he believes that the city planning department cannot allow a few to decide what homeowners can and cannot do to their property.  As long as homeowners follow city regulations, an HOA or Planning Commission should not be allowed to decide. He hopes this coming campaign will be clean. He hopes to avoid the smear campaign that happened in the last election.

Bob Harbicht will be running as a candidate in District 2.  This will be the most contested district.  Current city council member, Tom Beck, past city council member Gary Kovacic and Dr. Cheng are all part of this district.  Currently Tom and Gary have all communicated they would run.  Dr. Cheng has expressed passionately he would run during council meetings on districting.  Dr. Cheng has shown intentions during his speech that he has an intention to run.  There are so many in competition in this district.  By the deadline of December 1 for this article, he has not communicated that he would run.  In this district, there are 49% Asian voters.  It is clear that any candidate must fight for the Asian vote.

In comparison, our current Mayor Pro Tem Sho Tay is in District 3, and city councilman Roger Chandler is in District 5.  Currently, there are no other candidates to run against them.  Sho's district has 53% Asian voters.  Roger's district also has over 50% Asians.  Currently, it is advantageous to them.  Sho expressed, it does not matter what race, picking the right person for the job is the key.  The best thing about districting is each person can only vote in one district. There is no splitting the vote.  

District 4 will not be running.  It has the highest concentration of Asians:  69%  There is an Asian lawyer Paul Chang whom had ran before.  He lives in this district.  By 2020, this district will run.  Not sure he would be interested to run again.

Mr. Liu has said that Arcadia residents are sensitive about the election. Any candidate must be truly doing things for the city.  It has nothing to do with new fresh face to be expected to win the seat. Now, we have 5 districts.  Every vote from each district has become even more important.  This requires all candidates to truly get close to Asian people and understand what they want.  In return, they will get their vote.  He is also hoping more Asians will stay close and on top of the election related issues to protect Asian people's rights.  Be involved and vote, otherwise benefits for Asians will fall to a deaf ear.

I had to laugh at Harbicht's cantankerous claim that he was the victim of "smear politics" in 2016. What doomed his campaign last time was the revelation that he received an incredibly large last minute $26,850.00 campaign cash infusion from, you got it, a developer (link). People I am certain he is still beholden to today. Obviously Bulldozer Bob has his price.

Wikipedia trashes The World Journal

I was poking around the Internet looking for some information on who actually owns The World Journal. The most generous source I found on the topic was Wikipedia (link). Here are three passages that do the paper no favors. Click on each one to enlarge.

We will be providing more in depth coverage on the Arcadia City Council race in the weeks and months ahead. Do stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Pasadena Independent: Brutal Beating Of Ballew Sears Itself Into History As Pasadena’s ‘Rodney King Moment’

Pasadena City Council meeting video footage here.
Mod: The press on this story continues to grow. Still no word on how the City of Pasadena plans to handle it, which could be why many there are now taking things into their own hands.

Brutal Beating Of Ballew Sears Itself Into History As Pasadena’s ‘Rodney King Moment’ (Pasadena Independent link): Dozens of enraged citizens recently packed the city council chambers as the outrage over a video showing 21-year-old Chris Ballew brutally beaten by Pasadena police came to a vicious boil.

The footage, captured on Nov. 9, 2017 at an Altadena gas station, shows officers Larry Esparza and Zachary Lujan quickly escalating a questionable traffic stop into a brutal beatdown in which Ballew was repeatedly punched, slammed to the concrete pavement, and hammered so ruthlessly with a baton that the weapon was seen visibly bent and unable to be sheathed at the conclusion of one the body-cam videos.

Ballew, who was himself seated in the second row of the audience during council’s first meeting of the year, was approached by Pasadena police as he was walking to the gas station mini-mart for having tinted windows and no front license plate on his white Mercedes-Benz.

The inhumane treatment that followed and allegedly resulted in a broken leg for the 21-year-old, is currently under investigation. Ballew also reportedly lost his work as an assistant director at a marketing firm following the incident. The two officers involved remain on the job.

Chief Junta Hat gets the raspberries.
For almost two hours emotions ran high as representatives from various organizations, including the NAACP, ACLU, Pasadenans and Altadenans Against Violence, San Gabriel Valley Progressive Alliance, Black Lives Matter, and more called for justice during the council meeting’s public comment portion.

It must have seemed like déjà vu for many local activists in attendance, as many of the same faces crammed into the council chambers just over a year ago, in October 2016, following the controversial in-custody death of Reginald Thomas – an African-American male who died following a struggle with Pasadena PD, in which he was tased three times. The coroner’s report and investigation report for this case have yet to be released.

Four years prior, in 2012, 19-year-old Kendrec Mcdade, unarmed with no prior criminal record, was slain by Pasadena police in a hail of bullets – a shooting that was ultimately deemed to be justified, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Unlike McDade and Thomas, Ballew was able to walk away from the incident with his life, yet the barbaric footage, which quickly went viral, has proved to be a third strike for the Pasadena Police Department in the eyes of the citizens they are sworn to protect.

Rodney King haunts this city now, as we relive another black man lying on the ground beaten by police,” proclaimed local civil rights attorney Dale Gronemeier.

Tensions inside the chambers ran high and the comments ranged from calm requests, to assertive demands. Some members of the community pleaded with the council to take action, implement an independent investigation, and remove officers Esparza and Lujan from the streets.

Others attacked Pasadena police and Chief Philip Sanchez with profanity-laden tirades, essentially accusing the department of institutional racism and of resembling a militarized, occupying force.

But, the most moving request of the evening came from the victim’s mother, who calmly asked for a public, written apology.

City Manager Steve Mermell, in tandem with some representatives from the Pasadena Police Officers Association and Council Member Victor Gordo, urged the public to respect due process – all were met with substantial heckling and “boo’s” from the crowd.

Mod: The rest of the article can be viewed at the link provided above. Below are some details on a series of demonstrations taking place this evening and tomorrow.

Monday, January 15, 2018

CNN: Mark Zuckerberg is fighting to save Facebook

Russian origin paid Facebook ad (2016).
Mod: It seems that Facebook is in tr

Hhouble. Hard to believe when you consider the couple of billion hits it gets every month, but apparently that is the case. There is a lot of lofty language describing its problems, but foremost of those could be that much of what you see there is crap. Or even malevolent state promoted propaganda, such as we saw in the last election (example to the left.) That does not prevent Facebook  from being the most used and abused on-line entity in the world today. But when did such popularity ever mean something was actually any good?

Mark Zuckerberg is fighting to save Facebook (CNN link): If there's one thing Mark Zuckerberg has consistently excelled at as Facebook's CEO, it's destroying his enemies.

When Google (GOOGL) launched Google Plus, a rival social network, Zuckerberg put Facebook (FB) in a state of "lockdown" and informed employees that "Carthage must be destroyed," according to one tell-all book from a former employee.

After Snapchat (SNAP) began gaining traction several years ago, Zuckerberg tried to buy the company and, failing that, pushed out a long list of features and new apps to clone the disappearing messaging app.

Google Plus is no longer viewed as a threat to Facebook. Snapchat is struggling to grow its audience. Now, Zuckerberg is turning his focus to a new enemy: Facebook itself.

On Thursday, Facebook announced a major change to News Feed, its central feature, to prioritize posts from friends and family over posts from publishers and brands.

The goal, according to Zuckerberg and Facebook, is to boost the "well-being" of the billions of people who use the social network by encouraging users to have more conversations and connections with peers, rather than being bombarded by brands.

In short, Facebook wants to show the world that it can still be a positive force in peoples' lives -- or at least show that it's really, truly trying to be.

Since the 2016 U.S. election, Facebook has come under fire for stories about fake news, Russian propaganda, filter bubbles and social media addiction. Facebook has also been described as enabling ethnic cleansing in Myanmar and Facebook's WhatsApp was cited as a cause of beatings in India after a fake news story went viral.

Suddenly, the most existential threat Zuckerberg faces isn't some rival service. It's his own.

The media is increasingly fixated on the dark, unintended consequences of Facebook and other social networks. Regulators are scrutinizing the company more than ever before. Former Facebook executives have spoken out to express regret about what they built. And so has Zuckerberg.

"For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask forgiveness and I will work to do better," Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post for Yom Kippur in September.

"Controlling the narrative at this juncture is critical, particularly when it comes to the press and regulators," James Cakmak, an analyst with Monness, Crespi, Hardt, wrote in an investor note Friday morning about the News Feed change.

Facebook to show more content from friends, less from publishers and brands (CNN link): Mark Zuckerberg has pledged to devote 2018 to "fixing" Facebook. Now the Facebook CEO is kicking off the effort with a move he says is intended to boost the well-being of users, possibly at the expense of the well-being of publishers and other businesses.

Facebook (FB) said late Thursday it is changing the News Feed to prioritize posts from friends, family members and groups over posts from publishers and brands.

The company will elevate posts that ignite conversations and meaningful interactions between friends while demoting the many videos, news stories and business posts that users consume passively -- without commenting and sharing.

In an exclusive video interview with CNN Tech's Laurie Segall, Facebook VP Adam Mosseri described the move as a "rebalancing" of how Facebook's algorithms rank items in the main feed.

"We think that we're currently slightly overvaluing how much time people spend on our platform and undervaluing how many meaningful interactions they have with other people," said Mosseri, who oversees News Feed.

In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg said the change was informed by research that shows the "well-being" of users is better served by connecting with friends and family than by "passively reading articles or watching videos."

"As we roll this out, you'll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media," Zuckerberg said.

With more than two billion monthly users, any change Facebook makes can be a seismic event. This move, in particular, has the potential to rattle countless publishers and brands who rely on the social network to distribute and promote content.

Mosseri said Facebook will "continue to value publisher content." But the pressure will be on publishers and brands to create content that generates conversations if they want to improve their odds of being seen in News Feed.

Unsurprisingly, businesses may be able to sidestep this shift by putting money behind their content. Mosseri says the change "shouldn't affect ads in general" as this operates on a "separate system."

The announcement comes amid a broader shift at Facebook. It is, it says, focusing on the quality of connections and content on its platform after a bruising year of stories about fake news, foreign election meddling, filter bubbles and social media addiction.

Mod: In case you are wondering what one of the actual motivating factors in the changes described above might be, this following article ran on the Daily Beast news site last September.

30 Batsh*t Crazy, Mostly Racist Facebook Memes the Russians Used to Corrupt Your Mind (The Daily Beast link): Earlier this week, Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, revealed that Russia had “likely” used 470 deceptive accounts to buy about $100,000 worth of political advertising before and after the 2016 presidential election.

It was Facebook’s first public acknowledgment of the role it unwittingly played in the Kremlin’s “active measures” campaign to help elect Donald Trump. Based on the numbers, a Facebook marketing expert consulted by The Daily Beast says the Facebook run might have reached 70 million people.

The admission was a sharp turnaround for Facebook. As recently as July, the company was denying that it had evidence of Russian ad-buys, even though four months earlier the Russian news outlet RBC specifically identified one of the Facebook communities secretly run from Russia and promoted with paid Facebook ads.

That community, called SecuredBorders, positioned itself as the work of conservative Americans concerned about U.S. border security. In truth, according to RBC, it was operated by a notorious St. Petersburg troll factory called Internet Research Agency, which is financed by “a close Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence,” according to a public report by U.S. intelligence agencies (PDF).

Facebook finally closed down the page last month in its belated purge of Russian propaganda. By then SecuredBorders had 133,000 followers. So far, Facebook is refusing to release any of the posts and ads from Russia’s campaign, opting instead for this terse description: “The ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum—touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”

Mod: The remainder of all three articles can be found at their respective links.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Wall Street Journal: Trump Lawyer Arranged $130,000 Payment for Adult-Film Star’s Silence

Mod: Just another day of bizarre revelations from the Donald Trump reality show. Or is it a four year comedy special? I am no longer quite sure. Put down your platinum golf clubs and pull up a chair. Today Rupert Murdoch's very own Wall Street Journal is on the witness stand.

Trump Lawyer Arranged $130,000 Payment for Adult-Film Star’s Silence (The Wall Street Journal link): Agreement just before election required woman to keep quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, people familiar with the matter say.

A lawyer for President Donald Trump arranged a $130,000 payment to a former adult-film star a month before the 2016 election as part of an agreement that precluded her from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.

Michael Cohen, who spent nearly a decade as a top attorney at the Trump Organization, arranged payment to the woman, Stephanie Clifford, in October 2016 after her lawyer negotiated the nondisclosure agreement with Mr. Cohen, these people said. Ms. Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, has privately alleged the encounter with Mr. Trump took place after they met at a July 2006 celebrity golf tournament on the shore of Lake Tahoe, these people said. Mr. Trump married Melania Trump in 2005.

Mr. Trump faced other allegations during his campaign of inappropriate behavior with women, and vehemently denied them. In this matter, there is no allegation of a nonconsensual interaction.

Ms. Clifford has appeared in about 150 adult films, and was considered among the industry’s biggest stars when the then-27-year-old met Mr. Trump at the American Century Championship in 2006, held at Edgewood Tahoe golf course in Nevada.

Porn Star: Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels Invited Me to Their Hotel Room (The Daily Beast link): ‘I ended up with Donald in his hotel room. Picture him chasing me around his hotel room in his tighty-whities,’ Stormy Daniels told fellow porn star Alana Evans.

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Michael Cohen, the longtime lawyer for President Donald J. Trump, arranged a $130,000 hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels one month prior to the 2016 presidential election.

According to the Journal, the payment was made “as part of an agreement that precluded her from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump.” Daniels (given name: Stephanie Clifford) had reportedly been in talks with both ABC’s Good Morning America about going public with the allegations.

The Daily Beast had also been in protracted talks with Daniels about arranging an interview after three sources—including fellow porn star Alana Evans—told The Daily Beast that Daniels and Trump were involved. She ultimately backed out on Nov. 3, just five days before the 2016 election.

Daniels’ story would have come on the heels of the porn star Jessica Drake coming forward in late October 2016 to accuse Trump of kissing her without consent and offering her $10,000 in exchange for sex in 2006. Then, on Nov. 4, 2016, the Journal unearthed documents revealing that the Trump-friendly rag National Enquirer had shelled out $150,000 to Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal for a tell-all about her alleged 10-month affair with The Donald from 2006 to 2007. They never ran the piece.

If Drake and McDougal are to be believed, their encounters with Trump took place in the months after Melania gave birth to the Trumps’ youngest son, Barron, in 2006.

Report: Trump Lawyer Paid Off Porn Star To Keep Lid On Relationship (CBS News Los Angeles link): A report in the Wall Street Journal said President Trump’s longtime attorney paid a well-known porn star $130,000, to keep the lid on an alleged sexual encounter between the performer and the president in 2006.

Michael Cohen, the attorney, arranged the payment to Stormy Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, according to the newspaper. Daniels had been in talks to discuss Trump with ABC’s “Good Morning America” in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election when Cohen arranged the payment to her, according to the Journal.

The payment, the Journal reports, was made through Clifford’s attorney, Keith Davidson. Davidson declined to comment on the story, citing “attorney-client privilege.”

Daniels was one of the most popular porn stars in America when she met Trump in 2006 at a golf championship in Nevada. She was 27 at the time, and Trump would have just turned 60. He married Melania in 2005.

Daniels is no stranger to politics. In 2010. the self-described Republican said she was going to challenge incumbent Senator David Vitter.

Mod: The thing is, if it was only this story alone, think of what a big deal it would be. But with Donald Trump? Just another daily outrage from our crooked popular vote loser of a president. One that will quickly be replaced by another outrage, and then another. On and on it goes, like a bad TV show. So will he now be asked by that ethically pristine GOP Congressional leadership to resign? Of course not. And gosh, shame on you for asking.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Fox 'News' Fans React With Anti-American Glee To Fatal Mudslides In California

Video here.
Mod: The following upsetting report comes to us from a site much beloved here called "Crooks & Liars." It details how the viewers of a certain news network have reacted to word of the disasters here in California.

Fox 'News' Fans React With Anti-American Glee To Fatal Mudslides In CA (Crooks & Liars link): The response from Fox News fans to the deadly flooding and mudslides in California proves that this is a network for people who hate America. Today, reported:

At least 13 people were killed Tuesday after a powerful winter storm drenching Southern California sent mud, rocks and debris plummeting down wildfire-scarred hillsides and into several neighborhoods, some of which house lavish celebrity homes. Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown confirmed the deaths at a news conference Tuesday, in which he said the affected areas of the state "looked like a World War I battlefield."

Fox News also reported that more deaths are expected.That engendered hideous glee from a slew of readers who seem to have nothing but hate and hostility toward their country.

Watch the slide show of the devastation that accompanied Fox's article above and see just how full of hatred and devoid of humanity these Fox fans are.

Mod: Lovely people. And now a word from their leader. It starts with an "S".  
'There's no other word but racist': Trump's global rebuke for 'shithole' remark (The Guardian link): Donald Trump has been branded a shocking and shameful racist after it was credibly reported he had described African nations, as well as Haiti and El Salvador as “shitholes” and questioned why so many of their citizens had ever been permitted to enter AmericaUS diplomats around the world were summoned for formal reproach, amid global shock that such crude remarks could ever be made in a semi-public meeting by the president of America.

In a strongly-worded statement, the UN said it was impossible to describe his remarks as anything other than racist, while the Vatican decried Trump’s words as “particularly harsh and offensive.”

The 55-nation African Union said the remarks were “clearly racist”.

Trump initially allowed reported accounts of his comments to go unchallenged, but went into damage limitation mode on Friday, insisting he had not used derogatory words – but admitting that the language he had used at a meeting with Senators on immigration was “tough”.

But the democratic senator Dick Durbin – who was present at the meeting with Trump on Thursday – insisted that the reports were entirely accurate.

Mod: Such interesting times we live in.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Arcadia Shocker! Former Mayor Johnny Gem Coins decides not to run for City Council

John Wuo let the Tattler down.
Alas, the rumors going around town proclaiming that John Wuo was gearing up to run for City Council were not backed by any amber mines. This was disappointing. Think of all the fun we could have had with that.

Don't get me wrong, it is true that Johnny Gem Coins did actually pull papers to run for his old seat on the Arcadia City Council. However, at the time of this typing, which was also the filing deadline to run for a city office there, we were told that Steve Chen's former business partner, and alleged fellow exploiter of gullible immigrants just off the boat, did not file anything with City Hall and therefore will not be on the ballot.

Let me tell you, nobody feels more let down than the Sierra Madre Tattler. But there is a story here, nonetheless. Pull up a seat and let your old pal Uncle Eric tell you all about it. I certainly don't mind. This is my idea of a good time.

While John Wuo did pull papers to run for City Council, something that had sent shock waves through Arcadia's troubled political firmament, it never did quite seem authentic. Something was just not right. The reason being had Wuo run he would have been up against his old pal Roger Chandler. Roger being about as strong an argument for term limits as Arcadia has ever provided.

A look of gastrointestinal anguish?
As followers of Arcadia politics will surely tell you, Peacockia recently went from having City Council Folk that were all representatives of the entire town, to those who only run in specially designed and racially coherent subdistricts. Chandler and the celebrated former Mayor Gem Coins not only live in the same council district (#5), they're Grey Poupon swapping neighbors. And as devoted supporters of Mansionization, and therefore avid lip polishers to the boots 'n booties of even the most predatory of developers, it would make no sense for them to run against each other. They're 8,500 square foot no set backs buddies.

Why did Johnny Gem Coins head down to city hall and pull papers, only to decide at the last possible minute not to run? Here is where the irony starts to thicken. The reason Birdtown went to districting was to get more folks of Chinese ancestry to run for City Council. Continued round eye dominance of the municipal legislative body having caused some not exactly disinterested observers (Kin Hui, Frank Girardot, Lawsuit Richie McDonald) to howl that racism was playing a role. Districting was somehow going to cure such evils.

So here's the theory. By pulling those papers what John Wuo did was effectively frighten off any potential Chinese candidates that might have presumed to run against his beloved Roger Chandler. Since no such candidate did emerge in the face of such mighty (though tainted) opposition, and there were possibilities I've been told, that unhappy gambit apparently worked. By committing to this act of shadiness Mr. Gem Coins protected his old political ally from having to run for re-election against a serious Chinese candidate in a district that is predominantly Asian. Possibly preserving a dependable mansionization advocate.

So you know, Roger the Building Standards Dodger will have two opponents. The first is named Joyce Platt, and she does not favor run amuck development. The other is Jolly Wu, who is described as a one issue candidate that advocates exclusively for the disabled.

Over in District 2 none other than perennial candidate Bulldozer Bob Harbicht has reemerged from the thumping he took in the last Arcadia election. I guess he thinks everyone has somehow forgotten the $10s of thousands of dollars he took from developers during the 2016 race. He will be running against the incumbent Tom Beck.

Sho Tay, also known as the "Man with the Miss America Smile," will be running unopposed in District 3. Paul Van Fleet had drawn papers but must have forgotten to turn them in.

As you can see, redistricting has brought out a wave of new Chinese candidates, proving once and for all that the advocates for racial gerrymandering in Arcadia are extraordinarily brilliant men who deserve the thanks of their grateful city.

Well, OK. Perhaps not.

Funny how things sometimes work out in the real world, right? We will have much more on the Arcadia City Council race in the days and weeks to come.

Would you like to be anointed Sierra Madre's next City Clerk?

If you have been reading this blog lately you will know that the current City Clerk flew the coop after the City Council ripped her off to the tune of $7,500. It is not an easy gig, and losing so large a sum of money in what must have seemed like a bait and switch turned out to be a little too much to take. That, plus being rudely dressed down before the entire city, and on live TV no less, apparently discouraged any further participation.

So doesn't such City Hall bonhomie make you want to throw your hat into the ring? Do you like cake? Well, now you can have it all. Check out the following, citizen. And do print your name neatly. They can be critical down there.

That is not all of it, of course. It does go on. If you want to fill out the whole thing (and you will have to if you're going to jump into the fray), you will need to click here. Be sure to highlight your specific attitudes.

Best of luck!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Feds Raid California Chinese 'Maternity Hotels' / Similar Russian Trump Owned Facilities In Florida Untouched

Mod: While this story has not been picked up by any of the local media, MSN/NBC has now put out a major report on the Fed raids this week on California "maternity hotels." Please note that the birthing facilities raided here had been servicing Chinese nationals only. There are other nationalities that use this kind of service as well. We'll get to that in a minute. First news on the California raids that have just taken place.

Baby Bust: Feds Raid California 'Maternity Hotels' (MSN/NBC link): Southern California apartment complexes that doubled as "maternity hotels" for Chinese women who want made-in-America babies were raided early Tuesday, capping an unprecedented federal sting operation, officials said.

NBC News was on the scene as Homeland Security agents swept into The Carlyle, a luxury property in Irvine, California, which housed pregnant women and new moms who allegedly forked over $40,000 to $80,000 to give birth in the United States.

"I am doing this for the education of the next generation," one of the women told NBC News.

None of the women were arrested; they are being treated as material witnesses, and paramedics were on hand in case any of them went into labor during the sweep. Instead, the investigation was aimed at ringleaders who pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars tax-free to help Chinese nationals obtain visas and then pamper them until they delivered in an American hospital at a discount, court papers show.

"It's not necessarily illegal to come here to have the baby, but if you lie about your reasons for coming here, that's visa fraud," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations for Los Angeles.

All told, the feds raided 20 locations in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties, targeting three competing birth tourism schemes, officials said. The suspected operators have not been charged but are being questioned.

The organizers who allegedly ran the Carlyle site, Chao Chen and Dong Li, used a website to drum up business, touting the benefits of a child with U.S. citizenship: 13 years of free education, low-cost college financial aid, less pollution, and a path for the entire family to emigrate when the child becomes an adult.

Clients were counseled on what lies to tell to obtain a tourist visa; how to fly through Hawaii, Las Vegas or Korea to avoid suspicious immigration officers at Los Angeles International Airport; and how to disguise their pregnancy in transit, according to search warrant affidavit unsealed Tuesday. The women were then set up at the Carlyle, which charges about $3,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment and features amenities including private balconies, a resort-style pool, and cabanas with flat-screen televisions.

A neighbor, Linda Trust, told NBC News she did find it strange that she had seen a forklift deliver a huge pile of diapers to the buildings but had never seen a baby. The women's handlers provided transportation for doctor visits and trips to restaurants and shops, the court papers say. An agent tailing one of the suspects followed them to Target and Babies R Us.

They were funneled to several Orange County hospitals to deliver, but they didn't pay full price — approximately $25,000 — for medical services, officials said. Instead, they got reduced rates for the indigent, ranging from nothing to $4,000, the court papers say. That translated into big losses for the hospitals. More than 400 babies linked to the scheme were born at just one facility in a two-year period, investigators said.

The investigators discovered that the parents of one baby born in April 2014 who paid the hospital just $4,000 were spending money at the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel, Rolex and Louis Vuitton, using an account with almost a quarter of a million dollars in it.

The fraud, authorities say, went beyond the visas.

Mod: The rest of that story is available at the link. Apparently maternity housing/birthing facilities in Florida, which cater to a Russian clientele, have to date remained completely untouched. Perhaps it has something to do with one of the owners? 

Russians Flock to Trump Properties to Give Birth to U.S. Citizens (The Daily Beast link): While the president rails against children of undocumented immigrants, wealthy Russians rent his condos—at huge costs—so they can have American kids.

Anatoliy Kuzmin held out his daughter’s blue U.S. passport over a red Russian one and snapped a photo from a Florida beach.

“Woohoo! Got dual citizenship for my daughter!” he wrote on Instagram.

American citizenship for the newborn girl was the goal of Kuzmin and his Instagram-celebrity wife, who sought the help of birth-tourism services in Florida for the arrival of their first child. They are among the estimated hundreds of Russian parents who flock to the U.S. annually for warm weather, excellent medical care, and, more importantly, birthright American citizenship.

And many, like Kuzmin and his wife, stay at President Donald Trump’s properties in Florida.

While Trump rails against U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, his Florida properties have become a playground for birth tourists from Russia’s upper crust. The Daily Beast has discovered several companies are advertising rentals in Trump properties to expectant Russian parents.

Mod: Check the link for more. Assuming none of this is race based, perhaps Chinese nationals hoping to have a child born in the United States would fare better if they stayed at a Trump owned facility back east?