Saturday, November 18, 2017

Battle for the California Desert: Why is the Government Driving Folks off Their Land?

The Antelope Valley is a vast patch of desert on the outskirts of Los Angeles County, and a segment of the few rugged individualists who live out there increasingly are finding themselves the targets of armed raids from local code enforcement agents, who've assembled into task forces called Nuisance Abatement Teams (NATs).

The plight of the Valley's desert dwellers made regional headlines when county officials ordered the destruction of Phonehenge: a towering, colorful castle constructed out of telephone poles by retired phone technician Kim Fahey. Fahey was imprisoned and charged with several misdemeanors.

But Fahey is just one of many who've been targeted by the NATs, which were assembled at the request of County Supervisor Mike Antonovich in 2006. LA Weekly reporter Mars Melnicoff wrote an in-depth article in which she exposed the county's tactic of badgering residents with minor, but costly, code violations until they face little choice but to vacate the land altogether.

"They're picking on the the people who are the most defenseless and have the least resources," says Melnicoff. collaborated with Melnicoff to talk with some of the NAT's targets, such as retired veteran Joey Gallo, who might face homelessness if he's forced to leave his house, and local pastor Oscar Castaneda, who says he's already given up the fight and is in the process of moving off the land he and his wife have lived on for 22 years. And, while Antonovich declined an interview, we did catch up with him at a public meeting in order to ask the big question at the center of all this: Why the sudden enforcement of these codes against people living in the middle of the desert, who seemingly are affecting no one?

Writer-Producers: Zach Weissmueller and Tim Cavanaugh. Associate Producer: Mars Melnicoff. Camera: Alex Manning and Weissmueller; edited by Weissmueller.

Approximately 9:48.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Donald Trump's Family Fortune was built with Affordable Housing Profits

Donald Trump's father built his 400 million dollar estate with Affordable Housing.

Most people think of Donald Trump as the brash developer of Casinos, Golf Courses and Luxury properties.  Not too many people know that his family fortune was built by on the foundation that his father Fred Trump (1905-1999) built with affordable housing in the New York area

[Fred]Trump embarked on a career as an entrepreneur through real estate development, building, and operating affordable rental housing via large apartment complexes in New York City, including more than 27,000 low-income multifamily apartments and row houses in the neighborhoods of Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Sheepshead Bay, Flatbush, and Brighton Beach in Brooklyn and Flushing and Jamaica Estates in Queens.[2]

The next time you hear about "non-profit developers" remember that there is huge money in public sector housing development.  A business must be organized as a non profit corporation to qualify for HUD financing.

The business plan may be different than market rate housing but it is very profitable just the same.  The average low income apartment costs $250,000 to $500,000 per unit  making it far more expensive per square foot than market rate real estate.

Remember that "low income" only refers to the resident.  Everyone else makes a very healthy living.  That is why developers love One Bay Area Plan and the mandate for low income housing.  

Low income housing provides greater certainty for profits at lower risk.

Just ask Donald Trump!

Holiday travel begins. Enjoy the ride.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Rebuttal to "Forceful solutions to Regionalism"

A Rebuttal to the San Francisco Gate Opinion piece. 

A need for Regional Thinking

Editor's Note: A reader sent me the following rebuttal to the opinion piece published in the the SF GATE HERE.   The commentary is published in bold type and the original article in italics.

"A giant tunneling machine dubbed Elizabeth is burrowing under London, part
of a $25 billion regional train line scheduled to open in 2018. The finished
product is intended to alleviate suffocating traffic, ease pressure on housing
costs and share growth across a booming urban center, not just the inner core."

London has a vast network of surveillance cameras equipped with facial recognition software, voice recognition,  cellular and digital surveillance.  Do we want to imitate London?
What works for London, doesn't necessarily work for us.

"Those problems, if not the solution, should get the Bay Area thinking. Our
locale shares London’s anxiety about the future and the next steps to improve

I have no anxiety about London's problems.
"Costly housing and inadequate transit are concerns that occupy Bay Area
residents nearly every day, topics taken on in The Chronicle’s “City on the
Edge” editorial series. As the expansive London plan shows, these
shortcomings can’t be isolated to the big-city center. They’re regional
concerns, taking in dozens of communities."

Anyone who understands regionalism sees it for what it is, an end run around
our representative government and our democratic process. Never a good thing
even if you think you're solving a problem.

"Other areas — notably the vast region surrounding New York that includes
New Jersey and Pennsylvania — are moving in the same direction as London.
It’s time there, as well as here, for serious improvements that move beyond
the normal boundaries and levels of planning."

This language appears to be an attempt to create a reality that does not exist. I
hope your readers don't fall for it.

"An emphasis on commuter lines that reach deep into the areas surrounding
city centers is one element."

Who asked we the people if this is what we want?

"Another is regional government that oversees and enforces policies on a
broad scale." 

Regional government is unrepresentative and is a shadow government to our
own. A very dangerous thing as those who have studied history know.

"Portland, Ore., has a wide-angle lens on development over an area taking in
the city and its suburbs."

Please look at the problems with this Portland plan before extolling its virtues.
It sets limits and directs growth, breaking down barriers between small
towns that ring the larger urban center.  (See article HERE )

This regionalism is about breaking political jurisdictions which take away the
political power of we the people to determine for ourselves how we want to live.
This is nothing less than Soviet Russian planning which didn't work there and
won't work here. This is the United States of America, land of the free, home of
the brave.
Ugly stucco "big box" apartments replace quiet neighborhoods.

"After years of public battling, Seattle overcame misgivings about in-fill
projects and pushed ahead with new buildings in older neighborhoods where
NIMBY wars often raged."

At whose expense?

"The Bay Area has all the elements of these solutions in place. BART handles
400,000 riders daily, its highest passenger counts ever, and has proven so
popular that it needs bigger stations, more rail cars and possibly a second

Obscure California Committee Moves to Expand How Police Access and Use DMV Photos

Attention California: the privacy and security of your driver licenses are under threat from a new scheme to massively expand how photo IDs are shared and analyzed by law enforcement agencies.
Over the last few months, an obscure panel within the California Department of Justice (DOJ) has been taking steps to connect the statewide law-enforcement system for accessing driver license photos and mugshots, Cal-Photo, with a national network of other states’ photo systems. The plan also calls for combining facial recognition with Cal-Photo for investigators to use in the field. The so-called “advisory committee”—made up of representatives from police advocacy groups—has advanced these issues to “priority status,” undeterred by numerous warnings these efforts would violate state laws.
EFF sent a letter to this advisory committee last week, demanding they put the brakes on the project immediately. With the group and its subcommittee's next meetings set for March 25, we’re calling on Californians to also send emails opposing the projects.
If you want to follow the paper trail with us, you'll first need to learn some acronyms, including acronyms within acronyms. 
CLETS stands for the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, the giant computer network that links up law enforcement agencies across the state and allows them to access driver license and photo IDs through Cal-Photo as well as other types of data and records.
Overseeing this system is the CLETS Advisory Committee (CAC) and its Standing Strategic Planning Subcommittee (SSPS), both of which are made up of delegates from groups such as the California Peace Officers Association, the California Police Chiefs Association, and the California State Sheriffs Association, as well as representatives from the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Office of Emergency Services, and the California Highway Patrol. 
Another acronym is NLETS, the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, the federally funded, but privately operated system that describes itself as “the premiere interstate justice and public safety network in the nation for the exchange of law enforcement-, criminal justice-, and public safety-related information.” The Cal-Photo system links to tens of millions of photos; this represents one of the great potential mother lodes to NLETS, which offers grant money to states in an effort to expand its network. 
In August 2014, SSPS began reviewing a list of law-enforcement goals approved in 2009 to see whether they were still beneficial today. Goal 8 is “Expand Cal-Photo’s capability to share photos on a national basis; and, deploy facial recognition as an investigative tool.”
A DMV representative told SSPS that neither photo-sharing nor facial recognition are possible under “current statutory and regulatory authority,” and asked the subcommittee to remove the goal from the strategic plan.  However, representatives from the sheriff’s association and the California League of Cities pushed back hard, saying the issue was too important to drop. CAC approved the recommendation later that day and SSPS began making arrangements to meet with the DMV to pursue this goal.
Here's how this debate appeared in the SSPS meeting minutes [PDF]:  
At the next SSPS meeting in December 2014 [PDF], members reported that they had met with the DMV director, who reiterated that several laws stand in the way of photo-sharing and even more statutes would block the implementation facial recognition. The delegate from the California Peace Officers’ Association shrugged that off, saying he believed a review of the statutes would indicate that law-enforcement access would “probably be appropriate.”
SSPS voted to begin organizing closed-door meetings between the heads of the state’s top law enforcement associations and the DMV director to discuss ways to move forward. In the meantime, they decided to begin building the photo-sharing infrastructure, starting with a $50,000 system that would connect NLETS and CLETS to give California cops access to other states’ DMV photos through California’s SmartJustice web app. 
Although this would be a one-way exchange, a SSPS member from the California justice department said it would “pave the way for California to share photos with other states.”
Within days of the meeting, California DOJ staff assigned to CLETS began issuing invitations to associations and applying for a grant from NLETS—which NLETS approved within two weeks.
In the grant application [PDF], the California DOJ made it clear that the underlying plan was to first implement one-way sharing as a way to pressure the DMV to get on board with the greater goal of mutual exchange.
They further added: 
As CAC and SSPS began coordinating its high-level meeting with law-enforcement associations, the DMV issued a legal analysis [PDF] concluding that the California Legislature must directly authorize such photo-sharing with NLETS.
“No affirmative authorization is found in existing state statutes that would require or allow the transmission and wholesale sharing of DL/ID photos between Cal-Photo and NLETS,” the DMV wrote. The DMV also articulated grave concerns about privacy and security, claiming it would “open the door to random accessing of photos” and that the DMV would be unable to track the sources of data breaches. 
By our count, that’s three times the CLETS committee and subcommittee has been told that their plans run counter to the law and three times they’ve decided to move forward anyway. There may be a fourth time, depending on how those closed-door meetings went, which we may learn more about at the committees’ March 25 meetings in Folsom. 
EFF is extremely concerned about the prospects of police around the country having the ability to access Californians’ records with insufficient accountability measures in place. We have also long been wary of the growing use of facial recognition technology, which can allow police to identify everyday citizens who aren’t involved in a crime, including through scanning photos on social media. Most of all, we are alarmed at how quickly these advisory committees are moving forward while dismissing the DMV’s legal concerns.  
Decisions of this magnitude must be made with full public engagement and the involvement of the legislature, not in obscure committee meetings or in closed-door sessions with law enforcement lobby groups.
The full document set from CAC/SSPS, including correspondence and technical specifications, is available here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

"Science proves kids are bad for Earth", says Bioethicist

Science proves kids are bad for Earth. Morality suggests we stop having them.

We need to stop pretending kids don't have environmental and ethical Travis Rieder / Nov.15.2017 / 4:17 AM ET

Double trouble.Matt Nighswander / NBC News

A startling and honestly distressing view is beginning to receive serious consideration in both academic and popular discussions of climate change ethics. According to this view, having a child is a major contributor to climate change. The logical takeaway here is that everyone on Earth ought to consider having fewer children.

Although culturally controversial, the scientific half of this position is fairly well-established. Several years ago, scientists showed that having a child, especially for the world’s wealthy, is one of the worst things you can do for the environment. That data was recycled this past summer in a paper showing that none of the activities most likely to reduce individuals’ carbon footprints are widely discussed.

The second, moral aspect of the view — that perhaps we ought to have fewer children — is also being taken seriously in many circles. Indeed, I have written widely on the topic myself.

But scientific evidence and moral theorizing aside, this is a complicated question with plenty of opponents. In what follows, I will address some of the challenges to this idea. Because while I recognize that this is an uncomfortable discussion, I believe that the seriousness of climate change justifies uncomfortable conversations. In this case, that means that we need to stop pretending the decision to have children doesn't have environmental and ethical consequences.

The argument that having a child adds to one’s carbon footprint depends on the view that each of us has a personal carbon ledger for which we are responsible. Furthermore, some amount of an offspring’s emissions count towards the parents’ ledger. The seriousness of climate change justifies uncomfortable conversations. Matt Nighswander / NBC News

Most environmentalists accept this sort of ledger view when it comes to recycling, driving, and flying, but support begins to decrease when applied to family planning. The opposition is typified by Vox writer David Roberts, who argues that “such an accounting scheme is utterly impractical” because it seems to entail that one is never responsible for one's own emissions. Because "we don’t want to double-count,” as Roberts says, this means parents are really only responsible for their kids’ emissions.

The flaw in this objection is the plausible-sounding caveat: “we don’t want to double-count.” Because why wouldn’t we want to double-count? If moral responsibility added up mathematically, then double-counting would be a serious problem. But I think it’s clear that we should not accept a mathematical model of responsibility.

Consider a different case: If I release a murderer from prison, knowing full well that he intends to kill innocent people, then I bear some responsibility for those deaths — even though the killer is also fully responsible. My having released him doesn’t make him less responsible (he did it!). But his doing it doesn’t eliminate my responsibility either.

Something similar is true, I think, when it comes to having children: Once my daughter is an autonomous agent, she will be responsible for her emissions. But that doesn’t negate my responsibility. Moral responsibility simply isn’t mathematical.

If you buy this view of responsibility, you might eventually admit that having many children is wrong, or at least morally suspect, for standard environmental reasons: Having a child imposes high emissions on the world, while the parents get the benefit. So like with any high-cost luxury, we should limit our indulgence.

Having many children is wrong, or at least morally suspect, for standard environmental reasons.

The rebuttal to this argument is that individual actions simply don’t make a significant difference, and that institutional action is how you actually have an impact. Do everything you can to minimize your emissions, and the “earth won’t give a damn.”

All of these claims are true. Most individual actions won’t matter in the context of a trillion ton, all-time anthropogenic carbon budget. And indeed, policy and collective action are important for seriously mitigating the harms of climate change.

But does this mean my individual actions are morally permissible? I think the answer is clearly no.

If morality only applied to meaningful change, then morality would rarely recommend actions of symbolic integrity or defiance. We would not, for example, praise the activist who stands up for what she believes in until there was evidence that her tactics work. And those who sacrifice their own interests in order to contribute minuscule amounts of time, money, or labor to alleviating global hunger or poverty would look like suckers rather than saints.

I don’t think these judgments sit well with our moral sensibilities. On reflection, many of us believe that it is wrong to contribute to massive, systematic harms, even if each individual contribution isn’t causally significant. This explains why many of us think you are obligated to do things like recycle, especially when it’s easy. Your recycling doesn’t matter much to the environment — the earth doesn’t give a damn — but you should do it anyway.

The confusion around this sort of moral claim is understandable. Our moral psychology has not yet evolved to solve the problems of today. Humanity grew up in relatively small groups; Rules like “don’t harm others,” or “don’t steal and cheat” are easy to make sense of in a world of largely individual interactions.

That is not our world any longer, though, and our moral sense is evolving to reflect that difference. Moral decisions are no longer about math; Being a part of the solution matters.

The importance of this argument for family size is obvious. If having one fewer child reduces one’s contribution to the harms of climate change, the choice of family size becomes a morally relevant one.

I am certainly not arguing that we should shame parents, or even that we’re obligated to have a certain number of children. As I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t think there is a tidy answer to the challenging questions of procreative ethics. But that does not mean we’re off the moral hook. As we face the very real prospect of catastrophic climate change, difficult — even uncomfortable — conversations are important. Yes, we should discuss the ethics of making babies with care and respect; but we should discuss it.

Travis Rieder, Ph.D, is the Assistant Director for Education Initiatives, Director of the Master of Bioethics degree program and Research Scholar at the Berman Institute of Bioethics.

Editors Note:  This article published by NBC proves that Environmental Alarmists have gone full bat sh*t crazy. Using this professor's logic, genocide and infanticide is a moral choice if not an imperative.  Tyranny is knocking on our door. We must push these idiots back with sound Constitutional principles of liberty or descend into madness.

M.A.M.O.N. - Latinos VS. Donald Trump short film cortometraje

Published on Oct 30, 2016

M.A.M.O.N. (Monitor Against Mexicans Over Nationwide) is a satirical fantasy sci-fi shortfilm that explores with black humor and lots of VFX the outrageous consequences of Donald Trump´s plan of banning immigration and building an enormous wall on the Mexico - US border. 

Editor's Note: Have you seen this? It is hilarious. I want to assure my Mexican friends that those of us who did not like Hillary will not let Trump destroy the Constitution.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Moving out of California

Gov. Brown and Assemblyman Vince Fong argue gas tax

During a legislative hearing, Assemblyman Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield) questioned California Gov. Jerry Brown about the increase in gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees and the response, at times, grew testy.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Bill Gates invests $80 million to build Arizona smart city

Living in the Future

Bill Gates invests $80 million to build Arizona smart city
"He is really rich and I am told there will be free banannas. That is why we moved here. Now look smart."

by Matt McFarland @mattmcfarlandNovember 13, 2017: 2:17 PM ET

Bill Gates wants to build a futuristic community in Arizona.

A group associated with a Gates investment company has invested $80 million in a high-tech planned development outside Phoenix.

The community in Belmont will be designed around high-speed networks, autonomous vehicles, high-speed digital networks, data centers, new manufacturing technologies and autonomous logistics hubs.

It's unclear how much former Microsoft CEO Gates, who owns Belmont's parent company Cascade Investment, will be involved in the effort.

Belmont Partners, the Arizona-based real investment group that's leading the project, said it will be similar in size to nearby Tempe, Arizona, which has a population of 182,000.

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"Envisioning future infrastructure from scratch is far easier and more cost efficient than retrofitting an existing urban fabric," Grady Gammage, a spokesman for the venture said in the statement.

Arizona has a reputation as being a technology-friendly state. Several major players in the autonomous vehicle industry -- Waymo, Uber and Intel -- are testing their innovations in the state.

The investment is the latest example of excitement surrounding rebuilding cities from the ground up with a digital mind-set.

Related: Saudia Arabia wants to build a $500 billion mega-city spanning three countries

But developing a new city or even a neighborhood isn't cheap. This October Sidewalk Labs, the urban innovation arm of Google's parent company Alphabet, committed $50 million for the initial phase of planning and pilot testing a Toronto neighborhood development.

It's designed as a model neighborhood for the 21st century, with reduced pollution, shortened commutes, safer streets and better weather. Transportation will be designed around shared electric vehicles, walking and biking. More flexible zoning will blend commercial, industrial and residential areas.

Only a week later after the Toronto announcement, Saudia Arabia announced plans to invest $500 billion in a new global hub meant to push the boundaries of innovation and exemplify the future of civilization.

The smart cities trend has gained momentum as Silicon Valley's disruptors shift their focus to transportation innovations such as autonomous vehicles and ridesharing services.

Belmont's developers are counting on the expected development of Interstate 11, which will serve the area, to boost development. But right now, the company is not rushing to move forward.

"This is a very long term, very patient investment," Gammage told CNN Tech.

Happy Rainy Monday-"Dueling Banjos"- on UKULELE! -Kris Fuchigami

Is Silicon Valley Building the Infrastructure for a Police State?

New AI tools could empower the government to violate our civil liberties.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Are Your Kids Too Fragile? How to Make the Next Generation More Resilient.

If you're a parent of a child under the age of 12, here's a question for you: When is the last time you let them walk to school by themselves, have an unscheduled play date, or—God forbid!—let them to go to the store to pick up a gallon of milk by themselves?

Daly’s cynical bill shows why public-sector abuses are rampant

Daly’s cynical bill shows why public-sector abuses are rampant

Photo by David Becker/Getty ImagesOrange County Sheriff deputies Brandon Mundy (left) and Garrett Eggert (on the ground) assist Las Vegas police officers on the street outside the Route 91 Harvest country music festival grounds after an active shooter was reported around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
By STEVEN GREENHUT | Orange County Register
PUBLISHED: November 5, 2017 at 6:39 pm | UPDATED: November 5, 2017 at 7:43 pm

SACRAMENTO – Whenever I write about some of the absurd benefits and gamesmanship that flourish within California’s public sector, people write back in disbelief. They have no idea the many special payments and protections afforded to the state’s government employees – the types of things that virtually no one in the private sector would expect to receive.

I’m not referring to the generous retirement plans, which allow “public safety” workers to retire at age 50 with 90 percent or more of their final three years’ pay and many miscellaneous employees to retire at age 57 with 82 percent of their pay. Or the Cadillac-style medical benefits.

Many people know about those things, especially given the state’s growing pension debt and the “crowding out” of public services caused by these unsustainably costly programs. But what about the bizarre stuff that somehow has become law?

For instance, newspapers used the term “chief’s disease,” which refers to the way high-ranking California police officials often retire with a disability – thus protecting half of their income from taxes. Disabilities have become another entitlement, whereby some normal ailments that afflict our aging bodies can become a drain on the public till.

Then there are the so-called “presumptions.” If, say, after an aged retired firefighter is diagnosed with cancer it’s presumed to be caused by the job, thus opening up a storehouse of publicly funded benefits. There are “donning and doffing” rules, whereby law-enforcement officials may be paid for their time putting on and taking off their uniforms. Did you know that the state’s billboard inspectors were added in 2002 to the category of public-safety officials, thus enabling them to retire with the most generous pension packages?

There are myriad – and perfectly legal – pension-spiking gimmicks that, say, provide special “management pay” for managers, or give librarians extra pay for helping library patrons, or government-employed gardeners salary boosts for working on sprinkler systems. These are the normal part of their job descriptions, but thanks to various little-known laws these employees get to inflate their final salary and boost their lifelong pensions.

News reports are filled with stories of public employees who receive massive payouts thanks to “Deferred Retirement Option Plans” and overtime pay, and public agencies that are forced to rehire employees (often with back pay and sometimes settlements) who were accused of behaving in a less-than-honorable manner.

How on Earth do these deals get perpetrated? Why can’t California officials get control of costs and waste that undermine the effectiveness of the state’s bureaucracies?

Those are the usual questions. The simple answer is that the state’s politically powerful public-sector unions are like rust. They never sleep. They continually push for new benefits – and oppose reforms to old ones – in the state Legislature and within city councils. Most of these are approved quietly, with little media coverage and even less opposition. No one wants to go on record opposing police officers, teachers or other public servants. No sane politician wants to incur their unions’ wrath come Election Day. It’s easier to give in.

But examples always are illustrative. Two weeks ago, I wrote about four Orange County deputies who had attended the Jason Aldean concert in Las Vegas on their personal time. When the gunman began firing on the crowd, the officers behaved the way many people behaved that day. They used their policing skills to help out fellow concert-goers. Good for them.

But unlike other people who did what they could with their own training and skills, these officers – and some others in different Southern California agencies – filed workers’ compensation claims with their home counties to receive additional leave and medical benefits because of injuries they sustained during that horrific event. Indeed, Tom Dominguez, president of the Orange County deputies union, told the Orange County Register that he traveled to Las Vegas after the shooting and while there he encouraged deputies who helped others to file claims.

“If they deny the claims, then the message that they’re sending to their peace officers is not to take action when it is certainly warranted,” Dominguez told the newspaper. That struck this columnist as a cynical statement, and something that could undermine the very concept of public service.

Assemblyman Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, has since proven that cynicism isn’t reserved for union officials. He told the Register this week that he plans to introduce legislation to require such compensation for off-duty officers involved in out-of-state crimes after the Orange County Board of Supervisors denied the deputies’ claims. If passed, it would apply retroactively.

The county obviously did the right thing given that these officers were not on duty and were in Nevada, not California. But there’s little doubt his measure will move through the Legislature as union-friendly Democrats and law-and-order Republicans trip over themselves to prove their generosity with taxpayers’ funds.

And that is a primer on how these things happen. It’s time to suspend disbelief.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. He was a Register editorial writer from 1998 to 2009. Write to him at