To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Sunday, August 11, 2013

New Company Allows Organizations To Hire Fake Protesters


Michael Lotfi, August 9, 2013

So, no one supports your cause? No problem. You can hire supporters- even protesters. A company started last October by 22-year-old Adam Swart provides just this service.  In a telephone interview I spoke with Swart about his new found success. “I came up with the idea on a visit to Estonia,” says Swart. At the airport, Swart says he saw a man who was being swarmed by a crowd of excited onlookers. He tells me, “I thought- Why can’t I have that kind of attention?” And so, Swart’s company, Crowds on Demand, was born.

Swart says that business is doing extremely well. According to their website, their office is located in a swanky downtown LA office suite. He says his biggest client so far was a $10k contract, but he would not disclose the client. Not bad for a 22-year-old kid. “We do most of our business through word of mouth. We are able to provide our customers with top-notch service, so they spread the word to other potential clients,” says Swart.

When a reporter asked  a paid protester what this protest was for- he told the reporter, "It's a day to ban guns, I think." -The Event was actually for a new movement called "Purge Day".
When a reporter asked a paid protester in the above image what this protest was for- he told the reporter, “It’s a day to ban guns, I think.”
-The Event was actually for a new movement called “Purge Day” dealing with mental illness.

Swart says the company does a lot of work in the political realm. He continues to say that they also do work for non-profits and private industries. He cites one recent client, an online marketing group named Virurl, that his company was hired for. According to Swart, having protesters at a convention where Virurl was present increased the company’s revenues by 500%. Apparently the protesters had been hired by Virurl to act against a form of marketing,  and Virurl provided a solution to this avenue of marketing. Multiple VIPs were at the convention, and Virurl stuck out when its employees began to show the solution to the protesters concerns to VIPs in the marketing industry.

Swart says that he pays his employees around $15/hour and has a solid staff. He continues, “We are operational in 5 major cities. However, if a big event is proposed then we have been known to travel in order to fulfill our customers demands. We’ve done business in New York, Washington D.C. and Vegas.”

He says that there are many critics, but he enjoys what he does and feels that he is contributing to society. When asked if he ever turns an organization away because of an ideological difference he says that clients are almost never turned away unless they are requesting his company breaks the law.
When I asked Swart whether his company was catering to more liberal, or conservative clients he was unwilling to give a clear answer. Swart seemed to me like a shining star of free market capitalism, so I asked him where he stood on it.
Swarts responded:
“I’m a huge fan of free market capitalism! I believe that the government must foster business and encourage innovation. Government needs to encourage people to innovate… Our government plays a vital role in job production and innovation of technology.”
Although Swart’s understanding of the free market is off-base, I feel perhaps he will develop a greater understanding of it as he matures. Whether you agree with his tactics or not- it is clear that there was a demand, and this young man supplied it.
-Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Despite Doubts, The Tattler Sunday News Returns


August 11, 2013


 So it isn't just in Sierra Madre?

(Mod: I have had some serious doubts about this Sunday News idea. I really have. Sunday is a day when most people are off doing other things, and traffic here on this site falls off rather markedly. Obviously The Tattler is a work-a-day production killer, something a lot of people read on their office computers when they should be tabulating sales figures, or the amount of sodas sold at lunch. Or something. But give people a day off to go and visit Uncle Jack Tom and Aunt Franny with the kids, and they're out of here. So what is the point, I ask. Yet, there are those who do read this blog on Sundays, and though their numbers are a bit less, they seem to like our near weekly feature. So for now I'm sticking with those who stick with me. Here's the news:

Number of Americans Renouncing Citizenship Surges - Expert Says 2013 on Pace to See Highest Number of U.S. Expatriations Ever (Wall Street Journal - link): The number of U.S. taxpayers renouncing citizenship or permanent-resident status surged to a record high in the second quarter, as new laws aimed at cracking down on overseas assets increase the cost of complying and the risk of a taxpayer misstep.

A total of 1,130 names appeared on the latest list of renunciations from the Internal Revenue Service, according to Andrew Mitchel, a tax lawyer in Centerbrook, Conn., who tracks the data. That is far above the previous high of 679, set in the first quarter, and more than were reported in all of 2012.

Taxpayers aren't required to explain the move, but experts said the recent rise is likely due to tougher laws and enforcement.

"The IRS crackdown on U.S. taxpayers living abroad seems to be having an effect," said Mr. Mitchel.

The IRS declined comment.

(Mod: Here is a marginally related question. What if you want to live in the United States, but don't wish to remain a citizen? Are you then issued a green card? And if not, where do they send people who have lived here all their lives?)

Should bond measures only need 55% voter percent support instead of two-thirds majority? (KPCC - link): In the last Los Angeles city election, a bond measure to raise money for transit projects failed to pass by a hair. Measure J secured 64.72% of the vote, but needed 66.6%. State law requires local bond measures to have two-thirds of the vote, but some lawmakers want to change that. They argue city infrastructure is crumbling because  tax-raising efforts are hamstrung by too high a threshold for voter support.

One lawmaker in particular is rather passionate. Yesterday [WED], City Councilman Bob Blumenfield won support of L.A. City Council to support passage of ACA 8. The Sacramento bill was authored by Blumenfield during his time in the California State Legislature.

If it passes the Senate, it would place a measure on the November 2014 ballot to reduce the threshold for passage of local infrastructure bond measures to 55%. Why is two-thirds the current standard for such measures?

(Mod: It was actually a Los Angeles County measure, but why quibble. Like the pols in this town that want a do-over vote on Measure U, the L.A. County folks just can't bear the thought that taxpayers denied them even more money than they take now. Obviously anything that would diminish our ability to stop tax increases in this vastly corrupt county would need to be stopped.)

Feinstein: You’re Not a Real Journalist Unless You Draw a Salary (InfoWars - link): California Senator Dianne Feinstein has proposed an amendment to the Media Shield Law – an irrelevant law ignoring protection already afforded by the First Amendment – that would limit the law’s protection only to “real reporters,” not bloggers and other upstart alternative media types.

A real reporter, declared Madame Feinstein during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, is “a salaried agent” of a media company like the New York Times or ABC News, not a shoestring operation with volunteers and writers who are not paid.

Feinstein voiced her concern “that the current version of the bill would grant a special privilege to people who aren’t really reporters at all, who have no professional qualifications,” like bloggers and citizen journalists.

Last week, Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, worried the Shield Law, if passed, would be used to protect whistleblowers and others who ferret out government corruption.

“The world has changed. We’re very careful in this bill to distinguish journalists from those who shouldn’t be protected, WikiLeaks and all those, and we’ve ensured that,” Schumer said. “But there are people who write and do real journalism, in different ways than we’re used to. They should not be excluded from this bill.”

The bill moving through Congress would require the Justice Department to notify reporters it decides to monitor. The law would allow Justice Department officials to delay notice for a period of 45 days. In addition, it would permit the DOJ to ask for an extension of 45 days.

(Mod: Hey, thanks Diane! The Tattler loves you, too! No, really!)

Why Downtown Growth Hinges on Water (Los Angeles Downtown News - link): Today, the Downtown area bounded by the freeways and the Los Angeles River supports about 450,000 workers and residents.

If every last square foot of property was built to the maximum height and density allowed by the city, the same area could hold 4.3 million people.

That’s among the core findings of Capacity, a study put together by Downtown-based architecture firm Gensler and students from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

While Gensler found that Downtown could theoretically increase its population by a scale of 10, the report, which is available in an eight-minute online video that you can view below, shows why the legally allowable density is practically impossible.

The maximum build-out would add the equivalent of 360 Burj Khalifas (the tallest building in the world, in Dubai) to Downtown. While that prospect might put a sparkle in the eye of density devotees, the Gensler study argues that the demands of that population could not be supported.

“I think the bottom line is that maximum density as defined by the city is really unachievable,” said Shawn Gehle, a design director at Gensler who co-led the Capacity study. “There’s a resource demand by that population that could not be met by current infrastructure or utilities.”

According to the study, current electricity resources could support up to 2.6 million residents and workers. But when the study factors in the consumption of an even more precious resource — water — the population ceiling drops to 1.36 million.

(Mod: Funny how the big development crowd everywhere can't seem to get their heads around the water problem. Either that or they just don't give a damn.)

City of Sierra Madre is hiring: Part-time Code Enforcement - Closes 09.09.13 (City of Sierra Madre - link): Under general supervision, serves as the City's Code Enforcement Officer, enforcing a variety of occupancy, health, safety, public nuisance, zoning and land use regulations, and related codes and ordinances; inspects suspected violations and takes action as necessary.

The following duties are normal for this position. These are not to be construed as exclusive or all-inclusive.  Other duties may be required and assigned.

- Interprets and explains code provisions to property owners and others requiring information; responds to requests for service; responds to complaints of alleged violations;

- Enforces a variety of occupancy, health, safety, public nuisance, zoning, building and land use regulations; inspects suspected violations and takes action as necessary;

- Enforces and administers City ordinances with regard to storage of vehicles, non-conforming land uses, commercial signing, and related codes and ordinances;

- Issues citations to those in violation of codes, health, safety, public nuisance, zoning and land use ordinances and regulations;

- Coordinates the enforcement activities of the County Health Services with the appropriate City departments;

- Testifies in court, as required;

- Provides information to citizens and responds to inquiries at a public counter and over the telephone;

- Performs other related duties as required.

(Mod: This one pays $18.79 to $22.84. Not bad for part time. Though I cannot figure how you'd cram all of that into 20 or so hours a week. Unless you'd just go fishing, of course.)

More than 100,000 want to go to Mars and not return, project says (CNN Mexico - link): More than 100,000 people are eager to make themselves at home on another planet. They've applied for a one-way trip to Mars, hoping to be chosen to spend the rest of their lives on uncharted territory, according to an organization planning the manned missions.

The Mars One project wants to colonize the red planet, beginning in 2022. There are financial and practical questions about this venture that haven't been clarified. Will there be enough money? Will people really be able to survive on Mars? But these haven't stopped some 30,000 Americans from signing up.

You can see some of the candidates on the project's website, but they're not the only ones who have applied, said Bas Lansdorp, Mars One CEO and co-founder.

"There is also a very large number of people who are still working on their profile, so either they have decided not to pay the application fee, or they are still making their video or they're still filling out the questionnaire or their resume. So the people that you can see online are only the ones that have finished and who have set their profiles as public," Lansdorp said.

The entrepreneur did not specify how many have paid the fees, completed their profiles and configured them as private.

(Mod: The fees are really quite reasonable. $38 for a U.S. resident. And there are some people who really should sign up for this. But here is my question. What if you do go to Mars, but then decide you don't like it very much and want to come back?)

A social-equity 'emergency?' (Marin Voice - link): DID YOU KNOW you are living in fear? It's true. According to Marin Grassroots, "the majority of Marin residents are increasingly in fear of participating in local government decisions ..."

So, evidently, if you are not in that majority, feeling actual fear, there is something wrong with you. In fact, you might be a racist. This is the simplistic rhetoric of a dogmatic group that tolerates no dissent. Anyone who disagrees with them is a racist. The parallels to McCarthyism are unmistakable.

Marin Grassroots' press conference took Marin residents to task for daring to differ with the view that Marin needs to be urbanized (i.e. high density city-style housing). Indeed, they are welcome to their view. But they engage in projection, seeing their own intolerance only in the other side.

By example, if you are among those who want to maintain Marin as the wonderful place it is, you are a "lynch mob." It is a powerful phrase used by Grassroots' director, John Young. What an outrage to use such a heinous phrase, comparing political opponents to murderers.

And in no shortage of irony, this group does this to condemn what they feel is a lack of civility in debate.

Marin Grassroots' statement cites "implicit racial threats," yet inexplicably fails to specify any threat allegedly made. You see, Mr. Young says he wrote to Gov. Jerry Brown, asking him to literally declare a state of emergency for Marin.

(If you don't see the emergency, perhaps you forgot that a majority of us are living in fear.)

Mr. Young claims this is not a political stunt. Presumably he understands that a state of emergency is a funding measure for counties stricken by devastation. Mr. Young should tell us how much money he seeks and who gets it.

It is understandable that so many of our neighbors here in Marin are very upset about a regional government insisting we start converting from suburb to mini city. The outrage comes when plans are made with little or no publicity.

Most San Rafael residents, even today, don't know that the Civic Center Station Area Plan creates a virtual Northgate City, authorizing five stories at Northgate Mall and Northgate III, putting apartment houses on top of stores. Other locations go to five stories, too.

Supervisor Susan Adams held a meeting to hear constituents' concerns, but used half of the allotted time to lecture the audience — instead of listening. Naturally, people got angry.

In contrast, San Rafael Mayor Gary Phillips held a meeting, made brief welcoming remarks and then stopped talking, saying he wanted to hear from us.

While there were occasional outbursts in reaction to claims that SMART had passed in Marin County (in Marin, SMART was voted down, failing to win a two-thirds majority), it was mostly a proper meeting. Some speakers were angry, but their presentations were orderly.

Formerly an ACLU regional board member, I thought I was a liberal Democrat. But after I opposed Plan Bay Area, a Marin Grassroots hitman published a photo of me, captioned to associate me with the Tea Party.

Marin Grassroots is hypocrisy of the highest order, but great political theater. Its "glass house" is a wall of mirrors.

Randy Warren is a San Rafael lawyer. He is running for City Council on November's ballot.

(Mod: Huh. Sounds an awful lot like Joe Mosca's 2010 civility campaign.)

OK, that is more than enough for today.