Monday, May 7, 2007

Creative Wallpaper...

I Support The Occupation Of Iraq, But I Don't Support Our Troops

By James W. Henley
February 23, 2005 | Issue 41•08

The U.S. went to war in Iraq to remove an evil and dangerous political
adversary from power. Now that we have done that, the American troops
must remain in Iraq until the country is a fully functioning democracy,
able to spark change throughout the entire Middle East. While I find
this obvious, there are still a lot of people in our country who fail
to grasp it. I support Bush-administration foreign-policy goals, but I
stand firmly against the individual men and women on the ground in the
Persian Gulf.

Yes, occupying Iraq does require troops, but they are there for one
reason and one reason only: to carry out the orders of the U.S. Defense
Department. As far as their overall importance goes, they are no more
worthy of our consideration than a box of nails. Ribbons and banners in
ostensible "support" of the troops miss the whole point of the
invasion, which is to gain a strategic hold over that volatile and
lucrative geopolitical region.

Need I remind the reader that it is our flag, not the troops, that we
salute? It is our nation-state, not a bunch of 20-year-olds in
parachute pants, that deserves our allegiance. As a patriot and true
American, my heart sings at the thought of the Pentagon, and the
zealous, calculating measures undertaken by the proud military
bureaucracy of this great superpower. I feel a surge of pride when I
think about our high-tech GBU laser-guided bombs, capable of carrying a
2,000-pound warhead. I tied a ribbon around my tree for the safe return
of our nation's F-16s, because our military aircraft are instrumental
to finishing our work in Iraq. And on the back of my car, I have a
sticker stating my support for the CIA's ongoing efforts in Iraq.

I support the occupation, and the occupation alone, because when we
start to support the troops, we pave the way for irrelevant concerns
about their families back at home. Before you know it, questions about
who is and isn't going to be home in time for Christmas will be
interfering with the crucial decision-making process of our

I'd like to ask those currently trumpeting their support for the troops
a question: Have you ever actually met any of these soldiers in person?
Well, I have, and believe me, they are no more impressive than any
other low-level functionary of a large institution.

In all honesty, my soul swells with pride at the thought of the
military-strategy papers and cost-analysis reports in which the troops
are represented as numerical figures. But, as for the men and
women—well, in almost every respect, they are average. Although they
are no less intelligent than any other American, it is certainly fair
to say they lack the ability to devise the complex strategies and
tactics to manage their own divisions, much less grasp the nuanced
reasons for their deployment.

It is ridiculous that my "heart" is somehow morally or ethically
obliged to "go out" to the troops. In fact, had the troops not been put
to productive labor by the sheer might and institutional authority of
the U.S. military, a good number of them would be sitting around bars,
drinking and gambling. In short, we shouldn't view the troops as
objects of sympathy, because their very contribution to our society is
their ability to carry out simple commands on a battlefield.

Allow me to pursue this from a more personal angle. I have a son in the
military. If I may say so, we've never gotten along particularly well.
Frankly, he's been a bit of a disappointment to his mother and me.
Nevertheless, he is our flesh and blood and always will be, and we wish
him no harm. So I speak from a position of personal experience when I
say that, while I do not wish death for any of the troops, death tolls
should not be our greatest concern. All that matters is the pursuit of
the foreign-policy goals of this great land, the land I love. America.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Ya Gotta Have Faith...

Tired of the same old time religion?

Principia Discordia OR How I Found Goddess And What I Did To Her When I Found Her
Wherein is Explained
Absolutely Everything Worth Knowing
About Absolutely Anything

A Discordian is Required during his early Illumination to Go Off Alone & Partake Joyously of a Hot Dog on a Friday; this Devotive Ceremony to Remonstrate against the popular Paganisms of the Day: of Catholic Christendom (no meat on Friday), of Judaism (no meat of Pork), of Hindic Peoples (no meat of Beef), of Buddhists (no meat of animal), and of Discordians (no Hot Dog Buns).

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Culver City Land Sale to Developer Halted by Court

Culver City News, April 19, 2007

Chance to Regroup Over Land Sale is Applauded
By Gary Walker

to read more about the judge's ruling,

(April 19) A judicial finding earlier this month that the City Council had ignored its responsibility to conduct proper environmental review before selling the Warner Parking Lot last year to developer Frederick Smith brought a variety of reactions from residents and business owners of the Hayden Tract, along with state environmental organizations this week.

"I was very happy when I heard about [the court’s decision]," said Sadie Cerda, a long-time homeowner who lives on Schaefer Street.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe ruled on April 6 that the council had violated the California Environmental Quality Act when it sold the Warner lot to Smith for approximately $5.5 million on March 27 last year without conducting proper environmental studies. Smith, a high profile, award-winning developer with several business holdings in the Hayden Tract, has had designs on the lot for several years. He hopes to build a massive multi-use, state-of-the art theater complex on the site of the parking lot.

Then-Mayor Albert Vera, then-Vice Mayor Gary Silbiger and council members Alan Corlin and Carol Gross voted for the sale. Council member Steve Rose was adamantly opposed.

Yaffe found that the proposed development was indeed a project, despite the city’s claims to the contrary. "There is a nexus between the [proposed] development and this property," the judge announced to attorneys representing Smith, Culver City and 8461Warner Drive, the petitioner in the lawsuit. He then asked James Repking, the attorney for 8461 Warner, to submit a writ in judgment requesting what his client would like the eventual outcome to be. Yaffe invited the other parties’ lawyers to submit their respective objections to the petitioner’s requests.

The court will render a ruling in the next few weeks on what solutions it will impose on the city for its attempt to evade environmental scrutiny. Yaffe will consider the options of ordering Culver City to conduct proper CEQA review or nullifying the sale in its entirety. Repking, an associate at Cox, Castle & Nicholson in Century City, said after the hearing that he would ask the court to invalidate the sale.

Because the council circumvented CEQA regulations, "Any approvals that they have made on the project have to be corrected...or the sale should be nullified," said Rex Frankel, director of the Ballona Ecosystem Education Project, an environmental activist group.

Al Luber, the proprietor of Santa Monica Gymnasium, learned of the court’s decision from a relative. "To me, it looked like [the city council] were trying to avoid CEQA," he said. "My feeling was that they seemed a little bit arrogant [during the council meeting last year when the lot was sold]. It seemed like they had their minds made up."

Jeffery Palmer, who owns several properties in the business district, did not follow the sale of the lot and the ensuing litigation as much as other Hayden Tract merchants did. "Other property owners informed me about [the sale of the lot to Smith]," he said this week during a telephone interview. Palmer, whose buildings have private parking for clients, nevertheless realizes what losing the Warner lot would mean to many of the business people in the Hayden Tract. "A number of them are dependent on the lot for parking, and without it, parking could be a problem," he said.

Luber said that he and other Hayden Tract merchants recently received notice that Smith will soon raise the parking fees at the Warner lot. The parking area at one time was frequently utilized to almost maximum capacity, but "now its seems like it’s half-empty most of the time," he noted.

Yaffe, a CEQA jurist, underscored the local government’s failure to conduct any hearings for interested parties on the project prior to Smith’s purchase of the lot in his remarks during and after the hearing. "[Culver City] concedes that the development for which its purchaser is buying the property, will potentially have a significant effect upon the environment, but its public officials do not wish to permit the public participation required by CEQA to the developer," the judge wrote in his judicial order. "Such desire on the part of the public officials of the city of Culver City is not consistent with the basic purpose of CEQA."

"CEQA is all about revealing the impact of a development to the politicians and to the public," said Frankel. "It should always be an open process."

Former Community Development Director Susan Evans was the first city official to claim that no development existed when the council deliberated selling the parking lot at a March council meeting last year. "The action before the city council tonight does not constitute consideration of project. A project is not before the council tonight. It is a straight land sale...It doesn’t have anything to do with redeveloping this property," she repeatedly told the council.

Shortly thereafter, Murray Kane, a veteran redevelopment and real estate lawyer who advises Culver City on land use matters, said that the city’s legislative body could legally allow Smith to purchase the property without CEQA review. "The state legislature has given authority for the establishment of guidelines creating categorical exemptions to compliance with environmental review," the attorney assured the council. Because selling the parking lot amounted to a "sale of surplus city land," the council had "broad discretion to dispose of city property for the benefit of the community," Kane claimed.

Donald Johnson, an attorney representing Culver City, argued at the CEQA hearing before Yaffe that the city sold Smith the lot as a "straight land sale," without any knowledge or expectation that the developer would seek to construct a development at the site. "It’s a plain old generic purchase and sale agreement," the lawyer argued. Johnson is a senior counsel at Kane, Ballmer and Berkman, where Kane is a partner.

"Any time that a government agency makes a decision in secret that benefits a private developer and not the public, that is a serious violation of CEQA," charged Frankel, whose organization contested parts of the Playa Vista development and takes credit for scaling back the condominium project.

CEQA is the landmark state law that functions as a system of checks and balances for land use development and management decisions in California. Enacted in 1970, it is more stringent than environmental laws in most other states, often extending beyond federal statutes established under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Some of the most basic tenets of the environmental statute are to:

(1) Inform governmental decision-makers and the public about the potential, significant environmental effects of proposed activities.

(2) Identify the ways that environmental damage can be avoided or significantly reduced.

(3) Prevent significant, avoidable damage to the environment by requiring changes in projects through the use of alternatives or mitigation measures when the governmental agency finds the changes to be feasible.

(4) Disclose to the public the reasons why a governmental agency approved the project in the manner the agency chose if significant environmental effects are involved.

"CEQA is the equivalent of an environmental California Bill of Rights," says Rico Mastrodonato, the director of the Northern California branch of the state League of Conservation Voters. "It ensures that public participation is into taken account when a project can have an impact on the health of a neighborhood.

"Without CEQA, the only thing that’s taken into account are the economic decisions of a project," Mastrodonato continued. "That’s why CEQA is absolutely essential in helping an agency make responsible land use decisions. It’s really not rocket science."

Increased traffic congestion has surfaced as one of the most important concerns for residents of Rancho Higuera and other east Culver City neighborhoods who fear that will be one of the legacies of the proposed entertainment complex. Automobile accidents over a four-year period, including a fatality that claimed the life of a young teacher at the Turning Point School, have left homeowners like Cerda anxious about development that will exacerbate an already hazardous situation in the neighborhood. "There’s already more traffic than before on our residential streets, and people are always speeding down National Boulevard," she said. "It’s mind-boggling to think that [the city] would allow such a large project here, with other developments on the way and the [Mid-Cities Exposition light rail] coming to National.

"We were never notified about the project or the parking lot sale, so our feelings were never considered," Cerda added.

Mastrodonato’s organization is sensitive to homeowners like Cerda’s concerns. "One of the major tenets of CEQA is ensuring that the public have an opportunity to have input on a development that has the potential to affect their neighborhood," the director reiterated.

While he realizes that environmental review must take place when it is mandated, Palmer thinks that a project like the Conjunctive Points Theater Complex – the name that Smith has chosen for his proposed development – could be a plus for the commercial district. "It’s possible that it could be very beneficial to the Hayden Tract," he believes. "It could bring more tax revenues and greater economic vitality to the area."

And potentially more cars, density and air pollution, say residents who live near the planned development. Over the last several months, planning and traffic engineers from other Westside cities were queried about significant aspects of the sale and how their cities approach projects that will impact on nearby businesses and residences. "In Beverly Hills, I don’t think that our city council would accept a project of that size without an EIR," Bijan Vaziri, chief traffic engineer in Beverly Hills, told the News last October.

"We try to look at the scope, the nature and the size of a project when planning a traffic study," Beth Rolandson, Santa Monica’s senior transportation engineer said in reference to how her city anticipates added automobile congestion brought about by a new development.

Both Mastrodonato and Frankel emphasized that governmental agencies are mandated to notify and encourage affected residents, businesses and interested groups to participate in public hearings prior to the approval of a project, and many Southland cities take public participation when planning new development projects very seriously. "In Santa Monica, there have been instances where the council has directed our staff to go back and address mitigation issues if the community feels that their concerns have not been adequately addressed before they approve a project," Rolandson noted.

While he is a strong believer in the groundbreaking environmental state law, Mastrodonato feels that there may be some areas where CEQA can be slightly altered. "I think that it’s reasonable to say that CEQA guidelines can be reviewed and possibly streamlined," he said, citing the complaints of developers and some agencies that environmental review can sometimes be very lengthy and can cause delays in building new developments. "But while there are reasonable arguments that can be made, there is no question that CEQA is an absolutely necessary tool for smart [city] planning."

Frankel concurs. "Compliance with CEQA is a sacred part of the development process," he said. "Any attempt to thwart public participation is a very serious violation of CEQA, and can have very serious consequences."

Sunday, March 25, 2007

other states' residents say Californians suck

Ex-Californians draw Westerners' ire

LAS VEGAS — It's dead inside Favorites bar this afternoon, where the propped-open door spills a bit of light onto the ancient Elvis pin ball machine and the grumpy man puffing on a cigarette in front of the video poker machine.

There's no food here, unless you count the vending machine against the green wall. Owner Ray Medrano had to make a choice: Close the kitchen or ban smoking in the joint altogether. His customers love their smokes more than their food, so the kitchen lost.

For Medrano, there's only one despicable group of people to blame for Nevada passing a smoking ban that eliminates smoking in restaurants and bars that also serve food: Californians.

"California has a negative influence on our society," he said, glancing around as cigarette smoke fills the stuffy place. "They should keep their world in their world."

It's a popular refrain from many in the West. When Californians move in, it's always their fault when things change. They infect the rest of the region with their politics and questionable driving, and make housing prices soar.

Sure, it's been 30 years since Oregonians first slapped "Don't Californicate Oregon" bumper stickers on their cars, but, like the song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Californication" is still alive and well.

"I think it's just such a common desire to say things were really calm and great here and then these people came in," said Patty Limerick, history professor and faculty director of the University of Colorado's Center of the American West.

Since 1991, the number of Californians moving out topped the number of people moving in to the state. And where do they go? The top five states Californians moved to between 2000 and 2005 were Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Washington and Oregon, according to William Frey, population expert for the Brookings Institution.

For many Californians, they want what eludes them in their state — open space, clean air and not so much traffic. So they sell their houses for a chunk of change, move somewhere else in the West, buy a bigger house and start driving up the housing prices, much to the dismay of locals.

Sherrie Watson has lived in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, since she was 16 and is quite fed up with Californians.

"They complain how cold it is. And they just moved here because it is cheaper and to 'get away,' but then they keep saying things like, 'We did it in California this way, so why don't you change?' "

"They came here because they liked it the way is was when they visited, but then they want to change it. I don't get it," she said.

Picking on Californians has almost become a sport, with people trying to come up with the catchiest slogans or blogging about how annoying Golden Staters are.

Montanan Tom Heatherington runs a website called that sells T-shirts and bumper stickers that say: "Montana sucks. Now go home and tell all your friends."

The products aren't specifically aimed at Californians, but, let's just say the point is taken.

"Most people just have this state of mind about Californians being, how shall I say it — different — than everybody else," Heatherington said politely.

Shirley Vanderstelt, 34, is an ex-Californian who moved to Bozemon, Mont., four years ago. Mostly, she has felt welcome, but "there is definitely an underlying feeling of dislike for most Californians.

"I generally tell people where I grew up, then immediately follow that with 'I'm not one of THOSE Californians' because it usually starts with rolling of the eyes, a sigh and shaking of the head."

When John Wilker and his wife moved from Riverside, Calif., to Highlands Ranch, Colo., in 2005, they were told to change their license plates quickly or they would be run off the road.

A joke?

Maybe, but that resentment and clash of cultures is very real.

For many Westerners, California is seen as a state of excess and an example of how things shouldn't be done. (These also are the people who elected a movie star as their governor.)

Combine that with the frontier West, where residents aren't so interested in a lot of government control over how they behave, and therein lies the problem.

Yes, Californians drive up housing costs, and some can even be blamed for falling prices because of the many investors who snapped up cheap houses, then wanted to sell, creating too much inventory in cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix. Many believe those cities are becoming suburbs of Los Angeles.

"Home prices go up and we all blame Californians," said Jay Butler, director of Realty Studies at Arizona State University Polytechnic. "They are sort of like the West Coast version of the New Yorkers. They have the attitude."

But what about politics? Are Californians starting to turn the West more blue?

"I think the Democratic Party is counting on it," Frey said. "If they shifted just a little bit in the last election, (they) could have elected a Democratic president."

Colorado has gone from red to blue in the last four years, something ex-Californians may have had a hand in, said independent pollster Floyd Ciruli. But really the change just indicates what is happening in the rest of the country, he said.

Now, about that smoking ban. Nevada, where gambling and smoking are almost one in the same, previously had one of the nation's least restrictive smoking laws. Now there's no smoking in restaurants, bars that serve food or around slot machines in grocery stores or gas stations.

Connie Feulner is a bartender at Jake's Bar in Las Vegas. When customers get to talking about the smoking ban that passed last November, she keeps mum. Don't tell the customers, but she used to live in California.

"Damn Californians," she said, repeating a familiar complaint. "All their fault, all the time."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Rail-roaded into paving open spaces?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Developers Laugh While Rail and Park Advocates Fight

L.A.Times Columnist Pits Light Rail Advocates Against Open Space Protectors;

We Can Have Both.

(NOTE: Steve Lopez's column on !/28/2007 attacked folks who want to preserve open space because they want the second phase of the Exposition light rail project to run along the noisy Venice and Sepulveda Blvds., instead of through the only remaining open space in a quiet neighborhood. Rather than blame big oil companies for wrecking L.A.'s Pacific Electric rail system in the 1950's, Lopez pitted the average folks of L.A. against each other.)

Here's our view on this:

The issue here is about a choice between putting the Expo rail on two wide and noisy streets (Venice and Sepulveda that could actually encourage existing drivers on those streets to take the rail and not drive), ---or putting the rail on a vacant, green strip in a quiet neighborhood that could just as well become a park and community gardens. But no, instead of supporting the first route I mentioned, you want to waste a lot of energy bashing on residents of Cheviot Hills. In the end, we will get a rail from downtown to the sea. For the record, I don't live anywhere near Cheviot Hills; I live in Westchester next to the freeway, so I get loud traffic noise 24 hours a day from the freeway on the north and from booming jets at LAX on the south. I have sympathy for residents along the Gold line who hear the train horns around the clock. Maybe those on this blog who have been aroused to want to lynch the leaders of residents groups in Cheviot Hills don't live next to the noisy project they are supporting. This is the essence of the hypocricy behind the use of the phrase NIMBY.

What's most important, in my mind, beyond fixing the traffic mess and cleaning up the Bay, is that we need to preserve unpaved open spaces in this concrete monstropolis any way that we can. When there is an alternative to a huge public works project that will save open space and still solve a public need, than we are fools if we don't try to do both. We can have a superb public rail system here again; we can also create and preserve open spaces in this sea of concrete. But when we resort to NIMBY name-calling, we are using the language of the developers and the despoilers of this great city to divide, a propaganda trick that has led to the mess we are in today.

I take issue with Lopez's claim that "There's no preexisting railroad right of way along Venice Blvd." Of course there is! That's why Venice is so wide and why the sidewalks and parkways are so wide: because there used to be a rail line running down the middle. Of course, there's enough room to put a light rail there, and we do own the land!

If we really want to lessen the traffic mess at Century City, the rail line needs to be IN Century City. For example, Santa Monica Blvd. used to have a rail line on it and it forms the north border of Century City. On the other hand, the expo line is quite a ways away from this dense area.

I'm really tired of journalists attacking neighborhoods as being selfish NIMBY's. I'll bet you don't live next to the Expo line. When journalists try to emphasize conflict in stories on land use issues, why is it usually framed as pitting middle class neighborhoods against poor people? L.A.'s transit crisis was not created by the folks in Cheviot Hills. Let's put blame where it belongs:on selfish, developer-driven City Councils and on the car, oil and tire corporations that wiped out L.A. 's Pacific Electric Railway system. Here, the super-rich got us into a big mess, and yet, you're trying to pit the rest of us against each other. Many of the problems in this country are caused by the selfish top 2% corporate elite that get away with (figuratively) murder, while their corporate media tries to stir up everyone else to fight each other over straw-man issues. Can't find an affordable home? Blame existing residents, or blame the developers that only build luxury homes. Tired of high gas prices? Blame selfish air-breathing environmentalists for demanding clean air, or blame the oil companies and their political buddies that have squelched alternate fuels research. Steve Lopez's article pointed his finger at all but the real culprit for L.A.'s traffic messes.

Lastly, The L.A times has supported every major development in this City's history. The Times helped to create this problem. What's the Times going to do to fix it? Open your own wallet and help out! Don't blame the average folks for a mess created by the corporate elite.

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