Notes from Washington D.C. II

 

We completed our tour of the National Gallery on Wednesday, then went to the National Museum of American History. We had gone to that museum in 2005, and had fond memories of a tremendous assortment of stuff, from Julia Child’s kitchen to the Star Spangled Banner from the War of 1812. We were very disappointed. The museum is undergoing major renovations, and many of the exhibits won’t be finished until 2018. The ones that are open have become dark corridors that lead from one noisy exhibit to another, so that you hear a cacophony of narratives at all times. It seems to be geared to a generation with about a five-second attention span. We left after less than an hour. We had intended to spend the rest of the day there.

So, we went to the United States Holocaust memorial. That was difficult to see, but well worth seeing. The first part describes the rise of the Nazis through video and historical artifacts. I couldn’t help thinking at the time how similar some of the Nazi tactics are to Trump’s. Blame the problems of society on one group, the Jews, rather than the economic policies. Repeat a lie so often it is accepted as the truth. Play on the fears and frustrations of the “poorly educated”, and assure them that you have the answers, and will be a strong leader to cure all of society’s ills.

I think the thing I will most remember from the museum is not the pictures of the bodies, and emaciated survivors, or the piles of shoes and wall of hair from the victims. No, I think what I will remember most is walking through one of the freight cars where people were packed like sardines to be transported to the death camps.

Last night we had the best meal of the trip at an organic restaurant, just two blocks away from our Bed and Breakfast—excuse me, our “boutique” hotel. The restaurant claimed to be the first organic restaurant in the country. Because we’re in Embassy Row, there were at least five different languages spoken, that I could hear from our table.

Our hotel serves breakfast around a large dining table. The hostess makes sure everyone is introduced. We have Danes, an Austrian, Aussies, English, as well as fellow Californians, albeit Northern Californians. After some opening gambits of conversation, it soon became apparent that everyone staying here is pretty strongly anti-Trump. One lady from the Bay area, said we felt like apologizing to the rest of the world for even considering such a person for president.

Today we walked to the Jefferson Memorial, around the Tidal Basin back to the F.D. Roosevelt Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Memorial, over to the WWII memorial, up to the Korean War Veterans’ Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Memorial. If you haven’t visited all of these, do so if you ever get the chance. We had seen most of the memorials before, but the Martin Luther King and WWII memorial have been built since we were last here, so we hadn’t seen them except in pictures. The WWII memorial is very beautiful. While we were there a group of WWII and Korean War veterans from Indiana were having their picture taken. The first two rows were in wheel chairs—a painful reminder that we are rapidly losing that generation—any left would have to be in their late 80’s or older. We took our time, but it was still a bit of a walk, and by the time we found a nice cafe in a hotel on Virginia Ave., I was ready for a break. So, after lunch, I walked to the Metro station at George Washington University, and Roger went off to see the Cocoran Gallery of art.  I had just started a cup of tea in the sitting room of the hotel, when Roger came through the front door. Turns out the Cocoran was closed for renovation. Lots of renovating going on in this town. Too bad the spirit of renewal hasn’t spread to the halls of Congress.

Notes from Washington D.C.

 

Even with the help of GOOGLE, it took a few tries to find our “boutique” hotel in D.C. The basic street plan might have been an excellent one for carriages, but not so much for autos. Taking our rental car back was another challenge, even though it was technically supposed to be eleven minutes away. But we found it, and took the Metro back to DuPont Circle and walked back to our hotel that’s in what was once an embassy.

On Friday, we made our second visit to the Barnes Foundation. This is an unusual collection of art, because it was all collected by one man, Dr. Albert C. Barnes. Barnes made his money by co-developing an antiseptic used to fight gonorrhea. Barnes began collecting in 1912. He was a visitor to the home of Gertrude and Leo Stein in Paris. He began his foundation in 1922 as a school/museum in Lower Merion, an upscale suburb of Philadelphia. Barnes arranged his art within the foundation’s walls in ensembles, with the intent of demonstrating the connections of various art forms, from the old masters to Modigliani.  He died in 1951, and left the foundation in trust with the stipulation that the art be left exactly in place as he arranged it. We were able to view it that way in 2005. At that time visitors were only allowed two and one-half days a week with a 500 visitor per week maximum. At that time the foundation was having a financial crisis.  The foundation had wanted to increase its hours of operation to increase revenues, but the local Merion and Montgomery County governments vetoed that plan. The City of Philadelphia stepped in and offered a site for moving the collection, and after a considerable court battle, and with the help of several large charitable foundations, the new home was completed in 2012, and that what we visited this time. Although the art is arranged exactly as it was in the old buiding, it was a different feeling—but there was more light. Light to see the Renoirs, Picassos, Renoirs, van Goghs, Renoirs, Monets, Renoirs, Cezannes, Renoirs, many other great artists, and Renoirs. Barnes was Renoir’s number one fan and patron.

Having caught Roger’s cold, I took the day off on Saturday, while Roger went to the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archeology and Anthropology.

Sunday, we drove to Gettysburg, and had a guided tour of the battlefield. I would highly recommend the tour to anyone who visits the site. The professional guides go with you, in your car, and stop at various places, all the while giving a very informative and entertaining talk about the battle. It is still mind numbing to consider that there were as many as 51,000 casualties in three days. We visited the Soldiers Cemetery, where Lincoln made his famous address this morning. Very moving.

Today we did the National Gallery of Art, starting at 10:00 am until it closed at 5:00pm, pausing for a very nice lunch at their Café. We didn’t finish—will go back tomorrow.

Notes from Philadelphia

 

We arrived in Philadelphia yesterday, after an hour and 20 minute train ride. Have never gone from one city to another with so little hassle—including going to Los Angeles from home.

We did manage to get to the MOMA on Sunday. We’ve gone before, but looking at some of their great works never grows old. Whether it’s Warhol’s soup cans or Monet’s waterlilies I always seem to see something new every time I see them. Although, after seeing Monet’s waterlilies at the Musee de l’Orangerie in Paris, where his waterlilies are arranged so that you are surrounded by them, as Monet intended, I was a little bit let down by the flat murals at MOMA. We walked back to our hotel, stopping for dinner at an Italian restaurant.

On Monday, Roger’s cold was at its worst, but after a breakfast of two cans of chicken noodle soup (from cans that haven’t really changed their design much since Warhol painted them,) he felt better, so we went to the 9/11 memorial and took a tour. The place was mobbed, as we expected it would be, but it was still a very moving experience. The waterfall footprints of the two towers are beautiful. After our tour, we decided to eat an early dinner in a historical tavern in the financial district. As we were walking to where we thought it was (we actually took a wrong turn after emerging from the subway,) we found ourselves looking at the original Delmonico’s on William Street. Roger observed that we could eat there. I observed that we were hardly dressed for such an establishment—jeans, polo shirts, and sneakers. He observed we could find out, and walked in. Evidently our attire was not a barrier, possibly because it was 4:30 pm.  We had salad, steak, and Delmonico potatoes. The steaks were fabulous, and the potatoes—an amazing confluence of potatoes, cheese, and bacon, were amazing. This restaurant has been there 1837, and brags that Abraham Lincoln liked the Delmonico potatoes.

We spent Tuesday at the Met. We’ve been several times before, but have always concentrated on ancient art—with Roger, Egyptian art especially. This time we spent time viewing 19th and early 20th century art. After lunch at the Museum’s restaurant I walked through Central Park, back to the hotel, to do laundry. Roger spent the afternoon enjoying more art especially their five Vermeer’s.

In Philadelphia, we are staying at a “boutique” hotel near Rittenhouse Square. It is an area of many excellent restaurants, and yesterday we ate lunch at one before going to the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Art to view their wonderful collection of American art, including some wonderful Peale portraits of George Washington. Last night we ate at another excellent local restaurant.

Today we spent the day “doing” the Philadelphia Art Museum. They have an impressive collection of impressionists that I particularly enjoyed. Tonight, we went City Tavern for dinner, which has been around longer than Delmonico’s, 1773. Fabulous food, reasonable prices, and the waiters dress in 18th century costumes.

Notes from New York City

We’re starting our fourth day in New York City. Not sure how much we’ll do today since Roger has come down with a bad cold. We’re staying in an apartment in the Beacon Hotel on the upper West side, just across the street from the Fairway food market, where people come to shop from all over Manhattan.  We arrived on Wednesday afternoon and went shopping there as soon as we had unpacked. It was unbelievably crowded. Well, we thought that was because it was when people were stopping there on their way home from work, but it was almost as crowded when I went there around 2:00 pm on Friday.

This is our third trip to the Big Apple in this century, and we’re trying to see the sights we’ve not seen before. On Thursday we went to the Frick museum in the morning. It’s a marvelous collection of art and porcelain. One of Roger’s goals is to see all of the Vermeer’s and the Frick has three. To me, the greatest treat was seeing the old Henry K Frick mansion on the upper Eastside. You can take a virtual tour at: http://www.frick.org/visit/virtual_tour .

We had wonderful German lunch at the café Sabarsky at the Nueu Gallerie, where we saw the amazing “Woman in Gold” by Gustav Klimt, along with several other of his works. http://www.neuegalerie.org/ Then it is on to the Morgan Library and Museum to see the collection of Frick’s even wealthier contemporary J. P. Morgan. http://www.themorgan.org/

But the best treat on Thursday was seeing “An American in Paris”, even though is meant elbowing through the crowds around Times Square.  Watching the performance was like watching one beautiful work of art after another all performed to glorious music.

Afterwards, we had a great Greek dinner—after a small glitch in the service. Our waiter took out orders for marinated shrimp souvlaki, which we (having forgotten what souvlaki meant) clarified with the waiter that souvlaki meant on a skewer, a clarification complete with gestures of putting shrimp on a skewer. After ten minutes or so we were served with beautifully deep fried seabass—which we both said wasn’t what we ordered. The plates were whisked away and soon replaced with the proper order. The owner showed up at our table apologizing profusely. I put my theory of the whole mishap to him—that the waiter had pushed the wrong buttons on their computerized ordering system. Yes, he confessed, that was exactly what happened—that’s something that would not have happened with the old pencil and pad system. But, the service and food were excellent, and we were given a wonderful plate of Kasseri cheese gratis.

On Friday, we subwayed down to Brooklyn Museum. We arrived at the museum shortly after it was to open, according to our guide book, 10:00 am. The museum had a strangely deserted look to it, probably, because it didn’t actually open until 11:00 am. This would have been a good opportunity to visit the botanical garden across the street, but it was about 83 degrees Fahrenheit, and what felt like 100 percent humidity, so we passed.

Roger has a love affair with Egyptian artifacts, and the Brooklyn Museum has a good collection. Now, my opinion of Egyptian relics isn’t quite like Reagan’s opinion of Redwoods—if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all—but it comes close. So, after we toured their very nice collection of American art—I especially enjoyed the painting of the Brooklyn Bridge by Georgia O’Keefe—we did a quick survey of their ancient art collection. They have some wonderful bas relief wall murals from ancient Nineveh, as well as the Egyptian collection. We had a very nice lunch at the museum, then, after touring the decorative arts floor, I went back to the Beacon, while Roger pursed his quest to see as much Egyptian art as possible in a few hours.

We went to a Mexican restaurant on Friday night. Yes, you can get excellent Mexican food in New York City. I had a chicken mole that rivaled what you can get in Old Town San Diego. The restaurant’s biggest hit is guacamole—since you can only get two avocados for five dollars here, it’s a bit pricier than back home, so we passed.

Yesterday morning we went to the United Nations to look around—couldn’t tour, because there are no tours on the weekend—not one of our better feats of planning, but we did get a good walk. We came back to the apartment for a lunch in, then got ready for our matinee—“Hamilton”.  It was an amazing performance, but we’re too old, I think, to really enjoy it. Couldn’t understand a word “James Madison” said most of the time. Also could have done without the lady sitting next to me whooping after every song. But the story, the talent, and the music was wonderful, maybe almost worth the price of the tickets.

After the show we had dinner at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station. We set next to a couple from Nova Scotia who had come down for the weekend to celebrate her birthday. I asked if we could move to Nova Scotia if Trump go elected, and they laughed. We all agreed it was hard to believe that someone like that could even be considered for President.

We were going to go to the MOMA today. We’ve been before, but the MOMA is a place that can be visited over and over again. Will depend on how Roger feels when he gets up.

 

 

Another major rent increase for Sundance Mobilehome Park tenants

 

As Councilman John Masson said at the July 20th City Council meeting, the coach owners seem to be getting the short end of the stick. I would go farther. I would say they are getting shafted. This became apparent when item 11: Long-Form Rent Review Board Hearing for Sundance Mobilehome Park was discussed. It was only in March of last year that I wrote about another rent increase for this park. https://ablueviewescondido.com/2015/03/28/you-cant-have-it-both-ways-unless/ .

To review the bidding, the park was opened in 1977 with 88 spaces. Now, only 19 of those spaces are subject to rent control. In 2013, under another “long-form” rent revue, the previous park owner was allowed to raise the rent of the 29 spaces then under rent control by an average of $124.37 added to which was a $17.07 fee to cover the park owner’s expenses to process the long form application, including legal fees. One of the affected tenants, Robert Wise sued the owner and the City objecting to the increase and the inclusion of the application expenses. Wise lost the case, and the appeal to the Fourth Appellate District, Division One. As I noted in my blog, an average $15.29 rent increase was granted to the new owner of the Sundance Park under a “short-form” rent increase in March, 2015.

This time the park’s new owners, Sundance MHC, LC, requested an average increase of $157.17, based on the maintenance of net operating income (MNOI) for the park. Additionally, the residents were again asked to pay for the cost of the long-form application. This MNOI has been the traditional basis used to determine what a fair and reasonable rent increase should be. A large part of that increase ($72) was due to the increase in property taxes on the park from around $18K to $84K, when the park was sold in October of 2014. In a nutshell, MNOI analysis determines how much the net operating income should be increased to reflect an increase in the consumer price index (CPI), and other factors that increase operating costs such to allow the park owners to keep the return on their investment steady. The City staff recommended that the rent be increased by $102.22 with an additional increase of $5.02 for five years to cover the application costs. That $5.02 figure was the amount that prorated the entire expense among all 88 spaces in the park. The owner argued that it should only be charged to rent control spaces only.

The Council voted to approved $102.22 increase in rent, and an additional fee of $5.02         over five years to cover the application costs, with Councilwoman Olga Diaz and Masson voting no.

Diaz argued that the tenants did not participate in the decision to sell the park, and shouldn’t be penalized with the $72 increase. Councilman Mike Morasco, and Mayor Sam Abed had argued that the fees should be included, because that had been what was done in the 2013 rent increase decision. To change tack, Abed and Morasco argued, would be to invite a lawsuit. They also argued that since, according to City Attorney Jeff Epp, the owners had a legal right to charge for the property tax increase, not to do so would also risk a law suit. Actually they did change tack a little, because in the 2013 decision, the fee to reimburse the owner’s application fees was prorated for the 29 rent-control spaces only, while the one passed at this meeting was to be prorated for all 88 spaces. After the meeting, my friend, Dollie McQuiston, who attends practically every City Council meeting, mentioned that she remembered the 2013 hearing, and that Epp had told the Council (same council as we have today) that whether or not to include a fee to cover the application expense was at the discretion of the Council. Intrigued, I watched the tape of the meeting, available on the City’s website. It was an eye-opener.

At that 2013 hearing, the old owner had asked for an average rent increase of over $771 per month, per space. Some of the rent-control covered tenants testified that they had been threatened with exactly that sort of increase when they choose not to enter into another long term lease. Since the opening of the park, until 2010, all the tenants had agreed to long term leases. It was only then that some 29 tenants opted to not sign a long term lease, but take advantage of their rights under the Escondido Rent Protection Ordinance (Prop. K). As my friend Dollie remembered, Epp did indeed say that it was up to the Rent Review Board (the City Council) to determine whether or not such things as application costs including legal fees should be included, and if included, whether or not those costs should be pro-rated over all the 88 spaces or just under rent control.

The Council, according to the analysis of the city’s hired expert Dr. Kenneth A. Barr also had the discretion to determine what percentage of the increase in the CPI, as well as what other factors to be considered. Barr indicated that any rent increase from zero to $179.35, depending on what variables the Council choose to base their increase upon, was acceptable. The Council voted for the $124.37 rent increase, plus the $17.07 fee in 2013, with Diaz voting no. The Council felt the park owner should be reimbursed for application expenses, and that those expenses should be bourn only by the tenants under rent control. The Court held that the Council’s action was legal, but it did not find that any other action would have been illegal. In fact, the appellate court remarked that cases where a rent review board was sued by tenants rather than park owners were uncommon. That says something, I believe, about this Council’s attitude about Prop. K, or any measure that attempts to help meet the needs of the less affluent.

At this July 20 meeting, as at the 2013 meeting, several tenants said they would have to move if the Council approved such a high rent increase. The reduction in the number of spaces under rent control, from 29 to 19, would indicate the validity of their statements. As Diaz pointed out, these high increases seem to go against the spirit of Prop. K that was supposed to prevent tenants on fixed incomes being forced out of their mobile homes by excessive rent increases.

At the end of this last meeting, Wise told the Council that he would appeal to the Supreme Court. It is interesting to me that Abed, Masson and Gallo are very concerned about any legal expenses the City might face from a lawsuit from the park owner, over a rent increase that might not force elderly tenants from their homes, but showed no hesitation in deliberately incurring a lawsuit over the Escondido Country Club issue.

 

Benghazi BS

 

 

I was recently challenged in a Facebook conversation to “debunk” the Benghazi allegations made in the “official record” about Hillary Clinton. So, I’ve been trying to understand what has made the Republicans so sure they had proof of some malfeasance by Clinton while Secretary of State during the tragic attack.

In March of 2002, the US Embassy in Peru was attacked. Nine were killed. Number of Congressional investigations? Zero.

Evidently what has so many viewers of FOX and Breitbart upset, is the theory that Clinton and Obama “concocted” the theory that the attack was a response to an inflammatory internet video, during a phone call between Clinton and Obama on the night of the attack, September 11, 2012. Judicial Watch, through a FOIA request, found no evidence that there was any record of intelligence indicating the attack was in response to any such video. I found no evidence that Judicial Watch found evidence that there was absolutely no such video-linking intelligence. Perhaps the video theory was just a reasonable conclusion by someone who was paying attention to what was going on, like Clinton or Obama. The next day, September 12, Obama referred to the attack as a terror attack. On September 20, Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney said, without equivocation, that it was a terrorist attack. http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/17/politics/fact-check-terror/

In June 2002, twelve people died in an attack on the US consulate in Pakistan. Number of congressional investigations? Zero.

The President of Judicial Watch Tom Fitton concluded from this lack of evidence about intelligence linking the video to the attack that Obama and Clinton decided to “push the video lie.” https://www.jihadwatch.org/2015/07/foia-docs-prove-obama-and-hillary-concocted-benghazi-video-lie-with-jihadist-help Ummm. So, surmising that the attack might be linked to the video is somehow an attempt to deceive? Even though, days later the Obama administration dismissed the video theory?

In December, 2004, the US consulate in Saudi Arabia was attacked. Nine died. No congressional investigations.

One of the proofs offered by the right that this video theory was some sort of conspiracy was because Clinton referred to the attackers of Benghazi as an Al Queda-like group in an email to her daughter on the night of the attack. www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/01/08/with-2-a-m-state-department-email-trove-82-percent-of-clinton-emails-now-released/ . So, calling the attackers Al Queda-like somehow dismisses the idea that attack was in response to a video? Or, that it wasn’t a spontaneous attack?

In September of 2008, The US Embassy in Yemen was attacked. Ten died. No congressional investigation.

Last October, Clinton weathered eleven hours testifying before the House Benghazi committee. This was the eighth congressional investigation of the Benghazi affair. Congressman Kevin McCarthy fecklessly admitted the real goal of Republicans when he bragged that the investigations had driven down Clinton’s poll numbers. http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/la-na-hillary-clinton-benghazi-testimony-20151022-story.html

Certainly, whenever there is a tragic loss of life within the American diplomatic corps, there should be investigation in order to learn from mistakes made, and to avoid those mistakes in the future. But to spend millions of dollars to try to prove that Clinton conspired with Obama to make the attack look like a spontaneous attack due to some video, rather than an organized terrorist attack, seems like an absurd waste of time and taxpayer money. Why was calling it a response to a video rather than a terrorist attack supposed to make the Obama administration, and Clinton look better? It would not have to me.

For twenty-five years the Republicans have done their best to impugn Hillary Clinton. Rumor, innuendo, conspiracy theories have been legion. Actual proof of criminal activity? Zero.

The only conspiracy I see in the Benghazi affair is that of the Republican conspiracy to undermine Hillary Clinton. Have I debunked the official record? No, because there was nothing in that record that proved anything against Clinton.

 

 

 

Accretive’s Abomination

 

On June 2, 2016, Accretive Investments LLC, may have turned in enough signatures for their ballot initiative to qualify it for the November election. If it is approved by voters, Accretive will be allowed to build Lilac Hills Ranch (LHR), an abomination of 1746 homes, 90K sq. ft. of commercial space, and an assisted living facility, in what is now pristine farm land and natural habitat, far from any existing infrastructure. The County’s current General Plan would allow 110 homes on this site 17 miles from the nearest employment center or public transportation, and 30 minutes from any medical care.  http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/jun/03/lilac-hills-signatures-ballot-initiative/

They gathered signatures here in coastal North County, there, in South County, but mostly everywhere except within a fifty mile radius of the land on which this proposed mess is to be built. The petition gatherers promised the project would provide affordable housing for seniors, veterans, and the handicapped. There is nothing in the 600+ page initiative that would require Accretive to provide housing at any specific price range or for any income level. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCht9f-d-2ODV7x_Ud12WFtg

This ballot initiative ploy is a new way that developers can get around the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), as courts have found that such measures are exempt from the act.

You have to hand it to Randy Goodson, CEO of Accretive, he doesn’t quit. After a decade of controversy, he got approval for LHR from the San Diego County Planning Commission in September, 2015. In October, the California Fair Political Practices Commission advised Fifth District Supervisor Bill Horn (a fan of LHR) that he should not vote on LHR, because the value of his home which is close to the project would be affected. In January, 2016, the California Supreme Court found the huge Newhall project’s environmental impact report (EIR) did not accurately report the effect it would have on greenhouse gas emissions. Goodson knew his project’s EIR would have a similar problem. So, Goodson asked that the County indefinitely delay the Board of Supervisors’ (BOS) vote on LHR. http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/jan/06/lilac-ruling-construction-greenhouse/

Goodson’s next tactic? The 600+ page ballot initiative. If the Registrar of Voters verifies the signatures, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors can either approve the project, or allow voters to decide in November.

Not just the voters like me in the Deer Springs Fire Protection District. The County standard for fire response time in the area is five minutes, the initiative would allow a nine-minute response time for this development. The developer proposes funding some capital improvement to fire facilities and equipment, but not maintain them, and property tax revenue from future residents of LHR won’t cover the cost to maintain any new facilities. So, to maintain the current level of fire protection, existing residents like me will need (once again!) to vote to increase their property taxes to pay for the added protection the LHR will require. http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/corrections/developer-wont-take-no-for-an-answer-on-massive-lilac-hills-ranch-project/

Nor just the voters in the Bonsall and Valley Center–Pauma Unified School Districts, where again, the new property taxes and developer impact fees won’t begin to cover the cost of providing facilities and teachers for hundreds of new students.

Nor just the voters who live in the area of narrow two-lane curvy roads that will have 15,000 additional daily car trips to contend with and make evacuation from fire much more difficult.

No, all of the voters in the County can vote on this. By this ploy, an out of state hedge fund (Accretive) is able to spend two to three million dollars gathering signatures, and more millions in advertising (with more dubious promises) to get the votes that will totally emasculate all local and state land-use governance. Both the Valley Center Community Planning Group (an elected body) and the Bonsall Community Sponsor Group have voted against LHR. Their voices would be nullified. The San Diego County BOS will not have a say in the approval. It allows the developer to ignore the state’s environmental requirements, requirements passed by your elected representatives.

If LHR is approved by the voters, it will set a precedent for other developers. What’s to stop an amusement park in the San Pasqual Valley, or an industrial park Rancho Santa Fe?

Don’t be fooled by this ploy. Protect you neighborhood. Vote no on this initiative. For more information go to: http:\\saveoursdcountryside.org