Warm Dry | Norfleet Breakfast | Brandon Cleland | Boonville Library | Hop Barn | Jonathan Clauser | 1962 Movies | Hazmobile Boonville | Painted Parachute | Taming Marijuana | Ukiah Courthouse | Desal Ready | Mendo Sign | PV Project | Palace Bunting | Shit-In Protest | Early UFO | Ed Notes | Colorful Web | Expanding Sun | Yesterday's Catch | Tire Change | Curbing PG&E | Dust Storm | Cirrhosis Stout | Cliff Ahead | Both Parties | U.S. Tyranny | Red Scare | Food Forest | Pandora Papers | Step Back | Tectonic Engine | Koto Song
DRY WEATHER AND ABOVE NORMAL TEMPERATURES will occur across the interior once again today, while fog and stratus linger along the coast. A transition to cooler weather is forecast to occur across northwest California during the middle of the week. In addition, periods of light rain will be possible beginning Tuesday, with additional chances existing through next weekend. (NWS)
YESTERDAY'S HIGHS: Boonville 96°, Ukiah 96°, Yorkville 95°, Fort Bragg 68°
AV GRANGE DAVID NORFLEET MEMORIAL PANCAKE BREAKFAST, SUNDAY OCT. 10, 8:30-11:00
The Grange Pancake Breakfast was one of David’s favorite doings. He would be in the Grange at 6:30am doing prep and whipping up a batch of his secret pancake mix. Luckily he bequeathed the recipe to the Grange, so in his honor we will be serving breakfast socially distanced and as much masked as you can be. David helped so many different folks during his long tenure in the Valley. We want you all to feel welcome to the breakfast. There is no official service planned but we sure hope people will share some of the many “remember the time” stories. We are charging our usual fee for the breakfast. It’s been a challenge keeping the doors open during the pandemic. You might even want to join the Grange so that you can be part of this community space when things open up. See you there! PS. On the day before the Grange Pancake Breakfast, the brewery is organizing another get together to honor David. That’s Sat. Oct. 9 from 2-5:30. Come to both. Norfleet would like that. (Captain Rainbow)
POTTER VALLEY MAN DIED IN HEAD-ON CRASH
by Mya Constantino
A 38-year-old man from Potter Valley in Mendocino County was identified by authorities as the driver who died in a head-on crash on Highway 20 near Lake Mendocino last Monday.
Brandon Duane Cleland was driving a 2001 Dodge Ram pickup and was towing a second 2001 Ram on a flatbed trailer when, about 4 p.m. Sept. 27, his truck crossed into oncoming traffic, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Cleland's truck, which was heading east on Highway 20, crashed into a box truck traveling west, the CHP said.
Cleland was not wearing a seatbelt, according to investigators, and sustained fatal injuries in the collision. The CHP suspects drugs or alcohol may have been a factor in the crash, according to a press release.
The driver of the box truck, a 26-year-old Ukiah man, had minor injuries. He was taken to Adventist Health Howard Memorial Hospital in Willits "for precautionary measures," the CHP said.
The crash occurred east of Marina Drive and closed Highway 20 for more than three hours, according to the CHP.
(The Press Democrat)
THE ANDERSON VALLEY COMMUNITY LIBRARY will reopen on
Saturday Tuesday, Oct. 12, from 1-4pm at the Boonville Fairgrounds Home Arts Building. Regular Hours: 1-4pm Tuesdays; 12:30-2:30pm Saturdays.
ARGENTINIAN MAN KILLED IN CRASH OFF MENDOCINO COUNTY CLIFF
by Mya Constantino
A 38-year-old man from Argentina was identified by authorities as the driver who died after his vehicle went off a Mendocino County cliff last Monday.
Jonathan Clauser was driving on Highway 1 south of Frog Pond Road near Little River when, at about 4 p.m. on Sept. 27, he lost control of his pickup on a curve and drove off a cliff, according to California Highway Patrol.
Investigators suspect Clauser was driving north in his 1982 Dodge pickup and was “unable to safely negotiate a sharp turn” because he was driving fast, according to a press release.
Clauser drove across both lanes of the highway and off the side of the road, the CHP said. The pickup rolled multiple times as it slid about 200 feet down a cliff.
The pickup landed on its roof and was engulfed in flames, the CHP said.
Clauser was not wearing a seatbelt, according to investigators, and sustained fatal injuries in the collision.
Investigators had not determined whether the man was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the CHP said.
(Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
HAZMOBILE available to pick up your toxic stuff on Saturday, October 16, 9:00 AM at the Fairgrounds parking lot, Boonville.
CAPTAIN RAINBOW WRITES: The Coho Salmon float in the Fair parade was NOT paper mache as reported, but a huge hand painted parachute.
One of the judges noted that when she laid her eggs right in front of the judges.
LOOKING FOR ANSWERS
by Jim Shields
In response to my column last week on the continuing chaos of marijuana cultivation in this county, a number of folks sent along their thoughts on possible solutions.
Kirk Vodopals had this to say:
“Good luck Mr. Shields. Everyone I spoke to who wasn’t in the cannabis industry and had a minimal working knowledge of the Soups knew from the get-go that Mendo County has never had a desire to be in the weed regulation game. Seems pretty obvious, right? Whether that’s by design or by sheer incompetence, doesn’t really matter. Who in their right mind would want to set up a regulatory framework for those operators who never wanted to be part of the system and proudly proclaim their outlaw status and worldwide black marketeering. It’s like inviting the pirates to a discussion on international navigation law. There is no regulatory solution. Pirates gave up wooden ships and now most of them sit on computers hacking pipelines and pension funds. So goes the “craft” canabiz: the way of the wooden ship floating in a sea of freighters, speed boats and Carnival cruise lines full of dabs, shatter, honey oil and boofers.”
I replied, “Kirk, you’ve hit all of the major nails squarely on their heads. Can’t disagree with any of what you say. Spot on summary. I’m essentially at the same place you are. Thanks for your insights.”
Rye N Flint said, “The ‘craft cannabis’ rebels haven’t lost to the empire yet. They are busy with the ewoks in the woods regrouping to fight the Stormtroopers and Jabba the Greenhuts, as we speak. Farmer’s markets and select cut direct to dispensaries sample boxes are on the horizon. And although not an industry saver, they may end up being good lifeboats for those whole remained small and high quality.”
Mark Scaramella, of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, regularly writes spot-on reports on the failed Cannabis Program, offered this advice, “Mendo proceeded to ‘regulate’ ‘legal’ cannabis only because they wanted the tax revenue. If they had let the Planning Commission proceed to adapt the existing zoning/permit process to pot, they would have had a much simpler and less time consuming process. But certain Supervisors, ahem, thought they knew better. They didn’t. If you believe Supervisor Williams’s recent pot revenue predictions, taxation has failed too. That said, not being involved in or knowledgeable of the cultivation of pot like I am with wine and grapes, the small batch pot crops may indeed be better in Mendo’s soil and climate. Not that I can tell the diff on a bet. How that plays out remains to be seen.”
Gavin Walsh sketched out a plan:
“I believe creating a micro farmer exemption would alleviate a burden on the people, as well as the county enforcement. With legacy or farmers reluctant to engage in a flawed system, and enforcement unable to enforce anything on thousands of small grows. An exemption from the requirements for environmental reviews, structure permits, onsite resources, water registry etc. Micro farmers would be able to grow the legacy crop of 25 plants in gardens that already exist, use minimal resources, create no new structures of changes, hire no employees, using the same area that they have already been using for decades. For a Fee these permits would bring these farmers into the fold, give legitimacy, allow enforcement, and provide a solution to many thousands of citizens of this county, neighbors of yours and mine, to live their way of life without persecution or prosecution. The county supervisors I believe recently stated that their were 8-9,000 county residents who are growing without a permit. Most are too small for enforcement to concern themselves with, considering their time and budget. You offer a permit to these people for their small operation for $1,000 and the county would instantly raise millions of dollars, and that’s pre-tax. Include tax and goodbye county budget concerns. Besides many of these cultivators are getting a medical prescription and selling to the black market. Skirting the law and denying the county needed resources for important infrastructure and safety. Until we incorporate and enfranchise the majority, we will by default deny and demonize otherwise good people. Less than three percent are registered and they had the money. The rest don’t own land or can’t comply. Besides proof of prior cultivation. Education not incarceration.”
These are all good ideas from people seeking actual solutions after nearly five years of a dysfunctional regulatory framework.
What needs to be done immediately at the county level is to create a simplified, streamlined process that specifically addresses the predicament of the small family cultivator. It would involve a simple cap on the number of plants (25 to 99), a minimal application fee of several hundred dollars, and an annual renewal fee of the same amount. Small farmers would pay applicable taxes just like everyone else in the industry.
For certain, the legalization of ganja is the most significant legislation and public policy created in the past 40 years. It rivals the impact of the voter-enacted Prop 13, which revolutionized (in more ways than one) property taxes in this state.
As I’ve said many times before, no one lives in this county who is not affected economically by marijuana. And that’s true for both the private and public sectors of the economy.
Keep in mind that state pot laws and county pot ordinances are not written solely for those who grow the stuff. They are also written to protect the rights of those who don’t grow or smoke the stuff. They are also written to protect the rights of legitimate growers, who are trying to play by the rules. They are also written to penalize and come-down-like-a-ton-of-bricks on those individuals who believe and act as if they are above the law.
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, email@example.com, the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org.)
FORT BRAGG DESAL PLANT READY FOR SERVICE
by Mary Callahan
A pair of recent showers has swelled the flow of the Noyo River near Fort Bragg ever so slightly.
This comes after weeks when the river ran at a trickle so low the city was often forced to turn off the intake pumps that feed water to the town’s homes and businesses.
Though located about 4.5 miles from Noyo Harbor, the water supply at Madsen Hole, where the intake pipe meets the river, was overwhelmed in recent weeks by brackish tidewaters that pushed upstream.
Last weekend, crews installed a newly acquired mobile desalination plant that can be called into service when salt concentrations at the diversion point rise too high.
“We don’t have many other options, either,” Fort Bragg Public Works Director John Smith said. “We’re kind of counting on the thing, so hopefully it operates as we expect.”
The city of about 7,300 people gets surface water from two tributaries in addition to the Noyo River but relies more heavily during the warmer months on the water from Madsen Hole, which provides about 60% of its summertime supply.
After two years of historically low rainfall, the shrunken river has been especially vulnerable to saltwater intrusion. In anticipation of trouble, the City Council approved the purchase of a reverse osmosis unit back in June.
The $335,000 mobile plant, acquired with emergency drought funds from the State Water Resources Control Board, will only be used as a last resort, Smith said.
The city has progressively upgraded its water shortage status over the summer, in the meantime. In mid-September, residents were ordered to use 30% to 40% less water than a year ago.
The desalination plant can filter up to 288,000 gallons of water a day. Regulatory limitations on disposal of the resulting brine into the city sewer plant allows for processing of half that much, however — 144,000 gallons per day, Smith said. The city uses about 550,000 gallons daily, he said.
The city installed a fallback reservoir in 2015, during the last drought, roomy enough to hold 14.7 million gallons of water. But it is fed by a wintertime spring, and officials are trying to stretch the declining storage as much as possible, Smith said.
Even with low river flows, Smith said, there’s usually no problem with the river intake until tides reach around 6 feet or higher, like those arriving in a couple of days and expected to last about a week.
But the river at Madsen Hole may be running just high enough at present to prevent a problem, thanks to two minor storm systems that came through the area about a week and two weeks ago. Combined, they left behind an inch or so of rain throughout the watershed, the National Weather Service said.
Though still low, the river is now flowing at rates above 3 cubic feet per second — levels not seen since June — so it’s possible the desalination unit won’t be needed any more this year, depending on the arrival of autumn rains, Smith said.
(Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
‘A MOMENT OF OPPORTUNITY’
With two watersheds in crisis, a federal ruling sends a partnership back to the drawing board. Some think it's for the best.
by Thadeus Greenson
A multi-county, regional coalition of organizations bidding to take over Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s Potter Valley Project didn't get what it was asking for, but some believe that may be a good thing for the Eel River and the fish that depend on it.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Sept. 23 rejected a request from the Two Basin Partnership — a budding group that includes the counties of Humboldt and Mendocino, the nonprofit CalTrout, the Sonoma County Water Agency, the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission and the Round Valley Indian Tribes — that sought more time to form a singular entity to take over the project from PG&E with an operating agreement that would benefit both Eel River and Russian River basin interests. On the surface, the ruling seemed to derail a years-long effort — spearheaded in large part by North Coast Congressmember Jared Huffman — to forge what's been dubbed the Two Basin Solution to advance fish restoration efforts on the Eel River while still diverting some of its water to communities to the south which have come to depend on it. But there's also reason to believe FERC's decision will actually serve to fast-track efforts to find a viable solution, one that brings increased flows and improved water quality to the Eel River and its beleaguered fish populations.
“We always knew that this would be a major challenge,” Huffman said in a Sept. 23 press release. “Today's ruling by FERC is just a new chapter in seeking a Two Basin Solution, and I am committed to doing the hard work needed to achieve that end. This partnership and the stakeholders in the Eel and Russian river basins are strong and ready to take on this new challenge.”
While years of drought and dwindling salmon and steelhead populations have shifted the focus to water, the Potter Valley Project at its core is about electricity. In 1900, the Eel River Power and Irrigation Co. began construction on Cape Horn Dam on the Eel River about four miles north of the town of Potter Valley, creating the van Arsdale Reservoir, as well as a one-mile tunnel that sent Eel River water down hill through a powerhouse before releasing it to the East Fork Russian River. But natural flows in the Eel River only allowed the project to operate in winter months, so the power company in 1920 began constructing a second, larger dam about 12 miles upriver from Cape Horn. Scott Dam, which formed Lake Pillsbury, created enough water storage capacity to control flows leading to Cape Horn, allowing the power company to generate electricity year-round.
Recent decades, however, have seen endangered species protections obligate PG&E to keep more water in the Eel River. And the less water that gets diverted, the less electricity the project generates, making it less profitable to the company.
So a century after its construction, PG&E is looking to rid itself of the Potter Valley Project altogether and after trying unsuccessfully to sell it off, announced in January of 2019 that it would instead simply look to surrender its license, likely leading to its decommissioning.
Thus launched the Two Basin Partnership as a divergent group of stakeholders looked to band together to control their own interests, whether they be fishery restoration or continued water diversions.
“For the past couple of years, we've been trying to do all the studies, figure out how all this would really work and how it would be managed,” Craig Tucker, a project consultant for the county of Humboldt, told the Journal, explaining that the parties agreed on a basic framework that would remove Scott Dam — which blocks 100 miles of salmon and and steelhead spawning grounds and he dubbed “the biggest problem for fish” — and shift water diversions to winter months, when they would be less impactful on fish populations. “That was the concept.”
The trip line is that FERC requires a host of costly environmental studies for a license transfer application and the Two Basin Partnership was unable to come up with the estimated $18 million needed for the process. And time is running out, as PG&E's project license expires in April. FERC had already waived application timelines to allow the partnership to submit an application by the date of the license's expiration but it still needed more time and, on Sept. 2, asked for another extension. Not everyone was on board with the request.
A week later, Friends of the Eel River (FOER) issued a press release stating that while it had supported the Two Basin effort up to that point, it had become evident to the environmental nonprofit that partnership's re-licensing efforts would not succeed. As such, FOER had come to believe the license surrender and decommissioning process would be the “surest and quickest” way to get the dams removed.
“Eel River fisheries are in crisis,” FOER Executive Director Alicia Hamann said in a press release. “The project operations jeopardize the continued survival of Eel River Chinook salmon and steelhead, which are both listed under federal Endangered Species Act as threatened.”
Removal of Scott Dam is essential if Northern California summer steelhead, listed as endangered by the state of California, “have any real hope of recovery,” the press release contended, urging the Two Basin Partnership to withdraw its notice of intent to relicense the project.
While the partnership hasn't withdrawn its notice — Tucker says the group has yet to meet to officially discuss FERC's Sept. 23 decision and next steps — it seems clear the partnership's efforts to form a new regional entity to take over the dams' license are doomed.
“We simply don't have the time or the money needed to do the license application,” Tucker said. “I think we'll be forced to contemplate how this partnership can interact with PG&E in the surrender scenario.”
But the coalition remains, as Huffman indicated, and its focus will now likely shift to how it can achieve something resembling its Two Basin Solution through PG&E's license surrender and decommissioning process.
One possible scenario would be the creation of a new entity that would own and operate Cape Horn Dam and its water diversion apparatus, but that would likely require rights for that entity to sell the water to Russian River Basin interests in order to pay infrastructure and operational costs, and the willingness of those receiving Eel River water to pay for it.
Tucker said there remains “a lot of motivation” to address what is now a regional water crisis, noting that the South Fork Eel River recently ran dry before its confluence with the river's main stem for the first time in history, that the main stem looks “pretty awful” and some Russian River communities are already relying on bottled water.
“I do think the parties will stick together,” he said. “If you've got a regional coalition, that's what you need to be able to ask for federal and state dollars. The only way to solve big problems is to have big, diverse coalitions. ... I do think there's a big opportunity here. Whenever a dam license expires, it is a moment of opportunity to make some change for the better.”
(Courtesy, the North Coast Journal)
DOGGIE BAGS TO CITY HALL
To the Editor:
I am writing about the city leash law. According to Lead UPD Officer Dougherty, as documented on his body camera, on the body cameras of UPD Rodello and UPD CSO Officer Freeman, and on the Rodello car camera from 13Aug21, the UPD has announced officially that it is no longer enforcing the leash law. I was asked to not call the UPD to report violations of the code (law).
The animal control law has at least two subsections. Subsection A deals with the leash law requirements. Subsection B deals with animal waste disposal.
If the City of Ukiah and the UPD are no longer enforcing the animal code, covering both Subsections A and B, the UPD has chosen to allow animal defecation without clean-up.
I refuse to pick up my animal waste on public property until the City of Ukiah management manages to get control of its out-of-control Police Department, and forces them to again enforce the animal codes.
I am calling for a “sh*t-in” protest at City Hall. If you enjoy the leash law… if you hate animal waste left on public property… bring your animals up to City Hall daily… and protest. Leave your piles… for the City. At some point, the City will decide that they want to again enforce the animal codes.
My dogs just love the north side of City Hall, in the grassy area near the windows of City Management. They love an audience.
No leash law enforced? No poop bags used!
A LOCAL WRITES: “There isn’t anything wrong with these [Amazon] auctions, quite the opposite. Instead of throwing lost or returned items in the waste dumps, they are resold. Of course it goes without saying that our USPS system, which Amazon uses to get packages to us, and to UPS, is lousy. Heads up; prices are going up and shipping times are going to be longer.”
YUP. And the Post Office has warned its captive customers that first class mail will be 3-5 days slower. Delivery of the Boonville weekly, always a low priority with the Postal Service once it leaves the tender ministrations of Colette Hanns and Ann Carr here in Boomsville, can't be much slower despite our paying a small fortune in 2nd class postage.
AS ERNEST HEMINGWAY famously said about going broke, “Gradually, then suddenly,” things get worse around the edges then collapse the whole.
TO LOTS of people things went positively weird in the late 1960s, but Louis Menand, a writer for The New Yorker, says in his new book, “The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War” the seeds were sown in the 1950s. “My hope,” Menand says, “was to present a fresh take—not necessarily a revisionist take—by talking about the social, political, and economic conditions that allowed people to paint those paintings and write those books… The idea was to write a history that starts in 1945 with the end of the Second World War and ends around 1965 as the United States is getting more involved in Vietnam. The first chapter is about George Kennan and the doctrine of containment, which sets up U.S. foreign policy toward the Soviet Union for the next 20 years….. The ’60s and ’70s are more familiar to people today than the 1950s. I thought people—especially people my age—might be more interested in a book about a period they don’t know as well or think they know but don’t know as well…. The 1950s were incredibly interesting. These incredible works of art are being made, these incredible books are being written, these really interesting people are arguing with each other. The 1950s may have been a boring period for middle-class life, but the world of art and ideas was as lively then as any other period…. All of the main characters I wrote about—Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Elvis Presley, Lionel Trilling—have had books written about them. That didn’t scare me off because I wanted to have my own way of explaining these people.”
THE FIFTIES were my deformative years and, looking back, I can say that intellectually the fifties were much more exciting than any period following, certainly more interesting than the past quarter century with it’s oppressive, piously prevalent “liberalism” of the NPR type.
JIM MAYO NOTES: The trumpers are intellectually insecure. They have a desperate need to “own” the liberals. See Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz. Taking the vaccines pushed by Biden and Fauci would be the Trumpers surrender to the liberals. They will never surrender.
ED REPLY: Yes, there's that, but I think the maga appeal goes deeper and, at the same time, is inchoately powerful because, at bottom, it's the conviction that “the liberals” are responsible for everything that has gone wrong, and the magas believe everything has gone wrong, a belief whipped up by the superior flash-bang visuals and fascist commentary they get from Fox, NewsMax, innumerable websites. Meanwhile, the libs, as we see them in the unappealing and often corrupt functionaries of the stand-for-nothing Democratic Party, and their even more unappealing visuals and weaselly, one-way “reporting” at places like MSNBC and CNN, blame the magas and the orange blimp for everything gone wrong, never mentioning it's been a bi-partisan plunge into the growing chaos. It's interesting to note that Bernie Sanders was the second choice behind Trump of many magas because Bernie was the only Demo candidate with anything like presidential-level gravitas and, of course, the only Demo candidate who offered specific socialist solutions to the terrible squeeze millions of working Americans find themselves in. Prediction: Trump will come roaring back and precipitate a split more threatening to what's left of American unity than the Civil War. So, imo, this is where we're at, a Biden-Trump quality leadership in a global context of accumulating environmental catastrophe.
MORE EXPANSION OF UKIAH’S EMERALD SUN
by Justine Frederiksen
City of Ukiah Zoning Administrator Craig Schlatter this week approved another expansion of the large cannabis facility in the former home of the Mendocino Brewing Company facility on Airport Road in Ukiah.
Schlatter said he visited the site and “walked around the facility with members of the team, and it does appear to me that they are meeting all the terms and conditions,” describing the facility as “very well-maintained, very good-looking, secure and safe.”
When it comes to evaluating whether the business was meeting the terms and conditions of the permit, Schlatter said “the primary issue we look at is the impact to the Ukiah Police Department. When the ordinance was drafted, that was a concern that was addressed. I believe we have not seen that in any of the cannabis businesses, but it continues to be an area of focus with the permits.”
“The UPD has not reported any significant amount of calls or issues at this location in relation to the business,” said City Planning Manager Michelle Irace, explaining when Schlatter asked for more details that “there were 19 calls for service in the area, but they were not directly related to the business,” and instead were regarding fires, illegal camping and other activity that is reported in the surrounding area.
Irace said planning staff were recommending renewal of the business’ permit, as well as its request for another “minor amendment,” which she described as a “4,000-square-foot expansion within the existing building for storage and processing (of cannabis),” space she said was “previously being used for other purposes.”
There were previous amendments approved by Schlatter in February of 2020 that allowed “the expansion of use for storage and processing to 15,000-square-feet within the southern portion of the building;” and also the expansion into nearly 10,000-square-feet into the northern portion of the existing building.”
(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
CATCH OF THE DAY, October 3, 2021
CHRISTOPHER ACKERMAN, Ukiah. Disobeying court order, failure to appear.
ROBERT DAY, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. DUI.
BRIDGETTE FRANK, Covelo. Stolen vehicle, forgery/alteration of vehicle registration, conspiracy, bringing alcohol or drugs into jail, failure to appear.
WILLIAM FRANKS, Ukiah. DUI causing bodily injury.
MELANIE FREEMAN, Covelo. Stolen vehicle, conspiracy, probation revocation.
ROWYN GILFILLAN, Arcata/Ukiah. Conspiracy.
JOSHUA HARDAGE-VERGEER, Ukiah. Trespassing, resisting.
SAMUEL LANYON, Willits. Domestic battery.
RACHELLE MARTIN, Fort Bragg. No license, suspended license with priors, controlled substance, unlawful display of registration.
PAUL SCHERER, Sea Ranch/Ukiah. DUI.
MARIAH VANVLIET, Ukiah. Protective order violation.
CAN ANYONE CRACK DOWN ON PG&E?
Marybel Batjer’s announcement Tuesday that she will step down at the end of the year as president of the California Public Utilities Commission raises a major issue for Gov. Gavin Newsom: Is there anyone capable of cracking down on Pacific Gas & Electric?
Batjer had a reputation as a “fix-it” specialist when Newsom appointed her in 2019 as the state’s top utility regulator.
Prior to Batjer’s appointment, the PUC had a long history of cozying up to PG&E and looking the other way when the utility put profits before safety. That lax approach killed more than 100 Californians, burned tens of thousands of homes, and huge swaths of forest during the last 10 years.
PG&E became a convicted felon in 2017 for its role in the 2010 San Bruno explosion that killed eight and destroyed a quiet residential neighborhood. It pleaded guilty in 2020 to 84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter for causing the deadly 2018 Camp Fire that burned the town of Paradise.
Give Batjer credit for strengthening the PUC’s reputation in Sacramento and her role in reaching an agreement with PG&E for exiting bankruptcy in 2020. The deal includes a path to a state takeover of the utility if it fails to clean up its act.
Yet devastating wildfires continue to rage through Northern California. PG&E already has admitted that a falling tree is likely responsible for the Dixie Fire, which started in July and has burned nearly 1 million acres and 1,300 structures, including more than 500 single-family homes. Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett last month accused PG&E of involuntary manslaughter in a 31-count complaint. She alleged the utility committed 11 felonies and 20 misdemeanors in connection with the 2020 Zogg Fire, which PG&E admits started when a tree fell on a power line. Yet the utility acknowledged this spring that it had failed — again — to meet its tree-trimming goals.
Batjer also oversaw the PUC while the state endured two nights of PG&E rolling blackouts
Meanwhile, PG&E is seeking yet another rate hike that would raise prices about 5%, or about $36 per month. Despite its failures, PG&E charges customers some of the highest rates of any utility in the nation.
It won’t be easy for Newsom to find a replacement for Batjer. The job requires someone strong enough to force PG&E to meet its safety commitments — a leader who will put the needs of ratepayers ahead of the needs of Wall Street.
In 2019, the Legislature passed Assembly Bill 1054, which gives PG&E access to a $21 billion wildfire fund it can tap if its equipment ignites fires that lead to significant financial damages. But the insurance fund can only be accessed if the utility obtains a safety certificate issued by the state.
With climate change creating increasingly dangerous fire seasons, the governor needs to appoint a PUC president who will use every available tool to hold PG&E accountable for its safety performance.
(San Jose Mercury News Editorial)
CIRRHOSIS STOUT, FOR THOSE WHO THINK YOUNG
by Tommy Wayne Kramer
Following half a century of drinking top quality American beers I’ve lost my bearings and gone rogue.
It’s akin to a mid-life crisis where a guy sees the bald spot and the paunch and realizes he’s invisible to attractive women so he hurries off and buys a red convertible.
Mine is more an old-age crisis. I’m suddenly seized by an urge to start drinking the horrid craft beers children one-third my age are drinking. I’m unmoored, adrift, lost in a hops-clogged swamp of gnarly brews sold in garish cans that look like heavy metal rock emblems with names like Death by Stout and HooDooVooDoo BrewJuice.
Hard to admit, but true.
After a half-century of monogamous relationships with Coors, Schlitz, PBR, Bud, Oly, Hamms and Lucky Lager I’ve been led astray by the bewitching allure of beer that tastes like furniture polish.
Next I’ll steal a skateboard, get started on crack cocaine and have a fling with a stripper. An elderly stripper, but still. Maybe I’ll sell weed to middle school kids.
It makes little sense. Craft beers are expensive (10 or 12 bucks a sixer!) and taste like a puddle. Miller Draft is a mellow melody of subtle flavors compared to the solvents bottled at Sierra Nevada. Torpedo Ale reminds me of the radiator flush I used in my old DeSoto.
My kids came back to the old homestead on Dora Street awhile back, looked in the fridge and thought they’d entered the wrong house. Where’s the Blue Ribbon and the Budweiser? Where’s the Old Milwaukee and the Miller?
And what’s this cloudy muck in brown bottles?
Through hard work and an unknown toll to my health and well-being, I’ve been able to acclimate myself to some craft beer nuances. If the word “hazy” is on the label they’ve injected it with fruit juice.
This is not the deal-breaker you’d imagine because the juice they use is often grapefruit, which rhymes nicely with the bitter hops that already ruined the beer. If it’s mango-banana juice head for the bourbon aisle.
Another label tipoff obvious to anyone who hasn’t spent a lifetime in the icy embrace of the standard American beer industry product lines is alcohol content. All the watery and semi-flavorful (yet nonetheless marvelous) brews pumped out at the Blatz, Rainier, Carling, Falstaff and Strohs factories had alcohol pegged right around 5 percent.
But cans of Zombie Blood Ale or Crippled Rhino Urine routinely clock in at around 8 or 9 percent.
The alcohol in Strained Corpse Juice runs 11 percent. For those with wives who lift an eyebrow when you go to the fridge for a third beer with your breakfast eggs and sausage, high-octane brews like Rusty Guillotine Stout are the solution. Plus it guarantees you’ll be in no shape to mow the lawn later that morning.
All less honest than others.
There are a million misconceptions about everywhere, including the West Coast, the Midwest and the South. But of course there are things that are true about these and other regions. My job is to muddy them beyond comprehension.
Semi-accurate dishonest comparisons, west coast vs. southeast:
1) Choices: Wildfires, droughts, earthquakes, Lyme Disease and hippies, or Hurricanes, typhoons, flooding and alligators.
2) Housing prices 67 percent cheaper; indoor plumbing optional at extra cost.
3) Sushi or poke salad?
4) Dale Earnhardt’s as big a deal in Charlotte as Harvey Milk in ‘Frisco.
5) Depending on coast, Ford F150 pickup trucks and Prius automobiles outsell each other 50-1.
6) Cigarettes $4 less a pack.
7) Gasoline $2.50 less a gallon.
8) As part of a statewide economic stimulus package, elementary school children urged to purchase and use chewing tobacco.
9) Supermarket cashiers don’t check ID of 53-year old in line to buy 6-packs of Coors or Sewage Flush Stout.
10) No stories in local newspapers about dangers of kids using marijuana.
11) Stories in local newspapers every day about dangers of kids using chewing tobacco.
12) Dolly Parton more popular than Barbra Streisand.
13) OK to marry your 12-year old cousin.
14) No flimsy virtue signaling about diversity, tolerance, “We Can do Better Racism,” or “No matter who you are or where you’re from, please feel free to move into our guest bedroom.”
15) No gangs, graffiti, homeless, hippies or shopping carts used as pack mules.
(After flirting with the notion of letting the column lie fallow and TWK to retire with some shreds of dignity remaining, the unlikely combo of Bruce Anderson and Jonathan Middlebrook staged a long distance intervention and convinced Tom Hine to drink less, write more. I agreed to the writing part of the deal.)
HOW THE ‘POLARIZED’ POLITICAL PARTIES WORK TOGETHER AGAINST THE PUBLIC INTEREST
by Ralph Nader
“Polarization” is the word most associated with the positions of the Republicans and Democrats in Congress. The mass media and the commentators never tire of this focus, in part because such clashes create the flashes conducive to daily coverage.
The quiet harmony between the two parties created by the omnipresent power of Big Business and other powerful single-issue lobbyists is often the status quo. That’s why there are so few changes in this country’s politics.
In many cases, the similarities of both major parties are tied to the fundamental concentration of power by the few over the many. In short, the two parties regularly agree on anti-democratic abuses of power. Granted, there are always a few exceptions among the rank & file. Here are some areas of Republican and Democrat concurrence:
1. The Duopoly shares the same stage on a militaristic, imperial foreign policy and massive unaudited military budgets. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Pentagon budget was voted out of a House committee by the Democrats and the GOP with $24 billion MORE than what President Biden asked for from Congress. Neither party does much of anything to curtail the huge waste, fraud, and abuse of corporate military contractors, or the Pentagon’s violation of federal law since 1992 requiring annual auditable data on DOD spending be provided to Congress, the president, and the public.
2. Both Parties allow unconstitutional wars violating federal laws and international treaties that we signed onto long ago, including restrictions on the use of force under the United Nations Charter.
3. Both Parties ignore the burgeoning corporate welfare subsidies, handouts, giveaways, and bailouts turning oceans of inefficient, mismanaged, and coddled profit-glutted companies into tenured corporate welfare Kings.
4. Both Parties decline to crack down on the nationwide corporate crime spree. They don’t even like to use the phrase “corporate crime” or “corporate crime wave.” They prefer to delicately allude to “white-collar crime.”
Trillions of dollars are at stake every year, yet neither party holds corporate crime hearings nor proposes an update of the obsolete, weak federal corporate criminal laws.
In some instances, there is no criminal penalty at all for willful and knowing violations of safety regulatory laws (e.g., the auto safety and aviation safety laws). Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is trying to find just one Republican Senator to co-sponsor the “Hide No Harm Act” that would make it a crime for a corporate officer to knowingly conceal information about a corporate action or product that poses the danger of death or serious physical injury to consumers or workers.
5. Both Parties allow Wall Street’s inexhaustibly greedy CEOs to prey on innocents, including small investors. They also do nothing to curb hundreds of billions of dollars in computerized billing fraud, especially in the health care industry. (See, License to Steal by Malcolm K. Sparrow and a GAO Report about thirty years ago).
6. The third leading cause of death in the U.S. is fatalities from preventable problems in hospitals and clinics. According to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine study in 2015, a conservative estimate is that 250,000 people yearly are dying from preventable conditions. Neither Congress nor the Executive Branch has an effort remotely up to the scale required to reduce this staggering level of mortality and morbidity. Nor is the American Medical Association (AMA) engaging with this avoidable epidemic.
7. Both Parties sped bailout of over $50 billion to the airline industry during Covid-19, after the companies had spent about $45 billion on unproductive stock buybacks over the last few years to raise the metrics used to boost executive pay.
8. Both Parties starve corporate law enforcement budgets in the Justice Department, the regulatory agencies, and such departments as Labor, Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, and Health and Human Services. The Duopoly’s view is that there be no additional federal cops on the corporate crime beat.
9. Both Parties prostrate themselves before the bank-funded Federal Reserve. There are no congressional audits, no congressional oversight of the Fed’s secret, murky operations, and massive printing of money to juice up Wall Street, while keeping interest rates near zero for trillions of dollars held by over one hundred million small to midsize savers in America.
10. Both Parties are wedded to constant and huge bailouts of the risky declining, uncompetitive (with solar and wind energy) nuclear power industry. This is corporate socialism at its worst. Without your taxpayer and ratepayer dollars, nuclear plants would be closing down faster than is now the case. Bipartisan proposals for more nukes come with large subsidies and guarantees by Uncle Sam.
11. Both Parties hate Third Parties and engage in the political bigotry of obstructing their ballot access (See: Richard Winger’s Ballot Access News), with hurdles, harassing lawsuits, and exclusions from public debates. The goal of both parties is to stop a competitive democracy.
12. Both Parties overwhelmingly rubber-stamp whatever the Israeli government wants in the latest U.S. military weaponry, the suppression of Palestinians and illegal occupation of the remaining Palestinian lands, and the periodic slaughter of Gazans with U.S. weapons. The Duopoly also supports the use of the U.S. veto in the UN Security Council to insulate Israel from UN sanctions.
13. Continuing Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich’s debilitating internal deforms of congressional infrastructures, the Democrats have gone along with the GOP’s shrinking of committee and staff budgets, abolition of the crucial Office of Technology Assessment’s (OTA) budget, and concentration of excessive power in the hands of the Speaker and Senate leader. This little noticed immolation reduces further the legislature’s ability to oversee the huge sprawling Executive Branch. The erosion of congressional power is furthered by the three-day work week Congress has reserved for itself.
14. Even on what might seem to be healthy partisan differences, the Democrats and the GOP agree not to replace or ease out Trump’s Director of the Internal Revenue Service, a former corporate loophole tax lawyer, or the head of the U.S. Postal Service, a former profiteer off the Post Office who will shortly curtail service even more than he did in 2020 (See: First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat, by Christopher W Shaw).
Right now, both Parties are readying to give over $50 billion of your tax money to the very profitable under-taxed computer chip industry companies like Intel and Nvidia, so they can make more profit-building plants in the U.S. These companies are loaded with cash. They should invest their own money and stop the stock buyback craze. Isn’t that what capitalism is all about?
Both Parties vote as if the American middle-class taxpayer is a sleeping sucker. Politicians from both parties exploit voters who don’t do their homework on voting records and let the lawmakers use the people’s sovereign power (remember the Constitution’s “We the People”) against them on behalf of the big corporate bosses.
Sleep on America, you have nothing to lose but your dreams.
ON THE SHOW, Chris Hedges discusses the age of manufactured ignorance with the scholar Professor Henry A. Giroux. Education, Giroux writes, has increasingly become a tool of domination as right-wing pedagogical apparatuses controlled by the entrepreneurs of hate attack workers, the poor, people of color, refugees, immigrants from the south, and others considered disposable. A Republican Party dominated by the far right believes education should function as a tool of propaganda and pedagogy of oppression, rightly named “patriotic education.” Dissent is defiled as corrupting American values and any classroom that addresses racial injustice is viewed as antithetical to “a Christian and white supremacist world where black people ‘know their place’.” Banning instruction on “critical race theory” has become the new McCarthyism. Noam Chomsky argues that any reference to the history of slavery, systemic racism or racial injustice now replaces “communism and Islamic terror as the plague of the modern age.” Chomsky, Giroux argues, may not have gone far enough, since GOP extremists argue that the threat of communism has simply been expanded to include critical race theory, Black Lives Matter and other emerging protest groups, all connected and viewed as updated forms of Marxism and part of an international communist global conspiracy. The Red Scare, Giroux warns, is alive and well in America.
— Carol Mattessich
LEAKED RECORDS REVEAL PANDORA’S BOX OF FINANCIAL SECRETS
by Michael Liedtke & Jonathan Mattise
Hundreds of world leaders, powerful politicians, billionaires, celebrities, religious leaders and drug dealers have been hiding their investments in mansions, exclusive beachfront property, yachts and other assets for the past quarter-century, according to a review of nearly 12 million files obtained from 14 firms located around the world.
The report released Sunday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists involved 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in117 countries. It's being dubbed the “Pandora Papers” because the findings shed light on the previously hidden dealings of the elite and the corrupt, and how they have used offshore accounts to shield assets collectively worth trillions of dollars.
The more than 330 current and former politicians identified as beneficiaries of the secret accounts include Jordan’s King Abdullah II, former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso, and associates of both Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The billionaires called out in the report include Turkish construction mogul Erman Ilicak and Robert T. Brockman, the former CEO of software maker Reynolds & Reynolds.
Many of the accounts were designed to evade taxes and conceal assets for other shady reasons, according to the report.
“The new data leak must be a wake-up call,” said Sven Giegold, a Green party lawmaker in the European Parliament. “Global tax evasion fuels global inequality. We need to expand and sharpen the countermeasures now.”
Oxfam International, a British consortium of charities, applauded the Pandora Papers for exposing brazen examples of greed that deprived countries of tax revenue that could be used to finance programs and projects for the greater good.
“This is where our missing hospitals are,” Oxfam said in a statement. “This is where the pay-packets sit of all the extra teachers and firefighters and public servants we need. Whenever a politician or business leader claims there is ‘no money’ to pay for climate damage and innovation, for more and better jobs, for a fair post-COVID recovery, for more overseas aid, they know where to look.”
The Pandora Papers are a follow-up to a similar project released in 2016 called the “Panama Papers” compiled by the same journalistic group.
The latest bombshell is even more expansive, porting through nearly 3 terabytes of data — the equivalent of roughly 750,000 photos on a smartphone — leaked from 14 different service providers doing business in 38 different jurisdictions in the world. The records date back to the 1970s, but most of the files span from 1996 to 2020.
In contrast, the Panama Papers culled through 2.6 terabytes of data leaked by one now-defunct law firm called Mossack Fonseca that was located in the country that inspired that project's nickname.
The latest investigation dug into accounts registered in familiar offshore havens, including the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, Hong Kong, and Belize. But some of the secret accounts were also scattered around in trusts set up in the U.S., including 81 in South Dakota and 37 in Florida.
Some of the initial findings released Sunday painted a sordid picture of the prominent people involved.
For instance, the investigation found advisers helped King Abdullah II of Jordan set up at least three dozen shell companies from 1995 to 2017, helping the monarch buy 14 homes worth more than $106 million in the U.S. and the U.K. One was a $23 million California ocean-view property bought in 2017 through a British Virgin Islands company. The advisers were identified as an English accountant in Switzerland and lawyers in the British Virgin Islands.
There was no immediate comment from Jordan’s Royal Palace.
The details are an embarrassing blow to Abdullah, whose government was engulfed in scandal this year when his half brother, former Crown Prince Hamzah, accused the “ruling system” of corruption and incompetence. The king claimed he was the victim of a “malicious plot,” placed his half brother under house arrest and put two former close aides on trial.
Abdullah took power in 1999 after the death of his father, King Hussein.
U.K attorneys for Abdullah said he isn’t required to pay taxes under his country’s law and hasn’t misused public funds, adding that there are security and privacy reasons for him to have holdings through offshore companies, according to the report. The attorneys also said most of the companies and properties are not connected to the king or no longer exist, though they declined to provide details.
Blair, U.K prime minister from 1997 to 2007, became the owner of an $8.8 million Victorian building in 2017 by buying a British Virgin Islands company that held the property, and the building now hosts the law firm of his wife, Cherie Blair, according to the the investigation. The two bought the company from the family of Bahrain’s industry and tourism minister, Zayed bin Rashid al-Zayani. Buying the company shares instead of the London building saved the Blairs more than $400,000 in property taxes, the investigation found.
The Blairs and the al-Zayanis both said they didn’t initially know the other party was involved in the deal, the probe found. Cherie Blair said her husband wasn’t involved in the purchase, which she said was meant to bring “the company and the building back into the U.K. tax and regulatory regime.” She also said she did not want to own a British Virgin Islands company and that the “seller for their own purposes only wanted to sell the company,” which is now closed.
A lawyer for the al-Zayanis said they complied with U.K. laws.
In 2009, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis put $22 million into shell companies to buy a chateau property in a hilltop village in Mougins, France, near Cannes, the investigation found. The shell companies and the chateau were not disclosed in Babis’ required asset declarations, according to documents obtained by the journalism group’s Czech partner, Investigace.cz.
A real estate group owned indirectly by Babis bought the Monaco company that owned the chateau in 2018, the probe found.
“I was waiting for them to bring something right before the election to harm me and influence the Czech election,” Babis tweeted in his first reaction to the report.
The Czech Republic parliamentary election is being held on Friday and Saturday.
“I’ve never done anything illegal or wrong,” Babis added.
THE EARTH has a solid iron nickel inner core at about the same temperature as the surface of the sun, and itself heated by nuclear fission. Around that is a liquid outer core of iron nickel, responsible for the dynamo that powers the Earth's magnetic field.
Above that is the mantle. An inner sea of hot liquid minerals roiling in huge convection cells, which power the motion of the crust at the top.
At the mid-Atlantic Ridge in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, new crust is being created. While on the flip side, the edges of the Pacific plates are being subducted… Pulled down into the core and recycled into the mantle.
This process has been going on as long as earth has had a crust, and will continue until Earth's tectonic engine stops when the planet's nuclear fire burns out and its mantle freezes into solid stone. This has already happened to the smaller Mars, its vulcanism long extinct.
There are superb reasons for not using deep sea trenches for dangerous wastes, the two most important being they are liquids stored in drums that will corrode long before the earth swallows them, and there all kinds of ways for that liquid waste to end up back in the greater environment.
But for lowest level materials such as decommissioned building material, they are all solid, packed in concrete, and once buried aren't likely to resurface, instead spending the next several million years riding the crust back into the mantle along with old crust and sea bed. Long before they make it back into the earth, they will have lost their radioactivity. The most important reason to put them here, is that it's someplace out of harm’s way, and safe from human disturbance.
I'm sorry some people have such a hard time understanding this. I'm talking orders of magnitude safer than current conditions, burning existing waste to make energy and eliminate that waste is by far the best gift we could give our children.
— Marie Tobias
DAVE BRUBECK’S “KOTO SONG”
by Thomas Cunniffe