- PG&E Returns
- Future Grid
- Bomb Dressing
- Calum Case
- Water Fund
- Cheap Propane
- Losing Plan
- Psilocybin Justice
- Yesterday's Catch
- Anniversary Flop
- Other Shoe
- Butterfly Babe
- Flow Kaka
- 3-Day Weekend
- Museum Fundraiser
- Sunny Pinole
- LA County
- Nuevo Chamber
- Job Listings
- Military Spending
- Graham Greene
- Broadband Meeting
- Women's Retreat
- Fire Season
- Found Object
by Mark Scaramella
Last July 16 PG&E sent a youngish guy named Matt Pender, PG&E’s “Director, Community Wildfire Safety Program Program Management Office,” to a Supes meeting to explain their planned Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) program for the 2019 fire season. It didn’t go well. Pender was very ill prepared. He not only had little if any response to a continuous stream of complaints, but he didn’t even have much Mendo-specific info. After that weak presentation, the Board wrote a pointed letter to PG&E asking for a follow-up visit with more Mendo-specific info.
So Pender was back in front of some skeptical Supervisors last Tuesday to try again.
In July Pender had ended almost every sentence with “…right?” when it simply wasn’t. This time we only counted him saying “right?” once. As before, it was still not particularly “right,” but at least he kept that particular verbal tic in check.
Pender also had more Mendo-ish info this time, albeit still insufficient for the Supervisors, especially Supervisor Ted Williams who tried several times to pin Pender down without success.
One noteworthy tidbit Pender offered was that PG&E has installed around 150 more remotely controlled shut off switches in Mendocino County which would allow them to shut down smaller segments of the distribution lines than previously and limit the outages to smaller areas if the danger is in Mendocino County.
Pender also noted that there are three main trunk lines coming into Mendocino County, one from the north, one from the east and one from the south. The eastern and southern trunk lines run through the high fire danger zones and are the most vulnerable to shut off. But, Pender said, if only one of them was shut off, the other two trunk lines could probably handle most of Mendo’s power load. However, if two of them were shut off (east and south) then the line from the north (Humboldt County), might not have enough capacity to keep Mendo lit up.
Pender also said that PG&E has assembled some, let’s call them, “pop up resource centers” ready to be set up in Ukiah and maybe elsewhere which could allow some locals to sit under some tents in the shade while their cellphones recharge along with port-a-potties for people displaced due to days-long power shuts offs. But the pop up centers are small and support maybe 100 or so people. Pender said PG&E plans to set them up in parking lots, mainly in Ukiah. Mr. Pender didn’t want to say which parking lots or where because, he explained, he didn’t want people to think they’d be in one place only to find out they were at another when the power goes out.
Presumably PG&E’s notification system — which is still based on only robo-calls to registered government service agencies and customers who have signed up for them — will include information on where the pop up centers are when the shut-offs are imminent.
Pender said that PG&E would try to give customers 48 hour notice of shut offs, or maybe 24 hour notice, or maybe less — it depends on the weather and what their predictions tell them.
Pender said that they don’t expect shut offs to last more than 48 hours either. But when Williams tried to pin him down on how many days people should actually plan on, Pender repeatedly hedged saying it depends on the weather.
Supervisor John Haschak narrowed the outage time frame by explaining to Pender that even in the best of circumstances with a relatively short high-wind event and short shut-off, it would still take PG&E a couple of days to re-inspect the lines before they’re re-powered. Meaning that two days is basically the minimum outage if they do it, and longer if the conditions call for it.
Mr. Pender refused to acknowledge that PG&E was creating more of a fire hazard by forcing people to use hundreds if not thousands of portable generators all over Mendo in all sorts of situations with accompanying fuel storage and possible spills, loose wires and cords, sparks, mis-installations, etc. — thus effectively admitting that the planned shut-offs are more about keeping PG&E from being blamed for fires than they are for overall “public safety.”
Supervisor Williams noted from Pender’s charts that PG&E says they are “hardening” some of their lines. But so far the “hardening” (better insulated wires, stronger poles, etc.) has been done on only about one mile out of over 2300 miles of the lines in Mendocino County. They “plan” to harden 150 miles “this year” (no deadlines) out of over 25,000 miles of PG&E’s total Nor-Cal grid.
Pender also said PG&E had no plans to reimburse anybody for anything that the County or customers may be out of pocket for to keep the juice on while PG&E power is off.
Williams’ final exchange with Pender summed up the situation:
Williams: “Given that PG&E has held been held responsible for the fires in recent years from energized lines, if you have de-energized lines causing property loss and loss of life from fires, do you think PG&E should be held accountable for those as well? If you shut the lines off and something bad happens, do you think you should be responsible for that?”
Pender: “I don't think I understand what kind of tragedy could come about from that.”
Williams: “Shutting off electricity to this county means that generators will be coming on at a dangerous time when PG&E doesn't want its own lines on. Gas generators will be running up against dry grass. Say there's a fire. Do you think PG&E should be responsible for that outcome because your de-energized lines are the proximate cause of the fire that would result?”
Pender: “I don't personally but I don't think that's for me to judge.”
Williams: “In the past we've had major property damage and great bodily injury and death and we are asking PG&E and the PUC [Public Utilities Commission] for help and so far we get a few grant programs and slideshows and such. I'm worried about our vulnerable population. I don't mean to give you a hard time. I know you are in the hot seat. I don't envy you. But so far we have not heard an answer as to how we can prepare. We don't have the funds to adequately prepare. So when something happens we will be asking, where do we go from here? Who's responsible? It can't be local government. What do you recommend?”
Pender: “I'm not focused on the question of who is responsible for another fire. I'm focused on how do we prevent another fire and how do we all do that together because the ground has shifted underneath us and the wildfire risk is higher.”
Williams: “We know it's changed. But we also have PG&E — you are showing 2334 miles of lines in Mendocino County through some Tier 3 high hazard zones and there is less than a mile of hardening. We understand we’re not getting much of it here in Mendocino County. But could we at least have a plan showing where the highest risk zones will be hardened this year? We have citizens who are vulnerable and they will have their power shut off and if they have a small generator fire they won't have well water to run it to extinguish the fire. That's not a good situation for us. I would like your company to step up and be a partner with us and instead you give us very vague answers. We don't know how many shelters or where they'll be or what capacity they will have or how the parking will work. It's not a lot to work with.”
Pender: “I share your focus on keeping the community safe and preventing wildfires. I understand where you're coming from and I equally appreciate the challenges presented to you all. I don't think you think it's right for us to keep our lines on in any conditions. We have direct guidance from the state and multiple levels that we should have this program and it needs to be a tool of last resort.”
Williams: “Understood. But risk is hazard offset by mitigation. What you are saying is there is an increased risk because the hazard has grown, climate change, infrastructure has not been maintained by an investor-owned utility. But that has not been balanced by a mitigation offset. We are very weak on mitigation. Mitigation would be hardening lines and doing more clearing than 4 feet around the lines, working with local government to establish shelters that are fixed and well known and well advertised and have flush toilets. A lot of mitigation could be done to protect the community. I'm not holding PG&E responsible for climate change or fire behavior that we have never seen before. But I do believe there is room for mitigation. I appreciate this slideshow. It seems to apply to our county somewhat this time. But it's really not enough. This is like the utility putting out the absolute minimum effort and cost.”
THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
Thanks for your coverage of the impending season of public service power shut-offs. PG&E created the problem, choosing to spend revenue from ratepayers on stock buybacks and exorbitant pay for senior executives instead of on upgrading antiquated transmission lines and equipment.
PG&E’s solution? Throw the problem back at the public, asking us to prepare for extended power outages. This is outrageous enough for the average person, but many among us simply don’t have the capacity to prepare, and some depend on electricity for life-saving equipment and medications.
The impact on local businesses will be profound. And, for those who can fall back on backup generators, can you imagine our tourist centers powered by diesel generators for extended periods? They’re loud and diesel exhaust is toxic.
PG&E needs to provide the resources necessary for resilience in the face of a problem it created: fund investments in micro-grid powered resiliency centers; identify our most vulnerable and provide them with the tools they need to survive; and subsidize gas generators — still not great for air quality, but much better than diesel.
In the long term, in addition to investing in grid maintenance, PG&E needs to invest in the grid of the future — one that can adapt to our warming world.
A FACEBOOKER SAYS, "I went to Lemons' Philo Market last week. And I got this dressing made by Lemons, and it is the BOMB. If you haven't tried it yet, you should. I've even put it on as a sandwich spread. I put this on anything I possibly can. I hope they keep making it. Cause I'll keep buying it."
PROTESTERS AT UKIAH COURTHOUSE OVER STALLED CHP INVESTIGATION INTO FATAL MENDO HIT & RUN
And it looks like they’ll take the protest Friday afternoon over to the CHP Station in Ukiah @ 2:30 pm.
Beloved coast community member 21-year-old Calum Hunnicutt was struck and killed by a hit and run driver on Highway 1 at the traffic lights in Mendocino on July 18th. CHP impounded a vehicle thought to be involved, but have yet to name the “person of interest” they mentioned. CHP has not issued any updates on the case.
KEEP OUR CHEAP WATER FLOWING, SAYS POTTER VALLEY'S NOBLE SONS OF THE SOIL
"Invite your friends and family to support an important cause! Make sure to bring the flyer to have 20% go to the benefit. The Potter Valley Project hydropower licensing process will be complex and lengthy. It is important for our community to remain aware on what is happening to a vital resource. All proceeds with go to the MCFB Water Education and Outreach fund which will allow us to continue keeping the community involved through events, calls for action and educational materials."
FILL 'ER UP!
Propane is really cheap now
Wholesale propane is 65 cents this week, so you shouldn't have to pay more than about $1.65, tops. If you are paying more, join a co-op like the Guild (formerly Grange) or the Arena Co-op. The end of August is almost always a good time to fill up for the winter. Why is gasoline so expensive when a gallon of propane has more energy in it than gasoline does?
— Peter Reimuller
HOW TO LOSE TO TRUMP. AGAIN.
It’s a testament to the degradation of US politics that Trump won the last go. How could he have won but for the utter inadequacy of his adversaries? Look at who opposed him for the Republican nomination. The Democrats should have found it virtually impossible to find a nominee worse than Trump but they managed to. The same could apply to the next election. Here’s the plan for losing to Trump again: keep insulting Trump’s voters, keep denying they have legitimate interests, keep telling them their economic decline is entirely their fault or that they’ve been “left behind” like a family losing track of one of their kids at a road-side stop, keep denying the role of deliberate government policies orchestrated by the wealthy few, keep calling them cretins and racists for sticking up for themselves. If the Democrats stick to my plan for losing I guarantee they will lose. This is fool-proof, just keep doing what they’ve been doing and they WILL lose.
SHROOMS ARE NOT METH/ETC.
Unethical and damaging practices by the Mendocino County Sheriff Dept, and Media complicity
The Mendocino County Sheriff Department appears to have been, and may still be, engaged in an unethical, dangerous, and perhaps illegal practice, of misrepresenting non-Meth related arrests (in particular for Mushrooms) as involving Meth. When they have arrested people for drugs such as Mushrooms, they have chosen to use the statute that is most closely related to Meth, the Health and Safety Codes 11378, and 11379, and more egregiously, the have listed the arrests in the booking log as having been for "Meth/ETC", rather than specifying that the arrest was for "Psilocybin", or using the more generic catch all phrasing of "Controlled Substance". When a booking log for an arrest is created there are far reaching consequences as local media outlets in a place like Mendocino County (where news is slow apparently), and bottom feeding Mugshot extortionists websites, immediately publish the arrests details and the world is now privy to the information as provided by the arresting/booking agency. Therefore, how these arrests are phrased have immediate and serious consequences.
There is already a basic problem with relying on arrest reports from the police as an accurate source of information. When the police arrest someone they often jack up the initial charges so as to, make the arrest look big, create leverage to force the person arrested to accept an unfavorable plea deal, increase bail, and punish people they don't like. Furthermore, the cops often lie or make mistakes, and thus the information contained in a booking log can be wildly inaccurate. Yet, this is the information that the world is given, and once it is on the internet, it is forever. You would think and hope that the police and media would take this responsibility pretty seriously, but it appears they do not.
In the case of the Mendocino County Sheriff department, invariably when they attached the METH/ETC label to an arrest, the local papers would drop the ETC part and just report that a person had been arrested for Meth. It is not surprising, as that is a logical assumption to make. It is kind of shocking that there was no communication between the local media and the police, as the Media left themselves open to some serious lawsuits based on their actions. I don't know if the Sheriff Department has engaged in this behavior to punish people they don't like, to misrepresent the nature of the arrests they are making to cover for some type of cooking of the books they are engaging in, or merely because they are lazy and don't care. Whatever the case, these actions have serious negative consequences for the victims, and I am one of those victims. here is my story.
Here is to hoping that the local media of Mendocino County does some digging into these issues.
CATCH OF THE DAY, AUGUST 30, 2019
IVY BODWIN, Ukiah. Petty theft, disorderly conduct-alcohol.
HUNTER CASEY, Willits. Probation revocation.
DAVID FINGERHOOD, Philo. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
JOHN FRANCIS, Ukiah. DUI, no license.
ROGER GIBSON, Stockton/Fort Bragg. DUI, resisting.
THOMAS HANOVER JR., Ukiah. Domestic battery. (Frequent Flyer)
TERRY JACKSEN, Petaluma/Calpella. Unlawful display of registration, county parole violation.
AMBER KING, Gualala. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
BENJAMIN KNEPPER, Woodburn, Oregon/Ukiah. Pot possession for sale, controlled substance, ammo possession by prohibited person, fugitive from justice, resisting.
ZACKERY LIGON, Ukiah. DUI with priors, conviction within ten years of prior DUI, probation revocation.
BRANDON MARTIN, Willits. Domestic battery.
WILLIAM MATTHEWS, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
LINDSAY MOLINERO, Ukiah. Stolen vehicle, child endangerment, probation revocation.
MARK NIELSEN, Nice/Ukiah. Stolen vehicle, taking vehicle without owner’s consent, controlled substance, probation revocation.
THE HELL OUT OF DODGE
by Jeremy Harding
August marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Woodstock festival. Michael Lang, the tenacious 24-year-old who made Woodstock happen, has a habit of surfacing at Woodstock birthdays: one book to mark the tenth anniversary, another to mark the fortieth, a couple of namesake concerts and now a coffee-table volume of photos from the 1969 festival, plus brief explanatory notes. Earlier this year he announced the line-up for a fiftieth birthday event at the Glen, a racetrack 150 miles from the original site. Performers included Miley Cyrus and Jay-Z. A few wrinkly legends, including the Zombies and Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin famously turned down the offer to play fifty years ago) were also billed, alongside veterans from the founding festival: Santana, David Crosby, Country Joe McDonald, the remains of the Grateful Dead, Canned Heat and others.
But Lang’s fifty-up began to unravel when his top-dog investor, the Japanese digicoms company Dentsu Aegis, announced from its London HQ that it was pulling out. Like many ageing music promoters, Lang can nowadays afford expensive lawyers, but his suit against Dentsu Aegis didn’t go the way he’d hoped. In May the investment bankers Oppenheimer Holdings stepped into the breach, only to discover that the Glen was no longer willing to host. Woodstock Fifty is dead in the water. A rival anniversary event near the original site could yet happen, but Lang set his lawyers on the organizers with a writ to cease and desist – though his case looks shaky now that his own project has foundered.
There are nasty echoes here of the knife-edge countdown to Woodstock 1969. In those days Lang was a charismatic hippie from Brooklyn who had staged a festival in Florida. He was hoping to build a music studio in Woodstock, New York State, where he was hanging out at the time. Van Morrison was living in the vicinity, Bob Dylan too. Lang approached two wealthy young entrepreneurs to fund the studio project, and one of them, Joel Rosenman, suggested it might make more sense to put money into a live event. Woodstock Ventures was duly constituted and the team set to work on a “music and arts fair.”
But who would lease the land for a gathering of fifty or sixty thousand people? Lang had set his heart on a farm in Saugerties, a few miles east of Woodstock on the Hudson River, but then the local council gave him the cold shoulder. He and his colleagues found another site in Orange County; the residents were opposed. “We got the hell out of Dodge, aiming to put the bad vibes behind us,” Lang remembers. They had lost a precious four weeks, the festival date was looming and they were still scouting for a location. One day, driving around Sullivan County, they reached the brow of a hill and saw the perfect spot below. “I shouted, ‘Stop the car!’ as the field of my dreams appeared before us.” They were about 75 miles out of Woodstock in the rural hamlet of Bethel (population 2700). The property was owned by Max Yasgur, a 49-year-old dairy farmer born to Russian Jewish immigrants. Yasgur and his wife, Miriam, had 600 acres and a large herd of Guernsey cows. They struck a deal with Woodstock Ventures – $50,000 for the loan of the land, according to Rolling Stone’s coverage of the event the following month.
Some say that Yasgur actually agreed to much less, but he never let on. The project needed someone obstinate, with an eye on his own interests and a willingness to court hostility in the county. Lang had found his man. Without Yasgur, we wouldn’t have “Freedom (Motherless Child),” the high point of Richie Havens’s opening set, or Janis Joplin’s drastic version of “Ball and Chain,” which was meant to be performed on day two but wasn’t heard until the small hours of day three: rain was already delaying the program. Or the ragged version of “Wooden Ships,” delivered by Jefferson Airplane about five hours later; or “The Star-Spangled Banner” eventually performed by Jimi Hendrix at around 10 or 11am on day four: a torrential rainstorm had brought things to a standstill the previous afternoon and Hendrix didn’t make it onto the stage until Monday morning; most of the crowd had already left.
With Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy assassinated, Nixon in the White House, the Salt I treaty still a few years off and nearly half a million troops in Vietnam, three of those memorable turns were in “protest” mode: Havens’s sampling of the 19th-century spiritual “Motherless Child” sounds now – and maybe did at the time – like a reminder that Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society had left many African Americans out in the cold. In “Wooden Ships,” a post-nuclear daydream, the singers – Grace Slick and Paul Kantner – are sailing away from America, exchanging iodine tablets with other survivors and looking back at figures on the shoreline moving around in silver hazmat suits. “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a travesty of the national anthem performed on a Stratocaster, speaks to violence at home and war abroad. Johnson’s bombing campaign in North Vietnam, which had wound up in November the previous year, was still fresh in people’s minds, and it transpired later that Hendrix had closed out the festival six months – to the day – after Nixon began bombing Cambodia. At the time the American public and almost every member of Congress was in the dark.
FATE OF THE F-WORD
Overuse a word
And you diminish its power,
Kill its potency.
Without the F-word,
its power I mean, it’s just like,
Like, you’re F-worded.
— Jim Luther
by James Kunstler
The old plantation spiritual comes to mind as the first in a series of DOJ Inspector General’s reports is issued — this one outlining the turpitudes of former FBI Director Jim Comey — while even more fateful inquiries by Barr and Durham grind away in silence and mystery, and one senses that sometime soon the whole hot mess of RussiaGate will land on the doormat of Barack Obama.
Many other (by now) well-known names have been implicated in this fiasco but Mr. Obama has stood aloft from them on a fluffy cloud of his own, enjoying his multimillion book deal, plenty of international travel, and shopping for real estate on Martha’s Vineyard, the elephants’ graveyard of the One Percenters. And yet, something wicked is creeping his way as investigators work up the food chain to discover why and how so many high government officials cooked up a scheme to get rid of the despised winner of the 2016 election.
President Obama, Liberalism’s great bowling trophy, its incarnate virtue signal, is going to get “the business” from the very justice department he sicced on his successor, only now under new management. If you think the Left has gone batshit crazy since the Mueller report flopped, along with the supposed author’s Mr. Magoo-like performance before congress in July, just wait until Mr. Obama is called upon to do some official ‘splainin’ about who exactly authorized the operation to unseat Mr. Trump. I daresay the Left would rather blow up what remains of the Republic than see their retired champion in a witness chair, subjected to the peevings of mere mortal federal attorneys.
And yet, certain remorseless legal machinery has been set in motion now that could send a whole boardroom of former Obama administration higher-ups into disgrace, infamy, and possibly the federal slammer. Think: former CIA Director John Brennan in his future role as ping-pong round-robin manager at the Allenwood, PA, penitentiary; Loretta Lynch paring turnips at Camp Alderson, WV; James Clapper trying to catch a little tan in the ‘yard’ at Lompoc…. Somewhere along the line, someone is going to point a finger at Mr. Obama and those who were around him in the dear dead days of 2016.
There’s no precedent for this, of course, not even the case of ole Tricky Dick Nixon, who never had to take a witness chair in the Watergate matter and received a pardon from his successor, Gerald Ford, which made the whole tiresome business go away pronto. Wouldn’t it be a kind of poetic justice if Mr. Trump had to do the same for Mr. Obama? The New York Times would surely find a way to spin that as “racist.” CNN would declare war on FlyoverLand and send Don Lemon to Kentucky in a Lincoln Navigator with a light-saber to subdue the Ku Klux Klan and the satanic hosts of White Supremacy. Well, you see how easily this country could lose its shit.
In the meantime, cries of consternation rise from Right at the DOJ’s demurral to actually indict Mr. Comey on any of the charges listed rather explicitly in the new report. The explanation goes something like this: Comey gave an official FBI memo of his own composition to pal (and attorney) Daniel Richman, and instructed him to leak the contents (though not the memo itself) to a New York Times reporter. The memo involved recollections of a one-to-one meeting with Mr. Trump in which the case of General Flynn came up, with Mr. Trump making the case that there was nothing illegal about the National Security Advisor speaking with the Russian ambassador — since, after all, that is precisely what ambassadors from foreign lands are in Washington to do. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that Mr. Comey was wearing a wire during that, and several other, meetings he had with Mr. Trump — before the president grokked that he was being personally set-up for an obstruction-of-justice rap and issued Mr. Comey a pink slip.
In sum, this particular matter amounted to a rinky-dink charge, where Mr. Barr’s prosecutors are concerned, compared to the greater and darker matter of Mr. Comey’s role in defrauding the FISA judges to get warrants to spy on US citizens. That will likely be Mr. Comey’s true Waterloo. So, he greeted this week’s IG report with a smarmy Twitter tweet celebrating his imagined “exoneration.” Imagine instead what his cortisol level will be in the months ahead as he awaits further moves by Messrs Barr, Durham, and IG Horowitz.
In an early riposte to all this bother, hapless MSNBC anchor Lawrence O’Donnell came out with a “bombshell” report that Mr. Trump had used a claque of Russian oligarchs to co-sign some loans in his hotel business — more proof that the President is Putin’s puppet! Alas, like so much other information seeping from the bloated, decomposing carcass of RussiaGate, the report had not been verified before Mr. O’Donnell opened his pie-hole to blab it out on prime-time TV. The President’s attorneys promptly offered to sue Mr. O’Donnell for defamation unless he apologized post haste and renounced the phony report. Which he did. Just another day in hysteria-gripped MediaLand.
As a sidelight, given the content of the IG’s report on Comey, one can easily imagine Judge Emmet Sullivan having to now throw out the case against General Flynn, which has been fermenting in pre-sentencing limbo for the better part of a year, perhaps awaiting developments like these. If not, Mr. Trump will surely have to pardon the General. It would be real poetic justice to see him hired back to the job he was underhandedly shoved out of.
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page.)
EDWARD EGGLESTON, Calendar top, 1920's
FLOW KANA'S DEAL WITH THE DEVIL
To the Editor:
Flow Kana's biggest equity stake is owned by Gotham Green Partners, a private equity firm based in New York. Flow Kana has raised a total of $175 million from Gotham Green Partners, $125 million of which was a round of financing in February, 2019. It was the largest private funding round of a cannabis company in the United States to date.
But who are Gotham Green Partners?
What do we know about them? Their website says nothing. It's dark.
So I did some digging.
The Managing Partner at Gotham Green Partners seems to be a guy named Jason Adler.
Michael Henderson-Cohen, a Principal at Gotham Green Partners, sits on the Board of Directors at Flow Kana. He babysits Jason Adler's money at Flow Kana.
Who is Jason Alder?
Jason Adler was the Chief Executive Officer of Saiers Capital, LLC ( (formerly Alphabet Management, LLC). It's a quantitative hedge fund, also known as a quant fund.
I think he cashed out a few years ago to get into private equity.
What are quants?
Quants are Wall Street's geeks. They're often mathematicians. And make their money manipulating financial markets, creating volatility in financial markets, then trading on the wild swings of volatility that they themselves create.
Jason Adler's partner, Nelson Saiers, was such a geek. He studied algebraic topology and cobordism theory. Barron's described Saiers as a star quantitative investor. He worked at UBS and Deutsche Bank. At Deutsche Bank, Nelson Saiers was a Managing Director and ran a proprietary trading business focused on derivatives
How do quants do what they do?
Quants use their hedge funds' massive, computer-driven, "flash" trading to create much of the volatility in today's markets. Something called "derivatives" highly leverage their trades.
If you're a big institutional investor and you can't beat the quants, then you join them. It's a sort of legal blackmail. Quant hedge funds specifically target risk-adverse institutional investors, like big pension funds, interested in hedging against the very risk that quant hedge funds they, themselves, create. It's ironic, but true.
Let's be clear: Hedge funds do not create value. They destroy value. Hedge funds are the true robber barons of Wall Street. And Jason Adler is one of those robber barons.
In large part, due to hedge funds, and also due to derivatives, which leverage bets made by hedge funds, global financial markets are now are a dangerous world wrought with turbulence, unpredictability, and insane amounts of risk.
To think that Jason Adler is in our backyard, right here in Redwood Valley, makes my skin crawl.
As a footnote, Jason Adler also sits on the board of another cannabis company, The Cronos Group.
According to their own annual report, "The Cronos Group is committed to building disruptive intellectual property by advancing cannabis research, technology and product development."
Sounds like biotech to me.
Also, Cronos is bed with a company called Altria.
Altria is "Big Tobacco". More about that later.
Altria paid a 42% premium over the Cronos stock's 10-day volume-weighted average price for the period ending Nov. 30, 2018.
That gave Altria a 45% stake in Cronos, with an option for Altria to increase its stake to 55% over the next five years.
But there are even greater long-term benefits for Cronos Group resulting from the deal. Cronos will now have an exclusive partner in Altria.
Who is Altria? What is Altria?
Altria was previously known as Philip Morris Companies, Inc. Sound familiar? They have a huge portfolio of cigarette brands, including Marlboro. They also own wine brands and vape brands.
Altria is Big Tobacco. Their market capitalization, as of today, August 30, 2019, is $82.07 billion.
And they are bad people.
According to the Center for Public Integrity, Altria spent around $101 million on lobbying the United States government between 1998 and 2004, making it the second most active organization in the nation.
Altria also funded The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition which lobbied against the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change.
Daniel Smith, representing Altria, sits on the Private Enterprise Board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
In August 2006, Altria was found guilty of civil fraud and racketeering.
Jason Adler sits on the Cronos board, which makes him a partner with Altria. Because Jason Adler and Gotham Green Partners funded Flow Kana, that puts only one degree of separation between Flow Kana and Altria.
Let me say that again. There's only one degree of separation between Flow Kana and Big Tobacco.
Jason Adler is on the board of directors at a biotech company called Pebble Labs, located near the U.S. nuclear weapons lab in Los Alamos, NM.
Pebble Labs has a patented recombinant gene technology that makes it possible to insert "engineered" genes into the genetic material of bacteria that live inside host plants or animals.
Keep in mind that recombinant micro-organisms can potentially produce any protein encoded by any gene. For example, Monsanto has already figured out how to insert a gene in its seed corn that produces Bt toxin, designed to protect the plant by rupturing the stomach of any insect that feeds on it. Monsanto claims the toxin will break down before the corn makes it to your dinner table, but rats fed the GMO corn showed organ failure and the toxin has been detected in the bodies of pregnant women.
Pebble Labs plans on running away with this technology. It has an in-house, proprietary advanced analytics and computational technology called "Parallax Analytics" that uses uniquely developed algorithms, software, and data sources to design and drive accelerated research initiatives.
Freaked out yet?
Pebble Labs' Chairman and CEO is a guy named Michael Harrison, who also simultaneously serves as CEO to a large private Ag Biotech company.
This is another irony, of course. Mendocino County was the first jurisdiction in the United States to ban GMOs with a county ordinance, Measure H.
Measure H did not specifically ban GMO bacteria/microorganisms. I forget the details why, but can research why later. Suffice it to say, if someone creates (and patents) a GMO bacteria that alters the properties of a non-GMO plant (e.g. cannabis), it may be legal in Mendocino County.
Do we want to go down that road?
I don't think so.
What Can You Do
If you've heard enough, write to Jason Adler at Gotham Green Partners, 489 5th Avenue, Suite 29A, New York, NY 10017. Ask Mr. Adler what he's doing here in Mendocino County. Ask him if he's planning on using recombinant gene technology to create patented new strains of cannabis.
While you're at it, also write to Michael Steinmetz, Flow Kana’s co-founder and CEO. Write to him at: Flow Kana, 1150 Bel Arbres Road, Redwood Valley, CA 95470. Ask Mr. Steinmetz if knows who he's in bed with.
BTW, Michael Steinmetz is another interesting dude. Originally from Caracas, Steinmetz built and sold a Venezuelan national food marketing and distribution company, and worked as an investment analyst at Merrill Lynch and a data analyst at NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory.
NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory.
Who the hell are these guys?
Please forward this post to our brothers and sisters reporting on the cannabis industry. Small farmers are very much endangered here in Mendocino County.
My website is www.heroespatriots.org
You may contact me as a source for this story. I would love to co-report this story. I've had a show on various public radio stations since 2008. Currently, my show, "Heroes and Patriots" airs on KMUD.
John Sakowicz, Candidate 1st District Supervisor, Mendocino County
ANNUAL FUNDRAISING GALA FOR GRACE HUDSON ON SEPT. 14
"Art is the Connection": Annual Gala celebrates and supports cultural jewel of Ukiah
by Roberta Werdinger
The Sun House Guild of the Grace Hudson Museum will have its Annual Gala Fundraiser from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14. Always a highlight of the cultural year in Ukiah and the primary fundraising event for the Museum, the theme of this year's Gala is "For the Love of Art." The event will be held on the lawn in front of the Sun House, and will include silent and live auctions, entertainment with DJ Jerry Schultz, dinner, drinks, and a ceremonial poem.
"Art is the connection that brings everyone here together," elaborates Museum Director David Burton, "whether it's appreciation of Grace's paintings; or of Pomo baskets; or of exhibits featuring local artists; or of art from places outside of Ukiah. Whether it's hosting Writers Read (a popular monthly literary arts series), music, film screenings, and lectures--all these activities bring us back to the core principles of this museum: to provide a venue for the education and enjoyment of art and culture, and to inspire curiosity and creativity. Most of all, it creates a place where the community can come together to share its love of art in all its forms."
The evening will begin at 5 p.m. Wine and limited cocktails will be served as guests mingle and the silent auction gets underway. The ten items in the live auction include a small plane flight for three above Mendocino County (includes lunch); a wild game dinner for eight at Macgruder Ranch, featuring a private concert by Spencer Brewer and Alex de Grassi; a group pottery class with Ukiah ceramicist Jan Hoyman; and four mid-level box seats at Levi’s Stadium to see the 49ers play the Arizona Cardinals on November 11.
At around 6:15, Sun House Guild President Tom Liden and Museum Director Burton will make brief remarks, followed by a poem by Ukiah Poet Laureate Roberta Werdinger on the theme of "For the Love of Art." Dinner will be served, catered by noted Hopland chef Beth Kieffer. Several different local wineries have donated wines for the occasion. Non-alcoholic and vegetarian options will also be available. The silent auction will end around 7:15, with the live auction beginning shortly after.
The Sun House Guild, an indispensable part of the Museum's operations, is a private nonprofit group that raises funding to support the Museum’s exhibitions, public programs, and outreach. The annual gala represents a huge part of their fundraising efforts. For the past two galas, the Guild raised additional funds for an ambitious two-year project to water-protect the Sun House and refurbish landscaping around it, including installation of a new irrigation system and the placement of plants that more closely resemble those that existed at the time Grace and John Hudson lived there. At this year’s gala, Burton wants to return attention back to "the heart of the Museum"--its exhibits and programs.
Those have included, just in the past few years, exhibits on indigenous photographers; wildflowers and climate change; early California landscape artists; Mendocino County assemblage art; and a recent, well-received show on the tattoo arts. "It's a real diversity of art forms that we're able to showcase here," Burton, a writer himself, notes. Having relocated to the Ukiah Valley in November 2017 to assume directorship of the Museum, Burton was instantly impressed by how such a professional and classy museum exists and is supported in a city the size of Ukiah. “It truly is the cultural jewel of Ukiah," he says. "And it's a real pleasure to be in a community that values artists and has so many--from visual to performing to the written word. Art could be about anything--depression, love, politics. It connects us on many levels with the people who came before us--and with one another now--ultimately helping us to a greater understanding of the human experience."
"For the Love of Art" Fundraising Gala takes place at the Grace Hudson Museum, 431 S. Main St. in Ukiah. Tickets are $85 and are expected to sell out. To purchase tickets, call the Museum at (707) 467-2836 or go to grace-hudson-museum-sun-house.networkforgood.com/events/14685-fort-the-love-of-art
GOD? WHITE COURTESY TELEPHONE, PLEASE
Warmest spiritual greetings from sunny Pinole, California. Having taken housing refuge at the home of Robert Eggplant, I am creatively writing and spending a lot of time watching the mind worry, when otherwise it calms down and then a higher state appears. Somewhere between fear and being spiritually at ease, the mind travels. Just spoke with one of my hosts, and she said that it is okay for me to be at the house. I explained that I am packed and ready to move on, but have not received a spiritual vision, and thus have no idea where I am going to go. She said that she understood this. You are welcome to contact me and make any creative suggestions, or offer me a place to go to next. Again, I am leaving this in the hands of God.
Craig Louis Stehr
STATES WITH A SMALLER POPULATION THAN LOS ANGELES COUNTY
MUSICAL ART QUINTET
Nuevo Chamber: Dance Music or Chamber Music?
Ukiah Community Concert Association presents The Musical Art Quintet
“Nuevo Chamber is a superb fusion of chamber composition and global sounds by one of the emerging talents in the world music scene.”—World Music Central
Ukiah, California - Bass player, composer, and arranger Sascha Jacobsen takes chamber music to new heights. Each piece is based on a dance form, but instead of a Sarabande or a Gigue, Jacobsen uses Cha-cha-cha or Milonga rhythms to propel his melodies forward. The Musical Art Quintet will perform at Mendocino College Center Theatre on Sunday, September 22, at 2pm.
The Musical Art Quintet was formed in 2008 as a result of jam sessions on Sunday nights at Cafe Revolution in the Mission district of San Francisco. The members of the Musical Art Quintet are skilled improvisers and, although classically trained, each one brings with them a special area of expertise. Nuevo Chamber is the name for this new genre that blends world music influences with a chamber music ensemble, infusing rhythms from Argentina, Cuba, Africa, Jazz, Classical and even Electronica into an altogether new style.
The musicians include band leader Sascha Jacobsen on bass, Nigel Armstrong and Michele Walther on violin, Charith Premawardhana on viola, and Lewis Patzner on cello. The Quintet has cemented its status as a top world music string ensemble with recordings with the Nuevo Flamenco guitarist, Stevan Pasero, “Twelve Shades of Night” and with the Argentine Tango group, Trio Garufa, “El Rumor de Tus Tangos”. They are featured on the album “Titanes del Trombon” by Doug Beavers and have also released their own albums “Nuevo Chamber” and “Chamber con Alma”.
The Ukiah Community Concert Association has been presenting internationally acclaimed talent since 1947. This all-volunteer nonprofit’s mission is to build and maintain an enthusiastic concert audience by presenting stellar and enticing live performances. It is also their goal to encourage and develop music appreciation in the schools because Live Music makes Life Better!
Advance tickets are available at Mendocino Book Company in Ukiah, Mazahar in Willits, and online at www.ukiahconcerts.org.
Single tickets for this concert are $30 in advance and $35 at the door (adult) and $10 for youth (under 18). Free tickets are available at the door to Mendocino College students with ID, space providing. For more information, please call 707-463-2738, or visit UCCA on Facebook and at www.ukiahconcerts.org.
UCCA thanks Schat’s Bakery, Black Oak Coffee, and Rivino Winery for donating treats to be served pre-concert and during intermission. Special thanks to the Mendocino College Foundation, the Mendocino Arts Club and Mendocino College Recording Arts & Technology, the Mendocino College Art Gallery, and the Mendocino College Culinary Arts Program for their ongoing support and collaboration.
FRONTIERS OF FREE ENTERPRISE
Cannabis Trimmer at Emerald Sun and 4 more Software jobs in Lakeport, CA
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THE GREAT COST & MYTH OF DEFENSE SPENDING
U.S. defense spending is out of control, severely undermining our ability to tackle climate change, infrastructure needs, health care, and other national challenges. The mainstream media, particularly the New York Times and Washington Post, contribute to the problem of defense spending by understating the cost of defense.
GRAHAM GREENE IN THE CÔTE D’AZUR
by Manuel Vicent (translated by Louis S. Bedrock)
Spread out along the bay, Nice was an old fashioned city with a certain dilapidated look to it. It had become a kingdom of blue-haired grandmothers and deeply suntanned old men, all wandering the English promenade, pulled along by poodles toward the Great Beyond. Its times of glory now in the distant past, Nice at this time had been penetrated by thugs and thus there were only two paths to success: to be a gangster or to be a poodle.
Sitting on a bench on the promenade, while I was aspiring to enjoy the same human rights as a pet, I began to read the regional newspaper that featured the charming crimes of the province. Gaetano Zampa, King of the Marseillaise Mafia, was found “suicided” on the morning of that July day in 1984. From that moment on, the shooting had not stopped along the French Riviera. The ruffians were making their way up the ladder with a salad of lead.
It had been a long time since Francis Picabia, followed by a horde of artists of the avant-guarde—Jean Cocteau, Matisse, Picasso, ManRay, Paul Eluard, had made the Côte d’Azur fashionable. Pale muses from Montparnasse would come down from Paris, fill the bathtub with pink champagne, and cut their wrists.
In a tiny two room apartment that looked out over the Antibes port, the writer Graham Greene spent his final years in a large armchair facing the sea. There were 12 bottles of J&B lined up on his kitchen shelf. He had become a rosy old man, with watery blue eyes and a kindly smile, who would attend Sunday Mass every Sunday, well dressed and in the company of his mistress, Yvonne Cloetta, with whom he lived the last 30 years of his life.
Although Greene had converted to Catholicism in order to marry a Catholic girl, Vivien — his first wife, he quickly discovered that the most salacious quality of this religion was sin followed by absolution. And no one knew how to manipulate guilt and remorse with so much literary pleasure as Graham Greene, to the point where it gave meaning to his life as a novelist, a spy, an unfaithful husband, a passionate lover, and a traveler through the most turbulent places on the planet.
One summer, when I was 18 years old, while lying in a hammock, I read ‘The Power and the Glory,’ the story of a drunken, lecherous priest, who after escaping to safety across the border during the Mexican Revolution, recrosses the border in order to administer final rites to a dying man and is executed by a firing squad.
During summer vacations, when ‘The Third Man’ was playing in the movie theater next to our house, at night from my bed, I would hear the zither of Anton Karas that bore the memory of a Vienna that was in ruins and filled with spies, and of Orson Welles beneath the Ferris Wheel of Prater.
On that day, while I was reading about 21 bullet-riddled bodies found in the Riviera, I saw the writer crossing the promenade in the company, perhaps, of his mistress. I followed him with my gaze until he got lost among the other retired people pulled along by their dogs. At that time, Graham Greene had started a campaign against the gangsters, who, with the support of the politicians, had taken over Nice. His pamphlet, J’acuse (1982) was proof that the fire of a fighter still lingered in this old man, slightly stooped over his long legs, the author of ‘The Quiet American.’
Some time later, he abandoned his apartment in Antibes and went to Vevey, a village in Switzerland, to die near his daughter. The funeral was like a scene from one of his novels: On one side of the pews was his 86 year old wife Vivien, whom he had never divorced. On the other side was 60 year old Yvonne, who had never separated from her husband. Between them was Graham Greene inside a coffin, as always between heaven and hell.
BROADBAND ALLIANCE OF MENDOCINO COUNTY
Public Outreach Meeting
Friday, September 6th, 2019 10 am-12:00 noon
204 S Oak St, Ukiah, CA 95482
Call in Number: 605-313-4876 Access code: 108 1131#
Words from the Chair
Update from Elected Representatives:
- Congressman Huffman: Public Lands Telecommunications Act
- Senator McGuire: Senate Bill 560
- Assemblymember Wood
- Supervisor Williams
Community Partner Reports:
- Office of Emergency Services
- Schools /Mendocino County Office of Education
- Fire Departments
- Farm Bureau
Economic Development & Financing Corporation - County Broadband Coordination
Transition to in-house administration
BB projects update
Pending or Recent Legislation:
- Restoring Local Control Over Public Infrastructure Act Feinstein
- Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act Wicker
Mike Nicholls & Calvin Sandeen
Updates on Sonoma County and regional broadband activities
AB 1366 public hearing
THE GANG'S ALL HERE!
Meet the Retreat Women
Paula Bishop Pociecha will be leading us in an exploration of Appreciative Living--how we can begin to replace the negativity bias of our lizard-brain survival that tends to see threats everywhere, to a new story of practicing positive awareness and reframing to see what good can be gleaned from even the most dire situation. It's a new story of hope! Paula is a Life Coach and Alchemical Hypnotherapist with a 25-year practice helping people transform their "lead" into "gold.”
Giovanna Pagano will teach a drum workshop to enable participants to join her in drumming for our Saturday Night Live event! Giovanna studied hand drumming for over 15 years, studying with many teachers in various styles and traditions, mainly African and Afro-Cuban. She has performed locally at events such as Spring Dance Concert, Mendocino Art Center Fairs, and Carneval at Crown Hall, and she played weekly for Annie Lee’s Congolese dance class for many years. She has played with Barbara Borden, Mickey Hart, Arthur Hull, and Kim Atkinson.
Margaret Andrews will be facilitating the Co Creating a New Story Meditative Journey at this year’s Mendocino Women’s Retreat. She will guide us to get in touch with a situation in our life that is ready for change. We will write about and share this old story with another. As a group, we will release this old story, as only we can, to make way for a new story, a new way of living our life, be born from deep within. Margaret has been on a healing quest since 1995. A lover of the Earth, the Divine Feminine, ceremony and ritual, she has explored shamanism, herbalism and bodywork. Her desire to face her pain with loving resources and to connect with the Divine in a way that she craved led her to become certified in Mindful and Quantum Practices in 2007. She wholeheartedly enjoys sharing these transformational practices with others who desire the same.
Karin Uphoff, one of the original Mendocino Women’s Retreat organizers holds the unique distinction of having attended every retreat to date. Karin, locally famous herbalist, will be bringing her alter ego Aunite Astro, who will illumine us regarding the astrological aspects occurring during the retreat. Karin and Paula will MC the always hilarious Saturday Night Live Show.
Sojourna Lee will lead us in dances with Gaia inspired by dances of Universal Peace. Sojourna, Site Goddess extraordinaire, manages Meadow Farm Community Land Trust, teaches Compassionate Communication and will be seen riding her bike and ringing its little bell to gather us all up for the next exciting event.
www.mendowomensretreat.com or call Paula 707-409-5029
RUSSIA GATE SKEPTICS ARE VINDICATED, but conspiracy theorists are rewarded (with Glenn Greenwald).
WHAT TO KNOW AS CALIFORNIA’S PEAK FIRE MONTHS LOOM
by Julie Cart (CalMatters)
California fire officials have learned through hard experience to temper their optimism.
Having just endured more than a decade of rampaging fires — 14 of the 20 most destructive fires in state history have occurred since 2007 — fire bosses say this year the glass is half-full.
“We’ve got a few things going for us at the moment,” said Scott McLean, a spokesman for Cal Fire, the state firefighting agency. “We still have a snowpack. Our upper elevations haven’t dried out. Because of that, we are able to continue our fuel-reduction projects.”
Yes, this year featured a wet winter — usually good news for fire officials. But so did 2017, one of the state’s wettest winters in half a century and one of the most devastating years for wildfire.
Clearing and cutting has helped eliminate some of the brush and trees that fuel the flames. But California’s forests are still clogged with 147 million dead trees, and counting. And the late-winter rains encouraged the growth of grasses and other highly combustible plants.
Cal Fire battled 164 fires across the state in the third week of August, many of them small. History shows that September and October, with their hot, fierce winds, are the worst months for fire. And “this week we have dry lightning predicted,” McLean said. That could spark fires in the state’s northern forests.
On the other hand, state officials have been showering Cal Fire with financial aid. The agency’s ranks are bolstered by an additional 400 seasonal firefighters and 13 new engines and crews to operate them. And the state is taking delivery of a new Sikorsky S-70i Firehawk helicopter next month, the first of 12 replacement firefighting helicopters.
“We’ve got everything out of maintenance; everything’s ready,” McLean said.
But don’t look for California’s biggest air tool to come to a rescue anytime soon. The converted 747 jet, which can carry 24,0000 gallons of water or retardant, is currently flying over the Amazon, fighting fires in Brazil.
Mapping the fire threat
Cal Fire is in the process of updating its map of wildfire-hazard zones, identifying areas of fire danger and assigning degrees of risk to those places. The California Public Utilities Commission is revising its fire map as well. So are the state’s power providers and insurance companies.
They’re all trying to better predict where and how wildfires may strike, as officials across the state seek to gain some advantage over fire’s growing menace.
In the case of Cal Fire, the mapmaking — painstaking and devilishly complex, combining detailed data about weather, topography, vegetation and the placement of roads and homes — was last undertaken about 12 years ago. Officials say that doesn’t mean the 2007 version is out of date.
“When you look at hazards by themselves, they are long-term factors that don’t often change,” said Daniel Berlant, Cal Fire assistant deputy director and chief of planning and risk analysis. “The slope of topography is not going to change in a decade.”
But much else has changed. A debilitating drought has come and gone. That and widespread insect infestation wiped out trees in especially fire-prone regions of the state. And more and more Californians are living in the very landscapes that are most flammable.
Cal Fire’s map is used largely by counties and local authorities in making decisions about construction in high-fire-hazard zones and fire-mitigation measures from homeowners.
Berlant said the document’s “major overhaul” will include the latest science, particularly sophisticated new models for where and how wind drives wildfires. It will be completed sometime next year, he said.
The utility commission’s map is somewhat different. It breaks the state into a grid of one-mile squares, focusing on power companies’ lines and equipment and assigning fire threats. The identification of risk areas dictates what prevention efforts the companies should undertake to safeguard their property from fire.
The map includes Cal Fire and utility-company data, updated yearly.
Mason Withers, who helps run San Diego Gas & Electric’s risk-management group, said his company assumes the worst-case scenario in all of its 4,000-square-mile service territory and assigns its own fire-potential index.
“If vegetation could be dry, we assume it is dry. We assume winds will get as bad as they can get,” he said.
The analysis is intended for use by firefighters and utility companies but is only glanced at by insurers, which have been assembling their own risk assessments for decades. Many companies hire outside firms to provide them with satellite data as well as information from NASA and other federal institutions.
Verisk Analytics provides reports to insurers about risk but does not do forecasting. “We are not trying to predict where the next wildfire is going to happen; it’s too complex,” said Arindam Samanta, the company’s director of product management and innovation.
Although Cal Fire and the utilities commission publish their maps online, California residents may never hear about them.
“I didn’t know there was one,” said Curtis Simms, who lives in Paradise, which was devastated by a wildfire last year. “You don’t need a map to know you are in a high-risk area. You’re an idiot if you don’t.”
The risk in power shutoffs
Utilities call it “de-energizing” or Public Safety Power Shutoffs. To consumers, it’s what happens when a power company cuts electricity as a precaution during times of high wildfire risk.
Officials say the practice is a prudent fire-mitigation strategy, and it’s about to become a widespread tool, whether customers like it or not.
Officials say one in 10 wildfires in California is related to energy equipment. Even as California’s utilities do more to fireproof their lines and transformers, state officials say, the safest course during periods of high heat, dryness and winds may be to turn off power to some lines.
San Diego Gas & Electric has been proactively shutting off power ahead of high-fire-risk periods since 2013, but the state Public Utilities Commission adopted a policy on such cuts only last year. Customers around the rest of the state are still adjusting to the prospect of blackouts.
“Some customers are not particularly enthusiastic about the program when they first hear about it,” said Jeff Smith, a spokesman for Pacific Gas and Electric. “They are frustrated that their power will be turned off but understand it once we tell customers that it’s to reduce fire risk.”
The company experienced that kind of frustration earlier this month when it made public its plan for emergency shutdowns, involving four times as many power lines as in the previous year. Even though PG&E stressed that it doesn’t envision cutting power along every line it operates at once, residents reacted with trepidation.
Smith said the company has hosted dozens of events to describe the program, which is still new to PG&E’s 5 million electricity customers. The utility cut power only once in 2018, during high-fire-risk conditions, and twice this year, he said. The company has established a website for customers to check for shutoff forecasts, as have SDG&E and Southern California Edison.
Companies are loath to curtail power, for reasons that go far beyond spoiled food and other inconveniences. A representative of the city of Malibu testified at a Public Utilities Commission hearing last year that a power outage during a 2018 fire there cut off internet access and made it difficult for residents to keep abreast of emergency information and other public-safety announcements.
“We understand that there are risks on both sides,” Smith said. “There are impacts on first responders, impacts on traffic, on folks that have life-saving equipment they rely on. And there is risk with keeping power on during those high-threat periods.”
Technology has made the shutdowns less expansive. The San Diego utility has adopted a sophisticated system enabling it to curtail power to a single neighborhood or street.
Utilities have been meeting with local officials to discuss emergency power options that cities and counties may use to protect vulnerable people. Some residents are preparing for electrical outages by buying gasoline-powered generators.
Under new state rules, utilities are required to ramp up efforts to inform the public before outages, giving 24 to 48 hours of advance notice, or more, depending on the nature of the fire threat.
State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara laid out the dire news to legislators earlier this month: Insurers have declined to renew 350,000 homeowner policies in high-fire-risk areas in California since 2015, when the state began collecting data.
“I have heard from many local communities about how not being able to obtain insurance can create a domino effect for the local economy, affecting home sales and property taxes,” Lara said in a prepared statement.
“This data should be a wake-up call for state and local policymakers that without action to reduce the risk from extreme wildfires and preserve the insurance market we could see communities unraveling,” he said.
Lara’s news, which did not reflect those who were able to obtain replacement policies, reiterates that for insurers, California remains an expensive place to do business, and for homeowners, a costly place to buy insurance.
The data firm CoreLogic, in a report due out in September, estimates that about 640,000 homes in California are in areas of high or extreme fire risk. The cost to replace those homes: nearly $280 billion.
A RAND Corp. report, prepared for the state last year, estimated that the insurance industry’s underwriting profits of $12 billion from 2001 through 2016, “were almost completely wiped out” by catastrophic wildfires in 2017. Residential insurance claims from the 2017-2018 fires, the worst fire period on record for California, totaled $26 billion.
Mark Sektnan, a lobbyist for the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, a trade group, said that for every dollar taken in via premiums, companies have been paying out $2 for fire claims.
“Things have been changing quickly,” he said, noting that the 1991 Oakland Hills fire, which killed 25 people, was long thought to be the worst-case scenario for loss of life and property. Those once-in-a-generation events are happening with greater frequency, he said.
In the face of the dropped policies, there has been some legislative relief. A law passed last year requires insurers to offer a homeowner who lost a residence to disaster two renewal periods or two years of coverage, whichever is greater.
However, that law doesn’t prevent those whose homes were untouched or only damaged by fire from having their policies cancelled.
Steven Nielsen’s story of frustration is all too familiar to many fire victims. The 52-year-old lost his Santa Rosa home in the October 2017 Tubbs fire in Sonoma County. Bureaucratic entanglements with his insurer of 25 years delayed the rebuilding process.
At the time, insurers were required by law to offer fire victims at least one policy renewal, which Nielsen received, taking him through 2018. But when renewal time came again a few months ago, he said, his insurer sent him a letter saying that because no home was built at his address, the company was dropping him.
Still, he counts himself lucky to have found a company to cover the rebuilt residence when it’s ready. He expects his premium will go up 60-80%.
For California homeowners who cannot find or afford new insurance, there is the FAIR Plan, a bare-bones fire policy created by the state and operated by insurance companies.
Legislation: what’s next
After spending some of this year promising to roll out comprehensive fire legislation, lawmakers hustled a single mega-bill out in July, on a tight schedule, days before their month-long summer recess.
Many in Sacramento and elsewhere are still arguing over the bona fides of the bill, which was brokered by the governor: Is it a reprieve for Pacific Gas and Electric, which filed for bankruptcy because of fire-related liabilities, or substantive improvement in how California addresses wildfire?
The law does help the state’s largest utility pay fire victims by establishing a $21 billion compensation fund that it and other companies can tap under certain circumstances. It also requires California’s three biggest utilities to spend $5 billion to fireproof their equipment. They had already pledged to spend $3 billion in that effort, replacing wooden poles with steel ones and insulating lines and other equipment.
And for the first time, the state is requiring utilities to obtain a safety certification, setting a standard for safe and responsible operation.
Now comes the legislative mop-up. Pieces of earlier proposals were swept into the mega-bill or reconstituted into new bills.
“We made a lot of progress, but there’s a lot more work to be done,” said state Sen. Bill Dodd, a Democrat from Napa whose district has been beset by wildfires.
Don’t look for blockbusters; the bills still on the table are more modest, addressing discrete pieces of a complex problem. “None of these things are a be-all, end-all,” Dodd said.
There are bills to fund education programs and brush-clearing projects, beef up enforcement of “defensible space” ordinances and conductindependent audits of the utilities’ fire-mitigation work. Anotherproposal would establish a state wildfire warning center.
Additional legislation would expand notification periods before power companies shut off electricity to customers, especially to health care facilities and first responders, during times of high fire risk. Another billwould help low-income customers with back-up service or financial aid during power cutoffs.
And legislators are not finished with PG&E. One proposal would allow the state to sell billions in bonds that would help the company pay off wildfire liabilities exceeding its insurance limits.
Most of the proposals have been put on hold; it’s not clear which, if any, will clear the Legislature before it adjourns in two weeks.
(CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.)