- Storm Blocker
- Rays Recovery
- Reginald Sanders
- Soccer Finals
- Vicchione Booked
- Affiliation Steps
- PG&E Future
- Volunteers Wanted
- AV Village
- Destroying Earth
- 100 Years
- Plummeting Up
- Ed Notes
- Planning Dept
- Appeals Case
- First Photo
- Yesterday's Catch
- SF Park
- Homeless Exports
- Looming Shortage
- Surveillance Capitalism
- German Renewables
- Elite Overreach
- Tax Rates
- PG&E Vultures
- Early Alphabet
- Vet Regret
- Professional Email
- Art Presentation
- Truth Hound
- Scummy Prez
- Handgun Fatalities
- Improv Events
- Found Object
DRY WEATHER will continue through the week as a strong ridge offshore blocks storms from reaching the North Coast. Interior temperatures will remain above normal, but with a cooling trend mid to late this week. Occasional low clouds and patchy fog with near normal temperatures are expected for the coast. (National Weather Service)
HELP NEEDED FOR FIRE VICTIMS WILLIAM & JUDITH RAY
To the Editor:
A fire broke out at the home of William and Judith Ray on East Side Road in Little Lake Valley near Willits during the afternoon of Monday, Oct. 28, while there was a regional power outage. As a result, the Rays lost their home and all their possessions.
People who want to make a donation to the Rays may do so at either the Ukiah or the Willits branch of the Savings Bank of Mendocino County. One can approach the teller in person and say that he or she would like to donate to the account of William Ray, or one can mail a donation to the account of William Ray to the Savings Bank of Mendocino County, 145 South Main Street in Willits, or 200 North School Street in Ukiah. William and Judith extend their thanks to all.
Bill adds: I am holding our mail to 22641 East Side Rd. Willits 95490 and I pick it up at the post office. My number is 707 357-7155. Concerning people can use the bank method to help if they choose to. Judith should be released at the end of the week and we can start anew in an apartment in town, closer to the hospital. Many thanks.
Today (Saturday), Anderson Valley boys soccer won the semifinal CMC division match against Tomales 4-2. Goals were scored by Cristobal Gonzalez, Lucas Kehl, Alex Tovar, and Irlen Perez. We will be hosting the championship game against our rival school, Mendocino, on Wednesday, November 13th at 2:00 at the Tom Smith soccer field at the high school.
— AV Athletic Director Arthur Folz
ACCUSED COAST CINEMA ROBBER BOOKED on Sunday for Robbery, Burglary, Criminal threats and parole violation, all felonies.
SLOUCHING TOWARDS AFFILIATION
by Malcolm Macdonald
On Thursday, November 7 the Mendocino Coast Healthcare District (MCHD) Board of Directors (BOD) endured a three hour public meeting, preceded by a two hour closed session. The public meeting was then followed by 35 more minutes of closed session. The next morning the BOD got up to attend yet another meeting of three hours. The end result of that November 8 get together was a 3-1 vote (with one recusal) to approve acceptance of a Term Sheet from Adventist Health (AH), moving the Coast hospital one step closer in the affiliation process.
The term sheet and the overall affiliation must gain a final, favorable BOD nod, presumably at a late November meeting. Next, the affiliation will need approval by the voters of the Mendocino Coast Healthcare District as part of the March 3, 2020 election. It passes with 50% of the vote, plus one.
An interim step on the way to complete affiliation is touched on in the Term Sheet. AH and the Coast hospital may enter into a management services agreement (MGA). Under that, AH administrators would take control of day to day operations at MCHD as soon as January 6, 2020. Presuming voter approval, the MGA would continue until the affiliation goes into full effect in April, 2020.
The Term Sheet was submitted by Jason Wells, President of Adventist Health's hospitals in Ukiah and Willits, along with Bob Beehler, Vice President for Adventist Health Strategic Partnerships. The document calls for a thirty year lease of Coast hospital facilities by AH. The name on the lease will be Stone Point Health, LLC, a subsidiary of AH, used for affiliation with entities that have union work forces.
The lease will include the acute care facility, all clinics and healthcare facilities, including ambulance services, owned or operated by MCHD. Ambulances will continue to primarily serve the populace of the coast healthcare district.
As the renter, AH will pay $1.5 million annually to its landlord, MCHD. That money will help to reduce the approximate $11 million in long term debt the coast hospital has been burdened by for several years.
MCHD's Finance Committee chair, John Redding, was the only member of the BOD to cast a vote against accepting the AH Term Sheet. In a statement written November 9, he stated, “[T]he affiliation team has not discussed the District’s finances post affiliation. The only way, it seems, to get my colleagues to focus on due diligence is to threaten not to vote for affiliation.”
Redding went on, “Regardless, I will vote for affiliation. I would just feel better about it if we as a team would take a moment of time to see if the District can meet its financial obligations post-affiliation.” Redding attached a spreadsheet and multiple graphs to make the case that the coast healthcare district may not be financially viable even in a post-affiliation world.
Redding said of his spreadsheet, “Of course, the numbers may be wrong, but that's why I want a review.”
Well, something akin to that exists. That would be the five year financial projection created for MCHD by he Binder, Dijker, Otte (BDO) accounting firm. Their report displays the coast hospital economic situation without affiliation, losing ground steadily into the future, with a projected net loss in fiscal year 2022 of $766,886, in fiscal year 2023 that net loss jumps to $1,233,076, and a loss of $1,707,949 for fiscal year 2024, at the end of the study.
Emblematic of the dire economic situation MCHD finds itself in right now was an item placed on the November 7th BOD meeting agenda at the last minute. It entailed a $337,000 payment made for an intergovernmental transfer (IGT). The way IGT transactions work, about double that amount will come back from the state in the not too distant future; however, MCHD is so strapped that it had to borrow from what is called its local agency investment fund (LAIF), akin to a savings account, because it doesn't possess enough short term cash on hand to cover the deal.
The number of days of short term cash on hand is tucked away on Page 11 of the monthly MCHD financial reports. Some questioning from MCHD Director Jessica Grinberg brought the days cash on hand from the back pages to the light of difficult discussion. At one point Grinberg asked, “What are we actually doing to promote our survival?”
A prolonged silence followed.
In the first quarter of this fiscal year the Coast hospital bottom line was $467,000 in the hole. The budget forecast for that time frame was only a $92,000 loss. For the same quarterly period last year MCHD was $240,000 in arrears. Two of the three bond covenants the Coast hospital is supposed to meet have fallen short for months on end. The only one on the positive side of the break even threshold is the “Days Cash on Hand” covenant. It is artificially supported by the LAIF account. Without the LAIF money the long term cash on hand would fall three weeks short of what is deemed a break even point. At the end of September the short term operating cash on hand amounted to 6.7 days worth.
In addition, Cal Mortgage, the state entity that owns much of MCHD's debt, has refused any more economic waivers to the Coast hospital. There is no sunny, smiling emoji at the end of this text. There exists only one viable solution at this point, and that is affiliation.
There is still one more issue that brings out deeply felt and sometimes divided emotions — an issue that some seem to wield as emotional blackmail for votes in the upcoming affiliation election. That issue is labor and delivery, or obstetrics (OB), if you will.
Whether or not the labor and delivery department remains open within Mendocino Coast District Hospital took up much of the public discussion time at both the November 7 and November 8 meetings. Births at the Coast hospital are down to between 50-60 per year. Twenty years ago the number was four times as high.
A fully staffed labor and delivery department is currently a $2 million annual loss leader at MCHD. The wording of the Term Sheet states, “Adventist Health will continue to provide existing services at the current level for at least 2 years.” However, the two parties are likely to sign an agreement that will void this part of the deal upon mutual agreement. Look for labor and delivery to be the first of the currently existing departments to get the mutually agreed upon ax.
In reality a lot of coastal mothers have been lifting that ax for years, by making the choice to go to Ukiah or Santa Rosa to have their babies. Of course, there are mothers and families in financial need who would find even the trip to Ukiah an economic hardship.
Currently, AH offers to help families in need who desire to stay close to Adventist Health Ukiah for their care at the hospital. A hotel stipend to the tune of $4,000 multiplied by fifty, would only cost $200,000. That figure is about one tenth of the annual loss MCHD incurs while keeping open a fully staffed OB Department for about one birth per week.
There are no recent documentations of babies being born on the side of Highways 20 or 128, nevertheless babies do not always arrive on their due date. One way AH has attempted to work through this potentiality is to have all of their emergency room doctors and nurses at Adventist Health Howard Memorial in Willits trained in birthing procedures. Perhaps after affiliation takes place such training could be extended to the Coast hospital.
The good old days of a full scale labor and delivery department are gone for rural critical access hospitals such as the one run by MCHD. The only way they might return is through radical changes in how our nationwide healthcare system functions. Do not hold your breath waiting.
A MCHD sponsored forum on labor and delivery will be held later in November, most likely at Town Hall in Fort Bragg. Precise time and date to be determined.
Other local alternatives include a birthing center as well as a broader women's health center on the coast. With some assistance from AH and possible grant money these approaches may help to ultimately solve some of the looming obstacles to labor and delivery. Many of these topics have already been touched upon at MCHD's Planning Committee. These meetings are chaired by Director Grinberg and often feature the most proactive, forward thinking ideas to be found in these parts.
One ray of sunshine amid the bleak financial numbers at MCHD has been the swing bed department. Through work initiated by hospital employees and the planning committee chair, the swing bed department has been a consistent money maker this year. Compared to last autumn, this department has shown more than a million dollar improvement. The next meeting of the hospital's planning committee is tentatively set for November 18, 5 pm, in the Coast hospital's Redwoods Room.
AVAILABLE NOW AT THE BOONVILLE GENERAL STORE — 895-9477
PG&E POWER SHUTDOWNS ANGER PUBLIC INTO ACTION?
by Jim Shields
Starting on Saturday, Oct. 26 and continuing through Wednesday, Oct. 30, Mendocino County joined 35 other Northern and Central California counties in a five-day Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS).
That’s the term Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) uses when it shuts off electricity to its customers in order to prevent its utility poles, towers, and power lines from being toppled by high winds and thereby igniting conflagrations.
But I don’t have to tell any of you that, since by now you are well aware of what happens when PG&E equipment fails.
When PG&E restored electricity to the Laytonville area around 5 p.m. on Wednesday, I told friends, “PG&E just turned the power back on just as I was getting acclimated to living in a Third World country.”
One ordeal folks in the Laytonville area didn’t have to endure was being deprived of water in addition to electricity. The Laytonville Water District was able to utilize a back-up generator allowing us to produce all the water our town needed during the 5-day PSPS event. Can you imagine how much more miserable the power outage would have been without water? As the S.F. Chronicle observed, “No heat, no light? Not so bad. No water? Much worse.”
One positive thing about the shutdown was it brought communities in 36 counties closer together as people pitched in and helped out neighbors and friends and strangers who were in need.
Of course, most folks rallied around their palpable hatred of PG&E and its criminal incompetence and callous attitude over the deaths of 100-plus human beings.
Altogether, 850,000 customers holding accounts with PG&E (that translates to approximately 3 million people altogether) endured the 5-day ordeal that brought closed gas stations, crowded grocery and home supply stores with nearly empty shelves, spoiled food in refrigerators, and packed resource centers with refugees from wild fires.
By the way, PG&E let the state know it’s not paying any customer claims on losses. What a company.
Meanwhile, as I discussed in a recent column, and now also reported in a L.A.Times story, “California power giant PG&E Corp. was stripped of its right to exclusively pitch a reorganization plan in court, escalating an already heated battle over the largest utility bankruptcy in US history. The shares dropped more than 25 percent in after-hours trading. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali said he’ll allow bondholders including Pacific Investment Management Co. and Elliott Management Corp. to pitch their own restructuring plan alongside PG&E’s, so they can both come up with ways the utility could deal with an estimated $30 billion in wildfire liabilities. The damages, tied to blazes that its equipment ignited, forced the utility to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January. It’s the latest twist in a massive bankruptcy case that has already attracted some of the biggest names in the financial world.”
The creditors, including the fire victims, have “spoken loudly and clearly that they want their proposal to be considered,” Montali said in his ruling. While PG&E’s plan is “on track as well as can be expected,” he wrote, so is the competing version from creditors.
“One plan emerging as confirmable is a very acceptable outcome,” Montali wrote. “And if both plans pass muster, the voters will make their choice or leave the court with the task of picking one of them.”
The court denied requests by other parties to let them offer recovery plans too.
“We are disappointed that the Bankruptcy Court has opened the door to consideration of a plan designed to unjustly enrich Elliott and the other ad hoc bondholders and seize control of PG&E at a substantial discount,” the company said.
Under bankruptcy law, a company has a limited amount of time to develop a reorganization plan and persuade creditors to vote in favor of it. Initially, no other competing proposals are allowed, so the bondholders needed permission from Montali before they could proceed. It’s unusual for a bankruptcy judge to grant such a request.
It’s really not surprising that our Sacramento politicians are getting nervous about PG&E’s future.
Gov. Gavin Newsom recently said he would “love” to see Warren Buffett’s holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, step into the bankruptcy proceedings and make a bid for PG&E.
Sam Liccardo, mayor of San Jose, is proposing that PG&E be transferred lock-stock-and-barrel to public ownership.
The City of San Francisco is actively working on a plan to acquire the monopoly’s San Francisco operations and infrastructure.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and a couple dozen other local government officials from other parts of California are proposing that PG&E be transformed from an investor-owned, private sector corporation into a customer-owned, public sector utility. The alliance of mayors and county supervisors sent a letter this past week proposing the deal to the PUC and Gov. Newsom seeking their support for the plan. Any public takeover attempt of PG&E would need to be approved by both the bankruptcy court and the PUC. Needless to say, the main question would be, where does the money come from for a public buyout?
One final PG&E tidbit, my Sacramento-based son, who works for the state Dept. of Education, emailed me that “some people are proposing customers stop paying their PG&E bills to protest what has been going on.”
Don’t you just love all this activity that’s been provoked by PG&E’s bad behavior?
Hopefully, at some point we’ll see some real productivity as well because it’s time for some kind of change, don’t you think?
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, and is also the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org.)
HOSPICE NEEDS VOLUNTEERS
To the Editor:
For years the Hospice of Ukiah Thrift & Gift Store has been picking up your unwanted furniture for resale in our store. You have come to depend on the “Thrift” as an affordable place to find that chair, or couch, or side table needed in your home. Mr. Lee Wachs even donated a truck, in memory of his wife, so that we could make pickups and deliveries. But recently we have had to stop making runs in the truck. The problem is staffing. We are seriously short of volunteers who, in the past, help us to accept, sort, price and display items.
The Thrift is a big store, and the only Non Profit in town that carries furniture. But pick ups and deliveries take two staff members and leaves us without staff to run the store. We need volunteers. If you are interested in becoming a part of the success of the store, and in turn Hospice of Ukiah, please give me a call at 462-4038.
Janet M. Denninger, Administrator Hospice of Ukiah, Inc.
AV VILLAGE CALENDAR
GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ'S '100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE' WILL BECOME A NETFLIX SERIES
NOT MANY CITIES can boast two public defenders and no DA, but San Francisco has done it with Chesa Boudin. For years, Mendocino County managed with one DA and no public defenders, an imbalance nobody outside Boonville seemed to notice. The San Francisco Police Department, which lives in Novato, spent well over $600,000 to defeat Boudin on the assumption that a liberal as DA will make SF's civic chaos even more chaotic. But Frisco's been on the skids for years, and the suicidal nexus of anything goes, introduced by the flower children, and the gross deterioration of the liberal political class that made room for people like Jim Jones, throw in the ever-widening class chasm and voila! here we are.
MONOPOLIZATION of essential services used to be assumed a bad thing, not in the public interest. The recent power outage by the PG&E monopoly, a for-profit business, seems to have re-awakened public awareness that this particular monopoly has to somehow be brought under public control and run in the public interest. Ditto for hospital monopolies. The looming for-profit Adventist takeover of Coast Hospital gives the vegetarian cult-church a Mendo medical monopoly that means higher medical prices for all of us. Nothing against Adventists, and nothing against Christians in general who, as most of us know, tend to be, ah, more socially reliable than, as Tommy Wayne Kramer has put it, the folks at the Mendocino Environment Center. Hospitals, as essential as utilities, also oughta be publicly owned.
SPEAKING of Mr. Kramer, he's got a new book out, and a rollicker it is. "Happy to be Here — Tall tales of fact and fiction" is not merely a collection of the writer's essential Sunday columns, which all Mendo people of sensibilities better than a stone pounce on every Sabbath as the unique journalo-jewels they are, no sir, these essays are new. And inimitable. And mostly fall defiantly outside the flabby Mendolib consensus, that oppressive amalgam of Billary politics and faux social concern that ends when the grants run out. This is good stuff. Truth in 500-word servings including much, dare I say, heartfelt reflection on family, aging, several great essays on baseball as it was, and even pets. I haven't purely enjoyed a book more in some time. Available, I hope, at both Ukiah book stores and on the Coast's, too. Not just log rolling here; this book is worth a lot more than the cover price of 14 bucks.
“HAPPY TO BE HERE” is (almost) 100 percent brand-new TWK-infused material, with visual contributions by veteran photographer Steve Caravello, You will find most of the stories amusing, some startling, and one or two with no purpose at all. You’ll wonder why they were included.
SPEAKING of gratifying essays, look up "Aromas of Black Plum & Licorice with Lingering Notes of Roundup” by Alastair Bland in October 9-15 edition of East Bay Express. Mr. Bland used to write for the mighty AVA before he moved on to more remunerative publications, but the kid can put the words together, and these words confirm that the jive juice industry is heavily chemically-dependent, a grim fact borne out by the wine-blitzed Anderson Valley. (The former boss man at Roederer, the late Michelle Salgues, was trained as a chemist.)
RECOMMENDED VIEWING: Dave Chappelle’s latest stand-up comedy special on NetFlix called “Sticks and Stones.” Great stuff and consistently close to the bone throughout, which is why every collection of the perpetually offended has denounced it as "Tone-deaf" and "Hurtful." The only prob I had with it was some of the sexual passages seemed gratuitous, but they were seldom, and Chappelle spares no one, least of all himself.
ALSO RECOMMENDED is the absolutely riveting NetFlix documentary called "The Devil Next Door" describing the prosecutions of John Demjanjuk, a Ukranian death camp butcher for the nazis during World War Two who, post-war, settled in Cleveland and quietly went to work for Ford. I came away thinking they got the right guy, then let him go because Israelis thought he might not be the right guy. Then, of all people, the Germans got him again as the right guy and he finally died a peaceful death at 91 in a German rest home when, given the evidence against him, the Israelis should have hanged him. Demjanjuk was only one of thousands of East European nazis, big ones and little ones, admitted to the U.S. after the war, including an eager nazi called Werner Von Braun who ran our rocket program. (The Russians wanted him, too.) The admission of these unrepentant fascists was pegged to their militant Cold War anti-communism, which was then in America the political trump card trumping all other political concerns and, of course, tacit recognition that there were and are millions of latent native fascists here in the land of the fearful. And they vote (cf Trump). Nobody was about to oppose these righteous new citizens who did their bit for mass murder, of whom this guy was only one of thousands.
A READER NOTES:
Public Defender's Office — This was posted on the public defender office FB page. I suppose it is somewhat of a feather in their cap. Maybe McEwen can explain it?
Mendocino County Public Defender — Our office just won a case of first impression at the Court of Appeals; the prosecution can’t just submit on the expert doctor’s evaluations at a probable cause hearing for indefinite-civil detention because, among other things, the reports have multiple layers of hearsay. The experts themselves must testify, in court, under oath. This case modifies/clarifies/extends prior case law, Sanchez, which limits hearsay that experts can rely on and guarantees the defense has the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses. It was a team effort and is dedicated to our former head Public Defender, the late Linda A. Thompson, who once said, “one can’t win a motion you don’t file.”
ON A SUNNY DAY in October in 1839, Robert Cornelius set up his camera. After removing the lens cap, he sprinted into the frame, where he sat for more than a minute before covering up the lens. The picture he produced that day was the first photographic self-portrait. It is also widely considered the first successful photographic portrait of a human being.
[…] the words written on the back of the self-portrait, in Cornelius’ own hand, said it all: “The first light Picture ever taken. 1839.”
CATCH OF THE DAY, November 10, 2019
CHARLES CASTANEDA, Ukiah. DUI.
ZEBULON COUTHREN, Willits. Domestic battery, failure to appear, probation revocation. (Frequent Flyer)
CODY HAMMOND, Ukiah. DUI.
BENJAMIN KIMPTON, Willits. Battery, burglary, trespassing.
SOPHIA PICENO, Ukiah. DUI.
ANGEL SANCHEZ, Springfield, Oregon/Ukiah. DUI.
DAVID SKLAVOS, Santa Rosa/Ukaih. Disobeying court order.
DEMIAN TROY, Chico/Calpella. DUI.
MATHEW VICCHIONE SR., Fort Bragg. Burglary, robbery, criminal threats, parole violation.
STEVEN WAYNE, Ukiah. DUI.
I thought I was at a loss for words at the things that go on in California, but obviously, I am not. Can anyone believe that San Francisco, struggling with homelessness, drug abuse and needles lying on the ground in the downtown area, with tourists hesitating to visit because of these conditions, is building a park costing $110 million?
Although it is funded by generous benefactors, could the money not be used for more-needed projects? San Francisco housing is the most expensive in the country, has limited space for building, and space that could be used for housing is now to be used for a park. I would like to understand the thought that made someone believe that this was a good use of money.
I don’t have the statistics on how many residents are fleeing California for states that aren’t so highly taxed and where housing costs are reasonable. The most valuable asset we have in California is the weather. Many are ready to brave colder climes for the benefit of more affordable living conditions, where they don’t have the SMART train fiasco and another park in San Francisco.
DAN RATHER PRESENTS, "ONE WAY TICKET TO NOWHERE" SAN FRANCISCO EXCERPT
CALIFORNIA’S NEXT ELECTRICITY HEADACHE IS A LOOMING SHORTAGE
As if California doesn’t have enough problems with its electric service, now regulators warn the state may be short on power supplies by 2021 if utilities don’t start lining up new resources now.
'BABY TRUMP' BALLOON STABBED, DEFLATED OUTSIDE ALABAMA-LSU GAME; SUSPECT ARRESTED
CAROL MATTESSICH writing on the Coast Listserve: "Shoshana Zuboff’s book [‘The Age Of Surveillance Capitalism’] is chilling. Considering the strength of the argument, one can only suspect that ad hominem attacks will follow. Her personal position is not what should matter here; what matters is the argument she presents. Her analysis is groundbreaking and seminal. She presents the world with an enormously powerful argument, richly supported by tons of proof. Her main argument is as simple as it is elusive, relevant and scary: the Googles and Facebooks of this world are shaping an antidemocratic world, in which every little detail of our online and offline lives becomes raw material in the production of predictive products that eliminate our freedom.”
Comptche computer maven Chuck Wilcher responds: "Zuboff’s research is downright scary. I listened to an interview of her with Harry Shearer a week ago. She’s got quite the insights on the information brokerage business."
Here’s a YouTube video of her discussion her book:
GERMANY TO CLOSE ALL 84 OF ITS COAL-FIRED POWER PLANTS, WILL RELY PRIMARILY ON RENEWABLE ENERGY
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Power is going to do what power does, which is to maintain or increase its own power and money, which is what we’ve had these past two generations.
We’ve seen this before, when power overreached and got way too greedy, convincing itself by way of ornate reasoning that the folk they lorded over were unworthy of any consideration. And we saw the results, revolutions all over the world, the French, Russians, Chinese, Cubans, Vietnamese and others sending their abusers packing, sometimes dispatching them. The US too, forcibly ousting its foreign rulers.
We see the same today, publications like the New Yorker, New York Times, Atlantic and others, speaking up for modern-day plutocratic overlords, pouring scorn on the moral and intellectual inferiors inhabiting America’s interior, going so far as to argue for their demographic replacement by desperate and impoverished foreigners, the better to abuse those people too.
It’s not just in America, you see it all over the world, systematic plundering by the oligarch class, with mouthpieces like Macron hurling insults, and we see the practical results. Life has gotten impossible in numerous places and people vote the way they’re not supposed to and they’re in the streets throwing rocks.
Fascism, racism, xenophobia, idiocy are some of the accusations from at the tip of the ruling strata and the useful idiots that speak for them. “Low information voters” is the smear, “people don’t know their own interests” say the high and mighty. Bollocks.
And the point of you making 100% sense is what? This was your question to me. My social sensors malfunction so I don’t know if you’re being sarcastic. But, on the chance you’re on the up and up, the choice is between the blue pill and the red pill. That’s the point.
You come to event horizons in human affairs, last chances. And if you take the red pill, there’s no going back, but even if you could, would you want to?
THE HEDGE FUND BATTLE TO CONTROL PG&E LEAVES US NO ONE TO ROOT FOR
by Michael Hiltzik (LA Times Business Columnist)
There must be some value left in the sorry carcass that is Pacific Gas & Electric, California’s biggest utility company. Otherwise we wouldn’t be witnessing a free-for-all among Wall Street hedge funds and investment firms to take it over.
Indeed, value there is — billions of dollars’ worth. It’s going to end up under the control of big-money investors holding the company’s bonds, or big-money investors holding its stock, the two major groups fighting for the right to bring PG&E out of the bankruptcy case it filed in January.
The shareholder group is desperate to salvage the value of their stock, but proposes to inject more debt into the company, which would erode the value of the bonds. The bondholders want to maintain the value of their investments, in part by slashing the current shareholders’ ownership stake by 99.9% and issuing new shares to themselves.
“Whoever loses is going to lose billions, and whoever wins is going to get a huge windfall,” says Mark Toney, executive director of the utility consumer group TURN.
One way or another, control of PG&E is sure to end up in the hands of investors with little record of long-term corporate management or evident commitment to the state’s goal of transforming its energy usage to renewable sources such as solar and wind power. One of the largest bondholders, the hedge fund Elliott Management, has been a heavy investor in oil, gas and coal companies.
What is hard to gauge is how far either investor group can be trusted to run PG&E for the benefit of its ratepayers and fire victims and in support of the state’s migration to clean, renewable energy sources.
“A key question is whether there will be decisions [by the hedge fund owners] that will undermine California’s clean energy goals and leadership,” says Kevin de Leon, a former president pro tem of the state Senate, who specifically took aim at Elliott in a Sacramento Bee op-ed last month.
Another wrinkle is that changes in state law — prompted in part by the PG&E bankruptcy — reduce the utilites’ potential liability for future wildfires and give them more latitude to pass the costs of wildfire mitigation to ratepayers.
Wall Street is not stupid,” says Loretta Lynch, a former president of the state Public Utilities Commission and a critic of those changes. “They get it that they can make money hand over fist from California businesses and families.”
The bankruptcy judge, Dennis Montali of San Francisco, raised that issue in August while pondering whether to allow the bondholders to propose a reorganization plan competing with a proposal put forth by the company’s management, representing its shareholders.
“If there were no victims to attend to, then perhaps the battles … would be the bankruptcy equivalent of a proxy fight or a hostile takeover,” he observed. That outcome, however, would do nothing to advance the “repeated stated goal of compensating the victims.”
Only a few weeks later, however, the bondholders had crafted an alliance with the fire victims group and won favor with PG&E’s employees union, prompting Montali to change his mind and allow the bondholders to propose their competing plan.
Regulators and government leaders do have tools to keep whichever group ends up controlling PG&E focused on clean energy. Perhaps in recognition of that reality, both groups have explicitly committed to honoring its existing contracts with renewable energy firms (although PG&E did obtain a ruling from Montali that bankruptcy rules would allow it to reject the contracts if necessary).
The utility’s post-bankruptcy future is sure to involve rate increases for its customers. PG&E has already asked for a rate increase of 7.2% based on recoverable expenses it has incurred this year, and is asking the PUC for a further increase of about 12%, or more than $20 a month on the average residential bill, through 2022 as part of its triennial rate request.
Much can happen in the months before Montali has to choose from among the reorganization proposals. In the meantime, the bondholders are asserting that the company’s proposal aims to “entrench the parochial interests of an aggressive new subset” of stockholders.
The shareholders, for their part, said earlier this month in a court filing that the bondholders are pursuing a “‘screw them all!’ approach” aimed at wiping out the shareholders and feathering their own nests by granting themselves the original value of their bonds as well as nearly $672 million in fees.
If you think there’s no one to root for among the major players in this brawl, you’re right. Let’s take a look at the contestants.
First, Pacific Gas & Electric, which may be the most detested, and detestable, corporation in California, if not in the observable solar system. PG&E’s disregard for its customers and the communities it serves has been a byword for years. In 2010, the company spent millions of dollars quietly bankrolling a ballot measure that would have hamstrung public power competitors.
That was the same year that a PG&E gas line blew up in San Bruno, killing eight people and leveling an entire neighborhood. The company was later accused of having falsified gas pipeline records after the explosion. In 2016, PG&E was convicted by a federal jury on six criminal counts in connection with the blast, yet its leadership was so scornful of the outcome that not a single director resigned because of the conviction.
PG&E’s equipment sparked more than 1,500 fires from 2014 through 2017, according to state records. The harvest of its lax work in hardening its infrastructure against fire-prone vegetation during windy periods was the catastrophic fires of 2017 and 2018, the liability for which pushed the company to file for bankruptcy this year.
This was its second bankruptcy, the first having come in 2001, in the wake of a botched state deregulation of the electric industry that the company had helped to design. That bankruptcy resulted in a surcharge on its customers’ bills for years totaling what Lynch says are “excess profits” of more than $3 billion.
That brings us to the company’s current stockholders, including the hedge funds Abrams Capital and Knighthead Capital, which own nearly 10% of the company’s more than 500 million shares. The funds bought shares for as little as $6.37 just prior to PG&E’s bankruptcy filing. Since then, as expectations for the bankruptcy case’s outcome have swung between optimism and pessimism, the share price has oscillated wildly, reaching as high as $23.72 in April. The shares are currently trading for less than $8.
he shareholders and their associates in management say the bondholders’ plan would give too much away to wildfire claimants with inflated or questionable claims. They maintain that their proposal would allow for the quickest exit from bankruptcy and “fairly compensate [victims] for wildfire losses … without a windfall for those seeking excessive or inappropriate amounts.” The company says that it’s “on track” to complete its reorganization by June 30, a deadline imposed by state law, and that it has received commitments for $14 billion in new equity investments.
The shareholding funds helped remake PG&E’s management with the appointment of William D. Johnson, former head of the Tennessee Valley Authority, as CEO in April. But under their leadership the company has continued its record of missteps. Some elements of the multimillion-dollar pay package for Johnson drew fire from the U.S. bankruptcy trustee in July. Montali rejected a $16-million bonus plan for 12 top executives in August, though he had approved a $235-million bonus plan for 10,000 lower-level employees in April.
The shareholders’ newly appointed board of directors, which is notably light on members with a record of public service, earned a brickbat from Gov. Gavin Newsom, who noted its dominance by “hedge fund financiers, out-of-state executives and others with little or no experience in California and inadequate expertise in utility operations, regulation and safety.”
Newsom added that with the appointments, PG&E was sending “a clear message that it is prioritizing quick profits for Wall Street over public safety and reliable and affordable energy service.”
Then came this year’s fire season, when PG&E tried to keep its equipment from igniting more fires by instituting blackouts across great swaths of Northern California. (Other utilities took similar but less expansive steps in their regions.)
The blackouts caused widespread misery, including losses of foodstuffs and other irreplaceable perishables as well as life-threatening shutoffs of electrified health equipment. The strategy wasn’t the fault of the current management, exactly, but reflected how few options PG&E still has to deal with wildfire threats after years of unpreparedness.
As for the bondholding group, its most notable member is Elliott Management, which is run by Paul Singer, an investor of renowned aggressiveness. He’s known for buying into troubled enterprises and forcing their reorganization, sometimes in ways that made a company more efficient, but sometimes in ways that produced accusations that his own interests outweighed those of the target and its stakeholders.
In perhaps his most celebrated escapade, Singer bought hundreds of millions of dollars in Argentine bonds, and after the financially strapped country defaulted, stood fast against its efforts to restructure the loans — at one point attempting to impound an Argentine naval frigate, the Libertad, when it made port in Ghana. (After a two-month standoff, an international court ruled the ship was immune from seizure.) In the Argentine case he won his bid for a big payout on his bonds, but his efforts arguably left the country in worse economic and fiscal straits than it would have faced otherwise.
In the PG&E case, the bondholder group that includes Elliott Management has shown more of a velvet glove. The group’s reorganization proposal offers the 2017/2018 fire victims a better payout than the shareholder and management group, on more liberal terms. The group says it’s prepared to invest nearly $30 billion in PG&E, including about $14 billion for existing wildfire victims.
And unlike the shareholder and management group, it has reached out to the politically influential International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, winning its crucial support for allowing the bondholder group to issue a reorganization plan in competition with the shareholders. Employees and ratepayers would each get a seat on the PG&E board.
Among other things, the group pledged not to seek to break up PG&E and has offered to protect the pension funds for employees and retirees from some losses stemming from the bankruptcy.
“Ironically, we’ve gotten a lot more transparency from Elliott, who’s perceived as the devil incarnate in many circles, than we’ve had from the four hedge fund people on the PG&E board,” Tom Dalzell, business manager of IBEW Local 1245, which represents some 18,000 employees of PG&E and its contractors, told me.
“There’s no moral high ground between the bondholders and the shareholders,” Dalzell said. “Elliott’s really plain and clear that they want to make money. I don’t have any more qualms about trusting them than I do about trusting the others.”
(Courtesy, the Los Angeles Times)
MOST IRAQ/AFGHANISTAN VETS NOW REGRET THE MISSION
by Fred Gardner
"Trump's Opposition to 'Endless Wars' Appeals to Those Who Fought Them" read the headline above a front-page story by Jennifer Steinhauer in the New York Times November 1. The percentage of vets deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan who disapprove of US intervention there has almost doubled since 2011! Key excerpts follow.
“Among veterans, 64 percent say the war in Iraq was not worth fighting, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, slightly higher than the 62 percent of civilians who feel the same way. Disagreement with the conflict in Afghanistan is lower — 58 percent of veterans and 59 percent of the general public believe that was not a worthy war. While some veterans support continued military engagement in Syria, more than half — 55 percent — oppose it…
“Many who served are concerned that the suicide rate among veterans outpaces that of the civilian population and is rising faster among younger veterans. Thousands who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are struggling with life-altering injuries that would have killed veterans of previous wars. And homelessness is a stubborn problem — only 7 percent of Americans are veterans, but they make up about 11 percent of the homeless population…
“Support for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was already declining a decade after the terrorist attacks on the United States, with Pew finding in 2011 that about one-third of veterans of the post-9/11 cohort believed those conflicts were a bad idea. Disagreement with the policy was found to have almost doubled in the more recent Pew poll among this cohort. The latest Pew study found that neither rank nor combat experience differentiated veterans’ views of the wars…”
Steinhauer contrasts the anti-war views now coming from Iraq/Afghanistan vets and those expressed by Vietnam vets.
“The regret over the wars among these veterans is distinct from the feelings of veterans of the Vietnam era. Many served in that war only because they were drafted, and it prompted widespread public protests. Veterans of all ages have soured on the latest conflicts, which unlike Vietnam have been fought with an all-volunteer force that seems proud of its decision to choose public service and feels embraced by American civilians regardless of whether they supported the wars in the Middle East.”
In Vietnam, draftees' resentment contributed to some anti-war sentiment; but it was mainly what they saw in country that led them and the Regular Army GIs serving three-year hitches to conclude that they should not have been sent there —just as the volunteer-Army vets who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are now doing. Veterans of all three wars came to feel that US intervention was wrong after they were deployed and saw how the locals felt about the situation and the level of destruction being wrought.
Most so-called volunteers are driven to enlist by socioeconomic pressure. Steinhauer quotes an Iraq vet named Daniel Schick, who joined the military because "I wanted out of Podunk; I wanted upward mobility.” Schick lost seven members of his unit in one deployment. “I kind of developed a cathartic bitterness,” he said, reflecting on his service. “It was a waste of blood and treasure and destroyed what little infrastructure that the Iraqi people had.”
"Cathartic bitterness" is a brilliant description of the attitude that enabled Daniel Schick to deal with the trauma he lived through in Iraq. He now lives in Oregon and is working for the state Department of Environmental Quality.
The news that a majority of vets not disparage the US role in Iraq and Afghanistan did not require an upcoming-election angle, but as the headline showed, the editors of the Times (and the think-tank fellows at PEW) are preoccupied with Donald Trump and 2020. Steinhauer duly analyzes the impact antiwar vets might have on the re-election of a President who claims to want to put an end to "Endless Wars." She notes that Trump has hardly reduced the number of US troops1 stationed overseas (about 200,000), and that his announced withdrawal of troops from Syria turns out to be only a partial withdrawal. The Pew Research Center study that the Times story is based on was published July 10.
Implications for Medical MJ Proponents
Many military vets have found that marijuana provides relief from PTSD2, and proponents have implored the federal government to let VA doctors approve its use by patients. The VA has stonewalled for years citing a lack of any clinical trials confirming the widespread claim of benefit3.
Arizona psychiatrist Sue Sisley, MD, finally got federal approval to conduct such a trial after many years of trying. Her protocol stated that the study would "explore whether smoked marijuana can help reduce PTSD symptoms in 76 U.S. veterans with chronic, treatment-resistant posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Participants must be U.S. veterans, men or women, aged 18 or older with a diagnosis of PTSD that has not improved after trying either medication or psychotherapy."
With a grant of $2,156,000 from the state of Colorado and the help of veterans' groups, Sisley enrolled 76 qualified patients. (The original criteria for participants included combat experience but that was waived when recruitment proved difficult.) The trial was completed in February of this year. The data was then prepared for publication in a peer-reviewed journal by co-investigator Paula Riggs, MD, and Marcel Bonn-Miller, PhD, whose title was "Coordinating Principal Investigator." Neither of them interviewed any vets; that was Sisley's role. The results have yet to be published and revealing them in advance would get their paper spiked. (Why a medical journal requires a scoop doesn't make sense to your correspondent.)
Sisley was appalled by the quality of the herb provided by NIDA's only supplier, Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly of the University of Mississippi. This is how she described the stuff to Randy Robinson of Merry Jane:
“It comes in these generic batches of either high-THC, high-CBD, or placebo cannabis. You have a very limited menu there, and they come in these ziplock bags. When you open it, it’s a greenish powder filled with extraneous plant material. So, there’s some flower; there’s some mixed stems and leaves, just ground-up fragments of the plant. It’s not just the tops of the plant — the flower — which is what we’d like to study…
“There’s no transparency. Normally, when you do clinical trials — and for years I did trials for Big Pharma — you get a complete drug master file that would give you all the details about the drug: its properties, how it was manufactured, et cetera. There’s none of that available.
“Even though the DEA takes millions of dollars of taxpayer money, they provide zero transparency. You’re not allowed access to the drug master file, which would be normal operation procedure in any other FDA trial.
“The only other federal agency who has access to the file is the FDA, and they refuse to share that with the public, which is already an abomination in my opinion. It should be challenged.”
I shared Jennifer Steinhauer's Times story with Dr. Sisley and was disappointed to learn that the vets in her study had not been asked about their attitude towards the mission itself. If you feel the mission was truly to protect America people, then the impact of horrific personal memories might be tempered somewhat by a sense of having done some good. But if you feel the intervention was greed-driven and of no use to your people, there is no buffer when the nightmare images of death and destruction flood your brain. "Moral injury" is an apt term for the loss of that buffer. Cannabis might help veterans cope, and so might cathartic bitterness. —Fred Gardner
- Such numbers are misleadingly low as a measure of the empire's military might because armed contractors are not "US troops."
- A most insightful commentary by Tod Mikuriya, MD on how cannabis helps people cope with PTSD ran in O'Shaughnessy's, Summer 2006
- Here is a transcript of Arizona vets providing strong anecdotal evidence on the subject in a piece recounting the runaround Dr. Sisley was getting from the federal government.
DECEMBER FEATURED ARTIST AT EDGEWATER GALLERY
First Friday Show Opening at Edgewater
Featured Artist, Chris Hagie, acrylic painting
Edgewater Gallery, 356 N. Main Street, Fort Bragg
Friday, December 6, from 5 - 8pm
Chris will do a brief presentation about her work at 6pm. Light refreshments served. Admission is free.
In her own words:
"I am in love with paint! And I love color and how shapes interact with each other. I love how these junctions are defined with sharp edges or blurry lightness, or how they can highlight a focus of interest in a painting. I also love textures, folds, patterns and mesh-like materials and how these mediums act upon each other and with paint.
My husband and I moved to Fort Bragg at the end of 2007, and we feel we have found paradise! I retired from a long and satisfying career in education at San Jose State University. Over the last 20 years, my life was enriched with classes in which I learned about painting, drawing and mixed media. I began painting with oils and currently use acrylic paint and any other materials I can find."
IMAGINE IF YOU WILL
Just imagine for a moment that you withheld payment of $390 million to a foreign ally to get him to float dirt on your personal political opponent, something you thought would be of real value to you. Well, wouldn’t that be a crime: Soliciting a Contribution from a Foreign National in violation of 52 U.S. Code §30121(a)(2)?
And let’s suppose that when you did that you were already President of the United States and that releasing that money required your official act as President. Well, wouldn’t that be another crime: Agreeing as a Public Official to Accept a Bribe in violation of 18 U.S. Code §201(b)(2)?
That would be pretty serious, right? Agreeing to Accept a Bribe being itself Bribery, and Bribery being one of the only two specific crimes enumerated in our Constitution as grounds for impeachment and removal from office (U.S. Const., art. II, §4).
And then what if the $390 Million you were going to use to pay for the bribe wasn’t even your own money but instead was our Country’s money? Wouldn’t that gnaw on you a little? Maybe even make you think that what you were doing was kind of dirty?
Worse, suppose that the $390 Million you were sitting on was money that had been specifically appropriated by our Congress to pay for the urgently needed immediate military defense of our foreign ally and in the long-run for our own Country’s national security. Wouldn’t that make you stop and think? Wouldn’t you worry a little in particular about how genuinely aggravating a factor that might be?
And especially if you did all that not for your Country but just to help your own self win your own next election? Don’t you think that would be some other additional kind of high crime? And if it isn’t, don’t you think it should be?
If you actually did all that, don’t you think you’d feel just a little scummy?
A bit like maybe you’re just a punk?
Well, don’t you?
HIT & RUN THEATER'S fabulous week of Improv and Music
Dear Denizens of the Mendocino Coast!
On the weekend of Friday and Saturday, November 15 & 16, Hit & Run Theater will present two nights of improvisational comedy and music at the Matheson Performing Arts Center at 45096 Cahto St., near Mendocino High School in Mendocino. Both shows are at 7:30pm, with the doors open at 7:00pm. The cast includes Ken Krauss, Jill Lemos, Doug Nunn, Kathy O’Grady, Dan Sullivan and Steve Weingarten, with special guests Janet Atherton and Mindy Ballentine. San Francisco keyboardist, Joshua Raoul Brody will supply improvised music and sound effects. General Admission is $20, with tickets for seniors at $15, and kids at $12. All ages are welcome! For reservations or further information, call Doug Nunn at 707-937-0360 or 415-613-4416, write him an email at email@example.com, or write Doug Nunn or Hit and Run Theater on Facebook. We look forward to having you with us!
Please note as part of this action-packed weekend, SF improv keyboardist Joshua Raoul Brody is also planning on giving his workshop—“Song Improvisation for Beginners and the Terrified” on Saturday afternoon, November 16 from 1-4pm at the Matheson PAC at 45096 Cahto St., near Mendocino High School in Mendocino. This workshop is a favorite of all the Hit & Runners and has found success around the world with students young and old, professional, amateur, and brand-new. It's only $30 for three hours of fun-filled instruction. Long time Hit & Runner, Doug Nunn calls it “the most fun you can have with your vocal chords”. For reservations or further information, call Doug Nunn at 707-937-0360 or 415-613-4416, write him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write Doug Nunn or Hit and Run Theater on Facebook.
And on Sunday afternoon November 17 from 4-5pm at the Fog Eater Cafe, 45104 Main St., Mendocino, Joshua Raoul Brody presents his “Beatles Thingy”, aka one hour of singing along to Beatles songs. Joshua plays a variety of Beatles hits and invites audience members to sing-a-long. Much like a live version of Beatles Karaoke, Brody’s Beatles Sing a long is fun for the whole Beatles’ loving family. And he is backed by Happy Hour drinks and snacks from the Fog Eater’s arsenal of delicious food and drink. For further info check in with the Fog Eater Cafe 707-397-1806.
Thanks, Doug Nunn and Hit & Run Theater
Doug Nunn email@example.com