Time to Turn Out the Lights on PG & E.

 

It’s time to turn off the lights for good on Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG &E) — the power company without power, money or the will to do routine maintenance, nor competent management that puts the public’s safety ahead of profit or political influence.

A Felon/Company, convicted of six felonies in 2016 following its criminal negligence in the San Bruno gas explosions six years earlier, PG & E told a federal judge, the week before the single-largest blackout in California State history, that they couldn’t meet their court-ordered deadline for routine “vegetation management,” or tree trimming.

Under a 5-year, court-supervised probation as a convicted felon, PG & E was directed to trim 2,455 miles of trees away from it’s powerlines. That amounts to less than 2.5 percent of the 100,000 miles of powerlines PG & E operates. Federal Judge William Alsup had previously ordered the utility to aggressively adhere to “vegetation management laws,” after their tree-trimming negligence — ignited by their own faulty powerlines — resulted in two consecutive years of the most destructive wildfires in State history, killing 107 people, and incinerating hundreds of thousands of acres, and thousand of homes and commercial structures.

However, the power company without power or commitment to public safety or common sense, admitted in court that they were only able to trim the trees away from 760 miles of powerlines — or less than one-third of the amount of tree-trimming they committed to do, and less than one percent of the total miles of powerlines for which they are legally responsible to maintain.

PG&E told the court they couldn’t find enough workers to do the work, without producing any evidence of how hard they tried. The power company also failed to explain how it was able to pay $5 billion of dividends prior to declaring bankruptcy this past January, and make $4.4 million of political contributions in 2018, including donating $200,000 to Governor Gavin Newsom, and millions of dollars more to both the California State Democratic and Republican parties, State Lawmakers and Attorney General Javier Becerra. None of that non-tree trimming related spending includes the ratepayer dollars wasted at Silver Oak Winery in Sonoma County earlier this month, when PG & E executives wined and dined their “big” power users on the second anniversary of the terrible Tubbs fire that killed dozens of people in Santa Rosa, not far from where the tone-deaf executives sipped wine.

Judge Alsup demanded to know why those political contributions and shareholder dividends — made well after PG &E was already a convicted felon — were more important to the utility than repairing damaged and deteriorating power lines, and trimming trees from around powerlines, as they are required to do under the Public Resources Code 4293.

So, the Power Company without power, without money, and without the will to do its fundamental job, created one disaster in order to prevent another — by turning off the power for several days for up to two million people in Northern and Central California. Soren Borenstein, Director of the Energy Institute at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas Business School put it best:

We have good reason to be skeptical, and the reason is that PG & E bears the costs of starting a fire, but they don’t bear the costs of shutting off power.”

Even if you grant to the now powerless utility that the decision was prudent to prevent fires, they were still poorly prepared to do something as simple as turn the lights out. First, despite days of warning us across all media that the PG & E power outage was coming, the company failed to beef up their own customer service website, which, predictably crashed when scores of worried citizens tried to find out basic information about the power shutdown.

Secondly, rather than anticipate widespread public concern and anxiety over the largest power shutdown in the history of California, PG & E failed to set up local phone banks in each of the communities — like South Napa, where I live — which would suffer the brunt of the outage. Instead, they created two service centers for all of Napa’s 125,000 residents: one up at the Calistoga Fairgrounds at the northern-most part of the county, and the other some 40 miles south at the Vallejo Fairgrounds, which is not even located in Napa County. Why they failed to set up an emergency center at the Napa Fairgrounds in the heart of the City of Napa where 75,000 of the County’s residents live, remains a mystery — especially since it’s the very spot which First Responders used as one of their bases of operations during the devastating fires of 2017.

Third, there was little coordination with local Police or Emergency Service Personnel to handle the traffic chaos certain to ensue when traffic lights, powered by electricity, went dark. On heavily traveled Imola Avenue in South Napa — a major east west connector road — not only were there no operating traffic lights, but there were no police, fire or emergency officials — or even citizen volunteers — to mitigate the damage by directing traffic. Motorists were left on their own, to play a game of chicken at each intersection. Some simple coordination, pre-planning and emergency preparedness with local officials could have prevented traffic chaos.

There are some solutions smoldering right before our very eyes. First, since local and Cal firefighters are on the front-lines of fighting the fires caused by PG &E’s negligence, they ought to be given the financial resources and equipment to do the required “vegetation management” or tree trimming, community by community. PG & E lamely told the federal judge it couldn’t find enough tree-trimmers to do its’ job; I’m sure local fire departments, with help from Cal Fire, would remedy that.

Secondly, with the value of PG & E stock plummeting toward zero, the State of California can seize all of the utility’s transmission lines and assets in the interest of public safety. Having been involved with the public takeover of a bankrupt, for-profit utility in New York State, such direct action becomes a public responsibility when the reliability of electric power to the State’s citizens is threatened. Demanding that the bankrupt utility give a small dollar credit to homeowers or businesses a for lost goods and services — which Governor Newsom did this week — is like putting a tiny Band Aid on Stage Four cancer.

Third, the State — provided Governor Newsom and State Lawmakers are able to look past PG & E’s $4.4 million of campaign contributions to them — can contract-out our regional utilities services to other successful private utility companies — like San Diego Gas & Electric — or create tax incentives for local public jurisdictions — like the town of Healdsburg in Sonoma County, which has its own independent utility company — to make the delivery of electric power into a public service, similar to the provision of water, fire and police protection.

The responsible action for public officials to take is to bring power directly to the people, in the safest, most reliable and most affordable ways. And while the Governor, Attorney General Becerra and members of the State Senate and Assembly are at it, they can help kickstart a special “tree-trimming fund” by giving back the $4.4 million the already-convicted felon/company slipped to them during their campaigns of 2018. After all, that money which we ratepayers paid to PG & E to use for public safety and not for buying political influence, should be used for our protection, not politicians’P elections.

It’s long past time to turn out the lights on PG & E. It should have happened a decade ago, after PG &E’s negligence resulted in nine deaths in the San Bruno gas explosions and the company’s conviction on six felony counts. It should have happened with the hapless utility’s basic operational failures contributing to multiple human fatalities during the fires of 2017, and 2018.

Now, however, they’ve failed at performing the most fundamental function of a power company — providing safe and reliable power to the public. PG & E has literally turned the lights out on itself.

If Not Now, When?

(My Member of Congress, Mike Thompson (D-CA)

 

Dear Congressman Thompson:

In the aftermath of Trump’s extortionist conversation with the President of the Ukraine concerning Joe Biden and the 2020 Election, there is simply no excuse for you and the House Leadership to continue to drag your feet on supporting Articles of Impeachment against Donald Trump.

As a lifelong Democrat who supported the Impeachment of Richard Nixon, Trump’s crimes against our democracy and our Constitution are far, far worse than Nixon’s were. Your failure to support the Impeachment of Trump and to uphold our Constitution and the law, make you, Speaker Pelosi and the House leadership complicit in his crimes.

I have run out of patience with you on this issue, Mike. I appealed to you personally at a Town Meeting in Calistoga earlier this summer, have sent numerous letters and emails to you on this matter, have written an article for the Napa Valley Register about the issue, and have called your offices in Washington and Napa several times to express my opinion. I revere the Constitution and the rule of law. I expect you to do the same, as do the majority of your constituents. We demand that you begin to represent us on the crucial matter of protecting our Democracy.

Trump’s illegal and unconstitutional behavior undermines everything you fought for in Vietnam. It’s time you demonstrated that same tenacity and toughness to holding the President of the United States responsible for the consequences of his illegal, unconstitutional and undemocratic actions. Everything is at stake, and you, Speaker Pelosi and all of the House Leadership have a constitutional responsibility to act now to Impeach Trump. Your failure to do so, makes you complicit in his criminality and will result in the Democrats losing control of the House of Representatives, not retaining power.

We have given you our sacred trust to protect and defend our constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. The biggest threat to our Democracy is Donald Trump. It’s time for you and the House Leadership to protect our constitution and our Democracy from him, by voting to Impeach. The time is now.

Sincerely,

Steve Villano

 

Hate, Xenophobia, Terror & Murder

 

“Here’s To The State of Trump’s Child Killers:” An Anthem to Inhumanity

 

Here’s To The State of Trump’s Child Killers

(In 1965, Civil Rights activist, singer and songwriter Phil Ochs wrote and performed one of his most powerful songs, “Here’s To The State of Mississippi”. Ochs, who volunteered for the Mississippi Caravan of Music in conjunction with Freedom Summer of 1964, the campaign to register Black Voters in Mississippi. During that summer, three civil rights workers — James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were beaten and shot to death by local Mississippi police officers working with the KKK. Ochs was so upset and outraged by the murders of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner and the systematic battering of Blacks in Mississippi, that he wrote one of his most controversial songs, calling for “Mississippi to find another country to be part of.” Today, a similar inhumane outrage is occurring on the US border with Mexico, with the Trump Administration’s Family Separation policy, which rips children from their parents, and the unconscionable mistreatment of infants and children in cages, known as Trump Camps. With acknowledgment to Phil Ochs musical scream as my inspiration, I offer my own modified lyrics to any singer who will deliver this message with the same intensity and passion that Ochs brought to his indictment of previous crimes against humanity, committed by another Government.)

Here’s to the state of Trump’s Child Killers,

For underneath their faces, the devil draws no lines,

If you drag their muddy mem’ries, nameless bodies you will find.

Whoa, the corridors of power have hid a thousand crimes,

The calendar is lyin’ if it reads the present time.

Whoa, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of,

Trump’s Child Killers find yourself another country to be part of.

 

And here’s to the mouthpieces of Trump’s Child Killers

Who say that folks with conscience, they just don’t understand,

And they tremble in the shadow of the Nazis and the Klan.

The sweating of their souls can’t wash away the blood from off their hands,

They smile and shrug their shoulders at the dying of a brown child

Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of,

Trump’s Child Killers find yourself another country to be part of.

 

And here’s to the homes of Trump’s Child Killers

Where they’re teaching all their children that they don’t have to care.

All the rudiments of hatred are present everywhere

And every single family is a factory of despair

There’s nobody learning such a foreign word as fair.

Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of,

Trump’s Child Killers find yourself another country to be part of.

 

And here’s to the cops of Trump’s Child Killers,

They’re chewing their tobacco as they lock the Trump Camp doors

They’re bellies bounce inside them when they knock children to the floor,

They’d rather not take prisoners in their private little war,

Behind the broken badges there are murderers and more.

Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of,

Trump’s Child Killers find yourself another country to be part of.

 

And here’s to the lawyers of Trump’s Child Killers

Who cover up their hearts as they crawl into the courts,

They’re guarding all the bastions of their phony legal forts

Oh, justice is a stranger when the immigrants report

When the Black man is accused the trial is always short.

Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of,

Trump’s Child Killers find yourself another country to be part of.

 

And here’s to the government of Trump’s Child Killers

In the swamp that they created, they’re always bogging down,

And criminals are smirking as they hold the babies down

And they hope that no one sees the sights, and no one hears the sounds,

And the speeches of the President are the rantings of a clown.

Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of,

Trump Child Killers find yourself another country to be part of.

Suppose They Were Jews…

 

Suppose they were Jews,

The babies torn from their mothers arms

At the border’s edge, never to

Embrace each other again.

 

Suppose they were white

And pink-cheeked Jewish boys and girls

Stuffed by the dozen into bland, white

Vans in the Texas sun.

 

Suppose the cages ,

Meant for dogs were filled with Jews,

Not immigrants with dark skin,

Speaking in strange tongues.

 

Suppose the children with dark skin

Were packed in boats,

Two-by-two-by-two thousand,

And shipped out to sea, destinations unknown.

 

Suppose those humans,

Shunned as outcasts

Sought to land, to live

Someplace safe, and were denied.

 

Suppose their ships or vans

Or caravans of terrified faces

Were forced back to the homes they fled

With only their lives.

 

Suppose the places they fled

Grabbed them, and locked them up in cages,

Starving, beating and killing them,

Mother and child, separated forever.

 

Suppose they were Jews…

The Speech I Want to Hear Joe Biden Deliver to Save the Nation.

 

My fellow Americans:

 

Today I am compelled to declare my candidacy for President of the United States because the very soul of our nation, the existence of our Democracy, the continued integrity of the US Constitution, and the Rule of Law are at stake.  I am running for President to protect all of these fundamental pillars of this great country , which are under daily attack, and will be permanently destroyed if Donald Trump is not defeated and sent back to Trump Tower (pause)—New York.

 

Just yesterday, Trump showed his abject contempt for the American people, the Congress and the Rule of Law by declaring, like a tinpot dictator, that he was ordering all Administration employees to ignore legal subpoenas to testify in an official, legal Congressional proceeding.   In one enormous corrupt act, Trump has committed the single biggest act of Obstruction of Justice in the history of the American Presidency—an action that, by itself, was the substance of the third article of Impeachment against Richard Nixon.

 

Systematically, Donald Trump has, over his totally lawless and corrupt 825 days in office, has undermined everything this country stands for; everything tens of thousands of courageous American men and women and our Allies around the globe have fought and died for in Wars stretching back over a century; everything my son Beau battled for until he breathed his last breath.  We will not stay silent and let this Democracy be dumped by a fundamentally treacherous man who is an autocrat and a tool of oligarchs to the very marrow of his bone.

 

Good, selfless public servants like the Firefighters across Pennsylvania, the police officers in New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Oshkosh, and the patriotic men and women of the FBI who protect us from terrorist attacks every single day, are having their life’s work mocked by a man who puts his own self-interest—and the interests of his superrich, corrupt cronies in this country, Russia and Saudi Arabia, over this nation’s interests.

 

I served on the Senate Judiciary Committee for 14 years, chairing the Committee for eight of those years.  If that public service taught me anything—if my tenure as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee taught me anything, if my 36 years in the US Senate and my 8 years as Vice-President taught me anything, it is that this nation is built on the blood and the sacrifice of our fathers, sons, mothers and sisters; it’s built on a firm foundation of fairness, equality and the Rule of Law. Without respect for the law and for each other as human beings, we invite self-dealing, corrupt conduct , meanness and lawlessness– precisely  the hallmarks of the Trump Administration—and Donald Trump.

 

But you don’t have to just take my word for it, when you have the most chilling case of continuing corruption, cover-up and obstruction of justice laid out by a rock-solid Republican, a Purple Heart Recipient and War Hero like Bob Mueller in 448 pages of riveting evidence.  Mueller’s textbook case of high crimes and misdemeanors of a sitting President, documents the most dangerous threat our Democracy has ever seen both from within—right out of the Oval Office—and from abroad,  in the form of cyberwarfare conducted against our nation and our system of free elections by a hostile nation—a fact confirmed by our 17 Intelligence Agencies, and Special Prosecutor Mueller, but denied over and over again by Mr. Trump, because the truth undermines his legitimacy to hold the high office he occupies.

 

Putting aside the national security threat detailed in Volume I of the Mueller Report—which is a clear abrogation of Mr.Trump’s duties as Commander in Chief to protect this nation from a foreign enemy—Volume II’s smoking gun evidence of blatant Obstruction of Justice by the President of the United States—over and over again, across 180 pages of detailed documentation—disqualifies Donald Trump from continuing to serve in this nation’s highest office.  Why would any American who cares about the future of this Democracy and its leadership position in the world, want to support someone who, literally every day, commits unlawful acts that merit his removal from office?

 

His repeated commission of “Corrupt Acts”, as the Special Prosecutor meticulously spells out–and his own Administration members, including his former White House Counsel, testify to–Trump’s congenital lying, bullying his subordinates to lie, witness tampering, dangling pardons, altering testimony, and his repeated failure to uphold his sacred oath of office to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed ,” prove his unfitness to hold the office of President of the United States.  The mere thought of, God forbid, four more years of Donald Trump continuing to use the vast powers of this government for his own corrupt purposes, and to pursue his own lawless agenda, is enough to make any concerned citizen stand up and work hard to rebuild  this country back to when it  benefitted the many, instead of the wealthy, well-connected few.

 

The culture of corruption permeating this White House—with at least a half-dozen Cabinet members having resigned in disgrace and dozens more Trump Appointees—like the 6 Interior Department Employees this week—and their new Secretary– under the stench of ethics investigations.  That pernicious cloud of corruption is even thicker and more ominous with 12 separate, serious criminal investigations swirling around this President himself, his businesses and his questionable associates.  Such a stinking swamp of corruption stands in stark contrast to the eight years of impeccable integrity of the Obama/Biden Administration, of which I was a proud partner.

 

I’m running for President to clean up this monstrous mess created by Trump’s terrible 825-day temper tantrum, to save our democracy from a corrupt, spoiled autocrat, to protect our national security from hostile actors on the world stage, and to reinforce, as the Mueller Report clearly stated that “no person in this country is so high that he is above the law.” Our challenge is no less than to save this great nation.

 

Join me in bringing this country back to its fundamental promises of hope, fairness and equality for all, and its bedrock principles of democracy and the Rule of Law. This is not a campaign, it is a callingto restore human decency, the dignity of work, democracy and fairness to all law-abiding citizens in this country.   I’m calling on you to help save our Democracy, our Constitution and our common decency.