I Know Why the Caged Lev Sings.

 

 

 

I know why the caged Lev sings.

Trapped, he’s looking for his wings.

Marked for erasure, pain or death,

Lev will talk ‘til his last breath.

 

I know why the caged Lev sings.

Silence only buys him slings

And arrows, bile and hate,

So, he has to Lev-itate.

 

I know why the caged Lev sings.

“Suicide” is not his thing.

Poison hankies, gas for nerves,

Lev would rather dodge and swerve.

 

I know why the caged Lev sings.

Like Valachi, he’s learned a thing.

Scream out loud, use TV,

Out-run murder, for all to see.

 

I know why the caged Lev sings.

Gangsters working for the King.

Pence & Rudy, Pomp and Barr,

Run from sunlight, very far.

 

I know why the caged Lev sings,

Louder and harder he flaps his wings.

All the fuss, all the sound,

Drive his hit-men underground.

 

I know why the caged Lev sings.

Celebs win the golden ring.

Free from harm, hi-falutin,

Out of reach of even Putin.

 

I know why the caged Lev roars:

Lev-itation lets him soar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wine Caves, Darkness & Sunlight

 

It’s been a several weeks since the Buttigieg/ Wine Cave story echoed far beyond the quiet vineyards of Napa Valley. It burst into daylight against the backdrop of a polluted Trumpian culture of influence peddling, corruption, self-dealing, law-breaking, political tone-deafness and the sale of ambassadorships to rich people, like Gordon Sondland.

Nothing that the Buttigieg campaign has done — nor any other Democratic campaign for that matter, including Joe and Hunter Biden’s blindness to appearances of conflict — comes close to the utter illegality and outright criminal actions taken by Donald Trump. Trumps explicit criminality includes three specific federal crimes spelled out in the 600-plus page House Judiciary Committee Report: Bribery, Wire Fraud and Honest Services Fraud. Those precise crimes carry with them a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison, if the perp President is convicted. And, that’s not counting the damage done to the nation spelled out in the two Articles of Impeachment vs. Trump.

By comparison, holding a fund-raiser in a Wine Cave is like having a cute costume party, especially at a time when an entire Administration has been systematically corrupting the public’s business and conducting it under a Soviet-style curtain of secrecy. Precisely because of the monumental corruption of Trump and his international crime family, Democratic Presidential Candidates have to be super-sensitive to any action that lookssuspicious, even when it’s not.

Wine Caves themselves are not inherently suspicious, nor hotbeds of corruption. They serve a real purpose, are environmentally sound, and, as the Napa Valley Register reported in a story headlined, “The History of Napa Valley Wine Caves & the Talk of the Democratic Debate” (12/20/2019), wine caves are “primarily used for storing and aging wine, both in barrel and bottle,” with natural temperature control, low exposure to light and minimal vibration.

I’m betting Buttigieg is wishing that the wine cave of the wealthy Craig & Kathryn Hall had even less exposure to daylight and political vibrations. As a Napa resident, I’ve visited many wine caves on hot Napa Valley summer days; not one had a Swarovski Crystal chandelier, nor smelled of secrecy; only wine.

So, if the wine cave itself is not to blame for the pre-pubescent PR faux pas, what, or who is? Obviously, someone on the not-so-buttoned up Buttigieg campaign failed to do some basic homework on the history of their hosts, the Halls, mega-donors to many Democratic campaigns going back 30 years.

Any cursory fact-checking by Mayor Pete’s team could have easily discovered that Kathryn Hall was appointed Ambassador to Austria by President Bill Clinton — a huge red-flag at the very time Trump’s sale of an ambassadorship to Gordon Sondland has dominated the news for months. Just because Clinton did the same thing Trump did with a much more likeable person, doesn’t make it right. If anything, it helps normalize Trump’s terrible behavior. Selling ambassadorships is wrong, whoever does it.

Overlooking the pay-to-play nature of the Hall’s Sondland-like relationship with the Clinton’s was, however, not the most egregious oversight by Mayor Pete’s inexperienced staff. All they had to do was Google the billionaire real estate developer and investor the way the Associated Press’ Brian Slodysko did, to find out what else the Hall’s wanted buried deep underground.

Slodysko’s story, which appeared on December 13, 2019, only six days before the Democratic Presidential Debate in LA, carried a striking headline: “Swarovski Crystals, $900 Cabernet, and A Buttigieg Fundraiser.” Far more damaging than the headline, was the history of Craig Hall’s political donations and their consequences. The quotes below are from the AP story:

Craig and Kathryn Hall are prolific donors who split their time between Dallas and their California wineries. But they have also drawn notoriety over their past giving, as well as Craig Hall’s role in a 1980 Savings & Loan crisis.

Risky investments by Craig Hall, the Chairman and founder of the Hall Group, during the S & L meltdown in the 1980’s, culminated in an over $300 million federal bailout and the resignation of House Speaker Jim Wright of Texas, a Democrat he turned to for help.”

Federal regulators had been zeroing in on a series of Hall’s unpaid loans. To push back, the developer and bank operator turned to Wright, who was then ascending in the House Leadership, to get them to back off, the AP reported at the time.”

The most damning information in the AP story of December 13, was still to come:

“Wright held up legislation that would have given the struggling industry a $15 billion lifeline…a few days later, the regulator overseeing some of Hall’s loans was replaced, and the legislation moved forward…Taxpayers eventually covered the cost of Hall’s default while the developer’s outreach to Wright played a central role in the Congressional Ethics Investigation that toppled him from the Speaker’s Office in 1989.

In 1993, the year Craig and Kathryn Hall were married, he (Hall) agreed to pay a $100 million settlement, and moved on.”

It was bad enough that Buttigieg’s bush-league staffers, exhibiting no historical memory, bungled this big time, allowing GOP apologists for Trump to use the “both sides are corrupt” falsehood, when the magnitude of Trump’s law-breaking and mendacity exceeds anything in American history. Allowing such a damaging story about Hall and former Democratic Speaker Jim Wright to rise from the grave after it was buried for three decades is a colossal act of incompetency by Buttigieg’s bumblers.

Far worse, was the fact that the New York Times, one week after the AP story appeared, ignored every single one of the facts reported, to permit the wine-maker to use the newspaper’s pages to whine about the “unfairness” of attacks on him.

In a December 20, 2019, story headlined “ Democrats Sparred Over a Wine Cave Fundraiser: It’s Billionaire Owner Isn’t Pleased,” by Carol Pogash and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, the Times became a megaphone for Craig Hall’s moaning:

I’m just a pawn here,” said Craig Hall. “They’re making me out to be something that’s not true, and they picked the wrong pawn. It’s just not fair…These people don’t know who they’re talking about when they throw me in the class that they did.”

Actually, it appears that Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar knew exactly who and what they were talking about: caving-in to big donors has plagued political campaigns & government for decades. What’s “unfair” and unconscionable, is that both the Buttigieg team and the New York Times failed to uncover, or worse, ignored, publicly known information about the Wine Cave’s owners who are hardly innocent “pawns” in the pay-to-play game of politics.

By awakening this long-sleeping story from hibernation, Buttigieg’s judgement is suspect, and his staff’s historical blindness has dug a deeper tunnel from which all Democrats must emerge. Democratic candidates running for President, the US Senate and the House in 2020 need to be bathed in bright sunlight, offering a sharp, stark contrast to the destructive darkness, rampant corruption and continuing crime spree of Trump and the GOP — actions which threaten to push our democracy back to the days of cave-dwellers.

This is no time for amateurs, nor for Clinton apologists. Democracy thrives in sunlight.

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.