California Can’t Build Office Towers, Either

As the already-crumbling new segment Oakland Bay Bridge nears its grand-reopening – a scant quarter-century after the existing span was damaged by the Loma Prieta earthquake – and doubts compound on the state’s ability to build a high speed rail system, an office tower in Sacramento stands as a cautionary warning of the state’s inability to build stuff right.

Plywood marks where windows have fallen out of the troubled BOE tower.

Plywood marks where windows have fallen out of the troubled BOE tower.

The 20-year-old, 500,000 square foot Board of Equalization Tower in Sacramento has corroding pipes, extensive mold problems, and windows that insist on falling out and crashing to the sidewalks below. The roof leaks and – only in California! – it recently suffered a bat infestation.

In 2012, a pane of glass fell out of the building as the State Board of Equalization was meeting to discuss their building’s many structural problems. It was not known if the pane that fell was an original one or one that was replaced in an earlier $15 million repair job. A subsequent $4 million repair job tried once again to repair the chronic problem, with less than stellar results.

The Sacramento Bee recently referred to the tower as “a multi-million dollar money pit” that the state is still paying for, as we California taxpayers are still paying off the bonds used to build it.

Not surprisingly to anyone who understands California’s aggressive tax policies, there’s one more problem: California needs so many tax collectors now that the the Board of Equalization has outgrown its headquarters. (“Board of Equalization” is the state’s clever disguise for its version of the IRS, as in the Progressive ideal of wealth transfer via taxes on the wealthy as a means of social equalization.)

With the tax collectors preparing to move to another location – hopefully something built by the private sector – a number of state agencies are nervously watching, dreading the possibility that they will be picked as the building’s new tenants.

PG&E Pays the Price – California Doesn’t

San Bruno ExplosionEveryone who’s read Crazifornia knows it starts in San Bruno:

Near San Francisco, there’s a California neighborhood in a California town that’s named after an 11th Century monk who was known for the clarity of his teaching.  That’s fitting, because we can learn a lot about how the once-golden state of California became a permanent state of dysfunction called Crazifornia if we look at what happened in that town, San Bruno, on September 9, 2010.

What happened in San Bruno, of course, was a massive explosion of a PG&E pipeline:

It was late afternoon, and the big Orange California sun was dropping toward Sweeney Ridge just east of the blue-collar neighborhood. Families were preparing dinner and catching up on the day’s activities when, at 6:11 p.m., a section of pipe in a 30-inch-diameter intrastate natural gas pipeline owned by Pacific Gas & Electric ruptured near the corner of Glenview Drive and Earl Avenue, at the entry to the neighborhood.

A half-million cubic feet of natural gas gushed out of the pipeline in the first minute after the rupture, and for every one of the 94 additional minutes that passed before PG&E finally was able to shut down the flow of natural gas.  Almost instantly after the first molecules of the highly explosive gas escaped the pipeline’s confines, something ignited it – quite possibly a gas stove heating up dinner in one of the nearby homes.

The resulting explosion and inferno obliterated that home and 37 others and killed eight people.  It created a crater, now filled in, that was big enough to swallow any of the houses destroyed in the explosion.  The twisted remains of the ruptured section of pipe, weighing 3,000 pounds and about as long as three elephants lined up nose-to-tail, lay smoking where the explosion hurled it, 100 feet away.

Now, almost three years later, staffers at the California Public Utilities Commission have proposed a punishment for PG&E, as reported in the LA Times:

California regulators have proposed that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. pay a record $2.25-billion penalty for its role in causing a fatal 2010 natural gas explosion in San Bruno, a San Francisco suburb.

The total includes a $300-million fine to be paid to the California treasury and $1.95 billion for safety upgrades to the company’s gas distribution system. About $1.5 billion would be paid by shareholders and the balance would be returned as a credit to PG&E for already completed distribution system repairs and safeguards.

The five appointed – not elected – board members of the Public Utilities Commission will decide on the staff proposal this Fall, about the time the explosion’s third anniversary rolls around.

Missing from the discussion is the huge penalty the State of California itself ought to pay, for its own actions are indeed the root cause of the catastrophe, as I wrote in Crazifornia:

The pipeline accident report of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB),[i] which regulates pipelines and investigates their explosions, found 28 contributing factors to the explosion, but two stand out.  The first is that the section of pipe that ruptured had defects so pronounced they should have been visible to the PG&E work crews and state inspectors when the pipe was installed in 1954.  The second is that the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) decided against all logic in 1961 that its newly adopted pipeline inspection standards would not be applied to pipelines that were in place prior to that year. The pre-1961 pipelines would be grandfathered, not subject to the new standards.

If not for the PUC’s decision, the pipeline would have undergone hydrostatic pressure tests that very likely would have revealed the defect under San Bruno.  “There is no safety justification for the grandfather clause exempting pre-1970 pipelines from the requirement for post-construction hydrostatic pressure testing,” the NTSB report found.

California has let itself off the hook – just as it always lets itself off the hook for all the mistakes, missteps and crazily expensive and utterly useless regulatory crusades it routinely subjects its citizens to.
What a shame.


[i] “Pipeline Accident Report: San Bruno, CA, Natural Gas Pipeline Explosion and Fire, September 9, 2010,” National Transportation Safety Board, http://www.ntsb.gov/news/events/2011/san_bruno_ca/index.html

 

 

Raisin Cain

Often the federal government is just as crazy as California’s – especially the stuff that happens when a Progressive president is in power. Here’s a case in point.

Back in 1937, during FDR’s Progressive presidency, government manipulation of everything was robust, to put it mildly. One of the experiments of the day was to create the National Raisin Reserve, out of a belief that government planning led to healthier markets than the free market could ever hope to achieve. The Reserve’s “business” was to tax, or confiscate, a percentage of each raisin farmer’s crop every year and keep those raisins off the U.S. market in order to ensure that stupid, greedy farmers wouldn’t flood the market, thereby voluntarily lowering their income.

(As a not-to-curious aside, the Washington Post, which very curiously broke this story, attributed the National Raisin Reserve to Pres. Truman, but in 1937, FDR was president.)

Marvin HorneEnter Fresno raisin farmer Marvin Horne, the frightened looking fellow there on the right.  Until 2002, Horne dutifully put up with this authoritarian silliness, then stopped rendering his raisins unto Caesar as a protest. Here’s how the Washington Post put it:

In the world of dried fruit, America has no greater outlaw than Marvin Horne, 68.

Horne, a raisin farmer, has been breaking the law for 11 solid years. He now owes the U.S. government at least $650,000 in unpaid fines. And 1.2 million pounds of unpaid raisins, roughly equal to his entire harvest for four years.

His crime? Horne defied one of the strangest arms of the federal bureaucracy — a farm program created to solve a problem during the Truman administration, and never turned off.

He said no to the national raisin reserve.

“I believe in America. And I believe in our Constitution. And I believe that eventually we will be proved right,” Horne said recently, sitting in an office next to 20 acres of ripening Thompson grapes. “They took our raisins and didn’t pay us for them.”

The U.S. Supreme Court recently sided partially with Horne, sending his case back down the ladder for reconsideration. If he wins, it’s a great victory for America. If he loses,

“If we lose, we’re bankrupt. We won’t have a pot to piss in,” Horne said. He thinks he would be liable for about $3 million, including fines and the cash value of those raisins. “No. I don’t want to even think about it. Would you?”

I agree. If Horne loses, I don’t even want to think about it. It would just be one more piece of evidence that America, like California, is still going full-bore towards oblivion.

(I’ve simplified the story somewhat, leaving out details about how the National Raisin Reserve has morphed over the years. Read the Post story if you want the whole picture – but that’s really just footnote stuff, and doesn’t change the basic story one iota.)

Thanks to Crazifornia fan and long-time friend Lou Franson for the tip!

Homeland Insecurity

Cyber HomelandHomeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has joined the line of senior Obama Administration officials to scurry off that particular ship of state. She’s elected to join another troubled ship, becoming president of the University of California system.

Fortunately for her, the legislature just bumped UC’s appropriation by 5% (equal to $142 million), with two 4% bumps to follow in the next two fiscal years. That may keep her from having to oversee a tuition increase for a few years – but it won’t put a dent in what’s sure to be one of her biggest headaches – the $20 billion UC doesn’t have, but needs to meet its retirement pension obligations.

Thinking about that is no fun, so let’s think of some other things Napolitano may bring to UC:

  • Will there be full body scans at the classroom door? If so, UC might be able to offset some of its pension funding gap by selling the images to Internet filth-peddlers.
  • Will UC campus police be trained to pat down old lady profs and  young prodigies?
  • Could UC’s research labs be directed to work on perfecting the “behavior scanners” Napolitano recommended be installed at malls and sporting events? After all, the UC system hosts some big sporting events.
  • Will any fences ever be built on any UC campuses?
  • Will radical pro-Shariah Muslim extremist students be treated with fawning respect while Conservative students are flagged for extra scrutiny by campus police?
  • Hmmm …. could Napolitano resolve UC’s chronic budget problems and pension funding voids by simply running guns to Mexico?

Welcome to Crazifornia, Madame Secretary. I think you’ll find yourself comfortably surrounded by like-thinking peers … unfortunately.

15 Signs of the (Depressing) Times

Depression soup line

I stumbled upon a new blog that’s appropriate for a chronicler of downfalls like yours truly: The Economic Collapse. It’s written by an Idahoan with a finance degree and a law degree, Michael Snyder, who isn’t a doomsayer in any immediate sense, but focuses on a sort-of rolling, momentum-building doom that will play out over “a number of  years.”

Snyder came up with a list of 15 signs that the American economy is “going downhill really fast.” As I read the post last night, a well-worn phrase kept jumping into my mind: “As California goes, so goes the nation.”  It seems many of these U.S. stats have a solid foundation in California, a state that can really lead – as long as the direction is downward.

Here are Snyder’s 15 points:

#1 The number of part-time workers in the United States has just hit a brand new all-time high, but the number of full-time workers is still nearly 6 million below the old record that was set back in 2007.

#2 In America today, only 47 percent of adults have a full-time job.

#3 Even though the U.S. economy created nearly 200,000 jobs in June, the number of full-time jobs actually decreased.

#4 There are now 2.7 million temp workers in the United States – a new all-time high.

#5 One out of every ten jobs in the United States is now filled through a temp agency.

#6 The U.S. economy has actually lost manufacturing jobs for four consecutive months.

#7 The official unemployment rate has been at 7.5 percent or higher for 54 months in a row.  That is the longest stretch in U.S. history.

#8 According to one recent survey, 76 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

#9 At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.

#10 High paying manufacturing jobs continue to be shipped overseas.  Sadly, there are fewer Americans employed in manufacturing now than there was in 1950 even though the population of the country has more than doubled since then.

#11 Today, the United States actually has a higher percentage of workers doing low wage work than any other major industrialized nation does.

#12 The U.S. economy continues to trade good paying jobs for low paying jobs.  60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs.

#13 Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

#14 At this point, an astounding 53 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year.

#15 According to a study that was released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, only 24.6 percent of all jobs in the United States qualify as “good jobs” at this point. (In this definition, a good job pays at least $18.50 an hour, provides access to health insurance that’s partially employer-funded, and access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan.)

Progressives don’t take this kind of thing lying down. You can find – if you’re so inclined – a response for each of these points and a companion list of 15 signs that everything just keeps getting better and better under the California/Obama model. Maybe if they spent less time rebutting and more time getting their heads out of their butts, we could avoid an economic collapse.

Not Blowing In The Wind

There was a bill in the California Assembly that would push California’s the percentage of renewable energy utilities are forced to use from its current 30% to 50%. It’s not going anywhere … yet … but it stands as testimony to environmental blindness.

California’s electric utilities are having a difficult and terribly expensive time trying to reach the 30% renewable energy goal. Trying to get that much expensive wind and solar power into their portfolios is already making electricity more expensive and less reliable – and there’s no evidence its doing a thing to save the planet from climate change. Nevertheless Adam Gray, a Central Valley Democrat, wants to up the state’s game to even more unreasonable levels.

He and his allies might want to read this:

14,000 Abandoned Wind Turbines in the USA

wind farm ruinThe US has had wind farms since 1981, what the left and the green movement don’t want to talk about regarding windmills is (as usual) the truth. The truth is: windmills, like solar panels, break down. And like solar panels, windmills produce less energy before they break down than the energy it took to make them. That’s the part liberals forget: making windmills and solar panels takes energy, energy from coal, oil, and diesel, energy that extracts and refines raw materials, energy that transports those materials to where they will be re-shaped into finished goods, energy to manufacture those goods. More energy than those finished windmills and solar panels will ever produce.

There are many hidden truths about the world of wind turbines from the pollution and environmental damage caused in China by manufacturing bird choppers, the blight on people’s lives of noise and the flicker factor and the countless numbers of birds that are killed each year by these blots on the landscape. The symbol of Green renewable energy, our saviour from the non existent problem of Global Warming, abandoned wind farms are starting to litter the planet as globally governments cut the subsidies taxes that consumers pay for the privilege of having a very expensive power source that does not work every day for various reasons like it’s too cold or the wind speed is too high.

The US experience with wind farms has left over 14,000 wind turbines abandoned and slowly decaying, in most instances the turbines are just left as symbols of a dying Climate Religion, nowhere have the Green Environmentalists appeared to clear up their mess or even complain about the abandoned wind farms. …

The problem with wind farms when they are abandoned is getting the turbines removed, as usual there are no Green environmentalists to be seen. The City of Palm Springs was forced to enact an ordinance requiring their removal from San Gorgonio. But California’s Kern County, encompassing the Tehachapi area, has no such law. Imagine the outraged Green chorus if those turbines were abandoned oil drilling rigs.

The truth is: wind energy is just a tax scam. Ben Lieberman, a senior policy analyst focusing on energy and environmental issues for the Heritage Foundation, is not surprised. He asks:

“If wind power made sense, why would it need a government subsidy in the first place? It’s a bubble which bursts as soon as the government subsidies end.”

Remember: Liberal politicians are very good at not letting mere facts get in the way of their efforts to reshape California.

California’s Mullet Budget

It’s all hoopla in Sacramento today as Jerry Brown and the Legislative leaders sign the 2013-2014 California state budget into law. Jerry calls the balanced budget a sign that things are rosy in California again.

I say rose is just another shade of red.

The budget keeps the state employee pension gravy train intact, along with its $500 billion dollar hit on future generations. It doesn’t do nearly enough to address our debt, which is now pegged at $100,000 per California household. And it keeps the multi-billion-dollar boondoggle known as California High Speed Rail on track.

But wait, it gets even worse than that.

mulletThe guy with the best line about this dangerously expensive sham of a budget is Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell of Camarillo who called it “the mullet budget” – Conservative in front, very liberal in back.

He pointed to how the budget defers the restart of several expensive social welfare programs that were cut during the recession until the 11th month of the fiscal year. If those very expensive, very ongoing programs were implemented at the start of the budget year, or even  half way through the budget year, the budget would not be balanced. So … conservative up front, liberal in the back. Brilliant!

Of course, the next California budget will have to start with the assumption those programs will be in effect for all 12 months, so a new trick will be needed to balance the books. Maybe a new tax on millionaires ….

For more on what’s wrong with the budget Brown and the Democrat super-majority are pretending to be so happy about, read this post by Katy Grimes at CalWatchdog.

 

Crazifornia’s #1 Review

I just checked Amazon to read the new reviews of Crazifornia – there were two more since the last time I checked, both 5-star – but I noticed that one review was found to be helpful by 15 of the 15 people who checked a “Was this review helpful? Yes/No” box.

bookwormIt’s titled, “Witty writing and compelling facts make for a fascinating and enjoyable read,” and it gave Crazifornia five stars. It was written by “Bookworm,” an anonymous Bay Area blogger who’s been a blogging buddy of mine for many years. She was one of the first people in the country to read Crazifornia, and here’s what she wrote about it on Amazon:

Laer is a wonderful writer with straightforward, prose, a witty sense of humor that doesn’t overwhelm the narrative, and a commanding mastery of facts about California’s politics, business, education, and public policy. In theory, I should have galloped through Crazifornia in three hours. In fact, it took me three days to read.

Why did I have a problem with this fascinating book? Because, when I started I did not know how deep the Crazifornia rot ran in the state, nor was I aware quite how infectious the insanity is when it comes to the rest of America. To keep up with the deluge of evidence proving that California is indeed crazy, I repeatedly stopped reading so that I could scratch out little notes to myself: “California’s all-powerful bureaucrats are an army of Leftist Rube Goldberg’s with guns.” “This is a perfect example of voter credulity and bureaucratic overreach.” “California takes a legislatively created energy crisis and makes it worse with more legislation.” The scariest note I wrote was also the shortest: “As California goes, so goes the nation.”

Because California had long been blessed with enormous natural resources and a vital, growing population, it had the wealth to keep the impractical Progressive dream going for decades. It could abs0rb the enormous financial and human losses from almost heroic bureaucratic ineptitude (Chapter 5); laws and regulations that suck the life out of both new and established businesses (Chapter 6); ridiculous educational experiments and an all-powerful teachers union that has little interest in student well-being and education (Chapter 7); environmentalism run amok (Chapter 8); and public sector unions and pensions that have managed to go wherever one ends up when “amok” is a distant memory (Chapter 9).

In lively, humorous prose, Laer tells spins out facts and anecdotes showing a state in thrall to unrealistic visions of an untainted pastoral past, guided by wild-eyed politicians; rigid,power-hungry bureaucrats; and scheming unions. Crazifornia essentially describes a dysfunctional state, one that can best be summed up as a banana republic governed, not by oligarchs, but by a toxic mix of environmental fascists, greedy unions, corrupt or ideology-driven legislators, and all-powerful bureaucrats. But before you get too angry at these jackals, perhaps you should reserve your wrath for the ones who truly deserve it: the California voters.

It’s probably too late to save California. Laer tries to inject some optimism at the end of each chapter and in the conclusion to his book he notes that voter patterns might finally be changing (although recent polling data makes me less optimistic). As cities go bankrupt, gas and food prices rise, businesses bail, and the California middle class becomes poor, some of the voters might finally be growing up. Whether they can reverse California’s downward trend remains questionable. Laer has some excellent suggestions for getting the political pendulum unstuck from its far Left position, but it will be ugly, and it will have to be carried out by people who have been subjected to one hundred years of California’s Progressive propaganda.

When you read Laer’s book (and I hope this review has convinced you to do so), you will see that it is a profound morality tale about what happens when America’s green, anti-capitalist Progressivism gains the upper hand in government. So remember, only you can prevent the Crazifornication of America.

Full disclosure: Bookworm was my source for the “From high to Lowell” section of Crazifornia’s chapter on education.

Murdering Democrats

Feinstein gun controlAs California’s senior senator leads the Congressional campaign to impose more gun controls and Sacramento’s Democrat-dominated legislature considers a bunch of new gun control measures, perhaps they would be interested in learning more about the political leanings of recent mass-murdering wackos. This information is from a letter to the editor forwarded to us by a friend:

  • Ft. Hood shooter: Registered Democrat
  • Columbine shooters: Too young to vote; both families were registered Democrats
  • Virginia Tech shooter: Wrote hate mail to Pres. Bush, registered Democrat
  • Colorado theater shooter: Registered Democrat, worked on Obama campaign, Occupy Wall Street participant
  • Connecticut school shooter: Registered Democrat, hated Christians

Hmmm.

(I have not documented the letter-writer’s claims independently. If you have information counter to this, please let me know.)

Small Respect for Small Business

Cagle - Fleeing California

Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) recently tried and failed to get the California Assembly to pass a resolution in support of small business. Democrats in the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development and the Economy killed the resolution on on orders from Assembly leader John Perez (D-Los Angeles) and replaced it with a new resolution.

The new resolution transformed the specific pro-small-business recommendations Allen had included in his resolution into platitudes that included no hint that state taxes, laws and regulations might actually hinder small businesses.  Undeterred, Allen offered an amendment which would have added this language:

California’s policymakers can act to relieve the uncertainty of doing business in this state by keeping taxes low, fair, stable and predictable, by reducing the regulatory and litigation costs of operating a business, by investing in public and private works that provide the backbone for economic growth, and by ensuring the availability of high-quality skilled employees.

What a good bunch of ideas! That’s why, as Katy Grimes reports at Fox & Hounds, “Democrats, led by Majority Floor Leader Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, killed Allen’s amendments in a hostile parliamentary move and vote.”

Heaven forbid that California should do anything to support small businesses – the employers of 52 percent of the state’s workforce.