Category Archives: Government

What Ever Happened to the Truth?

OK, trigger warning here: I’m going to be getting “political” here, and discussing racial and police issues. If that’s not your thing, I understand. It’s why I’m putting up the warning.

So what sparked this? We’ve been catching up on TV lately. We missed quite a bit of shows during our moving prep, the actual move, and the time our furniture was MIA. We got into the most recent Season of CBS’s S.W.A.T. reboot.

Overall, it’s a really good show; a rarity among reboots. They went off the deep end trying to show support for Black Lives Matters at the start of this last season though.

The episode involved trying to break up a chain of terrorist attacks that were designed to hit South Central and stir up racial tensions to the point of actual violent conflict. All this while the neighborhood is planning an annual remembrance event of the Rodney King beating.

LONG story short, the episode spins the riots following the King verdict as the fault of the police because they didn’t step in and restore order. They even have the Commander of the SWAT Division of LAPD get up in front of the community and apologize to them for not disobeying orders and trying to help (he was a patrol officer at the time).

The thing is, I was in San Diego at the time the riots broke out. I was staying with my dad the cop AND (his idea) I was also working as a private security guard in the Miramar area of North San Diego at the time. Believe me, I was paying CLOSE attention to everything that was happening.

Still can’t believe I went to work the nights of the riots completely unarmed, but otherwise looking for all the world like a cop. Pinkerton had dark blue uniforms.

ANYWAY… The truth is people in the neighborhoods where the rioting was taking place were actively shooting at any police that came into the area. Not only that, they were shooting at fire trucks and ambulances trying to help as well. The police pulled back and focused on containment because the alternative was to turn South Central into a full blown war zone, and be accused of a race massacre.

Back in those days, the police were also outgunned. The military weapons and transports that we see police using nowadays came about after the riots.

That’s a big part of why the national guard was mobilized to deal with the riots.

What’s My Point?

First, let me say that NONE of the above facts justify what happened to Rodney King, or others like George Floyd. The idea that Rodney King’s 1986 Hyundai could even do 120 MPH as police claimed is laughable. Even my dad called BS on that one. Early Hyundais were complete crap. You couldn’t get them going 120 if you dropped them out of the space shuttle.

Black Lives DO Matter.

If we’re ever going to get to a solution for all of this though, things have to be dealt with honestly. Both sides are going to have to see each other as human beings. Policing needs to change, no doubt about that. You can’t drive the police out of neighborhoods or try to eliminate them completely (as a few cities have tried) and then complain when they’re not where they were chased out of though.

It’s racist if they’re in black neighborhoods, and it’s racist if they don’t respond (fast enough) to calls in black neighborhoods. Is it any wonder cops are quitting in record numbers and cities can’t find replacements for them?

I’ve seen the impact firsthand there. We left Sacramento and California completely because it LITERALLY took 7 hours for police to respond to any call that didn’t involve gunfire. That’s IF they responded at all!

I won’t fault Shemar Moore (lead actor and producer) or CBS for trying to shine the spotlight on race issues as relates to police. They’ve done it before and up till this point had done a very balanced job of showing both sides of the issue.

I’m REALLY disappointed at the spin they put on the whole situation in this episode however. It was blatantly and unabashedly anti-police, dishonest, and only served to deepen mistrust of law enforcement, especially in minority communities. Nothing in that episode was going to promote communication or healing.

Maybe I’m expecting too much in hoping for Shemar Moore’s character to instead say “We have every right to be pissed about what happened that day and still happens too often. We can’t blame the police when some of us burn down and loot our own neighborhood, and shoot at the people who come to help us though.”

I’m only going to add one other point here: I am NOT saying that the entire neighborhood was involved in shooting at police, etc… I’ve said time and again that the vast majority of Black people, like ALL races, are good people. Like all races, there’s a small percentage of bad apples though. That small percentage did ALOT of damage though, and to their own neighborhoods.

Anybody comes in here with a racist reply about that’s how “all of those people are”, it’ll be an insta-ban from this blog. I don’t have the time or patience for ignorance and hate.

Bill Cosby’s Conviction Overturned!

Yes, that’s right, about 2 hours ago (as of the time I post this), the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court overturned Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction:

Bill Cosby’s sex assault conviction overturned by court (msn.com)

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

The short version here is that the court ruled that the prosecutor was legally bound by the agreement the former prosecutor had made not to prosecute Cosby. Per the MSN story:

The court said that overturning the conviction, and barring any further prosecution, “is the only remedy that comports with society’s reasonable expectations of its elected prosecutors and our criminal justice system.”

The court was apparently also bothered by the nature of the testimony by other victims:

The trial judge allowed five other accusers to testify at the trial about their experiences with Cosby in the 1980s to establish what prosecutors said was a pattern of behavior on his part.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices voiced concern not just about sex assault cases, but what they saw as the judiciary’s increasing tendency to allow testimony that crosses the line into character attacks. The law allows the testimony only in limited cases, including to show a crime pattern so specific it serves to identify the perpetrator.

MY View / Commentary:

Fair warning: I’m going to largely be playing devil’s advocate here. I don’t believe in Cosby anymore (he admitted he did it, plain and simple), BUT I also still see the problems with the way he was convicted, and the implications for the justice system as a whole.

When the accusations surrounding Cosby first surfaced, I admit that I didn’t believe them. I grew up with Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids on Saturday morning cartoons, and the morals that the show always taught, then “The Cosby Show” later. Cosby was “America’s Dad”, and presented an image of a wholesome ‘Middle America’ Black family and father on the show.

Long story short, doubt grew as time went on, and when he admitted during his trial that he did it all, but didn’t see it as rape, that was the final nail in the coffin for me. To top that, when offered parole, he refused it because a rehab program for sex offenders was a condition of that parole. So there’s no denying he’s not only guilty as hell, but unrepentant as well.

The court decision today raises alot of questions again that have been brought up by Black Lives Matters and other criminal justice reform movements though.

If a prosecutor makes an agreement, and the other party lives up to it, shouldn’t the prosecutor be obliged to also? Let’s take another, easier example here; somebody turns state’s evidence on their criminal organization, gives the District Attorney everything they need to get several convictions and shut the group down, but then turns around and says “Yes, we made an agreement and you lived up to your end, but your involvement was just too serious, I’m prosecuting anyway”.

The question of the other victims’ testimony is something that has to be considered here also. There was, to the best of my knowledge, no evidence or collaborating witnesses to support their accounts. Did their testimony serve to show a pattern so specific it served to identify Cosby? A little debatable as what he did was a sadly all too common date rape tactic. I’d have to say Yes in this specific case however. My concern here however, as it was with the court, is the potential and real abuse of this sort of testimony to gain convictions, particularly where evidence is otherwise flimsy.

Finally, for me, there’s the issue of Cosby’s trial being driven by media and social media outcry. The prosecutor that did finally charge Cosby wasn’t going to do so at first, citing the difficulty of getting a conviction due to lack of physical evidence, etc… as well as Cosby’s age (which should NOT be a mitigating factor in any prosecution). The social justice outcry forced the trial though.

BUT… He was guilty, so it was the right thing to do!!!

That’s pretty much saying the ends justify the means, and rationalizing witch hunts by saying if they’re accused, they’re guilty. The criminal justice system is supposed to operate on the exact opposite premise; innocent until PROVEN guilty. I can recall more than one famous media lynch mob in my time also. The McMartin Preschool pedophilia accusations, and the Richard Jewel Olympic Park Bombing (prevention) during the 1994 Atlanta Olympic Games for starters.

Both of those cases very clearly illustrate the need to avoid rushes to judgment and allow the system to do it’s job free of undue pressure or influence.

We could also get into the issue of prosecutors inflating charges and then pushing for plea bargains so they can pad their conviction record, or using a case to advance a political career, but that’s another story, even if somewhat related.

Is There A Real Answer Here?

Aside from the media (and by extension now, social media) learning self control, I don’t know if there is an easy answer.

Cosby is, by his own admission, guilty as hell, and unrepentant as hell also. He deserves punishment. In this specific case, the question is, “Is nearly three years of an 83 year old man’s life, the complete destruction of his reputation and career enough?”. Given the lives he damaged, I’d say no.

Perhaps without a rush to get a conviction at any cost, there could have been a later conviction of Cosby that actually stuck. How do we punish him and others though when the legal system is frequently guided by public opinion and political grandstanding vs facts, the law and what’s morally right?

Economics: The Reality of the Minimum Wage

As much as I try, some news topics are really hard to avoid. The recent debate over the minimum wage is one of them. Shockingly, I see the same arguments every time the topic has come up since I started working back in the 80s.

I swore off of political discussion but this is a social and economic issue that has been turned political via class warfare politics. So, let’s talk the truth.

The biggest flawed argument is that raising the minimum wage doesn’t cause inflation. You can find all manner of jury-rigged charts and stats to support that lie also.

Reality is that any good or service has two main costs associated with it; parts and labor. If you raise the labor cost of an item, one of three things is going to happen:

  1. The price of the final product has to be increased to cover it’s increased cost of production.
  2. You cut your labor pool and force more productivity out of each employee.
  3. You decrease the quality of the materials used to make the product.

If one or more of those things isn’t done, the company loses money and risks going out of business. Few people anymore seem to understand that a business has expenses of it’s own that have to be paid for out of their gross profits.

Let’s use a restaurant for example. WAY WAY WAY back in the day when I worked at Burger King, the manager and I used to talk alot. He explained that the restaurant has to charge 3 times what the food costs the store to cover all their expenses. You MAY have heard Robert Irvine say the same thing on episodes of “Restaurant Impossible” when coaching the people he’s helping turn their restaurant around.

What expenses you ask?

  1. Payroll to employees (Labor)
  2. Local State and Federal Payroll Taxes
  3. Mandatory Employer contribution to employee social security (ie more taxes)
  4. Unemployment Insurance (yes the money that you collect as unemployment is first paid to the government by your former employer)
  5. Employee Health Insurance (in some cases)
  6. Business License Fees
  7. Franchise Licensing Fees if part of a chain
  8. Property Taxes
  9. Mortgage on the building
  10. Upkeep on the Building
  11. Utilities (Electricity, Gas, Water and Sewer, Business Phone, Internet)
  12. The actual ingredients to make the food
  13. The utensils and cookware tom make the food
  14. Dishes, boxes, wrappers; however the food is served
  15. Cleaning supplies
  16. Employee uniforms

And doubtless some other things that I didn’t remember. All of that is why a hamburger that costs $1 in food costs has to be sold for $3. That amount allows the restaurant to cover expenses and make a modest amount of money. Remember the owner needs to pay himself also so he can pay his personal bills also.

The proof of inflation can actually be tracked via the that same hamburger restaurant idea. When I was first hired by right out of high school, the minimum wage was bumped from $2.85 an hour to $3.30 an hour.

What happened right after that? The price of a Burger King “Whopper” sandwich combo meal jumped slightly to $3.35. I cashiered, so the price stuck in my head.

The price of a combo meal at almost any fast food restaurant has stayed almost the exact same amount as the minimum wage also. The Federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour. What does anything actually worth eating in terms of a combo meal cost? About $7.

Yes, you can get cheaper stuff, like the $5 specials at the low quality fast food places (McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell), but are any of those items worth eating? Typically, the ingredients are cheapened down to the point the food is barely edible. I joke about the typical fast food chicken nugget being made from ground up beaks and claws for example, LOL. Then they drown the junk in some cheap vinegary sauce and hope you don’t notice.

Reality is most fast food and quick serve places have cheapened all their menu item ingredients because they can’t get anyone to work for under $9 an hour but still have to keep prices down. So to balance profits they’re selling $5 meals for $7 and paying the employee $9 to make it.

It’s not just restaurants though. Everybody’s wages go up, so prices go up across the board. Net result, we have inflation and the little guy has no more buying or saving power despite the increase in income.

You can’t squeeze much more productivity out of the average worker either, so cutting labor and demanding more from those who remain isn’t a viable answer.

“Real” minimum wage in the above chart I’m assuming means the legal minimum wage adjusted for inflation / actual buying power as compared to the past. Note that it’s stayed moderately consistent while productivity has soared.

Some of that productivity is automation assisting jobs (which typically means fewer hands needed to do the same amount of work), and the rest is just employers demanding more from employees. Anybody recall being expected to fill multiple roles after the housing bubble burst, if you were lucky enough to keep a job?

The irony about all of this is that even Investopedia is full of double speak here and it’s typically a decent source of info for basic economic concepts:

With regard to inflation, so-called wage push inflation is the result from a general rise in wages. According to this hypothesis, in order to maintain corporate profits after an increase in wages, employers must increase the prices they charge for the goods and services they provide. The overall increased cost of goods and services has a circular effect on the wage increase; eventually, as goods and services in the market overall increase, higher wages will be needed to compensate for the increased prices of consumer goods.

So that’s what Ive been saying. But the next paragraph down in the article, they argue against that idea and that the only alternatives are cutting workers of quality of goods, BY SAYING THAT’S THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE!!!

According to economic analyst Ed Rensi, formerly an executive at McDonald’s, a higher minimum wage would not only kill existing jobs but also result in closing a substantial number of small businesses, from 15% to 20%. In theory, raising the minimum wage forces business owners to raise the prices of their goods or services, thereby spurring inflation. In actual practice, however, it is not so simple since wages are only one part of the cost of a product or service paid for by consumers. A higher minimum wage can be offset (ie inflation avoided) by heightened productivity by workers or trimming down a company’s manpower.

Are you getting the message yet, folks? You’re being scammed in an effort to buy votes when NOTHING will truly change.

Is There a Real Answer?

This one is harder to answer than it should be. The standard conservative answer is education. However, “everybody deserves a college degree” worked out as well as “everybody deserves a house”. There was so much graft, misrepresentation and sometimes lazy students, that we’re sitting on another economic time bomb with student debt. In an ideal world, education would be the answer. The more you know, the more you make. Flipping hamburgers could be left to kids in school or robots and everybody would go on to make a living wage at a “real job” as my mother used to call them.

Aside from the problem with needing to clean up the system, things are evolving so fast that training and education are often obsolete in 5 to 10 years, even some hard science advanced degrees. How does the average person keep up with that??

Then there’s the whole issue of jobs becoming increasingly replaced by automation as well. New York City has some fast food restaurants that are completely automated now (in response to their $15 per hour minimum wage no less). There’s even efforts to replace lawyers with robots. Good riddance there, LOL

People are becoming obsolete in general. The ultimate answer may be some form of universal income. That’s scary in how much power it gives the government over the lives of it’s citizens. I’m not even sure how it works as the idea goes completely against basic economics. Government doesn’t produce anything to create the wealth it wants to distribute in a universal income situation.

No, you can’t just infinitely print money either. It destroys the value of it. Think of it this way; If everybody had FIVE, (yes five) classic Mustangs like mine:

How much would ANYBODY be able to sell one for? ZERO. Even money itself operates under the law of supply and demand. The more there is of anything, the less it’s worth.

Answers? Wish I had some good ones. Right now, all I know is the dog and pony show in Washington is nothing but smoke and mirrors intended to buy votes. It’ll sadly work too.

Debunking a Conspiracy… Maybe Two

Famous SNL skit turned into meme fodder on the internet

I’m back after sorting out several things that may or may not get blog posts of their own. Right now however, I want to revisit the idea of conspiracy theories. I lost at least one (apparently unhinged) reader when I refused to embrace the idea that the Nashville Christmas bombing was actually a government missile attack… or a government space based particle beam weapon if you’re REALLY REALLY out there.

Christmas morning picture of the bombing aftermath in Nashville

I had some FUN with that attack in the post linked to above, but it was only fun. These people seriously believe that the government used a cruise missile to damage an AT&T facility because said facility was supposedly investigating the voting machines and election fraud. This based on an out of focus picture from a different angle than the original pictures and video. Said picture supposedly shows a fragment of a vapor trail “from a missile”:

Yes, it apparently started out as it was “an NSA spy hub” that was hardened, but still somehow damaged by a missile that couldn’t even completely destroy the cars on the right hand side of the street (first pic). Yes, this is the start of applying Occam’s Razor to this idiocy.

So let’s go back to the blatantly obvious based on the two pictures above:

A) That blurry line could be almost anything. If it’s a vapor trail from a missile, where is the rest of the trail? Why did nobody report seeing a missile?

B) Even the most basic amateur forensics would show that’s NOT a missile hit. There’s no crater. The blast radius wasn’t even sufficient to completely destroy the cars on the left hand side of the street. The debris pattern doesn’t even indicate a center of the street hit like many whackadoos are insisting.

On top of all that, there’s just the reality of how the government works. Trump also for that matter. ANY investigation into electronic tampering with the voting machines would have been done publicly for the sake of transparency. Trump also would have been screaming from the rooftops that the proof was coming.

The government doesn’t need an AT&T switching center in Nashville to do such investigations either. The internet was started as a US Government construct named ARPANET. The government still has it’s hands all over the internet with back door access to backbone routing systems at the heart of the internet. Any person who has spent any real length of time in the IT field knows this. Things like Operation Able Danger barely scratched the surface of what the government could do if it wanted to.

Even setting aside the cloak and dagger stuff, the FBI Cyber Division is one of the best cyber forensics teams around. They would have likely been leading any investigation into tampering with the voting machines from their headquarters. Trump had already cleaned out anybody who had opposed him at the FBI also, so one can’t simply claim bias as an excuse here.

So, NO, there was NO INVESTIGATION and NO CRUISE MISSILE ATTACK to stop it and ‘save’ Trump’s presidency.

Let’s take Occam’s Razor a bit further however…

Why would the government spend $850,000 dollars (the cost of a tomahawk cruise missile) to launch a blatant and highly messy attack when so many easier options are available IF there was something going on that needed to be covered up?

For starters, they could just “spike” the target area with a virus or malware of some sort that would take out any software based evidence and potentially damage hardware as well. Any PEOPLE that present a danger can have Clinton administration style accidents & suicides (ie Vince Foster shooting himself in the head and THEN throwing his own body in a dumpster), OR simply discredited as conspiracy nuts and Alex Jones fans.

If I wanted to put together a far more plausible conspiracy theory around the bombing, it’d be something to this effect:

The RV carried a black ops team that went in and neutralized the troublesome area. They went in unseen via a trap door in the bottom of the RV and went into the sewers before breaching the AT&T building. The gunshots heard at 4:30 and 5:30 were the team taking out security or witnesses. After the job was done, they detonated the RV to cover their tracks, escaped via the sewers to an unmarked delivery van, and drove off. Other people in the NSA immediately put out the story of this rogue AT&T contractor obsessed with 5G and coronavirus, and the public has a cover story. The broadcasted warnings from the RV about a bomb were more about drawing attention away from the black ops team’s escape than actually keeping innocents safe.

The difference between THAT and the missile strike theory? TONS of money and much more surgical level control over the operation and it’s outcome. It’s still about as likely as my Die Hard theory in the post linked above though, LOL.

5G and COVID

While we’re at it, let’s BRIEFLY tackle this one also. Let’s start with 2 seconds of background.

The whole conspiracy took flight when a holistic medicine doctor named Thomas Cowen (a few unverified sources say he was barred from practicing “real” medicine), posted a YouTube video about how 5G and the “electrification” of the Earth’s atmosphere was causing coronavirus. All it took after that was a couple of celebritards tweeting about it and BANG; the theory went wildfire level viral.

The trouble here is that none of the above people have any sort of background in radiology. For the record, I don’t either. While I *do* believe that all the radiowaves put into the air may be having some sort of negative effects, I also know something else:

Radiation (and all types of electromagnetic energy are broadly classified as radiation) exposure doesn’t cause or mimic the symptoms of contagious diseases. The effects are completely different. On one extreme, you have cancer as an effect. THAT takes strong radiation. Much further down the line, we have the vertigo and impaired thinking / brain fog and moodiness caused by directed microwave attacks on US personnel at the Cuban embassy.

So, while I’d be more accepting of the modest possibility that 5G is responsible for all the mentally addled people on the far left and right who only want to fight with others and see threats everywhere, it’s NOT responsible for COVID-19. If anything is, it’s the Wuhan Institute of Virology (which another reader has argued doesn’t exist, because their media told them so, never mind the website and ability to find it on Google Maps).

Conclusion:

My point with the last (Wuhan) remark and the Clinton one earlier is that there’s enough legitimately shady stuff going on in the world without having to invent wild, unsupportable shit to explain every little thing that goes bad. That’s actually my biggest gripe with conspiracy theorists and theories:

They draw attention away from legitimate wrong-doing and are used to discredit anyone who wants to hold government and big business responsible for those legitimate wrong acts.

The fact of the matter is the missile attack nuts and other fringe theories out there actually discredited any legitimate effort to look into voter fraud. And the voter fraud was definitely real. Trump didn’t gain a single vote after the polls closed and lost substantial leads in 8 states. I kept track of the numbers over that time, and what happened is a mathematical and statistical impossibility. It would mean every area left uncounted at midnight on election night voted 100% Democrat.

I don’t miss Trump one bit. He was a toxic, narcissistic bully. The areas remaining to be counted after election night all normally leaned Democrat also, so it’s possible Biden might have won regardless. I’m only concerned about making sure the process stays untainted.

OK, enough of that, I said I was done with politics. That above situation is a perfect example of how conspiracy nuts actually HURT the cause they’re trying to promote though. THAT is why I brought it up, and to point out that one can see something fishy without going to extremes to rationalize it.

Before anyone on the Left posts a comment about all the right wing idiots out there, keep in mind that the COVID thing is a universal idiocy not limited to the far right. Likewise there’s the conspiracies spun by leftists that all cops are out to murder black people and that the military is full of terrorists ready to repeat the storming of the capital and completely overthrow the government. Glass houses & stones and all that…

All y’all crazy people need to get your heads straight. And I’m done venting, LOL.

Disgusted with Politics and Political People

The one good thing about having the memory in my PC go bad is that it gave me a couple of days to mull life over as I waited for replacement parts. I watched the DC drama and it’s aftermath, with complete and utter disgust for BOTH sides.

The last four years in general have been horrid, with name calling and toxic BS passing for political discourse. We’ve gotten to the point where neither side is even capable of objectively defending it’s own positions. Instead they both spew hateful rhetoric, lies and half truths about how the other side is nothing but hateful rhetoric, lies and half truths.

Really F’ing Productive. Call each other fascist and libcuck instead of talking out differences rationally.

Like it or not, both sides are human beings with legitimate concerns, even if they each have irrational ways of interpreting what an event may mean.

Bottom line, the problem is that politics has become much like all the new age interpretations of religions: It’s not about what’s right or wrong. It’s not about what’s best for society as a whole. It’s ONLY about padding the believer’s ego.

They’re wrong, we’re right. Spew hate. Advocate violence, censorship and imprisonment (yes, both the Left and Right have done it), tear down the ability of society to even communicate in a civilized manner, etc, etc… ALL in the name of justifying feelings of inadequacy and feeding fragile egos. Nowadays, it’s called spiritual materialism; the ego-driven need to flaunt one’s imagined superiority and enlightenment. It used to be called everything from virtue signaling & moral exhibitionism to just plain hypocrasy.

Trump and Pelosi are NOT the problem. They’re just the biggest visible manifestations of a morally bankrupt, narcissistic and sick society who would rather get on twitter and spew hate instead of talk.

News Flash: You politicos are making the world a much worse place with your hate. It doesn’t matter how self-righteous it is, or how you justify it. Hate is hate is wrong, period.

What I’ve seen the last few days has just been the icing on the cake for me. Nobody in Washington on either side can take a step back and reflect on how they contributed to the events of the last few days either. All they’ve done is double down on the attacks.

I’m completely over any further talking about politics at this point. Neither side is going to be happy until there’s an all out war.

From here on out, I’m focusing on my own growth and self-improvement. The only way to TRULY change anything in the world is to change yourself; grow as a person, tame an out of control ego, let go of hate, etc…

Be the Change instead of getting on twitter and spreading hate and misery.

This Moderate’s View of the Election and Beyond

My last political post here. As promised last time, politics will be banished to another blog soon. This will be a long one too. I’m going out with a bang. I challenge everyone to read it all the way through.

The Election Results:

Yes, the leftists and the people who never questioned the constant attacks disguised as news are happy. I’m not. It’s not that I like Trump. He’s an insecure narcissist. His lack of communication skills have made even the best ideas sound horrible. We MAY very well be better off without him.

What greatly disturbs me however is the twisted election results. Trump had a nearly 20% lead (18.9% if I recall correctly) in Pennsylvania for days, and then it just suddenly evaporates? The same thing happened on smaller scales in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona.

This is different than Hillary’s loss four years ago also. At least she kept gaining votes as the counting continued. Trump pretty much stopped gaining any votes after the polls closed. Anybody care to tell me how it’s possible that Biden got over 90% of the remaining ballots when he was projected to lose all those states?

Yes, I know… It’s all a conspiracy theory. Tell that to the people of Maricopa County who say their votes were blocked:

President Donald Trump supporters rally, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, outside the Maricopa County Recorders Office in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Does THAT look like the county that flipped Arizona for Biden? We’re supposed to believe it was.

Votes not being counted DOES happen too. My other half and I had a poll worker in Sacramento refuse to take our absentee ballots in the 2016 election (you have the option to drop the envelope at a polling station instead of mailing it). Not only that, the dropped off ballots were being tossed into open cardboard boxes instead of locked, sealed ballot bags.

Bottom line here; the allegations of fraud SHOULD concern everyone. It was investigated thoroughly in 2016 with the only evidence after years of looking being that Russia trolled everybody via fake accounts on social media. If there’s nothing to hide, the Left should welcome a thorough and transparent investigation like they demanded in 2016.

Fair and honest elections should be everyone’s priority.

Biden’s Claim of a “Mandate”

Yes, he’s already made multiple statements in between saying he wants to bring everybody together, that he has a “Mandate” to proceed with all the Far Left plans that he and Harris campaigned on. Here’s the reality of Biden’s “historic” win:

Election map from Fox News on November 4th.

That’s a county by county map of who voted Biden and who voted Trump. Biden’s “Blue Wall” looks an awful lot like a sea of red to me. Even California has several counties that went Red.

Most of the country realizes his proposed policies will turn the country into a shithole like California with high taxes, no jobs, skyrocketing crime, people having no voice, and higher prices on everything.

To consider his win a mandate is the kind of hubris Trump is accused of (but is really present in all politicians).

Biden’s Past:

This bothers me also. Not just the forcing his completely unqualified drug addict son Hunter onto the board of directors of a Ukrainian energy company while he was Vice President AND in charge of US foreign policy and aid to Ukraine. Not just his withholding foreign aid to Ukraine to get the prosecutor looking into that company fired…

There’s also his crazy gaffs like how Obama “has a big stick, and knows how to use it, believe me, I know!”

How about the fact that Biden was also behind the 1993 crime bill that clogged our prisons, and he called black men “predators”? At least he didn’t call them “super predators” like Hillary. I’m very pro law and order, but this law was overkill.

How about the fact that Biden was behind and pushed HARD for the failed 2005 attempt to reform bankruptcy laws? That would have made it all but impossible for Americans to declare a chapter 7 bankruptcy, and made a chapter 13 a financial prison sentence? He was SOLIDLY in the pocket of mega-banks and credit card companies, but this is the guy we’re supposed to believe will look out for the little guy?

The man couldn’t even keep his word to his dying son to NOT run for President.

Maybe he will be the uniter he’s claiming he wants to be. Time will tell. I had the same hopes for Obama though, and all I got was eight years of “White folks’ greed runs a world in need”.

Media Bias:

Another major concern. A free society depends on a vigilant and honest media. We don’t have one. I’ve cataloged case after case here. Trump’s saying that he realizes “the vast majority of Latinos are honest, hard working people who just want opportunity, but that a few bad hombres do come across the border with them” being turned into him calling all Latinos criminals being a prime example. I heard the speech live, I know firsthand how the media took the remark out of context and changed it.

I’ve repeatedly challenged people to show me ONE SINGLE INSTANCE where the mainstream or leftist media showed ANYTHING Trump did in a positive light. MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, etc… Even so much as a picture of Trump with a story that did NOT make him look like an ogre.

Biden has a campaign rally, it’s a great thing. Trump has a campaign rally, he’s spreading hate and coronavirus. Again, I’m not the guy’s biggest fan by any means. BUT I was a victim of alot of bullying in my day, and I HATE what I’ve seen over the last 5 years from the media; a unified effort of misrepresentation and bullying. Joseph Goebbels was right; a lie repeated often enough has become truth. People HATE Trump because he’s arrogant and the media have told them to.

60 Minutes, the same folks who rigged their investigation of the Ford Pinto with a lit rag in the gasoline fill pipe, and whose unbiased lead reporter “got a thrill up his leg” when Obama was elected, is the latest example. They ran a story tonight covering Pennsylvania’s vote count from election day on, to disprove Trump’s claims of voter fraud.

So how did they know that Pennsylvania would even be an issue? Trump was winning there handily until the 6th. Election night, he crowed about how he had a tremendous lead there. BUT 60 Minutes was there ON ELECTION NIGHT, covering his charges of voter fraud that didn’t happen until days later?

The only major counterpoint to all this is Fox News, which is just as blindly biased in the other direction. Net result; this country is SCREWED.

BTW: One last one from the not that distant past: Anybody remember that Mitt Romney during his presidential run said Russia was our greatest foreign threat, OR that Biden and Obama along with the media mocked him mercilessly for it? “The 80s called; they want their foreign policy back”. Funny how there was no apology to Romney during the 4 years we heard nothing but Russia Russia Russia.

The Real Nazis:

This is the part that concerns me more than anything the leadership or media has done. They can’t accomplish anything without a willfully ignorant public.

Ever since the start of the Obama administration, all I’ve heard out of the FAR Left is name calling, charges of racism, sexism, homophobia, hate, and on and on.

Conservatives and moderates who don’t tow the far left line are censored on social media, told we have no right to an opinion, mocked, harassed, and even physically assaulted. Antifa and the rest of the Far Left are using the exact same tactics the Nazis and their brown shirts used to silence opposition. Oh and Mussolini’s fascists when they were on the rise to power… Not to mention Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin and Lenin.

Great company some of you are keeping, and others of you are supporting with your silence simply because your hate of Trump, and what you THINK he stands for, is more important than how your fellow man is treated.

I’ve put up with being called a homicidal maniac, and a supporter of school shootings because I own a gun. News flash; 120 million Americans own guns; over 1/3 of the population. If we were all homicidal maniacs, everyone in the country would be dead.

I’ve been told I’m racist just because I’m White. Labeling somebody as something because of their race is the very definition of racism.

I could go on and on here until this blog post looked like some sort of manifesto. The reality is simply this; most of us moderates, and conservatives too, want everyone to have an even break. We’re tired of being vilified, threatened and even physically attacked though. So, NO we do NOT trust Biden to govern fairly given his past. We remember the Obama economy also.

Mostly, we just don’t trust the hypocrisy of preaching unity, enlightenment and inclusiveness when anyone who doesn’t tow the party line gets treated like a Jew in Nazi Germany.

I realize that most liberals are more moderate than what I’ve described above. HOWEVER, you’ve stood silently by while the extremes of your party have used those tactics, OR even applauded because you just hated Trump and anybody who stood even partially behind him by simple association.

You all want national unity and support for Biden? You’re going to have to put the brakes on the hate and get the loony elements of your party under control. Until I see that, and Biden acting like a real leader who needs to unify instead of declare mandates…

The bottom part says it all. Good for the goose, good for the gander. Just switch the picture to Biden

This Election is Insane

Where to even begin on this, other than many of my predictions are coming true. It’s safe to say even I didn’t see the level of games and corruption that would be a part of the actual election itself though.

A List:

California and Oregon were called for Biden as soon as polls opened. It’s a fore-drawn conclusion, BUT there were numbers posted with those calls; large numbers.

The count is taking WAY too long. If you say it’s mail-in ballot related, then how do you account for the large numbers with CA and OR when polls had just opened? Georgia has been struggling to get it’s last 4% of ballots counted for longer than it took to do the first 96%

ALL the states that were left undecided as of midnight on the 3rd had sizable Trump leads, double digit percentage leads in some cases, just evaporate out of nowhere. It’s almost statistically impossible to have the last minute ballots in ALL of those states vary that widely from the previous results.

During live coverage, I saw those same states were being performance analyzed county by county and Biden was polling almost 10% worse than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. These were the “Blue” counties that Biden would have to carry by a wide margin to win states like Michigan and Wisconsin.

I had mentioned prior to the election that there were stories of bags and boxes full of fraudulent Biden ballots found around the country.

Phoenix / Maricopa County, which supposedly flipped Arizona for Biden is diehard Republican territory. The chances of Biden pulling off almost 100,000 more votes in that county alone are astronomical.

Trump only got 5% of the vote in Washington DC. Again, almost statistically impossible. Only 5% of the nation’s capital is conservative? OR, maybe it’s just that the Qanon crowd is at least partially correct and the entrenched power elite want Trump the outsider gone at any cost.

Analysis:

Something here decidedly stinks. At the very least, voting tabulation should not take this long. They’re all designed to be machine counted, even the mail-in ones. The reversals of numbers has been too dramatic and involved too many delays.

I’ve said many times in the past that I don’t like Trump. He’s an incredibly poor speaker and he’s used to his businesses where his word as CEO is law. That’s made him a fairly toxic leader, BUT it’s his knowledge of business and economics that makes him a better manager for the country. It’s why the economy has thrived under him up till the Coronavirus outbreak, and is still doubtless doing better than it would have under a Democrat administration today.

Another prediction; the economy will not only go into the tank (impacting the Asian and Euro economies also), but Biden will blame it on Trump and his “mishandling” of the Coronavirus, just like Obama did with Bush, even after 8 years of bad economy. Watch the Stock Market the day Biden is officially declared winner; see what happens. That’s your indicator of where the economy is headed the next 4 years.

Conclusion:

It’s more than the economy though; it’s about the undermining of democracy and the non-stop attacks that Trump and conservatives in general have endured since he took office. Don’t think the U.S. or YOUR media is biased? Show me ONE, just ONE story that paints anything Trump has done in a positive light.

Even Trump’s visiting the troops on Thanksgiving was painted as grandstanding, a waste of taxpayer dollars, and an unnecessary security risk. Biden rallies drawing large numbers was great. Trump rallies were people spreading coronavirus.

Show me even ONE picture that MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS or NBC have used that doesn’t make Trump look like a complete goon.

Democracy is pretty much dead. It was killed by a lying, manipulative media and a public too stupid to care how it was being led around by the nose.

Let’s Talk About the Electoral College

Image courtesy of NationalAffairs.com

As I predicted months ago in another blog, and a few days ago here; the Electoral College is coming under fire as part of the US election process again. The press isn’t even waiting until after the election.

THAT tells me they’re very scared about the results and know the polls are not reflecting real numbers. We’re not here to spin numbers however.

I’m not sure which is more disheartening; the fact that the media is trying to destroy a cornerstone of equal democratic representation in this country OR that people are too damned ignorant and lazy to learn how it works.

This was BASIC junior high / middle school learning back when I went to school.

LONG story short, when the founders were drawing up the constitution, they were originally going to go with a straight election vote. None of the smaller original states would go along with that however, because it meant that New York and Massachusetts would have complete say over who gets elected President. The other smaller states would have NO say, and the President would have NO reason to listen to their concerns at all.

The Electoral College was created as a compromise that ensured the popular vote still held strong, almost total sway, BUT at the same time, the smaller population states had to be taken into account if one wanted to be elected.

Despite what the talking heads trying to destroy our Republic are saying also, the College has only tallied up different than the popular vote on FIVE occasions in the over 200 years of this country’s existence.

In modern times, even with the college, we still hear the entire central 3/4 of the country referred to as “fly over country”, as in “screw them, they don’t have enough votes to matter, I’m not campaigning there”.

WITHOUT the Electoral College, the election would be decided by California, New York, Florida and 3 or 4 other states. Look at the map in the top picture. The number of electors a state gets is based on population, and is the same number that they get for Representatives in the House of Representatives side of Congress. California alone can already override the votes of the entire western 1/3 of the country. Does San Francisco understand what Montana’s needs and goals are? Do they have any reason to even care?

Do NOT believe the lies and propaganda, people. The Electoral College serves a vital role in protecting the representation of the minority against the tyranny of the majority.

If you want a more detailed read on the subject, I recommend the NationalAffairs.com article that I borrowed the picture from.

My ONE Election Post

I’m going to break down and do one of my now rare political posts. Mainly because I’m so sick of the utter CRAP out there in the media. You can’t avoid the political crap even if you work at it, and believe me, I have.

I made some predictions a few months ago in Laura V’s blog, before I got blocked there for firing back at somebody who attacked one of my other comments. Much of what I foresaw is coming to pass also.

For starters, we already have the media selling the idea that the election is going to be a landslide for Biden… for almost a month now. Make NO mistake here; the ONLY purpose for that is so they can claim Trump stole the election IF he wins.

There are a million ways to bias the polls that the media is citing. The first and easiest way is just the time of day. Call people during business hours and conservatives are less likely to answer the phone because of work (statistically proven). You can throw out “screener” questions to gauge a person’s political ideology as well before proceeding with the real poll. Then there’s the old favorite of biased wording in questions. Does X *deserve* to be elected or re-elected? I’m using broader terms here because for the moment, I’m not talking about this election specifically. The term “deserve” in the above example implies that the person being asked about did something wrong, which in turn is more likely to garner a negative response from any undecided.

I’ve not only heard too many accounts of such games (by both sides to be fair), I’ve witnessed them first hand and been shut out of polls when they didn’t like my initial answer or two. Hung up on a few more when I got fed up with their leading questions. A majority of people are equally annoyed and refuse to participate in polls.

Cassandra speaks: Ignore me at thine peril Troy

My Prediction:

Trump is going to win, but it’ll be close enough (within 2%) for the Far Left to make up stories of stolen elections again. Hell, if he won by a landslide, (which I do NOT see happening), they’d only scream louder. My logic is simply that most Americans do NOT participate in political discourse anymore because we’re tired of being called nazis, fascists, extremists, white racists, uncle toms, race traitors, etc… by the extreme loony left and their sheep.

The bad part for the far left is that they’d get more votes with a conciliatory tone. Trump didn’t get elected the first time because people like his troll personality, aside from a few right wing extremists anyway. He was elected because the average citizen is sick and tired of being brow beaten, censored and told they’re the cause of all the worlds’ problems. He was a thumb in the eye of all the toxic rhetoric.

Also completely the wrong way to handle things IMO. Reagan did a much better job of handling his attackers with finesse and humor, AND getting his message directly to the public without toxic, in your face tweets. My point being that if the far left had the common sense to try to bring people together instead of browbeat them, Trump never would have gotten elected, and wouldn’t have a prayer at re-election.

Trump is going to get more support than people expect from places like Portland as well. Over 4 months of rioting there. The average citizen is beyond fed up and just wants to be safe walking down the street at this point, even if they have nothing but sympathy for Black Lives Matter. Trump might even take Oregon outright as the rest of the state is fairly conservative.

IF TRUMP DOES WIN:

Not a guarantee by any means, BUT, if I’m correct and Trump wins, expect more attacks on the election results and him. Pelosi is already planning a 25th amendment removal attempt, which in and of itself is a sure indication the Democrats know this election is by no means a slam dunk for them. Actually, we can pretty much expect the last four years, with the volume cranked up to 11. I’m sure we’ll hear more talk of abolishing the electoral college also, and the safeguards it provides smaller states.

And of course, in response to it all, the Trump troll-o-meter will be dialed up to 11 also, with even more rants and whines with every delay or defeat, and more chest beating when he wins.

The only bright spot is that the economy stands a better chance of recovery with him.

IF BIDEN WINS:

First, expect a doubling down on the SJW rhetoric and civil unrest.

There will be attempts to oust Trump appointed judges on every level. Harris already said months back that this was a goal of hers. This despite the fact that she knows that judges are NOT some sort of cabinet appointment that serves at the President’s pleasure.

Along those lines, Biden will try to pack the Supreme Court with extra judges to tip it’s balance permanently Left. BTW, the fact that Biden outright said voters have no right to know his stance on this SHOULD be enough to tell you all how autocratic and dictatorial he is. I suspect that IF this attempt comes to pass, that the Supreme Court will shoot it down HARD, as it did when FDR tried the exact same thing after large portions of his “New Deal” were shot down by the Court.

Biden has already said he plans on taxing businesses to death to pay for multiple entitlement expansions. THAT will lead to small business failures, mega-corporations like Amazon and Walmart gaining even more market share, unemployment, and higher prices.

AND, at some point, I suspect that “Crazy Uncle Joe” will either be ousted by Harris (due to his deteriorating mind) or step down on his own for “health issues” and President Harris will double and triple down on the most extreme of Biden’s policies.

Either way, Weird Al has it right:

FINALLY! SOMEBODY ELSE IS SAYING IT!!

What am I talking about?? How California is willfully negligent in it’s fire management, and how all these fires would be preventable if Governor Gavin Newsome and the rest of the state “leadership” would just pull it’s head out of it’s collective rear.

ProPublica reporter Elizabeth Weil ran a story a couple of days ago that just got featured on Pocket. Since PorPublica has a Creative Commons license policy with it’s stories, I’m just going to link to and copy it here. It can speak for itself.

A Cal Fire firefighter standing with his back to the camera facing a forest fire.

They Know How to Prevent Megafires. Why Won’t Anybody Listen?

This is a story about frustration, about watching the West burn when you fully understand why it’s burning — and understand why it did not need to be this bad.

by Elizabeth Weil Aug. 28, 1:30 p.m. EDT

What a week. Rough for all Californians. Exhausting for the firefighters on the front lines. Heart-shattering for those who lost homes and loved ones. But a special “Truman Show” kind of hell for the cadre of men and women who’ve not just watched California burn, fire ax in hand, for the past two or three or five decades, but who’ve also fully understood the fire policy that created the landscape that is now up in flames.

“What’s it like?” Tim Ingalsbee repeated back to me, wearily, when I asked him what it was like to watch California this past week. In 1980, Ingalsbee started working as a wildland firefighter. In 1995, he earned a doctorate in environmental sociology. And in 2005, frustrated by the huge gap between what he was learning about fire management and seeing on the fire line, he started Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology. Since then FUSEE has been lobbying Congress, and trying to educate anybody who will listen, about the misguided fire policy that is leading to the megafires we are seeing today.

So what’s it like? “It’s just … well … it’s horrible. Horrible to see this happening when the science is so clear and has been clear for years. I suffer from Cassandra syndrome,” Ingalsbee said. “Every year I warn people: Disaster’s coming. We got to change. And no one listens. And then it happens.”

The pattern is a form of insanity: We keep doing overzealous fire suppression across California landscapes where the fire poses little risk to people and structures. As a result, wildland fuels keep building up. At the same time, the climate grows hotter and drier. Then, boom: the inevitable. The wind blows down a power line, or lightning strikes dry grass, and an inferno ensues. This week we’ve seen both the second- and third-largest fires in California history. “The fire community, the progressives, are almost in a state of panic,” Ingalsbee said. There’s only one solution, the one we know yet still avoid. “We need to get good fire on the ground and whittle down some of that fuel load.”

Yes, there’s been talk across the U.S. Forest Service and California state agencies about doing more prescribed burns and managed burns. The point of that “good fire” would be to create a black-and-green checkerboard across the state. The black burned parcels would then provide a series of dampers and dead ends to keep the fire intensity lower when flames spark in hot, dry conditions, as they did this past week. But we’ve had far too little “good fire,” as the Cassandras call it. Too little purposeful, healthy fire. Too few acres intentionally burned or corralled by certified “burn bosses” (yes, that’s the official term in the California Resources Code) to keep communities safe in weeks like this.

Academics believe that between 4.4 million and 11.8 million acres burned each year in prehistoric California. Between 1982 and 1998, California’s agency land managers burned, on average, about 30,000 acres a year. Between 1999 and 2017, that number dropped to an annual 13,000 acres. The state passed a few new laws in 2018 designed to facilitate more intentional burning. But few are optimistic this, alone, will lead to significant change. We live with a deathly backlog. In February 2020, Nature Sustainability published this terrifying conclusion: California would need to burn 20 million acres — an area about the size of Maine — to restabilize in terms of fire.

Mike Beasley, deputy fire chief of Yosemite National Park from 2001 to 2009 and retired interagency fire chief for the Inyo National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management’s Bishop Field Office, was in a better mood than Ingalsbee when I reached him, but only because as a part-time Arkansan, part-time Californian and Oregonian, Beasley seems to find life more absurd. How does California look this week? He let out a throaty laugh. “It looks complicated,” he said. “And I think you know what I mean by that.”

Beasley earned what he called his “red card,” or wildland firefighter qualification, in 1984. To him, California, today, resembles a rookie pyro Armageddon, its scorched battlefields studded with soldiers wielding fancy tools, executing foolhardy strategy. “Put the wet stuff on the red stuff,” Beasley summed up his assessment of the plan of attack by Cal Fire, the state’s behemoth “emergency response and resource protection” agency. Instead, Beasley believes, fire professionals should be considering ecology and picking their fights: letting fires that pose little risk burn through the stockpiles of fuels. Yet that’s not the mission. “They put fires out, full stop, end of story,” Beasley said of Cal Fire. “They like to keep it clean that way.”

(Cal Fire, which admittedly is a little busy this week, did not respond to requests to comment before this story published.)

Carl Skinner (Courtesy Carl Skinner)

So it’s been a week. Carl Skinner, another Cassandra, who started firefighting in Lassen County in 1968 and who retired in 2014 after 42 years managing and researching fire for the U.S. Forest Service, sounded profoundly, existentially tired. “We’ve been talking about how this is where we were headed for decades.”

“It’s painful,” said Craig Thomas, director of the Fire Restoration Group. He, too, has been having the fire Cassandra conversation for 30 years. He’s not that hopeful, unless there’s a power change. “Until different people own the calculator or say how the buttons get pushed, it’s going to stay that way.”


A six-word California fire ecology primer: The state is in the hole.

A seventy-word primer: We dug ourselves into a deep, dangerous fuel imbalance due to one simple fact. We live in a Mediterranean climate that’s designed to burn, and we’ve prevented it from burning anywhere close to enough for well over a hundred years. Now climate change has made it hotter and drier than ever before, and the fire we’ve been forestalling is going to happen, fast, whether we plan for it or not.

Megafires, like the ones that have ripped this week through 1 million acres (so far), will continue to erupt until we’ve flared off our stockpiled fuels. No way around that.

When I reached Malcolm North, a research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service who is based in Mammoth, California, and asked if there was any meaningful scientific dissent to the idea that we need to do more controlled burning, he said, “None that I know of.”

How did we get here? Culture, greed, liability laws and good intentions gone awry. There are just so many reasons not to pick up the drip torch and start a prescribed burn even though it’s the safe, smart thing to do.

The overarching reason is culture. In 1905, the U.S. Forest Service was created with a military mindset. Not long after, renowned American philosopher William James wrote in his essay “The Moral Equivalent of War” that Americans should redirect their combative impulses away from their fellow humans and onto “Nature.” The war-on-fire mentality found especially fertile ground in California, a state that had emerged from the genocide and cultural destruction of tribes who understood fire and relied on its benefits to tend their land. That state then repopulated itself in the Gold Rush with extraction enthusiasts, and a little more than half a century later, it suffered a truly devastating fire. Three-thousand people died, and hundreds of thousands were left homeless, after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and attendant fires. The overwhelming majority of the destruction came from the flames, not the quake. Small wonder California’s fire ethos has much more in common with a field surgeon wielding a bone saw than a preventive medicine specialist with a tray full of vaccines.

More quantitatively — and related — fire suppression in California is big business, with impressive year-over-year growth. Before 1999, Cal Fire never spent more than $100 million a year. In 2007-08, it spent $524 million. In 2017-18, $773 million. Could this be Cal Fire’s first $1 billion season? Too early to tell, but don’t count it out. On top of all the state money, federal disaster funds flow down from “the big bank in the sky,” said Ingalsbee. Studies have shown that over a quarter of U.S. Forest Service fire suppression spending goes to aviation — planes and helicopters used to put out fire. A lot of the “air show,” as he calls it, happens not on small fires in the morning, when retardant drops from planes are most effective, but on large fires in the afternoon. But nevermind. You can now call in a 747 to drop 19,200 gallons of retardant. Or a purpose-designed Lockheed Martin FireHerc, a cousin of the C-130. How cool is that? Still only 30% of retardant is dropped within 2,000 yards of a neighborhood, meaning that it stands little chance of saving a life or home. Instead the airdrop serves, at great expense, to save trees in the wilderness, where burning, not suppression, might well do more good.

This whole system is exacerbated by the fact that it’s not just contracts for privately owned aircraft. Much of the fire-suppression apparatus — the crews themselves, the infrastructure that supports them — is contracted out to private firms. “The Halliburton model from the Middle East is kind of in effect for all the infrastructure that comes into fire camps,” Beasley said, referencing the Iraq war. “The catering, the trucks that you can sleep in that are air-conditioned…”

Cal Fire pays firefighters well, very well. (And perversely well compared with the thousands of California Department of Corrections inmates who serve on fire crews, which is very much a different story.) As the California Policy Center reported in 2017, “The median compensation package — including base pay, special pay, overtime and benefits — for full time Cal Fire firefighters of all categories is more than $148,000 a year.”

The paydays can turn incentives upside down. “Every five, 10, 15 years, we’ll see an event where a firefighter who wants [to earn] overtime starts a fire,” said Crystal Kolden, a self-described “pyrogeographer” and assistant professor of fire science in the Management of Complex Systems Department at the University of California, Merced. (She first picked up a drip torch in 1999 when working for the U.S. Forest Service and got hooked.) “And it sort of gets painted as, ‘Well, this person is just completely nuts.’ And, you know, they maybe are.” But the financial incentives are real. “It’s very lucrative for a certain population of contractors.”

By comparison, planning a prescribed burn is cumbersome. A wildfire is categorized as an emergency, meaning firefighters pull down hazard pay and can drive a bulldozer into a protected wilderness area where regulations typically prohibit mountain bikes. Planned burns are human-made events and as such need to follow all environmental compliance rules. That includes the Clean Air Act, which limits the emission of PM 2.5, or fine particulate matter, from human-caused events. In California, those rules are enforced by CARB, the state’s mighty air resources board, and its local affiliates. “I’ve talked to many prescribed fire managers, particularly in the Sierra Nevada over the years, who’ve told me, ‘Yeah, we’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars to get all geared up to do a prescribed burn,’ and then they get shut down.” Maybe there’s too much smog that day from agricultural emissions in the Central Valley, or even too many locals complain that they don’t like smoke. Reforms after the epic 2017 and 2018 fire seasons led to some loosening of the CARB/prescribed fire rules, but we still have a long way to go.

“One thing to keep in mind is that air-quality impacts from prescribed burning are minuscule compared to what you’re experiencing right now,” said Matthew Hurteau, associate professor of biology at University of New Mexico and director of the Earth Systems Ecology Lab, which looks at how climate change will impact forest systems. With prescribed burns, people can plan ahead: get out of town, install a HEPA filter in their house, make a rational plan to live with smoke. Historical accounts of California summers describe months of smoky skies, but as a feature of the landscape, not a bug. Beasley and others argue we need to rethink our ideas of what a healthy California looks like. “We’re used to seeing a thick wall of even-aged trees,” he told me, “and those forests are just as much a relic of fire exclusion as our clear skies.”

Mike Beasley (Courtesy Mike Beasley)

In the Southeast which burns more than twice as many acres as California each year — fire is defined as a public good. Burn bosses in California can more easily be held liable than their peers in some other states if the wind comes up and their burn goes awry. At the same time, California burn bosses typically suffer no consequences for deciding not to light. No promotion will be missed, no red flags rise. “There’s always extra political risk to a fire going bad,” Beasley said. “So whenever anything comes up, people say, OK, that’s it. We’re gonna put all the fires out.” For over a month this spring, the U.S. Forest Service canceled all prescribed burns in California, and training for burn bosses, because of COVID-19.

I asked Beasley why he ignited his burns anyway when he was Yosemite fire chief. “I’m single! I’m not married! I have no kids. Probably a submarine captain is the best person for the job.” Then he stopped joking. “I was a risk taker to some degree. But I also was a believer in science.”

On Aug. 12, 2020, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the U.S. Forest Service chief and others signed a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, that the state needs to burn more. “The health and wellbeing of California communities and ecosystems depend on urgent and effective forest and rangeland stewardship to restore resilient and diverse ecosystems,” the MOU states. The document includes a mea culpa: “California’s forests naturally adapted to low-intensity fire, nature’s preferred management tool, but Gold Rush-era clearcutting followed by a wholesale policy of fire suppression resulted in the overly dense, ailing forests that dominate the landscape today.”

Ingalsbee looks at the MOU and thinks, That’s not worth the paper it’s printed on. Likewise Nick Goulette, executive director of the Watershed Research and Training Center, has seen too little movement for too long to believe anything but utter calamity can get us back on track. In 2014, Goulette participated in a planning exercise known as the Quadrennial Fire Review, or QFR, that asked the grim question: What is the disaster scenario that finally causes us to alter in a meaningful way our relationship and response to fire? The answer: something along the lines of a megafire taking out San Diego. In the wake of it, Goulette and others imagined one scenario in which the U.S. Forest Service morphed into an even more militaristic firefighting agency that “overwhelmingly emphasizes full suppression” and is “extremely risk averse.” But they also envisioned a scenario that spawned a new kind of fire force, one focused on “monitoring firesheds” and dedicated to changing the dominant philosophy away “from the war on fire to living with fire.”

This exercise took place three years before the devastating 2017 Napa and Sonoma fires, and four years before the Camp Fire destroyed Paradise in 2018. Goulette thought those events would have prompted more change. The tragedies did lead to some new legislation and some more productive conversations with Cal Fire. But there’s just so much ground we need to make up.

When asked how we were doing on closing the gap between what we need to burn in California and what we actually light, Goulette fell into the familiar fire Cassandra stutter. “Oh gosh. … I don’t know. …” The QFR acknowledged there was no way prescribed burns and other kinds of forest thinning could make a dent in the risk imposed by the backlog of fuels in the next 10 or even 20 years. “We’re at 20,000 acres a year. We need to get to a million. What’s the reasonable path toward a million acres?” Maybe we could get to 40,000 acres, in five years. But that number made Goulette stop speaking again. “Forty thousand acres? Is that meaningful?” That answer, obviously, is no.

The only real path toward meaningful change looks politically impossible. Goulette said we need to scrap the system and rethink what we could do with Cal Fire’s annual budget: Is this really the best thing we could do with several billion dollars to be more resistant to wildfire? Goulette knows this suggestion is so laughably distasteful and naive to those in power that uttering it as the director of a nonprofit like the Watershed Research and Training Center gets you kicked out of the room.

Lenya Quinn-Davidson at September Burn in Bear River. (Thomas Stratton)

Some fire Cassandras are more optimistic than others. Lenya Quinn-Davidson, area fire adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension and director of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council, remains hopeful. She knows the history. She understands that the new MOU is nonbinding. Still she’s working on forming burn cooperatives and designing burner certificate programs to bring healthy fire practices back into communities. She’d like to get Californians back closer to the fire culture in the Southeast where, she said, “Your average person goes out back with Grandpa, and they burn 10 acres on the back 40 you know, on a Sunday.” Fire is not just for professionals, not just for government employees and their contractors. Intentional fire, as she sees it, is “a tool and anyone who’s managing land is going to have prescribed fire in their toolbox.” That is not the world we’ve been inhabiting in the West. “That’s been the hard part in California,” Quinn-Davidson said. “In trying to increase the pace and scale of prescribed fire, we’re actually fighting some really, some really deep cultural attitudes around who gets to use it and where it belongs in society.”

A PG&E employee received a $4.5 million Bay Area home from a vendor, and sold it right back a month later, records show. Later, the utility accused the vendor of bribery for unspecified actions.

All Cassandras believe California’s wildfires will get worse, much worse, before they get better. Right now, said Crystal Kolden, the state’s fuel management plan, such as it is, is for Cal Fire to try to do prescribed burns in shoulder season. But given that the fires are starting earlier in the year and lasting later (we are not even this year’s traditional fire season yet), the shoulder doesn’t really exist. “So where is the end?” she asks. “It’s not in sight, and we don’t know when it will be.” The week before this past round of fires saw the hottest temperatures ever recorded in California, the hottest temperature ever reliably recorded on earth: 130 degrees, more than half the boiling point of water, and just 10 degrees below what scientist consider to be the absolute upper limit of what the human body can endure for 10 minutes in humidity.

“Meanwhile, our firefighters are completely at the breaking point,” said Kolden, and there’s little they can do to stop a megafire once one starts. “And after a while you start to see breakdowns and interruptions in other critical pieces, like our food systems, our transportation systems.” It doesn’t need to be this way. We didn’t need to get here. We are not suffering from a lack of knowledge. “We can produce all the science in the world, and we largely understand why fires are the way they are,” said Eric Knapp, a U.S. Forest Service research ecologist based in Redding, California. “It’s just that other social political realities get in the way of doing a lot of what we need to do.”

The fire and climate science before us is not comforting. It would be great to call in a 747, dump 19,200 gallons of retardant on reality and make the terrifying facts fade away. But ignoring the tinderbox that is our state and our planet invites more madness, not just for the Cassandras but for us all.

As Ingalsbee said, “You won’t find any climate deniers on the fire line.”

The only point I might argue is the idea of preventive burning as a way to clear areas. It’s more cost effective than going in with crews and some heavy equipment to clear areas, but preventive fires have started full blown fires upon occasion, and manual labor allows for more selective clearing… leaving some vegetation and clearing out the excess growth. Both options should be on the table…

That and dismantling PG&E once and for all.