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Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Read this in the SF Chronicle last week.

PG&E diverted safety money for profit, bonuses

Emergency crews comb through the rubble of burned homes next to a crater that was caused by the explosion of a 30-inch natural gas pipeline in San Bruno's Crestmoor neighborhood Sept. 10, 2010, the day after the blast.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. diverted more than $100 million in gas safety and operations money collected from customers over a 15-year period and spent it for other purposes, including profit for stockholders and bonuses for executives, according to a pair of state-ordered reports released Thursday.
An independent audit and a staff report issued by the California Public Utilities Commission depicted a poorly led company well-heeled in its gas operations and more concerned with profit than safety.
The documents link a deficient PG&E safety culture - with its "focus on financial performance" - to the pipeline explosion in San Bruno on Sept. 9, 2010, that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.
The "low priority" the company gave to pipeline safety during the three years leading up to the San Bruno blast was "well outside industry practice - even during times of corporate austerity programs," said the audit by Overland Consulting of Leawood, Kan.

Read more:

Big fucking shock there.  Company choosing profit over moral responsibility to the public it serves?  Front fucking page news.  You can read the whole thing by following that link.  I always love pieces like this, especially when it gets to the hand wringing parts, pious politicos incredulous, citing such actions as "inconceivable."

Apparently folks didn't see that one coming.  How could monies meant to shore up safety measures be allocated as anything but?  Don't worry that no one's checking up to make sure the cash is being used properly, because there's a magic, make-believe realm where core values supersede bottom line.  This is the same dipshit rationale that gets jackwagons to fall for the organic scam (who's regulating what's "organic"?  The government?  A coalition of honest, humble farmers who don't care about making money and only want to serve the greater good by providing wholesome, pesticide-free foods, even if it spells an economic loss for them personally?).  It's moments like this where I really wish there were more Man with Two Brains clips on You Tube.  There's not.  So I'll have to trust you've seen it for the Merv Griffin analogy I'm about to drop to make any sense.  It's like after Dr. Hfuhruhurr (Steve Martin) discovers that the Elevator Killer is actually Merv Griffin. Pressed for time (as he has to transplant Ann Uumellmahaye's brain into Kathleen Turner's hot body), Hfuhruhurr tells Merv Griffin he doesn't have time to take him to the police, and so he makes him promise he'll turn himself in.  "You promise to turn yourself in?"  "I promise!"  You swear you're going to use this money for safety measures and not line the pockets of shareholders and executives?  I promise!

I made a pledge on here long ago that I wouldn't get political.  And I have no intention of violating that this morning.  Mostly because I don't give a shit.  But outrage isn't a partisan issue.  The fact is a company entrusted with a shit-ton of public funds to shore up operations in order to prevent another tragedy like the San Bruno pipeline explosion ( said Fuck you; and if you think there are going to be any serious repercussions, I've got some organic rutabaga juice I'd like to sell you for $15 a bottle.  This post isn't about condemning PG&E.  Of course that's what they are going to do.  "Should" and "will" are separate entities, mutually exclusive; they are a goddamn dichotomy.  The difference is, this sort of thing used to incense me, back when I was, like, 25 and thought real change could be effected.  Now I turn to the sports page.

Of course I am not calling everyone who demands better an idiot.  God bless that someone still gives a shit.  I simply don't have time for losing battles.  I scarcely have time for the break-even ones (which are most of the battles I fight).  What gets me, however, is the question/comment that almost always follows news like the PG&E thievery, a variation of, "I just don't understand how anyone could possibly do such a..."  How could they?  Because fucking money is involved, that's how.

You may recall, at least if you live the Bay Area, that another fallout from the San Bruno explosion was the number of people attempting to cash in on the catastrophe by pretending to be victims.  People might be upset about this latest PG&E news, but I have yet to read a report calling any execs "vermin."  When news broke of opportunists assuming identities and making up addresses to get free money following the pipeline blowing (an event precipitated by PG&E's wanton disregard for safety measures), the public was far more incensed over that than they were over any white collar crimes.  I am not endorsing nor excusing crooks who tried to take advantage of a dire situation; it's incorrigible.  But I understand it, and have more empathy for them than the suits at PG&E who only care because they got caught.  It's not like the choice was this or cashing in the 401K.  I'm guessing the folks who tried to receive reparations from the state did so because it was the path of least resistance, which is the path we are going to take 99 out of 100 times.

Wherever money is concerned, I don't think I've ever had to ask "How could they?" When you assign paramount importance to a piece of paper, folks will do a lot of fucked-up shit.

Ain't that right, guy who sang "Jump Around"?

Again, not saying it's OK.  But I get it.  And I will always sympathize more with the man on the street, however crooked, criminal, or maligned, than I will the man in the penthouse calling the shots.  It's the old punk in me.  (Although, I am forced to admit, I was never close to a punk.  Always been too concerned with appearance to dress like that.)

Probably wouldn't be bringing any of this up, had it not been for my drive home yesterday.  Saw the PG&E thing last week, and I thought about writing about it then, since it's so fucked up, but that thought lasted about seven seconds until the commercial ended and ESPN's First Take came back on, and Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless went back to debating the finer points of Tebow.  Why bother?  It's not like someone at PG&E is going to read this blog (in between charging me $316 for fucking gas and electric) and go, "Oh, no, we upset that creepy angry dude with the crappy looking blog [which I swear I am fixing].  Better knock it off."  But driving home from the shrink, I was listening to sports talk, basking in the miraculous 49er win, due to the brilliant QB play Alex Smith, a man I've always supported*, and they had one of those News of the Weird items, about a woman caught trying to exchange sexual favors for Chicken McNuggets at McDonalds.



A Los Angeles woman was arrested last week for offering sexual favors in exchange for chicken McNuggets, according to Burbank police.

Khadijah Baseer of Los Angeles allegedly opened customers’ car doors while they were in the drive-thru of a Burbank McDonald's. 

A witness reported Baseer's activity to police and she was arrested on suspicion of prostitution. 
Read more:

I know there is a joke in there.  And anyone reporting on this story is going to make it.  But not me.  Ain't nothing remotely funny about it.  OK.  That's not entirely true. Obviously a woman offering to blow strangers for Chicken McNuggets is ripe for fodder.  Which is why they were taking cheap shots on the radio.  And from a detached POV, driving in one's car, hearing about the exchange of sex for food, especially chicken by-products of assholes and elbows, it is an easy target for a quick laugh.  Until you stop to think about about low and awful it really is.  That a fellow human being's life is worth so little that she is willing to stick a stranger's dick in her mouth for food.  Then it ain't so funny.

Yeah, I'm a bleeding heart.  But I can also be a cold sonofabitch at times, and as I get older, I get less weepy for the bums pleading for change.  Mostly, because like so many unpleasantries in life, I've learned to tune them out.  Once in a while, I drop a buck in the can, donate a bill to a charity, and so feel less like a douche bag for the privilege and second chances I've been afforded.  But I was also outside many cold, rainy nights, hungry and broke, and whether I deserved to be there because of my immaturity, selfishness, or drug use, we can save that debate for another time.  I was still hurting.  The difference in my case, and why I can't cry poverty and poor me, is that I was free, at any time, to pick up the phone and say, Mom, I want to come home.  Any.  Time.  Which may have something to do with why I was never offering to blow strangers for a Big Mac.

Listen, I don't know this woman's story.  Maybe she really likes Chicken McNuggets, loves sucking dick, and figures she has hit upon the perfect career choice.  Yet, I am guessing, willing to go out on a limb here and venture that the woman was just really hungry and didn't have enough money to eat.  And I don't care if that's because she spent it all on drugs.  And I don't care if the state should foot the bill for her get her help.  I am not asking whether it's about rehabilitation or punishment or the hands of an angry god.  I'm not touching any of that. All I am saying is that, regardless of reason or remedy, it's sad.  Beyond sad.  It's fucking soul-crushing depressing.  And I'd say, "But for the grace of God," except that that expression falls to take into consideration one small, important detail: what about that poor fuck over there?  Where is his or her grace?  That's not a condemnation on religion. I believe in God.  (You better believe I believe in God.)  It's more a commentary on (super)natural selection.  I don't know what I did right and what McNugget did wrong, but I'm pretty sure in neither case does it warrant the disparity of fates.

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