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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Consumer Ripoff by the Utility Companies

I started in 1977 making  the statement that nuclear power plants had the possibility of being dangerous.  I wrote: “The Nuclear Catastrophe”,  a fiction novel of suspense  and survival.  It foretold the idea  that an earthquake might cause the  control rods in a nuclear plant to become frozen in place and could no longer be used to control the speed of the nuclear decay of the fuel …… with an explosion and fires resulting….and the release of radioactive matter into the atmosphere, the water, the soils, the people etc.  That was just what happened in March of 20ll in the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Then as time went on I wondered why an executive at the Southern California Gas Company , married to a sister of my friend could afford to build one of the largest homes in Palos Verdes Estates (Southern California) while we were in our 40’s and still establishing our careers.  What did he do at this utility to earn so much money?  And later in Thousand Oaks, California, a water executive retired at an early age with a one million dollar bonus  (I think he had not taken vacation time – is that worth one million tax payer dollars – is not vacation absence work needs  covered by the other workers?).

Then my real estate career took off and I was busy with that and my family.  When the Fukshima Nuclear Catastrophe happened in March 2011 I googled the name of my novel (which was out of print, but had been purchased by many libraries).  It was still being sold as a used book by Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and survival sites.  So, over a period of time, I updated it and brought it out again as a 3rd edition in EBook and paperback formats.  (

Now I was interested in not only nuclear problems, but the whole concept of public utilities and what they are up to WITH OUR MONEY.  Utilities are a monopoly.   About ten  years ago in California, someone decided to let electricity be sold to private companies and let those companies resell  it to consumers on a competitive basis.  Since I  managed apartment complexes, I loved it…..the utility bills at these complexes went down about 50%.  But someone important must have been losing money because that whole deal was abruptly cancelled and once again I had one company only that I could buy from at their prescribed mandatory rate.

And where does that rate come from?  There is a Public Utilities Commission.  And an advocate for the consumer (available for complaints).  Have you EVER gotten a response from the Public Utiities Commission or the consumer advocate?  I HAVE NOT AND I HAVE COPIES OF THE LETTERS AND FORMS I HAVE FILLED OUT AND SENT.

Published in the LA Times on 12/29/12 page A14 is the following statement:  “Utilities charge ratepayers for every dollar spent…for which the state of California guarantees utilities an annual return of 11% for 40 years”.  That guaranteed return is paid by YOU, THE UTILITY USER!.

And what return is available to you, the utility user, in your investments?  1/10 of one percent to 1% at a local bank. 4 to 5% in tax free bonds (some are insured).    Even junk bonds don’t pay much more in today’s economy.  SO WHY ARE UTILTIES GETTING 11% GUARANTEED FOR 40 YEARS?  Because they can, or have, or have someone in their  pocket.  Our state and federal deficits are HUGE.  I continually hear that we will have to cut medicare.  What about cutting the UTILTIES hold on us?  We are a prisoner that no one is interested in paroling.

I wrote the Public Utilities Commission and stated that our local water company (a public company) had shown profit increases of 20% per year and they were still increasing rates.  NO RESPONSE.  My water bill started out at $500 per month in the summer and went up to $3000 per month in the summer within 5 years, until I  gave up and started letting things die.  I certainly would not want to interfere with their necessary increased profits by demanding reasonable water rates.

Have you heard the rumor that the Japanese Mafia controls their nuclear/electric production?  And that is why even though they experienced the horrific  Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombs, there are still  public officials making the statements that they “cannot do without nuclear”.  It is my understanding that all their nuclear plants were shut down for almost a year after the disaster…..and they still had enough electricity for the nation.  Nuclear plants require a large investment of money – and then return a large amount of dollars to their owners.  Big Bucks for Big People.  What about the rest of us – the consumers who pay to make this happen.  We need to make our displeasure a priority. Cut utility returns in half and give half  of the savings to the consumer and half to the government and we would, as a nation, come out ahead.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

GUNS, DEATH, AND ANSWERS – a response to The Connecticut Elementary School Shooting

The tragedy of death to innocent children, and adults who were their caregivers, is overwhelming. So what is to be done to prevent this irrational taking of life that seems to be occurring again and again?

Gun proponents seemed to be lacking on national television to defend their views. The other elected officials who were interviewed said something has to be done. I agree. And I am a licensed, concealed carry, gun advocate.

Prohibition of alcohol (and drugs) has not worked in the United States. Prohibition was tried in the Al Capone days and was a miserable failure. Illegal speakeasies and bootleggers were everywhere. Alcohol was eventually made legal again. Marijuana is slowly working its way into our culture, state by state. Just as these previous controls failed, I am predicting that gun legislation will not be able to effectively ban guns. Illinois is the only state where it is illegal for individuals to carry concealed weapons for protection in public, and the federal court of appeals struck down that ban this week. The state must appeal to the US Supreme Court or put a new law in place within 180 days. Even if it were passed – people are afraid.

What are they afraid of? Other people. In one affluent neighborhood there have been 11 home invasion robberies in the last 2 months. Men dressed in ski masks with guns are simply breaking into the homes and demanding cash and jewelry. Because they CAN. They are in and out very quickly. They have neighborhood watch, local meetings, email alerts......and the break in gangs are still prevailing. But there are jails for those people when they are caught. In the meantime people want the protection of having a gun. But the shooters who select large groups to kill, rather than a home to rob, seem to be a growing problem.

So what do we address if we cannot get rid of the guns?

Answer: what makes guns safer to the public. Cars kill and maim. We don't get rid of cars. We make them safer and make stricter rules for the drivers.

FEDERAL legislation should cover:

Guns cannot be purchased over the internet or at gun shows without background checks. (They can be now.) All gun stores would also be included in this. Said background checks would be expanded to a federal database that includes medical records of mental illness.

Guns should be required to be locked up with formidable combination locks that others, especially those under 21 and/or mentally challenged, do not have access to. Guns come in parts. Guns should be stored disassembled to some degree and the parts kept separately when non-permit holders are living on or visiting the premises.. Permits for guns should include training, testing, and an assessment of family medical and social history.

People in charge of gathering students or people in groups should be instructed as to defensive measures and use of guns, and required to pass tests in these areas. They should be provided with an appropriate defensive weapon after proper instruction and testing. The Connecticut school principal of the elementary school was shot to death as she, unarmed, charged the gunman who was armed. If she had a weapon, and knew how to use it, it might have ended then and there. Airplane pilots are now armed in the cockpit. Arizona allows concealed weapon carry. When the Gabby Gifford shooting incident occurred in Arizona, one of the bystanders had a gun but did not use it because of the number of people that he might have hit. But he was gun educated and when the shooter ran out of ammo and stopped to load again, he jumped him.

Schools and other large gathering areas need to be able to effectively sweep and scan large areas for large metal objects or even for ammunition. We have the technology for computers, smart phones, travel to outer planets, complex video games – silent alarm scanners that protect our entrances and exits to movie theaters, malls, commercial buildings, and other public places is lagging because no one has presented an interest in purchasing such on a large scale. So they have not been developed. But with the number of mentally ill people who are using killing to express their unhappiness in the world, the time has come for change and prevention. We need immediate notification to police and the people controlling an area when a gun/and or ammunition has entered an area. Police and security can be provided with a chip that bypasses the alarm with a universal code. This should be a challenge presented to our programmers of today with a large reward for the technology selected.

More people have mental illness in the United States than have cancer or heart disease. Our systems for treating mental illness and containing it have broken down. One psychological expert featured on television said you can never predict who is going to be violent. I wonder about that statement. The shooter of these children and teachers was written up by the Los Angeles Times as a troubled, but bright, youngster who was removed from the school system by his Mother and home schooled. He, at 20 and still living with her, shot her and used her guns to commit these horrendous crimes. Could this not have been foreseen in some way? Do these shooters share some particular profile that is not yet recognized? It seems that medical records have become so private that we are prohibited for getting answers that are needed.

All children are tested for IQ, abilities, etc. Tests for violent propensity should be developed, administered and noted in private medical records but reported to a federal database that is used for gun permits. Those people should not be allowed guns. Medical people treating mental illness must be mandated to inform of danger (they are now, but not to the degree that prevents mentally ill persons from buying weapons). Awareness in parents should be raised from the testing of the children. Those that are withdrawn from society by homeschooling, should be required to pass a socialization test to obtain a gun.

Is this a terrible deprivation of rights and invasion of our privacy? Or is this protecting our society? Again, if you can't get rid of the guns, then keep the mentally ill people and criminals from obtaining guns. Have federal programs for gun education, use, safety, and permitting. Have federal grants for development of new technology for better protecting our public gathering areas from guns by silent alarm scanners. Have federal legislation on gun purchase, private home storage, public detection, background checks and data banks, that are stricter. It's time to stop this senseless slaughter.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


“At first the blood pressure was ninety over sixty. Rubbing his hands together, his fingers felt stiff, his right arm heavy. His blood pressure dropped slightly – 85 over 50 and harder to hear than before.

The pain began in the tips of his fingers. At first he couldn't really call it a pain. It was more of a numbness – an unpleasant lack of feeling. The numbness eventually gave way to a persistent electric discomfort– worse when he pressed down, but not completely gone when he didn't. Huddled in the darkness he tested his fingertips one by one. All of them ached. It was just nerves, he thought.

Then the buzzing pain began in his toes. He began to be frightened. He reached up to his cellphone to call someone. The effort of reaching was excruciating. He glanced at his hands. The fingers and thumbs from the first knuckle to the tip had turned almost black. The rest of his hand was a dusky gray. As time passed his left hand, now fixed in a semi claw was nearly useless. He could work his right arm and fingers, but even slight movements of them sent intense pain shooting up his arm. Then the blood pressure went down to seventy-five systolic. It couldn't be heard in the right arm at all. The arm, from at least the elbow to the hand was dusky and mottled. For whatever reason, the arteries and smaller arterioles supplying blood to that limb had become blocked. To a lesser extent the blood flow to the left arm and both legs seemed compromised as well.

His hands and feet were throbbing. The cold gray hands with their blackened fingertips looked like out of a horror movie. He glanced at herself in the mirror. Something was wrong with his face. It took several seconds to understand the dark streams of blood that had begun winding down from his nostrils, across the top of he lip and alongside the corners of his mouth. He watched as his front turned a deep crimson as stain spread over the groin and legs. He was hemorrhaging from his nostrils and mouth. Fresh and drying blood covered him and was spatter on the floor and wall. Suddenly he threw up and it was all bright red blood. He tried to speak but the words were only in his mind. They would not come out. His vision seemed blurred, and there was glazed fear in his eyes. The left side of his body was paralyzed. Terror beyond any he had ever known took hold.

DIC - disseminated intravascular coagulation – the most dramatic and horrifying of all blood-clotting emergencies. A fatal stroke caused by a cerebral hemorrhage was a terrifying possibility.” (1)

Yasser Arafat, 75, died in a French military hospital near Paris on Nov. 11, 2004. His health had deteriorated suddenly during an Israeli military siege of his Ramallah, West Bank, headquarters. French hospital reports attributed his death to a massive brain hemorrhage, but gave no details on what caused a related blood condition called disseminated intravascular coagulation, also known as DIC.

No autopsy was done at the time of Arafat's death at the request of his wife. But she later filed a lawsuit spurring a French investigation. French medical teams ruled out poisoning and an 8 year Palestinian investigation found no conclusive evidence of foul play. However, In July 2012, tests carried out by the Swiss Institute of Radiation Physics as part of a nine-month investigation found traces of polonium in quantities much higher than could occur naturally on Arafat's personal belongings, such as his clothes, fur hat, and toothbrush used in his final days. (2)

Polonium is a highly radioactive element occurring in uranium. The murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian dissident, in 2006 was announced as due to Polonium poisoning, but never definitively proven. It has also been suggested that Irène Joliot-Curie was the first person to die from the radiation effects of polonium. She was accidentally exposed to polonium in 1946 when a sealed capsule of the element exploded on her laboratory bench. In 1956 she died from leukemia. According to the book The Bomb in the Basement, several death cases in Israel during 1957–1969 were caused by Polonium. A leak was discovered at a Weizmann Institute laboratory in 1957. Traces of Polonium were found on the hands of professor Dror Sadeh, a physicist who researched radioactive materials. Medical tests indicated no harm, but the tests did not include bone marrow. Sadeh died from cancer. One of his students died of leukemia, and two colleagues died after a few years, both from cancer. The issue was investigated secretly, and there was never any formal admission that a connection between the leak and the deaths had existed. (3)

But, for imagination's sake, is it possible to visualize what could have happened to Arafat? How would the polonium contamination get on his hat, his clothes, his toothbrush? Wouldn't someone have to have transported and opened a sealed capsule of the radioactive material? And wouldn't they themselves be exposed? Perhaps in this day of suicide bombers, that is of no concern to some terrorists. Where would the terrorist obtain the polonium? There probably is a black market for everything – or a government could easily provide it from their uranium stockpiles. But just as we never found out who, beyond the actual assassin, was responsible for killing John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King, this too will probably remain a mystery.

By November 24, 2012, Arafat's body had been exhumed from its concrete encasement, samples taken, and he was reburied. Testing will be done in Switzerland, France, and Russia with results expected in a few months.

  1. Based on a fictional account of DIC in “Natural Causes” by Michael Palmer
  2. Los Angeles Times, “Remains of Arafat to be exhumed” by Maher Abukhater & Mark Magnier
  3. Wikipedia