California Wildfires: Land Management?

California is being devastated by fires once again, one destroying the entire town of Paradise, destroying homes, cars, and killing 25 people, a second fire rages in southern California northwest of LA causing multiple homes to burn in affluent Malibu and Oak Park.  A third fire has erupted in Ventura County.   They are truly a catastrophic perpetuation of California’s human and economic toll!

While wind speeds topping 55 mph have fueled the fires and rapidly propelled them leaving little time to evacuate, the cause of the fires has yet to be officially determined.   Dry, brittle groundcover, and winds have said to be the catalyst.

Within the devastation a fight is brewing regarding land management and fire prevention management. While the IAFF, International Association of Firefighters and the California Professional Firefighters Union have called out Trump’s comment that poor management has led to the devastation, there are facts that have been liberally manipulated to serve a purpose.

1)   Yes the Federal government is tasked with managing  a portion of California’s land, that land includes national parks, national forests, and national wildlife refuges. It does not include towns, cities, and metropolitan areas.

2)  While the IAFF stated that percentage of Federal land in California tops 60%, that is incorrect, it is 45.8% – a statistic they should know…

2)   Governor Jerry Brown has done little to nothing to mitigate the constant drought issues that plague California creating a continuum of environmental risk.

3)   FIREPAC, through the IAFF is among the top 1% largest PAC’s in the US, it is affiliated with the AFL-CIO whose efforts are predominantly political lobbying. They did NOT support Trump’s election.

4)  The president of IAFF is Harold Schaitberger who is also a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council created March 2002 by Executive Order.  Council Members of HSCA include Bill Brattan, a Democrat, appointed by Obama.  A former NYC Police Commissioner appointed by Bill De-Blasio, he is also Co-Chair on the CBP Integrity Advisory Panel, formed as an adjunct to HSCA by Obama in 2014.

Unfortunately, the California fire situation is political.

According to the UN regarding Fire Management:   “From an assessment of megafires it was concluded that the main contributing elements of these wildfires are drought, fire meteorology, accumulation of fuel and homogenous or fire prone landscapes, which are often caused by lack of appropriate land management. 

Preventive landscape management is therefore needed and should include policy, cultural, technical, social, financial, organizational, economical and market aspects. 

For instance, large homogeneous forests and housing areas shouldn’t be established in regions with fire-prone vegetation, but different land uses should be combined to maintain mosaic features in the landscape with natural firebreaks.

Special attention should be paid to timing of certain agricultural activities e.g agricultural burning should take place before the dry season and before the surrounding landscapes turn fire-prone. Burning should also be avoided during the high winds and hottest time of the day. At the same time alternatives for agriculture fires might be developed.

Local populations should be involved through participatory and/or community based approaches because they are often main actors in landscape management activities, they suffer directly from the fires which threaten their livelihoods and might also be involved in some of the fire causes.”

Bottom line – Land Management within towns, cities and communities should include drought control and landscape features including natural firebreaks.

Is improper land management the fault of firefighters?  NO. But Trump never attributed such claims.  So why would Unions associated with Firefighters even enter the dialogue? Politics.

California is host to roughly 4,000 to 9,000 fires every year!  In 2007 and 2008 over 1.5million acres were scorched.

In 2017, California’s wildfires cost $180 billion.  California’s fire budget is $442million.  The remainder of the cost, $179,558,000,000, is paid for by taxpayers outside of California through Federal funds and increased insurance premiums.  California’s budget covered .2% of the cost.

California has been in the midst of one of the longest droughts in history lasting since December 2011 and continuing according to the US Bureau despite Gov Brown declaring it had ended in 2016.

Over 95% of fires are human caused, including intentional and negligence.

 

  • January 2017, Governor Jerry Brown released his state Budget which included: Emergency drought spending. While recent rains have drenched California, the governor’s emergency drought declaration is still in effect, and the new budget appropriates an additional $188 million in one-time resources for drought relief. Roughly half ($91 million) is allocated to CAL FIRE—the agency dedicated to fire protection and stewardship of the state’s forests—to enhance its firefighting capacities and support the removal of dead trees. The drought has contributed to widespread tree mortality, which has raised concerns that the dead trees might fuel future destructive wildfires.

And what happened to the torrential rains that drenched California?  The water evaporated unable to saturate the dry soil, there were no reservoir projects to capture the rain, and runoff spilled into the Pacific Ocean.

 

          Governor’s Budget Summary:   Based on aerial surveys, it is estimated over 102 million trees have died as a result of the drought and the effects of bark beetle infestation. In 2016 alone, it is estimated 62 million trees died and millions of additional trees are weakened and expected to die in the coming months and years. These dead and dying trees make forests more susceptible to destructive wild res and pose public safety risks from falling trees for residents and infrastructure in rural, forested communities. The Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has identified high hazard zones within counties suffering tree mortality.

In October 2015, the Governor issued an emergency declaration directing state and local entities, as well as utilities, to remove dead and dying trees that threaten power lines, roads, structures, and critical community infrastructure.

The Tree Mortality Task Force continues to evaluate the most effective ways to
utilize existing resources to maximize the state and local response to the effects of tree mortality. These efforts include utilizing CAL FIRE equipment and personnel including foresters, hand crews, engine companies, and heavy equipment operators for hazardous tree removal and fuels reduction efforts.

In December 2016, CAL FIRE awarded $15.8 million in grants for a total of 107 projects across 34 counties to support local efforts to remove dead and dying trees that pose
a threat to public health and safety and projects that reduce the threat of wild res
to homes.  Butte County, where Paradise, is located received roughly $600,000, and Ventura County about $200,000.

In other words, Trump is correct.  California has done little to mitigate what the UN, CAL FIRE, and Governor Brown have declared to be the causal factor of these massive fires – land management.  The proof – to date there have been 7,579 Wildfires throughout California and two months left to go.

Obama’s Legacy of Gun Ownership

Hollywood is at the epicenter of a relatively new phenomena, “Ghost Guns”.   These are home made guns that gang members are resorting to because they can’t buy guns legally due to the fact that due to background checks they are labeled felons or mentally challenged.   Stealing guns has been the most prevalent method for obtaining guns, but as that becomes more difficult, another, easier method has gained traction.  Gang members can purchase the parts through unlicensed individuals, or even online and convert them to semiautomatic rifles or pistols with a few adjustments.

“An unfinished lower receiver, sometimes referred to as an “80% receiver,” can legally be purchased without a serial number from a seller who is not a federally licensed firearms dealer as long as it is missing the key components that would make it a firearm.” And those additional components can be purchased separately.  It’s a quirk in the law and California is the hub.

Building your own gun means it is unregistered, untraceable, and has no serial number.  It is easy to build, takes little knowledge of guns or powertools, and is completely unregulated.  Because you are buying ‘components’, even in Liberal Hollywood anyone can legally make the purchase without a background check.

Governor Jerry Brown nipped this loophole in the bud when he passed a new law requiring everyone making a homemade gun to request a serial number from the government first.  I’m sure all the gang members rapidly filled out their registration forms…  In addition, effective January 2018, Brown passed a law making the sale of ammunition subject to a background check. With one exception:  the sale of up to 50 rounds to any family member is not subject to the law… Why?  What is the point of an exception?

Despite these laws, two California cities remain in the top ten for crime rates;  Stockton and Oakland.  Still, Detroit, St. Louis and Baltimore hold the dubious honor of being the most violent cities in the US despite strident gun laws.

Ironically, Obama’s term registered one of the highest record in gun sales with 65.4 million during his first term alone or 91% more than Bush’s first term.   The two dominant type of firearms purchased during the Obama administration – AR15, and handguns, with women dominating the personal handgun market.  In anticipation of a Hillary win, gun manufacturers made 11.5 million guns in 2016, twice as many as in 2009.  The notion that Hillary would valiantly curb gun sales because that is the correlation…

During the Obama administration 254 died from mass shootings (Shootings where more than 10 died), and another 318 were injured.   That is more than ALL mass shootings combined before his Presidency dating since 1949!   A USA Today statistic states that mass shootings in which 4 or more died during the period between 2006 and 2017 (overwhelmingly Obama) accounted for 1358 victims (deaths and injuries).

Why did mass shootings rise so exponentially during the Obama administration, a Liberal who enforced higher gun control laws?  According to FBI statistics, in 2016, Obama’s legacy showed nearly an 8% increase in the homicide rate and a 3.4% increase in violent crime.  In 2015, the homicide rate increased by 11.4%.  In fact during his tenure nearly all crimes increased. What would be the motivation?  Gun ownership?  Hardly.

Legal gun ownership in the US is determined to be encapsulated in only 20-30% of the population given they own multiple weapons.  In 1991, the percent of households in the US that owned guns was 29%. Effectively these percentages reveal that legal gun ‘ownership’ is a non-sequitur to murder rates and violent crimes.   And in fact, it shows that since 1991 gun ownership – is a flat percentage.

This statistic would be similar to gun ownership in much more restrictive countries like Australia, where the rising gun ownership is in those that already own guns.

Illegal guns account for 94% of gun crimes. We know of two mass shootings that involved Ghost Guns.   But the gang violence has no statistics for Ghost Gun usage.  Tracking this phenomena is difficult although in 2015 the ATF estimated there were over 500,000 Ghost guns in California alone.

Both New Jersey and California are now trying to regulate gun parts.  But the measure is incredibly broad and could easily implode as definitions are loosely applied.

What we can conclude is that during Obama’s legacy not only did race issues rise exponentially, but alas so did crime, gun sales, and oh – health insurance premiums (I know, not related).  

California Wealthy Taxpayers Paying 3% Effective Tax Rate?

California Governor, Jerry Brown, is having a hissy fit because Trump’s new tax law limiting some itemized deductions, most notably interest expense, will cause all the wealthy residents to form a line of mass exodus.   California has some of the highest priced real estate in the country, and a significant number of residents negotiate interest-only mortgage loans in order to cut their monthly out-of-pocket costs.   The rationale in the past was the fact that the interest was 100% deductible and therefore their actual cash cost was further lowered.   In addition, this lowered cost allowed more people to buy homes as they could squeak in the debt to income ratio margins.

The Bay Area currently has a median home price of $770,000 which is considered – middle class.   Oddly, it also has some of the lowest property tax rates in the country, lending more speculation that the wealthy vastly under-support the economy. The fact that the highest tax bracket for state income taxes is 13.3% with a 1% mental health surcharge for those earning over $1 million, certainly contributes to California’s cost of living as one of the most incredibly expensive.   And it has nothing to do with Trump – and everything to do with price demand – a capitalistic market.  

Of course, despite the fact that California has an annual budget of $265 billion or roughly $6700 per capita, twice that of Florida, they still can’t make ends meet.   Jerry Brown is convinced that the tax limitation was a Republican conspiracy to hurt California as well as his esteemed reputation.

Not to be out done, the California State Legislature is busily proposing ways to circumvent the new tax law by allowing the reclassification of interest as a ‘charitable contribution’.   Unfortunately, the feds make up the federal laws, so attempting to reclassify a Federal Law would be a slippery slope legality.

According to the Democrats within the Senate, California’s wealthiest 1% pay 48% of the income tax revenue… remember when Romney tried to make the same statement and was ripped apart?   Anyway, income tax revenue represents roughly 35% of the California Budget, 26% is Federal Assistance.   I imagine that if the California Assembly were to try to insert a new law circumventing the interest deduction, Trump could simply offset the dollars against Federal Assistance.  Given the Sanctuary City status, given constant natural disasters, California could easily find themselves stripped of all funding.

It’s much like a game of chess.   Only Jerry Brown doesn’t have his Queen to save him. FYI:  That would have been Hillary.  

But it isn’t just the income taxes California would lose. Their second highest source of revenue is from sales taxes which currently stand at 7.5% with a max State and Local of 10%.   A VAT Tax could generate significantly more revenue from a tourist standpoint, but the wealthy spend – the non-wealthy don’t, so revenue is primarily generated by the wealthy.

If the initiative to divide California and splinter off the rural portions to New California as proposed, Jerry Brown will be left with an even smaller base of income to support their massive welfare programs and prison systems.

As of 2015, California ranks number 1 for total gross federal collections, however, on a per capita basis it falls far short at 16th, below Missouri, which would indicate they are not paying their – “Fair Share”.   Given 38% of Californians earn more than $877,560 per year, compared to the national average of about $48,642, the math would support that they aren’t even close to paying their – Fair Share.  

With roughly 40 million residents, 38% would equate to 15.2 million earning $878,000 at a flat tax rate of 15% would mean they would generate over $2 trillion Federal tax revenue per year… not including remaining taxpayers who contribute 52% to the total take.   In actuality the total revenue collected in 2015 was a mere $405 billion.  A YUGE difference!  This would equate to an effective Federal rate of just – 3%.

Looks like a lot of someone’s in California just aren’t anteing up!!

Interesting…who could it possibly be?

California Gas Leak – State of Emergency

The gas leak in southern California has emit the equivalent of 700 million gallons of gasoline/carbon/methane into the atmosphere since October – nearly 3 months ago. The average car uses about 580 gallons of gas per year. In a 3 month period that would equate to about 165 gallons. The 700 million would thus equate to an additional 4,242,400 cars worth of carbon emissions. That would be the equivalent of 112% of the entire population (including children) of LA which stands at roughly 3.8 million!

And Governor Jerry Brown, a climate activist, is just now declaring a state of emergency and wants it fixed? What about 3 months ago! What about last month when the EDF showed aerial photos of the damage? What amount over the last six to eight weeks since residents began reporting illnesses governor? How much pollution has occurred as a direct result? I’ll bet it’s a lot more than those VW’s that are subject to enormous fines and lawsuits.

The proposal to fix the leak is complicated. It involves an attempt to mask the odors that have been released by attempting to vaporize them in a contained flammable operation, and to disperse the methane that hovers in the atmosphere, and ultimately to clamp the leak by drilling down over 8000 feet.

The utility company, SoCal Gas, claims that the odor in the methane is a result of an additive. That additive is used purposefully to help detect gas leaks. It is called Mercaptan. According to OSHA, at very high concentrations it is extremely toxic and affects the central nervous system. In November 2014, at a DuPont facility in Texas, the accidental death of 4 people and the hospitalization of a fifth was a direct result of exposure to Mercaptan.

According to the Utility company, exposure to this additive is harmless. But that would not be exactly truthful:

Ocular exposures:

Methyl mercaptan is an eye and mucous membrane irritant.  It may cause moderate conjunctivitis and diplopia.

Dermal exposures:

Exposure may result in redness, irritation and swelling.  Frostbite injury can occur from dermal exposure to liquid methyl mercaptan. 

Inhalation exposures:

Symptoms may include fever, cough, dyspnea, tightness and burning in the chest, dizziness, headache, loss of sense of smell, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Inhalation may cause CNS depression, respiratory irritation, respiratory paralysis, pulmonary edema, tremors and seizures. It may also cause liver and kidney damage, tachycardia and hypertension Methemoglobinemia and severe hemolytic anemia with hematuria and protenuria have been reported in a patient with G-6-PD deficiency.

Studies on exposure to Mercaptan have all been limited to a very small time frame – 4 minutes to one hour. Prolonged exposure, as in 3 months and counting, has not been assessed. The symptoms presented above were all attributable to this much smaller exposure period.

When all the facts are not offered in an attempt to dispel fear, there is a chance that people will not seek the help they need which could lead to even greater physical distress. Of the 6500 residents that have asked for assistance in relocating until this toxic plume is contained, only 2200 have been afforded that protection. The mere fact that this event is now described as a state of emergency indicates the severity and the longer the residents are subjected to the toxicity, the more harm that can occur.