Issue 11 – November 2010

Current Affairs Essay
Death and Profits: The Utility Protection Racket  By Michael Parenti
Featured Books
Last Words: A Memoir  By George Carlin with Tony Hendra
The Assassination of Julius Caesar  By Michael Parenti
Sunshine Assassins  By J. F. Miglio
Recommended Reads
Mockery  By Philip Kraske
A Pointed Death  By Kath Russell
Everything I Never Wanted To Be  By Dina Kucera
Enough for Us All  By Dorothy I. Riddle
Frozen in Time  By Theodore Jerome Cohen
Journey to Terra Incognita  By Gerald Shingleton
Goodnight, Brian  By Steven Manchester
The Mine  By Daniel R. Cobb
The Friday Night Club  By Jacob Nelson Lurie
The Entrepreneur Guide U.S. 2010 Edition  By Owen O. Daniels
Golden's Rule  By C. E. Edmonson
A World Away: The Quest of Dan Clay  By T.J. Smith
The Harrowing Escape: The Quest of Dan Clay (Book II)  By T.J. Smith
Winter  By Maneesh Sharma
Soul's Infarct  By Diamela Eltit & Paz Errazuriz
A Worthy Legacy  By Tomi Akinyanmi
Dangerous Liaisons  By Michael D'Ambrosio
Shroud of Beckoning  By Deb Woody
Shadows and Not  By Sara Brown
America's Suicidal Statecraft  By James Cumes
The Handkerchief  By Julian Stark
The End of the 19th Century  By Eric Larsen
Up Close: A Mother's View  By Fiona Yaron-Field
Secrets Revealed  By Sheshena Pledger
A Case of Wild Justice  By Yvonne Jerrold
What Can We Do Next? TheAdventures of Lexi and Lolly  By Toula Magi
The Survivors  By Derek Laurens
Lizard's Lair  By Derek Laurens
My Angels Are Come  By Art Stump
Ghost Tango  By Janeen Ledford
The Declaration of White Independence:
      The Founding Documents of Transudationism
  By Kyle McDermott
The Naked Earth  By Jonathan Adam DeCoteau
Awaken and Arise!  By Arthur Earl Jones, Ph.D.
One Time in Paris  By Wade Stevenson
The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder  By Vincent Bugliosi
The Eye of Icarus  By Michael D'Ambrosio
Prodigal of the Pecos  By C.E. Edmonson

Recommended Reads

If you are an independent, small press, or traditional publisher and would like to submit your book(s) for consideration to “Recommended Reads,” click here.

 

Mockery
By Philip Kraske


www.amazon.com
(Fiction)
Engaging political thriller about a young writer who stumbles onto the truth about a political election where both candidates are rocked by scandals.

A Pointed Death
By Kath Russell


www.amazon.com
(Fiction)
Entertaining mystery thriller about a biotech consultant and her dog Skootch and how they become involved in the high stakes world of corporate trade secrets and murder.

Everything I Never
Wanted To Be

By Dina Kucera


www.amazon.com
(Nonfiction)
A struggling comic’s poignant and often hilarious account of her family’s battle with alcoholism and drug addiction over four generations.

Enough for Us All
By Dorothy I. Riddle


www.amazon.com
(Nonfiction)
Enlightening source book that uses quantum physics and metaphysics to help individuals attain personal transformation.

Frozen in Time
By Theodore Jerome Cohen


www.amazon.com
(Fiction)
An exciting tale of greed, betrayal, and murder based on real events from the Antarctic continent.

Journey to Terra Incognita
By Gerald Shingleton


www.amazon.com
(Fiction)
Thought-provoking metaphysical adventure that begins in 1950s California and ends in the jungles of Guatemala.

Goodnight, Brian
By Steven Manchester


www.StevenManchester.com
(Fiction)
Inspirational story about how a woman’s faith and unconditional love help her grandson to lead a normal life after he is poisoned by a toxic soy formula and given little hope by his doctors.

The Mine
By Daniel R. Cobb


www.amazon.com
(Fiction)
Engaging thriller about an idealistic biologist who fights state corruption and corporate fraud perpetrated by a ruthless gold mining company.

The Friday Night Club
By Jacob Nelson Lurie


www.amazon.com
(Fiction)
An irreverent coming of age story of a young man who must choose between continuing his hedonistic lifestyle or settling down and getting married.

The Entrepreneur Guide
U.S. 2010 Edition

By Owen O. Daniels


www.amazon.com
(Nonfiction)
Comprehensive book filled with information and answers about everything one needs to start and maintain a business.

Golden’s Rule
By C. E. Edmonson


www.amazon.com
(Fiction)
Compelling story about a modern-day girl battling cancer who finds inspiration by reading the diary of a 14-year-old slave girl from the 1800s.

A World Away: The
Quest of Dan Clay

By T.J. Smith


www.amazon.com
(Fiction)
Exciting story in the tradition of The Chronicles of Narnia about a young man and his three friends who embark on an out-of-this world journey where they are hunted by savage beasts along the footpath to a demonic castle.

The Harrowing Escape:
The Quest of Dan Clay (Book II)

By T.J. Smith


www.amazon.com
(Fiction)
The saga continues as Dan Clay and his companions continue their quest to locate Dan’s brother in a parallel world filled with savage beasts and half-man, half-serpent creatures.

Winter
By Maneesh Sharma


www.amazon.com
(Fiction)
Fast-paced thriller about a predator with otherworldly talents who has a penchant for killing women and stealing fine art.

Soul’s Infarct
By Diamela Eltit & Paz Errazuriz


www.amazon.com
(Nonfiction)
Unique and penetrating examination through text and photographs of love among marginalized individuals in a notorious Chilean psychiatric hospital.

A Worthy Legacy
By Tomi Akinyanmi


www.amazon.com
(Fiction)
Touching and lyrical account about a dying Nigerian man and his practical wisdom for living life to the fullest.

Dangerous Liaisons
By Michael D’Ambrosio


www.amazon.com
(Science Fiction)
In this action-packed sequel to The Eye of Icarus, Lieutenant Will Saris and his new bride are caught in a web of treachery where no one, including the Space Fleet, can be trusted.

Shroud of Beckoning
By Deb Woody


www.amazon.com
(Fiction)
Thought-provoking supernatural tale about a four-year-old who is possessed by a demonic spirit.

Shadows and Not
By Sara Brown


www.amazon.com
(Poetry)
Soul-searching poetry anthology that illuminates the human condition.

America’s Suicidal Statecraft
By James Cumes


www.amazon.com
(Nonfiction)
Well researched and documented examination of the self-destructive policies of the United States.

The Handkerchief
By Julian Stark


www.amazon.com
(Fiction)
An intimate and probing love story that examines the breadth and depth of love and passion between two people.

The End of the 19th Century
By Eric Larsen


www.amazon.com
(Fiction)
Imposing lyrical epic about a Midwestern family’s journey through time and space.

Up Close: A Mother’s View
By Fiona Yaron-Field


www.amazon.com
(Nonfiction)
A touching and meditative memoir of a mother and her disabled daughter told through pictures and commentary.

Secrets Revealed
By Sheshena Pledger


www.amazon.com
(Fiction)
Gritty crime noir tale about a notorious crime family’s feud with its biggest rival.

A Case of Wild Justice
By Yvonne Jerrold


www.yvonnejerrold.com
(Fiction)
An intriguing story about a group of senior citizens who fight back against crime and vandalism in their neighborhood by becoming human booby traps.

What Can We Do Next? The
Adventures of Lexi and Lolly

By Toula Magi


www.ToulaMagi.com
(Fiction)
Delightful children’s story about the adventures of a little girl and her imaginary friend.

The Survivors
By Derek Laurens


www.amazon.com
(Fiction)
Fast-paced sci-fi adventure about the crew of a space cruiser that lands on a distant planet inhabited by savage humanoids.

Lizard’s Lair
By Derek Laurens


www.amazon.com
(Fiction)
The novella prequel to the sci-fi adventure, The Survivors.

My Angels Are Come
By Art Stump


www.clumsyducks.com
(Nonfiction)
Insightful and candid day-to-day journal of how the author dealt with and survived prostate cancer.

Ghost Tango
By Janeen Ledford


www.amazon.com
(Fiction)
Intriguing account of a female teacher in a male prison for violent felons.

The Declaration of White Independence: The Founding Documents of Transudationism
By Kyle McDermott


www.amazon.com
(Fiction)
Controversial examination of race, religion, and spiritual evolution.

Awaken and Arise!
By Arthur Earl Jones, Ph.D.


www.planetaryascension.net
(Autobiography)
Fascinating, mystical life journey devoted to spirituality, self-discovery and planetary ascension.

One Time in Paris
By Wade Stevenson


www.amazon.com
(Memoir)
&nbsp An engaging and passionate account of a young man’s adventures and romances in 1960s Paris.

The Eye of Icarus
By Michael D’Ambrosio


www.publishersdrive.com
(Science Fiction)
Exciting story of an ambitious young officer who embarks on his first space mission that sets off a chain of events that not only changes his life but much of the universe
as well.

Prodigal of the Pecos
By C.E. Edmonson


www.pecosbooks.com
(Fiction)
Gritty Western tale about a man who returns home after many years to find the land of his birth embroiled in a bitter and deadly
land war.

If you are an independent, small press, or traditional publisher and would like to submit your book(s) for consideration to “Recommended Reads,”

click here.

 

Book submission deadline is
the 20th of each month.

 

Links For Independent Writers & Publishers

• Publishers Marketing Association (PMA): Largest non-profit trade association helping independent publishers
• Small Press Center: Non-profit organization designed to help small independent book publishers
• Press Release Services: Submit Press Release, Online Distribution Services.
• LitPitch: Place to read books online for free and for authors to pitch book ideas and get feedback.
• Bookwired.com: Author/reader resource for book reviews and news
• WriteLinks.com: Complete list of book publishers & publishing info
• Books-in-Print.com: Registry of electronic publications
• Bowker.com: Major book and publishing data
• PubEasy.com: E-commerce site for global bookselling
• Published.com: Informative and helpful site for independent writers and self-publishers.
• The Center for the Book: Book fairs & literary events
• American Booksellers Association: Organization for independently owned bookstores
• Business.com: Site listing book distributors and wholesalers
• Dowse: A list of e-book publishers
• Internet Publishing: Tips about online publishing from Piers Anthony
• Online Books Page: Listings of books online, news, & features
• Book Sense.com: Family of bookseller Web sites
• Nospine.com: Independent authors from around the world
• Author Yellow Pages: Online author directory
• Dan Poynter’s Para Publishing: The Godfather of self publishing
• Bookcrossing.com: Global book club & reading group
• Newradiance.com: Over 90 pages of inspired marketing ideas for small business owners and self-published authors.

 

 

Death and Profits: The
Utility Protection Racket

By Michael Parenti

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is a multi-billion-dollar privately owned, publicly regulated utility whose main function is to make enormous profits for its shareholders at great cost to ratepayers. I know this to be true; I’m one of the ratepayers.

Better than Bernard
The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) permits PG&E to charge rates that are 30 percent higher than the national average. PG&E’s shareholders enjoy a guaranteed 11.35 percent yearly return on equity. That’s slightly higher than the 11 percent that swindler Bernard Madoff pretended to offer his investment victims. After Madoff was exposed, his victims were chided for not having realized that no one pulls down an 11 percent return year after year on the stock market. But PG&E investors take in more than that every year. And unlike Madoff, the company’s earnings are for real, guaranteed at a fixed return devoid of risk.

PG&E enjoys a captive consumer market of fifteen million customers in northern and central California. The utility is a shining monument to state-supported monopoly capitalism. If costs rise, then so do customer rates (in order to guarantee the 11.35 percent return). PG&E carries a $17 million insurance premium and additional millions in insurance deductibles; these expenses too are picked up by its ratepayers.

If northern and central California’s gas and electric services were publicly owned (yes, socialism), there would be no 11.35 percent skim off the top going to rich investors, no fat salaries and bonuses and huge severance packages pocketed by top executives, no billions of dollars in private wealth to be traded on the stock market. Customer rates would probably be one-third to one-half lower than they are today. And gas pipelines would be in better repair.

An Avoidable Catastrophe
Along with all the other expenses they bear, PG&E’s ratepayers usually pay for the enormous costs of utility accidents. This may still prove to be the case with the disaster recently visited upon San Bruno. On 9 September 2010, a PG&E pipeline blew apart. Gas explosions and flames ripped through the San Bruno community, taking the lives of at least eight people, injuring over fifty others (some very seriously), and completely destroying or damaging upwards of a hundred homes. An official from the National Transportation Safety Board described it: “My immediate assessment was the amazing destruction, the charred trees, the melted and charred cars, the houses disappeared.”

In the weeks before the catastrophe, residents had been reporting gas odors and had voiced fears about a leak. But this brought no action from the company. A state assemblyman from the San Bruno area noted that the torn pipeline was over 60 years old, having been installed in 1948. He criticized PG&E for its poor maintenance and lax response. After the explosion, it took the company almost three hours to shut off the gas supply.

Company officials had known since 2007 that the aged pipeline serving San Bruno needed to be replaced. As reported by The Utility Reform Network (TURN), a public interest group, the PUC had granted PG&E a $5 million rate increase to replace the pipeline in 2009, but the company never got around to doing the work. Instead PG&E overspent its budget on executive bonuses and delayed pipeline replacement until 2013.

Then it had the gall to request another $5 million rate increase to replace the same neglected section of pipeline. The disastrous September 2010 explosion likely would have been averted if the utility had dealt with the pipeline in 2009 as originally slated.

PG&E has a history of dangerous mishaps: improper piping allowed gas to leak from a mechanical coupling in 2006; a leak in Rancho Cordova led to an explosion that killed one resident and injured two others in 2008; over forty other gas pipeline accidents in the past decade. One wonders how many other California communities are at risk from aging and deficient pipelines. So much for the superior performance of a giant private-profit corporation.

Not in the Safety Business
This problem obtains not only in California. Throughout the United States people are at risk from improperly maintained gas lines belonging to private utilities that go largely unsupervised and unpunished. Average fines are less than $30,000 and not easily collected.

PG&E’s CEO, Peter Darbee, formerly of Goldman Sachs (how perfect), reassured the public that he was “focused on the tragedy” in San Bruno and on “how best to respond to the authorities involved.”

Darbee failed to mention that PG&E is not in the safety business. Like so many big corporations, it does what it can to cut corners on maintenance. The lower the maintenance costs, the higher the profits. The corroding pipelines fit well into the picture, like the corroding infrastructure of the entire society. Safety is not a prime concern for giant corporations, if any concern at all, because safety does not bring in any money. In fact, it costs money.

Like any other multibillion-dollar firm, PG&E is first and foremost in the business of making the highest possible payoffs for its shareholders and its executives. The system works just fine for those whose real job is to skim the cream, those who do not have to pay the costs. That is the alpha and omega of modern corporate capitalism.

Capitalism at Work
Lives were lost in San Bruno; homes were totally obliterated. Darbee and his cohorts should be facing jail sentences instead of golden parachutes. Even the Contra Costa Times (9/27/10)–no radical broadsheet–urged the PUC “not to allow PG&E to raise rates to cover the expense of the San Bruno explosion or the cost of doing more and better pipe inspections. These costs should be borne by PG&E managers, employees, and investors.” Certainly managers and investors.

Left out of the whole picture is how corporate malfeasance and corporate generated disasters are a reflection of the capitalist system. If a gas pipeline had exploded in communist Cuba, killing people and destroying homes, the incident would immediately have been treated by US commentators as evidence of the deficiencies of the broader economic system, as proof that socialism cannot do it right.

But disasters in our own society are seen simply as immediate mishaps, at worst, instances of negligence and mismanagement by a particular company, never as the outcome of a broader capitalist system that steadfastly puts profits before people, with immense costs passed along to the public.

The same is true of mining accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, unsafe auto vehicles, unsafe consumer products and foods, toxic spills, offshore-drilling calamities and a host of other noxious things that corporate America foists upon us. Private industries are not in the safety business. All of them are in the business of creating the largest possible profits for their shareholders and their executives.

Pressed on the matter, they might admit as much. Steel magnate David Roderick once said that his company “is not in the business of making steel. We’re in the business of making profits.” The social uses of the product and its effects upon human well-being and the natural environment win consideration in capitalist production, if at all, only to the extent that they do not violate the profit goals of the corporation.

Better Things To Do
Rather than spend money on replacing aging pipelines, PG&E-just three months before the San Bruno catastrophe-poured $46 million of ratepayer money (ten times the amount needed for repairing the San Bruno pipeline) into the electoral campaign for Proposition 16. This initiative was designed to make it neigh impossible for local governments to purchase energy from alternative sources, impossible to get out from under PG&E’s monopoly grip. The proposition was miraculously defeated despite the company’s immense campaign outlay.

With thousands of miles of aging pipes to inspect and perhaps replace, PG&E continues to find other things to do. Through most of 2010, it was busy putting “smart meters” into people’s homes. The new meters do not need to be read by an employee out in the field. Instead data from residences and businesses are transmitted by a mesh network of radio signals.

Critics argue that the smart meters are too smart. They often inflate electric bills. Worse still, they may be harmful to our health. There is evidence that radio-frequency exposure is linked to cancer and other diseases. A number of ratepayers already complain of being sickened by the heavy doses from smart meters. PG&E gives reassurances that the frequencies pose no great danger but it continues to face community resistance and skeptical questions from independent investigators.

Smart meters cut labor costs. Lower labor costs do not bring lower rates for ratepayers but higher profits for managers and stockholders. Never accuse PG&E of neglect or stupidity. The company knows what it is doing. In keeping with the essence of the corporate capitalist system, PG&E exists not to serve the public but to serve itself.

Michael Parenti’s most recent books are The Culture Struggle (2006), Contrary Notions (2007), God and His Demons (2010), Democracy for the Few (9th ed. 2011), and The Face of Imperialism (forthcoming March 2011). For further information about his work, visit his website: www.michaelparenti.org.

 

Featured Books

 

Buy Last Words: A Memoir by George Carlin
Last Words: A Memoir
By George Carlin with Tony Hendra


Master comedian/satirist George Carlin takes us on a wild ride as he recounts his turbulent life and ground-breaking career with great candor and trademark humor.

 

Buy The Assassination of Julius Caesar by Michael Parenti
The Assassination of
Julius Caesar

By Michael Parenti


Award-winning author and scholar examines ancient Roman history from a populist viewpoint, arguing that Caesar was assassinated for being a champion
of the people.

A bone-chilling political
morality fable…

— Midwest Book Review

 

Buy Sunshine Assassins by John F. Miglio
Sunshine Assassins
By John F. Miglio
(Fiction)
Controversial political thriller about a band of democratic rebels and their attempt to overthrow the corporate fascist shadow government in the USA…Read Reviews

John F. Miglio is available for all types of speaking engagements. For information, click here

 

 

Bestsellers













Links For Progressive Publications & Organizations

• PEN.org: “An association of writers working to advance literature, defend free expression, and foster international literary fellowship.”
• TruthDig.com: “Hard-hitting investigative journalism.”
• MoveOn.org: Influential democracy in action group
• The Nation.com: “Unconventional wisdom since 1865.”
• Op/EdNews.com: “Progressive news and essays.”
• Air America Radio: “Unabashed liberal talk radio and humor.”
• Counterpunch: Hard-hitting alternative news and essays
• Buzzflash.com: Headlines and stories from dozens of alternative publications
• Democracy Now!: Complete and comprehensive presentation of alternative news and analysis with Amy Goodman leading the charge.
• Brad Blog: Up-to-date progressive news & opinions.
• Radio Power Network: Listener supported, independent radio streaming progressive music and culture from around the world.
• NPR.org: National listener supported news and information.
• Pacifica Radio: Listener-sponsored radio featuring alternative news and community service.
• From the Wilderness: Radical alternative news and essays
• Tom Paine.com: Alternative news and essays
• Mother Jones.com: Alternative and environmental news
• Liberalism Resurgent: Wealth of information on liberalism & politics
• The Foundation for Taxpayers & Consumer Rights: Loads of information about social and consumer issues
• TvNewsLies.org: A compendium of TV news lies
• In the Spotlight: Unsettling information about the voting process in America
• The Rest of Story: Alternative news on the media
• Judicial Watch: Legal watchdog information
• The Center for Public Integrity: Public service journalism
• PFAW.org: People for the American Way

 

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