California Daydreaming

Broke Public Pension Funds And Exotic Boondoggles

That state and local government pension funds are going broke isn’t a new problem. That it’s much worse than reported by those pension funds isn’t a new problem either. Last June, Moody’s determined that the already dizzying unfunded pension liabilities were actually three times higher than reported. To top it off, trustees are blowing a bunch of retiree money on an exotic boondoggle.

Chevron Whacked By Record Fine so Small it Might Not Notice

The California Division of Occupational Safety & Health just slammed Chevron with massive, record-breaking penalties related to the refinery in Richmond—the one that ended up in a fireball last August and caused 15,000 people to seek medical treatment. Purpose: to teach the mega-company an excruciatingly painful lesson. Alas….

The Worldwide Spectacle Of Banning San Francisco’s Naked Soul

Rarely has a city council received so much worldwide attention as San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. Yesterday, accompanied by booing and heckling and shouts of approval, they voted 6 to 5 to ban public nudity. A close decision, after months of hot debate. And protests, when it wasn’t too cold, by naked people outside City Hall. “Ban” in the San Francisco sense.

For-Profit Colleges: A “Business Model” That Blew Up

Career Education, when it reported its quarterly results, shed light on an industry that had ruthlessly taken advantage of the American way of funding higher education, and that had preyed on gullible prospective students who were trying to better their lives. Then it handed the tab to the taxpayer. A perfect scam. Now the industry is in a vise between government crack-downs and reluctant students.

California’s Ballyhooed Recovery? Oh Dude!

Despite the current hype about the recovery in California, the manufacturing index suddenly collapsed. And with the star of California, Venture Capital, facing a “dismal fundraising climate,” funding for startups might soon dry up.

Radioactive Contamination On San Francisco’s Treasure Island: A Tale Of US Government Obfuscation & Willful Ignorance

On Treasure Island, a former naval base in the San Francisco Bay, there’s a spot the Navy calls “USS Pandemonium Site I,” occupied by multi-family housing units. Potential contaminants: Radium-226 and cesium-137. Contamination, according to the Navy, is “unlikely.” But the Health Department finds 93 spots where radiation is up to 2.7 times the normal exposure level. In one area, it’s 4,380% above the annual dose limit.

Nuclear Radiation On San Francisco’s Treasure Island: We Don’t Need To Know, Apparently

“That amount of radium found to date cannot be explained by gauges, deck markers, and decontamination activities,” wrote Stephen Woods, an environmental cleanup manager at the California Department of Public Health, about Treasure Island, the rectilinear speck of land in the San Francisco Bay two-and-a-half miles of white caps from our kitchen window. It summed up decades of US Government efforts to bury nuclear sins under layers of ignorance.

Beloved Banana Republic of California

The horse-trading sessions in Greece will most likely lead to new elections, and the inevitable: Greece’s exit from the Eurozone. The uncertain consequences for Greece and the rest of Europe will confound jittery financial markets. And while all eyes are fixed on Greece, a tiny economy on the worldwide scale, a much larger economy is heading deeper into fiscal disaster: California.

“The Great Train Robbery,” California Version

The hoped-for April spike in personal income tax revenues for the State of California fell again below the assumptions used to get the budget to “balance.” Instead of $9.4 billion, the state collected only $7.4 billion. A 21% shortfall! Corporate taxes were also below forecast. Red in ink for fiscal 2012 is nearly $12 billion. And yet, California has a mega-project.