Surprise, surprise

Jul 18, 2012

Wow: Just when you thought the bad old days of electricity market manipulation were over and the grid meltdown was ancient history comes word of a new round -- from the grid operator itself -- of manipulation at the expense of utility customers. Ahh, the 2000-01 time machine is firing up with a vengeance.


From Michael Hiltzik in the LAT: "The next time your electricity bill prompts you to curse your local utility, here's another target where you should direct your anger: JPMorgan Chase & Co., which has manipulated the California energy market for its own profit and at a cost to residents and businesses in the state that could be $100 million, $200 million or much more."

"That's the accusation leveled by the California Independent System Operator, which has jurisdiction over 80% of the state's electrical transmission. The ISO, a nonprofit corporation controlled by the state government, estimates that JPMorgan may have gamed the state's power market for $57 million in improper payments over six months in 2010 and 2011."


"But that could be just the tip of the iceberg: The bank continued its activities past that time frame, according to the ISO. It also says JPMorgan's alleged manipulation could have helped throw the entire energy market out of whack, imposing what could be incalculable costs on ratepayers."


Michael Berman, the Democrats' premier redistricting wizard and bare-knuckled political strategy maven who has run his brother Howard's campaigns for four decades, is out as manager of Howard's tough reelection campaign to Congress.


From Kevin Roderick in LA Observed: "Michael Berman's deft targeting of voter segments and his media strategy have provided all the firepower and campaign guidance that the veteran congressman needed in the past. But this year, Howard Berman is in the reelection fight of his life. He's up against another Democratic congressman, Brad Sherman, in a race that's turning out to be the most closely watched and expensive intra-party battle in the country. In the June primary, Sherman finished ahead of Berman by ten points in the San Fernando Valley district they now share due to reapportionment."


"Hall, who moved to Los Angeles with the reputation of having saved Nevada Senator Harry Reid's skin when his 2010 reelection was in doubt, was in charge of Berman's day to day operations during the primary campaign. He now will take over the Berman media strategy, messaging and all other key elements. In addition, for the first time in a long while, if ever, the Berman camp is employing an outside pollster. The Democratic pollsters Fairbanks, Maslin, Maullin & Metz will now be helping out, a source close to the campaign confirmed."


In a region where Democratic candidates are determined largely by organized labor, here's a twist: A former state lawmaker who had close ties to the late leader of the L.A. County Labor Fed announced she is backing a ballot measure that organized labor is fiercely opposing. Hmmm.


From the LAT's Michael Mishak: "Former state Sen. Gloria Romero, a Los Angeles Democrat, announced her support this week for the November ballot measure that would ban the practice of political contribution by payroll deduction, the primary method labor unions use to raise political cash..."


"In some ways, Romero's support is not surprising. Throughout her tenure in Sacramento she battled publicly with some of the state's most powerful unions, namely the California Teachers Assn. and the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. In her statement, she cited education legislation that died in the Legislature because of union opposition."


"Supporters note that Proposition 32 prohibits both unions and corporations from contributing directly to candidates. Opponents argue that the measure disproportionately harms unions, which get most of their money through payroll deductions, and does nothing to curb the influence of independent committees and so-called super PACs, which are playing a burgeoning role in elections this year."


The divorce of Bill Lockyer from his wife Nadia may get messy: The state treasurer has reserved the right to demand alimony from his wife, according to court documents.


From Josh Richman in the Mercury News: "Besides indicating he might seek spousal support, the divorce papers filed Friday in Alameda County Superior Court ask that Nadia Lockyer be made responsible for paying attorneys' fees and costs."


"Bruce Jobson, Bill Lockyer's attorney, said Tuesday that asking for alimony is routine for an initial filing. "At this stage of the proceedings ... the parties have not yet determined the entirety of their community estate," he said via email. "As in all cases, if the parties do not settle the property issues in the case, the court will be asked to do so..."


"It seems pretty unusual for an employed spouse to be seeking spousal support from an unemployed spouse, and it's relatively unusual to get spousal support in relatively short marriages" of less than 10 years, said Scott Altman, a divorce law expert and vice dean of the University of Southern California's Gould School of Law."


In a related incident, Nadia Lockyer crashed her car into a light post and a tree just after her husband told her last week that he was filing for a divorce. 


From the Chronicle's Matier and Ross: "Sheldon Young, who lives down the street from the Lockyers, told us a neighbor saw Nadia speed past Friday on Oakes Drive just moments before she slammed into a light pole - knocking it off its foundation - and hit a tree."


"Nadia Lockyer, who was on her cell phone when she lost control, told The Chronicle's Justin Berton that she believed someone was following her - something the cops said they couldn't substantiate."


"Her tan Mini Cooper was badly damaged and had to be towed. Lockyer, who suffered a bruised arm and bloody nose, was taken to an area hospital by ambulance."


 And from our "Smarty Pants" file comes word that women are smarter than men. It's been a close call for a long time but, yep, females are smarter than males. We knew it all along.


"Since IQ testing began a century ago, women have been as much as five points behind, leading psychologists to suggest embedded genetic differences. But that gap has been narrowing in recent years and this year women have moved ahead, according to James Flynn, a world-renowned authority on IQ tests."

"‘In the last 100 years the IQ scores of both  men and women have risen but women’s have risen faster,’ said Mr Flynn. ‘This is a consequence of modernity. The complexity of the modern world is making our brains adapt and raising our IQ.’"

"One possible explanation is that women’s  lives have become more demanding as they multitask between raising a family and doing a job."

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