DPW vs The Org: Labor Relations Board Ruling

Towards the end of last year, we heard about a big case – one that dealt with issues that Burners who create Black Rock City have had for many years with the organization that collects the money and *ahem* saves it for future roadworks. Here’s a similarly themed protest from 2007:

It doesn’t seem like things have changed much in 11 years. BMorg’s attitude seems to always have been “DPW are volunteers, they can leave any time they want, they should be grateful we give them some food and money and social cachet”.

So what happened with this case?

The only media coverage I saw was in the Reno Gazette-Journal, first from 10-year volunteer Jessica Reeder:

In 2014, it all changed. The event was growing faster than the crew. The work got too hard, the days too long, and collectively, many of the crew realized we wanted to “gift” a little less of our sanity and health. A member of my crew started organizing for labor rights.

Burning Man, to its credit, improved working conditions somewhat. It started feeding laborers for the full season, for example, and instituted a transparent structure for those who do get paychecks. However, the company still “encourages volunteerism,”  asks workers to camp in the dirt for months — and last year, fired the crew member who was suggesting we unionize.

My coworker took his case to the National Labor Relations Board. In a settlement last month, Burning Man compensated him for lost wages, and notified the entire workforce of their right to fair treatment under the law. That’s not an admission of guilt, but it also doesn’t indicate innocence. My coworker was not the first to agitate for better working conditions; and whether it’s coincidental or not, the people who complained did not tend to keep their jobs.

It’s shocking to consider that Burning Man, a people-oriented nonprofit, would do anything other than invest in the health and happiness of its workforce. As a company whose strength is its people, I hope Burning Man will take the lead in treating its crew like a valuable resource, instead of continuing to expect them to “gift” their own lives and well-being.

[Source]

The story is not exactly critical of BMorg. Still, it was quickly followed up by another op-ed in the same paper by Joanne Fahnestock

I’m not sure where to begin in my response to Jessica Reeder’s column about Burning Man doing right by its volunteers (“Is 2018 the year Burning Man starts doing right by its workers?,” Jan. 14.)

The obvious first would be: What is the National Labor Relations Board doing getting involved with a volunteer? “Volunteer” says it all. You do not get paid and you can leave whenever you want. If someone wants to change that, it certainly should not occur while you’re accepting the position of volunteer worker.

I agree, the conditions at Burning Man are brutal — hot during the day, cold at night and windy and dusty all the time. You bring your own food, shelter and water. This is all made very clear at the start.

And if it was not clear to you when you signed up, it would be apparent as soon as you got there. You can leave at any time. There is no contract, no obligation. You stay or
you don’t.

One of the 10 principles of Burning Man is gifting time, energy, money, kindness. And it does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value. Clearly this is a misunderstood principle that neither the workers who filed the complaint, the ones trying to organize or the National Labor Relations Board comprehend.

I have been going to Burning Man for over 10 years and I gift my time. I do not expect anything in return. It is an experience I cannot begin to describe to anyone who has not been there. I expect nothing from the Burning Man Organization. I get so much more than they could possibly give me in dollars.

And when I choose to no longer go to Burning Man, I won’t go.

Doing the right thing is living by the 10 principles. Some are easier than others, but they are always voluntary.

[Source]

I wonder if this preachy person has any idea what it is like in the weeks and months leading up to Burning Man, building Black Rock City. Burning Man is hard enough with free pancakes and carcass washing, spare a thought for the people that are laboring long days in the sun and dust constructing things without any of that infrastructure being available to them.

There were no comments to either of these stories, although the case did draw some commentary from long-time Carson City critic Guy W Farmer. There were a few complaints about the obvious shill story on Reddit:

[Source]

There is some further discussion at this other r/BurningMan thread about the class divide between paid and unpaid workers and the rich tech bro clientele putting $12 million cash in the Org’s bank.

Jessica Reeder’s original story links to the National Labor Relations Board case information, which doesn’t shed much light:

Screenshot 2018-07-17 15.03.35

BMorg retained a notorious union-busting law firm to represent them against their worker.

I followed the instructions to obtain a copy through the FOIA system. Personal Identifying Information has been redacted by the government.

The plaintiff charges that they were dismissed for (1)discussing and (2)protesting their pay and working conditions.

In the settlement agreement, Burning Man did not acknowledge that they had violated the National Labor Relations Act, but paid the employee in full.

The key finding is that DPW have the right to unionize, and BMorg has been forced to inform all its (200) workers of that.

So there you have it. They will “not refuse to rehire” anyone who complains about working conditions. At least, that’s what they say. YMMV.

Here’s the full documentation:

NLRB-2018-000431_Responsive_Records_Redacted_FINAL

NLRB-2018-000431_Responsive_Records_Redacted_FINAL

Acton v Goodman – Was Charleston Dirty Bomb Hoax an FBI Operation? [Updates]

[Update: some new analysis from Tracking the Leopard Meroz, go to their site for a summary]

Parties

The general description states, “This complaint alleges that the defendant, and his cooperative of wrongdoers, operate in alignment on social media for a common purpose.  By staging fake news, raising public alarm, spreading junk science, using deception to implement the Port hoax, etc. are rewarded with the expectation of remuneration, increases in their financial status and receipt of other such pecuniary advantages and benefits”.

There are 7 Parties described in detail:

The Plaintiff-Certified in Critical Infrastructure Protection

Wrong-doer Multimedia System Design, Inc.

Crowdsource the Truth– Racketeering Enterprise

Defendant Jason Goodman – Coordinator of CSTT RICO Cartel

Wrong-doer George Webb Sweigert – “Investigative Journalist”

Wrong-doer Deep Uranium – “Confidential Source” of Hoax

Wrong-Doer Quinn Michaels -Team Tyler Hacker Network

Specific Allegations:  Ten Counts (in the original complaint 5 were listed)

Count One:  MDSI Operates as a Racketeering Enterprise

Count Two: MDSI/CSTT Closure of the Wando Welch Terminal at the Port of Charleston

Count Three: Fraudulent “Hudson Intelligence Group”

Count Four:  Conspiracy to Defraud The United States

Count Five:  Murder For Hire Activities on the Darknet

Count Six:  Hoax Assassination Plots

Count Seven:  Malicious State Actors Deny Civil Rights

Count Eight:  Trafficking in Personally Identifiable Information

Count Nine:  Tampering With A Witness

Count Ten:  Abuse of Court Processes by a Federally Protected Witness

More at Tracking the Leopard Meroz


Original Story:

Following on from the news that Dave “Acton” Sweigert sued The Mouth That Roared Jason Goodman in South Carolina court…

The plaintiff has filed a significantly amended complaint.

Perhaps adding fuel to the fire of rumors that Dave Acton Sweigert and George Webb Sweigert are the same person, Dave has chosen to file in court as “D. George Sweigert”. He is demanding a jury trial. The Exhibits share some of the mainstream media coverage of the port shutdown and his own credentials as a Homeland Security Critical Infrastructure expert. 

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The significant development in this claim is the involvement of an FBI contract informant in the Crowdsourced LARP. Is that why nobody got in trouble for shutting a whole port down from a YouTube livestream?

The informant in question is allegedly Okey Marshall Richards, Jr, who has gone by the aliases “Deep Uranium”, “Rock Hudson”, and “Mr Hudson” in about 30 YouTube shows with these operatives. The “MidWest Conspiracy Theorist” is presumably the plaintiff’s brother George Webb. Webb has claimed to be part of “old Mossad” with many global intelligence connections, including a friendship with #pizzagate accused James Alefantis. George Webb is no stranger to FBI informants either, having written an Op-Ed about them for North Star Post in 2015 before launching his crowdsourced journalism career.

[via Tracking the Leopard Meroz]

Jason Goodman’s co-conspirator Quinn Michaels, aka Korey Atkins, has also claimed to be an FBI informant. Jason recently came to New Zealand to interview Vinny Eastwood about suspected operative Pete Santilli. Despite Vinny presenting a large amount of evidence to Jason of Santilli’s FBI involvement, Jason Goodman subsequently went on Pete’s show and proclaimed him his friend.

Then there is Goodman himself:

There are an awfully large number of FBI connections to this operation. In that context, is this a coincidence?


You can find the public court documents for yourself on PACER.

Sweigert vs Goodman (South Carolina) 2:18-cv-01633

Steele vs Goodman (Virginia – Eastern) 3:17-cv-601 

Dave Sweigert has also made 7 separate filings (so far) in support of Robert David Steele’s lawsuit , detailing some of his own harassment and defamation by this gang. His filing address is Greenbrae, Marin County.

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Goodman, who appears to be representing himself as pro se defendant and claims he’s a journalist because “anyone can be a journalist just like anyone can be a photographer”, has filed a number of motions to dismiss Steele’s suit as frivolous…but so far the case continues.

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Goodman has also responded by having the Becks (of the fatal DNC lawsuit fame) on his show to discuss “Litigation as a weapon of mass destruction”.


 

[Update July 10 2018]

The plaintiff has filed a number of updated motions. He is claiming a large number of instances of copyright violations by the defendant.

The case has been referred to Judge Bristow Marchant, who presided over the Dylann Storm Roof mass shooting case (explored here by Miles Mathis – h/t Queen Tut).

This motion is asking the Court to recognize that Goodman’s discussing the case on his YouTube channel indicates his acceptance that he has been served.

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This motion is seeking an injunction against the Defendant to cease copyright infringement on social media platforms.

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So far the defendant Jason Goodman has not filed any response.

 

Dave Acton Sues Jason Goodman [Update]

I mentioned these characters in CryptoBeast episode #2 and Short Bus Physics With Quinn and J.Go. Jason Goodman is in cahoots with the one-eyebrowed Sith Lord Quinn Michaels, who says that there is a giant underground city under Burning Man and the weight of the people on the earth is causing the planet to change its rotation. He is playing a LARP called #tyler, and Jason is most likely part of Project UAREHERE – as I discussed in Shadow History part 7.

 

Since then I am firmly on Team @DaveActon (he did apologize publicly for cyber-harrassing Nathan from Lift The Veil). Dave has just sued cinema verité pseudo-journalist Jason Goodman over the worst thing that has ever happened on YouTube, which is when LARPers caused one of the busiest seaports in the world to be shut down for 8 hours over the threat of a “dirty bomb made from uranium” – which is not possible, according to the Wikipedia page on dirty bombs.

Here are the public court documents from PACER:

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If you don’t know about this case, you can read about it in the New York Times or watch it on CNN. You can also see it as it unfolded live on their stream, which for some reason is still permitted to be up on YouTube.

We wish Dave every success in his endeavor, and thank him for doing this to help protect US cyber security and the integrity of the YouTube #truth community.


[Update 6/18/18]

Secret Shopper made a great comment here:

Pro Se and RICO….hahahahhahahah https://www.popehat.com/2016/06/14/lawsplainer-its-not-rico-dammit/

I really enjoyed that link, thanks. I agree that RICO gets overused on the Interwebz. From the article:

“To win, a plaintiff would have to prove (1) conduct, (2) of an enterprise, (3) through a pattern, (4) of racketeering activity called “predicate acts,” (5) causing injury to the plaintiff’s “business or property.””

I am pretty sure Dave is aware of all this, he has been involved in a number of Federal pro se lawsuits before and he wrote a book and a cybersecurity case study about this incident, which involved his brother George Webb. From his book and videos I think he has evidence that would hit all 5 of these points.

Goodman’s legal troubles are mounting. He is already the subject of a $23.5 million defamation lawsuit from ex(?)-CIA agent Robert David Steele. Steele is the guy who recruited the late John Perry Barlow, according to Barlow in his 2002 Forbes article Why Spy . A year ago RDS was Crowdsourcing $15,000 of “the truth” from Jason’s channel so that he could tour the country in an RV promoting his hashtag #unrig to black churches, and at the same time saying on Alex Jones that there is child sex trafficking on Mars; now he seems to be LARPing as an anti-pedophile judge.

Goodman was thanked by Pakistani spy Imran Awan’s lawyer for his inadvertent disclosure that led to potential criminally incriminating evidence ending up with the defendant thanks to Jason’s interference with the case.

How To Deal With Cops At Burning Man: 2017

A guest post from Mark Atwood


How to deal with cops at Burning Man (2017 update)

by Mark Atwood

(Feel free to print out, share, and repost. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. I am not a lawyer. This document is not legal advice. If you are ticketed, cited, or arrested, consult with an attorney. )

* Do not consent to a search.

Never consent to a search. Say the phrase “I do not consent to a search.”

The cops are trained to make you flustered and to “take command” of the situation. Or they can be “polite”: “Mind if we take a look around?” Yes, you mind. “I do not consent to a search.”

Even if you have nothing for them to find, always say “I do not consent to a search.”

Never consent to a search of your body, of your clothing, of your possessions, of your car, of your truck, of your trailer, of your RV, of your tent, or of your camp. You especially never consent to the search of anyone else’s property.

They can ask the other people in your group or in your car, not just the driver or leader. “Mind if we take a look?” You should all sing the same song: “I do not consent to a search.”

Even if they threaten you with arrest or if threaten to bring a sniffing dog, continue to say “I do not consent to a search”. Even while they are searching you or your stuff, continue to say it. “I do not consent to a search”.

* Being Questioned.

Cops can ask you questions.

They may say things like “We’re just talking”, or “What do you think of …?”, or “Can you help us out?”

You do not have to answer their questions, and probably shouldn’t.

They can ask you where your camp is, and who you are camping with. You don’t have to answer them, and you probably shouldn’t.

* Recreational drugs.

Never answer any questions about recreational drugs.

Remember, you never take drugs, you never carry drugs, you never supply drugs, you have no idea where to get drugs, you do not want any drugs, and you do not know anyone who does is the basics in learning how to deal with cops and how to get a job.

That includes cannabis in any form, in any amount. Cannabis is still not legal on BLM land, even for medical use. Having a medical card from any state is not a defense. The new Nevada personal use possession law is not a defense.

If you have a legal prescription to a Schedule II drug such as Adderall, Ritalin, OxyContin, and/or Methadone, keep your pills in their correct prescription bottle and locked somewhere safe. You can be charged if you cannot prove you have a legal prescription.

* Do not lead them to your camp.

They may try to make you lead them to your camp.

They can be very commanding and matter of fact about it. They may say “We are going to your camp.” They will make it sound as if you have no choice. You do have a choice, and you are going to chose to not to lead them to your camp. Never lead them to your camp.

If they really really insist on you leading them somewhere, then lead them to a Black Rock Ranger outpost.

* Keep your tent closed.

Always zip your tent closed when you are not in it. If possible, use screens or sheets to block transparent window screens, so there is no line of sight into your tent. You may want to use a luggage lock to lock the zipper of your tent when you are not in it.

If your tent is zipped shut, they are supposed to need a warrant to open it, or they are supposed to need your consent. They probably won’t have a warrant, and you are not going to give them your consent, remember? “I do not consent to a search.”

* Your name and your ID.

If they ever stop you, you do have to tell them your correct “wallet name” as it is printed on your official ID. Cops are uninterested in arguments about “dead names”. Tell them your name as it is printed on your official ID, driver’s license, or passport. You do not have to show them your ID if they ask to see it. You especially do not have to go to your camp to get your ID for them.

If you are a not a US citizen and are visiting on a visa waiver program, you do not have to carry your passport with you. If you are a resident alien on a visa (e.g. you have a “green card”), you do have to carry your green card with you. Sorry about that.

* Being Detained, or “Am I free to go?”.

The magic phrase is: “Am I free to go?”

Keep saying it. As soon as they say “yes”, walk away immediately and without another word. Do not run, just walk.

If they write you a ticket, you must take it. Put it in your pocket, and then you say “Am I free to go?”

If they ever say you are not free to go, you say “Am I being arrested?”. If they say “no you are not being arrested”, you say again “Am I free to go?”. Keep it up as many times as necessary. Yes, it will sound like a stupid kid game, like “stop copying me”, but the game is very real with very real stakes, and this is their game to win, and yours to lose.

* Being Arrested.

If they ever say anything like “you are under arrest”, or ever do anything to make you think you are being arrested, such as them restraining you in any way, you must immediately say the following magic phrase (memorize it!): “I do not consent to any search. I hereby invoke my right to remain silent. I want to speak to my attorney.” And then you SHUT THE FUCK UP.

Do not say anything at all about your arrest or why you may have been arrested until you are talking in private with your attorney. Not with those cops, not with any other cops, not with any onlookers, not with anyone else who was arrested, not with anyone who is being held with you. Not even with your campmates, or with your friends, or even with your family. Even your spouse. Assume the police cars, transport vans, and holding cells are bugged. Assume the cops will lie about what you say to them. Assume everyone you meet from when you are arrested to when you are released will testify against you and will lie about what you say to them. You invoked your right to remain silent. Now use it.

* Alcohol.

The camps with open bars that are giving away booze may ask to see your ID to verify you are older than 21. You don’t have to show it to them, but they don’t have to give you free booze either, and they probably won’t, fearing a bust.

The state liquor cops will be there trying to bust your camp with stings. If you are giving away booze, even if it’s only beer or wine, and the person you are about to give it to looks like they could possibly be under 21, you should verify their age by checking their ID.

Even if your camp is not running a public bar, random people will walk into your camp and ask for booze. You will almost certainly have an under-21 plainclothes liquor cop walk into your camp at least once during the week, trying to sting you. Be aware, an alcohol service bust is an expensive way to ruin your burn for your entire camp.

And even if the person asking for a free drink is not a cop, it’s rude and against the burner ethos to beg for a gift.

* Who Watches the Watchmen?

While the cops are dealing with you, you need to be memorizing the color and design of their uniforms, and if you can, memorizing their name tags. They are supposed to be wearing visible name tags while in uniform. Yeah, right.

As soon as you get away from the cops, go to Center Camp, or to a Black Rock Ranger outpost, and fill out a Law Enforcement Feedback Form and turn it in.

If you personally with your own eyes see the cops detaining anyone, arresting anyone, or searching anyone or anything, it is an act of Civic Responsibility (Principle 7) and a Gift (Principle 2) to Participate (Principle 9) in the burner community to memorize what you can, and then fill out and turn in a Law Enforcement Feedback Form as soon as you can.

* Your camera.

When you see the cops, you may choose to use your camera to record them. The judiciary at all levels has clearly stated that everyone, including you, has the right to record the police, as long as you don’t physically obstruct them. Cops hate it, but too bad.

If the cops tell you to turn off your camera, don’t do it. If they threaten to arrest you for recording, keep recording.

They cannot lawfully order you to stop recording. They cannot lawfully order you or anyone else to delete photos or video. They cannot lawfully delete any photos or video themselves. If they do, they themselves are knowingly breaking the law, and that will be very useful in court.

If you ever see a cop order anyone to stop recording or to delete anything, make sure that goes on the Law Enforcement Feedback Form.

While you are recording them, never get in their way, and stay back at least 35 feet / 10 meters.

* “Undercover” cops.

The cops claim there are “very few” “undercover” cops at the event. This is a very carefully nuanced untruth.

There are cops at the event who are not “undercover” but instead are “plain clothes”. This means that instead of wearing uniforms or visible badges they are instead dressed up to look like burners.

They do not have to tell you they are cops when you ask them. You will not be able to “sense” that they are cops. Some of them have been doing this every year for more years than you have come to the event yourself.

People have been busted by a cop who was wearing only sparkles and a miniskirt.

If someone you do not know asks for drugs or offers to trade you anything for drugs, they are a cop. If you met them this year at this Burn, you do not know them.

If you met these two girls a few days ago looking at art out in deep playa, and they are really cute, and they went out dancing with you last night, and they just suggested that if you can supply some “favors”, you all can “party together” in your tent, they are cops. No, really, yes, she and her girlfriend both are cops, and her coworkers are eagerly standing by to ruin your whole year.

* What if I need “Police Services”?

What if you are lost? Or a camp mate is lost? Or your child is lost? Or you have found a lost child? Or you have found a someone who is injured or who is unable to take care of themselves? What if you are assaulted? What if something has been stolen? What if someone is hurt? What if you are really too high? What if you find someone who is dangerously out of sorts? What if you just can’t even?

Go to a BLACK ROCK RANGER or to an ESD VOLUNTEER. The Rangers or ESD will help deal with the situation, and if the cops are actually needed, the Rangers or ESD can summon the cops and can deal with the cops. If the cops are not needed, then the Rangers or ESD can summon the right help for you.

Know what the Black Rock Ranger uniform is, and how it’s different from the cop uniforms. Rangers wear khaki shirts and khaki hats with the Burning Man logo on their hats, and on their chests, and on their backs, and on their vehicles. ESD have yellow shirts that say “Emergency Services” on them.

Have a great Burn!

“It Wasn’t Me, It Was The Neighbors” – Satya Yuga Defense Begins

So far, Satya Yuga Collective founder Derrick Ion has not been charged with any crime in relation to the so-called “Oakland Ghost Ship Fire” which killed 36 people at the beginning of December. Nobody else has been charged either, and so far there is no evidence of arson. The various authorities have not yet concluded their investigation.

$200 million of civil suits have been filed against 9 people by families of the victims.

re-blogged from The Daily Californian:

The family members of two victims who perished in the Oakland warehouse fire Dec. 2, including UC Berkeley alumnus Griffin Madden, filed civil lawsuits in Alameda County Superior Court on Friday against several people associated with the “Ghost Ship” warehouse.

One lawsuit was filed on behalf of 23-year-old Madden, as first reported by KTVU, and another was filed on behalf of Michela Gregory, a 20-year-old San Francisco State University student who died clutching her boyfriend, Alex Vega. These are the first known suits filed in connection with the Oakland fire, according to the East Bay Times.

The suit filed by Madden’s parents, Michael and Catherine Madden, alleges that the defendants were negligent with regards to the safety conditions of the “Ghost Ship” warehouse and are liable for Madden’s death. It also alleges that the defendants did not obtain permits to convert the warehouse into a residential or public event space.

Nine defendants are listed in the suit, including Chor Nar Siu Ng, the owner of the warehouse; her daughter Eva Ng; warehouse managers Derick Ion Almena and Micah Allison; and warehouse lessors Daniel Lopez and Omar Vega. Joel Shanahan, the performer at the warehouse the night of the fire, known most commonly by the stage name Golden Donna; Jon Hrabko, who organized and promoted the event; and Los Angeles record label 100% Silk were also listed as defendants in the suit.

The Maddens are being represented by Mary Alexander & Associates, a San Francisco law firm. In their suit, the Maddens demanded a trial by jury…Ng has hired attorney Keith Bremer from the firm Bremer Whyte Brown & O’Meara to represent her, while Almena is being represented by attorney Tony Serra…

“Said defendants had mandatory and nondelegable duties to inspect and maintain said property in a safe and usable condition, and to repair any dangerous or unsafe conditions,” the lawsuit states. “Each of them, were somehow negligent or otherwise responsible for the injuries and death of Griffin Madden and the damages alleged herein.” You can be easily recover from injuries with the use of the best inversion table for therapy there is.

The suit calls the warehouse a “death trap,” alleging that it was poorly constructed and lacked a safe and accessible exit, as well as adequate fire-safety measures…

[Source]

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Attack Is The Best Form Of Defense

A 2015 mug shot of Derrick Ion Almena. Source: LA Times

A 2015 booking photo of Derrick Ion Almena. Source: Glendale Police Department via LA Times

In a two-pronged attack, this week the defense team released to the media a report from an anonymous “expert” suggesting neighboring properties, government agencies, and P G & E could have been at fault for the blaze; and at the same time, Micah Allison (Mrs Ion) took to the stage at a city council meeting to say how sorry they were and they wish that something could have been done sooner and she needs a house.

They got a crack lawyer who has represented the cream of the crop of Bay Area ruffians: the Black Panthers, the Hell’s Angels, the Symbionese Liberation Army, and Shrimp Boy. Describing the defense team leader Tony Serra as a “firebrand attorney” is perhaps in poor taste, LA Times. He seems to be earning his money, as the defense have come up with what seems like an attempt to create reasonable doubt in the minds of a jury: the fire didn’t even begin on his property, and he wasn’t even there, so how can he be culpable in any way?

On Monday, Almena’s lawyers said they had conducted their own inquiry into the fire. “Our investigation shows that Derick Almena committed no conduct amounting to criminal negligence

[Source: LA Times]

Hey, if his defense attorneys say he didn’t do it, he didn’t do it…right?

YMMV on whose fault it was that the junk piled up around the idols and altars, that staircases were constructed from wooden pallets, that 20+ people were residential sublet tenants, or that it was not a licensed venue for occult trance rituals all-night dance parties with DJs and live fire performances.


Micah On The Mic

Micah Allison, the wife of Derrick Ion Almena, spoke publicly for the first time at a special meeting in Oakland on January 23.

She complained about unfair treatment from neighbors and the media, and that more had not been done earlier by the council – because now she and her husband have to carry a heavy weight on their shoulders.

She turned up at a special meeting of the City Council on Monday, where legislators were considering several proposals aimed at shoring up tenant protections and providing an emergency moratorium on evictions from unpermitted live/work spaces that spiked in the wake of the deadly blaze.

“The main thing I wanted to say is how sorry I am for what happened on Dec. 2,” Allison said, before thanking the activists and organizers at the meeting. “I wish that more had been done before because we carry a really heavy weight on our shoulders right now.”

But Allison spent the majority of her time at the podium decrying the treatment she said her family has received from the media and former neighbors, who she claimed thwarted a recent attempt to move back into an Oakland house where they had lived previously.

“It’s been pretty terrible what they’ve done to my family,” Allison said, speaking about media reports.

She continued, describing a former landlord who offered to let them stay in exchange for replacing windows and painting the older home.

“The neighbors, who were my friends during the entire time I lived in that house before, got wind that we were going to move back into the house because our landlord really loved us and wanted to help our family,” she said. “In a couple hours, or over a 24-hour period, they contacted the landlord and said that if they let us move back into the house that they would cause a lot of trouble for him over his house.”

The deal would have allowed the family some stability to enable them to “start changing this narrative that’s gone out about Satya Yuga, the Ghost Ship, my family, my husband, myself,” she said, referring to the art collective occupying the warehouse

Allison expressed frustration about trying to find a stable place to live while keeping her three children in their Fruitvale-area schools.

In order to keep my kids in school, I need a house,” she said

[Source: East Bay Times]

A house for the kids would have been a great idea, rather than a venue for underground raves all night DJ parties. 36 people including one minor might still be alive if that had occurred to them earlier. But is this really the City Council’s problem? They should be investigating this woman, not giving her a house. Her desire to “start changing this narrative” emerged the same day the defense team released their report. This act may have been more strategic than spontaneous.

Here is the anonymous expert report being used by the Defense team. It seems long on speculation and short on actual evidence.

A good report on the report from Matthias Gafni and Katrina Cameron at the San Jose Mercury News:

OAKLAND — The defense team for Derick Almena released a report Monday alleging that the deadly fire that killed 36 people last year started not in the now infamous Ghost Ship artists collective, but rather in an adjacent building.

In a 10-page report released Monday, prepared by an unnamed investigator hired by Almena’s defense team, also pointed the finger at PG&E for inadequate electrical inputs into the building. Almena’s attorneys argue the findings should relieve their client of any criminal liability. It is not the first time that Almena’s lawyers have sought to deflect blame from their client: last month they said government agencies were at fault.

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office has been investigating Almena, who was the master tenant at the Fruitvale warehouse, and others for possible criminal charges in the Dec. 2 blaze. The office declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation. But an expert who reviewed the evidence offered by Almena’s legal team, was not convinced.

The report, which cites various photos of the buildings on the 1300 block of 31st Avenue from street level and above, raises questions about how electricity was delivered to the warehouse and adjacent buildings. It has various conclusions, including that “there must have been enough heat PRIOR TO the entry into Ghost Ship section for fire to occur.”

“The defense team for Derick Ion Almena has received a reliable scientific report … indicating that the origin of the fire was at the building adjacent to the so-called Ghost Ship warehouse,” attorneys Jeffrey Krasnoff, Kyndra Miller and Tony Serra wrote in a statement. “Such should reasonably foreclose any criminal negligence charges against Mr. Almena. Recall that the ATF could not conclude where the fire originated. The reasonable doubt here is overwhelming.”

Dan Rapperport, a fire and explosion investigator and president of Rapperport Associates, reviewed the report and found the theory that the fire started next door a “stretch.”

They did not offer compelling evidence to me, as a fire investigator, that the origin of the fire started outside the Ghost Ship space,” he said in a phone interview. It is not surprising that the massive fire would create roof and other fire damage on adjacent buildings, he said.

However, Rapperport said, the report makes a valid point that PG&E’s conductors from outer power poles may have been undersized. The photos show “undersized wiring” leading into the building, meaning the PG&E capacity for electrical current from outside could have been below the inside capacity of the Ghost Ship wiring, he said. That could have led to overloaded wiring which could cause a short or ignite a fire, however that doesn’t mean PG&E is necessarily to blame, he added.

“There’s legacy wiring going into the place and if they’re using more power than PG&E ever anticipated, it’s up to the user to call PG&E to say I need more power,” Rapperport said.

Tamar Sarkissian, a PG&E spokeswoman, said records over the last decade-plus show no reports of “electric theft or any other anomaly from this location or the adjacent premises. We will await the findings of the official investigation.”

Sources have told this newspaper that the cause of the fire inside the warehouse art collective was overloaded electrical lines at the rear of the structure.

The Ghost Ship’s power sources — an ad hoc network of extension cords stretched through a maze of small dwelling units and studios — all fed from one line coming through a hole punched in the wall to a neighboring business, a person familiar with the wiring has said. The sources did not mention the fire started outside the warehouse.

Criminal defense attorney Dan Horowitz said Almena’s defense team are creating a jury defense to “humanize” their client.

Make him sad, sorry and pathetic. Have a cause that blames someone else ‘scientifically’. Then ignore the fact that the place was an illegal electrical nightmare and an accident waiting to happen,” he said. “Let’s say the fire came from the sky. A lightning bolt. Sprinklers, exit doors, clear pathways and the hellish death of dozens would have been avoided.”

A spokeswoman with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, some other tobacco procuts from https://www.superiorvapour.com/collections/mod and Firearms declined to comment Monday on specifics, saying the Oakland Fire Department final report has not been completed.

In a statement late Monday, Karen Boyd, Oakland’s communications director, said that the ATF and the Oakland Fire Department are “collaborating on a comprehensive investigation of the 31st Avenue warehouse fire. The investigation will yield a report that addresses the cause and origin of the fire. That report will be forwarded to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office as part of the ongoing criminal investigation. It’s premature to speculate about the origin of the fire until all investigations are complete.”

Almena’s defense team declined to name the author of their report, but said he was an expert “qualified by both education and experience.”

[Source: Mercury News]

The witness account of the wiring coming through the wall conflicts with the images in the report, taken from the outside of the building.


Show Me The Money

Almost a million dollars was raised in a crowdfunding appeal for the victims, and now almost 2 months after the fire $0 from that has been handed out to them. The charity that took the money, Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, is deeply in bed with the Burning Man Project, which may explain the redistribution inefficiency. Money donated via the Oakland A’s, Raiders, and Warriors was distributed in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.

screenshot-2017-01-29-18-40-33

From the Gray Area January 25 2017 press release:

“The first phase of allocations for the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts’ Fund —set up as an immediate response to the Ghostship tragedy—have been reviewed by a research committee and program managers and approved by the Gray Area Board of Directors. As of January 25, 2017, 136 intake forms have been qualified. Documentation will be requested, and funds will be dispersed immediately upon receipt of qualification documentation.

To fully allocate the second phase of funds, Gray Area still needs those who may qualify to submit the required intake form. The form has been available since December 7, 2016, via the foundation’s site at http://grayarea.org/initiative/fire-relief-fund/. The deadline to complete an intake form has been established as March 7, 2017 (90 days from the publishing date).

In other words, coming soon.

Intake forms: the new burner profile? The whole process rhymes with Burning Man, that’s for sure.

Josette Melchor, Executive Director and Founder of Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, has been on the advisory board for the Burning Man Project since January 2012. In 2010 they received an Honorarium grant for Syzygryd, an art project for “Interpretive Arson”. Gray Area Chairman Peter Hirshberg wrote about Burning Man re-inventing money and governance in the recent book From Bitcoin To Burning Man And Beyond (worth a read).

Melchor didn’t waste any time getting the money after the tragedy:

“Every penny that is donated here should go to the fire victims’ funeral expenses, medical expenses and health-related expenses,” said Josette Melchor, founder of Gray Area Foundation for The Arts. Melchor spoke for the group intent on helping victims the Monday after the fire.

That’s our priority first and foremost,” she said.

[Source: NBC Bay Area]

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She has a funny take on the meaning of “priority”. Hate to break it to you Josette, but people who need financial help for funerals need that in days after the death, not months. The same goes for people who have lost their home and all worldly possessions. I would imagine that was in the mind of any donor in the week or two  following the tragedy.
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Amazing how this organization was able to mobilize to rapidly that they were speaking to the press the Monday after the fire, and yet 2 months later still can’t figure out who the 36 victims were.
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NBC reports:

“Why is it taking so long?” asked Carmen Brito, a former resident of the Ghost Ship. “They know what we’re dealing with. They know we lost our home. They know we lost everything.”

Brito said she, as well as others who spoke with NBC Bay Area but declined to be identified, are in need of help. They say they received cash assistance hours after the fire from the Red Cross, which distributed money from a different fund led by the A’s, Warriors and Raiders.

But the Gray Area foundation has provided them no money.

“They kinda just didn’t seem to get it,” she said.

That surprised us. Because in December, Melchor, the Gray Area founder, said she was enlisting the Red Cross to help manage the fund.

“This is what they do. They’re good at it,” she said. “We’re not going to reinvent the wheel.”

But the Red Cross says Gray Area opted to manage the fund itself, on its own schedule.

“I would like to have seen an immediate handout,” Steele said.

NBC Bay Area has been asking Gray Area for information for weeks. On Thursday, the founder agreed to a follow-up interview. She confirmed that all the money is sitting idle in a bank account.

 “We haven’t spent a dime,” Melchor said.

Melchor said she has heard people’s concerns but assures them that Gray Area is beginning to approve applications.

“Eventually, they will be getting a check, in the next days to weeks,” she said. “So, to a certain point, I think they’ll begin to be thankful. And I think most people are thankful. They are just a few vocal people who are speaking out.”

As for why it’s taken close to two months, Melchor attributed the delays to getting records from the city and the coroner, which she says the Red Cross had immediate access to.

“There was just a huge hold up in us getting the information that we needed to serve the people that were affected,” she explained.

Our research found another hiccup: a call from the Attorney General’s Office.

Records we retrieved show the state sent Gray Area three different delinquency letters in 2016 for failing to file financial records. One notice, from August, warned of the state’s “intent to suspend or revoke” its registration as a charity.

Melchor told us Gray Area was unaware of the letters until late December – in the middle of fundraising – when the Attorney General’s Office called.

 “We cleared that up within 72 hours of the phone call with the Attorney General,” she said. “So, that is completely a non-issue.”

Not everyone agrees.

“That’s really a bad sign,” said Daniel Borochoff, president of CharityWatch, which scrutinizes and rates nonprofit organizations. Borochoff reviewed Gray Area’s filings as well as its online fundraiser.  

He asked: “If the group can’t even get it together to get their finances reported, their basic public disclosure documents provided to the state of California and the IRS, then how can they be expected to get it together to get this huge quick influx of funds to the needed victims?”

Borochoff questioned Gray Area’s decision to administer the fund.

“There are certainly groups in the Bay Area that are better equipped and have the experience to handle a disaster such as this warehouse fire,” he said.

Melchor said her group’s recent budget exceeds the balance of $901,000 relief fund, so it is capable of handling that much money. 

The victims and donors we talked to told us they just want Gray Area to distribute the money with the same urgency that the sympathetic public donated it.

“I don’t think anybody who gave money was like, ‘Yes I want this money to sit in a bank account of a foundation that’s dragging its feet.’” Brito said.

Steele agreed.

“I understand that it’s a difficult process. It’s a difficult process to weed out. But there’s got to be a way to make it happen faster,” Steele said.

Gray Area is still collecting donations. It has increased its fundraising goal several times and says it will continue to up its target

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Now that Gray Area got all the information they were waiting for, checks will be going out within days or weeks. How many checks are they writing? Surely 36 checks can be written in one hour. Two if you’re slow; not weeks.
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They’re still in the process of figuring out what they’re going to do with all the money. The good news is that they have formed a committee of “5 to 6” people. If the committee can’t even decide how many members it has, it’s probably not going to be super-hasty on all the other decisions. It seems that some of the Bay Area Burner spaces might end up with the cash, rather than the immediate victims:
they are in the process of determining whether to distribute the funds to just displaced residents and victims’ families, or to a larger swath of people impacted by the fire, including DIY spaces that need support making fire-safety improvements to their spaces.
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Hiding In The Shadows

 la-me-oakland-fire-20161203-photos
Another video has surfaced on YouTube purportedly showing these people indulging in bizarre, occult behavior. Derrick Almena is not visible, but (allegedly) his voice can be heard. He is one of the adults in the skull mask seeming to terrorize the child. YouTube comments identify the man whose face is shown as Michael Allison, Micah’s father.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/a8ga2ffkgmdci1l/Screenshot%202017-01-29%2014.52.20.png?dl=0

Is it really them? Hard for me to say either way, but it would be an awful lot of trouble to go to just to troll somebody that is potentially under police and ATF investigation. The claims of drug and sex parties were also made in the Daily Mail. I couldn’t find Micah Allison on Etsy but they do sell voodoo dolls.

Image: Daily Mail

Michael Allison, Micah’s father. Image: Daily Mail