Speaking of institutionalized government malfeasance and PG&E

© 2019 Peter Free


17 October 2019



California stands as prediction of the American future


Sure, the state is a laughingstock for those of us from other places. But in fairness, California has more people and faces more difficult-to-control problems than most other places do. As yet.



Consider incompetent state government's relationship to power utilities


David Roberts, writing for Vox, did an outstanding job of explaining the origins of PG&E's recent fire-prevention blackouts:



To avoid sparking wildfires during dry, windy weather conditions, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the state’s largest utility, shut off electrical service to some 738,000 customer accounts, representing up to 2 million people.


It was a planned, deliberate blackout unprecedented in the history of the nation’s electrical system.


Residents had little warning, in some cases less than 24 hours.


Nursing homes, emergency rooms, police stations, and fire stations scrambled for backup generators. People with powered medical equipment or refrigerated drugs scrambled to find care at understaffed community centers, and 1,370 public schools lost power; 400 of them sent 135,000 students home to parents scrambling to cover jobs they had no way to get to.


Highways, roads, and intersections went dark without notice and caused traffic accidents. Food rotted in freezers, houses, and grocery stores. Government phone lines were overwhelmed. On top of everything else, PG&E’s website went down.


Here’s where California has found itself . . .


heat rising in perpetuity from climate change,


decades of poor land and forestry management coming due,


hundreds of thousands of miles of aging power lines strung through dry forests,


billions of dollars in liability . . .


being allocated through the bankruptcy proceedings


of a corrupt, mismanaged, politically connected utility,




a future that promises the nation’s most expensive, least reliable electricity service.


In Mother Jones, Jeffrey Ball has a feature story on the state’s terrible land-use policies, which encourage sprawl, and specifically building (and rebuilding) in fire-prone areas, in a dozen different ways, including subsidized insurance.


© 2019 David Roberts, California’s deliberate blackouts were outrageous and harmful —They’re going to happen again, Vox (16 October 2019) (reformatted)



Sound familiar?


In the United States, which regularly turns Social Contract thinking upside down, government exists to help wealthy and politically connected people and corporations profit at general society's expense.


If you examine representative money trails, you see that cost-cutting and managerial incompetence become the rule — when and where costs of such can be inflicted upon public and Commons.


It is a game of who knows who and how much money one can bring to Happy Pillaging's table.


We all know this. But we like to ignore it. Otherwise we might have to do something about it.


And that would require us to get off our behinds and jettison some of our own selfishness.



Did you notice Roberts' reference to people building homes where nature will do its best to obliterate them?


And who wouldn't want to have government help to rebuild in the same idiotic places?



Greed is a shared American cultural phenomenon.



The moral? — PG&E and California are no worse than others among capitalism's smoking canaries


They are just better exposed (currently) by the happenstance of California's press of population and flammable environment.


The same show will be manifesting in your neck of the woods, soon enough.


Who we gonna laugh at then?