California's Return to Superstition

The Left Coast reverts to religious barbarism.

For all that we love to deride the land of fruits and nuts and loathe the corrupt, incompetent, tyrannical big-government nanny-statist politics practiced there, it gives us no pleasure to watch half of the state of California burn to the ground.  As Donald Trump might put it, California policies bring drugs and crime and no shortage of rapists, but some Californians, we assume, are good people.  We even know some of them.

It wasn't that long ago that the Golden State was as close to paradise as you can get on this earth.  For most of the 20th century, California offered a spectacular lifestyle for the middle and even working classes, with ample jobs, comfortable tract housing, superb K-16 education, and of course incomparable weather.  Orange County in particular was the natural home of the Republican party, but not only did the state enjoy the benefits of Ronald Reagan as governor, it had the collective wisdom to elect him in the first place.

At the same time as it enjoyed matchless natural beauty, Californians built world-class infrastructure: from the famous freeways to hundreds of miles of aqueducts that made the desert bloom.

No more!  Half the state has been plunged into the Third World as electricity was turned off - supposedly to prevent forest fires, but that doesn't seem to have helped particularly.

The immediate reason for the power cuts is abundantly clear: the power company, PG&E, has failed to properly maintain and upgrade its equipment for decades on end.  Naturally, the Left is blaming greedy capitalism for putting people's lives at risk while fattening executive pay packets.  In actual fact, as a highly-regulated utility, PG&E isn't allowed to raise its rates and isn't allowed to spend more than a certain percentage of its revenues on executive salaries.  Knowing about their maintenance backlog, PG&E management has requested rate increases for years, which have largely been rejected.

Even now, when the societal cost of deferred maintenance is blatantly obvious and PG&E's finances are under the eagle-eyed control of a bankruptcy judge, the usual suspects are still rabble-rousing against rate increases:

People came for one thing: tell an administrative judge overseeing the hearing that will decide on the rate increase, that PG&E has a history of negligence not using previous rate increases for fire prevention years earlier.

The Plain Truth, Devoutly Ignored

Without spending a week digging through PG&E's financials, we're inclined to believe that PG&E in fact did not use enough money from rate increases for fire prevention.  They've had to build high-voltage power lines to reach the new "renewable" wind and solar energy sources which are required by California law.  This has absorbed money and skilled manpower which could have been used to maintain their aging high-tension lines, some of which are more than 100 years old vs. a mean life expectancy is 65 years.

Until recently, the regulators pretty much left it up to PG&E to decide what to replace and when, all the while opposing rate increases to provide the money to catch up.  California officials are proposing adding more inspections and oversight, but who's going to pay the costs?  The power agency asked the state for $25 million to put its own inspectors in the field, but what good will that do without extracting more money either from taxpayers or electricity users to make the repairs?

On top of that, as we showed in our articles on our nationwide housing crisis, California has moved heaven and earth to make it impossible for anyone to move any dirt.  How is PG&E supposed to keep trees from falling on their power lines and shorting them out when environmentalists protest and agitate whenever they try to cut trees down?  How is PG&E supposed to bury power lines to avoid starting fires when billionaire Elon Musk spent years trying to build a traffic tunnel under Los Angeles only to finally give up in despair?

When it comes to infrastructure, particularly in California, the moon-shot tech [cutting tunneling costs by a factor of 10] might be the easy part. It's getting through the public approval and permitting process that's likely to kill your dreams.

The appalling fact is, the residents of California either do not believe that science and technology can be permitted to attempt to solve their problems, or they don't believe in science and technology at all.  They seem to be OK with letting regulatory agencies set up obstacles which prevent any and all changes, no matter how promising any new approach - or for that matter, an old long-tried-and-true but politically-incorrect approach - might transparently be.

We like to blame politicians for all ills, but that's not really fair; in what remains more or less a democracy, past a certain point politicians can only do what the voters allow them to do.  The voters of California have seen fit to constantly increase the number of Democrats in Sacramento, until today Democrats have a supermajority that can do pretty much whatever they want.  Despite all the grousing about California's return to the literal Dark Ages, there's not the slightest sign of its one-party politics changing.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has made the usual leftist big-government noises about the disaster, blaming PG&E and, of course, capitalism.  What's his solution?  The one thing proven to all the world not to work: take over the bankrupt utility and run it as a government agency.  That would make electric service about as reliable and cost-effective as the DC Metro or the New York subway.

Voters are obviously expressing anger to pollsters, but not the kind of anger that would mean anything to politicians: there's no risk of Republicans being elected.  If you're a Democrat, why worry, and why do anything differently?

A real governor who actually felt that the problem needed to be solved could easily do so.  We know exactly what is causing the electric part of the problem with wildfires: under-maintained utility equipment is setting fire to trees and underbrush that are too close to the lines.

To be fair to PG&E, power line problems can trigger fires even in much wetter states such as New Hampshire where the electric utility still enjoys the right to down trees that endanger their wires and collects the revenues with which to do it.  They won't be able to entirely eliminate fires caused by power lines, but they could greatly reduce the problem if they wanted to.  But they've effectively given up, which is why California now enjoys fires bigger than the entire state of New Hampshire.

It may not be possible to quickly clear brush endangering thousands of miles of power lines overnight, but the governor controls the California National Guard and can lay hands on many thousands of bulldozers and other pieces of equipment which can clear underbrush.  With one executive order - which even the Ninth Circuit would accept because he's a Democrat - he could have the army clear firebreaks around all the power lines, starting with the important high-voltage lines and working their way down.

He isn't doing this, or even talking about it. If the voters really cared about not losing power and not having their houses burned up, they'd demand it.  But they don't.

If the local news media felt one iota of responsibility toward the people they supposedly serve, they'd be screaming about innocents paying the price for over-regulation and environmentalism run amok.  But they don't.  As far as we can see, talking about cutting trees would endanger their wokeness credentials which are worth more to them than a few thousand rural lives and towns, so they won't.  Without public protest that threatens politicians' careers, nothing will change.

Do you suppose that the state of California, the world's third-richest economy, couldn't lay hands on enough money to clean up power corridors, bury power lines, and build more reservoirs to lessen the impact of droughts if it really wanted to?  The technology and know-how to do that has existed for well over a century.  They simply don't care enough to what a precocious child could instantly identify as needing to be done.

Instead or relying on the science and technology which seem so abundant in Silicon Valley, they turn to superstitions that would have been right at home with the ancients: knowingly sacrificing their property, neighbors, and children to fiery doom to appease the false gods they now worship.

Not just a novel anymore.
Not just a game, either.

Moloch Lives!

In the early days of human civilization, people believed in a wide array of deities that controlled various aspects of everyday life - the sun god, the rain god, the god of disease, and so on.  Occasionally these gods could be pleased through worship and fortune would smile on the community.  But when things went bad, more ostentatious sacrifices were required.

Most famously, the devotees of such demonic imaginary deities as Baal and Moloch would build brazen idols with open hands, in which fires could be built to heat them red-hot while screaming infants were placed in the hands to be roasted.  Sacrificing one's own children, it was thought, would end the plague, drought, or whatever.  And sure enough!  After enough infants were horrendously tortured, the plague or drought did end.

More picturesquely, we've all heard about primitives sacrificing a beautiful virgin to appease the volcano god.  This, too works, as the surviving villagers testified far and wide.  When it didn't... well, the villagers didn't survive to tell the tale because they were incinerated, so only the false-positive result ever got reported.

As late as the Middle Ages, roving bands of mentally deluded religious fanatics lashed and abused themselves to drive off the Black Plague.  We laugh now, but at the time large majorities believed that these anti-plague measures did some good.

We thought that at least Western mankind was freed from these barbaric superstitions, thanks to the efforts of Age of Enlightenment scientists like Sir Isaac Newton who believed in a God of order.  He didn't believe in a fickle deity; instead, he thought that careful study would reveal the rules by which God made the universe run.  It turned out he was correct, and the technological civilization which upholds our entire modern world stemmed from that great insight.

Until now!

For four nights, Eliana Rubin cared for her newborn son, James, by candlelight.

The baby, 11 weeks old, is her first. He's colicky and wakes often, she said. As the latest Pacific Gas & Electric safety shut-off dragged on this week, she lit a flame by her bedside each time the child woke, but was careful to blow it out before falling asleep again. Even more than the dark, she worried about the near-freezing temperatures inside her home in this remote part of Northern California.

"The thing is the cold," she said Tuesday. "I am, like, folding him under the blankets."

Amid what was effectively the longest planned power shut-off in California, the toll of the blackout - both immediate and existential - took shape Wednesday for PG&E customers who have weathered back-to-back outages, lasting up to five days for nearly half a million people.

In Lake County, which shares a border with Napa County but lacks its wealth, that has meant fear, cold, hunger and often anger - directed at both the utility and state leaders. More than 90% of PG&E customers in this landlocked county of lonely foothills lost power beginning Saturday evening with little idea when it would flow again.

For all of human history until the last few hundred years, that's how everyone lived all the time.  This was considered to be so normal that nobody could imagine any alternatives.

For the 500 years preceding the turn of this millennium, though, increasing numbers of Western civilization's best and brightest - that's right, those evil dead white men - realized that a better world was possible through science and moved heaven and earth to make it so.  Today, the story above is disturbing and noteworthy because of how rare it's been in the life experience of most Americans.

That's going to change.  We now have supposedly serious people arguing that parts of California simply must be abandoned:

Pacific Gas and Electric turned off power to millions, fearful that when the wind tore down its wires they would spark new conflagrations.

Three years in a row feels like - well, it starts to feel like the new, and impossible, normal. That's what the local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, implied this morning when, in the middle of its account of the inferno, it included the following sentence: the fires had "intensified fears that parts of California had become almost too dangerous to inhabit". Read that again: the local paper is on record stating that part of the state is now so risky that its citizens might have to leave[emphasis added]

Only an insane person who actively rejects science and its many well-proven cures for these problems with religious intensity would ever mouth such transparent anti-science nonsense.  Yet many do, and no major voices call out the lunacy!  The California wokerati would rather live in "harmony" with their imaginary but murderous god of "The Environment" than take advantage of innovations thousands of civilized Western men spent their lives to gift them with.

How many innocents were willingly incinerated in the Paradise fire, due specifically to the false-religion-induced California beliefs that disallowed science, technology and engineering being used to fix the problem of trees too close to the power lines?  And we say we're civilized!

The old saying is, "As California goes, so goes the nation." We think there are enough real Americans remaining with enough trust in the miracles of modern technology - particularly the miracles of modern Second Amendment technology - to ensure it does not.

Read other articles by Hobbes or other articles on Environment.
Reader Comments

To maintain ecological balance chaparral needs to burn every 5 to 10 years and has done so for tens of thousands of years. With modern technology (electricity) PG&E can accomplish that task more reliably than waiting for a lightning strike.

November 24, 2019 12:33 PM

Very well written! I have been saying this for years! Socialism at it's finest! So glad I don't live there anymore!

December 1, 2019 1:08 AM

"That would make electric service about as reliable and cost-effective as the DC Metro or the New York subway."

This does not mean what you think it does. Compare the death rate per passenger-mile on the New York subway system over the past 30 years (yes, counting homicides) to that of passenger cars. Compare the taxi and Uber market rates to make a given trip in NYC to the fare to do so on the subway.

June 2, 2022 8:03 AM
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