Friday, October 25, 2019

Nothing left to lose

I don't know how many people are following the protests in Lebanon.  God knows there's a lot going on all over.  But I listen to NPR, which has covered this, and I read the Economist.  The people of Lebanon have been in the streets protesting for the last 9 days, ignoring all the Lebanese government's attempts to calm them.  I just heard Marco Werman of The world interviewing a Lebanese activist on the protests.  She said things that resonated with me (paraphrasing):

The government has been "making the rich richer, and the poor poorer" for years, and nothing ever changes, and the same faces keep doing the same things.  She said that "we have nothing left to lose" by demonstrating, despite the fact that Hezbollah, at least, is now beating demonstrators.  Yes, Hezbollah is Iran's Shiite militia in Lebanon, put there to make trouble for Israel; but it's part of the Lebanese government, and its people are attacking the ones protesting the government.

"Nothing left to lose" made me think of a historical incident in 1789 in which "the people" felt they had nothing left to lose.  We call it the French Revolution, and it led to the death of a king and queen, and of a lot of other wealthy and prominent people, by an aroused public that felt it had nothing left to lose.  France is now a republic, but by the late 1790s the revolution had led to the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte and eventually a war that covered Europe.

I don't know if the leaders of Lebanon read European history or not.  They may think they can get away with this, and continue as they have been.  But if their population really feels it has nothing left to lose, they may be as wrong as the French aristocracy was.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

PG&E Power Outages

Based on what I've read and heard about PG&E over the last couple of years, I have to rant.

Because of the lawsuits after PG&E equipment started a number of catastrophic wildfires over the last few years, the company has gone into bankruptcy.  They've now decided that, to protect their shareholders, and the executives' bonuses, the appropriate response is to turn off the power over large areas of the state, whenever the National Weather Service issues a red flag warning for dry conditions with gusty offshore winds.  We have one coming over the next couple of days.  Because their web site couldn't handle the traffic for the people from 29 counties who all want to know now whether they will lose power, I can't even check their web site to find out if we're affected.

As far as I can tell, this is because they were too incompetent, or too cheap, or both, to create and maintain an electrical power system that would not fail and cause fires.  (Those of us who remember the San Bruno gas explosion in 2010, which destroyed a neighborhood and killed 8 people, feel that they can't manage their gas distribution system either.) 

So they're putting the onus on us, their customers.  I cannot express how angry this makes me.  We have an announced outage coming over the next couple of days, and because their web site couldn't handle the traffic for people from 29 counties who all want to know now whether they will lose power tomorrow, I can't even check their web site to find out if we're affected.

And most of us have no choice - PG&E is a monopoly in most of northern California.

I'm still waiting for one of these outages to kill someone who relies on electrically powered medical equipment, like the ventilator my sister uses (she's in Nevada, thank God).