gabriel conroy

Gabriel Conroy [pseudonym] is an ex-graduate student. He is happily married with no children and has about a million nieces and nephews. The views expressed by Gabriel are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of his spouse or employer.

Related Post Roulette

165 Responses

  1. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I am not going to hug the neo-Nazi that wants to recreate Auschwitz with me.

    Fucking hell, Gabriel. Get a sense of proportion. Trump is a vain, sociopathic, racist, ignorant, probably dementia-addled man with a serious authoritarian streak. He has already caused countless traumas to refugees seeking to flee horrible situations. He puts children in cages. He engages in rants on all subjects, ignors Congress and the Courts, escalates unwinnable trade wars, betrays our allies to curry favor with other authoritarians, goes on racist and anti-Semitic rants, etc.

    And you want us to give him a hug and not even make fun of him? What kind of authoritarian enabling is this?Report

    • Avatar JoeSal says:

      You’re probably to young to remember this Saul, but one of the older tenets of liberalism was deep Understanding. I remember the first few times I encountered it long ago and found it of great interest.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Gabriel isn’t saying that Trump is off limits for mockery* nor has he asserted that Trump should be given a hug. He’s just observed, accurately I would say, that Trump is a pretty pathetic human being and hoping that the man finds peace someday (preferably far from any levers of power). Doesn’t seem objectionable to me.
      Trump has earned your opposition Saul, and certainly your dislike or even hatred but he hasn’t earned your humanity; why would you surrender it over a creature as pathetic as Trump?

      *Unless, I suppose, one subscribes to the whole lefty concept of punching down/punching up (the former being verboten and the latter fine) which I personally consider pretty idiotic and doubt Gabriel is a proponent of.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      Get a sense of proportion.

      You really think you get to dump that in the middle of the above?Report

  2. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    I basically agree. It comes from a place in me that really does not ever want to take action out of hatred for an individual or a group. I do not want to spend a lot of time dwelling on hatred. Fear, hurt, anger are all very real. They are not the same as hatred. They are welcome. Hatred is not.

    The menu options of action are basically the same with or without hatred. I understand what fear, hurt and anger are, and what purpose they serve. I’m not so sure about hatred.

    Trump’s politics is fueled by hatred and resentment. I feel that if I were to fill my life with it in response, I would be following his agenda, and enacting his program. I can resist him just fine without the hatred (see hurt, anger, fear. All fine motivators)

    I don’t command this. This is an invitation, not an imperative. It’s made my life better. Maybe that generalizes.Report

  3. Avatar JoeSal says:

    This is a degree of caring for people that is not often seen.
    What I find fascinating, is that Trump even in his current form, probably does see himself as serving the notion of doing good for the nation. I don’t agree that offices like the presidency, or any high council should exist. I think they would get filled with people just like this. The people who ‘know’ what they do is for the good of society, even though their personal preferences(and wealth formations) and the ‘good’ they are doing align without much question.

    I don’t know if you watch The Walking Dead, but there is a character called Negan. Negan thinks the group needs to be ruled by violence, and that is where he sees he can do the most ‘good’ for the group. I’m sure that it is a violence, versus chaos calculation, and i don’t think it is ever fleshed out, but appears he is afraid the group can’t survive without the existence of this type of leadership.

    Well, Negan is dethroned, and is now picking tomatoes. It is never really obvious if he thinks he was ever ‘wrong’ in what he did. Sometimes I wonder when Trump steps away from leadership, what he would be thinking in his tomato picking years. Sometimes I wonder what all people who laid claim to social authority will be thinking in their tomato picking years.

    Great writing as always.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      People act as if civility is a black and white thing, rather than, like most everything in human society, a gradient. As I hear it, part of why Ellen is friends with W is because, post presidency, W has found regret, and remorse, for much of what he did as a politician and president. And Ellen has found it possible to extend some measure of forgiveness and grace to the man. And people, who do not personally know Ellen or W, have decided in their great and unmatched wisdom, to condemn them both.

      No one is demanding that you share a box seat with Ellen or W, so how about you chill the feck out and leave those people be. If you have any respect for Ellen, as a person, as a judge of character, how about you trust that she is a grown woman who is fully capable of deciding for herself if another person is worthy of her grace and forgiveness.

      See, civility is aligned with respect. I am civil because I grant a person the basic respect I wish them to grant me, as a fellow human being. I maintain that civility until they say or do something to demonstrate that they can no longer maintain such civility in return, then my respect drops, and I have to choose to be uncivil, or to just no longer engage with that person. And depending on the manner in which such a person is uncivil, I may very well feel empathy for them, that they are locked in such an angry and sad place.

      Now, as for Trump, post presidency, when he is once again a private citizen, regardless of how he gets there, chances are high, given what we can see of him (& dear FSM we see a lot… too much) that he will remain as foul and loathsome a person out of office, as he was in office, and as he was prior to being in office. And if he holds true to character, chances are most everyone will be fully justified in being uncivil about and towards him, because he will show no manner of change for the better.

      But, if by some Dickensian miracle, he finds regret, and remorse, and tries to make amends for his sins in ways big or small, public or private, and people choose to forgive him his past, you are going to have to decide if you can too.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Yeah the Ellen nonsense is 90% twitter and of that the less said the better. Then again Ellen is on twitter so live by the twit die by the twit; still I would bet on Ellen over the twitter outrage on this one.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          There were attempts to ratio Ellen but they failed.

          As it turns out, normie twitter is more powerful than people-who-have-opinions twitter. (So maybe you’re right to be more skeptical of my divorce/war bullshit than I am.)

          (But trickle-down works. Just with opinions rather than money. The question is how long is it going to take…)Report

          • Avatar North says:

            Well if it takes too long then the primary opponents will have checked out of the argument for biological reasons.

            But the way I see it; a lot of the far lefts ideas come from this concept of a save intimate community on twitter or somewhere else online and them saying “hey why can’t we make the whole world be like our little safe online enclave”. I’m pretty strongly convinced that they can’t make that happen; they can’t even agree between their own various left wing camps on what exactly they want that world encompassing safe space to look like.

            Let us not forget that what you and I would call unobjectionable liberalism (not libertarian but also not far left progressivism) also has its boosters and they trickle their opinions down too and they, unlike the various far left camps, have an encompassing and functioning vision of what it should look like.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        The issue with Ellen I think is more about elite impunity. It seems pretty obvious that there are a lot of elites in both parties that want to treat politics as a kind of 9 to 5 job and then go pal around and get drinks and dinner with their buddies on the other side afterwards.

        This might have been possible in the age of broad bipartisanship and when policies were argued at the margins but not any more. The stakes are too high and no one can agree on what will loser the stakes. Bush II demonized the LBGT to win re-election. Trump is even much more in humane than Bush II. A lot of people feel insecure for their liberty and safety and justifiably so.

        I think it is hard to be light with someone like Bush II or Trump. If you want to run a light hearted show, just be a zero politician show.

        The elite are not setting an example. They show that they are above and not affected by policies which hurt millions of people below them. It feels decadentReport

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Class solidarity. They have it.

          (Just try to forget what we’re shunning Bush *FOR*. Just remember that he needs to be shunned. If you remember what we’re shunning Bush for, we might have to revise opinions that we are expected to hold in 5 minutes.)Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

          Perhaps the elite are setting an example, and example of forgiveness. Perhaps we should, at times, pay attention to what they do, and not to what they say. The elites tell us to hate, and be angry, and to not forgive or extend grace, because it grants them power over you when you listen.

          But they don’t do that amongst themselves? They forgive and let bygones be bygones.

          Perhaps instead of being angry at them for not doing what they say you should do, you should follow their example.

          And if that doesn’t work for you, then I have to ask:

          What benefit do you personally gain by being angry at W? He’s done. He lives a quiet life pretty much out of the public eye. He’s not out there rabble rousing, or lobbying, or anything else that I can tell (so if he is, he’s being quiet about it)? So he’s not out there creating new, fresh reasons to find him despicable (certainly not like President Dumpster Inferno).

          So what do you gain?Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

            That is not passing the smell test for me Oscar.

            Let’s see if I can do this through another example.

            When Gorsuch and more controversially, Brett Kavanaugh were nominated to the Supreme Court, there were a rash of op-eds from top lawyers who wrote “I am a liberal and Democrats should vote to send Gorsuch and Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.” The most controversial version of this essay case from a partner at Arnold Porter named Lisa Blatt. She is now at Williams & Connolly I think.

            It was pointed out that these lawyers spent their entire careers representing corporations trying to escape liability for causing injury. They were also doing such at the highest levels of litigation. As such, even though, they might call themselves liberals and vote Democratic but they were supporting justices more likely than not to vote in the interest of their corporate clients.

            Meanwhile both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh voted fo uphold some of the most hated decisions from Trump on matters that went down on strict partisan lines.

            This is not to say that they will always vote for a Trump policy or a corporate entity but it is more likely than not that they will.

            I think it is also fair to point out that money can shield people from oppressive and prejudicial laws. The Lisa Blatt’s of the world will always have access to birth control and abortion if necessary for herself or relatives. A poor woman in Alabama or even a moderately middle class one, maybe not.

            The point of elite impunity is that the laws don’t hurt them. They can always get something on the black market or abroad. So it is easy for them to show forgiveness towards each other.

            There are serious questions about when we decide to operate within our political self or our professional/ financial self. The elites seem to be always financial all the time and they can do so from a sense of luxury.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              “It was pointed out that these lawyers spent their entire careers representing corporations trying to escape liability for causing injury. They were also doing such at the highest levels of litigation. As such, even though, they might call themselves liberals and vote Democratic but they were supporting justices more likely than not to vote in the interest of their corporate clients.”

              what the actual fuck dude

              this is straight out of late-70s republican-sploitation pulp, this is fucking Death Wish and Frank Miller shit right here

              where are you getting this fromReport

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                I read that as, “these people supported a person I don’t like, hence their reasoning must solely be based upon the most uncharitable rationale I can imagine for them”.

                It’s just an excuse to keep the anger stoked. I just don;t get that. There is exactly one person in my life where I keep the anger stoked, and that is my MIL, because years of personal interaction have shown her to be an cruel and manipulative woman who is utterly unrepentant, so she was cut out, and I keep the anger coals warm so should she ever try to worm her way back in to our lives, I don’t let her. And I recognize that keeping those coals warm has a psychic cost.

                But to do that for complete strangers, people I only know through their public persona? What is the point? Once that person is out of office and out of the public eye, why hold onto the anger?

                So that is my question to Saul and anyone else angry at Ellen, what has W done, since he left office, to continue to deserve your ire? Is he out there protesting with Westboro or something?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                So all these years I’ve spent ritually denouncing Stalin were in error?

                I remember talking to a friend in college whose family immigrated from Lithuania to escape the Communists.
                Their rage and hatred of Communism, she said, was so deep that they refused to buy a red car.

                I laughed, but then stopped, imagining what sort of pain and injustice they must have felt to create such deep and enduring fury.

                I lived among Vietnamese immigrants in Orange County who were much the same, that any politician at any office had to be exceedingly careful not to give anything less than full hatred of Hanoi.

                W never did anything to me or my family. But his willful choices created a swath of slaughter and misery across the Mideast, and poverty and immiseration for millions of others.

                I personally wasn’t offended by Ellen’s presence but like those Lithuanians and Vietnamese, I won’t begrudge anyone else for a burning hatred of him.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal says:

                This may be one of those times where I mention that rule of law may be a individual construct, and that maybe folks take rule of law violations pretty seriously.

                I would think it ill advised and probably impossible to deny Saul his own discernment about the violations he sees Trump committing. Even if I don’t agree with his discernment I have no problem recognizing it exists.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                You know the whole “nobody is arguing for Open Borders” ritual?

                Denouncing Stalin is like that.

                It’s an important position to hold while you wait for the right moment to pivot to “I don’t understand why anyone would oppose taking a country stuck in the 1800’s and dragging it kicking and turning it into a 20th Century world powerhouse in the course of a couple of decades.”Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                Your eagerness to troll is noted, but irrelevant to this discussion.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                If you didn’t want an answer to “So all these years I’ve spent ritually denouncing Stalin were in error?”, you shouldn’t have asked “So all these years I’ve spent ritually denouncing Stalin were in error?”.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                I don’t hate Stalin. I can recognize that his actions were horrific, and misguided, and we should certainly not hold him up as a good example of, well, anything except what not to do. Just like I can look at W and recognize similar sins.

                But unlike Stalin, who held onto power until he stroked out, Bush has, retreated from the spotlight and political life and from what I’ve heard, found some measure of regret and remorse for what he did.

                As a counterpoint, look at Rudy Giuliani, who was not satisfied to just quietly fade out, but can’t seem to help but find any excuse to stay in the public eye. If someone were to tell me how vile Rudy is for all the shenanigans he is participating in… yeah, sure, I can see that.

                I recall an awful lot of people who hated everything Jimmy Carter did while in office, who despised his presidency and the many missteps he made, but who can also see that he has spent a great deal of his life since quietly* doing good works.

                If one can’t see the difference and understand why someone might be able to forgive, I have to wonder why that person holds such hate and anger in their heart.

                *The fact that the media loves to report on Carter does not change the fact that Carter is trying to just quietly do good things for people.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                That’s very true, and honestly, my container of moral outrage is pretty full right now and there really isn’t room for W.
                So like I said, the whole thing about Ellen doesn’t move me one way or the other.

                But for the same reason that I don’t hate W, it isn’t my place to forgive him. I mostly hold him in objective detached scorn, like any other historical figure who did awful things.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


                And likewise, while it may not be your place to forgive him, it also isn’t your place to second guess another persons willingness to do so.

                Let me sum it up this way:

                I don’t begrudge a person their anger/scorn/hate of W. If you really want or need to stay angry at him, you are the only one paying the price for that.

                But that does not give a person the moral right to be angry at another person for choosing to exercise a personal* degree of forgiveness. Your anger is your own, you CAN NOT demand that someone else be angry at a person.

                *I say personal because I think people confuse personal with institutional, which was a lot of the justification the Catholic Church used.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                But that does not give a person the moral right to be angry at another person for choosing to exercise a personal* degree of forgiveness.

                You’re views on this just keep getting more bizarre. There is no *right* to exercise forgiveness, hence there’s no right to be free from criticism for forgiving someone. I think you’re trying to make the act of forgiving into a public (hence political) issue rather than a personal or spiritual one.

                Look, I agree that a person who (still) harbors irrational anger towards Bush is harming themselves more than Bush. But what people are pissed off about *in this instance* is that Ellen is effectively giving him credit for a sincere expression of contrition which has never crossed his lips. They think she is, effectively, granting him an undeserved forgiveness, one that normalizes his horrific acts by making a formal apology, a public accounting, for acts like he engaged in unnecessary.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                …that Ellen is effectively giving him credit for a sincere expression of contrition which has never crossed his lips…

                That you know of. And I’ll be honest, if the guy never issues a public apology, I wouldn’t blame him, because if Jesse is any gauge, such an apology would be seen as insincere, unless he turned himself over to the Hague.

                This is my final thought on this. The whole Ellen kerfuffle seems, to me, to boil down to a lot of people saying, “I’m mad at Ellen because she is not appropriately hateful of W as I think she should be.” Which, honestly, sounds like something out of Mean Girls.

                You want to be mad at W, go right ahead, I don’t blame you. I was mad at him for a while myself, and we all simmer down at our own pace. But I’m not going to be upset with Ellen for deciding she can’t be mad at him anymore. That’s just petty.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Yet you sure seem pissed off about people being pissed off by GWB. Weird!

                For my part I’m equally pissed off at everyone.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Then perhaps I wasn’t clear. Like I said, it’s not about being pissed at W, he’s certainly earned it. If you, or Saul, of Jesse, or anyone wants to be made at W, I won’t hold it against you.

                It’s about people being pissed at Ellen for deciding to not be mad at W.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Oh, I’m terrifically mad at Bush. We’d be a better country if *everyone* were mad at Bush. That people are *more* angry at Ellen’s critics than Bush himself is why people like Bush (now Trump) get away with committing atrocities.

                Add: I mean, in this very thread we have people arguing, basically, that Bush not only did nothing wrong but was right to do it. zomg!Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                W never did anything to me or my family. But his willful choices created a swath of slaughter and misery across the Mideast, and poverty and immiseration for millions of others.

                Perhaps. And perhaps if he hadn’t invaded Iraq, Saddam would now have nukes and we’d be profoundly unhappy that we hadn’t invaded.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                perhaps if he hadn’t invaded Iraq, Saddam would now have nukes

                There’s the “what if” game and there’s the “maybe he might have” game but no one wants to play the “what actually is the case” game.

                Dubya lied his way into an illegal invasion of Iraq, which birthed ISIS, who Trump suppressed with the aid of the Syrian Kurds, who Trump then stabbed in the back with a Turkish knife.

                OK, I got a little carried away there, but there’s a level of intellectual dishonety in these “what if” types of arguments – since they assume what clearly isn’t the case – which is seriously baffling. “what if” and “maybe he might have” can literally justify anything after the fact, and even despite the facts known at the time.

                “Saddam didn’t have nukes, BUT WHAT IF HE DID! Bush was right all along!” zomgReport

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                Removing Saddam also removed the major regional block to Iran, which now is much more powerful than before.

                But of course one solution to checking Iran’s nuclear ambitions was the joint agreement, but because it was done by Omama, Trump felt compelled to rip it up, which…removed yet another block to Iran’s goals.

                By any measure, the W and Trump years have resulted in a massive collapse of American power and influence in the region.Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                Bush didn’t lie, he was fooled along with all the world’s intelligence agencies who thought Saddam had WMD because Saddam wanted everyone to think he had WMD. He figured the fear of this WMD was the only thing keeping Iran from invading a greatly weakened Iraq.

                He planned to revitalize his programs once the heat was off, and pass his rule to his two even more psychotic sons, Uday and Qussay. But, as many pointed out, the real WMD in Iraq was Saddam.

                Bush was going to leave a sizable force in Iraq, staying in US bases instead of on “Iraqi territory”, which were to serve as a check on Iranian ambitions and meddling and to bolster and train Iraq’s own conventional military and counter-terrorism forces.

                The Obama administration stoked Iraqi public anger to purposely get the Iraqis to trash that agreement and demand the removal of all US troops, which opened the door for the eventual emergence of ISIS. When Bush left office, the leader of what became ISIS, al Badri (aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) was in prison His rise to prominence required the chaos of the withdrawal of US forces, the chaos of the Arab Spring, the resulting civil war in Syria, and an pro-Shia government in Baghdad that pissed off all the Sunnis while disbanding all their militias.


              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                “Saddam didn’t have nukes, BUT WHAT IF HE DID! Then Bush would have been right!” zomg

                You’ll notice I didn’t claim he did have them at that time.

                None of which changes that the sanctions were falling apart (pictures of starving children on TV will do that) and our real world choices were let Saddam became a normal dictator or invade him.

                Let’s just review history so we can try to learn from it.

                Even by nasty dictator standards Saddam was really nasty. Saddam had a history of creating or trying to create WMDs (yes, including nuclear), and using them on his own and other people’s. Saddam had a history of invading countries. Saddam’s plan was to wait for the allies to get tired and go away, leaving the Lion of Baghdad stronger than ever a decade afterwards.

                The only reason his first nuclear project blew up was Israel blew it up. The only reason his second nuclear project blew up was his son-in-law defected and told the surprised inspectors about it. Yes, we dismantled his chemical, nuclear, and biologic WMD program(s) in the 1990’s, and Bush was wrong about that…

                But assuming Saddam would try to use the resources of an oil rich functional state to get nukes (again) the moment he’s let out of his box is a VERY reasonable thing since he’s done that multiple times in the past and if he’d had them we probably wouldn’t have been able to invade him.

                Fundamentally when you talk about what Bush did to the ME, you’re trying to claim there would have been no problems at all leaving Saddam in charge of a functioning country.

                It’s been 16 years, I’m not sure that Saddam would still be without a nuke after this amount of time. I am sure he’d still have chemical weapons because we found out for all the happy talk about him fully cooperating with the inspectors and destroying them, us buying chemical munitions was a “thing” after the invasion.

                So again, it’s possible to look at what the ME could have been without the invasion and see ourselves wishing deeply that we’d rolled those dice. The ME would NOT have been all puppies and rainbows without Bush.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Dark, I’ll just say one thing and try to leave it at that: your comment above is historical revisionism. Saddam was the US ally in the region, the leader who partnered with GHW Bush to keep the Iranians in check. He posed much less of a threat to gain nukes than Iran, and ironically of course, invading a country which didn’t have any WMD on the pretext of *getting* those WMD creates a terrific incentive for a country that doesn’t have them the get em.

                Your reasoning here is backwards.

                Add: Bush’s motivation for invading Iraq was pretty clearly stated by the PNAC members who fillied his cabinet: to establish a base from which to project US power over the direction ME oil flowed.Nothing we’ve learned since then (the late 90s) has given a reason to think that account is wrong.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                He posed much less of a threat to gain nukes than Iran

                Saddam initiated Iraq’s nuclear enrichment project in the 1980s, with French assistance. The first Iraqi nuclear reactor was named by the French “Osirak”. Osirak was destroyed on 7 June 1981[64] by an Israeli air strike (Operation Opera).

                …Consequently, many viewed Iraq as “an agent of the civilized world”.[66] The blatant disregard of international law and violations of international borders were ignored. Instead Iraq received economic and military support from its allies, who overlooked Saddam’s use of chemical warfare against the Kurds and the Iranians, in addition to Iraq’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons.[66]

                1975 – Saddam Hussein arrived in Moscow and asked about building an advanced model of an atomic power station. Moscow would approve only if the station was regulated by the International Atomic Energy Agency, but Iraq refused. However, an agreement of co-operation was signed on April 15, which superseded the one of 1959.[12] After 6 months Paris agreed to sell 72 kg of 93% uranium[13] and built a nuclear power plant without IAEA control at a price of $3 billion.

                In the early 1970s, Saddam Hussein ordered the creation of a clandestine nuclear weapons program.[14] Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs were assisted by a wide variety of firms and governments in the 1970s and 1980s.[15][16][17][18][19] … Five other German firms supplied equipment to manufacture botulin toxin and mycotoxin for germ warfare. In 1988, German engineers presented centrifuge data that helped Iraq expand its nuclear weapons program.

                …The United States exported support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war over $500 million worth of dual use exports to Iraq that were approved by the Commerce department. Among them were advanced computers, some of which were used in Iraq’s nuclear program…

                …In March 1990, a case of nuclear triggers bound for Iraq were seized at Heathrow Airport…

                …Iraq’s nuclear weapons program suffered a serious setback in 1981 when the Osiraq reactor, which would have been capable of breeding weapons-usable nuclear material, was bombed by Israel before it could be commissioned…

                …Only after General Hussein Kamel al-Majid, Minister of Industry and Minerals and former Director of Iraq’s Military Industrialization Corporation, with responsibility for all of Iraq’s weapons programs, fled Iraq for Jordan, Iraq was forced to reveal that its biological warfare program was much more extensive than was previously admitted and that the program included weaponization.[52] … These documents gave further revelation to Iraq’s development of VX gas and its attempts to develop a nuclear weapon.

                [Kamel was Saddam’s son-in-law]

                Dr. Mahdi Obeidi, who created Saddam’s nuclear centrifuge program that had successfully enriched uranium to weapons grade before the 1991 Gulf War, stated in an op-ed in The New York Times that although Iraqi scientists possessed the knowledge to restart the nuclear program, by 2002 the idea had become “a vague dream from another era.”[67]

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                That was in 1991 and by 1998 the consensus was that the Iraqi nuclear program was dismantled. Inspectors continued to assert that Iraq had no nuclear program right up until the onset of the war.

                Iran, on the other hand, began a nuclear program in 1967!Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                …and inspectors continued to assert that Iraq had no nuclear program right up until the onset of the war.

                I think you mean “no CURRENT program greater than what we already knew about”.

                The issue is what we already knew about was a problem. These self same inspectors said: In August, 1998, absent effective monitoring, Scott Ritter remarked that Iraq could “reconstitute chemical biological weapons, long-range ballistic missiles to deliver these weapons, and even certain aspects of their nuclear weaponization program.”[53]

                It’s not like we were killing the scientists and engineers who were developing this technology, drop the sanctions (which we were going to need to do) and the monitoring and we’re Ground Hog day.

                Iran, on the other hand, began a nuclear program in 1967!

                And your point is? Yes, Iran has been slow walking a “civilian” nuclear program into a weapons program. Coming right up to the edge of what is allowable and building up the infrastructure while no pissing people off too much or scaring people too much.

                This is why Bolton thinks we should be invading Iran, however with his love of invading countries and mass murder, there’s still a strong argument that Saddam really shouldn’t be nuclear armed, and the only serious way to stop that is to depose him.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                “Saddam didn’t have nukes, BUT MAYBE HE MIGHT HAVE! Bush was right to invade!”


              • He did have chemical weapons, lots of them, which we know, because we gave them too him.Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                If by “we” you mean Germany, you are largely correct. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                BUT MAYBE HE MIGHT HAVE!

                Straw man. I’m talking about what Saddam might reasonably have done in the last 16 years if we hadn’t removed him.

                Which countries would he have invaded, which WMDs would he have created, and so forth.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                The 1% Doctrine.

                Which is … pure bullshit.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                You seriously think Saddam only had a 1% chance of doing something which would make us now regret not removing him in 2003?

                We’re on this subject because of the Kurds. Saddam-in-charge is a very odd choice for a lesser-evil. We had to impose a “no fly zone” to stop Saddam from slaughtering villages. Your fictional “nicer” alternative universe has Saddam consolidating power for 16 years, and in his book that means murdering Kurds.

                I have to admit it is possible Saddam is the lesser evil from a 2003 point of view with perfect historical knowledge of the future, but that’s just because it’s easy to forget just how nasty and brutal most (all?) of the players in that game are… and it is very weird to think of that guy as the lesser evil with his resume.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                The 1% Doctrine is the idea that if there’s a 1% chance of, in this case, Saddam gaining nukes at some point in the future you have to treat is an absolute certainty that he will and act as if that were the case.

                Asking if I think there was a 1% chance of Saddam doing something turrible in the future implies I accept the Doctrine.

                As I said, the Doctrine is pure unfiltered bullshit.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Yeah. The big Dick of Cheney was a major proponent of that. It was truly stupid and wasteful.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                The guy has a multi-decade history of acquiring and using WMDs, the resources of an oil-rich country, arguably a need for WMDs(**), and strong motivation(*) for using them. He’s also a sociopath, a multiple murder, a mass murderer, the leader of something between a crime family and a cult, and a Hitler-level megalomania.

                What percentage chance would you like to put on him getting WMDs and using them again? For that matter what chance would you like to put on simple mass murder Syrian-gov style?

                IMHO that percentage starts at 100% and the real question is “how bad and how large” the problem is going to be and not “whether it will be bad”.

                (*) On the Kurds since they’re somewhere between revolutionaries and traitors from his point of view.

                (**) He lives in a rough neighborhood.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                You’re like a Precog for international leaders Dark. That’s an amazing ability.What’s the certainty that Iran does bad stuff in the future? Saudi Arabia? Turkey? Syria? Russia? Pakistan? India? China? Trump?

                Add: Not really a precog, no, since the predictions you’re making are about counterfactuals. So more like a counterfactual-cog. That ability is even more …. mysterious!Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                Iraq was a case of when all you have is a a giant military, everything looks like Pearl Harbor.

                There was nothing about Saddam’s Iraq that demanded invasion and regime change.

                And even if it came to that, the war and aftermath was a colossal and inexcusable clusterfuck which is where most of the Bush/ Cheney war crimes occurred.

                One reason not to forget any of this is that we are now hearing the same drumbeats about Iran, which would be Iraq on steroids.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                And even if it came to that, the war and aftermath was a colossal and inexcusable clusterfuck

                Oh, I’d say just the aftermath. We beat Saddam in short order, we weren’t ready to deal with what happened after that. We made most/all of our decisions on what to do about the aftermath based on our politics and not their reality. We most certainly weren’t equipped to deal with how to impose democracy in a society where the big factions view the gov as a means to repress/control the other factions. Oil makes this issue really hard by creating nasty incentives. “Debaathification(?)” was also a serious problem/issue.

                The worst misconception we had was we could take over and then then in short order hand things back to them and they’d run things as a pseudo-Western democracy. This should have been viewed as a 50 year commitment with us setting things up and then staying around to stabilize things.

                There was nothing about Saddam’s Iraq that demanded invasion and regime change.

                Gulf War One was us invading Saddam’s Iraq because of him invading and looting his oil rich neighbor. After WW2 the US has pledged to step in and stop genocide, which is what Saddam would instantly do to the Kurds the moment he was out of his cage and why we had to impose a “no fly zone” after the end of Gulf War One.

                A world where we didn’t invade Iraq has serious problems because of what we didn’t do. What to do about his genocidal instincts/intentions, what to do about him getting his army ready to invade other countries, etc.

                Claiming we didn’t need to invade and change the regime is fine, claiming there’s “nothing about Iraq” which suggested it is not.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                What’s the certainty that [x] does bad stuff in the future?

                All of them is 100%, but Russia’s love of Troll Farms is a different problem than China’s hated of free speech is a different problem than Assad’s blowing up doctors in rebel held territory.

                Similarly we can reasonably expect Trump to continue to be sociopathic, anti-immigrant, narcissistic, impulsive, and so on. However the number of political foes he’s arrested so far is zero, the number of murders committed is zero, and the number of judges ignored is zero so it’s reasonable to think those won’t be on Trump’s list of problems.

                If we’re going to limit “bad things” to “mass murder” then Syria should be expected to continue to be a (non-nuclear and within its own territory) problem, with Pakistan being a potential problem because they’re nuclear armed, unstable, and terror supporting to the point where “accidently” letting some group of terrorists get a nuke seems like a potential issue.

                Assad stands out on this list as being heinous, imho it’s easy to believe if he were gone the ME would be better off. Saddam’s example may showcase this as wishful thinking.Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                Heck, even without WMD he was killing Iraqis at a staggering rate through starvation and execution, wiping out entire villages. After the invasion Iraqis started digging through the mass graves to find their relatives. That would have continued unabated.Report

              • Avatar Jesse says:

                “So that is my question to Saul and anyone else angry at Ellen, what has W done, since he left office, to continue to deserve your ire?”

                Because he hasn’t turned himself over to the Hague for war crimes. I’m also quite angry Dick Cheney and Henry Kissenger are walking around free and clear.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                As a slight tangent, but to Saul’s point about civility, I think sometimes of how sheltered we Americans are from the consequences of what we call “politics”, where for us, politics is something minor and free of any life or death consequences.

                American Presidents make life or death decisions every day, but mostly for people far away from us. Giving or withholding aid, forming or breaking alliances, selling or not selling arms- no matter the decision, people, sometimes thousands or millions of people have their lives saved or shattered as a consequence.

                But American politics is changing to resemble the rest of the world.

                Trump’s signature issue isn’t some abstract ideology of justice for all or greater prosperity for all.
                His signature issue is what, if it were in some 3rd World country, would be called “ethnic tension” or “tribal rivalry”.

                The debate in America today isn’t about policy; It is a debate as to whether all of us are human and deserving of equal dignity. Its an existential issue, with life or death consequences that a refugee from Somalia or Cambodia would recognize.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

                Some Americans are more sheltered than others and that is the problem. Our elites are totally sheltered.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                Being insulated from consequences is one of the primary benefits of wealth.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                That’s a fair criticism. Not that it would ever happen to a former POTUS.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                So that is my question to Saul and anyone else angry at Ellen, what has W done, since he left office, to continue to deserve your ire?

                Compare: what has OJ Simpson done since he killed Nicole to deserve your ire?

                Add: I don’t think the issue here is that people continue to think GWBush is a monster. He is.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                What hasn’t OJ done? His life choices since the trial have gone from bad to worse. Still, he doesn’t have my ire. At this point, it’s more pity than anything.

                As a people, we place far too much of our emotional state upon the actions of others who are not in our orbit.

                As for Bush, I hold more contempt for the members of Congress who granted him a blank check (excepting Mr. Feingold), and then did nothing to rein him back in.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I hold more contempt for the members of Congress who granted him a blank check

                This is one of the wacky things about Clinton (and Biden) voting for the Iraq War.

                Is it a legit reason to not vote for them?

                Or is it an opportunity to explain “well, you have to understand…”?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                It’s interesting that you think Congress deserves more moral (and other) blame for Bush’s actions than Bush himself. That’s a very strange morality.

                Some people think Bush is a moral monster and want him outcast.

                Some people are willing to forgive (without ever hearing him express any real remorse).

                But the reason we’re talking about this is that the people who want Bush outcast are mad at Ellen for (effectively) forgiving him.

                Is this a problem? Is there a solution? Is this just the way things are?

                I dunno. I feel bad for Ellen, tho, even though I disagree with her choice to pal around with Bush.

                Add: If I were to pal around with Bush I’d be asking him what it was like to lie your way into a war no one in the country wanted and such like. I’d be terrible companion at a baseball gameReport

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “It’s interesting that you think Congress deserves more moral (and other) blame for Bush’s actions than Bush himself. That’s a very strange morality.”

                quick quiz, which body produced for the AUMF? Congress or the Executive?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                The New History: by invading Iraq Bush was just following Congress’s orders.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Yes, Bush is responsible for the commands he issued. But congress granted him the power to make those commands into reality.

                And when fit started to hit the shan, Congress did nothing to rein it in.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                So, Congress deserves *more* blame than the individuals who flung the fit to begin with?

                I can’t quite get my mind around this….Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Who gets condemned?

                Who gets “Well, you have to understand…”?

                It’s true that there are penumbras.

                But the penumbras have emanations.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Not to open up a front on the gun debate, but…

                If you have a friend who is known for beating his wife, so known that he can not legally buy one. And one day his house is broken into, so he asks to borrow one of your guns, for protection, and you hand it over without a second thought. When he shoots his wife, how much blame is on you?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Not more than him!Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Where did I say Congress had more blame? I said I hold them in more contempt, because:

                A) They gave him the gun. and
                B) When it was obvious he should not be trusted with that gun, they did exactly fuck all to stop him.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Eh, OK.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Please pick up a dictionary and review the definitions of ‘blame’ and ‘contempt’.

                They are not synonyms.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Here’s what you wrote in response to my comment about blaming congress more than Bush:

                Yes, Bush is responsible for the commands he issued. But congress granted him the power to make those commands into reality.

                Still sounds to me like you’re blaming congress more than Bush for the Iraq War.

                Whatever, tho. I’m happy if you agree with me that Bush is much more to blame than the CCers who authorized it.

                (I also hold Bush in higher contempt than the CCers who authorized it fwiw.)Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                There’s a whole lot of bias showing in this thread.

                Bush is an extremely nice and humble person. He lives the life Al Gore would like to claim. He’s so nice that when he’d grill out in Crawford he’d throw steaks on for his Secret Service detail and eat with them. (The White House flew one of my daily chat buddies between DC and Crawford and she talked about how much all the government personnel loved him – in complete contrast to some other Presidents.)

                From another perspective, Bush is not nearly as much of a monster as Barack Obama, who lit the entire Middle East on fire, kicked off the Syrian civil war, birthed ISIS, put Islamists in charge in Egypt, green lighted Iran’s further destabilization of the region, including events in Yemen, and brought back open air slave markets in Libya. He created more violence and death and vastly more fear and oppression. But he gets a pass because the elites liked him.

                Sure, we could delve into his upbringing and wonder what made him such a dark and twisted personality, or demand that he be put on trial for war crimes, including the ordering of the execution of American citizens with drones, but few Republicans bother with that because they’re not bitter and crazy, and frankly, we’re just too busy winning! 🙂

                Bush’s problem was that he didn’t heed the warning that if he toppled one genocidal dictator who used starvation and poison gas to murder people by the tens of thousands, liberals would be apoplectic with rage. Trump has learned from that, so there’s no way he’s going to remove Assad from power or stop Turkey because he doesn’t want to be seen as the bad guy.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                There’s a whole lot of bias showing in this thread.

                Thankfully, there’s a straight shooting truth-teller like yourself correct the record.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Trump has learned from that

                He’s sending troops and armaments to Saudi Arabia as we speak.Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                And Saudi Arabia is letting women drive now! Under Obama they weren’t allowed to do that. Behind the scenes the Saudis are even making nice with Israel.

                But sadly, Saudi Arabia has to arm up because it’s under attack from Iran and Iran’s proxies because Obama let them have countless billions and access to the world banking system so they could pay terrorists in Syria and Yemen and build missiles to hit Israel and Saudi Arabia.

                Now of course we can’t blame all of the Middle East’s problems on Obama – because Hillary and Kerry deserve some of the credit, along with Samantha Powers and Susan Rice. At least Chinngis Khan left order in his wake instead of chaos and countless genocidal civil, ethnic, and religious wars.

                But hey, I’m sure nobody still alive over there blames Democrats for anything, so it’s all good!

                But my larger point is that partisan hatred can make people see things that aren’t there and completely blind them to what is, because people are more inclined to see what they want to see to confirm their own moral superiority, intelligence, and goodness, even if none of their view is supportable by charts and graphs and timelines.

                Meanwhile, there will be people on the other side with an entirely different focus on events, with a different narrative and a different cast of villains, idiots, and saviors. Everybody’s happily outraged until they meet someone from the other camp who counters their narrative.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal says:

                Is there a rehab center we can send him to kick that habit?

                I don’t know what it is about that office, but damn near everyone who enters it ends up addicted to Saudi.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              I’ll note you dodged my question with a whole lot of words saying things completely unrelated to my point.

              I see a bright future in political PR for you.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          This comment has the confusing effect of making me like Ellen more and liberals less even though Ellen is a liberal.

          BTW, Saul, I think it’s quite likely that sentiments like this will have greater impact on Trump’s re-election than his impeachment.Report

      • Avatar JoeSal says:

        The one moral law of the right may be changed soon. The “none of my business” may be replaced with “reciprocity”.

        Reciprocity has always been a pretty important parameter in economic exchange, but it may become more of a tenet in ideology. That Ellen and George, offered each other a value of at least friendship and some measure of kindness, makes me think this thing may have longer legs than I originally considered.

        The dark lining in seeing the reactions is that I think retaliation is a much stronger force than I ever previously considered. I knew ostracism was a bad one, but this appears worse.Report

    • Thanks, Joe. I don’t actually watch Walking Dead, but that’s an interesting observation. I do wonder about what you wonder about in your last paragraph.Report

      • Avatar JoeSal says:

        I had a tough time putting the words together to describe it, and this may not be as accurate as it should:

        I often wonder if any measure of exercised political authority doesn’t have a few grains of harm built into it. Reality probably tamps down a unspoken hope that there would be reflection as people become wiser.Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    There was apparently a tempest yesterday over Ellen and Bush II watching football together. Lots of people are angry about this because Bush II demonized LBGT people in order to cinch a tough reelection in 2004. Lots of elites are angry at the outage. I think Paul Campos made an excellent point about why the elite counterstrike is wrong:

    “If Trump is driven out of office before next November — which at the moment still seems very unlikely but suddenly no longer impossible — it will be precisely for this reason. Suppose next summer rolls around and it becomes blindingly obvious that Trump is going to get routed, and that he’s likely to take the Republican majority in the Senate with him. Under those circumstances, the fantastically powerful lust among the great and the good to get back to “normal” — to pretending that Trump is some sort of inexplicable aberration, and that we can all get back to enjoying our nachos in Jerry Jones’s box if we just rid ourselves of this turbulent parvenu — is going to be truly overwhelming. Can you imagine the day Trump is ejected from the sacred precincts of the White House, and civility returns to America? David Brooks will have to write his column with one hand.

    In sum, the civility mongers aren’t merely wrong: they are the problem. Because the problem is our utterly corrupt ruling class, our sickening combination of old-fashioned plutocracy and new-media 24/7 celebrity worship, and our valorization of insanely immoral levels of social inequality as the natural and good order of the world. This is a world in which Donald Trump became president because that outcome was a predictable consequence — indeed a perfect reflection — of all that plutocracy and celebrity worship and inequality and constant corruption of the public sphere.”Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      The problem is that while Trump might go away, Trumpists are not going away and they exist in the tens of millions. They will not change their political beliefs because their savior has been defeated. The Trumpists will look for a more aggressive, intelligent, and competent version to carry out their nefarious goals. And we can’t kill them or really do much about them without making a total hash of small l-liberalism but they won’t reciprocate and will come after us with full force instead.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Too entangled for divorce and the stakes are too low for war. Probably gonna just be a decade of bickering until the oldies on the right shuffleboard off this mortal coil then it’ll cool down.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            We’ve got rolling blackouts in California. The economy is doing pretty good but there are a lot of stories out there about how it’s not helping anybody but the rich. There are a ton of news stories out there about how the future of protein is eating bugs.

            I don’t see an upswing in the near future.Report

            • Avatar North says:

              California has plenty of money to upgrade their power grid, just like they have plenty of space to build more housing. They just don’t wanna. Maybe this’ll focus their brains on their problem at hand.

              Stories about the rich exploiting the masses? Must be (checks watch) any time since the advent of the newspaper. As for bug protien; if they can make it taste like steak and price it like hamburger they’ll be billionaires and it’ll be great; if they can’t then all the environmentalists and their Prius’s combined won’t be able to wrench normal meat from the public plates.

              The left side of the spectrum doesn’t have enough to make them want to riot, and the right doesn’t have enough young people to riot- it’s hard to form a respectable mob when everybody is on a walker.Report

              • Avatar CJColucci says:

                I have recently been doing a fair amount of reading about a time when “divorce or war” was a real issue — what the stakes were, who started what, what possibilities were on the table, and who shot them down. That was real, now it’s noise.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Thanks CJ, I agree (but then I would).Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I hope you’re right.

                As it is, I see the split in the difference between those connected and those unconnected as deepening. Like, people aren’t speaking the same language.

                And times are good.

                Times will not always be as good as they are now.Report

            • Avatar Michael Cain says:

              What’s happening in California doesn’t fit the usual definition of “rolling blackouts”. Those ordinarily indicate a lack of generating capacity. In California currently, PG&E is shutting off parts of their grid that are in high fire-danger areas.

              So far as I’m concerned, it’s a perfectly reasonable step. They’ve been told that if their grid starts a fire, they’ll be stuck with the liability (they have already filed for bankruptcy over this). If you look at the maps that have been released, the outages are exclusively in areas where customers have built up into the mountains. In some of those cases, they have no flexibility on where they can run lines — the BLM or the USFS dictates the route.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I didn’t know that. (I thought it had to do with generating capacity.)

                That makes me feel less third-worldy about it.

                (Perhaps the small modular reactor people should buy… well, not commercials… billboards.)Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                The only time California has ever had rolling blackouts was in the days when they were profitable for Enron, which conspired to shut down enough capacity to create them. Never underestimate the capability of markets to generate profits by any means necessary.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Sure, absolutely.

                Are there any other states in which there were a regulatory regime so easily gamed as to cause rolling blackouts twice in the last couple of decades?Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                “Gaming” is an odd word to use for the 2000-01 electricity crisis. Every trick Enron and the others used required breaking one rule/law or another. In hindsight, if FERC had enforced the federal regulations as it should have, most of the tricks weren’t possible. Granted that FERC lacked the staff to do that enforcement — no one in Washington had considered that private companies would violate the rules on a systematic basis.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Sure, let’s use the exact phrasing we want. I’m not married to any particular word.

                Were there any other states that had multiple rolling blackouts in the last couple of decades?Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Texas. Apr 2006 and Feb 2011, both when demand exceeded available supply. In Jan 2014 and Aug 2019 power emergencies were declared — rolling blackouts imminent — but avoided the blackouts by aggressive load shedding.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                Jeez Michael, the way you word this makes it sound like electricity generation and distribution doesn’t correspond to the red state/blue state divide.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Holy cow. There’s an entire wiki page for this.

                Hrm. Demand exceeding available supply seems to be one of those things that could, in theory, be avoided by another power plant.

                The California ones seem to be in a different category.Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                They would have to be because the list says that to be included

                1. The outage must not be planned by the service provider.

                Elsewhere outages are caused by storms or substations blowing up. California outages are planned by the state government, sometimes decades in advance, because electricity comes from evil sources and people use it wastefully.

                Ironically, California also wants electric cars. Those will require new power sources and major grid upgrades because recharging will start when everyone gets home from work, adding a big spike to the load.

                One the upside, people could use their electric car as a battery and inverter to power their houses when the electricity is cut due to wind and incompetence. On the downside, powering their houses will run their car batteries down so they can’t flee when the wildfire sweeps through their neighborhood. Worse, many will still try to flee in a badly depleted car, have it completely run down on the narrow road out, and trap a long line of traffic in the flames.

                In response to such tragedies, Hollywood will add it as a plot point in disaster movies.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Demand exceeding available supply seems to be one of those things that could, in theory, be avoided by another power plant…. The California ones seem to be in a different category.

                The California 2000-01 blackouts were due to demand exceeding supply. One of those things that could, in theory, be avoided by owners not illegally taking power plants off line. The ’06 and ’11 Texas shortages were due to owners legally taking plants off line for scheduled maintenance, and then some freakish hot weather.

                The Bastrop County Fire near Austin, TX in 2011 burned 1,691 houses and was started by… wait for it… high winds toppling a tree across energized power lines during severe drought conditions.

                The 2003 Northeast blackout was a cascading failure triggered by overheated transmission lines in Ohio that drooped and came in contact with “overgrown trees”.

                PGE and SCE should suffer for improper maintenance. But it’s not a California-only problem.Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                The rest of the country was happily using herbicides like Agent Orange to keep trees away from the power lines. Back then we didn’t have nearly the frequency or extent of outages we got once environmentalists made power crews use locally-sourced hand-crafted flint axes to cut the trees back.

                At the very least, California should rebrand the deforested power routes as “wildlife corridors” and do the needful trimming. To keep the denuded strips from becoming another bleeding heart environmental poster, the power companies could simply add fake indoor plants from Lowe’s or Home Depot, assuming they have ones that are fire resistant.

                Or the state could take the money they were going to blow on high speed rail and spend it on burying some of the riskiest power lines, which would solve both the fire and environmental issues.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Where “easily” means “breaking numerous laws and leaving yourself open to ruinous lawsuits if you hadn’t gone bankrupt all on your own first.”Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                It’s *entirely* reasonable if you’re PG&E and you want the state to pass a bill charging every resident extra taxes to pay for your inability to trim trees. “You can charge us with negligence, you can say we gotta pay for the fires, but at the end of the day it’s our hand on the switch and if you want the lights on then you will fucking well pay us to keep them on.

                “the outages are exclusively in areas where customers have built up into the mountains”

                this somewhat overstates the case; some of these “mountains” are hills a couple hundred feet high that are within San Jose city limits. We’re not talking about, like the Donner Pass, here.

                And yet. The fires in 2017 happened on private land, with private generators, and had nothing to do with PG&E’s equipment. And the mitigation scenario involves clear-cutting a half-mile-wide strip under each power line, which won’t exactly look nice. PG&E wouldn’t be wrong to say “we can’t solve everything and you won’t like the solution anyway”…but then, they aren’t saying that.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Excellent analysis.

                Now, the fact that PG&E’s website, which was displaying needed information on who would be affected by the outages, went down because they didn’t provision it for unusually high traffic?A great analogy to how they routinely cut back on needed maintenance to look profitable (between bankruptcies).Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                also: as it turns out, the fires in LA were started by a garbage truck that dumped its load when the driver noticed that the garbage had caught fire. This seems surprising but it’s standard practice; the pressurized natural gas tanks that fuel most garbage trucks are very dangerous, and it’s assumed that municipal fire services can more easily deal with a pile of smoldering garbage than a truck exploding like a bomb…Report

              • Avatar Aaron David says:

                Here is a nice set of maps for you, Jay. You can scroll through and see most of how the bay area is being affected.

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I appreciate the maps but am too lazy to cross-reference them with demographic information.

                But I seriously recommend that people involved in political campaigning do that. I have no doubt that there are a dozen ads worth making in those maps.

                “WELCOME TO THE GREEN NEW DEAL BETA TEST!” is one that would make sense to gaming types but they’d need to reword it for normies and I’m too lazy to do that too.Report

              • Avatar J_A says:

                I had posted a long response, including a link, and I think the link ate the response.

                Can the author release it?

                Short version, first part: I spent the last two weeks in Livermore, which is one of the affected communities. (my hotel wasn’t affected) The areas hit are mostly quite wealthy communities: Sausalito, Marin, Sonoma, San Jose, Palo Alto, Livermore, Sacramento, Walnut Creek. All close to San Francisco or Sacramento. Less wealthy areas, further away from San Francisco, like Tracy (two hour plus commute in/out, have been spared.

                Short version part two: Geography considerations dictate the areas affected, that is: which transmission lines are actually over overgrown trees or bushes, and are a fire hazard if the high winds topple the lines Cal Fire’s forensic analysis of the 2017 fires show that PG&E’s failure to trim vegetation in the right of ways AS MANDATED BY ENVIRONMENTAL AND TRANSMISSION AND DISTRIBUTION regulations is the direct cause, or a contributing factor, in several of the 2017 fires, and the reason why PG&E is liable for those damages, and hence in bankruptcy. Vegetation was not trimmed not because CA is a tree hugging lunacy hell, but because PG&E decided to not fulfill with CA regulations, because……????, even though the tariff it collects includes money allocated for vegetation trimming, money PG&E instead used to…..?????? I don’t know, perhaps share buybacksReport

              • Avatar J_A says:

                You are welcome to ask – I spent the last two weeks in Livermore (which is affected by the Public Service Power Shutdowns, as PG&E calls them), though my hotel was located in an area that was spared.

                Geographically, the PSPS have affected very rich communities, close to San Francisco and Sacramento, including San Jose, Palo Alto, Livermore, Walnut Creek, Sausalito, Marin, Sonoma, and others). Communities further away, like Tracy, where your commute into the city exceeds two hours, have been spared. Technical criteria (which transmission lines go through where) have ruled the PSPS.

                Michael Cain and others, above, are right. The explanation for why the lines had to be disconnected is infuriating “because there are trees near by that have not been trimmed”. There are several forensic investigations findings in the previous blazes ( ) that PG&E DID NOT abide by the applicable environmental and Transmission & Distribution regulations, by failing to trim the trees near the T&D lines. That is why PG&E was found liable for many of the fires, and had to declare bankruptcy.

                Those trees were not trimmed not because CA is a looney tree hugging dystopia. They weren’t trimmed because PG&E failed to comply with existing regulations because…….

                The PSPS is PG&E blackmailing the state of CA to give it more money to do things that are already covered in the tariff, probably because they used the tree trimming money in the tariff for something else, perhaps share buybacks, I don’t know. If I were the state, I would terminate their concession.

                As most of you know, I do work for the power utilities industry. And I, too, am shocked at PG&E.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal says:

                I’m not going to point this in any particular direction, but just place a trail marker of sorts, etched with:
                “stuff that used to work, isn’t working anymore”Report

              • Avatar JoeSal says:

                Speaking electricity here.Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                I think the judge who ordered the PG&E power cuts failed to weigh the risk of fires started by downed power lines with the risk of fire from 800,000 people, many of whom lick Tide Pods, trying to cook their food over open fires for a week, or just getting so pissed off at not having power that they try to burn everything down.Report

              • Avatar J_A says:

                No judge ordered PG&E to start the blackouts. PG&E did it out of “abundance of caution”, and i won’t be surprised if lawsuits follow, arguing that, had PG&E trimmed the vegetation, the fire risk would have minimal, and therefore the blackouts themselves are gross negligenceReport

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Political ads aside, that seems like something that would be remediable in court.

                Terminating the concession should be the first thing on the to-do list.

                (But, if I were making political ads, I’d still point to California having blackouts.)Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Which concession would that be?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                From J_A’s comment:

                The PSPS is PG&E blackmailing the state of CA to give it more money to do things that are already covered in the tariff, probably because they used the tree trimming money in the tariff for something else, perhaps share buybacks, I don’t know. If I were the state, I would terminate their concession.


              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Ah. Then the big problem is that the gear is owned by PG&E: transmission, distribution, substations, meters, all that stuff. PG&E still owns a bunch of generating stations, including 174 hydro dams and the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. Someone would have to buy them out. At this point it would have to be in the form of a proposal to the bankruptcy court. FERC probably has something to say about it as well.Report

              • Avatar J_A says:

                You are right that, if the concession to be the regulated local public utility is yanked away from PG&E, the standard procedure of for a new concession holder to buy from PG&E the T&D assets, at their depreciated replacement value (the regulated asset base). In many countries the T&D concession is not permanent, but subject to open season bids every so often (20 years is a normal), and the concession holder might be replaced in this process, being forced also to sell their assets to their replacement.

                However, he thermal and nuclear generation assets are normally non regulated, and not subject to public utility concession and PG&E will likely keep those. The hydro generating plans normally are , too, subject to a concession that can be terminated by the regulator (they are using rivers that belong to the polity), but water laws might be different in CA, and you might “own” the running water, and not just the riparian land, as private propertyReport

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Not disagreeing with your analysis here, but this:

                The PSPS is PG&E blackmailing the state of CA to give it more money to do things that are already covered in the tariff, probably because they used the tree trimming money in the tariff for something else, perhaps share buybacks, I don’t know. If I were the state, I would terminate their concession.

                Is something I heavily criticize government for doing, and which I get a lot of push back on from the left, especially when politicians raid stuff like highway funds for things not related to transportation, but are things the left wants.

                Related question: Does the state not inspect transmission routes to make sure the utility is meeting it’s obligation?Report

              • Avatar J_A says:

                Does the state not inspect transmission routes to make sure the utility is meeting it’s obligation?

                California is very big, the T&D lines spans tens of thousands of miles, and voters, even in CA, want lower taxes, which do not include money for detailed inspections of T&D’s right-of-ways.

                The system assumes PG&E self policies these issues, subject to random spot checks, reporting from customers, and fines and liability payments when the negligence in maintaining required vegetation clearances results in damages to the environment or to third parties. Only 8.4 billion in damages, if PG&E gets luckyReport

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Ah, so PG&E rolled the dice and came up snake eyes.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                PG&E management has weird incentives.

                Cutting back on normal maintenance make it more profitable. They do that a lot, so I’m presuming they get bonuses for it. When the lack of maintenance hurts them (fires, gas explosions), the stockholders get hurt, but management at worst doesn’t get their bonus for that period. When they’ve screwed up so badly that bankruptcy results, they get retention bonuses.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                This does seem to be an issue with the regulated utility model.Report

              • Avatar J_A says:

                The Guardian just published an excellent article on how PG&E’s incentives are misaligned with those of customers. Here it is


                I strongly recommend it if you want to get a better understanding of the issueReport

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                The wide-scale public safety power shutdown revealed the depth of California’s infrastructure problems amid a growing climate crisis, as “de-energizing” policy trades one possible disaster for another.

                Believe me, conservatives are laughing themselves silly over this. Every third world country has a list of reasons why they have scheduled blackouts, and California is no exception. Ten years from now, California will still be patiently explaining why they can’t keep the lights on, and they will still be blaming nefarious capitalists and climate change.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Utilities in at least few other western states have announced their plans for de-energizing portions of their grid when extreme fire weather is forecast.Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                Each third world country comes up with their own unique justifications for why their citizens have to sit in the dark, and the real answer is usually that they made a choice to favor a combination of idiocy and corruption, or their leaders don’t really care if people have to sit in the dark as their food spoils.

                Why don’t utilities in red states have these fire problems? Could it be that they are allowed to make enough money to expand service, maintain the grid, and cut back back brush, and make a huge profit, all while charging far far less for electricity?

                Some say those Western states are just beta testing the Green New Deal. Others are taking night-time satellite photographs to compare California and North Korea. All are highly amused.

                California is obviously a horrible place to try to install a widely distributed power system that’s fed by solar power and wind turbines, because then they’ll have to shut down ever more often. Some might snark that California wind turbines will only have to be shut down when it’s windy, making them somewhat pointless, and sucking up precious towers and copper that could’ve been used to keep the grid up safely.

                However, the bright side is that since they give plenty of advance warning about when and where these power cuts will take place, it gives local entrepreneurs time to gather up a crew of illegals and get into the large-scale copper recycling business. “Dang it Joe! I know there was an electrical grid here when we cut the power off last night!”

                After the collapse of the Soviet Union, lots of their remoter regions had that problem, as people scavenged on the corpse of a collapsing civilization. California will go much the same way.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                The states include Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming, as red as they come. Beetle-killed forest — one of the things that have made forest fires in the West more dangerous, and utilities more cautious — doesn’t care about boundaries or politics.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                Here in the City of Los Angeles, with our socialized power system, electrical outages due to forest fires are never a problem.

                The logical conclusion obviously, is that socialism works and private electrical generation is, how do people put it, part of a collapsing civilization.

                Or so I’ve heard.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                LADWP hasn’t done any proactive shutdowns this time, but does have plans for it if necessary. Of course, their risk profile — both legal and geographic — isn’t the same as SCE or PGE.

                One of the reasons my wife and I don’t live up any of the canyons here is because it’s not if it will eventually burn, it’s when.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Not to let PGE off the hook for deferred maintenance, but lightning can start a fire just as easily as a power line. At some point, CA is going to have to suck it up and change their building codes to reflect the new fire danger. People will either need to maintain a firebreak around their communities and homes, or they will need to build with fire resistant materials.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                After the Oakland wildfire, the next generation of building code added a special section to,address the Wildland-Urban Interface.
                The section adds a number of safety features such as requiring noncombustible exterior coverings.


              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                That’s good to know, I was afraid they were just kicking that can down the road.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal says:

                Huh, those folks on skid row, they are all hooked in to 220VAC then eh?

                Could you let us know how they fastened the box to the tent wall?

                I don’t know which part is worse, folks basically living in the stone age inside LA or about a million people without power because vegetation is a unsolvable problem.Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                Well, I couldn’t find any mention of planned outages for Idaho or Wyoming the last years or so except to do major upgrades or repair a substation, and the numbers of affected customers were only a couple of thousand.

                Utah suggested they might have to consider it, someday, for about 7,000 homes.

                “This isn’t something that we think is going to be very common or maybe ever, but as wildfires become more of a problem it seems each and every year we want to be ready,” said Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Spencer Hall.

                Rocky Mountain Power is one of many utilities now in the Western United States with plans in place for what’s called “public safety power shutoffs.”

                The utility has a set of weather conditions including temperature, wind speed and humidity, that will trigger planned outages in areas where transmission lines traverse areas with wildfire danger.

                PG&E couldn’t afford to do all the green energy nonsense and maintain a safe grid, and they got sued into bankruptcy, so California established the case that utilities have to cut off power if there’s any risk at all of a fire. This lowers the bar on the level of service that other utilities will have to meet, even though they’re not going to have any problems and haven’t had any in the past. But to deny they will is to deny “climate change”, or question the basic competence of California.

                So far as I can tell, such planned outages have never been mentioned in Idaho or Wyoming, so the claim that other utilities have developed such plans may be a case of California officials saying “Comrades, other states are also having a bad potato harvest.”

                Of course the solution to all this is quite simple. Every time there’s a planned outage due to fire danger, a dozen angry drunk guys should go out and start a wildfire. Then there will be a 100% chance of multiple wildfires if they do cut off the power, and only a small chance of a wildfire if they leave the grid up The power companies will still get sued, but the courts might eventually buy their argument that an occasional wildfire is better than guaranteed wildfires, along with organized looting because all the bad actors are looking at their watches waiting for the alarm systems to cut out.

                Yes, every California should know that if they have have a BIC lighter and a jeep, they can change California’s energy policy so that their TV doesn’t cut out during a playoff game.

                Civilization is hard. Not every state can do it.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                I still don’t understand why companies are allowed to pay out bonuses when the company is in any condition that requires public assistance, or that bonuses are allowed to be retained when a company needs such help a short time after bonuses are paid out.

                If PGE is suddenly facing bankruptcy, bonuses should be clawed back across the board.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                The common rationalization, which I heard from many people back in 2008, is that without paying bonuses, these firms would lose their top performers and thus have no chance of recovery. This, of course, fails to take into account how the “top performers” couldn’t stave off bankruptcy, and were in many cases the cause of it. (Trading CDOs was very profitable until the bottom dropped out.)Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                When I worked in an industry that had some fairly large bankruptcies, the reason usually given was that the big money players who had to give approvals for a Chapter 11 reorganization plan wouldn’t talk to anyone but the C-level people they were used to. IOW, lose the C-levels and it quickly became a Chapter 7 proceeding.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Trees are one issue. Here, grass and brush is another that is much harder to control. We had a wet spring — everyone was looking at all that green grass growing in the foothills and thinking “tinder by August”.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      ah yes, the incel argument. “our problem is we’re just too darn nice, if only we were giant assholes then the girls would like us”Report

  5. Avatar CJColucci says:

    I used to ask myself often about Nixon, “how did the poor bastard end up like this?” But, ultimately, whatever sad history turned him into what he was (I recommend Farrell’s recent biography), it wasn’t just his private tragedy anymore. However he got to be that way, he was what he was, and that severely warped person held the most powerful office in the world. Things had to be done.
    Based on what we know now, the backstory to how Trump became what he was is far less sad and sympathetic than Nixon’s. Nevertheless, it is a human misfortune, even though it is far less of a waste of human potential. But we can explore this some other time. For now, things have to be done.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      This is roughly where’s I’m at with respect to Trump: the great likelihood is that he became the way he did by way of too much money and privilege during youth, and insufficient parental love. We might feel sympathy for the insufficient parental love part, but the man is 74 years old. By now, he should have resolved his Oedipal complex. The office he occupies is far, far too important to be held by a person who has at this age failed to do that.Report

  6. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    Apropos of the release of the Joker movie, I remember how in Heath Ledger’s portrayal, they mocked the Origin Story, where Ledger gives like three alternate stories of his origin, saying essentially that none of that matters.

    Saying that Trump is a human like me is only a sharper and more devastating criticism of him.

    Of course we all have inner demons, past trauma and suffering. Yet not all of us make the willful choice to inflict that suffering on others.Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay says:

      You aren’t wrong. Suffering doesn’t justify wrongdoing.

      But it goes a long way toward explaining it. At some point everyone who suffers makes a decision to do X instead of Y, or Y instead of X. How that happens fascinates me.

      Because I’m pseudonymous, I’ll be more specific. I’m very close to more than one person with mental illness. In fact, at least one is in my charge. I take care of them. If I did not, they would probably eventually be homeless and maybe die. They have all been very cruel to me on occasion. What they do makes sense from their point of view, but it’s very painful to me.

      I’m still going to take care of them. I’m intact, I’ve suffered a lot of pain, but little damage. I’m getting better at setting limits, and know that this can make them better, too.Report

    • Yet not all of us make the willful choice to inflict that suffering on others.

      I cannot speak for you, but I have sometimes made willful choices to inflict suffering. It’s never been crime-worthy suffering, but I have hurt others’ feelings intentionally, been snide with the intent to hurt, and have engaged in any number of cruelties, some of them in comments to people who comment at Ordinary-Times.

      Fortunately, I haven’t chosen to do worse. Fortunately, too, I haven’t been in a position to find out if I’d choose even more worse.Report

  7. Avatar Silver Wolf says:

    I agree with Saul in the first post. We can say in the abstract that no person is pure evil; everyone has a glimmer of humanity, but at some practical point you have to say that it just isn’t worth the effort to even pity a monster. When even the slightest empathy for a man dishonors his victims, you are wasting your concern.

    To say that despite all his flaws he is still human is not an absolution of him, it’s a condemnation of humanity.Report

  8. I’ve been sparse in my comments and probably won’t engage most of them fully, but I do feel a responsibility to address Saul:

    It’s no secret (at least not to me) that you and I don’t get along on this site, and I assumed that when I wrote this post you would, if you read it, react pretty much as you have. So emotionally, I’m inclined to lash out. Every time I do that, either against you or against someone else, I find I regret it. So while I’m about to partially argue against what you’ve said here, I don’t intend it as lashing out.

    Logically, I can’t blame you for your reaction. And I suspect you would probably have this reaction to most any other person, so, again logically, I know you don’t mean it personally, at least not in the sense that you decided first you were going to dislike what I say because it’s I who said it.

    I also can’t blame you because if we changed the issues and the person, I would likely be the one who is indignant at someone else emphasizing my target’s humanity. I can guarantee you that it wouldn’t take an issue or person as bad as Trump to make me do that, either. In other words, I’d have less of an excuse than you do. And as North said, Trump’s earned your hatred. And as I said in my OP, I’m an imperfect vehicle for the message.

    Again, logically, I guess I have to confess to the charge of “authoritarian enabling.” True, I did say I support impeachment or other form of legal removal, and I said I’m open to prison or other punishment, but as Popular Front Marxists might say, I’m being “objectively” pro Trump by saying what I’ve been saying. One reason, I believe, is that my argument, in my OP, is much more likely to have an effect, on the margin, than my joining the chorus for impeachment with no caveats whatsoever.

    At the same time, I can’t not make the argument I just made in the OP. For some reason I’m given to see his humanity in a way I haven’t been given to see the humanity of other people. All that sounds in its own way hypocritical and sanctimonious on my part. It sounds that way because to some degree it is that way. But I do believe that any one of us can, does, and will choose to do evil. Not sheer evil and not only evil, but evil nonetheless. Or, if “any one of us” is too presumptuous, I can say that I can, do, and will.

    If you have a response, I promise I’ll read it. I’ll try to consider it. I probably won’t reply, however. If I don’t, it won’t be as an insult to you, but because I need to check my own emotions and keep a certain perspective here.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      but being mean to people feels good, man

      and modern morality says that only bad things feel bad, so if something feels good it must be goodReport

  9. Avatar Kolohe says:

    You’re a better person than I am Gabriel. I refuse to give Donald Trump any charity, because he has never given it to anyone else, and, furthermore, has taken others people charity, and used it as a weapon.

    He is a disgusting, depraved, despicable human being, who has always surrounded himself with disgusting, depraved, despicable human beings, and, for that matter, has also begotten several disgusting, depraved, despicable human beings.

    And not only has he never seen any negative consequences of that existence, he has achieved every success.

    He has earned my absolute and resolute contempt. As have all the MAGA fans out there.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      I’ve despised Trump for some time, really, since I’ve know enough about him to have any opinion at all. Honestly, I can’t understand how anyone doesn’t despise Trump.Report

  10. I disagree very strongly with some of you. I do, however, feel compelled to thank you for reading my post and commenting. It’s important that I consider the contrary view.

    I’ll continue to read the comments, but, again, I probably won’t engage with them as much as they deserve.Report

  11. Avatar Stillwater says:

    {{George Springer is an absolute stud}}Report

  1. October 5, 2020

    […] been. I would have probably recognized the accused persons’ own humanity and pointed out that they were capable of suffering, too. I would have known better than to counsel forgiveness, but I would have professed pity for the […]Report