Fully vaccinated? You may relax (update #2)

Updates

  1. Originally published, May 12, 2021, 9:15 am.

  2. May 13, 2021, 11:49 pm:

    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now largely confirmed[1] the article noted here,[2] at long last admitting that fully vaccinated folks don’t need masks outdoors or in uncrowded indoor situations.[3]

      The new guidance is likely to open the door to confusion, since there is no surefire way for businesses or others to distinguish between those who are fully vaccinated and those who are not.

      “Millions of Americans are doing the right thing and getting vaccinated, but essential workers are still forced to play mask police for shoppers who are unvaccinated and refuse to follow local COVID safety measures,” said Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. “Are they now supposed to become the vaccination police?”

      [Rochelle] Walensky and [Joe] Biden said people who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks indoors.[4]

      In part due to conservative objections,[5] we don’t have vaccine passports. So it’s a real question how, for example, I can be sure the assholes who remove their masks once they’re in my car have been vaccinated. I don’t actually need to worry, because I am fully vaccinated,[6] but I’m still having to wear a mask as an Uber driver all day every day. And I’m assuming it will still be a cold day in hell before I can stop.

    • Recently, I noticed that Ed Gainey seems to be winning the yard sign race over incumbent Bill Peduto in Pittsburgh’s mayoral race. Today, I’d have to say his lead is widening. While yard signs really say little about less enthusiastic support, the extent to which Gainey’s signs would have to exaggerate this and the extent to which Peduto’s signs would have to understate this is truly substantial. I’m feeling more confident that Gainey likely has this won.

  3. May 14, 2021, 11:44 am:

    • I have further revised the section on my job hunt. It’s really rather astonishing how many pieces have fallen into place. And there’s simply no way to be kind about the so-called friends who left me to twist on the vine even as they make six-figure incomes. They had the absolute gall to tell me that applying for jobs “doesn’t work until it does,” that even after, at that time, sixteen years of job hunt failure, I should just keep trying the same thing that doesn’t work,[7] won’t work, will never work,[8] even as I told them it wasn’t working.[9] They really didn’t give a damn, not even in the slightest.

      Those aren’t friends, and hell, yes, I’m bitter as hell.

    • Pennsylvania rapidly revised its order on mask-wearing[10] to match the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines relaxing mask requirements for fully vaccinated people,[11] but Pittsburgh area businesses remain uncertain as to how to implement the guidance without a way to know who’s been vaccinated and who hasn’t.[12]

      There’s simply no alternative here to some form of vaccine passport that can be very rapidly and easily checked. It really is unclear, in the absence of such,[13] how this is supposed to work. And the decision has earned criticism[14] even from at least one expert who has criticized the CDC for excessive caution. In Pennsylvania, the order is paired with Governor Tom Wolf’s promise that once 70 percent of the state’s population is vaccinated, mask restrictions will be lifted,[15] but nationally, Leana Wen argues that the “honor code” in fact removes an incentive to get vaccinated for the many who have been in denial all along.[16]

      I haven’t heard from either Uber or Lyft on this and it’s unclear to me when the inside of a car would be considered a “crowded situation.” But it’s sure to be a problem.


Pandemic

It looks like if you are fully vaccinated, that is, you’ve received your final dose of a vaccine at least two weeks ago, you have little to fear from COVID-19, even, so far, the variants. At worst, you’ll suffer a relatively mild case of the disease.[17] But what I haven’t heard is much at all on how long the vaccine-induced immunity lasts.

For now, however, precautions like wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds, are mostly about protecting unvaccinated people. But even there, having been vaccinated yourself helps to protect them.[18]

German Lopez, “Got the vaccine? Experts say you can relax about your Covid-19 risk now. Really,” Vox, May 11, 2021, https://www.vox.com/22423098/covid-19-vaccine-coronavirus-protection-herd-immunity

Cassie Miller, “Fully vaxxed Pennsylvanians can go mask-free, state health officials confirm,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, May 13, 2021, https://www.penncapital-star.com/blog/fully-vaxxed-pennsylvanians-can-go-mask-free-state-health-officials-confirm/

Zeke Miller and Michael Balsamo, “‘Great day for America’: Vaccinated can largely ditch masks,” Associated Press, May 13, 2021, copy in possession of author

Teghan Simonton and Megan Guza, “Western Pa. businesses grapple with mask policies after CDC, state updates guidance,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 13, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/regional/western-pa-businesses-grapple-with-mask-policies-after-cdc-state-updates-guidance/

Leana S. Wen, “The CDC shouldn’t have removed restrictions without requiring proof of vaccination,” Washington Post, May 13, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/05/13/cdc-mask-rules-vaccination-leana-wen/


(Dis)United Kingdom

George Monbiot, “Breaking Point,” May 11, 2021, https://www.monbiot.com/2021/05/11/breaking-point/


Job hunt

What’s been missing from my recent revelation about the job market,[19] that is, that an important part of its function is to deter worker agitation for higher wages or better working conditions by keeping a large number of people, including me, unemployed and therefore poor, as examples of what can happen to insufficiently pliable workers,[20] has been an explanation of the method. How can this actually function?

On reflection, it’s all too apparent. The address you put on your job application says something about where you live; just like some neighborhoods were historically red-lined in real estate,[21] your economic status, and sometimes, your race, can be inferred in the same way. Though my own credit rating is good to excellent, albeit with high student loan debt, some employers, especially in retail, require credit checks, also a signifier of economic condition.

Put too much experience on your resume or, indeed, anything, like education (my Ph.D. signifies several years of adult education), that dates back far enough, and you may be discovered to be “old” in a profoundly ageist society.[22] I’m white and male, but names often indicate gender or race; some names were more popular in certain years, also suggesting age.

Probably most deadly in my own case is the kind of experience I’ve had or its gaps. If I don’t put that I’ve been an Uber and Lyft driver for the last five years, it appears I’ve been doing nothing, unemployed, therefore unemployable.[23] If I do, I expose myself as a low wage worker in a country where social mobility is more accurately characterized as social immobility,[24] whose socioeconomic system can most accurately be described as a caste system, at least between the rich and everybody else,[25] but I think also between the poor and everybody else.[26] I am poor, therefore I deserve to be,[27] even because it is the Christian god’s will,[28] and I must be kept so.

All of this bias, of course, is rationalized in the name of “cultural fit.”[29] And some, of a particular age, might recognize when “culture” was code for race.[30] But here, it is apparent that “culture” has become code for much more diverse forms of bias.[31]

Google recently chose promotion of artificial intelligence idiocy over its reputation and ethical concerns, the latter including that such systems may be biased.[32] But the use of artificial idiocy[33] in filtering job applications and applicants in multiple ways, including attempts at psychological assessment, including some that resemble phrenology,[34] has attracted little attention. It is far from a stretch to imagine that such systems might perform web searches and, again deploying artificial idiocy, seek to filter out anyone perceived as radical. You and I might be discriminated against in ways we haven’t even fathomed and all it takes for your application to wind up straight in the bit bucket is to run afoul of even one filter.

I say your job application because I won’t be bothering anymore. I now know unmistakably where I stand. But there is one more point that should be made: To the extent I might now be considered radical, even if we define ‘radical’ as looking at the world as it actually is, rather than through ideological lenses that inform as to what it should be, and drawing the conclusions that follow,[35] it is a consequence,[36] not a cause, of my failed job hunt. Capitalism, I now know, wants scapegoats;[37] my story is an example of how it produces them.[38]


  1. [1]Zeke Miller and Michael Balsamo, “‘Great day for America’: Vaccinated can largely ditch masks,” Associated Press, May 13, 2021, copy in possession of author
  2. [2]German Lopez, “Got the vaccine? Experts say you can relax about your Covid-19 risk now. Really,” Vox, May 11, 2021, https://www.vox.com/22423098/covid-19-vaccine-coronavirus-protection-herd-immunity
  3. [3]Zeke Miller and Michael Balsamo, “‘Great day for America’: Vaccinated can largely ditch masks,” Associated Press, May 13, 2021, copy in possession of author
  4. [4]Zeke Miller and Michael Balsamo, “‘Great day for America’: Vaccinated can largely ditch masks,” Associated Press, May 13, 2021, copy in possession of author
  5. [5]David Benfell, “On ‘vaccine passports,’” Not Housebroken, May 3, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/03/31/on-vaccine-passports/
  6. [6]German Lopez, “Got the vaccine? Experts say you can relax about your Covid-19 risk now. Really,” Vox, May 11, 2021, https://www.vox.com/22423098/covid-19-vaccine-coronavirus-protection-herd-immunity
  7. [7]David Benfell, “To my friends,” Not Housebroken, February 17, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2017/04/01/to-my-friends/
  8. [8]David Benfell, “About that alleged ‘labor shortage,’” Not Housebroken, May 14, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/05/09/about-that-alleged-labor-shortage/
  9. [9]David Benfell, “To my friends,” Not Housebroken, February 17, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2017/04/01/to-my-friends/
  10. [10]Cassie Miller, “Fully vaxxed Pennsylvanians can go mask-free, state health officials confirm,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, May 13, 2021, https://www.penncapital-star.com/blog/fully-vaxxed-pennsylvanians-can-go-mask-free-state-health-officials-confirm/
  11. [11]Zeke Miller and Michael Balsamo, “‘Great day for America’: Vaccinated can largely ditch masks,” Associated Press, May 13, 2021, copy in possession of author
  12. [12]Teghan Simonton and Megan Guza, “Western Pa. businesses grapple with mask policies after CDC, state updates guidance,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 13, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/regional/western-pa-businesses-grapple-with-mask-policies-after-cdc-state-updates-guidance/
  13. [13]Kathryn Watson, “White House leaves vaccine ‘passports’ to private sector,” CBS News, March 30, 2021, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/biden-vaccine-passports-private-sector/
  14. [14]Zeke Miller and Michael Balsamo, “‘Great day for America’: Vaccinated can largely ditch masks,” Associated Press, May 13, 2021, copy in possession of author
  15. [15]Cassie Miller, “Fully vaxxed Pennsylvanians can go mask-free, state health officials confirm,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, May 13, 2021, https://www.penncapital-star.com/blog/fully-vaxxed-pennsylvanians-can-go-mask-free-state-health-officials-confirm/
  16. [16]Leana S. Wen, “The CDC shouldn’t have removed restrictions without requiring proof of vaccination,” Washington Post, May 13, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/05/13/cdc-mask-rules-vaccination-leana-wen/
  17. [17]German Lopez, “Got the vaccine? Experts say you can relax about your Covid-19 risk now. Really,” Vox, May 11, 2021, https://www.vox.com/22423098/covid-19-vaccine-coronavirus-protection-herd-immunity
  18. [18]German Lopez, “Got the vaccine? Experts say you can relax about your Covid-19 risk now. Really,” Vox, May 11, 2021, https://www.vox.com/22423098/covid-19-vaccine-coronavirus-protection-herd-immunity
  19. [19]David Benfell, “About that alleged ‘labor shortage,’” Not Housebroken, May 10, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/05/09/about-that-alleged-labor-shortage/
  20. [20]Jon Schwarz, “The Business Class Has Been Fearmongering About Worker Shortages for Centuries,” Intercept, May 7, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/05/07/worker-shortage-slavery-capitalism/
  21. [21]Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” Atlantic, June 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/
  22. [22]Susan Chenery, “Poverty and ageing: ‘we’re swept under the carpet and pushed aside,’” Guardian, April 24, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/apr/25/poverty-and-ageing-were-swept-under-the-carpet-and-pushed-aside; Carol Hymowitz, “Older Workers Have a Big Secret: Their Age,” Wall Street Journal, November 17, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/older-workers-have-a-big-secret-their-age-11574046301; Gloria Jackson, as told to Eli Saslow, “‘I apologize to God for feeling this way,’” Washington Post, May 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/02/elderly-woman-coronavirus-lonely-expendable/; Sarah Jones, “No One Should Be Surprised That America Abandoned the Elderly to Die,” New York, July 9, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/07/america-is-sacrificing-the-elderly-to-coronavirus.html; Laura Newberry, “The pandemic has amplified ageism. ‘It’s open season for discrimination’ against older adults,” Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-05-01/coronavirus-pandemic-has-amplified-ageism; Bhaskar Sunkara, “Why it’s time to ditch the ‘ok boomer’ meme,” Guardian, November 6, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/06/ok-boomer-meme-older-generations; Sarah Todd, “Older people are the one group egalitarians discriminate against,” Quartz, April 22, 2021, https://qz.com/work/1999849/one-surprising-cause-of-ageism-in-the-workplace/; Isabel Togoh, “Texas Official Suggests ‘Lots’ Of Grandparents Would Be Willing Risk Coronavirus Death To Keep Economy Going,” Forbes, March 24, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/isabeltogoh/2020/03/24/texas-official-suggests-lots-of-grandparents-would-be-willing-risk-coronavirus-death-to-keep-economy-going/
  23. [23]Matthew O’Brien, “The Terrifying Reality of Long-Term Unemployment,” Atlantic, April 13, 2013, https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/04/the-terrifying-reality-of-long-term-unemployment/274957/
  24. [24]Claude S. Fischer et al. “Why Inequality?” in Thomas M. Shapiro, ed., Great Divides, 3rd ed. (Boston: McGraw Hill, 2005), 9-15.
  25. [25]John Asimakopoulos, The Political Economy of the Spectacle and Postmodern Caste (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2020); David Benfell, “‘The ugly premise that one group of humans had the absolute right to rule over another group of humans,’” Not Housebroken, January 14, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/01/14/the-ugly-premise-that-one-group-of-humans-had-the-absolute-right-to-rule-over-another-group-of-humans/; C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite (New York: Oxford University, 2000); Scott Sernau, Worlds Apart, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA, Pine Forge, 2006); Thomas M. Shapiro, ed., Great Divides, 3rd ed. (Boston: McGraw Hill, 2005).
  26. [26]Herbert J. Gans, The War Against The Poor (New York: Basic, 1995).
  27. [27]Thomas M. Shapiro, “Introduction,” in Great Divides: Readings in Social Inequality in the United States, ed. Thomas M. Shapiro, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005), 1-7.
  28. [28]Richard Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind (New York: Harmony, 1991).
  29. [29]Paul Spiegelman, “Is Hiring For Culture Fit Perpetuating Bias?” Forbes, March 1, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/paulspiegelman/2021/03/01/is-hiring-for-culture-fit-perpetuating-bias/
  30. [30]For example, Richard M. Weaver inveighing against Brown v. Board of Education, albeit without naming the decision, as forcing a “mixing of cultures” in Visions of Order (Louisiana State University, 1964; Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 1995).
  31. [31]Paul Spiegelman, “Is Hiring For Culture Fit Perpetuating Bias?” Forbes, March 1, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/paulspiegelman/2021/03/01/is-hiring-for-culture-fit-perpetuating-bias/
  32. [32]Reid Blackman, “If Your Company Uses AI, It Needs an Institutional Review Board,” Harvard Business Review, April 1, 2021, https://hbr.org/2021/04/if-your-company-uses-ai-it-needs-an-institutional-review-board; Mitchell Clark and Zoe Schiffer, “After firing a top AI ethicist, Google is changing its diversity and research policies,” Verge, February 19, 2021, https://www.theverge.com/2021/2/19/22291631/google-diversity-research-policy-changes-timnet-gebru-firing; Ina Fried, “Google tweaks diversity, research policies following inquiry,” Axios, February 19, 2021, https://www.axios.com/google-tweaks-diversity-research-policies-following-inquiry-8baa6346-d2a2-456f-9743-7912e4659ca2.html; Alex Hanna, [Twitter thread], Thread Reader App, February 18, 2021, https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1362476196693303297.html; Jeremy Kahn, “Google’s ouster of a top A.I. researcher may have come down to this,” Fortune, December 9, 2020, https://fortune.com/2020/12/09/google-timnit-gebru-top-a-i-researcher-large-language-models/; Zoe Schiffer, “Google fires second AI ethics researcher following internal investigation,” Verge, February 19, 2021, https://www.theverge.com/2021/2/19/22292011/google-second-ethical-ai-researcher-fired; James Vincent, “Google is poisoning its reputation with AI researchers,” Verge, April 13, 2021, https://www.theverge.com/2021/4/13/22370158/google-ai-ethics-timnit-gebru-margaret-mitchell-firing-reputation
  33. [33]David Benfell, “Our new Satan: artificial idiocy and big data mining,” Not Housebroken, April 5, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/01/13/our-new-satan-artificial-idiocy-and-big-data-mining/
  34. [34]Rebecca Heilweil, “Artificial intelligence will help determine if you get your next job,” Vox, December 12, 2019, https://www.vox.com/recode/2019/12/12/20993665/artificial-intelligence-ai-job-screen
  35. [35]David Benfell, “Radicalism and pragmatism,” Not Housebroken, July 19, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/07/19/radicalism-and-pragmatism/
  36. [36]As I failed to find employment following the dot-com crash in 2001, I returned to school. Believing that work such as that in high technology could last in the U.S. only as long as capitalists could not find a way to export it to other countries, like India, I pursued communication, a soft skill. As I wrote papers, I had to conduct literature searches. As I conducted those searches, it was like kicking over one rock after another. I came to understand social inequality as a defining attribute of our system of social organization. As I continued in school, finishing the Bachelor’s, then doing a Master’s, and finally a Ph.D., I learned more. None of it reflects favorably on this system. But I absolutely would not have this understanding had I not been left in the dirt on the side of the “information superhighway.”
  37. [37]Jon Schwarz, “The Business Class Has Been Fearmongering About Worker Shortages for Centuries,” Intercept, May 7, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/05/07/worker-shortage-slavery-capitalism/
  38. [38]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/

Why Uber and Lyft are failing to go electric

Gig economy

Uber[1] and Lyft[2] have both promised that “100 percent” of their fleets will be electric by 2030. It’s looking less and less like that will actually happen.[3]

The Bloomberg article cites purchase costs and a driver income that’s still low but much higher[4] than is generally believed[5] as obstacles to electric vehicle adoption. Yes, I, too, am absolutely enchanted with the operating costs of an electric vehicle.[6] But it’s simply not presently practical. I think it will be, but I don’t know how soon.

Apparently unlike most Uber and Lyft drivers, I have good to excellent credit (easily excellent by Toyota’s standards), so I probably could finance a more expensive (to buy) electric car. But as an Uber/Lyft driver, I see two major problems with trying to go electric:

  1. Range: The maximum range I found for an electric car usable with Uber and Lyft was 305 miles.[7] I strongly doubt this is the usable range both because range estimate are likely exaggerated just like Environmental Protection Agency gas mileage estimates and because you have to set aside enough of a charge to get to a charging station. I’m presently averaging 168 miles per day, but 250-plus mile days are not uncommon and I had a 356-mile day less than a month ago.

    Plus, driving for Uber and Lyft isn’t my entire life. I expect to take a trip cross-country to retrieve more of my stuff from California early next year. I’m expecting to drive 600 plus miles per day (down from the 800 I targeted when I moved east a couple years ago). I really want to preserve that option, and not just for this particular trip, but if I have to take several hours per day to charge my car, because the charging rate slows as the battery reaches a full charge,[8] even with a 300-mile range, there’s no way that works.

  2. Charging: I live in an apartment. While I have a garage in my present apartment (I’m planning to move later this year), it does not have electricity and my next apartment might not have a garage at all. I would be at the mercy of high-priced charging stations. My present status with Uber would mean a 25 percent discount on EVGo’s standard rates, but only for an hour of high-speed charging time.[9] This would almost certainly not be enough and there is a risk the high speed charging might shorten battery life, particularly if it is the only charging method used.[10]

    And, um, yeah, I actually am wondering what a battery replacement does to those operating costs.

So I’m still looking at a Toyota RAV4 XLE Hybrid, probably later this year.

Ben Elgin and Lizette Chapman, “How Uber and Lyft Are Losing the Race to the Electric Future,” Bloomberg, May 10, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-05-10/inside-the-slow-ev-adoption-by-uber-and-lyft


  1. [1]Andrew J. Hawkins, “Uber pledges to shift to ‘100 percent’ electric vehicles by 2030,” Verge, September 8, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/9/8/21427196/uber-promise-100-percent-electric-vehicle-ev-2030
  2. [2]Andrew J. Hawkins, “Lyft vows ‘100 percent’ of its vehicles will be electric by 2030,” Verge, June 17, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/6/17/21294040/lyft-electric-vehicle-ev-100-percent-2030
  3. [3]Ben Elgin and Lizette Chapman, “How Uber and Lyft Are Losing the Race to the Electric Future,” Bloomberg, May 10, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-05-10/inside-the-slow-ev-adoption-by-uber-and-lyft
  4. [4]Ben Elgin and Lizette Chapman, “How Uber and Lyft Are Losing the Race to the Electric Future,” Bloomberg, May 10, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-05-10/inside-the-slow-ev-adoption-by-uber-and-lyft
  5. [5]Farhad Manjoo, “The Uber I.P.O. Is a Moral Stain on Silicon Valley,” New York Times, May 1, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/01/opinion/uber-ipo.html; Dhruv Mehrotra and Aaron Gordon, “Uber And Lyft Take A Lot More From Drivers Than They Say,” Jalopnik, August 26, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-take-a-lot-more-from-drivers-than-they-sa-1837450373; Alexa Noel, “Revised MIT Study Says Uber, Lyft Drivers Make About $8 or $10 per Hour,” Points Guy, March 8, 2018, https://thepointsguy.com/2018/03/revised-mit-study-says-uber-lyft-drivers-make-about-8-or-10-per-hour/; Kari Paul, “Uber drivers plan shutdown over ‘poverty wages’ as company goes public,” Guardian, April 25, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/24/uber-drivers-strike-ipo; José Rodríguez, Jr., “The Aftermath Of Prop 22 Is Not As Happy As Big Tech Promised,” Jalopnik, February 18, 2021, https://jalopnik.com/the-aftermath-of-prop-22-is-not-as-happy-as-big-tech-pr-1846299686; Alexander Sammon, “Prop 22 Is Here, and It’s Already Worse Than Expected,” American Prospect, January 15, 2021, https://prospect.org/labor/prop-22-is-here-already-worse-than-expected-california-gig-workers/
  6. [6]Ben Elgin and Lizette Chapman, “How Uber and Lyft Are Losing the Race to the Electric Future,” Bloomberg, May 10, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-05-10/inside-the-slow-ev-adoption-by-uber-and-lyft
  7. [7]Ford Motor Company, “2021 Mustang Mach-E California Route 1,” 2021, https://www.ford.com/suvs/mach-e/models/mach-e-california-route-1/
  8. [8]Pod Point, “How Long Does It Take To Charge an Electric Car?” May 28, 2020, https://pod-point.com/guides/driver/how-long-to-charge-an-electric-car
  9. [9]EVGo, “Save on EVgo Fast Charging with Uber!” 2020, https://uber.evgo.com/?uclick_id=bd6462cc-9bc1-4e84-99f2-ae8aec4dfd08
  10. [10]MYEV, “Is DC Fast Charging Bad For Your Electric Car?” n.d. https://www.myev.com/research/interesting-finds/is-dc-fast-charging-bad-for-your-electric-car

My not-really-a-forecast for the Pittsburgh mayoral race (update #4)

Updates

  1. Originally published, May 8, 2021, at 9:14 pm.

  2. May 9, 2021, 11:58 am:

  3. May 9, 2021, 10:48 pm:

    • As COVID-19 vaccines have become increasingly available and “normal” life begins to return,[1] but an economic stimulus package passed early in Joe Biden’s presidency bumps up unemployment benefits, employers have been complaining that they can’t find workers, that there is a so-called “labor shortage” that isn’t actually borne out by the evidence.[2] It turns out this is an old game that capitalists have been playing, well, since slavery, and it’s all pretty bluntly about keeping workers subordinate.[3]

      Today, with the additional unemployment benefits from the recent Covid-19 relief bill, business owners are living their greatest nightmare: workers with genuine leverage over their wages and working conditions. The owner of a Florida seafood restaurant recently explained this straightforwardly: “You need to have incentives to get people to work, not to stay home. You’ve got the hard workers who want to have a job, but the others need that motivation.”

      In theory, there are many possible such incentives: better pay, better working conditions, even a slice of ownership of the company. But the owning class hasn’t been interested in those incentives at any point in the last few centuries. There’s only one incentive that makes sense to them: You work or you starve.[4]

      This actually dovetails neatly with my interpretation of employers’ demands that workers all fight traffic simultaneously to be at the same places at the same times for work, that as we’ve seen in the pandemic, can often be done from home. This can’t, I reasoned, really be about productivity. It has to be about control.

      And it’s about keeping workers working for as close to nothing as possible:

      [B]usiness turned to a two-fold strategy: first, lobbying to keep unemployment benefits at the lowest level possible, and second, preventing the unemployment rate from ever getting too low. It may seem counterintuitive that businesses would not want the economy operating at full capacity. But low unemployment alters the balance of power between owners and workers just as unemployment insurance does — and when workers can easily quit and get another job across the street, the dreaded worker shortage simply appears again in a different guise.

      The battle against low unemployment was eventually cloaked in scientific jargon. In 1975, two economists announced the existence of the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment, or NAIRU. If unemployment fell below NAIRU, inflation would start rising uncontrollably as businesses were forced to pay workers more and more. At the time, NAIRU was purportedly 5.5 percent, while later estimates placed it somewhat higher. This meant that whenever unemployment was getting too low, the Federal Reserve had to step in and strangle the economy until lots of people were thrown out of work.[5]

      Naturally, that “non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment” (NAIRU) was set at a level higher than that actually proved necessary to avoid inflation.[6] And the idea of long-term unemployment is to ensure that workers are terrified of ending up in,[7] well, a situation pretty much like mine, consigned to lifelong poverty and financial insecurity.[8] The very fact of my misery reinforces conformity[9] and helps the rich to feel more secure.

  4. May 10, 2021, 9:20 am:

    • When, I first wrote in my page on my job hunt that the job hunt process seemed to be a scam, I did so based on my own experience, in combination with a recognition that, then, nearly twenty years of failure could not solely be my own, that something else had to be going on.[10] Even when I first wrote yesterday’s blog post, noting the discrepancy between capitalist cries of a “labor shortage” and my own ongoing experience of the labor market, I was really rather mystified as to what that something else was.[11]

      Then I found Jon Schwarz’ article in the Intercept, making clear that capitalist cries of a “labor shortage” or a “worker shortage” date back to slavery, that they are not so much about an actual shortage of workers as they are about ensuring that those workers will be paid as little as possible and about maintaining the power relationship that ensures worker devaluation. Schwarz[12] is not the first to draw a connection between capitalism and slavery; indeed, the former has its roots firmly embedded in the latter.[13] Nor would Schwarz[14] be the first to point to a stigmatized class of people, preserved in destitution, as a means of social control,[15] ultimately to protect the position and power of an economic and political elite.[16]

      My failures remain my failures. I cannot sell; anything I attempt to sell or market is doomed. Which, even as this only partly explains the failure of my job hunt, also dooms any attempt I might make at entrepreneurship, including, by the way, writing a book, an action which these days requires authors to market their work.

      So even as I now understand the labor market as intentionally rigged to keep me, as a member of a class of people, destitute, I remain stuck in a situation I find intolerable and, with a Ph.D., profoundly unjust. I need to do something, even as with Robert Merton, I understand that I am being denied socially approved means to socially approved ends.[17] I have to do something. Because this is not okay.


Pittsburgh

I’m seeing a lot of yard signs for Ed Gainey in Pittsburgh’s mayoral race. Even in relatively affluent neighborhoods like Squirrel Hill.

I should say something about the rather unscientific methodology here: First, yard signs, campaign posters, bumper stickers, and the like, are a measure of enthusiastic support. Extrapolating from the prevalence of these signs to predict results assumes that a measure of enthusiastic support consistently reflects broader support. I’ll return to this point.

Second, these indications can vary over time: Notably, if, a year in advance of last November’s election, one had taken campaign flags as indicative, Donald Trump would have carried Allegheny County by a landslide. Actually, Joe Biden won the county handily,[18] and frankly by a larger margin than I would have expected judging from the conversations in my car as an Uber/Lyft driver (an observer skew). A lot of those flags are flying today, a full six months after the election.

Which brings me back to the first point: Trump’s support is disproportionately loud and persistent. My methodology, such as it is, fails there for that very reason.

But it’s been a little too obvious, I think, that Bill Peduto has neglected poorer neighborhoods in favor of well-off ones, that he’s coming up short in response to Black Lives Matter protests, and that he thinks catering to the well-heeled is the way to serve the poor.[19]

My guess right now would have to be that Gainey will win the Democratic Primary on May 18, which almost certainly means he’ll be elected mayor in the November general election. But absolutely, you should take this with a grain of salt.

Of course, I’d prefer a Green Party candidate, and would vote accordingly if I were a Pittsburgh voter, but there just might be a sliver of hope for the city after all.



Gig economy

Nandita Bose, “Analysis: U.S. Labor Secretary’s next move on gig workers likely to include company probes – experts,” Reuters, May 7, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/business/us-labor-secretarys-next-move-gig-workers-likely-include-company-probes-experts-2021-05-07/

Faiz Siddiqui, “Where have all the Uber drivers gone?” Washington Post, May 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/05/07/uber-lyft-drivers/


Gun nuttery

Adam Gopnik, “The New, Conservative Supreme Court Is Returning to the Second Amendment,” New Yorker, May 7, 2021, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-new-conservative-supreme-court-is-returning-to-the-second-amendment


Unemployment

I’m seeing in lots of places an idea that, by making it easier for the unemployed to remain unemployed, Joe Biden’s stimulus is to blame for low wage companies’ failure to hire more workers, despite highly visible advertising around retail establishments. The idea that maybe these companies should actually pay higher wages—you know, supply and demand[20]—is clearly heresy and I should be struck down by the great god of capitalism with a bolt of lightning for even thinking the thought.

[M]uch of Friday’s data is inconsistent with the “labor shortage” story. For one thing, the labor supply actually expanded last month — the number of Americans looking for work increased by 430,000. If the primary constraint on job growth was the welfare-induced shiftlessness of America’s non-employed, we would expect to see labor-force participation remain stagnant or fall. For another thing, leisure and hospitality — the sector most sensitive to a welfare-induced labor shortage, due to its relatively low wages and the large number of former food-service workers eligible for UI — added more jobs in April than it had in March. The headline jobs number was not depressed by tepid restaurant hiring, but by large job declines for couriers and grocery-store workers, and small ones in manufacturing and retail. Finally, although wages rose in April, they didn’t rise by much. Were employers suffering from a severe labor shortage, we’d expect to see more upward pressure on both wages and prices.[21]

On the other hand, supply chain problems and the lack of available child care might be real problems.[22] But you know, capitalists just want to fucking whine[23] and it isn’t like they’re willing to hire me. Even now.[24]

Eric Levitz, “5 Explanations for April’s Bad Jobs Report,” New York, May 7, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/05/jobs-report-explained-ui-childcare-seasonal-adjustment.html

Heather Long, “It’s not a ‘labor shortage.’ It’s a great reassessment of work in America,” Washington Post, May 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/05/07/jobs-report-labor-shortage-analysis/

Jon Schwarz, “The Business Class Has Been Fearmongering About Worker Shortages for Centuries,” Intercept, May 7, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/05/07/worker-shortage-slavery-capitalism/


  1. [1]Erin Banco, “CDC: Vaccinated Americans can now travel,” Politico, April 2, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/02/cdc-vaccinated-americans-can-now-travel-478928; Lena H. Sun, “CDC says fully vaccinated Americans can go without masks outdoors, except in crowded settings,” Washington Post, April 27, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/04/27/cdc-guidance-masks-outdoors/; Lena H. Sun and Lenny Bernstein, “Fully vaccinated people can visit with nearby grandchildren, dine indoors with one another, CDC says,” Washington Post, March 8, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/03/08/vaccinated-people-cdc-guidance/; John Torres, “‘Vaccine passports’: Will they be available in the U.S. in time for summer?” NBC News, March 14, 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/vaccine-passports-will-they-be-available-u-s-time-summer-n1261022; Laurel Wamsley, “Florida Gov. DeSantis Rejects Vaccine Passports As ‘Completely Unacceptable,’” National Public Radio, March 30, 2021, https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/03/30/982837517/florida-gov-desantis-rejects-vaccine-passports-as-completely-unacceptable
  2. [2]Eric Levitz, “5 Explanations for April’s Bad Jobs Report,” New York, May 7, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/05/jobs-report-explained-ui-childcare-seasonal-adjustment.html; Heather Long, “It’s not a ‘labor shortage.’ It’s a great reassessment of work in America,” Washington Post, May 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/05/07/jobs-report-labor-shortage-analysis/; Jon Schwarz, “The Business Class Has Been Fearmongering About Worker Shortages for Centuries,” Intercept, May 7, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/05/07/worker-shortage-slavery-capitalism/
  3. [3]Jon Schwarz, “The Business Class Has Been Fearmongering About Worker Shortages for Centuries,” Intercept, May 7, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/05/07/worker-shortage-slavery-capitalism/
  4. [4]Jon Schwarz, “The Business Class Has Been Fearmongering About Worker Shortages for Centuries,” Intercept, May 7, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/05/07/worker-shortage-slavery-capitalism/
  5. [5]Jon Schwarz, “The Business Class Has Been Fearmongering About Worker Shortages for Centuries,” Intercept, May 7, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/05/07/worker-shortage-slavery-capitalism/
  6. [6]Jon Schwarz, “The Business Class Has Been Fearmongering About Worker Shortages for Centuries,” Intercept, May 7, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/05/07/worker-shortage-slavery-capitalism/
  7. [7]Herbert J. Gans, The War Against The Poor (New York: Basic, 1995).
  8. [8]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  9. [9]Herbert J. Gans, The War Against The Poor (New York: Basic, 1995).
  10. [10]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  11. [11]David Benfell, “About that alleged ‘labor shortage,’” Not Housebroken, May 9, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/05/09/about-that-alleged-labor-shortage/
  12. [12]Jon Schwarz, “The Business Class Has Been Fearmongering About Worker Shortages for Centuries,” Intercept, May 7, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/05/07/worker-shortage-slavery-capitalism/
  13. [13]Sven Beckert, “Slavery and Capitalism,” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 12, 2014, https://www.chronicle.com/article/SlaveryCapitalism/150787/
  14. [14]Jon Schwarz, “The Business Class Has Been Fearmongering About Worker Shortages for Centuries,” Intercept, May 7, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/05/07/worker-shortage-slavery-capitalism/
  15. [15]Herbert J. Gans, The War Against The Poor (New York: Basic, 1995).
  16. [16]David Benfell, “A constitutional oligarchy: Deconstructing Federalist No. 10,” Not Housebroken, March 23, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/22/a-constitutional-oligarchy-deconstructing-federalist-no-10/
  17. [17]Robert K. Merton, “Social Structure and Anomie,” in Social Theory, ed. Charles Lemert, 6th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2017), 181-190.
  18. [18]“November 3, 2020, General Election Official Results,” November 25, 2020, https://results.enr.clarityelections.com/PA/Allegheny/106267/web.264614/#/summary
  19. [19]Lisa Cunningham, “Mayor Peduto, please stop equating Pittsburgh protesters with the ‘Radical Right,’” Pittsburgh City Paper, January 21, 2021, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/mayor-peduto-please-stop-equating-pittsburgh-protesters-with-the-radical-right/Content?oid=18780489; Tom Davidson, “Peduto challenger Ed Gainey: Fewer words, more action needed from next mayor of Pittsburgh,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 22, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/peduto-challenger-ed-gainey-fewer-words-more-action-needed-from-next-mayor-of-pittsburgh/; Tom Davidson, “Ed Gainey floats plan to resume battle with UPMC as mayoral candidates tout endorsements,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 23, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/ed-gainey-floats-plan-to-resume-battle-with-upmc-as-mayoral-candidates-tout-endorsements/; Chris Potter, “State Rep. Ed Gainey To Challenge Peduto In Mayoral Race,” WESA, January 19, 2021, https://www.wesa.fm/post/state-rep-ed-gainey-challenge-peduto-mayoral-race
  20. [20]Eric Levitz, “5 Explanations for April’s Bad Jobs Report,” New York, May 7, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/05/jobs-report-explained-ui-childcare-seasonal-adjustment.html; Heather Long, “It’s not a ‘labor shortage.’ It’s a great reassessment of work in America,” Washington Post, May 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/05/07/jobs-report-labor-shortage-analysis/
  21. [21]Eric Levitz, “5 Explanations for April’s Bad Jobs Report,” New York, May 7, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/05/jobs-report-explained-ui-childcare-seasonal-adjustment.html
  22. [22]Eric Levitz, “5 Explanations for April’s Bad Jobs Report,” New York, May 7, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/05/jobs-report-explained-ui-childcare-seasonal-adjustment.html; Heather Long, “It’s not a ‘labor shortage.’ It’s a great reassessment of work in America,” Washington Post, May 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/05/07/jobs-report-labor-shortage-analysis/
  23. [23]David Benfell, “Capitalists are shameless in their entitlement,” Not Housebroken, May 3, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/04/18/capitalists-are-shameless-in-their-entitlement/
  24. [24]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/

Joe Biden’s epiphany

Joe Biden

How it started . . . and how it’s going. . . .

Fig. 1. Composite of screenshots by author, May 7, 2021, of articles when Joe Biden expected a Republican “epiphany”[1] and when it finally dawns on him that this is not forthcoming.[2]

I was far from the only one to think it ludicrous[3] when Joe Biden declared that the Republicans would have an “epiphany” following his victory.[4] Even a more measured approach to the claim, attempting to show how it might happen, turned on a recognition that they might and probably would not.[5] Now, finally, Joe Biden admits he’s perplexed by the Republicans, who seem as determined to stop him as they were Barack Obama.[6]

[Joe] Biden has watched as post-Trump Republicans, far from reverting to their previous identity, have instead embraced the ex-president with increased fervor. Republican leaders are punishing those who reject the falsehood that [Donald] Trump won the election; journeying regularly to his home at Mar-a-Lago; and preparing to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the third-ranking House Republican, for declining to say that Trump won. . . .

“One-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration,” [Mitch] McConnell said on Wednesday, adding that Biden and the Democrats want “to turn America into a socialist country, and that’s 100 percent of my focus.”

That was reminiscent of McConnell’s comment in 2010 that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”[7]

It should, at this point, following an attempted coup at the U.S. Capitol meant to keep Donald Trump in power,[8] be the most anodyne of observations that losers no longer accept their defeats, that elections in the U.S. no longer resolve anything.

Such, one might suggest, is the morality of polarization, where anything “we” do is blessed, solely by virtue of the fact “we” have done it, and anything “they” do is damned, solely by virtue of the fact “they” have done it. It is difficult to imagine how differences can be resolved when each side views the other as irredeemably evil.[9] Which is pretty much where we are.[10]

Matt Viser, “Biden once asserted Republicans would have an ‘epiphany.’ Now he admits he doesn’t understand them,” Washington Post, May 6, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-once-asserted-republicans-would-have-an-epiphany-now-he-admits-he-doesnt-understand-them/2021/05/06/a8204a84-ae77-11eb-acd3-24b44a57093a_story.html


  1. [1]Eric Bradner and Gregory Krieg, “Joe Biden predicts a post-Trump ‘epiphany’ for Republicans,” CNN, May 14, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/14/politics/joe-biden-republicans-trump-epiphany/index.html
  2. [2]Matt Viser, “Biden once asserted Republicans would have an ‘epiphany.’ Now he admits he doesn’t understand them,” Washington Post, May 6, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-once-asserted-republicans-would-have-an-epiphany-now-he-admits-he-doesnt-understand-them/2021/05/06/a8204a84-ae77-11eb-acd3-24b44a57093a_story.html
  3. [3]Moira Donegan, “What does Biden have in common with Trump? Delusional nostalgia,” Guardian, June 21, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/21/joe-biden-trump-sexism-delusional-nostalgia; Matt Ford, “Someone Please Tell Joe Biden That Bipartisanship Is Dead,” New Republic, June 12, 2019, https://newrepublic.com/article/154183/someone-please-tell-joe-biden-bipartisanship-dead; Paul Waldman, “Joe Biden still hasn’t learned the lessons of the Obama presidency,” Washington Post, December 6, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/12/06/joe-biden-still-hasnt-learned-lessons-obama-presidency/
  4. [4]Eric Bradner and Gregory Krieg, “Joe Biden predicts a post-Trump ‘epiphany’ for Republicans,” CNN, May 14, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/14/politics/joe-biden-republicans-trump-epiphany/index.html
  5. [5]Perry Bacon, Jr., “Does Biden Really Think Republicans Will Work With Him? And Could He Be Right?” FiveThirtyEight, January 19, 2021, https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/does-biden-really-think-republicans-will-work-with-him-and-could-he-be-right/
  6. [6]Matt Viser, “Biden once asserted Republicans would have an ‘epiphany.’ Now he admits he doesn’t understand them,” Washington Post, May 6, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-once-asserted-republicans-would-have-an-epiphany-now-he-admits-he-doesnt-understand-them/2021/05/06/a8204a84-ae77-11eb-acd3-24b44a57093a_story.html
  7. [7]Matt Viser, “Biden once asserted Republicans would have an ‘epiphany.’ Now he admits he doesn’t understand them,” Washington Post, May 6, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-once-asserted-republicans-would-have-an-epiphany-now-he-admits-he-doesnt-understand-them/2021/05/06/a8204a84-ae77-11eb-acd3-24b44a57093a_story.html
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Riot or insurrection? Lies or madness?” Not Housebroken, January 22, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/01/12/riot-or-insurrection-lies-or-madness/
  9. [9]David Benfell, “The morality of polarization,” Not Housebroken, December 23, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/09/21/the-morality-of-polarization/
  10. [10]David Benfell, “Pure poison,” Not Housebroken, March 14, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/12/17/pure-poison/

What Donald Trump should be required to do to have his Facebook privileges restored (Update #3)

There is a new blog post entitled, “Thirteen years vegan.”


Updates

  1. Originally published, May 5, 2021, at 10:51 am.

  2. May 6, 2021, 5:44 am:

    • Three federal judges have now struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium on evictions and three have upheld it.[1]

    • It seems there are also problems with manufacturing capability—mRNA vaccines require special technology to produce—and a potential competition for ingredients,[2] but

      The Biden administration on Wednesday threw its support behind a controversial proposal to waive intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines, with liberals framing it as a necessary bid to speed the shots to billions in the developing world, while the drug industry warned of devastating effects to vaccine production.

      U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the United States will now move forward with international discussions to waive the protections for the duration of the pandemic. U.S. officials helped block a World Trade Organization proposal that was introduced last year to stop enforcing patents for coronavirus-related medical products. Dozens of developing countries have pushed for the proposal, arguing that it would allow them to rapidly produce their own generic vaccines, rather than wait months or years for sufficient doses.[3]

      The final agreement may also look rather different from what’s presently proposed.[4]

    • I’m not sure precisely when I first heard that a human can only maintain up to 150 stable friendships at a time. I think I was a little suspicious because that source seemed like popularized science. But I subsequently heard the number in other places so I ceased to doubt it.

      Now it turns out that the method, an extrapolation from primate neocortex size, used to derive that number, Dunbar’s number, may not be valid, and that the number may be far smaller and, crucially, not fixed: “‘Specifying any one number is futile,” the researchers write in their study. ‘A cognitive limit on human group size cannot be derived in this manner.’”[5]

  3. May 6, 2021, 11:38 am:

    • Environmental Health News (EHN) has a story[6] about U.S. Steel’s decision to shut down three of the worst-polluting coke batteries at its Clairton Works rather than fulfill a promise to upgrade them to be more environmentally friendly.[7]

      Unlike the previous coverage which buried this information much further down in the story,[8] EHN’s story highlights that U.S. Steel will instead invest in a nonunion plant in Arkansas. The story cites a litany of broken promises[9] in a region where U.S. Steel’s operations in Clairton and Braddock are an ongoing principal cause of air pollution and associated health problems.[10] It’s a lengthy—very lengthy—history,[11] which only reinforces my conviction that U.S. Steel cannot be trusted, the plants should close, the facilities should be razed, and replaced with something of actual benefit to local residents who now bear the brunt of health risks.[12]

      A narrative is apparent in all of this that pits jobs, some of which will be lost in Pittsburgh, against the environment. But what I notice as an Uber and Lyft driver is not that Braddock residents work at the Edgar Thomson Works or that Clairton residents work at the Clairton Works. The workers at these plants live—and raise their families—well away from these major sources of air pollution. They don’t even live in the Monongahela River Valley (“Mon Valley”). It’s the poor in surrounding communities who bear the brunt of this pollution.[13] So what’s missing from this narrative is a pitting, really, of the poor, mostly of color, against labor.

      That we don’t talk about the latter doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Or that it isn’t just how the elites like it.[14]

    • Okay, so it’s a fundraising pitch from Ocean Conservancy. But jeez, this photograph, just in time and, yes, exploiting Mother’s Day (figure 1):

      Fig. 1. Uncredited photograph allegedly in the public domain, via Ocean Conservancy.[15]


Gig work

Eric Morath, “Biden Blocks Trump-Era Gig-Worker Rule,” Wall Street Journal, May 5, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/biden-blocks-trump-era-gig-worker-rule-11620219168


Donald Trump

Donald Trump built his presidency around hatred and vitriol toward subaltern groups. His followers loved it; campaign flags, banners, and bumper stickers all proclaimed, “Fuck Your Feelings,”[16] and “Make A Liberal Cry.” When this wasn’t enough to win the November 2020 general election, it culminated in a coup attempt meant to keep Trump in power on January 6, 2021.[17] Social media networks responded by banning and suspending Trump.[18]

Today, Facebook’s oversight board upheld the decision to suspend Trump but also ruled that the network lacked clear criteria for an indefinite suspension. The company will have to revisit its decision.[19]

It seems to me the question should come down to whether we see Trump’s abusive behavior as part of an “immutable essence” in George Lakoff’s critical father model or if it is possible for Trump to redeem himself, as in Lakoff’s nurturant parent model.[20] The key here should be that Trump does not get get an automatic restoration of his Facebook privileges; he must actually redeem himself, demonstrating that he will be better behaved in the future.

In at least part, that should mean a repudiation of hatred and violence. It should mean a repudiation not only of “Fuck Your Feelings” and “Make A Liberal Cry,” but of the sheer hypocrisy of those slogans.[21]

Do I think it likely Trump will indeed redeem himself? Of course not. And that’s really the point: Trump needs to win over skeptics before he should ever be allowed a megaphone on social media again.

Elizabeth Dwoskin and Cat Zakrzewski, “Facebook’s Oversight Board upheld the social network’s decision to ban Trump,” Washington Post, May 5, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/05/05/facebook-trump-decision/


Pandemic

Dan Diamond, Tyler Pager, and Jeff Stein, “Biden commits to waiving vaccine patents, driving wedge with pharmaceutical companies,” Washington Post, May 5, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/05/05/biden-waives-vaccine-patents/


Friendship

Peter Dockrill, “Human Brain Limit of ‘150 Friends’ Doesn’t Check Out, New Study Claims,” Science Alert, May 5, 2021, https://www.sciencealert.com/human-brain-limit-of-150-friends-doesn-t-check-out-scientists-say


  1. [1]Kyle Swenson, “Federal judge vacates CDC’s nationwide eviction moratorium,” Washington Post, May 5, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/05/05/federal-judge-vacates-cdcs-nationwide-eviction-moratorium/
  2. [2]Dan Diamond, Tyler Pager, and Jeff Stein, “Biden commits to waiving vaccine patents, driving wedge with pharmaceutical companies,” Washington Post, May 5, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/05/05/biden-waives-vaccine-patents/
  3. [3]Dan Diamond, Tyler Pager, and Jeff Stein, “Biden commits to waiving vaccine patents, driving wedge with pharmaceutical companies,” Washington Post, May 5, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/05/05/biden-waives-vaccine-patents/
  4. [4]Dan Diamond, Tyler Pager, and Jeff Stein, “Biden commits to waiving vaccine patents, driving wedge with pharmaceutical companies,” Washington Post, May 5, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/05/05/biden-waives-vaccine-patents/
  5. [5]Peter Dockrill, “Human Brain Limit of ‘150 Friends’ Doesn’t Check Out, New Study Claims,” Science Alert, May 5, 2021, https://www.sciencealert.com/human-brain-limit-of-150-friends-doesn-t-check-out-scientists-say
  6. [6]Kristina Marusic, “U.S. Steel abandons clean tech plans in Pittsburgh region following damning health study,” Environmental Health News, May 6, 2021, https://www.ehn.org/us-steel-pittsburgh-pollution-asthma-2652882219/residents-at-risk-and-in-the-dark
  7. [7]Oliver Morrison, “‘Today is a difficult day.’ U.S. Steel announces closure of several of Clairton’s ‘dirtiest’ coke oven batteries,” Public Source, April 30, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/mon-valley-clairton-us-steel-coke-works-pollution-f-grade-air-quality/
  8. [8]Oliver Morrison, “‘Today is a difficult day.’ U.S. Steel announces closure of several of Clairton’s ‘dirtiest’ coke oven batteries,” Public Source, April 30, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/mon-valley-clairton-us-steel-coke-works-pollution-f-grade-air-quality/
  9. [9]Kristina Marusic, “U.S. Steel abandons clean tech plans in Pittsburgh region following damning health study,” Environmental Health News, May 6, 2021, https://www.ehn.org/us-steel-pittsburgh-pollution-asthma-2652882219/residents-at-risk-and-in-the-dark
  10. [10]Jessi Quinn Alperin, “Clairton, PA, wants to be clear: Residents demand accountability from U.S. Steel,” Environmental Health News, May 13, 2019,
    https://www.ehn.org/clairton-coke-works-air-pollution-2636784943.html; Ollie Gratzinger, “Allegheny County issues another fine to US Steel for air pollution violation,” Pittsburgh City Paper, January 17, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/allegheny-county-issues-another-fine-to-us-steel-for-air-pollution-violation/Content?oid=16576925; KDKA, “Allegheny Co. Health Department Joins Federal Suit Against U.S. Steel,” June 18, 2019, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2019/06/18/allegheny-county-health-department-suit-against-us-steel/; KDKA, “‘It’s Making Clairton Sick’: Poor Air Quality Impacting Clairton, Liberty Areas,” December 23, 2019, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2019/12/23/air-quality-impacting-clairton-liberty-areas/; Hannah Lynn, “Report: Pittsburgh ranked 8th worst for air pollution among US cities,” Pittsburgh City Paper, April 22, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/report-pittsburgh-ranked-8th-worst-for-air-pollution-among-us-cities/Content?oid=17179037; Kris Maher, “Pittsburgh Breathes Easier After Repairs at U.S. Steel Coke Plant,” Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/pittsburgh-breathes-easier-after-repairs-at-u-s-steel-coke-plant-11558872000; Kris Maher, “U.S. Steel Suffers New Fire Knocking Out Pollution Controls in Plant Near Pittsburgh,” Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-steel-suffers-new-fire-knocking-out-pollution-controls-in-plant-near-pittsburgh-11560795102; Jamie Martines, “U.S. Steel facing a 2nd federal lawsuit tied to December fire at Clairton Plant,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 26, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/u-s-steel-facing-a-2nd-federal-lawsuit-tied-to-december-fire-at-clairton-plant/; Jamie Martines, “Settlement over bad air in Clairton calls for U.S. Steel to cough up $2 million,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 11, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/settlement-over-bad-air-in-clairton-calls-for-u-s-steel-to-cough-up-2-million/; Jamie Martines, “U.S. Steel to hold info sessions about Clairton, Braddock plant upgrades,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 27, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/u-s-steel-to-hold-info-sessions-about-clairton-braddock-plant-upgrades/; Jamie Martines, “U.S. Steel, Allegheny County finalize Clairton Coke Works emissions settlement,” Tribune-Review, February 10, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/u-s-steel-and-allegheny-county-finalize-clairton-coke-works-emissions-settlement/; Kristina Marusic, “Pittsburgh’s air quality continues to decline, new report finds,” Environmental Health News, April 24, 2019, https://www.ehn.org/pittsburghs-air-quality-continues-to-decline-new-report-finds-2635280543.html; Kristina Marusic, “Pittsburgh’s air was unsafe to breathe for 3 months in 2018,” Environmental Health News, January 28, 2020, https://www.ehn.org/pittsburgh-air-pollution-unsafe-2644931105.html; Kristina Marusic, “Environmental injustice in Pittsburgh: Poor, minority neighborhoods see higher rates of deaths from air pollution,” Environmental Health News, June 12, 2020, https://www.ehn.org/environmental-injustice-pittsburgh-air-pollution-2646169635.html; Oliver Morrison, “Mon Valley air was the healthiest it’s ever been in 2020; region still receives an ‘F’ grade,” Public Source, April 21, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/2020-pittsburgh-air-pollution-allegheny-county-clairton-steel/; Andy Sheehan, “Air Quality In Mon Valley Once Again Hits Unhealthy Levels,” KDKA, February 24, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/02/24/mon-valley-air-quality-unhealthy-levels/; Teghan Simonton, “Health department: Air pollution in Mon Valley exceeded federal levels over Christmas,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 27, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/health-department-air-pollution-in-mon-valley-exceeded-federal-levels-over-christmas/; WTAE, “U.S. Steel, health department have deal to settle 2018 air pollution violations at Clairton Coke Works,” June 28, 2019, https://www.wtae.com/article/us-steel-reaches-agreement-with-health-department-to-resolve-enforcement-orders-at-clairton-coke-works/28221648; WTAE, “Allegheny Co. Health Department announces fines against U.S. Steel for violations at Clairton Coke Works,” May 28, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/allegheny-co-health-department-announces-fines-against-us-steel-for-violations-at-clairton-coke-works/32702736
  11. [11]Kristina Marusic, “U.S. Steel abandons clean tech plans in Pittsburgh region following damning health study,” Environmental Health News, May 6, 2021, https://www.ehn.org/us-steel-pittsburgh-pollution-asthma-2652882219/residents-at-risk-and-in-the-dark
  12. [12]David Benfell, “The old, the filthy, and the decrepit,” Not Housebroken, May 1, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/02/25/the-old-the-filthy-and-the-decrepit/
  13. [13]KDKA, “‘It’s Making Clairton Sick’: Poor Air Quality Impacting Clairton, Liberty Areas,” December 23, 2019, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2019/12/23/air-quality-impacting-clairton-liberty-areas/; Jamie Martines, “Settlement over bad air in Clairton calls for U.S. Steel to cough up $2 million,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 11, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/settlement-over-bad-air-in-clairton-calls-for-u-s-steel-to-cough-up-2-million/; Kristina Marusic, “Environmental injustice in Pittsburgh: Poor, minority neighborhoods see higher rates of deaths from air pollution,” Environmental Health News, June 12, 2020, https://www.ehn.org/environmental-injustice-pittsburgh-air-pollution-2646169635.html; Oliver Morrison, “Mon Valley air was the healthiest it’s ever been in 2020; region still receives an ‘F’ grade,” Public Source, April 21, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/2020-pittsburgh-air-pollution-allegheny-county-clairton-steel/; Andy Sheehan, “Air Quality In Mon Valley Once Again Hits Unhealthy Levels,” KDKA, February 24, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/02/24/mon-valley-air-quality-unhealthy-levels/; Teghan Simonton, “Health department: Air pollution in Mon Valley exceeded federal levels over Christmas,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 27, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/health-department-air-pollution-in-mon-valley-exceeded-federal-levels-over-christmas/
  14. [14]David Benfell, “We ‘need to know how it works,’” Not Housebroken, March 19, 2012, https://disunitedstates.org/2012/03/19/we-need-to-know-how-it-works/
  15. [15]Katie Hogge, “5 Photos That Prove Seabirds and Shorebirds Make Amazing Moms,” Ocean Currents, January 21, 2020, https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2020/01/21/5-photos-prove-seabirds-shorebirds-make-amazing-moms/
  16. [16]David Benfell, “The Donald Trump supporters’ campaign message: Fuck Your Feelings,” Not Housebroken, December 11, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/08/26/the-donald-trump-supporters-campaign-message-fuck-your-feelings/
  17. [17]David Benfell, “Riot or insurrection? Lies or madness?” Not Housebroken, January 22, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/01/12/riot-or-insurrection-lies-or-madness/
  18. [18]Rachel Lerman, “Trump has been suspended from YouTube,” Washington Post, January 13, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/01/12/trump-youtube-ban/; Margi Murphy, “Facebook, Instagram and Twitter lock Donald Trump’s accounts after praise for Capitol Hill rioters,” Telegraph, January 7, 2021, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2021/01/06/calls-twitter-facebook-mute-donald-trump-violence-breaks-capitol/; Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin, “Trump banned from Facebook indefinitely, CEO Mark Zuckerberg says,” Washington Post, January 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-resignations-25th-amendment/2021/01/07/e131ce10-50a3-11eb-bda4-615aaefd0555_story.html; Nitasha Tiku, Tony Romm, and Craig Timberg, “Twitter bans Trump’s account, citing risk of further violence,” Washington Post, January 8, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/01/08/twitter-trump-dorsey/
  19. [19]Elizabeth Dwoskin and Cat Zakrzewski, “Facebook’s Oversight Board upheld the social network’s decision to ban Trump,” Washington Post, May 5, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/05/05/facebook-trump-decision/
  20. [20]George Lakoff, Moral Politics, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2002).
  21. [21]David Benfell, “The Donald Trump supporters’ campaign message: Fuck Your Feelings,” Not Housebroken, December 11, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/08/26/the-donald-trump-supporters-campaign-message-fuck-your-feelings/

COVID-19 will still be with us for a very long time (Update #2)

Updates

  1. Originally published, May 3, 2021.
  2. May 3, 2021, 11:55 pm:
    • So if I’m understanding the story correctly, that is, in a way the reporter seemingly does not intend, Schenectady’s mayor recruited a bunch of Guyanese migrants to be slumlords. And now these slumlords are having trouble collecting the rent,[1] because tenants who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic aren’t earning any money to pay them.[2] These guys aren’t big corporations that find it easy to challenge and evade eviction restrictions.[3] But they’re far from saints:

      “It’s a disaster, but what can we do? ” [Romeo] Budhoo said, and the other landlords started talking about how they dealt with delinquent tenants. Some were trading cash for keys. Some were cutting off their own heat or vandalizing their houses, hoping to make them so uninhabitable that tenants would leave. Others had stopped renting out vacant properties during the moratorium, believing it was better to lose income than to risk taking on a tenant who couldn’t be forced to pay.

      Then one of the landlords started to tell the story of what he called an “involuntary eviction” that had happened a few weeks earlier in Albany, where a landlord had become incensed after trying and failing to evict his tenants for months. The landlord had broken into his own apartment early on a Sunday morning, held the tenants at gunpoint, restrained them with zip ties, hauled them out of his apartment, and then deposited them at a cemetery 30 miles from the property.

      “When you kick a dog, eventually it’s going to bite,” one of the landlords said.

      “That guy’s a hero,” said another.[4]

      Except possibly for the kidnapping,[5] these landlords’ tactics are not unlike those being deployed around the country.[6] The simple fact is they’re capitalists. They’re losing. They’re whining. They feel entitled. They expect to be bailed out. Just like those other capitalists running fast food restaurants who think workers should be grateful for a minimum wage that doesn’t pay rent and hasn’t kept pace with productivity.[7] But the reporter, Eli Saslow, devotes most of his ink to a landlord’s whining.[8] Only a little space is given to the tenant:

      Alfonzo Hill watched from inside the house until the landlord walked back to his car. “Yeah, like you need my money,” Hill said after he watched the landlord drive his Mercedes up the block, and then he came outside, lit a cigarette and sat on the porch.

      He resented many things about life at 1042 Cutler: the two-foot hole in the bathroom ceiling, the lingering smell of the previous tenants’ dogs, the broken toilet that flushed only after he poured in a bucket of water. But what bothered him most was always having to repeat the same humiliations to the landlord about why he hadn’t paid, couldn’t pay, didn’t have any money to pay.[9]

      Whine, mother fucking capitalists, whine. Because your investments are so much more important than human lives.[10]


Pandemic

It looks like, even as some semblance of normalcy returns, COVID-19 will be with us for a very, very long time.[11] A short version is that as people refuse the vaccine or are difficult to reach to be vaccinated, COVID-19 variants have the opportunity to arise. Some may be more lethal. Some may be more contagious. Some may “break through” vaccines.[12]

The picture is complicated. A lot of people, including myself, may never know if we have been infected with COVID-19,[13] even if they—I have never been tested—were tested (at least when the tests were new).[14] To the extent we were infected and subsequently vaccinated, we may be more broadly immune to variants.[15] That, in turn, could eventually limit the ability of variants to spread.[16]

I had less severe side-effects with the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, suggesting a possibility that I might previously have been infected,[17] but there is a huge confounding variable in that, anticipating more severe side effects following the second dose,[18] I went home that afternoon instead of going right back to work as I had with the first dose. So the bottom line remains the same: I don’t know. And probably a lot of people in my risk categories won’t either.

“It’s really just kind of a reflection of how unique each of our systems are, what other immunities we have,” Dr. Mark Loafman, chair of family and community medicine for Cook County Health in Illinois, told NBC 5. “Each of our immune systems is a mosaic composite of all that we’ve been through and all that we have and all we’ve recently been dealing with.”

“Our individual response varies,” Loafman said, but everybody experiences an “appropriate immune response” for their own body.[19]

It’d all be simpler if we could look forward to a day when COVID-19 was going away. But with so many people refusing to be vaccinated and with significant segments of the population that are difficult to reach, even when they are willing to be vaccinated, that’s looking less and less likely.[20]

Eli Saslow, “The battle for 1042 Cutler Street,” Washington Post, May 1, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/05/01/landlord-tenant-eviction-moratorium-pandemic/

Sally Robertson, “Previously infected vaccinees broadly neutralize SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern,” News-Medical, May 2, 2021, https://www.news-medical.net/news/20210502/Previously-infected-vaccinees-broadly-neutralize-SARS-CoV-2-variants-of-concern.aspx

Apoorva Mandavilli, “Reaching ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Unlikely in the U.S., Experts Now Believe,” New York Times, May 3, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/03/health/covid-herd-immunity-vaccine.html


  1. [1]Eli Saslow, “The battle for 1042 Cutler Street,” Washington Post, May 1, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/05/01/landlord-tenant-eviction-moratorium-pandemic/
  2. [2]Associated Press, “Tenants Behind on Rent in Pandemic Face Harassment, Eviction,” U.S. News and World Report, June 14, 2020, https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/virginia/articles/2020-06-13/tenants-behind-on-rent-in-pandemic-face-harassment-eviction; Regina Garcia Cano and Michael Casey, “Wave of evictions expected as moratoriums end in many states,” Associated Press, August 4, 2020, copy in possession of author; Kriston Capps, “What Happens When the Eviction Bans End?” CityLab, May 29, 2020, https://www.citylab.com/equity/2020/05/pay-rent-eviction-ban-coronavirus-housing-crisis-landlord/612277/; Andrew Khouri, “Depleted savings, ruined credit: What happens when all the rent comes due?” Los Angeles Times, February 2, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2021-02-02/rent-debt-worries-grow-covid-strains-tenants; Eric Levitz, “This Recession Is a Bigger Housing Crisis Than 2008,” New York, July 13, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/07/coronavirus-recession-evictions-crisis-congress.html; Heather Long, “Millions of Americans are heading into the holidays unemployed and over $5,000 behind on rent,” Washington Post, December 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/12/07/unemployed-debt-rent-utilities/; Renae Merle, “Evictions are likely to skyrocket this summer as jobs remain scarce. Black renters will be hard hit,” Washington Post, July 6, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/07/06/eviction-moratoriums-starwood/; Emma Ockerman, “The Tenant Uprising Is Here, and It’s Fierce,” Vice, August 7, 2020, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/7kpdyq/the-tenant-uprising-is-here-and-its-fierce; Will Parker, “Struggling Rental Market Could Usher in Next American Housing Crisis,” Wall Street Journal, October 27, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/struggling-rental-market-could-usher-in-next-american-housing-crisis-11603791000; Jenny Schuetz, “America’s inequitable housing system is completely unprepared for coronavirus,” Brookings, March 12, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2020/03/12/americas-inequitable-housing-system-is-completely-unprepared-for-coronavirus/
  3. [3]Kriston Capps, “Landlords Challenge U.S. Eviction Ban and Continue to Oust Renters,” CityLab, October 22, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-10-22/landlords-launch-legal-attack-on-cdc-eviction-ban; Gretchen Morgenson, “Large corporate landlords have filed 10,000 eviction actions in five states since September,” NBC News, October 26, 2020, https://www.nbcnews.com/business/personal-finance/large-corporate-landlords-have-filed-10-000-eviction-actions-five-n1244711; Kyle Swenson, “Renters thought a CDC order protected them from eviction. Then landlords found loopholes,” Washington Post, October 27, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2020/10/27/trump-cdc-eviction-moratorium-loopholes/
  4. [4]Eli Saslow, “The battle for 1042 Cutler Street,” Washington Post, May 1, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/05/01/landlord-tenant-eviction-moratorium-pandemic/
  5. [5]Eli Saslow, “The battle for 1042 Cutler Street,” Washington Post, May 1, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/05/01/landlord-tenant-eviction-moratorium-pandemic/
  6. [6]Associated Press, “Tenants Behind on Rent in Pandemic Face Harassment, Eviction,” U.S. News and World Report, June 14, 2020, https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/virginia/articles/2020-06-13/tenants-behind-on-rent-in-pandemic-face-harassment-eviction; Sam Levin, “California landlords are locking out struggling tenants. A ‘tsunami of evictions’ may be next,” Guardian, July 30, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/30/california-covid-19-evictions-landlords-tenants
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Capitalists are shameless in their entitlement,” Not Housebroken, April 18, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/04/18/capitalists-are-shameless-in-their-entitlement/
  8. [8]Eli Saslow, “The battle for 1042 Cutler Street,” Washington Post, May 1, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/05/01/landlord-tenant-eviction-moratorium-pandemic/
  9. [9]Eli Saslow, “The battle for 1042 Cutler Street,” Washington Post, May 1, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/05/01/landlord-tenant-eviction-moratorium-pandemic/
  10. [10]David Benfell, “Evictions in a pandemic,” Not Housebroken, March 11, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/03/11/evictions-in-a-pandemic/
  11. [11]Apoorva Mandavilli, “Reaching ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Unlikely in the U.S., Experts Now Believe,” New York Times, May 3, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/03/health/covid-herd-immunity-vaccine.html
  12. [12]Sally Robertson, “Previously infected vaccinees broadly neutralize SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern,” News-Medical, May 2, 2021, https://www.news-medical.net/news/20210502/Previously-infected-vaccinees-broadly-neutralize-SARS-CoV-2-variants-of-concern.aspx
  13. [13]Holly Yan, “5 common arguments for reopening the economy — and why experts say they are flawed,” CNN, May 11, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/11/us/reopening-the-economy-flawed-arguments-trnd/index.html
  14. [14]Steve Eder, Megan Twohey, and Apoorva Mandavilli, “Antibody Test, Seen as Key to Reopening Country, Does Not Yet Deliver,” New York Times, April 19, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/19/us/coronavirus-antibody-tests.html; Christopher Weaver, “Questions About Accuracy of Coronavirus Tests Sow Worry,” Wall Street Journal, April 2, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/questions-about-accuracy-of-coronavirus-tests-sow-worry-11585836001
  15. [15]Sally Robertson, “Previously infected vaccinees broadly neutralize SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern,” News-Medical, May 2, 2021, https://www.news-medical.net/news/20210502/Previously-infected-vaccinees-broadly-neutralize-SARS-CoV-2-variants-of-concern.aspx
  16. [16]Apoorva Mandavilli, “Reaching ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Unlikely in the U.S., Experts Now Believe,” New York Times, May 3, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/03/health/covid-herd-immunity-vaccine.html
  17. [17]Katie Camero, “If you’ve had COVID, your first vaccine dose may cause worse side effects. Here’s why,” Miami Herald, April 20, 2021, https://www.miamiherald.com/news/coronavirus/article250667914.html
  18. [18]David Benfell, “Medical apartheid and COVID-19 vaccinations,” Not Housebroken, April 4, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/03/26/medical-apartheid-and-covid-19-vaccinations/
  19. [19]Katie Camero, “If you’ve had COVID, your first vaccine dose may cause worse side effects. Here’s why,” Miami Herald, April 20, 2021, https://www.miamiherald.com/news/coronavirus/article250667914.html
  20. [20]Apoorva Mandavilli, “Reaching ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Unlikely in the U.S., Experts Now Believe,” New York Times, May 3, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/03/health/covid-herd-immunity-vaccine.html

Boris Johnson’s blunders

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has blundered his way into multiple scandals, nearly simultaneously,[1] just as an election is to be held on May 6, where the Tories now hold a diminished lead in the polls.[2]

Fig. 1. “The Unseen Sketch,” by Matt Pritchett, via a Telegraph newsletter, May 2, 2021, fair use.

To be honest, I haven’t been paying attention to any of it beyond letting the headlines scroll right on by. But things might be getting interesting in Britain.



Fig. 2. Photograph by author, February 7, 2020.

The tree in figure 2 is visibly dying. The needles have gone from mostly green—now that I look again, I see that some had a rust color even last year—to mostly orange yesterday, to brown today.


  1. [1]Jessica Elgot and Dan Sabbagh, “Boris Johnson is ‘constantly lobbied’ by text, sources admit,” Guardian, April 21, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/apr/21/business-leaders-and-politicians-regularly-text-boris-johnson-sources-admit; Andrew Rawnsley, “Why sleaze investigations are becoming more menacing for Boris Johnson,” Guardian, May 2, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/may/02/sleaze-allegations-becoming-more-menacing-for-boris-johnson
  2. [2]Toby Helm, Robyn Vinter and Michael Savage, “Tory poll lead slashed as key elections loom across Britain,” Guardian, May 1, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/may/01/tory-poll-lead-slashed-as-key-elections-loom-across-britain

Biden administration finally figures out that, gee, maybe we should help India after all?

India

The Biden administration has partly reversed[1] its earlier idiocy, in which it refused to allow exports of raw materials for vaccines to India.[2] The country faces utter calamity with a COVID-19 surge, and India’s government, which has diminished the severity of the problem, bears considerable blame.[3] The U.S. now promises both vaccines and the raw materials to manufacture those vaccines.[4]

Thomas Wright, “Biden’s Misstep in India,” Atlantic, April 28, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/04/bidens-misstep-in-india/618722/

Ananya Bhattacharya and Amanda Shendruk, “India’s incomplete Covid-19 data doesn’t begin to capture the crisis in Delhi,” Quartz, April 28, 2021, https://qz.com/india/2002082/the-dire-covid-19-hospital-bed-crisis-in-indias-capital-delhi/


Clairton

U.S. Steel, blaming permitting delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will close three of its dirtiest batteries at the Coke Works in Clairton instead of investing in an upgrade. Environmentalists welcomed the move but blamed the company, unions blamed the government, and the government insisted it had been supportive and tried to expedite the process.[5] I continue to believe the entire ugly mess should be shut down and razed.

Oliver Morrison, “‘Today is a difficult day.’ U.S. Steel announces closure of several of Clairton’s ‘dirtiest’ coke oven batteries,” Public Source, April 30, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/mon-valley-clairton-us-steel-coke-works-pollution-f-grade-air-quality/


  1. [1]Thomas Wright, “Biden’s Misstep in India,” Atlantic, April 28, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/04/bidens-misstep-in-india/618722/
  2. [2]Hindu, “U.S. defends restrictions on export of COVID-19 vaccine raw materials amid India’s request to lift ban,” April 23, 2021, https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/us-defends-restrictions-on-export-of-covid-19-vaccine-raw-materials-amid-indias-request-to-lift-ban/article34391251.ece
  3. [3]Rana Ayyub, “‘This Is Hell.’ Prime Minister Modi’s Failure to Lead Is Deepening India’s COVID-19 Crisis,” Time, April 23, 2021, https://time.com/5957118/india-covid-19-modi/; Ananya Bhattacharya and Amanda Shendruk, “India’s incomplete Covid-19 data doesn’t begin to capture the crisis in Delhi,” Quartz, April 28, 2021, https://qz.com/india/2002082/the-dire-covid-19-hospital-bed-crisis-in-indias-capital-delhi/; Nathan Jeffay, “The only real herd immunity is global: Why India’s COVID crisis threatens us all,” Times of Israel, April 29, 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/why-indias-covid-rampage-should-worry-israel-and-all-aiming-for-herd-immunity/; Shaikh Azizur Rahman and Emma Graham-Harrison, “India’s Covid death toll at record high, but true figure likely to be worse,” Guardian, April 24, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/24/indias-covid-death-toll-hides-stark-truth-for-the-poor-its-even-worse; Joanna Slater, “India’s devastating outbreak is driving the global coronavirus surge,” Washington Post, April 19, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/interactive/2021/india-covid-cases-surge/
  4. [4]Thomas Wright, “Biden’s Misstep in India,” Atlantic, April 28, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/04/bidens-misstep-in-india/618722/
  5. [5]Oliver Morrison, “‘Today is a difficult day.’ U.S. Steel announces closure of several of Clairton’s ‘dirtiest’ coke oven batteries,” Public Source, April 30, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/mon-valley-clairton-us-steel-coke-works-pollution-f-grade-air-quality/

A many-splendored gentrification

Pennsylvania

Lee Epstein, “I grew up in Pennsylvania coal country. It wasn’t pretty and it’s time to move on,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 26, 2021, https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/commentary/coal-mining-pennsylvania-environment-united-mine-workers-20210426.html


Pittsburgh

The story in aggregate is that average rent in Pittsburgh is $1,256, apparently down one percent from last year, with an average size of 812 square feet.[1] But the story in particular includes neighborhoods like Mexican War Streets (yes, really) and Lawrenceville where developers have bought old properties to upgrade them and attract well off folks, often from elsewhere, displacing people who have lived here all their lives.[2] My own answer is to move farther out, where lower rents can still be had, but for those inclined, that means a long Uber/Lyft ride to places like the South Side, where young people like to go do stupid stuff.

Kimberly Rooney, “How rising rents and renovations have displaced Pittsburghers and added to the city’s ongoing issues with gentrification,” Pittsburgh City Paper, April 28, 2021, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/how-rising-rents-and-renovations-have-displaced-pittsburghers-and-added-to-the-citys-ongoing-issues-with-gentrification/Content?oid=19360553


Pandemic

Nathan Jeffay, “The only real herd immunity is global: Why India’s COVID crisis threatens us all,” Times of Israel, April 29, 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/why-indias-covid-rampage-should-worry-israel-and-all-aiming-for-herd-immunity/


Ridesharing

Timothy B. Lee, “Uber, Lyft stocks plunge after Biden official says drivers are employees,” Ars Technica, April 29, 2021, https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2021/04/uber-lyft-stocks-plunge-after-biden-official-says-drivers-are-employees/


  1. [1]RentCafé, “Pittsburgh, PA Rental Market Trends,” March 2021, https://www.rentcafe.com/average-rent-market-trends/us/pa/pittsburgh/
  2. [2]Kimberly Rooney, “How rising rents and renovations have displaced Pittsburghers and added to the city’s ongoing issues with gentrification,” Pittsburgh City Paper, April 28, 2021, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/how-rising-rents-and-renovations-have-displaced-pittsburghers-and-added-to-the-citys-ongoing-issues-with-gentrification/Content?oid=19360553

The ‘idiots’ trying to save lives

Pandemic

I’m having trouble tracking this down, so it might have been a passenger, likely a nurse, who told me of COVID-19 patients on their deathbeds, still angrily denying COVID-19 and furiously calling their doctors and nurses—people risking their own lives trying to save theirs—idiots, even as they breathe their last.

I wish I had a good answer for the vaccine resistance on the right. I really don’t:

Only now it’s demand [for now-plentiful COVID-19 vaccines] that’s perhaps in short supply. Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster who has conducted focus groups to better understand vaccine hesitancy, said [Joe] Biden “has a long way to go” to convince more [Donald] Trump voters to get a shot.

“Biden doesn’t want to thank Trump, just as Trump doesn’t want to thank Biden,” he said. “If they would just compliment each other, lives would be saved.”

A kumbaya moment with Trump isn’t on the Biden administration’s to-do list. Instead officials have been networking with religious leaders and local doctors, hoping that community voices will be the most persuasive.

Lee Riley, chair of the infectious disease and vaccinology division at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, said the administration needs to do more of that, and avoid a “top-down approach” to encouraging vaccines.

“I don’t think they’re doing enough,” he said. “Instead of just talking about it, they really need to start going into the communities.”[1]

I doubt that Frank Luntz is right. It’s awfully, awfully hard to conceive of “thank[ing] Trump” after all the damage the latter did, the huge death toll in the U.S.—569,771 as of last night[2]—he is largely responsible for, with his COVID-19 denial and delusion, even after coming down with COVID-19 himself.[3]

Donald Trump supporters continue to fly their campaign flags around southwestern Pennsylvania, nearly six months after the election and nearly four months after a coup attempting to keep Trump in power;[4] To the extent the rage I see around Pittsburgh is more widespread,[5] I doubt they will listen to anyone besides their own conspiracy theorists.[6]

Chris Megerian, “Biden’s coronavirus success threatened by political divisions he pledged to heal,” Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2021-04-27/bidens-coronavirus-success-threatened-by-political-divisions-he-pledged-to-heal


Pennsylvania

Daniel Greenstein’s plan to merge six (out of fourteen) Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Universities into two institutions,[7] which I commented on,[8] was tentatively approved by the system’s Board of Governors, meaning a sixty-day period for public comment may begin. Students fear the plan will mean more online classes.[9]

Deb Erdley, “Pa. State System moves ahead with mergers of 6 universities, including California, Clarion, Edinboro,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 28, 2021, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/pa-moves-ahead-on-merger-of-6-universities-including-california-clarion-and-edinboro/


  1. [1]Chris Megerian, “Biden’s coronavirus success threatened by political divisions he pledged to heal,” Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2021-04-27/bidens-coronavirus-success-threatened-by-political-divisions-he-pledged-to-heal
  2. [2]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “COVID Data Tracker,” April 27, 2021, https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#datatracker-home
  3. [3]David Benfell, “On wishing the delusional raging narcissist-in-chief well,” Not Housebroken, October 16, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/10/03/on-wishing-the-delusional-raging-narcissist-in-chief-well/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Riot or insurrection? Lies or madness?” Not Housebroken, January 22, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/01/12/riot-or-insurrection-lies-or-madness/
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Hate, Pittsburgh Style,” Not Housebroken, April 6, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/04/06/hate-pittsburgh-style/
  6. [6]This determination to believe seems stronger than I could have imagined when I suggested that the vociferousness of Donald Trump’s supporters betrays doubt rather than certainty: David Benfell, “Doubting the ‘Fox News bubble,’” Not Housebroken, March 29, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/09/07/doubting-the-fox-news-bubble/
  7. [7]Lee Gardner, “A System Leader Sells His Vision for Remaking Public Higher Ed,” Chronicle of Higher Education, April 21, 2021, https://www.chronicle.com/article/a-system-leader-sells-his-vision-for-remaking-public-higher-ed
  8. [8]David Benfell, “The ideology of ‘competition’ and higher education,” Not Housebroken, April 22, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/04/22/the-ideology-of-competition-and-higher-education/
  9. [9]Deb Erdley, “Pa. State System moves ahead with mergers of 6 universities, including California, Clarion, Edinboro,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 28, 2021, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/pa-moves-ahead-on-merger-of-6-universities-including-california-clarion-and-edinboro/