Thinking of the Rawhide theme, but waiting, waiting, waiting instead of rolling, rolling, rolling

So, I’m starving to death and a delivery is late. Very late.

But supposedly they are on their way now. And yes, I’m in my new apartment. It’s actually a little bigger than I remembered and I actually have no walls that adjoin other tenants. On the noise front, I’ll be worried about my downstairs neighbors and the hall outside my door.


Updates

  1. Originally published, April 30, 4:55 pm.
  2. April 30, 10:42 pm:
    • The furniture did arrive. I now await my bed and an Internet connection. Those should arrive tomorrow.
    • Robert Mueller didn’t like William Barr’s letter about the report either.[1]
    • A judge ruled that Congress members’ emolument suit against Donald Trump may proceed.[2]

Cellular phones

Yes, be afraid. The science on potential hazards is incomplete.[3] Oh, and actually read the story rather than the headlines attached to it.

That doesn’t mean there’s actually a danger. It just means that we shouldn’t be over-confident that there is no danger. Which, of course, is a more nuanced answer than anyone wants to hear.

Margi Murphy, “The truth about whether your mobile phone is giving you cancer,” Telegraph, April 29, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2019/04/29/truth-whether-mobile-phone-damaging-health/


Gadgets

What I find especially infuriating are the beeps you can’t do anything about. On uninterruptible power supplies. I try to get bigger ones so I have some resilience to power outages—yes, I like to keep accessing the Internet during them. But there’s no way to tell it okay, I know there’s an outage, but I want to keep working for a little bit. I mean, this is what its battery is for.

Beth Teitell, “Second-hand beep rage? It’s a thing,” Boston Globe, April 29, 2019, https://www2.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/04/29/second-hand-beep-rage-thing/4ZaKQDJRJlwFDHMZJ90nbI/story.html


Fraternities

It really all comes back to the question of what the university is for. Administrators tend to think it’s for whatever brings in revenue (Science Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Athletics, and, it would seem,[4] fraternities). A lot of students think it’s so they can get a degree and then a job, but refuse to conflate this with the learning that’s supposed to accompany that degree. Elite students often think it’s about “networking,” such as so-called “Greek Life,” but again, the learning isn’t really considered relevant. Even the “activists” here are likely convinced that they already know all the answers.

But I have a bridge for sale to anyone who actually believes a fraternity’s claim that they’re behaving themselves now.

Sarah Brown, “Anger Over Greek Life Reaches Boiling Point at Swarthmore, Where Dozens Are Occupying a Frat House,” Chronicle of Higher Education, April 29, 2019, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Anger-Over-Greek-Life-Reaches/246205


James Comey

Benjamin Wittes, “Five Things I Learned From the Mueller Report,” Atlantic, April 29, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/04/ben-wittes-five-conclusions-mueller-report/588259/

Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, “Mueller complained that Barr’s letter did not capture ‘context’ of Trump probe,” Washington Post, April 30, 2019, https://beta.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/mueller-complained-that-barrs-letter-did-not-capture-context-of-trump-probe/2019/04/30/d3c8fdb6-6b7b-11e9-a66d-a82d3f3d96d5_story.html


Donald Trump

Patti Davis, “Dear Republicans: Stop using my father, Ronald Reagan, to justify your silence on Trump,” Washington Post, April 30, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dear-republicans-stop-using-my-father-ronald-reagan-to-justify-your-silence-on-trump/2019/04/30/ed61c6de-6b50-11e9-8f44-e8d8bb1df986_story.html

Jonathan O’Connell, Ann E. Marimow, and Carol D. Leonnig, “Congressional Democrats’ emoluments lawsuit targeting President Trump’s private business can proceed, judge says,” Washington Post, April 30, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/congressional-democrats-emoluments-lawsuit-targeting-president-trumps-private-business-can-proceed-judge-says/2019/04/30/ae2ae6be-5b9f-11e9-a00e-050dc7b82693_story.html


  1. [1]Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, “Mueller complained that Barr’s letter did not capture ‘context’ of Trump probe,” Washington Post, April 30, 2019, https://beta.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/mueller-complained-that-barrs-letter-did-not-capture-context-of-trump-probe/2019/04/30/d3c8fdb6-6b7b-11e9-a66d-a82d3f3d96d5_story.html
  2. [2]Jonathan O’Connell, Ann E. Marimow, and Carol D. Leonnig, “Congressional Democrats’ emoluments lawsuit targeting President Trump’s private business can proceed, judge says,” Washington Post, April 30, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/congressional-democrats-emoluments-lawsuit-targeting-president-trumps-private-business-can-proceed-judge-says/2019/04/30/ae2ae6be-5b9f-11e9-a00e-050dc7b82693_story.html
  3. [3]Margi Murphy, “The truth about whether your mobile phone is giving you cancer,” Telegraph, April 29, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2019/04/29/truth-whether-mobile-phone-damaging-health/
  4. [4]Sarah Brown, “Anger Over Greek Life Reaches Boiling Point at Swarthmore, Where Dozens Are Occupying a Frat House,” Chronicle of Higher Education, April 29, 2019, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Anger-Over-Greek-Life-Reaches/246205

Google Maps is driving me nuts in Pittsburgh

I managed to get through the driver’s license process in Pennsylvania. They even accepted the evidence I had available—I’m still establishing residency, with a move-in date of tomorrow—for REAL ID.

Vehicle registration, the piece that’s supposed to happen within twenty days of establishing residency, is proving more difficult. Because I drive for Uber and Lyft, AAA can’t insure me in Pennsylvania (they did in California).

Tomorrow will be a busy day. I’m supposed to get the keys and I expect to receive the first of two furniture deliveries. I’m going to try to unload the car—I’ve actually been hauling around the stuff from California that I could squeeze into my car all this time. I will also endeavor to straighten out the auto insurance.

Hopefully, I can return to the vehicle registration tomorrow or the next day. When this is complete, I will go deal with Uber and Lyft. They will need to run background checks, so I won’t be driving right away regardless.

I can’t say I’m happy about the prospect of doing the Uber/Lyft sort of driving in Pittsburgh. I’m not happy about working for these outfits anyway, but Pittsburgh navigation is seriously challenging. Not only are there the unclear turns, but then there are the intersections you can’t actually see until you already need to be in the correct lane to move correctly through them. And Google Maps simply fails here: It’s way of presenting navigation information has always given me trouble anyway; it completely fails to provide the information I need to navigate these turns properly in Pittsburgh.

I mean, it’s astonishing how horrible Google Maps is here. It really doesn’t work.


Palestine

It would seem that Jared Kushner thinks the solution to the Palestinian issue is to double down on Binyamin Netanyahu’s strategy of making Palestinians suffer more.[1] It hasn’t worked so far and I think the Palestinians will hasten to assure you it won’t work at all.

Marwan Bishara, “The logic behind US humiliation of the Palestinians,” Al Jazeera, April 24, 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/logic-humiliation-palestinians-190423123902553.html


Fast Food

Danielle Wiener-Bronner, “Burger King plans to roll out Impossible Whopper across the United States,” CNN, April 29, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/29/business/burger-king-impossible-rollout/index.html


  1. [1]Marwan Bishara, “The logic behind US humiliation of the Palestinians,” Al Jazeera, April 24, 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/logic-humiliation-palestinians-190423123902553.html

Semitic ‘snowflakes’

I have acquired more furniture, a dining room set and a dresser. I “take possession” of the apartment on Tuesday. Hopefully by Wednesday afternoon, I’ll actually be able to move in.


Updates

  1. Originally published, April 28, 6:38 pm.
  2. April 28, 8:40 pm:
    • Added what is probably the best explanation of speciesism I’ve ever seen.

Semitic ‘snowflakes’

I’m sorry, I don’t see it and I’m not buying it. The cartoons below, taken from the Times of Israel article, do not seem anti-Semitic to me.


Allegedly anti-Semitic cartoons, reproduced in the Times of Israel, April 28, 2019, fair use. Artists are identified as António Moreira Antunes (left and center) and Aroeira (right).[1]

For these cartoons to be anti-Semitic, any disparaging use of Jewish symbols or even Nazi symbols would have to be taken as anti-Semitic, even when it is aimed not so much at any particular faith, but rather at politicians. Notice that the Muslim crescent, bundled up with sticks of dynamite, evoking a suicide bomber, in one of these cartoons is not taken as Islamophobic.

This despite the fact it is the Israeli government itself that labels as anti-Semitic any objection to its policies toward Palestinians and which insists that Israel must be recognized as a “Jewish state.” Jewish religious symbols may therefore be used to support, but never to oppose Israeli political policies.

Times of Israel, “Likud minister links New York Times to Nazis over Netanyahu cartoon,” April 28, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/likud-minister-links-new-york-times-to-nazis-over-netanyahu-cartoon/


Neoliberalism

Marshall Auerback, “Boeing might represent the greatest indictment of 21st-century capitalism,” Salon, April 27, 2019, https://www.salon.com/2019/04/27/boeing-might-represent-the-greatest-indictment-of-21st-century-capitalism_partner/


Supreme Court

Robert Barnes and Josh Dawsey, “Trump views the Supreme Court as an ally, sowing doubt about its independence among his critics,” Washington Post, April 27, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/trump-views-the-supreme-court-as-an-ally-sowing-doubt-about-its-independence-among-his-critics/2019/04/27/837c3822-682f-11e9-82ba-fcfeff232e8f_story.html


Speciesism


  1. [1]Times of Israel, “Likud minister links New York Times to Nazis over Netanyahu cartoon,” April 28, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/likud-minister-links-new-york-times-to-nazis-over-netanyahu-cartoon/

Oh, yay. Now it’s time for PennDOT.

Now that I have a place—and an address—I’m beginning to try to sort things out so I can actually get back to work as soon as possible.

That will take a certain amount of time anyway: Both Uber and Lyft will have to run their background checks, and the ones they ran on me in California don’t count. But after a false start in western Massachusetts, I’ve been a little reluctant to pull the trigger on this.

I failed miserably at the chicken-and-egg problem of transferring my car title and driver’s license to Pennsylvania. This will take more effort, some of which cannot be accomplished until Monday.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) website claims there’s nothing stopping me from registering the car, which I’m required to do within twenty days of establishing residency. But when I went in, they told me they couldn’t do it without a Pennsylvania driver’s license, which the site claims I have 60 days to accomplish.

And Pennsylvania has been outsourcing PennDOT functions, often to private retailers. Now you have to go to two separate locations to accomplish all this. So I drove to another location to try to deal with the driver’s license. And failed.

I think part of the problem is REAL ID. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) folks have it on their brains. And their web site is less than helpful about getting a driver’s license without REAL ID, which I don’t actually need since I have a passport I can flash at federal officials on those exceedingly rare occasions I need to.

I’ll have to see if the evidence I can pull together will be sufficient. As I’ve now seen in both California and Pennsylvania, this causes a lot of problems for a lot of people.

So while I may not be able to drive for Uber and Lyft right away, at least I’ll have a bed. I take possession of the apartment on Tuesday. The new bed comes on Wednesday. I have my present hotel room until Thursday morning.


I have updated my contact information page. I am asking folks to please use the Google Voice numbers from now on: These will forward automatically to both phones, so assuming I’m not in a dead zone for both AT&T and Verizon, your calls should forward to both phones.

Google reclaims unused numbers, so not only should you be more likely to actually get through, but I believe you’ll be helping me to maintain my claim to those numbers. My phone numbers that I have with the cell phone companies face no such threat.

My observation in the San Francisco Bay Area that AT&T has overall better geographic coverage than Verizon seems to have largely held up in my recent travels from Santa Rosa to western Massachusetts and then to Pittsburgh. My related observation in the Bay Area that Verizon often has faster data speeds has held up less well—this is much more of a mixed bag.

It’s still the case, I think, that I need both cellular providers.


Social inequality

Adam Gabbatt, “Disney heir on CEO’s $66m pay: ‘No one on the freaking planet is worth that,’” Guardian, April 27, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/apr/26/abigail-disney-bob-iger-amazon-jeff-bezos


James Comey

Murray Waas, “Mueller Prosecutors: Trump Did Obstruct Justice,” New York Review of Books, April 26, 2019, https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2019/04/26/mueller-prosecutors-trump-did-obstruct-justice/


Fast food

Jill Ettinger’s story, originally published on April 4, has been updated as White Castle now offers the sliders at alllocations.[1] As with Carl’s Jr.’s Beyond Famous Star and Burger King’s Impossible Whopper, I doubt these can be certified vegan. So it’s all like going to Denny’s for the veggie burger without cheese (it’s in the “build your own burger” menu): The food itself can be vegan, but cross-contamination with animal products is likely to occur in its preparation.

Jill Ettinger, “White Castle Launches New Vegan Sliders at 377 Locations,” LiveKindly, April 15, 2019, https://www.livekindly.co/vegan-impossible-burger-white-castle-sliders/


Ridesharing

Another huge loss?[2] Hardly a surprise.[3]

Patrick Howell O’Neill, “Just In Time For Its Big IPO, Uber Loses $1 Billion,” Gizmodo, April 26, 2019, https://gizmodo.com/just-in-time-for-its-big-ipo-uber-loses-1-billion-1834331980


Joe Biden

Branko Marcetic, “Biden Says He’s the Workers’ Candidate, But He Has Worked To Cut Medicare and Social Security,” In These Times, April 26, 2019, http://inthesetimes.com/article/21856/joe-biden-cut-medicare-social-security-retirement-age


Security clearances

Rachael Bade, “White House approves ex-official’s testimony after contempt threat,” Washington Post, April 27, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/white-house-approves-officials-testimony-after-contempt-threat/2019/04/27/ec8cbbea-68f5-11e9-83df-04f4d124151f_story.html


  1. [1]Jill Ettinger, “White Castle Launches New Vegan Sliders at 377 Locations,” LiveKindly, April 15, 2019, https://www.livekindly.co/vegan-impossible-burger-white-castle-sliders/
  2. [2]Patrick Howell O’Neill, “Just In Time For Its Big IPO, Uber Loses $1 Billion,” Gizmodo, April 26, 2019, https://gizmodo.com/just-in-time-for-its-big-ipo-uber-loses-1-billion-1834331980
  3. [3]Ryan Felton, “Uber Is Doomed,” Jalopnik, February 24, 2017, http://jalopnik.com/uber-is-doomed-1792634203; Yves Smith, “Uber Is Headed for a Crash,” New York, December 4, 2018, http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/12/will-uber-survive-the-next-decade.html

There is no excuse for Joe Biden. Just none.

I have a place. It’s the first one, the one that looked better than the second.

But there are nicer places to be had for the money. I was starting to freak out at the applications. And I was thinking the purring cat in my lap might be worth much, much more than all the feral cats on the block.


Joe Biden

The students are right[1] are right and Joe Biden is just another fucking idiot bonehead politician who will never get a clue.

I realize I’m supposed to believe in the possibility of redemption but it’s just becoming really, really clear that Biden is hopeless. Even ignoring his history of gaffes, we’ve had some serious ones already just this month. First, in no particular order, there’s the touchy-feely Biden whose apology left more than a little to be desired.[2] Then there’s another non-apology to Anita Hill[3] following—by decades—his mishandling of the hearings in which she testified against Clarence Thomas, who was subsequently confirmed as a justice on the Supreme Court.[4] Now, Biden appropriates the Charlottesville tragedy for a campaign video.[5] When white males wonder why everybody else is so mad at them, they can look to Donald Trump for Exhibit A and Joe Biden for Exhibit B and Justice Clarence Thomas (I refer, of course, to the Judiciary Committee of the time that enabled Thomas to be confirmed) for Exhibit C.

Lindsay Ellis, “At the Center of Biden’s Presidential Announcement? UVa Student Activists,” Chronicle of Higher Education, April 25, 2019, https://www.chronicle.com/article/At-the-Center-of-Biden-s/246186

Elise Viebeck, “Joe Biden was in charge of the Anita Hill hearing. Even he says it wasn’t fair,” Washington Post, April 26, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/joe-biden-was-in-charge-of-the-anita-hill-hearing-even-he-says-it-wasnt-fair/2019/04/26/a9a6f384-6500-11e9-82ba-fcfeff232e8f_story.html


Amazon

Colin Lecher, “How Amazon automatically tracks and fires warehouse workers for ‘productivity,’” Verge, April 25, 2019, https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/25/18516004/amazon-warehouse-fulfillment-centers-productivity-firing-terminations


Twitter

Joseph Cox and Jason Koebler, “Why Won’t Twitter Treat White Supremacy Like ISIS? Because It Would Mean Banning Some Republican Politicians Too,” Vice, April 25, 2019, https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/a3xgq5/why-wont-twitter-treat-white-supremacy-like-isis-because-it-would-mean-banning-some-republican-politicians-too


Climate Change

Wait? Actually important news? Well, yeah, actually. I didn’t watch the video of her performance but the text of this speech is just excellent.

Greta Thunberg, “‘You did not act in time’: Greta Thunberg’s full speech to MPs,” Guardian, April 24, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/23/greta-thunberg-full-speech-to-mps-you-did-not-act-in-time


  1. [1]Lindsay Ellis, “At the Center of Biden’s Presidential Announcement? UVa Student Activists,” Chronicle of Higher Education, April 25, 2019, https://www.chronicle.com/article/At-the-Center-of-Biden-s/246186
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Joe Biden blows his #MeToo moment,” Not Housebroken, April 5, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/04/05/joe-biden-blows-his-metoo-moment/
  3. [3]Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Carl Hulse, “Joe Biden Expresses Regret to Anita Hill, but She Says ‘I’m Sorry’ Is Not Enough,” New York Times, April 25, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/25/us/politics/joe-biden-anita-hill.html
  4. [4]Elise Viebeck, “Joe Biden was in charge of the Anita Hill hearing. Even he says it wasn’t fair,” Washington Post, April 26, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/joe-biden-was-in-charge-of-the-anita-hill-hearing-even-he-says-it-wasnt-fair/2019/04/26/a9a6f384-6500-11e9-82ba-fcfeff232e8f_story.html
  5. [5]Lindsay Ellis, “At the Center of Biden’s Presidential Announcement? UVa Student Activists,” Chronicle of Higher Education, April 25, 2019, https://www.chronicle.com/article/At-the-Center-of-Biden-s/246186
Apartment hunting, day 2

Apartment hunting, day 2

Yesterday, I was reasonably optimistic about being approved for the Alden, an apartment complex in Baldwin, in the South Hills area around Pittsburgh. This morning, the problem I described in western Massachusetts[1] reared its head as the complex called me to inform me that my application had been declined: Allegedly, neither my mother nor I have credit.

Actually, we do. Mine sucks because of high balances stemming from a catastrophic 2018 and, of course, student loans in the hundreds of thousands of dollars skyrocketing (tens of thousands of dollars per year) with interest. My mother has been somewhat more successful, but both of us have had to put freezes on our credit reports. Hopefully, we can work through this.

In the meantime, the search goes on. The first place I went to today turned out to have nothing available in my price range for the foreseeable future. Another place responded to my inquiry saying that they don’t take co-signers. Finally, I went out to a place that’s a long ways out but a little larger than the place that, at least temporarily, turned me down.


The featured image for this posting of the Irregular Bullshit is from the CityLab article my mother sent me (see Pittsburgh, below). It is one of several the article draws from the University of Pittsburgh’s Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection.[2] The collection itself appears fairly voluminous. (Fair use.)


Pittsburgh

My mother was not impressed when I sent her the the article about declining and—to hear the American Lung Association tell it—terrible (straight F’s) Pittsburgh air quality.[3] No, not even one little bit. She sent me another article in response, saying this[4] is how it was when she was a kid. The comparison, of course, is a little unfair, and my mom surely didn’t mean for me to take it very seriously: The pictures reveal particulate pollution; they can’t show ozone and other gases that are also worrisome.

Ben Schwartz, “A New Plan to Correct a Historic Mistake in Pittsburgh,” CityLab, April 25, 2019, https://www.citylab.com/design/2019/04/pittsburgh-penguins-hill-district-history-redevelopment-plan/587896/


Ageism and Sexism

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


Moral panics

Isaac Stanley-Becker, “‘Free speech isn’t free, is it?’: A story on a teen porn worker could cost a high school journalism teacher her job,” Washington Post, April 25, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/04/25/free-speech-isnt-free-is-it-sensitive-story-could-cost-high-school-journalism-teacher-her-job/


Uber

And [Uber] points out that it is likely to make the drivers even more unhappy in the future, both because it is investing in autonomous vehicles to reduce the numbers of drivers it needs, and because it plans to reduce payments to drivers in order to increase its chances of turning a profit: “As we aim to reduce Driver incentives to improve our financial performance, we expect Driver dissatisfaction will generally increase.”[5]

So, um, that didn’t take long.[6]

Kari Paul, “Uber drivers plan shutdown over ‘poverty wages’ as company goes public,” Guardian, April 24, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/24/uber-drivers-strike-ipo


Meter Maids

Yes, I am preferring the disparaging term for folks who have been accused in San Francisco, if not elsewhere, of eating their young.

I am well aware of the difficulties of finding a “real job,” which I define as fulfilling the standards in Article 7 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, a treaty in which the U.S. has joined a very small number of countries in failing to ratify.[7] I have failed to find such a job for eighteen years. And I appreciate that many such workers have families to support.

But ethical employment is not employment that principally harms others. While it is far from being uniquely so, parking enforcement is principally a harm, especially in places like San Francisco, which obviously invests in and reaps rewards from it as a reliable source of revenue, a tax by any other name.

To be fully human, one must act ethically. When we act otherwise, we are acting as sub-humans. To do so for employment is to professionally reduce oneself to a sub-human level. And to do so is to deserve sub-human treatment.

Alex Johnson, “Chalking tires to enforce parking rules is unconstitutional, court finds,” April 23, 2019, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/chalking-tires-enforce-parking-rules-unconstitutional-court-finds-n997326


Joe Biden

But the larger argument against Biden comes from the progressive wing of the Democratic party, which sees him as a dinosaur holdover from the party’s unenlightened past. Already progressives have charged Biden with a litany of political errors (or crimes), including his maladroit actions as the chairman of the Senate judiciary committee during the 1991 Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings (which allegedly showed his regressive attitudes toward women) and his support for Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill (which is interpreted as callousness about high levels of African American incarceration).[8]

Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, was even more pointed. “Biden’s chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee during the Thomas nomination reflected his sense of institutionalism a lot more than any sense of feminism. None of this would be disqualifying but it does not stand up well to the feminist sensibilities of the #MeToo era.”[9]

Even setting aside my concern about how Anita Hill was treated, Biden sounds like he’s going to be yet one more mainstream Democrat who will continue the Party’s rightward push—because that’s the way the Party has been pushing since George McGovern’s landslide loss to Richard Nixon in 1972. Neoliberalism will be fine with Biden, no matter what he says about it on the campaign trail.

I can’t live with Donald Trump. But I can’t live with neoliberalism either.

Geoffrey Kabaservice, “Joe Biden is the ultimate centrist Democrat. Is that a liability or strength?” Guardian, April 25, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/25/joe-biden-2020-democrats-choice

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Carl Hulse, “Joe Biden Expresses Regret to Anita Hill, but She Says ‘I’m Sorry’ Is Not Enough,” New York Times, April 25, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/25/us/politics/joe-biden-anita-hill.html


  1. [1]David Benfell, “If you don’t like homelessness, here’s an idea: Make it possible to rent an apartment,” Not Housebroken, April 19, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/04/19/if-you-dont-like-homelessness-heres-an-idea-make-it-possible-to-rent-an-apartment/
  2. [2]Mark Byrnes, “What Pittsburgh Looked Like When It Decided It Had a Pollution Problem,” CityLab, June 5, 2012, https://www.citylab.com/design/2012/06/what-pittsburgh-looked-when-it-decided-it-had-pollution-problem/2185/
  3. [3]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
  4. [4]Mark Byrnes, “What Pittsburgh Looked Like When It Decided It Had a Pollution Problem,” CityLab, June 5, 2012, https://www.citylab.com/design/2012/06/what-pittsburgh-looked-when-it-decided-it-had-pollution-problem/2185/
  5. [5]Julia Carrie Wong, “Disgruntled drivers and ‘cultural challenges’: Uber admits to its biggest risk factors,” Guardian, April 12, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/11/uber-ipo-risk-factors
  6. [6]Kari Paul, “Uber drivers plan shutdown over ‘poverty wages’ as company goes public,” Guardian, April 24, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/24/uber-drivers-strike-ipo
  7. [7]International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, December 16, 1966, United Nations, General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI), http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cescr.htm
  8. [8]Geoffrey Kabaservice, “Joe Biden is the ultimate centrist Democrat. Is that a liability or strength?” Guardian, April 25, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/25/joe-biden-2020-democrats-choice
  9. [9]Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Carl Hulse, “Joe Biden Expresses Regret to Anita Hill, but She Says ‘I’m Sorry’ Is Not Enough,” New York Times, April 25, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/25/us/politics/joe-biden-anita-hill.html
First day of househunting

First day of househunting

The places I looked at today were both old. But the one I went ahead and applied to—this should be successful—had an updated interior, including a microwave oven. Garages are available. The other one has only a small parking lot, which apparently no one uses, down in back on an alley (can’t wait to wait for the snowplow to get to that one). It has not been updated at all. I did not apply to the second.

I also went by some old addresses.

At left is the place my parents and I lived in when we moved back here. It’s a duplex; we lived on the unit on the right. On the right is my maternal grandparents’ old home; this too was really a duplex: They rented out the upper floor.


Donald Trump

Damian Paletta and Erica Werner, “Treasury secretary misses deadline for providing Trump tax returns to House panel, says he will make final decision by May 6,” Washington Post, April 23, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/treasury-likely-to-defy-tuesday-deadline-to-turn-over-trump-tax-returns/2019/04/23/daa7da46-653e-11e9-82ba-fcfeff232e8f_story.html

Matthew Weaver, Rowena Mason and Caroline Davies, “MPs campaign to have Donald Trump’s UK state visit cancelled,” Guardian, April 23, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/apr/23/donald-trump-plans-state-visit-to-uk-in-june


Census

Robert Barnes, “On Census citizenship question, Supreme Court’s conservatives appear to be united,” Boston Globe, April 23, 2019, https://www2.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2019/04/23/census-citizenship-question-supreme-court-conservatives-appear-united/tB1KUI3oACQAIAjQxVyXRL/story.html


Pittsburgh

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


Domestic Spying

Dustin Volz and Warren P. Strobel, “NSA Recommends Dropping Phone-Surveillance Program,” Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/nsa-recommends-dropping-phone-surveillance-program-11556138247


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

My mother and I have talked some about Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, over the last few years. I’m pretty sure she mentioned the Lawrenceville District as a dangerous neighborhood. One can recognize tenement housing in the buildings here. And some graffiti persists.

Except they’ve been gentrified as fuck. (I mentioned this to her tonight and she sent me this link, which substantially supports the foregoing.)[1]

The result is actually rather charming. I wouldn’t live here: The streets are too narrow and parking is too difficult. But it is cute. There is an attraction.

And of course the question with gentrification—the answer here is not so obvious as it is in the San Francisco Bay Area, where homeless encampments and recreational vehicles are ubiquitous—is what the fuck happened to the people?

I have four appointments to see apartments, scattered over two days. I’m hoping to have a place by the end of the week (subject to how long it takes to get through the application process).

It’s oddly satisfying to be back in Pittsburgh. But it is immediately obvious that, if anything, I underestimated the difficulty driving in the city when I was seriously impressed that Uber was testing self-driving cars here. This city is incredibly difficult, with narrow streets, steep grades, interchanges that require multiple rapid lane changes, and, not so much by the time I arrived, nightmare traffic getting in and out of Pittsburgh, a task which requires crossing bridges that, funny thing, are the same, exact size they were fifty years ago.

In a way I have an advantage here over western Massachusetts; I first started to learn to find my way around in San Francisco when we lived there the first time (when I was in the second through the first half of the fourth grade). While I learned the fundamentals of a grid system there (learning to navigate city streets), I developed further here (when I finished the fourth grade, the fifth grade, and most, but not all, of the sixth grade—um, yeah, under parental supervision, I was a sixth grade drop-out; later I skipped the twelfth grade entirely). And so I actually already understand a part of how this area fits together. It’s still going to be really, really hard learning my away around and figuring out how to move through those interchanges with all those lane changes.

In the Bay Area, I spoke of every town having its own quirks in navigation—turns, for example, that really require foreknowledge because there are multiple options in roughly the same direction—that I called “booby-traps.” Here, there will be booby-traps layered on top of booby-traps.


Um, sorry. I’ve been publishing these daily so those who worry about me for whatever reason can be assured that I’m still kicking.

But I was tired last night. And I forgot that, nervous about this trip, I had not slept well the night before. I took what I assumed would be a nap and got eight hours of sleep.

Anyway, I am not caught up.


White House security clearances

Tom Hamburger, “House panel moves to hold former White House official in contempt after he obeys Trump administration’s instruction not to testify,” Washington Post, April 23, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/04/23/white-house-instructs-official-ignore-democratic-subpoena-over-security-clearances/


Sacramento Sheriff

Marcos Breton discovers that the elite are not responsive to the people.[2] Next, he needs to discover whom, as a direct consequence, the police actually serve.

Marcos Bretón, “Did Sheriff Scott Jones get away with going rogue? Apparently so,” Sacramento Bee, April 23, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/opinion/article229560064.html


Brexit

If the Tories want to lose a general election, they could hardly do better than to choose Boris Johnson as a replacement for Theresa May. There is a reason that he and Donald Trump like each other so well, but the British public is not the U.S. public.

As to Brexit itself, just forget it for now. These machinations are not really about Brexit, but about jockeying for power on the pretext of getting a better deal (no one—not one—has satisfactorily explained how they would actually do this but they each carry on as if they had) or somehow muster a parliamentary majority in support of any option, let alone May’s deal.[3] As Rory Stewart pointed out, “a new leader with charm and nimble feet would [not] suddenly be able to get the deal across the line.” Or anything else across that line either, for that matter. “It’s nothing to do with the individual, it is that people disagree deeply over Brexit.”[4] Yup. You might think he’d actually been paying attention.

Oliver Wright, “Tory Brexiteers rewrite the rules in fresh bid to oust Theresa May,” Times, April 23, 2019, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/tory-brexiteers-rewrite-the-rules-in-fresh-bid-to-oust-theresa-may-x63kt8h9z


  1. [1]Jeremy, “A Drinking, Eating, and Attraction Guide to Lawrenceville,” Discover the burgh, April 15, 2019, https://www.discovertheburgh.com/lawrenceville-neighborhood-guide/
  2. [2]Marcos Bretón, “Did Sheriff Scott Jones get away with going rogue? Apparently so,” Sacramento Bee, April 23, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/opinion/article229560064.html
  3. [3]Heather Stewart, Jessica Elgot, and Rowena Mason, “Brexit: May calls for cabinet showdown as MPs reject all options,” Guardian, April 2, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/apr/01/brexit-deadlock-continues-as-mps-fail-to-find-compromise
  4. [4]Rory Stewart, quoted in Oliver Wright, “Tory Brexiteers rewrite the rules in fresh bid to oust Theresa May,” Times, April 23, 2019, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/tory-brexiteers-rewrite-the-rules-in-fresh-bid-to-oust-theresa-may-x63kt8h9z

Last full day in Massachusetts

I was up and out early this morning because I plan to leave for Pittsburgh tomorrow and laundry would be due tomorrow, so I was heading for a place to deal with that.

Note for future reference: Happy Cow has incorrect hours for Garden of Eat’n, which was a block away from where I took my laundry and closed when they were alleged to be open. No hours were posted so I couldn’t correct them.

One of the things I noticed this morning, driving around during rush hour was that traffic really didn’t suck. Yes, there were slowdowns, but nothing like what I could take for granted that I would encounter in the San Francisco Bay Area at a comparable hour.

The most notable slowdown was at the exit from Interstate 91 for University of Massachusetts in Amherst. This had backed up on the freeway and, I guess my bad, I was a little slow getting onto the shoulder—I’m usually slow changing lanes—to avoid obstructing traffic on the freeway travel lanes while waiting for a traffic signal at the botton of the ramp. The traffic was all headed in one direction, likely towards the university and I was headed in another, so once I actually made it to the exit and figured out what was going on, I was able to get through relatively quickly.

I don’t know if there’s a connection but one of the other characteristics of driving in this area is that navigation is challenging. There’s nothing like a grid system in most, if not all, of the streets and roads I’ve driven here. The roads are strung together, frequently at odd angles, clearly the result of improvisation upon improvisation upon improvisation, I’m guessing as a development over the centuries of European occupation here. There’s no sense to be made of any of it; it simply is what it is, and even more than I would expect in a new area, I am heavily dependent on Google Maps for navigation.

So of course I occasionally miss a turn. On Friday, when I was upset about failing to find a place to live here, I missed a bunch of them. That really wasn’t a problem; there was always another way and it usually wasn’t too horribly out of the way.

My hypothesis is that as crazy as it surely is, this network serves to dilute rather than concentrate traffic, ameliorating it. If true, this is certainly something for urban planners to think about.

The way I think this works is that an organic network better reflects the paths that people historically needed to follow, given natural and human-made barriers. A grid system actually often increases travel distance because it forces you to follow the sides of a right triangle rather than the hypotenuse and the variations that occur even in a planned system serve to concentrate traffic onto a few streets.[1] In places like San Francisco, the grid system actually fails in places (I’m thinking of Russian and Telegraph Hills in particular) where some streets can’t connect through because there’s literally a cliff between the segments.

I may not be able to figure it out but I suspect an organic road network, such as western Massachusetts has, works better.

There’s more to my thinking on organic systems and irregularity and the matter of what gives a place character but it has yet to develop. What I am very clear about is that this is the sort of thing that traditionalist conservatives would latch on to. It’s one place where I think they may very well have a point.


Reporters Sans Frontieres (I pray I got that spelling right) has put up the 2019 World Press Freedom Index. Check it out. Seriously, check it out.


I do believe I might actually have gotten caught up.


Tomorrow

Well, something like this, anyway. . . .
FireShot Capture 050 - 42.3342979, -72.6679810 to Pittsburgh, PA - Google Maps - www.google.com


Moral Panics

Lucia Graves, “A topless photo ruined this teacher’s career. Now she’s speaking out,” Guardian, April 19, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/apr/19/lauren-miranda-teacher-topless-photo-speaks-out


James Comey

Jonathan Freedland has done some of the work I wish I had done:

Why, then, does Mueller not come out with it and charge Trump with obstruction? Part of the answer is that Mueller was swayed by the doctrine that says a sitting president cannot be indicted. Given that, “we determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the president committed crimes”. This is breathtaking logic, which amounts to: “Because we knew we couldn’t indict Trump for crimes, we made sure not to find any.”

Time after time, Mueller made judgment calls that helped the president. Sure, Trump wanted to obstruct justice – but he was blocked by aides who didn’t “accede to his requests”, so, for Mueller it didn’t count (as if obstruction has to be successful to be a crime). To allege obstruction, one has to know the intention of the alleged obstructor and that requires an interview with the accused: but when Trump refused to speak to Mueller in person, the special counsel decided not to use his legal right to subpoena the president, because that would have caused a “substantial delay” and the pressure was on to wind up the investigation. But who exactly was demanding Mueller wrap up? Why, it was Trump and his cheerleaders of course. Mueller emerges as a ref who allowed himself to be bullied by an especially belligerent star player.

But this is about more than a mere difference of personalities, with gangster Trump running rings around his boy-scout pursuers. It’s about a difference in political culture. For the Trump presidency, exposed in all its ugliness in the Mueller report, is predicated on a willingness to shred the rules and norms that sustain liberal democracy – and it relies for its success on the unwillingness of liberal democracy’s guardians to do the same.[2]

Freedland draws on an old paradox, and of general importance, widens it to show a greater danger than I had seen in the old paradox. That paradox, as I remember it, was of free speech permitting bad actors to denigrate the existing order, facilitating its replacement with something even worse that ironically would suppress free speech, while a prohibition on censorship prevents limits on such speech. Simultaneously, while unconstrained free speech allows bad actors to appeal to people’s worst impulses, the “good” are constrained by “facts” and “reason” and, more dubiously, “law” in response. Substitute action for speech in this paradox, and you have Freedland’s very correct argument. Moreover, the very substitution reveals a greater danger than even that paradox exposes. This is seriously good work.

The headline writer[s] for this column write that “[t]he Mueller report shows that bad guys who play dirty, like Trump, always win.”[3] This is the great fear that accompanies the paradox and the problem on speech is two-fold: First, any censorship inhibits a proper analysis and exposure of fallacious logic that, in theory, should refute that logic. This is the argument for academic freedom and in part, the claim here is that we don’t really know what ideas are bad without such scrutiny. Unpopular or disruptive ideas aren’t necessarily evil, but they would be the first to be censored. But second, we also know, especially with conservatives, that emotional appeals to fear and hatred often short-circuit rationality—a striking thing about moral panics is that, as best as I can think of at the moment, they always incline in a conservative, authoritarian direction.[4] Nor can we treat such panics as an aberration. Authoritarian populism, the likely larger part of Donald Trump’s base, has been not all, but significantly, about this for up to a thousand years.[5]

But unfortunately, there are also pragmatic considerations. Nestor Ramos points to those.[6] Lots of people point out that impeachment is moot if the Republican-controlled Senate won’t vote for it[7] and it’s important to remember that a sense that Congress must do something is not fulfilled unless Congress actually does something. An impeachment move that goes nowhere is grandstanding, not action.

That said, progress is impossible when it is constrained by the limits of what is currently possible. Trump’s opponents must not simply settle for what is “safe.” They must demand what will be effective.

My suggestion would concede Nancy Pelosi’s earlier point that impeachment would divide the country for nothing,[8] but have Democrats commit to restoring checks and balances on the executive branch. Not only should current investigations be pursued, but Congress must reclaim its power to declare war, and properly limit executive privilege. Notions of an imperial or unitary presidency must come to an end. Perhaps, if the presidency is not so powerful, fewer scumbags will be interested in winning it. But mainstream Democrats will object: They still want that power for themselves when (and if, ever again) they win the presidency.

Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, “Paranoia, lies and fear: Trump’s presidency laid bare by Mueller report,” Washington Post, April 18, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/paranoia-lies-and-fear-trumps-presidency-laid-bare-by-mueller-report/2019/04/18/3379c49a-571b-11e9-814f-e2f46684196e_story.html

Jonathan Freedland, “The Mueller report shows that bad guys who play dirty, like Trump, always win,” Guardian, April 19, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/19/mueller-report-bad-guys-play-dirty-trump-democrats-duty

Brian MacQuarrie and Laura Crimaldi, “In Massachusetts, outrage is a matter of geography,” Boston Globe, April 19, 2019, https://www2.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/04/19/massachusetts-outrage-matter-geography/6AGryHO7osgx3UOmMtnYmI/story.html

Nestor Ramos, “Democrats have a strong hand, but to win they may need to fold,” Boston Globe, April 19, 2019, https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/04/19/democrats-have-strong-hand-but-win-they-may-need-fold/oN7kmsnvb6xj8HW8Ys3IvJ/story.html

Rachael Bade, Karoun Demirjian, and Jacqueline Alemany, “House Democratic leaders say no immediate plans to open impeachment proceedings against Trump,” Washington Post, April 22, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/pelosi-says-democrats-can-hold-trump-accountable-without-impeachment-hearings/2019/04/22/68fce0c8-6514-11e9-82ba-fcfeff232e8f_story.html


Anti-Semitism

Vanessa Gera, “Warsaw’s Great Synagogue ‘reappears’ on anniversary of 1943 ghetto revolt,” Times of Israel, April 19, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/warsaws-great-synagogue-reappears-on-anniversary-of-1943-ghetto-revolt/

Ruth Ellen Gruber, “Notre Dame will be rebuilt – but most European Jewish sites never will be,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, April 18, 2019, https://www.jta.org/2019/04/18/global/notre-dame-will-be-rebuilt-but-most-european-jewish-sites-never-will-be


Donald Trump

“You can never say never because courts change and there are new judges, but this is way over the top,” said Kerry W. Kircher, who served as House counsel for the Republican majority from 2011 to 2016, referring to the suit [filed by the Trump organization to quash a congressional subpoena for financial records]. “I’m as confident as I can be that there’s no chance of success here on the merits.”[9]

David A. Fahrenthold, Rachael Bade, and John Wagner, “Trump sues in bid to block congressional subpoena of financial records,” Washington Post, April 22, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-sues-in-bid-to-block-congressional-subpoena-of-financial-records/2019/04/22/a98de3d0-6500-11e9-82ba-fcfeff232e8f_story.html


Sleep

Christopher Ingraham, “How living on the wrong side of a time zone can be hazardous to your health,” Washington Post, April 19, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/04/19/how-living-wrong-side-time-zone-can-be-hazardous-your-health/


Climate Change

The commonest current excuse is this: “I bet those protesters have phones/go on holiday/wear leather shoes.” In other words, we won’t listen to anyone who is not living naked in a barrel, subsisting only on murky water. Of course, if you are living naked in a barrel, we will dismiss you too, because you’re a hippie weirdo. Every messenger, and every message they bear, is disqualified, on the grounds of either impurity or purity.[10]

George Monbiot, “No More Excuses,” April 20, 2019, https://www.monbiot.com/2019/04/20/no-more-excuses/


Neoliberalism

Greg Jaffe, “Capitalism in crisis: U.S. billionaires worry about the survival of the system that made them rich,” Washington Post, April 20, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/capitalism-in-crisis-us-billionaires-worry-about-the-survival-of-the-system-that-made-them-rich/2019/04/20/3e06ef90-5ed8-11e9-bfad-36a7eb36cb60_story.html


Adjuncts

Aaron Hanlon, “The University Is a Ticking Time Bomb,” Chronicle of Higher Education, April 16, 2019, https://www.chronicle.com/article/The-University-Is-a-Ticking/246119


Automation

Laura Forman, “Will Zillow’s Flip … Flop?” Wall Street Journal, April 21, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/will-zillows-flip-flop-11555844401


Samsung

Don’t read Joanna Stern’s “non-review”[11] because you care one way or another about Samsung. Read it for the sheer fury of a reviewer spurned. She is magnificent here, absolutely magnificent.

Note to journalism students: First, I’m not just talking about reviews here. Now, see what Stern does. This is how it’s done. (And yeah, I’ve seen it before, surely from other authors. That doesn’t make it any less delightful.) What you don’t want to do here is fall short. Notice her prose: It is absolutely crisp (at least until you get to her initial description of the phone); even as she expresses frustration with what is truly (between her lines) an “are you fucking kidding me” scream-worthy product, her readers will laugh because what she’s describing is truly so ludicrous.

But you do have to wonder how shit like this gets out, even to reviewers.

Joanna Stern, “Samsung Galaxy Fold Non-Review: We Are Not Your Beta Testers,” Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2019, Samsung Galaxy Fold Non-Review: We Are Not Your Beta Testers


  1. [1]Let’s by all means compare apples and oranges here: In San Francisco’s Richmond District, for examples, Geary Boulevard and Clement Street, retail zones, to more residential streets like California, Lake, Anza, Balboa, Cabrillo, Fulton, and all of the avenues. Of course, the commercial streets have heavier traffic, but Geary is a wide street with two to three lanes in each direction that connects reasonably directly downtown; its only rival for getting from Arguello to Great Highway or Ocean Beach is Fulton, a street that also borders Golden Gate Park but, after traversing the Western Addition, runs smack dab into City Hall and reappears on the other side of City Hall (towards Market) as Civic Center and United Nations Plazas—both pedestrian spaces closed to cars. I’m talking about natural variations here; differences from whatever source can be important.
  2. [2]Jonathan Freedland, “The Mueller report shows that bad guys who play dirty, like Trump, always win,” Guardian, April 19, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/19/mueller-report-bad-guys-play-dirty-trump-democrats-duty
  3. [3]Jonathan Freedland, “The Mueller report shows that bad guys who play dirty, like Trump, always win,” Guardian, April 19, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/19/mueller-report-bad-guys-play-dirty-trump-democrats-duty
  4. [4]See, for example, Lucia Graves, “A topless photo ruined this teacher’s career. Now she’s speaking out,” Guardian, April 19, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/apr/19/lauren-miranda-teacher-topless-photo-speaks-out. This is likely a matter of how we define moral panics.
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Barack Obama asks, ‘Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?’” Not Housebroken, November 4, 2018, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/11/04/barack-obama-asks-why-is-it-that-the-folks-that-won-the-last-election-are-so-mad-all-the-time/
  6. [6]Nestor Ramos, “Democrats have a strong hand, but to win they may need to fold,” Boston Globe, April 19, 2019, https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/04/19/democrats-have-strong-hand-but-win-they-may-need-fold/oN7kmsnvb6xj8HW8Ys3IvJ/story.html
  7. [7]Rachael Bade, Karoun Demirjian, and Jacqueline Alemany, “House Democratic leaders say no immediate plans to open impeachment proceedings against Trump,” Washington Post, April 22, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/pelosi-says-democrats-can-hold-trump-accountable-without-impeachment-hearings/2019/04/22/68fce0c8-6514-11e9-82ba-fcfeff232e8f_story.html; Jonathan Freedland, “The Mueller report shows that bad guys who play dirty, like Trump, always win,” Guardian, April 19, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/19/mueller-report-bad-guys-play-dirty-trump-democrats-duty; Nestor Ramos, “Democrats have a strong hand, but to win they may need to fold,” Boston Globe, April 19, 2019, https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/04/19/democrats-have-strong-hand-but-win-they-may-need-fold/oN7kmsnvb6xj8HW8Ys3IvJ/story.html
  8. [8]Rachael Bade, Karoun Demirjian, and Jacqueline Alemany, “House Democratic leaders say no immediate plans to open impeachment proceedings against Trump,” Washington Post, April 22, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/pelosi-says-democrats-can-hold-trump-accountable-without-impeachment-hearings/2019/04/22/68fce0c8-6514-11e9-82ba-fcfeff232e8f_story.html
  9. [9]David A. Fahrenthold, Rachael Bade, and John Wagner, “Trump sues in bid to block congressional subpoena of financial records,” Washington Post, April 22, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-sues-in-bid-to-block-congressional-subpoena-of-financial-records/2019/04/22/a98de3d0-6500-11e9-82ba-fcfeff232e8f_story.html
  10. [10]George Monbiot, “No More Excuses,” April 20, 2019, https://www.monbiot.com/2019/04/20/no-more-excuses/
  11. [11]Joanna Stern, “Samsung Galaxy Fold Non-Review: We Are Not Your Beta Testers,” Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2019, Samsung Galaxy Fold Non-Review: We Are Not Your Beta Testers

Still trying to catch up: I’ve made it to the release of Robert Mueller’s redacted report

Early spring in western Massachusetts is progressing to the point I saw along the south shore of Lake Erie. I wish I could share more pictures but the roads here often offer no place to stop and while traffic is generally far from heavy, there’s just enough of it that it seems like a very bad idea to just stop where ever I see a picture I want to take.

My preference in color is not loud. I love the pastels and with the deciduous trees in this condition, I am treated to a lovely array of pastels. There are various greens, but also rouge and white hues, and also, of course, the browns. Then there is the very green grass, that was already—and despite a relatively (by recent standards) wet winter—beginning to turn yellow when I left California.

I think of returning to that yellow (after prolonged droughts, which Californians have suffered more as a rule than an exception throughout my adult life, it actually turns grey) grass and I want to retch. Oh, it rains here? Quit your bitching. I’d take it.

The situation for vegans in western Massachusetts is a bit more difficult than I anticipated and the Whole Foods in Hadley is disappointing (yes, I saw the vegan lemon mashed potatoes in the hot bar; I also needed a main course). But we need to know about Pulse, which is actually just down the road from Whole Foods. It has crucial vegan groceries in addition to mainly being a restaurant and juice bar. There is also Cafe Evolution in Florence, five miles away. Both have limited hours. Last, there is the Garden of Eat’n in Springfield—the menu here rotates on a weekly schedule so you may want to choose what day of the week you go.


I think I managed to put something of a dent in my backlog today. But it’s still there. And I”m tired.


Bernie Sanders

Edward-Isaac Dovere, “The 2020 Race Is Going Just Like Bernie Sanders Wanted,” Atlantic, April 17, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/04/bernie-sanders-thinking-he-will-win-it-all-2020/587326/

Alex Shephard, “The Impotence of ‘Stop Sanders’ Democrats,” New Republic, April 18, 2019, https://newrepublic.com/article/153605/impotence-stop-sanders-democrats


James Comey

There’s not much I can add to the coverage. I’m seeing a lot of the same analysis rehashed over and over.

Travis Andersen, “Did Trump obstruct justice? Here’s what legal experts are saying,” Boston Globe, April 18, 2019, https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/04/18/legal-experts-jury-still-out-whether-trump-obstructed-justice/k7ZTOzQlUIr8J5aOPx3LKP/story.html

Aaron Blake, “The 10 Trump actions Mueller spotlighted for potential obstruction,” Washington Post, April 18, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/04/18/trump-actions-mueller-spotlighted-potential-obstruction/

Aaron Blake, “William Barr just did Trump another huge favor,” Washington Post, April 18, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/04/18/william-barr-just-did-exactly-what-his-critics-feared-again/

Philip Bump, “What Attorney General Barr buried, misrepresented or ignored in clearing Trump,” Washington Post, April 18, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/04/18/what-attorney-general-barr-buried-misrepresented-or-ignored-clearing-trump/

Allan Smith, “Mueller declined to charge Donald Trump Jr. for meeting with Russian lawyer,” Washington Post, April 18, 2019, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/mueller-report-no-evidence-trump-knew-about-trump-tower-meeting-n995816

Del Quentin Wilber and Chris Megerian, “Mueller report suggests Congress should judge whether Trump obstructed justice,” Los Angeles Times, April 18, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-mueller-report-obstruction-russia-investigation-20190418-story.html

Natalie Andrews, “Nadler Issues Subpoena for Full Mueller Report,” Wall Street Journal, April 19, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/house-panel-chairman-issues-subpoena-for-full-mueller-report-11555679263


Neoliberalism

Niklas Olsen’s description of neoliberalism[1] differs from mine. His encompasses the founders of capitalist libertarianism and their movement, conflating neoliberalism as we sort of know and understand it with a movement composed of folks who actually sometimes criticize neoconservative and neoliberal policies. There are two problems with that:

  1. The capitalist libertarians, sometimes affiliated with the Libertarian Party in the U.S., remain almost entirely outside government, their policy proposals never generally gaining traction with the general public. That’s just a fact. Further, capitalist libertarians embrace competition as spurring innovation; they oppose monopolies as stifling it.

    And they embrace the market as, they fantasize, a level playing field, where all have an opportunity to improve their fortunes, doing business putatively as equals.

    In practice, and as has long been recognized, the functionalism of capitalism—really, any system of exchange—is to exacerbate inequality. Even the slightest unevenness in that illusory playing field translates to leverage—in raw terms, power over others.

    What is that little bump that gives a few leverage? Property, for which money is a proxy. And these days that bump is like a canyon, with the larger part of us, stuffed at the bottom of that canyon (even literally: compare living units) and the lucky few on top of a mountain overlooking the canyon. The climb up is long and treacherous; nearly all fall back down the walls to the canyon floor.

    But this is part of what distinguishes capitalist libertarians from libertarian socialists: The latter recognize economic authority as a problem just like political authority. The former do not, so the evidence of inequality simply fails to move them: They simply advocate “freer” (always ask for whom to do what to whom?) and “freer” markets and as neoliberals cheerfully agree, we are caught in a spiral of deepening inequality.

  2. Neoliberalism as we know it did not clearly appear until about the time Jerry Ford was president (following the resignation of Richard Nixon) and looks very much to have coalesced with the near-bankruptcy of New York City, for which it was fashionable to blame liberal policies, and “liberal” becoming the “L-word,” equating the set of relatively-humane policies that is generally (only generally) credited with the recovery from the Great Depression with an obscenity.

    This is when, and I believe inevitably, capitalist libertarianism comes to power and lacking any moral basis beyond an “invisible hand,” finds it profitable to side with corporate power over workers and the general public. In the name of “competitiveness,” of course, “with the world,” of course.

    This is, of course, hypocrisy. But in remaining outside government, capitalist libertarians can’t be accused of that particular hypocrisy (oh, but there are others).

    And the two groups are in fact at odds on all of neoconservatism, which embraces neoliberalism as a moral imperative, but also often embraces war, which capitalist libertarians generally emphatically oppose, for example.

I appreciate Olsen’s history and certainly, from a socialist perspective, the distinction between mainstream Democrats and all of the Republican Party, never mind the distinctions between neoliberals, neoconservatives, capitalist libertarians, and for that matter, “New Deal” liberals, could be kinda hazy, maybe a mirage. Those of us a little closer to the field will have a different perspective.

That said, I didn’t treat neoliberalism as a separate tendency of conservatism either. It’s more a weird overlap between the corrupting influence of power, capitalist libertarian dogma embraced by neoconservatives as the U.S. system that must be protected at any cost, even to the extent of conquering an empire to keep the world “safe” for “capitalist democracy.”

Olsen’s interview is useful for his description of the idea, increasingly institutionalized, that the market is a “freer” (again, always ask for whom to do what to whom?) version of “democracy” than the political kind.[2] In it’s own way it derives from the incredibly reductive political affirmation of the ballot box as a means of expressing political power.

Having reduced elections to parties which have a chance of winning and parties which do not and referendums to contests between wealthy corporate donors to push through initiatives that for one reason or another cannot proceed through the relevant legislature, how can we really argue when someone claims a dollar is a vote?

Niklas Olsen, interviewed by Daniel Zamora, “How Neoliberalism Reinvented Democracy,” Jacobin, April 6, 2019, https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/04/neoliberalism-democracy-consumer-sovereignty


Mergers and Acquisitions

Hopefully you read the bit above. What inspired me to write it? Um, Elizabeth Winkler’s article.[3]

[Long pause.] Why?

Well, it’s like this. In general, neoliberal policy views labor unions as monopolies to be combated, but corporations as benign (“successful businessmen!”) and to be left alone (not “punished!”). Which is to say in pretty short order that the natural tendency of any exchange system to exacerbate social inequality[4] is now embraced with a policy objective being to exacerbate it at any cost. So on the one hand, Winkler sheds a bit more light as she takes for granted the weakened condition of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.[5]

On the other hand, given the predominance of neoliberal ideology in governance, I guess I’m really surprised that such big prosecutions of corporations would happen at all or that the corporations wouldn’t simply laugh it off, with a wink to the judge. I mean it would take only one of these proposed mergers to decide to fight and take it all the way to the Supreme Court where I’m sure there are Justices who will surely sympathize with the other folks they see on the golf course all the time.

Elizabeth Winkler, “Sprint and T-Mobile Brace for Disappointment,” Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/sprint-and-t-mobile-brace-for-disappointment-11555596881


  1. [1]Niklas Olsen, interviewed by Daniel Zamora, “How Neoliberalism Reinvented Democracy,” Jacobin, April 6, 2019, https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/04/neoliberalism-democracy-consumer-sovereignty
  2. [2]Niklas Olsen, interviewed by Daniel Zamora, “How Neoliberalism Reinvented Democracy,” Jacobin, April 6, 2019, https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/04/neoliberalism-democracy-consumer-sovereignty
  3. [3]Elizabeth Winkler, “Sprint and T-Mobile Brace for Disappointment,” Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/sprint-and-t-mobile-brace-for-disappointment-11555596881
  4. [4]David Benfell, “They must pay,” Not Housebroken, February 21, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/02/21/they-must-pay/
  5. [5]Elizabeth Winkler, “Sprint and T-Mobile Brace for Disappointment,” Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/sprint-and-t-mobile-brace-for-disappointment-11555596881