Socioculturally different

A correction has been added, in line, to this post.


  1. Originally published, May 4, 2019, 3:29 pm.
  2. May 4, 7:45 pm:
    • I am seeing numerous reports on Twitter that Israel is bombing Gaza again. After all, it’s been so enormously successful when they’ve done it before. None of my news sources have picked this up.
    • I haven’t even finished dealing with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and another very ugly bureaucracy, Duquesne Light, is rearing its head. I have now made four attempts to satisfy their documentation requests. They keep insisting that my drivers license is blurry. But you see, I can look at the verification copies from the fax machine. I can look at the images I’ve sent them via email. These images are all, each and every one of them, crystal clear. Duquesne Light is lying. And lying for no good reason. I am not okay with this. Really not okay.
  3. May 4, 8:57 pm:
    • I have filed an informal complaint with the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission about Duquesne Light. This is a first step. The next step would be a formal complaint.
    • There may be, and have been, funkiness with times associated with the Irregular Bullshit. I only just discovered I needed to change the timezone since coming east.
  4. May 4, 11:37 pm:
    • Tweeted about the Gaza Strip attacks. The text now leads this issue (see above).

I’ve been noticing the churches here in Pittsburgh.

In California, and I think generally out west, grand structures are rare. Some evangelical Protestant churches can be found in old movie theaters, other storefronts, and sometimes even people’s houses. Relative to Pittsburgh, the churches are generally much smaller.

The Pittsburgh area features streets, such as Bethel Church and Lebanon Church. The churches here, relative to California, carry the appearance of a competition to see who could build the most glorious structure. They look like what one might expect to find in Europe.

Part of this is the timing. European-origin settlement of California didn’t really get started until the Gold Rush in 1849. Here, it is common for municipalities to post the years they were established—the examples I’ve seen have been from the late 18th century.

But I suspect there’s more to it than the timing. The Gold Rush was its own phenomenon. I think, in a sense, it paved the way for Silicon Valley. In this frame, California emerges as a “get rich quick” kind of place where extreme social inequality is the rule.

Pittsburgh began as Fort Pitt (which—thanks Mom for the correction added May 6, 11:09 am—had previously been Fort Duquesne under the French), at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers (forming the Ohio River). I don’t know much of the history here but settlement here in this area was part of what the revolution that separated the U.S. from Britain was about—the U.K. parliament had passed the Quebec Act, reserving this territory for American Indians, and the colonists hated that.[1] This was territory that had been contested by the British, the French, the newly founded U.S., and, all too often forgotten, American Indians.

The psychological and sociological history of this place is different. How, precisely, that translates to grand churches is a question I have not yet sorted out. But seeing this, I now understand what I didn’t before about Colin Woodard and his sociocultural regions.[2]

Having lived in California nearly all my life (over fifty years), I had seen that once you get outside the Bay Area “bubble,” politics often orient in a much more conservative direction. The Central Valley, for example, is California’s Bible Belt. As Democrats have established one-party control of the state government, effectively disenfranchised conservatives (at least some authoritarian populists) in both far northern California and in southern California have attempted secession movements, trying and failing to break California up.

But I had never experienced such a different sense of place. Pittsburgh is different. And not just because of the weather. Even if I think Woodard may have lacked nuance in developing his archetypes for eleven different sociocultural regions and drew sharp borders instead of frontiers, this area is socioculturally different, supporting his notion of distinct regions.

Job Hunting

Ryan Nunn, Jana Parsons, and Jay Shambaugh, “How difficult is it to find a job?” Brookings, May 2, 2019,


George Monbiot, “Landlocked,” May 3, 2019,

Joe Biden

Shia Kapos, “Chicago mayor-elect: Biden still has to answer for Anita Hill,” Politico, May 4, 2019,


British voters are fed up.[3] But I think the real problem lies someplace other than with the politicians.

Yes, the politicians are idiots. Yes, they are, to borrow a negative connotation, “strivers” more interested in personal advancement than in the jobs they were elected to do. Of course they are. But how, really, can you expect anything better? This is the result of so-called “representative democracy.”

On the U.S. side of the pond, James Madison called it a republic, a term which would not strictly apply in Britain, but with the same failing: Madison trusted the rich with power on the ludicrous notion that they would best be able to set aside their own interests in favor of the country.[4] A republic, or a representative democracy, generally requires resources that only the wealthy can muster to run for office.

So you get a bunch of shitheads who have absolutely no clue what life is really like on the other side of the social barriers they erect to separate themselves from the rest of the population. And you shouldn’t even remotely be surprised when this happens.

This is a systemic problem. Brexit is just one example.

Heather Stewart and Patrick Wintour, “Tories lose over 1,300 seats in local elections as major parties suffer,” Guardian, May 3, 2019,


“We’re not going to have predictable profitability,” Mr. [Dara] Khosrowshahi said at a talk at Stanford University’s business school in November. “We’ll say it to our shareholders and the shareholders can choose.”

“If they want a predictably profitable company–go buy a bank,” he added with a shrug. “Really the long-term is what we’re after.”[5]

Eliot Brown, “Uber Wants to Be the Uber of Everything—But Can It Make a Profit?” Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2019,

  1. [1]Lawrence James, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1994).
  2. [2]Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (New York: Penguin, 2011).
  3. [3]Heather Stewart and Patrick Wintour, “Tories lose over 1,300 seats in local elections as major parties suffer,” Guardian, May 3, 2019,
  4. [4]James Madison, “Federalist No. 10,” in The Federalist Papers, ed. Garry Wills (1982; repr., New York: Bantam, 2003), 50-58.
  5. [5]Eliot Brown, “Uber Wants to Be the Uber of Everything—But Can It Make a Profit?” Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2019,

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