Pittsburgh’s ‘bump’

Pandemic

The New York Times has noticed Allegheny County’s spike in COVID-19 cases:[1]

“I knew we would have a bump,” said [Pittsburgh] Mayor Bill Peduto, a Democrat. “The question is whether or not it would exceed the numbers that we had seen earlier. It not only exceeded them it doubled and I think tripled them. It wasn’t supposed to do that.”[2]

At the very end of the article, there’s a bit of discussion around the terminology “green phase,”[3] the nomenclature adopted by Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf, and the phase under which restaurants and bars were allowed to open for indoor service:[4]

“To anybody from a 2-year-old to a 100-year-old, ‘green’ means go,” Ms. [Bethany] Hallam said “We went to green and everybody went wild.”

“The world is not green,” she said, “until we have a cure or a vaccine.”[5]

I’ve heard something like this from my passengers. But at this point, I just think people are being psychopaths.[6] Because my observation isn’t so much like a light switch between “yellow” and “green” phase, but rather a gradual diminution of people’s compliance that I saw as traffic steadily increased, people started gathering more and more, and as I wondered how sustainable this lockdown was.

This is not about people misinterpreting the signal. It’s about people using any excuse, really any rationalization, they can find to flout the rules, entirely regardless of the fact that they’re killing people, entirely regardless of the fact that they’re being psychopaths.

As a way of exploring this, suppose I put to you the following question: Would you go to a bar if to do so would kill one or more people?

Your answer would likely be a resounding no. You might even question whether I was a psychopath for entertaining this as an ethical question.

But people in Allegheny County have been going to bars and socializing, defying social distancing requirements and face mask requirements,[7] in full knowledge that to do so will kill people. They are even competing to catch COVID-19.[8] They are pursuing their own ends without regard even to grievous consequences.[9] This is far beyond “selfish,” and to call this anything less than “psychopathy” is to drain the latter word of any meaning.

Campbell Robertson and Sarah Mervosh, “Pittsburgh Seemed Like a Virus Success Story. Now Cases Are Surging,” New York Times, July 13, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/12/us/coronavirus-pittsburgh-pennsylvania.html


China

Possibly because of my own experience with bullying by my father, my schoolmates, capitalism,[10] and, oh yes, the police,[11] including both physical and structural violence, I’m not even a little bit opposed to the U.S. decision to official reject China’s claims in the South China Sea.[12] I don’t expect China to respond well to this. But then, China seems not to respond well to any message it doesn’t like. And I remember all too well that conceding to bullies does not make them stop. I just don’t know what a coherent response to China’s bullying, in the South China Sea, in Xinjiang, in Tibet, in Hong Kong, possibly with countries it shares borders with (I think India is not the only country here), and probably in other places I either don’t remember or don’t know about, would be. But I do see, quite clearly, that it is a bully, um, just like a few other powerful countries.

Chun Han Wong, “U.S. Rejects Most Chinese Maritime Claims in South China Sea,” Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-set-to-reject-certain-chinese-maritime-claims-in-south-china-sea-11594661229


  1. [1]Campbell Robertson and Sarah Mervosh, “Pittsburgh Seemed Like a Virus Success Story. Now Cases Are Surging,” New York Times, July 13, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/12/us/coronavirus-pittsburgh-pennsylvania.html
  2. [2]Campbell Robertson and Sarah Mervosh, “Pittsburgh Seemed Like a Virus Success Story. Now Cases Are Surging,” New York Times, July 13, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/12/us/coronavirus-pittsburgh-pennsylvania.html
  3. [3]Campbell Robertson and Sarah Mervosh, “Pittsburgh Seemed Like a Virus Success Story. Now Cases Are Surging,” New York Times, July 13, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/12/us/coronavirus-pittsburgh-pennsylvania.html
  4. [4]Jamie Martines, “Gov. Wolf to move Allegheny, Westmoreland, other counties to green phase,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 29, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/gov-wolf-to-move-allegheny-westmoreland-other-counties-to-green-phase/; WPXI, “16 more Pa. counties going green next Friday, Gov. Wolf says,” May 29, 2020, https://www.wpxi.com/news/top-stories/9-local-counties-move-into-green-phase-next-week/SVG7FMAIZ5AX3CXJMNXJBQR234/
  5. [5]Campbell Robertson and Sarah Mervosh, “Pittsburgh Seemed Like a Virus Success Story. Now Cases Are Surging,” New York Times, July 13, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/12/us/coronavirus-pittsburgh-pennsylvania.html
  6. [6]David Benfell, “The psychopathy of the spike in COVID-19 cases,” Not Housebroken, July 7, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/07/07/the-psychopathy-of-the-spike-in-covid-19-cases/; David Benfell, “The expendable worker,” Not Housebroken, July 13, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/07/05/the-expendable-worker/
  7. [7]Samson X. Horne, “Allegheny County reports 90 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily total for county,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 27, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/allegheny-county-reports-highest-daily-total-of-coronavirus-cases-at-90/; Samson X. Horne, “Allegheny County reports 215 new coronavirus cases, 1 new death,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, July 11, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/allegheny-county-reports-215-new-coronavirus-cases-1-new-death/; Madasyn Lee, “Allegheny County exceeds highest coronavirus case total with 96 new cases,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 28, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/allegheny-county-exceeds-highest-coronavirus-case-total-with-96-new-cases/; Madasyn Lee, “Allegheny County reports 158 new coronavirus cases, 12 hospitalizations,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, July 9, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/allegheny-county-reports-158-new-coronavirus-cases-12-hospitalizations/; KDKA, “‘For The First Time…Allegheny Co. Led The State In The Number Of New COVID-19 Cases’: Allegheny Co. Officials Ban On-Site Consumption Of Alcohol At Local Bars,” June 28, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/06/28/allegheny-co-highest-case-numbers-bans-on-site-drinking/; KDKA, “Allegheny Co. Health Officials: Spike In New Coronavirus Cases Linked To Bars, Not Protests,” June 29, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/06/29/spike-in-coronavirus-cases-linked-to-bars-not-protests/; Campbell Robertson and Sarah Mervosh, “Pittsburgh Seemed Like a Virus Success Story. Now Cases Are Surging,” New York Times, July 13, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/12/us/coronavirus-pittsburgh-pennsylvania.html; Andy Sheehan, “Allegheny County Closes Bars, Restaurants, Casinos And All Activities That Involve Over 25 People For One Week,” KDKA, July 2, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/07/02/allegheny-county-bar-restaurant-casino-closure/; John Shumway, “‘People Don’t Care’: Recent Jump In Allegheny County Coronavirus Cases Linked To People In Their 20s, 30s,” KDKA, June 23, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/06/23/jump-in-allegheny-county-coronavirus-cases-linked-to-young-people/; Maria Simbra, “‘It’s Negligence’: Young People Hosting Coronavirus Parties, Betting On Who Gets Infected First,” KDKA, July 3, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/07/03/coronavirus-parties-young-people/; Teghan Simonton, “61 new coronavirus cases reported in Allegheny County, highest in 2 months,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 26, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/61-new-cases-of-coronavirus-reported-in-allegheny-county-2-deaths/; Teghan Simonton, “83 new cases of coronavirus in Allegheny County, no new deaths,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 29, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/83-new-cases-of-coronavirus-in-allegheny-county-no-new-deaths/; Teghan Simonton, “Allegheny County tops 230 new coronavirus cases,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, July 2, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/allegheny-county-tops-230-new-coronavirus-cases-no-deaths/; Megan Tomasic, “505 new coronavirus cases, 3 deaths reported in Pa.,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 28, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/505-new-coronavirus-cases-3-deaths-reported-in-pa/; WTAE, “Masks are now mandatory in all public spaces in Pennsylvania,” July 1, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/masks-are-now-mandatory-in-all-public-spaces-in-pennsylvania/33026253; WTAE, “Allegheny County issues new 2-week order prohibiting indoor dining and alcohol consumption at restaurants and bars,” July 8, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/allegheny-county-issues-new-mitigation-order-covid-19-coronavirus/33249080
  8. [8]Maria Simbra, “‘It’s Negligence’: Young People Hosting Coronavirus Parties, Betting On Who Gets Infected First,” KDKA, July 3, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/07/03/coronavirus-parties-young-people/
  9. [9]Kara Mayer Robinson, “Sociopath vs. Psychopath: What’s the Difference?” WebMD, 2014, https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/sociopath-psychopath-difference
  10. [10]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  11. [11]David Benfell, “To a Pennsylvania House Minority Leader: When cops profile you, they don’t actually need an offense,” Not Housebroken, January 16, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/01/16/to-a-pennsylvania-house-minority-leader-when-cops-profile-you-they-dont-actually-need-an-offense/
  12. [12]Chun Han Wong, “U.S. Rejects Most Chinese Maritime Claims in South China Sea,” Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-set-to-reject-certain-chinese-maritime-claims-in-south-china-sea-11594661229

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