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/

As if a chair was too much to ask


To anyone in California reading this:


John Fetterman

Katie Meyer, “Braddock made John Fetterman a politician. It’s also home to some of his biggest critics,” WHYY, April 26, 2021, https://whyy.org/articles/braddock-made-john-fetterman-a-politician-its-also-home-to-some-of-his-biggest-critics/


Pandemic

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/


Cops keep on killing

Those who know me know that it’s exceedingly rare that I call a day a good day. And usually, when I am optimistic, my hopes are cruelly dashed.

We’ll see if that happens again this time.

I contacted a dealer regarding the possibility of ordering the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid (that I need because my present car just isn’t tough enough for Pittsburgh roads to the degree that I’m driving them) I mentioned earlier because I know this will need to be ordered in advance and I’m hoping to time delivery for when I’m confident I’ll have a down payment, that is, September. It looks like it will need to be ordered in mid-July but the salesman will keep in touch.

With that off my mind, my thoughts turned uncontrollably to the problem of where to live. I’ve not heard back from the place that was actually on my grandparents’ old street and I’m unhappy with my present complex 1) because I’m reminded I’m poor all the way from my garage to my apartment door, by the upkeep of the grounds and the exterior appearance of the building; 2) because the complex has been making the news lately for actions I rather strongly disapprove of;[1] and 3) because they seem awfully anxious to raise the rent and are accordingly really weird about lease renewal terms. I don’t like it when I feel I’m being played with and this complex is very much making me feel that way.

So I have been thinking about what I really like about southwestern Pennsylvania: the woods. I think I’ve found a place. I’ve begun exploring the possibility of moving in October, after I think I have the new car, which, by the way, will be a lot more useful for moving and even has limited (1,750 pounds) towing capacity. The place would be bigger than what I have now, for about the same amount of money. It would have a balcony. I’m hoping for a top floor apartment (the complex consists of townhouses and two-story buildings, so this shouldn’t be hard) with a balcony facing the woods (that’d be most of them).

It’s in the southeastern corner of Allegheny County. The politics there are not good. As I drove in, I noticed a Betsy Ross flag, a symbol adopted by conservatives to express their disdain for Black Lives Matter, whose activists recall that the flag hearkens to a time of slavery in the U.S., whose founding fathers enabled the continuation of slavery in the Constitution, partly by counting slaves as 3/5ths of a person in the census,[2] partly with the electoral college, and partly with the composition of the U.S. Senate, thereby assuring disproportionate representation for the rural, slaveholding South, now rural, conservative states generally.[3] Yeah, that was, and is, evil.

But progressive areas seem generally more expensive and as an introvert, I rarely interact with neighbors. And though I clearly visited on garbage collection day, the buildings and grounds appear nicely kept. They were retiling a roof on one building.

It seems they pretty much expect to know about upcoming vacancies four months or so in advance. And yes, I am wondering what that means for how much notice they will want to vacate. I’ve gotten on their mailing list.

I still really, really need a real job.[4] But at least for now, I’m feeling like a couple other aspects of my life might be falling into place.


Murderous police

Even as Derek Chauvin was convicted for the killing of George Floyd,[5] police around the country continued killing people.[6] Which shouldn’t surprise anyone.[7]

Alanna Durkin Richer and Lindsay Whitehurst, “1 verdict, then 6 police killings across America in 24 hours,” Associated Press, April 24, 2021, copy in possession of author


Lyft

Uber had previously sold off its self-driving unit to Aurora.[8] Now Lyft has followed suit, selling its self-driving unit to Toyota.[9]

One significant angle to today’s announcement is that Toyota is working with Aurora, the company that bought Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group last year, to develop autonomous taxis.[10]

Igor Bonifacic, “Lyft is selling its self-driving unit to Toyota for $550 million,” Engadget, April 26, 2021, https://www.engadget.com/lyft-sellss-level-5-self-driving-toyota-woven-planet-204353240.html


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Evictions in a pandemic,” Not Housebroken, March 11, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/03/11/evictions-in-a-pandemic/
  2. [2]U.S. Const., Art. I, § 2.
  3. [3]I take this topic up in David Benfell, “Mitigating the democratic deficit in the United States,” Not Housebroken, December 20, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/07/15/mitigating-the-democratic-deficit-in-the-united-states/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  5. [5]Kurtis Lee, “Derek Chauvin is guilty of murdering George Floyd,” Los Angeles Times, April 20, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2021-04-20/jury-verdict-derek-chauvin-george-floyd-death
  6. [6]Alanna Durkin Richer and Lindsay Whitehurst, “1 verdict, then 6 police killings across America in 24 hours,” Associated Press, April 24, 2021, copy in possession of author
  7. [7]Jeet Heer, “How Not to Mourn George Floyd,” The Time of Monsters, April 21, 2021, https://jeetheer.substack.com/p/how-not-to-mourn-george-floyd; Arelis R. Hernández and Cleve R. Wootson, Jr., “Black Americans are buoyed by Chauvin conviction, but they worry it will blunt pace of reform,” Washington Post, April 20, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/04/20/chauvin-verdict-black-americans/; Jason Johnson, “I'm not happy. I'm not relieved. The verdict is a cultural make-up call. This ruling means it takes a Black man being murdered on TV in front of millions, a years worth of protest and a phalanx of white cops saying "this is wrong" for a black person to get a scintilla of justice,” Twitter, April 20, 2021, >https://twitter.com/DrJasonJohnson/status/1384637989444325378; Raphael Warnock, “Today’s verdict affirming Derek Chauvin’s responsibility for killing George Floyd is the right outcome in this trial, but it is not justice. . . .” Twitter, April 20, 2021, https://twitter.com/SenatorWarnock/status/1384651251061858323
  8. [8]Heather Somerville, “Uber Sells Self-Driving-Car Unit to Autonomous-Driving Startup,” Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-lyft-face-a-no-sharing-economy-11603710180
  9. [9]Igor Bonifacic, “Lyft is selling its self-driving unit to Toyota for $550 million,” Engadget, April 26, 2021, https://www.engadget.com/lyft-sellss-level-5-self-driving-toyota-woven-planet-204353240.html
  10. [10]Igor Bonifacic, “Lyft is selling its self-driving unit to Toyota for $550 million,” Engadget, April 26, 2021, https://www.engadget.com/lyft-sellss-level-5-self-driving-toyota-woven-planet-204353240.html

The quantifiable madness of my situation (Update #2)

Updates

  1. Originally published, April 24, 2021, at 9:55 pm.

  2. April 25, 2021, 4:35 am:

    • It seems I needed to actually do the spreadsheet work. I’ve corrected the values in what my car is costing me now. It’s really quite extreme.


Pandemic

It seems that intellectual property[1] is not the only problem the developing world has in manufacturing vaccines.

“The point the Secretary (of State Antony Blinken) has made repeatedly is that as long as the virus is spreading anywhere, it is a threat to people everywhere. So as long as the virus is spreading uncontrolled in this country, it can mutate and it can travel beyond our borders. That, in turn, poses a threat well beyond the United States,” [State Department spokesperson Ned] Price said in responses to questions.[2]

So what is the U.S. doing? Restricting raw materials India, which is suffering a dramatic and likely woefully understated increase in COVID-19 cases,[3] needs to manufacture vaccines. The U.S. is maintaining Donald Trump’s “Amerikkka first” stance, claiming its first obligation is to vaccinate its own people.[4]

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


Armenia

Chris Megerian, “Biden formally recognizes killing of more than 1 million Armenians as genocide,” Los Angeles Times, April 24, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2021-04-24/biden-formally-recognizes-armenian-killings-as-genocide


My car

I’m a qualitative kind of guy, but the madness of my situation is becoming apparent in ways I can quantify.

As I began writing this, my 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid is in for a transmission service, you know, that service Toyota says shouldn’t be needed, but which my mechanic in California recommended every 50,000 miles.

Even now, I abide by my grandfather’s dictum that, “If you take care of the equipment, it will take care of you.” Unfortunately, it’s becoming clear that taking care of this particular car means not being an Uber/Lyft driver on Pittsburgh roads.

The cost of operation for this car remains high, mainly, it needs to be emphasized, because of Pittsburgh’s negligence on road maintenance. In fact, so high that the average amount extra I’ve been spending per month, $1,295.09, since the beginning of this year over the average since I started driving for Lyft in 2016 (I started with Uber the following year), is about four times that of a new car payment. When I compare what I’ve been spending on the Camry Hybrid since the beginning of 2020 with what I spent on my 2006 Prius the first year I had it, $1,995.17 per month, the difference is even more extreme, but this would be both because the Prius got significantly better gas mileage and because I bought the Prius with lower mileage (although the Prius had smaller wheels and therefore would have cost even more in the ways that the Camry Hybrid is costing me too much).

The trouble really is that operating costs on the Camry Hybrid for this year are already higher than the worst of last year (where the excess, $350.09 per month, approached an estimated monthly car payment), which I thought was a pretty awful year.

What got me thinking about all this is that Uber, which, along with Lyft, has pledged that all its cars will be electric by 2030,[5] meaning I’m probably going to have to go electric at some point in the not too distant future, sent out an invitation to buy electric vehicles for Earth Day. But the battery technology still isn’t where I need it to be.

Oh and, by the way, my insurance agent tells me that because a new car (I’ve been crunching numbers on a 2021 Toyota RAV 4 Hybrid) has so much better safety features, my rates, which are already dropping like a rock—he says he’s never seen anything like it—would go down even further.

With newer technology, especially with a lighter lithium-ion hybrid battery, even though the RAV 4 Hybrid is bigger, I’d likely see modestly improved gas mileage. This is harder to judge with any precision because Environmental Protection Agency estimates are not real world experience, let alone in Pittsburgh, where I immediately lost a couple miles per gallon of mileage on arrival from California.

But the bottom line right now is that I could literally buy a new car and improve my cash flow. Dramatically.

I’ve been looking at the RAV 4 Hybrid because I believe, with bigger wheels, it would be much more robust on Pittsburgh roads, which are the cause of my problems with the Camry Hybrid. My experience with cars—my transmission guy agrees that this is likely true—has uniformly been that everything with bigger wheels is more durable. Tires last significantly longer and don’t cost that much more. Such wheels are accompanied by more robust suspension and steering. Everything holds up better. That would lower my long-term costs.

When I’m getting clobbered with repairs in the thousands of dollars for steering, tires, and suspension work, I’m not sure I have a choice but to make a change.

Uber and Lyft offer rental deals, but the rental car companies sold much of their stock during the lockdown to stay afloat. The cars they have now go to higher-paying, in some cases, much higher-paying customers than Uber and Lyft drivers.[6] This, when I’m already in a market where people have trouble getting rental cars thanks to an incompetence blessed with “it is what it is.”

I might, to some degree, obtain the benefits of a new RAV 4 Hybrid with a used car, but I drive over 60,000 miles per year. I’m wondering, really wondering, how much sense that really makes.

As I weigh all this, I wonder yet again, why I can’t have a sane life, why I can’t have a real job, a job that respects who I am, a job that isn’t abusive,[7] a job that would let me keep the otherwise perfectly good car I already have. I just don’t understand.

And even as the logic of my situation compels me to a particular conclusion, I realize I am contemplating taking on years of debt for a job I don’t even want.

This is madness. And I’m way too old for it.


  1. [1]David Benfell, “The lethal dishonesty of ‘intellectual property’ in a pandemic,” Not Housebroken, April 4, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/03/21/the-lethal-dishonesty-of-intellectual-property-in-a-pandemic/
  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]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]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
  5. [5]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; 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
  6. [6]Scott McCartney, “Wait, Where Did All the Rental Cars Go?” Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/hertz-avis-enterprise-rental-car-shortage-11618335385
  7. [7]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/

Fact checking Snopes

Amy Chua

There is a new blog post entitled, “A tale of three professors, all women, all of Asian descent.”

Tom Bartlett, “A Yale Law Prof Was Disciplined for Holding Dinner Parties. There’s More to the Story,” Chronicle of Higher Education, April 22, 2021, https://www.chronicle.com/article/a-yale-law-prof-was-disciplined-for-holding-dinner-parties-theres-more-to-the-story


Ageism

If you call yourself an egalitarian, you might well be ageist.[1]

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/


Snopes

So an issue arose on Twitter where I thought that Snopes denied, among other things, that the U.S. has the highest ratio of incarcerated people to general population.

What Snopes actually says is “[t]he United States has comfortably the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world, according to two reliable sources” and that “the U.S. does not have the world’s highest oil or automobile gasoline consumption, or highest military spending, when important contextual factors like population size and GDP are taken into account.”[2] But the phrasing made it look, if you read too quickly, which I did, like it was also denying that the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate.

Which ultimately set me in search of where I had previously found incarceration statistics. It seems the Kings College of London no longer hosts the World Prison Brief (which, from the feedback I got on Twitter, may be a good thing). I eventually managed to track down the new location. It’s a little wonky to use now. First, you want “Highest to Lowest” under the “World Prison Brief data” dropdown list from the top menu bar. You need to select which category of data you want—there are several choices— and click “Go.” Then, and only then, can you choose the region—for our purposes here, we want the world—for which you want the data and click “Apply.” These are two separate steps and why they decided to make it like this baffles me entirely. I’m sure it didn’t used to be this weird.

For the record, the U.S. is indeed number one in both total prison population and prison population as a proportion of total population.[3]

As to military spending, this is a hoary topic because different countries include different things in their military budgets and, of course, a certain proportion of military spending is classified, therefore publicly off the books. Snopes is here overconfident in its claim.

I don’t know about gasoline or oil consumption and frankly don’t care. This number doesn’t matter nearly as much as a total of all fossil fuel consumption and, really, the amount of pollution, including greenhouse gases, pumped into the environment. The number also may fail to account for the amount of ethanol added to gasoline, apparently as a sop to corn growers, which would, once again, undermine any comparison with other countries that don’t subsidize corn farming in this way.

I’m sure it had been reported, probably back when I was an undergraduate, that the U.S. was the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, but the Union of Concerned Scientists now names China in aggregate and Saudi Arabia per capita. But we’re second in total and fourth per capita,[4] so yes, we have a lot of work we should be doing before asking most other countries to do their share.

In general, fact checkers do need to be fact checked. I have previously seen instances where they were over-reliant on quantitative data, which is superficial, and where operationalization, that is, the process of choosing variables to represent things that might not be directly measurable, can sometimes be not be so good.

Finally, simple and well-known statistical methods in quantitative methodology assume a “normal” (bell curve) distribution. As data deviates from a “normal” distribution, exotic and somewhat mystical methods may be employed, making it more difficult, if not impossible, for other researchers to evaluate the appropriateness of the methods chosen. The possibility that some researchers may occasionally choose plausible but inappropriate methods to produce desired results, rather than methods to honestly answer research questions, and that such studies might make it past peer review and into publication, simply cannot be excluded.

In the topics at hand, Snopes is probably mostly right. But I wouldn’t bet a wooden nickel on their claim about military spending.

Dan MacGuill, “Does US Rank No. 1 in Incarceration, Gas Consumption, Military Spending?” Snopes, April 14, 2021, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/incarceration-gas-consumption-us/


  1. [1]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/
  2. [2]Dan MacGuill, “Does US Rank No. 1 in Incarceration, Gas Consumption, Military Spending?” Snopes, April 14, 2021, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/incarceration-gas-consumption-us/
  3. [3]Institute for Crime and Justice Policy Research, “World Prison Brief,” n.d., https://www.prisonstudies.org/
  4. [4]Union of Concerned Scientists, “Each Country’s Share of CO2 Emissions,” August 12, 2020, https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/each-countrys-share-co2-emissions

Cynicism and genocide

Armenia

There is a new blog post entitled, “The genocidal cost of cynicism.”

Lara Jakes, “Biden Preparing to Declare That Atrocities Against Armenia Were Genocide,” New York Times, April 21, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/21/us/politics/biden-armenia-genocide-turkey.html


Pennsylvania

There is another new blog post entitled, “The ideology of ‘competition’ and higher education.”

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


Pittsburgh

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/


A System Leader Sells His Vision for Remaking Public Higher Ed

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

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/

Bill Schackner, “Petitions couldn’t save a popular Pennsylvania state university music professor’s job, so his wife is speaking out,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 4, 2021, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/education/2021/06/04/State-System-of-Higher-Education-Greenstein-APSCUF-faculty-union-jobs-teaching-Pennsylvania-colleges/stories/202106040078

Deb Erdley, “Plan approved to continue with consolidation of California, Clarion and Edinboro universities,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, July 14, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/regional/plan-approved-to-continue-with-consolidatation-of-california-clarion-and-edinboro-universities/

Eric Kelderman, “The Plan Is ‘Not Perfect,’ but Pa.’s Public-College System Will Turn 6 Campuses Into 2,” Chronicle of Higher Education, July 14, 2021, https://www.chronicle.com/article/the-plan-is-not-perfect-but-pa-s-public-college-system-will-turn-6-campuses-into-2

Deb Erdley, “Empty dorm rooms pose financial problems for Pennsylvania public universities,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 1, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/regional/empty-dorm-rooms-pose-financial-problems-for-pennsylvania-public-universities/

Deb Erdley, “Pennsylvania Western University name adopted for merged state campuses,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 14, 2021, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/pennsylvania-western-university-name-adopted-for-merged-state-campuses/

Derek Chauvin found guilty of murdering George Floyd (Update #2)

Updates

  1. Originally published, April 20, 2021.

  2. April 21, 2021, 11:50 pm:

    • The larger question in the aftermath of Derek Chauvin’s conviction for the murder of George Floyd[1] is whether politicians will go beyond symbolic gestures and follow through on what so far have been empty promises of police ‘reform,’[2] itself a woefully inadequate approach.[3] Too many people are calling this conviction ‘justice,’ when justice would mean that Floyd would still be alive and breathing;[4] that the systemic and blatant white supremacy in policing that killed him and so many others[5] had been abolished; that the economic injustice[6] and the systemic bigotry of the criminal injustice system that sends so many people, particularly of color,[7] into a largely ineffective but hugely damaging system of mass incarceration[8] had been remedied; and frankly, that reparations had been paid, not only to Blacks,[9] but really to all colonized people, defined in critical theory as all who are subject to the structural or overt, implicit or explicit violence of economic, political, military, or religious authority,[10] who pay with their lives in countless ways for the curtailment of their potential and the deprivation of their rights[11] so that the rich may be richer and the powerful more powerful.


George Floyd


Fig. 1. Graffiti commemorating George Floyd. Photograph by author in Pittsburgh, May 31, 2020.

We frame this moment for all of us, not just for George Floyd. This is a victory for those who champion humanity over inhumanity, those who champion justice over injustice, those who champion morals over immorality. America, let’s lean into this moment.[12]

Derek Chauvin was convicted of all three counts, second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter, for killing George Floyd.[13]


I will be extremely surprised if the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act makes it into law.

Arelis R. Hernández and Cleve R. Wootson, Jr., “Black Americans are buoyed by Chauvin conviction, but they worry it will blunt pace of reform,” Washington Post, April 20, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/04/20/chauvin-verdict-black-americans/

Kurtis Lee, “Derek Chauvin is guilty of murdering George Floyd,” Los Angeles Times, April 20, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2021-04-20/jury-verdict-derek-chauvin-george-floyd-death

Jeet Heer, “How Not to Mourn George Floyd,” The Time of Monsters, April 21, 2021, https://jeetheer.substack.com/p/how-not-to-mourn-george-floyd


  1. [1]Kurtis Lee, “Derek Chauvin is guilty of murdering George Floyd,” Los Angeles Times, April 20, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2021-04-20/jury-verdict-derek-chauvin-george-floyd-death
  2. [2]Arelis R. Hernández and Cleve R. Wootson, Jr., “Black Americans are buoyed by Chauvin conviction, but they worry it will blunt pace of reform,” Washington Post, April 20, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/04/20/chauvin-verdict-black-americans/
  3. [3]Amanda Arnold, “What Exactly Does It Mean to Defund the Police?” Cut, June 12, 2020, https://www.thecut.com/2020/06/what-does-defund-the-police-mean-the-phrase-explained.html; Zak Cheney-Rice, “Why Police Abolition Is a Useful Framework — Even for Skeptics,” New York, June 15, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/06/police-abolitionist-lessons-for-america.html
  4. [4]Jeet Heer, “How Not to Mourn George Floyd,” The Time of Monsters, April 21, 2021, https://jeetheer.substack.com/p/how-not-to-mourn-george-floyd
  5. [5]Mark Berman et al., “Protests spread over police shootings. Police promised reforms. Every year, they still shoot and kill nearly 1,000 people,” Washington Post, June 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/protests-spread-over-police-shootings-police-promised-reforms-every-year-they-still-shoot-nearly-1000-people/2020/06/08/5c204f0c-a67c-11ea-b473-04905b1af82b_story.html; Kyle Cheney, Sarah Ferris, and Laura Barrón-López, “‘Inside job’: House Dems ask if Capitol rioters had hidden help,” Politico, January 8, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/01/08/congress-democrats-capitol-riot-inside-job-456725; Tim Craig, “Proud Boys and Black Lives Matter activists clashed in a Florida suburb. Only one side was charged,” Washington Post, February 2, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/florida-protest-bill-unequal-treatment/2021/02/01/415d1b02-6240-11eb-9061-07abcc1f9229_story.html; James Downie, “Time to toss the ‘bad apples’ excuse,” Washington Post, May 31, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/05/31/time-toss-bad-apples-excuse/; Kimberly Kindy, Mark Berman, and Kim Bellware, “After Capitol riot, police chiefs work to root out officers with ties to extremist groups,” Washington Post, January 24, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/police-capitol-riot-extremists/2021/01/24/16fdb2bc-5a7b-11eb-b8bd-ee36b1cd18bf_story.html; Maggie Koerth, “The Police’s Tepid Response To The Capitol Breach Wasn’t An Aberration,” FiveThirtyEight, January 7, 2021, https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-polices-tepid-response-to-the-capitol-breach-wasnt-an-aberration/; Kurtis Lee, Jaweed Kaleem, and Laura King, “‘White supremacy was on full display.’ Double standard seen in police response to riot at Capitol,” Los Angeles Times, January 7, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2021-01-07/la-na-washington-capitol-police-attack-race; German Lopez, “Police officers are prosecuted for murder in less than 2 percent of fatal shootings,” Vox, April 2, 2021, https://www.vox.com/21497089/derek-chauvin-george-floyd-trial-police-prosecutions-black-lives-matter; Wesley Lowery, “Aren’t more white people than black people killed by police? Yes, but no,” Washington Post, July 11, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/07/11/arent-more-white-people-than-black-people-killed-by-police-yes-but-no/; Brentin Mock, “What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings,” CityLab, August 6, 2019, https://www.citylab.com/equity/2019/08/police-officer-shootings-gun-violence-racial-bias-crime-data/595528/; Elie Mystal, “There’s Only One Possible Conclusion: White America Likes Its Killer Cops,” Nation, May 27, 2020, https://www.thenation.com/article/society/white-america-cops/; Jon Schuppe, “Police across U.S. respond to Derek Chauvin trial: ‘Our American way of policing is on trial,’” NBC News, April 15, 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/police-across-u-s-respond-derek-chauvin-trial-our-american-n1264224; Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, “How Do We Change America?” New Yorker, June 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/how-do-we-change-america
  6. [6]Herbert J. Gans, The War Against the Poor (New York: Basic, 1995).
  7. [7]Steven E. Barkan, Criminology: A Sociological Understanding, 3rd ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006); Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004); Dan Simon, In Doubt (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 2012).
  8. [8]Ernest Drucker, A Plague of Prisons (New York: New Press, 2011).
  9. [9]Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” Atlantic, June 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/
  10. [10]Norman K. Denzin, Yvonna S. Lincoln, and Linda Tuhiwai Smith, eds., Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies (Los Angeles: Sage, 2008); C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite (New York: Oxford University, 1956, repr. 2000).
  11. [11]David P. Barash and Charles P. Webel, Peace and Conflict Studies (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2002); Martha C. Nussbaum, Creating Capabilities (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2011).
  12. [12]Benjamin Crump, quoted in Kurtis Lee, “Derek Chauvin is guilty of murdering George Floyd,” Los Angeles Times, April 20, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2021-04-20/jury-verdict-derek-chauvin-george-floyd-death
  13. [13]Kurtis Lee, “Derek Chauvin is guilty of murdering George Floyd,” Los Angeles Times, April 20, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2021-04-20/jury-verdict-derek-chauvin-george-floyd-death

Remembering the Scopes ‘Monkey’ Trial

Social inequality


Infrastructure

I rely on these bridges (figure 1) every day.

Fig. 1. State and local bridge conditions in and around Allegheny County. Circular dots are state responsibility, square are local, and colors are what you’d expect for good (green), fair (orange), and poor (red). Screenshot by author from PennDOT map, April 19, 2021, fair use.


Donald Trump

Yes, still. I think you might have to go back to the Scopes Trial and specifically to William Jennings Bryan[1] to find a rejection of evidence similar to what we see with Donald Trump’s utterly baseless claims of “election fraud” and his supporters’ refusal to abandon those claims.[2]

As a human scientist, I respect a wide range of epistemologies. But the reason I compare Trumpism to the Scopes Monkey Trial is that we seem to be looking at a case where one epistemology is perceived not merely as posing an existential threat not merely to another epistemology but to the people who hold that epistemology.

David Siders, “‘It’s almost like insanity’: GOP base continues to lash out over Trump’s defeat,” Politico, April 20, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/20/trump-georgia-gop-election-fraud-483193


  1. [1]Douglas O. Linder, “State v. John Scopes (‘The Monkey Trial’),” University of Missouri Kansas City, n.d., http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/scopes/evolut.htm
  2. [2]David Siders, “‘It’s almost like insanity’: GOP base continues to lash out over Trump’s defeat,” Politico, April 20, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/20/trump-georgia-gop-election-fraud-483193