An introduction to critical race theory (update #2)

Updates

  1. Originally published, June 11, 2021, 7:26 pm.

  2. June 11, 2021, 10:48 pm:


Environment

Matt Simon, “How to Protect Species and Save the Planet—at Once,” Wired, June 10, 2021, https://www.wired.com/story/how-to-protect-species-and-save-the-planet-at-once/


Critical Race Theory

There is a new blog post entitled, “Talking about critical theory—and critical race theory.”

source on threadreaderapp.com
Archived at 2021-06-11 09:50:16

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Michael Harriot

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11 Jun, 27 tweets, 5 min read

This is damn near impossible. It’s like asking: “Can you briefly explain how the universe works?”

However, there are some things people should know.

A thread.

First of all, you should know that critical theory, as a tool for examining social structures, has been around for more than a century.

Broadly put, no social structure is perfect, and all social structures must be examined

And we know that when you examine or “critique” something, especially a society, the critique is NEVER objective. It is always colored by the perspective of the observer. I know this sounds like something someone says when the edible kicked in, but here’s an example.

Everyone knows America founded was founded on July 4, 1776. I don’t think there’s any debate about that.

Except, there is.

1776 was just the year a bunch of white guys wrote a breakup letter to King George saying the American colonies were tired of being England’s sidepiece.

But that was on June 7, so America didn’t become a country then. The Declaration of Independence wasn’t even signed until August, after the Revolutionary War had been going on for over a year. And the war lasted until 1783. And the Constitution wasn’t ratified until June 21, 1788

How was America founded before we became an official country?

In fact, for years, Jefferson and Adams disagreed on the July 4 thing. In his papers, Adams told his wife it was July 2, 1776

So what happened?

Basically no one remembered.

chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/ct-…

And if you ask the indigenous people of North America when this country was founded, they’d tell you there were cities, states and organized governments long before white people arrived.

My point is: How we define “America” has always been determined by white people.

In fact, enslaved Black people were not technically “Americans” until the passage of the 14th Amendment, which defined citizenship.

If white people arbitrarily decided that America was founded in 1776, the only reason someone would argue with another date like… ummm…1619

is if they were not “critically” examining history. Does that make sense?

OK, here’s something else you should know:

Not ONE SCINTILLA of what I just said has anything to do with Critical Race Theory.

It’s just something white people disagree with

Basically, CRT was first used to examine and study the law through the lens of race. But “critical theory,” doesn’t just examine social structures, nor should it. If the smart, educated arson investigators showed up to examine a fire, wouldn’t you want them to try to put it out?

So CRT has a few premises.

1. Racism exists: Because… duhhhh

2. Racism is “ordinary”: This is the part that people get wrong. Tucker Carlson and Tim Scott would have you believe that CRT teaches that “America is a racist country” While that might be true, (and, IMO it is)…

CRT does not say that. It proposes that racism is “ordinary,” or “not remarkable”

For instance, everyone in the US does not carry the cold virus. But the reason that doctors don’t freak out when a patient has a cold is that they know having a cold is not remarkable. It is normal

3. Racism and white supremacy serve a purpose: Racism exists because a certain segment of society benefits from its existence. And because it serves a purpose, white people don’t really have an incentive to get rid of it…EVEN IF THEY DON’T AGREE WITH IT.

For instance, if you are in a boardroom or at Thanksgiving dinner and heard someone do or say something racist, you might think it’s despicable. But if you like your job, your position or simply didn’t want to upset your aunt Becky, you might not say anything.

4. Race is a social construct: Now, here is where I have a slight (not major) disagreement. I would argue (and I have taught) that race is an ECONOMIC construct (and I’m not just talking about money. I’m talking about supply, demand and the material manifestation of resources)

But in any case, I agree that race is just some shit that people made up. It has no basis in science, biology or genetics. It’s arbitrary to believe a person from Southern Italy, a person from Eritrea, a person from Saudi Arabia & a person from Thailand are in 4 different races.

5. The interpretation and socialization of races evolve. Irish and italians were once not considered to be “white people.” To keep a white majority, Hispanic people may soon be considered “white.” Also, what is Hispanic, anyway? How are Dominicans “Hispanic” but Haitians “Black”?

How are Mexicans “Hispanic” but Pueblo Indians considered “Native American” just because they are separated by a river? I don’t know either

Now, CRT was MOSTLY used to examine the law. For instance, to understand why enslaved Black people were counted as 3/5ths of a person in the constitution, you could point to the fact that there were more slaves in the South. You could look at congressional representation, or…

You could say: “Oh yeah, there were only white men in the room when they agreed to include that in the Constitution.”

And one of the things that critical race theory says is that the idea of race-neutral “colorblindness” actually invigorates white supremacy.

How?

Well, if white supremacy exists, and it is normal, and it benefits white people, then pretending as it doesn’t exist, failing to eradicate it, or acting as if it ISN’T normal not only allows white supremacy to flourish, it FURTHER NORMALIZES it.

Take Plessy v. Ferguson for instance. For years, the US acted as if it was possible for public accommodations to be “separate but equal” because, the south believed in the idea of race, thought that separating races was “ordinary” and that policy benefitted white people.

Until Brown v. Board said “separate cannot be equal,” white supremacy was so ordinary that we are STILL trying to undo its ordinariness.

This is a VERY VERY simplified explanation, but ask yourself this:

DO YOU THINK SOMEONE IS TEACHING THIS CONCEPT IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL?

Hell no.

What may be true is that there are people who learned CRT and looked at the way history is taught and said:

“These books are filled with lies. They pretend to be colorblind but they don’t include a true perspective of history.”

Now you can disagree but ask yourself:

1. If it did not benefit white people, would the most powerful white men in the country fight so hard to preserve it?

2. If racism and white supremacy weren’t “ordinary” then why do so many white people disagree with CRT while MOST Black people think it’s important?

theroot.com/why-white-peop…[1]

Benjamin Wallace-Wells, “What Do Conservatives Fear About Critical Race Theory?” New Yorker, June 10, 2021, https://www.newyorker.com/news/annals-of-inquiry/what-do-conservatives-fear-about-critical-race-theory

Michael Harriot, [Twitter thread], Thread Reader App, June 11, 2021, https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1403281202338013184.html



  1. [1]Michael Harriot, [Twitter thread], Thread Reader App, June 11, 2021, https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1403281202338013184.html

(In)justice wears blinders (update #3)

Updates

  1. Originally published, June 10, 2021, 1:28 pm.

  2. June 10, 2021, 5:59 pm:

    • So a funny thing happened with businesses that raised their minimum wage to $15 or more: That entirely bogus “labor shortage”[1] disappeared. Vanished. In a puff of smoke. It seems that improving working conditions helped, too. And price increases? Minimal, if any.[2]

    • I guess Milton Raiford didn’t have a plan after all. He has capitulated, asking to be restored[3] to the case he had refused to participate in,[4] citing white supremacy and systemic racism in a dispute that drew attention to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, Jr.[5] There are a couple problems here:

      1. Zappala has not had to apologize and there has been no commitment to address Raiford’s complaints. White supremacism is, for all practical purposes and certainly in the eyes of those who defend the criminal injustice system of Allegheny County, “vindicated.”

      2. Raiford may or may not be able to resume his practice as before; to the extent he is, he will surely have to “behave” himself according to the white supremacist rules of a systemically racist system. He is being humiliated for trying to do a right thing.

      This stinks.

  3. June 10, 2021, 11:17 pm:

    • Okay, these coincidences are getting kind of spooky:

      The Imani Christian Academy, where Milton Raiford served as a pastor (I’m not clear if he still does), is to the southeast of 2200 East Hills Drive. The 2200 block is likely to the north (figure 1).


      Fig. 1. Screenshot by author of 2200 East Hills Drive from Google Maps. This largely covers the area south of that covered in figure 2, including all of Park Hill Drive, as well as the housing development I think is public housing.

      In theory, there’s no connection between the story largely focused on Park Hills Drive,[6] the Milton Raiford-Stephen Zappala, Jr., story,[7] and the shooting on East Hills Drive. None at all. They just happen to have cropped up all at about the same time.


Housing

Against the problems of gentrification in and around Pittsburgh,[8] there is the problem of blight and rot[9] that I have taken some photographs of. There’s some middle ground, but really not a lot.

While focusing on Park Hills Drive, this latest article[10] does not mention the problem of East Hills Drive (figure 1), scene of the most horrific potholes in Pittsburgh that I have seen and which would be a major access route to the area. Residents have told me the problem is that the road exists in disputed territory between Pittsburgh and Penn Hills with neither municipality being willing to fix it. It’s been like this for decades. The area that should be closed, since no one is willing to fix it, begins at the north end of Park Hills Drive and extends to Frankstown Road (figure 2). Alternative routes exist but are circuitous.

Fig. 2. East Hills Drive. Screenshot by author, June 9, 2021, from Google Maps.

Park Hill Drive itself has no shortage of potholes; the problem of municipal neglect goes far beyond the housing itself,[11] surely further deterring would-be buyers.

Rich Lord, “Can East Hills residents reverse ‘blightlining’ and ‘rotrification’ on Park Hill Drive?” Public Source, June 9, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/east-hills-consensus-pittsburgh-blight-rising-tide-partners/


Taxes

There is a new blog post entitled, “We, the unemployed, the homeless, the evicted, and the wage earners can all sleep soundly at night knowing the political elite are very clear on their priorities.”

Jesse Eisinger, Jeff Ernsthausen, and Paul Kiel, “The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax,” ProPublica, June 8, 2021, https://www.propublica.org/article/the-secret-irs-files-trove-of-never-before-seen-records-reveal-how-the-wealthiest-avoid-income-tax

British Broadcasting Corporation, “US super-rich ‘pay almost no income tax,’” June 9, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/business-57383869


Allegheny County

Y’all know I don’t doubt Milton Raiford’s righteousness,[12] and I have to assume he knows what he’s doing as he “refused Wednesday to participate in his client’s nonjury trial until Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. meets with him, resigns or recuses himself from all of Raiford’s cases” and “spoke [in court] for several minutes Wednesday morning about God, racism and the need for the legal system to repent.”[13] But damn, the man’s got balls.

“God saved me from cronyism and racism,” [Milton] Raiford said. “This system is systemically racist.

“Stephen Zappala has personally threatened me.” . . .

“Those of you who sit up there have to come in contact with your own brokenness and weakness and have respect for those who come before you who are broken and weak themselves,” Raiford said. “This building is a cesspool of white privilege.”

He told [Judge Anthony] Mariani that he holds young people of color, from neighborhoods like Homewood, East Liberty and East Hills, to a standard that many can’t meet.

“You’re holding them to your standard of responsibility,” he said.

Throughout the argument, the judge repeatedly asked Raiford if he would would uphold his oath as an attorney and represent his client, Vanessa Williams. She was scheduled for a bench trial on charges of aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence.

Each time, Raiford said he would not.

“You’re asking me to stand by an oath you violate everyday,” Raiford said. He said that he can’t operate with any prosecutor who is “an agent of Stephen Zappala.”

“I’m trying to help get you guys cleaned up.”

The judge responded, “It’s not your job to clean us guys up. And I wouldn’t have the audacity to judge whether you needed to be cleaned up.”

Mariani reiterated his position that Raiford is a good attorney and advocate. Still, he said, he had no choice but to remove Raiford as Williams’ attorney.[14]

Raiford has served as a pastor at the Imani Christian Academy,[15] very near the south end of Park Hill Drive, a place the City of Pittsburgh has neglected, in attending to abandoned properties, the roads, even sewer service.[16] It’s one of a number of areas that Mayor Bill Peduto’s government just doesn’t give a damn about. The academy itself is located adjacent to what looks to me to be public housing, which is actually in reasonable condition (and probably run by the county). It isn’t a wealthy area by any stretch. Nearly everyone I’ve picked up there is Black; certainly all are poor.

Raiford himself seems to have come at least from this sort of background;[17] it’s possible to imagine these are his people. And I can’t help but believe that this has something to do with what we’re seeing here; everyone has a breaking point, beyond which they can take no more, and Raiford himself refers to people “who are broken and weak.”[18]

The judge just wants to get on with the case, to carry on with dispensing injustice according to the letter of the law,[19] which is itself not quite so clear cut,[20] and which misses entirely the original causes of crime,[21] and thus misses the reality of these people’s situations entirely.

Justice, we say, is supposed to be “blind.” It would be more accurate to say that the system of injustice we actually have wears blinders; it intentionally misses context and thus immediately fails a critical theorists’ scrutiny. It is a tragedy.

Paula Reed Ward, “Black attorney demands apology from DA Zappala, calls Allegheny Co. courthouse ‘cesspool of white privilege,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 9, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/black-attorney-demands-apology-from-da-zappala-calls-allegheny-co-courthouse-cesspool-of-white-privilege/



Gig economy

In some ways, this Washington Post story is merely catching up[22] with earlier coverage, most of it from other publications.[23] But it does add an important point that drivers aren’t seeing their share of higher fares in the not-quite-post-pandemic, which is certainly consistent with what I’ve seen.[24]

Faiz Siddiqui, “You may be paying more for Uber, but drivers aren’t getting their cut of the fare hike,” Washington Post, June 9, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/06/09/uber-lyft-drivers-price-hike/


  1. [1]Eric Levitz, “5 Explanations for April’s Bad Jobs Report,” New York, May 7, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/05/jobs-report-explained-ui-childcare-seasonal-adjustment.html; Eric Levitz, “Letting the Economy Create Jobs for Everyone Is (Sadly) Radical,” New York, June 4, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/06/biden-full-employment-policy-labor-shortage-inflation.html; Heather Long, “It’s not a ‘labor shortage.’ It’s a great reassessment of work in America,” Washington Post, May 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/05/07/jobs-report-labor-shortage-analysis/; Jon Schwarz, “The Business Class Has Been Fearmongering About Worker Shortages for Centuries,” Intercept, May 7, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/05/07/worker-shortage-slavery-capitalism/
  2. [2]Eli Rosenberg, “These businesses found a way around the worker shortage: Raising wages to $15 an hour or more,” Washington Post, June 10, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/06/10/worker-shortage-raising-wages/
  3. [3]Paula Reed Ward, “Attorney Milton Raiford apologizes for leaving client’s case during Zappala dispute; seeks to be restored,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 10, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/attorney-milton-raiford-apologizes-for-leaving-clients-case-during-zappala-dispute-seeks-to-be-restored/
  4. [4]Paula Reed Ward, “Black attorney demands apology from DA Zappala, calls Allegheny Co. courthouse ‘cesspool of white privilege,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 9, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/black-attorney-demands-apology-from-da-zappala-calls-allegheny-co-courthouse-cesspool-of-white-privilege/
  5. [5]Ryan Deto, “Pittsburgh politicians call on DA Stephen Zappala to be removed or resign from office,” Pittsburgh City Paper, June 2, 2021, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/pittsburgh-politicians-call-on-da-stephen-zappala-to-be-removed-or-resign-from-office/Content?oid=19583745; Paula Reed Ward, “Zappala: No plea deals to Black attorney who called his office ‘systematically racist,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/zappala-no-plea-deals-to-black-attorney-who-called-his-office-systematically-racist/; Paula Reed Ward, “Allegheny County judge halts plea deals amid questions surrounding DA Zappala,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/allegheny-county-judge-halts-plea-deals-amid-questions-surrounding-da-zappala/; Paula Reed Ward, “DA Zappala says office halted plea deals with Black attorney to avoid ‘false claims of racism,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 3, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/da-zappala-says-office-halted-plea-deals-with-black-attorney-to-avoid-false-claims-of-racism/; Paula Reed Ward, “Zappala updates policy on how prosecutors should deal with discrimination claims; rescinds policy against Raiford,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 7, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/zappala-updates-policy-on-how-prosecutors-should-deal-with-discrimination-claims/
  6. [6]Rich Lord, “Can East Hills residents reverse ‘blightlining’ and ‘rotrification’ on Park Hill Drive?” Public Source, June 9, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/east-hills-consensus-pittsburgh-blight-rising-tide-partners/
  7. [7]Ryan Deto, “Pittsburgh politicians call on DA Stephen Zappala to be removed or resign from office,” Pittsburgh City Paper, June 2, 2021, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/pittsburgh-politicians-call-on-da-stephen-zappala-to-be-removed-or-resign-from-office/Content?oid=19583745; Paula Reed Ward, “Allegheny County judge halts plea deals amid questions surrounding DA Zappala,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/allegheny-county-judge-halts-plea-deals-amid-questions-surrounding-da-zappala/; Paula Reed Ward, “Zappala: No plea deals to Black attorney who called his office ‘systematically racist,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/zappala-no-plea-deals-to-black-attorney-who-called-his-office-systematically-racist/; Paula Reed Ward, “DA Zappala says office halted plea deals with Black attorney to avoid ‘false claims of racism,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 3, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/da-zappala-says-office-halted-plea-deals-with-black-attorney-to-avoid-false-claims-of-racism/; Paula Reed Ward, “Zappala updates policy on how prosecutors should deal with discrimination claims; rescinds policy against Raiford,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 7, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/zappala-updates-policy-on-how-prosecutors-should-deal-with-discrimination-claims/; Paula Reed Ward, “Black attorney demands apology from DA Zappala, calls Allegheny Co. courthouse ‘cesspool of white privilege,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 9, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/black-attorney-demands-apology-from-da-zappala-calls-allegheny-co-courthouse-cesspool-of-white-privilege/; Paula Reed Ward, “Attorney Milton Raiford apologizes for leaving client’s case during Zappala dispute; seeks to be restored,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 10, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/attorney-milton-raiford-apologizes-for-leaving-clients-case-during-zappala-dispute-seeks-to-be-restored/
  8. [8]Bob Bauder, “Pittsburgh settles court battle over Penn Plaza Apartments,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 27, 2017, https://archive.triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/pittsburgh-settles-court-battle-over-penn-plaza-apartments/; Tom Davidson, “Is there a crisis of ‘forced mass displacement’ of Black Pittsburghers? Residents, council divided on answer,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 6, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/is-there-a-crisis-of-forced-mass-displacement-of-black-pittsburghers-residents-council-divided-on-answer/; Ryan Deto, “Pittsburgh is one of the most gentrified cities in the U.S.,” Pittsburgh City Paper, April 4, 2019, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/pittsburgh-is-one-of-the-most-gentrified-cities-in-the-us/Content?oid=14381722; Ryan Deto, “The displacement of Anthony Hardison from his Lawrenceville apartment is a microcosm of a neighborhood epidemic,” Pittsburgh City Paper, January 15, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/the-displacement-of-anthony-hardison-from-his-lawrenceville-apartment-is-a-microcosm-of-a-neighborhood-epidemic/Content?oid=16556108; Rich Lord, “House hunters: How an anti-blight law has become a tool for ambitious landlords in Allegheny County,” Public Source, November 24, 2020, https://www.publicsource.org/conservatorship-allegheny-county-wilkinsburg-east-liberty-garfield-taiani-chaney-cp-development/; 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
  9. [9]Rich Lord, “Can East Hills residents reverse ‘blightlining’ and ‘rotrification’ on Park Hill Drive?” Public Source, June 9, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/east-hills-consensus-pittsburgh-blight-rising-tide-partners/
  10. [10]Rich Lord, “Can East Hills residents reverse ‘blightlining’ and ‘rotrification’ on Park Hill Drive?” Public Source, June 9, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/east-hills-consensus-pittsburgh-blight-rising-tide-partners/
  11. [11]Rich Lord, “Can East Hills residents reverse ‘blightlining’ and ‘rotrification’ on Park Hill Drive?” Public Source, June 9, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/east-hills-consensus-pittsburgh-blight-rising-tide-partners/
  12. [12]David Benfell, “Stephen Zappala’s resignation would be nowhere near enough,” Not Housebroken, June 8, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/06/03/stephen-zappalas-resignation-would-be-nowhere-near-enough/
  13. [13]Paula Reed Ward, “Black attorney demands apology from DA Zappala, calls Allegheny Co. courthouse ‘cesspool of white privilege,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 9, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/black-attorney-demands-apology-from-da-zappala-calls-allegheny-co-courthouse-cesspool-of-white-privilege/
  14. [14]Paula Reed Ward, “Black attorney demands apology from DA Zappala, calls Allegheny Co. courthouse ‘cesspool of white privilege,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 9, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/black-attorney-demands-apology-from-da-zappala-calls-allegheny-co-courthouse-cesspool-of-white-privilege/
  15. [15]Paula Reed Ward, “Black attorney demands apology from DA Zappala, calls Allegheny Co. courthouse ‘cesspool of white privilege,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 9, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/black-attorney-demands-apology-from-da-zappala-calls-allegheny-co-courthouse-cesspool-of-white-privilege/
  16. [16]Rich Lord, “Can East Hills residents reverse ‘blightlining’ and ‘rotrification’ on Park Hill Drive?” Public Source, June 9, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/east-hills-consensus-pittsburgh-blight-rising-tide-partners/
  17. [17]Paula Reed Ward, “Black attorney demands apology from DA Zappala, calls Allegheny Co. courthouse ‘cesspool of white privilege,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 9, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/black-attorney-demands-apology-from-da-zappala-calls-allegheny-co-courthouse-cesspool-of-white-privilege/
  18. [18]Milton Raiford, quoted in Paula Reed Ward, “Black attorney demands apology from DA Zappala, calls Allegheny Co. courthouse ‘cesspool of white privilege,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 9, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/black-attorney-demands-apology-from-da-zappala-calls-allegheny-co-courthouse-cesspool-of-white-privilege/
  19. [19]Paula Reed Ward, “Black attorney demands apology from DA Zappala, calls Allegheny Co. courthouse ‘cesspool of white privilege,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 9, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/black-attorney-demands-apology-from-da-zappala-calls-allegheny-co-courthouse-cesspool-of-white-privilege/
  20. [20]John Hasnas, “The Myth of the Rule of Law,” Georgetown University, 1995, http://faculty.msb.edu/hasnasj/GTWebSite/MythWeb.htm
  21. [21]Wanda D. McCaslin and Denise C. Breton, “Justice as Healing: Going Outside the Colonizers’ Cage,” in Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies, eds. Norman K. Denzin, Yvonna S. Lincoln, and Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008), 511-529.
  22. [22]Faiz Siddiqui, “You may be paying more for Uber, but drivers aren’t getting their cut of the fare hike,” Washington Post, June 9, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/06/09/uber-lyft-drivers-price-hike/
  23. [23]Jessica Bursztynsky, “Uber CEO is ‘not happy’ with how long it’s taking to pick riders up or prices being charged,” CNBC, May 25, 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/25/uber-ceo-is-not-happy-with-driver-supply-pricing.html; Laura Forman, “Uber and Lyft Need a Sharper Turn,” Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-and-lyft-need-a-sharper-turn-11618311794; Michael Hiltzik, “Uber reneges on the ‘flexibility’ it gave drivers to win their support for Prop. 22,” Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2021-05-28/uber-flexibility-prop-22; Mariella Moon, “Uber and Lyft rides are pricier due to a lack of drivers (and the waits are longer, too),” Engadget, June 1, 2021, https://www.engadget.com/uber-lyft-surge-pricing-lack-of-drivers-035835230.html; Faiz Siddiqui, “Where have all the Uber drivers gone?” Washington Post, May 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/05/07/uber-lyft-drivers/; Alissa Walker, “Why Your Uber Ride Is Suddenly Costing a Fortune,” New York, June 4, 2021, https://www.curbed.com/2021/06/uber-lyft-expensive-new-york-city.html
  24. [24]Faiz Siddiqui, “You may be paying more for Uber, but drivers aren’t getting their cut of the fare hike,” Washington Post, June 9, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/06/09/uber-lyft-drivers-price-hike/

A revised definition of fascism

Education

There is a new blog post entitled, “‘Private benefit’ versus ‘public good.’

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


Donald Trump

David A. Graham, “This Isn’t Normal, Either,” Atlantic, June 5, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/06/isnt-normal-either/619102/

Max Boot, “Too many people are still underestimating the Trump threat,” Washington Post, June 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/06/07/too-many-people-are-still-underestimating-trump/


Evictions

Federal aid intended to prevent evictions is being snarled by red tape, in some cases disqualifying tenants who should be eligible, and by bureaucratic delays as overwhelmed agencies fail to keep up with a flood of applications. The eviction moratorium expires at the end of June.[1] I have seen nothing further on the status of court cases challenging the ban imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; three federal judges had overturned it and three had upheld it.[2]

Will Parker, “Logjams Are Keeping Much of $47 Billion in Federal Aid From Renters,” Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/logjams-are-keeping-much-of-47-billion-in-federal-aid-from-renters-11623070800


Fascism

It’s probably been a few months now since I learned Umberto Eco had also worked on defining fascism. His definition[3] is rather different from Laurence Britt’s[4] and so I have now attempted to synthesize the two in updating an old blog post entitled, “A simple definition of fascism. Eco offers some seriously fascinating insight. Distilling it and combining it into a “simple” definition is not easy and I’ll probably be thinking about this some more. For now:

Fascism is an incoherent and strongly authoritarian ideology that seeks to institutionalize structural and physical violence against some or many “others,” both external and internal, who are simultaneously seen as inferior, humiliating, and threatening. This conflict is “heroic,” culminating in death against a foe who must be invincible because peace is weakness, but also vincible because the enemy is disdained. Fascism equates peace, even that imposed by the victor, with weakness and inferiority. An equation of weakness with inferiority extends even to lower-ranking members of the fascist movement itself. Fascism’s frustrations may be expressed through toxic masculinity.

Due to its incoherence, fascism can tolerate no challenge, whether intellectual or in any way deliberative. It is emphatically foundational; in tautological form, fascists are “right” simply and solely because they are “right.”

Fascism seeks to increase its own public support through the exploitation of violence and bigotry, where the latter may take several forms including the intolerance for dissent, nationalism, scapegoating, sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. To the extent that it succeeds, it acts as a self-reinforcing feedback as public support enables further and more extreme violence.[5]


Allegheny County

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, Jr., has supposedly rescinded[6] the ban on plea deals with Milton Raiford, a defense attorney who had complained of systemic discrimination in the criminal (in)justice systems around Pittsburgh generally and specifically within the district attorney’s office, leading to numerous calls for Zappala’s resignation.[7] The D.A. has also issued new guidance on handling discrimination claims.[8]

[Milton] Raiford called [Stephen] Zappala’s weekend memo “garbage,” adding, “I think it’s stonewalling the fact he violated my constitutional rights and the rights of my clients. The mule’s out of the barn, and he’s trying to protect himself. It changes absolutely nothing.”

Raiford added: “He has never apologized to me.”

Fordham University Law Professor Bruce Green, an expert in prosecutorial ethics who followed this issue, said he does not read the new policy to rescind the earlier one against Raiford.

“It’s a new and different policy, reminding prosecutors to make charging and plea bargaining decisions based on evidence,” Green said. “It’s somewhat pointless, since the theory of structural racism is that it is baked into the process, not that individual prosecutors are consciously making racist decisions. It also ignores learnings about unconscious bias. And, so, it shows a certain obtuseness about the earlier criticism of the office.”

Green said the instruction for defense attorneys to report accusations of discrimination seems pointless.

“Not many defense lawyers will risk the prosecutors’ enmity by making these accusations, especially not after witnessing the office’s vindictiveness, and given that the accusations certainly won’t do individual clients any good,” he said.

David A. Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who studies race in the criminal justice system, said the policy outlined by Zappala in Sunday’s memo ought to already be in place.

“That should already be happening,” Harris said. “‘If you have a problem, come to us.’ That’s not a new policy. That’s got to be the case all the time.”

Harris said the response from Zappala misses the point of what Raiford was initially trying to express.

“It was less about a particular plea offer, though that may have been included, and more about the system and the actions of the DA’s office as a whole.”

Examining individual claims of discrimination in a single case will not reveal if there is racial impact or systemic racial choices being made, Harris said.

“You can’t really tell if you have a systemic process if you don’t look at the run of the entire system,” he said. “A person could say a white person would get a better deal, but how would you go about proving that? It would be very difficult.”

[9]

There are an awful lot of Black folks in Allegheny County. I don’t keep a count but I think they’re probably a majority of my passengers as an Uber and Lyft driver. It’s more than a little frightening to think about what they face.

Paula Reed Ward, “Zappala updates policy on how prosecutors should deal with discrimination claims; rescinds policy against Raiford,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 7, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/zappala-updates-policy-on-how-prosecutors-should-deal-with-discrimination-claims/


Jeff Bezos

The man who fancies himself a Jean-Luc Picard,[10] but who treats his workers abysmally,[11] is shooting himself off into space for a brief trip after stepping down as chief executive officer of Amazon.[12]

Derrick Bryson Taylor and Kenneth Chang, “Jeff Bezos Will Fly Aboard Blue Origin’s First Human Trip to Space,” New York Times, June 7, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/07/business/jeff-bezos-space.html


  1. [1]Will Parker, “Logjams Are Keeping Much of $47 Billion in Federal Aid From Renters,” Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/logjams-are-keeping-much-of-47-billion-in-federal-aid-from-renters-11623070800; Kyle Swenson, “The eviction moratorium is about to end. Rent relief hasn’t arrived. These renters decided to take action,” Washington Post, June 5, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/06/05/prince-georges-rent-strike-eviction/
  2. [2]Kyle Swenson, “Federal judge vacates CDC’s nationwide eviction moratorium,” Washington Post, May 5, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/05/05/federal-judge-vacates-cdcs-nationwide-eviction-moratorium/
  3. [3]Umberto Eco, “Ur-Fascism,” New York Review of Books, June 22, 1995, https://www.nybooks.com/articles/1995/06/22/ur-fascism/
  4. [4]Laurence W. Britt, “Fascism Anyone?” Free Inquiry 23, no. 2. (Spring 2003), https://secularhumanism.org/2003/03/fascism-anyone/
  5. [5]David Benfell, “A simple definition of fascism,” Not Housebroken, June 9, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/07/06/a-simple-definition-of-fascism/
  6. [6]Paula Reed Ward, “Zappala updates policy on how prosecutors should deal with discrimination claims; rescinds policy against Raiford,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 7, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/zappala-updates-policy-on-how-prosecutors-should-deal-with-discrimination-claims/
  7. [7]Ryan Deto, “Pittsburgh politicians call on DA Stephen Zappala to be removed or resign from office,” Pittsburgh City Paper, June 2, 2021, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/pittsburgh-politicians-call-on-da-stephen-zappala-to-be-removed-or-resign-from-office/Content?oid=19583745; Paula Reed Ward, “Allegheny County judge halts plea deals amid questions surrounding DA Zappala,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/allegheny-county-judge-halts-plea-deals-amid-questions-surrounding-da-zappala/; Paula Reed Ward, “Zappala: No plea deals to Black attorney who called his office ‘systematically racist,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/zappala-no-plea-deals-to-black-attorney-who-called-his-office-systematically-racist/; Paula Reed Ward, “DA Zappala says office halted plea deals with Black attorney to avoid ‘false claims of racism,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 3, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/da-zappala-says-office-halted-plea-deals-with-black-attorney-to-avoid-false-claims-of-racism/
  8. [8]Paula Reed Ward, “Zappala updates policy on how prosecutors should deal with discrimination claims; rescinds policy against Raiford,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 7, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/zappala-updates-policy-on-how-prosecutors-should-deal-with-discrimination-claims/
  9. [9]Paula Reed Ward, “Zappala updates policy on how prosecutors should deal with discrimination claims; rescinds policy against Raiford,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 7, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/zappala-updates-policy-on-how-prosecutors-should-deal-with-discrimination-claims/
  10. [10]Franklin Foer, “Jeff Bezos’s Master Plan,” Atlantic, November 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/11/what-jeff-bezos-wants/598363/
  11. [11]Johana Bhuiyan, “Amazon ends practice of dipping into drivers’ tips to meet their wage guarantees,” Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/business/technology/story/2019-08-22/amazon-flex-fares-tips; Jessa Crispin, “Amazon is a disaster for workers. Nomadland glosses over that,” Guardian, March 23, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/23/amazon-nomadland-film-jeff-bezos-disaster-workers; Daniel D’Addario, “Amazon is worse than Walmart,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/control/2013/07/30/how_amazon_is_worse_than_wal_mart/; Josh Eidelson, “Amazon Keeps Unions Out By Keeping Workers in Fear, Says Organizer,” Alternet, January 22, 2014, https://www.alternet.org/2014/01/amazon-keeps-unions-out-keeping-workers-fear-says-organizer/; Danny Fortson, “Is Jeff Bezos’s Amazon now the ‘evil face of capitalism’?” Times, December 8, 2019, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/is-jeff-bezoss-amazon-now-the-evil-face-of-capitalism-3lxjs0k0n; Nichole Gracely, “‘Being homeless is better than working for Amazon,’” Guardian, November 28, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/nov/28/being-homeless-is-better-than-working-for-amazon; Simon Head, “Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers,” Salon, February 23, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/02/23/worse_than_wal_mart_amazons_sick_brutality_and_secret_history_of_ruthlessly_intimidating_workers/; Sarah Jones, “Amazon Defeats Union Drive in Alabama,” New York, April 9, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/04/amazon-has-the-votes-to-defeat-union-effort-in-alabama.html; Ken Klippenstein, “Documents Show Amazon Is Aware Drivers Pee in Bottles and Even Defecate En Route, Despite Company Denial,” Intercept, March 25, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/03/25/amazon-drivers-pee-bottles-union/; 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; Patrick McGreevy and Suhauna Hussain, “California demands that Amazon comply with COVID-19 investigation,” Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-12-14/california-lawsuit-amazon-workplace-conditions-covid-19; Nathaniel Mott, “From Amazon warehouse workers to Google bus drivers, it’s tough working a non-tech job at a tech company,” Pando, October 9, 2014, https://pando.com/2014/10/09/from-amazon-warehouse-workers-to-google-bus-drivers-its-tough-working-a-non-tech-job-at-a-tech-company/; Reuters, “Amazon apology to Democrat includes admission drivers urinate in bottles,” Guardian, April 3, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/apr/03/amazon-apology-democrat-mark-pocan; Michael Sainato, “‘I’m not a robot’: Amazon workers condemn unsafe, grueling conditions at warehouse,” Guardian, February 5, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/feb/05/amazon-workers-protest-unsafe-grueling-conditions-warehouse; Alex Seitz-Wald, “Amazon is everything wrong with our new economy,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/07/30/amazon_is_everything_wrong_with_our_new_economy/; Spencer Soper, “Inside Amazon’s Warehouse,” Lehigh Valley Morning Call, September 18, 2011, https://www.mcall.com/business/mc-xpm-2011-09-18-mc-allentown-amazon-complaints-20110917-story.html; Matt Stieb, “Amazon Called Out for Denying Workers Go to Bathroom in Bottles,” New York, March 25, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/03/amazon-called-out-for-denying-that-workers-pee-in-bottles.html
  12. [12]Derrick Bryson Taylor and Kenneth Chang, “Jeff Bezos Will Fly Aboard Blue Origin’s First Human Trip to Space,” New York Times, June 7, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/07/business/jeff-bezos-space.html

The madmen who won’t go away (update #3)

Updates

  1. Originally published, June 5, 2021, 11:17 pm.

  2. June 6, 2021, 10:32 am:

    • Donald Trump performed about as expected in North Carolina yesterday[1] but perhaps his re-litigation of the 2020 election was a bit broader than Jonathan Chait had expected.[2]

    • There is another new blog post entitled, “We refuse to atone.”

  3. June 6, 2021, 7:16 pm:

    • Uber and Lyft’s dream of replacing human drivers with autonomous vehicles,[3] belied by their decisions to sell off their self-driving development units,[4] is still years or decades away.[5] Not that that would really solve their profitability issues anyway.[6]

      One thing that’s emerging, however, is that artificial idiocy[7] may be inadequate to the task,[8] which would be to say that not all driving problems can, even with “big data,” be reduced to statistical aggregates.[9] Well, damn. No shit, Sherlock.

    • As the end of the moratorium on evictions looms at the end of this month, rent relief money has yet to reach people who need it.[10]


There is a new blog post entitled, “On the origin of COVID-19.”


Donald Trump

If there is indeed such a thing as an addiction to grievance,[11] Donald Trump might well be another step beyond it.[12]

Jonathan Chait says that Trump’s sycophants—his term, not mine, but it works—are trying and, of course, failing to get Trump to focus on something besides his election defeat last November and maybe not suggest quite so loudly that there will be a coup to restore him to power in August.[13] The trouble, of course, is that Trump isn’t the only lunatic. There are others advocating the restoration of Trump to the presidency in various, at least mostly non-electoral ways,[14] and in truth, we don’t know how many they are, let alone what capability they bring to try to make it happen. See that new blog post about what we don’t fucking know.[15] It applies here as well.

That’s not to say the efforts seem likely to succeed. Chait certainly doesn’t think so[16] and I doubt anyone else who’s serious thinks so. I’m thinking the most probable worst case scenario is an attempt on the order of January 6, which was certainly scary for folks on Capitol Hill, but lacked any coherent plan for keeping Trump in office.

January 6 didn’t make any sense. And August, as far as anyone seems to know, makes even less. But here’s the thing: We don’t know until we know.

I’m remembering that the psychologists I’ve spoken with generally are not fond of diagnoses, seeing them as not really helpful, but Trump has racked up a few that, as a non-psychologist myself, seem to me to fit really well, including narcissistic rage,[17] addiction to grievance,[18] obsession, delusion,[19] and psychosis.[20] And I’m just guessing we might be able to fit in a few more.

It really has to be something that this man is still so scary, even out of office, even obviously insane.

Jonathan Chait, “Trump Sycophants Pleading for Less Coup Talk at Saturday Rally,” New York, June 4, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/06/trump-sycophants-plead-for-less-coup-talk-at-saturday-rally.html

Meredith McGraw, “Trump reemerges on the trail and plays the hits of yore,” Politico, June 5, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/06/05/trump-north-carolina-speech-gop-492000


Atheism

You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.

Phil Torres, “Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right,” Salon, June 5, 2021, https://www.salon.com/2021/06/05/how-the-new-atheists-merged-with-the-far-right-a-story-of-intellectual-grift-and-abject-surrender/


Gig economy

Christopher Mims, “Self-Driving Cars Could Be Decades Away, No Matter What Elon Musk Said,” Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/self-driving-cars-could-be-decades-away-no-matter-what-elon-musk-said-11622865615


Eviction

Kyle Swenson, “The eviction moratorium is about to end. Rent relief hasn’t arrived. These renters decided to take action,” Washington Post, June 5, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/06/05/prince-georges-rent-strike-eviction/


  1. [1]Meredith McGraw, “Trump reemerges on the trail and plays the hits of yore,” Politico, June 5, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/06/05/trump-north-carolina-speech-gop-492000
  2. [2]Jonathan Chait, “Trump Sycophants Pleading for Less Coup Talk at Saturday Rally,” New York, June 4, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/06/trump-sycophants-plead-for-less-coup-talk-at-saturday-rally.html
  3. [3]Rich Alton, “Basic economics means Uber and Lyft can’t rely on driverless cars to become profitable,” MarketWatch, August 12, 2019, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/basic-economics-means-uber-and-lyft-cant-rely-on-driverless-cars-to-become-profitable-2019-08-12; Matthew Beedham, “Uber: Is this the beginning of the end for the ride-hailing Goliath?” Next Web, March 2, 2021, https://thenextweb.com/shift/2021/03/02/uber-is-this-the-beginning-of-the-end-for-the-ride-hailing-goliath/; 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; Eliot Brown, “Uber Wants to Be the Uber of Everything—But Can It Make a Profit?” Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-wants-to-be-the-uber-of-everything-11556909866; Ryan Felton, “Uber Is Doomed,” Jalopnik, February 24, 2017, https://jalopnik.com/uber-is-doomed-1792634203; Edward Helmore, “Will Uber ever make money? Day of reckoning looms for ride-sharing firm,” Guardian, August 4, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/aug/04/uber-ride-share-lyft-ipo-earnings; Kia Kokalitcheva, “Uber says it’s likely to pay Waymo or revamp its self-driving tech,” Axios, November 7, 2019, https://www.axios.com/uber-says-its-likely-to-pay-waymo-or-revamp-its-self-driving-tech-ffa6e420-4273-4cf1-8161-fc40e25b61da.html; Christopher Mims, “In a Tight Labor Market, Gig Workers Get Harder to Please,” Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/in-a-tight-labor-market-gig-workers-get-harder-to-please-11556942404; Stephen Wilmot, “Uber’s Long Road to Profits,” Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/ubers-long-road-to-profits-11566471068; 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
  4. [4]Kirsten Korosec, “Uber in talks to sell ATG self-driving unit to Aurora,” TechCrunch, November 13, 2020, https://techcrunch.com/2020/11/13/uber-in-talks-to-sell-atg-self-driving-unit-to-aurora/; 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;
  5. [5]Christopher Mims, “Self-Driving Cars Could Be Decades Away, No Matter What Elon Musk Said,” Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/self-driving-cars-could-be-decades-away-no-matter-what-elon-musk-said-11622865615
  6. [6]Rich Alton, “Basic economics means Uber and Lyft can’t rely on driverless cars to become profitable,” MarketWatch, August 12, 2019, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/basic-economics-means-uber-and-lyft-cant-rely-on-driverless-cars-to-become-profitable-2019-08-12
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Our new Satan: artificial idiocy and big data mining,” Not Housebroken, April 5, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/01/13/our-new-satan-artificial-idiocy-and-big-data-mining/
  8. [8]Christopher Mims, “Self-Driving Cars Could Be Decades Away, No Matter What Elon Musk Said,” Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/self-driving-cars-could-be-decades-away-no-matter-what-elon-musk-said-11622865615
  9. [9]David Benfell, “Our new Satan: artificial idiocy and big data mining,” Not Housebroken, April 5, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/01/13/our-new-satan-artificial-idiocy-and-big-data-mining/
  10. [10]Kyle Swenson, “The eviction moratorium is about to end. Rent relief hasn’t arrived. These renters decided to take action,” Washington Post, June 5, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/06/05/prince-georges-rent-strike-eviction/
  11. [11]James Kimmel, Jr., “What the Science of Addiction Tells Us About Trump,” Politico, December 12, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/12/12/trump-grievance-addiction-444570
  12. [12]Jonathan Chait, “Trump Sycophants Pleading for Less Coup Talk at Saturday Rally,” New York, June 4, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/06/trump-sycophants-plead-for-less-coup-talk-at-saturday-rally.html
  13. [13]Jonathan Chait, “Trump Sycophants Pleading for Less Coup Talk at Saturday Rally,” New York, June 4, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/06/trump-sycophants-plead-for-less-coup-talk-at-saturday-rally.html
  14. [14]Fred Kaplan, “How the Military Should Deal With Its Michael Flynn Problem,” Slate, June 1, 2021, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/06/michael-flynn-coup-court-martial.html; Bess Levin, “Trump Has Reportedly Been Telling People He’s Going to Be President Again by August, Which Would Suggest He’s Planning a Coup (Or Has Fully Descended Into Madness),” Vanity Fair, June 1, 2021, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/06/donald-trump-august-reinstatement; Alex Shephard, “Trump’s Republicans Want a Coup,” New Republic, June 1, 2021, https://newrepublic.com/article/162586/michael-flynn-trump-myanmar-coup
  15. [15]David Benfell, “On the origin of COVID-19,” Not Housebroken, June 4, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/06/04/on-the-origin-of-covid-19/
  16. [16]Jonathan Chait, “Trump Sycophants Pleading for Less Coup Talk at Saturday Rally,” New York, June 4, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/06/trump-sycophants-plead-for-less-coup-talk-at-saturday-rally.html
  17. [17]George Simon, “Understanding and Dealing with Narcissistic Rage,” Counselling Resource, July 24, 2017, https://counsellingresource.com/features/2017/07/24/understanding-narcissistic-rage/
  18. [18]James Kimmel, Jr., “What the Science of Addiction Tells Us About Trump,” Politico, December 12, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/12/12/trump-grievance-addiction-444570
  19. [19]Michael Kruse, “Is Trump Cracking Under the Weight of Losing?” Politico, December 20, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/12/20/trump-white-house-losing-448903
  20. [20]WebMD, “Psychosis and Psychotic Episodes,” July 13, 2019, https://www.webmd.com/schizophrenia/guide/what-is-psychosis#1

The fictitious ‘labor shortage’ and Joe Biden’s alleged attempt to raise wages and dignity

Donald Trump

Donald Trump will be allowed to return to Facebook in two years, if the threat to public safety has receded.[1] As of now, there is no sign that threat is receding.[2]

Along with other social networks, Facebook had suspended Trump[3] following his possibly criminal encouragement of the January 6 Capitol Hill coup attempt.[4]

Facebook’s decision follows a ruling from its Oversight Board, the company’s effort at self-regulation, that the company had not had clear criteria for an indefinite suspension, but which upheld the decision.[5] So far as I know, Trump remains suspended on other social networks.

Elizabeth Dwoskin, “Facebook suspends Trump for 2 years in response to Oversight Board ruling,” Washington Post, June 4, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/06/03/trump-facebook-oversight-board/


Unemployment

[I]f the pursuit of maximum employment is an uncontroversial aim in the context of American oratory, it is a radical one in the context of U.S. policy. For the bulk of the past four decades, our government hasn’t merely declined to achieve full employment through public hiring; it has actively sought to keep millions of Americans perpetually unemployed.

This bipartisan consensus against full employment was rarely articulated to the public in forthright terms. During the crisis that consolidated the paradigm, policy-makers were sometimes blunt; in 1979, Fed chair Paul Volcker told Congress that in order for inflation to be brought down to a tolerable level, “the standard of living of the average American has to decline.” But as inflation became more of a historical memory than a present danger, the government’s prioritization of price stability over employment became increasingly camouflaged behind the dry technocratic verbiage of central-bank press conferences. Once decoded, the gist of this new consensus was simple enough: If unemployment falls beneath its “natural” threshold, then employers will be forced into a bidding war for scarce workers, who will then secure wages in excess of their productivity, which will force businesses to raise prices, which will lead workers to demand yet-higher wages, which will force businesses to raise prices further still, thereby setting off an inflationary spiral that will be difficult to stop. Thus, to save the economy from such destabilization, the government has to reduce economic demand — by raising interest rates, or cutting federal spending, or both — before unemployment gets too low, even if inflation is not yet apparent.[6]

Eric Levitz’ claim is that this has now changed, that while Republicans still prioritize low inflation and low wages to the benefit of the wealthy, hence the fictitious “labor shortage,”[7] which I have addressed,[8] Joe Biden wants labor to have bargaining power, to raise wages and dignity. If this is true, it would indeed be, as Levitz claims, a radical shift away[9] from anything I have seen in my adult life.[10]

I’ll believe it when I have a real job. But so far, what I’m seeing[11] remains utterly bogus.[12]

Eric Levitz, “Letting the Economy Create Jobs for Everyone Is (Sadly) Radical,” New York, June 4, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/06/biden-full-employment-policy-labor-shortage-inflation.html


Gig economy

The reason I’m not on the road right now is I don’t have a usable car—I’m unwilling to sink another $1,800 into my Toyota Camry Hybrid whose maintenance costs have skyrocketed, in significant part due to Pittsburgh roads, and I’m unable to get a rental car—I need to check with the local agents to see if they even actually have a car and they aren’t even answering their phones—through Uber and Lyft company programs, almost certainly due to a rental car shortage.[13] I have a new car on order, which I expect to be more resilient.

But you know those driver incentives the companies been promising for months to alleviate Uber and Lyft druver shortages?[14] Apparently they aren’t working because we’re still hearing the same refrain:

The labor shortage is not unique to ride-hailing, but the situation is particularly dire right now at Uber and Lyft, where morale among its gig workers is low. [Harry] Campbell says he talks to drivers every day who say they’re not benefiting from the higher prices that passengers are being charged. Last week, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the company would be proposing new incentives to draw drivers back to the app. Lyft’s CEO John Zimmer also said the company was considering driver incentives. As the apps work to recruit and retain more drivers, Campbell thinks the high prices will likely last two to three more months.[15]

Right up until that “Check VSC System” indication came on, warning about brakes—the $1,800 repair means replacing the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) Actuator—I was keeping as busy as I’ve been pretty much since the pandemic began and the bonuses—incentives in the parlance—have been wobbling up and down and they’re certainly not spectacular. If you think you aren’t making enough money as an Uber and Lyft driver, and you have an alternative, then hell yes, you’re going to do something else.

Because the money still isn’t there.

Alissa Walker, “Why Your Uber Ride Is Suddenly Costing a Fortune,” New York, June 4, 2021, https://www.curbed.com/2021/06/uber-lyft-expensive-new-york-city.html


  1. [1]Elizabeth Dwoskin, “Facebook suspends Trump for 2 years in response to Oversight Board ruling,” Washington Post, June 4, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/06/03/trump-facebook-oversight-board/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Slip, slip, slipping away, down that fascist slippery slope,” Not Housebroken, June 2, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/06/01/slip-slip-slipping-away-down-that-fascist-slippery-slope/
  3. [3]Rachel Lerman, “Trump has been suspended from YouTube,” Washington Post, January 13, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/01/12/trump-youtube-ban/; Margi Murphy, “Facebook, Instagram and Twitter lock Donald Trump’s accounts after praise for Capitol Hill rioters,” Telegraph, January 7, 2021, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2021/01/06/calls-twitter-facebook-mute-donald-trump-violence-breaks-capitol/; Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin, “Trump banned from Facebook indefinitely, CEO Mark Zuckerberg says,” Washington Post, January 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-resignations-25th-amendment/2021/01/07/e131ce10-50a3-11eb-bda4-615aaefd0555_story.html; Nitasha Tiku, Tony Romm, and Craig Timberg, “Twitter bans Trump’s account, citing risk of further violence,” Washington Post, January 8, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/01/08/twitter-trump-dorsey/
  4. [4]Devlin Barrett, “Trump’s remarks before Capitol riot may be investigated, says acting U.S. attorney in D.C.,” Washington Post, January 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/federal-investigation-capitol-riot-trump/2021/01/07/178d71ac-512c-11eb-83e3-322644d82356_story.html; 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]Elizabeth Dwoskin and Cat Zakrzewski, “Facebook’s Oversight Board upheld the social network’s decision to ban Trump,” Washington Post, May 5, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/05/05/facebook-trump-decision/
  6. [6]Eric Levitz, “Letting the Economy Create Jobs for Everyone Is (Sadly) Radical,” New York, June 4, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/06/biden-full-employment-policy-labor-shortage-inflation.html
  7. [7]Eric Levitz, “Letting the Economy Create Jobs for Everyone Is (Sadly) Radical,” New York, June 4, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/06/biden-full-employment-policy-labor-shortage-inflation.html
  8. [8]David Benfell, “About that alleged ‘labor shortage,’” Not Housebroken, May 17, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/05/09/about-that-alleged-labor-shortage/
  9. [9]Eric Levitz, “Letting the Economy Create Jobs for Everyone Is (Sadly) Radical,” New York, June 4, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/06/biden-full-employment-policy-labor-shortage-inflation.html
  10. [10]David Benfell, “A piper needs paying,” Not Housebroken, May 10, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/12/19/a-piper-needs-paying/
  11. [11]David Benfell, “About that alleged ‘labor shortage,’” Not Housebroken, May 17, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/05/09/about-that-alleged-labor-shortage/
  12. [12]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  13. [13]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
  14. [14]Jessica Bursztynsky, “Uber CEO is ‘not happy’ with how long it’s taking to pick riders up or prices being charged,” CNBC, May 25, 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/25/uber-ceo-is-not-happy-with-driver-supply-pricing.html; Laura Forman, “Uber and Lyft Need a Sharper Turn,” Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-and-lyft-need-a-sharper-turn-11618311794; Faiz Siddiqui, “Where have all the Uber drivers gone?” Washington Post, May 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/05/07/uber-lyft-drivers/
  15. [15]Alissa Walker, “Why Your Uber Ride Is Suddenly Costing a Fortune,” New York, June 4, 2021, https://www.curbed.com/2021/06/uber-lyft-expensive-new-york-city.html

Allegheny County’s district attorney denies and therefore confirms systemic racism in the criminal (in)justice system

Allegheny County

There is a new blog post entitled, “Stephen Zappala’s resignation would be nowhere near enough.” I have substantially updated this post since it was first published, tying up some loose ends in my own thinking on racism.

Paula Reed Ward, “Allegheny County judge halts plea deals amid questions surrounding DA Zappala,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/allegheny-county-judge-halts-plea-deals-amid-questions-surrounding-da-zappala/

Paula Reed Ward, “Zappala: No plea deals to Black attorney who called his office ‘systematically racist,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/zappala-no-plea-deals-to-black-attorney-who-called-his-office-systematically-racist/

Paula Reed Ward, “DA Zappala says office halted plea deals with Black attorney to avoid ‘false claims of racism,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 3, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/da-zappala-says-office-halted-plea-deals-with-black-attorney-to-avoid-false-claims-of-racism/


Muhammad Ali


If I’m not mistaken, Muhammad Ali is pictured with Malcolm X. I remembered the former in a blog post on Memorial Day, entitled, “On Memorial Day, remembering Muhammad Ali.” In refusing the draft for the Vietnam war, he said,

My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. … Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.[1]


  1. [1]Muhammad Ali, quoted in DeNeen L. Brown, “‘Shoot them for what?’ How Muhammad Ali won his greatest fight,” Washington Post, June 16, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2018/06/15/shoot-them-for-what-how-muhammad-ali-won-his-greatest-fight/

The constitutional oligarchy creaks (update #3)

Updates

  1. Originally published, June 1, 2021, 11:19 pm.

  2. June 2, 2021, 9:04 am:

    • Bess Levin has a run-down on all the worrying developments in the crusade to restore Donald Trump to the presidency. It’s not that any of them will succeed. It’s that, yes, people are still trying.[1] I have updated the relevant blog post.

    • My Toyota Camry Hybrid has taken its last Uber/Lyft passenger. The dealer informed me it would cost $1,800 to repair it and, no, I absolutely cannot see sinking that kind of money into that car. I would get likely get less in trade.

      I can drive the car reasonably safely. The hydraulic brake system is fine. But there are bright warning indications on the instrument display that passengers can see. It’s just not okay to drive for Uber or Lyft like this.

  3. June 2, 2021, 9:35 pm:

    • Alex Shephard supplements and largely confirms Bess Levin’s article.[2] The bottom line here is that an awful lot of people, possibly including Donald Trump himself, want a coup along the lines that Michael Flynn endorsed.[3] Which of course increases the probability that such an attempt might occur. I have significantly updated both the original text and the update in the relevant blog post.

    • I have checked with my Toyota dealership’s finance manager. Actually, she’s an interesting woman: It’s clear she sees a lot of shit, including a lot that makes mine smell relatively rosy. We ran the application and I was approved. All that’s needed is the car itself, oh yeah, and my mother’s advance for the down payment.

      But unless I can overcome the rental car shortage,[4] I’m probably not going to be working until that car arrives.

      The current build date is projected as June 15-25.

    • Y’all know I was among the pessimists when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that fully vaccinated folks could go without masks in many situations.[5] And with a growing fake certificate market,[6] there certainly was cause for concern.

      I missed it when this first came out, but it looks like the optimists were right. People appear to be responding to the CDC guidance by getting vaccinated.[7]

      I don’t know how far you can take this, but it appears a carrot does indeed still work, even with an issue as badly politically polarized as the pandemic.


There is a new blog post entitled, “Against vegan absolutism.”


Constitutional oligarchy

There is another new blog post entitled, “Slip, slip, slipping away, down that fascist slippery slope.”

Stephen Collinson, “Revolt by Texas Democrats heaps pressure on Washington to act on voting reform,” CNN, June 1, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/01/politics/texas-democrats-voting-reform-pressure/index.html

Fred Kaplan, “How the Military Should Deal With Its Michael Flynn Problem,” Slate, June 1, 2021, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/06/michael-flynn-coup-court-martial.html

Bess Levin, “Trump Has Reportedly Been Telling People He’s Going to Be President Again by August, Which Would Suggest He’s Planning a Coup (Or Has Fully Descended Into Madness),” Vanity Fair, June 1, 2021, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/06/donald-trump-august-reinstatement


Gig economy

It’s pretty clear that Mariella Moon just wants her Uber and Lyft back. There isn’t even lip service to the drivers’ side of the story here.[8]

Mariella Moon, “Uber and Lyft rides are pricier due to a lack of drivers (and the waits are longer, too),” Engadget, June 1, 2021, https://www.engadget.com/uber-lyft-surge-pricing-lack-of-drivers-035835230.html


Pandemic

Elizabeth Cohen, “Interest in vaccinations increased after CDC announced new mask guidance,” CNN, May 27, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/27/health/vaccination-interest-cdc-mask-guidance/index.html



  1. [1]Bess Levin, “Trump Has Reportedly Been Telling People He’s Going to Be President Again by August, Which Would Suggest He’s Planning a Coup (Or Has Fully Descended Into Madness),” Vanity Fair, June 1, 2021, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/06/donald-trump-august-reinstatement
  2. [2]Alex Shephard, “Trump’s Republicans Want a Coup,” New Republic, June 1, 2021, https://newrepublic.com/article/162586/michael-flynn-trump-myanmar-coup
  3. [3]Fred Kaplan, “How the Military Should Deal With Its Michael Flynn Problem,” Slate, June 1, 2021, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/06/michael-flynn-coup-court-martial.html; Bess Levin, “Trump Has Reportedly Been Telling People He’s Going to Be President Again by August, Which Would Suggest He’s Planning a Coup (Or Has Fully Descended Into Madness),” Vanity Fair, June 1, 2021, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/06/donald-trump-august-reinstatement; Alex Shephard, “Trump’s Republicans Want a Coup,” New Republic, June 1, 2021, https://newrepublic.com/article/162586/michael-flynn-trump-myanmar-coup
  4. [4]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
  5. [5]Zeke Miller and Michael Balsamo, “‘Great day for America’: Vaccinated can largely ditch masks,” Associated Press, May 13, 2021, copy in possession of author; Leana S. Wen, “The CDC shouldn’t have removed restrictions without requiring proof of vaccination,” Washington Post, May 13, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/05/13/cdc-mask-rules-vaccination-leana-wen/
  6. [6]Jamie Grierson, “Fake Covid vaccine and test certificate market is growing, researchers say,” Guardian, May 16, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/16/fake-covid-vaccine-and-test-certificate-market-is-growing-researchers-say
  7. [7]Elizabeth Cohen, “Interest in vaccinations increased after CDC announced new mask guidance,” CNN, May 27, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/27/health/vaccination-interest-cdc-mask-guidance/index.html
  8. [8]Mariella Moon, “Uber and Lyft rides are pricier due to a lack of drivers (and the waits are longer, too),” Engadget, June 1, 2021, https://www.engadget.com/uber-lyft-surge-pricing-lack-of-drivers-035835230.html