This distinction between a ‘platform’ and a ‘publisher’ is bullshit. It needs to go away.

Pittsburgh


Fig. 1. Photograph by author, February 4, 2022.

Snow plowing

Shortly after I’d decided to stay home Thursday after all, this showed up. The National Weather Service office is in Moon Township, roughly to my northwest. Marshall Township is well to my north at the other end of Allegheny County.


I don’t get to Marshall all that often, but Moon is just on the back side (it was the front side once upon a time that seemingly no one but me remembers) of the airport. I get to Moon pretty often.

It was quite a storm, severely affecting areas all the way from Texas to the Ohio Valley,[17] but I spent much of the afternoon and evening noticing that the lines of freezing rain largely remained to the west of Interstate 79, just outside the area I mostly cover.

During a break in the snow Friday, as I was looking out my window, I was wondering if I could go out. Then the snow started again—the rate has only increased since, with fluffier flakes—and started accumulating on the road. If even Upper Saint Clair is having trouble keeping its roads clear, the rest of the Pittsburgh area will be a mess. If I go out, I now think it will be later, to run errands and very little else.

“Snow is a lot easier to plow than ice,”[18] and of course, it’s precisely the latter that I’m worried about on Pittsburgh’s hills. In Tennessee,

Freezing temperatures meant the ice would remain a problem for days, making driving dangerous, officials said. Robert Knecht, Memphis’ public works director, said Thursday evening that there were 225 downed trees on city streets and crews were working 16-hour shifts to clear them.

“We do foresee, though, that it’s going to take multiple days, given the inclement weather conditions, to clear the public right of way,” Knecht said during an online news conference.[19]

Infrastructure

Ryan Deto, “12 infrastructure fails in the Pittsburgh region, including Fern Hollow Bridge,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 3, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/regional/12-infrastructure-fails-in-the-pittsburgh-region-including-fern-hollow-bridge/

Ryan Deto, “Allegheny County has plans to repair all of its poorly rated bridges,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 3, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/allegheny-county-has-plans-to-repair-all-of-its-poorly-rated-bridges/


Erie

I’m continuing to watch the situation in Erie, where a snow emergency has been declared.[20] The snow on that last trip truly was daunting even if it wouldn’t have been over my father’s head in a photograph I remember.

I think for a number of reasons, I’d be better off there, but whatever is going on with clearing the roads, it seems that people failing to honor odd-even parking rules, thereby blocking snow plows, is a real and ongoing problem.[21]

If I’m driving for a living, I can’t much care what the excuse is for not clearing the roads. It’s a simple binary: Can I work or can’t I? I do think overall that I’d be better off in Erie, especially if a return of Donald Trump to the presidency or even Republican success in the elections later this year brings Trumpist bad behavior on the roads back out in Pittsburgh.


COVID-19 Pandemic

Doctors and charlatans

I’m finding it interesting that high technology capitalists are seeing being a “platform” rather than a “publisher” as some sort of “get out of jail free” card, excusing them from any responsibility for what they publish:

Media watchers have been quick to point out that Spotify’s platform defense—at least as it pertains to Joe Rogan—is a real stretch. (Even some Spotify employees called it “a dubious assertion” according to the LA Times.) Rogan’s podcast isn’t available through YouTube Music or Amazon Music or any other such service. He has an exclusive contract with Spotify, a relationship the company paid $100 million for. In that sense, Spotify is his publisher. As Elizabeth Spiers, former editor of the New York Observer, pointed out, Spotify’s acquisition of the Joe Rogan Experience is a clear editorial choice the company has made, just as the New York Times or the Washington Post choose whom they give a column to. If a columnist decides to say something wrong or dangerous, responsibility for those statements lies with the paper.[22]

Dani Anguiano, “California county on track to be run by militia-aligned group,” Guardian, February 3, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/feb/03/california-county-controlled-by-militia-group

Shawna Mizelle, “US Army to begin discharging soldiers who refuse Covid-19 vaccination,” CNN, February 3, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/02/03/politics/military-soldiers-vaccine-mandate-discharge/index.html

Erin McCarthy and Justine McDaniel, “Less than a third of Pa. and N.J. elementary schoolers have been vaccinated against COVID-19, three months since the shot became available,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 3, 2022, https://www.inquirer.com/health/coronavirus/covid-vaccine-kids-5-11-safety-philadephia-school-mandate-20220203.html

Mathew Ingram to Media Today list, “Of platforms, publishers, and responsibility,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 4, 2022, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/of-platforms-publishers-and-responsibility.php


Ukraine

I think my reading of that (to me) somewhat mysterious Ukrainian government claim that a Russian invasion is not imminent is that, yes, they are attempting to protect their economy,[23] but also that undermining that economy would solve one of Vladimir Putin’s problems for him.[24]

The Kremlin’s plans include undermining the situation inside Ukraine, fomenting hysteria and fear among Ukrainians, and the authorities in Kyiv find it increasingly difficult to contain this snowball.[25]

One of the red herrings I chased in researching my dissertation was a notion, which I was never able to validate, that war, prior to the French Revolution (pro tip: whenever you hear a conservative yammering about the French Revolution, you can be pretty close to certain s/he is a traditionalist conservative), was somehow more “civil,” confined to battlefields, but since has expanded to civilian areas (“total war”) on an understanding, which does seem to be current, that a country’s economic system supports its military. Undermine the economy and you undermine its military.[26]

Ukraine thus needs to keep domestic confidence high and the propaganda war between Russia and the West[27] is not helpful. The U.S., at least, is continuing that effort nonetheless.[28]

The bullshit is deep here, likely in part due to U.S. domestic politics,[29] and that’s precisely the sort of thing I instinctively disengage from. But it’s almost certainly not all bullshit. And this is a case where the bullshit can actually be important. I gotta tell you, I’m not good at this.

So I was thinking, gee, it’d be awfully good to hear from Julia Ioffe about now:

Personally, I find this feeling of stasis, one that is somehow also chaotic and tense, to be deeply strange and more than a little unnerving, especially when I go on cable news to comment on the situation and, after dramatic music and terrifying graphics, the camera cuts to me and I have to say, “We still don’t know.”[30]

She points to something I’ve also noticed that the Russians now accuse the West of hysteria:

A month ago, the talk coming from Moscow was all about Putin’s red lines; NATO’s aggressive expansion; Putin’s warning of a “military-technical solution” if his demands weren’t met; and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov backing him up with the threat of “a nightmare scenario of military confrontation” in Europe. Now, however, the emphasis has shifted to NATO’s arming of Ukraine, which, the Russians claim, is deploying more and more troops closer to the occupied regions of the Donbas in an attempt to entrap Russia in a military confrontation they are keen to avoid. [31]

And there’s more. Her article is enormously worthwhile. She’s flagging more bullshit than I can shake a stick at.[32]

Julia Ioffe, “Putin’s Pickle,” Puck News, February 3, 2022, https://puck.news/putins-pickle-russia-ukraine/

Aamer Madhani, Lorne Cook, and Suzan Fraser, “U.S. says new intel shows Russia plotting false-flag attack,” Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-02-03/russian-troop-buildup-belarus-raises-fears-ukraine


Academia

At one point, I did briefly consider attending the San Francisco Art Institute. The cost was daunting and I doubted I could muster a portfolio that they would find interesting. The sort of photography I do (example, figure 1) is indistinctly mundane by the standards of fine arts.

At the time there were two fine arts universities in San Francisco. Somewhere along the way they merged and Art Institute shuttle vans became ubiquitous as the school had housing scattered all over the city.

The University of San Francisco is a Catholic school—Jesuit—and has its own history of acquisition. When I was a kid living on Laurel Hill, we had a view of Lone Mountain College, which I understood to be a woman’s college; it’s now a campus of USF. As far as I know, both of these schools are highly reputable but I understood the Art Institute to be secular and I do wonder how that will play out.

Emma Whitford, “University of San Francisco Looks to Buy Art Institute,” Inside Higher Ed, February 4, 2022, https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2022/02/04/university-san-francisco-looks-buy-art-institute


  1. [17]Kathleen Foody and Jill Bleed, “Storm expected to glaze Pennsylvania, New England in ice,” Associated Press, February 4, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/winter-storm-live-updates-84cd2122a01bcebaedd520dd303e1be3
  2. [18]Rick Otto, quoted in Kathleen Foody and Jill Bleed, “Storm expected to glaze Pennsylvania, New England in ice,” Associated Press, February 4, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/winter-storm-live-updates-84cd2122a01bcebaedd520dd303e1be3
  3. [19]Kathleen Foody and Jill Bleed, “Storm expected to glaze Pennsylvania, New England in ice,” Associated Press, February 4, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/winter-storm-live-updates-84cd2122a01bcebaedd520dd303e1be3
  4. [20]Anna Ashcraft, “City of Erie declares snow emergency,” YourErie.com, February 4, 2022, https://www.yourerie.com/news/breaking-news/city-of-erie-declares-snow-emergency-2/
  5. [21]Erie News Now, “Parked Cars Continue to Block Roadways,” February 3, 2022, https://www.erienewsnow.com/story/45806636/parked-cars-continue-to-block-roadways; Chelsea Swift, “Residents not following parking regulations leaves Erie Streets Department officials frustrated,” Newsbreak, February 3, 2022, https://www.newsbreak.com/news/2505373481754/residents-not-following-parking-regulations-leaves-erie-streets-department-officials-frustrated
  6. [22]Mathew Ingram, “Of platforms, publishers, and responsibility,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 4, 2022, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/of-platforms-publishers-and-responsibility.php
  7. [23]Yuras Karmanau, “Ukrainian leaders: Stay calm, Russian invasion not imminent,” Associated Press, January 25, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-russia-diplomacy-europe-baltic-sea-44821c52f54b5e927d86ea28420cb2cf
  8. [24]Anne Applebaum, “The U.S. Is Naive About Russia. Ukraine Can’t Afford to Be,” Atlantic, January 3, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/01/ukraine-russia-kyiv-putin-bluff/621145/
  9. [25]Volodymyr Fesenko, quoted in Yuras Karmanau, “Ukrainian leaders: Stay calm, Russian invasion not imminent,” Associated Press, January 25, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-russia-diplomacy-europe-baltic-sea-44821c52f54b5e927d86ea28420cb2cf
  10. [26]Richard M. Weaver, Visions of Order (Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 1995).
  11. [27]Jon Allsop, “The information war over Ukraine,” Columbia Journalism Review, January 25, 2022, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/ukraine_russia_america_britain_media.php
  12. [28]Natasha Bertrand and Jeremy Herb, “US intelligence indicates Russia preparing operation to justify invasion of Ukraine,” CNN, January 14, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/14/politics/us-intelligence-russia-false-flag/index.html; Aamer Madhani, Lorne Cook, and Suzan Fraser, “U.S. says new intel shows Russia plotting false-flag attack,” Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-02-03/russian-troop-buildup-belarus-raises-fears-ukraine; Paul Sonne, John Hudson, and Shane Harris, “U.K. accuses Russia of scheming to install a pro-Kremlin government in Ukraine,” Washington Post, January 22, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/uk-accuses-russia-of-scheming-to-install-a-pro-kremlin-government-in-ukraine/2022/01/22/41c0999e-7bde-11ec-b79d-e53ef5e1fbe2_story.html
  13. [29]David Benfell, “Is the Ukraine story really somehow about U.S. politics?” Not Housebroken, January 23, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/01/21/is-the-ukraine-story-really-somehow-about-u-s-politics/
  14. [30]Julia Ioffe, “Putin’s Pickle,” Puck News, February 3, 2022, https://puck.news/putins-pickle-russia-ukraine/
  15. [31]Julia Ioffe, “Putin’s Pickle,” Puck News, February 3, 2022, https://puck.news/putins-pickle-russia-ukraine/
  16. [32]Julia Ioffe, “Putin’s Pickle,” Puck News, February 3, 2022, https://puck.news/putins-pickle-russia-ukraine/

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