Pittsburgh’s Gun and Knife Club

This is why I try to stop working around 8 pm:


It looks like this was well before 8 pm, but as I try to keep my ear to the ground, there’s this;.


It’s a little uncommon to see two of these so close together, timewise. But I routinely drive down Bedford Avenue in the Hill District and, while the Knoxville neighborhood is far from prosperous, Moore Avenue isn’t a particularly awful seeming street.

There are two new blog entries:

  1. Safety for gun nuts
  2. Capitalists are shameless in their entitlement

The point of a gun (Update #2)

Updates

  1. Originally published, April 13, 2021, 11:33 pm.

  2. April 15, 2021, 8:50 am:

    • Comparing the gun Kim Potter was carrying when she killed Daunte Wright with a Taser,

      “A Glock is a very lightweight handgun,” said Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith, spokeswoman for the National Police Association and a retired 29-year veteran of the Naperville Police Department in Illinois. “But a Taser is heavier than you think.”

      Still, while the grips on the Glocks and Tasers are made from a similar type of polymer, Glocks have a trigger safety while Tasers do not.

      “They feel differently in your hands,” said Dennis Kenney, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor and a former Florida police officer.

      Also, most police departments, including Brooklyn Center, require that officers carry their guns on their dominant side and Tasers on the opposite side to lower the risk of confusing the two weapons, the experts said. That’s also what Axon, the maker of the Taser, recommends.

      “You can tell from the video that the Brooklyn Center officers were doing that,“ Smith said.

      So what’s more likely, Smith said, is that Potter experienced something called “slip and capture.”

      “It’s not like she looked at her gun and thought it was a Taser,” Smith said. “It’s a horrible, horrible motor glitch that could happen in high-stress situations. I liken it to when you get into a rental car and go to start it up, you automatically reach for what’s familiar to you before realizing that you’re not in your car. The same issue could have happened here with the Taser.”[1]

      But there’s also the question of whether this traffic stop needed to have been made at all:

      After viewing the video footage of Wright’s last moments, the experts told NBC News they saw other deficiencies in how the traffic stop was handled.

      “If this was a normal traffic stop, then why were there three officers there,” [Dennis] Kenney said. “And given what’s [possibly referring to the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the killing of Oscar Grant[2]] been going on, why make a traffic stop at all?”[3]

      Something I noticed early in the COVID-19 pandemic around Pittsburgh was that three police cars would routinely appear at traffic stops. Given how rarely I see anybody pulled over for anything around Pittsburgh, to all of a sudden see this frequently seemed heavy-handed, but I’m guessing these cops didn’t have anything else to do, which might also explain why this stop of Daunte Wright was made in the first place.

    • A wheel sensor failed on my car, leading to a “Check VSC System” indication, so I’ve been down. I’ve been revamping my section on “Pittsburgh driving for the uninitiated,” updating it largely from my now greater experience with Pittsburgh driving and breaking it up into multiple pages, mostly to make it more manageable.


Polls


This issue first caught my eye when I saw that response rates were down to nine percent.[4] Per my first research methods professor, way back in 2003 or 2004, who was then worried, if I recall correctly, that response rates were down to sixty or seventy percent, they’re supposed to be at least ninety percent, a full order of magnitude higher. More recently, I’m seeing that response rates are even lower, six or seven percent.[5] And it isn’t working out.[6] This can only be viewed as a completely bogus implementation of survey methodology, but remarkably,[7] pollsters still have jobs.

Steven Shepard, “Dem pollsters acknowledge ‘major errors’ in 2020 polling,” Politico, April 13, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/13/dems-polling-failure-481044


Daunte Wright

There is a new blog post entitled, “At the point of a gun.”

Matt McKinney, “Cases in which a service pistol is mistaken for a Taser are rare,” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, April 12, 2021, https://www.startribune.com/cases-in-which-a-service-pistol-is-mistaken-for-a-taser-are-rare/600045269/

Corky Siemaszko, “Daunte Wright was stopped for expired plates, but driving while Black may have been his ‘crime,’” NBC News, April 12, 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/daunte-wright-was-stopped-expired-plates-driving-while-black-may-n1263878

British Broadcasting Corporation, “Daunte Wright shooting: Officer ‘mistook gun for Taser,’” April 13, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-56724798

Corky Siemaszko, “How a veteran officer could have mistaken a Glock for a Taser in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright,” NBC News, April 13, 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/how-veteran-officer-could-have-mistaken-glock-taser-fatal-shooting-n1263976


Google

James Vincent, “Google is poisoning its reputation with AI researchers,” Verge, April 13, 2021, https://www.theverge.com/2021/4/13/22370158/google-ai-ethics-timnit-gebru-margaret-mitchell-firing-reputation


Ride sharing

Even the Wall Street Journal argues that Uber and Lyft need to improve driver incentives.[8]

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


  1. [1]Corky Siemaszko, “How a veteran officer could have mistaken a Glock for a Taser in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright,” NBC News, April 13, 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/how-veteran-officer-could-have-mistaken-glock-taser-fatal-shooting-n1263976
  2. [2]Corky Siemaszko, “Daunte Wright was stopped for expired plates, but driving while Black may have been his ‘crime,’” NBC News, April 12, 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/daunte-wright-was-stopped-expired-plates-driving-while-black-may-n1263878
  3. [3]Corky Siemaszko, “How a veteran officer could have mistaken a Glock for a Taser in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright,” NBC News, April 13, 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/how-veteran-officer-could-have-mistaken-glock-taser-fatal-shooting-n1263976
  4. [4]Steven Shepard, “Report: Phone polls aren’t dead yet,” Politico, May 15, 2017, https://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/15/pollsters-phone-polls-238409
  5. [5]Courtney Kennedy and Hannah Hartig, “Response rates in telephone surveys have resumed their decline,” Pew Research Center, February 27, 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/02/27/response-rates-in-telephone-surveys-have-resumed-their-decline/
  6. [6]Mona Chalabi, “The pollsters were wrong – again. Here’s what we know so far,” Guardian, November 4, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/commentisfree/2020/nov/04/the-pollsters-were-wrong-again-heres-what-we-know-so-far; David A. Graham, “The Polling Crisis Is a Catastrophe for American Democracy,” Atlantic, November 4, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/11/polling-catastrophe/616986/; Steven Shepard, “Dem pollsters acknowledge ‘major errors’ in 2020 polling,” Politico, April 13, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/13/dems-polling-failure-481044
  7. [7]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  8. [8]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

Yet another reason for thinking corporate personhood is a really, really bad idea

Social media

Greg Sargent allows for corporate “free speech” in equating the cases of corporations objecting to Georgia’s new law that may rein in voting rights and alleged social media censorship of conservative views. In doing so, he illustrates the very problem that gets us here.[1] (In the following Twitter thread, Sargent includes screenshots taken of several online articles. Variations in font and font size result accordingly.)

1) “When MLB pulls its all-star game to protest Georgia’s voting law, that’s corporate free speech.”

This is a good @DavidAFrench piece about the dark illiberal turn in attacks on MLB, Big Tech and woke corporations.

time.com/5953715/claren…

A few additional points.

*THREAD*

@DavidAFrench

2) As @DavidAFrench notes, each of these are being attacked for different things. MLB and companies like Delta are faulted for criticizing the Georgia voting law, Big Tech for supposed suppression of conservative viewpoints.

time.com/5953715/claren…

@DavidAFrench

3) But in all these cases, @DavidAFrench argues, these are forms of speech. That’s what MLB is doing by pulling the game, and what private platforms moderating content are doing.

And conservative voices *aren’t actually* being suppressed:

@DavidAFrench

4) There are additional layers of illiberalism here that I’d like to flag.

Republicans are proposing to use legislative power expressly as *retaliation* against these opinions.

A Georgia Republican openly declared this in targeting Delta’s tax break:

washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/…

@DavidAFrench

5) Just as Georgia Republicans targeted Delta, Josh Hawley, the king of bad faith posturing, will offer a new proposal busting up “giant woke corporations,” after blasting MLB for opposing “election integrity,” a.k.a. voter suppression:

washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/…

@DavidAFrench

6) Hawley was the front man trying to subvert Biden’s electors, sustaining the 2020 lies that inspired Jan 6.

Criticism of Hawley for this is tossed into the Right Wing Media Victimization Machine, magically converting it into an effort to “cancel” him:

washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/…

@DavidAFrench

7) The hyped sense of victimization is absolutely central. In the right wing imagination, the big story weaving together all these threads is that our corporate overlords are part of an elite cabal scheming to subjugate virtuous conservatives everywhere:

washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/…

@DavidAFrench

8) In fact, movements are pushing corporations *from below,* amid Trump-stoked anti-democratic tactics + years of relentless stoking of racial conflict.

These movements are driven by an ideal of *empowerment.* It’s ugly to cast this as elite suppression of conservative agency:

@DavidAFrench

9) Bottom line: In addition to this increasing reliance on illiberal tactics that @DavidAFrench discusses, Republicans are manufacturing all kinds of wildly hallucinatory narratives to justify them.

In so doing, they are dragging their voters to an ever darker place.

FIN[2]

First, Sargent reifies a notion of corporate personhood, a dubious concept that, among other things, enables corporations to be sued rather than the people who run them and also casts massive political campaign contributions as “free speech.”[3] It is yet another way of insulating the rich from their crimes, further enabling the double-standard of justice that Jeffrey Reiman critiques.[4] The answer I seek to the question of how to enable a true public square[5] certainly does not lie here.

Second, Sargent thinks corporate “free speech” has served to amplify diverse voices, but when he pivots to criticizing a conservative sense of victimization,[6] he is in fact highlighting a problem that has been exacerbated through conservative talk radio, Fox News, other authoritarian populist and social conservative media outlets, and social media platforms that corporate “free speech” enables, notably through repeal of the Fairness Doctrine,[7] and that culminates in the coup attempt of January 6, 2021,[8] that Sargent alludes to.[9] That other corporations respond to less conservative pressure really only makes of them a mirror, not any sort of progressive or even “liberal” (as in whatever conservatives are against) leader.

Finally, corporations uniformly speak in their own best interest, putatively that of their shareholders—principally the rich. This “free speech” has unquestionably distorted public discourse and reinforced what has, from the beginning, been a constitutional oligarchy.[10] Even when they speak in response to what Sargent highlights as pressure “from below,”[11] they do so to protect their brand rather than from any notion of citizenship. The best that can be said for corporate “free speech” is that it is an inadequate solution that has arguably amplified evil much more than it has good.

Corporate personhood has always been a bad idea. But I had not previously connected it to the problem of corporations co-opting the public square through the Internet.[12]

Greg Sargent, [Twitter thread], Thread Reader App, April 11, 2021, https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1381221323494596608.html


  1. [1]Greg Sargent, [Twitter thread], Thread Reader App, April 11, 2021, https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1381221323494596608.html
  2. [2]Greg Sargent, [Twitter thread], Thread Reader App, April 11, 2021, https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1381221323494596608.html
  3. [3]Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, “The History of Corporate Personhood,” Brennan Center for Justice, April 8, 2014, https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/history-corporate-personhood
  4. [4]Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004).
  5. [5]David Benfell, “The public square of the Internet,” Not Housebroken, April 5, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/06/06/the-public-square-of-the-internet/
  6. [6]Greg Sargent, [Twitter thread], Thread Reader App, April 11, 2021, https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1381221323494596608.html; see also Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas? (New York: Henry Holt, 2005).
  7. [7]David Croteau and William Hoynes, Media/Society: Industries, Images, and Audiences, 3rd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, 2003).
  8. [8]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/
  9. [9]Greg Sargent, [Twitter thread], Thread Reader App, April 11, 2021, https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1381221323494596608.html
  10. [10]David Benfell, “A constitutional oligarchy: Deconstructing Federalist No. 10,” Not Housebroken, March 23, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/22/a-constitutional-oligarchy-deconstructing-federalist-no-10/
  11. [11]Greg Sargent, [Twitter thread], Thread Reader App, April 11, 2021, https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1381221323494596608.html
  12. [12]David Benfell, “The public square of the Internet,” Not Housebroken, April 5, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/06/06/the-public-square-of-the-internet/

Unions have some work to do (Update #2)

Updates

  1. Originally published, April 9, 2021, 11:18 pm.

  2. April 10, 2021, 11:28 pm:

    • The text formerly under the Amazon heading has been moved, augmented, and edited in a new blog post entitled, “In the 21st century, labor unions are in a very deep hole.”

    • Responding to my bit about spring in Pittsburgh, my mother writes to tell me that some plants, especially tomatoes, shouldn’t go in the ground when temperatures are still dipping into the 40s. 50s, she says, are okay. Okay, then. You might note who is and who, rather distinctly, is not the green thumb in my family.


Amazon

The text formerly here has been moved, augmented, and edited in a new blog post entitled, “In the 21st century, labor unions are in a very deep hole.”

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


Spring continues in Pittsburgh. On my way to an order today, I passed a couple posing for a selfie amid the branches of a flowering tree. It was a lovely setting; I think I would have posed it differently, but I hope they got the shot they were looking for.

Yesterday I picked up a guy who works at a nursery who said they were refusing to sell certain plants because it was going to be in the 40s next week and they would all die. I assumed that meant 40s were going to be the high temperatures and dipping below freezing at night, but I just checked. No, 40s will be the low temperatures. It won’t be quite as nice as today, when at one point I saw a temperature in the upper 70s. These highs will be in the 60s.

So I’m a bit mystified as to what plants he might be talking about and, I guess, who would plant such plants outdoors in Pittsburgh anyway.


The madness of driving in Pittsburgh

Hans Küng

There is a new blog post entitled, “I do not mourn Hans Küng alone.”

Times, “Hans Küng obituary,” April 8, 2021, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/hans-kueng-obituary-qvfd5wprl


So I’d driven most of the way home, and stopped for gas. I was back on Pennsylvania Route 51 for the final leg home, when some asshole, Pennsylvania license plate KTX 3013, cuts me off passing on the right, so close I had to veer into opposing lanes to avoid a collision.

There was no reason for it. There was hardly any traffic. I was in the left lane because that’s the side the gas station is on and to avoid artificial potholes (manhole covers that are significantly below the road surface because I guess nobody in Pennsylvania knows how to use shims—yes, they exist and I’ve seen them—for this sort of thing). He was self-righteously speeding, even more so than most people do on this road.

Of course, as he completed his much too close maneuver, I put my very, very, very bright (LED) high beams on him. He stopped suddenly short of the next traffic signal, forcing me to jam on my brakes, got out of his car and informed me, “You put those lights on me one more time, mother fucker, I dare you!”

So of course I did. I didn’t learn much in kindergarten through the eleventh grade (I dropped out via California’s proficiency certificate and skipped the twelfth) but the one lesson I learned very well is that submission to a bully simply encourages them.

He turned around, rapped my fender, not hard enough to do damage, but he sure wanted to, then got back in his car, and as the light turned green, went into reverse. He stopped short of my front bumper, then went forward. It was all a futile display.

That was the end of the incident. Except in my head. But it’s what driving on Route 51 is too often like and I don’t have much alternative since it’s the main route home.

What amazes me is that people pull that shit when there are so many gun nuts in Pennsylvania. I might have been armed. If I had, I certainly would have pulled my weapon on him when he was out of his car threatening me. And said, “Now, what do you think, asshole?” Because that’s really the only correct answer to such a man.


Sometime early tomorrow afternoon, it will have been a full two weeks since I received the second shot of the Pfizer vaccine. In theory, I will be “fully” vaccinated.


The fracking jobs lie (Update #4)

Updates

  1. Originally published, April 6, 2021, 8:41 pm.

  2. April 7, 2021, 6:33 am:

    • The San Francisco Unified School District has officially suspended[1] its decision to rename schools that was, in many cases, based on historical inaacuracies,[2] after earlier having ‘paused’ it and promising to, you know, maybe actually listen to historians in the future.[3]

      The episode remains troubling and not just because it made the district a caricature for right-wing attacks,[4] but because it reflects a self-righteousness that outweighed attention to detail and accuracy. Such would be troubling in any context, but is especially so in institutions tasked with instructing the young.[5]

      It came on the heels of a decision to cover up a mural at my old high school that in fact depicted George Washington in an unflattering light, but was being interpreted as oppressive for its depiction of oppression,[6] a decision I regret but am compelled to support.[7]

      The district also attracted attention when old tweets from its then-vice president came to light that singled out Asian-Amerikkkans for charges of racism against Blacks,[8] but this to me reveals a citywide political establishment bent on denying its own racism, whether systemic or otherwise.[9]

    • After a lot of back and forth due to Uber support’s extreme reliance on canned messages that don’t actually respond to messages I send, my car is back to being enabled on the platform. I cannot condemn what happened here strongly enough. They were unwilling to accept a PDF I had sent, but wouldn’t say that they would not accept a PDF, and they never properly explained why, though I surmise that their messaging system was somehow filtering it out. They repeatedly referred to the breakdown as if it were a collision when it was just a breakdown. I don’t believe I have ever before seen in a support team the degree of unprofessionalism, unresponsiveness, and incompetence I saw last night.

  3. April 7, 2021, 8:09 am:

    • Seven thousand Blacks left the City of Pittsburgh between 2014 and 2018, allegedly due to gentrification. Others say, no, this was not gentrification, but due to blight and crime, and only Lawrenceville has a problem with gentrification.[10]

      I wasn’t present for this, but with so much housing in and around Pittsburgh in a blighted condition,[11] it’s not easy to simply rule out that people may have moved of their own accord.

      People are pointing to the Penn Plaza Apartments, which were demolished to make way for, among other things, a Whole Foods Market. 200 people lost their homes,[12] which the developer promised to replace with new low-income housing.[13] The problem here is fairly obvious: What were those 200 people supposed to do in the meantime? Indeed, what did they do?

      But also, 200 doesn’t explain 7,000, and to deny a more widespread problem with gentrification seems disingenuous.[14]

      Finally, the problem of gentrification isn’t simply numeric. It’s also about neighbors who are no longer present, isolating people left behind in communities that seem to me to be tight-knit. There’s damage here and while it doesn’t do to simply leave people to languish in the abysmal housing I see all around Pittsburgh, redevelopment needs to be thoughtful.

  4. April 7, 2021, 10:43 pm:

    • The Santa Rosa Press Democrat has more on the San Francisco school renaming debacle. A piece I hadn’t caught in previous coverage: “San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman issued a ruling calling on the Board of Education to do what the lawsuit [filed in March by San Francisco attorney Paul Scott, whose children attend public schools] requests — rescind the vote and dissolve the renaming advisory committee — or show by April 16 why it shouldn’t be compelled to do so.” It is unclear whether the board complied with the part about dissolving the renaming committee or will, in the future, comply with California’s open meeting law.[15]

    • I think it was just the other day I noticed a green hue to many of the trees that had shed their leaves for winter and gone totally brown. Today, flowering trees and shrubs are flowering and there is a bright green on many, not all, but many trees. It’s springtime in Pittsburgh.


Fossil fuels

One of the mysteries I’ve encountered since arriving in Pittsburgh has been about alleged fracking jobs. I see political campaign postcards that claim the Democrats want to eliminate all these jobs. Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate, says, “We can’t just throw [out] all of these union jobs and all these workers’ jobs and say, ‘Well, just go learn to code and maybe you can get on at Google or someplace.’”[16]

But I don’t see those jobs. As an Uber/Lyft driver, I don’t take anyone to or from their fracking job. I don’t see any hiring for the fracking industry. In fact, I see zero evidence these jobs even exist.

And indeed, fracking hardly seems to be the savior of the Ohio Valley economy its advocates pretend.[17] But while politicians and oil company executives pretend, Kate Aronoff points to a history and present of job-killing.[18]

Kate Aronoff, “Fossil Fuel Companies Are Job Killers,” New Republic, April 5, 2021, https://newrepublic.com/article/161937/fossil-fuel-companies-job-killers


White supremacy

There is a new blog post entitled, “Hate, Pittsburgh Style.”

Nan Levinson, “The Far Right in Uniform,” TomDispatch, April 6, 2021, https://tomdispatch.com/the-far-right-in-uniform/


So the windshield guy looked at my windshield. And couldn’t find a leak. He says he’s 100 percent positive. Which left me in something of a quandary as what to do next.

I called the dealer back and the service writer assured me that they had covered the site over and applied some substance—I believe one of the words was ‘dielectric’—that would prevent a recurrence of the corrosion, that I should be good to go.

Whether this will prove sufficient for Uber, which requires proof of repair, remains to be seen. It would help enormously if they’d get rid of the fools they have working support who do absolutely nothing but return replies like the one in figure 1 all day:

Fig. 1. An all-too-common response from Uber support. Screenshot by author, April 6, 2021.

I had already explained the situation. These assholes barely look at the most recent message, if even that.


  1. [1]Faith E. Pinho, “San Francisco board halts renaming of public schools after months of furor and debate,” Los Angeles Times, April 6, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-04-06/san-francisco-school-board-suspends-renaming-public-schools
  2. [2]Isaac Chotiner, “How San Francisco Renamed Its Schools,” New Yorker, February 6, 2021, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/how-san-francisco-renamed-its-schools; Fernando Martinez, “San Francisco school board considers renaming a school after the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia,” SFGate, January 29, 2021, https://www.sfgate.com/sf-culture/article/San-Francisco-School-Board-considers-renaming-a-15909103.php
  3. [3]Greg Keraghosian, “SF school board pauses renaming 44 schools, promises to consult historians in future,” SFGate, February 21, 2021, https://www.sfgate.com/local/article/SF-school-board-pauses-renaming-44-schools-15968504.php
  4. [4]Faith E. Pinho, “San Francisco board halts renaming of public schools after months of furor and debate,” Los Angeles Times, April 6, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-04-06/san-francisco-school-board-suspends-renaming-public-schools
  5. [5]David Benfell, “It’s fine to highlight other people. But don’t cite historical falsehoods when you do,” Not Housebroken, February 21, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/02/06/its-fine-to-highlight-other-people-but-dont-cite-historical-falsehoods-when-you-do/
  6. [6]Karin Klein, “At first, it looked like censorship. But covering up controversial mural makes sense,” Sacramento Bee, July 20, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/opinion/california-forum/article232846267.html; Carol Pogash, “San Francisco School Board May Save Controversial George Washington Mural,” New York Times, August 10, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/10/arts/san-francisco-murals.html; Carol Pogash, “San Francisco School Board Votes to Hide, but Not Destroy, Disputed Murals,” New York Times, August 14, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/14/arts/san-francisco-murals-george-washington.html
  7. [7]David Benfell, “A non-conformist mural and a non-conformist kid: Why the mural still must be covered up,” Not Housebroken, April 14, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/14/a-non-conformist-mural-and-a-non-conformist-kid-why-the-mural-still-must-be-covered-up/
  8. [8]Jill Tucker, “Mayor Breed calls for S.F. school board member to resign over racist tweets directed at Asian Americans,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 21, 2021, https://www.sfchronicle.com/education/article/Mayor-Breed-calls-for-S-F-school-board-member-to-16040970.php
  9. [9]David Benfell, “San Francisco’s political establishment doth protest too much,” Not Housebroken, March 22, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/03/22/san-franciscos-political-establishment-doth-protest-too-much/
  10. [10]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/
  11. [11]David Benfell, “Market homelessness,” Not Housebroken, January 1, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/01/01/market-homelessness/
  12. [12]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/
  13. [13]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/
  14. [14]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/
  15. [15]Jocelyn Gecker, “San Francisco school board suspends plan to rename schools,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, April 7, 2021, https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/san-francisco-school-board-to-vote-on-school-renaming-again/
  16. [16]Holly Otterbein, “John Fetterman launches Senate bid in Pennsylvania,” Politico, February 8, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/02/08/fetterman-senate-pennsylvania-466932
  17. [17]Kate Aronoff, “Fossil Fuel Companies Are Job Killers,” New Republic, April 5, 2021, https://newrepublic.com/article/161937/fossil-fuel-companies-job-killers; James Bruggers, “A Decade Into the Fracking Boom, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia Haven’t Gained Much, a Study Says,” Inside Climate News, February 11, 2021, https://insideclimatenews.org/news/11022021/fracking-boom-natural-gas-report/
  18. [18]Kate Aronoff, “Fossil Fuel Companies Are Job Killers,” New Republic, April 5, 2021, https://newrepublic.com/article/161937/fossil-fuel-companies-job-killers

Psychotic Monday (Update #3)

Updates

  1. Originally published, April 5, 2021, at 12:01 pm.

  2. April 5, 2021, 2:26 pm:

    • Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) are, I think, something researchers universally dread. They are empowered to stop a project dead in its tracks or to require changes and expected to do so on ethical grounds, though I understand they can advise as to research design issues as well. They’re powerful and fearsome.

      They are also essential for inquiry involving human subjects and should also be seen as such for non-human animal subjects. And this isn’t just about being nice. Subjects, whether human or non-human, who feel abused may find ways to sabotage the results, contaminating the body of knowledge. I have worried about medical science on precisely these grounds.[1]

      Reid Blackman proposes a similar approach for artificial idiocy.[2] Google[3] would do well to pay attention.

    • I got my car back today.

      It turns out they did not do the very expensive work after all. It turns out I am not the first to encounter the problem with an intermittent “Check Hybrid System” and “Check VSC System” indication that dealers have been unable to reproduce and therefore unable to properly diagnose.

      It turns out I have an improperly sealed aftermarket windshield—it must have been replaced by the original owner because I knew nothing of this—that allowed moisture to get in and corrode stuff. They’ve cleaned up the corrosion.

      It turns out that there’s a significant risk that in the process of pulling out the windshield to reseal it, it may break. And it turns out there’s a significant risk that there may be rust to deal with where it was poorly sealed.

      It happens I had an appointment for interior detailing tomorrow at a place that both does windshields and specializes in rust protection. I would think the next step here would be kind of obvious, wouldn’t you? And yeah, it’s set up.

  3. April 5, 2021, 10:25 pm:

    • As the Supreme Court issued an order Monday declaring moot a lawsuit over [Donald] Trump’s blocking of some Twitter users from commenting on his feed, [Clarence] Thomas weighed in with a 12-page lament about the power of social media firms like Twitter. . . .

      Thomas singled out the owners of Google and Facebook by name, arguing that the firms are currently unaccountable personal fiefdoms with massive power.

      “Although both companies are public, one person controls Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg), and just two control Google (Larry Page and Sergey Brin),” Thomas wrote.

      Thomas’ opinion amounts to an invitation to Congress to declare Twitter, Facebook and similar companies “common carriers,” essentially requiring them to host all customers regardless of their views. At the moment, the companies have sweeping authority to take down any post and to suspend or terminate any account.[4]

      This issue just isn’t going away. It’s terribly problematic. On the one hand, I can hardly excuse Donald Trump’s firehose of hatred. On the other, social media companies are relying on artificial idiocy to solve their problem of how to control hate speech, which is a grievous mistake,[5] and I can’t disagree with Clarence Thomas’ complaint[6] that power over what I have called the “public square of the Internet”[7] is in unaccountable hands.[8] He’s right.


Donald Trump

There is a new blog post, entitled, “In service to a psychotic delusional raging narcissist.”

Josh Gerstein, “Justice Thomas grumbles over Trump’s social media ban,” Politico, April 5, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/05/justice-clarence-thomas-trump-twitter-ban-479046

Len Gutkin, “Shared Psychosis; Academic Psychiatry; Academic Freedom,” Chronicle of Higher Education, April 5, 2021, https://www.chronicle.com/newsletter/chronicle-review/2021-04-05


Artificial intelligence idiocy

Reid Blackman, “If Your Company Uses AI, It Needs an Institutional Review Board,” Harvard Business Review, April 1, 2021, https://hbr.org/2021/04/if-your-company-uses-ai-it-needs-an-institutional-review-board


  1. [1]Harriet A. Washington, Medical Apartheid (New York: Doubleday, 2006).
  2. [2]Reid Blackman, “If Your Company Uses AI, It Needs an Institutional Review Board,” Harvard Business Review, April 1, 2021, https://hbr.org/2021/04/if-your-company-uses-ai-it-needs-an-institutional-review-board
  3. [3]Mitchell Clark and Zoe Schiffer, “After firing a top AI ethicist, Google is changing its diversity and research policies,” Verge, February 19, 2021, https://www.theverge.com/2021/2/19/22291631/google-diversity-research-policy-changes-timnet-gebru-firing; Ina Fried, “Google tweaks diversity, research policies following inquiry,” Axios, February 19, 2021, https://www.axios.com/google-tweaks-diversity-research-policies-following-inquiry-8baa6346-d2a2-456f-9743-7912e4659ca2.html; Alex Hanna, [Twitter thread], Thread Reader App, February 18, 2021, https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1362476196693303297.html; Jeremy Kahn, “Google’s ouster of a top A.I. researcher may have come down to this,” Fortune, December 9, 2020, https://fortune.com/2020/12/09/google-timnit-gebru-top-a-i-researcher-large-language-models/; Zoe Schiffer, “Google fires second AI ethics researcher following internal investigation,” Verge, February 19, 2021, https://www.theverge.com/2021/2/19/22292011/google-second-ethical-ai-researcher-fired
  4. [4]Josh Gerstein, “Justice Thomas grumbles over Trump’s social media ban,” Politico, April 5, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/05/justice-clarence-thomas-trump-twitter-ban-479046
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Our new Satan: artificial idiocy and big data mining,” Not Housebroken, April 4, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/01/13/our-new-satan-artificial-idiocy-and-big-data-mining/
  6. [6]Josh Gerstein, “Justice Thomas grumbles over Trump’s social media ban,” Politico, April 5, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/05/justice-clarence-thomas-trump-twitter-ban-479046
  7. [7]David Benfell, “The public square of the Internet,” Not Housebroken, March 15, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/06/06/the-public-square-of-the-internet/
  8. [8]Josh Gerstein, “Justice Thomas grumbles over Trump’s social media ban,” Politico, April 5, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/05/justice-clarence-thomas-trump-twitter-ban-479046

When artificial idiocy isn’t just artificial

Artificial intelligence idiocy

It’s really rather ludicrous.

Developers of artificial idiocy have been getting themselves all excited that they can read human minds. Except that the dataset they’re working from didn’t filter out the sequence of the images. And so the artificial idiots have been matching on the sequence because the images weren’t randomized.[1]

My god, they’re idiots. Both the machines and their developer/fans. And there is no excuse for it. None. The neurologists blame the artificial idiocy fan boys for not listening to neurologists,[2] but this is not rocket science. The fan boys should have figured this out for themselves.

Purdue University, “Blind Spots Uncovered at the Intersection of AI and Neuroscience – Dozens of Scientific Papers Debunked,” SciTechDaily, April 3, 2021, https://scitechdaily.com/blind-spots-uncovered-at-the-intersection-of-ai-and-neuroscience-dozens-of-scientific-papers-debunked/



  1. [1]Purdue University, “Blind Spots Uncovered at the Intersection of AI and Neuroscience – Dozens of Scientific Papers Debunked,” SciTechDaily, April 3, 2021, https://scitechdaily.com/blind-spots-uncovered-at-the-intersection-of-ai-and-neuroscience-dozens-of-scientific-papers-debunked/
  2. [2]Purdue University, “Blind Spots Uncovered at the Intersection of AI and Neuroscience – Dozens of Scientific Papers Debunked,” SciTechDaily, April 3, 2021, https://scitechdaily.com/blind-spots-uncovered-at-the-intersection-of-ai-and-neuroscience-dozens-of-scientific-papers-debunked/

Amazon admits that all is not so rosy for its drivers after all (Update #2)

Updates

  1. Originally published, April 3, 2021, 1:30 pm

  2. April 3, 2021, 10:22 pm:


    • Fig. 1. Lake Erie, from a beach in Presque Isle State Park, Mill Creek Township, Pennsylvania. Photograph by author, April 3, 2021.

      Having failed to get my own car back from the dealer yesterday or today, and having abjectly failed to get a rental car to drive for Uber, I decided to take the rental car I had for a drive up to Erie.

    • On my previous trip up there, I had noticed the road conditions were far superior to comparable roadways in Pittsburgh, but really hadn’t covered enough ground to be conclusive.

      Today, I drove around a bit more, looking for a place I get vegan food (it’s slim pickings up there), and pretty much confirmed the earlier observation. It appears they are obsessive—is it really ‘obsessive’ when you actually need to be doing this?—about sealing cracks in the roadways and the payoff is evident.

      Now, you can’t tell me that the weather is less harsh in Erie, which is, after all, right on Lake Erie. So what that says is that the powers that be around Pittsburgh have decided that potholes are a feature, not a bug. Because if Erie can take better care of their roads, so can Pittsburgh.

      But Pittsburgh area authorities don’t. And I’ve been paying a very high price, a price I can’t afford, for their negligence in car maintenance.

      And because it seems impossible to get a rental car to drive for Uber with, and because it seems impossible for me to obtain alternative employment, I’m going to be stuck subjecting my car to this abuse in a job I don’t even want but is the only one I can get.[1]

      I’m a pretty unhappy camper right now.

      Overall, Erie seems a much saner place, actually a bit reminiscent of Sacramento, California, I would guess around the 1960s. Almost nothing is built with any height in Erie and the town generally has a look that I still saw traces of in the late 1970s in Sacramento. There’s almost no blight, at least that I saw—what I did see was in commercial, not residential, space.

      I saw no campaign posters or flags for Donald Trump and no Gadsden (“Don’t Tread On Me”) flags in Erie, though I saw an upside-down U.S. flag, along with a Trump flag, flying along I-79 southbound on my return. Campaign flags and banners are still common in Pittsburgh, where five months after the fact, you could be forgiven for thinking the election had not yet been held.

      I saw what I think was a Vietnam War memorial, but there was no gun on display.

      And I remedied an annoyance from my cross-country trip a couple years ago, when I was still thinking I would move to western Massachussetts, where I caught, at best, barely a glance of Lake Erie (figures 1 and 2).

      But because it’s a small town, my financial insecurity would skyrocket there if I moved there as an Uber/Lyft driver. It’s really out of the question.


      Fig. 2. Lake Erie, from a beach in Presque Isle State Park, Mill Creek Township, Pennsylvania. Photograph by author, April 3, 2021.


Pandemic

Philip Bump, “Vaccine skepticism and disregard for containment efforts go hand in hand,” Washington Post, April 2, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/04/02/vaccine-skepticism-disregard-containment-efforts-go-hand-in-hand/


Pittsburgh

Oliver Morrison, “With all eyes on Biden in Pittsburgh, 13 local experts diagnose the region’s biggest infrastructure needs,” Public Source, March 31, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/with-biden-in-pittsburgh-13-local-experts-diagnose-the-regions-biggest-infrastructure-needs/


Labor exploitation

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


I did not get my car back yesterday. It turns out the parts did not come in. I’m hoping for Monday; I can keep the rental car until Wednesday at noon if need be.

  1. [1]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/

The apparently futile case of the Crack’d Egg (Update #2)

Updates

  1. Originally published, April 2, 2021, 3:53 pm:

  2. April 2, 2021, 6:00 pm:

    • I do not have my car back. I called in to find out if I should start heading that way, and the lady who answered told me the car was on “hold.” I do not know what for. The service writer has not called me back. I still have the rental car and am about to head out to do a bit of grocery shopping.

      This seems like a night for that sort of medicine which, in Pennsylvania, but no longer in New York or New Jersey, you need a card for.


There is a new blog post entitled, “The faith of zealous skepticism

Pandemic

Erin Banco, “CDC: Vaccinated Americans can now travel,” Politico, April 2, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/02/cdc-vaccinated-americans-can-now-travel-478928


Allegheny County

In our last installment, the Crack’d Egg diner was back at it, trying yet again to open without complying with COVID-19 mitigation measures,[1] after having initially remaining open and flaunting their refusal to comply,[2] trying and failing to evade the orders with a bankruptcy filing,[3] closing rather than complying with the rules,[4] trying and finally failing to get an injunction against the order to comply with the rules.[5] Unsurprisingly, this didn’t go well; the judge was not at all buying the Crack’d Egg’s expectation that they will prevail on appeal.[6]

If there’s some secret sauce to the restaurant’s argument, it has yet to be seen. Both the Pennsylvania and U.S. Supreme Courts have rejected challenges to Governor Tom Wolf’s mitigation orders,[7] so it’s hard to see how the Crack’d Egg’s appeal accomplishes much. A federal judge handed down a ruling that would be much more to the restaurant’s liking,[8] but it’s unlikely to withstand appeal,[9] and indeed, an appeals court rather promptly stayed it, allowing Wolf’s restrictions to go back into effect.[10]

Even as the restaurant pursues what must surely be a very expensive legal case, it claims it can’t afford to remain closed. The judges all seem unimpressed that the restaurant is unwilling even to go half way here, trying to self-certify, for example, which would allow it to open at 50 percent capacity rather than 25 percent, refusing to require masks, saying even the upcoming 75 percent capacity limit is too restrictive.[11] I’m thinking the lawyer must have taken the case on a contingency fee or perhaps even pro bono, but then you’d think he must be a whole lot more sure of victory than it seems like he can possibly be. Or that the lawyer is a shyster, sucking the restaurant dry while promising a highly implausible dream result. All I can really say is that the longer this goes on, the stranger it looks, at least to me.

But then this is Pennsylvania, er, Pennsyltucky.[12] And I’m from California.

Megan Guza, “Judge: Crack’d Egg can’t flout covid rules while waiting to appeal ruling,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/lifestyles/food-drink/judge-crackd-egg-cant-flout-covid-rules-while-waiting-to-appeal-ruling-on-covid-rules/


  1. [1]Paula Reed Ward, “Crack’d Egg asks court to allow maskless customers in restaurant,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 29, 2021, https://triblive.com/lifestyles/food-drink/crackd-egg-asks-court-to-allow-maskless-customers-in-restaurant/
  2. [2]Paula Reed Ward, “Crack’d Egg flouts shutdown as deputies quarantined for dining, taking photos with owner,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 14, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/crackd-egg-flouts-shutdown-as-deputies-quarantined-for-dining-taking-photos-with-owner/
  3. [3]Paula Reed Ward, “Allegheny County argues Crack’d Egg can’t hide from covid restrictions under bankruptcy filing,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 5, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/allegheny-county-argues-crackd-egg-cant-hide-from-covid-restrictions-under-bankruptcy-filing/; Paula Reed Ward, “Judge rules against Crack’d Egg, health department case can proceed,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 7, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/judge-rules-against-crackd-egg-health-department-case-can-proceed/; Paula Reed Ward, “Judge to rule on Crack’d Egg restaurant closure order next week,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 29, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/judge-to-rule-on-crackd-egg-restaurant-closure-order-next-week/; Paula Reed Ward, “Crack’d Egg restaurant asks to withdraw bankruptcy filing,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/crackd-egg-restaurant-asks-to-withdraw-bankruptcy-filing/
  4. [4]Paul Martino, “After Defying Health Department, Crack’d Egg Follows Judge’s Ruling And Closes,” KDKA Television, February 4, 2021, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2021/02/04/crackd-egg-closes/; Paula Reed Ward, “Judge orders Crack’d Egg to follow covid rules or close,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 3, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/judge-orders-crackd-egg-to-follow-covid-rules-or-close/
  5. [5]Paula Reed Ward, “Crack’d Egg seeks stay to injunction while appeal is heard,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 8, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/crackd-egg-seeks-stay-to-injunction-while-appeal-is-heard/; Paula Reed Ward, “Judge rules against Crack’d Egg restaurant: ‘They’ve largely chosen their fate here,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 17, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/judge-rules-against-crackd-egg-restaurant-theyve-largely-chosen-their-fate-here/
  6. [6]Megan Guza, “Judge: Crack’d Egg can’t flout covid rules while waiting to appeal ruling,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/lifestyles/food-drink/judge-crackd-egg-cant-flout-covid-rules-while-waiting-to-appeal-ruling-on-covid-rules/
  7. [7]Elizabeth Hardison and Stephen Caruso, “Pa. Supreme Court throws out GOP challenge to Wolf’s COVID-19 emergency order,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, July 1, 2020, https://www.penncapital-star.com/covid-19/pa-supreme-court-throws-out-gop-challenge-to-wolfs-covid-19-emergency-order/; Greg Stohr, “Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Pennsylvania Shutdown Order,” Bloomberg, October 5, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-10-05/supreme-court-rejects-challenge-to-pennsylvania-shutdown-order
  8. [8]Paula Reed Ward, “Federal judge rules Gov. Wolf’s shutdown orders were unconstitutional,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 14, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/federal-judge-rules-gov-wolfs-shutdown-orders-were-unconstitutional/
  9. [9]Jamie Martines and Paula Reed Ward, “Why the ruling against Wolf’s covid-19 restrictions faces long odds on appeal, explained,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 17, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/why-the-ruling-against-wolfs-covid-19-restrictions-faces-long-odds-on-appeal-explained/
  10. [10]Paula Reed Ward, “Appeals court allows Gov. Tom Wolf, state to restore covid crowd restrictions,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 1, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/appeals-court-allows-pennsylvania-to-restrict-crowd-size/
  11. [11]Megan Guza, “Judge: Crack’d Egg can’t flout covid rules while waiting to appeal ruling,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/lifestyles/food-drink/judge-crackd-egg-cant-flout-covid-rules-while-waiting-to-appeal-ruling-on-covid-rules/; Paula Reed Ward, “Judge rules against Crack’d Egg restaurant: ‘They’ve largely chosen their fate here,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 17, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/judge-rules-against-crackd-egg-restaurant-theyve-largely-chosen-their-fate-here/; Paula Reed Ward, “Crack’d Egg asks court to allow maskless customers in restaurant,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 29, 2021, https://triblive.com/lifestyles/food-drink/crackd-egg-asks-court-to-allow-maskless-customers-in-restaurant/
  12. [12]Brian Lauskies, “Pennsyltucky,” Urban Dictionary, September 26, 2006, https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Pennsyltucky