Your refusal to go vegan is racist, ageist, and helps the novel coronavirus to spread

Pandemic

The text formerly here has been cleaned up and moved to a new blog post entitled, “Nonhuman animal flesh, race, capitalism, and the novel coronavirus.”

Emma Farge with Peter Graff, “WHO warns of ‘second peak’ in areas where COVID-19 declining,” Reuters, May 25, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-who-peak/who-warns-of-second-peak-in-areas-where-covid-19-declining-idUSKBN2311VJ

Antonio Olivo, Marissa J. Lang, and John D. Harden, “Crowded housing and essential jobs: Why so many Latinos are getting coronavirus,” Washington Post, May 25, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/latinos-coronavirus/2020/05/25/6b5c882a-946e-11ea-82b4-c8db161ff6e5_story.html

Taylor Telford, “The meat industry is trying to get back to normal. But workers are still getting sick — and shortages may get worse,” Washington Post, May 25, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/25/meat-industry-is-trying-get-back-normal-workers-are-still-getting-sick-shortages-may-get-worse/


COVID-19: The aftermath

Pandemic

I can’t tell you how reluctant I am to share newsletters in this space. First, I don’t trust the URLs. I wonder if they will be broken for others now, or generally in the future. Second, I’d rather get the original stories.

But this one[1] is good—really good—and I have responded with a new blog post entitled, “COVID-19 points to a future gone entirely wrong.”

Ishaan Tharoor with Ruby Mellen, “The pandemic may forever change the world’s cities,” Washington Post, May 20, 2020, https://s2.washingtonpost.com/camp-rw/?trackId=5a39652eae7e8a58807f9446&s=5ec4aa54fe1ff654c2e1eea0&linknum=4&linktot=72


  1. [1]Ishaan Tharoor with Ruby Mellen, “The pandemic may forever change the world’s cities,” Washington Post, May 20, 2020, https://s2.washingtonpost.com/camp-rw/?trackId=5a39652eae7e8a58807f9446&s=5ec4aa54fe1ff654c2e1eea0&linknum=4&linktot=72

Nowhere to go but down

Recession

As usual, the headline unemployment figure is bullshit:

As horrific as the April unemployment figure, economists say the official government rate almost certainly underestimates the extent of the job losses. The Labor Department collected the data in mid-April. Layoffs have continued to mount since then, and the unemployment rate only measures people actively searching for a job, which is difficult during an era when Americans are being encouraged to stay at home.[1]

For a whole bunch of reasons, it will likely be a long, slow road to recovery.[2] In real terms, this translates to many people being unable to pay rent, pay mortgages, pay credit card bills, pay utility bills over a long haul. They’re not going to be able to catch up on those bills when the bans on evictions and utility shutoffs expire. And they won’t be buying much so producers face curtailed markets. This, in turn, means more homeless people and more layoffs as businesses continue to go under. That means more desperation.

Unless serious action is taken to relieve these folks, we face a downward spiral, and it’s hard to see how the recent white supremacist gun nuttery in support of reopening the economy and letting the old and weak die[3] won’t intensify.

Allegedly, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will propose a major relief package.[4] But this is like the impeachment of Donald Trump. It’s really a sham, meant to placate the Left, but dead on arrival in the Senate, thus no threat to neoliberal principle. Pelosi can return to her ice cream unperturbed.

Alexander Bolton, “Schumer, Pelosi set to unveil ‘Rooseveltian’ relief package,” Hill, May 7, 2020, https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/496565-schumer-pelosi-set-to-unveil-rooseveltian-relief-package

Heather Long, “Jobless rate soared to 14.7% in April as U.S. shed 20.5 million jobs amid coronavirus pandemic,” Washington Post, May 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/08/april-2020-jobs-report/


  1. [1]Heather Long, “Jobless rate soared to 14.7% in April as U.S. shed 20.5 million jobs amid coronavirus pandemic,” Washington Post, May 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/08/april-2020-jobs-report/
  2. [2]Heather Long, “Jobless rate soared to 14.7% in April as U.S. shed 20.5 million jobs amid coronavirus pandemic,” Washington Post, May 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/08/april-2020-jobs-report/
  3. [3]Ryan Deto, “Photos: About 120 protest in Downtown Pittsburgh, calling for Pennsylvania to reopen during coronavirus pandemic,” Pittsburgh City Paper, April 20, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/photos-about-120-protest-in-downtown-pittsburgh-calling-for-pennsylvania-to-reopen-during-coronavirus-pandemic/Content?oid=17167012; Bryan Armen Graham, “‘Swastikas and nooses’: governor slams ‘racism’ of Michigan lockdown protest,” Guardian, May 3, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/03/michigan-gretchen-whitmer-lockdown-protest-racism; John F. Harris, “Admit It: You Are Willing to Let People Die to End the Shutdown,” Politico, April 30, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/04/30/coronavirus-shutdown-altitude-ethics-223569; Gloria Jackson, as told to Eli Saslow, “‘I apologize to God for feeling this way,’” Washington Post, May 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/02/elderly-woman-coronavirus-lonely-expendable/; Joe Lowndes, “The Morbid Ideology Behind the Drive to Reopen America,” New Republic, April 30, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america; Jamie Martines And Tom Davidson, “Protesters in Pittsburgh demand Gov. Wolf to reopen businesses amid coronavirus pandemic,” TribLive, April 20, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/protesters-gather-in-pittsburgh-demanding-gov-wolf-reopen-businesses-amid-coronavirus-pandemic/; Laura Newberry, “The pandemic has amplified ageism. ‘It’s open season for discrimination’ against older adults,” Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-05-01/coronavirus-pandemic-has-amplified-ageism; William Wan, Carolyn Y. Johnson, and Joel Achenbach, “States rushing to reopen are likely making a deadly error, coronavirus models and experts warn,” Washington Post, April 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/04/22/reopening-america-states-coronavirus/
  4. [4]Alexander Bolton, “Schumer, Pelosi set to unveil ‘Rooseveltian’ relief package,” Hill, May 7, 2020, https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/496565-schumer-pelosi-set-to-unveil-rooseveltian-relief-package

A backlash in November

It’s pretty hard to summarize the state of the U.S. in a single tweet, but damn, this has gotta be close:


Pandemic

Roche has won Food and Drug Administration approval for an antibody test with what it claims is a much lower false positive rate.[1]

Roche says its test has proven 100% accurate at detecting Covid-19 antibodies in the blood, and 99.8% accurate at ruling out the presence of those antibodies. In other words, only two in every 1,000 samples lacking the antibodies would produce a “false positive” result.[2]

It’s still not known how long any immunity such antibodies confer lasts.[3]

Gloria Jackson, as told to Eli Saslow, “‘I apologize to God for feeling this way,’” Washington Post, May 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/02/elderly-woman-coronavirus-lonely-expendable/

Denise Roland, “Roche Coronavirus Antibody Test Wins FDA Approval for Emergency Use,” Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/roche-coronavirus-antibody-test-wins-fda-approval-for-emergency-use-11588505019


The neoliberal party

I think this might be the ultimate reason for never again supporting Bernie Sanders:

Bad judgment.


Academia

It just keeps getting worse.

Let’s jump back a few years, in fact, to 2001, the last year I was gainfully employed. I was laid off in April that year.

It was also the year I learned my father had died the year before. He had cut off contact with me—this seems to be quite the thing in my family—and I learned about his death only because his wife, who had been profoundly dependent upon him (she suffered from addiction and depression issues), had killed herself with an opiate (I presume heroin) overdose, and I was still listed as a beneficiary on my father’s employee stock ownership plan. He had disowned me in every other way.

As the story reaches me, my father had come home and had a “discussion” (I very strongly suspect this was an argument) with his wife. She went upstairs to bed (excessive sleep is a symptom of depression). He went downstairs to his car, closed all the doors, and turned on the engine. He died of asphyxiation. Suicide. His wife didn’t handle it well, likely leading to her own demise later that year, leading to his company’s payout dilemma.

My father had never been happy. Not while married to my mother, not while married to his second wife (whose ending I recount above), probably not ever in life. But to me, his suicide left his profoundly dependent wife in a terrible state. In that act, he repudiated the values of accountability and responsibility he had instilled in me.

It was also a point when I had been laid off in the dot-com crash and was keenly aware that tech companies especially were seeking cheaper labor overseas. I realized that “hard” skills would only be valuable until employers found workers who possessed those skills in cheaper markets.

So when, a couple years later, my father’s company offered me a buyout, I took the money and, among other things, returned to school. I ultimately chose to pursue a program my father would have derided as “basketweaving.” But I figured, if I failed—I considered this highly unlikely—to find work in the meantime, at least I could teach.

I finished my master’s degree just in time for the financial crisis, which devastated academia. I couldn’t even find an adjunct position. And I continued on, ultimately finishing my Ph.D. at the end of 2015, graduating early in 2016.

I still can’t find even an adjunct position or a job of any kind. And academia keeps taking the hits. Musa al-Gharbi’s article[4] covers an important part of the latter saga, a part I was clueless about when I returned to school in 2003 and utterly underestimated when I continued toward my Ph.D.

The 2020 cohort of Ph.D.s is facing a nearly nonexistent job market. But of course, even before the coronavirus pandemic, most graduating Ph.D.s faced bleak prospects. National Science Foundation data suggest that 40 percent of recent Ph.D. graduates had no employment commitments of any kind (not in the private sector, nor as postdocs, nor as contingent or tenure-track faculty). Of those who did get commitments in academe, tenure-track appointments were relatively rare. According to the American Association of University Professors, nearly three-fourths of all teaching jobs today are not tenure-eligible. As a new report by the American Federation of Teachers highlights, these non-tenure-track jobs tend to provide low wages, few benefits, and little job security — with contracts extended or retracted capriciously from semester to semester. Many contingent faculty members, even those working full time, have to rely on government assistance just to make ends meet. Many are also saddled by immense debt, incurred in the hope that a terminal degree would provide a pathway to a stable and well-compensated academic job.[5]

I do not, even for a second, regret my education. But my experience with the job market has been inexcusable.[6]

Musa al-Gharbi, “Universities Run on Disposable Scholars,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 1, 2020, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Universities-Run-on-Disposable/248687


  1. [1]Denise Roland, “Roche Coronavirus Antibody Test Wins FDA Approval for Emergency Use,” Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/roche-coronavirus-antibody-test-wins-fda-approval-for-emergency-use-11588505019
  2. [2]Denise Roland, “Roche Coronavirus Antibody Test Wins FDA Approval for Emergency Use,” Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/roche-coronavirus-antibody-test-wins-fda-approval-for-emergency-use-11588505019
  3. [3]Denise Roland, “Roche Coronavirus Antibody Test Wins FDA Approval for Emergency Use,” Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/roche-coronavirus-antibody-test-wins-fda-approval-for-emergency-use-11588505019
  4. [4]Musa al-Gharbi, “Universities Run on Disposable Scholars,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 1, 2020, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Universities-Run-on-Disposable/248687
  5. [5]Musa al-Gharbi, “Universities Run on Disposable Scholars,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 1, 2020, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Universities-Run-on-Disposable/248687
  6. [6]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/

Surprise, surprise! Nazis in denial advocate reopening

Pandemic

I think I’ll be a little disappointed if anyone reading this really needs this explanation from the Auschwitz Museum, but it is phrased well:

I have previously noted that

In these protests, dangerous and delusional raging narcissistic bullshit[1] has become “truth,” dependence upon capitalism has become “independence,” and wage slavery has become “freedom.”[2]

I should have read Joe Lowndes’ article[3] sooner but I am not subscribed to the New Republic, owing to a conflict that led to mass resignations at that publication. He reaches many of the same conclusions I have.[4] This situation will be going from bad to worse for the very reasons we say. And there’s really no forgiving that.

Joe Lowndes, “The Morbid Ideology Behind the Drive to Reopen America,” New Republic, April 30, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america

Laura Newberry, “The pandemic has amplified ageism. ‘It’s open season for discrimination’ against older adults,” Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-05-01/coronavirus-pandemic-has-amplified-ageism


North Korea

It appears the South Koreans were correct[5] in pronouncing rumors of Kim Jong Un’s demise premature.[6]

Kim Byung-kee, a former intelligence official who is now a lawmaker and a member of the National Assembly’s intelligence committee, said on Sunday that groundless rumors about North Korea proliferated partly because few were held accountable for spreading false information.

“When it comes to North Korea, no matter what you say, you are not held responsible for the consequences and people soon forget,” Mr. Kim said on Facebook on Sunday [April 26].[7]

Timothy W. Martin and Andrew Jeong, “Kim Jong Un Appears at a Factory Opening, Ending Rumors of Ill Health,” Wall Street Journal, May 1, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/kim-jong-un-is-said-to-have-attended-factory-opening-11588374281


  1. [1]Marilynn Marchione, “Heart woes spur partial stop of malaria drug study for virus,” Washington Post, April 13, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/heart-woes-spur-partial-stop-of-malaria-drug-study-for-virus/2020/04/13/c6460050-7db6-11ea-84c2-0792d8591911_story.html; Ishaan Tharoor, “Trump wants to lift lockdowns. Other countries’ attempts show why the U.S. isn’t ready,” Washington Post, April 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/04/21/trump-wants-lift-lockdowns-other-countries-attempts-show-why-us-isnt-ready/; Paul Waldman, “The real reason Trump is obsessed with hydroxychloroquine,” Washington Post, April 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/07/real-reason-trump-is-obsessed-with-hydroxychloroquine/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “When confusion starts killing people, it is long past time to recognize it for what it is,” Not Housebroken, April 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/21/when-confusion-starts-killing-people-it-is-long-past-time-to-recognize-it-for-what-it-is/
  3. [3]Joe Lowndes, “The Morbid Ideology Behind the Drive to Reopen America,” New Republic, April 30, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america
  4. [4]David Benfell, “The capitalist death cult,” Not Housebroken, March 27, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/27/the-capitalist-death-cult/; David Benfell, “An impatient capitalist god demands human sacrifice. Now,” Not Housebroken, April 17, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/15/an-impatient-capitalist-god-demands-human-sacrifice-now/; David Benfell, “I fear for our world,” Not Housebroken, April 17, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/09/i-fear-for-our-world/; David Benfell, “Don’t just say #COVIDIOTS,” Not Housebroken, April 19, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/19/dont-just-say-covidiots/; David Benfell, “When confusion starts killing people, it is long past time to recognize it for what it is,” Not Housebroken, April 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/21/when-confusion-starts-killing-people-it-is-long-past-time-to-recognize-it-for-what-it-is/; Joe Lowndes, “The Morbid Ideology Behind the Drive to Reopen America,” New Republic, April 30, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america
  5. [5]Timothy W. Martin and Andrew Jeong, “Kim Jong Un Appears at a Factory Opening, Ending Rumors of Ill Health,” Wall Street Journal, May 1, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/kim-jong-un-is-said-to-have-attended-factory-opening-11588374281
  6. [6]Choe Sang-Hun, “South Korea Confident That Rumors of Kim Jong-un Illness Are Wrong,” New York Times, April 27, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/26/world/asia/kim-jong-un-health.html; Didi Tang, “South Korean officials say Kim Jong‑un is ‘alive and well,’” Times, April 27, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/world/kim-jong-uns-train-offers-clue-to-north-korean-despots-mystery-absence-q9g5h3fq2
  7. [7]Choe Sang-Hun, “South Korea Confident That Rumors of Kim Jong-un Illness Are Wrong,” New York Times, April 27, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/26/world/asia/kim-jong-un-health.html

Warmongers rob the poor. Leftists too often ignore them.

Bernie Sanders

There is a new blog post entitled, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched . . ..”


Iran and Iraq

I’m just leaving this here.


Thanksgiving miscellaneous

Rock salt

Joe Barrett, “In Effort to Avoid Rock Salt, States Look to Briny Solutions,” Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/in-effort-to-avoid-rock-salt-states-look-to-briny-solutions-11574911972


Pacific Gas and Electric

Judge Dennis Montali said Wednesday the principle of inverse condemnation applies to PG&E, rejecting an argument that the utility was attempting to invoke to limit the amount it owes for homes and businesses destroyed by the fires. . . . Under the doctrine of inverse condemnation, PG&E can be held liable for property damage from fires caused by its equipment, even if it wasn’t negligent. . . .

Lawyers for fire victims said the utility was wasting its time attacking inverse condemnation, a legal principle that is rooted in the California constitution. Given the evidence of alleged negligence they have amassed, victims’s lawyers said, inverse condemnation is beside the point when it comes to PG&E.[1]

Peg Brickley, “PG&E Loses Challenge to Law Holding It Liable for Fire Damage,” Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/pg-e-loses-challenge-to-law-holding-it-liable-for-fire-damage-11574910091


Ageism

Having landed hard on my ass in the high tech industry three times now, I wouldn’t be anxious to return even if I felt I could: It is clear to me I would be setting myself up for yet another catastrophe. But when I was being laid off from my last real job, the job I had hoped would lead to a career in systems administration, my supervisors noted I would face age discrimination—I was 41, about to turn 42—as I sought another job. They promised support for my job hunt which never materialized.

FireShot Capture 043 - Older IT Workers Left Out Despite Tech Talent Shortage - WSJ - www.wsj.com
Fig. 1. Screenshot of chart in the Wall Street Journal, based on CompTIA data, November 25, 2019,[2] fair use.

The Wall Street Journal sees ageism setting in with high tech at age 45, although a chart within (figure 1) seems to show the information technology industry employing workers at ages 25-54 at above national averages.[3] I was laid off in the dot-com crash, at a time companies were offshoring jobs as fast as they could,[4] and this was one factor in my decision not to pursue a degree in technology[5] when I returned to school.

Angus Loten, “Older IT Workers Left Out Despite Tech Talent Shortage,” Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/older-it-workers-left-out-despite-tech-talent-shortage-11574683200


Thanksgiving

I’ve previously noted that Whole Foods Market’s selection, especially for vegans, is much more limited here in Pittsburgh than I saw on the west coast. So when I went down on Wednesday to see what I could find, I was really just hoping to find something. I found this (figure 2), with a name too long for me to remember.

IMG_0055
Fig. 2. Photograph by author, November 29, 2019.

It’s amazing. And much simpler to prepare than the Tofurky, which, directions notwithstanding, really needs to be broiled in a double-broiler.

Following the directions, I baked the Field Roast Hazelnut Cranberry Roast on a cookie sheet, with tin foil. It took 24 hours of defrost time, plus an hour of baking time. And that was it.

It really brings home the point that I’ve seen many vegans make that the flavor many omnivores associate with meat is actually in the seasoning. You really don’t miss the turkey with this.


  1. [1]Peg Brickley, “PG&E Loses Challenge to Law Holding It Liable for Fire Damage,” Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/pg-e-loses-challenge-to-law-holding-it-liable-for-fire-damage-11574910091
  2. [2]Angus Loten, “Older IT Workers Left Out Despite Tech Talent Shortage,” Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/older-it-workers-left-out-despite-tech-talent-shortage-11574683200
  3. [3]Angus Loten, “Older IT Workers Left Out Despite Tech Talent Shortage,” Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/older-it-workers-left-out-despite-tech-talent-shortage-11574683200
  4. [4]In neoliberalism, it is imperative that labor costs be reduced at any cost, in the name of “efficiency,” and that means hiring even idiots overseas when they can be paid a third of what competent workers would cost in the U.S.
  5. [5]Computer science is a mathematics degree and accordingly requires advanced mathematics. I hit a brick wall with trigonometry, a level well below what is needed. I have also observed that many in the information technology field hold academic degrees in utter disdain, seeing them as “elitist,” and yes, this is awfully rich, considering that, with their high-flying lifestyles, very well-paid IT workers are responsible for a significant part of California’s transportation and housing crises.

The neoliberal party’s version of Donald Trump

So I’ve been in Pittsburgh over six months now and I’m doing a bit of reflection.

It is often pretty here, even now that a somewhat disappointing fall foliage season[1] (I did see some of the amazing sort that reassures me that no, painters weren’t just making that shit up) has given way to the pastel hues of brown and, still, some green. That spectacular fall foliage is indeed spectacular, but there is a peace that accompanies the present hues that I appreciate.

I am not missing California, even as there are the occasional place name reminders—street names and the like—that evoke places in California that I know, sometimes with irritating discrepancies in spelling. For the most part, the places I loved in California are so much a part of me that I need only think of them to be there.

The racism here is horrifyingly apparent.[2] I don’t know what to do about it beyond acknowledging that it is so apparent and condemning it utterly.

The conservatism is also apparent. Confederate battle flags can be seen in front yards. People fly “Trump 2020” flags along with their U.S. flags as if to affirm Donald Trump’s identification of the United States with himself.[3]


Fig. 1. Map of gratuitously displayed artillery that by its very locations, mostly seems to metaphorically target Blacks. Pictures here.

And even where Confederate battle flags, Gadsden (“Don’t Tread On Me”) flags, or Trump 2020 flags are absent, there is a hyper-patriotism that evokes a wonder at what folks here might be over-compensating for. U.S. flags are flown much more commonly here than in California and monuments to veterans and war dead are everywhere. Some of those banners commemorating (almost exclusively white) war dead that I thought were coming down are still up, seemingly permanently, in all their manifestly racist splendor. Government institutions, including those that should know better, routinely fly the black POW-MIA flags that evoke a conspiracy theory about missing Vietnam soldiers who do not and never did, in fact, exist.[4] This is by no means the patriotism of people who are confident in the country they stand for, but rather a loud, conformist affirmation that denies troubling questions, both historic and present.

But mostly, it has been good to reconnect with a place I had thought I might never see again, to explore it, and to really begin to learn my way around it.

How long that lasts is an open question. I do very much sense that I am on the frontier with what Colin Woodard calls “Greater Appalachia,”[5] which I associate with authoritarian populism,[6] and that is not a comfortable place for me to be. I also sense that it might be possible to soften that by moving a bit north. Even around North Park, streets start to widen, traffic seems a bit less maddening, and the gun nuttery seems less omnipresent.


Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg is an ass. Anyone who knows anything about the history of U.S.-Mexico relations knows that the last thing the U.S. can do is send its troops into Mexico. No Mexican government could agree to it; to do so would provoke a fury that would, at a bare minimum, bring that government down.

That, nonetheless, is what Buttigieg suggested.[7]

Mexicans have many grievances against the U.S. and little reason to trust U.S. troops on their soil. There’s the the U.S. invasion of 1846-1847, the subsequent Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) which ceded about half of Mexico’s territory to the U.S., and a rather lop-sided balance of everything that has happened since.[8] “Poor Mexico,” said Porfirio Díaz, who served seven terms as president of the country, “so far from God and so close to the United States!”[9] And I will never forget a remark I overheard while bringing some folks down from a concert at the Mountain Winery overlooking Saratoga, California: “It’s our land anyway!”

Daniel Kim, “Pete Buttigieg says he’s open to sending U.S. troops to Mexico,” Sacramento Bee, November 17, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article237463004.html


Hong Kong

What we see now in Hong Kong[10] is an extreme example of a phenomenon in which the rulers’ pretense of ruling by consent is exposed as a hollow facade. The imperative here is to rule, to control.

If it were otherwise, territories could be allowed to secede. But from Scotland, to Catalonia, to Hong Kong, it is never that way. Rulers will never permit it and will, if necessary, respond with force to prevent it.

John Lyons, Dan Strumpf, and Natasha Khan, “Hong Kong Police Try to Storm University in Bid to Retake Campus From Protesters,” Wall Street Journal, November 17, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/hong-kong-police-officer-shot-with-an-arrow-at-university-battle-11573981792


Ageism

Carol Hymowitz, “Older Workers Have a Big Secret: Their Age,” Wall Street Journal, November 17, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/older-workers-have-a-big-secret-their-age-11574046301


Palestine

Associated Press, “Trump changes decades-old U.S. position on illegality of Israeli settlements,” Los Angeles Times, November 18, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2019-11-18/u-s-softens-position-on-israeli-settlements


  1. [1]Mary Ann Thomas, “Leaf peeper season in full swing in the Laurel Highlands; Pittsburgh, Alle-Kiski Valley must wait,” TribLive, October 20, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/valley-news-dispatch/leaf-peeper-season-in-full-swing-in-the-laurel-highlands-pittsburgh-alle-kiski-valley-must-wait/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “The banners and the guns: Flagrant racism in Pittsburgh,” Not HOusebroken, October 12, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/09/20/the-banners-and-the-guns-flagrant-racism-in-pittsburgh/
  3. [3]Peter Nicholas, “Trump’s Dark Assumption About America,” Atlantic, October 30, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/10/trump-impeachment-2020/601048/
  4. [4]Rick Perlstein, The Invisible Bridge (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014).
  5. [5]Colin Woodard, American Nations (New York: Penguin, 2011).
  6. [6]David Benfell, “Barack Obama asks, ‘Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?’” Not Housebroken, November 4, 2018, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/11/04/barack-obama-asks-why-is-it-that-the-folks-that-won-the-last-election-are-so-mad-all-the-time/
  7. [7]Daniel Kim, “Pete Buttigieg says he’s open to sending U.S. troops to Mexico,” Sacramento Bee, November 17, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article237463004.html
  8. [8]Manuel G. Gonzales, Mexicanos (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University, 2000).
  9. [9]Wikiquote, s.v. “Porfirio Díaz,” last modified July 19, 2018, https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Porfirio_D%C3%ADaz
  10. [10]John Lyons, Dan Strumpf, and Natasha Khan, “Hong Kong Police Try to Storm University in Bid to Retake Campus From Protesters,” Wall Street Journal, November 17, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/hong-kong-police-officer-shot-with-an-arrow-at-university-battle-11573981792

Uber’s lockup expires and we still don’t know what investors think

FireShot Capture 038 - Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson for November 06, 2019 - GoComics_ - www.gocomics.com
Fig. 1. Screenshot of comic from 1989 by Bill Waterson.


Uber

The bottom line here is that this is simply not, cannot be, and never will be a sustainable business model.[1] The question, which remains even with today’s sell-off,[2] is to what extent investors will continue to believe the contrary.

Tom McKay, “Surprising No One, Uber Continues to Hemorrhage Cash,” Gizmodo, November 4, 2019, https://gizmodo.com/surprising-no-one-uber-continues-to-hemorrhage-cash-1839625062

Heather Somerville, “Uber Booked Another Quarterly Loss as Revenue Climbed,” Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-booked-another-quarterly-loss-as-revenue-climbed-11572901549

Megan McArdle, “Uber can’t keep bleeding money, can it? It apparently thinks it can,” Washington Post, November 5, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/uber-cant-keep-bleeding-money-can-it-it-apparently-thinks-it-can/2019/11/05/4aa4fec0-000b-11ea-8501-2a7123a38c58_story.html

Sebastian Herrera and Heather Somerville, “Uber Shares Hit New Low as Post-IPO Lockup Expires,” Wall Street Journal, November 6, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-shares-face-more-pressure-as-post-ipo-lockup-is-set-to-expire-11573041602″

Erik Sherman, “Yesterday, Shareholders Bailed on Uber. Today, Insiders Got Their Chance,” Fortune, November 6, 2019, https://fortune.com/2019/11/06/uber-stock-insiders-growth-profit-lockup-period/


Pacific Gas and Electric

Rebecca Smith, “California Mayors Join Campaign to Buy Out PG&E,” Wall Street Journal, November 5, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/california-mayors-join-campaign-to-make-pg-e-a-cooperative-11572955201


Ageism


Bhaskar Sunkara, “Why it’s time to ditch the ‘ok boomer’ meme,” Guardian, November 6, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/06/ok-boomer-meme-older-generations


  1. [1]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; Richard Durant, “Uber’s Profitability Problem Is Structural,” Seeking Alpha, August 21, 2019, https://seekingalpha.com/article/4287055-ubers-profitability-problem-structural
  2. [2]Sebastian Herrera and Heather Somerville, “Uber Shares Hit New Low as Post-IPO Lockup Expires,” Wall Street Journal, November 6, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-shares-face-more-pressure-as-post-ipo-lockup-is-set-to-expire-11573041602″; Erik Sherman, “Yesterday, Shareholders Bailed on Uber. Today, Insiders Got Their Chance,” Fortune, November 6, 2019, https://fortune.com/2019/11/06/uber-stock-insiders-growth-profit-lockup-period/

Burning California

I keep forgetting to publish this. So it gets a little bit longer and a little bit longer and a little bit longer. There really hasn’t been a lot.


Racism

In the Pittsburgh area, while driving for Lyft, I had noticed that a large proportion—almost certainly a majority—of my passengers were Black. Since switching to Uber,[1] my passengers are now predominantly white.

One of my Lyft passengers had mentioned to me that Uber doesn’t accept debit cards as a form of payment. I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is, this is an example of systemic discrimination, that is, discrimination that may occur without racist intent but in which rules and systems have a discriminatory effect.

If indeed you need a credit card to pay for an Uber ride (I think you can get around this with PayPal), that tends to exclude people with poor or no credit. To the extent that racial stratification coincides with class stratification, which is very visibly the case in the Pittsburgh area, it becomes systemic racism. And the failure to recognize and rectify systemic racism is, itself, racist.

Of course, to say this means that I should (as I have in the past) recognize the classism in the gig economy: It does generally require an electronic form of payment, which “unbanked” folks will have a harder time managing. On the other hand, it also means that Uber and Lyft drivers are not sitting ducks for cash robberies (a significant risk for traditional taxi drivers).

One of my passengers, a Black, told me that western Pennsylvania is one of the worst places in the country to be Black. He says that Blacks are informed here upon arrival that they exist to serve the capitalist economy; they are not persons, but numbers.

Which is yet another example of how it is impossible to separate classism from racism. These forms of discrimination form a hydra-headed monster. You have to cut them all off at once to destroy the beast.

Blacks also bear the brunt of criminal injustice.[2] In California, fire fighting relies upon inmate labor,[3] making it part of the prison-industrial complex.[4] Again, it will be Blacks who bear the brunt of inadequately compensated risks in this activity. And again, this is systemic racism.


California

Kevin Fixler, “From fierce winds to flames: How the Kincade fire made Sonoma County history,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, November 1, 2019, https://www.pressdemocrat.com/multimedia/10249729-181/how-the-kincade-fire-spread

Nicole Goodkind, “Prisoners Are Fighting California’s Wildfires on the Front Lines, But Getting Little in Return,” Fortune, November 1, 2019, https://fortune.com/2019/11/01/california-prisoners-fighting-wildfires/


Long term unemployment

Patricia Cohen, “Lots of Job Hunting, but No Job, Despite Low Unemployment Lots of Job Hunting, but No Job, Despite Low Unemployment,” New York Times, November 1, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/31/business/economy/long-term-unemployed.html


Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris should be a cautionary tale for neoliberals: At least some progressives want real progressives and are fed up with the fake ones the neoliberal party has been pushing on them.

Shikha Dalmia, “The real reason Kamala Harris is tanking,” Week, November 4, 2019, https://theweek.com/articles/875020/real-reason-kamala-harris-tanking


Recession

It’s one thing to note that economists are bad at predicting recessions[5] and are even bad at recognizing them once they’ve started.[6] All these decades later, they finally seem to be recognizing what just about any idiot at the local tavern could have told them: It’s the unemployment:[7]

The unemployment rate has risen sharply in every recession, and thus economists have long looked for recession signals in its behavior. Ms. [Claudia] Sahm spent weekends playing with a massive spreadsheet, testing different rates of increase over varying periods of time, to arrive at the following formula: If the average of unemployment rate over three months rises a half-percentage point or more above its low over the previous year, the economy is in a recession. . . .

“The reason [this formula has] been getting attention is it is simple, it is understandable, it is something people can observe themselves,” Mr. [Jay] Shaumbaugh said.[8]

Sorry, but it’s hard—really hard—for me to imagine that economists couldn’t have come up with this sooner and it is very telling that Claudia Sahm had to work on this on her own time. Had this sort of inquiry even a chance of being taken seriously before she had the numbers to prove it, she’d have been able to work on it during office hours. But economists before Sahm didn’t come up with this and the Federal Reserve didn’t enable her to work on it on their dime, because they all really just don’t fucking give a damn. What Sahm has done—and she deserves a great deal of credit for overcoming what were surely formidable institutional obstacles—is to shame the fuck out of them with the blindingly obvious.

By the way, going by Sahm’s formula, we are not yet in a recession.[9]

Kate Davidson, “Are We in a Recession? Experts Agree: Ask Claudia Sahm,” Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/are-we-in-a-recession-experts-agree-ask-claudia-sahm-11572789602


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Uber, again,” Irregular Bullshit, October 19, 2019, https://disunitedstates.com/2019/10/19/uber-again/
  2. [2]Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004).
  3. [3]Nicole Goodkind, “Prisoners Are Fighting California’s Wildfires on the Front Lines, But Getting Little in Return,” Fortune, November 1, 2019, https://fortune.com/2019/11/01/california-prisoners-fighting-wildfires/
  4. [4]Empty Cages Collective, “What is the Prison Industrial Complex?” n.d. http://www.prisonabolition.org/what-is-the-prison-industrial-complex/; Daniel Moritz-Rabson, “‘Prison Slavery’: Inmates are paid cents while manufacturing products sold to government,” Newsweek, August 28, 2018, https://www.newsweek.com/prison-slavery-who-benefits-cheap-inmate-labor-1093729
  5. [5]Hites Ahir and Prakash Loungani, “‘There will be growth in the spring’: How well do economists predict turning points?” Vox, April 14, 2014, https://voxeu.org/article/predicting-economic-turning-points; Richard Alford, “Why Economists Have No Shame – Undue Confidence, False Precision, Risk and Monetary Policy,” Naked Capitalism, July 19, 2012, https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/07/richard-alford-why-economists-have-no-shame-undue-confidence-false-precision-risk-and-monetary-policy.html; Ha-Joon Chang and Jonathan Aldred, “After the crash, we need a revolution in the way we teach economics,” Guardian, May 10, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/may/11/after-crash-need-revolution-in-economics-teaching-chang-aldred; Barry Eichengreen, “Economists, Remove Your Blinders,” Chronicle of Higher Education, January 12, 2015, http://www.chronicle.com/article/Economists-Remove-Your/151057/; Paul Krugman, “How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?” New York Times, September 2, 2009, https://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/magazine/06Economic-t.html; Paul Krugman, “Triumph of the Wrong?” New York Times, October 11, 2012, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/12/opinion/krugman-triumph-of-the-wrong.html; Andrew Simms, “Economics is a failing discipline doing great harm – so let’s rethink it,” Guardian, August 3, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/03/economics-global-economy-climate-crisis; Mark Thoma, “Restoring the Public’s Trust in Economists,” Fiscal Times, May 19, 2015, http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2015/05/19/Restoring-Public-s-Trust-Economists; Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, “Economists Are Bad At Predicting Recessions,” FiveThirtyEight, August 21, 2019, https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/economists-are-bad-at-predicting-recessions/
  6. [6]For example, it took about a year to formally recognize the financial crisis of 2007-2008 as a recession: National Bureau of Economic Research, “Determination of the December 2007 Peak in Economic Activity,” December 11, 2008, http://www.nber.org/cycles/dec2008.html
  7. [7]Kate Davidson, “Are We in a Recession? Experts Agree: Ask Claudia Sahm,” Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/are-we-in-a-recession-experts-agree-ask-claudia-sahm-11572789602
  8. [8]Kate Davidson, “Are We in a Recession? Experts Agree: Ask Claudia Sahm,” Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/are-we-in-a-recession-experts-agree-ask-claudia-sahm-11572789602
  9. [9]Kate Davidson, “Are We in a Recession? Experts Agree: Ask Claudia Sahm,” Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/are-we-in-a-recession-experts-agree-ask-claudia-sahm-11572789602