What? You mean cops aren’t allowed to be ‘original’ or ‘creative?’

Qualified immunity

Just remember, they’re all, each and every one of them, “cop haters:”

The centerpiece of Cato’s strategic campaign to take down qualified immunity has been a series of targeted amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court to reverse its precedents and eliminate the doctrine outright. Since launching the campaign in March 2018, Cato has filed dozens of additional amicus briefs in our own name, but we have also organized a massive cross‐​ideological alliance of public interest groups opposed to qualified immunity — what Judge Don Willett recently called “perhaps the most diverse amici ever assembled.”[1]

To the extent I’m understanding this correctly, qualified immunity enables “rights‐​violating police and other government officials” to do whatever the fuck they please as long as they haven’t been explicitly told they can’t do it.

Judge Don Willett, a Trump appointee to the Fifth Circuit, has explained how “[t]o some observers, qualified immunity smacks of unqualified impunity, letting public officials duck consequences for bad behavior — no matter how palpably unreasonable — as long as they were the first to behave badly,” and sharply notes that “this entrenched, judge‐​created doctrine excuses constitutional violations by limiting the statute Congress passed to redress constitutional violations.”[2]

But originality counts! Doesn’t it?

I’m not a fan of the Cato Institute. They’re capitalist libertarians, that is, what neoliberals were before they got into power and became even worse hypocrites.[3]

But something I’ve noted for a long time is that capitalist libertarians are occasionally very, very good on constitutional issues. This might be one of those occasions.

Jay Schweikert and Clark Neily, “As Supreme Court Considers Several Qualified Immunity Cases, A New Ally Joins The Fight,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/supreme-court-considers-several-qualified-immunity-cases-new-ally-joins-fight


Iraq and Iran

Capitalist libertarians are also one of a triumvirate of sometimes anti-war conservative tendencies; the other two are paleoconservatives and traditionalist conservatives. Of these, the traditionalists are the most consistent and, truly, scathing. Some paleoconservatives are neo-Nazis and white supremacists, so for at least some of them, race war would be okay and their opposition to war is to foreign war—if you believe in preserving your own segregated society, it hardly makes any sense to involve yourself in other societies. And capitalist libertarians are against war until they think another principle, usually entailing money, is more important.[4]

This article[5] is useful for an explanation of just how it is that Congress ceded the power to start wars to the president:

But, unless you’re willing to go full John Yoo and endorse “the president’s right to start wars,” imminence matters because the constitutional claim has to be based on self‐​defense. Under Article II, the president retains some measure of defensive power, alternately described at the Convention as the power “to repel sudden attacks” or “to repel and not to commence war.” That power reasonably includes the use of force to avert an impending attack not yet begun. But as you move from shooting back, to addressing an immediate threat, to “deterring future Iranian attack plans” — or “re‐​establishing deterrence,” as Pompeo put it this week — the self‐​defense rationale disappears. If the Trump administration wants the general power to target Iranian military commanders as enemy combatants, it should make its case for war to Congress.[6]

The trouble, of course, is that many such “immediate threats” have involved long-running wars: Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, that is, every major military encounter the U.S. has been involved in following World War II. Each of them was ill-advised; not one has ended in anything like victory. They are simply occasions for killing people and for spending vast sums of money on the military rather than for helping people as elites argue violently over which of them will control which territories, the people on those territories, and the resources within those territories. Which is pretty much what war is about.[7]

Gene Healy, “On ‘Imminence’: Absence of Evidence is Evidence of Absence,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/imminence-absence-evidence-evidence-absence


Guns

So I was mentioning about paleoconservatives above and the possibility of race war? Fuck, here it is, along with a helping of militia in general:[8]

“The anticipation of violation of gun rights is common among militia groups more broadly — pretty easily seen in all the ‘molon labe’ patches worn by militia folks,” [Sam] Jackson said. (“Molon labe” is a classical Greek phrase meaning “come and take them.”) “Several novels that are important for the group depict war between Americans and the American government that begins with attempts at gun control.”

But beyond civil war, others expected to attend Monday’s rally are explicitly calling for a race war, in which white Americans will kill nonwhite Americans and Jewish people to establish a white ethnostate. Using the term “boogaloo” — a sarcastic reference to the 1980s film Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo that implies a “Civil War 2” of sorts — users of online forums like /pol/ are using Richmond as the impetus for the beginnings of a race war. They use phrases like “fuck all optics,” a reference to the last post shared on the social networking site Gab by the Tree of Life shooter, which has become a motto of sorts for white nationalists.[9]

I’m not seeing this rally so much as the start of a civil war as I am a harbinger of what may yet come. Though some militia movements are white supremacist, I generally associate them with authoritarian populism, and we are in a situation where I fear that the possibility that Donald Trump may be removed from office, either through impeachment or electoral defeat, may indeed provoke a very violent and heavily armed uprising.[10]

Jane Coaston, “The Virginia gun rights rally raising fears of violence, explained,” Vox, January 17, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/1/17/21067627/virginia-lobby-day-gun-laws-extremism


Pittsburgh

Winter seemed finally to have arrived. I went out to my car yesterday to find three inches of snow on it. The snowfall amounts were weirdly variable. Even immediately adjacent cars didn’t seem to have that much and I hadn’t been on the road very long when I saw the snow was pretty thin on grass by the Allegheny County Airport. Areas north of the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers seemed barely to have received any at all.

There was more snow last night and a warning went up for snow and freezing rain today.[11] These looked to be conditions that would make me pause before going out. But I have no choice: Thinking I was in a bit better shape than it turns out I was, I ordered bookshelves to accommodate the last of my book collection that my mother has been sending me from the west coast (it’s all here now). That’s a hit on my bank accounts.

As it turned out, it was just rain, which melted a lot of the snow that had fallen the last couple nights.

Natasha Lindstrom, “Storm to bring 1 to 5 inches of snow, dangerous travel conditions to Western Pa.,” TribLive, January 17, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/storm-to-bring-1-to-5-inches-of-snow-dangerous-travel-conditions-to-western-pa/


Amish

Since coming to Pittsburgh, I’ve been surprised that I haven’t seen more Amish. I expected to at least cross their territory on various trips. I haven’t.

The only time I’ve seen them, it was outside a hospital in Pittsburgh. They were recognizable by their plain dress and were standing around a trash bin, using it as a platform, eating. I don’t know their story.

From what I know of them, stories of normalized rape such as those presented here[12] are most emphatically not the picture they would like the world to have of them. The ethical dilemma for me as a human scientist is two-fold: 1) Of course, these women need support and their assailants should face far harsher penalties than they are; but 2) how do we present Amish society such that it isn’t totalized as rape culture? It isn’t like “English” (the term used by Amish to refer to their non-Amish neighbors) society has such a wonderful a track record either.

Sarah McClure, “The Amish Keep to Themselves. And They’re Hiding a Horrifying Secret,” Cosmopolitan, January 14, 2020, https://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a30284631/amish-sexual-abuse-incest-me-too/


Gig economy

Some things are a little too close to home. There is a substantial strain of capitalist libertarianism among denizens, especially the richer ones, of Silicon Valley. What we see with the “Silicon Valley Economy,” the gig economy, is the outcome of capitalist libertarians being absolutely certain they can get their way and acting accordingly.

My guess is that California’s AB 5 is a harbinger of what’s to come.[13] It may not appear in precisely that form everywhere, but it will appear in something like that form in enough places that the non-viability of companies that rely on misclassification of workers will be pushed even further.[14] But it’s going to take a while. And in the meantime, these capitalist libertarians will continue to be self-righteous as they extract ever more wealth from a very raw deal for workers.

Lia Russell, “The Silicon Valley Economy Is Here. And It’s a Nightmare,” New Republic, January 16, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/156202/silicon-valley-economy-here-its-nightmare


  1. [1]Jay Schweikert and Clark Neily, “As Supreme Court Considers Several Qualified Immunity Cases, A New Ally Joins The Fight,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/supreme-court-considers-several-qualified-immunity-cases-new-ally-joins-fight
  2. [2]Jay Schweikert and Clark Neily, “As Supreme Court Considers Several Qualified Immunity Cases, A New Ally Joins The Fight,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/supreme-court-considers-several-qualified-immunity-cases-new-ally-joins-fight
  3. [3]Capitalist libertarians have the oh-so-cute notion in which political power is a “threat to liberty” but never economic power. Neoliberals circumscribe that to declare that labor power is a “threat to liberty,” but never corporate power or the power of whomever can shovel the most money at, well, especially, the Clinton Foundation. Neoliberals think political power is great for deregulation, reducing taxes, and eviscerating the social safety net in the name of balancing the budget. They gain support from neoconservatives, who view neoliberalism as a moral imperative, in part because they never suggest that the military should be cut and mainly because capitalism is part of the Amerikkkan Way, the system which neoconservatives believe is universally best for all people everywhere and which they therefore believe must be aggressively and proactively “defended” from even the most remote challenges. David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126); see also David Benfell, “The larger question of California’s AB 5,” Not Housebroken, September 14, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/09/14/the-larger-question-of-californias-ab-5/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  5. [5]Gene Healy, “On ‘Imminence’: Absence of Evidence is Evidence of Absence,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/imminence-absence-evidence-evidence-absence
  6. [6]Gene Healy, “On ‘Imminence’: Absence of Evidence is Evidence of Absence,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/imminence-absence-evidence-evidence-absence
  7. [7]David Benfell, “We ‘need to know how it works,’” Not Housebroken, March 19, 2012, https://disunitedstates.org/2012/03/19/we-need-to-know-how-it-works/
  8. [8]Jane Coaston, “The Virginia gun rights rally raising fears of violence, explained,” Vox, January 17, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/1/17/21067627/virginia-lobby-day-gun-laws-extremism
  9. [9]Jane Coaston, “The Virginia gun rights rally raising fears of violence, explained,” Vox, January 17, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/1/17/21067627/virginia-lobby-day-gun-laws-extremism
  10. [10]David Benfell, “The least violent solution,” Not Housebroken, December 16, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/16/the-least-violent-solution/
  11. [11]Natasha Lindstrom, “Storm to bring 1 to 5 inches of snow, dangerous travel conditions to Western Pa.,” TribLive, January 17, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/storm-to-bring-1-to-5-inches-of-snow-dangerous-travel-conditions-to-western-pa/
  12. [12]Sarah McClure, “The Amish Keep to Themselves. And They’re Hiding a Horrifying Secret,” Cosmopolitan, January 14, 2020, https://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a30284631/amish-sexual-abuse-incest-me-too/
  13. [13]David Benfell, “The larger question of California’s AB 5,” Not Housebroken, September 14, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/09/14/the-larger-question-of-californias-ab-5/
  14. [14]David Benfell, “Time for the gig economy to grow up,” Not Housebroken, August 30, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/30/time-for-the-gig-economy-to-grow-up/

Fire the press. That’s right. Fire ’em all.

A whole lot of journalists need to find something other to cover than a bogus impeachment[1] and the stupider than stupid—that is, unless you actually want a neoliberal to win the neoliberal party nomination,[2] which I’m pretty sure they’ll manage to do even without this idiocy—fight between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Sanders.

But no, it’s wall to wall impeachment and food fight. What little else there is is stuff where nothing’s happening.

Fire ’em all. Because this is inexcusable.


Equal Rights Amendment

David Berman at the Atlantic has some detail on what happens next with the Equal Right Amendment now that Virginia’s legislature has, it hopes, ratified it. This is a battle that is already in the courts,[3] where what I wrote yesterday still applies.

Russell Berman, “Did Virginia Just Amend the Constitution?” Atlantic, January 15, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/01/virginia-equal-rights-amendment-constitution/605002/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “The whiteness of impeachment,” Not Housebroken, December 15, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/15/the-whiteness-of-impeachment/; David Benfell, “The least violent solution,” Not Housebroken, December 16, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/16/the-least-violent-solution/; David Benfell, “The sham (pick your partisan flavor) is on,” Not Housebroken, December 19, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/19/the-sham-pick-your-partisan-flavor-is-on/; David Benfell, “The asterisk,” Not Housebroken, December 21, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/21/the-asterisk/
  2. [2]Nathan J. Robinson, “Thinking About The Democratic Primary,” Current Affairs, January 15, 2020, https://www.currentaffairs.org/2020/01/thinking-about-the-democratic-primary
  3. [3]Russell Berman, “Did Virginia Just Amend the Constitution?” Atlantic, January 15, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/01/virginia-equal-rights-amendment-constitution/605002/

Cynicism rules my day

Equal Rights Amendment

There is a new blog post entitled, “Equal Rights for women in the U.S. Maybe. Someday.

Gregory S. Schneider, Laura Vozzella, and Patricia Sullivan, “‘A long time to wait’: Virginia passes Equal Rights Amendment in historic vote,” Washington Post, January 15, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/2020/01/15/0475d51a-36f1-11ea-9541-9107303481a4_story.html


Pennsylvania

There is a new blog post entitled, “To a Pennsylvania House Minority Leader: When cops profile you, they don’t actually need an offense.”

Associated Press, “Pennsylvania House votes to stop drivers’ use of hand-held phones,” TribLive, January 15, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/pennsylvania-house-votes-to-stop-drivers-use-of-hand-held-phones/

Stephen Caruso, “After years of trying, Pa. House finally passes handheld cell phone ban,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, January 15, 2020, https://www.penncapital-star.com/criminal-justice/under-house-proposal-youll-pay-for-distracted-driving-but-cant-be-pulled-over-for-it/


Nonhuman animals

“At a tabloid (newspaper), it would be an anthropomorphic question” about whether the female had somehow given up the will to live or worse, Zeigler allowed. But nothing in the animal’s behavior gave any indication of despondency or other emotions humans might wish to project onto it; “the only behavior change we saw is she would spend more time with animal care staff,” he said, a behavior considered normal in such a case.[1]

But they don’t have an explanation,[2] now, do they?

Steve Johnson, “Female lion at Brookfield Zoo dies from mysterious fall into moat not long after death of longtime mate,” Chicago Tribune, January 15, 2020, https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/museums/ct-ent-brookfield-zoo-female-lion-dead-moat-fall-0115-20200114-vimigutim5h6fnc6f7xjytkspm-story.html


The neoliberal party

FireShot Capture 053 - The Political Compass - www.politicalcompass.org
Fig. 1. Screenshot of the Political Compass on 2020 presidential candidates, taken on January 16, 2020. Especially notice where Elizabeth Warren is positioned. For reference, when I’ve taken this test, I’ve placed much farther to the left-libertarian extreme (figure 2) than any of these assholes.

Political_compass_August_13,_2012
Fig. 2. My political compass score as of August 13, 2012.

You all should know by now that I am cynical as fuck about the Democrats, whom I refer to as the neoliberal party. Now here’s a dose of cynicism on Elizabeth Warren, which, for me, makes her spat with Bernie Sanders[3] all make sense. In fact, given the shenanigans of 2016,[4] I’m now waiting to hear that the so-called “centrists” of the party put her up to it.

Nathan J. Robinson, “Thinking About The Democratic Primary,” Current Affairs, January 15, 2020, https://www.currentaffairs.org/2020/01/thinking-about-the-democratic-primary


  1. [1]Steve Johnson, “Female lion at Brookfield Zoo dies from mysterious fall into moat not long after death of longtime mate,” Chicago Tribune, January 15, 2020, https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/museums/ct-ent-brookfield-zoo-female-lion-dead-moat-fall-0115-20200114-vimigutim5h6fnc6f7xjytkspm-story.html
  2. [2]Steve Johnson, “Female lion at Brookfield Zoo dies from mysterious fall into moat not long after death of longtime mate,” Chicago Tribune, January 15, 2020, https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/museums/ct-ent-brookfield-zoo-female-lion-dead-moat-fall-0115-20200114-vimigutim5h6fnc6f7xjytkspm-story.html
  3. [3]Nathan J. Robinson, “Thinking About The Democratic Primary,” Current Affairs, January 15, 2020, https://www.currentaffairs.org/2020/01/thinking-about-the-democratic-primary
  4. [4]Donna Brazile, “Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC,” Politico, November 2, 2017, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/02/clinton-brazile-hacks-2016-215774

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.


Gavin Newsom might not think what you think he thinks

Pacific Gas and Electric

My guess is that this is not what Gavin Newsom, who has, on balance, been governing as a progressive, means:

PG&E had been on the defensive for months after a group of bondholders made their own alliance with wildfire victims and mounted a hostile takeover bid for the utility. The bondholders, led by Wall Street hedge fund Elliott Management, insisted their takeover plan is still better for California and said PG&E’s proposal would burden the company with billions in new debt.

With Newsom rejecting PG&E’s plan, the bondholders’ effort gets new life.[1]

I’m thinking more along the lines of,

“Nothing I can think of says, ‘screw the public interest’ like a hedge fund-owned public utility,” [Dave] King said.[2]

Dale Kasler, “Gavin Newsom rejects PG&E bankruptcy plan, demands ‘radically restructured’ CA utility,” Sacramento Bee, December 13, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article238350708.html


Cenk Uygur

There is a new blog post entitled, “Bernie Sanders should not have endorsed Cenk Uygur in the first place.” This is the first of two new posts today.

Michael Finnegan, “Bernie Sanders retracts endorsement of Californian who defends crude sex ratings of women,” Los Angeles Times, December 13, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2019-12-12/bernie-sanders-endorses-cenk-uygur-young-turks


Anti-Semitism

A self-identifying Zionist affirms a right to criticize Zionism, criticizing the order that Donald Trump issued[3] earlier this week.[4]

Kenneth Stern, “I drafted the definition of antisemitism. Rightwing Jews are weaponizing it,” Guardian, December 13, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/dec/13/antisemitism-executive-order-trump-chilling-effect


The Left

There is another new blog post entitled, “On lessons to be learned.”

David Adler, “What the U.S. Left Can Learn From the Labour Party’s Epic Loss,” In These Times, December 13, 2019, http://inthesetimes.com/article/22220/labour-party-jeremy-corbyn-boris-johnson-uk-brexit-bernie-sanders-left

John Cassidy, “What Are the Real Lessons of the U.K. Election for 2020?” New Yorker, December 14, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/what-are-the-real-lessons-of-the-uk-election-for-2020


Donald Trump

Robert Barnes, “Supreme Court will take up Trump’s broad claims of protection from investigation,” Washington Post, December 13, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-will-take-up-trumps-broad-claims-of-protection-from-investigation/2019/12/13/1de84cd6-1d19-11ea-8d58-5ac3600967a1_story.html


  1. [1]Dale Kasler, “Gavin Newsom rejects PG&E bankruptcy plan, demands ‘radically restructured’ CA utility,” Sacramento Bee, December 13, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article238350708.html
  2. [2]Tyler Silvy, “Sonoma Clean Power officials will explore public ownership of PG&E utility lines,” Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, November 14, 2019, https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10315410-181/sonoma-clean-power-officials-will
  3. [3]Kenneth Stern, “I drafted the definition of antisemitism. Rightwing Jews are weaponizing it,” Guardian, December 13, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/dec/13/antisemitism-executive-order-trump-chilling-effect
  4. [4]Jacob Kornbluh and Melissa Weiss, “A first look at the language of Trump’s executive order on antisemitism,” Jewish Insider, December 11, 2019, https://jewishinsider.com/2019/12/exclusive-a-first-look-at-the-language-of-trumps-executive-order-on-antisemitism/; Veronica Stracqualursi, Paul LeBlanc, and Betsy Klein, “Trump aims to crack down on anti-Semitism on college campuses using civil rights protections,” CNN, December 10, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/10/politics/trump-order-judaism-nationality/index.html

Gun nuttery at the Supreme Court, yet again

Guns

I’m sorry but you just can’t tell me this (figure 1) is about hunting and self-defense.
IMG_0018
Fig. 1. Tank on permanent display outside the Anthony Arms and Shooting Center in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, a civilian arms dealer. This is directly across the street from the Allegheny County Airport, the predecessor to Pittsburgh International Airport. The bulk, at least, of West Mifflin is in Mon Valley, an area predominantly populated by Blacks, many of whom are poor or working class. The airport and this gun shop are located on high ground which overlooks this valley. Photograph by author, September 26, 2019.

Andrew Chung, “U.S. Supreme Court weighs challenge to New York gun transport limits,” Reuters, December 1, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-court-guns/us-supreme-court-weighs-challenge-to-new-york-gun-transport-limits-idUSKBN1Y50ZG


Abortion

I would highlight the insidious expansion of the term ‘fetus’ to include any product of conception.[1] I understood the term to refer to what an embryo grows into. The Oxford Dictionary of English puts the transition at eight weeks following conception.[2] But bills in Ohio and Pennsylvania are defining it down to the moment of conception. The Ohio bill mandates the reimplantation of the zygote in an ectopic pregnancy—a life-threatening condition—into the uterus. And the Pennsylvania bill attempts to require cremation or burial of remains. All of this is more about being holier-than-thou than it is about what’s even possible.[3]

Peter Wade, “Legislators in Ohio and Pennsylvania Are Proposing Incredibly Restrictive Anti-Abortion Legislation,” Rolling Stone, November 30, 2019, https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/legislators-in-ohio-and-pennsylvania-are-proposing-incredibly-restrictive-anti-abortion-legislation-919928/


Surveys

So I’ve been calling survey methodology bullshit since I learned the response rate had been nine percent,[4] which simply makes survey methodology untenable—I don’t care what they say or how they manage to excuse it.

It turns out, however, I’ve been wrong since the end of February. The response rate is now down to six or seven percent. Supposedly studies confirm that survey research is still useful and predictive.[5] No. Bullshit.

The portion of the population that chooses to respond to surveys is now entirely a self-selecting group. I don’t care how often you roll the die and get seven. You’re still wrong to call this science.

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/


  1. [1]Peter Wade, “Legislators in Ohio and Pennsylvania Are Proposing Incredibly Restrictive Anti-Abortion Legislation,” Rolling Stone, November 30, 2019, https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/legislators-in-ohio-and-pennsylvania-are-proposing-incredibly-restrictive-anti-abortion-legislation-919928/
  2. [2]Oxford Dictionary of English, 3rd ed. (2010), s.v. “fetus.”
  3. [3]Stephen Caruso, “Pa. House passes fetal remains bill with bipartisan backing,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, November 28, 2019, https://www.penncapital-star.com/blog/pa-house-passes-fetal-remains-bill-with-bipartisan-backing/; Peter Wade, “Legislators in Ohio and Pennsylvania Are Proposing Incredibly Restrictive Anti-Abortion Legislation,” Rolling Stone, November 30, 2019, https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/legislators-in-ohio-and-pennsylvania-are-proposing-incredibly-restrictive-anti-abortion-legislation-919928/
  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/

Colonization and a potential pogrom

Hong Kong

Tseng Yat-yiu et al., “Hong Kong District Elections Could Gauge Support For Protest Movement,” Global Security, November 22, 2019, https://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/china/2019/china-191122-rfa01.htm


Pittsburgh

So I saw this (figure 1):
IMG_0053
Fig. 1. Photograph by author, November 22, 2019.

And I wrote a new blog entry entitled, “Militia territory.” My mother responded with a bunch of links[1] confirming and expanding many of my worst previously expressed fears and what my passengers have told me about racism in Pittsburgh.[2] These links don’t quite get to the militia issue but they come close, much too close for comfort, and close enough that they lay a groundwork for at least the plausibility of militias in this area, if not their likelihood.

On a more personal note, the Tree of Life Synagogue shooter lived “in a neighborhood dotted with mostly small to medium brick homes, about a 25-minute drive south of Pittsburgh in the suburb of Baldwin Borough,”[3] which is the municipality where I now live. Baldwin is a fairly large place, reaching nearly down to the Monongahela River, with a few apartment buildings so it isn’t necessarily the complex I live in. But the one I live in is probably the largest, so place your bets.

If indeed a race war[4] of the shooting sort breaks out,[5] it very much appears that the part of Pittsburgh I live in could become a combat zone. To my knowledge, however, Blacks are mostly unarmed. I think the gun nuttery I see is largely a white phenomenon. So “war” is probably the wrong word for it. We’ll be looking at a pogrom.

I feel completely helpless to stop it and, after what I saw that one day,[6] I’m pretty sure I can count on the police to stand aside and laugh.

The question, then, is, just how likely is such a scenario?


Chagos Islands

Global Security, “‘Illegal colonial occupier’: Mauritius blasts UK as it skips UN deadline to return Chagos Islands housing US airbase,” November 22, 2019, https://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/uk/2019/uk-191122-rt01.htm


Israel

Times of Israel, “TV report says top Likud leaders working behind the scenes to oust Netanyahu,” November 22, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/tv-says-top-likud-leaders-working-behind-scenes-to-oust-netanyahu/


  1. [1]Colin P. Clarke, “One Year After Tree of Life, We Still Aren’t Talking Enough About Violent White Supremacy,” Rand, October 27, 2019, https://www.rand.org/blog/2019/10/one-year-after-tree-of-life-we-still-arent-talking.html; Letrell Deshan Crittenden, “The Pittsburgh problem: race, media and everyday life in the Steel City,” Columbia Journalism Review, October 25, 2019, https://www.cjr.org/tow_center_reports/racism-black-burnout-in-pittsburgh-journalism.php; Eric Heyl, “Neo-Nazi, White Supremacist, Islamic Hate Groups Active In Pittsburgh,” Patch, August 16, 2017, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/pittsburgh/neo-nazi-white-supremacist-islamic-hate-groups-active-pittsburgh; Moriah Ella Mason, “Pittsburgh Doesn’t Need More Guns — We Need Less White Supremacy,” Forward, October 29, 2018, https://forward.com/scribe/413104/pittsburgh-doesnt-need-more-guns-we-need-less-white-supremacy/; Charles Thompson, “Pennsylvania housed 36 active hate groups last year, ranking 8th in the country: report,” Penn Live, February 21, 2019, https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/02/southern-poverty-law-center-counts-36-active-hate-groups-in-pennsylvania-in-2018.html
  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]Campbell Robertson, Christopher Mele, and Sabrina Tavernise, “11 Killed in Synagogue Massacre; Suspect Charged With 29 Counts,” New York Times, October 27, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/27/us/active-shooter-pittsburgh-synagogue-shooting.html
  4. [4]Kathleen Parker, “Trump has essentially declared a ‘race war,’” Washington Post, July 30, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-has-essentially-declared-a-race-war/2019/07/30/ad6ae554-b305-11e9-8949-5f36ff92706e_story.html
  5. [5]Mary B. McCord, “Armed Militias Are Taking Trump’s Civil War Tweets Seriously,” Lawfare, October 2, 2019, https://www.lawfareblog.com/armed-militias-are-taking-trumps-civil-war-tweets-seriously
  6. [6]David Benfell, “Hey cops! Do you know what year it is?” Not Housebroken, August 27, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/27/hey-cops-do-you-know-what-year-it-is/

Forecast: A blizzard of bullshit, no clearing expected

The last few days: Bullshit, mostly.

It was supposed to snow here, and didn’t. It did get cold, but the streets had dried from the rain that was supposed to turn to snow, so there wasn’t even very much ice.
FireShot Capture 039 - Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson for November 10, 2019 - GoComics_ - www.gocomics.com
Fig. 1. Screenshot of comic by Bill Watterson from 1989. Actually, I’d be just fine without the snow, and especially the ice.

I’m beginning to get the picture that folks have been telling me about for months. I’d still desperately rather be doing something besides driving for Uber and Lyft in a Pittsburgh winter or anywhere in any season.[1]


Pete Buttigieg

Which, come to think of it, isn’t much of an improvement on calling Donald Trump’s supporters “deplorables.”[2]

The neoliberal party does not engage on issues because its issue is neoliberalism and even it knows that that’s a loser. It claims a progressive mantle by running on identity. And some idiots still fall for it.


Uber

Kia Kokalitcheva, “Uber says it’s likely to pay Waymo or revamp its self-driving tech,” Axios, November 7, 2019, https://www.axios.com/uber-says-its-likely-to-pay-waymo-or-revamp-its-self-driving-tech-ffa6e420-4273-4cf1-8161-fc40e25b61da.html


Trade

Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury, “Trade Liberalization for Development?” InterPress Service, November 5, 2019, http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/11/trade-liberalization-development/


California

fireseasons
Fig. 2. California climate change since 1895.[3]

Santa Rosa Press Democrat, “How California’s weather has changed during fire season since 1895,” n.d., https://www.pressdemocrat.com/multimedia/10274200-181/how-californias-weather-has-changed


  1. [1]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  2. [2]Jonathan Capehart, “This is what’s ‘deplorable’ about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and this campaign,” Washington Post, September 12, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2016/09/12/this-is-whats-deplorable-about-hillary-clinton-donald-trump-and-this-campaign/
  3. [3]Santa Rosa Press Democrat, “How California’s weather has changed during fire season since 1895,” n.d., https://www.pressdemocrat.com/multimedia/10274200-181/how-californias-weather-has-changed

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

No deal

Housekeeping

Just a hint to a U.S. Postal Service carrier and a United Parcel Service carrier out there: You have real jobs, you should be grateful for those jobs, and you should do those jobs.

I am not amused by your excuses.[1]

For everyone else, there is a new Pittsburgh mailing address that should be used for the foreseeable future unless I tell you otherwise; see my contact information page for details.


Brexit

Danielle Sheridan, Tony Diver, and Amy Jones, “Brexit latest news: Deal ‘essentially impossible’ after call between Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel, Number 10 says,” Telegraph, October 8, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/10/08/brexit-latest-news-boris-johnson-no-deal-parliament-prorogation/


Misogyny

Antonia Noori Farzan, “A teenager said there was a rapist at her school. She was suspended for bullying,” Washington Post, October 8, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/10/08/maine-teenager-suspended-rape-warning-high-school/


Kurdistan

Dion Nissenbaum and Gordon Lubold, “Trump’s Call to Leave Syria Draws Fire From GOP Allies,” Wall Street Journalhttps://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-begins-pullback-from-northern-syria-clearing-way-for-turkish-offensive-11570439862


 

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