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/

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.


Vermin in uniform

Police

There is a new blog post entitled, “The binary between “Black” and “Blue” Lives.”

Andrew Sheeler, “Black drivers in California stopped and searched more than others, state study shows,” Sacramento Bee, January 2, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/article238915598.html


Iraq and Iran

For historical reference:

Reuters, “Iraq war, the notable quotes,” March 11, 2008, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-war-quotes/factbox-iraq-war-the-notable-quotes-idUSL212762520080311

That[1] didn’t go well. But war is the answer. War is always the fucking answer.

Oh, and just sayin’, ’cause I’ve said it before, Iran won’t go any better.[2]

Carlos Latuff, in the above, raises an interesting point. For all the apparent hostility between Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu,[3] Obama gave the Israeli government nearly everything it wanted except for two things:

  1. Complete acquiescence to Israeli hegemony in the West Bank.[4]
  2. War with Iran.

Julian Borger and Martin Chulov, “Iran general Qassem Suleimani killed in Baghdad drone strike ordered by Trump,” Guardian, January 3, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/03/baghdad-airport-iraq-attack-deaths-iran-us-tensions

Zachary Evans, “State Department Warns Americans to Leave Iraq ‘Immediately’ in Wake of Soleimani Killing,” National Review, January 3, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/news/state-department-warns-americans-to-leave-iraq-immediately-in-wake-of-soleimani-killing/


Veganism

Telegraph, “Veganism is a philosophical belief and is therefore protected by law, judge rules,” January 3, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/01/03/veganism-philosophical-belief-therefore-protected-law-judge/


  1. [1]Reuters, “Iraq war, the notable quotes,” March 11, 2008, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-war-quotes/factbox-iraq-war-the-notable-quotes-idUSL212762520080311
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Forever war and inhumanity, delusional raging narcissist-in-chief style,” Irregular Bullshit, June 27, 2019, https://disunitedstates.com/2019/06/27/forever-war-and-inhumanity-delusional-raging-narcissist-in-chief-style/
  3. [3]Raphael Ahren, “Spurning lawmakers, Netanyahu loses the Democrats he never thought he had,” Times of Israel, August 16, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-never-thought-he-had-the-support-of-democrats-now-he-might-not/; Khaled Elgindy, “Obama’s Record on Israeli-Palestinian Peace: The President’s Disquieting Silence,” Foreign Affairs, October 5, 2016, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/israel/2016-10-05/obamas-record-israeli-palestinian-peace
  4. [4]Adam Entous, “The Maps of Israeli Settlements That Shocked Barack Obama,” New Yorker, July 9, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-map-of-israeli-settlements-that-shocked-barack-obama

War is the answer

There is a new blog post entitled, “An unhealthy relationship with guns.”


Iraq

You might recall from yesterday’s installment that Iraqi protesters had stormed the U.S. embassy in Iraq. They were protesting a U.S. bombing in the country.[1] In yet another stunning demonstration of “unclear on the concept,” the Trump administration responds to this by sending . . . wait for it  . . . more troops. It appeared the embassy protest might be going on for a while[2] but Iraq’s prime minister has promised to submit the question of a withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country to parliament. Such a withdrawal will be the price of peace at the U.S. embassy there,[3] which is to say that the U.S. has now lost Iraq in addition to Afghanistan.[4]

That makes us zero for two on George W. Bush’s immediate response to the 9/11 attacks, the same response that Barack Obama expanded to more countries. But hey, war is the answer. War is always the fucking answer.

Thaier al-Sudani and Maher Nazeh with Ahmed Aboulenein, “Iraqi militiamen hurl stones at U.S. Embassy, prepare for extended stay,” Reuters, January 1, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-usa/iraqi-militiamen-hurl-stones-at-us-embassy-prepare-for-extended-stay-idUSKBN1Z01N9

Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Supporters of Iranian-backed militia end siege of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad,” Washington Post, January 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/supporters-of-iranian-backed-militia-start-withdrawing-from-besieged-us-embassy-in-baghdad-following-militia-orders/2020/01/01/8280cb34-2c9e-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html


Israel

Ruth Eglash, “Netanyahu to ask Israeli parliament for immunity from criminal charges,” Washington Post, January 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/netanyahu-to-seek-immunity-from-criminal-charges/2020/01/01/9f635378-2b1a-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html


  1. [1]Luke Harding, “Trump accuses Iran over storming of US embassy compound in Baghdad,” Guardian, December 31, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/31/us-embassy-stormed-in-baghdad; Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Protesters chanting ‘Death to America’ break into U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad,” Washington Post, December 31, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/iran-backed-militia-supporters-converge-on-us-embassy-in-baghdad-shouting-death-to-america/2019/12/31/93f050b2-2bb1-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html
  2. [2]Thaier al-Sudani and Maher Nazeh with Ahmed Aboulenein, “Iraqi militiamen hurl stones at U.S. Embassy, prepare for extended stay,” Reuters, January 1, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-usa/iraqi-militiamen-hurl-stones-at-us-embassy-prepare-for-extended-stay-idUSKBN1Z01N9
  3. [3]Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Supporters of Iranian-backed militia end siege of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad,” Washington Post, January 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/supporters-of-iranian-backed-militia-start-withdrawing-from-besieged-us-embassy-in-baghdad-following-militia-orders/2020/01/01/8280cb34-2c9e-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html
  4. [4]Craig Whitlock, “At war with the truth,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/; Craig Whitlock, “Built to fail,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-nation-building/; Craig Whitlock, “Consumed by corruption,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-corruption-government/; Craig Whitlock, “Overwhelmed by opium,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-opium-poppy-production/; Craig Whitlock, “Stranded without a strategy,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-strategy/; Craig Whitlock, “Unguarded nation,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-army-police/

Tear it down

Pittsburgh

There is a new blog post entitled, “The place where I live.”


There was what I recognize from my time in California’s Central Valley as a tule fog. It seems to have trapped the emissions from U.S. Steel’s Clairton plant in the area, treating folks to a lovely sulfurous odor.[1]

They really need to get rid of that fucking plant.[2] Shut it down. Tear it down. Put something there that’s good for the residents.

KDKA, “‘It’s Making Clairton Sick’: Poor Air Quality Impacting Clairton, Liberty Areas,” December 23, 2019, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2019/12/23/air-quality-impacting-clairton-liberty-areas/


  1. [1]KDKA, “‘It’s Making Clairton Sick’: Poor Air Quality Impacting Clairton, Liberty Areas,” December 23, 2019, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2019/12/23/air-quality-impacting-clairton-liberty-areas/
  2. [2]Kris Maher, “U.S. Steel Suffers New Fire Knocking Out Pollution Controls in Plant Near Pittsburgh,” Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-steel-suffers-new-fire-knocking-out-pollution-controls-in-plant-near-pittsburgh-11560795102; Jamie Martines, “U.S. Steel facing a 2nd federal lawsuit tied to December fire at Clairton Plant,” TribLive, August 26, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/u-s-steel-facing-a-2nd-federal-lawsuit-tied-to-december-fire-at-clairton-plant/; Jamie Martines, “Settlement over bad air in Clairton calls for U.S. Steel to cough up $2 million,” TribLive, December 11, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/settlement-over-bad-air-in-clairton-calls-for-u-s-steel-to-cough-up-2-million/; WTAE, “U.S. Steel, health department have deal to settle 2018 air pollution violations at Clairton Coke Works,” June 28, 2019, https://www.wtae.com/article/us-steel-reaches-agreement-with-health-department-to-resolve-enforcement-orders-at-clairton-coke-works/28221648

Impeachment: The bad, the ugly, and the ugly

Impeachment

There is are two new blog posts:

  1. December 15: “The whiteness of impeachment
  2. December 16: “The least violent solution

Jennifer Rubin, “How far can the House go to stop a sham trial?” Washington Post, December 16, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/12/16/how-far-can-house-go-stop-sham-trial/


Homelessness

David G. Savage, “Supreme Court lets stand ruling that protects homeless who sleep on sidewalk,” Los Angeles Times, December 16, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2019-12-16/supreme-court-lets-stand-ruling-that-protects-homeless-who-sleep-on-sidewalk


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

Don’t you dare call Israel racist! Or the Burmese genocidal!

Anti-Semitism

So a White House official confirmed to CNN that Donald Trump was about to sign an order declaring Judaism a nationality. That appears to be inaccurate,[1] but it sure kicked off a fuss.

That said, the order relies on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, which includes “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”[4] Which is to say that Israel may engage in ethnic cleansing and genocide of Palestinians, but we can’t call it racist.

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


Israel

Ruth Eglash, “Israel heading for third election in less than a year after politicians fail to form government,” Washington Post, December 11, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/israel-heading-for-third-election-in-less-than-a-year-after-politicians-fail-to-form-government/2019/12/11/d9d4818a-1ac6-11ea-977a-15a6710ed6da_story.html


Amazon

Danny Fortson, “Is Jeff Bezos’s Amazon now the ‘evil face of capitalism’?” Times, December 8, 2019, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/is-jeff-bezoss-amazon-now-the-evil-face-of-capitalism-3lxjs0k0n


Rohingya

Aung San Suu Kyi will need to do better than this. Even if she is correct in blaming “the separatist Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army” for “forc[ing] Myanmar [Burmese] forces to respond,” “mass executions, sexual violence and arson”[5] are war crimes. Executed on the scale Burma is accused of and especially at a largely noncombatant population, they amount to genocide.

The one point that she might have is that international courts do indeed try claims almost exclusively against small, poor countries.[6] But “selective prosecution” is a weak defense against crimes against humanity.

Note that until a relatively legitimate government, which has not existed there in a very long time,[7] exists to assert the name “Myanmar,” I will continue to refer to the country by its admittedly colonial name, “Burma.”

As to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and the Rohingya generally, they appear not to be separatist at all but rather, according to C. Christine Fair, seek only “to return to Myanmar with citizenship and, problematically, with government recognition as a distinct ethnic group.” Crimes against the Rohingya, including land confiscation, concentration camps, forced labor, and arbitrary taxation, appear to precede the ARSA by decades,[8] entirely undermining Aung San Suu Kyi’s argument.

So my message to the Nobel laureate is this: Get over yourself, you lying bitch.

Clyde Hughes, “Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi rejects genocide claims,” United Press International, December 11, 2019, https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2019/12/11/Myanmar-leader-Aung-San-Suu-Kyi-rejects-genocide-claims/1061576065233/

Marlise Simons and Hannah Beech, “Aung San Suu Kyi Defends Myanmar Against Rohingya Genocide Accusations,” New York Times, December 11, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/11/world/asia/aung-san-suu-kyi-rohingya-myanmar-genocide-hague.html


  1. [1]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
  2. [2]Jamal Dajani (@JamalDajani), Twitter, December 10, 2019, 8:49 pm, https://twitter.com/JamalDajani/status/1204578922702069760
  3. [3]Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA), Twitter, December 11, 2019, 9:20 pm, https://twitter.com/RWPUSA/status/1204586619057115136
  4. [4]International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, quoted in 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/
  5. [5]Clyde Hughes, “Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi rejects genocide claims,” United Press International, December 11, 2019, https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2019/12/11/Myanmar-leader-Aung-San-Suu-Kyi-rejects-genocide-claims/1061576065233/
  6. [6]Marlise Simons and Hannah Beech, “Aung San Suu Kyi Defends Myanmar Against Rohingya Genocide Accusations,” New York Times, December 11, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/11/world/asia/aung-san-suu-kyi-rohingya-myanmar-genocide-hague.html
  7. [7]Lawrence James seems not to specify when, precisely, Burma fell under sway of the British empire in The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1994) but notes campaigns were fought there in 1824 and 1853.
  8. [8]C. Christine Fair, “Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army: Not the Jihadis You Might Expect,” Lawfare, December 9, 2018, https://www.lawfareblog.com/arakan-rohingya-salvation-army-not-jihadis-you-might-expect

Driving while white

Pennsylvania

So yesterday, a white woman busted an illegal U-turn right in front of the cop who was in front of me.

I couldn’t see the front side of the cop’s light bar, but I assume he turned it on, as oncoming traffic stopped. He also, somehow, got the woman’s attention.

My Black passenger wondered what was going on. I explained that the cop was chewing out the woman for an illegal U-turn.

As a practical matter, it would have been extremely difficult in that situation for the cop to have written her a ticket. There was too much traffic already part-way into the intersection and even she had had trouble completing the turn, having had to back up (gee, I wonder why U-turns are illegal there) in order to complete it (the cop was, of course, in a larger vehicle), and there was no place to safely pull over.

My passenger expressed incredulity that she’d done that U-turn right in front of a cop. But, in effect, and as I explained to my passenger, the woman was getting away with it. And I could only say, there’s hardly any enforcement around here as long as you’re white.

“That’s true,” replied my passenger. Of course I think race plays a factor in traffic stops. I’ve seen far, far too much that’s completely over the top around here to believe otherwise.[1] And for cops to deny that they’re racist, as they do in this story,[2] only confirms for me, yet again, that they are.

Ivey DeJesus, “Does a driver’s race factor into traffic stops by Pa. police? It’s nearly impossible to tell,” PennLive, December 9, 2019, https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/12/tracking-race-in-police-traffic-stops-across-central-pa.html


Vietnam Afghanistan

The war in Afghanistan is what happens when you can’t admit the war was a catastrophically bad idea to start with.

Some of us knew that it was, even if for imprecise reasons. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, I remember hearing a news clip on the radio in which George W. Bush said something that made me think the missiles were already on the way.

There I was driving across the Presidio Heights neighborhood in San Francisco (with the windows rolled up) screaming, “No! No! No!” Again and again, I screamed it. “No! No! No!”

It turned out that missiles had not yet been launched, but I was nonetheless convinced that attacking a Muslim country could only make our relations with Muslims worse—and to the extent that Islam was in any way connected to the 9/11 attacks, we were only setting ourselves up for more.

That hasn’t precisely happened either, here in the U.S. and at least not yet, anyway. Although our relationship with Pakistan is severely strained, there’s been no repeat of the 9/11 attacks.

But while I had not yet returned to school (that would happen in 2003), I had learned enough of the history of Afghanistan to realize this was a doomed idea.

You didn’t even have to go back very far in history to examples of the British humiliation there. The Soviet Union’s defeat there is often blamed, at least in part, for its collapse.

But here we were, with fucking Bush the younger and a bunch of neoconservatives filled with hubris, idiots every damned one of them.

Not that Bush’s successors have been any better. One story that emerges again and again in the Washington Post‘s history of the war[3] will be familiar to scholars of colonization anywhere: That of a colonial power swooping in, certain of its rectitude, certain of the superiority of its own ways, heedless of what “backward,” “corrupt,” “stupid,” (pick any of a number of disparaging labels) local people would tell them. The power doesn’t need to know about local conditions and local reality because it has technology and experience, because it “knows better.”[4]

Another will be familiar to those who remember the war in Vietnam: We must pretend to succeed even when we are failing.[5]

Craig Whitlock, “At war with the truth,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/

Craig Whitlock, “Stranded without a strategy,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-strategy/

Craig Whitlock, “Built to fail,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-nation-building/

Craig Whitlock, “Consumed by corruption,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-corruption-government/

Craig Whitlock, “Unguarded nation,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-army-police/

Craig Whitlock, “Overwhelmed by opium,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-opium-poppy-production/


Grants

It’s yet another obstacle to being hired where I should be hired. If I had a publication track record, I might have a better chance of being hired at a university. But to do that research I would need funding.

And it turns out that to be funded, I would likely need to be affiliated with (employed at) an elite university like Stanford or an Ivy League.[6]

Nothing is honest anymore.

Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera, “How Elitism Marginalizes Academics,” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 5, 2019, https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/20191204-Herlihy-Mera


  1. [1]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/; 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/; David Benfell, “Militia territory,” Not Housebroken, November 22, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/11/22/militia-territory/
  2. [2]Ivey DeJesus, “Does a driver’s race factor into traffic stops by Pa. police? It’s nearly impossible to tell,” PennLive, December 9, 2019, https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/12/tracking-race-in-police-traffic-stops-across-central-pa.html
  3. [3]Craig Whitlock, “At war with the truth,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/; Craig Whitlock, “Stranded without a strategy,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-strategy/; Craig Whitlock, “Built to fail,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-nation-building/; Craig Whitlock, “Consumed by corruption,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-corruption-government/; Craig Whitlock, “Unguarded nation,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-army-police/; Craig Whitlock, “Overwhelmed by opium,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-opium-poppy-production/
  4. [4]Edward W. Said’s account mostly relates to India in Culture and Imperialism (New York: Vintage, 1993), where the struggle against colonization lasted hundreds of years.
  5. [5]David Halberstam, The Powers That Be (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 2000).
  6. [6]Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera, “How Elitism Marginalizes Academics,” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 5, 2019, https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/20191204-Herlihy-Mera