Reports of OPEC’s demise have been heard before

Oil

I’m pretty sure I’ve heard predictions of the demise of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) before. Spencer Jakab’s forecast[1] is interesting, but like any forecast, faces the test of time.

Of course, one has to think of climate when one thinks of anything that might affect oil extraction. Jakab sees the industry being impacted by reduced demand—prompted by the coronavirus scare, a presumably temporary factor—forcing high cost producers into bankruptcy and depriving some OPEC countries of badly needed revenue.[2] I think we have to see how that plays out, in combination with other technological developments, such as improvements in battery technology,[3] long before we can see any move to “leav[ing] it in the ground.” Jakab concludes, “Shale isn’t gone for good. OPEC’s power may be.”[4]

Spencer Jakab, “OPEC, R.I.P.,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/opec-r-i-p-11583722267


  1. [1]Spencer Jakab, “OPEC, R.I.P.,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/opec-r-i-p-11583722267
  2. [2]Spencer Jakab, “OPEC, R.I.P.,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/opec-r-i-p-11583722267
  3. [3]Peter Valdes-Dapena, “GM’s new electric car battery tops Tesla’s,” CNN, March 5, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/04/business/gm-electric-car-battery-400-miles-of-range/index.html
  4. [4]Spencer Jakab, “OPEC, R.I.P.,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/opec-r-i-p-11583722267

So Uber and Lyft drivers are supposed to buy electric cars now?

Updates

  1. Originally published, March 8, 2020, 9:35 am.
  2. March 9, 3:17 am:
    • I have updated the citations in my self-quotation in the section on coronavirus to reflect the articles that have been published[1] since I originally wrote that passage. My claim hasn’t changed; there’s just more evidence supporting it.

Gig economy

Previously, a Union of Concerned Scientists study found that Uber and Lyft vehicles emit 70 percent more pollution per passenger mile than if the gig economy didn’t exist.[2] The states of California and Washington are looking to regulation to address the problem.[3]

I wonder how many Uber and Lyft drivers in the states of California and Washington face a similar dilemma to my own: It’s extremely unlikely a new electric car can pencil out financially. Where I presently drive a 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid that I bought for cash, I would have to make car payments and higher insurance payments—this before we even get to depreciation costs on a new car. I have no charging station for an electric car nearby and no place to plug one in where I live, even though I rent a garage.

And I really need to wait for the next generation of batteries. The range with lithium-ion is really much too short, especially for the occasional cross-country trip; and to take care of the battery, I should only charge to between 20 and 80 percent, slowly, which reduces both range and availability. I don’t know how I’d even manage that in my present situation.

The battery technology that General Motors is still developing, with a range of 600 miles,[4] would meet my criteria if it can be charged to full capacity quickly. I would still need to make it work financially.

Hydrogen—as with the Toyota Mirai that costs nearly $60,000—would be attractive except there are no hydrogen stations in Pennsylvania.[5] Cross-country trips would be a problem, and again, this would need to work financially.

All in all, I’m once again feeling like the world presumes I’m made of money. I’m not. I’m poor.

And there are very few Uber and Lyft drivers who aren’t poor. We wouldn’t be subjecting ourselves to this abuse otherwise.

Tony Barboza, “Taking an Uber or Lyft pollutes more than driving, California finds. Next stop: Regulations,” Los Angeles, March 7, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2020-03-07/uber-lyft-ride-hailing-air-pollution-greenhouse-gas-emissions


Coronavirus

Coronavirus is officially a fuck-up. More people are getting sick and dying because of this.[6] And its spread is out of control.[7]

It may seem callous to discuss implications for Donald Trump in an election year. But the delusional raging narcissist-in-chief’s presidency is already vicious, lethal, and incompetent. Coronavirus adds to the toll.

As I have noted, however, this is largely a structural problem (citations updated):

  • Capitalist medicine hinders rather than helps.[8]
  • Neoliberal employment policies, in which “efficiency” is defined as low labor cost, such as those the gig economy depends upon, hinder rather than help.[9]
  • People in charge should care more about taking care of people than about taking care of the stock market.[10][11]

Yes, Trump is incompetent. Yes, his administration is incompetent. And no, there’s no excuse for it.[12] But the structural factors predate him, in some cases, by millenia.

Since the Neolithic, we have organized ourselves for greed and acquisition, principally for the few, principally at the expense of the rest of us (I would include non-human animals here) and of the environment.[13] Now, we are overrunning the planet, facilitating the spread of disease. Trump is almost entirely a symptom of that; from a position of power, he contributes to it, but he is certainly not an original cause.

Trump will be blamed nonetheless, as indeed the Washington Post does[14] and as indeed others do.

But the Democrats are now highly likely to nominate their own dementia case. Joe Biden is who the party powerful want to nominate[15] and Bernie Sanders faces a now nearly insurmountable challenge in overcoming that.[16]

And from what I can see driving around southwestern Pennsylvania, Trump’s base sees him as heroic. They will blame the bungling—and yes, they’ll acknowledge it is bungling—on “bureaucracy” and applaud Trump’s efforts to trim it further.

That’s how coronavirus plays out in November.

Colby Itkowitz, Ashley Parker, and Seung Min Kim, “Coronavirus continues its rapid spread, confounding efforts by global leaders,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/03/07/coronavirus-continues-its-rapid-spread-confounding-efforts-by-global-leaders/

Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html


  1. [1]Sara R. Collins and David Blumenthal, “Without universal healthcare, coronavirus puts us all at risk,” Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-03-05/op-ed-time-to-ramp-up-medicaid-to-pay-for-universal-coronavirus-care; Mariel Garza, “Why aren’t we paying people with the coronavirus to stay home?” Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-03-06/opinion-why-arent-we-paying-people-with-the-coronavirus-to-stay-home; Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html
  2. [2]Andrew J. Hawkins, “Uber and Lyft generate 70 percent more pollution than trips they displace: study,” Verge, February 25, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/2/25/21152512/uber-lyft-climate-change-emissions-pollution-ucs-study
  3. [3]Tony Barboza, “Taking an Uber or Lyft pollutes more than driving, California finds. Next stop: Regulations,” Los Angeles, March 7, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2020-03-07/uber-lyft-ride-hailing-air-pollution-greenhouse-gas-emissions
  4. [4]Peter Valdes-Dapena, “GM’s new electric car battery tops Tesla’s,” CNN, March 5, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/04/business/gm-electric-car-battery-400-miles-of-range/index.html
  5. [5]Department of Energy, “Pennsylvania Transportation Data for Alternative Fuels and Vehicles,” n.d., https://afdc.energy.gov/states/pa
  6. [6]Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html
  7. [7]Colby Itkowitz, Ashley Parker, and Seung Min Kim, “Coronavirus continues its rapid spread, confounding efforts by global leaders,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/03/07/coronavirus-continues-its-rapid-spread-confounding-efforts-by-global-leaders/
  8. [8]Sara R. Collins and David Blumenthal, “Without universal healthcare, coronavirus puts us all at risk,” Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-03-05/op-ed-time-to-ramp-up-medicaid-to-pay-for-universal-coronavirus-care; Amy Goldstein, “Worries about medical bills and lost pay may hamper coronavirus efforts in the United States,” Washington Post, March 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/worries-about-medical-bills-and-lost-pay-may-hamper-coronavirus-efforts-in-the-united-states/2020/03/02/75825be0-5c9c-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html
  9. [9]Mariel Garza, “Why aren’t we paying people with the coronavirus to stay home?” Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-03-06/opinion-why-arent-we-paying-people-with-the-coronavirus-to-stay-home; Amy Goldstein, “Worries about medical bills and lost pay may hamper coronavirus efforts in the United States,” Washington Post, March 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/worries-about-medical-bills-and-lost-pay-may-hamper-coronavirus-efforts-in-the-united-states/2020/03/02/75825be0-5c9c-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; Nitasha Tiku, “Gig workers face the spread of the new coronavirus with no safety net,” Washington Post, February 29, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/02/29/gig-workers-face-spread-new-coronavirus-with-no-safety-net/
  10. [10]Dana Milbank, “For Trump, a reckoning has come,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/trump-reckoning-has-come/; Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; Paul Waldman, “How coronavirus has deeply flummoxed conservative media,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/how-coronavirus-has-deeply-flummuxed-conservative-media/
  11. [11]David Benfell, “Coronavirus shows how Joe Biden is the wrong answer,” Irregular Bullshit, March 3, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/03/coronavirus-shows-how-joe-biden-is-the-wrong-answer/
  12. [12]Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html
  13. [13]John H. Bodley, Victims of Progress, 5th ed. (Lanham, MD: AltaMira, 2008).
  14. [14]Colby Itkowitz, Ashley Parker, and Seung Min Kim, “Coronavirus continues its rapid spread, confounding efforts by global leaders,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/03/07/coronavirus-continues-its-rapid-spread-confounding-efforts-by-global-leaders/
  15. [15]FiveThirtyEight, “The 2020 Endorsement Primary,” March 8, 2020, https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2020-endorsements/democratic-primary/
  16. [16]David Benfell, “Four more years,” Irregular Bullshit, March 5, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/05/four-more-years/

Larger lessons

Iowa

Much of what’s in the New York Times article[1] had been previously reported,[2] but there is a little more detail.

The widespread lack of faith in the Iowa results has shaken many Americans’ confidence in their electoral system. Mr. Trump has reveled in the meltdown. Democrats have proposed abolishing caucuses and ending Iowa’s time at the front of the presidential nominating calendar.

Even as party officials scramble to contain the fallout, the full extent of the problems in Iowa is still not known.[3]

The Times doesn’t say so, but folks who work for a living and fans of Scott Adams’ Dilbert cartoon will recognize the pattern. This is meritocracy at its finest.[4] Naturally, we will not be absorbing the larger lessons even in the primary contest, let alone in our system of social organization at large.

Reid J. Epstein et al., “How the Iowa Caucuses Became an Epic Fiasco for Democrats,” New York Times, February 9, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/09/us/politics/iowa-democratic-caucuses.html


Veganism

I’m not seeing the Vitamin B-12 line here:

An issue is of ethical concern when there is a choice: Do we have alternatives?

On May 5, I will have been vegan for 12 years, despite not liking vegetables. In 2008, I went cold turkey from a “meat and potatoes” diet in which I considered green the color of decay.

Going vegan remains the single most effective action an individual can take to counter the climate crisis and the other forms of environmental catastrophe humans wreak upon the earth. It does so not only in terms of practical action but also in a recognition that this planet, the only planet we have, and the life on it do not exist for our exploitation. The latter rebuts a presumption that leads to pervasive abuse not only of our fellow human beings, but of the environment and of other species.[5]

I don’t care who you are. You have a choice. You need to be doing the right thing for yourself, for your fellow human and non-human animals, and for the environment.


  1. [1]Reid J. Epstein et al., “How the Iowa Caucuses Became an Epic Fiasco for Democrats,” New York Times, February 9, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/09/us/politics/iowa-democratic-caucuses.html
  2. [2]Nate Cohn, “New Doubts From Iowa Caucuses: How ‘Satellite’ Votes Are Being Measured,” New York Times, February 6, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/06/upshot/iowa-caucus-satellite-votes.html; Nate Cohn et al., “Iowa Caucus Results Riddled With Errors and Inconsistencies,” New York Times, February 6, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/06/upshot/iowa-caucuses-errors-results.html
  3. [3]Reid J. Epstein et al., “How the Iowa Caucuses Became an Epic Fiasco for Democrats,” New York Times, February 9, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/09/us/politics/iowa-democratic-caucuses.html
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Bipartisan ‘meritocracy’ and ‘vote Blue no matter who,’” Not Housebroken, February 6, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/02/06/bipartisan-meritocracy-and-vote-blue-no-matter-who/
  5. [5]Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella, II, eds., Terrorists or Freedom fighters? (New York: Lantern, 2004); Greta Gaard, “Vegetarian Ecofeminism: A Review Essay,” Frontiers 23, no. 3 (2002): 117-146.

On the Green New Deal

Climate crisis

I’m not fond of interviews and have been, perhaps inexcusably, slow to get to this interview with Naomi Klein.[1] But we hear a lot about a “Green New Deal” without seeing how that fleshes out.

Sometimes said explicitly, sometimes sort of sotto voce, which is like, “Look, let’s just save the planet first and then we’ll deal with, you know, racism and inequality and gender exclusion and sort of just wait your turn.” And that doesn’t go over very well because for people who are on the front lines of all of those other crises, they’re all existential. I mean, if you can’t feed your kids, if you’re losing your house, if you are facing violence, all of it is existential.[2]

What’s still missing here,[3] possibly because it’s just an interview, is an actual plan that coherently brings all the pieces together and shows how they save our species and our environment. All I can say is that it is the right idea.

Laura Flanders, “Naomi Klein: Climate Solutions That Neglect Inequality Are Doomed to Fail,” Truthout, January 6, 2020, https://truthout.org/articles/naomi-klein-climate-solutions-that-neglect-inequality-are-doomed-to-fail/


Bernie Sanders

There is a new blog post entitled, “All of us.”

Martin Pengelly, “Bernie Sanders ‘must reconsider’ Joe Rogan endorsement, says LGBTQ group,” Guardian, January 24, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jan/24/bernie-sanders-joe-rogan-human-rights-campaign


  1. [1]Laura Flanders, “Naomi Klein: Climate Solutions That Neglect Inequality Are Doomed to Fail,” Truthout, January 6, 2020, https://truthout.org/articles/naomi-klein-climate-solutions-that-neglect-inequality-are-doomed-to-fail/
  2. [2]Laura Flanders, “Naomi Klein: Climate Solutions That Neglect Inequality Are Doomed to Fail,” Truthout, January 6, 2020, https://truthout.org/articles/naomi-klein-climate-solutions-that-neglect-inequality-are-doomed-to-fail/
  3. [3]Laura Flanders, “Naomi Klein: Climate Solutions That Neglect Inequality Are Doomed to Fail,” Truthout, January 6, 2020, https://truthout.org/articles/naomi-klein-climate-solutions-that-neglect-inequality-are-doomed-to-fail/

Just remember, neoliberals know better than we do what’s good for us

Updates

  1. Originally published, January 23, 2020, 7:02 pm.
  2. January 23, 8:10 pm:
    • The Doomsday Clock is now at 100 seconds before midnight. They’re counting down in seconds now, not minutes.[1]

Rohingya

I remember, somewhat dimly now, that when I took an international relations class, the professor explained that compliance with international law was mostly a matter of a handshake; enforcement mechanisms are weak. But particularly problematic in the case of formerly colonized countries, including Burma, is that the grounding for this legal system rests in a European (the colonizers) treaty, the Treaty of Westphalia, that established the legal groundwork for state sovereignty and a protection for religious minorities meant to limit the perceived need for neighboring states to militarily intervene in each other’s affairs.[2]

The International Court of Justice (based in Europe) ruling against Burma in the matter of the Rohingya genocide[3] is certainly laudable. I don’t know how the Court enforces it. (Spoiler alert: It can’t.[4]) Which, for me indicates extreme cynicism in interpreting this:

“Right now, we can’t say what exactly our next steps will be,” [Myo Nyunt] said, expressing sadness at the court’s ruling. “We have to study and learn what the impact of this decision will be on our state, which is a sovereign state.”[5]

“The impact of this decision . . . on our state” would seem to refer explicitly to concrete enforcement, which is to say, none, at least for the moment. The reaffirmation of Burma as a “sovereign state” reaffirms a claimed legitimacy to state violence that is a defining characteristic of sovereignty and which constitutes Burma’s rationale for the genocide in the first place.

It gets worse and this is why I hate realism theory (“realpolitik”). Note that this is not because the theory, albeit flawed, particularly with regard to non-governmental actors, is incorrect: It, too often correctly, elides any moral basis for action, relying exclusively on “state” (for which, read “ruling class”) interests.

The Court has no enforcement power itself.[6] Enforcement by the international community typically takes two forms: First, economic sanctions, which typically end up affecting ordinary civilians much more than ruling elites, and are applied in varying degrees depending on the extent to which other countries feel their interests are at stake; and second, military intervention, which typically occurs only if other sufficiently powerful countries views their interests as being at stake. I don’t know that Bangladesh is sufficiently powerful. If other countries surrounding Burma have said a word about the plight of the Rohingya, I missed it—it was an African country, Gambia, far away from Burma, that brought the case.

Which means that the fate of the Rohingya really rests where it always has. That’s pretty cold, if not positively frigid, comfort.

British Broadcasting Corporation, “Myanmar Rohingya: World court orders prevention of genocide,” January 23, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51221029

Shibani Mahtani, “International Court of Justice orders Myanmar to prevent genocide against the Rohingya,” Washington Post, January 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/international-court-of-justice-orders-myanmar-to-prevent-genocide-against-the-rohingya/2020/01/23/ff383ff4-3d29-11ea-afe2-090eb37b60b1_story.html


Hillary Clinton

“Apparently SOMEBODY likes him!” Democratic strategist and former Obama adviser David Axelrod quipped Wednesday, referring to Hillary Clinton’s controversial comments about her 2016 primary opponent.[7]

Like I said yesterday[8] and before.[9] Damn, this bitch is an idiot.

But oh yeah, let’s not forget she’s the most qualified woman ever for the presidency. Oh yeah, and these are the idiots who think they know better than we do what’s good for us.

Veronica Stracqualursi and Gregory Krieg, “Clinton says ‘nobody likes’ Sanders and won’t commit to backing him if he’s the Democratic nominee,” CNN, January 21, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/21/politics/hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders-documentary/index.html

Eric Lutz, “Turns Out Lots of People ‘Like’ Bernie Sanders,” Vanity Fair, January 22, 2020, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/01/cnn-poll-bernie-sanders-joe-biden


Doomsday Clock

Andrew Sheeler, “Jerry Brown urges America to ‘wake up’ as Doomsday Clock moves closer to midnight,” Sacramento Bee, January 23, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article239564083.html


  1. [1]Andrew Sheeler, “Jerry Brown urges America to ‘wake up’ as Doomsday Clock moves closer to midnight,” Sacramento Bee, January 23, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article239564083.html
  2. [2]This is all from memory and may accordingly be flawed. I took the class while at California State University, East Bay, where I finished my Master’s degree in 2009. Indexed references to the Treaty of Westphalia are sparse in my book collection, at least in the books I thought to consult, but Theodor Meron writes “that the Peace of Westphalia (1648) .nbsp;. . introduced a system of modern nation-states and international relations governed by sovereign equality” in Henry’s Wars and Shakespeare’s Laws (Oxford, United Kingdom: Clarendon, 1993), 212. He goes on to say that protections for prisoners of war and for civilians—this latter could be from acts of war—originated at about this time. I am unable to discern much from the archaic language of the treaty itself, which seems to require a historical understanding well beyond that which I possess.
  3. [3]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Myanmar Rohingya: World court orders prevention of genocide,” January 23, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51221029; Shibani Mahtani, “International Court of Justice orders Myanmar to prevent genocide against the Rohingya,” Washington Post, January 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/international-court-of-justice-orders-myanmar-to-prevent-genocide-against-the-rohingya/2020/01/23/ff383ff4-3d29-11ea-afe2-090eb37b60b1_story.html
  4. [4]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Myanmar Rohingya: World court orders prevention of genocide,” January 23, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51221029
  5. [5]Shibani Mahtani, “International Court of Justice orders Myanmar to prevent genocide against the Rohingya,” Washington Post, January 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/international-court-of-justice-orders-myanmar-to-prevent-genocide-against-the-rohingya/2020/01/23/ff383ff4-3d29-11ea-afe2-090eb37b60b1_story.html
  6. [6]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Myanmar Rohingya: World court orders prevention of genocide,” January 23, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51221029
  7. [7]Eric Lutz, “Turns Out Lots of People ‘Like’ Bernie Sanders,” Vanity Fair, January 22, 2020, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/01/cnn-poll-bernie-sanders-joe-biden
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Your job sucks. Thank neoliberals,” Irregular Bullshit, January 22, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/01/22/your-job-sucks-thank-neoliberals/
  9. [9]David Benfell, “Hillary Clinton needs to just shut the fuck up,” Not Housebroken, October 22, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/10/22/hillary-clinton-needs-to-just-shut-the-fuck-up/

Winter? What winter? What’s a ‘winter?’

Climate crisis

When I woke up and looked at the weather report this morning, it was 59° F. As I was driving home—I quit around sunset—the thermometer reading in my dashboard told me it was 72-73° F. As I was fixing dinner, I received repeated warnings of impending thunderstorms—it might be quite a night. There is, of course, no snow on the ground.

I’ve been remembering, from my time here 50 years ago, walking door-to-door with a snow shovel, realizing that as I walked up people’s walks through freshly-fallen snow, I was compacting it beneath my footsteps such that it would adhere to the concrete below, making my own job harder. I had no idea what to do about that.

It’s certainly not a problem this year. The maintenance folks at my apartment complex usually (they missed one day) douse the walks and parking lots heavily with salt whenever snow or ice threatens.

Don’t get me wrong. There have been cold days and even snowy days. But the snow melts within a few days and I’m still not wearing winter clothing—I wear a Gore Tex windbreaker I bought for San Francisco Bay Area rain, not my heavy winter coat, and I’m still wearing sandals—because the effort required to don winter clothing seems wildly disproportionate to any fleeting discomfort I might feel in my brief exposures to the cold.
RAYGRAPHIC
Fig. 1. Pittsburgh snowfall by decade. Graphic by Ray Petelin, January 9, 2020.[1] Fair use.

But if a local meteorologist is to be believed, it actually turns out that this has not been an exceptionally low-snow decade.[2] I honestly don’t know how to reconcile his chart (figure 1) with, for examples, my mother’s ongoing terror of a Pittsburgh winter (she grew up here in the 1940s and 1950s) or what I hear from just about everyone. Something’s clearly off kilter there because contrary to what he says, what I hear even from younger folks is that there is less snow than there used to be. Those who were here for it recall an exceptional blizzard in the late 1990s, a much lower-snow decade than the 2010s, let alone the 1960s (I was here for a couple years in the 1960s).

I have to think that total snowfall in each decade is somehow—this would actually be a good human science question—the wrong measure for people’s experience of snow and cold.

Robinson Meyer, “Australia Will Lose to Climate Change,” Atlantic, January 4, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/01/australia-caught-climate-spiral/604423/

Ray Petelin, “Pittsburgh Weather: Did You Really See More Snow When You Were A Kid?” KDKA, January 9, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/01/09/did-you-really-see-more-snow-when-you-were-a-kid/


Ireland

Kate Devlin and Oliver Wright, “DUP and Sinn Fein agree deal to revive Stormont assembly,” Times, January 11, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/northern-ireland-s-power-sharing-government-is-expected-to-be-restored-within-days-after-sinn-fein-and-the-democratic-unionist-party-signed-up-to-a-draft-deal-brokered-by-the-british-and-irish-governments-three-years-after-sinn-fein-walked-out-gsk0sph39


Israel

Times of Israel, “In blow to Netanyahu, Knesset legal adviser said set to okay immunity debate,” January 10, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-blow-to-netanyahu-knesset-legal-adviser-said-set-to-okay-immunity-debate/


  1. [1]Ray Petelin, “Pittsburgh Weather: Did You Really See More Snow When You Were A Kid?” KDKA, January 9, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/01/09/did-you-really-see-more-snow-when-you-were-a-kid/
  2. [2]Ray Petelin, “Pittsburgh Weather: Did You Really See More Snow When You Were A Kid?” KDKA, January 9, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/01/09/did-you-really-see-more-snow-when-you-were-a-kid/

Not the good kind of acid

There is a correction in the previous issue.


Ohio River

April Johnston, “‘That’s vinegar:’ The Ohio River’s history of contamination and progress made,” Environmental Health News, November 14, 2019, https://www.ehn.org/ohio-river-pollution-cleanup-2641307895.html


Hong Kong

The appearance of the People’s Liberation Army, that is, Mainland China’s army, on the streets of Hong Kong was relatively benign: They cleared roadblocks set up by protesters. But everyone understands the implicit threat of possible intervention.[1]

John Lyons, Steven Russolillo, and Eun-Young Jeong, “Mainland Chinese Soldiers Take to Hong Kong Streets for First Time During Protests,” Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/mainland-chinese-soldiers-take-to-hong-kong-streets-for-first-time-since-protests-began-11573907250


  1. [1]John Lyons, Steven Russolillo, and Eun-Young Jeong, “Mainland Chinese Soldiers Take to Hong Kong Streets for First Time During Protests,” Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/mainland-chinese-soldiers-take-to-hong-kong-streets-for-first-time-since-protests-began-11573907250

Capitalists are bad? You don’t say!

Updates

  1. Originally published, November 15, 7:43 pm.
  2. November 16, 2:58 pm:
    • Correction: Sonoma Clean Power does not own or operate the geothermal plant at the Geysers in Sonoma County. These wells are mostly operated by Calpine.[1] I have removed erroneous text. Also, it appears the Press Democrat story[2] over-emphasized the prospect that Sonoma Clean Power might acquire PG&E’s transmission network in Sonoma County. My mother tells me that the Board was concerned with the possibility that PG&E might be bought out or become something else, and what the ramifications for Sonoma Clean Power, as a subsidiary power seller, would be. There may be a story forthcoming.

Ayodhya

Sadanand Dhume, “Hindus Take a Muslim Site. What’s Next?” Wall Street Journal, November 14, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/hindus-take-a-muslim-site-is-the-taj-mahal-next-11573775903


Pacific Gas and Electric

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.c
Fig. 1. Is this a picture to grab your attention or what? No, this isn’t a disaster about to happen. The original caption: “A helicopter uses a sprayer to wash high tension power line insulators after the Kincade Fire near Pepperwood Preserve.” This photograph is undated and uncredited but the other two in the article, also undated, are attributed to Kent Porter of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.[3] Fair use.

There is concern that Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), a company with a criminal record, will emerge from bankruptcy under control of a hedge fund.

“Nothing I can think of says, ‘screw the public interest’ like a hedge fund-owned public utility,” [Dave] King said.[4]

So Sonoma Clean Power may seek to acquire PG&E’s transmission network in the county.[5] It is unclear how this would mesh with the possibility that the state will take over the utility.[6]

While I’m no fan of PG&E, I also have to wonder to what extent public ownership will solve a problem whose causes lie not only with corporate malfeasance but also with the climate crisis.[7] And you know how you convince me you’re serious about the latter: Go vegan. Until you’ve done that, you’re really just playing around.

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


Gig economy

Imagine if other states, notably California, actually slapped Uber with a tax bill the way New Jersey has.[8]

Matthew Haag and Patrick McGeehan, “Uber Fined $649 Million for Saying Drivers Aren’t Employees,” New York Times, November 14, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/14/nyregion/uber-new-jersey-drivers.html



  1. [1]Power Technology, “The Geysers Geothermal Field, California,” n.d., https://www.power-technology.com/projects/the-geysers-geothermal-california/
  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]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
  4. [4]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
  5. [5]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
  6. [6]Katherine Blunt and Alejandro Lazo, “California Governor Threatens State Takeover of PG&E,” Wall Street Journal, November 1, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/california-governor-threatens-state-takeover-of-pg-e-11572641749; 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
  7. [7]Kurtis Alexander, “Scientists see fingerprints of climate change all over California’s wildfires,” San Francisco Chronicle, August 3, 2018, https://www.sfchronicle.com/science/article/Scientists-see-fingerprints-of-climate-change-all-13128585.php
  8. [8]Matthew Haag and Patrick McGeehan, “Uber Fined $649 Million for Saying Drivers Aren’t Employees,” New York Times, November 14, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/14/nyregion/uber-new-jersey-drivers.html

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

It isn’t California anymore

Updates

  1. Originally published October 31, 7:31 pm.
  2. October 31, 9:34 pm:
    • The Santa Rosa Press Democrat has published a map (figure 1) of nearby (to Santa Rosa) fires since 2015.[1] Try, just try, to imagine living near this.

California

FireShot Capture 035 - Map of Kincade and nearby recent fires - www.pressdemocrat.com
Fig. 1. Screenshot of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat‘s map of fires since 2015.[2]

Firefighters are getting the Kincade fire under control but other fires are ravaging California.[3] But Ronald Reagan’s daughter shares the sense that California has changed.[4]

Patti Davis, “My father’s library will likely survive the fires, but the California of my youth is gone,” Washington Post, October 30, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/30/my-fathers-library-will-likely-survive-fires-california-my-youth-is-gone/

Dale Kasler, “PG&E says its equipment may have caused a fourth California fire in the past week,” Sacramento Bee, October 30, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article236841498.html

Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, “Map of Kincade and nearby recent fires,” n.d., https://www.pressdemocrat.com/multimedia/10246412-181/map-of-kincade-and-nearby


Redlining

A few days ago, I found a couple more gratuitous guns. One is actually not very far from my apartment, just on a street I don’t drive on very often, and because my complex includes many Black residents, I can accept that this one might be metaphorically aimed at Blacks. The other is in an area I’m much less familiar with, along the Monongahela River in Washington County. I don’t know the racial make-up near the latter location but an initial impression suggests this one is not so metaphorically aimed.


Pictures are here.

Both of these additions raise an issue of how I am assessing metaphorical aims. I need to dredge up demographic maps, preferably spanning several decades. Such demographics need to cover both race and class.


Brexit

Just a quick note on Brexit: The British Press is already in full horse race mode coverage of the forthcoming election.[5] You might have already gathered that this is not the sort of coverage that interests me and that I think political surveys—now boasting a nine percent response rate[6]—should be discounted entirely. Which is to say campaign coverage is bullshit. All of it. Every last diarrhetic drop spewed from the bulls’ asses with such a velocity and range as to cast doubt as to whether any green grass may be found.


  1. [1]Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, “Map of Kincade and nearby recent fires,” n.d., https://www.pressdemocrat.com/multimedia/10246412-181/map-of-kincade-and-nearby
  2. [2]Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, “Map of Kincade and nearby recent fires,” n.d., https://www.pressdemocrat.com/multimedia/10246412-181/map-of-kincade-and-nearby
  3. [3]California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, “Active Incidents,” October 30, 2019, https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/
  4. [4]Patti Davis, “My father’s library will likely survive the fires, but the California of my youth is gone,” Washington Post, October 30, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/30/my-fathers-library-will-likely-survive-fires-california-my-youth-is-gone/
  5. [5]Karla Adam and William Booth, “Britain sets December date for an election in which Brexit will dominate,” Washington Post, October 29, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/with-labour-partys-backing-britains-boris-johnson-looks-set-to-get-his-snap-election/2019/10/29/778ed246-f9c9-11e9-9e02-1d45cb3dfa8f_story.html
  6. [6]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