With confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States climbing swiftly to over 67,000 Wednesday with more than 900 deaths, lawmakers acknowledged that no amount of economic relief from Congress could stop the pain for the American public.
Therefore, even as a record number of people file for unemployment benefits, Congress will barely even try.
Your regularly scheduled racism and white supremacy will be permitted to resume.
Seriously, let’s be clear what this is about. On the outskirts of Clairton, on Miller Road near North State Street, in a wooded area not very far from the banks of the Monongahela River, there is a weathered sign proclaiming that the property owner there owns both a firearm and a backhoe, implicitly threatening to use the former to shoot a person for arbitrary reasons and then to use the latter to cover up the evidence. The second part of that implies a resistance to accountability for the first part.
In praising the decision, the Firearms Policy Coalition noted a strongly worded opinion by Supreme Court Justices David Wecht, Christine Donohue and Kevin Dougherty in favor of protecting the right to keep and bear arms.
“The right and ability to protect yourself and your family, particularly in times of crisis, is the very definition of ‘life-sustaining’ and unquestionably protected by both the Second Amendment and the state’s constitution,” said Adam Kraut, the coalition’s director of legal strategy.
“As we have said before, there is no ‘except-in-emergencies’ clause in the Constitution and the government cannot shut down the people’s right to keep and bear arms,” coalition President Brandon Combs said.
It should be noted that
On Sunday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by a gun shop that challenged [Tom] Wolf’s authority to close businesses determined to be “non-life-sustaining.” The lawsuit claimed Wolf’s edict violated the Second Amendment right to bear arms and other constitutional rights.
Tom Wolf is allowing gun shops to reopen anyway, mocking those who see guns as life-depriving rather than as life-sustaining.
Fig. 1. ‘Cause you know that artillery round aimed right at Carrick High School (left) and the camouflage-painted dump truck owned by a locksmith (right) along with all that other weaponry mostly in or near areas with high proportions of Blacks in their populations (figure 2) don’t mean anything at all. Clairton is such an area (figure 3). Photographs by author, December 31, 2019, (left) and November 22, 2019, (right).
Fig. 2. Map of gratuitously displayed weapons, compiled by author.
Fig. 3. Tank outside a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Clairton (left) and a rocket and artillery piece on a public square in Clairton (right). Photographs by author, September 20, 2019.
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.
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, 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. In California, fire fighting relies upon inmate labor, making it part of the prison-industrial complex. Again, it will be Blacks who bear the brunt of inadequately compensated risks in this activity. And again, this is systemic racism.
It’s one thing to note that economists are bad at predicting recessions and are even bad at recognizing them once they’ve started. 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:
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.
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.
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↩
Originally published, October 26, 7:14 pm. Note: All times are Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) unless otherwise noted.
October 26, 9:39 pm:
The mandatory evacuation area for the Kincade fire has expanded. Notably, it now includes my mother’s house. Areas being warned have shifted south (figure 1). Graphics have been updated.
October 27, 4:36 am:
To be honest, I’m somewhat perplexed. Even as it appears firefighters are gaining significant control over the Kincade fire and that it has not advanced in the direction of Highway 101, evacuation warnings have now been issued for a relatively small part of northwest Santa Rosa that, ominously, approaches an evacuation center (figure 1). Winds have shifted and are now strongly off-shore. In addition, the evacuation zones are now numbered. Graphics and text have been updated.
October 27, 8:28 am:
I haven’t received notifications, which may mean that map updates were out of sync with the notifications I received. It now appears more of Santa Rosa is under mandatory evacuation (figure 1). Winds are now off-shore at 40+ miles per hour. It seems to me that the Santa Rosa evacuation center is now being encroached upon with mandatory evacuation orders on the north and west sides (figure 1). According to the Cal Fire incident page, Kincade fire containment is at 10 percent. Graphics have been updated.
It is harder for me to keep up to date during the day, while I’m working, but I’m packing my Chromebook today. I will try.
October 27, 1:05 pm:
A mandatory evacuation order has been issued for another piece of Santa Rosa, drawing very near the evacuation center there and the Kincade fire looking very much more serious than it did overnight (figure 1). Wind speeds appear to exceed 50 miles per hour. The fire is now up to 30,000 acres and still at only 10 percent containment.
Amidst all the drama, there is, of course, a very real human toll. Some folks are saying they don’t want to repeat their experience from two years ago. As the evacuation orders arrive, they are considering more permanent departures. And it really is something to think about when you can’t rely on the lights being on, as aquifers draw ever lower, and as suffocating smoke becomes an annual occurrence. This isn’t civilization anymore. It may be spectacular, but it’s hell.
October 27, 9:12 pm:
Be sure to look through the slide show in this Press-Democrat coverage. I recognize some of the places as places I’ve been.
They’re ordinary places really. The sort of places you take for granted as you drive right on by. Ordinary, that is, except for those who lived and worked in them. Their lives are forever changed.
And if you feel a sense of deja vu, that’s kind of my point. This is how it’s been for fire after fire after fire. That bravado we always cheer, where victims swear they’ll rebuild, seems hollow now.
October 28, 4:30 am:
Containment is now at 5 percent of over 54,000 acres in the Kincade fire. I’m having trouble telling from the Incident map (figure 1) how far into Windsor the fire has reached. The distance from northern Windsor to my mother’s house is a little less but traverses the same rugged dry terrain that a spread from Healdsburg would. It appears there is a shift in the weather pattern (figure 2) but I am not at this moment able to determine its significance. The winds have dropped but that may only be because it is night time. Graphics have been updated.
October 28, 10:09 am:
It kind of looks like I failed to publish the 4:30 am update. Oops.
As of now, the Incident Map (figure 1) is making clear that where previously the main part of the Kincade fire had seemed to be in mountainous terrain, it now seems to be moving towards, if not into, Healdsburg and Windsor. Containment is at five percent of over 66,000 acres. Winds seem to have weakened for the moment and it appears the region is in for a bit of a respite on Monday (today) before conditions worsen again on Tuesday.
“Cal Fire officials said they were concerned that the fire would jump Highway 128 into fuel-laden land that has not burned in decades.” I’m not sure what the Sacramento Bee reporters mean when they talk about Highway 128, which runs into Mendocino County north of Cloverdale, along Highway 101 to Geyserville, and then east over the mountains into Lake County. Though there’s certainly land there that hasn’t burned yet, Lake County burned before Sonoma County in several massive fires over several years.
My concern however is with the fire’s move toward Windsor and Healdsburg. If the Kincade fire jumps Highway 101 (the latest incident map, figure 1, suggests it’s reaching right to it), which is what the Tubbs Fire did two years ago, and heads towards my mother’s house, I don’t think any of that territory has burned in decades either. And it looks to me like it’s getting close.
In the meantime,
The Kincade Fire and other blazes that erupted Sunday during the heavy winds closed several major roadways, including Interstate 80, the main east-west highway through Northern California between San Francisco and the Nevada state line. I-80 was closed for several hours between Vallejo and Crockett because of brush fires raging at both ends of the Carquinez Bridge, but reopened by mid-afternoon.
Apparently this is happening all over the state. I said earlier that this is hell. It’s hell. And yeah, reminiscent of when the Sonoma County fires broke out in 2017.
October 28, 8:13 pm:
The humiliation of Boris Johnson continues as “he was forced to grudgingly accept the European Union’s offer to delay Brexit until January, and then lost a motion in Parliament to stage a general election before Christmas.” (Brexit)
There’s apparently no real news on the Kincade fire. I am updating the graphics nonetheless. The fire does seem like it is spreading towards Healdsburg if not into it (figure 1) and winds are currently on shore.
October 29, 3:51 am:
As if Brexit was ever, even once, really on track, it’s gone off the rails again as Boris Johnson has “abandoned” the withdrawal bill because he wants an election so bad. You know, like he wants Brexit itself. And yeah, I’m not the only one calling bullshit.
The evacuation orders for much of west Sonoma County, including (just barely) my mother’s house, have been reduced to warnings, though the incident map (figure 1) also seems to show the fire further encroaching on Healdsburg. Cal Fire says it has achieved fifteen percent containment on over 74,000 acres. The winds are shifting again, in line with earlier forecasts. The warning means people need to be ready to leave on a moment’s notice, so this isn’t really clearance for people to return home. This fire still looks incredibly dangerous to me and if those forecasts hold, I expect we’ll see a much more alarming picture later in the day. Text below has mostly been removed—look to these updates instead. Graphics have been updated.
October 29, 10:13 am:
Labour will back an election, improving the likelihood that one will occur in December. The call for such an election was likely to succeed anyway, leaving Labour in the unenviable position of going into an election it had opposed. (Brexit)
People are mad at Pacific Gas and Electric, and have reason to be, especially with the Kincade fire, but it’s worth remembering the climate crisis is a major contributor. Winds are still relatively weak but have now shifted to an off-shore direction. They keep changing how they show the fire intensity and spread in the Sonoma County Incident Map and I am especially unfond of the latest iteration.
I see now (figure 1) that Healdsburg is across the Russian River from the fire and the fire has not jumped the river there. But parts of Windsor, especially the north and east are on fire.
The fire is very close to Highway 101 (figure 1). The road, which is marked as closed, is only four lanes (plus a median) wide there. I can’t imagine that a good gust of wind won’t enable the fire to jump the highway into terrain that I don’t think has burned in a very long time. But they’ve still got a lot of west Sonoma County only on an evacuation warning phase.
I gotta tell you, this doesn’t help to bolster confidence in their logic for how they ordered evacuations and when. Graphics are updated.
October 29, 2019, 9:06 pm:
Parliament has approved an election to be held on December 12, which is just what Boris Johnson wanted. I am disappointed the franchise will not be extended to 16-year olds and European Union nationals: Their futures are at stake, even more than those of the old fogies who so desperately want out of the E.U.
The Kincade fire is now 15 percent contained at over 75,000 acres. The fire remains close to, but on the east side of Highway 101. Evacuation warnings are now shown for adjacent parts of Lake County (figure 1). Winds are strongly in an off-shore direction, but not so strong over such a wide area as before.
October 30, 4:33 am:
Little seems to have changed with the Kincade fire since the last update, except that stronger winds are appearing over a broader area. Which is to suggest that firefighters seem to be pretty much holding the line, and that if the wind forecast holds, the worst should be over. For now. Graphics have been updated.
The Kincade fire is at 30 percent containment and nearly 77,000 acres. Firefighters seem to be holding the line in areas I’ve been most concerned with but I think maybe not so well to the north and east. Unfortunately there’s a weird cut off in the graphics in figure 1 that makes this harder to discern. Winds are strong and off-shore but not as strong and not as strongly over as wide an area as before. Graphics have been updated.
October 30, 7:00 pm:
Asserting the supremacy of state law, an Allegheny County judge struck down Pittsburgh’s gun control laws, which were passed in the wake of the Tree of Life Synagogue mass shooting last year.
My methodology here is weak beyond compare, but I’m guessing from his avatar that Nathan Heller is a lot younger than I am. That said, his recollection of fires in the San Francisco area is about like mine. California just isn’t the place it used to be. It is, as the headline on Annie Lowrey’s exploration of how the Wildlife-Urban Interface came to be so heavily populated proclaims, becoming unlivable. (Kincade fire)
Winds are still offshore, but not nearly so strongly as earlier even today. Updated containment figures are not yet available. A lot of east Windsor appears to have burned or to be on fire but Healdsburg continues to be spared. Overall, the Kincade fire looks much less active and evacuation orders and warnings seem to be receding (figure 1). My mother will be going home tomorrow. Graphics have been updated.
Barring unforeseen developments, I will end this issue here. It’s become unusual for me to hold an issue open like this for several days on end but I did so on account of the Kincade fire. At this moment, that no longer seems to be justified.
I’ve been working on my page entitled, “Pittsburgh driving for the uninitiated anyway, but it turns out that Pittsburgh navigation is sufficiently difficult that it merits a CityLab article. Yes, it really is that bad. And worse.
Fig. 1. Screenshot of Sonoma County Incident Map, taken on October 30, 2019, at 7:37 pm EDT (4:37 pm PDT). Click on this static image to open the source.
Fig. 2. 72-hour gif of Northeast Pacific satellite photos, taken two hours apart, as of October 30, 6:00 pm EDT (3:00 pm PDT).
Jonathan Cox, another Cal Fire spokesman, called the evacuation orders a preventive measure against “a worst-case scenario for this fire.” Capt. Stephen Volmer, a fire behavior analyst with the agency, said the winds were expected to start blowing the fire in a southwesterly direction beginning about 8 p.m. [PDT] toward Highway 101.
A lot of Sonoma County still has visible scars from the fires two years ago. The psychic scars are, of course, longer lasting. But all I can really say is that the scenes I have seen there are, in a way, beyond description. There is an impact just from seeing the burned areas, or even just driving around a curve and being confronted with burned vegetation. Let alone seeing pads where homes used to be.