The worst president in history? It’s complicated. (Update #2)

Updates

  1. Originally published, October 24, 2020, at 1:30 pm.
  2. October 25, 2020, 6:21 am:

Presidents

Attempting a comparison of U.S. presidents, Nicholas Goldberg

quickly realized [he] was in over [his] head trying to determine who was worst among them. Is a corrupt president worse than a incompetent president? Is it worse to separate children from their parents at the border or to allow fugitive slaves to be caught and delivered back to their owners? Is killing thousands of Native Americans worse than denying the existential dangers of climate change? Do the 12 presidents who owned slaves belong automatically at the bottom of the list, regardless of their other achievements or the times in which they lived?[1]

This is a problem with a quantitative approach, as with IQ tests: It can attempt to rank things that compare more like apples and oranges on a single, linear scale. The questions Goldberg raises here will always be problematic.

Nicholas Goldberg, “Is Trump the worst president ever? He’s got some competition,” Los Angeles Times, October 20, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-10-20/the-worst-president-in-american-history


California

Ryan Sabalow, “‘That is unacceptable.’ California megachurch faces local backlash for dismissing COVID-19,” Sacramento Bee, October 23, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/article246671032.html

Ryan Sabalow, Lara Korte, and Jason Pohl, “Rural California is divided, armed for revolt. What’s the matter in the State of Jefferson?” Sacramento Bee, October 24, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/article246652603.html


Social conservatism

The carefully choreographed dance goes like this: Moral character in public officials matters quite a lot when the public officials who morally fail are Democrats; it matters hardly at all when they are Republicans. If it’s a liberal who has crossed ethical lines, emphasize righteous conduct; if it’s a conservative, emphasize forgiveness and verses like “Judge not lest you be judged.” If it’s Bill Clinton in the dock, savage him; if it’s Donald Trump, savage his critics.[2]

Peter Wehner, “Evangelicals Made a Bad Bargain With Trump,” Atlantic, October 18, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/10/the-evangelical-movements-bad-bargain/616760/


  1. [1]Nicholas Goldberg, “Is Trump the worst president ever? He’s got some competition,” Los Angeles Times, October 20, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-10-20/the-worst-president-in-american-history
  2. [2]Peter Wehner, “Evangelicals Made a Bad Bargain With Trump,” Atlantic, October 18, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/10/the-evangelical-movements-bad-bargain/616760/

No silver bullets for this pandemic (Update #8)

Updates

  1. Originally published, October 21, 2020, at 10:57 pm.

  2. October 21, 2020, 11:44 pm:

    • So I was wondering about possible evictions, specifically about two vacant apartments in my building, at my apartment complex.[1] Guess what? The Alden South Hills is pursuing 44 evictions. A magistrate judge has already refused some of them, giving tenants additional time to pay.[2] I have always paid my rent here on time, but in my experience, with regard to rent payments, the management does adopt a rather threatening tone, carrying an undertone that if you live in this complex, you are a deadbeat, so it’s not at all unreasonable to suspect that some vacancies in the complex may be to avoid being evicted and thus to avoid the difficulties of finding a new apartment when evictions have been recorded.

  3. October 22, 2020, 8:55 am:

    • I am revising the language in update #2 to make it a bit more complete. The revised text appears there.

  4. October 22, 2020, 10:20 am:

    • It’s a stretch, and the author even says it’s a stretch, but it’s possible to interpret the Third Amendment, prohibiting the quartering of soldiers in people’s homes, as guaranteeing a right to protection from contagious disease. It seems that smallpox is an important part of the historical context for that amendment, where British soldiers had deliberately passed the disease to American Indians, and not so deliberately to colonists.[3]

  5. October 22, 2020, 10:04 pm:

    • Have I mentioned that Uber and Lyft are evil? Uber is forcing its California drivers to acknowledge repeated messages in support of Proposition 22, at least at one point, for every ride they got.[4] The proposition would exempt them from California’s Assembly Bill 5, which codified a state supreme court decision, and requires the companies to correctly classify their drivers as employees rather than misclassifying them as independent contractors and denying them important labor protections.[5] The companies have been spending record-breaking amounts of money, in a state notorious for plentiful and ludicrously expensive propositions, in support of Proposition 22.[6] Now, some drivers have filed a class action suit against Uber’s practice of bombarding them with the pro-Proposition 22 message, even as the company insists that a majority of its drivers already support the proposition and their own misclassification,[7] which obviously raises the question of, if the independent contractor scam is indeed so popular with its drivers, why must Uber resort to such tactics to support it?

  6. October 23, 2020, 3:33 am:

    • An appeals court upheld[8] a lower court ruling that Uber and Lyft must classify their California drivers as employees[9] (see previous update, October 22, 2020, 10:04 pm) after granting a stay of the lower court ruling[10] that that court had refused to grant.[11]

  7. October 23, 2020, 3:37 am:

    • I caught a wording error in the update for October 22, 2020, 10:04 pm. This error has now been corrected.

  8. October 23, 2020, 10:04 pm:

    • Landlords are finding ways around the eviction moratorium, which expires at the end of the year anyway, but nonetheless suing to overturn it. It’s not at all apparent how folks who are already failing to pay rent are going to be able to find new apartments, so evictions effectively render them homeless. In a pandemic. “When tenants are evicted, they often move in with other family members, increasing the size of households and the chance for viral transmission.”[12]

    • I’ve been saying for a while that we’ve been doing everything wrong with the pandemic. And we already knew we were headed into a third surge.[13] Here we are:

      And it’s not simply a matter of increased testing identifying more cases. Covid-19 hospitalizations increased in 38 states over the past week. The number of deaths nationally has crested above 1,000 in recent days.

      The last time the country hit a new daily record for coronavirus cases — 76,533 on July 17 — just four states accounted for more than 40,000 of those cases: Arizona, California, Florida and Texas, according to a Washington Post analysis.

      On Friday, 11 states accounted for that same lion’s share of cases. And in the past two weeks, 24 states have broken their records for single-day highs of cases. . . .

      “One key way we got through previous waves was by moving health-care workers around. That’s just not possible when the virus is surging everywhere,” said Eleanor J. Murray, an epidemiologist at Boston University.[14]

      Don’t forget that even as there is a shortage of doctors and nurses to deal with the surge, they too fall ill, reducing the number available even further. And there are drug shortages. But politicians have just decided we’re going to have to live with it.[15] Or, as some have suggested, die with it.


Pandemic

There is a new blog post entitled, “About that promised COVID-19 vaccine: Sorry, we still aren’t getting out of this pandemic anytime soon.

David Salisbury, “If you’re pinning your hopes on a Covid vaccine, here’s a dose of realism,” Guardian, October 21, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/21/covid-vaccine-immunisation-protection

Melody Schreiber, “A Covid-19 Vaccine Doesn’t Need to Be Perfect,” New Republic, October 21, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/159868/covid-19-vaccine-efficacy-perfect

Alexander Zhang, “The Forgotten Third Amendment Could Give Pandemic-Struck America a Way Forward,” Atlantic, October 21, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/10/could-third-amendment-protect-against-infection/616791/

William Wan and Jacqueline Dupree, “America hits highest daily number of coronavirus cases since pandemic began,” Washington Post, October 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/10/23/covid-us-spike-cases/


Evictions

Ryan Deto, “Pittsburgh-area apartment complex The Alden South Hills seeking large-scale evictions,” Pittsburgh City Paper, October 21, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/pittsburgh-area-apartment-complex-the-alden-south-hills-seeking-large-scale-evictions/Content?oid=18223682

Kriston Capps, “Landlords Challenge U.S. Eviction Ban and Continue to Oust Renters,” CityLab, October 22, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-10-22/landlords-launch-legal-attack-on-cdc-eviction-ban


Gig economy

Faiz Siddiqui and Reed Albergotti, “Uber drivers sue app over ‘constant barrage’ pushing California anti-employment initiative,” Washington Post, October 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/10/22/uber-prop22-suit/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Not even a euphemism: ‘Houseless,’” Not Housebroken, October 18, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/10/18/not-even-a-euphemism-houseless/
  2. [2]Ryan Deto, “Pittsburgh-area apartment complex The Alden South Hills seeking large-scale evictions,” Pittsburgh City Paper, October 21, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/pittsburgh-area-apartment-complex-the-alden-south-hills-seeking-large-scale-evictions/Content?oid=18223682
  3. [3]Alexander Zhang, “The Forgotten Third Amendment Could Give Pandemic-Struck America a Way Forward,” Atlantic, October 21, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/10/could-third-amendment-protect-against-infection/616791/
  4. [4]Faiz Siddiqui and Reed Albergotti, “Uber drivers sue app over ‘constant barrage’ pushing California anti-employment initiative,” Washington Post, October 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/10/22/uber-prop22-suit/
  5. [5]Sophia Bollag, “California Uber, Lyft drivers to become employees under measure Gov. Gavin Newsom says he’ll sign,” Sacramento Bee, September 11, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article234973107.html; Alexia Fernández Campbell, “California is cracking down on the gig economy,” Vox, May 30, 2019, https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/5/30/18642535/california-ab5-misclassify-employees-contractors; Aaron Gordon, “Uber And Lyft Don’t Have A Right To Exist,” Jalopnik, August 30, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-dont-have-a-right-to-exist-1837680434; Aaron Gordon, “Uber To California: Make Us,” Jalopnik, September 11, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-drivers-shouldnt-expect-to-be-employees-a-1838048966; Nathan Heller, “A New California Law Takes Aim at Uber and Lyft,” New Yorker, September 12, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-silicon-valley/a-new-california-law-takes-aim-at-uber-and-lyft; Michael Hiltzik, “How millions from Uber and Lyft are funding the harassment of a critic,” Los Angeles Times, September 2, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-09-02/uber-lyft-veena-dubal-twitter-bullying; Therese Poletti, “Uber and Lyft’s ‘day of reckoning’ is finally here,” MarketWatch, August 12, 2020, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/uber-and-lyfts-day-of-reckoning-is-finally-here-2020-08-11
  6. [6]Michael Hiltzik, “Uber and Lyft just made their campaign to keep exploiting workers the costliest in history,” Los Angeles Times, September 8, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-09-08/uber-lyft-most-expensive-initiative
  7. [7]Faiz Siddiqui and Reed Albergotti, “Uber drivers sue app over ‘constant barrage’ pushing California anti-employment initiative,” Washington Post, October 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/10/22/uber-prop22-suit/
  8. [8]Kanishka Singh and Tina Bellon, “California appeals court rules Uber, Lyft must reclassify drivers as employees,” Reuters, October 22, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-uber-california-drivers-idUSKBN27805F
  9. [9]Faiz Siddiqui, “Uber and Lyft must make their drivers in California full employees, judge rules,” Washington Post, August 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/08/10/uber-lyft-ab5/
  10. [10]Lauren Feiner, “Appeals court grants Uber and Lyft a temporary reprieve following threats to shut down in California,” CNBC, August 20, 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/20/appeals-court-grants-uber-and-lyft-a-temporary-reprieve-in-case-over-driver-classification.html
  11. [11]Jonathan Stempel, “Judge rejects Uber, Lyft bids to delay California driver injunction,” Yahoo!, August 13, 2020, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/uber-lyft-lose-bid-delay-184959283.html
  12. [12]Kriston Capps, “Landlords Challenge U.S. Eviction Ban and Continue to Oust Renters,” CityLab, October 22, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-10-22/landlords-launch-legal-attack-on-cdc-eviction-ban
  13. [13]Antonia Noori Farzan et al. “U.S. surpasses 64,000 new coronavirus infections two days in a row for first time since late July,” Washington Post, October 16, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/10/16/coronavirus-covid-live-updates-us/; Elliot Hannon, “Trump Says “We’re Rounding the Turn” the Same Day the U.S. Approaches Record Number of New Coronavirus Cases,” Slate, October 23, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/10/u-s-record-coronavirus-single-day-cases-trump-debate-declares-country-rounding-the-turn.html
  14. [14]William Wan and Jacqueline Dupree, “America hits highest daily number of coronavirus cases since pandemic began,” Washington Post, October 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/10/23/covid-us-spike-cases/
  15. [15]William Wan and Jacqueline Dupree, “America hits highest daily number of coronavirus cases since pandemic began,” Washington Post, October 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/10/23/covid-us-spike-cases/; Elliot Hannon, “Trump Says “We’re Rounding the Turn” the Same Day the U.S. Approaches Record Number of New Coronavirus Cases,” Slate, October 23, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/10/u-s-record-coronavirus-single-day-cases-trump-debate-declares-country-rounding-the-turn.html

Cold War, again?

China

There is a new blog post entitled, “A new ‘cold war’ with China as an election stunt?” This is the first of two, today.

Guardian, “Mike Pompeo says free world must change China or ‘China will change us,’” July 23, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/24/mike-pompeo-says-free-world-must-change-china-or-china-will-change-us


Education

There is a second new blog post entitled, “Could alternative schools offer an answer?

Justin Lahart, “Kids at Home Could Put the Economy in Detention,” Wall Street Journal, July 24, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/kids-at-home-could-put-the-economy-in-detention-11595583001


Recession

Eli Rosenberg, “‘A Band-Aid on a bullet wound’: Workers are getting laid off anew as PPP runs out,” Washington Post, July 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/07/23/ppp-layoffs/


Symbol and substance in anti-racism demonstrations

Updates

  1. Originally published, July 1, 2020, 10:52 pm.
  2. July 2, 9:38 am:

The Lost Cause

David W. Blight, “Europe in 1989, America in 2020, and the Death of the Lost Cause,” New Yorker, July 1, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/europe-in-1989-america-in-2020-and-the-death-of-the-lost-cause

W. Ralph Eubanks, “The Confederate Flag Finally Falls in Mississippi,” New Yorker, July 1, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-confederate-flag-finally-falls-in-mississippi


Pandemic

An Uber driver claims, and the company denies, that he was fired because he refused riders who weren’t wearing masks. Drivers are indeed required to take selfies proving they are wearing masks,[1] but the same is not true of riders, who are asked but not required to prove compliance.

Since the recent spike in cases, both locally[2] and nationally,[3] and especially since Allegheny County ordered a halt to on-site drinking in bars,[4] I’m noticing much greater compliance among Uber riders.

I’d been told that “Pittsburgh is a drinking town with a football problem;” it might be that taking away their booze does indeed get their attention, although as I was driving home this evening, I was stopped at a red light next to an ice cream shop with people lined up outside. I could see the young ladies working the counter were wearing masks. But despite a newly issued order, taking effect immediately, requiring everyone to wear masks in public,[5] not one customer was, and a lot of them were not social distancing while in line.

If passengers ask, I will tell them that they should wear a mask and, in my experience, they generally comply. But otherwise, I won’t say anything. I won’t argue. That was likely that now-former Uber driver’s mistake.[6] But I’m now giving them a lower rating and specifically tagging that they weren’t wearing a mask. That might be the severest threat of all.

Hannah Dineen, “Uber driver denies unmasked riders, fired for complaints,” News Center Maine, July 1, 2020, https://www.newscentermaine.com/article/life/uber-driver-denies-unmasked-riders-fired-for-complaints/97-80794869-0c8b-4aa1-8ec8-e340d4e6fed5

WTAE, “Masks are now mandatory in all public spaces in Pennsylvania,” July 1, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/masks-are-now-mandatory-in-all-public-spaces-in-pennsylvania/33026253


  1. [1]Hannah Dineen, “Uber driver denies unmasked riders, fired for complaints,” News Center Maine, July 1, 2020, https://www.newscentermaine.com/article/life/uber-driver-denies-unmasked-riders-fired-for-complaints/97-80794869-0c8b-4aa1-8ec8-e340d4e6fed5
  2. [2]Samson X. Horne, “Allegheny County reports 90 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily total for county,” Tribune-Review, June 27, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/allegheny-county-reports-highest-daily-total-of-coronavirus-cases-at-90/; KDKA, “‘For The First Time…Allegheny Co. Led The State In The Number Of New COVID-19 Cases’: Allegheny Co. Officials Ban On-Site Consumption Of Alcohol At Local Bars,” June 28, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/06/28/allegheny-co-highest-case-numbers-bans-on-site-drinking/; KDKA, “Allegheny Co. Health Officials: Spike In New Coronavirus Cases Linked To Bars, Not Protests,” June 29, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/06/29/spike-in-coronavirus-cases-linked-to-bars-not-protests/; Madasyn Lee, “Allegheny County exceeds highest coronavirus case total with 96 new cases,” Tribune-Review, June 28, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/allegheny-county-exceeds-highest-coronavirus-case-total-with-96-new-cases/; John Shumway, “‘People Don’t Care’: Recent Jump In Allegheny County Coronavirus Cases Linked To People In Their 20s, 30s,” KDKA, June 23, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/06/23/jump-in-allegheny-county-coronavirus-cases-linked-to-young-people/; Teghan Simonton, “61 new coronavirus cases reported in Allegheny County, highest in 2 months,” Tribune-Review, June 26, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/61-new-cases-of-coronavirus-reported-in-allegheny-county-2-deaths/; Teghan Simonton, “83 new cases of coronavirus in Allegheny County, no new deaths,” Tribune-Review, June 29, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/83-new-cases-of-coronavirus-in-allegheny-county-no-new-deaths/; Megan Tomasic, “505 new coronavirus cases, 3 deaths reported in Pa.,” Tribune-Review, June 28, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/505-new-coronavirus-cases-3-deaths-reported-in-pa/
  3. [3]Talal Ansari, “Texas Governor Rolls Back Reopening as U.S. Virus Cases Hit Record,” Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/coronavirus-latest-news-06-26-2020-11593159630; Annie Gowen, Arelis R. Hernández, and Lori Rozsa, “Young people urged to take virus more seriously as pandemic worsens in U.S.,” Washington Post, June 27, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/young-people-are-driving-a-spike-in-coronavirus-infections-officials-say/2020/06/27/3654638c-b7b4-11ea-a510-55bf26485c93_story.html; Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey, and Yasmeen Abutaleb, “With Trump leading the way, America’s coronavirus failures exposed by record surge in new infections,” Washington Post, June 27, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/with-trump-leading-the-way-americas-coronavirus-failures-exposed-by-record-surge-in-new-infections/2020/06/27/bd15aea2-b7c4-11ea-a8da-693df3d7674a_story.html; Meg Wagner et al., “Fauci, Redfield testify on Covid-19 reopening as cases rise,” CNN, June 30, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/webview/politics/live-news/covid-19-school-work-reopening-testimony-06-30-20/h_cc7cf09eae87064e72f75af30984acd3
  4. [4]KDKA, “‘For The First Time…Allegheny Co. Led The State In The Number Of New COVID-19 Cases’: Allegheny Co. Officials Ban On-Site Consumption Of Alcohol At Local Bars,” June 28, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/06/28/allegheny-co-highest-case-numbers-bans-on-site-drinking/
  5. [5]WTAE, “Masks are now mandatory in all public spaces in Pennsylvania,” July 1, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/masks-are-now-mandatory-in-all-public-spaces-in-pennsylvania/33026253
  6. [6]Hannah Dineen, “Uber driver denies unmasked riders, fired for complaints,” News Center Maine, July 1, 2020, https://www.newscentermaine.com/article/life/uber-driver-denies-unmasked-riders-fired-for-complaints/97-80794869-0c8b-4aa1-8ec8-e340d4e6fed5

Recession, depression, my car has broken down

There’s no commentary in this issue. I had to take my car into the dealer because the dreaded “Check Hybrid System” indication came on. It looked to me, from what I could see, that the system is in fact still working. I can only hope that that means the battery has not gone bad.

It’d probably cost something like $4,000 to replace that battery. I don’t have it and, frankly, the car isn’t worth it. As of last night, the cost per mile clocked in at 34¢ per mile; this’d likely double that, putting it well past the IRS mileage allowance, even without depreciation.

I’m terrified. And I’m unlikely to hear before the end of the week because it’ll take that long before they even get to it.


Donald Trump


History

Bess Connolly, “Climate change, the rise of the Roman Empire, and the fall of the Ptolemies,” Yale University, June 22, 2020, https://news.yale.edu/2020/06/22/climate-change-rise-roman-empire-and-fall-ptolemies


Recession

Annie Lowrey, “The Second Great Depression,” Atlantic, June 23, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/06/second-great-depression/613360/

Neil Paine and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, “What Economists Fear Most During This Recovery,” FiveThirtyEight, June 23, 2020, https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-economists-fear-most-during-this-recovery/


An unfathomable breadth and depth of corruption, led by a black hole

United Kingdom

I would assume that something similar to what George Monbiot has described of the United Kingdom’s atrocities and cover-ups[1] is true of the United States. We know only the more shameless ones like Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, unauthorized migrants on the southern border, slavery, the American Indians, southeast Asia, and racist police. And it is certainly not like only Britain’s hands are dirty in Yemen.

I remember in my undergraduate career, whenever I had the temerity to imagine I had a handle of the breadth and depth of corruption in our system of social organization, I had only to kick over another rock to find it even more vastly deeper and broader. That’s worth remembering as we have a black hole presidency—the U.S. will not suddenly be “pure” when the delusional raging narcissist-in-chief, the racist authoritarian populist rapist, leaves office, whether or not replaced by the racist neoliberal rapist.

George Monbiot, “Lying In State,” June 21, 2020, https://www.monbiot.com/2020/06/21/lying-in-state/


Pandemic

There is a new blog post entitled, “Endorsing a giant meteor strike in 2020.”

Rashawn Ray and Rebecca Shankman, “How COVID-19 is changing the gun debate,” Brookings, June 17, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2020/06/17/how-covid-19-is-changing-the-gun-debate/


Pacific Gas and Electric

Kanishka Singh, “PG&E says bankruptcy court approves its Chapter 11 reorganization plan,” Reuters, June 20, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pg-e-us-bankruptcy/pge-says-bankruptcy-court-approves-its-chapter-11-reorganization-plan-idUSKBN23R0SL


  1. [1]George Monbiot, “Lying In State,” June 21, 2020, https://www.monbiot.com/2020/06/21/lying-in-state/

The bullshit is stro-o-o-ng, today

There is an update to an earlier post in this space, “The capitalist god is still getting its human sacrifice.”


Civil War

There is a new blog post entitled, “How many times must it be explained that the Civil War was about the preservation of slavery?” I mean, seriously, this is getting tiresome.

Marc Fisher, “Confederate statues: In 2020, a renewed battle in America’s enduring Civil War,” Washington Post, June 11, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2020/06/11/confederate-statues-attacked-protesters-george-floyd/


Gig economy

San Jose Mercury News, “CPUC rules Uber, Lyft drivers are company employees,” Sacramento Bee, June 11, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/business/article243464631.html


Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto has truly been a jackass on Twitter, uttering disgraceful banalities in response to the protests that have sprung up in response to the police murder of George Floyd and I and others have been reaming his ass about the grievances Blacks have in Pittsburgh. (I quoted one of these tweets and part of my response to it in a since updated blog post.[1])

In a way, it’s understandable. You grow up with a situation, pretty much as I did in the San Francisco Bay Area, and you don’t question it. It simply is, like the fog creeping over Twin Peaks or the rustle of a breeze in the eucalyptus leaves. Certainly I saw poorer neighborhoods there. But coming here, what I’ve seen is generally worse—the worst of the housing projects have now mostly been torn down around San Francisco but are plentiful around Pittsburgh.

I can think of only one comparable situation to the neighborhoods I see here today and I can remember it from my childhood: As I recall, it was mostly along Post and Sutter Streets, between about Lyon and Steiner Streets, where all the houses had been boarded up and stencil-painted with warnings that they had been condemned for rodent infestations. That housing was never torn down but has since all been gentrified (I’m guessing about thirty years ago, forty at the most) in merely one example of what makes me doubt the claim that Pittsburgh is more heavily gentrified than San Francisco.[2]

You’re entitled to critique the comparison: Here what I see is often lots of abandoned homes mixed with houses still being occupied, often not looking much better. This is neglect and disinvestment. What I saw in the Western Addition in San Francisco, I still don’t understand, and always thought stunk to high heaven: How could it have been that all those houses had rat infestations, while houses a couple blocks away, even on Bush Street, certainly on Pine, remained safe for occupancy? (As you proceed in this direction, you get closer to Pacific Heights, a very wealthy neighborhood.)

Peduto hasn’t replied directly to my tweets. But he did release a statement yesterday that, if words translate to action, seems to be a beginning.[3] We’ll see.

Teghan Simonton, “Peduto gives statement on George Floyd and Black Lives Matter movement,” Tribune-Review, June 11, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/peduto-gives-statement-on-george-floyd-and-black-lives-matter-movement/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “The reason the status quo is not the answer is that the status quo cannot be the answer,” Not Housebroken, June 4, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/06/01/the-reason-the-status-quo-is-not-the-answer-is-that-the-status-quo-cannot-be-the-answer/
  2. [2]Ryan Deto, “Pittsburgh is one of the most gentrified cities in the U.S.,” Pittsburgh City Paper, April 4, 2019, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/pittsburgh-is-one-of-the-most-gentrified-cities-in-the-us/Content?oid=14381722
  3. [3]Teghan Simonton, “Peduto gives statement on George Floyd and Black Lives Matter movement,” Tribune-Review, June 11, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/peduto-gives-statement-on-george-floyd-and-black-lives-matter-movement/

Scottish independence redux

Scotland

In the abstract, I absolutely favor Scottish independence. But in fairness, there are reasons for skepticism: First, while Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party may indeed be able to bend the U.K. establishment into allowing another referendum, it might well, once again, fail to pass.[1] Even if it passes, there are doubts about Scotland’s ability to support itself,[2] which I think exceed those in the earlier referendum.

We are just about to find out how well Boris Johnson’s humbug about Brexit will play. I fear that Sturgeon’s is little better.

Severin Carrell and Libby Brooks, “SNP turns focus back to independence after election boost,” Guardian, December 16, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/dec/16/snp-turns-focus-back-to-independence-after-election-boost

Philip Sim, “Scottish independence: Could Scotland leave the UK and stay in the EU?” British Broadcasting Corporation December 18, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-50813510


Buddhism

There is a new blog entry entitled, “Solipsism as intellectualism and as spiritualism.”

Alexander Wynne, “Who was the Buddha?” Aeon, December 17, 2019, https://aeon.co/essays/was-the-buddha-an-awakened-prince-or-a-humble-itinerant


  1. [1]Severin Carrell and Libby Brooks, “SNP turns focus back to independence after election boost,” Guardian, December 16, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/dec/16/snp-turns-focus-back-to-independence-after-election-boost; Philip Sim, “Scottish independence: Could Scotland leave the UK and stay in the EU?” British Broadcasting Corporation December 18, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-50813510
  2. [2]Philip Sim, “Scottish independence: Could Scotland leave the UK and stay in the EU?” British Broadcasting Corporation December 18, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-50813510

By all means, let’s elect yet another fucking neoliberal

Neoliberalism

John Feffer traces the betrayal of workers from the fall of the Berlin Wall to Donald Trump’s election.[1] This dovetails with Melvin Leffler’s account of how the U.S. political mainstream drew the wrong message from that fall.[2] But by all means, let’s elect yet another fucking neoliberal. I am remembering what I wrote in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s defeat. It still applies. The difference now is that the Republicans have caught the disease as well.

John Feffer, “Did the Fall of the Berlin Wall Produce the Trump Presidency?” Foreign Policy in Focus, November 13, 2019, https://fpif.org/did-the-fall-of-the-berlin-wall-produce-the-trump-presidency/


  1. [1]John Feffer, “Did the Fall of the Berlin Wall Produce the Trump Presidency?” Foreign Policy in Focus, November 13, 2019, https://fpif.org/did-the-fall-of-the-berlin-wall-produce-the-trump-presidency/
  2. [2]Melvyn P. Leffler, “The Free Market Did Not Bring Down the Berlin Wall,” Foreign Policy, November 7, 2014, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/11/07/berlin_wall_fall_25_anniversary_reagan_bush_germany_merkel_cold_war_free_market_capitalism

Francis Drake might have landed in Oregon, not California

Francis Drake

Melissa Darby argues that Francis Drake may have landed in Oregon rather than California, that Chinese porcelain fragments may not have come from Drake’s ship, and that Herbert Bolton, who had already established a reputation in academia and was in the twilight of his career, may have made up the whole thing about the Point Reyes site as a joke that got out of control.[1] Note that none of this actually amounts to a refutation:

Members of the Drake Navigators Guild, a nonprofit group championing the Drakes Bay theory, soundly reject [Melissa] Darby’s assertion about [Herbert] Bolton. “The idea of a conspiracy doesn’t work,” says Michael Von der Porten, a financial planner and second-generation member of the guild whose father was part of the 2003 team that studied the hoax. He also dismisses her conclusions about a landing north of Drakes Bay. “This is yet another fringe theory, a total farce.”

Michael Moratto, an archaeologist who has been digging around Drakes Bay for decades, agrees. “I’ve spent 50 years listening to all sides of the debate, and for me it is settled.” Darby favors an Oregon landing site for parochial reasons, he adds, and “is twisting all of this to suit her own purposes.” He still maintains that some of the Chinese porcelain found at the bay came from [Francis] Drake’s cargo.[2]

Andrew Lawler, “Did Francis Drake Really Land in California?” Smithsonian, September 26, 2019, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/did-francis-drake-really-land-california-180973219/


Israel

Felicia Schwartz, “Netanyahu Is Given Four Days in Pretrial Hearing to Fend Off Formal Charges,” Wall Street Journal, September 29, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/netanyahu-is-given-four-days-in-pretrial-hearing-to-fend-off-formal-charges-11569773428


Brexit

Kate Proctor, “Boris Johnson fuels speculation he could ignore Brexit delay law,” Guardian, September 29, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/sep/29/boris-johnson-fuels-speculation-could-ignore-brexit-delay-law


Redlining

I’m beginning to make a project of cataloging the weapons, gratuitously displayed, that I refer to in a previous blog post.[3] It is possible to honor veterans and war dead without guns—indeed, many sites in the area do just this—so the fetishization here remains truly striking and while I may need to refine the scope of my claim, there are an awful lot of weapons on display in and around redlined areas.

After I recognized what I was seeing from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ description,[4] my mother confirmed that there was “terrible” (I think she used that word) redlining in Pittsburgh. I pondered that later, wondering how she knew: Wouldn’t, I thought to myself, something like this be kept an insiders’ secret?

Um, no. I’ve found a redlining map of Pittsburgh. It does not cover the entire area that I am covering. But it is well worth exploring. The site is interactive in ways you might not expect, so try clicking on things, and then read the reports compiled at the time for each of the “graded areas.”[5] This is a historical gold mine.

What I can say is first, that it is shocking to see just how much of Pittsburgh was redlined—much, much more than could possibly be kept a secret—and second, that, over 80 years later, many of these areas have still not recovered, either through redevelopment or gentrification. There are many abandoned buildings, often more than one on a block, some of which have satellite dishes attached to them, indicating more recent occupancy, but showing that when calamity of one sort or another (often fire) strikes, properties may simply be left to crumble while neighbors strive to carry on. And, of course, these areas appear to have very high proportions of Blacks among their populations.

To be honest, I’ve never seen anything quite like this before. It’s jawdropping—all of it—what I’m seeing on the redlining map and what I’m seeing on the ground.

I’m still finding guns and other heavy weaponry on a catch-as-catch-can basis, so far, mostly south of the Monongahela River (the area I cover most intensively while driving for Lyft). It would be good to be more systematic about this.


  1. [1]Andrew Lawler, “Did Francis Drake Really Land in California?” Smithsonian, September 26, 2019, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/did-francis-drake-really-land-california-180973219/
  2. [2]Andrew Lawler, “Did Francis Drake Really Land in California?” Smithsonian, September 26, 2019, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/did-francis-drake-really-land-california-180973219/
  3. [3]David Benfell, “The banners and the guns: Flagrant racism in Pittsburgh,” Not Housebroken, September 22, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/09/20/the-banners-and-the-guns-flagrant-racism-in-pittsburgh/
  4. [4]Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” Atlantic, June 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/
  5. [5]Robert K. Nelson et al., “Mapping Inequality,” University of Richmond, ed. Robert K. Nelson and Edward L. Ayers, n.d., https://dsl.richmond.edu/panorama/redlining/#loc=12/40.442/-80.073&city=pittsburgh-pa