Thunder outside my apartment, thunder in Portland

It isn’t literally true, at least that I know, that “I woke up this morning to the sound of thunder.” I usually wake up at some point anyway, catch up on email, and then go back to bed. But I did wake up. And there was thunder (figure 1).
ecan
Fig. 1. 72-hour gif, composed of Eastern Canada satellite photographs.


Protests

The one thing we can say about the Trump administration sending in federal forces, which has drawn criticism even from within at least some agencies involved,[1] against Black Lives Matter protests is that the administration is being stupid.

It has drawn people in from the sidelines to join the protests[2] and numerous mayors are asking that the forces be withdrawn, saying that their activities exacerbate the situation.[3] One way of looking at this request might be that the mayors may be seeking to relieve pressure for change that they may have thought had been alleviated as the protests went “nonviolent.”

But really, now, local and state politicians are now caught between federal forces and their own populations. How they handle it is anyone’s guess.

Hamed Aleaziz, “‘Disturbing And Demoralizing’: DHS Employees Are Worried The Portland Protest Response Is Destroying Their Agency’s Reputation,” Buzzfeed, July 21, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/22/us/portland-protests-mayors-withdraw-federal-forces/index.html

Bill Chappell, “Federal Agents Will Be ‘Clearly Identified’ In Kansas City, Mo., U.S. Attorney Says,” National Public Radio, July 21, 2020, https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-protests-for-racial-justice/2020/07/21/893936041/federal-agents-will-be-clearly-identified-in-kansas-city-u-s-attorney-says

Marissa J. Lang, “‘MomBloc’ and protest first-timers march into Portland streets, moved by the aggressive tactics of federal agents,” Washington Post, July 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/07/21/mombloc-protest-first-timers-march-into-portland-streets-moved-by-aggressive-tactics-federal-troops/

Madeline Holcombe, “More than a dozen mayors join Portland in asking Trump administration to withdraw federal forces,” CNN, July 22, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/22/us/portland-protests-mayors-withdraw-federal-forces/index.html


Pandemic

My usual caution about ludicrously low response rates[4] applies to poll results indicating many Amerikkkans think COVID-19 death tolls have been exaggerated.[5] And I simply can’t find it credible that people actually believe this shit. I think they’re desperately trying to persuade themselves.

Read the Washington Post article on isolation[6] carefully. In my reading, it does not cover contingencies systematically and this is obviously something not to fuck up.

Ariana Eunjung Cha, “How long should you isolate if you test positive for the coronavirus? At least 10 days after symptom onset,” Washington Post, July 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/07/21/how-long-should-you-isolate-if-you-test-positive-coronavirus-new-cdc-guidance-says-10-days-not-14/

Tom McCarthy, “US public increasingly skeptical of Covid-19 death toll, poll finds,” Guardian, July 21, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/21/us-coronavirus-death-toll-public-opinion-poll-accuracy


  1. [1]Hamed Aleaziz, “‘Disturbing And Demoralizing’: DHS Employees Are Worried The Portland Protest Response Is Destroying Their Agency’s Reputation,” Buzzfeed, July 21, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/22/us/portland-protests-mayors-withdraw-federal-forces/index.html
  2. [2]Marissa J. Lang, “‘MomBloc’ and protest first-timers march into Portland streets, moved by the aggressive tactics of federal agents,” Washington Post, July 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/07/21/mombloc-protest-first-timers-march-into-portland-streets-moved-by-aggressive-tactics-federal-troops/
  3. [3]Madeline Holcombe, “More than a dozen mayors join Portland in asking Trump administration to withdraw federal forces,” CNN, July 22, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/22/us/portland-protests-mayors-withdraw-federal-forces/index.html
  4. [4]Courtney Kennedy and Hannah Hartig, “Response rates in telephone surveys have resumed their decline,” Pew Research Center, February 27, 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/02/27/response-rates-in-telephone-surveys-have-resumed-their-decline/
  5. [5]Tom McCarthy, “US public increasingly skeptical of Covid-19 death toll, poll finds,” Guardian, July 21, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/21/us-coronavirus-death-toll-public-opinion-poll-accuracy
  6. [6]Ariana Eunjung Cha, “How long should you isolate if you test positive for the coronavirus? At least 10 days after symptom onset,” Washington Post, July 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/07/21/how-long-should-you-isolate-if-you-test-positive-coronavirus-new-cdc-guidance-says-10-days-not-14/

On kente cloth and appropriation

Elon Musk

Instead, Elon Musk gets to manufacture automobiles, dig tunnels, and launch astronauts to the International Space Station. Seriously, how insane is this?

It appears Tesla workers were infected with COVID-19 prior to an agreement with Alameda County that allowed company to resume production in Fremont and so the company was not required to, and did not, report the cases to the county.[1]

Faiz Siddiqui, “Tesla defied county orders so it could restart production. Days later, workers tested positive for the coronavirus,” Washington Post, June 9, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/06/09/tesla-factory-coronavirus/


George Floyd

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Fig. 1. Photograph by Manuel Balce Ceneta of the Associated Press, via the Washington Post, June 9, 2020,[2] fair use.

The concern I have with Congressional leaders wearing kente cloth stoles (figure 1) is with what’s called ‘appropriation,’ in which, as I understand it, a colonizer appropriates cultural objects of a colonized culture. The critique applies generally when whites, whose heritage is inextricable from colonialism and imperialism, deploy objects from other cultures with little regard for the cultures themselves.

I acknowledge the complaint, at least to the degree I understand it, but I also see treacherous ground: Cultural interchange happens. Is every white woman in a yoga class thus guilty? And what, really, are the boundaries here? Is this a charge applicable only to whites?

I suspect the charge of appropriation more strongly applies when the political leadership of a hegemonic world power deploys cultural artifacts, which is what I see with Nancy Pelosi and other congressmembers wearing the kente cloth. I can see where it might be different had they repudiated neoconservative policies, including the neoliberalism which neoconservatism sees as a moral imperative and which colonizes poor and working class people even today, but they most certainly have not.

I don’t really have an answer for all this and I’m not really one to say. In the case of the kente cloth, I’d very much rather hear from Blacks on this, some of whom do indeed seem disturbed.[3] Most of the response I’m seeing so far is more along the lines of Benjamin Dixon’s and Eric Haywood’s tweets, quoted above, which is that they are more concerned with the (predictably and woefully inadequate) political response to the protests than they are with the possible appropriation.

Robin Givhan, a fashion critic at the Washington Post, appears a little better placed to respond—and along with some useful background on kente cloth, she has some suggestions as to how the cloth might better have been used.[4]

Alicia Lee, “Congressional Democrats criticized for wearing Kente cloth at event honoring George Floyd,” CNN, June 8, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/08/politics/democrats-criticized-kente-cloth-trnd/index.html

Robin Givhan, “Congress’s kente cloth spectacle was a mess of contradictions,” Washington Post, June 9, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/06/09/congresss-kente-cloth-spectacle-was-mess-contradictions/


Censorship

Mark Zuckerberg has refused to take action against Donald Trump for inciting violence on Facebook[5] against Black protesters. But on spurious allegations of fraud, Facebook shut down (and later restored, after—this was in an earlier version of the article—the Sacramento Bee requested comment from Facebook’s legal department) Black Zebra’s page. The latter organization has been providing video documentary coverage of Black Lives Matters protests, especially since the George Floyd murder, directly through a social media presence and to the Sacramento Bee.[6]

Racism much?

Alex Hern, “Facebook moderators join criticism of Zuckerberg over Trump stance,” Guardian, June 8, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/jun/08/facebook-moderators-criticism-mark-zuckerberg-donald-trump

Michael McGough, “Facebook page restored for Black Zebra, team covering Sacramento protests, after being disabled,” Sacramento Bee, June 9, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article243401291.html


  1. [1]Faiz Siddiqui, “Tesla defied county orders so it could restart production. Days later, workers tested positive for the coronavirus,” Washington Post, June 9, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/06/09/tesla-factory-coronavirus/
  2. [2]Robin Givhan, “Congress’s kente cloth spectacle was a mess of contradictions,” Washington Post, June 9, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/06/09/congresss-kente-cloth-spectacle-was-mess-contradictions/
  3. [3]Alicia Lee, “Congressional Democrats criticized for wearing Kente cloth at event honoring George Floyd,” CNN, June 8, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/08/politics/democrats-criticized-kente-cloth-trnd/index.html
  4. [4]Robin Givhan, “Congress’s kente cloth spectacle was a mess of contradictions,” Washington Post, June 9, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/06/09/congresss-kente-cloth-spectacle-was-mess-contradictions/
  5. [5]Alex Hern, “Facebook moderators join criticism of Zuckerberg over Trump stance,” Guardian, June 8, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/jun/08/facebook-moderators-criticism-mark-zuckerberg-donald-trump
  6. [6]Michael McGough, “Facebook page restored for Black Zebra, team covering Sacramento protests, after being disabled,” Sacramento Bee, June 9, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article243401291.html

Pieties

George Floyd

There is another new blog post entitled, “Pieties in defense of the status quo.”

The charges against Derek Chauvin, who had his knee on George Floyd’s neck, have been upgraded to second degree murder and charges for aiding and abetting that murder have been laid against the other officers at the scene.[1] I remain skeptical that any charges would have been brought whatsoever had the protests not been so widespread and intense.

Also, the only surprising thing about Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s resistance to Donald Trump’s threat to send in the troops to quell protests over the murder of George Floyd is that he did so publicly.[2]

Ben Collins, Brandy Zadrozny, and Emmanuelle Saliba, “White nationalist group posing as antifa called for violence on Twitter,” NBC News, June 1, 2020, https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/security/twitter-takes-down-washington-protest-disinformation-bot-behavior-n1221456

Sandy Smith, “You Can Be Supportive of the Rioters and Angry With the Looters at the Same Time,” Philadelphia, June 1, 2020, https://www.phillymag.com/news/2020/06/01/philadelphia-looters-protesters/

Colby Itkowitz, “George W. Bush calls out racial injustices and celebrates protesters who ‘march for a better future,’” Washington Post, June 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/george-w-bush-calls-out-racial-injustices-and-celebrates-protesters-who-march-for-a-better-future/2020/06/02/2d2f7252-a511-11ea-bb20-ebf0921f3bbd_story.html

Josh Campbell, Sara Sidner, and Eric Levenson, “All four former officers involved in George Floyd’s killing now face charges,” CNN, June 3, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/03/us/george-floyd-officers-charges/index.html


  1. [1]Josh Campbell, Sara Sidner, and Eric Levenson, “All four former officers involved in George Floyd’s killing now face charges,” CNN, June 3, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/03/us/george-floyd-officers-charges/index.html
  2. [2]Dan Lamothe, Missy Ryan, and Paul Sonne, “Pentagon chief balks at Trump’s call for active-duty military force on U.S. citizens, and Mattis rips president,” Washington Post, June 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/despite-suggestions-from-trump-pentagon-chief-says-he-does-not-support-invoking-insurrection-act/2020/06/03/8e8dad2e-a59e-11ea-8681-7d471bf20207_story.html

When authorities refuse to do what is blindingly obvious they should do, when they refuse to respond to nonviolent protest, what are folks supposed to do?

George Floyd

And they do so even when it was blindingly obvious that something else was needed:

This formulation is showing up a lot in my Twitter feed:

They’ve got the receipts. Meanwhile,

I don’t know how true that is—it certainly is possible, especially in Pittsburgh—but those arguing for nonviolence still need to answer a question.

Dillon Carr and Natasha Lindstrom, “George Floyd protests in Pittsburgh: Curfew in effect; protesters turn violent; police cars torched,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 30, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/protests-underway-in-downtown-pittsburgh/

KDKA, “Pittsburgh Public Safety Has Declared ‘Unlawful Assembly’ Downtown, Urging Businesses To Close, Residents To Stay Home,” May 30, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/05/30/protest-shuts-down-streets-downtown/


The racism of COVID-19 bites back

Pittsburgh


Fig 1. Gratuitous guns in Crafton (left) and New Kensington (right). Photographs by author, May 24, 2020.

I really am covering a lot more territory since the pandemic began impacting my rideshare driving and I found two more gratuitous guns yesterday (figure 1), in Crafton (I’m a little surprised I hadn’t seen this before) and New Kensington, both places where a lot of Black folks live. These have been added to the map and the latter, by the way, helps to explain the gun in Springdale.

So when I got home last night, I figured I should bring all this stuff together. My photograph galleries are now public and you can find all of this stuff now, via my Pittsburgh page.

I had also taken a trip to investigate a candidate town (nice enough, but Internet and apartment options are limited) for my expected relocation next year, so by the time I got back from that and pulled the Pittsburgh page together, I was too tired to finish going through email.


Pandemic

A long-suspected second wave of the novel coronavirus is already appearing in places that had escaped relatively unscathed before. Healthcare systems in these areas are already stretched thin and higher proportions of their populations are vulnerable. The article uses the term ‘checkerboard’ to describe the pattern; I might suggest the term ‘hopscotch’ instead, as the virus does not spread uniformly across the country.[1]

This hints at three things: First, the notion of a ‘second wave’ is itself dubious. It suggests that even if this is not “one and done,” it might be “two and done.” But this is starting to look rather like an ongoing transmission of the virus from places where it has already struck to places it has not. Even with this ‘second wave,’ there are a bunch of those.[2]

Second, to the extent that the coronavirus may mutate, the longer it is in the wild, the greater the chance it will do so. And to the extent that the oft-seen analogy with the Spanish Flu of 1918 is accurate, a mutated version may be more deadly than the first.[3]

Third, the so-called ‘first wave’ appeared mostly in cities. The so-called ‘second wave’ is appearing in rural areas.[4] The former tend to be associated with support for Democrats and the latter tend to be associated with support for Republicans. Donald Trump and his supporters may have decided that COVID-19 was just fine as long as it was killing Blacks who are often (but definitely not exclusively) concentrated in cities.[5] We’ll see what happens as the disease affects more rural whites.

(I have updated my last blog post with the above text.)

Reis Thebault and Abigail Hauslohner, “A deadly ‘checkerboard’: Covid-19’s new surge across rural America,” Washington Post, May 24, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/24/coronavirus-rural-america-outbreaks/


Capitalism


  1. [1]Reis Thebault and Abigail Hauslohner, “A deadly ‘checkerboard’: Covid-19’s new surge across rural America,” Washington Post, May 24, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/24/coronavirus-rural-america-outbreaks/
  2. [2]Reis Thebault and Abigail Hauslohner, “A deadly ‘checkerboard’: Covid-19’s new surge across rural America,” Washington Post, May 24, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/24/coronavirus-rural-america-outbreaks/
  3. [3]Dave Roos, “Why the Second Wave of the 1918 Spanish Flu Was So Deadly,” History Channel, March 30, 2020, https://www.history.com/news/spanish-flu-second-wave-resurgence
  4. [4]Reis Thebault and Abigail Hauslohner, “A deadly ‘checkerboard’: Covid-19’s new surge across rural America,” Washington Post, May 24, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/24/coronavirus-rural-america-outbreaks/
  5. [5]Kenya Evelyn, “‘We’re expendable’: black Americans pay the price as states lift lockdowns,” Guardian, May 25, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/25/covid-19-lockdowns-african-americans-essential-workers; Bryan Armen Graham, “‘Swastikas and nooses’: governor slams ‘racism’ of Michigan lockdown protest,” Guardian, May 3, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/03/michigan-gretchen-whitmer-lockdown-protest-racism; Eugene Scott, “4 reasons coronavirus is hitting black communities so hard,” Washington Post, April 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/10/4-reasons-coronavirus-is-hitting-black-communities-so-hard/; Adam Serwer, “The Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying,” Atlantic, May 9, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/05/americas-racial-contract-showing/611389/

For Memorial Day

Pandemic

This New York Times front page (figure 1) is popping up all over Twitter:
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Fig. 1. New York Times front page for May 24, 2020, via Twitter, fair use.

I tend to be highly critical of the Times. I unsubscribed when I felt their coverage of the 2016 election had been slanted much too much in Hillary Clinton’s favor at the expense of Bernie Sanders. Margaret Sullivan was critical of that coverage,[1] but though she is now at the Washington Post, the Times seems to have heeded her advice not to normalize COVID-19 deaths.[2] This is to their credit.

It’s worth remembering that the “confirmed cases” count is almost certainly an undercount.[3] It’s also worth remembering that Donald Trump was more interested in protecting the stock market and his reelection chances than in protecting U.S. citizens and that he has peddled quack cures to that end.[4] Finally, it’s worth remembering that the entire political establishment has been complicit in refusing to provide adequate aid to enable people to stay home, which would have helped to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, and instead has rushed to reopen.[5]


  1. [1]Margaret Sullivan, “Has The Times Dismissed Bernie Sanders?” New York Times, September 9, 2015, http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/09/09/has-the-times-dismissed-bernie-sanders/
  2. [2]Margaret Sullivan, “Trump wants America to ‘normalize’ coronavirus deaths. It’s the media’s job not to play along,” Washington Post, May 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/media/trump-wants-america-to-normalize-coronavirus-deaths-its-the-medias-job-not-to-play-along/2020/05/09/72de4c32-9090-11ea-a9c0-73b93422d691_story.html
  3. [3]David Benfell, “We may die at home or we may die alone but we are surely dying,” Not Housebroken, April 28, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/28/we-may-die-at-home-or-we-may-die-alone-but-we-are-surely-dying/; Emma Brown et al., “U.S. deaths soared in early weeks of pandemic, far exceeding number attributed to covid-19,” Washington Post, April 27, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/2020/04/27/covid-19-death-toll-undercounted/; Emma Brown, Beth Reinhard, and Aaron C. Davis, “Coronavirus death toll: Americans are almost certainly dying of covid-19 but being left out of the official count,” Washington Post, April 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/coronavirus-death-toll-americans-are-almost-certainly-dying-of-covid-19-but-being-left-out-of-the-official-count/2020/04/05/71d67982-747e-11ea-87da-77a8136c1a6d_story.html
  4. [4]Associated Press, “FDA warns against using the drugs that Trump touts for coronavirus,” Los Angeles Times, April 24, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2020-04-24/fda-warns-against-using-trump-touted-drugs-to-treat-coronavirus; David Benfell, “The dangerous and delusional raging narcissist-in-chief,” Not Housebroken, April 25, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/25/the-dangerous-and-delusional-raging-narcissist-in-chief/; Aaron Blake, “The timeline of Trump’s coronavirus response is increasingly damning,” Washington Post, April 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/07/timeline-trumps-coronavirus-response-is-increasingly-damning/; Allyson Chiu, Katie Shepherd, and Brittany Shammas, “Trump comments prompt doctors, and Lysol, to warn against injecting disinfectants,” Washington Post, April 24, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/04/24/disinfectant-injection-coronavirus-trump/; 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/; David Roth, “The Enduring Delusion of a Chastened Trump,” New Republic, April 3, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157154/enduring-delusion-chastened-trump; Aaron Rupar, “Trump and Fox News want to send their hydroxychloroquine hype down the memory hole,” Vox, April 22, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/4/22/21230982/hydroxychloroquine-coronavirus-trump-fox-news-hype; Anna Sanders and Chris Sommerfeldt, “A spike in New Yorkers ingesting household cleaners following Trump’s controversial coronavirus comments,” New York Daily News, April 24, 2020, https://www.nydailynews.com/coronavirus/ny-coronavirus-new-yorkers-household-cleaners-trump-20200425-rnaqio5dyfeaxmthxx2vktqa5m-story.html; Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman, “Health Dept. Official Says Doubts on Hydroxychloroquine Led to His Ouster,” New York Times, April 22, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/22/us/politics/rick-bright-trump-hydroxychloroquine.html; David Von Drehle, “If Trump doesn’t like the coronavirus news now, he’ll hate what comes next,” Washington Post, March 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/if-trump-doesnt-like-the-coronavirus-news-now-hell-hate-what-comes-next/2020/03/10/e478c314-62ea-11ea-acca-80c22bbee96f_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/; Paul Waldman, “The real reason Trump is obsessed with hydroxychloroquine,” Washington Post, April 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/07/real-reason-trump-is-obsessed-with-hydroxychloroquine/
  5. [5]David Benfell, “The capitalist death cult,” Not Housebroken, March 27, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/27/the-capitalist-death-cult/; David Benfell, “The worst of times and the worst of humanity,” Not Housebroken, April 2, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/02/the-worst-of-times-and-the-worst-of-humanity/; David Benfell, “I fear for our world,” Not Housebroken, April 9, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/09/i-fear-for-our-world/; David Benfell, “Don’t just say #COVIDIOTS,” Not Housebroken, April 19, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/19/dont-just-say-covidiots/; David Benfell, “Elite priorities: Why social, animal, and environmental justice remains essential with COVID-19,” Not Housebroken, April 26, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/26/elite-priorities-why-social-animal-and-environmental-justice-remains-essential-with-covid-19/; David Benfell, “We may die at home or we may die alone but we are surely dying,” Not Housebroken, April 28, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/28/we-may-die-at-home-or-we-may-die-alone-but-we-are-surely-dying/; David Benfell, “Yet again, a season for cynicism,” Not Housebroken, May 10, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/10/yet-again-a-season-for-cynicism/; David Benfell, “Surprise! Surprise! The capitalist god is greedy!” Not Housebroken, May 23, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/23/surprise-surprise-the-capitalist-god-is-greedy/

The Year of Fear

There is a new blog post from Sunday entitled, “Pittsburgh, race, and a threat to appropriated identity.”

The Columbia Journalism Review has been running a series entitled “The Year of Fear,” featuring essays from local journalists in four towns in this election year. I’ve been following Jason Togyer, who covers McKeesport, largely because he helps fill in the blanks in my understanding of what has happened to Pittsburgh and that new blog post responds to one of his essays. For me, this is truly amazing stuff.


Do these pastors hear their god, or their accountants?

Pandemic

We still refuse to take care of people. What the fuck is the point of civilization if it comes to this?

In general and as a consequence, the reactionary nuttery to the lockdown continues to intensify.

I have to wonder whether it is their god that pastors reopening in-person services hear,[1] or their accountants.[2]

Moriah Balingit, “Armed militia helped a Michigan barbershop open, a coronavirus defiance that puts Republican lawmakers in a bind,” Washington Post, May 12, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/coronavirus-michigan-republicans-whitmer/2020/05/12/54975e1a-9466-11ea-82b4-c8db161ff6e5_story.html

Heather Kelly, “Twitter employees don’t ever have to go back to the office (unless they want to),” Washington Post, May 12, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/05/12/twitter-work-home/

Mark Scott and Steven Overly, “‘Conspiracy bingo’: Trans-Atlantic extremists seize on the pandemic,” Politico, May 12, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/05/12/trans-atlantic-conspiracy-coronavirus-251325

Neena Satija, “‘Come on, we’re human beings’: Judges question response to coronavirus pandemic in federal prisons,” Washington Post, May 13, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/come-on-were-human-beings-judges-question-response-to-coronavirus-pandemic-in-federal-prisons/2020/05/12/925e5d32-912a-11ea-a9c0-73b93422d691_story.html

Brandon Showalter, “3,000 Calif. churches vow to reopen on Pentecost Sunday, regardless of gov. orders,” Christian Post, May 13, 2020, https://www.christianpost.com/news/3000-calif-churches-vow-to-reopen-on-pentecost-sunday-regardless-of-gov-orders.html


Gentrification

One of the very odd things in my life has been the parallels between two places I have lived, Pittsburgh and San Francisco. It shows up in lots of ways. Bridges are named for Joe Montana, the famous San Francisco 49ers quarterback, near the Monongahela River and the town of Monongahela. San Francisco’s cable cars are echoed by the Duquesne and Monongahela Inclines, remnants of a once much more common form of transportation. San Francisco has the reputation for hills and certainly has some but Pittsburgh has some of the steepest streets in the world.[3] A street in Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco, bears the name of Willie Stargell, a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball star. The list goes on, really, I think, to ludicrous lengths.

And I wonder how it is that two places I have lived have so much in common. The coincidences seem surreal.

Another is more troubling: There is a new blog post entitled, “Pittsburgh is repeating San Francisco’s mistake.”


  1. [1]Hailey Branson-Potts, “Pastor who refuses to cancel Sunday services because of coronavirus greeted by police,” Los Angeles Times, April 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-04-05/pastor-who-refuses-to-cancel-sunday-services-greeted-by-police; Brandon Showalter, “3,000 Calif. churches vow to reopen on Pentecost Sunday, regardless of gov. orders,” Christian Post, May 13, 2020, https://www.christianpost.com/news/3000-calif-churches-vow-to-reopen-on-pentecost-sunday-regardless-of-gov-orders.html; Sam Stanton, “Judge rejects Lodi church’s bid to resume in-person services, says California order legal,” Sacramento Bee, May 5, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article242512621.html
  2. [2]Michelle Boorstein, “Church donations have plunged because of the coronavirus. Some churches won’t survive,” Washington Post, April 24, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2020/04/24/church-budgets-coronavirus-debt/
  3. [3]For example, Canton Avenue: WTAE, “World’s steepest street: Welsh road claims the title over Pittsburgh’s Canton Avenue in Beechview,” July 16, 2019, https://www.wtae.com/article/worlds-steepest-street-pittsburgh-canton-avenue-beechview-ffordd-pen-llech-wales/28413028

Twelve years vegan

Updates

  1. Originally published, May 5, 10:50 am.
  2. May 6, 10:02 pm:
    • I should have emphasized that a study led by Los Alamos scientists identifying a potentially more contagious mutation of the novel coronavirus has not yet been peer-reviewed.[1]

Twelve years ago today, I drove up to a vegan sandwich shop in Oakland, California, ordered a sandwich made with fake meat, decided I could go vegan, and did. That shop is long gone as are, I’m sorry to say, a number of vegan restaurants that had been open as of about that time. But I remain vegan.


Pandemic

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Fig. 1. Meme from Truthout, posted on Facebook on May 3, 2020, fair use.

Yet again, classified evidence. It was manipulated with Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to exist[2] and therefore undermined assertions that the Russians had interfered with the U.S. election in 2016.[3] Now the Trump administration is flogging[4] a conspiracy theory that the novel coronavirus escaped from a Chinese lab.[5] Relying on classified evidence.[6]

Of course, no one serious will believe them. But Donald Trump’s base will. And those are the only people Trump thinks he needs to persuade.

Whatever the origin of the novel coronavirus,[7] there is, apparently, a new, more contagious mutation now in the wild. “In addition to spreading faster, it may make people vulnerable to a second infection after a first bout with the disease, [a new study led by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory] warned.” Further, it is possible that people who have been infected with the earlier version may be susceptible to the mutated version.[8] Yay, team.
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Fig. 2. Cartoon by Kevin Siers of the Charlotte Observer, posted to Facebook by the Union of Concerned Scientists on May 1, 2020, fair use.

Helen Davidson, “WHO says it has no evidence to support ‘speculative’ Covid-19 lab theory,” Guardian, May 4, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/05/who-says-it-has-no-evidence-to-support-speculative-covid-19-lab-theory-pushed-by-us

Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach, “Researchers hypothesize that a highly contagious strain of the coronavirus is spreading, but other experts remain skeptical,” Washington Post, May 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/researchers-hypothesize-that-a-highly-contagious-strain-of-the-coronavirus-is-spreading-but-other-experts-remain-skeptical/2020/05/05/db90d790-8ee7-11ea-9e23-6914ee410a5f_story.html

Ralph Vartabedian, “Scientists have identified a new strain of the coronavirus that appears to be more contagious,” Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-05-05/mutant-coronavirus-has-emerged-more-contagious-than-original


Academia

Emma Whitford, “Public Higher Ed Funding Still Has Not Recovered From 2008 Recession,” Inside Higher Ed, May 5, 2020, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/05/05/public-higher-education-worse-spot-ever-heading-recession


  1. [1]Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach, “Researchers hypothesize that a highly contagious strain of the coronavirus is spreading, but other experts remain skeptical,” Washington Post, May 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/researchers-hypothesize-that-a-highly-contagious-strain-of-the-coronavirus-is-spreading-but-other-experts-remain-skeptical/2020/05/05/db90d790-8ee7-11ea-9e23-6914ee410a5f_story.html; Ralph Vartabedian, “Scientists have identified a new strain of the coronavirus that appears to be more contagious,” Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-05-05/mutant-coronavirus-has-emerged-more-contagious-than-original
  2. [2]Greg Palast, “The Downing Street Memos, Manipulation of Prewar Intelligence, and Knowingly Withholding Vital Information from a Grand Jury Investigation,” in Impeach the President, eds. Dennis Loo and Peter Phillips (New York: Seven Stories, 2006), 131-142; Nancy Snow, “Propaganda, Lies, and Patriotic Jingoism,” in Impeach the President, eds. Dennis Loo and Peter Phillips (New York: Seven Stories, 2006), 143-160.
  3. [3]David A. Graham, “What Mueller’s Indictment Reveals,” Atlantic, February 16, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/mueller-roadmap/553604/
  4. [4]Helen Davidson, “WHO says it has no evidence to support ‘speculative’ Covid-19 lab theory,” Guardian, May 4, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/05/who-says-it-has-no-evidence-to-support-speculative-covid-19-lab-theory-pushed-by-us
  5. [5]Joby Warrick et al., “Chinese lab conducted extensive research on deadly bat viruses, but there is no evidence of accidental release,” Washington Post, April 30 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/chinese-lab-conducted-extensive-research-on-deadly-bat-viruses-but-there-is-no-evidence-of-accidental-release/2020/04/30/3e5d12a0-8b0d-11ea-9dfd-990f9dcc71fc_story.html
  6. [6]Helen Davidson, “WHO says it has no evidence to support ‘speculative’ Covid-19 lab theory,” Guardian, May 4, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/05/who-says-it-has-no-evidence-to-support-speculative-covid-19-lab-theory-pushed-by-us
  7. [7]Joby Warrick et al., “Chinese lab conducted extensive research on deadly bat viruses, but there is no evidence of accidental release,” Washington Post, April 30 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/chinese-lab-conducted-extensive-research-on-deadly-bat-viruses-but-there-is-no-evidence-of-accidental-release/2020/04/30/3e5d12a0-8b0d-11ea-9dfd-990f9dcc71fc_story.html
  8. [8]Ralph Vartabedian, “Scientists have identified a new strain of the coronavirus that appears to be more contagious,” Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-05-05/mutant-coronavirus-has-emerged-more-contagious-than-original

The Great Depression, redux?

I have no reason for pride tonight.

I got the car back from the mechanic. He fixed control rods and a fan that had started making noise the day before I took it in and got it through the annual Pennsylvania-required inspection.

The steering seems tighter and the brakes somewhat firmer. I had probably been driving with broken control rods for months, at some risk to my own and to my passengers’ safety. I had no idea. And Spitzer, which had been so anxious to flag my rear brakes as needing immediate attention when they still had over fifty percent remaining, never noticed.


Pandemic

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Fig. 1. We can only wish. Meme included in a semi-private email, April 8, 2020, artist uncredited, fair use.

I had been working on a new blog entry entitled, “I fear for our world,” when I got the call from my mechanic that my car was done. And so I took off, went to work, and didn’t get either the blog entry or this issue out until this evening.

Caitlin Oprysko, “Jerry Falwell Jr. says warrants are out for 2 journalists after critical stories on coronavirus decision,” Politico, April 8, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/08/liberty-university-falwell-reporters-warrants-176346

Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam, “6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, bringing the pandemic total to over 17 million,” Washington Post, April 9, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/09/66-million-americans-filed-unemployed-last-week-bringing-pandemic-total-over-17-million/