The surprise that anyone is surprised

There is a new blog post entitled, “A tipping point.”


Michael Bloomberg

I think what I find most surprising is that anyone is surprised by what happened to Michael Bloomberg last night. A close second would be that Elizabeth Warren was so disproportionately a heavy hitter in the attack.[1]

Amy Davidson Sorkin, “A Very Bad Night For Michael Bloomberg in a Chaotic Democratic Debate,” New Yorker, February 20, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/a-very-bad-night-for-michael-bloomberg-in-a-chaotic-democratic-debate


Roger Stone

Jennifer Rubin praises U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s sentencing of Roger Stone effusively,[2] but neglects that the sentence Jackson handed down fell within the range specified in the Department of Justice’s revised recommendation.[3]

Jennifer Rubin, “Roger Stone’s sentencing shows what the ‘rule of law’ is all about,” Washington Post, February 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/20/roger-stones-sentencing-shows-what-rule-law-is-all-about/

Paul Waldman, “Roger Stone just got 40 months. Get ready for what Trump will do next,” Washington Post, February 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/20/roger-stone-just-got-40-months-get-ready-what-trump-will-do-next/

Rachel Weiner et al., “Roger Stone sentenced to three years and four months in prison, as Trump predicts ‘exoneration’ for his friend,” Washington Post, February 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/roger-stone-sentence-due-thursday-in-federal-court/2020/02/19/2e01bfc8-4c38-11ea-9b5c-eac5b16dafaa_story.html


  1. [1]Amy Davidson Sorkin, “A Very Bad Night For Michael Bloomberg in a Chaotic Democratic Debate,” New Yorker, February 20, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/a-very-bad-night-for-michael-bloomberg-in-a-chaotic-democratic-debate
  2. [2]Jennifer Rubin, “Roger Stone’s sentencing shows what the ‘rule of law’ is all about,” Washington Post, February 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/20/roger-stones-sentencing-shows-what-rule-law-is-all-about/
  3. [3]Rachel Weiner et al., “Roger Stone sentenced to three years and four months in prison, as Trump predicts ‘exoneration’ for his friend,” Washington Post, February 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/roger-stone-sentence-due-thursday-in-federal-court/2020/02/19/2e01bfc8-4c38-11ea-9b5c-eac5b16dafaa_story.html

‘A house built by slaves’

White House

I think a difficulty Ta-Nehisi Coates faces in making his case for reparations[1] may be that, at the remove of the 21st century, we—whites at least—tend to think of slavery as something that happened on southern plantations a long time ago. It’s difficult now to imagine just how intrinsic slavery was to the early U.S. economy and even its way of life.[2] This Washington Post story[3] begins to peel back that delusion with what Michelle Obama called “a house built by slaves.”[4]

As I review this draft, I see the words “white house” and think of two nearby towns that passengers flagged for me as particularly white supremacist, at least in their police forces.[5] I don’t name them because as an Uber and Lyft driver, I frankly depend on those and other police to overlook my own inevitable transgressions of traffic law.

It is very apparent to me that the grace—in my case, a daily average of 137 miles of grace in a very difficult driving situation[6]—police here extend to me and other whites is not something they extend to Blacks. I understand all too well also that my income depends in part on people who are, accordingly, afraid to drive while Black,[7] while I struggle to make a living in the only career option that is available to me, even with a Ph.D.[8]

I can comfort myself with the recognition that ethics can only apply where there is choice. It is still a very uncomfortable position.

Joe Heim, “The enslaved people who built and staffed the White House: An afterthought no more,” Washington Post, February 17, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/the-enslaved-people-who-built-and-staffed-the-white-house-an-afterthought-no-more/2020/02/17/5e5393ea-483c-11ea-8124-0ca81effcdfb_story.html


Judiciary

The Washington Post has more[9] on the Federal Judges Association calling an emergency meeting about Donald Trump’s and William Barr’s interference in line prosecutorial decisions.[10] This is the unfortunate the money line: “[Cynthia M.] Rufe’s comments gave no hint of what the association could or would do in response.”[11]

Fred Barbash, “Federal judges reportedly call emergency meeting in wake of Stone case intervention,” Washington Post, February 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/02/18/judges-meeting-trump/


Pittsburgh

The wind must have been very favorable (judging from the water, perhaps nonexistent) the day this photograph was taken.

As I understand it, those are not the current Fort Pitt (to right) and Fort Duquesne (to left) Bridges. I’m not sure if there was really a park there then, but there is now and it’s at least somewhat larger, with a fountain. The current bridges come into downtown a little farther back.


  1. [1]Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” Atlantic, June 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/
  2. [2]Sven Beckert, “Slavery and Capitalism,” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 12, 2014, https://www.chronicle.com/article/SlaveryCapitalism/150787/
  3. [3]Joe Heim, “The enslaved people who built and staffed the White House: An afterthought no more,” Washington Post, February 17, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/the-enslaved-people-who-built-and-staffed-the-white-house-an-afterthought-no-more/2020/02/17/5e5393ea-483c-11ea-8124-0ca81effcdfb_story.html
  4. [4]Michelle Obama, quoted in Joe Heim, “The enslaved people who built and staffed the White House: An afterthought no more,” Washington Post, February 17, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/the-enslaved-people-who-built-and-staffed-the-white-house-an-afterthought-no-more/2020/02/17/5e5393ea-483c-11ea-8124-0ca81effcdfb_story.html
  5. [5]David Benfell, “The place where I live,” Not Housebroken, December 26, 2020,
  6. [6]David Benfell, “Pittsburgh driving for the uninitiated,” Irregular Bullshit, n.d., https://disunitedstates.com/pittsburgh-driving-for-the-uninitiated/
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Hey cops! Do you know what year it is?” Not Housebroken, August 27, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/27/hey-cops-do-you-know-what-year-it-is/; David Benfell, “The binary between ‘Black’ and ‘Blue’ Lives,” Not Housebroken, January 3, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/01/03/the-binary-between-black-and-blue-lives/; David Benfell “To a Pennsylvania House Minority Leader: When cops profile you, they don’t actually need an offense,” Not Housebroken, January 16, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/01/16/to-a-pennsylvania-house-minority-leader-when-cops-profile-you-they-dont-actually-need-an-offense/
  8. [8]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  9. [9]Fred Barbash, “Federal judges reportedly call emergency meeting in wake of Stone case intervention,” Washington Post, February 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/02/18/judges-meeting-trump/
  10. [10]Kevin Johnson, “Federal judges’ association calls emergency meeting after DOJ intervenes in case of Trump ally Roger Stone,” USA Today, February 17, 2020, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/02/17/roger-stone-sentence-judges-worried-political-interference/4788155002/
  11. [11]Fred Barbash, “Federal judges reportedly call emergency meeting in wake of Stone case intervention,” Washington Post, February 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/02/18/judges-meeting-trump/

Staying where I am

Gig economy

There is a new blog post entitled, “Ridesharing traffic woes illustrate a defect of (not just) high tech thinking.”

Eliot Brown, “The Ride-Hail Utopia That Got Stuck in Traffic,” Wall Street Journal, February 15, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-ride-hail-utopia-that-got-stuck-in-traffic-11581742802


Housekeeping

As my regular readers know, I’ve been anguished by evidence of racism, white supremacism, and even possible militia activity in the Pittsburgh area.[1] I’ve been photographing the gratuitous displays of guns, tanks, and other munitions that really seem like ludicrous overkill, that often seem really to form a white supremacist message for Blacks.[2] I have witnessed and been profoundly distressed by police behavior I’ve witnessed.[3]

None of this is okay with me and some of you know I’ve been considering moving, possibly to a less gun-nutty state, possibly to within Pittsburgh city limits.

In the meantime, I’ve been managing to make my apartment nicer and nicer. And the prospect of another move is, well, less than enticing. As I’ve been looking around, it seems increasingly clear that I need a real job, for which I still have no prospect, to significantly improve my situation and increasingly likely that I would otherwise be, at best, exchanging one set of problems for another.

Today, my car registration renewal notice came in the mail. It had an option to renew for one or two years. It wasn’t that expensive to do so, so I renewed it for two years. I’m staying where I am, or at least in Pennsylvania, at least for the foreseeable future.


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Militia territory,” Not Housebroken, November 22, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/11/22/militia-territory/; David Benfell, “The place where I live,” Not Housebroken, December 26, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/26/the-place-where-i-live/; David Benfell, “How am I to respond?” Not Housebroken, December 31, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/30/how-am-i-to-respond/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “The banners and the guns: Flagrant racism in Pittsburgh,” Not Housebroken, October 12, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/09/20/the-banners-and-the-guns-flagrant-racism-in-pittsburgh/
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Hey cops! Do you know what year it is?” Not Housebroken, August 27, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/27/hey-cops-do-you-know-what-year-it-is/

William Barr’s bullshit

As controversy swirls around some candidates’ allegedly “unrealistic” promises, it might not be a bad idea to revisit a blog post from last year entitled, “Cats are smarter than we are. Really.


William Barr

William Barr’s complaint that, “To have public statements and tweets made about the department, about our people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department, and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job,”[1] reeks of bullshit from top to bottom. As Jon Allsop writes,

[William] Barr’s ABC interview, it seems, was an effort to wind back the clock. Did it work? News stories in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal credited him, respectively, with a “remarkable rebuke” and “striking criticism” of the president. Barr, the Times added, had “publicly challenged Mr. Trump in a way that no sitting cabinet member has.” Elsewhere, however, skepticism of Barr’s motives abounded. On CNN, Cuomo—who changed his tune on Barr during the Mueller episode—said the interview was “a slap right in Trump’s piehole” but that he suspected it was a ploy to “distract the media with the drama while ignoring the fact” of the Stone case. (Cuomo and others suggested that Trump may have authorized Barr’s criticisms—Trump’s response to them, that they didn’t bother him, was suspicious, they said, since Trump isn’t typically sanguine about expressions of disloyalty. Reporting in the Times and the Post seems to contradict this theory.) In a tweet, Ari Melber, chief legal correspondent at MSNBC, offered a pithy rewording of what Barr said: “I stand by intervening to help a convicted Trump adviser, but I wish Trump did not admit what we are doing on Twitter.”[2]

Allsop argues that it’s more likely simply that Barr is a true believer in “the centralization of presidential power—just to the point, critics say, where the president is effectively above the law”—than that he coordinated this outburst with Donald Trump.[3]

One way or another, what we’re seeing is either a culmination of or, as it seems to me, a step beyond the neoconservative theory (or at least a theory they favored when they were in power) of the unitary executive, which while consolidating considerable power in the presidency, never seemed to me to allow for the president to be entirely above the law. Neoconservatism, a backlash to the social uprisings of the 1960s and 1970s, rather deploys law (ask, whose law, passed by whom, protecting whom, from whom?), order (ask, whose order?), and proactive war—even imperialism—to protect the Amerikkkan system of so-called democracy (really a republic[4]) and capitalism from challenge, whether foreign or domestic.[5] That should leave Trump subject to legal constraint. Instead, as Allsop notes, the lesson he takes from impeachment, Susan Collins and colleagues notwithstanding,[6] is that “he can break the rules with impunity.”[7]

In any event, Trump didn’t take long to “declar[e] that he has the ‘legal right’ to ask his top law enforcement official to get involved in a criminal case,” the very sort of intervention that prompted all this.[8] It will be Barr’s response to this, if any, that I think will be most instructive.

Jon Allsop, “Angry Barr and whether the press is getting played,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 14, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/william_barr_roger_stone_trump.php

Matt Zapotosky and John Wagner, “Trump bucks Barr’s request to stop tweeting about Justice Dept., declaring a ‘legal right’ to seek intervention in criminal cases,” Washington Post, February 14, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-appears-to-escalate-standoff-with-attorney-general-and-justice-dept-declaring-on-twitter-a-legal-right-to-influence-criminal-cases/2020/02/14/8c152c36-4f2f-11ea-bf44-f5043eb3918a_story.html


  1. [1]William Barr, quoted in Jon Allsop, “Angry Barr and whether the press is getting played,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 14, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/william_barr_roger_stone_trump.php
  2. [2]Jon Allsop, “Angry Barr and whether the press is getting played,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 14, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/william_barr_roger_stone_trump.php
  3. [3]Jon Allsop, “Angry Barr and whether the press is getting played,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 14, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/william_barr_roger_stone_trump.php
  4. [4]David Benfell, “The species we must become: On direct democracy, or why its alleged bugs are features,” Not Housebroken, June 16, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/06/16/the-species-we-must-become-on-direct-democracy-or-why-its-alleged-bugs-are-features/
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  6. [6]Seung Min Kim, “These Republicans said they hope Trump has learned a lesson from impeachment. He said he hasn’t,” Washington Post, February 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/these-republicans-said-they-hope-trump-has-learned-a-lesson-from-impeachment-he-said-he-hasnt/2020/02/04/fa68c18c-478e-11ea-ab15-b5df3261b710_story.html
  7. [7]Jon Allsop, “Angry Barr and whether the press is getting played,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 14, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/william_barr_roger_stone_trump.php
  8. [8]Matt Zapotosky and John Wagner, “Trump bucks Barr’s request to stop tweeting about Justice Dept., declaring a ‘legal right’ to seek intervention in criminal cases,” Washington Post, February 14, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-appears-to-escalate-standoff-with-attorney-general-and-justice-dept-declaring-on-twitter-a-legal-right-to-influence-criminal-cases/2020/02/14/8c152c36-4f2f-11ea-bf44-f5043eb3918a_story.html

Monday maybe?

Iowa

So does this mean we’ll actually have final results Monday?

“The [Iowa Democratic Party] has initiated the process of review of the requested precincts, and any corrections will be released before Monday at 12pm CST in a single update – reported prior to the allocation of national delegates,” an unsigned statement from the state party read.[1]

Zach Montellaro, “Iowa Democratic Party reviewing results from 95 precincts,” Politico, February 8, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/08/iowa-democratic-party-reviewing-results-112532


Gig economy

U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee said during a hearing in Los Angeles that it was “a steep hill to climb” for Uber and Postmates to argue that the statute [California’s AB 5] irrationally targets the app-based companies on the grounds that many workers in other industries were exempt from it.

“I can’t second guess the legislature unless you show me an example of an exemption that absolutely doesn’t make sense,” Gee said.[2]

Thud.

Joel Rosenblatt and Edvard Pettersson, “Uber Falters in First Legal Attack on California Gig Worker Law,” Bloomberg, February 7, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-02-07/uber-poised-to-lose-bid-to-block-california-gig-worker-law


  1. [1]Zach Montellaro, “Iowa Democratic Party reviewing results from 95 precincts,” Politico, February 8, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/08/iowa-democratic-party-reviewing-results-112532
  2. [2]Joel Rosenblatt and Edvard Pettersson, “Uber Falters in First Legal Attack on California Gig Worker Law,” Bloomberg, February 7, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-02-07/uber-poised-to-lose-bid-to-block-california-gig-worker-law

Waiting, waiting, waiting…. Keep those pundits waiting…. Caucuses!

Amazon

Michael Sainato, “‘I’m not a robot’: Amazon workers condemn unsafe, grueling conditions at warehouse,” Guardian, February 5, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/feb/05/amazon-workers-protest-unsafe-grueling-conditions-warehouse


Iowa

Reminder: There’s a new blog post entitled, “Neoliberal hubris and the Iowa fiasco.”

I’m starting to wonder what’s going on. There have been no updates since around midnight.

Figure 1 shows the popular count, with Bernie Sanders leading.
FireShot Capture 059 - Election Results - U.S. ELECTIONS - elections.ap.org
Fig. 1. Screenshot of Associated Press Iowa caucus results, as of 1:55 am.[1]

Figure 2 shows a caucus count, which I think somehow translates to the number of delegates Iowa will actually send to the Democratic Convention, with Pete Buttigieg leading.
FireShot Capture 060 - Election Results - U.S. ELECTIONS - elections.ap.org
Fig. 2. Screenshot of Associated Press Iowa caucus results, as of 8:22 am.[2]

Andrew Gumbel, “Iowa and the grand tradition of election tech mishaps,” Guardian, February 5, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/feb/05/iowa-election-tech-issues-florida


State of the Union


  1. [1]Associated Press, “Iowa Elections Results,” February 5, 2020, https://elections.ap.org/dailykos/results/2020-02-03/state/IA/race/P/raceid/17278
  2. [2]Associated Press, “Iowa Elections Results,” February 5, 2020, https://elections.ap.org/dailykos/results/2020-02-03/state/IA/race/P/raceid/17275

Your job sucks. Thank neoliberals.

Labor

I’ve been revisiting my dissertation, specifically the seven tendencies of conservatism, and updating them in a new page which will continue to be developed, entitled, “The seven tendencies of conservatism.” A little has changed in that I have developed my understanding of the tendencies a little, and mainly that I have developed my understanding of neoliberalism, born from capitalist libertarianism but embraced by neoconservatism as a moral imperative, a lot.

In the course of going through the material there, I archived the articles that I cited in excerpts. I didn’t even read most of them, but inevitably, I browsed them, going through to get rid of extraneous crap like advertising.

I am reeling. I have been harshly critical of Barack Obama for excusing war crimes,[1] for refusing to prosecute the bank fraud that led to the 2007-2009 financial crisis,[2] and for leaving unemployed workers to twist in the wind.[3]

That last part is only mostly but not precisely accurate. Jobs were created in the wake of the financial crisis. But of an especially cruel sort, accelerating trends that had already been in place before the crisis[4] and that reflect neoliberal ideology.[5] For all my unhappiness at being stuck driving for Uber and Lyft, I had managed to forget what it’s like working in other low-level jobs. Here’s the reading list:

Daniel D’Addario, “Amazon is worse than Walmart,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/control/2013/07/30/how_amazon_is_worse_than_wal_mart/

Timothy Egan, “The Corporate Daddy,” New York Times, June 19, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/opinion/timothy-egan-walmart-starbucks-and-the-fight-against-inequality.html

Josh Eidelson, “Wal-Mart faces warehouse horror allegations and federal Labor Board complaint,” Salon, November 19, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/11/18/breaking_wal_mart_faces_warehouse_horror_allegations_and_federal_labor_board_complaint/

Josh Eidelson, “Tens of thousands protest, over 100 arrested in Black Friday challenge to Wal-Mart,” Salon, November 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/11/30/tens_of_thousands_protest_over_100_arrested_in_black_friday_challenge_to_wal_mart/

Josh Eidelson, “Finally paying for Wal-Mart’s sins: Wage theft settlement yields millions,” Salon, December 16, 2013, source

Josh Eidelson, “Freezing for Wal-Mart: Sub-zero warehouse temperatures spur Indiana work stoppage,” Salon, January 14, 2014, https://www.salon.com/test/2014/01/13/freezing_for_wal_mart_sub_zero_warehouse_temperatures_spur_indiana_work_stoppage/

Josh Eidelson, “Amazon Keeps Unions Out By Keeping Workers in Fear, Says Organizer,” Alternet, January 22, 2014, https://www.alternet.org/2014/01/amazon-keeps-unions-out-keeping-workers-fear-says-organizer/

Nichole Gracely, “‘Being homeless is better than working for Amazon,’” Guardian, November 28, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/nov/28/being-homeless-is-better-than-working-for-amazon

Steven Greenhouse, “The Changing Face of Temporary Employment,” New York Times, August 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/01/upshot/the-changing-face-of-temporary-employment.html

Erin Hatton, “The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy,” New York Times, January 26, 2013, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/the-rise-of-the-permanent-temp-economy/

Simon Head, “Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers,” Salon, February 23, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/02/23/worse_than_wal_mart_amazons_sick_brutality_and_secret_history_of_ruthlessly_intimidating_workers/

Paul Jaskunas, “The Tyranny of the Forced Smile,” New York Times, February 14, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/jobs/the-tyranny-of-the-forced-smile.html

Allison Kilkenny, “Ohio Walmart Holds Food Drive For Its Own Employees,” Nation, November 18, 2013, https://www.thenation.com/article/ohio-walmart-holds-food-drive-its-own-employees/

Paul Krugman, “The Plight of the Employed,” New York Times, December 24, 2013, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/24/the-plight-of-the-employed/

Paul Krugman, “The Fear Economy,” New York Times, December 26, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/27/opinion/krugman-the-fear-economy.html

Danielle Kurtzleben, “Read McDonald’s workers’ shocking harassment and discrimination complaints — and why they’re so important,” Vox, January 22, 2015, https://www.vox.com/2015/1/22/7873661/mcdonalds-lawsuit-harassment-discrimination

Edward McClelland, “You call this a middle class? “I’m trying not to lose my house,’” Salon, March 1, 2014, https://www.salon.com/test/2014/03/01/you_call_this_a_middle_class_i%E2%80%99m_trying_not_to_lose_my_house/

Mac McClelland, “I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave,” Mother Jones, March/April 2012, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/mac-mcclelland-free-online-shipping-warehouses-labor/

Nathaniel Mott, “From Amazon warehouse workers to Google bus drivers, it’s tough working a non-tech job at a tech company,” Pando, October 9, 2014, https://pando.com/2014/10/09/from-amazon-warehouse-workers-to-google-bus-drivers-its-tough-working-a-non-tech-job-at-a-tech-company/

Ari Rabin-Havt, “Wal-Mart flunks its fact-check: The truth behind its sarcastic response to the Times,” Salon, June 25, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/06/25/walmart_flunks_its_fact_check_the_truth_behind_its_sarcastic_response_to_the_times/

Alex Seitz-Wald, “Amazon is everything wrong with our new economy,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/07/30/amazon_is_everything_wrong_with_our_new_economy/

Alana Semuels, “As employers push efficiency, the daily grind wears down workers,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-harsh-work-20130407-story.html

Alana Semuels, “How the relationship between employers and workers changed,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2013-apr-07-la-fi-mo-harsh-work-history-20130405-story.html

Alana Semuels, “Tougher workplace makes home life worse too,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2013-apr-07-la-fi-mo-harsh-work-history-20130405-story.html

Spencer Soper, “Inside Amazon’s Warehouse,” Lehigh Valley Morning Call, September 18, 2011, https://www.mcall.com/business/mc-xpm-2011-09-18-mc-allentown-amazon-complaints-20110917-story.html

Lindsay Wise, “Report: Temp jobs at all-time high in U.S.,” McClatchy, September 2, 2014, https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/economy/article24772543.html

I wish I could make public the entry where I have all these stories archived. Copyright restrictions obviously inhibit this. But these stories reflect the fire I seek to avoid jumping into from the frying pan.


My book collection

One of the things I didn’t have space for as I was packing my car for the move across country was my book collection. My mother, bless her heart, has been shipping those books to me in packages as large as she could manage. She finished shipping them shortly before Christmas, and somehow, the Postal Service managed not to lose any of the packages.

On my side, there was the problem of acquiring bookcases. Ikea has ones that are great for someone like me who has as many books as I do. But Ikea’s delivery service sucks rocks in Pittsburgh. I went through hell getting both sets of bookshelves delivered. Getting them assembled wasn’t so bad: Task Rabbit, unfortunately of the gig economy, has sent great people to build them. But I wonder, given transportation time, how well it works out for the people who have helped me out enormously.

But now, thankfully, at last, I have my entire book collection here and it is shelved. I can’t tell you what a relief that is.


Hillary Clinton

I’ve said it before: Hillary Clinton needs to shut the fuck up.[6]

So now Tulsi Gabbard is suing her over some ill-considered words that she has refused to retract.[7] Of course, they’ll settle out of court, and then, Clinton will carry on as she always does. Because, accountability? 1) The very idea is misogynistic (that Gabbard is a woman is irrelevant; it’s those Russian men that put her up to it, which in turn suggests that Gabbard’s voice is not her own). And 2) accountability is for the little people. I mean, the impertinence!

Tobias Hoonhout, “Tulsi Gabbard Sues Hillary Clinton for Defamation over ‘Russian Asset’ Comments,” National Review, January 22, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/news/tulsi-gabbard-sues-hillary-clinton-for-defamation-over-russian-asset-comments/


WhatsApp

Just don’t use WhatsApp. Don’t.

James Titcomb, “Saudi crown prince ‘hacked Jeff Bezos’s phone with WhatsApp message,’” Telegraph, January 22, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2020/01/21/saudi-crown-prince-hacked-jeff-bezoss-phone-whatsapp-message/


 

  1. [1]Glenn Greenwald, “Obama’s justice department grants final immunity to Bush’s CIA torturers,” Guardian, August 31, 2012, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/aug/31/obama-justice-department-immunity-bush-cia-torturer; Elizabeth Holtzman, “Statutes of Limitations Are Expiring on Some Bush Crimes,” Nation, March 20, 2013, https://www.thenation.com/article/statutes-limitations-are-expiring-some-bush-crimes/; David Johnston and Charlie Savage, “Obama Reluctant to Look Into Bush Programs,” New York Times, January 11, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/12/us/politics/12inquire.html
  2. [2]Jason M. Breslow, “As Deadlines Loom for Financial Crisis Cases, Prosecutors Weigh Their Options,” Public Broadcasting System, January 22, 2013, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/business-economy-financial-crisis/untouchables/as-deadlines-loom-for-financial-crisis-cases-prosecutors-weigh-their-options/; Jason M. Breslow, “Too Big To Jail? The Top 10 Civil Cases Against the Banks,” Frontline, January 22, 2013, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/business-economy-financial-crisis/untouchables/too-big-to-jail-the-top-10-civil-cases-against-the-banks/; Jason M. Breslow, “Were Bankers Jailed In Past Financial Crises?” Public Broadcasting System, January 22, 2013, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/business-economy-financial-crisis/untouchables/were-bankers-jailed-in-past-financial-crises/; David Dayen, “Wall Street wins again,” Salon, February 13, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/02/13/wall_street_wins_again/; Frontline, “Phil Angelides: Enforcement of Wall St. is ‘Woefully Broken’,” Public Broadcasting System, January 22, 2013, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/business-economy-financial-crisis/untouchables/phil-angelides-enforcement-of-wall-st-is-woefully-broken/; Frontline, “Ted Kaufman: Wall Street Prosecutions Never Made a Priority,” Public Broadcasting System, January 22, 2013, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/business-economy-financial-crisis/untouchables/ted-kaufman-wall-street-prosecutions-never-made-a-priority/; Office of the Inspector General Audit Division, “Audit of the Department of Justice’s Efforts to Address Mortgage Fraud,” U. S. Department of Justice, March 2014, http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/2014/a1412.pdf; Barry Ritholz, “Why Prosecutors Whiffed on Subprime Crime,” Bloomberg View, March 14, 2014, http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-03-14/why-prosecutors-whiffed-on-subprime-crime; David Sirota, “Are banks too big to jail?” Salon, January 23, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/01/23/are_banks_too_big_to_jail/; David Sirota, “Barack Obama, Wall Street co-conspirator,” Salon, January 29, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/01/29/barack_obama_wall_street_co_conspirator/;
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Dickens redux,” Not Housebroken, August 3, 2011, https://disunitedstates.org/2011/08/03/dickens-redux/
  4. [4]Daniel D’Addario, “Amazon is worse than Walmart,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/control/2013/07/30/how_amazon_is_worse_than_wal_mart/; Timothy Egan, “The Corporate Daddy,” New York Times, June 19, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/opinion/timothy-egan-walmart-starbucks-and-the-fight-against-inequality.html; Josh Eidelson, “Wal-Mart faces warehouse horror allegations and federal Labor Board complaint,” Salon, November 19, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/11/18/breaking_wal_mart_faces_warehouse_horror_allegations_and_federal_labor_board_complaint/; Josh Eidelson, “Tens of thousands protest, over 100 arrested in Black Friday challenge to Wal-Mart,” Salon, November 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/11/30/tens_of_thousands_protest_over_100_arrested_in_black_friday_challenge_to_wal_mart/; Josh Eidelson, “Finally paying for Wal-Mart’s sins: Wage theft settlement yields millions,” Salon, December 16, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/12/16/finally_paying_for_wal_marts_sins_wage_theft_settlement_yields_millions/; Josh Eidelson, “Freezing for Wal-Mart: Sub-zero warehouse temperatures spur Indiana work stoppage,” Salon, January 14, 2014, https://www.salon.com/test/2014/01/13/freezing_for_wal_mart_sub_zero_warehouse_temperatures_spur_indiana_work_stoppage/; Josh Eidelson, “Amazon Keeps Unions Out By Keeping Workers in Fear, Says Organizer,” Alternet, January 22, 2014, https://www.alternet.org/2014/01/amazon-keeps-unions-out-keeping-workers-fear-says-organizer/; Nichole Gracely, “‘Being homeless is better than working for Amazon,’” Guardian, November 28, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/nov/28/being-homeless-is-better-than-working-for-amazon; Steven Greenhouse, “The Changing Face of Temporary Employment,” New York Times, August 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/01/upshot/the-changing-face-of-temporary-employment.html; Erin Hatton, “The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy,” New York Times, January 26, 2013, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/the-rise-of-the-permanent-temp-economy/; Simon Head, “Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers,” Salon, February 23, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/02/23/worse_than_wal_mart_amazons_sick_brutality_and_secret_history_of_ruthlessly_intimidating_workers/; Paul Jaskunas, “The Tyranny of the Forced Smile,” New York Times, February 14, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/jobs/the-tyranny-of-the-forced-smile.html; Allison Kilkenny, “Ohio Walmart Holds Food Drive For Its Own Employees,” Nation, November 18, 2013, https://www.thenation.com/article/ohio-walmart-holds-food-drive-its-own-employees/; Paul Krugman, “The Plight of the Employed,” New York Times, December 24, 2013, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/24/the-plight-of-the-employed/; Paul Krugman, “The Fear Economy,” New York Times, December 26, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/27/opinion/krugman-the-fear-economy.html; Danielle Kurtzleben, “Read McDonald’s workers’ shocking harassment and discrimination complaints — and why they’re so important,” Vox, January 22, 2015, https://www.vox.com/2015/1/22/7873661/mcdonalds-lawsuit-harassment-discrimination; Edward McClelland, “You call this a middle class? “I’m trying not to lose my house,’” Salon, March 1, 2014, https://www.salon.com/test/2014/03/01/you_call_this_a_middle_class_i%E2%80%99m_trying_not_to_lose_my_house/; Mac McClelland, “I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave,” Mother Jones, March/April 2012, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/mac-mcclelland-free-online-shipping-warehouses-labor/; Nathaniel Mott, “From Amazon warehouse workers to Google bus drivers, it’s tough working a non-tech job at a tech company,” Pando, October 9, 2014, https://pando.com/2014/10/09/from-amazon-warehouse-workers-to-google-bus-drivers-its-tough-working-a-non-tech-job-at-a-tech-company/; Marc Pilisuk with Jennifer Achord Rountree, Who Benefits From Global Violence and War (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2008).; Ari Rabin-Havt, “Wal-Mart flunks its fact-check: The truth behind its sarcastic response to the Times,” Salon, June 25, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/06/25/walmart_flunks_its_fact_check_the_truth_behind_its_sarcastic_response_to_the_times/; Alex Seitz-Wald, “Amazon is everything wrong with our new economy,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/07/30/amazon_is_everything_wrong_with_our_new_economy/; Alana Semuels, “As employers push efficiency, the daily grind wears down workers,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-harsh-work-20130407-story.html; Alana Semuels, “How the relationship between employers and workers changed,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2013-apr-07-la-fi-mo-harsh-work-history-20130405-story.html; Alana Semuels, “Tougher workplace makes home life worse too,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2013-apr-07-la-fi-mo-harsh-work-history-20130405-story.html; Spencer Soper, “Inside Amazon’s Warehouse,” Lehigh Valley Morning Call, September 18, 2011, https://www.mcall.com/business/mc-xpm-2011-09-18-mc-allentown-amazon-complaints-20110917-story.html; Lindsay Wise, “Report: Temp jobs at all-time high in U.S.,” McClatchy, September 2, 2014, https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/economy/article24772543.html
  5. [5]Daniel Altman, Neoconomy (New York: PublicAffairs, 2004); Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University, 2013); Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe (Princeton, NJ, Princeton University, 2012).
  6. [6]David Benfell, “Hillary Clinton needs to just shut the fuck up,” Not Housebroken, October 22, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/10/22/hillary-clinton-needs-to-just-shut-the-fuck-up/
  7. [7]Tobias Hoonhout, “Tulsi Gabbard Sues Hillary Clinton for Defamation over ‘Russian Asset’ Comments,” National Review, January 22, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/news/tulsi-gabbard-sues-hillary-clinton-for-defamation-over-russian-asset-comments/

What? You mean cops aren’t allowed to be ‘original’ or ‘creative?’

Qualified immunity

Just remember, they’re all, each and every one of them, “cop haters:”

The centerpiece of Cato’s strategic campaign to take down qualified immunity has been a series of targeted amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court to reverse its precedents and eliminate the doctrine outright. Since launching the campaign in March 2018, Cato has filed dozens of additional amicus briefs in our own name, but we have also organized a massive cross‐​ideological alliance of public interest groups opposed to qualified immunity — what Judge Don Willett recently called “perhaps the most diverse amici ever assembled.”[1]

To the extent I’m understanding this correctly, qualified immunity enables “rights‐​violating police and other government officials” to do whatever the fuck they please as long as they haven’t been explicitly told they can’t do it.

Judge Don Willett, a Trump appointee to the Fifth Circuit, has explained how “[t]o some observers, qualified immunity smacks of unqualified impunity, letting public officials duck consequences for bad behavior — no matter how palpably unreasonable — as long as they were the first to behave badly,” and sharply notes that “this entrenched, judge‐​created doctrine excuses constitutional violations by limiting the statute Congress passed to redress constitutional violations.”[2]

But originality counts! Doesn’t it?

I’m not a fan of the Cato Institute. They’re capitalist libertarians, that is, what neoliberals were before they got into power and became even worse hypocrites.[3]

But something I’ve noted for a long time is that capitalist libertarians are occasionally very, very good on constitutional issues. This might be one of those occasions.

Jay Schweikert and Clark Neily, “As Supreme Court Considers Several Qualified Immunity Cases, A New Ally Joins The Fight,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/supreme-court-considers-several-qualified-immunity-cases-new-ally-joins-fight


Iraq and Iran

Capitalist libertarians are also one of a triumvirate of sometimes anti-war conservative tendencies; the other two are paleoconservatives and traditionalist conservatives. Of these, the traditionalists are the most consistent and, truly, scathing. Some paleoconservatives are neo-Nazis and white supremacists, so for at least some of them, race war would be okay and their opposition to war is to foreign war—if you believe in preserving your own segregated society, it hardly makes any sense to involve yourself in other societies. And capitalist libertarians are against war until they think another principle, usually entailing money, is more important.[4]

This article[5] is useful for an explanation of just how it is that Congress ceded the power to start wars to the president:

But, unless you’re willing to go full John Yoo and endorse “the president’s right to start wars,” imminence matters because the constitutional claim has to be based on self‐​defense. Under Article II, the president retains some measure of defensive power, alternately described at the Convention as the power “to repel sudden attacks” or “to repel and not to commence war.” That power reasonably includes the use of force to avert an impending attack not yet begun. But as you move from shooting back, to addressing an immediate threat, to “deterring future Iranian attack plans” — or “re‐​establishing deterrence,” as Pompeo put it this week — the self‐​defense rationale disappears. If the Trump administration wants the general power to target Iranian military commanders as enemy combatants, it should make its case for war to Congress.[6]

The trouble, of course, is that many such “immediate threats” have involved long-running wars: Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, that is, every major military encounter the U.S. has been involved in following World War II. Each of them was ill-advised; not one has ended in anything like victory. They are simply occasions for killing people and for spending vast sums of money on the military rather than for helping people as elites argue violently over which of them will control which territories, the people on those territories, and the resources within those territories. Which is pretty much what war is about.[7]

Gene Healy, “On ‘Imminence’: Absence of Evidence is Evidence of Absence,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/imminence-absence-evidence-evidence-absence


Guns

So I was mentioning about paleoconservatives above and the possibility of race war? Fuck, here it is, along with a helping of militia in general:[8]

“The anticipation of violation of gun rights is common among militia groups more broadly — pretty easily seen in all the ‘molon labe’ patches worn by militia folks,” [Sam] Jackson said. (“Molon labe” is a classical Greek phrase meaning “come and take them.”) “Several novels that are important for the group depict war between Americans and the American government that begins with attempts at gun control.”

But beyond civil war, others expected to attend Monday’s rally are explicitly calling for a race war, in which white Americans will kill nonwhite Americans and Jewish people to establish a white ethnostate. Using the term “boogaloo” — a sarcastic reference to the 1980s film Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo that implies a “Civil War 2” of sorts — users of online forums like /pol/ are using Richmond as the impetus for the beginnings of a race war. They use phrases like “fuck all optics,” a reference to the last post shared on the social networking site Gab by the Tree of Life shooter, which has become a motto of sorts for white nationalists.[9]

I’m not seeing this rally so much as the start of a civil war as I am a harbinger of what may yet come. Though some militia movements are white supremacist, I generally associate them with authoritarian populism, and we are in a situation where I fear that the possibility that Donald Trump may be removed from office, either through impeachment or electoral defeat, may indeed provoke a very violent and heavily armed uprising.[10]

Jane Coaston, “The Virginia gun rights rally raising fears of violence, explained,” Vox, January 17, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/1/17/21067627/virginia-lobby-day-gun-laws-extremism


Pittsburgh

Winter seemed finally to have arrived. I went out to my car yesterday to find three inches of snow on it. The snowfall amounts were weirdly variable. Even immediately adjacent cars didn’t seem to have that much and I hadn’t been on the road very long when I saw the snow was pretty thin on grass by the Allegheny County Airport. Areas north of the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers seemed barely to have received any at all.

There was more snow last night and a warning went up for snow and freezing rain today.[11] These looked to be conditions that would make me pause before going out. But I have no choice: Thinking I was in a bit better shape than it turns out I was, I ordered bookshelves to accommodate the last of my book collection that my mother has been sending me from the west coast (it’s all here now). That’s a hit on my bank accounts.

As it turned out, it was just rain, which melted a lot of the snow that had fallen the last couple nights.

Natasha Lindstrom, “Storm to bring 1 to 5 inches of snow, dangerous travel conditions to Western Pa.,” TribLive, January 17, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/storm-to-bring-1-to-5-inches-of-snow-dangerous-travel-conditions-to-western-pa/


Amish

Since coming to Pittsburgh, I’ve been surprised that I haven’t seen more Amish. I expected to at least cross their territory on various trips. I haven’t.

The only time I’ve seen them, it was outside a hospital in Pittsburgh. They were recognizable by their plain dress and were standing around a trash bin, using it as a platform, eating. I don’t know their story.

From what I know of them, stories of normalized rape such as those presented here[12] are most emphatically not the picture they would like the world to have of them. The ethical dilemma for me as a human scientist is two-fold: 1) Of course, these women need support and their assailants should face far harsher penalties than they are; but 2) how do we present Amish society such that it isn’t totalized as rape culture? It isn’t like “English” (the term used by Amish to refer to their non-Amish neighbors) society has such a wonderful a track record either.

Sarah McClure, “The Amish Keep to Themselves. And They’re Hiding a Horrifying Secret,” Cosmopolitan, January 14, 2020, https://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a30284631/amish-sexual-abuse-incest-me-too/


Gig economy

Some things are a little too close to home. There is a substantial strain of capitalist libertarianism among denizens, especially the richer ones, of Silicon Valley. What we see with the “Silicon Valley Economy,” the gig economy, is the outcome of capitalist libertarians being absolutely certain they can get their way and acting accordingly.

My guess is that California’s AB 5 is a harbinger of what’s to come.[13] It may not appear in precisely that form everywhere, but it will appear in something like that form in enough places that the non-viability of companies that rely on misclassification of workers will be pushed even further.[14] But it’s going to take a while. And in the meantime, these capitalist libertarians will continue to be self-righteous as they extract ever more wealth from a very raw deal for workers.

Lia Russell, “The Silicon Valley Economy Is Here. And It’s a Nightmare,” New Republic, January 16, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/156202/silicon-valley-economy-here-its-nightmare


  1. [1]Jay Schweikert and Clark Neily, “As Supreme Court Considers Several Qualified Immunity Cases, A New Ally Joins The Fight,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/supreme-court-considers-several-qualified-immunity-cases-new-ally-joins-fight
  2. [2]Jay Schweikert and Clark Neily, “As Supreme Court Considers Several Qualified Immunity Cases, A New Ally Joins The Fight,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/supreme-court-considers-several-qualified-immunity-cases-new-ally-joins-fight
  3. [3]Capitalist libertarians have the oh-so-cute notion in which political power is a “threat to liberty” but never economic power. Neoliberals circumscribe that to declare that labor power is a “threat to liberty,” but never corporate power or the power of whomever can shovel the most money at, well, especially, the Clinton Foundation. Neoliberals think political power is great for deregulation, reducing taxes, and eviscerating the social safety net in the name of balancing the budget. They gain support from neoconservatives, who view neoliberalism as a moral imperative, in part because they never suggest that the military should be cut and mainly because capitalism is part of the Amerikkkan Way, the system which neoconservatives believe is universally best for all people everywhere and which they therefore believe must be aggressively and proactively “defended” from even the most remote challenges. David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126); see also David Benfell, “The larger question of California’s AB 5,” Not Housebroken, September 14, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/09/14/the-larger-question-of-californias-ab-5/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  5. [5]Gene Healy, “On ‘Imminence’: Absence of Evidence is Evidence of Absence,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/imminence-absence-evidence-evidence-absence
  6. [6]Gene Healy, “On ‘Imminence’: Absence of Evidence is Evidence of Absence,” Cato, January 17, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/imminence-absence-evidence-evidence-absence
  7. [7]David Benfell, “We ‘need to know how it works,’” Not Housebroken, March 19, 2012, https://disunitedstates.org/2012/03/19/we-need-to-know-how-it-works/
  8. [8]Jane Coaston, “The Virginia gun rights rally raising fears of violence, explained,” Vox, January 17, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/1/17/21067627/virginia-lobby-day-gun-laws-extremism
  9. [9]Jane Coaston, “The Virginia gun rights rally raising fears of violence, explained,” Vox, January 17, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/1/17/21067627/virginia-lobby-day-gun-laws-extremism
  10. [10]David Benfell, “The least violent solution,” Not Housebroken, December 16, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/16/the-least-violent-solution/
  11. [11]Natasha Lindstrom, “Storm to bring 1 to 5 inches of snow, dangerous travel conditions to Western Pa.,” TribLive, January 17, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/storm-to-bring-1-to-5-inches-of-snow-dangerous-travel-conditions-to-western-pa/
  12. [12]Sarah McClure, “The Amish Keep to Themselves. And They’re Hiding a Horrifying Secret,” Cosmopolitan, January 14, 2020, https://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a30284631/amish-sexual-abuse-incest-me-too/
  13. [13]David Benfell, “The larger question of California’s AB 5,” Not Housebroken, September 14, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/09/14/the-larger-question-of-californias-ab-5/
  14. [14]David Benfell, “Time for the gig economy to grow up,” Not Housebroken, August 30, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/30/time-for-the-gig-economy-to-grow-up/

Warmongers rob the poor. Leftists too often ignore them.

Bernie Sanders

There is a new blog post entitled, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched . . ..”


Iran and Iraq

I’m just leaving this here.


Facepalm, New Years Eve

There is a new blog entry entitled, “No, not everyone should learn to code.”


Pittsburgh

Where I live, the cops actually have to say this:

On the one hand, I’m glad to have reconnected with Pittsburgh, to have touched ground where so many of my relatives lived (and some, whom I haven’t seen in fifty years, still do) and where I lived for a couple years as a kid.

On the other hand, I have landed in a white supremacist hellhole.[1] I’m still working seven days a week with no visible hope for a better life. And this makes me feel I have made a terrible mistake.

Speaking of guns, I finally got this photograph and have added it to my map of Gratuituous Guns.
IMG_0073
Fig. 1. This is an artillery round of some sort, placed on a pillar outside, and pointing directly at, Carrick High School. Carrick is among the areas in Pittsburgh that appears predominantly Black.

The folks who place that artillery round there may wax holier than thou about how this is to honor those who fought in World War II and the Korean War to their hearts’ content. I see a bullet aimed at a high school and can only think that this is a really weird way to honor soldiers.

Small consolations: Amazon Prime delivers in one day here and I get my Whole Foods Market groceries delivered for free through PrimeNow.

And I get my Internet service much faster and, so far at least, much more reliably via fiber optic with Verizon FiOS. I do wish Comcast would quit putting junk mail in my box because, even if I weren’t already pissed at them for their crappy service in California, there’s no way cable is competing with fiber.


This (figure 2) pleases me greatly:
1529931813-20180625 (1)
Fig. 2. Comic by Zack Weinersmith, June 25, 2018, (un)fair use?

And if I have to explain it to you, you don’t understand the Oxford comma.


Gig economy

Uber and Postmates, with a couple drivers, are challenging California’s AB5, which would likely require the companies to treat drivers as employees.[2] Some shit is just annoying.[3]

There are a couple points here. First, the suit was filed in federal, not state, court and, second, on the basis that some industries were exempted, alleges the law fails to provide equal protection[4] (this sounds like a 14th amendment question[5]). The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that Uber and Lyft drivers are independent contractors, not employees[6] and while I expect that has little bearing on the question of equal protection, it may signify a different atmosphere at the federal level.

The law was meant to codify a state supreme court decision that many believed implicated gig economy labor practices but was actually in the case of a single company, Dynamex.[7] With the question being about equal protection, it seems clear that the federal court could strike down the California law without overturning the state supreme court decision, which would really mean that Uber and Lyft are likely still on the hook.

This is a long game, it’s still early, and it likely won’t end until and unless the companies capitulate.

Noam Scheiber, “Uber and Postmates File Suit to Block California Freelancer Law,” New York Times, December 30, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/30/technology/uber-and-postmates-file-suit-to-block-california-freelancer-law.html


Iraq

I had thought the U.S. Embassy in Iraq was the most heavily fortified in the world. It seems folks protesting the recent U.S. bombing there managed to break in anyway.[8]

But ya know, war is the solution, right?

Fucking idiots.

Luke Harding, “Trump accuses Iran over storming of US embassy compound in Baghdad,” Guardian, December 31, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/31/us-embassy-stormed-in-baghdad


  1. [1]David Benfell, “How am I to respond?” Not Housebroken, December 30, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/30/how-am-i-to-respond/
  2. [2]Noam Scheiber, “Uber and Postmates File Suit to Block California Freelancer Law,” New York Times, December 30, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/30/technology/uber-and-postmates-file-suit-to-block-california-freelancer-law.html
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Time for the gig economy to grow up,” Not Housebroken, August 30, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/30/time-for-the-gig-economy-to-grow-up/
  4. [4]Noam Scheiber, “Uber and Postmates File Suit to Block California Freelancer Law,” New York Times, December 30, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/30/technology/uber-and-postmates-file-suit-to-block-california-freelancer-law.html
  5. [5]U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1.
  6. [6]Vanessa Romo, “Uber Drivers Are Not Employees, National Relations Board Rules. Drivers Saw It Coming,” National Public Radio, May 15, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/05/15/723768986/uber-drivers-are-not-employees-national-relations-board-rules-drivers-saw-it-com
  7. [7]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; 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
  8. [8]Luke Harding, “Trump accuses Iran over storming of US embassy compound in Baghdad,” Guardian, December 31, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/31/us-embassy-stormed-in-baghdad; Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Protesters chanting ‘Death to America’ break into U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad,” Washington Post, December 31, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/iran-backed-militia-supporters-converge-on-us-embassy-in-baghdad-shouting-death-to-america/2019/12/31/93f050b2-2bb1-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html