Alexander Sammon, “Prop 22 Is Here, and It’s Already Worse Than Expected,” American Prospect, January 15, 2021, https://prospect.org/labor/prop-22-is-here-already-worse-than-expected-california-gig-workers/
Alexander Sammon, “Prop 22 Is Here, and It’s Already Worse Than Expected,” American Prospect, January 15, 2021, https://prospect.org/labor/prop-22-is-here-already-worse-than-expected-california-gig-workers/
It’s not quite explicit, but I would expect that taxi, Uber, and Lyft drivers would be included with “public transit workers” in Phase 1B of the vaccine rollout. Uber had earlier requested early access for its drivers.
Ryan W. Miller, “How will you know when it’s your turn for a COVID vaccine? It’s complicated,” South Bend Tribune, December 28, 2020, https://www.southbendtribune.com/news/local/how-will-you-know-when-its-your-turn-for-a-covid-vaccine-its-complicated/article_12040b2e-460f-11eb-ac18-df7117a159f5.html
Originally published, December 27, 2020, at 11:14 am.
December 27, 2020, 11:12 pm:
Clearly, I am not the only one peeved about the snow plowing in Pittsburgh, as a council member, whose district includes Carrick, is raising Cain, in response, he says, to complaints.
That said, the roads were generally a whole lot better today, except in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Carrick and in the City of McKeesport. I was wondering if the fact that the temperature had risen to over forty degrees had something to do with it, but then saw the streets in Carrick, and figured I knew who was on the snow plowing shit list.
I saw one snow plow today, parked with its lights going in the South Side, where there was no need for plowing (although I didn’t go through the South Side Slopes, a steep neighborhood with some excruciatingly narrow streets, one of which I got into trouble on yesterday). I am charitably presuming the operator was taking a break. And I am deeply suspicious that I might be being much too charitable.
Then I got home and saw the snow, which had been several inches deep, had melted completely off in places with a southern exposure and not just in places where kids might be snowboarding downhill. So I don’t know.
Whatever the explanation, the fact that you could cross the city limits in any direction and find roads in generally better shape even when the blizzard was in full force has to raise some questions.
Donald Trump reportedly signed the COVID-19 economic relief bill he had earlier criticized, but not before additional unemployment benefits had lapsed. Whether Trump gets the $2,000 direct payment, rather than the $600, remains to be seen.
The additional unemployment benefits that boosted payments and also helped the usually unassisted self-employed that were included with an earlier COVID-19 relief bill have now expired, and the finger pointing has begun:
Trump refused to sign the bill, Congressional Republicans refuse to help. https://t.co/5wJR0KipaL
Unemployment benefits for millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet lapsed overnight as a government shutdown looms. https://t.co/tnxWNyeKkl
— Action News on 6abc (@6abc) December 27, 2020
— PA House Democrats (@PaHouseDems) December 27, 2020
But both parties dithered for months because there are exactly two real goals here:
Natalie Andrews and Andrew Restuccia, “Trump Signs Covid-19 Aid Bill Averting Government Shutdown,” Wall Street Journal, December 27, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-signs-covid-19-aid-bill-averting-government-shutdown-11609117841
Tami Luhby, Sarah Westwood, and Nikki Carvajal, “Unemployment benefits lapse for jobless Americans as Trump holds out on signing relief bill,” CNN, December 27, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/26/politics/unemployment-benefits-stimulus-relief-bill/index.html
So l see @PGHDPW claims they have snow plows working.
Bullshit. I drive all over #Pittsburgh, the city and surrounding areas. I saw *one* snow plow Friday and it wasn't spreading salt, just pushing around a top layer of slush. I saw maybe *two* yesterday; only one salting.
— David Benfell, Ph.D. (@n4rky) December 27, 2020
KDKA Television, “Pittsburgh Councilman Publicly Criticizes ‘Unacceptable’ State Of Roads After Snowfall,” December 27, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/12/27/pittsburgh-councilman-publicly-criticizes-unacceptable-state-of-roads-after-snowfall/
In case you missed any, there have been three new blog postings recently:
Originally published, December 19, 2020, at 9:41 pm.
December 20, 2020, 10:26 am:
Then there’s Donald Trump’s madness as he seeks to name a conspiracy theorist as special prosecutor investigating alleged election fraud. C’mon now, no one seriously thinks this man is sane, right?
The KDKA Television headline implies that the story covers multiple Pittsburgh restaurants defying Governor Tom Wolf’s order forbidding indoor dining but, despite allegedly originating in Washington County, and while it is true that other restaurants are in at least rhetorical defiance, the story is really only about Al’s Cafe in Bethel Park. Bethel Park is in Allegheny County.
The restaurant’s owner, Rod Ambrogi, has previously figured in organizing restauranteur opposition to Wolf’s COVID-19 restrictions, which Wolf simply blew off. Ambrogi claims he’s doing it to support his employees, and while I don’t know what he pays his employees, Pennsylvania’s tipped minimum wage is a mere $2.83 per hour. In general, workers have absorbed all of the risk of their employers’ defiance while seeing little in the way of tips because there haven’t been many customers, especially when social distancing rules are observed, as Ambrogi claims to be doing, limiting the number of tables.
Ambrogi’s comparison of his workers to those in other retail establishments is specious. Diners lower their masks to consume food and beverage. Grocery and other store customers are required to keep their masks on at all times.
I’m having a very hard time swallowing that there have not been more severe consequences for this willful defiance in absolute disregard for health and safety. I think Wolf should be responding to these reports by sending in Pennsylvania State Troopers, jailing the restaurant owners, permanently revoking their licenses, and forbidding them from ever having licenses again.
Of course, given the likely existence of right-wing militia in the area, Wolf might be deciding that discretion is the better part of valor.
December 20, 12:25 pm:
Michael Lind argues that the political divide in the U.S. is not so much urban versus rural, but rather a very few very wealthy zip codes against everyone else. This, of course, dovetails with my understanding of the U.S. as a constitutional oligarchy, but does not address the profound and irreconcilable differences that divide voters in the country.
Lind then takes up the question of Senate and Electoral College representation and suggests granting statehood to one or more candidate territories. This, of course, still does not address the profound and irreconcilable differences that divide voters in the country.
December 20, 1:05 pm:
My mother notes, regarding Donald Trump’s interest in invoking the Insurrection Act to remain in power, that the military, like all people in U.S. government employment, swears an oath to the Constitution, not, as much as our fealty-loving delusional raging narcissist-in-chief might otherwise prefer, to the president. And this is true.
However, it is also true that force cohesion is a concern for any military leader. The idea here is pretty simple: You want your troops fighting the enemy, not each other, whether literally or figuratively. Given that some of these troops are right-wing militia members or white supremacists, strongly supporting Trump, that cohesion becomes suspect. In addition, Trump has had nearly four years to reshape senior leadership at the Pentagon.
The best that can safely be said is that how this plays out remains to be seen.
— Marky Corleoneo (@MCorleoneo) December 19, 2020
Paul Guggenheimer and Joyce Hanz, “Alle-Kiski Valley restaurants continue to defy governor’s order suspending indoor dining,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 18, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/valley-news-dispatch/alle-kiski-valley-restaurants-continue-to-defy-governors-order-suspending-indoor-dining/
Paul Peirce, “Westmoreland County Sheriff won’t enforce Gov. Wolf’s new covid-19 orders,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 19, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/westmoreland/westmoreland-county-sheriff-wont-enforce-gov-wolfs-new-covid-19-orders/
Royce Jones, “COVID-19 In Pittsburgh: Several Restaurants Defy Statewide Restrictions, Stay Open For Indoor Dining,” KDKA Television, December 20, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/12/20/restaurants-defy-statewide-restrictions/
Michael Lind, “The ZIP Codes That Rule America,” Tablet, December 16, 2020, https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/the-zip-codes-that-rule-america
Originally published, December 16, 2020, 7:28 am.
December 16, 10:15 am:
Fig. 1. “‘Are we there yet?’” Cartoon by David Sipress for the New Yorker, December 15, 2020, fair use.
December 16, 2:50 pm:
I’m back home, safely.
Fig. 2. Photograph by author, December 16, 2020, on Lebanon Road, West Mifflin.
I tried going out to do the usual Uber thing but found I lacked sufficient traction for safe braking on parts of Streets Run Road even as I was on my way to my first order. I got the lady where she was going and went off line.
People are driving conservatively, quite an adjustment for me after a year and a half of 25 miles per hour over the limit being the norm (it’s reckless and an automatic suspension where I come from), but even so, I was delayed getting home due to a collision on Lebanon Road (figure 2). Lebanon Road is a heavily traveled road and there wasn’t a snowplow in sight.
I don’t even have any idea what to say. It’s not like it should even remotely be a surprise that poverty in the U.S. is skyrocketing along with shoplifting. Because—yet another utter and complete non-surprise—the elites don’t give a fuck. Social scientists have only been telling us about the link between so-called “common crime” and poverty for, like, forever.
December 16, 8:15 pm:
I wound up not going back out. I looked at the weather forecast and decided that if the snowplows weren’t already caught up, which they weren’t, they weren’t going to be before morning. My Twitter feed is full of reports of collisions in the area. I’m glad I wasn’t out.
Fig. 3. Photography by author, December 16, 2020. My idea of Christmas trees. Alive, in the ground, and unadorned with useless crap. There was a third tree that unfortunately got toppled in a recent windstorm.
December 17, 10:05 am:
This might be another day at home. From what I’m able to gather, the roads are still a mess, with more snow expected later this afternoon.
This isn’t an easy call. It’s a slow time of year anyway. I need to make the money I can because even at the best of times, my margin is pretty thin.
December 17, 2:44 pm:
December 18, 8:46 am:
I need to begin here by emphasizing that I am not in favor of Donald Trump serving another four years. I don’t support Joe Biden either, but that’s another issue.
At stake here is a final effort among Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to overturn the election results in which Biden won and Trump lost. It apparently requires 1) at least one representative and at least one senator to bring the matter to a vote, and 2) the assent of both the House and the Senate to reject some electoral college votes. This is not forthcoming in the Democrat-controlled House so, just as the Democrats in the House can pass bills that sound progressive but remain true to neoliberal dogma with the assurance that they are dead on arrival in the Senate, the Senate could pass such a rejection with absolutely no fear that it would pass the House. Senate Republicans would have expressed their fealty to Trump and Georgia Trumpsters might be a little less convinced that Republicans have not done enough to “defend” Trump, thus improving the likelihood that Republicans would win the upcoming Senate runoffs in Georgia.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is worried that Republican senators would feel compelled to vote against the move and thus decline Trump his “defense,” leading to a catastrophe in 2022 and therefore urges senators against supporting it. I don’t understand that. Because this is in any case dead in the House. Republican senators could remain true to Trumpism by supporting the rejection with no fear that it would pass the House. It would be a toothless move.
Marianne Levine and Melanie Zanona, “McConnell warns Senate Republicans against challenging election results,” Politico, December 15, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/12/15/mcconnell-gop-election-results-445524
Heather Long, “Nearly 8 million Americans have fallen into poverty since the summer,” Washington Post, December 16, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/12/16/poverty-rising/
Originally published, December 14, 2020, at 8:28 am.
December 14, 9:46 pm:
I know I wasn’t the only one to forecast violence following Donald Trump’s defeat. I’m sure it’s no consolation for any of us that this prediction is proving correct as violence is now widespread.
They’re getting pretty brazen at the Crack’d Egg restaurant in Brentwood, a Pittsburgh suburb not far from where I live. Allegheny County has been trying to shut the place down for violating COVID-19 orders for months but the restaurant, which has filed for bankruptcy, keeps opening up and the owner was photographed with two sheriff’s deputies. Brentwood Police, who are supposed to enforce the governor’s order, refuse.
There’s more coming. I’m having some technical issues that will require a reboot.
December 14, 10:41 pm:
Honestly, Mac OS updates are usually not nearly so awful as Windows updates. With the latter, you might as well walk away from your system until the following day because it’ll take that fucking long. So when I say Mac OS updates aren’t as bad, this is what is called damnation by faint praise. They’re still awful, time-consuming, and disruptive. And Apple managed to box me into doing the update when I still had work to do. It isn’t just the operating system update. It’s a bunch of other stuff that is OS-version dependent, all keeping me from getting work done, and all of these upgrades buggy as hell. Are you getting that I’m really not happy with Apple right now? (I tolerate it because of proprietary hardware—yeah, I’d like to be able to fucking print something once in a while, for just one example, and Linux printing is a neglected and inexcusably horrible mess—that won’t work with free operating systems.) That’d be because right now, this upgrade is, for all practical purposes, acting like a Windows upgrade. Which means I’ll have to come back to this tomorrow.
December 15, 7:00 am:
This seems to have been an unusually problematic Mac OS upgrade for me. I’m still trying to figure out what all is wrong. And it’s way too fucking early in the morning.
The electoral college has confirmed Joe Biden’s election victory as Bill Barr resigned. But, of course, Donald Trump and his supporters battle on, even as more Republicans start to acknowledge Trump’s defeat. It’s hard to imagine Trump increasing his support here, but that obviously isn’t the point.
Almost every night when I get gas, there’s an ad on the damned gas pump television urging me to go work for Amazon. I, of course, know better. I know better even as the ad emphasizes, “Safety! Safety! Safety!” Because dehumanizing, unhealthy, and dangerous working conditions have long been the story of Amazon warehouses. But you know, you’d think for a company that supposedly emphasizes safety, they’d be a little more forthcoming in response to the California Attorney General’s subpoena for COVID-19 information. But you know, Amazon.
December 15, 2020, 11:15 am:
Braddock is among the poorest communities in Allegheny County. Its former mayor, now Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, sought to revitalize the town and there are a couple businesses that seem meant to appeal to yuppies. Among them is a restaurant named Peppers N’At, which you may add to the list of likely COVID-19 scofflaws among restaurants in the county. Its owner claims to indulge in satire, but it sure looks like his ‘jokes’ are in the mode of Donald Trump when the latter says something really stupid and bigoted and that attracts universal condemnation.
Ahem, regarding Dr. Jill Biden. I completely endorse Monica Hesse’s column and the Wall Street Journal should not only retract Joseph Epstein’s column but apologize for even considering it for publication.
Merriam-Webster, “The History of ‘Doctor,’” n.d., https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/the-history-of-doctor
Monica Hesse, “The Wall Street Journal column about Jill Biden is worse than you thought,” Washington Post, December 13, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/dr-jill-biden-wall-street-journal/2020/12/13/e43883a4-3d45-11eb-8db8-395dedaaa036_story.html
Peter Hermann, Marissa J. Lang, and Clarence Williams, “Pro-Trump rally descends into chaos as Proud Boys roam D.C. looking to fight,” Washington Post, December 13, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/proud-boys-protest-stabbing-arrest/2020/12/13/98c0f740-3d3f-11eb-8db8-395dedaaa036_story.html
Hannah Knowles, Annie Gowen, and Tom Hamburger, “‘A dark, empty place:’ Public officials face personal threats as tensions flare,” Washington Post, December 13, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/public-officials-threatened-covid-election/2020/12/13/680bd380-3be7-11eb-bc68-96af0daae728_story.html
David Charter, “Trump announces law chief Bill Barr has quit as electoral college backs Joe Biden,” Times, December 15, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/trump-announces-law-chief-bill-barr-has-quit-as-electoral-college-backs-joe-biden-wnzzxkczt
Paula Reed Ward, “Crack’d Egg flouts shutdown as deputies quarantined for dining, taking photos with owner,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 14, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/crackd-egg-flouts-shutdown-as-deputies-quarantined-for-dining-taking-photos-with-owner/
Paula Reed Ward, “Restaurant owner sues Braddock mayor, claims defamation,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 14, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/restaurant-owner-sues-braddock-mayor-claims-defamation/
Patrick McGreevy and Suhauna Hussain, “California demands that Amazon comply with COVID-19 investigation,” Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-12-14/california-lawsuit-amazon-workplace-conditions-covid-19
Originally published, December 9, 2020, 10:47 am.
December 10, 10:00 am:
As Donald Trump seems increasingly to be exhausting his avenues to overturn the election results in the courts, he, of course, still refuses to concede defeat and is now pressuring Republicans in Congress to reject electoral college slates. It doesn’t sound like this effort will be any more fruitful. But Congress, of course, is a political arena rather than a legal one, and it’s clear that Republicans remain cowed by Trump’s base.
As this drags on, something the rest of us need to consider is that this is not really about fraud in any legal sense. Trump has been abusing the court system with frivolous and utterly unfounded challenges to the results.
What it is about, even as the campaign posters, flags, and banners start to come down, is that Trump is still able to raise huge amounts of money claiming fraud. Trump may indeed be a grifter, exploiting the most aggrieved tendencies (authoritarian populism and social conservatism) that form his base. But as warped as the rest of us might believe it to be, some are even engaging in uncivil disobedience, verging on violence. Even to the extent we may suspect that the louder their protests, the more desperate their plea for validation, we need to understand that they are losing their hero, they believe they are losing “their” “democracy,” and, to them, this result seems profoundly unjust, exacerbating their sense of grievance.
The real story of Trump’s fraud allegations won’t be over even when it is.
December 10, 1:27 pm:
The Arizona Republican Party denies it condones violence but asked its followers on Twitter if they were willing to die to overturn the election results.
Gee, Robert Merton might’ve told you this’d happen. He argued that if you don’t give people socially approved means of achieving socially approved ends, they’ll resort to other means. I think he was talking about climbing the ladder of social mobility, which in the U.S., has a few rungs missing anyway. But now, with Congress failing to pass an economic relief package for the pandemic, guess what? Shoplifting of essentials like food, diapers, and feminine hygiene products is skyrocketing.
December 10, 9:44 pm:
December 11, 12:00 noon:
I have updated an old blog post from August, entitled “The Donald Trump supporters’ campaign message: Fuck Your Feelings.” Reprising what has happened since the election, I note that “the sheer delight Trumpsters take in vicious cruelty toward others, even when they don’t take it so well themselves, a persistent bullying that raises doubt that the political divisions in the country can be resolved, for they derive not so much from politics as from psychological impairment.”
It is, of course, impolite to observe psychological impairment and in my dissertation I declined to address the psychology of conservatism as a distraction from the issues conservatives of various tendencies raise. I am not a psychologist and so it is difficult for me to delve deeply into the psychology of conservatism, especially Trumpism, anyway. But it’s clear that the remove I chose for my dissertation is no longer appropriate.
December 11, 11:00 pm:
Fig. 1. Photograph by author, December 11, 2020.
I had regarded the calls for and threats—both implicit and explicit—of violence to overturn the election results, even as the court system resoundingly rejects legal efforts toward the same end, principally as an authoritarian populist phenomenon, though I thought surely that some extremist paleoconservatives (including white supremacists) would surely join in.
It seems I was wrong. At least one social conservative has echoed that call. I should emphasize here that the author of this article, Rod Dreher, is, I believe, a traditionalist conservative, normally sympathetic with social conservatives. I don’t agree with him on much. But he expresses horror at his friend’s call for bloodshed.
Dreher skillfully describes the hysteria that is at work here. He is alarmed and I am alarmed: If enough people call for violence, some people will be violent, especially when they believe their god commands it.
This seems to underscore my recent thinking that the distinctions I drew between authoritarian populists, paleoconservatives, and social conservatives in my dissertation, even given that such distinctions are fuzzy, are really rather dubious.
The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed Texas’ attempt to overturn the election results from four states.
Lawsuits continue around the country, and [Donald] Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani said on Newsmax, “We’re not finished, believe me.” But the Texas case was the one upon which the president and his allies had pinned their hopes, and time is almost up.
The election results have been certified in each state, and the electoral college is to meet Monday. [Joe] Biden has 306 electoral votes, exactly the number Trump had when he was elected in 2016. But while Trump lost the popular vote then, Biden has an advantage of more than 7 million votes.
Following a series of bogus legal challenges, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected without comment a bid to overturn the Pennsylvania election results and more than 1,500 lawyers have signed a letter calling for Donald Trump’s lawyers to be investigated and disbarred.
Robert Barnes, “Supreme Court denies Trump allies’ bid to overturn Pennsylvania election results,” Washington Post, December 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-trump-pennsylvania-election-results/2020/12/08/4d39e16c-397d-11eb-98c4-25dc9f4987e8_story.html
Kim Bellware and John Wagner, “Letter from 1,500 attorneys says Trump campaign lawyers don’t have ‘license to lie,’” Washington Post, December 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/12/08/trump-lawyer-letter/
Rod Dreher, “Eric Metaxas’s American Apocalypse,” American Conservative, December 10, 2020, https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/eric-metaxas-trump-bloodshed-american-apocalypse-live-not-by-lies/
Sophie Lewis, “Arizona Republican Party asks followers if they’re willing to die to overturn election results,” CBS News, December 10, 2020, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/arizona-republican-party-twitter-election-results-death-overturn/
Robert Barnes, “Supreme Court dismisses bid led by Texas attorney general to overturn the presidential election results, blocking Trump’s legal path to a reversal of his loss,” Washington Post, December 11, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-texas-election-trump/2020/12/11/bf462f22-3bc6-11eb-bc68-96af0daae728_story.html
An eviction moratorium is set to expire at the end of the year with high unemployment and many people thousands of dollars behind on the rent. There is still no meaningful relief in sight.
Heather Long, “Millions of Americans are heading into the holidays unemployed and over $5,000 behind on rent,” Washington Post, December 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/12/07/unemployed-debt-rent-utilities/
Abha Bhattarai and Hannah Denham, “Stealing to survive: More Americans are shoplifting food as aid runs out during the pandemic,” Washington Post, December 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/12/10/pandemic-shoplifting-hunger/
There is new blog post entitled, “When the Sword of Damocles hangs instead over the powerless.”
Heather Somerville, “Uber Sells Self-Driving-Car Unit to Autonomous-Driving Startup,” Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-lyft-face-a-no-sharing-economy-11603710180
Originally published, November 15, 2020, 11:55 am.
November 15, 2020, 9:24 pm:
So I guess today was a howler. I had noticed a series of traffic lights along Greentree Road, west of the intersection with Cochran were out. Later, I was driving up Lime Hollow Road in Penn Hills and was grateful for my very, very bright LED high beams because that road had been plunged into utter darkness (the new moon was just after midnight this morning). Then I happened to be driving past the gas station I usually stop at at the end of my day to fill my tank and noticed all the lights were out. They close at 10 pm anyway, so I surmised, correctly as it turned out, that there’d been a power outage that had lasted long enough that they’d just decided to close early.
So when I finished my day, I stopped at a different gas station and then drove home. After I parked my car in my garage, I walked across the street to the parking lot nearest my apartment and noticed that one of three evergreen trees near the street by that lot had toppled. I’d just been mourning the tree that got cut down for Pittsburgh’s city Christmas tree. Now here was another one, literally a lot closer to home.
Of course when I got home, I had to turn back on various filters, fans, and heaters (I keep air moving). But it appears my uninterruptible power supply kept my desktop system up so the outage can’t have been that long.
The Allegheny County Health Department had stopped sending out daily updates on COVID-19 cases on Sunday. This evening, at 5:50 pm, they made an exception, as the daily case count climbed to “an all-time high of 527 cases.” They are warning that they will have to take action, quoting the Director of the Health Department, Debra Bogen, saying,
Doing nothing is no longer an option as we must protect our healthcare workers, both at hospital and long-term care facilities, and our first responders during this health crisis. People are doing well in structured settings, but we continue to see more and more cases as a result of unmonitored, private social gatherings.
The notice does not say what actions will be taken and given the apparent unwillingness of the public to comply with health measures, I’m expecting a spike about two weeks after each of the three major upcoming holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years). This looks like it could be really, really ugly.
November 16, 2020, 9:38 am:
A few folks are worried about what’s going to happen nationally with the pandemic as we go through the holiday season (see previous update). The Wall Street Journal has a story that shows what happens when people succumb to “pandemic fatigue.”
“A lot of people just feel like I’m through with Covid, I’ve done all I can,” said Dr. [Bruce] Dennis, who recently suffered his own bout of the virus, along with his wife, daughter, son-in-law, and 6-month-old grandchild. “It’s now just really time to start.”
For months after the pandemic began, Shawna Sero stayed cooped up at home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, refusing to go out with friends. With asthma and a weak immune system, the 40-year-old was terrified about getting infected, she said.
But after watching the Iowa Hawkeyes’ first football game of the season with her parents and siblings at home a few weekends ago, she let her guard down and decided to go to a bar with a friend.
“I just wanted to keep having fun,” she said. “It had been so long.”
Last week, Ms. Sero lay in a bed in a converted pediatric unit of Mercy Medical Center texting with her sister several floors down. She had been admitted to the hospital a couple of days earlier, struggling to breathe after testing positive for Covid-19. Her 42-year-old sister, also Covid-19 positive, was now in the emergency room, seeking relief from a cough so intense it sometimes made her vomit.
The rest of the family was showing symptoms too: her 37-year-old brother, Bobby Sero, who had tested positive and was texting the sisters from the master bedroom of his home where he was holed up to prevent his wife and five children from infection; their father, a 60-year-old diabetic, who hasn’t wanted to go to the hospital despite feeling sick; and their 59-year-old mother, who moved out at the end of October after a divorce and was awaiting test results at her new Illinois home.
I think there really are limits to what people can do. But some people are taking that inch and turning it into a mile, as with assholes going to the South Side in Pittsburgh (see original text below). Their selfishness makes it worse—lethally worse—for the rest of us.
That said, it would help a lot if politicians would take the pandemic seriously enough to actually do something about the economic effects of further restrictions rather than just refusing to impose those restrictions. But of course, neoliberal dogma forbids it.
November 16, 2020, 10:13 pm:
What is Donald Trump up to, really? Really, we don’t know. Fred Hiatt outlines three possibilities. Personally, I just think Trump is batshit crazy, which most resembles Hiatt’s scenario #3, but I don’t know either. His scenario #1 is essentially the electoral college manipulation I’ve been talking about, which I think could draw in armed militia groups. At this point, scenario #1 is probably—only probably—the least likely, but Hiatt doesn’t rule it out, and I think really, he’s right not to. Scenario #2 looks a lot like the parallel government idea that Jonathan Freedland put forth. This, too, could draw in the militia groups.
I had a passenger yesterday who was going to Pittsburgh’s South Side—the principal neighborhood to get drunk, get tattoos, and do other stupid shit—he said, for the first time since March. He had decided, and indeed told his parents, that it was “worth it,” as if he were the only one at risk from his behavior. This, even as COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County are spiking to previously unseen heights following Halloween festivities. I only occasionally see even this much caution.
The surge in Allegheny County echoes what’s happening around the country, but the appearance here to me is that people are just ignoring it. Some wear masks; many do not. Social distancing is rarely observed. I hear many passengers talk about getting together with their families pretty much like any other year.
The pandemic is bad. It’s getting worse. And I have doubts that even if authorities were to impose another lockdown—for now, they seem to be sticking to their earlier line that they won’t impose another lockdown—that people would comply. It isn’t just young people and it isn’t even just people I would identify as conservative. It’s everybody.
Shelby Cassesse, “Coronavirus In Pittsburgh: Allegheny County Seeing Substantial Transmission Rate,” KDKA, November 14, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/11/14/rising-coronavirus-cases-allegheny-county/
Betsy McKay and Erin Ailworth, “Covid Is Resurging, and This Time It’s Everywhere,” Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/new-covid-surge-u-s-restrictions-11605466754
It seems Uber is trying to reduce its exposure to the costs of developing self-driving car technology, which is unlikely to be ready for prime time anytime soon, by selling at least a stake to other players. This strikes me as a climb down from former CEO Travis Kalanick’s assertion that the technology was “existential” for Uber and current CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s doubling down on the technology even as there were well-founded doubts that this could even remotely play as they hoped.
What has to be remarkable here is the pass Uber and Lyft get. As I’ve previously noted, they hemorrhage money in a realm where profit is supposedly what matters and have no realistic prospect for making money, even if they succeed with self-driving technology.
Now, any job I’ve ever had, I’ve actually had to show results. Even at Linuxcare, when I found myself spinning my wheels, I found my way into roles where I was productive. Even now, driving for Uber and Lyft, I actually have to pick passengers up, get them to where they’re going, and drop them off. I don’t get to just burn money.
But I guess these companies are special. Because now what we’re seeing is that even as Uber climbs down even from the one ill-founded hope that it could ever be profitable, there’s no talk whatsoever of shutting it down. Indeed, their executives make ludicrous amounts of money while I get less than minimum wage and live in continuous financial terror. This discrepancy alone has to be proof that capitalism is theft.
Kirsten Korosec, “Uber in talks to sell ATG self-driving unit to Aurora,” TechCrunch, November 13, 2020, https://techcrunch.com/2020/11/13/uber-in-talks-to-sell-atg-self-driving-unit-to-aurora/
It’s been my observation since Richard Nixon that each president is worse than his predecessor, largely due to the embrace of neoconservatism and especially, its moral imperative, neoliberalism. I wait with bated breath to see just how Joe Biden will manage to be worse than Donald Trump (probably by embracing and extending the latter’s policies, just as Barack Obama did with George W. Bush).
Paul Guggenheimer, “James Buchanan not a tough act to follow for Biden as 2nd president from Pennsylvania,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 15, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/buchanan-not-a-tough-act-to-follow-for-biden-as-2nd-president-from-pennsylvania/
Marissa J. Lang et al., “After thousands of Trump supporters rally in D.C., violence erupts when night falls,” Washington Post, November 15, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2020/11/14/million-maga-march-dc-protests/
Fred Hiatt, “Trump is putting this country through something unprecedented. Here are three scenarios,” Washington Post, November 15, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-wants-to-overturn-the-results-of-a-free-and-fair-election-theres-a-word-for-that/2020/11/13/cb94b77e-25b6-11eb-952e-0c475972cfc0_story.html
Originally published, November 5, 8:54 am.
November 5, 2020, 9:52 am:
Amerikkka has a bullying culture. Whether you are #WhiteSupremacist or a #Neoliberal, you are about scapegoating and punishing subaltern groups within the country. If you are in any way #Neoconservative (the bipartisan consensus), you punish subaltern groups outside the country.
— David Benfell, Ph.D. (@n4rky) November 5, 2020
November 5, 10:10 am:
Regarding the tweet in the previous update,
I should emphasize that these are not mutually exclusive but rather overlapping categories. #Neoconservatism views #Neoliberalism as a moral imperative it also favors "law and order" (read mass incarceration and the crushing of dissent).
— David Benfell, Ph.D. (@n4rky) November 5, 2020
November 5, 11:09 pm:
Yesterday (November 4), I wrote,
Win or lose, it speaks volumes that the Democratic Party has done so poorly both in political practice and in the election against an incumbent who mishandled the pandemic for all the wrong reasons, as I previously put it,
|State||Percent counted||Leader||Electoral Votes|
|North Carolina||94||Donald Trump||15|
Indeed, it’s taking so long for Pennsylvania to flip Biden’s way that I’m starting to wonder if it’s actually going to happen. And, really, Georgia is still too close to call at 99 percent counted?
Today (November 5), Owen Jones begins,
How could the electoral circumstances for the US Democrats have been more favourable? A quarter of a million Americans have died in a pandemic bungled by the incumbent president, and at least 6 million have consequently been driven into poverty. The coronavirus crisis is the devastating climax of a presidency defined by hundreds of scandals, many of which alone, in normal circumstances, could have destroyed the political career of whoever occupied the White House.
Despite having the active support of almost the entire US press, Joe Biden’s victory looks to be far narrower than predicted. During the Democratic primaries, Biden’s cheerleaders argued that his socialist challenger Bernie Sanders would repel Florida’s voters, and yet Donald Trump has triumphed in the sunshine state. They argued that his “unelectable” rival would risk the Senate and down-ballot races, yet the Republicans may retain control of the Senate, and Democrats are haemorrhaging seats in the House of Representatives.
Nathan Robinson chimes in,
But [Joe] Biden didn’t offer a clear and compelling alternative [to Donald Trump]. He was a weak candidate from the start, so much so that even some of his allies were worried what would happen if he won the primary. Biden, like Hillary Clinton before him, represented the corporate wing of the Democratic party; he loudly defended the private health insurance industry and the fracking industry from attacks by the left. He ran away from proposals favored by the Democratic base like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. He didn’t show much interest in courting core constituencies like Latino voters (reportedly, the Biden campaign did not consider them part of its “path to victory”, which helps explain the losses in Texas and Florida). Biden didn’t even put much energy into the campaign; at crucial moments when Trump’s team were knocking on a million doors a week, Biden’s was reportedly knocking on zero. His ground game in important swing states like Michigan was “invisible”.
Shortly before the election, my mom called (I suspect due to the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the then-impending battle to replace her), desperate for me to vote Democratic as I live in a swing state, Pennsylvania. I told her I couldn’t do it (I voted a straight Green Party ticket, omitting contests where no Green Party candidate was available). Jones explains why, in voting for Democrats, I would be voting for my own continued impoverishment. Robinson castigates the Democrats for “insanity,” as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result,” and really that’s what I would be doing in voting for Democrats. Sorry, Mom, but no. I’ve suffered way too many shit jobs and way more than enough unemployment, poverty, gig work, and inability to get a real job already, even in over 19 years, even with a Ph.D., all in large part due to a bipartisan neoconservative/neoliberal consensus.
The Democrats will never ever again get my vote. Any more than the Republicans ever could.
There were lots of updates to the last issue. At this point, I’m assuming Joe Biden won. That doesn’t solve much because Donald Trump has exposed just how prevalent white supremacism and a vicious attitude toward some subaltern groups are. Even if Trump goes away, the people he enabled aren’t.
They are rather the values of Amerikkka and we should quit deluding ourselves about where we live. https://t.co/FP53W2brwo
— David Benfell, Ph.D. (@n4rky) November 4, 2020
The election makes obvious that Trump was not an aberration. That he has done as well as he has, despite being one of the worst presidents in U.S. history, speaks both to the patheticism of the Democratic Party and to a substantial portion of the U.S. population that wants more of the same.
Should the Democratic nominee prevail, [Jim] Doyle said, “Joe Biden has to rise to the occasion almost to FDR, as a Democrat might say, or to Reagan, as a Republican might say, proportions. Half the country are not horrible, racist, mean-spirited people who are different from everybody else. It can’t be. And roughly half the country voted for Trump.”
Jim Doyle is flatly wrong. “Half the country,” more when you count neoliberals, are indeed “horrible, racist, mean-spirited people” (figure 1). Denying that doesn’t change the reality and it doesn’t change the reality of a political polarization that has prevailed at least since Bill Clinton’s presidency.
Fig. 1. Photograph by author, August 25, 2020.
We should also be clear that Republicans are likely retaining control of the Senate under the obstructionist Mitch McConnell, and that Democrats will have a reduced majority in the House of Representatives. There is absolutely no sign that the Republicans will have the ‘epiphany’ that Biden predicted and we are foolish to imagine that they will.
Now, as to the count, the only thing that has changed since last night is the percentages counted:
|State||Percent counted||Leader||Electoral Votes|
|North Carolina||94||Donald Trump||15|
My presumption remains that the late counts are likely to break Biden’s way and that this will flip Pennsylvania.
Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, “Election reveals deeper divides between red and blue America,” Washington Post, November 4, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/america-divided-rural-urban/2020/11/04/8ddac854-1ebf-11eb-b532-05c751cd5dc2_story.html
Owen Jones, “Even if Biden wins, the world will pay the price for the Democrats’ failures,” Guardian, November 5, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/nov/05/biden-democrats-democratic-trump
Nathan Robinson, “Trump should have lost in a landslide. The fact that he didn’t speaks volumes,” Guardian, November 5, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/nov/05/trump-should-have-lost-in-a-landslide-the-fact-that-he-didnt-speaks-volumes
Ishaan Tharoor, “Trumpism is here to stay,” Washington Post, November 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/11/05/trumpism-here-to-stay/
The polls got the election wrong, again, and Mona Chalabi critiques the idea of a representative sample, but there really should be no mystery as to why the polls were wrong. With survey methodology, the response rate should be ninety percent. It has dropped to six or seven percent, which is to scream at the top of one’s lungs that people who respond to polls are a self-selecting group, little better than a convenience sample, who cannot speak for those who do not respond. That’s what Valerie Sue taught me when I took my first methods class back at California State University, East Bay, in the early 2000s, and I don’t care what games you play: She’s still right.
Chalabi has a point in that people are demographically complex—indeed, this is what kyriarchy is all about—but the point of a representative sample is that you capture that complexity to get an accurate picture of the larger population. As with all quantitative research, we are dealing not so much with diversity as we are with aggregates. The problem here is that we are not getting representative samples, indeed, not anything even remotely close. Because the response rates are abysmal.
David A. Graham, “The Polling Crisis Is a Catastrophe for American Democracy,” Atlantic, November 4, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/11/polling-catastrophe/616986/
Mona Chalabi, “The pollsters were wrong – again. Here’s what we know so far,” Guardian, November 4, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/commentisfree/2020/nov/04/the-pollsters-were-wrong-again-heres-what-we-know-so-far