Communicable diseases might not, after all, be protected by the First Amendment

Updates

  1. Originally published, May 5, 10:04 pm.
  2. May 6, 5:34 am:
    • I see some of my phrasing was unclear and inadequate. I have attempted to rectify it.
    • I can’t say if William Gumede is right or if he is wrong. He warns of a serious economic depression. He warns of authoritarianism, nationalism, and xenophobia. He does not present an argument I recognize from premises and evidence but mostly only conclusions. That said, there’s a lot going wrong in this situation and there is cause for grave concern, including that which he states, some of which is indeed already under way. His point would be that all this is getting worse.[1] And I still see absolutely no reason for optimism.

Pandemic

It appears that communicable diseases might not, after all, be protected by the First Amendment.[2] Meanwhile,

As President Trump presses states to reopen their economies, his administration is privately projecting a steady rise in coronavirus infections and deaths over the next several weeks, reaching about 3,000 daily deaths on June 1 — nearly double the current level.[3]

Aggressive moves to reopen the economy fail to account for that new strain of the novel coronavirus that may be more contagious and may be capable of infecting people who’ve already suffered the earlier strain.[4] And, in the absence of a vaccine or cure, they rely on “herd immunity,” which 1) might not exist, and 2) if it exists, may diminish over time or only be partial.[5] But hey, capitalist god, human sacrifice, all that.[6]

That said, I’m continuing to see an increase in traffic in Pittsburgh. The lockdown simply isn’t holding and I very strongly doubt it’s all poor people going back to work.

William Gumede, “The impact of coronavirus could compare to the Great Depression,” Al Jazeera, May 3, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/impact-coronavirus-compare-great-depression-200420070542882.html

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Eileen Sullivan, “As Trump Pushes to Reopen, Government Sees Virus Toll Nearly Doubling,” New York Times, May 4, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/04/us/politics/trump-coronavirus-death-toll.html

Sam Stanton, “Judge rejects Lodi church’s bid to resume in-person services, says California order legal,” Sacramento Bee, May 5, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article242512621.html


Gig economy

Courts are capricious, but given an existing California State Supreme Court decision,[7] I honestly don’t see how California loses its lawsuit to force Uber and Lyft to classify drivers as employees[8] under a law meant to enshrine that decision.[9]

Tim Higgins, “California Sues Uber, Lyft Saying They Misclassified Drivers as Independent Contractors,” Wall Street Journal, May 5, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/california-to-sue-uber-lyft-saying-they-misclassified-drivers-as-independent-contractors-11588700626


  1. [1]William Gumede, “The impact of coronavirus could compare to the Great Depression,” Al Jazeera, May 3, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/impact-coronavirus-compare-great-depression-200420070542882.html
  2. [2]Sam Stanton, “Judge rejects Lodi church’s bid to resume in-person services, says California order legal,” Sacramento Bee, May 5, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article242512621.html
  3. [3]Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Eileen Sullivan, “As Trump Pushes to Reopen, Government Sees Virus Toll Nearly Doubling,” New York Times, May 4, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/04/us/politics/trump-coronavirus-death-toll.html
  4. [4]Ralph Vartabedian, “Scientists have identified a new strain of the coronavirus that appears to be more contagious,” Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-05-05/mutant-coronavirus-has-emerged-more-contagious-than-original
  5. [5]Christie Aschwanden, “Sorry, Immunity to Covid-19 Won’t Be Like a Superpower,” Wired, April 16, 2020, https://www.wired.com/story/sorry-immunity-to-covid-19-wont-be-like-a-superpower/; David Benfell, “Don’t bet on ‘herd immunity,’” Not Housebroken, April 20, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/18/dont-bet-on-herd-immunity/
  6. [6]David Benfell, “The capitalist death cult,” Not Housebroken, March 27, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/27/the-capitalist-death-cult/; David Benfell, “An impatient capitalist god demands human sacrifice. Now,” Not Housebroken, April 17, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/15/an-impatient-capitalist-god-demands-human-sacrifice-now/; David Benfell, “I fear for our world,” Not Housebroken, April 17, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/09/i-fear-for-our-world/; David Benfell, “Don’t just say #COVIDIOTS,” Not Housebroken, April 19, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/19/dont-just-say-covidiots/; David Benfell, “When confusion starts killing people, it is long past time to recognize it for what it is,” Not Housebroken, April 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/21/when-confusion-starts-killing-people-it-is-long-past-time-to-recognize-it-for-what-it-is/; Joe Lowndes, “The Morbid Ideology Behind the Drive to Reopen America,” New Republic, April 30, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america
  7. [7]University of California, Hastings College of the Law, “UC Hastings Professor, Academic Leaders Call for Support of AB5,” August 26, 2019, https://www.uchastings.edu/2019/08/26/uc-hastings-professor-academic-leaders-call-for-support-of-ab5/
  8. [8]Tim Higgins, “California Sues Uber, Lyft Saying They Misclassified Drivers as Independent Contractors,” Wall Street Journal, May 5, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/california-to-sue-uber-lyft-saying-they-misclassified-drivers-as-independent-contractors-11588700626
  9. [9]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

The new geography of economics: ‘Coronavirus cliffs’

Today marks the completion of my 61st journey around the sun. There is, as there has been on numerous previous such milestones, absolutely nothing to celebrate.


Recession

Mitch McConnell continues to play the ‘bad guy,’ helping to defend neoliberal priorities.[1] This enables Democrats to pretend to want much more spending—they don’t and would be sounding a very similar note to what we hear from McConnell if they controlled the presidency and the Senate—in the name of economic recovery, for which read, reasserting economic power relationships.[2] This way, the Republicans continue to appeal to so-called “fiscal conservatives” (mostly capitalist libertarians and neoconservatives) while Donald Trump holds on to his authoritarian populist and social conservative base, the Democrats appeal to functionalist conservatives, neoconservatives, and progressives, and both parties are happy, at least through November, no matter who wins. But as usual, workers will get stiffed and the environment will get stiffed. In other words, politics as usual.

What remains to be seen is how well it all works and what happens when, as now seems almost certain, we plunge over what Ben White calls the ‘coronavirus cliff’[3] because neither party really wants the stimulus that is needed.[4]

On May 8, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its monthly unemployment report. Watch this report and the one in the following month, on June 5.[5] These are the first reports that will fully reflect the ‘cliff’ we have in fact already fallen over and are still tumbling down.[6] As these numbers sink in, watch the reaction. That will tell you much more than what we’re hearing right now.

There is a new blog post entitled, “On a baffling presumption of goodwill toward ‘essential’ workers.”

Martina Hund-Mejean and Marcela Escobari, “Our employment system has failed low-wage workers. How can we rebuild?” Brookings, April 28, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/04/28/our-employment-system-is-failing-low-wage-workers-how-do-we-make-it-more-resilient/

Ben White, “Trump faces the risk of a coronavirus cliff,” Politico, April 28, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/28/trump-reopening-coronavirus-213535

Justin Lahart, “Why the Economy Was Even Worse than the GDP Report,” Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-the-economy-was-even-worse-than-the-gdp-report-11588176851

Heather Long, “U.S. economy shrank 4.8 percent in first quarter, biggest decline since the Great Recession,” April 29, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/29/gdp-coronavirus/


Pandemic

I’m guessing there is going to be a run on four-ply microfiber cloth.[7]

Matthew Cox, “Army Says It Has Found the Best Fabric for DIY Face Masks,” Military.com, April 28, 2020, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/04/28/army-says-it-has-found-best-fabric-face-masks.html

Taylor Telford and Kimberly Kindy, “Trump to order meat plants to stay open in pandemic, person familiar with action says,” Washington Post, April 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/28/trump-meat-plants-dpa/


  1. [1]Ben White, “Trump faces the risk of a coronavirus cliff,” Politico, April 28, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/28/trump-reopening-coronavirus-213535
  2. [2]David Benfell, “The capitalist death cult,” Not Housebroken, March 27, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/27/the-capitalist-death-cult/
  3. [3]Ben White, “Trump faces the risk of a coronavirus cliff,” Politico, April 28, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/28/trump-reopening-coronavirus-213535
  4. [4]Anne Applebaum, “The Coronavirus Called America’s Bluff,” Atlantic, March 15, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/coronavirus-showed-america-wasnt-task/608023/; David Benfell, “Elite priorities: Why social, animal, and environmental justice remains essential with COVID-19,” Not Housebroken, April 26, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/26/elite-priorities-why-social-animal-and-environmental-justice-remains-essential-with-covid-19/; David Blanchflower, “Pandemic Economics: ‘Much Worse, Very Quickly,” New York Review of Books, March 26, 2020, https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2020/03/26/pandemic-economics-much-worse-very-quickly/; Kim Hart, “The coronavirus economy will devastate those who can least afford it,” Axios, March 23, 2020, https://www.axios.com/coronavirus-economy-layoffs-children-families-bad-d588cc93-ff26-4031-8be8-5654cce05a15.html; Zoë Hu, “A New Age of Destructive Austerity After the Coronavirus,” New Republic, April 23, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157417/new-age-destructive-austerity-coronavirus; Sarah Jones, “Dear Rich People: Please Stop Hoarding Things,” New York, March 30, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/things-are-bad-and-rich-people-arent-helping.html; Hanna Kozlowska, “Coronavirus is revealing ugly truths about social structure in the US,” Quartz, March 14, 2020, https://qz.com/1818548/coronavirus-is-revealing-ugly-truths-about-social-structure-in-the-us/; Eric Levitz, “In the Age of the Coronavirus, Biden’s ‘Results’ Require Bernie’s ‘Revolution,’” New York, March 16, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/who-won-the-democratic-debate-between-biden-and-bernie-coronavirus.html; Tony Romm, “Uber drivers and other gig economy workers were promised unemployment benefits. It may be a long wait,” Washington Post, April 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/02/uber-airbnb-lyft-unemployment-coronavirus/; Jenny Schuetz, “America’s inequitable housing system is completely unprepared for coronavirus,” Brookings, March 12, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2020/03/12/americas-inequitable-housing-system-is-completely-unprepared-for-coronavirus/; Luke Taylor, “When coronavirus is behind us, will you still think of restaurant and bar workers?” Vox, March 21, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/3/21/21188210/coronavirus-restaurant-bar-workers-economy-service-industry; Reis Thebault, Andrew Ba Tran, and Vanessa Williams, “The coronavirus is infecting and killing black Americans at an alarmingly high rate,” Washington Post, April 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/04/07/coronavirus-is-infecting-killing-black-americans-an-alarmingly-high-rate-post-analysis-shows/; Funda Ustek-Spilda et al., “The untenable luxury of self-isolation,” New Internationalist, March 18, 2020, https://newint.org/features/2020/03/18/untenable-luxury-self-isolation; Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Denise Lu, and Gabriel J.X. Dance, “Location Data Says It All: Staying at Home During Coronavirus Is a Luxury,” New York Times, April 3, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/03/us/coronavirus-stay-home-rich-poor.html
  5. [5]Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Schedule of Releases for the Employment Situation,” n.d., https://www.bls.gov/schedule/news_release/empsit.htm
  6. [6]David Blanchflower, “Pandemic Economics: ‘Much Worse, Very Quickly,” New York Review of Books, March 26, 2020, https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2020/03/26/pandemic-economics-much-worse-very-quickly/; Justin Lahart, “Washington’s Trillions Alone Can’t Stop the Jobpocalypse,” Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/washingtons-trillions-alone-cant-stop-the-jobpocalypse-11585235110; Justin Lahart, “Why the Economy Was Even Worse than the GDP Report,” Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-the-economy-was-even-worse-than-the-gdp-report-11588176851; Heather Long, “U.S. economy shrank 4.8 percent in first quarter, biggest decline since the Great Recession,” April 29, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/29/gdp-coronavirus/; Derek Thompson, “All the Coronavirus Statistics Are Flawed,” Atlantic, March 26, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/fog-pandemic/608764/
  7. [7]Matthew Cox, “Army Says It Has Found the Best Fabric for DIY Face Masks,” Military.com, April 28, 2020, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/04/28/army-says-it-has-found-best-fabric-face-masks.html

Yeah, we’re just killing people

There is a new blog post entitled, “Anarchism, speech, and democracy.”


Pandemic

When I looked this evening, New York City had exceeded 6,300 deaths from COVID-19,[1] well over double the toll from the 9/11 attacks. Nationally, the toll is now the highest of any country in the world. “The actual number of cases is likely higher, experts say, due to lack of widespread testing, false negatives and differences in reporting standards.”[2]

Meanwhile, my skepticism about the effectiveness of “stay at home” orders is increasing. As I’m out driving for Lyft (I haven’t worked for Uber in a while now), I’m seeing more people out, pretty much everywhere I go, among people of every race, in every neighborhood. Traffic, while still far below the usual Pittsburgh unbelievably horrible, is increasing. While some of these trips are surely necessary—I saw a line outside a Trader Joe’s stretched down the block—I think people really just can’t sustain this and we perhaps really ought to be considering how, if we can’t manage to stay in our relatively comfortable homes, we expect prisoners to remain incarcerated without some serious mental health effects for, in some cases, decades.

Eugene Scott, “4 reasons coronavirus is hitting black communities so hard,” Washington Post, April 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/10/4-reasons-coronavirus-is-hitting-black-communities-so-hard/

Jennifer Levitz, Mike Cherney, and Daniel Michaels, “U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Passes Italy, Becoming World’s Highest,” Wall Street Journal, April 11, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/health-officials-plead-for-public-to-observe-a-locked-down-easter-11586592822


  1. [1]Center for Systems Science and Engineering, “Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases,” April 11, 2020, Johns Hopkins Universityhttps://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html
  2. [2]Jennifer Levitz, Mike Cherney, and Daniel Michaels, “U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Passes Italy, Becoming World’s Highest,” Wall Street Journal, April 11, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/health-officials-plead-for-public-to-observe-a-locked-down-easter-11586592822

Do these people even hear themselves?

Pandemic

There is a new blog post entitled, “The capitalist death cult.” It is from an early draft of this post that I draw this issue’s title.

Meanwhile, Uber seems to have drawn at least some drivers back on the road by making it easy for them to also do Uber Eats deliveries. I avoid deliveries because, in my experience, the pay is about half what one gets for transporting people, because there are often parking issues—and possible citations—at both ends, and because discrepancies between what customers think they ordered and what they actually ordered are apt to be blamed on the drivers. But in addition, when it comes to food, I’m vegan and it is an ethical issue for me to deliver any animal products. So I’ll only do it if I have no choice and I’m not at that point yet. Yet.

Yascha Mounk, “This Is Just the Beginning,” Atlantic, March 25, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/national-shutdown-least-bad-option/608683/

Erica Werner, Paul Kane, and Mike DeBonis, “Trump signs $2 trillion coronavirus bill into law as companies and households brace for more economic pain,” Washington Post, March 27, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2020/03/27/congress-coronavirus-house-vote/


 

The devil and the deep blue sea

Gig economy

Funda Ustek-Spilda et al., “The untenable luxury of self-isolation,” New Internationalist, March 18, 2020, https://newint.org/features/2020/03/18/untenable-luxury-self-isolation


Coronavirus

Center for Systems Science and Engineering, “Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases,” March 24, 2020, Johns Hopkins University, https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html


More of the same in 2020

89834228_10157922659964220_30750
Fig. 1. Shoe, by Susie MacNelly Brookins, for March 18, 2020, downloaded from Facebook, fair use.

In early 2016, I wrote a post entitled, “Why I do not vote.”

I can’t afford more of the same. Whether it’s Democratic National Committee more of the same or Donald Trump more of the same or neoconservative more of the same or any other form of more of the same. It has cost me far too much already.


Gig economy

The drop in business is palpable. It is also showing up in the numbers.[1] And at the worst possible time. I may need rear brakes now (and have scheduled an appointment with my tire shop for 8:30 am tomorrow to have them assessed); I just dropped $500 on an oil change and tune-up.

Preetika Rana, “U.S. Spending on Ride-Hailing With Uber, Lyft Falls as Coronavirus Spreads,” Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-spending-on-ride-hailing-with-uber-lyft-falls-as-coronavirus-spreads-11584525600


  1. [1]Preetika Rana, “U.S. Spending on Ride-Hailing With Uber, Lyft Falls as Coronavirus Spreads,” Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-spending-on-ride-hailing-with-uber-lyft-falls-as-coronavirus-spreads-11584525600

Communication disruption now in progress

Housekeeping

IMG_20200316_181327
Fig. 1. The Pixel 4 XL finally arrived. Photograph by author, March 16, 2020.

After what has to be the worst FedEx Ground experience I’ve ever had—understand I don’t do this a whole lot—a somewhat battered box arrived today. Fortunately, the contents were undamaged, as expected, and I am charging the Pixel 4 XL before beginning the transfer from the Pixel 3 XL.

The AT&T and Verizon phone numbers have already been taken off of iMessages and the communication disruption originally planned for Friday should be presumed to have begun. Watch this space for further updates. As always, contact information is here.

Coronavirus

I’m seeing more of how coronavirus is impacting my business. The shutdowns mean a lot of my customers suddenly are out of work, not formally laid off, but not working either, and therefore not being paid.

Some economists say the increasing lockdown in the United States could lead to an even sharper contraction than during the Great Recession. “It’s not just a loss in activity. It’s a stop, full stop,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at accounting firm Grant Thornton.[1]

And it’s a “full stop” that hits the poor hardest. It’s not enough to talk about halting evictions[2] because the rent is still due and there’s no money to pay for it. And the poor still have to buy groceries and pay other bills.

So what we’re hearing about evictions[3] isn’t really about concern for the poor. It’s concern about even bigger homeless encampments, even more visible homeless that might disturb the people the powerful really care about.

Were it otherwise, we would be hearing more about replacing the lost income that we cannot make up.[4]

Don Lee and Laura King, “Fed slashes rate to near zero to counter coronavirus as Fauci warns ‘worst is yet ahead,’” Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-03-15/fed-slashes-rate-to-near-zero-eases-lending-rules


  1. [1]Don Lee and Laura King, “Fed slashes rate to near zero to counter coronavirus as Fauci warns ‘worst is yet ahead,’” Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-03-15/fed-slashes-rate-to-near-zero-eases-lending-rules
  2. [2]Hanna Kozlowska, “Coronavirus is revealing ugly truths about social structure in the US,” Quartz, March 14, 2020, https://qz.com/1818548/coronavirus-is-revealing-ugly-truths-about-social-structure-in-the-us/; Jenny Schuetz, “America’s inequitable housing system is completely unprepared for coronavirus,” Brookings, March 12, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2020/03/12/americas-inequitable-housing-system-is-completely-unprepared-for-coronavirus/;
  3. [3]Hanna Kozlowska, “Coronavirus is revealing ugly truths about social structure in the US,” Quartz, March 14, 2020, https://qz.com/1818548/coronavirus-is-revealing-ugly-truths-about-social-structure-in-the-us/; Jenny Schuetz, “America’s inequitable housing system is completely unprepared for coronavirus,” Brookings, March 12, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2020/03/12/americas-inequitable-housing-system-is-completely-unprepared-for-coronavirus/
  4. [4]John Cassidy, “What Would a Proper Coronavirus Stimulus Plan Look Like?” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/what-would-a-proper-coronavirus-stimulus-plan-look-like; James Hamblin, “What Will You Do If You Start Coughing?” Atlantic, March 11, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/where-do-you-go-if-you-get-coronavirus/607759/

Winter will be extended

Coronavirus

A couple days ago, I wrote:

Since the panic began, I’ve been seeing a bump in business driving for Lyft, which has kept me sufficiently busy that I haven’t even tried driving for Uber. I attribute this to three possible factors, none of which seem to be mutually exclusive. I am not able to determine the extent to which any of these may be, if at all, true:

  1. It is March. We might be coming to the end of winter, which has, as long as I’ve been driving cab (and for Uber and Lyft) been a horrible season.
  2. Some drivers may be staying offline, to avoid coronavirus exposure.
  3. Some passengers may be avoiding public transportation, to avoid coronavirus exposure.[1]

Naturally, it was just about the time I posted that, that I started noticing a softening of business.

Today, while the iPhone I’m relying on to get mobile data to my Pixel 3 XL, which I’m using while I await the Pixel 4 XL (now expected tomorrow, with a planned communication disruption to follow), has started to act up, particularly with the hotspot function, I’m getting a picture of the answer:

  1. It appears winter will be extended. Usually, Sunday is one of my better days. Although, the iPhone screw-up might be a contributing factor, I got relatively few passengers today. Usually, I see some trips to retrieve vehicles left near bars. I saw none of these today even after the Saint Patrick’s Day celebration yesterday. And judging from the grocery store loads, the shelves are now well and truly empty; there weren’t even very many of these trips today. The trips I did see today were generally short.
  2. Drivers are staying offline. When I’m traveling long distances for rides, I infer that no one closer was available. I did a fair amount of that today.
  3. Folks now appear to be heeding advice to “stay home.”[2]

How the psychology of all this plays out remains to be determined, and it will, of course, be psychology that determines individual decisions to go out, to stay home, to work, to not work. But right now, I’m feeling pessimistic.

Among the articles below, there is one by Jennifer Gonnerman, given the headline, “How Prisons and Jails Can Respond to the Coronavirus.” That headline should have the words “and how they probably won’t” appended.[3]

Why are prisons and jails especially dangerous places to be during a pandemic?

Jails and prisons are full of people who are at higher risk than the general public. We have filled them up with people who have high rates of serious health problems. We also, especially in the state prison systems around the country, have an increasingly older population of people. So we have lots of people who are at high risk for serious complications.

All of the new terms of art that everybody has learned in the last two weeks, like “social distancing” and “self-quarantine” and “flattening the curve” of the epidemic—all of these things are impossible in jails and prisons, or are made worse by the way jails and prisons are operated. Everything about incarceration is going to make that curve go more steeply up.

If you think about how a county jail works, the first thing upfront is that people—when they’re arrested in the precinct and then when they go to court and then when they get to jail—they’re in these court pens with lots of other people. You could have a dozen or even two dozen people in a small pen, where there’s not room to really sit down, where you’re sitting on the floor or you’re sitting on benches.

Every time we do much smaller investigations of outbreaks—if there’s a bacterial meningitis or if there’s a pulmonary TB case—those are the places we worry about and where we see transmission happening, very quickly, of communicable disease. The jails are built to operate this way: big pens, big groups of people coming in. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty at a time going in blocks through cells. They start out in one cell, then they go to a second cell. They might go through six or eight cells. They don’t really have hand-washing access built in. That is basically a system designed to spread communicable disease.

Once people get through that intake process, if you go to housing areas in jails and prisons today, whether it’s a cell or a dorm-housing area, if you go to the bathrooms, you would find that many of the sinks don’t work. Many of them don’t have soap, and many of them don’t have paper towels to dry your hands.[4]

In addition, Uber is now providing details to their driver “sick leave” plan for coronavirus. It’s based on the last six months of earnings,[5] which might work out if Lyft matches it, as many drivers drive for both.

Jennifer Gonnerman, “How Prisons and Jails Can Respond to the Coronavirus,” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/how-prisons-and-jails-can-respond-to-the-coronavirus

Bloomberg, “CDC says U.S. gatherings of over 50 people should not be held for eight weeks,” Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-03-15/cdc-us-gatherings-over-50-people-should-not-be-held-for-eight-weeks

Eric Heyl, “Four Coronavirus Cases Now Confirmed In Allegheny County,” Patch, March 15, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h1t4f/third-coronavirus-case-confirmed-in-allegheny-county

Heather Long, “Federal Reserve slashes interest rates to zero as part of wide-ranging emergency intervention,” Washington Post, March 15, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/15/federal-reserve-slashes-interest-rates-zero-part-wide-ranging-emergency-intervention/

Brent Kendall, Chad Day, and Alex Leary, “U.S. Officials Urge More Action to Combat Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/fauci-urges-americans-to-stay-home-amid-coronavirus-11584284229

Uber, “Supporting you during the Coronavirus,” March 15, 2020, https://www.uber.com/blog/supporting-you-during-coronavirus/

Wes Venteicher and Theresa Clift, “California plans to use private hotels, motels to shelter homeless people as coronavirus spreads,” Sacramento Bee, March 15, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article241216061.html

Washington Post, “Mapping the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. and worldwide,” March 15, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/01/22/mapping-spread-new-coronavirus/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “The panic,” Irregular Bullshit, March 13, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/13/the-panic/
  2. [2]Bloomberg, “CDC says U.S. gatherings of over 50 people should not be held for eight weeks,” Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-03-15/cdc-us-gatherings-over-50-people-should-not-be-held-for-eight-weeks; Brent Kendall, Chad Day, and Alex Leary, “U.S. Officials Urge More Action to Combat Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/fauci-urges-americans-to-stay-home-amid-coronavirus-11584284229
  3. [3]Jennifer Gonnerman, “How Prisons and Jails Can Respond to the Coronavirus,” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/how-prisons-and-jails-can-respond-to-the-coronavirus
  4. [4]Jennifer Gonnerman, “How Prisons and Jails Can Respond to the Coronavirus,” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/how-prisons-and-jails-can-respond-to-the-coronavirus
  5. [5]Uber, “Supporting you during the Coronavirus,” March 15, 2020, https://www.uber.com/blog/supporting-you-during-coronavirus/

Gig workers forgotten. As usual.

Updates

  1. Originally published, March 14, 9:48 am.
  2. March 14, 10:35 am:
    • The Los Angeles Times has a list of events that have been canceled or postponed due to coronavirus. Of course, this emphasizes Southern California and, though the Times has made a stab at more global coverage,[1] cannot reasonably be expected to be comprehensive elsewhere. But as the social world shuts down, Uber and Lyft drivers will, of course, be affected, even if they aren’t quarantined or diagnosed with COVID-19.

Housekeeping

After a transit lasting 27 hours and 45 minutes, for a trip that should have taken less than four hours, my Pixel 4 XL has apparently finally made it to Pittsburgh, is now scheduled for delivery on Monday, and the planned communication disruption will, assuming no further stupidity, occur on that date.

FedEx Ground is just inexcusably stupid.


Coronavirus

It doesn’t sound like there’s anything in this “sweeping” legislation that will help gig workers.[2]

Gig workers are generally forgotten whenever it comes to labor protections of any sort. That’s the point.

Even those oh so pious words uttered by Uber and Lyft in response to Mark Warner’s request have yet to be followed up with any substance whatsoever. Not even the promised hand sanitizer. Not even the promised cleaning supplies.[3] (Even that ever-so-controversial California bill banning misclassification of workers is still, in the words of the headline attached to Diane Mulcahy’s article last year, all bark and no bite.[4]) There has been no direction on what to do if we are quarantined or diagnosed with COVID-19. Just oh so pious words. That is, when we’re remembered at all.

Los Angeles Times, “Here are events canceled or postponed due to coronavirus,” March 13, 2020,https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-03-12/events-canceled-postponed-coronavirus

Sarah Ferris et al., “House passes sweeping coronavirus response package,” Politico, March 14, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/13/congress-coronavirus-stimulus-package-deal-friday-128140


  1. [1]Los Angeles Times, “Here are events canceled or postponed due to coronavirus,” March 13, 2020,https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-03-12/events-canceled-postponed-coronavirus
  2. [2]Sarah Ferris et al., “House passes sweeping coronavirus response package,” Politico, March 14, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/13/congress-coronavirus-stimulus-package-deal-friday-128140
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Pieties for gig workers,” Irregular Bullshit, March 7, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/07/pieties-for-gig-workers/; David Benfell, David Benfell, “Lots of people will die who didn’t need to,” Irregular Bullshit, March 10, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/10/lots-of-people-will-die-who-didnt-need-to/; Megan Rose Dickey, “Senator urges Uber, Lyft, Instacart and others to offer gig workers financial security in light of COVID-19 concerns,” TechCrunch, March 6, 2020, https://techcrunch.com/2020/03/06/senator-urges-uber-lyft-instacart-and-others-to-offer-gig-workers-financial-security-in-light-of-covid-19-concerns/; Mekhla Raina, “Uber says it will compensate drivers diagnosed with coronavirus,” Reuters, March 7, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-uber-idUSKBN20U105
  4. [4]Diane Mulcahy, “California’s New Gig Economy Law Is All Bark, No Bite,” Forbes, September 20, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/dianemulcahy/2019/09/20/californias-new-gig-economy-law-is-all-bark-no-bite/

Imagine wanting Joe Biden to be your nominee

Updates

  1. Originally published, March 12, 9:40 am.
  2. March 13, 7:23 pm:
    • The Pixel 4 XL has not arrived and therefore, the expected communication disruption has not begun. Please watch The Irregular Bullshit for updates.

Joe Biden

As of now, FiveThirtyEight scores the endorsement race at 682 for Joe Biden to 73 for Bernie Sanders.[1]

Glen Kessler defends Biden’s record on Social Security, sort of, against Sanders’ attacks by calling attention to context: Austerity had wide support, at least within the Washington, D.C., elite—in Kessler’s phrasing, it was uncontroversial. Biden allegedly was seeking to stave off even worse cuts. And it wasn’t just Social Security.[2] It’s damnation by faint praise.

Neoliberalism remains intellectually utterly discredited.[3] To advocate it is not an intellectually honest position, but rather one that appeals to the “donor class,” that is, the filthy rich.


Housekeeping

There will be significant disruptions to my phone communications beginning sometime tomorrow.

The iPhone just wasn’t cutting it. The myriad annoyances with workflow were one thing. It was another when I discovered I was missing Uber orders because of something that wasn’t working correctly (the old sound system in my car may bear some blame here).

But what was really getting me is that Lyft is pretty aggressive about reshuffling orders among drivers, presumably to optimize overall utilization. Often, I’m in Pittsburgh traffic[4] at a crucial moment, making a turn, whatever, when Lyft does this. With the iPhone, I was having to push three buttons to get navigation back on track. It’s press, wait for response, press, wait for response, press.

So I dredged out that Pixel 3 XL I’d received on a warranty exchange, the phone that can’t handle dual SIM, dual standby (DSDS, a requirement to ensure maximum mobile data availability), put it on a cheap Google Fi plan (their plans really are cheap but they run off third-tier mobile providers), and tried running it off a personal hotspot on the iPhone.

The difference was amazing. All those annoyances were gone. Presto. Poof. Gone. And it’s only one button to get navigation back on track when Lyft does its thing. In general, the integration works far better with Uber and Lyft.

But running a personal hotspot like that is unsustainable. Sometimes things really go wrong. And I’m having to carry two phones. And sometimes that third-tier provider stuff or that routing voice calls over WiFi on the personal hotspot stuff doesn’t work so well when I have to call passengers.

The Pixel 4 XL is due to arrive tomorrow. I’m going to be going through hell getting it set up. And communication might not work as intended at that point.

Use the Google Voice numbers as appropriate for any urgent contact. The Pixel 3 XL will be unperturbed until I shut down the Google Fi plan and it has Google Voice.


  1. [1]FiveThirtyEight, “The 2020 Endorsement Primary,” March 12, 2020, https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2020-endorsements/democratic-primary/
  2. [2]Glenn Kessler, “Sanders versus Biden on Social Security: a guide to the claims,” MSNBC, March 9, 2020, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/factcheck/sanders-versus-biden-on-social-security-a-guide-to-the-claims/ar-BB10TIMr
  3. [3]Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford, UK: Oxford University, 2013); Amir Fleischmann, “The Myth of the Fiscal Conservative,” Jacobin, March 5, 2017, https://jacobinmag.com/2017/03/fiscal-conservative-social-services-austerity-save-money; Jason Hickel, “Progress and its discontents,” New Internationalist, August 7, 2019, https://newint.org/features/2019/07/01/long-read-progress-and-its-discontents; Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 2012); Robert Kuttner, “Austerity never works: Deficit hawks are amoral — and wrong,” Salon, May 5, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/05/05/austerity_never_works_deficit_hawks_are_amoral_and_wrong/; Dennis Loo, Globalization and the Demolition of Society (Glendale, CA: Larkmead, 2011); Thomas Piketty, Jeffrey Sachs, Heiner Flassbeck, Dani Rodrik and Simon Wren-Lewis, “Austerity Has Failed: An Open Letter From Thomas Piketty to Angela Merkel,” Nation, July 6, 2015, http://www.thenation.com/article/austerity-has-failed-an-open-letter-from-thomas-piketty-to-angela-merkel/; John Quiggin, “Austerity Has Been Tested, and It Failed,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 20, 2013, http://chronicle.com/article/Austerity-Has-Been-Tested-and/139255/; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “How Austerity Kills,” New York Times, May 12, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/13/opinion/how-austerity-kills.html; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “Paul Krugman’s right: Austerity kills,” Salon, May 19, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/05/19/paul_krugmans_right_austerity_kills/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Pittsburgh driving for the uninitiated,” Irregular Bullshit, n.d., https://disunitedstates.com/pittsburgh-driving-for-the-uninitiated/