Kente cloth was the wrong cloth to wear

George Floyd

There is a new blog post entitled, “They should have ‘simply worn red.’

Nana Efua Mumford, “Democratic leaders’ kneeling was fine. The kente cloth was not,” Washington Post, June 11, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/06/11/educate-yourself-before-you-wear-kente/

Maritza Perez, “The Congressional Police Reform Bill Fails to Meet the Moment,” Common Dreams, June 12, 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/06/12/congressional-police-reform-bill-fails-meet-moment


Pittsburgh

One longstanding issue has been that police have increasingly been dealing with social problems, such as drug addiction, homelessness, and poverty. They have one approach, which is pretty much to treat everything and everybody as criminal or as potentially criminal. But it’s completely the wrong approach for many issues, especially where mental health is involved.

Bill Peduto is backing a measure that would enable the police to step back from at least some of these issues so people who are really victims can actually get help rather than ending up in the slammer.[1] It’s a good move.

Andy Sheehan, “Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto Proposes Creation Of New Office That Would ‘Allow Public Safety To Step Back’ And Get People Longer-Term Help,” KDKA, June 12, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/06/12/pittsburgh-office-of-community-health-and-safety/


  1. [1]Andy Sheehan, “Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto Proposes Creation Of New Office That Would ‘Allow Public Safety To Step Back’ And Get People Longer-Term Help,” KDKA, June 12, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/06/12/pittsburgh-office-of-community-health-and-safety/

The lessons of this recession will carry a high price

Updates

  1. Originally published, June 5, 2020 at 10:49 pm.
  2. June 6, 2020, 10:18 am:
  3. June 6, 12:25 pm:

Recession

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

[See update for June 6, 10:18 am.]

Kriston Capps, “What Happens When the Eviction Bans End?” CityLab, May 29, 2020, https://www.citylab.com/equity/2020/05/pay-rent-eviction-ban-coronavirus-housing-crisis-landlord/612277/

Eric Levitz, “Why the Shockingly Good Jobs Report Might Be Bad News,” New York, June 5, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/06/unemployment-jobs-report-congress-bls.html

Eli Rosenberg, “Unemployment rate drops to 13 percent, as the economy picked up jobs as states reopened,” Washington Post, June 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/06/05/may-2020-jobs-report/


Nowhere to go but down

Recession

As usual, the headline unemployment figure is bullshit:

As horrific as the April unemployment figure, economists say the official government rate almost certainly underestimates the extent of the job losses. The Labor Department collected the data in mid-April. Layoffs have continued to mount since then, and the unemployment rate only measures people actively searching for a job, which is difficult during an era when Americans are being encouraged to stay at home.[1]

For a whole bunch of reasons, it will likely be a long, slow road to recovery.[2] In real terms, this translates to many people being unable to pay rent, pay mortgages, pay credit card bills, pay utility bills over a long haul. They’re not going to be able to catch up on those bills when the bans on evictions and utility shutoffs expire. And they won’t be buying much so producers face curtailed markets. This, in turn, means more homeless people and more layoffs as businesses continue to go under. That means more desperation.

Unless serious action is taken to relieve these folks, we face a downward spiral, and it’s hard to see how the recent white supremacist gun nuttery in support of reopening the economy and letting the old and weak die[3] won’t intensify.

Allegedly, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will propose a major relief package.[4] But this is like the impeachment of Donald Trump. It’s really a sham, meant to placate the Left, but dead on arrival in the Senate, thus no threat to neoliberal principle. Pelosi can return to her ice cream unperturbed.

Alexander Bolton, “Schumer, Pelosi set to unveil ‘Rooseveltian’ relief package,” Hill, May 7, 2020, https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/496565-schumer-pelosi-set-to-unveil-rooseveltian-relief-package

Heather Long, “Jobless rate soared to 14.7% in April as U.S. shed 20.5 million jobs amid coronavirus pandemic,” Washington Post, May 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/08/april-2020-jobs-report/


  1. [1]Heather Long, “Jobless rate soared to 14.7% in April as U.S. shed 20.5 million jobs amid coronavirus pandemic,” Washington Post, May 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/08/april-2020-jobs-report/
  2. [2]Heather Long, “Jobless rate soared to 14.7% in April as U.S. shed 20.5 million jobs amid coronavirus pandemic,” Washington Post, May 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/08/april-2020-jobs-report/
  3. [3]Ryan Deto, “Photos: About 120 protest in Downtown Pittsburgh, calling for Pennsylvania to reopen during coronavirus pandemic,” Pittsburgh City Paper, April 20, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/photos-about-120-protest-in-downtown-pittsburgh-calling-for-pennsylvania-to-reopen-during-coronavirus-pandemic/Content?oid=17167012; Bryan Armen Graham, “‘Swastikas and nooses’: governor slams ‘racism’ of Michigan lockdown protest,” Guardian, May 3, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/03/michigan-gretchen-whitmer-lockdown-protest-racism; John F. Harris, “Admit It: You Are Willing to Let People Die to End the Shutdown,” Politico, April 30, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/04/30/coronavirus-shutdown-altitude-ethics-223569; Gloria Jackson, as told to Eli Saslow, “‘I apologize to God for feeling this way,’” Washington Post, May 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/02/elderly-woman-coronavirus-lonely-expendable/; 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; Jamie Martines And Tom Davidson, “Protesters in Pittsburgh demand Gov. Wolf to reopen businesses amid coronavirus pandemic,” TribLive, April 20, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/protesters-gather-in-pittsburgh-demanding-gov-wolf-reopen-businesses-amid-coronavirus-pandemic/; Laura Newberry, “The pandemic has amplified ageism. ‘It’s open season for discrimination’ against older adults,” Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-05-01/coronavirus-pandemic-has-amplified-ageism; William Wan, Carolyn Y. Johnson, and Joel Achenbach, “States rushing to reopen are likely making a deadly error, coronavirus models and experts warn,” Washington Post, April 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/04/22/reopening-america-states-coronavirus/
  4. [4]Alexander Bolton, “Schumer, Pelosi set to unveil ‘Rooseveltian’ relief package,” Hill, May 7, 2020, https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/496565-schumer-pelosi-set-to-unveil-rooseveltian-relief-package

Even in a pandemic, cops are still, inexcusably, cops

Police

Even in a pandemic, cops are still, inexcusably, cops.

Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan, “Meet the African-American Doctor Who Tests the Homeless for COVID-19. He was Handcuffed by Miami Police,” Democracy Now, April 16, 2020, https://www.democracynow.org/2020/4/16/meet_the_african_american_doctor_who


Pandemic

The Telegraph is much too diplomatic with China and with Donald Trump. No one believed the earlier numbers from Wuhan; even if China is now being fully transparent, which I assume no one believes, the data issues[1] that plague other places also plague China.[2] And Trump’s “plan” has no force.[3]

When I caught a Lyft to retrieve my car yesterday, my driver and I were both speaking through masks. Probably neither of us understood the other well. But he was saying something about there not being “very many Chinese” someplace—I presume either the apartment complex where I live or near my mechanic—mostly whites and African-Americans (the latter term is the one he used; I avoid it because some Blacks, especially from the Caribbean, choose other ways of identifying themselves—it’s actually best to ask folks how they self-identify).

It’s a problem I haven’t thought about much. I have heard about bigotry against but haven’t really myself even considered blaming people of Chinese origin for the coronavirus in part because China is a huge country. There are an awful lot of people who weren’t anywhere near Wuhan, including some here in the U.S., and so had absolutely nothing to do with the particular wet markets that are generally blamed for providing this virus a bridge from non-human to human animals. And when it comes to non-human to human animal bridges, the Chinese are very, very far from alone.[4] This is by no means a vegan world and this is yet one more reason it needs to be.

But I’m guessing that such bigotry lies behind that driver’s choice of topic (which probably violates Lyft’s rules).

Natasha Lindstrom, “Gov. Wolf: No specific date for ending covid-19 shutdown, getting ‘back to life as we once knew it,’” TribLive, April 16, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/gov-wolf-no-specific-date-for-ending-covid-19-shutdown-getting-back-to-life-as-we-once-knew-it/

Ben Riley-Smith, “Donald Trump launches plan to ‘open up America again’ after coronavirus lockdown,” Telegraph, April 17, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/04/16/donald-trump-launches-plan-open-america-coronavirus-lockdown/

Sophia Yan, “China adds nearly 1,300 coronavirus deaths to official Wuhan toll, blaming reporting delays,” Telegraph, April 17, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/04/17/china-adds-nearly-1300-coronavirus-deaths-official-wuhan-toll/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “When ‘good’ news might not be so good,” Not Housebroken, April 2, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/02/when-good-news-might-not-be-so-good/; Emma Brown, Beth Reinhard, and Aaron C. Davis, “Coronavirus death toll: Americans are almost certainly dying of covid-19 but being left out of the official count,” Washington Post, April 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/coronavirus-death-toll-americans-are-almost-certainly-dying-of-covid-19-but-being-left-out-of-the-official-count/2020/04/05/71d67982-747e-11ea-87da-77a8136c1a6d_story.html; 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; 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/; Wall Street Journal, “Testing for Coronavirus: What We Know About Covid-19 Tests and Treatment,” April 14, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/who-has-covid-19-what-we-know-about-tests-for-the-new-coronavirus-11585868185
  2. [2]Sophia Yan, “China adds nearly 1,300 coronavirus deaths to official Wuhan toll, blaming reporting delays,” Telegraph, April 17, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/04/17/china-adds-nearly-1300-coronavirus-deaths-official-wuhan-toll/
  3. [3]Ben Riley-Smith, “Donald Trump launches plan to ‘open up America again’ after coronavirus lockdown,” Telegraph, April 17, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/04/16/donald-trump-launches-plan-open-america-coronavirus-lockdown/
  4. [4]Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel (New York: W. W. Norton, 1999).

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/

Whose economy is the Federal Reserve protecting?

Coronavirus

I think I’m not quite clear on how it is of value to try to protect the U.S. economy from a recession, slashing interest rates,[1] at the same time you’re essentially shutting it down, telling everyone to stay home, shutting businesses, and telling people to “socially distance themselves.”[2] Perhaps I should be asking whose economy is the Federal Reserve propping up? Because it sure as hell isn’t the one I’m in.[3]

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/

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/

Associated Press, “U.S. moves nearer to shutdown amid coronavirus fears,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 15, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/world/u-s-moves-nearer-to-shutdown-amid-coronavirus-fears/

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/

Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Valerie Bauerlein, “How Coronavirus Remade American Life in One Weekend,” Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/coronavirus-remakes-american-life-in-a-weekend-11584293065

Kara Seymour, “Restaurants, Bars In 5 PA Counties Ordered Closed By Governor,” Patch, March 15, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h1utv/restaurants-bars-in-5-pa-counties-ordered-closed-by-governor

Olivia Goldhill, “Coronavirus prevention is far more accessible for the rich,” Quartz, March 16, 2020, https://qz.com/1818862/coronavirus-prevention-is-far-more-accessible-for-the-rich/

Nick Miroff et al., “States begin imposing harsher measures to contain coronavirus as U.S. cases rise sharply,” Washington Post, March 16, 2020,
https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/states-begin-imposing-harsher-measures-to-contain-coronavirus-as-us-cases-rise-sharply/2020/03/15/267577a6-65b3-11ea-acca-80c22bbee96f_story.html

WTAE, “Allegheny County officials call on all nonessential businesses to close,” March 16, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/allegheny-county-calls-on-all-non-essential-businesses-to-close/31648999


  1. [1]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/
  2. [2]Associated Press, “U.S. moves nearer to shutdown amid coronavirus fears,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 15, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/world/u-s-moves-nearer-to-shutdown-amid-coronavirus-fears/; 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-11584284229Nick Miroff et al., “States begin imposing harsher measures to contain coronavirus as U.S. cases rise sharply,” Washington Post, March 16, 2020,
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/states-begin-imposing-harsher-measures-to-contain-coronavirus-as-us-cases-rise-sharply/2020/03/15/267577a6-65b3-11ea-acca-80c22bbee96f_story.html; Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Valerie Bauerlein, “How Coronavirus Remade American Life in One Weekend,” Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/coronavirus-remakes-american-life-in-a-weekend-11584293065; Kara Seymour, “Restaurants, Bars In 5 PA Counties Ordered Closed By Governor,” Patch, March 15, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h1utv/restaurants-bars-in-5-pa-counties-ordered-closed-by-governor; WTAE, “Allegheny County officials call on all nonessential businesses to close,” March 16, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/allegheny-county-calls-on-all-non-essential-businesses-to-close/31648999
  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/

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/

They didn’t do it: Malcolm X assassination may be reinvestigated

Malcolm X

Meagan Flynn, “Malcolm X assassination may be reinvestigated as Netflix documentary, lawyers cast doubt on convictions,” Washington Post, February 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/02/10/malcolmx-assassination-netflix/


Housing

Michael Sainato, “‘We’re technically homeless’: the eviction epidemic plaguing the US,” Guardian, February 11, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/feb/11/us-eviction-rates-causes-richmond-atlanta


Pittsburgh

Jamie Martines, “U.S. Steel, Allegheny County finalize Clairton Coke Works emissions settlement,” Tribune-Review, February 10, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/u-s-steel-and-allegheny-county-finalize-clairton-coke-works-emissions-settlement/


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.,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 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.,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 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/

Impeachment: The bad, the ugly, and the ugly

Impeachment

There is are two new blog posts:

  1. December 15: “The whiteness of impeachment
  2. December 16: “The least violent solution

Jennifer Rubin, “How far can the House go to stop a sham trial?” Washington Post, December 16, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/12/16/how-far-can-house-go-stop-sham-trial/


Homelessness

David G. Savage, “Supreme Court lets stand ruling that protects homeless who sleep on sidewalk,” Los Angeles Times, December 16, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2019-12-16/supreme-court-lets-stand-ruling-that-protects-homeless-who-sleep-on-sidewalk