Burning California

I keep forgetting to publish this. So it gets a little bit longer and a little bit longer and a little bit longer. There really hasn’t been a lot.


Racism

In the Pittsburgh area, while driving for Lyft, I had noticed that a large proportion—almost certainly a majority—of my passengers were Black. Since switching to Uber,[1] my passengers are now predominantly white.

One of my Lyft passengers had mentioned to me that Uber doesn’t accept debit cards as a form of payment. I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is, this is an example of systemic discrimination, that is, discrimination that may occur without racist intent but in which rules and systems have a discriminatory effect.

If indeed you need a credit card to pay for an Uber ride (I think you can get around this with PayPal), that tends to exclude people with poor or no credit. To the extent that racial stratification coincides with class stratification, which is very visibly the case in the Pittsburgh area, it becomes systemic racism. And the failure to recognize and rectify systemic racism is, itself, racist.

Of course, to say this means that I should (as I have in the past) recognize the classism in the gig economy: It does generally require an electronic form of payment, which “unbanked” folks will have a harder time managing. On the other hand, it also means that Uber and Lyft drivers are not sitting ducks for cash robberies (a significant risk for traditional taxi drivers).

One of my passengers, a Black, told me that western Pennsylvania is one of the worst places in the country to be Black. He says that Blacks are informed here upon arrival that they exist to serve the capitalist economy; they are not persons, but numbers.

Which is yet another example of how it is impossible to separate classism from racism. These forms of discrimination form a hydra-headed monster. You have to cut them all off at once to destroy the beast.

Blacks also bear the brunt of criminal injustice.[2] In California, fire fighting relies upon inmate labor,[3] making it part of the prison-industrial complex.[4] Again, it will be Blacks who bear the brunt of inadequately compensated risks in this activity. And again, this is systemic racism.


California

Kevin Fixler, “From fierce winds to flames: How the Kincade fire made Sonoma County history,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, November 1, 2019, https://www.pressdemocrat.com/multimedia/10249729-181/how-the-kincade-fire-spread

Nicole Goodkind, “Prisoners Are Fighting California’s Wildfires on the Front Lines, But Getting Little in Return,” Fortune, November 1, 2019, https://fortune.com/2019/11/01/california-prisoners-fighting-wildfires/


Long term unemployment

Patricia Cohen, “Lots of Job Hunting, but No Job, Despite Low Unemployment Lots of Job Hunting, but No Job, Despite Low Unemployment,” New York Times, November 1, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/31/business/economy/long-term-unemployed.html


Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris should be a cautionary tale for neoliberals: At least some progressives want real progressives and are fed up with the fake ones the neoliberal party has been pushing on them.

Shikha Dalmia, “The real reason Kamala Harris is tanking,” Week, November 4, 2019, https://theweek.com/articles/875020/real-reason-kamala-harris-tanking


Recession

It’s one thing to note that economists are bad at predicting recessions[5] and are even bad at recognizing them once they’ve started.[6] All these decades later, they finally seem to be recognizing what just about any idiot at the local tavern could have told them: It’s the unemployment:[7]

The unemployment rate has risen sharply in every recession, and thus economists have long looked for recession signals in its behavior. Ms. [Claudia] Sahm spent weekends playing with a massive spreadsheet, testing different rates of increase over varying periods of time, to arrive at the following formula: If the average of unemployment rate over three months rises a half-percentage point or more above its low over the previous year, the economy is in a recession. . . .

“The reason [this formula has] been getting attention is it is simple, it is understandable, it is something people can observe themselves,” Mr. [Jay] Shaumbaugh said.[8]

Sorry, but it’s hard—really hard—for me to imagine that economists couldn’t have come up with this sooner and it is very telling that Claudia Sahm had to work on this on her own time. Had this sort of inquiry even a chance of being taken seriously before she had the numbers to prove it, she’d have been able to work on it during office hours. But economists before Sahm didn’t come up with this and the Federal Reserve didn’t enable her to work on it on their dime, because they all really just don’t fucking give a damn. What Sahm has done—and she deserves a great deal of credit for overcoming what were surely formidable institutional obstacles—is to shame the fuck out of them with the blindingly obvious.

By the way, going by Sahm’s formula, we are not yet in a recession.[9]

Kate Davidson, “Are We in a Recession? Experts Agree: Ask Claudia Sahm,” Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/are-we-in-a-recession-experts-agree-ask-claudia-sahm-11572789602


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Uber, again,” Irregular Bullshit, October 19, 2019, https://disunitedstates.com/2019/10/19/uber-again/
  2. [2]Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004).
  3. [3]Nicole Goodkind, “Prisoners Are Fighting California’s Wildfires on the Front Lines, But Getting Little in Return,” Fortune, November 1, 2019, https://fortune.com/2019/11/01/california-prisoners-fighting-wildfires/
  4. [4]Empty Cages Collective, “What is the Prison Industrial Complex?” n.d. http://www.prisonabolition.org/what-is-the-prison-industrial-complex/; Daniel Moritz-Rabson, “‘Prison Slavery’: Inmates are paid cents while manufacturing products sold to government,” Newsweek, August 28, 2018, https://www.newsweek.com/prison-slavery-who-benefits-cheap-inmate-labor-1093729
  5. [5]Hites Ahir and Prakash Loungani, “‘There will be growth in the spring’: How well do economists predict turning points?” Vox, April 14, 2014, https://voxeu.org/article/predicting-economic-turning-points; Richard Alford, “Why Economists Have No Shame – Undue Confidence, False Precision, Risk and Monetary Policy,” Naked Capitalism, July 19, 2012, https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/07/richard-alford-why-economists-have-no-shame-undue-confidence-false-precision-risk-and-monetary-policy.html; Ha-Joon Chang and Jonathan Aldred, “After the crash, we need a revolution in the way we teach economics,” Guardian, May 10, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/may/11/after-crash-need-revolution-in-economics-teaching-chang-aldred; Barry Eichengreen, “Economists, Remove Your Blinders,” Chronicle of Higher Education, January 12, 2015, http://www.chronicle.com/article/Economists-Remove-Your/151057/; Paul Krugman, “How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?” New York Times, September 2, 2009, https://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/magazine/06Economic-t.html; Paul Krugman, “Triumph of the Wrong?” New York Times, October 11, 2012, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/12/opinion/krugman-triumph-of-the-wrong.html; Andrew Simms, “Economics is a failing discipline doing great harm – so let’s rethink it,” Guardian, August 3, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/03/economics-global-economy-climate-crisis; Mark Thoma, “Restoring the Public’s Trust in Economists,” Fiscal Times, May 19, 2015, http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2015/05/19/Restoring-Public-s-Trust-Economists; Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, “Economists Are Bad At Predicting Recessions,” FiveThirtyEight, August 21, 2019, https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/economists-are-bad-at-predicting-recessions/
  6. [6]For example, it took about a year to formally recognize the financial crisis of 2007-2008 as a recession: National Bureau of Economic Research, “Determination of the December 2007 Peak in Economic Activity,” December 11, 2008, http://www.nber.org/cycles/dec2008.html
  7. [7]Kate Davidson, “Are We in a Recession? Experts Agree: Ask Claudia Sahm,” Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/are-we-in-a-recession-experts-agree-ask-claudia-sahm-11572789602
  8. [8]Kate Davidson, “Are We in a Recession? Experts Agree: Ask Claudia Sahm,” Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/are-we-in-a-recession-experts-agree-ask-claudia-sahm-11572789602
  9. [9]Kate Davidson, “Are We in a Recession? Experts Agree: Ask Claudia Sahm,” Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/are-we-in-a-recession-experts-agree-ask-claudia-sahm-11572789602

Redlining and guns

Redlining

I have mapped where I have found guns or other weaponry gratuitously displayed here. There are two locations, namely in South Park (the park) and North Oakland (Pittsburgh, near University of Pittsburgh, not far from Carnegie Mellon University), here that are not in or near economically distressed areas that appear to me to have high proportions of Blacks among their populations. The rest all are. Most are on the south or west side of the Monongahela River. Three are on the north or east side of that river. I have not yet found such weaponry on display in other locations, although I believe that more get wheeled out around Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

There is not, by any means, a one-to-one correspondence between gratuitous displays of weaponry and disadvantaged areas. I see many more, over a wider area, of the latter. But the proportion with which the former, nine out of eleven at this writing, are placed in or near the latter is what raises my suspicion.[1]

These are all locations I have observed while driving for Lyft so a bias exists in that I am more likely to notice these weapons in places I frequent.

The labels are the addresses (from Google Maps) from where I shot the photographs. I transcribed the geographic coordinates from the photographs to map the locations. They thus do not pinpoint the locations of the weapons themselves but rather vantage points (with slight variations if I used more than one) I used in taking the pictures. Clicking on a point will bring up the photograph and and address. The complete photograph album is publicly available and I have preserved the metadata in the photographs.

This is an ongoing project. More points may be added later.


Migration

Priscilla Alvarez, Geneva Sands, and Tami Luhby, “Three federal judges hit Trump on immigration policy changes,” CNN, October 11, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/11/politics/green-card-public-charge-rule-blocked/index.html


Kurdistan

When I first heard about U.S. forces coming under so-called “friendly fire” from Turkish forces invading Syria,[2] I remembered the U.S.S. Liberty, a reconnaisance ship that came under attack by Israel. The ship was well-marked and should have been identifiable as a U.S. ship at a considerable distance. Further, the Israelis deployed a form of electronic attack that took out U.S. military communication channels. But, in what’s widely believed to have been a cover-up, the U.S. and Israeli governments have said it was all a mistake and the sailors on the Liberty are under a permanent gag order. An Intercept story on the incident is a classic example of “he said, she said” journalism, and inclines toward the official account,[3] providing yet more evidence in support of J. Herbert Altschull’s thesis.[4]

So guess what happens? Now the soldiers who came under attack—the Turks knew damn well where they were—insist they were intentionally targeted.[5]

The Israelis might have been covering up a slaughter of Egyptian prisoners of war.[6] The Turks may have wider territorial aspirations than they claim.[7] But Donald Trump abandons the Kurds.[8]

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “U.S. Forces Come Under Turkish Fire As Ankara Presses On In Syria,” Global Security, October 12, 2019, https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2019/10/mil-191012-rferl01.htm

  1. [1]David Benfell, “The banners and the guns: Flagrant racism in Pittsburgh,” Not Housebroken, October 12, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/09/20/the-banners-and-the-guns-flagrant-racism-in-pittsburgh/
  2. [2]Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “U.S. Forces Come Under Turkish Fire As Ankara Presses On In Syria,” Global Security, October 12, 2019, https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2019/10/mil-191012-rferl01.htm
  3. [3]Miriam Pensack, “Fifty Years Later, NSA Keeps Details of Israel’s USS Liberty Attack Secret,” Intercept, June 6, 2017, https://theintercept.com/2017/06/06/fifty-years-later-nsa-keeps-details-of-israels-uss-liberty-attack-secret/
  4. [4]Herbert Altschull, Agents of Power: The Media and Public Policy, 2nd ed. (White Plains, NY: Longman, 1995)
  5. [5]Dan Lamothe, “U.S. forces say Turkey was deliberately ‘bracketing’ American troops with artillery fire in Syria,” Washington Post, October 12, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2019/10/12/us-forces-say-turkey-was-deliberately-bracketing-american-forces-with-artillery-fire-syria/
  6. [6]Miriam Pensack, “Fifty Years Later, NSA Keeps Details of Israel’s USS Liberty Attack Secret,” Intercept, June 6, 2017, https://theintercept.com/2017/06/06/fifty-years-later-nsa-keeps-details-of-israels-uss-liberty-attack-secret/
  7. [7]Dan Lamothe, “U.S. forces say Turkey was deliberately ‘bracketing’ American troops with artillery fire in Syria,” Washington Post, October 12, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2019/10/12/us-forces-say-turkey-was-deliberately-bracketing-american-forces-with-artillery-fire-syria/
  8. [8]Kareem Fahim, Sarah Dadouch, and Asser Khattab, “Turkey launches offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in northern Syria,” Washington Post, October 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/with-turkish-offensive-looming-syrian-kurds-mobilize-civilian-defense/2019/10/09/4efca794-ea02-11e9-a329-7378fbfa1b63_story.html; Bethan McKernan, Julian Borger, and Dan Sabbagh, “Turkish troops advance into Syria as Trump washes his hands of the Kurds,” Guardian, October 9, 2019,
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/09/turkey-syria-attack-latest-news-kurds-trump; Dion Nissenbaum and Gordon Lubold, “Trump’s Call to Leave Syria Draws Fire From GOP Allies,” Wall Street Journalhttps://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-begins-pullback-from-northern-syria-clearing-way-for-turkish-offensive-11570439862; Richard Spencer, “Turkey steps up airstrikes on Kurds as 60,000 civilians flee,” Times, October 11, 2019, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/world/turkey-steps-up-bombing-of-kurdish-positions-in-northern-syria-g88fr0x5n; Robin Wright, “Defying the World, Turkey Launches a War Against a U.S. Ally in Syria,” New Yorker, October 9, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/defying-the-world-turkey-launches-a-war-against-a-united-states-ally-in-syria; Stephen Zunes, “This Isn’t the First Time the US Has Abandoned the Kurds,” Truthout, October 10, 2019, https://truthout.org/articles/this-isnt-the-first-time-the-us-has-abandoned-the-kurds/

Trickle down


Income inequality

J3YOKJHACMI6TPT7JTEFAF6DN4
Fig. 1. Undated photograph attributed to Jeff Roberson of the Associated Press, via the Washington Post, September 26, 2019.[1]

Taylor Telford, “Income inequality in America is the highest it’s been since census started tracking it, data shows,” Washington Post, September 26, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/09/26/income-inequality-america-highest-its-been-since-census-started-tracking-it-data-show/


Israel

Times of Israel, “Mission impossible? Why Netanyahu, asked to form a coalition, isn’t smiling,” September 25, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/mission-impossible-why-netanyahu-asked-to-form-a-coalition-isnt-smiling/


  1. [1]Taylor Telford, “Income inequality in America is the highest it’s been since census started tracking it, data shows,” Washington Post, September 26, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/09/26/income-inequality-america-highest-its-been-since-census-started-tracking-it-data-show/

Kids go hungry while the rich play in space

There is a new blog post entitled, “Not the final frontier.”


Lunch shaming

Amir Vera, “Pennsylvania school district tells parents to pay their lunch debt, or their kids will go into foster care,” CNN, July 20, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/20/us/pennsylvania-school-lunch-debt-trnd/index.html


Donald Trump

I think Jelani Cobb fills in the missing pieces[1] that I would raise with Donald Trump’s attacks on the “squad,” specifically Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib.[2]

I’ve long regarded the United States as a fascist country,[3] but this really isn’t just about fascism. It’s about the parallels with Nazi Germany: Concentration camps,[4] rallies targeting members of subaltern groups,[5] and violence against subaltern groups implicitly if not quite explicitly backed by political authorities.[6] I can’t even say that war is missing because we were already at war: Barack Obama left us with wars in more places than  he inherited from George W. Bush. And Trump seems to be provoking a war with Iran.

It’s really all there now, perhaps not yet at the scale and intensity of Nazi Germany, but certainly of the kind.

Jelani Cobb, “Donald Trump’s Idea of Selective Citizenship,” New Yorker, July 21, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/07/29/donald-trumps-idea-of-selective-citizenship


  1. [1]Jelani Cobb, “Donald Trump’s Idea of Selective Citizenship,” New Yorker, July 21, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/07/29/donald-trumps-idea-of-selective-citizenship
  2. [2]Noah Bierman, “Trump seeks to disavow ‘send her back’ chant at his rally,” Los Angeles Times, July 18, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2019-07-17/trump-new-chant-send-her-back; Eric Cortellessa, “Liberal US Jews say Trump is weaponizing Israel to defend his racist tweets,” Times of Israel, July 16, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/liberal-us-jews-say-trump-weaponizing-israel-to-defend-racist-tweets/; Michael Luo, “Trump’s Racist Tweets, and the Question of Who Belongs in America,” New Yorker, July 15, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/trumps-racist-tweets-and-the-question-of-who-belongs-in-america; Ashley Parker, “How a racist tweet became a Trump rally chant in three short days,” Washington Post, July 18, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-a-racist-tweet-became-a-trump-rally-chant-in-three-short-days/2019/07/18/bd81b798-a968-11e9-9214-246e594de5d5_story.html; Salvador Rizzo, “Trump falsely claims he tried to stop ‘Send her back!’ chants about Rep. Ilhan Omar,” Washington Post, July 18, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/07/18/trump-falsely-claims-he-tried-stop-send-her-back-chants-about-rep-ilhan-omar/; Adam Serwer, “Trump Tells America What Kind of Nationalist He Is,” Atlantic, July 15, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/07/trumps-white-nationalist-attack-four-congresswomen/594019/; John Wagner, Mike DeBonis, and Colby Itkowitz, “A divided House votes for resolution condemning Trump’s racist remarks,” Washington Post, July 16, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-lashes-out-again-at-minority-lawmakers-as-house-prepares-to-condemn-his-racist-tweets/2019/07/16/bca3afa4-a7b3-11e9-a3a6-ab670962db05_story.html; John Wagner and Colby Itkowitz, “Trump vows congresswomen ‘can’t get away with’ criticizing U.S.,” Washington Post, July 19, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/a-day-after-distancing-himself-from-hostile-chant-trump-criticizes-media-for-its-coverage-of-his-rally/2019/07/19/9c094c16-aa12-11e9-9214-246e594de5d5_story.html
  3. [3]David Benfell, “A simple definition of fascism,” Not Housebroken, July 6, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/07/06/a-simple-definition-of-fascism/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “It’s time to be clear: Migrant children are being held in concentration camps and the Trump administration is fascist,” Not Housebroken, June 24, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/06/24/its-time-to-be-clear-migrant-children-are-being-held-in-concentration-camps-and-the-trump-administration-is-fascist/
  5. [5]Tom McCarthy, “Trump rally crowd chants ‘send her back’ after president attacks Ilhan Omar,” Guardian, July 17, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jul/17/trump-rally-send-her-back-ilhan-omar
  6. [6]Noah Bierman, “‘Alt-left’ charged at ‘alt-right,’ Trump says, again placing blame for Charlottesville violence on ‘both sides,’” Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/politics/washington/la-na-essential-washington-updates-trump-blames-both-sides-for-1502828835-htmlstory.html; Jonathan Easley, “Trump unloads in defense of his Charlottesville response at Phoenix rally,” Hill, August 23, 2017, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/347592-trump-unloads-in-defense-of-his-charlottesville-response-at-phoenix; Jeet Heer, “Trump’s Racism and the Myth of ‘Cultural Marxism,’” New Republic, August 15, 2017, https://newrepublic.com/article/144317/trumps-racism-myth-cultural-marxism; Jonathan Easley, “Trump unloads in defense of his Charlottesville response at Phoenix rally,” Hill, August 23, 2017, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/347592-trump-unloads-in-defense-of-his-charlottesville-response-at-phoenix; Colleen Shalby, “From blaming ‘many sides’ to ‘racism is evil’ and back again, what Trump has said so far on Charlottesville,” Los Angeles Times, August 21, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/politics/washington/la-na-essential-washington-updates-how-trump-s-responded-to-violence-in-1502831078-htmlstory.html; Times of Israel, “Criticism mounts over Netanyahu’s response to US neo-Nazism,” August 17, 2017, http://www.timesofisrael.com/criticism-mounts-over-netanyahus-response-to-us-neo-nazism/; Jeffrey Toobin, “Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, and Charlottesville,” New Yorker, August 15, 2017, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/donald-trump-steve-bannon-and-charlottesville

That asinine argument on ‘safe and sanitary conditions’

Migration

I have a new blog post up entitled, “It’s time to be clear: Migrant children are being held in concentration camps and the Trump administration is fascist.

Ken White, “Why a Government Lawyer Argued Against Giving Immigrant Kids Toothbrushes,” Atlantic, June 23, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/06/why-sarah-fabian-argued-against-giving-kids-toothbrushes/592366/


Student Loans

I can only wish that Bernie Sanders’ proposal[1] had even a snowball’s chance in hell of being enacted. I’m on income-based repayment, but with my career prospects being nil, interest is accumulating far faster than I can pay. I was at something over $300,000 when I finished my Ph.D. That number is closing in on $400,000 rapidly.

Jeff Stein, “Sanders proposes canceling entire $1.6 trillion in U.S. student loan debt, escalating Democratic policy battle,” Washington Post, June 24, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/sanders-to-propose-canceling-entire-16-trillion-in-us-student-loan-debt-escalating-democratic-policy-battle/2019/06/23/1eed053a-9561-11e9-aadb-74e6b2b46f6a_story.html


Pete Buttigieg

The man is running on his record as mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Apparently he’s okay with letting people freeze.[2]

Charles Bethea, “What Pete Buttigieg Has and Hasn’t Done About Homelessness in South Bend,” New Yorker, June 24, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/dispatch/what-pete-buttigieg-has-and-hasnt-done-about-homelessness-in-south-bend


Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson will probably be prime minister anyway.[3]

To imagine—or perhaps to hope—that questions about Johnson’s character might undermine his chances of becoming the next Prime Minister would be to overlook the crucial point governing the Conservative Party’s leadership election, which is that Johnson’s character—jocose, undiplomatic, entitled—is the thing that Tory members like the most about him. It is hardly that questions about Johnson’s character have not been raised before: the list of offenses he has committed, professional and personal, minor and major, is well known. Did he embroider the truth and fabricate facts as a journalist? Yes. Did he tell voters on the campaign trail that voting Tory would “cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3”? Yes. Was he obliged, only last year, to apologize to the House of Commons after failing to declare outside income as an M.P.? Yes. Has he been known, even celebrated, for decades, as a world-class philanderer? Yes. Has he deployed his old Etonian charm, and a rhetorical charisma honed in the vaunted chamber of the Oxford Union, in the service of a vacuous superciliousness that has propelled him almost to the top of Britain’s political establishment? Most certainly.

That Johnson is undisciplined, careless, and arrogant could not be more widely documented or better known. That these qualities are cherished in him by the Conservative Party faithful—who will, because of the peculiarities of British parliamentary democracy, get to choose the Prime Minister for the rest of the country—could not be more transparent.[4]

Rebecca Mead, “Will Boris Johnson’s “Late-Night Altercation” Sink His Bid to Become Prime Minister?” New Yorker, June 23, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-the-uk/will-boris-johnsons-late-night-altercation-sink-his-bid-to-become-prime-minister


Turkey

I mostly covered this yesterday.[5] A detail I did not have at that time—or possibly just missed—was that “initial results showed that with 99% of ballots counted the People’s Republican party (CHP) candidate had increased his lead in March, of 13,000 votes, to an astonishing 777,000, or 54%.”[6] It’s a lot harder to plead ballot tampering with that kind of a margin.

Bethan McKernan, “Erdoğan party defeated in controversial rerun of Istanbul mayoral poll,” Guardian, June 23, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/23/erdogan-faces-scrutiny-once-more-as-istanbul-goes-back-to-the-polls


  1. [1]Jeff Stein, “Sanders proposes canceling entire $1.6 trillion in U.S. student loan debt, escalating Democratic policy battle,” Washington Post, June 24, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/sanders-to-propose-canceling-entire-16-trillion-in-us-student-loan-debt-escalating-democratic-policy-battle/2019/06/23/1eed053a-9561-11e9-aadb-74e6b2b46f6a_story.html
  2. [2]Charles Bethea, “What Pete Buttigieg Has and Hasn’t Done About Homelessness in South Bend,” New Yorker, June 24, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/dispatch/what-pete-buttigieg-has-and-hasnt-done-about-homelessness-in-south-bend
  3. [3]Rebecca Mead, “Will Boris Johnson’s “Late-Night Altercation” Sink His Bid to Become Prime Minister?” New Yorker, June 23, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-the-uk/will-boris-johnsons-late-night-altercation-sink-his-bid-to-become-prime-minister
  4. [4]Rebecca Mead, “Will Boris Johnson’s “Late-Night Altercation” Sink His Bid to Become Prime Minister?” New Yorker, June 23, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-the-uk/will-boris-johnsons-late-night-altercation-sink-his-bid-to-become-prime-minister
  5. [5]David Benfell, “What? Are you trying to tell me that row Boris Johnson had with Carrie Symonds might reflect on his character? Really? Surely you jest,” Irregular Bullshit, June 23, 2019, https://disunitedstates.com/2019/06/23/5520/
  6. [6]Bethan McKernan, “Erdoğan party defeated in controversial rerun of Istanbul mayoral poll,” Guardian, June 23, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/23/erdogan-faces-scrutiny-once-more-as-istanbul-goes-back-to-the-polls

Environmental Injustice in Mon Valley

Memorial Day

Functionalist conservatism:

What’s most surprising isn’t that politicians start wars to consolidate their own power, but that the people don’t always simply assume that leaders choose war for that reason. Of course, the main calculation for politicians when making decisions is whether or not those decisions will help tighten their grip on the levers of society. From prime ministers to dictators, anyone who doesn’t think about that first and foremost will be, evolutionarily speaking, selected against, and quickly find themselves outside the palace walls.[1]

Happy Memorial Day.

Jon Schwarz, “We Need Memorial Day to Obscure the Unbearable Truth About War,” Intercept, May 29, 2019, https://theintercept.com/2017/05/29/we-need-memorial-day-to-obscure-the-unbearable-truth-about-war/


Pittsburgh

I think, if it occurs, my next move will be farther from the Monongahela River and Mon Valley and especially from the U.S. Steel plant. I’ve seen neighborhoods by the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers that seem quite nice.

Note the source of this report that U.S. Steel has repaired air pollution controls: the Wall Street Journal,[2] not a particularly environmentally friendly newspaper. What I see here is that repairs have been done. I do not know their effectiveness or even in absolute terms how safe the air now is—even the Journal headline only says “easier,” not “easy;” I picked someone up near that plant recently and it still stunk to high hell (the resuscitated air pollution controls might not yet have been switched on).

I also wonder about any decision to even allow the plant to continue operating. I don’t live in Mon Valley, but I’m close. I pick up a lot of people there. And I have to tell you, the very fact of that plant and the industrialization along the Monongahela River looks to me like an environmental justice issue, where the working class and poor, many of them Black, get to live with health and safety risks because that’s where they can afford to live or because that’s where they’ve always lived.

And lest we forget, much to my absolute horror, there are homeless people here. I can’t imagine how they survive winter. But for many, that would be the only alternative.

Kris Maher, “Pittsburgh Breathes Easier After Repairs at U.S. Steel Coke Plant,” Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/pittsburgh-breathes-easier-after-repairs-at-u-s-steel-coke-plant-11558872000


Brexit

This tweet might not translate the way it should because it lacks the context where neoliberals and nationalists (authoritarian populists) have broken off from the main parties, Republicans and Democrats, to form separate parties. But that’s the context imagined in this tweet.

At the time I looked at British Broadcasting Corporation coverage, returns were not complete. Counting had not even begun in some areas. But it seems worth noting that though Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party was the winning single party, the total tally of Remainer parties, including the (neo)Liberal Democrats and the Greens exceeded Brexit by double digits. Meanwhile, both Tories and Labour took a drubbing, with the former winning a historically low portion of the vote.[3]

Take that with a grain of salt: Final results might, but now seem unlikely to, reveal a different story. And these results have limited applicability to, for many Britons, a far more important general election. On Twitter, at least, Jeremy Corbyn has been calling for just that and Labour is now more loudly calling for a second referendum.[4] This has seemed to me foolish: I am sad to say that, just as in the U.S., it appears many Britons still subscribe to a so-called “centrist” neoliberal view on the idea that this ideology—just as hateful, really, as anything the far right can muster—constitutes a “middle road.”

British Broadcasting Corporation, “European elections 2019: Brexit Party dominates as Tories and Labour suffer,” May 27, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-48417228


Abortion

No student of women’s history should even remotely be surprised that women will network to ensure access to reproductive health.[5] Some will do so even in the face of legal impediments and the men who would control their bodies should know that the latter efforts are doomed to failure. Just as they always have been.

It should also be noted that as always, the effects of abortion bans will fall hardest on those without the wherewithal to travel. The rich can always get abortions, often even close to home. It will be the poor who are least able to travel and who will most need to travel. Class cannot be separated from gender here.

Monica Hesse, “Abortion bans have some women preparing for the worst. It involves ‘auntie networks,’” Washington Post, May 26, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/abortion-bans-have-some-women-preparing-for-the-worst-it-involves-auntie-networks/2019/05/24/4af2dcce-7d77-11e9-a5b3-34f3edf1351e_story.html


Elon Musk

Sometimes I need to say, pay no attention. The headline is misleading: There is a disagreement over tactics here but there wasn’t really a “fight” between the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system and Elon Musk[6] and I have to strongly doubt that this is one of Musk’s visions that will come to fruition.

To give an idea how Musk’s vision might fall short, I was noticing with a passenger how many roads here have been reduced to one lane in sections due to subsidence.

This happens a lot in California too and the cause of this is clear: Lots of rain and unstable mountainside and cliff geology due to erosion. My passenger pointed out that here, there are many old mining tunnels: Though this has been a wet spring here, subsidence can be a problem even without it.

In California, the rock is largely, in various forms, metamorphic. Here, it’s largely sedimentary. We don’t have the massive and dramatic geologic forces that forge California rock; sedimentation happens slowly, over time. California rock is inherently a lot stronger, structurally, than Pennsylvania rock.

That doesn’t mean tunnels can’t be built. Pittsburgh has many, many more of them than I had remembered from my limited childhood experience with the area. But I wouldn’t count on technology developed in southern California working here.

Eric Ting, “BART picks a fight with Elon Musk on Twitter over tunnels,” SFGate, May 25, 2019, https://www.sfgate.com/local/article/BART-Elon-Musk-Twitter-tunnel-Bay-Boring-Company-13896393.php


Greece

Alexis Tsipras sold out to the European Union’s austerity demands and settled a dispute with (North) Macedonia over its name so the latter country could join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. He did everything the E.U. wanted, grudgingly at first, totally capitulating later.[7] The austerity killed people[8] and there is no better evidence of neoliberalism’s prioritization of money even over human life. The E.U. offered Tsipras no reciprocity. Functionalist Conservatives, take note and beware.

Michele Kambas, “Greek PM comes unstuck over Macedonia, austerity in European vote,” Reuters, May 27, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-election-greece-idUSKCN1SX0YI


  1. [1]Jon Schwarz, “We Need Memorial Day to Obscure the Unbearable Truth About War,” Intercept, May 29, 2019, https://theintercept.com/2017/05/29/we-need-memorial-day-to-obscure-the-unbearable-truth-about-war/
  2. [2]Kris Maher, “Pittsburgh Breathes Easier After Repairs at U.S. Steel Coke Plant,” Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/pittsburgh-breathes-easier-after-repairs-at-u-s-steel-coke-plant-11558872000
  3. [3]British Broadcasting Corporation, “European elections 2019: Brexit Party dominates as Tories and Labour suffer,” May 27, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-48417228
  4. [4]British Broadcasting Corporation, “European elections 2019: Brexit Party dominates as Tories and Labour suffer,” May 27, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-48417228
  5. [5]Monica Hesse, “Abortion bans have some women preparing for the worst. It involves ‘auntie networks,’” Washington Post, May 26, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/abortion-bans-have-some-women-preparing-for-the-worst-it-involves-auntie-networks/2019/05/24/4af2dcce-7d77-11e9-a5b3-34f3edf1351e_story.html
  6. [6]Eric Ting, “BART picks a fight with Elon Musk on Twitter over tunnels,” SFGate, May 25, 2019, https://www.sfgate.com/local/article/BART-Elon-Musk-Twitter-tunnel-Bay-Boring-Company-13896393.php
  7. [7]Michele Kambas, “Greek PM comes unstuck over Macedonia, austerity in European vote,” Reuters, May 27, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-election-greece-idUSKCN1SX0YI
  8. [8]Nikolia Apostolou, “Athens suicide: a cry for dignity from downtrodden,” Christian Science Monitor, April 5, 2012, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2012/0405/Athens-suicide-a-cry-for-dignity-from-downtrodden-video; Democracy Now! “General Strike Sweeps Europe as Millions Reject Austerity as Solution to Economic Crisis,” November 14, 2012, http://www.democracynow.org/2012/11/14/general_strike_sweeps_europe_as_millions; Deutschewelle, “Pensioner’s suicide triggers Greek austerity protests,” April 5, 2012, http://www.dw.de/pensioners-suicide-triggers-greek-austerity-protests/a-15860196; Teo Kermeliotis, “Austerity drives up suicide rate in debt-ridden Greece,” CNN, April 6, 2012, http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/06/world/europe/greece-austerity-suicide/index.html?_s=PM:EUROPE; Nigel Morris, “Spike in suicide rate in Europe and US linked to financial crisis,” Independent, September 18, 2013, http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/spike-in-suicide-rate-in-europe-and-us-linked-to-financial-crisis-8822729.html