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

Qualified immunity

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

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

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

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

But originality counts! Doesn’t it?

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

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

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


Iraq and Iran

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

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

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

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

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


Guns

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

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

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

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

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


Pittsburgh

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

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

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

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


Amish

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

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

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

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


Gig economy

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

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

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


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

Warmongers rob the poor. Leftists too often ignore them.

Bernie Sanders

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


Iran and Iraq

I’m just leaving this here.


Nobody knows why the delusional raging narcissist-in-chief had Qasem Soleimani assassinated

It’s Pittsburgh in January. And there is no snow. We have had some 50° days, even a couple where the mercury touch 60°. It’s not at all what I remember from 50 years ago.

There have been occasional snowfalls. But any accumulation melts away within a few days.

And while the driving is easier, as an Uber and Lyft driver, it isn’t helping business. I just had one of the worst days I’ve ever had doing this. I really can’t afford days like this because I’m too close to the margin as it is.

Meanwhile my fury about my job hunt situation just grows.

I don’t even know what I’m doing this for. I can’t afford to take any time off or any time to explore what Pittsburgh has to offer besides the white supremacism that is in my face with nearly every corner I turn. All I do is work. I take abuse from the companies. I take abuse from other drivers. That’s my entire fucking life.

And I have a Ph.D. But hey, I’m supposed to be satisfied with driving for Uber and Lyft. Sorry, this needs to end.


Iran and Iraq

Today, I followed a thread on the decision-making process that led to Qasem Soleimani’s assassination. The various versions of the story include that no one really fucking knows[1] and that Donald Trump has “Obama envy.”[2] Which is pretty much par for the course for this presidency. Also, nobody knows how we’re going to avoid a war with Iran. Which, of course, is just fucking brilliant.

These geniuses are running the country while I’m driving for Uber and Lyft. How do I rationalize this to myself? I can’t.

Missy Ryan et al., “How Trump decided to kill a top Iranian general,” Washington Post, January 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/how-trump-decided-to-kill-a-top-iranian-general/2020/01/03/77ce3cc4-2e62-11ea-bcd4-24597950008f_story.html

David Nakamura, “In confrontation with Iran, Trump wrestles with the shadow of Obama, ‘the metric he has to beat,’” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-confrontation-with-iran-trump-wrestles-with-the-shadow-of-obama-the-metric-he-has-to-beat/2020/01/04/2bd11a80-2e49-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html

Paul Waldman, “Trump’s rationales for the Soleimani killing are falling apart,” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-confrontation-with-iran-trump-wrestles-with-the-shadow-of-obama-the-metric-he-has-to-beat/2020/01/04/2bd11a80-2e49-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html

Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, “Pentagon Rules Out Striking Iranian Cultural Sites, Contradicting Trump,” New York Times, January 7, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/06/us/politics/trump-esper-iran-cultural-sites.html


  1. [1]Missy Ryan et al., “How Trump decided to kill a top Iranian general,” Washington Post, January 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/how-trump-decided-to-kill-a-top-iranian-general/2020/01/03/77ce3cc4-2e62-11ea-bcd4-24597950008f_story.html; Paul Waldman, “Trump’s rationales for the Soleimani killing are falling apart,” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-confrontation-with-iran-trump-wrestles-with-the-shadow-of-obama-the-metric-he-has-to-beat/2020/01/04/2bd11a80-2e49-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html
  2. [2]Paul Waldman, “Trump’s rationales for the Soleimani killing are falling apart,” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-confrontation-with-iran-trump-wrestles-with-the-shadow-of-obama-the-metric-he-has-to-beat/2020/01/04/2bd11a80-2e49-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html

There are no words

Iran and Iraq

There is a new blog post entitled, “Every bit as stupid as World War I, if not more so.”

The first article here is actually from yesterday, but it’s been updated and worth a re-read. One part is especially weird: Donald Trump threatened Iraq with harsh sanctions and demanded repayment for the costs of an air base should the country indeed force U.S. troops out.[1] The U.S. military, nonetheless, may—or may not—be preparing to withdraw.[2]

Normally I wouldn’t care much about words from third parties, but a comment from an Israeli Defense Force general is interesting for his characterization of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani as part of a contest between Iran and the U.S. over control of Iraq.[3] Which is to say, pretty fucking bluntly, that Iraq is a colony, albeit with a yet-to-be-determined colonizer. Iraqis won’t appreciate that but there’s some real truth to it. This is a contest that’s been going on for a while.

“[Qassem] Soleimani hurt American interests and represented a significant danger to Americans in the region. We must look at the assassination as part of a fight between Iran and the United States over Iraq’s character. That is the story,” said IDF Southern Command head Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi.[4]

Erin Cunningham, “Iran announces it is suspending its commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal,” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/body-of-commander-slain-by-us-strike-arrives-in-iran-to-crowds-of-mourners/2020/01/05/4ca3281a-2f17-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html

John Hudson et al., “Killing of Soleimani follows long push from Pompeo for aggressive action against Iran, but airstrike brings serious risks,” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/killing-of-soleimani-follows-long-push-from-pompeo-for-aggressive-action-against-iran-but-airstrike-brings-serious-risks/2020/01/05/092a8e00-2f7d-11ea-be79-83e793dbcaef_story.html

David Smith, “Suleimani killing: Donald Trump defends threat to target cultural sites in Iran,” Guardian, January 6, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/06/suleimani-killing-donald-trump-defends-threat-to-hit-cultural-sites-in-iran

Times of Israel, “IDF general distances Israel from Soleimani killing in first public comment,” January 6, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/idf-general-distances-israel-from-soleimani-killing-in-first-public-comment/

Times of Israel, “US military says it’ll ‘move out’ of Iraq, but defense secretary denies pullout,” January 6, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-military-tells-iraq-it-is-preparing-to-move-out-official-letter/


  1. [1]Erin Cunningham, “Iran announces it is suspending its commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal,” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/body-of-commander-slain-by-us-strike-arrives-in-iran-to-crowds-of-mourners/2020/01/05/4ca3281a-2f17-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html
  2. [2]Times of Israel, “US military says it’ll ‘move out’ of Iraq, but defense secretary denies pullout,” January 6, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-military-tells-iraq-it-is-preparing-to-move-out-official-letter/
  3. [3]Times of Israel, “IDF general distances Israel from Soleimani killing in first public comment,” January 6, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/idf-general-distances-israel-from-soleimani-killing-in-first-public-comment/
  4. [4]Times of Israel, “IDF general distances Israel from Soleimani killing in first public comment,” January 6, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/idf-general-distances-israel-from-soleimani-killing-in-first-public-comment/

This ain’t getting better

Iran and Iraq

There is a new blog post entitled, “Tit for tat and the path to war, raging narcissist-in-chief style.”

Isabel Coles, “Iraqi Parliament Votes in Favor of Expelling U.S. Troops,” Wall Street Journal, January 5, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/iraqi-parliament-votes-in-favor-of-expelling-u-s-troops-11578236473

Erin Cunningham, “Iran announces it is suspending all commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal,” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/body-of-commander-slain-by-us-strike-arrives-in-iran-to-crowds-of-mourners/2020/01/05/4ca3281a-2f17-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html


War at last

Iran and Iraq

An intelligent president might have been able to avoid a war with Iran. Given the raging narcissist-in-chief we have, I see zero reason for optimism.

Matt Purple, “This is Trump’s War,” American Conservative, January 3, 2020, https://www.theamericanconservative.com/state-of-the-union/trumps-war/

Jared Malsin, “Thousands March in Iraq for Iranian Commander Killed in U.S. Strike,” Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/thousands-march-in-iraq-for-iranian-commander-killed-in-u-s-strike-11578145358


Vegans

There is a new blog post entitled, “The problem of non-vegan restaurants.”

Jenny Kirkham, “‘Hands up this isn’t great’: KFC admits selling chicken instead of vegan burger to vegetarians,” Liverpool Echo, January 3, 2020, https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/kfc-vegan-burger-chicken-vegetarian-17511479


Vermin in uniform

Police

There is a new blog post entitled, “The binary between “Black” and “Blue” Lives.”

Andrew Sheeler, “Black drivers in California stopped and searched more than others, state study shows,” Sacramento Bee, January 2, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/article238915598.html


Iraq and Iran

For historical reference:

Reuters, “Iraq war, the notable quotes,” March 11, 2008, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-war-quotes/factbox-iraq-war-the-notable-quotes-idUSL212762520080311

That[1] didn’t go well. But war is the answer. War is always the fucking answer.

Oh, and just sayin’, ’cause I’ve said it before, Iran won’t go any better.[2]

Carlos Latuff, in the above, raises an interesting point. For all the apparent hostility between Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu,[3] Obama gave the Israeli government nearly everything it wanted except for two things:

  1. Complete acquiescence to Israeli hegemony in the West Bank.[4]
  2. War with Iran.

Julian Borger and Martin Chulov, “Iran general Qassem Suleimani killed in Baghdad drone strike ordered by Trump,” Guardian, January 3, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/03/baghdad-airport-iraq-attack-deaths-iran-us-tensions

Zachary Evans, “State Department Warns Americans to Leave Iraq ‘Immediately’ in Wake of Soleimani Killing,” National Review, January 3, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/news/state-department-warns-americans-to-leave-iraq-immediately-in-wake-of-soleimani-killing/


Veganism

Telegraph, “Veganism is a philosophical belief and is therefore protected by law, judge rules,” January 3, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/01/03/veganism-philosophical-belief-therefore-protected-law-judge/


  1. [1]Reuters, “Iraq war, the notable quotes,” March 11, 2008, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-war-quotes/factbox-iraq-war-the-notable-quotes-idUSL212762520080311
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Forever war and inhumanity, delusional raging narcissist-in-chief style,” Irregular Bullshit, June 27, 2019, https://disunitedstates.com/2019/06/27/forever-war-and-inhumanity-delusional-raging-narcissist-in-chief-style/
  3. [3]Raphael Ahren, “Spurning lawmakers, Netanyahu loses the Democrats he never thought he had,” Times of Israel, August 16, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-never-thought-he-had-the-support-of-democrats-now-he-might-not/; Khaled Elgindy, “Obama’s Record on Israeli-Palestinian Peace: The President’s Disquieting Silence,” Foreign Affairs, October 5, 2016, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/israel/2016-10-05/obamas-record-israeli-palestinian-peace
  4. [4]Adam Entous, “The Maps of Israeli Settlements That Shocked Barack Obama,” New Yorker, July 9, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-map-of-israeli-settlements-that-shocked-barack-obama

War is the answer

There is a new blog post entitled, “An unhealthy relationship with guns.”


Iraq

You might recall from yesterday’s installment that Iraqi protesters had stormed the U.S. embassy in Iraq. They were protesting a U.S. bombing in the country.[1] In yet another stunning demonstration of “unclear on the concept,” the Trump administration responds to this by sending . . . wait for it  . . . more troops. It appeared the embassy protest might be going on for a while[2] but Iraq’s prime minister has promised to submit the question of a withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country to parliament. Such a withdrawal will be the price of peace at the U.S. embassy there,[3] which is to say that the U.S. has now lost Iraq in addition to Afghanistan.[4]

That makes us zero for two on George W. Bush’s immediate response to the 9/11 attacks, the same response that Barack Obama expanded to more countries. But hey, war is the answer. War is always the fucking answer.

Thaier al-Sudani and Maher Nazeh with Ahmed Aboulenein, “Iraqi militiamen hurl stones at U.S. Embassy, prepare for extended stay,” Reuters, January 1, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-usa/iraqi-militiamen-hurl-stones-at-us-embassy-prepare-for-extended-stay-idUSKBN1Z01N9

Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Supporters of Iranian-backed militia end siege of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad,” Washington Post, January 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/supporters-of-iranian-backed-militia-start-withdrawing-from-besieged-us-embassy-in-baghdad-following-militia-orders/2020/01/01/8280cb34-2c9e-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html


Israel

Ruth Eglash, “Netanyahu to ask Israeli parliament for immunity from criminal charges,” Washington Post, January 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/netanyahu-to-seek-immunity-from-criminal-charges/2020/01/01/9f635378-2b1a-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html


  1. [1]Luke Harding, “Trump accuses Iran over storming of US embassy compound in Baghdad,” Guardian, December 31, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/31/us-embassy-stormed-in-baghdad; Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Protesters chanting ‘Death to America’ break into U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad,” Washington Post, December 31, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/iran-backed-militia-supporters-converge-on-us-embassy-in-baghdad-shouting-death-to-america/2019/12/31/93f050b2-2bb1-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html
  2. [2]Thaier al-Sudani and Maher Nazeh with Ahmed Aboulenein, “Iraqi militiamen hurl stones at U.S. Embassy, prepare for extended stay,” Reuters, January 1, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-usa/iraqi-militiamen-hurl-stones-at-us-embassy-prepare-for-extended-stay-idUSKBN1Z01N9
  3. [3]Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Supporters of Iranian-backed militia end siege of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad,” Washington Post, January 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/supporters-of-iranian-backed-militia-start-withdrawing-from-besieged-us-embassy-in-baghdad-following-militia-orders/2020/01/01/8280cb34-2c9e-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html
  4. [4]Craig Whitlock, “At war with the truth,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/; Craig Whitlock, “Built to fail,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-nation-building/; Craig Whitlock, “Consumed by corruption,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-corruption-government/; Craig Whitlock, “Overwhelmed by opium,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-opium-poppy-production/; Craig Whitlock, “Stranded without a strategy,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-strategy/; Craig Whitlock, “Unguarded nation,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-army-police/

Facepalm, New Years Eve

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


Pittsburgh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Gig economy

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

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

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

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

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


Iraq

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

But ya know, war is the solution, right?

Fucking idiots.

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


  1. [1]David Benfell, “How am I to respond?” Not Housebroken, December 30, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/30/how-am-i-to-respond/
  2. [2]Noam Scheiber, “Uber and Postmates File Suit to Block California Freelancer Law,” New York Times, December 30, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/30/technology/uber-and-postmates-file-suit-to-block-california-freelancer-law.html
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Time for the gig economy to grow up,” Not Housebroken, August 30, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/30/time-for-the-gig-economy-to-grow-up/
  4. [4]Noam Scheiber, “Uber and Postmates File Suit to Block California Freelancer Law,” New York Times, December 30, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/30/technology/uber-and-postmates-file-suit-to-block-california-freelancer-law.html
  5. [5]U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1.
  6. [6]Vanessa Romo, “Uber Drivers Are Not Employees, National Relations Board Rules. Drivers Saw It Coming,” National Public Radio, May 15, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/05/15/723768986/uber-drivers-are-not-employees-national-relations-board-rules-drivers-saw-it-com
  7. [7]Alexia Fernández Campbell, “California is cracking down on the gig economy,” Vox, May 30, 2019, https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/5/30/18642535/california-ab5-misclassify-employees-contractors; Nathan Heller, “A New California Law Takes Aim at Uber and Lyft,” New Yorker, September 12, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-silicon-valley/a-new-california-law-takes-aim-at-uber-and-lyft
  8. [8]Luke Harding, “Trump accuses Iran over storming of US embassy compound in Baghdad,” Guardian, December 31, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/31/us-embassy-stormed-in-baghdad; Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Protesters chanting ‘Death to America’ break into U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad,” Washington Post, December 31, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/iran-backed-militia-supporters-converge-on-us-embassy-in-baghdad-shouting-death-to-america/2019/12/31/93f050b2-2bb1-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html

Driving while white

Pennsylvania

So yesterday, a white woman busted an illegal U-turn right in front of the cop who was in front of me.

I couldn’t see the front side of the cop’s light bar, but I assume he turned it on, as oncoming traffic stopped. He also, somehow, got the woman’s attention.

My Black passenger wondered what was going on. I explained that the cop was chewing out the woman for an illegal U-turn.

As a practical matter, it would have been extremely difficult in that situation for the cop to have written her a ticket. There was too much traffic already part-way into the intersection and even she had had trouble completing the turn, having had to back up (gee, I wonder why U-turns are illegal there) in order to complete it (the cop was, of course, in a larger vehicle), and there was no place to safely pull over.

My passenger expressed incredulity that she’d done that U-turn right in front of a cop. But, in effect, and as I explained to my passenger, the woman was getting away with it. And I could only say, there’s hardly any enforcement around here as long as you’re white.

“That’s true,” replied my passenger. Of course I think race plays a factor in traffic stops. I’ve seen far, far too much that’s completely over the top around here to believe otherwise.[1] And for cops to deny that they’re racist, as they do in this story,[2] only confirms for me, yet again, that they are.

Ivey DeJesus, “Does a driver’s race factor into traffic stops by Pa. police? It’s nearly impossible to tell,” PennLive, December 9, 2019, https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/12/tracking-race-in-police-traffic-stops-across-central-pa.html


Vietnam Afghanistan

The war in Afghanistan is what happens when you can’t admit the war was a catastrophically bad idea to start with.

Some of us knew that it was, even if for imprecise reasons. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, I remember hearing a news clip on the radio in which George W. Bush said something that made me think the missiles were already on the way.

There I was driving across the Presidio Heights neighborhood in San Francisco (with the windows rolled up) screaming, “No! No! No!” Again and again, I screamed it. “No! No! No!”

It turned out that missiles had not yet been launched, but I was nonetheless convinced that attacking a Muslim country could only make our relations with Muslims worse—and to the extent that Islam was in any way connected to the 9/11 attacks, we were only setting ourselves up for more.

That hasn’t precisely happened either, here in the U.S. and at least not yet, anyway. Although our relationship with Pakistan is severely strained, there’s been no repeat of the 9/11 attacks.

But while I had not yet returned to school (that would happen in 2003), I had learned enough of the history of Afghanistan to realize this was a doomed idea.

You didn’t even have to go back very far in history to examples of the British humiliation there. The Soviet Union’s defeat there is often blamed, at least in part, for its collapse.

But here we were, with fucking Bush the younger and a bunch of neoconservatives filled with hubris, idiots every damned one of them.

Not that Bush’s successors have been any better. One story that emerges again and again in the Washington Post‘s history of the war[3] will be familiar to scholars of colonization anywhere: That of a colonial power swooping in, certain of its rectitude, certain of the superiority of its own ways, heedless of what “backward,” “corrupt,” “stupid,” (pick any of a number of disparaging labels) local people would tell them. The power doesn’t need to know about local conditions and local reality because it has technology and experience, because it “knows better.”[4]

Another will be familiar to those who remember the war in Vietnam: We must pretend to succeed even when we are failing.[5]

Craig Whitlock, “At war with the truth,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/

Craig Whitlock, “Stranded without a strategy,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-strategy/

Craig Whitlock, “Built to fail,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-nation-building/

Craig Whitlock, “Consumed by corruption,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-corruption-government/

Craig Whitlock, “Unguarded nation,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-army-police/

Craig Whitlock, “Overwhelmed by opium,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-opium-poppy-production/


Grants

It’s yet another obstacle to being hired where I should be hired. If I had a publication track record, I might have a better chance of being hired at a university. But to do that research I would need funding.

And it turns out that to be funded, I would likely need to be affiliated with (employed at) an elite university like Stanford or an Ivy League.[6]

Nothing is honest anymore.

Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera, “How Elitism Marginalizes Academics,” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 5, 2019, https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/20191204-Herlihy-Mera


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Hey cops! Do you know what year it is?” Not Housebroken, August 27, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/27/hey-cops-do-you-know-what-year-it-is/; David Benfell, “The 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/; David Benfell, “Militia territory,” Not Housebroken, November 22, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/11/22/militia-territory/
  2. [2]Ivey DeJesus, “Does a driver’s race factor into traffic stops by Pa. police? It’s nearly impossible to tell,” PennLive, December 9, 2019, https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/12/tracking-race-in-police-traffic-stops-across-central-pa.html
  3. [3]Craig Whitlock, “At war with the truth,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/; Craig Whitlock, “Stranded without a strategy,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-strategy/; Craig Whitlock, “Built to fail,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-nation-building/; Craig Whitlock, “Consumed by corruption,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-corruption-government/; Craig Whitlock, “Unguarded nation,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-army-police/; Craig Whitlock, “Overwhelmed by opium,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-opium-poppy-production/
  4. [4]Edward W. Said’s account mostly relates to India in Culture and Imperialism (New York: Vintage, 1993), where the struggle against colonization lasted hundreds of years.
  5. [5]David Halberstam, The Powers That Be (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 2000).
  6. [6]Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera, “How Elitism Marginalizes Academics,” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 5, 2019, https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/20191204-Herlihy-Mera