Scary times

Pennsylvania

It’s scary every morning now since Tom Wolf’s “stay at home” order,[1] now expanded to three more counties,[2] took effect Monday evening, as I have both the Uber and Lyft driver apps online and get no orders. But so far, the bottom hasn’t really dropped out. I’m still making the numbers come out, in part with tricks I used in the San Francisco Bay Area but wouldn’t use here if Pittsburgh traffic were normal.

I don’t know how long that will work.

In the meantime, if you want to understand how coronavirus will play out with western Pennsylvania Donald Trump supporters, read Jason Togyer’s piece.[3] You won’t get the story you’re looking for, but his writing rings true to me.

Kara Seymour, “Stay-At-Home Order Expanded As Coronavirus Cases Top 1K In PA,” Patch, March 25, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h27o5/stay-at-home-order-expanded-as-coronavirus-cases-top-1k-in-pa

Jason Togyer, “Fear and Loathing in the Time of Coronavirus,” Columbia Journalism Review, March 25, 2020, https://mailchi.mp/columbia/the-mystery-of-caroline-county-virginia-688061?e=a9376a1225


  1. [1]WTAE, “Stay-at-home order to begin tonight for several Pa. counties, including Allegheny,” March 23, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/stay-at-home-order-to-begin-tonight-for-several-pa-counties-including-allegheny/31900786
  2. [2]Kara Seymour, “Stay-At-Home Order Expanded As Coronavirus Cases Top 1K In PA,” Patch, March 25, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h27o5/stay-at-home-order-expanded-as-coronavirus-cases-top-1k-in-pa
  3. [3]Jason Togyer, “Fear and Loathing in the Time of Coronavirus,” Columbia Journalism Review, March 25, 2020, https://mailchi.mp/columbia/the-mystery-of-caroline-county-virginia-688061?e=a9376a1225

And by the way, baptism doesn’t work

Abortion

The good news is that I can offer understanding here. The bad news is that it won’t make you feel better:

The argument is actually a bit more nuanced than this. Anti-choice folks reconcile their position opposing abortion rights and embracing the death penalty—and, I infer, a willingness to sacrifice human life to save the neoliberal economy—with an implicit claim that they’re protecting innocent life.[1] And it’s real clear that once we literally or figuratively pass through the birth canal—the vagina—we can never be “innocent.” Not even with baptism.[2] By this logic, the old, “grandparents,” whom the Texas lieutenant governor suggested will gladly sacrifice themselves[3]—will have been the greatest sinners of all, as our sins accumulate and can never be washed away. Which, yes, absolutely, is still a pretty disgusting position to adopt.

But you weren’t really expecting this to make you feel better, were you?

Isabel Togoh, “Texas Official Suggests ‘Lots’ Of Grandparents Would Be Willing Risk Coronavirus Death To Keep Economy Going,” Forbes, March 24, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/isabeltogoh/2020/03/24/texas-official-suggests-lots-of-grandparents-would-be-willing-risk-coronavirus-death-to-keep-economy-going/


Coronavirus

So, as the United States risks becoming an epicenter for the COVID-19 pandemic,[4] the Trump administration contemplates loosening restrictions on account of the economy.[5] The trouble is, there’s a real problem with the economy,[6] especially for gig workers[7] and the poor,[8] and it’s unlikely anything coming out of Congress will really address it.[9]

Meanwhile, Tom Wolf’s latest order[10] seems to be having an impact on my business that earlier versions did not.

Reuters, “U.S. has potential of becoming coronavirus epicentre, says WHO,” March 24, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-who-usa/u-s-has-potential-of-becoming-coronavirus-epicentre-says-who-idUSKBN21B1FT


Recession

One of the great clues that the U.S. is not really a Christian country is that even fundamentalists, who claim a literal reading of the Bible, overlook that part about a jubilee, mass debt forgiveness.

Isabel V. Sawhill, “The middle class faces its greatest threat since the 1930s,” Brookings, March 20, 2020,https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/the-middle-class-faces-its-greatest-threat-since-the-1930s/

Michael Hudson, “A debt jubilee is the only way to avoid a depression,” Washington Post, March 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/21/debt-jubilee-is-only-way-avoid-depression/


  1. [1]George Lakoff, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2002).
  2. [2]David Benfell, “The connection between ‘original sin,’ misogyny, and white supremacism,” Not Housebroken, November 25, 2018, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/11/25/the-connection-between-original-sin-misogyny-and-white-supremacism/
  3. [3]Isabel Togoh, “Texas Official Suggests ‘Lots’ Of Grandparents Would Be Willing Risk Coronavirus Death To Keep Economy Going,” Forbes, March 24, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/isabeltogoh/2020/03/24/texas-official-suggests-lots-of-grandparents-would-be-willing-risk-coronavirus-death-to-keep-economy-going/
  4. [4]Reuters, “U.S. has potential of becoming coronavirus epicentre, says WHO,” March 24, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-who-usa/u-s-has-potential-of-becoming-coronavirus-epicentre-says-who-idUSKBN21B1FT
  5. [5]Adam Cancryn and Nancy Cook, “Health officials want Trump to ‘double down, not lighten up’ restrictions,” Politico, March 23, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/23/coronavirus-economy-trump-restart-145222
  6. [6]Adam Cancryn and Nancy Cook, “Health officials want Trump to ‘double down, not lighten up’ restrictions,” Politico, March 23, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/23/coronavirus-economy-trump-restart-145222; Ben White, “Great Depression 2? Worries about a coronavirus-induced calamity pile up,” Politico, March 23, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/23/great-depression-coronavirus-induced-calamity-145304
  7. [7]Funda Ustek-Spilda et al., “The untenable luxury of self-isolation,” New Internationalist, March 18, 2020, https://newint.org/features/2020/03/18/untenable-luxury-self-isolation
  8. [8]Kim Hart, “The coronavirus economy will devastate those who can least afford it,” Axios, March 23, 2020, https://www.axios.com/coronavirus-economy-layoffs-children-families-bad-d588cc93-ff26-4031-8be8-5654cce05a15.html
  9. [9]David Benfell, “Josef Stalin’s purges might not look so bad,” Irregular Bullshit, March 24, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/24/josef-stalins-purges-might-not-look-so-bad/
  10. [10]WTAE, “Stay-at-home order to begin tonight for several Pa. counties, including Allegheny,” March 23, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/stay-at-home-order-to-begin-tonight-for-several-pa-counties-including-allegheny/31900786

The repeat-offending corporate felon

Pacific Gas and Electric

Somehow, “problem child” just doesn’t cover this: Pacific Gas and Electric had already been found guilty of felony charges and remains under probation for the San Bruno gas line explosion.[1] The utility will now plead guilty to felony charges stemming from the Camp Fire that leveled nearly all of Paradise in 2018.[2] The company had just gotten California governor Gavin Newsom’s approval for a reorganization plan in its bankruptcy.[3] I still think it should be considered incorrigible.

Katherine Blunt, “PG&E to Plead Guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter Charges in Deadly California Wildfire,” Wall Street Journal, March 23, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/pg-e-to-plead-guilty-to-involuntary-manslaughter-charges-in-deadly-california-wildfire-11584962649


Pennsylvania

As near as I can tell, the list of life-sustaining businesses is unchanged, so I apparently am able to continue to drive for Uber and Lyft. But fewer people will have places to go.

WTAE, “Stay-at-home order to begin tonight for several Pa. counties, including Allegheny,” March 23, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/stay-at-home-order-to-begin-tonight-for-several-pa-counties-including-allegheny/31900786


Recession

Eric Levitz, “Coronavirus Exposes the Virulence of American Conservatism,” New York, March 23, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/senate-gop-puts-ideology-above-workers-in-coronavirus-bill.html


  1. [1]Jarod Cassidy, “PG&E Guilty of 6 Felony Charges in San Bruno Pipeline Explosion,” Thomas J. Henry, October 5, 2017, https://thomasjhenrylaw.com/blog/premises-liability/pge-guilty-6-felony-charges-san-bruno-pipeline-explosion/; Richard Gonzales, “Federal Judge Imposes New Probation Terms On PG&E To Reduce Wildfire Risk,” National Public Radio, April 2, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/04/02/709248544/federal-judge-imposes-new-probation-terms-on-pg-e-to-reduce-wildfire-risk; Lyanne Melendez and Katie Marzullo, “Federal jury finds PG&E guilty of obstructing investigators,” KGO, August 10, 2016, https://abc7news.com/news/federal-jury-finds-pg-e-guilty-of-obstructing-investigators/1463352/
  2. [2]Katherine Blunt, “PG&E to Plead Guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter Charges in Deadly California Wildfire,” Wall Street Journal, March 23, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/pg-e-to-plead-guilty-to-involuntary-manslaughter-charges-in-deadly-california-wildfire-11584962649
  3. [3]Dale Kasler, “PG&E makes deal with Gov. Newsom on bankruptcy demands. ‘End of business as usual,’ he says,” Sacramento Bee, March 20, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/article241379336.html

Don’t call it a recession. This is what neoliberals call a ‘vacation.’

Recession

Mark Blyth wrote of European Union-imposed austerity in the recession precipitated by the financial crisis of 2008,

The notion that unemployment is voluntary is, in the context of the current self-inflicted wound in Europe, downright offensive. Real workers must pay bills and feed families from jobs that have fixed hours and fixed wage rates. The idea that workers “trade off” labor against leisure by figuring out the real wage rate and then slacking off or going on an indefinite unpaid leave is the type of thinking that leads us to see the Great Depression as a giant, unexpected, and astonishingly long unpaid vacation for millions of people: original, yes; helpful, no.[1]

Intellectually, neoliberalism stands utterly discredited,[2] but it remains mainstream Democratic Party ideology and an ideology professed by Republicans even when they run up huge deficits on their turns in power.[3] I have concluded, in fact, that the defense of neoliberalism is a higher priority for Democrats even than winning elections—the latter is merely a means to the former.[4] And certainly Nancy Pelosi’s dithering on economic relief[5] does nothing to dispel this conclusion.

Meanwhile, Luke Taylor offers an introduction to some of my passengers,[6] although I doubt many of them are nearly so creative as he claims. Whatever. They aren’t going anywhere now.

David J. Lynch and Heather Long, “U.S. economy deteriorating faster than anticipated as 80 million Americans are forced to stay at home,” Washington Post, March 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/20/us-economy-deteriorating-faster-than-anticipated-80-million-americans-forced-stay-home/

Luke Taylor, “When coronavirus is behind us, will you still think of restaurant and bar workers?” Vox, March 21, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/3/21/21188210/coronavirus-restaurant-bar-workers-economy-service-industry


  1. [1]Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University, 2013), 159.
  2. [2]Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford, UK: Oxford University, 2013); Amir Fleischmann, “The Myth of the Fiscal Conservative,” Jacobin, March 5, 2017, https://jacobinmag.com/2017/03/fiscal-conservative-social-services-austerity-save-money; Jason Hickel, “Progress and its discontents,” New Internationalist, August 7, 2019, https://newint.org/features/2019/07/01/long-read-progress-and-its-discontents; Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 2012); Robert Kuttner, “Austerity never works: Deficit hawks are amoral — and wrong,” Salon, May 5, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/05/05/austerity_never_works_deficit_hawks_are_amoral_and_wrong/; Dennis Loo, Globalization and the Demolition of Society (Glendale, CA: Larkmead, 2011); Thomas Piketty, Jeffrey Sachs, Heiner Flassbeck, Dani Rodrik and Simon Wren-Lewis, “Austerity Has Failed: An Open Letter From Thomas Piketty to Angela Merkel,” Nation, July 6, 2015, http://www.thenation.com/article/austerity-has-failed-an-open-letter-from-thomas-piketty-to-angela-merkel/; John Quiggin, “Austerity Has Been Tested, and It Failed,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 20, 2013, http://chronicle.com/article/Austerity-Has-Been-Tested-and/139255/; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “How Austerity Kills,” New York Times, May 12, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/13/opinion/how-austerity-kills.html; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “Paul Krugman’s right: Austerity kills,” Salon, May 19, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/05/19/paul_krugmans_right_austerity_kills/
  3. [3]Kate Aronoff, “The Democrats Screwed Up,” New Republic, March 20, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/156994/democrats-screwed
  4. [4]David Benfell, “How the neoliberal (usually known as Democratic) party may well lose in 2020,” Not Housebroken, December 7, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/07/how-the-neoliberal-usually-known-as-democratic-party-may-well-lose-in-2020/
  5. [5]Kate Aronoff, “The Democrats Screwed Up,” New Republic, March 20, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/156994/democrats-screwed; Jeff Stein et al., “Senate Republicans release massive economic stimulus bill for coronavirus response,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/19/trump-coronavirus-economic-plan-stimulus/
  6. [6]Luke Taylor, “When coronavirus is behind us, will you still think of restaurant and bar workers?” Vox, March 21, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/3/21/21188210/coronavirus-restaurant-bar-workers-economy-service-industry

The neoliberal speed bump

Recession

I don’t recall Barack Obama ever even in the slightest way apologizing for this “painful legacy:”

Yet the need to rescue large parts of the economy is running into the painful legacy of the 2008 bailout, which was criticized for putting banks and other companies that helped cause the financial crisis before struggling homeowners and workers ravaged by the Great Recession. The $700 billion bank bailout elicited a voter backlash, which means any aid this time is likely to have large strings attached. Those could include limits on executive compensation, prohibitions on stock buybacks and, most prominent, measures to force bailed out companies to keep workers on their payrolls.[1]

Neoliberals are as self-righteous as any evangelical Protestant. While just about everyone else is emphasizing a need for speed over “getting it right,”[2]

“Nancy Pelosi is officially to the right of Tom Cotton on economic support for American families,” HuffPost reporter Zach Carter tweeted on Sunday. “This is a total failure of Democratic Party leadership.”[3]

Now, rather than apologize for painfully prolonging the “Great Recession,” neoliberals are delaying a badly needed bailout.

Eoin Higgins, “Refusal by Pelosi to Consider Universal Cash Payments in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Maddening,’ Say Progressives,” Common Dreams, March 18, 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/18/refusal-pelosi-consider-universal-cash-payments-response-coronavirus-pandemic

Jim Tankersley and Ben Casselman, “Washington Weighs Big Bailouts to Help U.S. Economy Survive Coronavirus,” New York Times, March 18, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/business/bailout-economy-coronavirus.html


  1. [1]Jim Tankersley and Ben Casselman, “Washington Weighs Big Bailouts to Help U.S. Economy Survive Coronavirus,” New York Times, March 18, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/business/bailout-economy-coronavirus.html
  2. [2]Eoin Higgins, “Refusal by Pelosi to Consider Universal Cash Payments in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Maddening,’ Say Progressives,” Common Dreams, March 18, 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/18/refusal-pelosi-consider-universal-cash-payments-response-coronavirus-pandemic; Jim Tankersley and Ben Casselman, “Washington Weighs Big Bailouts to Help U.S. Economy Survive Coronavirus,” New York Times, March 18, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/business/bailout-economy-coronavirus.html
  3. [3]Eoin Higgins, “Refusal by Pelosi to Consider Universal Cash Payments in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Maddening,’ Say Progressives,” Common Dreams, March 18, 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/18/refusal-pelosi-consider-universal-cash-payments-response-coronavirus-pandemic

The New York Times, still neoliberal after all these years

Bernie Sanders

To quote from the current version of my job hunt page:

It’s paradoxical, but there’s a certain amount of romanticization that surrounds poverty. The poor are sometimes seen as resilient and as working hard, often to improve their children’s prospects—for example, the archetype of the mother scrubbing floors so her progeny can attend college. We are often credited with a straightforward (read, unnuanced) perspective that seems clarifying (yet is facile), borne of allegedly (but not really) “common” sense.

In the end, however, there’s a stigma that surrounds poverty found in what Thomas Shapiro called “[a] core element of the American credo,” which asserts “that talent, skill, hard work, and achievement largely determine life chances.”[1] We are poor, it is believed, even if rarely said aloud, because we deserve to be.

And so it follows that we are undeserving, undeserving even of the minimum conditions of life. No one else should pay higher taxes so that we might eat, have shelter, or even have a place to go to the bathroom. No one should risk their property values for affordable housing in their neighborhoods.[2] We are deserving of all the forms of structural violence[3] waged against us. We should take on enormous debt—and repay every last penny—to gain the education that might, only might, lift us from poverty. And we should be grateful for the shit jobs we can get,[4] if we can get them.

And because we are presumed unworthy, we may be systemically denied socially acceptable means of advancement toward socially acceptable ends.[5] Rather, we are exclusively means to other people’s ends.[6][7]

So what has the New York Times done with this article panning the so-called “Dirtbag Left” that lacks even the beginning of a sincere effort to understand that, gee whiz, some folks might really have some grievances?[8] Reinforced my impression from 2016 that they are beholden to an intellectually utterly discredited neoliberalism[9] in league with the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton. Further reduced the chance that I will ever again subscribe.

Nellie Bowles, “The Pied Pipers of the Dirtbag Left Want to Lead Everyone to Bernie Sanders,” New York Times, February 29, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/29/us/politics/bernie-sanders-chapo-trap-house.html


  1. [1]Thomas M. Shapiro, “Introduction,” in Great Divides: Readings in Social Inequality in the United States, ed. Thomas M. Shapiro, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005), 3.
  2. [2]Benjamin Schneider, “Meet the PHIMBYs,” CityLab, April 13, 2018, https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/04/nimbys-yimbys-and-phimbys-oh-my/557927/
  3. [3]defined in David P. Barash and Charles P. Webel, Peace and Conflict Studies (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2002).
  4. [4]Daniel D’Addario, “Amazon is worse than Walmart,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/control/2013/07/30/how_amazon_is_worse_than_wal_mart/; Timothy Egan, “The Corporate Daddy,” New York Times, June 19, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/opinion/timothy-egan-walmart-starbucks-and-the-fight-against-inequality.html; Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed (New York: Owl, 2001); Josh Eidelson, “Wal-Mart faces warehouse horror allegations and federal Labor Board complaint,” Salon, November 19, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/11/18/breaking_wal_mart_faces_warehouse_horror_allegations_and_federal_labor_board_complaint/; Josh Eidelson, “Tens of thousands protest, over 100 arrested in Black Friday challenge to Wal-Mart,” Salon, November 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/11/30/tens_of_thousands_protest_over_100_arrested_in_black_friday_challenge_to_wal_mart/; Josh Eidelson, “Finally paying for Wal-Mart’s sins: Wage theft settlement yields millions,” Salon, December 16, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/12/16/finally_paying_for_wal_marts_sins_wage_theft_settlement_yields_millions/; Josh Eidelson, “Freezing for Wal-Mart: Sub-zero warehouse temperatures spur Indiana work stoppage,” Salon, January 14, 2014, https://www.salon.com/test/2014/01/13/freezing_for_wal_mart_sub_zero_warehouse_temperatures_spur_indiana_work_stoppage/; Josh Eidelson, “Amazon Keeps Unions Out By Keeping Workers in Fear, Says Organizer,” Alternet, January 22, 2014, https://www.alternet.org/2014/01/amazon-keeps-unions-out-keeping-workers-fear-says-organizer/; Nichole Gracely, “‘Being homeless is better than working for Amazon,’” Guardian, November 28, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/nov/28/being-homeless-is-better-than-working-for-amazon; Steven Greenhouse, “The Changing Face of Temporary Employment,” New York Times, August 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/01/upshot/the-changing-face-of-temporary-employment.html; Erin Hatton, “The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy,” New York Times, January 26, 2013, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/the-rise-of-the-permanent-temp-economy/; Simon Head, “Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers,” Salon, February 23, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/02/23/worse_than_wal_mart_amazons_sick_brutality_and_secret_history_of_ruthlessly_intimidating_workers/; Paul Jaskunas, “The Tyranny of the Forced Smile,” New York Times, February 14, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/jobs/the-tyranny-of-the-forced-smile.html; Allison Kilkenny, “Ohio Walmart Holds Food Drive For Its Own Employees,” Nation, November 18, 2013, https://www.thenation.com/article/ohio-walmart-holds-food-drive-its-own-employees/; Molly Kinder, “Trump’s State of the Union declared we’re in a ‘blue-collar boom.’ Workers don’t agree,” Brookings, February 6, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2020/02/05/trumps-state-of-the-union-declared-were-in-a-blue-collar-boom-workers-dont-agree/; Paul Krugman, “The Plight of the Employed,” New York Times, December 24, 2013, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/24/the-plight-of-the-employed/; Paul Krugman, “The Fear Economy,” New York Times, December 26, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/27/opinion/krugman-the-fear-economy.html; Danielle Kurtzleben, “Read McDonald’s workers’ shocking harassment and discrimination complaints — and why they’re so important,” Vox, January 22, 2015, https://www.vox.com/2015/1/22/7873661/mcdonalds-lawsuit-harassment-discrimination; Edward McClelland, “You call this a middle class? “I’m trying not to lose my house,’” Salon, March 1, 2014, https://www.salon.com/test/2014/03/01/you_call_this_a_middle_class_i%E2%80%99m_trying_not_to_lose_my_house/; Mac McClelland, “I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave,” Mother Jones, March/April 2012, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/mac-mcclelland-free-online-shipping-warehouses-labor/; Nathaniel Mott, “From Amazon warehouse workers to Google bus drivers, it’s tough working a non-tech job at a tech company,” Pando, October 9, 2014, https://pando.com/2014/10/09/from-amazon-warehouse-workers-to-google-bus-drivers-its-tough-working-a-non-tech-job-at-a-tech-company/; Marc Pilisuk with Jennifer Achord Rountree, Who Benefits From Global Violence and War (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2008).; Ari Rabin-Havt, “Wal-Mart flunks its fact-check: The truth behind its sarcastic response to the Times,” Salon, June 25, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/06/25/walmart_flunks_its_fact_check_the_truth_behind_its_sarcastic_response_to_the_times/; Michael Sainato, “‘I’m not a robot’: Amazon workers condemn unsafe, grueling conditions at warehouse,” Guardian, February 5, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/feb/05/amazon-workers-protest-unsafe-grueling-conditions-warehouse; Alex Seitz-Wald, “Amazon is everything wrong with our new economy,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/07/30/amazon_is_everything_wrong_with_our_new_economy/; Alana Semuels, “As employers push efficiency, the daily grind wears down workers,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-harsh-work-20130407-story.html; Alana Semuels, “How the relationship between employers and workers changed,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2013-apr-07-la-fi-mo-harsh-work-history-20130405-story.html; Alana Semuels, “Tougher workplace makes home life worse too,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2013-apr-07-la-fi-mo-harsh-work-history-20130405-story.html; Spencer Soper, “Inside Amazon’s Warehouse,” Lehigh Valley Morning Call, September 18, 2011, https://www.mcall.com/business/mc-xpm-2011-09-18-mc-allentown-amazon-complaints-20110917-story.html; Scott Sernau, Worlds Apart: Social Inequalities in a Global Economy, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, 2006); Lindsay Wise, “Report: Temp jobs at all-time high in U.S.,” McClatchy, September 2, 2014, https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/economy/article24772543.html
  5. [5]I refer to Robert K. Merton, “Social Structure and Anomie,” in Social Theory, ed. Charles Lemert, 6th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2017), 181-190. However, barriers to social mobility remain formidable: Claude S. Fischer et al., “Why Inequality?” In Great Divides, ed. Thomas M. Shapiro, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005), 9-15; Jay MacLeod, “Social Immobility in the Land of Opportunity, in Great Divides, ed. Thomas M. Shapiro, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005), 22-26.
  6. [6]As Lawrence N. Hinman observes in Contemporary Moral Issues, 4th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2013), the commodification and objectification of persons seems inherent to capitalist relations.
  7. [7]David Benfell, “,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  8. [8]Nellie Bowles, “The Pied Pipers of the Dirtbag Left Want to Lead Everyone to Bernie Sanders,” New York Times, February 29, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/29/us/politics/bernie-sanders-chapo-trap-house.html
  9. [9]Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford, UK: Oxford University, 2013); Amir Fleischmann, “The Myth of the Fiscal Conservative,” Jacobin, March 5, 2017, https://jacobinmag.com/2017/03/fiscal-conservative-social-services-austerity-save-money; Jason Hickel, “Progress and its discontents,” New Internationalist, August 7, 2019, https://newint.org/features/2019/07/01/long-read-progress-and-its-discontents; Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 2012); Robert Kuttner, “Austerity never works: Deficit hawks are amoral — and wrong,” Salon, May 5, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/05/05/austerity_never_works_deficit_hawks_are_amoral_and_wrong/; Dennis Loo, Globalization and the Demolition of Society (Glendale, CA: Larkmead, 2011); Thomas Piketty, Jeffrey Sachs, Heiner Flassbeck, Dani Rodrik and Simon Wren-Lewis, “Austerity Has Failed: An Open Letter From Thomas Piketty to Angela Merkel,” Nation, July 6, 2015, http://www.thenation.com/article/austerity-has-failed-an-open-letter-from-thomas-piketty-to-angela-merkel/; John Quiggin, “Austerity Has Been Tested, and It Failed,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 20, 2013, http://chronicle.com/article/Austerity-Has-Been-Tested-and/139255/; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “How Austerity Kills,” New York Times, May 12, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/13/opinion/how-austerity-kills.html; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “Paul Krugman’s right: Austerity kills,” Salon, May 19, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/05/19/paul_krugmans_right_austerity_kills/

Neoliberal resentment

Brexit

One of my reasons for skepticism about private space initiatives is that I am reluctant to trust my safety to the profit motive. You won’t find me in Elon Musk’s obsessive Mars colony[1] or on Jeff Bezos’ space station,[2] and not simply because it’s a moot point anyway. It’s yet another reason (I mainly abhor the security procedures) I am reluctant to fly; at least with my admittedly capitalist-built car, the speeds are a lot lower, I have a much shorter distance to fall, and I control the maintenance.

It’s about avoiding EU regulations that scotch innovation. On many matters of regulation, Brussels follows a precautionary principle – that is, a product must be proved safe to be approved, rather than proved dangerous to be banned.[3]

As trade talks loom between the United Kingdom, demanding a neoliberal freedom from European Union regulation to innovate, and the more cautious E.U., it is apparent that this is what gives Boris Johnson his hard-on,[4] even as British regulation is, in many areas, more stringent than European[5] and Johnson “pinky promises” not to relax it.[6]

That said, this is looking like a very hard Brexit, which some will say breaks yet another Johnson promise. Y’all should be used to that by now,[7] but what really bugs me is the oh, so very familiar, neoliberal hubris: “In either case [whether a Canadian- or Australian-style deal with the E.U.], I have no doubt that Britain will prosper.”[8] This is the same rhetoric that propelled so-called “free” (for whom, to do what, to whom?) trade in the U.S., the same hubris that the U.S. could “compete with the world.” Post-industrial decline and abusive jobs[9] prove it wrong.

Christopher Hope, “Boris Johnson team ‘infuriated’ as EU reneges on free trade deal,” Telegraph, February 1, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/02/01/boris-johnson-infuriated-eu-reneges-free-trade-deal/

Madeline Grant, “Project Fear is still haunting the national debate on a clean break from EU regulations,” Telegraph, February 2, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/02/02/project-fear-still-hauntingthe-national-debateon-clean-break/

Charles Hymas and James Crisp, “Britain will not accept EU rules to get a trade deal, says Boris Johnson,” Telegraph, February 2, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/02/02/britain-will-not-accept-eu-rules-get-trade-deal-says-boris-johnson/

Daniel Capurro to Front Bench list, “‘We like rules, just not your ones,’” February 3, 2020, http://m.email3.telegraph.co.uk/nl/jsp/m.jsp?c=%40ZjegS%2FZfBFiLTRy45i23NUyEmWQyDeGxTFK%2F9Gq0nfk%3D&WT.mc_id=e_DM1191159&WT.tsrc=email&etype=Edi_FrB_New&utmsource=email&utm_medium=Edi_FrB_New20200203&utm_campaign=DM1191159

Danielle Sheridan and Asa Bennett, “Brexit latest news: Boris Johnson says UK must become champion of global free trade,” Telegraph, February 3, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/02/03/brexit-latest-news-boris-johnson-trade-deal-eu-rules/


Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton just won’t shut the fuck up. And whatever each of their supporters may be doing,[10] she’s the one setting the tone here,[11] certainly not Bernie Sanders. In general, there’s a shrillness[12] to the neoconservative (and therefore neoliberal) wing of the party that does nothing to refute my contention that the party is determined to stop Sanders.

After 2016,[13] and in light of the above,[14] not a lot of people anywhere near my end of the spectrum are going to trust the Democratic National Committee as it goes after people complaining the contest in 2020 is rigged.[15]

But as I’ve said before, the principle here is not victory, but neoliberalism.[16] Donald Trump may not be much of a neoliberal, but with deregulation and tax cuts, he’s certainly more of one than Sanders.

Peter Daou with Leela Daou, “I worked for Hillary Clinton. Her attacks on Bernie Sanders are a big mistake,” Guardian, January 21, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jan/21/hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders-attacks-netflix

Shane Goldmacher, “Hillary Clinton Slams Bernie Sanders for Not Working to Unite Democrats in 2016,” New York Times, January 31, 2020, ttps://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/31/us/politics/hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders.html

Donie O’Sullivan, “The Democrats’ new online troll fighters make 2020 debut in Iowa,” CNN, February 2, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/02/politics/facebook-democrats-disinformation-iowa/index.html


  1. [1]Edwin Chan, Lulu Yilun Chen, and Chunying Zhang, “The Time a Jet-Lagged Musk Made Alibaba’s Jack Ma Sound Grounded,” Bloomberg, August 29, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-29/the-time-a-jet-lagged-musk-made-alibaba-s-jack-ma-sound-grounded; Tristan Greene, “Here’s the stupid reason Elon Musk wants to nuke Mars,” Next Web, August 16, 2019, https://thenextweb.com/distract/2019/08/16/heres-the-stupid-reason-elon-musk-wants-to-nuke-mars/; Samantha Rolfe, “Elon Musk’s Starship may be more moral catastrophe than bold step in space exploration,” Science X, October 2, 2019, https://phys.org/news/2019-10-elon-musk-starship-moral-catastrophe.html
  2. [2]Catherine Clifford, “Jeff Bezos: I spend my billions on space because we’re destroying Earth,” USA Today, July 17, 2019, https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/07/17/jeff-bezos-blue-moon-why-he-spends-billions-space/1762978001/; Franklin Foer, “Jeff Bezos’s Master Plan,” Atlantic, November 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/11/what-jeff-bezos-wants/598363/
  3. [3]Daniel Capurro to Front Bench list, “‘We like rules, just not your ones,’” February 3, 2020, http://m.email3.telegraph.co.uk/nl/jsp/m.jsp?c=%40ZjegS%2FZfBFiLTRy45i23NUyEmWQyDeGxTFK%2F9Gq0nfk%3D&WT.mc_id=e_DM1191159&WT.tsrc=email&etype=Edi_FrB_New&utmsource=email&utm_medium=Edi_FrB_New20200203&utm_campaign=DM1191159
  4. [4]Daniel Capurro to Front Bench list, “‘We like rules, just not your ones,’” February 3, 2020, http://m.email3.telegraph.co.uk/nl/jsp/m.jsp?c=%40ZjegS%2FZfBFiLTRy45i23NUyEmWQyDeGxTFK%2F9Gq0nfk%3D&WT.mc_id=e_DM1191159&WT.tsrc=email&etype=Edi_FrB_New&utmsource=email&utm_medium=Edi_FrB_New20200203&utm_campaign=DM1191159; Charles Hymas and James Crisp, “Britain will not accept EU rules to get a trade deal, says Boris Johnson,” Telegraph, February 2, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/02/02/britain-will-not-accept-eu-rules-get-trade-deal-says-boris-johnson/; Danielle Sheridan and Asa Bennett, “Brexit latest news: Boris Johnson says UK must become champion of global free trade,” Telegraph, February 3, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/02/03/brexit-latest-news-boris-johnson-trade-deal-eu-rules/
  5. [5]Madeline Grant, “Project Fear is still haunting the national debate on a clean break from EU regulations,” Telegraph, February 2, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/02/02/project-fear-still-hauntingthe-national-debateon-clean-break/; Danielle Sheridan and Asa Bennett, “Brexit latest news: Boris Johnson says UK must become champion of global free trade,” Telegraph, February 3, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/02/03/brexit-latest-news-boris-johnson-trade-deal-eu-rules/
  6. [6]Christopher Hope, “Boris Johnson team ‘infuriated’ as EU reneges on free trade deal,” Telegraph, February 1, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/02/01/boris-johnson-infuriated-eu-reneges-free-trade-deal/
  7. [7]Tom McTague, “Boris Johnson Meets His Destiny,” Atlantic, July 22, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/07/boris-johnson-profile/594379/
  8. [8]Boris Johnson, quoted in Charles Hymas and James Crisp, “Britain will not accept EU rules to get a trade deal, says Boris Johnson,” Telegraph, February 2, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/02/02/britain-will-not-accept-eu-rules-get-trade-deal-says-boris-johnson/
  9. [9]Daniel D’Addario, “Amazon is worse than Walmart,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/control/2013/07/30/how_amazon_is_worse_than_wal_mart/; Timothy Egan, “The Corporate Daddy,” New York Times, June 19, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/opinion/timothy-egan-walmart-starbucks-and-the-fight-against-inequality.html; Josh Eidelson, “Wal-Mart faces warehouse horror allegations and federal Labor Board complaint,” Salon, November 19, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/11/18/breaking_wal_mart_faces_warehouse_horror_allegations_and_federal_labor_board_complaint/; Josh Eidelson, “Tens of thousands protest, over 100 arrested in Black Friday challenge to Wal-Mart,” Salon, November 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/11/30/tens_of_thousands_protest_over_100_arrested_in_black_friday_challenge_to_wal_mart/; Josh Eidelson, “Finally paying for Wal-Mart’s sins: Wage theft settlement yields millions,” Salon, December 16, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/12/16/finally_paying_for_wal_marts_sins_wage_theft_settlement_yields_millions/; Josh Eidelson, “Freezing for Wal-Mart: Sub-zero warehouse temperatures spur Indiana work stoppage,” Salon, January 14, 2014, https://www.salon.com/test/2014/01/13/freezing_for_wal_mart_sub_zero_warehouse_temperatures_spur_indiana_work_stoppage/; Josh Eidelson, “Amazon Keeps Unions Out By Keeping Workers in Fear, Says Organizer,” Alternet, January 22, 2014, https://www.alternet.org/2014/01/amazon-keeps-unions-out-keeping-workers-fear-says-organizer/; Nichole Gracely, “‘Being homeless is better than working for Amazon,’” Guardian, November 28, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/nov/28/being-homeless-is-better-than-working-for-amazon; Steven Greenhouse, “The Changing Face of Temporary Employment,” New York Times, August 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/01/upshot/the-changing-face-of-temporary-employment.html; Erin Hatton, “The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy,” New York Times, January 26, 2013, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/the-rise-of-the-permanent-temp-economy/; Simon Head, “Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers,” Salon, February 23, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/02/23/worse_than_wal_mart_amazons_sick_brutality_and_secret_history_of_ruthlessly_intimidating_workers/; Paul Jaskunas, “The Tyranny of the Forced Smile,” New York Times, February 14, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/jobs/the-tyranny-of-the-forced-smile.html; Allison Kilkenny, “Ohio Walmart Holds Food Drive For Its Own Employees,” Nation, November 18, 2013, https://www.thenation.com/article/ohio-walmart-holds-food-drive-its-own-employees/; Paul Krugman, “The Plight of the Employed,” New York Times, December 24, 2013, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/24/the-plight-of-the-employed/; Paul Krugman, “The Fear Economy,” New York Times, December 26, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/27/opinion/krugman-the-fear-economy.html; Danielle Kurtzleben, “Read McDonald’s workers’ shocking harassment and discrimination complaints — and why they’re so important,” Vox, January 22, 2015, https://www.vox.com/2015/1/22/7873661/mcdonalds-lawsuit-harassment-discrimination; Edward McClelland, “You call this a middle class? “I’m trying not to lose my house,’” Salon, March 1, 2014, https://www.salon.com/test/2014/03/01/you_call_this_a_middle_class_i%E2%80%99m_trying_not_to_lose_my_house/; Mac McClelland, “I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave,” Mother Jones, March/April 2012, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/mac-mcclelland-free-online-shipping-warehouses-labor/; Nathaniel Mott, “From Amazon warehouse workers to Google bus drivers, it’s tough working a non-tech job at a tech company,” Pando, October 9, 2014, https://pando.com/2014/10/09/from-amazon-warehouse-workers-to-google-bus-drivers-its-tough-working-a-non-tech-job-at-a-tech-company/; Marc Pilisuk with Jennifer Achord Rountree, Who Benefits From Global Violence and War (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2008).; Ari Rabin-Havt, “Wal-Mart flunks its fact-check: The truth behind its sarcastic response to the Times,” Salon, June 25, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/06/25/walmart_flunks_its_fact_check_the_truth_behind_its_sarcastic_response_to_the_times/; Alex Seitz-Wald, “Amazon is everything wrong with our new economy,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/07/30/amazon_is_everything_wrong_with_our_new_economy/; Alana Semuels, “As employers push efficiency, the daily grind wears down workers,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-harsh-work-20130407-story.html; Alana Semuels, “How the relationship between employers and workers changed,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2013-apr-07-la-fi-mo-harsh-work-history-20130405-story.html; Alana Semuels, “Tougher workplace makes home life worse too,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2013-apr-07-la-fi-mo-harsh-work-history-20130405-story.html; Spencer Soper, “Inside Amazon’s Warehouse,” Lehigh Valley Morning Call, September 18, 2011, https://www.mcall.com/business/mc-xpm-2011-09-18-mc-allentown-amazon-complaints-20110917-story.html; Scott Sernau, Worlds Apart: Social Inequalities in a Global Economy, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, 2006); Lindsay Wise, “Report: Temp jobs at all-time high in U.S.,” McClatchy, September 2, 2014, https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/economy/article24772543.html
  10. [10]Peter Daou with Leela Daou, “I worked for Hillary Clinton. Her attacks on Bernie Sanders are a big mistake,” Guardian, January 21, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jan/21/hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders-attacks-netflix
  11. [11]Shane Goldmacher, “Hillary Clinton Slams Bernie Sanders for Not Working to Unite Democrats in 2016,” New York Times, January 31, 2020, ttps://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/31/us/politics/hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders.html; Dan Merica, “Hillary Clinton suggests Russians are ‘grooming’ Tulsi Gabbard for third-party run,” CNN, October 21, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/18/politics/hillary-clinton-tulsi-gabbard/index.html
  12. [12]Justine Coleman, “Obama privately said he would speak up to stop Sanders: report,” Hill, November 26, 2019, https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/472090-obama-privately-said-he-would-speak-up-to-stop-sanders-report; Ryan Lizza, “Waiting for Obama,” Politico, November 26, 2019, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2019/11/26/barack-obama-2020-democrats-candidates-biden-073025; Alex Shephard, “The Impotence of ‘Stop Sanders’ Democrats,” New Republic, April 18, 2019, https://newrepublic.com/article/153605/impotence-stop-sanders-democrats
  13. [13]Donna Brazile, “Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC,” Politico, November 2, 2017, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/02/clinton-brazile-hacks-2016-215774
  14. [14]Justine Coleman, “Obama privately said he would speak up to stop Sanders: report,” Hill, November 26, 2019, https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/472090-obama-privately-said-he-would-speak-up-to-stop-sanders-report; Ryan Lizza, “Waiting for Obama,” Politico, November 26, 2019, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2019/11/26/barack-obama-2020-democrats-candidates-biden-073025; Alex Shephard, “The Impotence of ‘Stop Sanders’ Democrats,” New Republic, April 18, 2019, https://newrepublic.com/article/153605/impotence-stop-sanders-democrats
  15. [15]Donie O’Sullivan, “The Democrats’ new online troll fighters make 2020 debut in Iowa,” CNN, February 2, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/02/politics/facebook-democrats-disinformation-iowa/index.html
  16. [16]David Benfell, “How the neoliberal (usually known as Democratic) party may well lose in 2020,” Not Housebroken, December 7, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/07/how-the-neoliberal-usually-known-as-democratic-party-may-well-lose-in-2020/

All hail King narcissist-in-chief

It’s not at all uncommon to see squirrels in the roadway as I drive around Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, quite a few end up as roadkill.

But today I saw one of a sort I hadn’t seen before. S/he saw me coming, scampered off to the side by a parked car, turned around, and stood on his/her hind legs, revealing a white chest and belly.

Against an otherwise grey coat, it was really rather fetching.


Brexit

Boris Johnson accepted border checks on the Irish Sea.[1] Now, it seems, he’ll have them in the English Channel as well,[2] suggesting that this state of affairs will not be temporary.

The Prime Minister will say sovereignty is more important than frictionless trade, defying warnings from Brussels that the UK must accept EU standards on goods if it wants the best possible deal.

Whitehall sources have told The Daily Telegraph that while Mr [Boris] Johnson wants to avoid tariffs and quotas on cross-Channel trade, he will never cave in to demands for alignment on regulations, despite knowing “the consequences that flow from that”.[3]

Look for long lines in Dover and shortages in Britain as distributors adjust.[4] But hey, wave that Union Jack.[5]

James Crisp, “Flag-waving Nigel Farage cut off in farewell speech as European Parliament ratifies Brexit deal,” Telegraph, January 29, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/29/european-parliament-ratifies-brexit-deal-paves-way-britain-leave/

Gordon Rayner, “Boris Johnson will tell the EU he is prepared to accept post-Brexit border checks,” Telegraph, January 29, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/29/boris-johnson-will-tell-eu-prepared-accept-post-brexit-border/


Palestine

Not seein’ much love for Donald Trump’s plan from anyone except the Israelis and the Trump administration.

I saw a comment correctly emphasizing that Palestinian voices should be heard on Trump’s “Deal of the Century.” But the truth is, their reaction is no more surprising than that of the Israelis. The so-called deal—a ‘diktat,’ as multiple scholars have labeled it—stinks and Palestinians know it. What’s more interesting is when pretty much everyone else recognizes it as well.[6]

In normal times, this would suggest that Trump has failed at his ostensible aim. His ‘deal’ has no credibility. But we must remember that for Trump, the only people who matter are those who vote for him, principally authoritarian populists and social conservatives. The former have made clear they will carry on worshipping him as a hero regardless. The latter, especially those who see Jewish control of Jerusalem as indicating the second coming, will be thrilled. And he’ll at least split neoconservatives (this group includes #NeverTrump holdouts like Bill Kristol) who are unambiguously pro-Israel, joining Israel’s government in labeling anyone who opposes Israel’s policies as anti-Semitic.

Binyamin Netanyahu thinks he’s gotten a good deal. Natan Sachs notes that his “preferences on nearly everything are reflected here.” But Bruce Riedel recalls that “President Ronald Reagan tried to get the Arabs to accept his plan in 1982. Despite considerable pressure, King Hussein rejected it. The Trump plan is likely heading for the same outcome.”[7] Which means it’s Trump who’s gotten the deal. And pretty much no one else.

Natan Sachs, Tamara Cofman Wittes, and Bruce Riedel, “Around the halls: Brookings experts on the Middle East react to the White House’s peace plan,” Brookings Institute, January 29, 2020,https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/01/29/brookings-experts-react-to-the-white-houses-middle-east-peace-plan/


Equal Rights Amendment

I’m uneasy in my mind as to how closely to follow this. I generally prefer to wait for resolutions rather than taking note of every twist and turn. But to lump this issue in with others in how I treat it may not be just. Whatever I decide, this article summarizes the state of play, with lawsuits both in favor of and opposing ratification.[8]

Patricia Sullivan, “Herring, other attorneys general file lawsuit demanding ERA ratification,” Washington Post, January 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/era-lawsuit-herring/2020/01/30/027eb956-42dc-11ea-aa6a-083d01b3ed18_story.html


Impeachment

To the extent there was ever a possibility that the Senate might call witnesses in the impeachment of Donald Trump, it appears to be fading fast. In the meantime,

For more than a week, House managers prosecuting the impeachment case against Trump have argued that the Senate’s failure to convict him would make Trump an unaccountable leader; in effect, a dictator or a king. When [Alan] Dershowitz spoke, it was as if he completely agreed with them. Two days earlier, Dershowitz had told senators that Presidential “abuse of power” should not be considered an impeachable offense under the Constitution. On Wednesday, he took that further—much further. “If a President does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” he argued. Dershowitz was offering Trump—and all future Presidents—a free pass. His argument seemed unbelievable: as long as the President thinks his reëlection will benefit the country, he can do anything in pursuit of it without fear of impeachment.[9]

I guess we should just start calling him King narcissist-in-chief.

Susan B. Glasser, “Alan Dershowitz for the Defense: L’État, C’est Trump,” New Yorker, January 30, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/alan-dershowitz-for-the-defense-letat-cest-trump


  1. [1]Amy Davidson Sorkin, “Boris Johnson’s Bad Saturday and the Contradictions of Brexit,” New Yorker, October 19, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/boris-johnsons-bad-saturday-and-the-contradictions-of-brexit
  2. [2]Gordon Rayner, “Boris Johnson will tell the EU he is prepared to accept post-Brexit border checks,” Telegraph, January 29, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/29/boris-johnson-will-tell-eu-prepared-accept-post-brexit-border/
  3. [3]Gordon Rayner, “Boris Johnson will tell the EU he is prepared to accept post-Brexit border checks,” Telegraph, January 29, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/29/boris-johnson-will-tell-eu-prepared-accept-post-brexit-border/
  4. [4]Nick Hopkins, “UK less able to cope with hard Brexit than it was in spring, say officials,” Guardian, August 1, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/aug/01/uk-less-able-to-cope-with-hard-brexit-than-in-spring-say-officials
  5. [5]James Crisp, “Flag-waving Nigel Farage cut off in farewell speech as European Parliament ratifies Brexit deal,” Telegraph, January 29, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/29/european-parliament-ratifies-brexit-deal-paves-way-britain-leave/
  6. [6]Oliver Holmes, Sufian Taha, and Hazem Balousha, “‘We will never be Jerusalem’: Abu Dis pours scorn on Trump plan,” Guardian, January 29, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/29/we-will-never-be-jerusalem-abu-dis-pours-scorn-on-trump-plan; Natan Sachs, Tamara Cofman Wittes, and Bruce Riedel, “Around the halls: Brookings experts on the Middle East react to the White House’s peace plan,” Brookings Institute, January 29, 2020,https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/01/29/brookings-experts-react-to-the-white-houses-middle-east-peace-plan/; Felicia Schwartz and Michael R. Gordon, “Trump’s Mideast Peace Plan Charts Two-State Course for Israelis, Palestinians,” Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-set-to-release-middle-east-peace-plan-11580221616; Ishaan Tharoor, “Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ is no deal at all,” Washington Post, January 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/01/28/trumps-deal-century-is-no-deal-all/; Times of Israel, “As peace plan rolls out, Netanyahu says he will annex Jordan Valley, settlements,” January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/as-peace-plan-rolls-out-netanyahu-says-he-will-annex-jordan-valley-settlements/; Times of Israel, “Trump unveils plan for ‘realistic 2-state’ deal, ‘undivided’ Israeli Jerusalem,” January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/trump-unveils-plan-for-realistic-2-state-deal-undivided-israeli-jerusalem/; Raoul Wootliff, “Netanyahu indicted for corruption in three cases, in first for a sitting PM,” Times of Israel, January 28, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-indicted-for-corruption-in-three-cases-in-first-for-a-sitting-pm/
  7. [7]Natan Sachs, Tamara Cofman Wittes, and Bruce Riedel, “Around the halls: Brookings experts on the Middle East react to the White House’s peace plan,” Brookings Institute, January 29, 2020,https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/01/29/brookings-experts-react-to-the-white-houses-middle-east-peace-plan/
  8. [8]Patricia Sullivan, “Herring, other attorneys general file lawsuit demanding ERA ratification,” Washington Post, January 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/era-lawsuit-herring/2020/01/30/027eb956-42dc-11ea-aa6a-083d01b3ed18_story.html
  9. [9]Susan B. Glasser, “Alan Dershowitz for the Defense: L’État, C’est Trump,” New Yorker, January 30, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/alan-dershowitz-for-the-defense-letat-cest-trump

It’s bad enough that Donald Trump is ripping off a television series without putting that series’ name in this title.

Donald Trump

Bill Kristol is, of course, a neoconservative, and one of the few who still subscribes to the failed #NeverTrump movement in the Republican Party that sought, much too late, to avert Donald Trump’s nomination for the presidency in 2016.

But, damn, does he have a way with words or does he have a way with words?

As to the New York magazine piece, some of us will remember that Captain James T. Kirk, in “The Omega Glory,” finishes a virtually unrecognizable utterance by one side in a society that had somehow managed to continue the Cold War over a series of centuries by reciting the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, which in retrospect, seems like a strange thing for a Starfleet captain in the United Federation of Planets, three centuries later, to have memorized. There’s lots that’s weird about that,[1] but it plays into the patriotism I associate with authoritarian populism[2] and, since arriving in Pittsburgh, increasingly conflate with white supremacism (the flag-waving and other displays of patriotism, the guns, especially around Black areas, the combat fetishization, and the banners that overwhelmingly memorialize white but rarely Black soldiers, all seem so completely overdone as to compel the question of what folks around here are compensating for).

The Space Force logo resembles that of Starfleet, the military force of the United Federation of Planets. Yes, we are talking about Star Trek — but is Trump? The president does love television. Maybe he likes Star Trek, though the series doesn’t seem like his natural fare. Maybe someone was making a joke, and no one caught the joke, and here we are, contemplating the stupidest possible outcome of events. Maybe a consultant thought it would convince kids to sign up for the Space Force. You know, it’ll be just like Starfleet, except for the part where you’re in a military with a major white-nationalism problem. Or maybe it’s a viral marketing campaign for Star Trek: Picard, which premiered yesterday on CBS, but this seems very unlikely indeed. Trump bears no resemblance to the former captain of the Enterprise — not physically, not spiritually, not intellectually — so this is probably just what it seems, a dumb rip-off.[3]

Starfleet’s mission was not war, but peaceful exploration, something too many members of Starfleet International, the earth-based Star Trek fan club have forgotten, and something Trump is likely incapable of comprehending, that is, unless it’s for oil.

Sarah Jones, “Why Did Trump Just Rip Off Star Trek?” New York, January 24, 2020, http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/01/the-new-space-force-logo-looks-like-starfleet-from-star-trek.html


White supremacism

Jason Wilson, “Prepping for a race war: documents reveal inner workings of neo-Nazi group,” Guardian, January 25, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/25/inside-the-base-neo-nazi-terror-group


  1. [1]Memory Alpha, s.v. “Pledge of Allegiance,” accessed January 25, 2020, https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Pledge_of_Allegiance
  2. [2]David Benfell, “The seven tendencies of conservatism,” Irregular Bullshit, n.d., https://disunitedstates.com/the-seven-tendencies-of-conservatism/
  3. [3]Sarah Jones, “Why Did Trump Just Rip Off Star Trek?” New York, January 24, 2020, http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/01/the-new-space-force-logo-looks-like-starfleet-from-star-trek.html

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/