The worst president in history? It’s complicated. (Update #2)

Updates

  1. Originally published, October 24, 2020, at 1:30 pm.
  2. October 25, 2020, 6:21 am:

Presidents

Attempting a comparison of U.S. presidents, Nicholas Goldberg

quickly realized [he] was in over [his] head trying to determine who was worst among them. Is a corrupt president worse than a incompetent president? Is it worse to separate children from their parents at the border or to allow fugitive slaves to be caught and delivered back to their owners? Is killing thousands of Native Americans worse than denying the existential dangers of climate change? Do the 12 presidents who owned slaves belong automatically at the bottom of the list, regardless of their other achievements or the times in which they lived?[1]

This is a problem with a quantitative approach, as with IQ tests: It can attempt to rank things that compare more like apples and oranges on a single, linear scale. The questions Goldberg raises here will always be problematic.

Nicholas Goldberg, “Is Trump the worst president ever? He’s got some competition,” Los Angeles Times, October 20, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-10-20/the-worst-president-in-american-history


California

Ryan Sabalow, “‘That is unacceptable.’ California megachurch faces local backlash for dismissing COVID-19,” Sacramento Bee, October 23, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/article246671032.html

Ryan Sabalow, Lara Korte, and Jason Pohl, “Rural California is divided, armed for revolt. What’s the matter in the State of Jefferson?” Sacramento Bee, October 24, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/article246652603.html


Social conservatism

The carefully choreographed dance goes like this: Moral character in public officials matters quite a lot when the public officials who morally fail are Democrats; it matters hardly at all when they are Republicans. If it’s a liberal who has crossed ethical lines, emphasize righteous conduct; if it’s a conservative, emphasize forgiveness and verses like “Judge not lest you be judged.” If it’s Bill Clinton in the dock, savage him; if it’s Donald Trump, savage his critics.[2]

Peter Wehner, “Evangelicals Made a Bad Bargain With Trump,” Atlantic, October 18, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/10/the-evangelical-movements-bad-bargain/616760/


  1. [1]Nicholas Goldberg, “Is Trump the worst president ever? He’s got some competition,” Los Angeles Times, October 20, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-10-20/the-worst-president-in-american-history
  2. [2]Peter Wehner, “Evangelicals Made a Bad Bargain With Trump,” Atlantic, October 18, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/10/the-evangelical-movements-bad-bargain/616760/

Louis DeJoy accused of ‘voter suppression’

Updates

  1. Originally published, September 13, 2020, at 9:52 am.
  2. September 13, 10:49 am:
    • There have been tens of thousands of COVID-19 cases and hundreds of deaths at animal flesh packing plants. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined merely two companies a mere $29,000, apparently under influence from the Trump administration. Labor representatives worry the paltry fines will function as a disincentive to safety.[1]
  3. September 13, 9:23 pm:
  4. September 14, 2:46 am:
    • I’m not sure that the horse isn’t already out of the barn, but confirming the last update (September 13, 9:23 pm), it appears the judge did indeed grant a temporary restraining order against the Postal Service.[2]
  5. September 14, 3:06 am:
    • I guess this is Sally (figure 2) in the Gulf of Mexico.

Conservatism

There is a new blog post entitled, “On ‘freedom.’


Postal Service

“In Colorado, every registered voter is sent a ballot without having to make a request and voters are urged to return ballots by mail sooner than seven days before the election. My office asked USPS officials to delay or not send the mailer in Colorado, but they refused to commit to that,” said [Colorado Secretary of State Jena] Griswold. Voters in states with similar vote-by-mail, such as California and Washington, could also be misled by the postcard’s recommendations.[3]

I had thought the card was pretty germaine, but given its obvious significance in this election, took the precaution of scanning it in (figure 1) before, as I do with nearly everything, shredding it:[4]

Fig. 1. Scan of card received by author on September 11, 2020, from the U.S. Postal Service.

Sure enough, there is specific advice there that could conflict with some states’ rules. And it really wouldn’t have taken a lot of rephrasing to mollify Jena Griswold and her colleagues from, she says, at least five other states.[5]

Jake Johnson, “Condemning ‘Attempt at Voter Suppression,’ Colorado Sues DeJoy Over Misleading Postal Service Mailers,” Common Dreams, September 12, 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/09/12/condemning-attempt-voter-suppression-colorado-sues-dejoy-over-misleading-postal

Colleen Flynn and Evan Kruegel, “TRO against USPS granted in lawsuit filed by Colo. Sec. of State Jena Griswold,” KDVR, September 12, 2020, https://kdvr.com/news/tro-against-usps-granted-in-lawsuit-filed-by-colo-sec-of-state-jena-griswold/


Animal flesh

Kimberly Kindy, “More than 200 meat plant workers in the U.S. have died of covid-19. Federal regulators just issued two modest fines,” Washington Post, September 13, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/osha-covid-meat-plant-fines/2020/09/13/1dca3e14-f395-11ea-bc45-e5d48ab44b9f_story.html


Sally


Fig. 2. 72-hour gif of satellite imagery for Eastern U.S. and the Gulf of Mexico, as of September 14, 2020, at 2:02 am.


  1. [1]Kimberly Kindy, “More than 200 meat plant workers in the U.S. have died of covid-19. Federal regulators just issued two modest fines,” Washington Post, September 13, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/osha-covid-meat-plant-fines/2020/09/13/1dca3e14-f395-11ea-bc45-e5d48ab44b9f_story.html
  2. [2]Colleen Flynn and Evan Kruegel, “TRO against USPS granted in lawsuit filed by Colo. Sec. of State Jena Griswold,” KDVR, September 12, 2020, https://kdvr.com/news/tro-against-usps-granted-in-lawsuit-filed-by-colo-sec-of-state-jena-griswold/
  3. [3]Jake Johnson, “Condemning ‘Attempt at Voter Suppression,’ Colorado Sues DeJoy Over Misleading Postal Service Mailers,” Common Dreams, September 12, 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/09/12/condemning-attempt-voter-suppression-colorado-sues-dejoy-over-misleading-postal
  4. [4]The idea is that should I dispose of anything that might be used against me in this way, the motherfuckers will have to piece together a lot of junk before they find it.
  5. [5]Jake Johnson, “Condemning ‘Attempt at Voter Suppression,’ Colorado Sues DeJoy Over Misleading Postal Service Mailers,” Common Dreams, September 12, 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/09/12/condemning-attempt-voter-suppression-colorado-sues-dejoy-over-misleading-postal

Welcome to the apocalypse

Horse race

It’s a truly bizarre platform under the circumstances, but as is typical for neoliberals, utterly and willfully ignorant of reality:

“M4A” means Medicare For All.


White supremacist militia

I have added a note to a previous blog post:

I am remembering a previous blog post in which I witnessed a local cop (in the Pittsburgh area) allowed his dog to bark viciously and persistently at a Black man who was doing nothing more than walking across a parking lot. Instances such as these, this one that I personally witnessed,[1] the one Ryan Devereaux describes,[2] and, of course, the disproportionate killings of Blacks,[3] virtually erase the distinction between police and white supremacist militia, transforming it to a distinction between regular (official) and irregular (unofficial) white supremacist militia. I don’t know how you conclude otherwise.[4]


  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/
  2. [2]Ryan Devereaux, “The Thin Blue Line Between Violent, Pro-Trump Militias and Police,” Intercept, August 28, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/08/28/kyle-rittenhouse-violent-pro-trump-militias-police/
  3. [3]Mark Berman et al., “Protests spread over police shootings. Police promised reforms. Every year, they still shoot and kill nearly 1,000 people,” Washington Post, June 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/protests-spread-over-police-shootings-police-promised-reforms-every-year-they-still-shoot-nearly-1000-people/2020/06/08/5c204f0c-a67c-11ea-b473-04905b1af82b_story.html; James Downie, “Time to toss the ‘bad apples’ excuse,” Washington Post, May 31, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/05/31/time-toss-bad-apples-excuse/; Wesley Lowery, “Aren’t more white people than black people killed by police? Yes, but no,” Washington Post, July 11, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/07/11/arent-more-white-people-than-black-people-killed-by-police-yes-but-no/; Brentin Mock, “What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings,” CityLab, August 6, 2019, https://www.citylab.com/equity/2019/08/police-officer-shootings-gun-violence-racial-bias-crime-data/595528/; Elie Mystal, “There’s Only One Possible Conclusion: White America Likes Its Killer Cops,” Nation, May 27, 2020, https://www.thenation.com/article/society/white-america-cops/; Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, “How Do We Change America?” New Yorker, June 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/how-do-we-change-america
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Donald Trump’s ‘brown shirts,’” Not Housebroken, September 12, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/08/30/donald-trumps-brown-shirts/

As Donald Trump faces possible defeat, violence is here

Updates

  1. Originally published, August 30, 2020, at 11:16 am.
  2. August 30, 2020, 10:34 pm:
    • It turns out the shooting victim in Portland may well have been a white supremacist Trump supporter and the shooter may have been among demonstrating Leftists. Further details are sparse[1] but some possibilities come to mind:

      1. This could have been a “false flag” operation in which a white supremacist embedded himself among Leftists and fired at one of his own in an attempt to garner sympathy for the white supremacist cause. Yes, some of them really are this crazy and it’s even conceivable that the victim volunteered to be a martyr.
      2. I have also been seeing on Twitter that as police credibility has evaporated, some Leftists say they are taking up weapons—indeed, some have apparently had them all along. So it’s possible this really was a Leftist shooting at a militia member. It does appear that any violence from the Leftist side may have been provoked by the militia side.[2]
      3. It is possible we will never know the truth. Police have been known to “testilie,” that is, give false testimony, even under oath. The practice may even be ubiquitous and the incentives for both district attorneys and police generally favor at least complicity if not worse.[3] It does appear police sympathies lie with the militia,[4] so we cannot presume that any law enforcement-led investigation will be impartial. And so we have no way to be assured of the honesty of any law enforcement-led investigation.

      Donald Trump is of course seizing on the violence in his “law and order” narrative, praising his supporters.[5]

  3. August 31, 2020, 9:07 am:
    • Guardian coverage of the Portland shooting includes video of the shooting that seems to suggest it occurred away—I don’t know how far away—from clashes between racial justice protesters and right-wing militia groups.[6] It’s possible this had nothing to do with the protests but, adopting the logic of the Kenosha police chief,[7] we might suggest that had this man not come to Portland to provoke violence with protesters, he might still be alive. I’m just guessing Donald Trump won’t acknowledge that.

      This coverage also includes video of militia members driving pickups through protests and pepper-spraying protesters.[8] The driving cars through protesters thing reminds me of the violence in Charlottesville.[9]

  4. August 31, 2020, 9:35 am:
    • As I was dredging my archives to check my recollection of Charlottesville, I came across this:

      In March [2017], [Keith] Mines was one of several national-security experts whom Foreign Policy asked to evaluate the risks of a second civil war—with percentages. Mines concluded that the United States faces a sixty-per-cent chance of civil war over the next ten to fifteen years. Other experts’ predictions ranged from five per cent to ninety-five per cent. The sobering consensus was thirty-five per cent. And that was five months before Charlottesville.[10]

      I guess I’d have to say this still seems to me to be a stretch. Combatants would likely be drawn from the Left and the extreme right. I’m not seeing it become a mainstream thing. But the violence seems like it might be escalating and it certainly is eye-catching.

  5. August 31, 2020, 10:17 am:
    • If you want to see a map of the homes destroyed in the LNU Complex Fires, including the Walbridge Fire, see this Sacramento Bee article. You’ll have to drag the map quite a ways to the west to get to Sonoma County. I dragged it clear towards Fort Ross near where once I came across a home that was for sale—it was absolutely spectacular—and that I badly wished I was in any kind of condition to purchase. It looks like three homes burned there; I’m wondering if that house was among them.


Militia

When Donald Trump was being impeached, I wrote,

I object to the present proceedings because I suspect they would not be occurring at all had Trump targeted anyone other than the neoliberals’ preferred candidate for the neoliberal (Democratic) party presidential nomination[11] and because I think there are stronger grounds for impeachment that would not enable Trump’s bigotry against migrants on the U.S.-Mexican border.[12] I have also worried about the possibility that Trump’s base might resort to violence and it very much appears to me that I now live in an area[13] where some of that violence might occur.[14][15]

That impeachment went down to a well-deserved—I called it “[t]he stupidest impeachment ever, historically notable first for all the offenses it failed to charge Donald Trump with,[16] second for its utterly predictable futility, and third for its transparent (and apparently failed) attempt to protect Joe Biden[17][18]—defeat[19] but now that Donald Trump faces a possible defeat in his re-election bid this November, he has embraced a neoconservative “law and order” mantra in response to Black Lives Matter protests,[20] and the specter I worried about with impeachment seems to be coming to life. The part I didn’t predict was that the police would embrace the militia.[21] There is a new blog post entitled, “Donald Trump’s ‘brown shirts.’

Faiz Siddiqui and Isaac Stanley-Becker, “One person shot dead in Portland following clashes between pro-Trump supporters, counterprotesters,” Washington Post, August 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/08/29/blm-activists-counterprotesters-clash-portland-leading-arrests/

Hollie Silverman and Alta Spells, “1 person is dead after a shooting during protests in downtown Portland,” CNN, August 30, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/30/us/portland-protest-fatal-shooting/index.html

Ed Pilkington and Joanna Walters, “Portland clashes: Trump accused of encouraging violence after shooting,” Guardian, August 31, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/30/fatal-shooting-in-portland-as-trump-supporters-clash-with-black-lives-matter-protesters


  1. [1]Faiz Siddiqui and Isaac Stanley-Becker, “One person shot dead in Portland following clashes between pro-Trump supporters, counterprotesters,” Washington Post, August 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/08/29/blm-activists-counterprotesters-clash-portland-leading-arrests/
  2. [2]Faiz Siddiqui and Isaac Stanley-Becker, “One person shot dead in Portland following clashes between pro-Trump supporters, counterprotesters,” Washington Post, August 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/08/29/blm-activists-counterprotesters-clash-portland-leading-arrests/
  3. [3]Mark Joseph Stern, “The Police Lie. All the Time. Can Anything Stop Them?” Slate, August 4, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/08/police-testilying.html
  4. [4]Ryan Devereaux, “The Thin Blue Line Between Violent, Pro-Trump Militias and Police,” Intercept, August 28, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/08/28/kyle-rittenhouse-violent-pro-trump-militias-police/; Jeremy Stahl, “Kenosha Police Chief Blames Protesters for Their Own Deaths, Defends Vigilante Groups,” Slate, August 26, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/08/kenosha-police-chief-daniel-miskinis-blames-protesters-for-own-deaths.html
  5. [5]Faiz Siddiqui and Isaac Stanley-Becker, “One person shot dead in Portland following clashes between pro-Trump supporters, counterprotesters,” Washington Post, August 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/08/29/blm-activists-counterprotesters-clash-portland-leading-arrests/
  6. [6]Ed Pilkington and Joanna Walters, “Portland clashes: Trump accused of encouraging violence after shooting,” Guardian, August 31, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/30/fatal-shooting-in-portland-as-trump-supporters-clash-with-black-lives-matter-protesters
  7. [7]Jeremy Stahl, “Kenosha Police Chief Blames Protesters for Their Own Deaths, Defends Vigilante Groups,” Slate, August 26, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/08/kenosha-police-chief-daniel-miskinis-blames-protesters-for-own-deaths.html
  8. [8]Ed Pilkington and Joanna Walters, “Portland clashes: Trump accused of encouraging violence after shooting,” Guardian, August 31, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/30/fatal-shooting-in-portland-as-trump-supporters-clash-with-black-lives-matter-protesters
  9. [9]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Charlottesville: One killed in violence over US far-right rally,” August 13, 2017, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-40912509
  10. [10]Robin Wright, “Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?” New Yorker, August 14, 2017, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/is-america-headed-for-a-new-kind-of-civil-war
  11. [11]David Benfell, “It’s still a smoke-filled room,” December 6, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/06/its-still-a-smoke-filled-room/; 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/
  12. [12]David Benfell, “The whiteness of impeachment,” Not Housebroken, December 15, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/15/the-whiteness-of-impeachment/
  13. [13]Colin P. Clarke, “One Year After Tree of Life, We Still Aren’t Talking Enough About Violent White Supremacy,” Rand, October 27, 2019, https://www.rand.org/blog/2019/10/one-year-after-tree-of-life-we-still-arent-talking.html; Letrell Deshan Crittenden, “The Pittsburgh problem: race, media and everyday life in the Steel City,” Columbia Journalism Review, October 25, 2019, https://www.cjr.org/tow_center_reports/racism-black-burnout-in-pittsburgh-journalism.php; Eric Heyl, “Neo-Nazi, White Supremacist, Islamic Hate Groups Active In Pittsburgh,” Patch, August 16, 2017, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/pittsburgh/neo-nazi-white-supremacist-islamic-hate-groups-active-pittsburgh; Moriah Ella Mason, “Pittsburgh Doesn’t Need More Guns — We Need Less White Supremacy,” Forward, October 29, 2018, https://forward.com/scribe/413104/pittsburgh-doesnt-need-more-guns-we-need-less-white-supremacy/; Charles Thompson, “Pennsylvania housed 36 active hate groups last year, ranking 8th in the country: report,” Penn Live, February 21, 2019, https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/02/southern-poverty-law-center-counts-36-active-hate-groups-in-pennsylvania-in-2018.html
  14. [14]David Benfell, “Militia territory,” Not Housebroken, November 22, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/11/22/militia-territory/
  15. [15]David Benfell, “The least violent solution,” Not Housebroken, December 16, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/16/the-least-violent-solution/
  16. [16]David Benfell, “The whiteness of impeachment,” Not Housebroken, December 15, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/15/the-whiteness-of-impeachment/; see also Democracy Now, “Law Professor: Trump Could Also Have Been Impeached for War Crimes, Assassinations and Corruption,” January 24, 2020, https://www.democracynow.org/2020/1/24/donald_trump_senate_impeachment_trial
  17. [17]David Benfell, “It’s still a smoke-filled room,” Not Housebroken, December 6, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/06/its-still-a-smoke-filled-room/; 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/; David Benfell, “The whiteness of impeachment,” Not Housebroken, December 15, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/15/the-whiteness-of-impeachment/; David Benfell, “The least violent solution,” Not Housebroken, December 16, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/16/the-least-violent-solution/; David Benfell, “The sham (pick your partisan flavor) is on,” Not Housebroken, December 19, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/19/the-sham-pick-your-partisan-flavor-is-on/; David Benfell, “The asterisk,” Not Housebroken, December 21, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/21/the-asterisk/
  18. [18]David Benfell, “One farce down, one to go,” Irregular Bullshit, February 5, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/02/05/one-farce-down-one-to-go/
  19. [19]Jennifer Haberkorn and Sarah D. Wire, “Senate acquits Trump in impeachment trial; Romney breaks with GOP to vote for conviction,” Los Angeles Times, February 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-02-05/senate-expected-to-acquit-president-trump-impeachment-trial
  20. [20]David Benfell, “The authoritarian populist president embraces neoconservatism–to advance his own tyranny,” Not Housebroken, July 29, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/07/21/the-authoritarian-populist-president-embraces-neoconservatism-to-advance-his-own-tyranny/
  21. [21]Ryan Devereaux, “The Thin Blue Line Between Violent, Pro-Trump Militias and Police,” Intercept, August 28, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/08/28/kyle-rittenhouse-violent-pro-trump-militias-police/; Jeremy Stahl, “Kenosha Police Chief Blames Protesters for Their Own Deaths, Defends Vigilante Groups,” Slate, August 26, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/08/kenosha-police-chief-daniel-miskinis-blames-protesters-for-own-deaths.html

Donald Trump’s ‘brown shirts:’ armed right-wing militia groups

Laura

So you see the not terribly well organized remnants of Laura approaching Pittsburgh from the southwest? It turns out they got swooped up by a low pressure area to the north, blew through Pittsburgh so rapidly as to be imperceptible (figure 1), and the result was a lovely day.
ecan.gif
Fig. 1. 72-hour gif of satellite imagery for eastern Canada, as of August 29, 2020, at 8:01 pm.

Once upon a time, weather forecasting was a hobby I took very seriously, but there’s a reason I stopped calling myself a forecaster a decade or three back. I promise you, I sure didn’t see this coming.


Militia

I would only be going a little beyond an Intercept article in suggesting that armed right-wing militia functionally serve as Donald Trump’s “brown shirts” in a de facto alliance with police. They take their orders as he identifies groups, like Black Lives Matter and (the usually unorganized) Antifa, that allegedly pose a threat to Amerikkka.[1] Hence Kyle Rittenhouse’s shooting of three protesters, killing two, in Kenosha.[2] Some will surely say the arrangement permits Trump plausible deniability.

Ryan Devereaux, “The Thin Blue Line Between Violent, Pro-Trump Militias and Police,” Intercept, August 28, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/08/28/kyle-rittenhouse-violent-pro-trump-militias-police/


Horse race


  1. [1]Ryan Devereaux, “The Thin Blue Line Between Violent, Pro-Trump Militias and Police,” Intercept, August 28, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/08/28/kyle-rittenhouse-violent-pro-trump-militias-police/
  2. [2]Jeremy Stahl, “Kenosha Police Chief Blames Protesters for Their Own Deaths, Defends Vigilante Groups,” Slate, August 26, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/08/kenosha-police-chief-daniel-miskinis-blames-protesters-for-own-deaths.html; Ryan Devereaux, “The Thin Blue Line Between Violent, Pro-Trump Militias and Police,” Intercept, August 28, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/08/28/kyle-rittenhouse-violent-pro-trump-militias-police/

The militia movement in the pandemic

Militia movement

Luke Mogelson’s article, principally about the militia movement in a time of the novel coronavirus and anti-racism protests,[1] is absolutely horrifying. I know from my own studies that Mogelson’s analysis and observations are likely correct. That does not diminish the horror.

Oh yeah, and when these assholes deny they are racist, especially when they do so vociferously?[2] As if I didn’t already know, that persuades me that they are racist.

Luke Mogelson, “The Militias Against Masks,” New Yorker, August 17, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/08/24/the-militias-against-masks


Academia

Andy Thomason, “After Only One Week, Chapel Hill Abandons In-Person Fall Semester,” Chronicle of Higher Education, August 17, 2020, https://www.chronicle.com/article/after-only-one-week-chapel-hill-abandons-in-person-fall-semester


  1. [1]Luke Mogelson, “The Militias Against Masks,” New Yorker, August 17, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/08/24/the-militias-against-masks
  2. [2]Luke Mogelson, “The Militias Against Masks,” New Yorker, August 17, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/08/24/the-militias-against-masks

Do these pastors hear their god, or their accountants?

Pandemic

We still refuse to take care of people. What the fuck is the point of civilization if it comes to this?

In general and as a consequence, the reactionary nuttery to the lockdown continues to intensify.

I have to wonder whether it is their god that pastors reopening in-person services hear,[1] or their accountants.[2]

Moriah Balingit, “Armed militia helped a Michigan barbershop open, a coronavirus defiance that puts Republican lawmakers in a bind,” Washington Post, May 12, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/coronavirus-michigan-republicans-whitmer/2020/05/12/54975e1a-9466-11ea-82b4-c8db161ff6e5_story.html

Heather Kelly, “Twitter employees don’t ever have to go back to the office (unless they want to),” Washington Post, May 12, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/05/12/twitter-work-home/

Mark Scott and Steven Overly, “‘Conspiracy bingo’: Trans-Atlantic extremists seize on the pandemic,” Politico, May 12, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/05/12/trans-atlantic-conspiracy-coronavirus-251325

Neena Satija, “‘Come on, we’re human beings’: Judges question response to coronavirus pandemic in federal prisons,” Washington Post, May 13, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/come-on-were-human-beings-judges-question-response-to-coronavirus-pandemic-in-federal-prisons/2020/05/12/925e5d32-912a-11ea-a9c0-73b93422d691_story.html

Brandon Showalter, “3,000 Calif. churches vow to reopen on Pentecost Sunday, regardless of gov. orders,” Christian Post, May 13, 2020, https://www.christianpost.com/news/3000-calif-churches-vow-to-reopen-on-pentecost-sunday-regardless-of-gov-orders.html


Gentrification

One of the very odd things in my life has been the parallels between two places I have lived, Pittsburgh and San Francisco. It shows up in lots of ways. Bridges are named for Joe Montana, the famous San Francisco 49ers quarterback, near the Monongahela River and the town of Monongahela. San Francisco’s cable cars are echoed by the Duquesne and Monongahela Inclines, remnants of a once much more common form of transportation. San Francisco has the reputation for hills and certainly has some but Pittsburgh has some of the steepest streets in the world.[3] A street in Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco, bears the name of Willie Stargell, a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball star. The list goes on, really, I think, to ludicrous lengths.

And I wonder how it is that two places I have lived have so much in common. The coincidences seem surreal.

Another is more troubling: There is a new blog post entitled, “Pittsburgh is repeating San Francisco’s mistake.”


  1. [1]Hailey Branson-Potts, “Pastor who refuses to cancel Sunday services because of coronavirus greeted by police,” Los Angeles Times, April 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-04-05/pastor-who-refuses-to-cancel-sunday-services-greeted-by-police; Brandon Showalter, “3,000 Calif. churches vow to reopen on Pentecost Sunday, regardless of gov. orders,” Christian Post, May 13, 2020, https://www.christianpost.com/news/3000-calif-churches-vow-to-reopen-on-pentecost-sunday-regardless-of-gov-orders.html; Sam Stanton, “Judge rejects Lodi church’s bid to resume in-person services, says California order legal,” Sacramento Bee, May 5, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article242512621.html
  2. [2]Michelle Boorstein, “Church donations have plunged because of the coronavirus. Some churches won’t survive,” Washington Post, April 24, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2020/04/24/church-budgets-coronavirus-debt/
  3. [3]For example, Canton Avenue: WTAE, “World’s steepest street: Welsh road claims the title over Pittsburgh’s Canton Avenue in Beechview,” July 16, 2019, https://www.wtae.com/article/worlds-steepest-street-pittsburgh-canton-avenue-beechview-ffordd-pen-llech-wales/28413028

State-enabled white supremacism

Military

Today, as everything is upside down,

The 50th anniversary of the Kent State shooting is Monday.[1]

Joe Napsha, “The day ‘all hell broke loose’ – Local lives lost, forever changed in Kent State shooting 50 years ago,” Tribune-Review, May 2, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/the-day-all-hell-broke-loose-local-lives-lost-forever-changed-in-kent-state-shooting-50-years-ago/


Housekeeping

Given that I will need to be moving by June 29, 2021, I’ve been contemplating the question of where.
IMG_20200429_172952
Fig. 1. A house in Clairton with five flags in a small front yard. Visible are two U.S. Army flags, one U.S. flag, and one Confederate battle flag. Hidden behind the the telephone pole is a Betsy Ross flag. Photograph by author, April 29, 2020.

Pennsylvania has, I think, conceded far too much to an authoritarian populist population that blends into a white supremacist paleoconservative population. The stance on guns where, for example, even following the Tree of Life shooting, a mass shooting in a Jewish synagogue conducted by a white supremacist,[2] Pittsburgh cannot ban weapons whose only sensible application is against large groups of people,[3] seems to me inseparable from that white supremacism. The conflation of flags at a house in Clairton (figure 1), a largely Black community, begins to represent what I’ve been feeling since coming here, that the flag-waving, cop-loving, overly patriotic and often bizarrely militaristic (figure 3) displays of gun nuttery (figure 4), especially around Black communities (figure 5), are really code for a white supremacism, including a militia movement, that has been given free rein.

If I’m going to have to move, I might as well move away from that, which to me, means out of state.

On the other hand, I’m realizing what a terrible risk I took in coming here. This last winter brought home for me how tenuous a livelihood based on driving for Uber and Lyft is. That might be even worse if I move to the state of New York, which frankly, I’m considering, on account of legalized recreational marijuana and sensible gun control.

The alternative, I think, would be to stay in Pennsylvania, even near Pittsburgh, but away from all these gratuitously displayed guns (figure 2).
[googlemaps https://www.google.com/maps/d/embed?mid=1K1CjgWPOH71L1UsUSHs00ubbu-jYnWux&w=640&h=480]
Fig. 2. Gratuitous guns.

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Fig. 3. A dump truck, with a camouflage paint scheme, owned by a locksmith, along Pennsylvania Route 51 in Pleasant Hills. Photograph by author, November 22, 2019.

IMG_0018
Fig. 4. A tank on display outside Anthony Arms, a gun dealer in West Mifflin, along Lebanon Church Road, directly across from the Allegheny County Airport. Photograph by author, September 26, 2019.

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Fig. 5. This is pointed directly at the northwest corner of Carrick High School, along Parkfield Street in Carrick, a Pittsburgh neighborhood. Photograph by author, December 31, 2019.

But then I see all these fucking Trump flags. And I think, my god. That really isn’t getting away from the Pennsylvania state-enabled white supremacism. It would just be getting away from the immediate conflict zone.


  1. [1]Joe Napsha, “The day ‘all hell broke loose’ – Local lives lost, forever changed in Kent State shooting 50 years ago,” Tribune-Review, May 2, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/the-day-all-hell-broke-loose-local-lives-lost-forever-changed-in-kent-state-shooting-50-years-ago/
  2. [2]Campbell Robertson, Christopher Mele, and Sabrina Tavernise, “11 Killed in Synagogue Massacre; Suspect Charged With 29 Counts,” New York Times, October 27, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/27/us/active-shooter-pittsburgh-synagogue-shooting.html
  3. [3]Bob Bauder, “Judge strikes down Pittsburgh’s controversial gun bills,” TribLive, October 29, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/judge-strikes-down-pittsburghs-controversial-gun-bills/

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