Last year, it rained. Oh, how it rained. And thundered and lightninged. It seemed like there were weather warnings nearly every day for a while there. And I never got a chance to see how picturesque Pittsburgh is in the summertime.
But it really is spectacular. And lush with greenery, best enjoyed from the comfort of an air conditioned car. Because it’s fucking hot out there and even when it isn’t hot, it’s humid.
David Fickling argues that abusing workers, a neoliberal imperative, directly supports the contagion.
I have a lot to pull together today and it isn’t quite there yet. So it’s here, for the moment at least, and really as well in the issue last night.
Fig. 1. Cartoon by Matt Pritchett in the Telegraph, July 25, 2020, fair use.
George Monbiot writes in and principally of Britain. He does not, in this column, mention the U.S. except in reference to a trade deal that Boris Johnson is negotiating as a sad substitute for the European Union. And he relies on polls which, due to a ludicrously and beyond unacceptably low response rate, I do not trust.
But I wonder the degree to which what Monbiot writes is true in the U.S. It’s weird here, where the “normal” that he disparages and believes people do not wish to return to, but that elites (functionalist conservatives) are all too anxious to return to, appears to have an ideological component.
Monbiot seems to be referring to an elite and intellectually utterly discredited neoliberalism as that “normal.” But here in the U.S., I would think there are, as well, paleoconservative (including white supremacist), authoritarian populist (“Tea Party”), and social conservative (principally conservative evangelical Protestant) elements among the general population that desperately want to assert their own ideological “normal.”
It’s been almost 2 months and there’s rioting in at least 3 cities tonight, this movement has outlasted the great upheaval of 1877 and only has 2 larger continuous antecedents in US history, the revolutionary period of 67-71 and the general strike of the enslaved + reconstruction
Having spent five years producing a history of rioting in the US I really really can’t quite believe how truly monumental this uprising is, and I recognize that there is real historical possibility opening wider every day
Like for context 1877 upheaval was so severe it led to the creation of National Guard armories in every big city in America. In terms of sheer value of property destroyed 1877 (and LA 92 and Holy Week 68 and even Miami 81) may still be “larger” (it will take years to know)
but in terms of momentum and mvmt longevity we’re in incredibly historic times. If we can keep pushing now, soon everything becomes possible…
It can be easy in the middle of something to be awed by the power of a moment (to be clear, a beautiful feeling) and so overestimate, but just as easy to get acclimated to a level of conflict and so underestimate. I’m often guilty of the former, but still…
I believe that when Vicky Osterweil refers to “67-71,” she means the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, the antiwar, counterculture, and liberation movements of that era, which led to a decades-long backlash that has been visceral throughout my adult life and that spawned neoconservatism.
I honestly don’t know how this plays and, indeed, it’s surely disingenuous to say the least for anyone to claim that they do know. But there’s certainly a lot happening, including the antiracism protests that Osterweil writes of, including Donald Trump’s response to those protests, including a neoliberal refusal to adequately and compassionately address human need in an economic crisis, and including a refusal by many to accept personal responsibility for helping to contain the coronavirus that propels that economic calamity.
I’m going ahead and publishing this now. The weather has gotten interesting north of here—apparently a tornado near Beaver Falls—and a severe thunderstorm warning has been posted for at least very close to my area.
Hey, fellow white ppl, Defund the Police is not your slogan and so it's not yours to fix or sanitize or make "palatable" from a "branding/marketing" strategy. It's a BLM plank, so roll with it, learn to explain it, which Wonkette proved can be done in a single headline. pic.twitter.com/VhwpeOpxXX
With so many examples of how humanity is not ready for anarchism, it’s quite a surprise to read an account of how a community protected itself without the police and without replicating the problems of the police. I don’t know how sustainable this is or how widely applicable, but it’s quite a story and certainly worth looking at.
Meanwhile Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor looks more broadly, both historically and topically, at the issues the U.S. needs to address—and of course, won’t. I had not seen her article when I tweeted my response to Chuck Wendig above, but I think we’re on the same page.
Fig. 2. Graphic converted from portable document format (PDF) to a jpeg, May 8, 2020. Original from Tribune-Review article, May 8, 2020.
I think there has to be some question about Tom Wolf’s order moving some Pennsylvania counties to “green” and others to “yellow,” given the possible ramifications of Memorial Day travel. The timing seems bad, with the virus still out of control in many places, including some not all that far from Pennsylvania.
Understand, I’m not saying it’s feasible for Wolf to have done otherwise, given a building resistance to the lockdown in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, but with an average incubation period of five days, we won’t know what Memorial Day does, really, until some time in June. I wish he could have waited a couple more weeks.
There are things I leave to Blacks to settle among themselves and I think this is as it should be. Whether they use the n-word to refer to each other and whether they accept each other as Black are examples of things that are, and should be, up to them. Even where I disagree, it isn’t for me to say, and whites cannot intrude here without, at minimum, some form of appropriation.
And so it is that there is no way Joe Biden’s “you ain’t Black” remark is anything other racist bigotry on the order of the n-word. This is something no white person should ever say to a Black under any circumstances. But especially not Biden and especially when, as Derecka Purnell concludes,
Joe Biden refuses to reckon with the harm that he has caused to people all over the world. His best line is that he is better than the other guy, and that is exactly how abusive relationships function. Black people – all people – deserve better than Biden and the Democratic party. And yes, we are still black.
More strategically, a lot of what Purnell points to suggests that Biden can write off the progressive vote. He can’t help himself and, at the risk of repeating Biden’s mistake with Blacks, I really have to wonder how you can be progressive and support a bigoted neoliberal rapist. I mean, seriously, this really does seem like a contradiction to me.
Facebook has now also announced more (which is better than none, but in Facebook’s case, not much better than none) opportunities to work from home permanently. The offer comes in stark contrast to Twitter’s somewhat more generous offer.
May 22, 8:58 am:
Donald Trump defied company requests and Michigan state law in addressing workers at a Ford plant without a face mask. There are a number of issues with wearing face masks but a large part of it is that it is a marker for support for or opposition to Trump in contrast to trust in medical authorities and compliance with state governors and their authority. The politicization of the pandemic is certainly a possible path to our downfall.
The Wall Street Journal adds to the story already reported here about unemployment claims by explaining that the number of people collecting unemployment benefits is up to over 25 million. This number, the paper explains, lags initial filings by a week. For me, this story underscores the callousness of a bipartisan political decision to reduce the question of further economic relief to politics as usual and we, as a society, should be asking what the fuck our system of social organization is good for if it doesn’t actually take care of people. Unfortunately, the answer at present has been reduced to protests against the lockdown and the decision to wear or not wear masks (see the immediately preceding bullet point above).
Just as a further comment on the Facebook story in the earlier update (above), if you haven’t been by Facebook’s campus in Menlo Park, it is huge and Google Maps really doesn’t do justice to the visual impression. It is difficult to compare to Google’s headquarters (which I suspect are nonetheless larger) in Mountain View visually because the layouts and building designs are so different (one might suspect that this reflects vastly different corporate cultures). But when Mark Zuckerberg says he still thinks Facebook needs the space with the restrictions on working at home his company is imposing and with social distancing requirements that will be imposed within the offices (their cubicles might be a little less hellish?), one is still entitled to suspect that his decision-making is influenced by a desire to justify the existence of that office space.
MasterCard will not send workers back to offices, it says, without a vaccine. That could be a while. A long while. And the company is considering consolidating offices, which brings my warning yesterday more sharply into focus.
Overall, however, we seem to be in a rush to reopen, even as the pandemic continues to rage in some areas and health care systems in some areas are overwhelmed, and despite medical warnings against a hasty reopening. That puts the rest of us at risk: Nobody’s borders—not even North Korea’s—are hermetically sealed.
It’s almost as if we are in a rush to rubberneck at the trainwreck that is the economy, a trainwreck made all the more spectacular by our adamance in continuing to embrace neoliberalism and the corresponding refusal to embrace obviously correct progressive proposals.
I hope you all are enjoying the show. I’m sure not. Rather, I’m at a loss for words at just how brain-dead all of this is.
I’ve been trying to sort out the question of what I will do about moving by next June 29, 2021. It looks like affordable rents in major metropolitan areas are hard to come by, even around here.
One of the oddities of my current situation is that where I’ve seen Aion, which owns the complex I live in now, before, on the San Francisco peninsula, the apartments are all high-end luxury complexes meant to appeal to well-paid tech workers. So I have to very strongly suspect that what’s going on here is what Alison Johnson said of Atlanta: “Landlords want to raise rents as high as possible to attract higher-income people into those units.”
My apartment isn’t large—536 square feet—and an initial perusal finds many around Pittsburgh, even in outlying areas, with even less space renting for a lot more. It’s an old complex, even if my apartment is relatively nice on the inside, occupied mainly by working class and poor people, many of color. Hence, I suspect, figure 1, just a very short drive away. This complex is distinctly out of character for what I’ve seen with Aion on the San Francisco peninsula.
Fig. 1. Gratuitous gun on display at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post on Cochrans Mill Road in South Park, Pennsylvania. Photograph by author, October 27, 2019.
Do I suspect gentrification? Hell, yes. I’ve suspected it very nearly since I moved in. I don’t know how well it will work, although there’s a new complex, only partly complete and still under construction, nearby that’s very clearly meant for better off folks.
Meanwhile, I’m hearing enough horror stories from passengers to know that there are plenty of slumlords around here who operate pretty much with impunity.
At the moment, I’m very much feeling damned if I do, damned if I don’t. I’m not really comfortable moving into a more conservative area, like West Virginia or Ohio, or really any county around Allegheny County, which I’m finding plenty conservative enough (although Butler County might work).
On a recent foray into Beaver County, I saw lots of “Why I Stand” banners prominently displayed in multiple locations, featuring the U.S. flag. I’m pretty sure these refer to Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest. I think Colin Woodard’s mapping of Greater Appalachia (figure 2) does not extend far enough north.
If I move north, say into what Woodard calls Yankeedom (figure 2), I face a more severe climate, which could also mean even less business for Uber and Lyft in winter. It was hard enough even getting through this last winter in Pittsburgh.
The known random element in all this is the pandemic, which as a country, the U.S. is just handling all wrong. As the economy gets worse, Aion might find a wrench in its monkey works.
I believe I found this map in an online article, probably at Colin Woodard, “Up in Arms,” Tufts, Fall, 2013, http://www.tufts.edu/alumni/magazine/fall2013/fe
atures/up-in-arms.html, which is presently off line, but that pointed me to the book by Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (New York: Penguin, 2011) whereupon a similar map, but not in color, appears on the cover.↩
Today marks the completion of my 61st journey around the sun. There is, as there has been on numerous previous such milestones, absolutely nothing to celebrate.
Mitch McConnell continues to play the ‘bad guy,’ helping to defend neoliberal priorities. This enables Democrats to pretend to want much more spending—they don’t and would be sounding a very similar note to what we hear from McConnell if they controlled the presidency and the Senate—in the name of economic recovery, for which read, reasserting economic power relationships. This way, the Republicans continue to appeal to so-called “fiscal conservatives” (mostly capitalist libertarians and neoconservatives) while Donald Trump holds on to his authoritarian populist and social conservative base, the Democrats appeal to functionalist conservatives, neoconservatives, and progressives, and both parties are happy, at least through November, no matter who wins. But as usual, workers will get stiffed and the environment will get stiffed. In other words, politics as usual.
What remains to be seen is how well it all works and what happens when, as now seems almost certain, we plunge over what Ben White calls the ‘coronavirus cliff’ because neither party really wants the stimulus that is needed.
On May 8, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its monthly unemployment report. Watch this report and the one in the following month, on June 5. These are the first reports that will fully reflect the ‘cliff’ we have in fact already fallen over and are still tumbling down. As these numbers sink in, watch the reaction. That will tell you much more than what we’re hearing right now.