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/

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/

Impeachment: The bad, the ugly, and the ugly

Impeachment

There is are two new blog posts:

  1. December 15: “The whiteness of impeachment
  2. December 16: “The least violent solution

Jennifer Rubin, “How far can the House go to stop a sham trial?” Washington Post, December 16, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/12/16/how-far-can-house-go-stop-sham-trial/


Homelessness

David G. Savage, “Supreme Court lets stand ruling that protects homeless who sleep on sidewalk,” Los Angeles Times, December 16, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2019-12-16/supreme-court-lets-stand-ruling-that-protects-homeless-who-sleep-on-sidewalk


Good ol’ boys and smoke-filled rooms

Joe Biden

There is a new blog post entitled, “It’s still a smoke-filled room.”

Colby Itkowitz and Matt Viser, “Biden says his son’s foreign jobs ‘may have looked bad’ but weren’t wrong,” Washington Post, December 5, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-says-his-sons-foreign-jobs-may-have-looked-bad-but-werent-wrong/2019/12/05/01731a76-17c0-11ea-a659-7d69641c6ff7_story.html

Jason Linkins, “John Kerry Endorses Joe Biden’s Delusions,” New Republic, December 6, 2019, https://newrepublic.com/article/155900/john-kerry-endorses-joe-bidens-delusions

Paul Waldman, “Joe Biden still hasn’t learned the lessons of the Obama presidency,” Washington Post, December 6, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/12/06/joe-biden-still-hasnt-learned-lessons-obama-presidency/


Thanksgiving miscellaneous

Rock salt

Joe Barrett, “In Effort to Avoid Rock Salt, States Look to Briny Solutions,” Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/in-effort-to-avoid-rock-salt-states-look-to-briny-solutions-11574911972


Pacific Gas and Electric

Judge Dennis Montali said Wednesday the principle of inverse condemnation applies to PG&E, rejecting an argument that the utility was attempting to invoke to limit the amount it owes for homes and businesses destroyed by the fires. . . . Under the doctrine of inverse condemnation, PG&E can be held liable for property damage from fires caused by its equipment, even if it wasn’t negligent. . . .

Lawyers for fire victims said the utility was wasting its time attacking inverse condemnation, a legal principle that is rooted in the California constitution. Given the evidence of alleged negligence they have amassed, victims’s lawyers said, inverse condemnation is beside the point when it comes to PG&E.[1]

Peg Brickley, “PG&E Loses Challenge to Law Holding It Liable for Fire Damage,” Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/pg-e-loses-challenge-to-law-holding-it-liable-for-fire-damage-11574910091


Ageism

Having landed hard on my ass in the high tech industry three times now, I wouldn’t be anxious to return even if I felt I could: It is clear to me I would be setting myself up for yet another catastrophe. But when I was being laid off from my last real job, the job I had hoped would lead to a career in systems administration, my supervisors noted I would face age discrimination—I was 41, about to turn 42—as I sought another job. They promised support for my job hunt which never materialized.

FireShot Capture 043 - Older IT Workers Left Out Despite Tech Talent Shortage - WSJ - www.wsj.com
Fig. 1. Screenshot of chart in the Wall Street Journal, based on CompTIA data, November 25, 2019,[2] fair use.

The Wall Street Journal sees ageism setting in with high tech at age 45, although a chart within (figure 1) seems to show the information technology industry employing workers at ages 25-54 at above national averages.[3] I was laid off in the dot-com crash, at a time companies were offshoring jobs as fast as they could,[4] and this was one factor in my decision not to pursue a degree in technology[5] when I returned to school.

Angus Loten, “Older IT Workers Left Out Despite Tech Talent Shortage,” Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/older-it-workers-left-out-despite-tech-talent-shortage-11574683200


Thanksgiving

I’ve previously noted that Whole Foods Market’s selection, especially for vegans, is much more limited here in Pittsburgh than I saw on the west coast. So when I went down on Wednesday to see what I could find, I was really just hoping to find something. I found this (figure 2), with a name too long for me to remember.

IMG_0055
Fig. 2. Photograph by author, November 29, 2019.

It’s amazing. And much simpler to prepare than the Tofurky, which, directions notwithstanding, really needs to be broiled in a double-broiler.

Following the directions, I baked the Field Roast Hazelnut Cranberry Roast on a cookie sheet, with tin foil. It took 24 hours of defrost time, plus an hour of baking time. And that was it.

It really brings home the point that I’ve seen many vegans make that the flavor many omnivores associate with meat is actually in the seasoning. You really don’t miss the turkey with this.


  1. [1]Peg Brickley, “PG&E Loses Challenge to Law Holding It Liable for Fire Damage,” Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/pg-e-loses-challenge-to-law-holding-it-liable-for-fire-damage-11574910091
  2. [2]Angus Loten, “Older IT Workers Left Out Despite Tech Talent Shortage,” Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/older-it-workers-left-out-despite-tech-talent-shortage-11574683200
  3. [3]Angus Loten, “Older IT Workers Left Out Despite Tech Talent Shortage,” Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/older-it-workers-left-out-despite-tech-talent-shortage-11574683200
  4. [4]In neoliberalism, it is imperative that labor costs be reduced at any cost, in the name of “efficiency,” and that means hiring even idiots overseas when they can be paid a third of what competent workers would cost in the U.S.
  5. [5]Computer science is a mathematics degree and accordingly requires advanced mathematics. I hit a brick wall with trigonometry, a level well below what is needed. I have also observed that many in the information technology field hold academic degrees in utter disdain, seeing them as “elitist,” and yes, this is awfully rich, considering that, with their high-flying lifestyles, very well-paid IT workers are responsible for a significant part of California’s transportation and housing crises.

By all means, let’s elect yet another fucking neoliberal

Neoliberalism

John Feffer traces the betrayal of workers from the fall of the Berlin Wall to Donald Trump’s election.[1] This dovetails with Melvin Leffler’s account of how the U.S. political mainstream drew the wrong message from that fall.[2] But by all means, let’s elect yet another fucking neoliberal. I am remembering what I wrote in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s defeat. It still applies. The difference now is that the Republicans have caught the disease as well.

John Feffer, “Did the Fall of the Berlin Wall Produce the Trump Presidency?” Foreign Policy in Focus, November 13, 2019, https://fpif.org/did-the-fall-of-the-berlin-wall-produce-the-trump-presidency/


  1. [1]John Feffer, “Did the Fall of the Berlin Wall Produce the Trump Presidency?” Foreign Policy in Focus, November 13, 2019, https://fpif.org/did-the-fall-of-the-berlin-wall-produce-the-trump-presidency/
  2. [2]Melvyn P. Leffler, “The Free Market Did Not Bring Down the Berlin Wall,” Foreign Policy, November 7, 2014, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/11/07/berlin_wall_fall_25_anniversary_reagan_bush_germany_merkel_cold_war_free_market_capitalism

Imperialism, neoliberalism, and the prospect of Donald Trump’s re-election


So I looked out my bedroom window this morning:
IMG_0041
Fig. 1. Photograph by author, November 12, 2019.

It actually fucking snowed. Not a lot, but nonetheless. And I still don’t have a real job.[1]IMG_0042
Fig. 2. My still faithful car, just before I plunged onto the salted roads. Let the corrosion begin. Photograph by author, November 12, 2019.

IMG_0043
Fig. 3. I have to admit, though, it is pretty. Photograph by author, November 12, 2019.

Naturally, the second ride of the day took me up Rialto Street, one of the steepest in Pittsburgh, and back down again (on a round trip). But it’d been salted, so apart from the fact the street is also ridiculously narrow, it wasn’t really a problem.

By mid-afternoon, however, I noticed that snow was sticking in some places, and not just the bridges (yes, they do indeed freeze first). I got an order on Mount Washington and a street was closed. Google’s alternative route took me up a steep alley and yes, I lost traction. Fortunately, I remembered something from a YouTube video about turning the wheels.[2] It’s a trick that wouldn’t have worked so well on a rear wheel drive car. But my car is front wheel drive and it worked great.

As usual, the most spectacular pictures are the ones I can’t stop to take, but as it was getting late in the day and toward my quitting time, I was reaching the conclusion that Pittsburgh was made for the snow (figure 4).
IMG_0044
Fig. 4. Photograph by author, November 12, 2019.

It is, I think, at its most spectacular with a light dusting.


I’ve been thinking about something Barack Obama said when he was first running for president that got him in a lot of trouble:

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.[3]

There’s an irony here because the core truths here, that “the jobs have been gone,” now for 35 years, that “these communities” still haven’t “regenerated,” and that, my god, “they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them” remain the case. Obama’s handling of the financial crisis[4] didn’t help. And really, Hillary clinton stepped into the same booby trap with her “deplorables” remark:

You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of [Donald] Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people, now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric. Now some of those folks, they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.

But the other basket, the other basket, and I know because I see friends from all over America here. I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas, as well as you know New York and California. But that other basket of people who are people who feel that government has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they are just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroine [sic], feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.[5]

Obama inadvertently exposed the lie of neoliberalism. Clinton relied on that lie as a path to the White House. And the mainstream of the Democratic Party still believes in that lie, even as it hasn’t an intellectual leg to stand on.[6]

I fully understand and heartily endorse the desire to be rid of Donald Trump. But people need real jobs, not the fucking Wal-Mart jobs[7] they are supposed to satisfy themselves with. Hell, I need a real job,[8] not the “gig economy” bullshit[9] I am supposed to be satisfied with. They need hope. I need hope. More of the same old fucking neoliberalism isn’t it. The Democratic Party is determined, nonetheless, to defend neoliberalism and is accordingly likely to surrender the 2020 election.

We need to be rid of the Democrats just as surely as we need to be rid of the Republicans and I wish that so-called “progressives” would stop trying to redeem what should more properly be referred to as the neoliberal party.


Assault weapons

Mairead McArdle, “Supreme Court Allows Sandy Hook Lawsuit against Gun Manufacturer to Proceed,” National Review, November 12, 2019, https://www.nationalreview.com/news/supreme-court-allows-sandy-hook-lawsuit-against-gun-manufacturer-to-proceed/


Gaza

The latest violence appears to have been provoked by the Israeli assassination of an Islamic Jihad military leader.[10] The impasse over forming a government[11] is unresolved, so assume that Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision to strike (he denies this, alleging the operation had been planned months ago) is indeed about making it more difficult for his rival, Benny Gantz, to form a government[12] and bolstering his own electoral prospects.

Times of Israel, “190 rockets launched at Israel since targeted killing of Islamic Jihad commander,” Times of Israel, November 12, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog-november-12-2019/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  2. [2]Bjørn Nyland, “Tesla vs Hummer on steep hill,” YouTube, February 22, 2018, https://youtu.be/hlSv9fGT1Fk
  3. [3]Barack Obama, quoted in Ben Smith, “Obama on small-town Pa.: Clinging to religion, guns, xenophobia,” Politico, April 11, 2008, https://www.politico.com/blogs/ben-smith/2008/04/obama-on-small-town-pa-clinging-to-religion-guns-xenophobia-007737
  4. [4]Thomas Frank, Pity the Billionaire (New York: Metropolitan, 2012).
  5. [5]Hillary Clinton, quoted in Jonathan Capehart, “This is what’s ‘deplorable’ about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and this campaign,” Washington Post, September 12, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2016/09/12/this-is-whats-deplorable-about-hillary-clinton-donald-trump-and-this-campaign/
  6. [6]Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford, UK: Oxford University, 2013); 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/
  7. [7]Scott Sernau, Worlds Apart: Social Inequalities in a Global Economy, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, 2006).
  8. [8]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  9. [9]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/; 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/; Robert Maxim and Mark Muro, “Uber’s IPO fallout underscores the need for a new labor model,” Brookings, May 23, 2019, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2019/05/23/ubers-ipo-fallout-underscores-the-need-for-a-new-labor-model/
  10. [10]Times of Israel, “190 rockets launched at Israel since targeted killing of Islamic Jihad commander,” Times of Israel, November 12, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog-november-12-2019/
  11. [11]Steve Hendrix, “Netanyahu fails to form new Israeli government; rival Gantz poised to take up the challenge,” Washington Post, October 21, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/netanyahu-fails-to-form-new-israeli-government-rival-gantz-poised-to-take-up-the-challenge/2019/10/21/7a4574d4-e27e-11e9-be96-6adb81821e90_story.html
  12. [12]Steve Hendrix, “Netanyahu fails to form new Israeli government; rival Gantz poised to take up the challenge,” Washington Post, October 21, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/netanyahu-fails-to-form-new-israeli-government-rival-gantz-poised-to-take-up-the-challenge/2019/10/21/7a4574d4-e27e-11e9-be96-6adb81821e90_story.html