So this one wasn’t on my false equivalency bingo card (Update #4)

Updates

  1. Originally published, January 22, 2021, 12:47 pm.

  2. January 22, 2021, 11:31 pm:

    • Megan Stack has a somber account of the scene in Washington, D.C., outside Joe Biden’s inauguration, where right wing militia were expected and didn’t show.[1]

  3. January 23, 10:30 pm:

    • Pennsylvania is dangerous. Don’t believe me? Check out what this Pennsylvania congressman tried to set up with Donald Trump and the Department of Justice.[2] I mean, seriously, if only it were true that Pennsylvania (Democratic) Governor Tom Wolf was a dictator;[3] we’d be safer.

    • All I need to know here:

      Jacob Chansley is the “QAnon Shaman” who appeared in fur and horns at the U.S. Capitol coup.

  4. January 24, 1:52 pm:

    • George Conway, III, lays out the case for prosecuting Donald Trump now that he’s out of office,[4] which I guess to many people will seem like a no-brainer.

      If law is to apply, after all, it should apply to the rich and powerful as it does the poor. But I’ve previously remarked on the problem of presidential immunity,[5] and a larger picture notes that Conway is a co-founder of the Lincoln Project, a project of a tendency of conservatism—neoconservatism—that has previously advocated the theory of the unitary executive,[6] the very and already extreme theory that Conway is really complaining about Trump taking to extreme.[7]

      Zooming out still further, prosecuting Trump seems too superficial an answer to the problem of justice itself in which we have a distinctly harsher and more criminal system for the poor, especially of color, and a distinctly more lenient and civil one for the rich, especially whites,[8] no answer at all to the question of why Trump was elected in the first place[9] to obtain the immunity he has now lost,[10] nor to the roots of endemic and systemic injustice itself.[11] Yes, I think Trump should be prosecuted, but to do so still feels facile.


Pittsburgh

In a previous post, I noted of Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto that “while I think Peduto means well, he is a jackass in the way that jackasses who have never faced existential crises in their lives is a jackass. A catalog of Peduto’s asinine tweets would be lengthy.”[12] To say I understated it would itself be an understatement of colossal magnitude:

My fucking god.

I am calling for Peduto to resign. This is completely unacceptable and there isn’t even the beginning of an excuse for it.

Lisa Cunningham, “Mayor Peduto, please stop equating Pittsburgh protesters with the ‘Radical Right,’” Pittsburgh City Paper, January 21, 2021, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/mayor-peduto-please-stop-equating-pittsburgh-protesters-with-the-radical-right/Content?oid=18780489

Tom Davidson, “Peduto challenger Ed Gainey: Fewer words, more action needed from next mayor of Pittsburgh,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 22, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/peduto-challenger-ed-gainey-fewer-words-more-action-needed-from-next-mayor-of-pittsburgh/


Donald Trump

Megan K. Stack, “The Week the Trump Supporters Disappeared,” New Yorker, January 22, 2021, https://www.newyorker.com/news/the-political-scene/the-week-the-trump-supporters-disappeared

Katie Benner and Catie Edmondson, “Pennsylvania Lawmaker Played Key Role in Trump’s Plot to Oust Acting Attorney General,” New York Times, January 23, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/23/us/politics/scott-perry-trump-justice-department-election.html


  1. [1]Megan K. Stack, “The Week the Trump Supporters Disappeared,” New Yorker, January 22, 2021, https://www.newyorker.com/news/the-political-scene/the-week-the-trump-supporters-disappeared
  2. [2]Katie Benner and Catie Edmondson, “Pennsylvania Lawmaker Played Key Role in Trump’s Plot to Oust Acting Attorney General,” New York Times, January 23, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/23/us/politics/scott-perry-trump-justice-department-election.html
  3. [3]John L. Micek, “W. Pa. Rep. Metcalfe files impeachment articles to ‘remove dictator Wolf’ over pandemic response,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, June 16, 2020, https://www.penncapital-star.com/blog/w-pa-rep-metcalfe-files-impeachment-articles-to-remove-dictator-wolf-over-pandemic-response/
  4. [4]George T. Conway, III, “Donald Trump’s new reality,” Washington Post, January 22, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/01/22/trump-charges-george-conway/
  5. [5]David Benfell, “The problem of presidential immunity,” Hot Housebroken, November 1, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/11/01/the-problem-of-presidential-immunity/
  6. [6]Jonathan Stevenson, “Trump’s Lingering Menace,” New York Review of Books, January 9, 2021, https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2021/01/09/trumps-lingering-menace/
  7. [7]George T. Conway, III, “Donald Trump’s new reality,” Washington Post, January 22, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/01/22/trump-charges-george-conway/
  8. [8]Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004).
  9. [9]David Benfell, “Why Donald Trump won,” Not Housebroken, November 9, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/2016/11/09/why-donald-trump-won/
  10. [10]Jane Mayer, “Why Trump Can’t Afford to Lose,” New Yorker, November 1, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/11/09/why-trump-cant-afford-to-lose
  11. [11]Wanda D. McCaslin and Denise C. Breton, “Justice as Healing: Going Outside the Colonizers’ Cage,” in Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies, eds. Norman K. Denzin, Yvonna S. Lincoln, and Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008), 511-529.
  12. [12]David Benfell, “The testosterone insurrection coup,” Irregular Bullshit, January 21, 2021, https://disunitedstates.com/2021/01/19/the-testosterone-insurrection/

The anti-Semitic Pennsylvania legislature

Privacy

Sebastian Meineck, “Five Reasons You Should Delete Telegram from Your Phone,” Vice, November 25, 2020, https://www.vice.com/en/article/jgqqv8/five-reasons-you-should-delete-telegram-from-your-phone


Pennsylvania


Fig. 1. An entrance to the Beth Abraham cemetery in Pittsburgh’s Carrick neighborhood. The Shaare Torah cemetery is very close by. Photograph by author, July 27, 2020.

One might think, in the wake of the Tree of Life shooting, wherein a white supremacist shot Jews in a Squirrel Hill (Pittsburgh) synagogue,[1] that maybe, just maybe, stricter guns laws might be called for, as indeed Pittsburgh has called for[2] and even attempted to pass on its own.[3] One might even think that the lobbyists who claim to oppose anti-Semitism would support such moves.

The Pennsylvania state legislature, however, moves in an entirely different direction.[4] And supposedly anti-anti-Semitic lobbyists are, as far as I can tell, entirely silent.

The overlap between so-called “gun rights”[5] advocacy and white supremacy is hard to miss in southwestern Pennsylvania.[6] Support for one inescapably means support for the other.

Which is to say that the Pennsylvania legislature is anti-Semitic. And should be called out for it accordingly.

Associated Press, “Gov. Tom Wolf Vetoes Bills On Firearms During Emergencies And Gas Drilling Regulation,” KDKA, November 26, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/11/26/wolf-vetoes-three-bills/


  1. [1]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
  2. [2]Bob Bauder, “Pittsburgh mayor Peduto, state lawmakers call for vote on Pa. gun bills,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 9, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/peduto-state-lawmakers-call-for-vote-on-gun-bills/
  3. [3]Bob Bauder, “Judge strikes down Pittsburgh’s controversial gun bills,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 29, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/judge-strikes-down-pittsburghs-controversial-gun-bills/
  4. [4]Associated Press, “Gov. Tom Wolf Vetoes Bills On Firearms During Emergencies And Gas Drilling Regulation,” KDKA, November 26, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/11/26/wolf-vetoes-three-bills/; Stephen Caruso, “Pro 2nd Amendment lawmakers want to let you carry a gun during an emergency,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, July 7, 2020, https://www.penncapital-star.com/government-politics/pro-2nd-amendment-lawmakers-want-to-let-you-carry-a-gun-during-an-emergency/; Jon Delano, “Lawrence Co. Lawmaker Wants To Abolish Concealed Carry Gun Permits,” KDKA, May 7, 2019, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2019/05/07/aaron-bernstine-abolish-pennsylvania-concealed-carry-law/
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Deconstructing the second amendment,” Not Housebroken, October 5, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/10/04/deconstructing-the-second-amendment/
  6. [6]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/

No silver bullets for this pandemic (Update #8)

Updates

  1. Originally published, October 21, 2020, at 10:57 pm.

  2. October 21, 2020, 11:44 pm:

    • So I was wondering about possible evictions, specifically about two vacant apartments in my building, at my apartment complex.[1] Guess what? The Alden South Hills is pursuing 44 evictions. A magistrate judge has already refused some of them, giving tenants additional time to pay.[2] I have always paid my rent here on time, but in my experience, with regard to rent payments, the management does adopt a rather threatening tone, carrying an undertone that if you live in this complex, you are a deadbeat, so it’s not at all unreasonable to suspect that some vacancies in the complex may be to avoid being evicted and thus to avoid the difficulties of finding a new apartment when evictions have been recorded.

  3. October 22, 2020, 8:55 am:

    • I am revising the language in update #2 to make it a bit more complete. The revised text appears there.

  4. October 22, 2020, 10:20 am:

    • It’s a stretch, and the author even says it’s a stretch, but it’s possible to interpret the Third Amendment, prohibiting the quartering of soldiers in people’s homes, as guaranteeing a right to protection from contagious disease. It seems that smallpox is an important part of the historical context for that amendment, where British soldiers had deliberately passed the disease to American Indians, and not so deliberately to colonists.[3]

  5. October 22, 2020, 10:04 pm:

    • Have I mentioned that Uber and Lyft are evil? Uber is forcing its California drivers to acknowledge repeated messages in support of Proposition 22, at least at one point, for every ride they got.[4] The proposition would exempt them from California’s Assembly Bill 5, which codified a state supreme court decision, and requires the companies to correctly classify their drivers as employees rather than misclassifying them as independent contractors and denying them important labor protections.[5] The companies have been spending record-breaking amounts of money, in a state notorious for plentiful and ludicrously expensive propositions, in support of Proposition 22.[6] Now, some drivers have filed a class action suit against Uber’s practice of bombarding them with the pro-Proposition 22 message, even as the company insists that a majority of its drivers already support the proposition and their own misclassification,[7] which obviously raises the question of, if the independent contractor scam is indeed so popular with its drivers, why must Uber resort to such tactics to support it?

  6. October 23, 2020, 3:33 am:

    • An appeals court upheld[8] a lower court ruling that Uber and Lyft must classify their California drivers as employees[9] (see previous update, October 22, 2020, 10:04 pm) after granting a stay of the lower court ruling[10] that that court had refused to grant.[11]

  7. October 23, 2020, 3:37 am:

    • I caught a wording error in the update for October 22, 2020, 10:04 pm. This error has now been corrected.

  8. October 23, 2020, 10:04 pm:

    • Landlords are finding ways around the eviction moratorium, which expires at the end of the year anyway, but nonetheless suing to overturn it. It’s not at all apparent how folks who are already failing to pay rent are going to be able to find new apartments, so evictions effectively render them homeless. In a pandemic. “When tenants are evicted, they often move in with other family members, increasing the size of households and the chance for viral transmission.”[12]

    • I’ve been saying for a while that we’ve been doing everything wrong with the pandemic. And we already knew we were headed into a third surge.[13] Here we are:

      And it’s not simply a matter of increased testing identifying more cases. Covid-19 hospitalizations increased in 38 states over the past week. The number of deaths nationally has crested above 1,000 in recent days.

      The last time the country hit a new daily record for coronavirus cases — 76,533 on July 17 — just four states accounted for more than 40,000 of those cases: Arizona, California, Florida and Texas, according to a Washington Post analysis.

      On Friday, 11 states accounted for that same lion’s share of cases. And in the past two weeks, 24 states have broken their records for single-day highs of cases. . . .

      “One key way we got through previous waves was by moving health-care workers around. That’s just not possible when the virus is surging everywhere,” said Eleanor J. Murray, an epidemiologist at Boston University.[14]

      Don’t forget that even as there is a shortage of doctors and nurses to deal with the surge, they too fall ill, reducing the number available even further. And there are drug shortages. But politicians have just decided we’re going to have to live with it.[15] Or, as some have suggested, die with it.


Pandemic

There is a new blog post entitled, “About that promised COVID-19 vaccine: Sorry, we still aren’t getting out of this pandemic anytime soon.

David Salisbury, “If you’re pinning your hopes on a Covid vaccine, here’s a dose of realism,” Guardian, October 21, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/21/covid-vaccine-immunisation-protection

Melody Schreiber, “A Covid-19 Vaccine Doesn’t Need to Be Perfect,” New Republic, October 21, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/159868/covid-19-vaccine-efficacy-perfect

Alexander Zhang, “The Forgotten Third Amendment Could Give Pandemic-Struck America a Way Forward,” Atlantic, October 21, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/10/could-third-amendment-protect-against-infection/616791/

William Wan and Jacqueline Dupree, “America hits highest daily number of coronavirus cases since pandemic began,” Washington Post, October 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/10/23/covid-us-spike-cases/


Evictions

Ryan Deto, “Pittsburgh-area apartment complex The Alden South Hills seeking large-scale evictions,” Pittsburgh City Paper, October 21, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/pittsburgh-area-apartment-complex-the-alden-south-hills-seeking-large-scale-evictions/Content?oid=18223682

Kriston Capps, “Landlords Challenge U.S. Eviction Ban and Continue to Oust Renters,” CityLab, October 22, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-10-22/landlords-launch-legal-attack-on-cdc-eviction-ban


Gig economy

Faiz Siddiqui and Reed Albergotti, “Uber drivers sue app over ‘constant barrage’ pushing California anti-employment initiative,” Washington Post, October 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/10/22/uber-prop22-suit/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Not even a euphemism: ‘Houseless,’” Not Housebroken, October 18, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/10/18/not-even-a-euphemism-houseless/
  2. [2]Ryan Deto, “Pittsburgh-area apartment complex The Alden South Hills seeking large-scale evictions,” Pittsburgh City Paper, October 21, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/pittsburgh-area-apartment-complex-the-alden-south-hills-seeking-large-scale-evictions/Content?oid=18223682
  3. [3]Alexander Zhang, “The Forgotten Third Amendment Could Give Pandemic-Struck America a Way Forward,” Atlantic, October 21, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/10/could-third-amendment-protect-against-infection/616791/
  4. [4]Faiz Siddiqui and Reed Albergotti, “Uber drivers sue app over ‘constant barrage’ pushing California anti-employment initiative,” Washington Post, October 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/10/22/uber-prop22-suit/
  5. [5]Sophia Bollag, “California Uber, Lyft drivers to become employees under measure Gov. Gavin Newsom says he’ll sign,” Sacramento Bee, September 11, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article234973107.html; Alexia Fernández Campbell, “California is cracking down on the gig economy,” Vox, May 30, 2019, https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/5/30/18642535/california-ab5-misclassify-employees-contractors; Aaron Gordon, “Uber And Lyft Don’t Have A Right To Exist,” Jalopnik, August 30, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-dont-have-a-right-to-exist-1837680434; Aaron Gordon, “Uber To California: Make Us,” Jalopnik, September 11, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-drivers-shouldnt-expect-to-be-employees-a-1838048966; Nathan Heller, “A New California Law Takes Aim at Uber and Lyft,” New Yorker, September 12, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-silicon-valley/a-new-california-law-takes-aim-at-uber-and-lyft; Michael Hiltzik, “How millions from Uber and Lyft are funding the harassment of a critic,” Los Angeles Times, September 2, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-09-02/uber-lyft-veena-dubal-twitter-bullying; Therese Poletti, “Uber and Lyft’s ‘day of reckoning’ is finally here,” MarketWatch, August 12, 2020, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/uber-and-lyfts-day-of-reckoning-is-finally-here-2020-08-11
  6. [6]Michael Hiltzik, “Uber and Lyft just made their campaign to keep exploiting workers the costliest in history,” Los Angeles Times, September 8, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-09-08/uber-lyft-most-expensive-initiative
  7. [7]Faiz Siddiqui and Reed Albergotti, “Uber drivers sue app over ‘constant barrage’ pushing California anti-employment initiative,” Washington Post, October 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/10/22/uber-prop22-suit/
  8. [8]Kanishka Singh and Tina Bellon, “California appeals court rules Uber, Lyft must reclassify drivers as employees,” Reuters, October 22, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-uber-california-drivers-idUSKBN27805F
  9. [9]Faiz Siddiqui, “Uber and Lyft must make their drivers in California full employees, judge rules,” Washington Post, August 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/08/10/uber-lyft-ab5/
  10. [10]Lauren Feiner, “Appeals court grants Uber and Lyft a temporary reprieve following threats to shut down in California,” CNBC, August 20, 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/20/appeals-court-grants-uber-and-lyft-a-temporary-reprieve-in-case-over-driver-classification.html
  11. [11]Jonathan Stempel, “Judge rejects Uber, Lyft bids to delay California driver injunction,” Yahoo!, August 13, 2020, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/uber-lyft-lose-bid-delay-184959283.html
  12. [12]Kriston Capps, “Landlords Challenge U.S. Eviction Ban and Continue to Oust Renters,” CityLab, October 22, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-10-22/landlords-launch-legal-attack-on-cdc-eviction-ban
  13. [13]Antonia Noori Farzan et al. “U.S. surpasses 64,000 new coronavirus infections two days in a row for first time since late July,” Washington Post, October 16, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/10/16/coronavirus-covid-live-updates-us/; Elliot Hannon, “Trump Says “We’re Rounding the Turn” the Same Day the U.S. Approaches Record Number of New Coronavirus Cases,” Slate, October 23, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/10/u-s-record-coronavirus-single-day-cases-trump-debate-declares-country-rounding-the-turn.html
  14. [14]William Wan and Jacqueline Dupree, “America hits highest daily number of coronavirus cases since pandemic began,” Washington Post, October 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/10/23/covid-us-spike-cases/
  15. [15]William Wan and Jacqueline Dupree, “America hits highest daily number of coronavirus cases since pandemic began,” Washington Post, October 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/10/23/covid-us-spike-cases/; Elliot Hannon, “Trump Says “We’re Rounding the Turn” the Same Day the U.S. Approaches Record Number of New Coronavirus Cases,” Slate, October 23, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/10/u-s-record-coronavirus-single-day-cases-trump-debate-declares-country-rounding-the-turn.html

Pieties

George Floyd

There is another new blog post entitled, “Pieties in defense of the status quo.”

The charges against Derek Chauvin, who had his knee on George Floyd’s neck, have been upgraded to second degree murder and charges for aiding and abetting that murder have been laid against the other officers at the scene.[1] I remain skeptical that any charges would have been brought whatsoever had the protests not been so widespread and intense.

Also, the only surprising thing about Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s resistance to Donald Trump’s threat to send in the troops to quell protests over the murder of George Floyd is that he did so publicly.[2]

Ben Collins, Brandy Zadrozny, and Emmanuelle Saliba, “White nationalist group posing as antifa called for violence on Twitter,” NBC News, June 1, 2020, https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/security/twitter-takes-down-washington-protest-disinformation-bot-behavior-n1221456

Sandy Smith, “You Can Be Supportive of the Rioters and Angry With the Looters at the Same Time,” Philadelphia, June 1, 2020, https://www.phillymag.com/news/2020/06/01/philadelphia-looters-protesters/

Colby Itkowitz, “George W. Bush calls out racial injustices and celebrates protesters who ‘march for a better future,’” Washington Post, June 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/george-w-bush-calls-out-racial-injustices-and-celebrates-protesters-who-march-for-a-better-future/2020/06/02/2d2f7252-a511-11ea-bb20-ebf0921f3bbd_story.html

Josh Campbell, Sara Sidner, and Eric Levenson, “All four former officers involved in George Floyd’s killing now face charges,” CNN, June 3, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/03/us/george-floyd-officers-charges/index.html


  1. [1]Josh Campbell, Sara Sidner, and Eric Levenson, “All four former officers involved in George Floyd’s killing now face charges,” CNN, June 3, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/03/us/george-floyd-officers-charges/index.html
  2. [2]Dan Lamothe, Missy Ryan, and Paul Sonne, “Pentagon chief balks at Trump’s call for active-duty military force on U.S. citizens, and Mattis rips president,” Washington Post, June 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/despite-suggestions-from-trump-pentagon-chief-says-he-does-not-support-invoking-insurrection-act/2020/06/03/8e8dad2e-a59e-11ea-8681-7d471bf20207_story.html

Spring doesn’t much retard COVID-19 transmission. Summer is another question.

Pandemic

Mount Auburn’s press release is on a peer-reviewed, published study. Basically, they found that the effects of warmer temperatures, between 52° F and 70° F, were limited in reducing transmission of the novel coronavirus. Their data for temperatures over 70° F is limited, so we still don’t know much about what summer will do to the pandemic in much of the country.[1]

Mount Auburn Hospital, “Warmer Temperatures Slow COVID-19 Transmission, but Not by Much,” June 1, 2020, https://www.mountauburnhospital.org/about-us/press-room/2020/press-release-warmer-temperatures-slow-covid-19-transmission-but/


George Floyd

There is a new blog post entitled, “On sending in the troops.”

Matt Zapotosky, “Trump threatens military action to quell protests, and the law would let him do it,” Washington Post, June 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/can-trump-use-military-to-stop-protests-insurrection-act/2020/06/01/c3724380-a46b-11ea-b473-04905b1af82b_story.html


  1. [1]Mount Auburn Hospital, “Warmer Temperatures Slow COVID-19 Transmission, but Not by Much,” June 1, 2020, https://www.mountauburnhospital.org/about-us/press-room/2020/press-release-warmer-temperatures-slow-covid-19-transmission-but/

So many reasons for unrest

Pandemic

As a Guardian article notes, Donald Trump promised to revitalize the coal industry. Whatever efforts he made to that end, they were insufficient anyway. But the pandemic adds to workers’ woes in this region. Some will surely blame the lockdown, even as they lose the health insurance that would help to address COVID-19 related medical costs, that had already helped manage the medical costs they already bear.[1] Neither neoliberals nor environmentalists are addressing this and their failure to do so only reinforces my doubts that either neoliberals (the mainstream of the Democratic Party) or environmentalists really want be rid of Donald Trump.

Ian Lovett, Erin Ailworth, and Joe Barrett, “Minnesota Bolsters Law Enforcement as Protests Roil U.S. After George Floyd’s Death,” Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/george-floyd-protests-minneapolis-11590844180

David G. Savage, “Supreme Court rejects challenge to California limits on church crowds during pandemic,” Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-05-29/supreme-court-california-church-crowds-pandemic

Michael Sainato, “The collapse of coal: pandemic accelerates Appalachia job losses,” Guardian, May 29, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/29/coal-miners-coronavirus-job-losses


Pacific Gas and Electric

If the California Public Utilities Commission wants to satisfy folks that regulatory capture is not involved in its decision to approve PG&E’s bankruptcy plan, it needs to explain exactly how it is that the judge’s ideas would hamper its flexibility in regulation.[2] That isn’t even the least bit clear.

KPIX, “Federal Judge Calls PG&E ‘Recalcitrant Criminal,’ Delays New Probation Ruling,” May 28, 2020, https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2020/05/28/regulators-approve-pge-bankruptcy-plan-despite-safety-fears/


George Floyd

A Wall Street Journal news alert (figure 1) caught my eye:
FireShot Capture 166 - WSJ News Alert_ U.S. Army Units Prepare for Possible Deployment to Mi_ - mail.google.com
Fig. 1. Screenshot of a misleading Wall Street Journal news alert.

In fact, the National Guard is being mobilized.[3] And yes, the difference matters.

My last blog post remains relevant.

Ian Lovett, Erin Ailworth, and Joe Barrett, “Minnesota Bolsters Law Enforcement as Protests Roil U.S. After George Floyd’s Death,” Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/george-floyd-protests-minneapolis-11590844180

Jon Queally, “Cornel West Says ‘Neo-Fascist Gangster’ Trump and Neoliberal Democrats Expose America as ‘Failed Social Experiment,’” Common Dreams, May 30, 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/05/30/cornel-west-says-neo-fascist-gangster-trump-and-neoliberal-democrats-expose-america


  1. [1]Michael Sainato, “The collapse of coal: pandemic accelerates Appalachia job losses,” Guardian, May 29, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/29/coal-miners-coronavirus-job-losses
  2. [2]KPIX, “Federal Judge Calls PG&E ‘Recalcitrant Criminal,’ Delays New Probation Ruling,” May 28, 2020, https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2020/05/28/regulators-approve-pge-bankruptcy-plan-despite-safety-fears/
  3. [3]Ian Lovett, Erin Ailworth, and Joe Barrett, “Minnesota Bolsters Law Enforcement as Protests Roil U.S. After George Floyd’s Death,” Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/george-floyd-protests-minneapolis-11590844180

Calling for peace when the cops are still murdering people

Institutional racism

There is a new blog post entitled, “What are ‘proper directions’ for protest when peaceful protest is for naught?

Associated Press, “Officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck arrested on murder charge,” Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-05-29/minnesota-george-floyd-officer-arrested

Holly Bailey et al., “Chaotic Minneapolis protests spread amid emotional calls for justice, peace, Washington Post, May 29, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/29/chaotic-minneapolis-protests-spread-amid-emotional-calls-justice-peace/


Pittsburgh

U.S. Steel’s response is that this is old news.[1]

WTAE, “Allegheny Co. Health Department announces fines against U.S. Steel for violations at Clairton Coke Works,” May 28, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/allegheny-co-health-department-announces-fines-against-us-steel-for-violations-at-clairton-coke-works/32702736


Pandemic

Allegheny County goes to “green” phase on June 5.[2]

Jamie Martines, “Gov. Wolf to move Allegheny, Westmoreland, other counties to green phase,” TribLive, May 29, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/gov-wolf-to-move-allegheny-westmoreland-other-counties-to-green-phase/


  1. [1]WTAE, “Allegheny Co. Health Department announces fines against U.S. Steel for violations at Clairton Coke Works,” May 28, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/allegheny-co-health-department-announces-fines-against-us-steel-for-violations-at-clairton-coke-works/32702736
  2. [2]Jamie Martines, “Gov. Wolf to move Allegheny, Westmoreland, other counties to green phase,” TribLive, May 29, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/gov-wolf-to-move-allegheny-westmoreland-other-counties-to-green-phase/

The different ways the pandemic affects education

Education

There is a new blog post entitled, “Keeping the poor, poor, even when they serve their country.”

Jason Togyer, “In towns like McKeesport, the future was already precarious. Then came coronavirus,” Columbia Journalism Review, May 22, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/special_report/year-of-fear-mckeesport-crime-covid-19.php

Greta Anderson, “A One-Day Difference,” Inside Higher Ed, May 27, 2020, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/05/27/rules-could-deprive-national-guard-members-fighting-covid-19-education-benefits


Gratuitous guns

I was working in some areas I hadn’t worked in so intensively before today and found three more gratuitous guns. These are farther west, in Ambridge, New Brighton, and Beaver Falls, than others I’d seen in the Pittsburgh area. I had to do some clean-up of the relevant album and re-add all the locations as a single layer to the map because it turns out there’s a limit to how many layers you can add to one of these maps. But they’re all there now.

See Pittsburgh.


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.

IMG_0052
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.

IMG_0073
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/

An existential locus of control

White supremacism

Had I not moved to Pittsburgh, I probably would not bother to take notice of the Marine Corps Commandant ordering the removal of Confederate symbols.[1]

But in Pittsburgh, while I wouldn’t say these flags are ubiquitous, they certainly aren’t rare. I see them in front of people’s homes, often in tandem with a U.S. flag, betraying—at minimum—an authoritarian populist imagination that the Civil War was about something other than a secession to preserve the “peculiar institution,” that is, slavery,[2] against an insistence on preserving the Union[3] and, afterwards, only afterwards, a contest to determine on what terms the Union should be preserved, a contest that continues to the present.[4] While as artifacts, the flags form one element in the evidence supporting my very strong suspicion of possible white supremacist (paleoconservative) militia activity in this area,[5] I have little doubt that those who fly these flags all support Donald Trump.[6] So yeah, I’m wondering what Trump’s reaction to this order will be.

But also, for further thought, as I retrieve and archive the articles I cite above, and refine my understanding, I am struck by how slavery was as existential for the South as guns seem to gun nuts today. Am I really looking at some kind of a substitution? And to what extent can we draw a line from Confederate soldiers’ “alcoholism, unemployment, mental illness, and suicide” after the war[7] to “deaths of despair”[8] today?

That latter conflation is ugly. But I think in broad terms. And given my longstanding question about why, really, Simon de Beauvoir is right,[9] why people so persistently demonize, discriminate against, and subjugate the other, my thoughts are turning the notion of autonomy, a term ethicists use in preference to “freedom,” and how that may be in play.

As a critical theorist, I ask of so-called “freedom” for whom, to do what, to whom? This effectively interprets “freedom” as power over others, distinguished from power-to (do something) and power-with (to accomplish in coordination with others). My question challenges the term freedom as generally used in neoliberal society, for example, often in economic terms with so-called “free trade.”

But conceptually, I pose autonomy, one’s authority over one self, opposite a condition of being subject to someone else’s authority, often political or economic. Put one way, this is about my freedom to swing my fist ending somewhere before your jaw. But the question is often more nuanced than this, for example, when a manufacturing facility upstream unintentionally but negligently pollutes water needed for drinking downstream. Where, really, does “freedom” lie here?

The view of slaveholders leading into the Civil War seems to lie with no limitation on the swinging of their fists whatsoever on slaves. The view of gun nuts seems to lie with no limitation on their ability to dominate anyone they perceive as a threat. Blacks appear on the receiving end of both of these.

But when that concept of control, that so-called “freedom,” is challenged, whether in even brutal power over others[10] or even the ability to earn a living,[11] we seem to be seeing the behaviors associated with “deaths of despair.”

It may be that Blacks who have dismissed these deaths as a consequence of white privilege are not entirely wrong—my musing today seems to support that connection. But they aren’t entirely right either. Because it also cannot be right that I cannot find a real job.[12]

Jeff Schogol, “Marine commandant banishes Confederate symbols from all Corps installations,” Task and Purpose, February 26, 2020, https://taskandpurpose.com/news/marine-corps-bans-confederate-symbols


  1. [1]Jeff Schogol, “Marine commandant banishes Confederate symbols from all Corps installations,” Task and Purpose, February 26, 2020, https://taskandpurpose.com/news/marine-corps-bans-confederate-symbols
  2. [2]Alexander Abad-Santos, “Racists Ruined the Confederate Flag for Lynyrd Skynyrd,” Atlantic, September 21, 2012, https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2012/09/racists-ruined-confederate-flag-lynyrd-skynyrd/323381/; Ta-Nehisi Coates, “What This Cruel War Was Over,” Atlantic, June 22, 2015, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/what-this-cruel-war-was-over/396482/; Prachi Gupta, “Lynyrd Skynyrd decides it’s finally time to stop using the Confederate flag,” Salon, September 21, 2012, http://www.salon.com/2012/09/21/lynyrd_skynyrd_decides_its_finally_time_to_stop_using_the_confederate_flag/; Julia Martinez, “For Civil-War Scholars, a Settled Question That Will Never Die: What Caused the War?” Chronicle of Higher Education, October 31, 2017, http://www.chronicle.com/article/For-Civil-War-Scholars-a/241627; Jonathan Terbush, “Lynyrd Skynyrd calls Confederate Flag racist, prompts fan revolt,” Raw Story, September 22, 2012, http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/09/22/lynyrd-skynyrd-calls-confederate-flag-racist-prompts-fan-revolt/; Tracy Thompson, “The South still lies about the Civil War,” Salon, March 16, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/03/16/the_south_still_lies_about_the_civil_war/; Chris Willman, “Lynyrd Skynyrd Backtracks On Comments, Proudly Lets Confederate Flag Fly,” Yahoo!, September 24, 2012, http://music.yahoo.com/blogs/stop-the-presses/lynyrd-skynyrd-backtracks-comments-proudly-lets-confederate-flag-003332446.html
  3. [3]Tony Horwitz, “150 Years of Misunderstanding the Civil War,” Atlantic, June 19, 2013, http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/150-years-of-misunderstanding-the-civil-war/277022/; Glenn W. LaFantasie, “How the South rationalizes secession,” Salon, December 19, 2010, http://www.salon.com/2010/12/19/lafantasie_south_secession/; Abraham Lincoln to Horace Greeley, “A Letter from President Lincoln.; Reply to Horace Greeley. Slavery and the Union The Restoration of the Union the Paramount Object,” New York Times, August 24, 1862, http://www.nytimes.com/1862/08/24/news/letter-president-lincoln-reply-horace-greeley-slavery-union-restoration-union.html
  4. [4]David W. Blight, “The Civil War Isn’t Over,” Atlantic, April 8, 2015, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/04/the-civil-war-isnt-over/389847/; Andrew O’Hehir, “Welcome to the new Civil War,” Salon, January 5, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/01/05/welcome_to_the_new_civil_war/;
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Militia territory,” Not Housebroken, November 22, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/11/22/militia-territory/
  6. [6]Mary B. McCord, “Armed Militias Are Taking Trump’s Civil War Tweets Seriously,” Lawfare, October 2, 2019, https://www.lawfareblog.com/armed-militias-are-taking-trumps-civil-war-tweets-seriously
  7. [7]David W. Blight, “The Civil War Isn’t Over,” Atlantic, April 8, 2015, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/04/the-civil-war-isnt-over/389847/
  8. [8]Laura Bliss, “The Pessimism of White, Working-Class America,” CityLab, November 17, 2015, http://www.citylab.com/politics/2015/11/the-pessimism-of-white-working-class-america/416379/; Julia Belluz, “Why the white middle class is dying faster, explained in 6 charts,” Vox, March 23, 2017, http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/3/23/14988084/white-middle-class-dying-faster-explained-case-deaton; Andrew J. Cherlin, “Why Are White Death Rates Rising?” New York Times, February 22, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/22/opinion/why-are-white-death-rates-rising.html; Gina Kolata, “Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds,” New York Times, November 2, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/03/health/death-rates-rising-for-middle-aged-white-americans-study-finds.html; Gina Kolata and Sarah Cohen, “Drug Overdoses Propel Rise in Mortality Rates of Young Whites,” New York Times, January 16, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/17/science/drug-overdoses-propel-rise-in-mortality-rates-of-young-whites.html; Paul Krugman, “Heartland of Darkness,” New York Times, November 4, 2015, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/11/04/heartland-of-darkness/; Paul Krugman, “Despair, American Style,” New York Times, November 9, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/09/opinion/despair-american-style.html; Alana Semuels, “Is Economic Despair What’s Killing Middle-Aged White Americans?” CityLab, March 23, 2017, https://www.citylab.com/politics/2017/03/economic-despair-killing-middle-aged-white-americans/520554/
  9. [9]Simone de Beauvoir, “Women as Other,” in Social Theory, ed. Charles Lemert, 6th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2017), 268-270.
  10. [10]David W. Blight, “The Civil War Isn’t Over,” Atlantic, April 8, 2015, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/04/the-civil-war-isnt-over/389847/
  11. [11]Laura Bliss, “The Pessimism of White, Working-Class America,” CityLab, November 17, 2015, http://www.citylab.com/politics/2015/11/the-pessimism-of-white-working-class-america/416379/; Julia Belluz, “Why the white middle class is dying faster, explained in 6 charts,” Vox, March 23, 2017, http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/3/23/14988084/white-middle-class-dying-faster-explained-case-deaton; Andrew J. Cherlin, “Why Are White Death Rates Rising?” New York Times, February 22, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/22/opinion/why-are-white-death-rates-rising.html; Gina Kolata, “Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds,” New York Times, November 2, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/03/health/death-rates-rising-for-middle-aged-white-americans-study-finds.html; Gina Kolata and Sarah Cohen, “Drug Overdoses Propel Rise in Mortality Rates of Young Whites,” New York Times, January 16, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/17/science/drug-overdoses-propel-rise-in-mortality-rates-of-young-whites.html; Paul Krugman, “Heartland of Darkness,” New York Times, November 4, 2015, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/11/04/heartland-of-darkness/; Paul Krugman, “Despair, American Style,” New York Times, November 9, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/09/opinion/despair-american-style.html; Alana Semuels, “Is Economic Despair What’s Killing Middle-Aged White Americans?” CityLab, March 23, 2017, https://www.citylab.com/politics/2017/03/economic-despair-killing-middle-aged-white-americans/520554/
  12. [12]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/