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/

War is the answer

There is a new blog post entitled, “An unhealthy relationship with guns.”


Iraq

You might recall from yesterday’s installment that Iraqi protesters had stormed the U.S. embassy in Iraq. They were protesting a U.S. bombing in the country.[1] In yet another stunning demonstration of “unclear on the concept,” the Trump administration responds to this by sending . . . wait for it  . . . more troops. It appeared the embassy protest might be going on for a while[2] but Iraq’s prime minister has promised to submit the question of a withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country to parliament. Such a withdrawal will be the price of peace at the U.S. embassy there,[3] which is to say that the U.S. has now lost Iraq in addition to Afghanistan.[4]

That makes us zero for two on George W. Bush’s immediate response to the 9/11 attacks, the same response that Barack Obama expanded to more countries. But hey, war is the answer. War is always the fucking answer.

Thaier al-Sudani and Maher Nazeh with Ahmed Aboulenein, “Iraqi militiamen hurl stones at U.S. Embassy, prepare for extended stay,” Reuters, January 1, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-usa/iraqi-militiamen-hurl-stones-at-us-embassy-prepare-for-extended-stay-idUSKBN1Z01N9

Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Supporters of Iranian-backed militia end siege of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad,” Washington Post, January 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/supporters-of-iranian-backed-militia-start-withdrawing-from-besieged-us-embassy-in-baghdad-following-militia-orders/2020/01/01/8280cb34-2c9e-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html


Israel

Ruth Eglash, “Netanyahu to ask Israeli parliament for immunity from criminal charges,” Washington Post, January 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/netanyahu-to-seek-immunity-from-criminal-charges/2020/01/01/9f635378-2b1a-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html


  1. [1]Luke Harding, “Trump accuses Iran over storming of US embassy compound in Baghdad,” Guardian, December 31, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/31/us-embassy-stormed-in-baghdad; Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Protesters chanting ‘Death to America’ break into U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad,” Washington Post, December 31, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/iran-backed-militia-supporters-converge-on-us-embassy-in-baghdad-shouting-death-to-america/2019/12/31/93f050b2-2bb1-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html
  2. [2]Thaier al-Sudani and Maher Nazeh with Ahmed Aboulenein, “Iraqi militiamen hurl stones at U.S. Embassy, prepare for extended stay,” Reuters, January 1, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-usa/iraqi-militiamen-hurl-stones-at-us-embassy-prepare-for-extended-stay-idUSKBN1Z01N9
  3. [3]Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Supporters of Iranian-backed militia end siege of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad,” Washington Post, January 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/supporters-of-iranian-backed-militia-start-withdrawing-from-besieged-us-embassy-in-baghdad-following-militia-orders/2020/01/01/8280cb34-2c9e-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html
  4. [4]Craig Whitlock, “At war with the truth,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/; Craig Whitlock, “Built to fail,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-nation-building/; Craig Whitlock, “Consumed by corruption,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-corruption-government/; Craig Whitlock, “Overwhelmed by opium,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-opium-poppy-production/; Craig Whitlock, “Stranded without a strategy,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-strategy/; Craig Whitlock, “Unguarded nation,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-army-police/

Facepalm, New Years Eve

There is a new blog entry entitled, “No, not everyone should learn to code.”


Pittsburgh

Where I live, the cops actually have to say this:

On the one hand, I’m glad to have reconnected with Pittsburgh, to have touched ground where so many of my relatives lived (and some, whom I haven’t seen in fifty years, still do) and where I lived for a couple years as a kid.

On the other hand, I have landed in a white supremacist hellhole.[1] I’m still working seven days a week with no visible hope for a better life. And this makes me feel I have made a terrible mistake.

Speaking of guns, I finally got this photograph and have added it to my map of Gratuituous Guns.
IMG_0073
Fig. 1. This is an artillery round of some sort, placed on a pillar outside, and pointing directly at, Carrick High School. Carrick is among the areas in Pittsburgh that appears predominantly Black.

The folks who place that artillery round there may wax holier than thou about how this is to honor those who fought in World War II and the Korean War to their hearts’ content. I see a bullet aimed at a high school and can only think that this is a really weird way to honor soldiers.

Small consolations: Amazon Prime delivers in one day here and I get my Whole Foods Market groceries delivered for free through PrimeNow.

And I get my Internet service much faster and, so far at least, much more reliably via fiber optic with Verizon FiOS. I do wish Comcast would quit putting junk mail in my box because, even if I weren’t already pissed at them for their crappy service in California, there’s no way cable is competing with fiber.


This (figure 2) pleases me greatly:
1529931813-20180625 (1)
Fig. 2. Comic by Zack Weinersmith, June 25, 2018, (un)fair use?

And if I have to explain it to you, you don’t understand the Oxford comma.


Gig economy

Uber and Postmates, with a couple drivers, are challenging California’s AB5, which would likely require the companies to treat drivers as employees.[2] Some shit is just annoying.[3]

There are a couple points here. First, the suit was filed in federal, not state, court and, second, on the basis that some industries were exempted, alleges the law fails to provide equal protection[4] (this sounds like a 14th amendment question[5]). The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that Uber and Lyft drivers are independent contractors, not employees[6] and while I expect that has little bearing on the question of equal protection, it may signify a different atmosphere at the federal level.

The law was meant to codify a state supreme court decision that many believed implicated gig economy labor practices but was actually in the case of a single company, Dynamex.[7] With the question being about equal protection, it seems clear that the federal court could strike down the California law without overturning the state supreme court decision, which would really mean that Uber and Lyft are likely still on the hook.

This is a long game, it’s still early, and it likely won’t end until and unless the companies capitulate.

Noam Scheiber, “Uber and Postmates File Suit to Block California Freelancer Law,” New York Times, December 30, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/30/technology/uber-and-postmates-file-suit-to-block-california-freelancer-law.html


Iraq

I had thought the U.S. Embassy in Iraq was the most heavily fortified in the world. It seems folks protesting the recent U.S. bombing there managed to break in anyway.[8]

But ya know, war is the solution, right?

Fucking idiots.

Luke Harding, “Trump accuses Iran over storming of US embassy compound in Baghdad,” Guardian, December 31, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/31/us-embassy-stormed-in-baghdad


  1. [1]David Benfell, “How am I to respond?” Not Housebroken, December 30, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/30/how-am-i-to-respond/
  2. [2]Noam Scheiber, “Uber and Postmates File Suit to Block California Freelancer Law,” New York Times, December 30, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/30/technology/uber-and-postmates-file-suit-to-block-california-freelancer-law.html
  3. [3]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/
  4. [4]Noam Scheiber, “Uber and Postmates File Suit to Block California Freelancer Law,” New York Times, December 30, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/30/technology/uber-and-postmates-file-suit-to-block-california-freelancer-law.html
  5. [5]U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1.
  6. [6]Vanessa Romo, “Uber Drivers Are Not Employees, National Relations Board Rules. Drivers Saw It Coming,” National Public Radio, May 15, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/05/15/723768986/uber-drivers-are-not-employees-national-relations-board-rules-drivers-saw-it-com
  7. [7]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; 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
  8. [8]Luke Harding, “Trump accuses Iran over storming of US embassy compound in Baghdad,” Guardian, December 31, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/31/us-embassy-stormed-in-baghdad; Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Protesters chanting ‘Death to America’ break into U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad,” Washington Post, December 31, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/iran-backed-militia-supporters-converge-on-us-embassy-in-baghdad-shouting-death-to-america/2019/12/31/93f050b2-2bb1-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html

Gun nuttery at the Supreme Court, yet again

Guns

I’m sorry but you just can’t tell me this (figure 1) is about hunting and self-defense.
IMG_0018
Fig. 1. Tank on permanent display outside the Anthony Arms and Shooting Center in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, a civilian arms dealer. This is directly across the street from the Allegheny County Airport, the predecessor to Pittsburgh International Airport. The bulk, at least, of West Mifflin is in Mon Valley, an area predominantly populated by Blacks, many of whom are poor or working class. The airport and this gun shop are located on high ground which overlooks this valley. Photograph by author, September 26, 2019.

Andrew Chung, “U.S. Supreme Court weighs challenge to New York gun transport limits,” Reuters, December 1, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-court-guns/us-supreme-court-weighs-challenge-to-new-york-gun-transport-limits-idUSKBN1Y50ZG


Abortion

I would highlight the insidious expansion of the term ‘fetus’ to include any product of conception.[1] I understood the term to refer to what an embryo grows into. The Oxford Dictionary of English puts the transition at eight weeks following conception.[2] But bills in Ohio and Pennsylvania are defining it down to the moment of conception. The Ohio bill mandates the reimplantation of the zygote in an ectopic pregnancy—a life-threatening condition—into the uterus. And the Pennsylvania bill attempts to require cremation or burial of remains. All of this is more about being holier-than-thou than it is about what’s even possible.[3]

Peter Wade, “Legislators in Ohio and Pennsylvania Are Proposing Incredibly Restrictive Anti-Abortion Legislation,” Rolling Stone, November 30, 2019, https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/legislators-in-ohio-and-pennsylvania-are-proposing-incredibly-restrictive-anti-abortion-legislation-919928/


Surveys

So I’ve been calling survey methodology bullshit since I learned the response rate had been nine percent,[4] which simply makes survey methodology untenable—I don’t care what they say or how they manage to excuse it.

It turns out, however, I’ve been wrong since the end of February. The response rate is now down to six or seven percent. Supposedly studies confirm that survey research is still useful and predictive.[5] No. Bullshit.

The portion of the population that chooses to respond to surveys is now entirely a self-selecting group. I don’t care how often you roll the die and get seven. You’re still wrong to call this science.

Courtney Kennedy and Hannah Hartig, “Response rates in telephone surveys have resumed their decline,” Pew Research Center, February 27, 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/02/27/response-rates-in-telephone-surveys-have-resumed-their-decline/


  1. [1]Peter Wade, “Legislators in Ohio and Pennsylvania Are Proposing Incredibly Restrictive Anti-Abortion Legislation,” Rolling Stone, November 30, 2019, https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/legislators-in-ohio-and-pennsylvania-are-proposing-incredibly-restrictive-anti-abortion-legislation-919928/
  2. [2]Oxford Dictionary of English, 3rd ed. (2010), s.v. “fetus.”
  3. [3]Stephen Caruso, “Pa. House passes fetal remains bill with bipartisan backing,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, November 28, 2019, https://www.penncapital-star.com/blog/pa-house-passes-fetal-remains-bill-with-bipartisan-backing/; Peter Wade, “Legislators in Ohio and Pennsylvania Are Proposing Incredibly Restrictive Anti-Abortion Legislation,” Rolling Stone, November 30, 2019, https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/legislators-in-ohio-and-pennsylvania-are-proposing-incredibly-restrictive-anti-abortion-legislation-919928/
  4. [4]Steven Shepard, “Report: Phone polls aren’t dead yet,” Politico, May 15, 2017, https://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/15/pollsters-phone-polls-238409
  5. [5]Courtney Kennedy and Hannah Hartig, “Response rates in telephone surveys have resumed their decline,” Pew Research Center, February 27, 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/02/27/response-rates-in-telephone-surveys-have-resumed-their-decline/

Capitalists are bad? You don’t say!

Updates

  1. Originally published, November 15, 7:43 pm.
  2. November 16, 2:58 pm:
    • Correction: Sonoma Clean Power does not own or operate the geothermal plant at the Geysers in Sonoma County. These wells are mostly operated by Calpine.[1] I have removed erroneous text. Also, it appears the Press Democrat story[2] over-emphasized the prospect that Sonoma Clean Power might acquire PG&E’s transmission network in Sonoma County. My mother tells me that the Board was concerned with the possibility that PG&E might be bought out or become something else, and what the ramifications for Sonoma Clean Power, as a subsidiary power seller, would be. There may be a story forthcoming.

Ayodhya

Sadanand Dhume, “Hindus Take a Muslim Site. What’s Next?” Wall Street Journal, November 14, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/hindus-take-a-muslim-site-is-the-taj-mahal-next-11573775903


Pacific Gas and Electric

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.c
Fig. 1. Is this a picture to grab your attention or what? No, this isn’t a disaster about to happen. The original caption: “A helicopter uses a sprayer to wash high tension power line insulators after the Kincade Fire near Pepperwood Preserve.” This photograph is undated and uncredited but the other two in the article, also undated, are attributed to Kent Porter of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.[3] Fair use.

There is concern that Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), a company with a criminal record, will emerge from bankruptcy under control of a hedge fund.

“Nothing I can think of says, ‘screw the public interest’ like a hedge fund-owned public utility,” [Dave] King said.[4]

So Sonoma Clean Power may seek to acquire PG&E’s transmission network in the county.[5] It is unclear how this would mesh with the possibility that the state will take over the utility.[6]

While I’m no fan of PG&E, I also have to wonder to what extent public ownership will solve a problem whose causes lie not only with corporate malfeasance but also with the climate crisis.[7] And you know how you convince me you’re serious about the latter: Go vegan. Until you’ve done that, you’re really just playing around.

Tyler Silvy, “Sonoma Clean Power officials will explore public ownership of PG&E utility lines,” Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, November 14, 2019, https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10315410-181/sonoma-clean-power-officials-will


Gig economy

Imagine if other states, notably California, actually slapped Uber with a tax bill the way New Jersey has.[8]

Matthew Haag and Patrick McGeehan, “Uber Fined $649 Million for Saying Drivers Aren’t Employees,” New York Times, November 14, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/14/nyregion/uber-new-jersey-drivers.html



  1. [1]Power Technology, “The Geysers Geothermal Field, California,” n.d., https://www.power-technology.com/projects/the-geysers-geothermal-california/
  2. [2]Tyler Silvy, “Sonoma Clean Power officials will explore public ownership of PG&E utility lines,” Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, November 14, 2019, https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10315410-181/sonoma-clean-power-officials-will
  3. [3]Tyler Silvy, “Sonoma Clean Power officials will explore public ownership of PG&E utility lines,” Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, November 14, 2019, https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10315410-181/sonoma-clean-power-officials-will
  4. [4]Tyler Silvy, “Sonoma Clean Power officials will explore public ownership of PG&E utility lines,” Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, November 14, 2019, https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10315410-181/sonoma-clean-power-officials-will
  5. [5]Tyler Silvy, “Sonoma Clean Power officials will explore public ownership of PG&E utility lines,” Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, November 14, 2019, https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10315410-181/sonoma-clean-power-officials-will
  6. [6]Katherine Blunt and Alejandro Lazo, “California Governor Threatens State Takeover of PG&E,” Wall Street Journal, November 1, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/california-governor-threatens-state-takeover-of-pg-e-11572641749; Rebecca Smith, “California Mayors Join Campaign to Buy Out PG&E,” Wall Street Journal, November 5, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/california-mayors-join-campaign-to-make-pg-e-a-cooperative-11572955201
  7. [7]Kurtis Alexander, “Scientists see fingerprints of climate change all over California’s wildfires,” San Francisco Chronicle, August 3, 2018, https://www.sfchronicle.com/science/article/Scientists-see-fingerprints-of-climate-change-all-13128585.php
  8. [8]Matthew Haag and Patrick McGeehan, “Uber Fined $649 Million for Saying Drivers Aren’t Employees,” New York Times, November 14, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/14/nyregion/uber-new-jersey-drivers.html

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

The ‘ungriddable’ city

Updates

  1. Originally published, October 26, 7:14 pm. Note: All times are Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) unless otherwise noted.
  2. October 26, 9:39 pm:
    • The mandatory evacuation area for the Kincade fire has expanded. Notably, it now includes my mother’s house. Areas being warned have shifted south (figure 1). Graphics have been updated.
  3. October 27, 4:36 am:
    • To be honest, I’m somewhat perplexed. Even as it appears firefighters are gaining significant control over the Kincade fire and that it has not advanced in the direction of Highway 101, evacuation warnings have now been issued for a relatively small part of northwest Santa Rosa that, ominously, approaches an evacuation center (figure 1). Winds have shifted and are now strongly off-shore.[1] In addition, the evacuation zones are now numbered. Graphics and text have been updated.
  4. October 27, 8:28 am:
    • I haven’t received notifications, which may mean that map updates were out of sync with the notifications I received. It now appears more of Santa Rosa is under mandatory evacuation (figure 1). Winds are now off-shore at 40+ miles per hour.[2] It seems to me that the Santa Rosa evacuation center is now being encroached upon with mandatory evacuation orders on the north and west sides (figure 1). According to the Cal Fire incident page, Kincade fire containment is at 10 percent.[3] Graphics have been updated.
    • It is harder for me to keep up to date during the day, while I’m working, but I’m packing my Chromebook today. I will try.
  5. October 27, 1:05 pm:
    • A mandatory evacuation order has been issued for another piece of Santa Rosa, drawing very near the evacuation center there and the Kincade fire looking very much more serious than it did overnight (figure 1). Wind speeds appear to exceed 50 miles per hour.[4] The fire is now up to 30,000 acres and still at only 10 percent containment.[5]
    • Amidst all the drama, there is, of course, a very real human toll. Some folks are saying they don’t want to repeat their experience from two years ago. As the evacuation orders arrive, they are considering more permanent departures.[6] And it really is something to think about when you can’t rely on the lights being on, as aquifers draw ever lower, and as suffocating smoke becomes an annual occurrence. This isn’t civilization anymore. It may be spectacular, but it’s hell.
  6. October 27, 9:12 pm:
    • Be sure to look through the slide show in this Press-Democrat coverage.[7] I recognize some of the places as places I’ve been.

      They’re ordinary places really. The sort of places you take for granted as you drive right on by. Ordinary, that is, except for those who lived and worked in them. Their lives are forever changed.

      And if you feel a sense of deja vu, that’s kind of my point. This is how it’s been for fire after fire after fire. That bravado we always cheer, where victims swear they’ll rebuild, seems hollow now.

  7. October 28, 4:30 am:
    • Containment is now at 5 percent of over 54,000 acres in the Kincade fire.[8] I’m having trouble telling from the Incident map (figure 1) how far into Windsor the fire has reached. The distance from northern Windsor to my mother’s house is a little less but traverses the same rugged dry terrain that a spread from Healdsburg would. It appears there is a shift in the weather pattern (figure 2) but I am not at this moment able to determine its significance. The winds have dropped[9] but that may only be because it is night time. Graphics have been updated.
  8. October 28, 10:09 am:
    • It kind of looks like I failed to publish the 4:30 am update. Oops.
    • As of now, the Incident Map (figure 1) is making clear that where previously the main part of the Kincade fire had seemed to be in mountainous terrain, it now seems to be moving towards, if not into, Healdsburg and Windsor. Containment is at five percent of over 66,000 acres.[10] Winds seem to have weakened for the moment[11] and it appears the region is in for a bit of a respite on Monday (today) before conditions worsen again on Tuesday.[12]
    • “Cal Fire officials said they were concerned that the fire would jump Highway 128 into fuel-laden land that has not burned in decades.”[13] I’m not sure what the Sacramento Bee reporters mean when they talk about Highway 128, which runs into Mendocino County north of Cloverdale, along Highway 101 to Geyserville, and then east over the mountains into Lake County. Though there’s certainly land there that hasn’t burned yet, Lake County burned before Sonoma County in several massive fires over several years.

      My concern however is with the fire’s move toward Windsor and Healdsburg. If the Kincade fire jumps Highway 101 (the latest incident map, figure 1, suggests it’s reaching right to it), which is what the Tubbs Fire did two years ago, and heads towards my mother’s house, I don’t think any of that territory has burned in decades either. And it looks to me like it’s getting close.

      In the meantime,

      The Kincade Fire and other blazes that erupted Sunday during the heavy winds closed several major roadways, including Interstate 80, the main east-west highway through Northern California between San Francisco and the Nevada state line. I-80 was closed for several hours between Vallejo and Crockett because of brush fires raging at both ends of the Carquinez Bridge, but reopened by mid-afternoon.[14]

      Apparently this is happening all over the state.[15] I said earlier that this is hell. It’s hell. And yeah, reminiscent of when the Sonoma County fires broke out in 2017.

  9. October 28, 8:13 pm:
    • The humiliation of Boris Johnson continues as “he was forced to grudgingly accept the European Union’s offer to delay Brexit until January, and then lost a motion in Parliament to stage a general election before Christmas.”[16] (Brexit)
    • There’s apparently no real news on the Kincade fire. I am updating the graphics nonetheless. The fire does seem like it is spreading towards Healdsburg if not into it (figure 1) and winds are currently on shore.[17]
  10. October 29, 3:51 am:
    • As if Brexit was ever, even once, really on track, it’s gone off the rails again as Boris Johnson has “abandoned” the withdrawal bill because he wants an election so bad. You know, like he wants Brexit itself. And yeah, I’m not the only one calling bullshit.[18]
    • The evacuation orders for much of west Sonoma County, including (just barely) my mother’s house, have been reduced to warnings, though the incident map (figure 1) also seems to show the fire further encroaching on Healdsburg. Cal Fire says it has achieved fifteen percent containment on over 74,000 acres.[19] The winds are shifting again,[20] in line with earlier forecasts.[21] The warning means people need to be ready to leave on a moment’s notice, so this isn’t really clearance for people to return home. This fire still looks incredibly dangerous to me and if those forecasts hold, I expect we’ll see a much more alarming picture later in the day. Text below has mostly been removed—look to these updates instead. Graphics have been updated.
  11. October 29, 10:13 am:
    • Labour will back an election, improving the likelihood that one will occur in December.[22] The call for such an election was likely to succeed anyway, leaving Labour in the unenviable position of going into an election it had opposed.[23] (Brexit)
    • People are mad at Pacific Gas and Electric, and have reason to be, especially with the Kincade fire,[24] but it’s worth remembering the climate crisis is a major contributor.[25] Winds are still relatively weak but have now shifted to an off-shore direction.[26] They keep changing how they show the fire intensity and spread in the Sonoma County Incident Map and I am especially unfond of the latest iteration.

      I see now (figure 1) that Healdsburg is across the Russian River from the fire and the fire has not jumped the river there. But parts of Windsor, especially the north and east are on fire.

      The fire is very close to Highway 101 (figure 1). The road, which is marked as closed, is only four lanes (plus a median) wide there. I can’t imagine that a good gust of wind won’t enable the fire to jump the highway into terrain that I don’t think has burned in a very long time. But they’ve still got a lot of west Sonoma County only on an evacuation warning phase.

      I gotta tell you, this doesn’t help to bolster confidence in their logic for how they ordered evacuations and when. Graphics are updated.

  12. October 29, 2019, 9:06 pm:
    • Parliament has approved an election to be held on December 12,[27] which is just what Boris Johnson wanted. I am disappointed the franchise will not be extended to 16-year olds and European Union nationals: Their futures are at stake, even more than those of the old fogies who so desperately want out of the E.U.[28]
    • The Kincade fire is now 15 percent contained at over 75,000 acres.[29] The fire remains close to, but on the east side of Highway 101. Evacuation warnings are now shown for adjacent parts of Lake County (figure 1). Winds are strongly in an off-shore direction, but not so strong over such a wide area as before.[30]
  13. October 30, 4:33 am:
    • Little seems to have changed with the Kincade fire since the last update,[31] except that stronger winds are appearing over a broader area. Which is to suggest that firefighters seem to be pretty much holding the line, and that if the wind forecast holds,[32] the worst should be over. For now.[33] Graphics have been updated.
  14. October 30, 9:05 am:
    • Richard Denniss explores the social constructions in economics to explain why economists disagree.[34] I respond with a new blog post entitled, “Cats are smarter than we are. Really.
    • The Kincade fire is at 30 percent containment and nearly 77,000 acres.[35] Firefighters seem to be holding the line in areas I’ve been most concerned with but I think maybe not so well to the north and east. Unfortunately there’s a weird cut off in the graphics in figure 1 that makes this harder to discern. Winds are strong and off-shore but not as strong and not as strongly over as wide an area as before.[36] Graphics have been updated.
  15. October 30, 7:00 pm:
    • Asserting the supremacy of state law, an Allegheny County judge struck down Pittsburgh’s gun control laws,[37] which were passed in the wake of the Tree of Life Synagogue mass shooting last year.[38]
    • My methodology here is weak beyond compare, but I’m guessing from his avatar that Nathan Heller is a lot younger than I am. That said, his recollection of fires in the San Francisco area is about like mine.[39] California just isn’t the place it used to be. It is, as the headline on Annie Lowrey’s exploration of how the Wildlife-Urban Interface came to be so heavily populated proclaims, becoming unlivable.[40] (Kincade fire)
    • Winds are still offshore, but not nearly so strongly as earlier even today.[41] Updated containment figures are not yet available.[42] A lot of east Windsor appears to have burned or to be on fire but Healdsburg continues to be spared. Overall, the Kincade fire looks much less active and evacuation orders and warnings seem to be receding (figure 1). My mother will be going home tomorrow. Graphics have been updated.
    • Barring unforeseen developments, I will end this issue here. It’s become unusual for me to hold an issue open like this for several days on end but I did so on account of the Kincade fire. At this moment, that no longer seems to be justified.

Pittsburgh

I’ve been working on my page entitled, “Pittsburgh driving for the uninitiated anyway, but it turns out that Pittsburgh navigation is sufficiently difficult that it merits a CityLab article.[43] Yes, it really is that bad. And worse.

Vince Guerrieri, “The Map That Unlocked the Mysteries of Pittsburgh,” CityLab, October 25, 2019, https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2019/10/pittsburgh-street-map-beltway-system-allegheny-county-roads/600658/


Humanities

Support for the humanities comes from an unlikely source.[44]

Heather Long, “The world’s top economists just made the case for why we still need English majors,” Washington Post, October 19, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/10/19/worlds-top-economists-just-made-case-why-we-still-need-english-majors/


Kincade fire

FireShot Capture 034 - Kincade Fire Incident Map (Sonoma, Napa, Lake Counties)_ - sonomacounty.maps.arcgis.com
Fig. 1. Screenshot of Sonoma County Incident Map, taken on October 30, 2019, at 7:37 pm EDT (4:37 pm PDT). Click on this static image to open the source.
nepac-2019-10-30-18
Fig. 2. 72-hour gif of Northeast Pacific satellite photos, taken two hours apart, as of October 30, 6:00 pm EDT (3:00 pm PDT).

Jonathan Cox, another Cal Fire spokesman, called the evacuation orders a preventive measure against “a worst-case scenario for this fire.” Capt. Stephen Volmer, a fire behavior analyst with the agency, said the winds were expected to start blowing the fire in a southwesterly direction beginning about 8 p.m. [PDT] toward Highway 101.[45]

A lot of Sonoma County still has visible scars from the fires two years ago. The psychic scars are, of course, longer lasting. But all I can really say is that the scenes I have seen there are, in a way, beyond description. There is an impact just from seeing the burned areas, or even just driving around a curve and being confronted with burned vegetation. Let alone seeing pads where homes used to be.

Best wishes to all.

Dale Kasler, “PG&E expands blackouts as fierce winds approach: 940,000 to lose power in California,” Sacramento Bee, October 26, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article236691183.html

Dale Kasler and Hannah Wiley, “50,000 face evacuations in Sonoma County as Kincade Fire peril intensifies,” Sacramento Bee, October 26, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article236685153.html

Nico Savidge, Annie Sciacca, and Casey Tolan, “‘I don’t want to do this again’: Blackouts and wildfires put Sonoma County on edge,” San Jose Mercury-News, October 26, 2019, https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/10/26/i-dont-want-to-do-this-again-blackouts-and-fires-make-sonoma-county-residents-question-their-home/

Randi Rossmann and Will Schmitt, “Latest: Crews fighting to protect Windsor from approaching Kincade fire,” Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, October 27, 2019, https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10227533-181/latest-winds-picking-up-in

Ryan Sabalow et al., “Kincade Fire forces evacuations and burns 84 square miles, as containment drops to 5%,” Sacramento Bee, October 27, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article236719068.html

Dale Kasler, “Can wildfire risk worsen? Northern California eyes more winds, another PG&E outage,” Sacramento Bee, October 28, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article236718203.html

Nathan Heller, “San Francisco’s Fire Season,” New Yorker, October 30, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/california-chronicles/san-franciscos-fire-season

Annie Lowrey, “California Is Becoming Unlivable,” Atlantic, October 30, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/10/can-california-save-itself/601135/


Brexit

William Booth, Michael Birnbaum, and Karla Adam, “U.K. Parliament rejects Boris Johnson’s call for an early election on Dec. 12, but a pre-Brexit election remains likely,” Washington Post, October 28, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/eu-pushes-brexit-until-end-of-january-british-prime-minister-johnsons-request/2019/10/28/c53839cc-f967-11e9-9534-e0dbcc9f5683_story.html

Karla Adam and William Booth, “Britain sets December date for an election in which Brexit will dominate,” Washington Post, October 29, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/with-labour-partys-backing-britains-boris-johnson-looks-set-to-get-his-snap-election/2019/10/29/778ed246-f9c9-11e9-9e02-1d45cb3dfa8f_story.html

Max Colchester, “U.K. Opposition Labour Party to Back Boris Johnson’s Call for Election,” Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-k-opposition-to-back-boris-johnsons-call-for-election-11572347134

Peter Walker, “MPs poised to vote through plan for December election,” Guardian, October 29, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/29/rush-to-election-slowed-mp-stella-creasy-backbench-labour-amendment


  1. [1]Santa Rosa Press Democrat, “Map: Real-time map of wind gusts in the North Bay,” October 27, 2019, https://www.pressdemocrat.com/multimedia/10155288-181/map-current-winds-in-the
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  8. [8]California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, “Incidents,” October 28, 2019, https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/
  9. [9]Santa Rosa Press Democrat, “Map: Real-time map of wind gusts in the North Bay,” October 28, 2019, https://www.pressdemocrat.com/multimedia/10155288-181/map-current-winds-in-the
  10. [10]California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, “Incidents,” October 28, 2019, https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/
  11. [11]Santa Rosa Press Democrat, “Map: Real-time map of wind gusts in the North Bay,” October 28, 2019, https://www.pressdemocrat.com/multimedia/10155288-181/map-current-winds-in-the
  12. [12]Dale Kasler, “Can wildfire risk worsen? Northern California eyes more winds, another PG&E outage,” Sacramento Bee, October 28, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article236718203.html
  13. [13]Ryan Sabalow et al., “Kincade Fire forces evacuations and burns 84 square miles, as containment drops to 5%,” Sacramento Bee, October 27, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article236719068.html
  14. [14]Ryan Sabalow et al., “Kincade Fire forces evacuations and burns 84 square miles, as containment drops to 5%,” Sacramento Bee, October 27, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article236719068.html
  15. [15]Ryan Sabalow et al., “Kincade Fire forces evacuations and burns 84 square miles, as containment drops to 5%,” Sacramento Bee, October 27, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article236719068.html
  16. [16]William Booth, Michael Birnbaum, and Karla Adam, “U.K. Parliament rejects Boris Johnson’s call for an early election on Dec. 12, but a pre-Brexit election remains likely,” Washington Post, October 28, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/eu-pushes-brexit-until-end-of-january-british-prime-minister-johnsons-request/2019/10/28/c53839cc-f967-11e9-9534-e0dbcc9f5683_story.html
  17. [17]Santa Rosa Press Democrat, “Map: Real-time map of wind gusts in the North Bay,” October 28, 2019, https://www.pressdemocrat.com/multimedia/10155288-181/map-current-winds-in-the
  18. [18]Rowena Mason, “Brexit: Boris Johnson abandons bill in new push for December election,” Guardian, October 29, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/28/boris-johnson-abandons-brexit-bill-in-new-push-for-december-election
  19. [19]California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, “Incidents,” October 28, 2019, https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/
  20. [20]Santa Rosa Press Democrat, “Map: Real-time map of wind gusts in the North Bay,” October 28, 2019, https://www.pressdemocrat.com/multimedia/10155288-181/map-current-winds-in-the
  21. [21]Ryan Sabalow et al., “Kincade Fire forces evacuations and burns 84 square miles, as containment drops to 5%,” Sacramento Bee, October 27, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article236719068.html
  22. [22]Max Colchester, “U.K. Opposition Labour Party to Back Boris Johnson’s Call for Election,” Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-k-opposition-to-back-boris-johnsons-call-for-election-11572347134
  23. [23]Rowena Mason, “Brexit: Boris Johnson abandons bill in new push for December election,” Guardian, October 29, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/28/boris-johnson-abandons-brexit-bill-in-new-push-for-december-election
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  25. [25]Kurtis Alexander, “Scientists see fingerprints of climate change all over California’s wildfires,” San Francisco Chronicle, August 3, 2018, https://www.sfchronicle.com/science/article/Scientists-see-fingerprints-of-climate-change-all-13128585.php
  26. [26]Santa Rosa Press Democrat, “Map: Real-time map of wind gusts in the North Bay,” October 29, 2019, https://www.pressdemocrat.com/multimedia/10155288-181/map-current-winds-in-the
  27. [27]Karla Adam and William Booth, “Britain sets December date for an election in which Brexit will dominate,” Washington Post, October 29, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/with-labour-partys-backing-britains-boris-johnson-looks-set-to-get-his-snap-election/2019/10/29/778ed246-f9c9-11e9-9e02-1d45cb3dfa8f_story.html
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  33. [33]Kurtis Alexander, “Scientists see fingerprints of climate change all over California’s wildfires,” San Francisco Chronicle, August 3, 2018, https://www.sfchronicle.com/science/article/Scientists-see-fingerprints-of-climate-change-all-13128585.php
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  37. [37]Bob Bauder, “Judge strikes down Pittsburgh’s controversial gun bills,” Trib, October 29, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/judge-strikes-down-pittsburghs-controversial-gun-bills/
  38. [38]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
  39. [39]Nathan Heller, “San Francisco’s Fire Season,” New Yorker, October 30, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/california-chronicles/san-franciscos-fire-season
  40. [40]Annie Lowrey, “California Is Becoming Unlivable,” Atlantic, October 30, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/10/can-california-save-itself/601135/
  41. [41]Santa Rosa Press Democrat, “Map: Real-time map of wind gusts in the North Bay,” October 30, 2019, https://www.pressdemocrat.com/multimedia/10155288-181/map-current-winds-in-the
  42. [42]California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, “Incidents,” October 30, 2019, https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/
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  44. [44]Heather Long, “The world’s top economists just made the case for why we still need English majors,” Washington Post, October 19, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/10/19/worlds-top-economists-just-made-case-why-we-still-need-english-majors/
  45. [45]Dale Kasler and Hannah Wiley, “50,000 face evacuations in Sonoma County as Kincade Fire peril intensifies,” Sacramento Bee, October 26, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article236685153.html

The U.S. is now a little less likely to invade Iran

Guns

Lisa Marie Pane, “NRA sues San Francisco over terrorist declaration,” Washington Post, September 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/nra-sues-san-francisco-over-terrorist-declaration/2019/09/09/34f4fd3c-d360-11e9-8924-1db7dac797fb_story.html

Jack Crowe, “NRA Sues San Francisco over ‘Domestic Terrorist Organization’ Label,” National Review, September 10, 2019, https://www.nationalreview.com/news/nra-sues-san-francisco-over-domestic-terrorist-organization-label/


Homelessness

There is a new blog post entitled, “Crocodile tears for the homeless.”

Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks, “Sacramento wants to overturn this homeless ruling. Now it’s asking the Supreme Court for help,” Sacramento Bee, September 10, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article234894477.html


John Bolton

We are now a little less likely to invade Iran.[1]

Anne Gearan, John Wagner, and Robert Costa, “Bolton out as national security adviser after clashing with Trump,” Washington Post, September 10, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-fires-bolton-as-national-security-adviser-saying-he-disagreed-strongly-with-many-of-his-suggestions/2019/09/10/13409e2c-d3b9-11e9-9610-fb56c5522e1c_story.html


Brexit

Griff Witte and Karla Adam, “A chaotic final night for Parliament leaves Johnson with bleak choices on the path to Brexit,” Washington Post, September 10, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/a-chaotic-final-night-for-parliament-leaves-johnson-with-bleak-choices-on-the-path-to-brexit/2019/09/10/443a835a-d33a-11e9-8924-1db7dac797fb_story.html


Palestine

Palestinians would be left with nearly nothing under Binyamin Netanyahu’s campaign promise:[2]

In Israeli politics, however, annexation is a popular position. Israel has long stated it would want to keep the 2,400-sq km (926.65-sqmile) Jordan Valley to maintain control over the international border.[3]

Oliver Holmes, “Netanyahu vows to annex large parts of occupied West Bank,” Guardian, September 10, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/10/netanyahu-vows-annex-large-parts-occupied-west-bank-trump


  1. [1]Peter Beinart, “The Question the Iran Hawks Haven’t Answered,” Atlantic, June 24, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/06/iran-hawks-owe-americans-some-answers/592390/; Dexter Filkins, “John Bolton on the Warpath,” New Yorker, April 29, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/05/06/john-bolton-on-the-warpath; Anne Gearan, John Wagner, and Robert Costa, “Bolton out as national security adviser after clashing with Trump,” Washington Post, September 10, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-fires-bolton-as-national-security-adviser-saying-he-disagreed-strongly-with-many-of-his-suggestions/2019/09/10/13409e2c-d3b9-11e9-9610-fb56c5522e1c_story.html;
  2. [2]Oliver Holmes, “Netanyahu vows to annex large parts of occupied West Bank,” Guardian, September 10, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/10/netanyahu-vows-annex-large-parts-occupied-west-bank-trump
  3. [3]Oliver Holmes, “Netanyahu vows to annex large parts of occupied West Bank,” Guardian, September 10, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/10/netanyahu-vows-annex-large-parts-occupied-west-bank-trump