A report from Burma (Update #14)

Updates

  1. Originally published, March 28, 2021, 9:20 am

  2. March 28, 2021, 8:17 pm:

    • My car has reached the end of its road.

      Despite my fury at being stuck driving for Uber and Lyft (see original text below), I was driving again today, when the engine died. The console displayed “Check Hybrid System” and “Check VSC System.”

      These indications have been a recurring problem. By the time the dealer looks at the car, they’ve disappeared without a trace. And they don’t recur for several thousand utterly unpredictable miles.

      The last time this happened, I speculatively had a relay replaced. It was the cheapest of three possible causes of the problem. That was last July (2020) and I figured I was in luck, that this had fixed the problem.

      But today, it was back. I called a tow truck and had the car towed. But when we got to the Toyota dealer, who would have to deal with this sort of thing, the indications had cleared, suggesting that we were back in the situation where, yet again, the dealer wouldn’t be able to reproduce the problem.

      So I tried going back out, on the theory it would be several thousand miles until the next failure. No such luck. It failed again, with a passenger in the car this time.

      It was all I could do to get it home. I have removed all my belongings from it. My plan now is to junk it tomorrow, one way or another.

      When I look at my spreadsheet and I look at the amount above average in vehicle costs in the time (since I started working for Lyft and Uber in 2016) over 2020 and 2021, the total is $7,642.85. I very nearly could have bought another used car from my dealer in Rohnert Park, California, for that amount.

      That average includes the time driving in Pittsburgh, with its abysmal roads, so the excess since the beginning of 2020 is likely underestimated. But the excess also includes the damage from those roads, damage I hope to mitigate with a future, larger vehicle that will be better able to absorb the punishment.

      I will have to think hard about whether that vehicle will be another hybrid. Much as I like Toyota’s hybrid system—and I really do like it—the only mechanics around Pittsburgh who can work on hybrid systems are dealers, with whom my experience has not been great.

      Although the thought of letting Pittsburgh, especially the people here, destroy another vehicle is not even in the slightest bit enticing.

      I am hating this life. Every last bit of it.

  3. March 29, 2021, 1:13 pm:

    • Lindsey Graham says he “needs his own AR-15 . . . in case disaster strikes and he needs to defend his home against a roving ‘gang.’”[1] There is a new blog post entitled, “The thin logic of gun nuttery.”

    • So I woke up this morning and I ran some numbers. It turns out that for all the mileage (about 1,200) I put on a car in a week, I can rent a car through Uber’s deal with Hertz or Avis nearly as cheaply.

      Perhaps I missed a merger, but at least in Pittsburgh, it very much appears that Avis and Budget share locations, and the last time I rented a car through Budget, they charged me $600 too much. I’m not doing that again and I’m not trusting Avis to be separate enough from Budget. So it’s Hertz for me.

      But after accepting a reservation, and after I’d already gotten into an Uber to get clear across town to the one location that deals with Uber, I got a phone call from that location. They don’t have cars available.

      This isn’t just this location or this company. Probably any Uber or Lyft driver around Pittsburgh can tell you a story of ferrying passengers around trying to hook up with a rental car. After the company has accepted the reservation for a nonexistent car. As near as I can tell, this is because, for unknown reasons, all rental car companies in Pittsburgh hoard all their cars at the airport. Which isn’t the location that deals with Uber.

  4. March 29, 2021, 3:06 pm:

    • The universe is screaming at me that this plan doesn’t work.

      The only suggestions I have involve compromise. My god. All I have done my entire life is compromise. Because it was all I could see to do. And look where it’s gotten me. Right where I am.

      Is it really asking so much that there should be a plan that makes some kind of fucking sense? That might actually work?

      • You know, instead of let’s just see how much more the capitalists can exploit me and treat me worse than shit. Even with a Ph.D.

      • You know, instead of let’s just see how many more seven day weeks I can tolerate with no life, no hope of a life, because I’m working all the time, trying to keep the wolves at bay.

      • You know, instead of letting Pittsburgh roads and Pittsburgh people destroy yet another car so I can go on not even making minimum wage, let alone a living wage. Oh, but still owing taxes.

      • You know, instead of having nothing for when I’m too old and decrepit to keep working but working seven days a week until that happens. Oh, and then ending up homeless because I have, well, nothing.

      Yeah, I think there really needs to be a better plan than this. But people have been ignoring me, ignoring my job applications, ignoring my humanity for twenty years, even as I returned to school, finished a B.A., an M.A., and a Ph.D. It’s not their problem, they say. It’s never anybody’s problem.

      Just keep doing some flavor of what doesn’t work, they say. It doesn’t even remotely begin to make even a shard of sense, but keep fucking doing it.

      I’ll be 62 years old on April 29. I’m running out of time. So, sorry, but yes, I need a much better fucking plan than this.

  5. March 29, 2021, 3:52 pm:

    • The Crack’d Egg is back at it, trying yet again to open without complying with COVID-19 mitigation measures,[2] after having initially remaining open and flaunting their refusal to comply,[3] trying and failing to evade the orders with a bankruptcy filing,[4] closing rather than complying with the rules,[5] trying and finally failing to get an injunction against the order to comply with the rules.[6] At some point, you kinda have to think surely they’ll win at least one ruling. But it hasn’t happened yet.

  6. March 30, 2021, 1:37 am:

    • Because the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been so uneven around the globe, in part due to drug manufacturers’ insistence on preserving their intellectual property ‘rights,’[7] new, deadlier, and more contagious variants of the novel coronavirus will require new vaccines within a year.[8] This is apparently without even considering vaccine hesitancy in countries that have access to the vaccine.[9]

  7. March 30, 2021, 1:16 pm:

    • I have decided, after all, and very much at the risk of throwing good money after bad, decided to repair my car. It has a great sound system. A lot of the damage from Pittsburgh roads has recently been repaired. Hell, I just got it through its annual inspection.

      My intention, however, is not to return it to service driving for Uber and Lyft. This was something I never wanted to do to it in the first place. But did because I can’t find a fucking job.[10]

      So there are two immediate parts to this plan:

      • Get the car to Rohrich Toyota and let them fix it. I got it there. It still has the “check hybrid system” indication so they should be able to read a code. Hopefully they can fix it, however many thousands of dollars that will cost.

      • Rent a car through Uber at a discount rate that (see update from March 28, 2021, at 8:17 pm) appears comparable to the cost of operating my car but where somebody else absorbs much of the risk.

        This part ain’t going so well. There was the initial failure yesterday (see update from March 29, 2021, at 1:18 pm) that so far appears to be a repeat today (figure 1).


        Fig. 1. Screenshot of Twitter message to Hertz Car Rental, March 30, 2021, by author.

    • One of the things I’ve noticed since coming to Pittsburgh is that a lot of people here, including really well-paid people, really don’t seem to understand how to take care of business.

      There’s the Sunoco Oil credit card that I don’t use because I get too many spurious declines with it. There’s Dollar Bank, whose debit card seems similarly, though less severely, stupid. There’s that fiasco I had with AT&T, which is why I’m no longer an AT&T customer.[11] There are the Toyota dealers who’ve repeatedly told me that maintenance was required for things that wouldn’t need it for tens of thousands of miles yet to go.

      Today, I have Rohrich Toyota, whose service writer warns me they may not be able to get to my car until next week because they’re so far backed up. And I have this utter fuck up of a rental car company.

      Now, I know better. This is not how I do business. But here in Pittsburgh, they just say, “It is what it is,” throw their hands up, and refuse to challenge it. You hear it again and again, whether it’s traffic, a stop light, a multitude of road conditions, or something else: “It is what it is.”

      It’s an embrace not just of despair but of incompetence. My father would be on the warpath, probably going nuclear. And I gotta tell you, on this, I think he’d be right.

      And all this, of course, while I not only can’t get a real fucking job, but suffer the abuse of being an Uber and Lyft driver, even with a Ph.D.[12] Are you kidding me? I mean, seriously, this all has to be an incredibly bad joke.

  8. March 30, 2021, 5:40 pm:


    • Fig. 2. Screenshot of Twitter conversation with Hertz Car Rental, March 30, 2021, by author.

      I have found, and others have told me as well, that Twitter is often the very best way to get the attention of an unresponsive corporation. There is the implicit threat that your tweet will go viral. And, at the same time, there are actual humans manning the messaging function, where if you go any other way, you get lost in some phone or website menu system that expects your query to be a frequently asked question and doesn’t respond well when, as nearly always in my case, it isn’t.

      But with Hertz Car Rental, this is moving at a glacial pace.

      Meanwhile, that was a cute little $90 Uber trip to fetch my laundry because I now don’t have a car. (It was probably about $20 for the driver.) I had hoped to pick up the laundry on the way back from picking up the rental car. (And no, I don’t really dare continuing to drive my car with a hybrid system malfunction. That needs to be fixed.)

      Oh, and annoying too. I had a driver who claimed to have researched COVID-19 and conversed with well-credentialed scientists who backed his conspiracy theories.

    • source on threadreaderapp.com
      Archived at 2021-03-30 17:17:24

      Pittsburgh Green Left 🌻🥑 Profile picture

      Pittsburgh Green Left 🌻🥑

      Follow @PghGreenLeft

      30 Mar, 6 tweets, 2 min read

      The more cops try to explain their violence away as “well that was just my training”, the more it opens people’s eyes to the cruelty of the system. I don’t know how these individual cases will go but I think they’re losing the long-term public support the more they push.

      Some of my family is fairly conservative and even a few police in my family. As such some of my family was pretty adamant about how tough it is being an officer & the need to support them. Even they are having second thoughts learning what really goes on in jail & court.

      When the cops start losing the support of my Republican family members, we know there’s a shift going on.

      Cops of course could reverse this trend by toning it down even slightly, but much like capitalism, they are compelled to take it to extremes, always.

      Violent policing IS part of capitalism. The system is inherently violent and repressive. You’re not going to fix that – and the inability of cops to take responsibility for even the most egregious, obvious violence is beginning to open eyes to the nature of this system.

      The fact that politicians can’t help stumbling over themselves to fling even greater amounts of money at the cops – while cutting essential social services and botching a pandemic response – is further evidence that the ultimate power is capitalism, not the electoral system.

      Empires throughout history have made similar mistakes. In the wane of empire, they become paranoid and put all of their resources into “security”. But their safety is now in the hands of thugs who will turn on them, facing an angry population realizing it has always held power.

    • This, of course, will apply only until COVID-19 variants that evade the vaccine begin to spread.[13]

  9. March 30, 2021, 6:29 pm:

    • A quick Google search confirms that Avis and Budget are indeed a single entity, and thus that their coexistence in so many offices around Pittsburgh is no accident.

      I am really, really unhappy about being compelled to go to Avis, which is Uber’s alternative to Hertz. But my god. Hertz really seems to be “lights on, nobody home.” I’m gobsmacked.

  10. March 31, 2021, 10:45 am:

    • In a yet-to-be peer-reviewed study, people who have actually been infected with the novel coronavirus may have a T-cell response to the variants[14] that already seem problematic.[15] This source says nothing about people who have been vaccinated[16] so I guess the prudent thing is to continue to assume new vaccines will still be needed[17] even if vaccine hesitancy[18] and a failure to distribute vaccines globally[19] are overcome.

    • An Uber is on the way to take me to the Avis location. The last time I rented from this location, the car had not been cleaned and smelled of cigarette smoke.

  11. March 31, 2021, 1:14 pm:

    • If before (see update for March 29, 2021, 3:06 pm) I was feeling that the universe was screaming at me that being an Uber/Lyft driver wasn’t working, I am feeling it doubly so, now.

      When I didn’t see rates conforming to what Uber had offered for rental cars on the Avis site, I figured this was a case of bait and switch. But my mother—and I don’t know how she did this without my even telling her my suspicion—found the clue. I had somehow managed not to get a reservation under Uber’s auspices but rather as an ordinary customer.

      Which, it turns out, is why I have a rental car now. A car, by the way, that I’m sure meets Uber’s requirements.

      I got there, hoping to sort all this out, and the man behind the counter said I’d have to make a new reservation and that he didn’t have any “Uber cars” right now. Which, given the sufficiency of the car I got, is to remind me that as an Uber driver, I am a second- or third-class citizen.

      So I took the car I had reserved. I have it for a week. I drove to my mailbox and picked up my mail, then drove home. It beats spending $90 for a round trip to Dormont, of which the driver might have gotten around $20 (see update for March 30, 2021, 5:40 pm), and wondering if I’m even going to be able to get a ride, which is pretty much the state of things for Uber and Lyft passengers these days.

      But I’m sorry. All I’m asking for is a life that makes some kind of sense. I don’t have it. And I can’t make whatever the fuck it is I’ve been doing work anymore. Just can’t.

  12. March 31, 2021, 7:59 pm:

  13. March 31, 2021, 9:12 pm:

  14. April 1, 2021, 7:48 pm:

    • There is a new blog post entitled, “Having trouble getting an Uber? Think about how you’ve been treating your drivers.

    • There is news on my car and it is, overall, much better than expected:

      1. The bad news is that, yet again, they are unable to reproduce the problem. They see a code in the history, so they know it threw one.

      2. The last time this happened, there were three possible causes, so I had them repair the cheapest, on the idea of beginning a process of elimination. Now, there are only two.

      3. It turns out that both remaining possible causes are far cheaper to repair than I had earlier been told. I don’t know why the difference but that’s what they’re telling me today. I’ve told them to proceed with both. Because it’d be nice to kill this problem once and for all, particularly if, as I’m expecting to do early next year, I’m going to drive this car across country and back. I’m expecting the car back tomorrow.

      But the plan to rent a car for Uber and Lyft—much as I hate this gig bullshit, I still have no alternative—remains problematic. It doesn’t appear possible to do it through Avis online. And calling in, I just got the runaround.


Burma

source on threadreaderapp.com

Archived at 2021-03-28 08:15:29

Thread Reader

Dr. Betina Hsieh 謝原真 Profile picture

Dr. Betina Hsieh 謝原真

Follow @ProfHsieh

27 Mar, 8 tweets, 3 min read

Update: I woke up in the middle of the night and saw a message from my sister. As expected, it’s been absolutely brutal. They shot into her house. And are in her street. The military is shooting randomly at any sign of life, trying to scare people into the streets 1/

In the streets, they will be arrested, shot or killed. My sister said someone in her neighborhood was killed and two of her friends were arrested. She is still safe but they are lying on the floor to avoid being seen because the military is still outside in the street. 😢 2/

As of a couple of hours ago over 150 have died just today. I’m sure it’s more now. Please continue to pray for her and her mom, the people and the country as they undergo this terrible violence and humanitarian crisis. 3/

For now, the military has left her street but they warned that they will be back at midnight. At that point, the Internet will be cut off and she won’t be able to give me updates. They have prepared for an emergency as they fear the military will go house-by-house shooting. 4/

They cannot leave the house as the military has said that anyone in the streets between 7pm and 5am will be shot. Their only option is to stay at home with the door locked & hope for the best, listening outside for when the military leaves. 5/

This article provides some analysis of the diplomatic complexities at play: bbc.com/news/amp/world… 6/

My heart is for my family and the #Burmese people. We and they need your prayers and there needs to be international pressure to stop the continuing human rights violations in #Burma #Myanmar This is not an internal affair. #March27Coup

Another article on the “Day of Shame” and the mass killings by the military. The number of dead is in unverified and likely underreported, given what my sister is saying about how they are collecting the bodies of victims: aljazeera.com/news/2021/3/27… 7/

Betina Hsieh, [Twitter thread], Thread Reader App, March 27, 2021, https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1375795649732431874.html


Gun nuttery

Tim Elfrink, “Lindsey Graham says he needs AR-15 for defense: ‘My house will be the last one that the gang will come to,’” Washington Post, March 29, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/03/29/lindsey-graham-ar15-defense-disaster/


Pandemic

Natalie Grover, “New Covid vaccines needed globally within a year, say scientists,” Guardian, March 29, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/30/new-covid-vaccines-needed-within-year-say-scientists

Paula Reed Ward, “Crack’d Egg asks court to allow maskless customers in restaurant,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 29, 2021, https://triblive.com/lifestyles/food-drink/crackd-egg-asks-court-to-allow-maskless-customers-in-restaurant/

Julie Steenhuysen, “T cells induced by COVID-19 infection respond to new virus variants: U.S. study,” Reuters, March 30, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-variants-idUSKBN2BM3BZ

Laurel Wamsley, “Florida Gov. DeSantis Rejects Vaccine Passports As ‘Completely Unacceptable,’” National Public Radio, March 30, 2021, https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/03/30/982837517/florida-gov-desantis-rejects-vaccine-passports-as-completely-unacceptable


Yes, I’m throwing a tantrum. I woke up this morning (March 28, 2021) to find my rating on Uber had dropped to 4.87 though Uber still labels me as having “high ratings.” I have to assume the decline is due to my sign (figure 1).

Fig. 1. Sign for Uber and Lyft passengers made by author, March 25, 2021.

It is apparent to me that telling people they shouldn’t hate on each other and themselves is the cause. You will notice that, in the second and most recently added bullet point, I do not specify the terms I object to. But it is also clear that people understand that they shouldn’t drop the n-word or ‘bitch’ or ‘ho’ in my car, because I’ve hardly heard those words since putting this version up. I am flabbergasted.

In terms of employment and the quest for employment, I have borne nothing but insult for five long years since earning my Ph.D. and twenty years since the dot-com crash (my only respite was in academia). I have reached the limits of my tolerance, not only for the bullshit I tolerate with Uber and Lyft, but with low wage work in general.[21] No human should have to tolerate this.

I have to have a way out. Now. No more bullshit. No more excuses. I want, need, and must have a real job,[22] as should be utterly uncontroversial:

The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work which ensure, in particular:

    (a) Remuneration which provides all workers, as a minimum, with:

      (i) Fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value without distinction of any kind, in particular women being guaranteed conditions of work not inferior to those enjoyed by men, with equal pay for equal work;

      (ii) A decent living for themselves and their families in accordance with the provisions of the present Covenant;

    (b) Safe and healthy working conditions;

    (c) Equal opportunity for everyone to be promoted in his employment to an appropriate higher level, subject to no considerations other than those of seniority and competence;

    (d ) Rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay, as well as remuneration for public holidays[23]

And if I don’t get it, I don’t know what happens, but it won’t be good.

Because this bullshit has to end. There are limits to my endurance. I have retreated and I have compromised as far as I can. I have gone as far as I can go, and I can go no further, tolerate no more.

And if you think I’m being unreasonable, sorry, but that says a helluva lot more about you than it does me.


  1. [1]Tim Elfrink, “Lindsey Graham says he needs AR-15 for defense: ‘My house will be the last one that the gang will come to,’” Washington Post, March 29, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/03/29/lindsey-graham-ar15-defense-disaster/
  2. [2]Paula Reed Ward, “Crack’d Egg asks court to allow maskless customers in restaurant,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 29, 2021, https://triblive.com/lifestyles/food-drink/crackd-egg-asks-court-to-allow-maskless-customers-in-restaurant/
  3. [3]Paula Reed Ward, “Crack’d Egg flouts shutdown as deputies quarantined for dining, taking photos with owner,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 14, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/crackd-egg-flouts-shutdown-as-deputies-quarantined-for-dining-taking-photos-with-owner/
  4. [4]Paula Reed Ward, “Allegheny County argues Crack’d Egg can’t hide from covid restrictions under bankruptcy filing,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 5, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/allegheny-county-argues-crackd-egg-cant-hide-from-covid-restrictions-under-bankruptcy-filing/; Paula Reed Ward, “Judge rules against Crack’d Egg, health department case can proceed,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 7, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/judge-rules-against-crackd-egg-health-department-case-can-proceed/; Paula Reed Ward, “Judge to rule on Crack’d Egg restaurant closure order next week,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 29, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/judge-to-rule-on-crackd-egg-restaurant-closure-order-next-week/; Paula Reed Ward, “Crack’d Egg restaurant asks to withdraw bankruptcy filing,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/crackd-egg-restaurant-asks-to-withdraw-bankruptcy-filing/
  5. [5]Paul Martino, “After Defying Health Department, Crack’d Egg Follows Judge’s Ruling And Closes,” KDKA Television, February 4, 2021, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2021/02/04/crackd-egg-closes/; Paula Reed Ward, “Judge orders Crack’d Egg to follow covid rules or close,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 3, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/judge-orders-crackd-egg-to-follow-covid-rules-or-close/
  6. [6]Paula Reed Ward, “Crack’d Egg seeks stay to injunction while appeal is heard,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 8, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/crackd-egg-seeks-stay-to-injunction-while-appeal-is-heard/; Paula Reed Ward, “Judge rules against Crack’d Egg restaurant: ‘They’ve largely chosen their fate here,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 17, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/south-hills/judge-rules-against-crackd-egg-restaurant-theyve-largely-chosen-their-fate-here/
  7. [7]Christopher Rowland, Emily Rauhala, and Miriam Berger, “Drug companies defend vaccine monopolies in face of global outcry,” Washington Post, March 20, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/03/20/covid-vaccine-global-shortages/
  8. [8]Natalie Grover, “New Covid vaccines needed globally within a year, say scientists,” Guardian, March 29, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/30/new-covid-vaccines-needed-within-year-say-scientists
  9. [9]April Dembosky, “It’s not Tuskegee. Current medical racism fuels Black Americans’ vaccine hesitancy,” Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2021-03-25/current-medical-racism-not-tuskegee-expls-vaccine-hesitancy-among-black-americans; Elizabeth Dwoskin, “Facebook steps up campaign to ban false information about coronavirus vaccines,” Washington Post, December 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/12/03/facebook-covid-vaccine/; Benjamin Wallace-Wells, “The Vaccine Resisters,” New Yorker, March 5, 2021, https://www.newyorker.com/news/annals-of-populism/the-vaccine-resisters; Hannah Wiley, “‘No masks. No vaccines.’ Battle is brewing over coronavirus immunizations in California,” Sacramento Bee, June 26, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article243381501.html
  10. [10]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  11. [11]David Benfell, “On the alleged ‘efficiency’ of capitalism,” Not Housebroken, March 4, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/03/04/on-the-alleged-efficiency-of-capitalism/
  12. [12]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  13. [13]Natalie Grover, “New Covid vaccines needed globally within a year, say scientists,” Guardian, March 29, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/30/new-covid-vaccines-needed-within-year-say-scientists
  14. [14]Julie Steenhuysen, “T cells induced by COVID-19 infection respond to new virus variants: U.S. study,” Reuters, March 30, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-variants-idUSKBN2BM3BZ
  15. [15]Melissa Healy, “California’s coronavirus strain looks increasingly dangerous: ‘The devil is already here,’” Los Angeles Times, February 23, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2021-02-23/california-homegrown-coronavirus-strain-looks-increasingly-transmissible-and-dangerous
  16. [16]Julie Steenhuysen, “T cells induced by COVID-19 infection respond to new virus variants: U.S. study,” Reuters, March 30, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-variants-idUSKBN2BM3BZ
  17. [17]Natalie Grover, “New Covid vaccines needed globally within a year, say scientists,” Guardian, March 29, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/30/new-covid-vaccines-needed-within-year-say-scientists
  18. [18]April Dembosky, “It’s not Tuskegee. Current medical racism fuels Black Americans’ vaccine hesitancy,” Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2021-03-25/current-medical-racism-not-tuskegee-expls-vaccine-hesitancy-among-black-americans; Elizabeth Dwoskin, “Facebook steps up campaign to ban false information about coronavirus vaccines,” Washington Post, December 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/12/03/facebook-covid-vaccine/; Benjamin Wallace-Wells, “The Vaccine Resisters,” New Yorker, March 5, 2021, https://www.newyorker.com/news/annals-of-populism/the-vaccine-resisters; Hannah Wiley, “‘No masks. No vaccines.’ Battle is brewing over coronavirus immunizations in California,” Sacramento Bee, June 26, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article243381501.html
  19. [19]Natalie Grover, “New Covid vaccines needed globally within a year, say scientists,” Guardian, March 29, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/30/new-covid-vaccines-needed-within-year-say-scientists; Christopher Rowland, Emily Rauhala, and Miriam Berger, “Drug companies defend vaccine monopolies in face of global outcry,” Washington Post, March 20, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/03/20/covid-vaccine-global-shortages/
  20. [20]Laurel Wamsley, “Florida Gov. DeSantis Rejects Vaccine Passports As ‘Completely Unacceptable,’” National Public Radio, March 30, 2021, https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/03/30/982837517/florida-gov-desantis-rejects-vaccine-passports-as-completely-unacceptable
  21. [21]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 expendable worker,” Not Housebroken, July 5, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/07/05/the-expendable-worker/; David Benfell, “A piper needs paying,” Not Housebroken, January 29, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/12/19/a-piper-needs-paying/; Johana Bhuiyan, “Amazon ends practice of dipping into drivers’ tips to meet their wage guarantees,” Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/business/technology/story/2019-08-22/amazon-flex-fares-tips; Jessa Crispin, “Amazon is a disaster for workers. Nomadland glosses over that,” Guardian, March 23, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/23/amazon-nomadland-film-jeff-bezos-disaster-workers; Daniel D’Addario, “Amazon is worse than Walmart,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/control/2013/07/30/how_amazon_is_worse_than_wal_mart/; Timothy Egan, “The Corporate Daddy,” New York Times, June 19, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/opinion/timothy-egan-walmart-starbucks-and-the-fight-against-inequality.html; Josh Eidelson, “Wal-Mart faces warehouse horror allegations and federal Labor Board complaint,” Salon, November 19, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/11/18/breaking_wal_mart_faces_warehouse_horror_allegations_and_federal_labor_board_complaint/; Josh Eidelson, “Tens of thousands protest, over 100 arrested in Black Friday challenge to Wal-Mart,” Salon, November 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/11/30/tens_of_thousands_protest_over_100_arrested_in_black_friday_challenge_to_wal_mart/; Josh Eidelson, “Finally paying for Wal-Mart’s sins: Wage theft settlement yields millions,” Salon, December 16, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/12/16/finally_paying_for_wal_marts_sins_wage_theft_settlement_yields_millions/; Josh Eidelson, “Freezing for Wal-Mart: Sub-zero warehouse temperatures spur Indiana work stoppage,” Salon, January 14, 2014, https://www.salon.com/test/2014/01/13/freezing_for_wal_mart_sub_zero_warehouse_temperatures_spur_indiana_work_stoppage/; Josh Eidelson, “Amazon Keeps Unions Out By Keeping Workers in Fear, Says Organizer,” Alternet, January 22, 2014, https://www.alternet.org/2014/01/amazon-keeps-unions-out-keeping-workers-fear-says-organizer/; Nichole Gracely, “‘Being homeless is better than working for Amazon,’” Guardian, November 28, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/nov/28/being-homeless-is-better-than-working-for-amazon; Steven Greenhouse, “The Changing Face of Temporary Employment,” New York Times, August 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/01/upshot/the-changing-face-of-temporary-employment.html; Erin Hatton, “The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy,” New York Times, January 26, 2013, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/the-rise-of-the-permanent-temp-economy/; Simon Head, “Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers,” Salon, February 23, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/02/23/worse_than_wal_mart_amazons_sick_brutality_and_secret_history_of_ruthlessly_intimidating_workers/; Paul Jaskunas, “The Tyranny of the Forced Smile,” New York Times, February 14, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/jobs/the-tyranny-of-the-forced-smile.html; Allison Kilkenny, “Ohio Walmart Holds Food Drive For Its Own Employees,” Nation, November 18, 2013, https://www.thenation.com/article/ohio-walmart-holds-food-drive-its-own-employees/; Ken Klippenstein, “Documents Show Amazon Is Aware Drivers Pee in Bottles and Even Defecate En Route, Despite Company Denial,” Intercept, March 25, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/03/25/amazon-drivers-pee-bottles-union/; Paul Krugman, “The Plight of the Employed,” New York Times, December 24, 2013, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/24/the-plight-of-the-employed/; Paul Krugman, “The Fear Economy,” New York Times, December 26, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/27/opinion/krugman-the-fear-economy.html; Danielle Kurtzleben, “Read McDonald’s workers’ shocking harassment and discrimination complaints — and why they’re so important,” Vox, January 22, 2015, https://www.vox.com/2015/1/22/7873661/mcdonalds-lawsuit-harassment-discrimination; Colin Lecher, “How Amazon automatically tracks and fires warehouse workers for ‘productivity,’” Verge, April 25, 2019, https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/25/18516004/amazon-warehouse-fulfillment-centers-productivity-firing-terminations; Edward McClelland, “You call this a middle class? “I’m trying not to lose my house,’” Salon, March 1, 2014, https://www.salon.com/test/2014/03/01/you_call_this_a_middle_class_i%E2%80%99m_trying_not_to_lose_my_house/; Mac McClelland, “I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave,” Mother Jones, March/April 2012, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/mac-mcclelland-free-online-shipping-warehouses-labor/; Patrick McGreevy and Suhauna Hussain, “California demands that Amazon comply with COVID-19 investigation,” Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-12-14/california-lawsuit-amazon-workplace-conditions-covid-19; Nathaniel Mott, “From Amazon warehouse workers to Google bus drivers, it’s tough working a non-tech job at a tech company,” Pando, October 9, 2014, https://pando.com/2014/10/09/from-amazon-warehouse-workers-to-google-bus-drivers-its-tough-working-a-non-tech-job-at-a-tech-company/; Ari Rabin-Havt, “Wal-Mart flunks its fact-check: The truth behind its sarcastic response to the Times,” Salon, June 25, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/06/25/walmart_flunks_its_fact_check_the_truth_behind_its_sarcastic_response_to_the_times/; José Rodríguez, Jr., “The Aftermath Of Prop 22 Is Not As Happy As Big Tech Promised,” Jalopnik, February 18, 2021, https://jalopnik.com/the-aftermath-of-prop-22-is-not-as-happy-as-big-tech-pr-1846299686; 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; Michael Sainato, “‘I’m not a robot’: Amazon workers condemn unsafe, grueling conditions at warehouse,” Guardian, February 5, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/feb/05/amazon-workers-protest-unsafe-grueling-conditions-warehouse; Alexander Sammon, “Prop 22 Is Here, and It’s Already Worse Than Expected,” American Prospect, January 15, 2021, https://prospect.org/labor/prop-22-is-here-already-worse-than-expected-california-gig-workers/; Alex Seitz-Wald, “Amazon is everything wrong with our new economy,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/07/30/amazon_is_everything_wrong_with_our_new_economy/; Alana Semuels, “As employers push efficiency, the daily grind wears down workers,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-harsh-work-20130407-story.html; Alana Semuels, “How the relationship between employers and workers changed,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2013-apr-07-la-fi-mo-harsh-work-history-20130405-story.html; Alana Semuels, “Tougher workplace makes home life worse too,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2013-apr-07-la-fi-mo-harsh-work-history-20130405-story.html; Faiz Siddiqui and Andrew Van Dam, “As Uber avoided paying into unemployment, the federal government helped thousands of its drivers weather the pandemic,” Washington Post, March 16, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/03/16/uber-lyft-unemployment-benefits/; Spencer Soper, “Inside Amazon’s Warehouse,” Lehigh Valley Morning Call, September 18, 2011, https://www.mcall.com/business/mc-xpm-2011-09-18-mc-allentown-amazon-complaints-20110917-story.html; Matt Stieb, “Amazon Called Out for Denying Workers Go to Bathroom in Bottles,” New York, March 25, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/03/amazon-called-out-for-denying-that-workers-pee-in-bottles.html; Lindsay Wise, “Report: Temp jobs at all-time high in U.S.,” McClatchy, September 2, 2014, https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/economy/article24772543.html
  22. [22]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  23. [23]International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, December 16, 1966, United Nations, General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI), https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cescr.aspx

Endless evil

Amazon

I just don’t even know what to say about working for Amazon anymore. They are an important aspect of the entirely underappreciated evil of low-wage and gig work that has gone on for years,[1] that the world seems to think is just fine for us to endure, just fine for me to endure.

Jessa Crispin, “Amazon is a disaster for workers. Nomadland glosses over that,” Guardian, March 23, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/23/amazon-nomadland-film-jeff-bezos-disaster-workers


Guns


Regrettably, it’s time, yet again, to highlight a couple of old blog posts:


  1. [1]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 expendable worker,” Not Housebroken, July 5, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/07/05/the-expendable-worker/; Johana Bhuiyan, “Amazon ends practice of dipping into drivers’ tips to meet their wage guarantees,” Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/business/technology/story/2019-08-22/amazon-flex-fares-tips; Jessa Crispin, “Amazon is a disaster for workers. Nomadland glosses over that,” Guardian, March 23, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/23/amazon-nomadland-film-jeff-bezos-disaster-workers; Daniel D’Addario, “Amazon is worse than Walmart,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/control/2013/07/30/how_amazon_is_worse_than_wal_mart/; Timothy Egan, “The Corporate Daddy,” New York Times, June 19, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/opinion/timothy-egan-walmart-starbucks-and-the-fight-against-inequality.html; Josh Eidelson, “Wal-Mart faces warehouse horror allegations and federal Labor Board complaint,” Salon, November 19, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/11/18/breaking_wal_mart_faces_warehouse_horror_allegations_and_federal_labor_board_complaint/; Josh Eidelson, “Tens of thousands protest, over 100 arrested in Black Friday challenge to Wal-Mart,” Salon, November 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/11/30/tens_of_thousands_protest_over_100_arrested_in_black_friday_challenge_to_wal_mart/; Josh Eidelson, “Finally paying for Wal-Mart’s sins: Wage theft settlement yields millions,” Salon, December 16, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/12/16/finally_paying_for_wal_marts_sins_wage_theft_settlement_yields_millions/; Josh Eidelson, “Freezing for Wal-Mart: Sub-zero warehouse temperatures spur Indiana work stoppage,” Salon, January 14, 2014, https://www.salon.com/test/2014/01/13/freezing_for_wal_mart_sub_zero_warehouse_temperatures_spur_indiana_work_stoppage/; Josh Eidelson, “Amazon Keeps Unions Out By Keeping Workers in Fear, Says Organizer,” Alternet, January 22, 2014, https://www.alternet.org/2014/01/amazon-keeps-unions-out-keeping-workers-fear-says-organizer/; Nichole Gracely, “‘Being homeless is better than working for Amazon,’” Guardian, November 28, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/nov/28/being-homeless-is-better-than-working-for-amazon; Steven Greenhouse, “The Changing Face of Temporary Employment,” New York Times, August 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/01/upshot/the-changing-face-of-temporary-employment.html; Erin Hatton, “The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy,” New York Times, January 26, 2013, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/the-rise-of-the-permanent-temp-economy/; Simon Head, “Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers,” Salon, February 23, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/02/23/worse_than_wal_mart_amazons_sick_brutality_and_secret_history_of_ruthlessly_intimidating_workers/; Paul Jaskunas, “The Tyranny of the Forced Smile,” New York Times, February 14, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/jobs/the-tyranny-of-the-forced-smile.html; Allison Kilkenny, “Ohio Walmart Holds Food Drive For Its Own Employees,” Nation, November 18, 2013, https://www.thenation.com/article/ohio-walmart-holds-food-drive-its-own-employees/; Paul Krugman, “The Plight of the Employed,” New York Times, December 24, 2013, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/24/the-plight-of-the-employed/; Paul Krugman, “The Fear Economy,” New York Times, December 26, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/27/opinion/krugman-the-fear-economy.html; Danielle Kurtzleben, “Read McDonald’s workers’ shocking harassment and discrimination complaints — and why they’re so important,” Vox, January 22, 2015, https://www.vox.com/2015/1/22/7873661/mcdonalds-lawsuit-harassment-discrimination; Colin Lecher, “How Amazon automatically tracks and fires warehouse workers for ‘productivity,’” Verge, April 25, 2019, https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/25/18516004/amazon-warehouse-fulfillment-centers-productivity-firing-terminations; Edward McClelland, “You call this a middle class? “I’m trying not to lose my house,’” Salon, March 1, 2014, https://www.salon.com/test/2014/03/01/you_call_this_a_middle_class_i%E2%80%99m_trying_not_to_lose_my_house/; Mac McClelland, “I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave,” Mother Jones, March/April 2012, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/mac-mcclelland-free-online-shipping-warehouses-labor/; Patrick McGreevy and Suhauna Hussain, “California demands that Amazon comply with COVID-19 investigation,” Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-12-14/california-lawsuit-amazon-workplace-conditions-covid-19; Nathaniel Mott, “From Amazon warehouse workers to Google bus drivers, it’s tough working a non-tech job at a tech company,” Pando, October 9, 2014, https://pando.com/2014/10/09/from-amazon-warehouse-workers-to-google-bus-drivers-its-tough-working-a-non-tech-job-at-a-tech-company/; Ari Rabin-Havt, “Wal-Mart flunks its fact-check: The truth behind its sarcastic response to the Times,” Salon, June 25, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/06/25/walmart_flunks_its_fact_check_the_truth_behind_its_sarcastic_response_to_the_times/; José Rodríguez, Jr., “The Aftermath Of Prop 22 Is Not As Happy As Big Tech Promised,” Jalopnik, February 18, 2021, https://jalopnik.com/the-aftermath-of-prop-22-is-not-as-happy-as-big-tech-pr-1846299686; 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; Michael Sainato, “‘I’m not a robot’: Amazon workers condemn unsafe, grueling conditions at warehouse,” Guardian, February 5, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/feb/05/amazon-workers-protest-unsafe-grueling-conditions-warehouse; Alexander Sammon, “Prop 22 Is Here, and It’s Already Worse Than Expected,” American Prospect, January 15, 2021, https://prospect.org/labor/prop-22-is-here-already-worse-than-expected-california-gig-workers/; Alex Seitz-Wald, “Amazon is everything wrong with our new economy,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/07/30/amazon_is_everything_wrong_with_our_new_economy/; Alana Semuels, “As employers push efficiency, the daily grind wears down workers,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-harsh-work-20130407-story.html; Alana Semuels, “How the relationship between employers and workers changed,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2013-apr-07-la-fi-mo-harsh-work-history-20130405-story.html; Alana Semuels, “Tougher workplace makes home life worse too,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2013-apr-07-la-fi-mo-harsh-work-history-20130405-story.html; Faiz Siddiqui and Andrew Van Dam, “As Uber avoided paying into unemployment, the federal government helped thousands of its drivers weather the pandemic,” Washington Post, March 16, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/03/16/uber-lyft-unemployment-benefits/; Spencer Soper, “Inside Amazon’s Warehouse,” Lehigh Valley Morning Call, September 18, 2011, https://www.mcall.com/business/mc-xpm-2011-09-18-mc-allentown-amazon-complaints-20110917-story.html; Lindsay Wise, “Report: Temp jobs at all-time high in U.S.,” McClatchy, September 2, 2014, https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/economy/article24772543.html

More like a coup than I thought (Update #2)

Updates

  1. Originally published, January 18, 2021, 2:45 pm.
  2. January 18, 2021, 10:54 pm:
    • I’ve added some relevant reading below.


Donald Trump

I remain inclined[1] to think the U.S. Capitol riot on January 6[2] falls short of a coup,[3] but evidence is accumulating that the rioters were better prepared than I initially understood.[4] Doubts about police preparation, particularly relative to those for Black Lives Matter Protests, persist,[5] but

[Police] weren’t just facing an unruly protest, and they weren’t just underprepared—they were in a battle against a more organized and coordinated force than they had realized. A stunning Washington Post report lays out the scene. “Everything they did was in a military fashion,” a D.C. police commander said. One officer was overcome by protesters and heard rioters shout, “We got one! We got one! Kill him with his own gun!” Brian Sicknick, the officer who died of injuries sustained in the attack, was reportedly beaten with a fire extinguisher. . . .

“I didn’t want to be the guy who starts shooting, because I knew they had guns—we had been seizing guns all day,” Daniel Hodges, a D.C. police officer, told the Post. “And the only reason I could think of that they weren’t shooting us was they were waiting for us to shoot first. And if it became a firefight between a couple hundred officers and a couple thousand demonstrators, we would have lost.”

Once inside, some putschists were prepared. They came with schematics and maps of the building, and set about their work with purpose. Some wore tactical gear and carried flex ties, which would have been useful for kidnapping and hostage-taking. If not for the quick thinking of the Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman, who drew a column away from the Senate floor, they might have walked through the unlocked doors and into a chamber still filled with lawmakers.

Only on Friday did it become clear how much danger [Mike] Pence had been in. Secret Service officers whisked Pence and his family to a hideaway in the Capitol—but just one minute before Goodman made his stand, and only about 100 feet from the stairs up which the officer was chased by the mob, according to the Post.[6]

The objection I’ve been raising is that even if more successful, this attack still would not have reversed the outcome. Nonetheless, it appears that the rioters actually believed they could compel such a result,[7] even if their plan for doing so was incoherent.

In truth, I don’t know if this is really a failing: Pretty consistently throughout my life, I have expected things to make more sense than they do and I have expected people to be more intelligent than they are. When my threshold is not met, I am dismissive. My evaluation of this riot would be another example.


Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.],” University of Pennsylvania, April 16, 1963, http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

Zaid Jilani, “Martin Luther King Jr. Celebrations Overlook His Critiques of Capitalism and Militarism,” Intercept, January 18, 2016, https://theintercept.com/2016/01/18/martin-luther-king-jr-celebrations-overlook-his-critiques-of-capitalism-and-militarism/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Riot or insurrection? Lies or madness?” Not Housebroken, January 17, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/01/12/riot-or-insurrection-lies-or-madness/
  2. [2]Jeremy Herb et al., “Congress completes electoral count, finalizing Biden’s win after violent delay from pro-Trump mob,” CNN, January 7, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/06/politics/2020-election-congress-electoral-college-vote-count/index.html
  3. [3]Nicolás Rivero, “Is America experiencing a coup?” Quartz, January 6, 2021, https://qz.com/1953602/is-america-experiencing-a-coup/
  4. [4]David A. Graham, “We’re Just Finding Out How Bad the Riot Really Was,” Atlantic, January 16, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/01/it-was-much-worse-it-looked/617693/; Craig Timberg, Drew Harwell, and Marissa J. Lang, “Capitol siege was planned online. Trump supporters now planning the next one,” Washington Post, January 9, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/01/09/trump-twitter-protests/
  5. [5]Kyle Cheney, Sarah Ferris, and Laura Barrón-López, “‘Inside job’: House Dems ask if Capitol rioters had hidden help,” Politico, January 8, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/01/08/congress-democrats-capitol-riot-inside-job-456725; David A. Graham, “We’re Just Finding Out How Bad the Riot Really Was,” Atlantic, January 16, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/01/it-was-much-worse-it-looked/617693/; Maggie Koerth, “The Police’s Tepid Response To The Capitol Breach Wasn’t An Aberration,” FiveThirtyEight, January 7, 2021, https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-polices-tepid-response-to-the-capitol-breach-wasnt-an-aberration/; Michael Kranish, Karoun Demirjian, and Devlin Barrett, “Democrats demand investigation of whether Republicans in Congress aided Capitol rioters,” Washington Post, January 13, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/republicans-capitol-rioters/2021/01/13/9737a336-55e2-11eb-a931-5b162d0d033d_story.html; Kurtis Lee, Jaweed Kaleem, and Laura King, “‘White supremacy was on full display.’ Double standard seen in police response to riot at Capitol,” Los Angeles Times, January 7, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2021-01-07/la-na-washington-capitol-police-attack-race; 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/
  6. [6]David A. Graham, “We’re Just Finding Out How Bad the Riot Really Was,” Atlantic, January 16, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/01/it-was-much-worse-it-looked/617693/
  7. [7]David A. Graham, “We’re Just Finding Out How Bad the Riot Really Was,” Atlantic, January 16, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/01/it-was-much-worse-it-looked/617693/

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/

My Pittsburgh dilemma

Pittsburgh

So I finally got a photograph of a “no trespassing” sign on the outskirts of Clairton (figure 1):
IMG_20200808_133215
Fig. 1. A “no trespassing” sign on the outskirts of Clairton, along Miller Road, just off North State Street. Photograph by author, August 8, 2020.

I say of this on my Pittsburgh page,

The sign in figure 1 is not exceptional. I have white passengers get in my car wearing tee shirts that say, “We don’t call 9-1-1,” and that depict guns. Signs with a similar message may declare that property is “protected by the second amendment.” When you see enough of these signs, and enough of these tee shirts, and enough of these messages; when you see enough guns gratuitously displayed, ostensibly to honor veterans, but especially around certain neighborhoods; when you see the gun nuttery in the state legislature;[1] and when you see gun stores treated as essential businesses during a pandemic,[2] they just don’t seem to be joking anymore.[3]

If I seem to be waffling on the question of moving out of Pittsburgh, it’s because the racism, white supremacism, and politics are, on one hand, so abysmal, and the natural beauty of the place is, on the other, really quite spectacular. Every time I drive up a lane with woods on both sides, I can’t think of any place I’d rather be. Every time I see a Confederate flag, a Trump flag, yet another gun store, or a sign like the one in figure 1, I am so appalled I can’t imagine staying.


  1. [1]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/
  2. [2]Brian C. Rittmeyer, “Wolf allows gun stores to reopen on limited basis during coronavirus shutdown,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 25, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/wolf-allows-gun-stores-to-reopen-on-limited-basis-during-coronavirus-shutdown/
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Pittsburgh,” Irregular Bullshit, n.d., https://disunitedstates.com/pittsburgh/

New York Attorney General arranges a massive fundraising boost for the National Rifle Association

National Rifle Association

I predict a huge fundraising bonanza for the National Rifle Association. Because, yes, that’s exactly how this works.

As for the lawsuit[1] itself? We’ll see. There’s a gaming aspect to court proceedings that reduces to a contest to see who can get what rules applied that leads me not to trust that even well-founded cases (which it sounds like this is[2]) will prevail. And we haven’t seen the NRA’s defense yet.

Carol D. Leonnig and Tom Hamburger, “New York attorney general seeks to dissolve NRA in suit accusing gun rights group of wide-ranging fraud and self-dealing,” Washington Post, August 6, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/nra-lapierre-ny-attorney-general/2020/08/06/8e389794-d794-11ea-930e-d88518c57dcc_story.html


Ridesharing

Preetika Rana, “Uber Ridership Fails to Recover as Pandemic Drives Another Big Loss,” Wall Street Journal, August 6, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-ridership-fails-to-recover-as-pandemic-drives-another-big-loss-11596744389


  1. [1]Carol D. Leonnig and Tom Hamburger, “New York attorney general seeks to dissolve NRA in suit accusing gun rights group of wide-ranging fraud and self-dealing,” Washington Post, August 6, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/nra-lapierre-ny-attorney-general/2020/08/06/8e389794-d794-11ea-930e-d88518c57dcc_story.html
  2. [2]Carol D. Leonnig and Tom Hamburger, “New York attorney general seeks to dissolve NRA in suit accusing gun rights group of wide-ranging fraud and self-dealing,” Washington Post, August 6, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/nra-lapierre-ny-attorney-general/2020/08/06/8e389794-d794-11ea-930e-d88518c57dcc_story.html

‘They’re Screwing Around in Congress’

There is a new blog post entitled, “The psychopathy of the spike in COVID-19 cases.”

It’s been a hot and dry few days. But as I’m about to hit publish here, look what just appeared to our west (in eastern Ohio):
ecan
Don’t know that it will come our way and suspect it won’t change the pattern much, but there it is.


Fascism

George Monbiot conflates the situations of the U.S. and the U.K., declines to call that conflation fascism, and distinguishes this conflation from fascism on specious grounds.[1] I’m beginning to sense a pattern: It is not intellectually fashionable to invoke the f-word (“fascism”), so people bend over backwards to explain how our situation is different so they can still style themselves ‘intellectuals.’

I call what is happening in the U.S. fascism because, crucially, it seeks to build political support through violence, whether structural or physical, against subaltern groups, especially nonwhites and the poor, that enables further violence against those groups.[2] That’s different from what Monbiot says is happening in the U.K., but Monbiot is criticizing anti-intellectualism in both countries and this is how he grounds his conflation.

I’m not prepared to call intellectuals a subaltern group in either country, though I certainly feel a temptation. Whether I would call the U.K. fascist depends on its treatment of subaltern groups and, while I’m not prepared to excuse that treatment, I’m also not prepared to say that that treatment is part of a feedback loop. Here is my previous definition of fascism from the previous update on May 16:

Fascism is an ideology that seeks to institutionalize structural and physical violence against some or many subaltern groups on the grounds of bigotry and to increase its own public support through the exploitation of such violence and bigotry. This bigotry may take several forms including nationalism, scapegoating, sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. To the extent that it succeeds, it acts as a self-reinforcing feedback as public support enables further and more extreme violence.[3]

If, on the other hand, I am to consider intellectuals a subaltern group, it cannot be all intellectuals. Some, like economists who enable an intellectually utterly discredited neoliberalism[4] and those who support the political class in other ways, are often richly rewarded. Professors who cling to tenure hardly seem subaltern to me. So I would need a way to distinguish between outcast intellectuals, those who are not sycophants for the ruling class, and those who are.

That’s not as easy as it sounds. It can’t simply be that intellectuals who agree with me are subaltern, but ideological sycophancy might be one distinguishing feature of non-subaltern intellectuals. There are books on my shelf I haven’t gotten to that might help with this and Sergio Caldarella criticizes ideological conformity.[5] There may also be economic considerations: What if the surplus of Ph.D. holders functions, intentionally or not, to undermine intellectuals’ leverage in the marketplace, and therefore intellectualism at large?

For now, I just don’t know. A group I might more easily include as subaltern is that of dissidents. Monbiot criticizes the elite response to intellectual dissent in the U.S. and the U.K.,[6] but what if the real objection authoritarian populists and elites have with those Monbiot calls intellectuals isn’t to their intellectualism but rather to their ideas?

So here is how I am further refining my definition:

Fascism is an ideology that seeks to institutionalize structural and physical violence against some or many subaltern groups on the grounds of bigotry and to increase its own public support through the exploitation of such violence and bigotry. This bigotry may take several forms including the repression of dissent or the promotion of nationalism, scapegoating, sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. To the extent that it succeeds, it acts as a self-reinforcing feedback as public support enables further and more extreme violence.[7]

George Monbiot, “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” July 6, 2020, https://www.monbiot.com/2020/07/07/something-wicked-this-way-comes/


Pennsylvania

Keeping Pennsylvania safe for white supremacy.

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/


  1. [1]George Monbiot, “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” July 6, 2020, https://www.monbiot.com/2020/07/07/something-wicked-this-way-comes/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “A simple definition of fascism,” Not Housebroken, July 7, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/07/06/a-simple-definition-of-fascism/
  3. [3]David Benfell, “A simple definition of fascism,” Not Housebroken, July 7, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/07/06/a-simple-definition-of-fascism/
  4. [4]Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford, UK: Oxford University, 2013); Amir Fleischmann, “The Myth of the Fiscal Conservative,” Jacobin, March 5, 2017, https://jacobinmag.com/2017/03/fiscal-conservative-social-services-austerity-save-money; Jason Hickel, “Progress and its discontents,” New Internationalist, August 7, 2019, https://newint.org/features/2019/07/01/long-read-progress-and-its-discontents; Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 2012); Robert Kuttner, “Austerity never works: Deficit hawks are amoral — and wrong,” Salon, May 5, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/05/05/austerity_never_works_deficit_hawks_are_amoral_and_wrong/; Dennis Loo, Globalization and the Demolition of Society (Glendale, CA: Larkmead, 2011); Thomas Piketty, Jeffrey Sachs, Heiner Flassbeck, Dani Rodrik and Simon Wren-Lewis, “Austerity Has Failed: An Open Letter From Thomas Piketty to Angela Merkel,” Nation, July 6, 2015, http://www.thenation.com/article/austerity-has-failed-an-open-letter-from-thomas-piketty-to-angela-merkel/; John Quiggin, “Austerity Has Been Tested, and It Failed,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 20, 2013, http://chronicle.com/article/Austerity-Has-Been-Tested-and/139255/; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “How Austerity Kills,” New York Times, May 12, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/13/opinion/how-austerity-kills.html; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “Paul Krugman’s right: Austerity kills,” Salon, May 19, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/05/19/paul_krugmans_right_austerity_kills/
  5. [5]Sergio Caldarella, The Dark Campus (Princeton, NJ: Dark Age, 2016).
  6. [6]George Monbiot, “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” July 6, 2020, https://www.monbiot.com/2020/07/07/something-wicked-this-way-comes/
  7. [7]David Benfell, “A simple definition of fascism,” Not Housebroken, July 7, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/07/06/a-simple-definition-of-fascism/

You won’t be relieved

Updates

  1. Originally published March 26, 2020 at 8:54 am.
  2. August 8, 10:54 pm:
    • I finally got a photograph of the sign on the outskirts of Clairton (figure 1).

Recession

With confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States climbing swiftly to over 67,000 Wednesday with more than 900 deaths, lawmakers acknowledged that no amount of economic relief from Congress could stop the pain for the American public.[1]

Therefore, even as a record number of people file for unemployment benefits,[2] Congress will barely even try.[3]

Heather Long and Alyssa Fowers, “A record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits as the coronavirus slams economy,” Washington Post, March 26, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/26/unemployment-claims-coronavirus-3-million/

Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis, and Paul Kane, “Senate passes $2 trillion bill to blunt coronavirus pandemic’s economic impact, as households and businesses gasp for relief,” Washington Post, March 26, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/26/senate-trump-coronavirus-economic-stimulus-2-trillion/


Pennsylvania

Your regularly scheduled racism and white supremacy[4] will be permitted to resume.[5]
IMG_20200808_133215
Fig. 1. Photograph by author, August 8, 2020.

Seriously, let’s be clear what this is about. On the outskirts of Clairton, on Miller Road near North State Street, in a wooded area not very far from the banks of the Monongahela River, there is a weathered sign proclaiming that the property owner there owns both a firearm and a backhoe (figure 1), implicitly threatening to use the former to shoot a person for arbitrary reasons and then to use the latter to cover up the evidence. The second part of that implies a resistance to accountability for the first part.

In praising the decision, the Firearms Policy Coalition noted a strongly worded opinion by Supreme Court Justices David Wecht, Christine Donohue and Kevin Dougherty in favor of protecting the right to keep and bear arms.

“The right and ability to protect yourself and your family, particularly in times of crisis, is the very definition of ‘life-sustaining’ and unquestionably protected by both the Second Amendment and the state’s constitution,” said Adam Kraut, the coalition’s director of legal strategy.

“As we have said before, there is no ‘except-in-emergencies’ clause in the Constitution and the government cannot shut down the people’s right to keep and bear arms,” coalition President Brandon Combs said.[6]

It should be noted that

On Sunday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by a gun shop that challenged [Tom] Wolf’s authority to close businesses determined to be “non-life-sustaining.” The lawsuit claimed Wolf’s edict violated the Second Amendment right to bear arms and other constitutional rights.[7]

Tom Wolf is allowing gun shops to reopen anyway,[8] mocking those who see guns as life-depriving rather than as life-sustaining.

Fig. 2. ‘Cause you know that artillery round aimed right at Carrick High School (left) and the camouflage-painted dump truck owned by a locksmith (right) along with all that other weaponry mostly in or near areas with high proportions of Blacks in their populations (figure 3) don’t mean anything at all. Clairton is such an area (figure 4). Photographs by author, December 31, 2019, (left) and November 22, 2019, (right).

[googlemaps https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/embed?mid=1K1CjgWPOH71L1UsUSHs00ubbu-jYnWux&w=640&h=480]
Fig. 3. Map of gratuitously displayed weapons, compiled by author.


Fig. 4. Tank outside a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Clairton (left) and a rocket and artillery piece on a public square in Clairton (right). Photographs by author, September 20, 2019.

Brian C. Rittmeyer, “Wolf allows gun stores to reopen on limited basis during coronavirus shutdown,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 25, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/wolf-allows-gun-stores-to-reopen-on-limited-basis-during-coronavirus-shutdown/


  1. [1]Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis, and Paul Kane, “Senate passes $2 trillion bill to blunt coronavirus pandemic’s economic impact, as households and businesses gasp for relief,” Washington Post, March 26, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/26/senate-trump-coronavirus-economic-stimulus-2-trillion/
  2. [2]Heather Long and Alyssa Fowers, “A record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits as the coronavirus slams economy,” Washington Post, March 26, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/26/unemployment-claims-coronavirus-3-million/
  3. [3]John Cassidy, “What Would a Proper Coronavirus Stimulus Plan Look Like?” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/what-would-a-proper-coronavirus-stimulus-plan-look-like; James Hamblin, “What Will You Do If You Start Coughing?” Atlantic, March 11, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/where-do-you-go-if-you-get-coronavirus/607759/; Michael Hirsh, “Is $2 Trillion Too Little, Too Late?” Foreign Policy, March 25, 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/24/us-congress-2-trillion-rescue-package-too-little-too-late/; Michael Hudson, “A debt jubilee is the only way to avoid a depression,” Washington Post, March 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/21/debt-jubilee-is-only-way-avoid-depression/; Isabel V. Sawhill, “The middle class faces its greatest threat since the 1930s,” Brookings, March 20, 2020,https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/the-middle-class-faces-its-greatest-threat-since-the-1930s/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “The banners and the guns: Flagrant racism in Pittsburgh,” Not Housebroken, October 12, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/09/20/the-banners-and-the-guns-flagrant-racism-in-pittsburgh/; David Benfell, “Militia territory,” Not Housebroken, November 22, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/11/22/militia-territory/
  5. [5]Brian C. Rittmeyer, “Wolf allows gun stores to reopen on limited basis during coronavirus shutdown,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 25, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/wolf-allows-gun-stores-to-reopen-on-limited-basis-during-coronavirus-shutdown/
  6. [6]Brian C. Rittmeyer, “Wolf allows gun stores to reopen on limited basis during coronavirus shutdown,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 25, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/wolf-allows-gun-stores-to-reopen-on-limited-basis-during-coronavirus-shutdown/
  7. [7]Brian C. Rittmeyer, “Wolf allows gun stores to reopen on limited basis during coronavirus shutdown,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 25, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/wolf-allows-gun-stores-to-reopen-on-limited-basis-during-coronavirus-shutdown/
  8. [8]Brian C. Rittmeyer, “Wolf allows gun stores to reopen on limited basis during coronavirus shutdown,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 25, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/wolf-allows-gun-stores-to-reopen-on-limited-basis-during-coronavirus-shutdown/

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.,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 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.,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 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/