The racism of COVID-19 bites back

Pittsburgh


Fig 1. Gratuitous guns in Crafton (left) and New Kensington (right). Photographs by author, May 24, 2020.

I really am covering a lot more territory since the pandemic began impacting my rideshare driving and I found two more gratuitous guns yesterday (figure 1), in Crafton (I’m a little surprised I hadn’t seen this before) and New Kensington, both places where a lot of Black folks live. These have been added to the map and the latter, by the way, helps to explain the gun in Springdale.

So when I got home last night, I figured I should bring all this stuff together. My photograph galleries are now public and you can find all of this stuff now, via my Pittsburgh page.

I had also taken a trip to investigate a candidate town (nice enough, but Internet and apartment options are limited) for my expected relocation next year, so by the time I got back from that and pulled the Pittsburgh page together, I was too tired to finish going through email.


Pandemic

A long-suspected second wave of the novel coronavirus is already appearing in places that had escaped relatively unscathed before. Healthcare systems in these areas are already stretched thin and higher proportions of their populations are vulnerable. The article uses the term ‘checkerboard’ to describe the pattern; I might suggest the term ‘hopscotch’ instead, as the virus does not spread uniformly across the country.[1]

This hints at three things: First, the notion of a ‘second wave’ is itself dubious. It suggests that even if this is not “one and done,” it might be “two and done.” But this is starting to look rather like an ongoing transmission of the virus from places where it has already struck to places it has not. Even with this ‘second wave,’ there are a bunch of those.[2]

Second, to the extent that the coronavirus may mutate, the longer it is in the wild, the greater the chance it will do so. And to the extent that the oft-seen analogy with the Spanish Flu of 1918 is accurate, a mutated version may be more deadly than the first.[3]

Third, the so-called ‘first wave’ appeared mostly in cities. The so-called ‘second wave’ is appearing in rural areas.[4] The former tend to be associated with support for Democrats and the latter tend to be associated with support for Republicans. Donald Trump and his supporters may have decided that COVID-19 was just fine as long as it was killing Blacks who are often (but definitely not exclusively) concentrated in cities.[5] We’ll see what happens as the disease affects more rural whites.

(I have updated my last blog post with the above text.)

Reis Thebault and Abigail Hauslohner, “A deadly ‘checkerboard’: Covid-19’s new surge across rural America,” Washington Post, May 24, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/24/coronavirus-rural-america-outbreaks/


Capitalism


  1. [1]Reis Thebault and Abigail Hauslohner, “A deadly ‘checkerboard’: Covid-19’s new surge across rural America,” Washington Post, May 24, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/24/coronavirus-rural-america-outbreaks/
  2. [2]Reis Thebault and Abigail Hauslohner, “A deadly ‘checkerboard’: Covid-19’s new surge across rural America,” Washington Post, May 24, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/24/coronavirus-rural-america-outbreaks/
  3. [3]Dave Roos, “Why the Second Wave of the 1918 Spanish Flu Was So Deadly,” History Channel, March 30, 2020, https://www.history.com/news/spanish-flu-second-wave-resurgence
  4. [4]Reis Thebault and Abigail Hauslohner, “A deadly ‘checkerboard’: Covid-19’s new surge across rural America,” Washington Post, May 24, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/24/coronavirus-rural-america-outbreaks/
  5. [5]Kenya Evelyn, “‘We’re expendable’: black Americans pay the price as states lift lockdowns,” Guardian, May 25, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/25/covid-19-lockdowns-african-americans-essential-workers; Bryan Armen Graham, “‘Swastikas and nooses’: governor slams ‘racism’ of Michigan lockdown protest,” Guardian, May 3, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/03/michigan-gretchen-whitmer-lockdown-protest-racism; Eugene Scott, “4 reasons coronavirus is hitting black communities so hard,” Washington Post, April 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/10/4-reasons-coronavirus-is-hitting-black-communities-so-hard/; Adam Serwer, “The Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying,” Atlantic, May 9, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/05/americas-racial-contract-showing/611389/

Our society’s answer to race and class inequality

Gratuitous guns

There are two new additions to my collection of Gratuitous Guns (figures 1, 2, and 3).
[googlemaps https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/embed?mid=1K1CjgWPOH71L1UsUSHs00ubbu-jYnWux&w=640&h=480]
Fig. 1. Gratuitous Guns map.

The first is in Verona (figure 2). It appears in the map (figure 1) as near Oakmont and across the Allegheny River from Fox Chapel. Both of the latter towns are quite wealthy areas. Verona seems to be much more mixed and is definitely not as wealthy. The intersection of race and class holds.
IMG_20200307_142609
Fig. 2. Gratuitous gun in Verona, photography by author, March 7, 2020.

The second is in McKeesport, just barely in McKeesport, adjacent to the Greater Allegheny campus of Penn State University. White Oak, a much whiter and far less devastated community, is very nearby. This is yet another fucking tank (figure 3):
IMG_20200311_191600
Fig. 3. Gratuitous tank in Renziehausen Park, McKeesport, photograph by author March 11, 2020.
In contrast to universities like University of Pittsburgh (“Pitt”), Duquesne, and Carnegie-Mellon, many students at this Penn State campus are Black. And McKeesport seems predominantly Black. There are entire blocks, often in succession, where almost all of the houses have been abandoned.

These two examples, especially, inform me as to how the answer in our society, especially in the Pittsburgh area, to racial and class inequality is not mitigation but intimidation.[1] But oh yeah, we should elect more of the fucking same.

The photograph collection is publicly available.


  1. [1]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/

It’s bad enough that Donald Trump is ripping off a television series without putting that series’ name in this title.

Donald Trump

Bill Kristol is, of course, a neoconservative, and one of the few who still subscribes to the failed #NeverTrump movement in the Republican Party that sought, much too late, to avert Donald Trump’s nomination for the presidency in 2016.

But, damn, does he have a way with words or does he have a way with words?

As to the New York magazine piece, some of us will remember that Captain James T. Kirk, in “The Omega Glory,” finishes a virtually unrecognizable utterance by one side in a society that had somehow managed to continue the Cold War over a series of centuries by reciting the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, which in retrospect, seems like a strange thing for a Starfleet captain in the United Federation of Planets, three centuries later, to have memorized. There’s lots that’s weird about that,[1] but it plays into the patriotism I associate with authoritarian populism[2] and, since arriving in Pittsburgh, increasingly conflate with white supremacism (the flag-waving and other displays of patriotism, the guns, especially around Black areas, the combat fetishization, and the banners that overwhelmingly memorialize white but rarely Black soldiers, all seem so completely overdone as to compel the question of what folks around here are compensating for).

The Space Force logo resembles that of Starfleet, the military force of the United Federation of Planets. Yes, we are talking about Star Trek — but is Trump? The president does love television. Maybe he likes Star Trek, though the series doesn’t seem like his natural fare. Maybe someone was making a joke, and no one caught the joke, and here we are, contemplating the stupidest possible outcome of events. Maybe a consultant thought it would convince kids to sign up for the Space Force. You know, it’ll be just like Starfleet, except for the part where you’re in a military with a major white-nationalism problem. Or maybe it’s a viral marketing campaign for Star Trek: Picard, which premiered yesterday on CBS, but this seems very unlikely indeed. Trump bears no resemblance to the former captain of the Enterprise — not physically, not spiritually, not intellectually — so this is probably just what it seems, a dumb rip-off.[3]

Starfleet’s mission was not war, but peaceful exploration, something too many members of Starfleet International, the earth-based Star Trek fan club have forgotten, and something Trump is likely incapable of comprehending, that is, unless it’s for oil.

Sarah Jones, “Why Did Trump Just Rip Off Star Trek?” New York, January 24, 2020, http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/01/the-new-space-force-logo-looks-like-starfleet-from-star-trek.html


White supremacism

Jason Wilson, “Prepping for a race war: documents reveal inner workings of neo-Nazi group,” Guardian, January 25, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/25/inside-the-base-neo-nazi-terror-group


  1. [1]Memory Alpha, s.v. “Pledge of Allegiance,” accessed January 25, 2020, https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Pledge_of_Allegiance
  2. [2]David Benfell, “The seven tendencies of conservatism,” Irregular Bullshit, n.d., https://disunitedstates.com/the-seven-tendencies-of-conservatism/
  3. [3]Sarah Jones, “Why Did Trump Just Rip Off Star Trek?” New York, January 24, 2020, http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/01/the-new-space-force-logo-looks-like-starfleet-from-star-trek.html

Just remember, neoliberals know better than we do what’s good for us

Updates

  1. Originally published, January 23, 2020, 7:02 pm.
  2. January 23, 8:10 pm:
    • The Doomsday Clock is now at 100 seconds before midnight. They’re counting down in seconds now, not minutes.[1]

Rohingya

I remember, somewhat dimly now, that when I took an international relations class, the professor explained that compliance with international law was mostly a matter of a handshake; enforcement mechanisms are weak. But particularly problematic in the case of formerly colonized countries, including Burma, is that the grounding for this legal system rests in a European (the colonizers) treaty, the Treaty of Westphalia, that established the legal groundwork for state sovereignty and a protection for religious minorities meant to limit the perceived need for neighboring states to militarily intervene in each other’s affairs.[2]

The International Court of Justice (based in Europe) ruling against Burma in the matter of the Rohingya genocide[3] is certainly laudable. I don’t know how the Court enforces it. (Spoiler alert: It can’t.[4]) Which, for me indicates extreme cynicism in interpreting this:

“Right now, we can’t say what exactly our next steps will be,” [Myo Nyunt] said, expressing sadness at the court’s ruling. “We have to study and learn what the impact of this decision will be on our state, which is a sovereign state.”[5]

“The impact of this decision . . . on our state” would seem to refer explicitly to concrete enforcement, which is to say, none, at least for the moment. The reaffirmation of Burma as a “sovereign state” reaffirms a claimed legitimacy to state violence that is a defining characteristic of sovereignty and which constitutes Burma’s rationale for the genocide in the first place.

It gets worse and this is why I hate realism theory (“realpolitik”). Note that this is not because the theory, albeit flawed, particularly with regard to non-governmental actors, is incorrect: It, too often correctly, elides any moral basis for action, relying exclusively on “state” (for which, read “ruling class”) interests.

The Court has no enforcement power itself.[6] Enforcement by the international community typically takes two forms: First, economic sanctions, which typically end up affecting ordinary civilians much more than ruling elites, and are applied in varying degrees depending on the extent to which other countries feel their interests are at stake; and second, military intervention, which typically occurs only if other sufficiently powerful countries views their interests as being at stake. I don’t know that Bangladesh is sufficiently powerful. If other countries surrounding Burma have said a word about the plight of the Rohingya, I missed it—it was an African country, Gambia, far away from Burma, that brought the case.

Which means that the fate of the Rohingya really rests where it always has. That’s pretty cold, if not positively frigid, comfort.

British Broadcasting Corporation, “Myanmar Rohingya: World court orders prevention of genocide,” January 23, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51221029

Shibani Mahtani, “International Court of Justice orders Myanmar to prevent genocide against the Rohingya,” Washington Post, January 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/international-court-of-justice-orders-myanmar-to-prevent-genocide-against-the-rohingya/2020/01/23/ff383ff4-3d29-11ea-afe2-090eb37b60b1_story.html


Hillary Clinton

“Apparently SOMEBODY likes him!” Democratic strategist and former Obama adviser David Axelrod quipped Wednesday, referring to Hillary Clinton’s controversial comments about her 2016 primary opponent.[7]

Like I said yesterday[8] and before.[9] Damn, this bitch is an idiot.

But oh yeah, let’s not forget she’s the most qualified woman ever for the presidency. Oh yeah, and these are the idiots who think they know better than we do what’s good for us.

Veronica Stracqualursi and Gregory Krieg, “Clinton says ‘nobody likes’ Sanders and won’t commit to backing him if he’s the Democratic nominee,” CNN, January 21, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/21/politics/hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders-documentary/index.html

Eric Lutz, “Turns Out Lots of People ‘Like’ Bernie Sanders,” Vanity Fair, January 22, 2020, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/01/cnn-poll-bernie-sanders-joe-biden


Doomsday Clock

Andrew Sheeler, “Jerry Brown urges America to ‘wake up’ as Doomsday Clock moves closer to midnight,” Sacramento Bee, January 23, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article239564083.html


  1. [1]Andrew Sheeler, “Jerry Brown urges America to ‘wake up’ as Doomsday Clock moves closer to midnight,” Sacramento Bee, January 23, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article239564083.html
  2. [2]This is all from memory and may accordingly be flawed. I took the class while at California State University, East Bay, where I finished my Master’s degree in 2009. Indexed references to the Treaty of Westphalia are sparse in my book collection, at least in the books I thought to consult, but Theodor Meron writes “that the Peace of Westphalia (1648) .nbsp;. . introduced a system of modern nation-states and international relations governed by sovereign equality” in Henry’s Wars and Shakespeare’s Laws (Oxford, United Kingdom: Clarendon, 1993), 212. He goes on to say that protections for prisoners of war and for civilians—this latter could be from acts of war—originated at about this time. I am unable to discern much from the archaic language of the treaty itself, which seems to require a historical understanding well beyond that which I possess.
  3. [3]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Myanmar Rohingya: World court orders prevention of genocide,” January 23, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51221029; Shibani Mahtani, “International Court of Justice orders Myanmar to prevent genocide against the Rohingya,” Washington Post, January 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/international-court-of-justice-orders-myanmar-to-prevent-genocide-against-the-rohingya/2020/01/23/ff383ff4-3d29-11ea-afe2-090eb37b60b1_story.html
  4. [4]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Myanmar Rohingya: World court orders prevention of genocide,” January 23, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51221029
  5. [5]Shibani Mahtani, “International Court of Justice orders Myanmar to prevent genocide against the Rohingya,” Washington Post, January 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/international-court-of-justice-orders-myanmar-to-prevent-genocide-against-the-rohingya/2020/01/23/ff383ff4-3d29-11ea-afe2-090eb37b60b1_story.html
  6. [6]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Myanmar Rohingya: World court orders prevention of genocide,” January 23, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51221029
  7. [7]Eric Lutz, “Turns Out Lots of People ‘Like’ Bernie Sanders,” Vanity Fair, January 22, 2020, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/01/cnn-poll-bernie-sanders-joe-biden
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Your job sucks. Thank neoliberals,” Irregular Bullshit, January 22, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/01/22/your-job-sucks-thank-neoliberals/
  9. [9]David Benfell, “Hillary Clinton needs to just shut the fuck up,” Not Housebroken, October 22, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/10/22/hillary-clinton-needs-to-just-shut-the-fuck-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

To boldly bomb, where no one has bombed before

Military

I had always hoped that we could somehow manage to explore space without militarizing it. That dream had faded over the decades but now it has been shot down with bipartisan support.

Connor O’Brien, “House passes compromise defense bill, creating a Space Force,” Politico, December 11, 2019, https://www.politico.com/news/2019/12/11/house-defense-bill-space-force-082867


Brexit

The United Kingdom voted today after an ugly campaign. I expect to have official results tomorrow. From the strongly conservative-supporting Telegraph:

In one journalistic guise or another I have covered every general election since 1983 and cannot recall anything quite so enervating, one-dimensional, dismally partisan and mendacious as this one. Apart from Brexit, it has ducked most of the big issues facing us such as social care, population pressures, the NHS (other than to argue over funds and waiting lists), defence of the realm, robotics and the advance of AI or the future of the Union in any meaningful sense.[1]

You actually don’t have to be conservative to agree. The anti-Semitism slurs[2] against Labour and especially Jeremy Corbyn, were utterly devoid of supporting evidence,[3] but appear to have been widely accepted as fact. And Corbyn seems to be a bogeyman for anyone to his ample political right: He is routinely caricatured as a deranged Maoist lunatic, as near as I can tell, simply because he advocates a retreat from neoliberalism to a desperately needed more humane society.

Early reports suggested the lines at voting stations were exceptionally long,[4] which is a factor that can skew election results away from polling results (but not exit polls), as it suggests that survey takers are likely to have misapprehended who would actually vote. The latest of these prior to the election was really too close to call on the question of whether Boris Johnson will secure a majority and avoid a hung parliament.[5] An exit poll suggests he succeeded.[6]

William Booth, Karla Adam, and James McAuley, “U.K. exit poll shows Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party with a clear majority of parliamentary seats as vote count begins, Washington Post, December 12, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/uk-general-election-2019/2019/12/12/cc5ecb98-17ae-11ea-80d6-d0ca7007273f_story.html

Philip Johnston, “This is the most shallow and dismally mendacious election I can remember,” Telegraph, December 10, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/12/10/shallow-dismally-mendacious-election-can-remember/


Pittsburgh

Jamie Martines, “Settlement over bad air in Clairton calls for U.S. Steel to cough up $2 million,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 11, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/settlement-over-bad-air-in-clairton-calls-for-u-s-steel-to-cough-up-2-million/


  1. [1]Philip Johnston, “This is the most shallow and dismally mendacious election I can remember,” Telegraph, December 10, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/12/10/shallow-dismally-mendacious-election-can-remember/
  2. [2]For example, Ephraim Mirvis, “What will become of Jews in Britain if Labour forms the next government?” Times, November 25, 2019, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ephraim-mirvis-what-will-become-of-jews-in-britain-if-labour-forms-the-next-government-ghpsdbljk
  3. [3]Wikipedia, s.v. “Antisemitism in the UK Labour Party,” last modified November 27, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism_in_the_UK_Labour_Party
  4. [4]Verity Bowman, Henry Bodkin, and Tony Diver, “General election 2019 live: Result ‘too close to call’ as voting continues – latest news,” Telegraph, December 12, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/12/12/general-election-2019-vote-news-exit-polls-results-live-latest/; Joe Roberts, “‘Longest queues ever’ as people stand in line around the block to vote,” Metro, December 12, 2019, https://metro.co.uk/2019/12/12/longest-queues-ever-people-stand-line-around-block-vote-11771760/
  5. [5]Verity Bowman, Henry Bodkin, and Tony Diver, “General election 2019 live: Result ‘too close to call’ as voting continues – latest news,” Telegraph, December 12, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/12/12/general-election-2019-vote-news-exit-polls-results-live-latest/
  6. [6]William Booth, Karla Adam, and James McAuley, “U.K. exit poll shows Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party with a clear majority of parliamentary seats as vote count begins, Washington Post, December 12, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/uk-general-election-2019/2019/12/12/cc5ecb98-17ae-11ea-80d6-d0ca7007273f_story.html

Redlining and guns

Redlining

I have mapped where I have found guns or other weaponry gratuitously displayed here. There are two locations, namely in South Park (the park) and North Oakland (Pittsburgh, near University of Pittsburgh, not far from Carnegie Mellon University), here that are not in or near economically distressed areas that appear to me to have high proportions of Blacks among their populations. The rest all are. Most are on the south or west side of the Monongahela River. Three are on the north or east side of that river. I have not yet found such weaponry on display in other locations, although I believe that more get wheeled out around Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

There is not, by any means, a one-to-one correspondence between gratuitous displays of weaponry and disadvantaged areas. I see many more, over a wider area, of the latter. But the proportion with which the former, nine out of eleven at this writing, are placed in or near the latter is what raises my suspicion.[1]

These are all locations I have observed while driving for Lyft so a bias exists in that I am more likely to notice these weapons in places I frequent.

The labels are the addresses (from Google Maps) from where I shot the photographs. I transcribed the geographic coordinates from the photographs to map the locations. They thus do not pinpoint the locations of the weapons themselves but rather vantage points (with slight variations if I used more than one) I used in taking the pictures. Clicking on a point will bring up the photograph and and address. The complete photograph album is publicly available and I have preserved the metadata in the photographs.

This is an ongoing project. More points may be added later.


Migration

Priscilla Alvarez, Geneva Sands, and Tami Luhby, “Three federal judges hit Trump on immigration policy changes,” CNN, October 11, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/11/politics/green-card-public-charge-rule-blocked/index.html


Kurdistan

When I first heard about U.S. forces coming under so-called “friendly fire” from Turkish forces invading Syria,[2] I remembered the U.S.S. Liberty, a reconnaisance ship that came under attack by Israel. The ship was well-marked and should have been identifiable as a U.S. ship at a considerable distance. Further, the Israelis deployed a form of electronic attack that took out U.S. military communication channels. But, in what’s widely believed to have been a cover-up, the U.S. and Israeli governments have said it was all a mistake and the sailors on the Liberty are under a permanent gag order. An Intercept story on the incident is a classic example of “he said, she said” journalism, and inclines toward the official account,[3] providing yet more evidence in support of J. Herbert Altschull’s thesis.[4]

So guess what happens? Now the soldiers who came under attack—the Turks knew damn well where they were—insist they were intentionally targeted.[5]

The Israelis might have been covering up a slaughter of Egyptian prisoners of war.[6] The Turks may have wider territorial aspirations than they claim.[7] But Donald Trump abandons the Kurds.[8]

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “U.S. Forces Come Under Turkish Fire As Ankara Presses On In Syria,” Global Security, October 12, 2019, https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2019/10/mil-191012-rferl01.htm

  1. [1]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/
  2. [2]Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “U.S. Forces Come Under Turkish Fire As Ankara Presses On In Syria,” Global Security, October 12, 2019, https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2019/10/mil-191012-rferl01.htm
  3. [3]Miriam Pensack, “Fifty Years Later, NSA Keeps Details of Israel’s USS Liberty Attack Secret,” Intercept, June 6, 2017, https://theintercept.com/2017/06/06/fifty-years-later-nsa-keeps-details-of-israels-uss-liberty-attack-secret/
  4. [4]Herbert Altschull, Agents of Power: The Media and Public Policy, 2nd ed. (White Plains, NY: Longman, 1995)
  5. [5]Dan Lamothe, “U.S. forces say Turkey was deliberately ‘bracketing’ American troops with artillery fire in Syria,” Washington Post, October 12, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2019/10/12/us-forces-say-turkey-was-deliberately-bracketing-american-forces-with-artillery-fire-syria/
  6. [6]Miriam Pensack, “Fifty Years Later, NSA Keeps Details of Israel’s USS Liberty Attack Secret,” Intercept, June 6, 2017, https://theintercept.com/2017/06/06/fifty-years-later-nsa-keeps-details-of-israels-uss-liberty-attack-secret/
  7. [7]Dan Lamothe, “U.S. forces say Turkey was deliberately ‘bracketing’ American troops with artillery fire in Syria,” Washington Post, October 12, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2019/10/12/us-forces-say-turkey-was-deliberately-bracketing-american-forces-with-artillery-fire-syria/
  8. [8]Kareem Fahim, Sarah Dadouch, and Asser Khattab, “Turkey launches offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in northern Syria,” Washington Post, October 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/with-turkish-offensive-looming-syrian-kurds-mobilize-civilian-defense/2019/10/09/4efca794-ea02-11e9-a329-7378fbfa1b63_story.html; Bethan McKernan, Julian Borger, and Dan Sabbagh, “Turkish troops advance into Syria as Trump washes his hands of the Kurds,” Guardian, October 9, 2019,
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/09/turkey-syria-attack-latest-news-kurds-trump; Dion Nissenbaum and Gordon Lubold, “Trump’s Call to Leave Syria Draws Fire From GOP Allies,” Wall Street Journalhttps://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-begins-pullback-from-northern-syria-clearing-way-for-turkish-offensive-11570439862; Richard Spencer, “Turkey steps up airstrikes on Kurds as 60,000 civilians flee,” Times, October 11, 2019, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/world/turkey-steps-up-bombing-of-kurdish-positions-in-northern-syria-g88fr0x5n; Robin Wright, “Defying the World, Turkey Launches a War Against a U.S. Ally in Syria,” New Yorker, October 9, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/defying-the-world-turkey-launches-a-war-against-a-united-states-ally-in-syria; Stephen Zunes, “This Isn’t the First Time the US Has Abandoned the Kurds,” Truthout, October 10, 2019, https://truthout.org/articles/this-isnt-the-first-time-the-us-has-abandoned-the-kurds/

Donald Trump is an idiot, North Korea edition

There is a new blog post, “How Donald Trump captured the Republican Party.” See also in particular an update below published on July 3 at 9:04 am.


About fireworks in Graton

I expect to be home on July 4th. Graton residents should know that while I have never liked the noise and object to the celebration of war that they entail, in the wake of the Sonoma County wildfires, I will no longer be tolerating the fireworks that are routinely set off to commemorate the holiday. This is not a negotiation. I will call 911. All fireworks—including allegedly “safe and sane” fireworks—are illegal in unincorporated Sonoma County and the risk is unacceptable. Period.


Updates

  1. Originally published, July 1, 9:00 am.
  2. July 2, 5:35 pm:
    • North Korea is also expanding a missile plant.[1]
    • Michael Cohen sounds like he’s ‘flipping’ and will cooperate with state, as well as federal, prosecutors, meaning Donald Trump can’t pardon his way out of this one.[2]
    • Republicans may be ducking, but they can’t hide from the Unauthorized migration issue.[3]
    • Philip Zimbardo has defended his Stanford Prison Experiment findings in an interview. The interviewer is unconvinced, but, this being Vox, places excessive faith in scientific method and, through aggressive—even hostile—questioning, doesn’t allow Zimbardo to express himself well. It might be better to do what I have not done, which is to read Zimbardo’s full written response.[4] (Replication)
  3. July 3, 9:04 am:
    • A federal judge has ordered an end to detention for asylum seekers who have passed a “credible fear” test.[5] (Unauthorized migration)
    • It is, apparently by design, all but impossible to reunify separated families.[6] (Unauthorized migration)
    • Somewhat related to the new blog post mentioned above, when presented with the opportunity to offer soothing words to unify the country, Donald Trump instead praised his base.[7] Which is to say that when he looks at the country, he sees only his base and that he is president not for the entire country as it actually is but only that base. This should not be a surprise.
    • Added the notice about fireworks in Graton above.
  4. July 3, 4:49 pm:
    • In a bipartisan report, the Senate Intelligence Committee accepts the deep state’s conclusions that Russia meddled in the U.S. 2016 election and did so at Vladimir Putin’s direction.[8] (Golden showers)
  5. July 3, 8:40 pm:
    • A judge suspects the Trump administration of bad faith in adding a citizenship question to the U.S. census questionnaire and has ordered the administration to explain itself.[9] (Alleged voter fraud)
    • Added a tweet from Laurence Tribe under Golden showers. Tribe seems convinced there was collusion.[10] I don’t have the impression the Senate report goes that far.[11]
  6. July 4, 1:05 am:
    • Functionalist conservatives—specifically, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and so-called ‘free’ traders in Congress are trying to limit Donald Trump’s ability to wage a trade war.[12] (So-called ‘free’ trade)
  7. July 4, 11:51 am:
    • I think Jonathan Chait maybe goes a little too far here, but he thinks that the reason Scott Pruitt hasn’t been fired is that Donald Trump is keeping him on tap to replace Jeff Sessions in a plan to fire Robert Mueller.[13] I guess I’m more interested in why, when he so readily castigates nearly anyone else on Twitter, Trump is relatively silent about or even obsequious toward 1) Russia and Vladimir Putin, 2) Stormy Daniels, and 3) Pruitt. Chait seems close to a common thread here as Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’ attorney, did seek to intervene in the case involving Mueller’s raid on Michael Cohen, Trump’s “fixer.” But, for me, the pieces aren’t quite in place.
  8. July 4, 1:45 pm:
    • Added tweet from Michael Avenatti floating the possibility of a run for president against Donald Trump in 2020.

North Korea

So much for Donald Trump’s summit.

Ellen Mitchell, “Satellite images raise alarms about North Korean nukes,” Hill, June 30, 2018, http://thehill.com/policy/defense/394896-satellite-images-raise-alarms-aboutth-korean-nukes

Ellen Nakashima and Joby Warrick, “North Korea working to conceal key aspects of its nuclear program, U.S. officials say,” Washington Post, June 30, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/north-korea-working-to-conceal-key-aspects-of-its-nuclear-program-us-officials-say/2018/06/30/deba64fa-7c82-11e8-93cc-6d3beccdd7a3_story.html


So-called ‘free’ trade

David J. Lynch and Philip Rucker, “To Trump, Harley’s tariff decision is a personal — and unexpected — betrayal,” Washington Post, June 26, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/to-trump-harleys-tariff-decision-is-a-personal–and-unexpected–betrayal/2018/06/26/a662c718-796d-11e8-aeee-4d04c8ac6158_story.html

Patti Waldmeir, “Harley-Davidson workers back Trump despite jobs shift,” CNBC, June 27, 2018, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/27/harley-davidson-workers-back-trump-despite-jobs-shift.html

Jordain Carney, “Appeals court nominees languish in Senate as Flake demands tariff vote,” Hill, June 30, 2018, http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/394921-appeals-courtinees-languish-in-senate-as-flake-demands-tariff-vote


Unauthorized migration

Reuters, “Migrant children and families now face indefinite detention by US,” Guardian, June 29, 2018, https://amp.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jun/30/migrant-children-and-families-now-face-indefinite-detention-by-us

Rachael Bade, “Immigration storm bears down on Republicans,” Politico, July 2, 2018, https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/02/immigration-republicans-border-fallout-687895

Isaac Chotiner, “‘This Entire System Is Designed to Make Things Impossible for Immigrants,'” Slate, July 2, 2018, https://amp.slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/07/child-separation-now-why-its-still-so-difficult-for-immigrant-families-to-be-reunited.html

Richard Gonzales, “Federal Judge Orders Administration To End Arbitrary Detention Of Asylum-Seekers,” National Public Radio, July 2, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/07/02/625504723/federal-judge-orders-administration-to-end-arbitrary-detention-of-asylum-seekers


Donald Trump

Jonathan Chait, “Interviewer Asks Trump to Bring Country Together. He Praises His Base,” New York, July 2, 2018, http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/asked-to-bring-country-together-trump-praises-my-base.html

Jonathan Chait, “Michael Cohen Apparently Flipping Is Extremely Bad News for Trump,” New York, July 2, 2018, http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/michael-cohen-apparent-flip-is-extremely-bad-news-for-trump.html


Replication

Brian Resnick, “Philip Zimbardo defends the Stanford Prison Experiment, his most famous work,” Vox, June 28, 2018, https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/6/28/17509470/stanford-prison-experiment-zimbardo-interview


Golden showers

Chris Megerian, “Senate panel backs up intelligence agencies, says Russia aimed to help Trump in election,” Los Angeles Times, July 3, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-senate-russia-intel-20180703-story.html


Alleged voter fraud

Avery Anapol, “Judge orders Trump admin to explain how it decided to add citizenship question to census,” Hill, July 3, 2018, http://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/395400-federal-judge-says-trump-admin-acted-in-bad-faith-with-citizenship


So-called ‘free’ trade

Zeeshan Aleem, “Big business and the GOP are declaring war on Trump’s trade agenda,” Vox, July 3, 2018, https://www.vox.com/world/2018/7/3/17530516/chamber-commerce-trump-tariffs-trade-war-china


Scott Pruitt

Jonathan Chait, “Why Hasn’t Trump Fired Scott Pruitt? Because Pruitt Can Fire Robert Mueller,” New York, July 3, 2018, http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/trump-scott-pruitt-scandals-attorney-general-can-fire-mueller.html


  1. [1]Jonathan Cheng, “North Korea Expands Key Missile-Manufacturing Plant,” Wall Street Journal, July 1, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/north-korea-expands-key-missile-manufacturing-plant-1530486907
  2. [2]Jonathan Chait, “Michael Cohen Apparently Flipping Is Extremely Bad News for Trump,” New York, July 2, 2018, http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/michael-cohen-apparent-flip-is-extremely-bad-news-for-trump.html
  3. [3]Rachael Bade, “Immigration storm bears down on Republicans,” Politico, July 2, 2018, https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/02/immigration-republicans-border-fallout-687895
  4. [4]Brian Resnick, “Philip Zimbardo defends the Stanford Prison Experiment, his most famous work,” Vox, June 28, 2018, https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/6/28/17509470/stanford-prison-experiment-zimbardo-interview
  5. [5]Richard Gonzales, “Federal Judge Orders Administration To End Arbitrary Detention Of Asylum-Seekers,” National Public Radio, July 2, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/07/02/625504723/federal-judge-orders-administration-to-end-arbitrary-detention-of-asylum-seekers
  6. [6]Isaac Chotiner, “‘This Entire System Is Designed to Make Things Impossible for Immigrants,'” Slate, July 2, 2018, https://amp.slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/07/child-separation-now-why-its-still-so-difficult-for-immigrant-families-to-be-reunited.html
  7. [7]Jonathan Chait, “Interviewer Asks Trump to Bring Country Together. He Praises His Base,” New York, July 2, 2018, http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/asked-to-bring-country-together-trump-praises-my-base.html
  8. [8]Chris Megerian, “Senate panel backs up intelligence agencies, says Russia aimed to help Trump in election,” Los Angeles Times, July 3, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-senate-russia-intel-20180703-story.html
  9. [9]Avery Anapol, “Judge orders Trump admin to explain how it decided to add citizenship question to census,” Hill, July 3, 2018, http://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/395400-federal-judge-says-trump-admin-acted-in-bad-faith-with-citizenship
  10. [10]Laurence Tribe, [microblog post], Twitter, July 3, 2018, https://twitter.com/tribelaw/status/1014296363453026305?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
  11. [11]Chris Megerian, “Senate panel backs up intelligence agencies, says Russia aimed to help Trump in election,” Los Angeles Times, July 3, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-senate-russia-intel-20180703-story.html
  12. [12]Zeeshan Aleem, “Big business and the GOP are declaring war on Trump’s trade agenda,” Vox, July 3, 2018, https://www.vox.com/world/2018/7/3/17530516/chamber-commerce-trump-tariffs-trade-war-china
  13. [13]Jonathan Chait, “Why Hasn’t Trump Fired Scott Pruitt? Because Pruitt Can Fire Robert Mueller,” New York, July 3, 2018, http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/trump-scott-pruitt-scandals-attorney-general-can-fire-mueller.html