Pennsylvania nursing homes and COVID-19

I’m still alive and still haven’t come down with COVID-19, at least that I know of. But the news is mostly going in the predicted dismal direction and this is one of those times when I’m glad I don’t have to produce verbiage whether I have anything to say or not because I really don’t have anything new to add.

I have been working on my page “Pittsburgh driving for the uninitiated.” There are a number of reasons I’m unhappy driving for Uber and Lyft, among them being that I have a Ph.D. and aspired to somewhat greater things.[1] Driving in Pittsburgh adds a lot of misery to the indignity.[2]

I’m getting closer to making some galleries focusing on abandoned structures and on ethnic remnants public—when I do, remember that I take these photographs for documentation purposes rather than for artistic purposes.


Pandemic

It seems a lot of Pennsylvania’s problem with COVID-19 is in nursing homes.[3] That doesn’t help me: I transport workers to many of these facilities (I don’t think any to the one in Beaver, Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness, though). But it really doesn’t help the old and the weak whom so many regard as expendable.

Megan Guza, “Pa. Department of Health report sheds light on coronavirus impact in long-term care facilities, TribLive, May 19, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/pa-department-of-health-report-sheds-light-on-coronavirus-impact-in-long-term-care-facilities/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Pittsburgh driving for the uninitiated,” Irregular Bullshit, n.d., https://disunitedstates.com/pittsburgh-driving-for-the-uninitiated/
  3. [3]Megan Guza, “Pa. Department of Health report sheds light on coronavirus impact in long-term care facilities, TribLive, May 19, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/pa-department-of-health-report-sheds-light-on-coronavirus-impact-in-long-term-care-facilities/

Die-hard Donald Trump supporters dying for Trump

Horse race

I guess I have a couple responses to Tom McCarthy’s report[1] in the Guardian:

  1. McCarthy went to a different part of Pennsylvania. Northampton County is along the eastern edge of the state, bordering New Jersey. Allentown, in Lehigh County, is to Northampton County’s southwest. This cuts a couple ways: This part of the state is among the hardest hit by the pandemic (figure 1). So one might suspect that “Cut The Bullshit,” a favorite Donald Trump-supporter slogan, might fall flat in the face of Trump’s voluminous and often dangerous bullshit on COVID-19.[2]

    Safari Screenshot 2020-05-18 08.42.02
    Fig. 1. Screenshot from Johns Hopkins University “COVID-19 United States Cases By County” map, zoomed in on Northampton and Lehigh (the latter including Allentown) Counties, taken May 18, 2020. The less affected adjacent counties are Carbon and Schuykill.[3]

    But conversely, this is a part of the state that has been under the lockdown the longest (figure 2):

    FireShot Capture 143 - Gov. Wolf announces most of Western Pa. moving to yellow phase May 15_ - triblive.com
    Fig. 1. Screenshot of Pennsylvania county map showing yellow or red phase taken from TribLive article, May 8, 2020.[4]

    To the extent that “lockdown fatigue” is a thing, these folks might be feeling it the hardest. It sounds like McCarthy interviewed die-hard Trump supporters,[5] but they might be getting a boost from that fatigue.

  2. In my blog post yesterday, I suspected that in the area around Pittsburgh, that support might in fact be dimmed.[6] This area has not been hit as hard as the eastern part of the state (figure 3).[7] But I can only judge by the campaign paraphernalia I see about, that is, yard signs, bumper stickers, flags, and the like. (I still have only seen those two posters I saw that one day for Joe Biden.) That is only a very rough gauge of enthusiastic support that I cannot systematically quantify, really a mere impression as I drive around randomly according to the orders I get from Uber and Lyft. A diminution of this does not mean folks won’t vote for him. But it does suggest a bit of previously-unobserved humility among his supporters.

    Safari Screenshot 2020-05-18 09.50.38
    Fig. 3. Screenshot from Johns Hopkins University “COVID-19 United States Cases By County” map, zoomed in on Allegheny and surrounding counties, taken May 18, 2020. The darkest areas here are in Ohio.[8]

I suppose there’s a lot about this I can understand even as I strongly disagree.[9] What I can’t understand is complicity with Trump’s hydroxychloroquine and Lysol-injection hype.[10] This seriously ought to be treated as criminal, not brushed off and forgotten.

Tom McCarthy, “‘They don’t give him enough credit’: the voters who back Trump, even through the pandemic,” Guardian, May 18, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/18/they-dont-give-him-enough-credit-the-voters-who-back-trump-even-through-the-pandemic


  1. [1]Tom McCarthy, “‘They don’t give him enough credit’: the voters who back Trump, even through the pandemic,” Guardian, May 18, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/18/they-dont-give-him-enough-credit-the-voters-who-back-trump-even-through-the-pandemic
  2. [2]Associated Press, “FDA warns against using the drugs that Trump touts for coronavirus,” Los Angeles Times, April 24, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2020-04-24/fda-warns-against-using-trump-touted-drugs-to-treat-coronavirus; David Benfell, “The dangerous and delusional raging narcissist-in-chief,” Not Housebroken, April 25, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/25/the-dangerous-and-delusional-raging-narcissist-in-chief/; Aaron Blake, “The timeline of Trump’s coronavirus response is increasingly damning,” Washington Post, April 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/07/timeline-trumps-coronavirus-response-is-increasingly-damning/; Allyson Chiu, Katie Shepherd, and Brittany Shammas, “Trump comments prompt doctors, and Lysol, to warn against injecting disinfectants,” Washington Post, April 24, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/04/24/disinfectant-injection-coronavirus-trump/; Helen Davidson, “WHO says it has no evidence to support ‘speculative’ Covid-19 lab theory,” Guardian, May 4, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/05/who-says-it-has-no-evidence-to-support-speculative-covid-19-lab-theory-pushed-by-us; Ed Kilgore, “Could Trump Go the Way of Herbert Hoover?” New York, May 4, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/05/could-herbert-hoovers-fate-be-trumps.html; Joe Lowndes, “The Morbid Ideology Behind the Drive to Reopen America,” New Republic, April 30, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america; Dana Milbank, “For Trump, a reckoning has come,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/trump-reckoning-has-come/; David Roth, “The Enduring Delusion of a Chastened Trump,” New Republic, April 3, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157154/enduring-delusion-chastened-trump; Aaron Rupar, “Trump and Fox News want to send their hydroxychloroquine hype down the memory hole,” Vox, April 22, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/4/22/21230982/hydroxychloroquine-coronavirus-trump-fox-news-hype; Anna Sanders and Chris Sommerfeldt, “A spike in New Yorkers ingesting household cleaners following Trump’s controversial coronavirus comments,” New York Daily News, April 24, 2020, https://www.nydailynews.com/coronavirus/ny-coronavirus-new-yorkers-household-cleaners-trump-20200425-rnaqio5dyfeaxmthxx2vktqa5m-story.html; 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/; Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman, “Health Dept. Official Says Doubts on Hydroxychloroquine Led to His Ouster,” New York Times, April 22, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/22/us/politics/rick-bright-trump-hydroxychloroquine.html; Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Eileen Sullivan, “As Trump Pushes to Reopen, Government Sees Virus Toll Nearly Doubling,” New York Times, May 4, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/04/us/politics/trump-coronavirus-death-toll.html; David Von Drehle, “If Trump doesn’t like the coronavirus news now, he’ll hate what comes next,” Washington Post, March 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/if-trump-doesnt-like-the-coronavirus-news-now-hell-hate-what-comes-next/2020/03/10/e478c314-62ea-11ea-acca-80c22bbee96f_story.html; Paul Waldman, “How coronavirus has deeply flummoxed conservative media,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/how-coronavirus-has-deeply-flummuxed-conservative-media/; Paul Waldman, “The real reason Trump is obsessed with hydroxychloroquine,” Washington Post, April 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/07/real-reason-trump-is-obsessed-with-hydroxychloroquine/; David Wallace-Wells, “There Is Still No Plan,” New York, May 7, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/05/white-house-plan-for-ending-coronavirus-stay-at-home-orders.html
  3. [3]Johns Hopkins University, “COVID-19 United States Cases By County,” May 16, 2020, https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/us-map
  4. [4]Megan Guza, “Gov. Wolf announces most of Western Pa. moving to yellow phase May 15,” TribLive, May 8, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/gov-wolf-to-announce-most-of-western-pa-moving-to-yellow-phase-next-week/
  5. [5]Tom McCarthy, “‘They don’t give him enough credit’: the voters who back Trump, even through the pandemic,” Guardian, May 18, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/18/they-dont-give-him-enough-credit-the-voters-who-back-trump-even-through-the-pandemic
  6. [6]David Benfell, “Pittsburgh, race, and a threat to appropriated identity,” Not Housebroken, May 17, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/17/pittsburgh-race-and-a-threat-to-appropriated-identity/
  7. [7]Johns Hopkins University, “COVID-19 United States Cases By County,” May 16, 2020, https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/us-map
  8. [8]Johns Hopkins University, “COVID-19 United States Cases By County,” May 16, 2020, https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/us-map
  9. [9]David Benfell, “The dangerous and delusional raging narcissist-in-chief,” Not Housebroken, April 25, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/25/the-dangerous-and-delusional-raging-narcissist-in-chief/; David Benfell, “The pandemic and a crisis of illegitimate authority,” Not Housebroken, May 14, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/12/the-pandemic-and-a-crisis-of-illegitimate-authority/
  10. [10]Associated Press, “FDA warns against using the drugs that Trump touts for coronavirus,” Los Angeles Times, April 24, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2020-04-24/fda-warns-against-using-trump-touted-drugs-to-treat-coronavirus; David Benfell, “The dangerous and delusional raging narcissist-in-chief,” Not Housebroken, April 25, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/25/the-dangerous-and-delusional-raging-narcissist-in-chief/; Allyson Chiu, Katie Shepherd, and Brittany Shammas, “Trump comments prompt doctors, and Lysol, to warn against injecting disinfectants,” Washington Post, April 24, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/04/24/disinfectant-injection-coronavirus-trump/; Aaron Rupar, “Trump and Fox News want to send their hydroxychloroquine hype down the memory hole,” Vox, April 22, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/4/22/21230982/hydroxychloroquine-coronavirus-trump-fox-news-hype; Anna Sanders and Chris Sommerfeldt, “A spike in New Yorkers ingesting household cleaners following Trump’s controversial coronavirus comments,” New York Daily News, April 24, 2020, https://www.nydailynews.com/coronavirus/ny-coronavirus-new-yorkers-household-cleaners-trump-20200425-rnaqio5dyfeaxmthxx2vktqa5m-story.html; Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman, “Health Dept. Official Says Doubts on Hydroxychloroquine Led to His Ouster,” New York Times, April 22, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/22/us/politics/rick-bright-trump-hydroxychloroquine.html; Paul Waldman, “The real reason Trump is obsessed with hydroxychloroquine,” Washington Post, April 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/07/real-reason-trump-is-obsessed-with-hydroxychloroquine/

The Year of Fear

There is a new blog post from Sunday entitled, “Pittsburgh, race, and a threat to appropriated identity.”

The Columbia Journalism Review has been running a series entitled “The Year of Fear,” featuring essays from local journalists in four towns in this election year. I’ve been following Jason Togyer, who covers McKeesport, largely because he helps fill in the blanks in my understanding of what has happened to Pittsburgh and that new blog post responds to one of his essays. For me, this is truly amazing stuff.


Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Economic Bill of Rights and a slight revision to my simple definition of fascism

Pandemic

Megan Guza, “Beaver County among 12 more moving to Pennsylvania’s yellow phase,” TribLive, May 15, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/beaver-county-among-12-more-moving-to-pennsylvanias-yellow-phase/


Fascism

There is a rather substantive update to “A simple definition of fascism.” The change to the definition itself is almost, but not quite, trivial, and I draw it from the State of the Union Address in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt laid out his Economic Bill of Rights.[1] The relevant portion of that speech is worth excerpting:

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth- is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our Nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.

One of the great American industrialists of our day—a man who has rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisis-recently emphasized the grave dangers of “rightist reaction” in this Nation. All clear-thinking businessmen share his concern. Indeed, if such reaction should develop—if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called “normalcy” of the 1920’s—then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.[2]

For those whom Roosevelt is yet one more name in a fog of history, Roosevelt got us into World War II, against Nazi Germany, Italy, and Japan, immediately following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This is the war to which he refers. And “the so-called ‘normalcy’ of the 1920’s” precedes the New Deal which has been eviscerated under neoliberalism. Charles Reich wrote of the capitalist libertarian impulse that became neoliberalism once in power:

Every step the New Deal took encountered the massive, bitter opposition of Consciousness I people. They found their world changing beyond recognition, and instead of blaming the primary forces behind that change, they blamed the efforts at solving problems. They totally lacked the sophistication necessary to see that a measure such as the Wagner Act might be redressing an existing oppression rather than creating oppression. The businessmen who were the most vocal in their opposition had a pathological hatred of the New Deal, a hatred so intense and personal as to defy analysis. Why this hatred, when the New Deal, in retrospect, seems to have saved the capitalist system? Perhaps because the New Deal intruded irrevocably upon their make-believe, problem-free world in which the pursuit of business gain and self-interest was imagined to be automatically beneficial to all of mankind, requiring of them no additional responsibility whatever. In any event, there was a large and politically powerful number of Americans who never accepted the New Deal even when it benefited them, and used their power whenever they could to cut it back.[3]

In Roosevelt’s day, this opposition was so extreme as to lead to an attempt to organize a coup against him.[4] It is also worth noting that the International Covenant of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, adopted and, to this day, ratified by all but a very small number of countries (the U.S. has signed but not ratified this treaty), in the immediate post-war period goes even further.[5]
The revised definition is this:

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.[6]

The change is in the addition of a single word, classism, to the examples of bigotry listed. The idea really remains the same.


  1. [1]Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “State of the Union Message to Congress, January 11, 1944,” Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, n.d., http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/archives/address_text.html
  2. [2]Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “State of the Union Message to Congress, January 11, 1944,” Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, n.d., http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/archives/address_text.html
  3. [3]Charles A. Reich, The Greening of America (New York: Crown, 1970), 56-57.
  4. [4]George Seldes, 1000 Americans: The Real Rulers of the U.S.A. (New York: Boni and Gaer, 1948; Joshua Tree, CA: Progressive, 2009).
  5. [5]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; United Nations, “Ratification Status: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” January 15, 2019, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-3&chapter=4&lang=en
  6. [6]David Benfell, “A simple definition of fascism,” Not Housebroken, May 16, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/07/06/a-simple-definition-of-fascism/

Our present political and economic order is simply not up to the dilemma of COVID-19

Pandemic

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Fig. 1. Cartoon by Bob Moran of the Telegraph, May 14, 2020, via a newsletter, fair use.

When I wrote “The pandemic and a crisis of illegitimate authority” and “Don’t bet on ‘herd immunity’,” I essentially thought of a possible vaccine for COVID-19 as one might in terms of the old admonition against counting your chickens before they’ve hatched and didn’t bother to look into it further. I was more optimistic in the latter post than the former. It turns out that, as with the antibody-based protection that arises from being exposed to the disease,[1] and that some rely on for “herd immunity,”[2] there are nuances, including the possibility that a vaccine isn’t possible.[3] This, in addition to that it will take time to mass produce and distribute a vaccine should it be found,[4] should be absolutely unsurprising, and I’ve updated these posts accordingly.

The ugly truth here, and it’s not one I want to hear either, is that we as a species may well have to live with the novel coronavirus for many years to come. There’s a lot that needs to be rethought, including how we treat each other as human beings, should this prove to be the case, that we really need to be rethinking anyway, and—I don’t care what your political predilections are—our present political and economic order is simply not up to this task.

Andrew Nikiforuk, “Don’t Bet on a Vaccine,” Tyee, May 13, 2020, https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2020/05/13/Vaccine-Not-Likely/


Recession

I have added the photograph in figure 2 to an existing blog post entitled, “The abandoned.”
IMG_20200514_100125
Fig. 2. Abandoned houses in McKeesport. Photograph by author, May 14, 2020.

Tony Romm, “3 million Americans filed jobless claims last week, pushing eight-week total to 36.5 million,” Washington Post, May 14, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/14/unemployment-jobless-claims-coronavirus/


  1. [1]Christie Aschwanden, “Sorry, Immunity to Covid-19 Won’t Be Like a Superpower,” Wired, April 16, 2020, https://www.wired.com/story/sorry-immunity-to-covid-19-wont-be-like-a-superpower/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Don’t bet on ‘herd immunity,’” Not Housebroken, April 20, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/18/dont-bet-on-herd-immunity/
  3. [3]Andrew Nikiforuk, “Don’t Bet on a Vaccine,” Tyee, May 13, 2020, https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2020/05/13/Vaccine-Not-Likely/
  4. [4]Andrew Nikiforuk, “Don’t Bet on a Vaccine,” Tyee, May 13, 2020, https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2020/05/13/Vaccine-Not-Likely/; Christopher Rowland, Carolyn Y. Johnson, and William Wan, “Even finding a covid-19 vaccine won’t be enough to end the pandemic,” Washington Post, May 11, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/11/coronavirus-vaccine-global-supply/

Do these pastors hear their god, or their accountants?

Pandemic

We still refuse to take care of people. What the fuck is the point of civilization if it comes to this?

In general and as a consequence, the reactionary nuttery to the lockdown continues to intensify.

I have to wonder whether it is their god that pastors reopening in-person services hear,[1] or their accountants.[2]

Moriah Balingit, “Armed militia helped a Michigan barbershop open, a coronavirus defiance that puts Republican lawmakers in a bind,” Washington Post, May 12, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/coronavirus-michigan-republicans-whitmer/2020/05/12/54975e1a-9466-11ea-82b4-c8db161ff6e5_story.html

Heather Kelly, “Twitter employees don’t ever have to go back to the office (unless they want to),” Washington Post, May 12, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/05/12/twitter-work-home/

Mark Scott and Steven Overly, “‘Conspiracy bingo’: Trans-Atlantic extremists seize on the pandemic,” Politico, May 12, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/05/12/trans-atlantic-conspiracy-coronavirus-251325

Neena Satija, “‘Come on, we’re human beings’: Judges question response to coronavirus pandemic in federal prisons,” Washington Post, May 13, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/come-on-were-human-beings-judges-question-response-to-coronavirus-pandemic-in-federal-prisons/2020/05/12/925e5d32-912a-11ea-a9c0-73b93422d691_story.html

Brandon Showalter, “3,000 Calif. churches vow to reopen on Pentecost Sunday, regardless of gov. orders,” Christian Post, May 13, 2020, https://www.christianpost.com/news/3000-calif-churches-vow-to-reopen-on-pentecost-sunday-regardless-of-gov-orders.html


Gentrification

One of the very odd things in my life has been the parallels between two places I have lived, Pittsburgh and San Francisco. It shows up in lots of ways. Bridges are named for Joe Montana, the famous San Francisco 49ers quarterback, near the Monongahela River and the town of Monongahela. San Francisco’s cable cars are echoed by the Duquesne and Monongahela Inclines, remnants of a once much more common form of transportation. San Francisco has the reputation for hills and certainly has some but Pittsburgh has some of the steepest streets in the world.[3] A street in Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco, bears the name of Willie Stargell, a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball star. The list goes on, really, I think, to ludicrous lengths.

And I wonder how it is that two places I have lived have so much in common. The coincidences seem surreal.

Another is more troubling: There is a new blog post entitled, “Pittsburgh is repeating San Francisco’s mistake.”


  1. [1]Hailey Branson-Potts, “Pastor who refuses to cancel Sunday services because of coronavirus greeted by police,” Los Angeles Times, April 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-04-05/pastor-who-refuses-to-cancel-sunday-services-greeted-by-police; Brandon Showalter, “3,000 Calif. churches vow to reopen on Pentecost Sunday, regardless of gov. orders,” Christian Post, May 13, 2020, https://www.christianpost.com/news/3000-calif-churches-vow-to-reopen-on-pentecost-sunday-regardless-of-gov-orders.html; Sam Stanton, “Judge rejects Lodi church’s bid to resume in-person services, says California order legal,” Sacramento Bee, May 5, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article242512621.html
  2. [2]Michelle Boorstein, “Church donations have plunged because of the coronavirus. Some churches won’t survive,” Washington Post, April 24, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2020/04/24/church-budgets-coronavirus-debt/
  3. [3]For example, Canton Avenue: WTAE, “World’s steepest street: Welsh road claims the title over Pittsburgh’s Canton Avenue in Beechview,” July 16, 2019, https://www.wtae.com/article/worlds-steepest-street-pittsburgh-canton-avenue-beechview-ffordd-pen-llech-wales/28413028

‘Heroes work here’

Pandemic

There is a new blog post entitled, “The pandemic and a crisis of illegitimate authority.”

Christopher Rowland, Carolyn Y. Johnson, and William Wan, “Even finding a covid-19 vaccine won’t be enough to end the pandemic,” Washington Post, May 11, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/11/coronavirus-vaccine-global-supply/

Holly Yan, “5 common arguments for reopening the economy — and why experts say they are flawed,” CNN, May 11, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/11/us/reopening-the-economy-flawed-arguments-trnd/index.html


The backlash takes hold

Pandemic

I understand, even if I strongly disagree with, small business owners who decide to defy lockdown orders. The federal government has abdicated its duty on behalf of our society at large to take care of people who must sacrifice for the general good, both with small business folks and the working class and done so for the worst possible reasons. As I have said, the backlash here is entirely predictable.[1]

Elon Musk has no such excuse.[2] And he can take his ideology and shove it up his ass.

Megan Guza, “Gov. Wolf threatens action against Pennsylvania counties, businesses that ignore restrictions,” TribLive, May 11, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/gov-wolf-threatens-action-against-pennsylvania-counties-businesses-that-ignore-restrictions/

Robert Klemko, Meagan Flynn, and Tim Craig, “Colorado restaurant that illegally reopened without social distancing now ordered to close,” Washington Post, May 11, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/11/colorado-restaurant-illegal-reopening/

Faiz Siddiqui, “Tesla’s Elon Musk reopens factory, defying county orders and daring officials to arrest him,” Washington Post, May 11, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/05/11/musk-tesla-factory/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Yet again, a season for cynicism,” Not Housebroken, May 10, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/10/yet-again-a-season-for-cynicism/
  2. [2]Faiz Siddiqui, “Tesla’s Elon Musk reopens factory, defying county orders and daring officials to arrest him,” Washington Post, May 11, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/05/11/musk-tesla-factory/

I may have a housing problem next year

Housekeeping

I’ve been trying to sort out the question of what I will do about moving by next June 29, 2021. It looks like affordable rents in major metropolitan areas are hard to come by,[1] even around here.[2]

One of the oddities of my current situation is that where I’ve seen Aion, which owns the complex I live in now, before, on the San Francisco peninsula, the apartments are all high-end luxury complexes meant to appeal to well-paid tech workers. So I have to very strongly suspect that what’s going on here is what Alison Johnson said of Atlanta: “Landlords want to raise rents as high as possible to attract higher-income people into those units.”[3]

My apartment isn’t large—536 square feet—and an initial perusal finds many around Pittsburgh, even in outlying areas, with even less space renting for a lot more. It’s an old complex, even if my apartment is relatively nice on the inside, occupied mainly by working class and poor people, many of color. Hence, I suspect, figure 1, just a very short drive away. This complex is distinctly out of character for what I’ve seen with Aion on the San Francisco peninsula.
IMG_0038
Fig. 1. Gratuitous gun on display at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post on Cochrans Mill Road in South Park, Pennsylvania. Photograph by author, October 27, 2019.

Do I suspect gentrification? Hell, yes. I’ve suspected it very nearly since I moved in. I don’t know how well it will work, although there’s a new complex, only partly complete and still under construction, nearby that’s very clearly meant for better off folks.

Meanwhile, I’m hearing enough horror stories from passengers to know that there are plenty of slumlords around here who operate pretty much with impunity.
upinarms-map-large
Fig. 2. Colin Woodard’s sociocultural regions.[4]

At the moment, I’m very much feeling damned if I do, damned if I don’t. I’m not really comfortable moving into a more conservative area, like West Virginia or Ohio, or really any county around Allegheny County, which I’m finding plenty conservative enough (although Butler County might work).

On a recent foray into Beaver County, I saw lots of “Why I Stand” banners prominently displayed in multiple locations, featuring the U.S. flag. I’m pretty sure these refer to Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest.[5] I think Colin Woodard’s mapping of Greater Appalachia (figure 2) does not extend far enough north.

If I move north, say into what Woodard calls Yankeedom (figure 2), I face a more severe climate, which could also mean even less business for Uber and Lyft in winter. It was hard enough even getting through this last winter in Pittsburgh.

The known random element in all this is the pandemic, which as a country, the U.S. is just handling all wrong. As the economy gets worse,[6] Aion might find a wrench in its monkey works.


Pandemic

Nesrine Malik, “It’s no accident Britain and America are the world’s biggest coronavirus losers,” Guardian, May 10, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/10/anglo-american-coronavirus-crisis


  1. [1]Kate Gibson, “Minimum wage doesn’t cover the rent anywhere in the U.S.,” CBS News, June 14, 2018, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/minimum-wage-doesnt-cover-the-rent-anywhere-in-the-u-s/; Michael Sainato, “‘We’re technically homeless’: the eviction epidemic plaguing the US,” Guardian, February 11, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/feb/11/us-eviction-rates-causes-richmond-atlanta
  2. [2]Ryan Deto, “The displacement of Anthony Hardison from his Lawrenceville apartment is a microcosm of a neighborhood epidemic,” Pittsburgh City Paper, January 15, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/the-displacement-of-anthony-hardison-from-his-lawrenceville-apartment-is-a-microcosm-of-a-neighborhood-epidemic/Content?oid=16556108
  3. [3]Alison Johnson, quoted in Michael Sainato, “‘We’re technically homeless’: the eviction epidemic plaguing the US,” Guardian, February 11, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/feb/11/us-eviction-rates-causes-richmond-atlanta
  4. [4]I believe I found this map in an online article, probably at Colin Woodard, “Up in Arms,” Tufts, Fall, 2013, http://www.tufts.edu/alumni/magazine/fall2013/fe
    atures/up-in-arms.html
    , which is presently off line, but that pointed me to the book by Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (New York: Penguin, 2011) whereupon a similar map, but not in color, appears on the cover.
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Colin Kaepernick is right,” Not Housebroken, July 3, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/07/03/colin-kaepernick-is-right/
  6. [6]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/; David Benfell, “Yet again, a season for cynicism,” Not Housebroken, May 10, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/10/yet-again-a-season-for-cynicism/; Aaron Blake, “The timeline of Trump’s coronavirus response is increasingly damning,” Washington Post, April 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/07/timeline-trumps-coronavirus-response-is-increasingly-damning/; John Cassidy, “The Most Alarming Thing About the Worst Jobs Report in History,” New Yorker, May 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-most-alarming-thing-about-the-worst-jobs-report-in-history; Jonathan Chait, “Trump Wants to Starve the States Into Opening Before It’s Safe,” New York, April 20, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/trump-coronavirus-open-state-governors-protests.html; Zak Cheney-Rice, “Even Naked, America Cannot See Itself,” New York, April 27, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/coronavirus-inequality-america.html; Amy Goldstein, “First, the coronavirus pandemic took their jobs. Then, it wiped out their health insurance,” Washington Post, April 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/first-the-coronavirus-pandemic-took-their-jobs-then-it-wiped-out-their-health-insurance/2020/04/18/1c2cb5bc-7d7c-11ea-8013-1b6da0e4a2b7_story.html; William Gumede, “The impact of coronavirus could compare to the Great Depression,” Al Jazeera, May 3, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/impact-coronavirus-compare-great-depression-200420070542882.html; John F. Harris, “Admit It: You Are Willing to Let People Die to End the Shutdown,” Politico, April 30, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/04/30/coronavirus-shutdown-altitude-ethics-223569; Zoë Hu, “A New Age of Destructive Austerity After the Coronavirus,” New Republic, April 23, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157417/new-age-destructive-austerity-coronavirus; Sarah Jones, “Dear Rich People: Please Stop Hoarding Things,” New York, March 30, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/things-are-bad-and-rich-people-arent-helping.html; Laura Kalmes, “It’s our fault young people refuse to stay home,” Ozy, March 26, 2020, https://www.ozy.com/news-and-politics/its-our-fault-young-people-refuse-to-stay-home/293136/; Justin Lahart, “Great Depression Unemployment Levels Are on Tap,” Wall Street Journal, April 16, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/great-depression-unemployment-levels-are-on-tap-11587053071; Justin Lahart, “Why the Economy Was Even Worse than the GDP Report,” Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-the-economy-was-even-worse-than-the-gdp-report-11588176851; Heather Long, “U.S. now has 22 million unemployed as economy sinks toward Depression-like scenario,” Washington Post, April 16, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/16/unemployment-claims-coronavirus/; Heather Long, “U.S. economy shrank 4.8 percent in first quarter, biggest decline since the Great Recession,” April 29, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/29/gdp-coronavirus/; Heather Long, “Jobless rate soared to 14.7% in April as U.S. shed 20.5 million jobs amid coronavirus pandemic,” Washington Post, May 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/08/april-2020-jobs-report/; Joe Lowndes, “The Morbid Ideology Behind the Drive to Reopen America,” New Republic, April 30, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america; Nesrine Malik, “It’s no accident Britain and America are the world’s biggest coronavirus losers,” Guardian, May 10, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/10/anglo-american-coronavirus-crisis; Eric Morath, Harriet Torry, and Gwynn Guilford, “A Second Round of Coronavirus Layoffs Has Begun. Few Are Safe,” Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-second-round-of-coronavirus-layoffs-has-begun-no-one-is-safe-11586872387; Joe Pinsker, “The Four Possible Timelines for Life Returning to Normal,” Atlantic, March 30, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/03/coronavirus-social-distancing-over-back-to-normal/608752/; David Roth, “The Enduring Delusion of a Chastened Trump,” New Republic, April 3, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157154/enduring-delusion-chastened-trump; 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/; Andy Sullivan and Brad Brooks, “‘The government is failing us’: Laid-off Americans struggle in coronavirus crisis,” Reuters, May 7, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-05-07/coronavirus-weekly-jobless-unemployment-numbers; David Wallace-Wells, “We Are Probably Only One-Tenth of the Way Through This Pandemic,” New York, April 17, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/we-are-probably-only-a-tenth-of-the-way-through-the-pandemic.html; William Wan, Carolyn Y. Johnson, and Joel Achenbach, “States rushing to reopen are likely making a deadly error, coronavirus models and experts warn,” Washington Post, April 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/04/22/reopening-america-states-coronavirus/; Ben White, “Trump faces the risk of a coronavirus cliff,” Politico, April 28, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/28/trump-reopening-coronavirus-213535; Dawson White and Chacour Koop, “Confirmed coronavirus cases top 1 million in US. ‘We have to have a breakthrough,’” Sacramento Bee, April 28, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/site-services/newsletters/breaking-news-alerts/article242302716.html; Matt Zapotosky et al., “Trump administration pushing to reopen much of the U.S. next month,” Washington Post, April 9, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/trump-reopen-us-economy/2020/04/09/10d42b4a-7a7b-11ea-9bee-c5bf9d2e3288_story.html

Donald Trump and that distinction between authoritarian populism and paleoconservatism

Pandemic

There is a new blog post entitled, “Yet again, a season for cynicism.”

I have distinguished between authoritarian populists and paleoconservatives, with the latter tendency including white supremacists and neo-nazis, in part on the denial of racism by authoritarian populists and its unapologetic embrace by the paleoconservatives.[1] Donald Trump has, for quite some time, straddled that distinction, denying he is racist, but unapologetically saying and doing blatantly racist things. In yet another example of Trump’s blatant racism, Adam Serwer argues that Trump’s push to reopen the economy is based on the race of many victims, especially in the working class.[2] Paleoconservatives also join capitalist libertarians and traditionalist conservatives in generally opposing war which, with his bluster, is hard to say of Trump. So on balance, I still count Trump as authoritarian populist, but I have to wonder what he has to do before I’ll consider him a white supremacist. And I have updated my new blog post noted above accordingly.

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/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  2. [2]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/