Cats are smarter than we are. Really.

A clarifying question as to whether something might—emphasis on might—be a social construction is whether it would make sense to your cat.

If you think your cat might understand it, then there’s a decent chance it has some reality in the physical world. Yes, that excludes a lot of things we take for granted, and part of the charm of a cat is that they see right through those things to physical essence. Read more

The Kincade fire and the limits of human hubris

To understand my thinking on the Kincade fire in Sonoma County, California, you need to understand the location of the transmission line that sparked the blaze.[1]
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  1. [1]Reis Thebault, Kim Bellware, and Andrew Freedman, “High-voltage power line broke near origin of massive California fire that forced thousands of evacuations,” Washington Post, October 25, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/10/24/fast-moving-wildfire-ignites-northern-california-wine-country-prompting-evacuations/

Hillary Clinton needs to just shut the fuck up

Hillary Clinton needs to just shut the fuck up. She lost an election that even Donald Trump says she should have won, because she is a neoconservative and a neoliberal. She is wrong and her allegation that the Russians have “got their eye on somebody [almost certainly Tulsi Gabbard] who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate”[1] has drawn well-deserved criticism.[2] Forgotten, though, is that these comments expose her own sheer hypocrisy.
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  1. [1]Hillary Clinton, quoted in Dan Merica, “Hillary Clinton suggests Russians are ‘grooming’ Tulsi Gabbard for third-party run,” CNN, October 21, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/18/politics/hillary-clinton-tulsi-gabbard/index.html
  2. [2]Dan Merica, “Hillary Clinton suggests Russians are ‘grooming’ Tulsi Gabbard for third-party run,” CNN, October 21, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/18/politics/hillary-clinton-tulsi-gabbard/index.html; Nathan Robinson, “Hillary Clinton’s attacks on Tulsi Gabbard are embarrassing,” Guardian, October 22, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/oct/22/hillary-clinton-tulsi-gabbard-embarrassing-paranoid

The New York Times at least very nearly exposes a whistle blower

Update, September 29: My mother replies to the following saying that the whistle blower is in even greater danger than from White House retaliation. Citing multiple sources, she points to Donald Trump’s mob connections.[1] The picture here is of the 1920s all over again, only international, including but not limited to Russian and Ukrainian, in scope and with a likely mobster as president of the United States.


The New York Times is an agent for somebody. That somebody is supposed to be the people.[2] It isn’t.
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  1. [1]Benjamin Fearnow, “Viral ‘Crime Infested’ Trump Tower Thread Details Convicted Criminals, Russian Mobster Tenants Over The Years,” Newsweek, August 1, 2019, https://www.newsweek.com/trump-tower-criminal-tenants-thread-twitter-russian-mafia-renters-owners-1452138; Masha Gessen, “The Trump-Russia Investigation and the Mafia State,” New Yorker, January 31, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-trump-russia-investigation-and-the-mafia-state; Michael Hirsh, “How Russian Money Helped Save Trump’s Business,” Foreign Policy, December 21, 2018, https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/12/21/how-russian-money-helped-save-trumps-business/; Amanda Luz Henning Santiago, “Trump’s mob connections,” City and State New York, September 27, 2019, https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/news-politics/trumps-mob-connections.html; Craig Unger, “Trump’s Russian Laundromat,” New Republic, July 13, 2017, https://newrepublic.com/article/143586/trumps-russian-laundromat-trump-tower-luxury-high-rises-dirty-money-international-crime-syndicate; Craig Unger, “Trump’s businesses are full of dirty Russian money. The scandal is that it’s legal,” Washington Post, March 29, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/trumps-businesses-are-full-of-dirty-russian-money-the-scandal-is-thats-legal/2019/03/29/11b812da-5171-11e9-88a1-ed346f0ec94f_story.html
  2. [2]Philip Patterson and Lee Wilkins, Media Ethics: Issues and Cases, 3rd ed. (Boston: McGraw Hill, 1998).

The banners and the guns: Flagrant racism in Pittsburgh

Update, October 12, 2019: I have now mapped the locations of gratuitously displayed weaponry. This map is an ongoing project and will be updated as I find more weaponry. Photographs of the weapons are publicly available, as are my notes. In addition, the University of Richmond has a map and documentation of some redlined areas in Pittsburgh as of 1937.


Update, September 22, 2019: I have added photographs of artifacts I mention in this post.


IMG_0010
Fig. 1. A banner commemorating war dead in Clairton, Pennsylvania. Photograph by author, September 21, 2019.

We are now most of the way through September and the banners (example, figure 1) that went up around Memorial Day commemorating—overwhelmingly white, even where many Blacks live—war dead are now mostly, not entirely, down. They have been coming down much more slowly than they went up. And since I arrived in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area, a little less than five months ago, I have been horrified by the displays of artillery, especially around areas that appear to me to have high proportions of Blacks in the population.
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The most very dangerous kind of bullshit

Update, September 17: This post seems to have gotten damaged, in which the last part of the post seems to have gotten cut off, in the process of being copied from where I had initially written it or in being subsequently edited. In the interim, it appears that Saudi Arabia is corroborating the claim that Iran is behind an attack on its oil facilities.[1] Having needed to repair the post anyway, I wrote a new conclusion.


Yesterday [September 16], I wrote of U.S. accusations that Iran had launched an attack on Saudi oil facilities,[2]

I think Donald Trump is running for re-election and may be seeking a “rally ’round the flag” bump like George W. Bush got with the 9/11 attacks. We see that Trump wants to appear at least as tough as John Bolton,[3] who quit or was fired a few days ago,[4] and has declared that the U.S. is “locked and loaded.”[5] That said, I’m waiting for a refutation of the bit about “the scope and precision of the attacks [coming] from a west-northwest direction.”[6] (The site of the attack, which is also near Kuwait, lies to the west, across the Persian Gulf, from Iran.) It could be that the Iranian government has offered Trump a gift, albeit a gift that may come at considerable cost to its own people.[7]

And indeed, it turns out there’s a problem: “Saudi officials said the U.S. didn’t provide enough proof to conclude that the attack was launched from Iran, indicating the U.S. information wasn’t definitive.”[8] (Update, September 17: Saudi Arabia appears to be corroborating the claim on its own.[9]) Read more

  1. [1]Dion Nissenbaum, Summer Said, and Jared Malsin, “U.S. Tells Saudi Arabia Oil Attacks Were Launched From Iran,” Wall Street Journal, September 16, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-tells-saudi-arabia-oil-attacks-were-launched-from-iran-11568644126
  2. [2]Sputnik News, “US Officials Claim Yemen Not Behind Saudi Aramco Attack, Houthis Reveal ‘Intel Operation’ – Reports,” Global Security, September 16, 2019, https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2019/09/mil-190916-sputnik01.htm; Sheena McKenzie, et al., “Saudi attacks send oil prices soaring,” CNN, September 16, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/middleeast/live-news/saudi-oil-attack-dle-intl/index.html
  3. [3]Tina Nguyen, “Trump Visibly Distressed by Media Describing Bolton as ‘Tougher’ Than Him,” Vanity Fair, September 12, 2019, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/09/donald-trump-vs-john-bolton
  4. [4]Anne Gearan, John Wagner, and Robert Costa, “Bolton out as national security adviser after clashing with Trump,” Washington Post, September 10, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-fires-bolton-as-national-security-adviser-saying-he-disagreed-strongly-with-many-of-his-suggestions/2019/09/10/13409e2c-d3b9-11e9-9610-fb56c5522e1c_story.html
  5. [5]Bianca Quilantan, “Trump says U.S. ‘locked and loaded’ after attack on Saudi oil,” Politico, September 15, 2019, https://www.politico.com/story/2019/09/15/trump-locked-loaded-iran-saudi-arabia-1497452
  6. [6]Sputnik News, “US Officials Claim Yemen Not Behind Saudi Aramco Attack, Houthis Reveal ‘Intel Operation’ – Reports,” Global Security, September 16, 2019, https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2019/09/mil-190916-sputnik01.htm; see also Sheena McKenzie, et al., “Saudi attacks send oil prices soaring,” CNN, September 16, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/middleeast/live-news/saudi-oil-attack-dle-intl/index.html
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Has Iran given Donald Trump a gift?” Irregular Bullshit, September 16, 2019, https://disunitedstates.com/2019/09/16/has-iran-given-donald-trump-a-gift/
  8. [8]Dion Nissenbaum, Summer Said, and Jared Malsin, “U.S. Tells Saudi Arabia Oil Attacks Were Launched From Iran,” Wall Street Journal, September 16, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-tells-saudi-arabia-oil-attacks-were-launched-from-iran-11568644126
  9. [9]Summer Said and Dion Nissenbaum, “Saudi Arabia Increasingly Confident Iran Launched Oil Attack,” Wall Street Journal, September 17, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/saudi-arabia-increasingly-confident-iran-launched-oil-attack-11568733861

The larger question of California’s AB 5

Noam Cohen begins[1] to get to the crux of the issue over California’s AB 5, in which Uber and Lyft would, and apparently will, be required to classify their drivers as employees, not as independent contractors.[2] The companies are attempting to deny that the law even applies to them[3] and, beginning to acknowledge a widespread social recognition of their immorality toward drivers, propose a limited amelioration.[4]

There is a reason that some people call Silicon Valley a font of cruelty. The platform defense seems like an easy justification for turning your eyes away from social destruction. But even more insidious is the trashing of basic, time-tested standards for relationships, whether between news tellers or storytellers and their audience, between hosts and their guests, between employers and their employees.[5]

And of course we understand the motivation: profit. Or, in Uber and Lyft’s case, the minimization of losses in the face of increasing skepticism that the companies can ever be profitable.[6]
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  1. [1]Noam Cohen, “How Tech Firms Like Uber Hide Behind the ‘Platform Defense,’” Wired, September 13, 2019, https://www.wired.com/story/how-tech-firms-like-uber-hide-behind-the-platform-defense/
  2. [2]Sophia Bollag, “California Uber, Lyft drivers to become employees under measure Gov. Gavin Newsom says he’ll sign,” Sacramento Bee, September 11, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article234973107.html; Alexia Fernández Campbell, “California is cracking down on the gig economy,” Vox, May 30, 2019, https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/5/30/18642535/california-ab5-misclassify-employees-contractors; Aaron Gordon, “Uber And Lyft Don’t Have A Right To Exist,” Jalopnik, August 30, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-dont-have-a-right-to-exist-1837680434; Aaron Gordon, “The Bill That Would Make Uber And Lyft Drivers Employees Isn’t Just Making Uber And Lyft Nervous,” Jalopnik, September 6, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/the-bill-that-would-make-uber-and-lyft-drivers-employee-1837909962; Andrew J. Hawkins, “California just dropped a bomb on the gig economy — what’s next?” Verge, September 11, 2019, https://www.theverge.com/2019/9/11/20860578/california-ab5-bill-passage-uber-lyft-drivers-union-techlash; Sarah Holder, “Uber and Lyft Really Don’t Want California to Pass This Worker Rights Bill,” CityLab, June 13, 2019, https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2019/06/gig-economy-employment-law-california-bill-ab-5-uber-lyft/591565/; Alejandro Lazo, “California Passes Landmark Bill Requiring Contract Workers to Be Labeled as Employees,” Wall Street Journal, September 11, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/california-governor-still-in-talks-with-uber-lyft-over-gig-workers-law-11568212014; Alejandro Lazo and Eliot Brown, “Uber, Lyft, DoorDash Threaten Ballot Fight Over California Gig-Worker Law,” Wall Street Journal, August 29, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-lyft-doordash-threaten-ballot-fight-over-california-gig-worker-law-11567126445
  3. [3]Kate Conger, “Uber Says It Will Not Change Driver Status Under California Gig-Worker Law,” New York Times, September 11, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/11/business/economy/uber-california-bill.html; Shirin Ghaffary, “Uber and Lyft say they don’t plan to reclassify their drivers as employees,” Vox, September 11, 2019, https://www.vox.com/2019/9/11/20861599/ab-5-uber-lyft-drivers-contractors-reclassify-employees; Aaron Gordon, “Uber To California: Make Us,” Jalopnik, September 11, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-drivers-shouldnt-expect-to-be-employees-a-1838048966
  4. [4]Angela Chen, “This is one way Uber and Lyft want to get around making drivers employees,” MIT Technology Review, September 13, 2019, https://www.technologyreview.com/s/614308/uber-lyft-ab5-gig-workers-labor-classification-third-category-tech-policy/
  5. [5]Noam Cohen, “How Tech Firms Like Uber Hide Behind the ‘Platform Defense,’” Wired, September 13, 2019, https://www.wired.com/story/how-tech-firms-like-uber-hide-behind-the-platform-defense/
  6. [6]Rich Alton, “Basic economics means Uber and Lyft can’t rely on driverless cars to become profitable,” MarketWatch, August 12, 2019, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/basic-economics-means-uber-and-lyft-cant-rely-on-driverless-cars-to-become-profitable-2019-08-12; Eliot Brown, “Uber Wants to Be the Uber of Everything—But Can It Make a Profit?” Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-wants-to-be-the-uber-of-everything-11556909866; Richard Durant, “Uber’s Profitability Problem Is Structural,” Seeking Alpha, August 21, 2019, https://seekingalpha.com/article/4287055-ubers-profitability-problem-structural; Ryan Felton, “Uber Is Doomed,” Jalopnik, February 24, 2017, https://jalopnik.com/uber-is-doomed-1792634203; Yves Smith, “Uber Is Headed for a Crash,” New York, December 4, 2018, http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/12/will-uber-survive-the-next-decade.html; Stephen Wilmot, “Uber’s Long Road to Profits,” Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/ubers-long-road-to-profits-11566471068; Julia Carrie Wong, “Disgruntled drivers and ‘cultural challenges’: Uber admits to its biggest risk factors,” Guardian, April 12, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/11/uber-ipo-risk-factors

Crocodile tears for the homeless

For me, it’s a pretty straight line from gentrification and ludicrously high rents, especially such as to be found pretty much along the entire U.S. west coast, to homelessness. But, we are to believe:

With an issue as complex as homelessness, local governments need all the tools and information available to make informed choices about how to help people, said Theane Evangelis, lead counsel for the City of Boise.

“Right now the Ninth Circuit decision takes that debate off the table and makes it impossible for cities to come up with solutions,” Evangelis said.[1]

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  1. [1]Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks, “Sacramento wants to overturn this homeless ruling. Now it’s asking the Supreme Court for help,” Sacramento Bee, September 10, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article234894477.html

What if Boris Johnson’s goal isn’t what we’ve presumed it is?

The Queen is due to give her assent today to a bill passed by the Commons and the Lords requiring Boris Johnson to request a delay to Brexit.[1] This is generally understood as a massive defeat for Johnson[2] who has been inanely propelling the country towards a hard Brexit.[3] Read more

  1. [1]Deutschewelle, “Brexit: House of Lords approves bill to block no deal,” September 6, 2019, https://www.dw.com/en/brexit-house-of-lords-approves-bill-to-block-no-deal/a-50331382
  2. [2]Charlie Cooper, Annabelle Dickson, and Emilio Casalicchio, “Boris Johnson loses control,” Politico, September 4, 2019, https://www.politico.eu/article/boris-johnson-loses-control-brexit/; Heather Stewart and Severin Carrell, “Boris Johnson short of options as rebels vow to secure Brexit delay,” Guardian, September 7, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/sep/06/boris-johnson-short-of-options-as-rebels-vow-to-secure-brexit-delay; Kevin Sullivan and Karla Adam, “Britain may face snap elections after Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffers major loss in Parliament,” Washington Post, September 3, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/showdown-set-for-the-british-parliament-as-legislators-return-from-summer-recess/2019/09/03/105ecca6-cb6c-11e9-9615-8f1a32962e04_story.html; Kevin Sullivan and Karla Adam, “Boris Johnson suffers two major losses in Parliament, leaving his governing authority and the terms of Brexit in doubt,” Washington Post, September 4, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/uk-parliament-brexit-vote/2019/09/04/cc934b1c-cb6d-11e9-9615-8f1a32962e04_story.html
  3. [3]David Benfell, “The world’s worst poker player, on a jet-powered bicycle at full throttle toward a brick wall,” Not Housebroken, September 3, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/09/03/the-worlds-worst-poker-player-on-a-jet-powered-bicycle-at-full-throttle-toward-a-brick-wall/