On violence

The first thing to understand about violence, from any anarchist or vegetarian ecofeminist perspective, is that it is an instrument of coercion and therefore of domination. Its use is to be avoided not only on moral grounds but because it functionally contradicts what anarchism and vegetarian ecofeminism are about. Continue reading On violence

My experience driving for Uber and Lyft

A couple people, knowing I drive for Uber and Lyft, have forwarded to me an article in the New York Times on the alleged psychological “tricks” that Uber and Lyft use to keep drivers on the road longer.

In my experience, Noam Scheiber’s article[1] seems a bit exaggerated. I have seen “forward dispatch,” in which I get the next ride even before I’ve finished one I’m on, and find this useful. I often see the alleged “hot” zones, where demand is supposedly high but which usually aren’t hot at all, and so I ignore them. Both Lyft and Uber do these things and it’s unfair to focus almost exclusively on Uber. Continue reading My experience driving for Uber and Lyft

  1. [1]Noam Scheiber, “How Uber Uses Psychological Tricks to Push Its Drivers’ Buttons,” New York Times, April 2, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/04/02/technology/uber-drivers-psychological-tricks.html

To my friends

Update, April 7, 2017: To put it mildly, the response to this has been disappointing. Very few even responded. And despite the fact that sixteen years of applying for jobs and posting my résumé on various job search sites has failed utterly, the only suggestion my so-called friends could come up with was to keep on applying. “It doesn’t work until it does,” said one. One complained that I was “going feral” as if that were a product of volition rather than circumstance. No one was willing to engage in a thoughtful conversation as to where someone with my talents might actually fit well in this fucked-up economy. No one was willing to engage with the problem that I might be homeless in my sixties—apparently that’s okay with them.

I have to reconcile myself to the facts 1) that I have very few real friends; and 2) that from a complexity theory standpoint, I have no niche in this ecosystem and cannot adapt to the ecosystem I am in, which lends support to a notion that I should move someplace else—if we could reasonably figure out where that someplace else is and if I could gain admittance to that someplace else. Which all pretty much amounts to a recognition of impending doom: My life will get very hard within a very few years and I will probably die much sooner than I would otherwise. All this with a Ph.D.

So on April Fools Day, Facebook wants me to create an event celebrating my birthday (on the 29th, a nice round four weeks away). But all I really want for my birthday is a real fucking job.

That goes against the grain nowadays. We’re supposed to celebrate the “freedom” of the “gig,” culminating with Uber and Lyft, in which I work every minute I can spare and put a horrendous amount of miles on my car every month for almost nothing. Really, almost nothing. I just filed my taxes (a thing I have to do to stay on an income-based repayment plan for my student loans), reporting an adjusted gross income of $335 for a little more than three months of effort. So far, in the first three months of this year, my spreadsheet shows an estimated loss of $101.32.

The reality is that the IRS allows a higher mileage cost than my actual cost of running my car and that difference is my actual margin. So far this year, in three months, I’ve actually made an estimated $1,691.73. Which may well prove illusory if the IRS is more right than I can presently calculate.

Worse, in order to keep even as minimally afloat as I have, I’ve had to take on debt (in addition to well over $300,000 in student loans). I can’t just quit.

It’s nice to get out of the house and the vast majority of people I encounter are nice. But this is no answer to a looming problem. Continue reading To my friends

Government, religion, and the poor

I’m not terribly fond of folks invoking unknowable deities to support their favored political positions. In fact, I’d rather folks not speak on behalf of deities at all. To do so seems to me to represent a being beyond our comprehension, who, for reasons that remain unfathomable to me, chooses not to represent him- or herself, and to do so thus seems to me to be inherently blasphemous. More prosaically, it’s an appeal to an authority whose very existence is to be accepted on faith. Continue reading Government, religion, and the poor

Why should I care?

Nobody else cares. So why should I?

One of the deeply painful lessons of the last election is that it really is supposed to be just fine that I can be laid off in the dot-com crash (sixteen years ago), fail to find employment, return to school, finish a B.A., an M.A., and a Ph.D., and still, in all this time, hear only crickets in reply to my job applications. That was the message the left delivered loudly and clearly when in response to Donald Trump’s victory, my concerns were dismissed as unimportant. Continue reading Why should I care?

An apology

I guess I’ve been kind of oblivious. I hadn’t really noticed that Donald Trump’s inauguration is scheduled for next Friday (January 20, 2017).

But of course it is.

Richard Nixon was the first president I was really conscious of. I grew up believing him to be the epitome of evil. But since Nixon, it seems like each president (yes, that includes Jimmy Carter) has been worse than his (all men so far) predecessor. That was, of course, going to be true of whoever won last November, whether it was Trump or Hillary Clinton. Continue reading An apology

Vladimir Putin’s motives

This is the kind of topic I never really want to get into. I’m not a psychologist. But for me, claims that the Russian government interfered with the U.S. presidential election require a demonstration of evidence and motive.

The evidence is shaky at best. First, it’s all classified, which means we can’t examine it, the methods used to obtain it, or the reasoning used to reach its conclusions.[1] Then there’s the whole Cold War history, of which this smells too much like a continuation, of demonization of then, the Soviet Union, and now, Russia.[2] Then there’s the oddity that the claim is that the Russians “hacked” into Democratic National Committee servers, of which the National Security Agency should have hard evidence, when the evidence is reportedly circumstantial.[3] Continue reading Vladimir Putin’s motives

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Blaming the Russians,” Not Housebroken, December 15, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=9151
  2. [2]Andrew Cockburn, “The New Red Scare: Reviving the art of threat inflation,” Harper’s, December, 2016, http://harpers.org/archive/2016/12/the-new-red-scare/
  3. [3]William Binney, et al., “US Intel Vets Dispute Russia Hacking Claims,” Consortium News, December 12, 2016, https://consortiumnews.com/2016/12/12/us-intel-vets-dispute-russia-hacking-claims/

Blaming the Russians

Update, December 13, 2016: Six former intelligence agency employees have written an open letter offering substantive reason to doubt claims that Russians hacked into Democratic National Committee systems. In essence, they point out that “a key mystery is why U.S. intelligence would rely on ‘circumstantial evidence’ when it has the capability for hard evidence.”[1] In addition, while I barely allude to the original Cold War in what follows, the history of that Cold War and the propaganda that was integral to it offers additional considerable reason for doubt.[2] Given all this, it seems more likely than not that the accusations being made against Russia are substantively false.

Update, December 15, 2016: In what follows, I question not only the use of classified evidence—which remains deeply problematic—but the apparent absence of a motive for Russian President Vladmir Putin to interfere in U.S. elections. It turns out that Fiona Hill covered the question of Putin’s motive in Vox in July.[3] I have been distrustful of Vox in recent months on anything having to do with the U.S. presidential election because, like other outlets, it appeared to have degenerated to functioning as a propaganda organ for Hillary Clinton’s campaign,[4] and I am dissatisfied with some of Hill’s evidence, how she pulls it together, and with her reliance on innuendo with regard to Putin “still think[ing] and act[ing] like a KGB operative,”[5] but there is substance here. Is this substance compelling? I take this question on here.

Update, December 17, 2016: In what follows, I point out that classified information and the conclusions drawn from that information cannot be scrutinized. We do not know how this information was gotten because cannot know the methodology (and its strengths and weaknesses). We do not know the argumentation used to support these conclusions. George Beebe explores in magnitudes of order more depth that I ever could just what this means.[6] Meanwhile, Juan Cole notices a resemblance between the demonization of Putin and old Cold War techniques.[7]

Democrats have been blaming everyone but themselves for their election defeat last month, a behavior ought to be disqualifying. They are unwilling to accept that they have absolutely no one to blame but themselves for having chosen to nominate such a terrible candidate. So now they’re blaming Russia[8] and Juan Cole, who has commented on the Democrats’ defeat previously,[9] is back with a needed corrective.[10] Continue reading Blaming the Russians

  1. [1]William Binney, et al., “US Intel Vets Dispute Russia Hacking Claims,” Consortium News, December 12, 2016, https://consortiumnews.com/2016/12/12/us-intel-vets-dispute-russia-hacking-claims/
  2. [2]Andrew Cockburn, “The New Red Scare: Reviving the art of threat inflation,” Harper’s, December, 2016, http://harpers.org/archive/2016/12/the-new-red-scare/
  3. [3]Fiona Hill, “3 reasons Russia’s Vladimir Putin might want to interfere in the US presidential elections,” Vox, July 27, 2016, http://www.vox.com/2016/7/27/12304448/putin-elections-dnc-hack
  4. [4]Thomas Frank, “Donald Trump is moving to the White House, and liberals put him there,” Guardian, November 9, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/09/donald-trump-white-house-hillary-clinton-liberals
  5. [5]Fiona Hill, “3 reasons Russia’s Vladimir Putin might want to interfere in the US presidential elections,” Vox, July 27, 2016, http://www.vox.com/2016/7/27/12304448/putin-elections-dnc-hack
  6. [6]George Beebe, “Russia’s Role in the US Elections: The Case for Caution,” National Interest, December 16, 2016, http://nationalinterest.org/feature/russias-role-the-us-elections-the-case-caution-18756
  7. [7]Juan Cole, “Demonization of Putin as ‘Personally’ behind Clinton Hack is old Propaganda Technique,” Informed Comment, December 16, 2016, http://www.juancole.com/2016/12/demonization-personally-propaganda.html
  8. [8]Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller, “Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House,” Washington Post, December 9, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/obama-orders-review-of-russian-hacking-during-presidential-campaign/2016/12/09/31d6b300-be2a-11e6-94ac-3d324840106c_story.html
  9. [9]Juan Cole, “Why the White Working Class Rebelled: Neoliberalism Is Killing Them (Literally),” Truthdig, November 9, 2016, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/why_the_white_working_class_rebelled_neoliberalism_is_killing_20161109
  10. [10]Juan Cole, “No, America, It Wasn’t Russia: You Did This to Yourself,” Truthdig, December 10, 2016, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/no_america_it_wasnt_russia_you_did_this_to_yourself_20161210

We have failed the test

A test that any species in an ecosystem must pass in order to survive is to successfully adapt to its ecosystem. Humans have, since the Neolithic, imagined we are different, that we can adapt the ecosystem to our needs instead.[1] This is very likely a deadly arrogance on our part as climate change is but one of several existential threats we now face.[2] Continue reading We have failed the test

  1. [1]John H. Bodley, Victims of Progress, 5th ed. (Lanham, MD: AltaMira, 2008); William J. Burroughs, Climate Change in Prehistory: The End of the Reign of Chaos (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University, 2008); Max Oelschlaeger, The Idea of Wilderness (New Haven, CT: Yale University, 1991).
  2. [2]Nathan Curry, “Humanity Is Getting Verrrrrrry Close to Extinction,” Vice, August 21, 2015, http://www.vice.com/read/near-term-extinctionists-believe-the-world-is-going-to-end-very-soon; Dahr Jamail, “Are We Falling Off the Climate Precipice? Scientists Consider Extinction,” TomDispatch, December 17, 2013, http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175785/tomgram%3A_dahr_jamail%2C_the_climate_change_scorecard/; Cheryl Jones, “Frank Fenner sees no hope for humans,” Australian, June 16, 2010, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/frank-fenner-sees-no-hope-for-humans/story-e6frgcjx-1225880091722; Edward “Rocky” Kolb et al., “Three minutes and counting,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 19, 2015, http://thebulletin.org/three-minutes-and-counting7938; Rachel Roubein, “Doomsday Clock one minute closer to doom,” McClatchy, January 10, 2012, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/01/10/135466/doomsday-clock-one-minute-closer.html?rh=1; Ian Simpson, “Doomsday Clock stays unchanged at three minutes to midnight,” Planet Ark, January 27, 2016, http://planetark.org/wen/74074; Robert Socolow et al., “An open letter to President Obama: The time on the Doomsday Clock is five minutes to midnight,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 14, 2013, http://thebulletin.org/open-letter-president-obama-time-doomsday-clock-five-minutes-midnight; Phil Torres and Peter Boghossian, “The Looming Extinction of Humankind, Explained,” Vice, August 18, 2016, http://motherboard.vice.com/en_au/read/armageddon-comma-explained