News flash: Mother nature does not respond to market forces

Drought or no drought, Steve Yuhas resents the idea that it is somehow shameful to be a water hog. If you can pay for it, he argues, you should get your water.

People “should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful,” Yuhas fumed recently on social media. “We pay significant property taxes based on where we live,” he added in an interview. “And, no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.”

Yuhas lives in the ultra-wealthy enclave of Rancho Santa Fe, a bucolic Southern California hamlet of ranches, gated communities and country clubs that guzzles five times more water per capita than the statewide average. In April, after Gov. Jerry Brown (D) called for a 25 percent reduction in water use, consumption in Rancho Santa Fe went up by 9 percent.[1]

Read more

  1. [1]Rob Kuznia, “Rich Californians balk at limits: ‘We’re not all equal when it comes to water’,” Washington Post, June 13, 2015,

Racism and the Union

As I thought, it is looking very much like our collective response to the Charleston killings will be to take down the Confederate Battle Flag.[1] Mississippi’s House speaker, Philip Gunn, is typical: “As a Christian, I believe our state’s flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed.”[2] A South Carolina military academy, the Citadel, will be taking the flag down.  Wal-mart, eBay, Amazon, and Sears have all announced they will be or are removing Confederate flag-themed merchandise.[3] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Confusing the symbol for the referent,” Not Housebroken, June 22, 2015,
  2. [2]Gunn, quoted in Campbell Robertson, Monica Davey, and Julie Bosman, “Calls to Drop Confederate Emblems Spread Nationwide,” New York Times, June 23, 2015,
  3. [3]Campbell Robertson, Monica Davey, and Julie Bosman, “Calls to Drop Confederate Emblems Spread Nationwide,” New York Times, June 23, 2015,

Democrats betray workers yet again

The United States Senate has voted to end debate (the seemingly automatic filibuster) on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that will enable the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals to bypass the possibilities of amendments or filibusters for ratification.[1] My Democratic Party apologist friends will undoubtedly point to majority Democratic Party votes against the deal as a way of excusing their party for blame. Read more

  1. [1]Jonathan Weisman, “Senate Hands a Victory to Obama on Trade Pact,” New York Times, June 23, 2015,

Confusing the symbol for the referent

So it appears the dramatic outcome, which we’re all supposed to celebrate, of Dylann Roof’s shooting of nine people in a Charleston church will be the taking down of the Confederate Battle Flag at the South Carolina capitol. Apparently this requires an act of the state legislature, so it might still not happen. But at least for the moment, there’s hope that at least this much may happen.[1] Read more

  1. [1]Frances Robles and Richard Pérez-Peña, “Haley of South Carolina Calls for Removal of Confederate Battle Flag,” New York Times, June 22, 2015,

The left shares blame

Update, June 22, 2015: Rebecca Traister has written an article for New Republic illustrating how consistently racist violence has been a part of U.S. history that I wish I’d known about when I was writing this entry.[1]

"Confederate Rebel Flag" by William Porcher Miles (1822-1899) (Vector graphics image by Crotalus horridus)This vector image was created with Inkscape. - SVG adapted from this image. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Fig. 1. “Confederate Rebel Flag” by William Porcher Miles (1822-1899) (Vector graphics image by Crotalus horridus) Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Yes, I blame white supremacism for the killings of nine Blacks in a South Carolina church.[2] But I also blame folks on the left. Read more

  1. [1]Rebecca Traister, “Our Racist History Isn’t Back to Haunt Us. It Never Left Us,” New Republic, June 18, 2015,
  2. [2]Lenny Bernstein, Sari Horwitz, and Peter Holley, “Dylann Roof’s racist manifesto: ‘I have no choice’,” Washington Post, June 20, 2015,

The same old scam, dressed up with a smartphone

At first blush, a ruling by the California Labor Commission that an Uber driver is an Uber employee, rather than an independent contractor, seems significant. The Slate story emphasizes, via a correction, that the ruling applies to only one driver,[1] but for that nuance to be significant, this particular driver would have to be shown to substantially different from other Uber drivers. So yes, this is likely an important ruling that I hope will ultimately affect the taxi business as well. Read more

  1. [1]Alison Griswold, “A California Labor Ruling Just Said An Uber Driver Is an Employee. That’s Uber’s Worst Nightmare,” Slate, June 17, 2015,

Identity and debt

So it’s all been a horrendous distraction from the dissertation I should be writing (actually, I am making progress, but what remains to be done remains somewhat daunting), but folks who have been following me know I’ve been wrestling with the whole question of gender, race, social constructions, and identity. These are hard issues brought to the fore by the cases of Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal.

And neither is an ideal case. Jenner’s case is complicated by her immense privilege, that shields her from the risks that many others undergoing transition face,[1] and the rather overwhelming odor of publicity-seeking in advance of her own reality show and of her ongoing collaboration with the Kardashians.[2] Dolezal’s case is complicated by her deception about her race—she is apparently white, but has been passing for Black[3]—and a hypocrisy of, while white, suing Howard University for discrimination.[4] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Who is the hero?” Not Housebroken, June 4, 2015,
  2. [2]Rhonda Garelick, “The Price of Caitlyn Jenner’s Heroism,” New York Times, June 3, 2015,
  3. [3]David A. Love, “Can Rachel Dolezal redeem herself as an ally?” Grio, June 14, 2015,
  4. [4]Dell Cameron, “Rachel Dolezal once sued for racial discrimination,” Daily Dot, June 15, 2015,


Facebook, June 13, 2015, fair use.
Fig. 1. Facebook, June 13, 2015, fair use.

The boy is saying goodbye to his calf, who is apparently about to be slaughtered. We can see that the calf responds to the boy’s affection, that whatever else, there is a relationship between them (figure 1). This is a sentient creature who is about to experience violence and a boy who is experiencing loss. Read more

Presidential arrogance and the ‘mandate of heaven’

“[T]he president would not be a lame-duck,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a presidential historian at the University of Houston, of the possibility that the House of Representatives might fail to pass a revived Trade Adjustment Assistance bill that would enable the Trade Promotion Authority bill to go to Barack Obama’s desk for signature rather than back to the Senate. “He would be a dead duck. It would be a body blow for the administration.”[1] Read more

  1. [1]Brandon Rottinghaus, quoted in Jordan Fabian, “White House battles back at suggestions Obama has no clout,” Hill, June 12, 2015,