San Francisco’s war on Uber and Lyft drivers

I got started driving for a living in the wake of a relationship that ended with her leaving for a mental hospital in Washington. That wasn’t entirely my fault.

But a lesson I drew from that experience was that, while there certainly had been problems with the relationship, which were certainly compounded by her depression, graveyard shift had made everything else worse.

When I left school the first time, with an Associates degree in Business Data Processing, I was a computer programmer. But what I didn’t realize at the time—or really even for many years afterward—was that this was the wrong career for me. It requires an intensely sequential and binary way of thinking to organize tasks to be performed by the computer, a way of thinking that I could sustain only at great personal cost. And by 1985, I had, in fact, burned out. Read more

MADness and North Korea

“I told myself I won’t be the cause of World War III,” recounted Stanislav Petrov, a Russian hero of the Cold War, of an incident in which “Soviet early warning satellites had detected the long-feared American nuclear strike” but “he came to the conclusion that something wasn’t right. Instead of notifying the chain of command of impending doom, he recorded the moment as a system malfunction.” He was right, of course,[1] and his story joins a few others that I have been accumulating in which somebody in the right place at the right time made the right call, saving the world from nuclear Armageddon.[2] Read more

  1. [1]Public Radio International, “The unsung Soviet officer who averted nuclear war,” September 21, 2017,
  2. [2]I assume there are many more stories like these: Michael Dobbs, “The Photographs That Prevented World War III,” Smithsonian, October, 2012,; Robert Farley, “How the Soviet Union and China Almost Started World War III,” National Interest, February 9, 2016,; Geoffrey Forden, “False Alarms in the Nuclear Age,” Nova, November 6, 2001,; Sébastien Roblin, “The Terrifying Tale of How One Russian Submarine Almost Started World War III over Cuba,” National Interest, June 22, 2017,; Edward Wilson, “Thank you Vasili Arkhipov, the man who stopped nuclear war,” Guardian, October 27, 2012,

My generation

I was eight years old for the Summer of Love, and geographically, not even all that far away, living in an apartment in San Francisco’s Richmond district on the north side of Golden Gate Park, just a block or so south of the Presidio which was then still an army base.

The Summer of Love centered in the Haight-Ashbury, to the east of Golden Gate Park and south of the “panhandle.” Other social movements, including the Black Panthers and anti-war movements, whose legacies are all but lost, arose in the East Bay. Read more

The corruption of the Left

Signs such as in the photograph are less common now but, for a time, were ubiquitous throughout many neighborhoods in Berkeley and Oakland. The signs are meant as a rebuke to Donald Trump and to those who voted for him and they are part of a #Resist movement against his presidency.

I have no disagreement with any of the sentences in themselves. As a critical theorist, however, I have other reservations. Read more

The Ethics of our Society

Not so long ago, as my living situation seemed more tenuous, I appealed to my supposed friends to help connect me with a job. My social network has been the only way I’ve connected with gainful employment—with only two exceptions, both dating back to the late 1970s and 1980s—in my entire adult life. And it has become clear over the sixteen years since the dot-com crash that applying for jobs is fruitless: I have obtained exactly one interview in that entire time from an application. And my social network hasn’t been much help either: That one interview is out of four total, yes, in that entire sixteen years.

I was pressuring my friends, some of whom earn six-figure incomes, to do more and it didn’t go well. Their response was, in essence, to continue applying, even for jobs I can’t see myself doing and certainly don’t reflect my talents, and they didn’t seem at all concerned that continuing with this pattern might mean homelessness. One even dared to say to me that “it [applying for jobs] doesn’t work until it does.”[1]
Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “To my friends,” Not Housebroken, April 7, 2017,