Bernie Sanders’ supporters have reason to be rude

Update, February 27, 2020: Apparently Bernie Sanders needs a supermajority of 60 percent of committed delegates to win the Democratic nomination on the first ballot at the Convention. Should he fail to win them, superdelegates will do everything in their power to deny him the nomination.[1]


So, this morning, I accused Bernie Sanders of being too polite.[2]

It’s my turn. I’m stuck driving for Uber and Lyft, doing a job I hate, doing a job far beneath my capabilities, because as near as I can tell, this entire job search thing has devolved into a scam.[3] I have zero financial security, am paid shit,[4] and take on a lot of risks—collision, stress, and financial—for which I am essentially uncompensated. I suffer humiliation—I have a Ph.D. but can only find work as, for all practical purposes, a taxi driver.[5] I get no time off—shit wages mean I can’t afford to take it. I have no realistic hope of advancement or improvement in my condition.[6] And I don’t even know how long Uber and Lyft can survive—they aren’t profitable and probably can’t really be profitable.[7] Which is to say, even if I manage to hold everything else together, I can still lose this job, the only job I can find,[8] through absolutely no fault of my own.
Read more

  1. [1]Lisa Lerer and Reid J. Epstein, “Democratic Leaders Willing to Risk Party Damage to Stop Bernie Sanders,” New York Times, February 27, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/27/us/politics/democratic-superdelegates.html
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Bernie Sanders is too polite,” Irregular Bullshit, February 26, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/02/26/bernie-sanders-is-too-polite/
  3. [3]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  4. [4]Cyrus Farivar, “What’s Uber and Lyft drivers’ median hourly wage? $10 or lower, report finds,” Ars Technica, March 6, 2018, https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/03/whats-uber-and-lyft-drivers-median-hourly-wage-under-4-report-finds/; 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; Sam Levin, “Uber and Lyft drivers’ median hourly wage is just $3.37, report finds,” Guardian, March 1, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/mar/01/uber-lyft-driver-wages-median-report; Natasha Lomas, “MIT study shows how much driving for Uber or Lyft sucks,” TechCrunch, March 2, 2018, https://techcrunch.com/2018/03/02/mit-study-shows-how-much-driving-for-uber-or-lyft-sucks/; Robert Maxim and Mark Muro, “Uber’s IPO fallout underscores the need for a new labor model,” Brookings, May 23, 2019, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2019/05/23/ubers-ipo-fallout-underscores-the-need-for-a-new-labor-model/; Alexa Noel, “Revised MIT Study Says Uber, Lyft Drivers Make About $8 or $10 per Hour,” Points Guy, March 8, 2018, https://thepointsguy.com/2018/03/revised-mit-study-says-uber-lyft-drivers-make-about-8-or-10-per-hour/; 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
  5. [5]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  6. [6]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/; Claude S. Fischer et al., “Why Inequality?” In Great Divides, ed. Thomas M. Shapiro, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005), 9-15; Jay MacLeod, “Social Immobility in the Land of Opportunity, in Great Divides, ed. Thomas M. Shapiro, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005), 22-26; Robert K. Merton, “Social Structure and Anomie,” in Social Theory, ed. Charles Lemert, 6th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2017), 181-190.
  7. [7]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; David Benfell, “Watching the ridesharing shit go down the toilet,” Not Housebroken, July 30, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/07/30/watching-the-ridesharing-shit-go-down-the-toilet/; David Benfell, “Uber appears to be going down,” Not Housebroken, August 11, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/11/uber-appears-to-be-going-down/; David Benfell, “Proof of investor irrationality: The case of Uber (and Lyft),” Not Housebroken, August 22, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/22/proof-of-investor-irrationality-the-case-of-uber-and-lyft/; David Benfell, “Liking Lyft, not liking Uber,” Not Housebroken, August 27, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/27/liking-lyft-not-liking-uber/; David Benfell, “Uber’s spiral down,” Not Housebroken, August 29, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/29/ubers-spiral-down/; 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
  8. [8]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/

The old, the filthy, and the decrepit

U.S. Steel has facilities in several locations around the Pittsburgh area, mostly along the Monongahela River, but the two major ones I see are the Clairton Coke Works and the Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock and North Braddock. These plants frighten me; they are huge, old, filthy, and decrepit. They look horrible, like something out of a nightmare. Read more

Academic meritocracy and the U.S. presidential campaign

In an article superficially about Pete Buttigieg, Oliver Traldi makes a number of interesting points about the meritocracy at the heart of academia. None of this reflects well on anyone, except perhaps Traldi himself, for calling it all out.[1] Read more

  1. [1]Oliver Traldi, “Why Academics Love to Hate Mayor Pete,” Chronicle of Higher Education, February 21, 2020, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Why-Academics-Love-to-Hate/248101

A tipping point

Since I’ve moved to Pittsburgh, my mother and I have been comparing notes about the weather across country. It hasn’t been that long since I was in California so I pretty much have that picture already.

In California, when I was a kid, and we got to October, we knew it was still fire season, but we could pretty much figure we were in the clear. And we never saw fires like we’ve had in recent years. Read more

Fiction as truth

This is a story that dates back to my Master’s program in Speech Communication, a program that had been taken over by hard, solipsistic post-modernists.

In a lowlight, Grant Kien made a claim that I reduced to “fiction is truth.” I questioned that and Kien warned me not to challenge it, asserting as professors sometimes do when they aren’t really prepared to do so, that he was fully prepared to defend the claim. I, of course, considered the claim ludicrous on its face and sensing that I had made my point, asked, “Why would I do that?” Read more

Ridesharing traffic woes illustrate a defect of (not just) high tech thinking

I have a couple of issues with San Francisco blaming Uber and Lyft for traffic woes, the first being that The City targeted Uber and Lyft drivers for enforcement, thus inflating the statistics they rely upon for blaming those drivers for violations and associated traffic;[1] and the second, applying more generally to survey research that likely has a pathetic response rate[2] but which allegedly informs us as to people’s transportation usage and not just in San Francisco. All that said, the contributions of Uber and Lyft to horrendous traffic in big cities are, by now, old news.[3] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “San Francisco’s war on Uber and Lyft drivers,” Not Housebroken, September 27, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/2017/09/27/san-franciscos-war-on-uber-and-lyft-drivers/
  2. [2]Courtney Kennedy and Hannah Hartig, “Response rates in telephone surveys have resumed their decline,” Pew Research Center, February 27, 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/02/27/response-rates-in-telephone-surveys-have-resumed-their-decline/
  3. [3]Emily Badger, “Is Uber Helping or Hurting Mass Transit?” New York Times, October 16, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/16/upshot/is-uber-helping-or-hurting-mass-transit.html; Laura Bliss, “How Much Traffic Do Uber and Lyft Cause?” CityLab, August 5, 2019, https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2019/08/uber-lyft-traffic-congestion-ride-hailing-cities-drivers-vmt/595393/; Katie Dowd, “Why is San Francisco traffic so bad? Uber and Lyft are to blame, says city,” SFGate, December 13, 2016, http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/San-Francisco-traffic-Uber-Lyft-SFMTA-blame-10791265.php; Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, “SFPD: Uber, Lyft account for two-thirds of congestion-related traffic violations downtown,” San Francisco Examiner, September 25, 2017, http://www.sfexaminer.com/sfpd-uber-lyft-account-two-thirds-congestion-related-traffic-violations-downtown/; Faiz Siddiqui, “A new study says services like UberPool are making traffic worse,” Washington Post, July 25, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2018/07/25/a-new-study-says-services-like-uberpool-are-making-traffic-worse/; Heather Somerville, “San Francisco investigating whether Uber, Lyft are public nuisances,” Reuters, June 5, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-san-francisco-rideservices-idUSKBN18W2F3

The Democrats don’t need ‘election interference’

I have previously commented on what we can now say is a botched count of the Iowa Democratic Party caucuses.[1] That count has now ground to a halt without the Associated Press reporting final results[2] and the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) is reviewing the results from 95 precincts that were flagged by campaigns. None of the campaigns have requested a ‘recanvass’[3] that might actually correct mathematical errors and inconsistencies such as those found by the New York Times. The campaigns would have to pay for it,[4] which is to say that the campaigns would have to pay to correct errors made by volunteers working for the Democratic Party. Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Neoliberal hubris and the Iowa fiasco,” Not Housebroken, February 5, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/02/05/neoliberal-hubris-and-the-iowa-fiasco/
  2. [2]Associated Press, “Iowa Elections Results,” February 7, 2020, https://elections.ap.org/dailykos/results/2020-02-03/state/IA/race/P/raceid/17275; Associated Press, “Iowa Elections Results,” February 7, 2020, https://elections.ap.org/dailykos/results/2020-02-03/state/IA/race/P/raceid/17278
  3. [3]Zach Montellaro, “Iowa Democratic Party reviewing results from 95 precincts,” Politico, February 8, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/08/iowa-democratic-party-reviewing-results-112532
  4. [4]Nate Cohn, “New Doubts From Iowa Caucuses: How ‘Satellite’ Votes Are Being Measured,” New York Times, February 6, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/06/upshot/iowa-caucus-satellite-votes.html; Nate Cohn et al., “Iowa Caucus Results Riddled With Errors and Inconsistencies,” New York Times, February 6, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/06/upshot/iowa-caucuses-errors-results.html; Isaac Stanley-Becker, “DNC chair calls for recanvass in Iowa,” Washington Post, February 6, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/dnc-chair-calls-for-recanvas-in-iowa/2020/02/06/0ec4dc4c-4906-11ea-9164-d3154ad8a5cd_story.html

Bipartisan ‘meritocracy’ and ‘vote Blue no matter who’

I’ve already called it “[t]he stupidest impeachment ever, historically notable first for all the offenses it failed to charge Donald Trump with,[1] second for its utterly predictable futility, and third for its transparent (and apparently failed) attempt to protect Joe Biden.[2][3] But here is the final nail in the coffin: Republican senators wailing about how they hope Donald Trump has learned a lesson.[4]

“He was impeached, and there has been criticism by both Republican and Democratic senators of his call,” [Susan] Collins said in a CBS interview. “I believe that he will be much more cautious in the future.” Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “The whiteness of impeachment,” Not Housebroken, December 15, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/15/the-whiteness-of-impeachment/; see also Democracy Now, “Law Professor: Trump Could Also Have Been Impeached for War Crimes, Assassinations and Corruption,” January 24, 2020, https://www.democracynow.org/2020/1/24/donald_trump_senate_impeachment_trial
  2. [2]David Benfell, “It’s still a smoke-filled room,” Not Housebroken, December 6, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/06/its-still-a-smoke-filled-room/; David Benfell, “How the neoliberal (usually known as Democratic) party may well lose in 2020,” Not Housebroken, December 7, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/07/how-the-neoliberal-usually-known-as-democratic-party-may-well-lose-in-2020/; David Benfell, “The whiteness of impeachment,” Not Housebroken, December 15, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/15/the-whiteness-of-impeachment/; David Benfell, “The least violent solution,” Not Housebroken, December 16, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/16/the-least-violent-solution/; David Benfell, “The sham (pick your partisan flavor) is on,” Not Housebroken, December 19, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/19/the-sham-pick-your-partisan-flavor-is-on/; David Benfell, “The asterisk,” Not Housebroken, December 21, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/21/the-asterisk/
  3. [3]David Benfell, “One farce down, one to go,” Irregular Bullshit, February 5, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/02/05/one-farce-down-one-to-go/
  4. [4]Seung Min Kim, “These Republicans said they hope Trump has learned a lesson from impeachment. He said he hasn’t,” Washington Post, February 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/these-republicans-said-they-hope-trump-has-learned-a-lesson-from-impeachment-he-said-he-hasnt/2020/02/04/fa68c18c-478e-11ea-ab15-b5df3261b710_story.html

Neoliberal hubris and the Iowa fiasco

The Iowa Democratic Party caucuses ended in a fiasco with the count.[1] At this writing, over 24 hours later, we still do not have final results. Read more

  1. [1]John McCormick and Ken Thomas, “Democratic Caucus Results in Iowa Thrown Into State of Confusion,” Wall Street Journal, February 4, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/iowa-caucuses-to-kick-off-democratic-nominating-contest-11580731200; Natasha Korecki, David Siders, and Alex Thompson, “‘It’s a total meltdown’: Confusion seizes Iowa as officials struggle to report results,” Politico, February 4, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/03/iowa-caucus-2020-election-110600