When nothing happened next

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago (actually, during the dot-com boom), there was an Internet cafe named CoffeeNet in San Francisco’s South of Market Area (SOMA). It was reasonably successful and yes, I liked the place.

But then the landlady (we’ll call her the Wicked Witch of the East) raised the rent.

Now you have to understand that the way many, if not most, restaurants make their money is to feed people and get them out the door, clearing the table for the next guests. The idea is, ultimately, volume. An Internet cafe flips that model on its head and the CoffeeNet was modest in the costs it imposed for Internet access (I think you had to buy coffee and/or food but I really don’t remember). The CoffeeNet was even more reasonable about this if you brought your own laptop.

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While neoliberal hot air floats over gig workers’ heads, here’s the Trump administration

Part of what makes COVID-19 and its associated lockdowns so terrifying for gig workers is that we know we are taken for granted, generally forgotten except for the briefest pleasantries when people need our services. The very point of this labor arrangement is that no long-term relationships are involved. We don’t matter, we’re utterly expendable, and the independent contractor scam, more formally known as worker misclassification, makes sure we don’t matter and that we are utterly expendable. Read more

Elon Musk, groan, again

See updates for March 23, 2020, for March 29, 2020, and for April 4, 2020, at end of post

I have to say that I just don’t handle Elon Musk well.

First, I want to focus on substance rather than personality. But he surfaces in part through an unsettling and bizarre combination of arrogance—even a weirdly well-intentioned cruelty—persistence and audacity, sometimes, as I have previously noted, not really very logically,[1] but nonetheless inescapably.[2] I can recognize the merits of a case study here, but the thought of actually conducting it repulses me entirely.
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  1. [1]David Benfell, “The consciousness of Elon Musk,” Not Housebroken, August 30, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/30/the-consciousness-of-elon-musk/
  2. [2]John C. Coffee, Jr., “How the SEC can be the babysitter Elon Musk needs,” CNN, April 23, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/23/perspectives/tesla-elon-musk-sec/index.html; Nathan Crooks, “Elon Musk Says You Can Change the World Working 80 Hours a Week,” Bloomberg, November 26, 2018, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-11-26/elon-musk-says-you-can-change-the-world-working-80-hours-a-week; Tim Higgins, “Elon Musk Cleared by Jury in Defamation Case Over ‘Pedo’ Tweet,” Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/elon-musk-cleared-by-jury-in-defamation-case-over-pedo-tweet-11575678498; Tom Hoggins, “Tesla is ‘structurally unprofitable’, analysts say,” Telegraph, June 3, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2019/06/03/tesla-structurally-unprofitable-analysts-say/; Geoffrey James, “Elon Musk Is Wrong. You Can Definitely Change the World on 40 Hours a Week,” Inc., November 29, 2018, https://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/elon-musk-is-wrong-you-can-definitely-change-world-on-40-hours-a-week.html; Russ Mitchell, “If Elon Musk is your boss, get your resume ready,” Los Angeles Times, August 16, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2019-08-15/elon-musk-tesla-executive-turnover; Eric Ting, “BART picks a fight with Elon Musk on Twitter over tunnels,” SFGate, May 25, 2019, https://www.sfgate.com/local/article/BART-Elon-Musk-Twitter-tunnel-Bay-Boring-Company-13896393.php; Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, “Another NASA moonshot? Nope. You can’t BS your way to space,” ZDNet, July 19, 2019, https://www.zdnet.com/article/another-nasa-moonshote-you-cant-bs-your-way-to-space/; Alistair Walsh, “Elon Musk won’t stop calling diver a pedophile,” Deutschewelle, September 9, 2018, https://www.dw.com/en/elon-musk-wont-stop-calling-diver-a-pedophile/a-45372611; Li Zhou, “Elon Musk and the Thai cave rescue: a tale of good intentions and bad tweets,” Vox, July 18, 2018, https://www.vox.com/2018/7/18/17576302/elon-musk-thai-cave-rescue-submarine

We are not going to be alright

Enforcement of Tom Wolf’s order shutting “non-essential” businesses in Pennsylvania due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was to begin at 12:01 am today,[1] will be delayed until March 23 at 8:00 am.[2] In an earlier iteration, the order was explained this way:

“This isn’t a decision I take lightly at all,” [Tom] Wolf said. “It is one that I’m making because medical experts believe it is the only way we can prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed by patients.”[3]

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  1. [1]Kara Seymour, “All ‘Non-Life-Sustaining’ Businesses In PA Must Close By 8 PM,” Patch, March 19, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h20cy/all-non-life-sustaining-businesses-in-pa-must-close-by-8-pm
  2. [2]KDKA, “Coronavirus In Pennsylvania: Gov. Wolf’s Order To Close ‘Non-Life-Sustaining Businesses’ To Be Delayed,” March 20, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/03/20/gov-wolfs-order-to-close-non-life-sustaining-businesses-to-be-delayed/
  3. [3]Megan Guza, “Gov. Wolf orders nonessential Pennsylvania businesses to shut down,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 16, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/gov-wolf-orders-all-nonessential-pennsylvania-businesses-to-shut-down/

The abandoned

Update, May 14, 2020: Added figure 1.

Some of the very sad things I see as I drive around the Pittsburgh area are abandoned houses (example, figure 1). Some were just ordinary houses. But some were really, once upon a time, quite grand.

Fig. 1. Abandoned houses in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. Photograph by author, May 14, 2020.

I hear and see a number of stories. Some houses suffered fires. I’ve been told that some are abandoned when taxes come due and it takes too long for the county to claim and dispose of the properties. Read more

A response to old folks (like myself)

What if your political locus is neither the social upheavals of the 1960s nor the 2008 financial crisis?

Adam Gopnik wrote an article for the New Yorker in which he contrasted the “New Left” of the 1960s, which has been appalled by the rightward shift of U.S. politics since then, with folks for whom the 2008 financial crisis, and specifically, Barack Obama’s response to it, exposed the corruption of the Democratic Party.[1] While he captures much of my experience, he misses much of my perception, and that left me feeling distinctly uneasy. Read more

  1. [1]Adam Gopnik, “Learning to Love Bernie Sanders, or Trying To,” New Yorker, March 3, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/learning-to-love-bernie-sanders-or-trying-to

Joe Biden and justice delayed

I found an image on Twitter from a user who does not make their posts public and whose privacy I will therefore respect:
Figure 1. Image downloaded from Twitter on March 3, 2020. If we assume a U.S. timezone, it was likely posted on March 2.

What’s curious here is that mainstream Democrats feel no need to respond coherently to claims such as this. Instead, we get drivel such as,

[Rahm] Emanuel’s preoccupations are about power. What sometimes comes off as casual derision for the left is rooted in two main fears, both grounded in his own experience. First, is the ease with which a liberal agenda can be weaponized by conservatives. Democrats win majorities only by carrying tough districts filled with voters who can embrace specific uses of government to make life better but are wary of Big Government in the abstract. Second, is the ease with which liberal ideals can be distorted in practice by special interests.[1]

Notice there is no attempt at a defense of progressive ideas. Rather, the conservative weaponization and the fear of “Big Government” are excuses not even to try. Read more

  1. [1]John F. Harris, “Rahm Roars Back,” Politico, February 28, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/02/28/rahm-emanuel-2020-race-biden-bernie-sanders-warren-election-politics-analysis-118208

‘Progress,’ neoliberalism style

Rahm Emanuel adds[1] to the pile of evidence of mainstream Democrats’ disparaging view of progressives.[2] Read more

  1. [1]John F. Harris, “Rahm Roars Back,” Politico, February 28, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/02/28/rahm-emanuel-2020-race-biden-bernie-sanders-warren-election-politics-analysis-118208
  2. [2]Blue Texan [pseud.], “Early Morning Swim: Ed Rendell tells Democratic base to ‘Get Over It’ on Rachel Maddow,” Shadowproof, September 23, 2010, https://shadowproof.com/2010/09/23/early-morning-swim-ed-rendell-tells-democratic-base-to-get-over-it-on-rachel-maddow/; Blue Texan [pseud.], “Stop Whining, Liberals!” Shadowproof, September 27, 2010, https://shadowproof.com/2010/09/27/late-night-stop-whining-liberals/; Michael Falcone, “Opposite Day On The Campaign Trail?” ABC News, September 21, 2010, archived by author; Glenn Greenwald, “Obama’s view of liberal criticisms,” Salon, September 17, 2010, http://www.salon.com/2010/09/17/obama_139/; David Neiwert, “President Obama lashes out at his liberal critics: Choice is to ‘get things done’ or feel ‘sanctimonious’,” Crooks and Liars, December 7, 2010, http://crooksandliars.com/david-neiwert/president-obama-lashes-out-his-liber; Heather Digby Parton, “‘It’s always the hippies’ fault’: Why the left treats its idealists all wrong,” Salon, February 5, 2015, http://www.salon.com/2015/02/05/its_always_the_hippies_fault_why_the_left_treats_its_idealists_all_wrong/; Greg Sargent, “Liberal blogger directly confronts David Axelrod, accuses White House of ‘hippie punching’,” Washington Post, September 23, 2010, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/09/liberal_blogger_directly_confr.html; Stephen Stromberg, “Joe Biden scolds progressives — and he’s right,” Washington Post, September 16, 2010, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postpartisan/2010/09/joe_biden_scolds_progressives.html; Sam Youngman, “White House unloads anger over criticism from ‘professional left’,” Hill, August 10, 2010, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/113431-white-house-unloads-on-professional-left