The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) wants to improve safety? REALLY?!!???!!!!

My skepticism about the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s proposal to improve traffic flow on the Parkway East (Interstate 376, from downtown Pittsburgh to Monroeville) arises not from the substance of the proposal itself—in isolation, it seems eminently sensible—but rather the context to which it would be introduced. I disagree that drivers are complying with work zone speed limits—some are, but also, many are not—and this undermines the premise that drivers will comply with variable speed limits that are one part of the proposal.[1] Read more

  1. [1]Ed Blazina, “PennDOT considers variable speed limits, ramp gates and message boards to improve Parkway East traffic,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 24, 2022,

Vladimir Putin’s [T/t]rump card

The uncomfortable truth for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is that two of its members, Turkey[1] and Hungary,[2] are not all on board with NATO’s support for Ukraine. Read more

  1. [1]Bloomberg, “Ukraine Latest: NATO Embraces Sweden, Finland; US Aid Vote Nears,” May 15, 2022,; Deutschewelle, “NATO: Turkey outlines demands on Finland and Sweden membership,” May 15, 2022,; Jon Henley, “Turkey says it will not approve Sweden and Finland joining Nato,” Guardian, May 16, 2022,; Jared Malsin, “Turkey Lays Out Demands as Finland, Sweden Plan NATO Entry,” Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2022,; Ishaan Tharoor, “Turkey’s awkward role in the Russia-Ukraine war,” Washington Post, May 20, 2022,; Patrick Wintour, “Why has Erdoğan doubled down on threat to veto Nordic Nato bids?” Guardian, May 18, 2022,
  2. [2]Drew Hinshaw and Laurence Norman, “Hungary’s Orban Keeps EU Guessing Over Russian Oil Embargo,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2022,

What is the end game in Ukraine?

See update for May 18, 2022, at end of post.

Every once in a while, a question has to crop up: What’s the end game here?

Julia Ioffe has argued against the possibility of a coup against Vladimir Putin on two grounds: First, she sees an entire Kremlin apparatus, a significant part of larger Russian society that shares Putin’s world view, and an even larger part willing to be complicit with him; replacing him would merely bring other people in who share his perspective and thus fail to solve the problem of the Ukraine invasion. Second, she observes that Russia has produced rulers such as Putin before; there is a pattern here that replacing Putin does not resolve.[1] Mikhail Khodorkovsky offers a bit of insight into the second of these:[2] Read more

  1. [1]Julia Ioffe, “The Death of Putin,” Puck News, March 8, 2022,
  2. [2]Will Dunn, “‘He has embarked on a war he can’t stop’: Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Putin’s next move,” New Statesman, May 3, 2022,

The illusory solidarity of the Left

I am remembering today the instructor of my social inequality class, who warned us against only being concerned with the inequality that personally afflicts us. We need to be concerned with all of it, not only as a matter of justice,[1] I say, but because if we address only a single issue of injustice, we risk recreating the very system that now benefits wealthy white men but privileging a different group instead, much as the Russian Revolution simply reshuffled who was in power, who would oppress others.[2] Justice is justice for everyone; partial steps won’t do. Read more

  1. [1]I see from a copy of my unofficial transcript that I took the class in Summer of 2007 at California State University, East Bay, but I do not recall the professor’s name.
  2. [2]Emma Goldman, “There Is No Communism in Russia,” in Red Emma Speaks: An Emma Goldman Reader, ed. Alix Kates Shulman, 3rd ed. (Amherst, NY: Humanity, 1998), 405-420.

Elon Musk’s ‘free speech’

“[W]hen I have spoken of ‘freedom,’ I have warned people to ask, for whom, to do what, to whom?”[1] Which today brings us to the case of Elon Musk, who calls himself a “free speech absolutist,”[2] buying Twitter.[3] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “On ‘freedom,’” Not Housebroken, August 7, 2021,
  2. [2]Russ Mitchell, “‘Free speech absolutist’ Elon Musk has a long history of opposing speech and transparency,” Los Angeles Times, April 20, 2022,
  3. [3]Douglas MacMillan et al., “Elon Musk acquires Twitter for roughly $44 billion,” Washington Post, April 25, 2022,

Tangled webs, already woven

India weaves a tangled web in response to Western pressure to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine.[1] But then, its boundary disputes with Pakistan and China are also complex, encompassing significant amounts of territory (figure 1).

Fig. 1. “Composite map showing the borders of India, Pakistan & China as per official sources overlaid on areas of actual administrative control. Areas where official borders intersect are disputed areas administered by one country and claimed by another country. Each disputed region is indicated by a circle representative of its area with the color of the administering country and outlined by the color of the claimant country.” By Planemad [pseud.], August 23, 2011, on Wikimedia Commons. CC-by-sa Arun Ganesh, National Institute of Design Bangalore. Read more

  1. [1]Reuters, “India wants to be friends with West but needs Russian help to defend borders, finance minister tells Bloomberg,” April 23, 2022,

Progressive Democrats in Pennsylvania, if they actually exist, should support Malcolm Kenyatta for U.S. Senator

I will be voting Green regardless, because the Democratic Party is where progressives go to be co-opted and because it is ever more apparent that the Democrats are most comfortable in opposition where they can take pot shots at Republicans without actually having to do anything themselves. But were the Democratic primary for U.S. Senator for Pennsylvania to be decided on the merits, there is little question in my mind that Malcolm Kenyatta is the superior candidate. Read more

Real and imagined hazards, real and imagined causes

There is a curious discrepancy between the concern expressed on my behalf by a few folks about the mask requirement being dropped for public transportation, which affects me as an Uber driver,[1] and a complete absence of expressed concern about the recent spike in violence in neighborhoods I drive in to routinely[2] that I actually find more alarming. It’s the kind of omission that a critical theorist is supposed to notice; it signifies what folks are actually concerned about, not so much about the violence in these neighborhoods or, really, even about my safety, but about COVID-19. Read more

  1. [1]Omar Abdel-Baqui, “Uber Drops Mask Requirement After Judge Voids Public Transportation Mandate,” Wall Street Journal, April 19, 2022,; Sarah Alessandrini, “Uber and Lyft drop mask requirements for drivers, passengers,” CNBC, April 19, 2022,; Lyft, “Update to Lyft’s Health Safety Guidelines,” April 19, 2022,; Tierney Sneed, “CDC mask mandate for travelers no longer in effect following judge’s ruling, official says,” CNN, April 18, 2022,; Uber, “Our commitment to safety,” April 19, 2022,
  2. [2]Megan Guza, “3 shot in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 12, 2022,; Megan Guza and Ryan Deto, “Multiple shooters suspected in ‘war scene’ that killed 2, injured 8 on Pittsburgh’s North Side,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 17, 2022,; Sarafina James, “Man assaulted, hospitalized following crash in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” WPXI, April 8, 2022,; Nick Matoney, “Man shot multiple times in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” WTAE, March 25, 2022,; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “One man dead after Marshall-Shadeland shooting,” April 16, 2022,; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “At least 11 shot, 2 dead in North Side shooting, police say,” April 17, 2022,; Brian C. Rittmeyer, “Pittsburgh police investigating shootout at South Side Flats clothing store,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 17, 2022,; Mick Stinelli, Julian Routh, and Ed Blazina, “North Side residents describe chaos at Airbnb before mass shooting as concerns mount over Pittsburgh gun violence,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 17, 2022,; WPXI, “19-year-old killed, 1 other injured in Hill District shooting,” April 11, 2022,

The epistemology of conspiracy theories

Peter McIndoe didn’t finish college, but he’s brilliant. With his “Birds Aren’t Real” “movement,” meant to be absurdist, he is demonstrating an impressive insight into conspiracy theorizing. I don’t know what we do with this insight; he doesn’t seem to know either.[1] But this has to be an important step. Here’s a piece I’ll be thinking about: Read more

  1. [1]Zoe Williams, “‘The lunacy is getting more intense’: how Birds Aren’t Real took on the conspiracy theorists,” Guardian, April 14, 2022,