Attempts to automate the policing of hate speech are doomed to ludicrity

See update for November 2, 2022, at end of post.


One of the first things an undergraduate in Communication learns is that language is arbitrary, ambiguous, and abstract.

This is a problem when seeking to police hate speech, especially for artificial intelligence idiots, and likely explains much of the idiocy I have described previously.[1] To explain why, I will explore each of those terms used to describe language to Communication undergraduates. Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Our new Satan: artificial idiocy and big data mining,” Not Housebroken, April 5, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/01/13/our-new-satan-artificial-idiocy-and-big-data-mining/

To Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey

Dear Mayor Gainey,

In your inaugural address, you promised “a city where economic opportunity is abundant for everyone, a city where affordability isn’t a luxury, and a city that is prepared to lead into the future, . . . [to] establish[] policies that create and sustain investments in literacy, career and workforce development, civic infrastructure and housing options,”[1] “‘that Pittsburgh [will] also [be] a leader in community and police relations, economic inclusion, affordability,’ and ‘transportation access.’”[2] Read more

  1. [1]Julia Felton, “Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey promises to unite city in inaugural address,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 3, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-mayor-ed-gainey-promises-to-unite-city-in-inaugural-address/
  2. [2]Jordana Rosenfeld, “Ed Gainey sworn in as Pittsburgh’s first Black mayor; addresses questions on policing,” Pittsburgh City Paper, January 3, 2022, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/ed-gainey-sworn-in-as-pittsburghs-first-black-mayor-addresses-questions-on-policing/Content?oid=20862169

It might be time to bring back frontal lobotomies

See update for October 27, 2022, at end of post.



Fig. 1. Photograph via Oren Segal on Twitter, October 23, 2022,[1] fair use.

Honestly, I try, desperately in fact, to ignore Kanye West, whose musical genre I do not appreciate and who obviously suffers from serious mental health issues,[2] along with the entire Kardashian clan, which is just too, too much in every pathetic way imaginable. Read more

  1. [1]Oren Segal, “Hate in America: Yesterday, the head of an antisemitic and white supremacist group (and his supporters) dropped banners over the 405 in Los Angeles. One banner read, ‘Kanye is right about the Jews,’ Twitter, October 23, 2022, https://twitter.com/orensegal/status/1584132843285794816
  2. [2]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Kim Kardashian West addresses husband Kanye West’s mental health,” July 22, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-53501482

Because, somehow, Russian imperialism is okay

Back in March, I wrote,

Isaac Chotiner’s interview with Andrei Soldatov[1] is the second I’ve seen in which the subject doubts that Vladimir Putin is indeed a madman.[2] But Soldatov also points to 1) Putin’s seemingly psychopathic reaction when questioned about deaths he is responsible for; 2) Putin’s increasingly small circle of people he trusts, suggesting paranoia; 3) a hierarchy of power in which underlings are afraid to report truthfully to their superiors; and 4) Putin’s apparent conviction that he knows better than anyone else,[3] something also observed by Stephen Kotkin in David Remnick’s interview.[4] I’m not a psychologist but neither are these otherwise extremely well-informed folks affirming Putin’s sanity, and I think there are definitely questions here to be asked of a psychologist.[5]

Read more

  1. [1]Isaac Chotiner, “The Purges in Putin’s Shrinking Inner Circle,” New Yorker, March 22, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/the-purges-in-putins-shrinking-inner-circle
  2. [2]Isaac Chotiner, “The Purges in Putin’s Shrinking Inner Circle,” New Yorker, March 22, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/the-purges-in-putins-shrinking-inner-circle; David Remnick, “The Weakness of the Despot,” New Yorker, March 11, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/stephen-kotkin-putin-russia-ukraine-stalin
  3. [3]Isaac Chotiner, “The Purges in Putin’s Shrinking Inner Circle,” New Yorker, March 22, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/the-purges-in-putins-shrinking-inner-circle
  4. [4]David Remnick, “The Weakness of the Despot,” New Yorker, March 11, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/stephen-kotkin-putin-russia-ukraine-stalin
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Where does Vladimir Putin stop?” Not Housebroken, October 7, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/03/04/where-does-vladimir-putin-stop/

The global illiberal surge


Fig. 1. “Adolf Hitler (Nazi Party party leader) Herman Göring, Franz Pfeffer von Salomon [Franz von Pfeffer], etc. at the Nuremberg rally 1929, the Nazi Party Congress held in Nuremberg, Germany on August 1–4. Parading SA members, Nazi salutes, Party flags with nazi swastika, brownshirt uniforms, etc. Public domain according to Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe.” Photograph by Robert Sennecke, August 1929, from Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe (National Digital Archives of Poland), via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0.

In an article on the global rise of illiberalism,[1] I’m more skeptical of the second paragraph quoted here than I am the first: Read more

  1. [1]Marc Fisher, “Leaders of democracies increasingly echo Putin in authoritarian tilt,” Washington Post, October 16, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/10/16/authoritarian-world-leaders-putin/

Not feeling safe, are you?


Fig. 1. Yard sign for sale on Amazon, fair use.

Robert Steadman has had enough.

A longtime resident of Pittsburgh’s North Side, Steadman has seen too much violence, and hours after three people were killed and another wounded during a shooting Saturday night near Allegheny Commons, Steadman said it is time for action.

“You get tired of it. It’s just too much. The police don’t do … around here,” said Steadman, 55, as he walked with his three young children all under the age of 8.[1]

It’s a curious thing that all these Thin Blue Line flag-wavers imagine, at least according to their yard signs, their white supremacist gangsters as heroes, risking their lives to “keep us safe.” Read more

  1. [1]Rich Cholodofsky, “North Side residents fed up, as 3 people killed, 1 injured in Saturday night shooting,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 16, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/3-people-killed-1-injured-in-pittsburgh-shooting/

A non-argument on Pittsburgh housing


Fig. 1. Sign on a property along Miller Road, just up from North State Street, on the edge of Clairton, Pennsylvania. Photograph by author, August 8, 2020.

This post will, I fear, be a prime example of crappy writing. It’s more of a data dump, failing to offer an argument for any solution, because I don’t have a solution within the paradigm of our system of social organization.

The housing picture in Pittsburgh is, to put it entirely too mildly, paradoxical. On the one hand, you have developments like Glass House Apartments that command San Francisco-level rents in, really, not that great a neighborhood[1] and a move to develop vacant office space downtown into housing.[2] New subdivisions—called “plans” here—with homeowners’ associations are popping up all around the suburbs. Read more

  1. [1]GlassHouse Pittsburgh, n.d., https://www.glasshouseapts.com/
  2. [2]Mark Belko, “Quicker conversions of Downtown Pittsburgh offices into apartments moving closer to reality,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 21, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/business/development/2022/09/20/pittsburgh-planning-commission-zoning-apartments-condos-residential-downtown-partnership-larimer-twg-indianapolis/stories/202209200105

If Vladimir Putin doesn’t make sense, he doesn’t make sense, and he cannot last

See update for October 16, 2022, at end of post.



Fig. 1. “The atomic cloud over Nagasaki 1945.” Photograph from Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. Overseas Operations Branch, New York Office, News and Features Bureau, (12/17/1942 – 09/15/1945), by Charles Levy, August 9, 1945, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Russia has launched a missile attack against several Ukrainian cities, targeting civilians and energy infrastructure, drawing international condemnation. Vladimir Putin claims it is in retaliation for[1] what the Russians claim was a truck bomb attack, orchestrated by Ukrainian “special services,” that severely damaged the Kerch bridge between Russia and Crimea.[2] Read more

  1. [1]Dan Sabbagh, “Kremlin decision to target Ukraine’s cities was political, not tactical,” Guardian, October 10, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/10/kremlin-decision-to-target-ukraines-cities-was-political-not-tactical; Pjotr Sauer, “Sergei Surovikin: the ‘General Armageddon’ now in charge of Russia’s war,” Guardian, October 10, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/10/sergei-surovikin-the-general-armageddon-now-in-charge-of-russias-war; George Styllis, Gareth Davies, and Grace Millimaci, “Deadly strikes are just ‘first episode’ of response to Crimea attack, says Medvedev,” Telegraph, October 10, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2022/10/10/ukraine-russia-war-latest-putin-nuclear-crimea-bridge-zaporizhzhia/
  2. [2]Peter Beaumont, “Impact of Kerch bridge blast will be felt all the way to the Kremlin,” Guardian, October 8, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/08/impact-of-kerch-bridge-blast-will-be-felt-all-the-way-to-the-kremlin; Peter Beaumont, “Vladimir Putin calls blast on Crimea-Russia bridge an ‘act of terror,’” Guardian, October 9, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/09/russia-ukraine-war-attack-housing-zaporizhzhia; Adam Schreck and Vasilisa Stepanenko, “Explosion on Crimean bridge damages key Russian supply route; 3 dead,” Los Angeles Times, October 8, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-10-08/truck-bomb-damages-crimea-bridge-a-key-supply-artery-for-russias-war-effort; Maite Fernández Simon and Paul Sonne, “Putin’s bridge of dreams explodes in flames,” Washington Post, October 8, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/10/08/kerch-bridge-crimea-symbolism-putin/; Times of Israel, “Russia says truck bomb caused Crimea bridge explosion, stops short of blaming Kyiv,” October 8, 2022, https://www.timesofisrael.com/russia-says-truck-blast-caused-crimea-bridge-explosion-stops-short-of-blaming-kyiv/; Yaroslav Trofimov, “Major Explosion Hits the Bridge Between Crimea and Russia, Halting Traffic,” Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/major-explosion-hits-the-bridge-between-crimea-and-russia-halting-traffic-11665215052

Hatred for workers

Starbucks Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz is right in one important respect: Many of the problems at Starbucks are larger than Starbucks.[1] During the pandemic, we as a society became meaner—much meaner. As an Uber driver, I had to put up a sign demanding what should be common sense conduct. Read more

  1. [1]Greg Jaffe, “Howard Schultz’s fight to stop a Starbucks barista uprising,” Washington Post, October 8, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2022/10/08/starbucks-union-ceo-howard-schultz/

A requiem for roadkill

See update for November 26, 2022, at end of post.



Fig. 1. A black crow, unattributed and undated photograph, via Birdwatching United States of America,[1] fair use.

The kitchen exhaust fan in my present apartment is kind of an odd contraption, really a hole in the wall with a fan inserted and a door on the outside which does not fully close. The whole thing is controlled with a pull-chain that simultaneously releases the spring-loaded door to open and turns on the fan (figure 2).


Fig. 2. My kitchen exhaust fan, on the wall above the stove. Photograph by author, October 14, 2022.

Because the door does not fully close, birds occasionally come to investigate. This morning, I saw that a small crow, I presume juvenile, with a beak definitely not that of a blackbird,[2] had actually managed to find its way in. On its second brief visit, as I moved to try to get a photograph, it flew back out the doorway. Read more

  1. [1]David A. Swanson, “How To Tell a Crow from A Blackbird?: 5 Key Differences,” Birdwatching United States of America, n.d., https://www.birdwatchingusa.org/crow-vs-blackbird
  2. [2]David A. Swanson, “How To Tell a Crow from A Blackbird?: 5 Key Differences,” Birdwatching United States of America, n.d., https://www.birdwatchingusa.org/crow-vs-blackbird