The abandoned

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

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:
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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

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/

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