On ‘anti-Semitism’

See update for July 16, 2021, at end of post.


Defenders of Israel’s genocide against Palestinians, including the government itself, frequently label even their mildest critics, including U.S. presidents, as “anti-Semitic.”[1] And it has become clear to me that there are so many phrases and archetypes that some Jews view as anti-Semitic that the term itself is losing any coherent meaning as it becomes increasingly difficult to discuss Jews without somehow transgressing into a vocabulary some of them find offensive. Read more

  1. [1]Michael Hirsh, “Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama and the Jews,” Politico, April 14, 2015, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/08/jimmy-carter-barack-obama-and-the-jews-121367/

The ‘hard problem’ of self-driving technology

There is considerable reason for skepticism that autonomous vehicle technology will pan out any time soon,[1] but that isn’t stopping some big high technology players from pouring money into it.[2] Read more

  1. [1]Christopher Mims, “Self-Driving Cars Have a Problem: Safer Human-Driven Ones,” Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/self-driving-cars-have-a-problem-safer-human-driven-ones-11560571203; Christopher Mims, “Self-Driving Cars Could Be Decades Away, No Matter What Elon Musk Said,” Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/self-driving-cars-could-be-decades-away-no-matter-what-elon-musk-said-11622865615
  2. [2]Mark Gurman, “Apple’s Car Obsession Is All About Taking Eyes Off the Road,” Bloomberg, June 24, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-06-24/big-tech-s-car-obsession-is-all-about-taking-eyes-off-the-road

No more excuses: Get vaccinated

See updates through July 8, 2021, at end of post.


Thanks in large part to people refusing COVID-19 vaccination,[1] the delta variant, which is more contagious and more dangerous, is likely soon to be the dominant strain in the U.S.,[2] and the country will likely miss Joe Biden’s vaccination target for July 4.[3] I’m pissed. Seriously pissed. Read more

  1. [1]Philip Bump, “Vaccine skepticism and disregard for containment efforts go hand in hand,” Washington Post, April 2, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/04/02/vaccine-skepticism-disregard-containment-efforts-go-hand-in-hand/; April Dembosky, “It’s not Tuskegee. Current medical racism fuels Black Americans’ vaccine hesitancy,” Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2021-03-25/current-medical-racism-not-tuskegee-expls-vaccine-hesitancy-among-black-americans; Dan Diamond, “153 people resigned or were fired from a Texas hospital system after refusing to get vaccinated,” Washington Post, June 22, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/06/22/houston-methodist-loses-153-employees-vaccine-mandate/; Apoorva Mandavilli, “Reaching ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Unlikely in the U.S., Experts Now Believe,” New York Times, May 3, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/03/health/covid-herd-immunity-vaccine.html; Chris Megerian, “Biden’s coronavirus success threatened by political divisions he pledged to heal,” Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2021-04-27/bidens-coronavirus-success-threatened-by-political-divisions-he-pledged-to-heal; Benjamin Wallace-Wells, “The Vaccine Resisters,” New Yorker, March 5, 2021, https://www.newyorker.com/news/annals-of-populism/the-vaccine-resisters; Hannah Wiley, “‘No masks. No vaccines.’ Battle is brewing over coronavirus immunizations in California,” Sacramento Bee, June 26, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article243381501.html
  2. [2]Talal Ansari and Jason Douglas, “Delta Covid-19 Variant Likely to Become Dominant in U.S., CDC Director Says,” Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/delta-covid-19-variant-likely-to-become-dominant-in-u-s-cdc-director-says-11624047575; Dhruv Khullar, “One half of America is protected. The other is approaching a perilous moment in the pandemic,” New Yorker, June 23, 2021, ttps://www.newyorker.com/science/medical-dispatch/the-delta-variant-is-a-grave-danger-to-the-unvaccinated
  3. [3]Adam Cancryn and David Lim, “Biden administration likely to miss July 4 vaccine target as new Covid strain surges,” Politico, June 22, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/06/22/biden-july-4-vaccination-target-495485

Gentrification denial


Fig. 1. An abandoned church at Kalida Drive and Larimer Avenue in the East Liberty neighborhood, Pittsburgh. Photograph by author, May 3, 2020.

Outgoing[1] Mayor Bill Peduto is being an ass on Twitter again. In this latest, he retweeted this from East Liberty Development, a real estate development organization that emphasizes affordable housing:


To put it mildly, this is an optimistic view, that is, unless you’re among the well off whom Peduto favors, who have prospered from East Liberty neighborhood redevelopment. Read more

  1. [1]Associated Press, “Pittsburgh votes out mayor in primary election,” Politico, May 18, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/05/18/pittsburgh-votes-out-mayor-in-primary-election-489542; Tom Davidson and Megan Guza, “How did Peduto lose Pittsburgh mayoral primary? Experts offer insight,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 19, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/how-did-peduto-lose-the-pittsburgh-mayoral-primary-experts-offer-insight/; Charlie Wolfson, “Gainey topples Peduto in primary, will be Pittsburgh’s first Black mayor barring a November challenge,” Public Source, May 18, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/gainey-topples-peduto-in-primary-on-course-as-first-black-pittsburgh-mayor/; Charlie Wolfson and Rich Lord, “‘The rebel becomes the establishment’: Peduto and Gainey reflect on a historic election,” May 24, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/gainey-peduto-pittsburgh-mayor-election-police-affordable-housing-covid-politics/

Arbiters of knowledge

One of the virtues of my Human Science program is that it taught me some serious epistemological humility, which is to say that I have learned caution in my criticism of other ways of knowing. The downside is that I get extremely annoyed with people who arrogantly deny other people’s experiences, making claims that are themselves unverifiable in their absolute certainty—faith, really—that because those other folks’ experiences cannot be verified, they cannot be true.[1] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “The faith of zealous skepticism,” Not Housebroken, April 2, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/04/02/the-faith-of-zealous-skepticism/; David Benfell, “Agnosticism, Atheism, and Theodicy: Yours truly the blasphemer,” Not Housebroken, May 31, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/05/31/agnosticism-atheism-and-theodicy-yours-truly-the-blasphemer/

This is not a business plan

See update for July 8, 2021, at end of post.


The story, pretty consistently since April, has been that there aren’t enough Uber and Lyft drivers on the road,[1] resulting in sky-high fare increases that aren’t very much being passed on to drivers.[2] And so Uber and Lyft continue to have difficulty getting drivers back on the road[3] even as they foresaw a problem clear back in March.[4] A project led by Dr. Julia Ticona, at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication has been exploring why and basically what emerges is that drivers are fed up[5] with the disingenuous games that Uber and Lyft have been playing with drivers, largely on pay,[6] certainly as long as I’ve been driving for these companies. Read more

  1. [1]Jessica Bursztynsky, “Uber CEO is ‘not happy’ with how long it’s taking to pick riders up or prices being charged,” CNBC, May 25, 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/25/uber-ceo-is-not-happy-with-driver-supply-pricing.html; Laura Forman, “Uber and Lyft Need a Sharper Turn,” Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-and-lyft-need-a-sharper-turn-11618311794; Michael Hiltzik, “Uber reneges on the ‘flexibility’ it gave drivers to win their support for Prop. 22,” Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2021-05-28/uber-flexibility-prop-22; Mariella Moon, “Uber and Lyft rides are pricier due to a lack of drivers (and the waits are longer, too),” Engadget, June 1, 2021, https://www.engadget.com/uber-lyft-surge-pricing-lack-of-drivers-035835230.html; Faiz Siddiqui, “Where have all the Uber drivers gone?” Washington Post, May 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/05/07/uber-lyft-drivers/; Alissa Walker, “Why Your Uber Ride Is Suddenly Costing a Fortune,” New York, June 4, 2021, https://www.curbed.com/2021/06/uber-lyft-expensive-new-york-city.html
  2. [2]Faiz Siddiqui, “You may be paying more for Uber, but drivers aren’t getting their cut of the fare hike,” Washington Post, June 9, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/06/09/uber-lyft-drivers-price-hike/
  3. [3]Jessica Bursztynsky, “Uber CEO is ‘not happy’ with how long it’s taking to pick riders up or prices being charged,” CNBC, May 25, 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/25/uber-ceo-is-not-happy-with-driver-supply-pricing.html; Laura Forman, “Uber and Lyft Need a Sharper Turn,” Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-and-lyft-need-a-sharper-turn-11618311794; Michael Hiltzik, “Uber reneges on the ‘flexibility’ it gave drivers to win their support for Prop. 22,” Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2021-05-28/uber-flexibility-prop-22; Mariella Moon, “Uber and Lyft rides are pricier due to a lack of drivers (and the waits are longer, too),” Engadget, June 1, 2021, https://www.engadget.com/uber-lyft-surge-pricing-lack-of-drivers-035835230.html; Faiz Siddiqui, “Where have all the Uber drivers gone?” Washington Post, May 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/05/07/uber-lyft-drivers/; Alissa Walker, “Why Your Uber Ride Is Suddenly Costing a Fortune,” New York, June 4, 2021, https://www.curbed.com/2021/06/uber-lyft-expensive-new-york-city.html
  4. [4]Aarian Marshall, “Gig Companies Fear a Worker Shortage, Despite a Recession,” Wired, March 5, 2021, https://www.wired.com/story/gig-companies-fear-worker-shortage-despite-recession/
  5. [5]Rida Qadri and Alexandra Mateescu, “Uber and Lyft: woo drivers with stable pay, not short-term honeypots,” Guardian, June 20, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jun/20/gig-economy-companies-uber-lyft-drivers-pandemic
  6. [6]Farhad Manjoo, “The Uber I.P.O. Is a Moral Stain on Silicon Valley,” New York Times, May 1, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/01/opinion/uber-ipo.html; Dhruv Mehrotra and Aaron Gordon, “Uber And Lyft Take A Lot More From Drivers Than They Say,” Jalopnik, August 26, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-take-a-lot-more-from-drivers-than-they-sa-1837450373; 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/; Kari Paul, “Uber drivers plan shutdown over ‘poverty wages’ as company goes public,” Guardian, April 25, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/24/uber-drivers-strike-ipo; José Rodríguez, Jr., “The Aftermath Of Prop 22 Is Not As Happy As Big Tech Promised,” Jalopnik, February 18, 2021, https://jalopnik.com/the-aftermath-of-prop-22-is-not-as-happy-as-big-tech-pr-1846299686; Alexander Sammon, “Prop 22 Is Here, and It’s Already Worse Than Expected,” American Prospect, January 15, 2021, https://prospect.org/labor/prop-22-is-here-already-worse-than-expected-california-gig-workers/; Faiz Siddiqui, “Where have all the Uber drivers gone?” Washington Post, May 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/05/07/uber-lyft-drivers/

The corruption of the nonprofits

Cory Doctorow has a late addition[1] to the already sleazy story[2] of how Uber and Lyft won passage of California’s Proposition 22,[3] limiting the scope of AB 5, which would have ended the “independent contractor” scam and made drivers employees.[4] Read more

  1. [1]Cory Doctorow, “The gig economy’s dark-money, astroturf ‘community groups,’” Pluralistic, June 19, 2021, https://pluralistic.net/2021/06/19/dynastic-wealth/#astroturf
  2. [2]Kim Bojórquez, “Why are Black and Latino advocacy groups backing Uber, Lyft in California labor law fight?” Sacramento Bee, August 23, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article244812707.html; Michael Hiltzik, “How millions from Uber and Lyft are funding the harassment of a critic,” Los Angeles Times, September 2, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-09-02/uber-lyft-veena-dubal-twitter-bullying; Michael Hiltzik, “Uber and Lyft just made their campaign to keep exploiting workers the costliest in history,” Los Angeles Times, September 8, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-09-08/uber-lyft-most-expensive-initiative; John Kingston, “Uber/Postmates Driver Loses Court Challenge To California’s AB5 Law,” Yahoo!, September 21, 2020, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/uber-postmates-driver-loses-court-160318843.html; Faiz Siddiqui and Reed Albergotti, “Uber drivers sue app over ‘constant barrage’ pushing California anti-employment initiative,” Washington Post, October 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/10/22/uber-prop22-suit/
  3. [3]Jeong Park, “Uber, Lyft win approval of California gig worker measure,” Sacramento Bee, November 3, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/election/article246814727.html
  4. [4]Sophia Bollag, “California Uber, Lyft drivers to become employees under measure Gov. Gavin Newsom says he’ll sign,” Sacramento Bee, September 11, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article234973107.html; Jessica Bursztynsky and Lauren Feiner, “Lyft may suspend service in California if court requires it to classify drivers as employees,” CNBC, August 12, 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/12/lyft-president-says-it-may-have-to-suspend-service-in-california.html; Alexia Fernández Campbell, “California is cracking down on the gig economy,” Vox, May 30, 2019, https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/5/30/18642535/california-ab5-misclassify-employees-contractors; Lauren Feiner, “Uber CEO says its service will probably shut down temporarily in California if it’s forced to classify drivers as employees,” CNBC, August 12, 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/12/uber-may-shut-down-temporarily-in-california.html; Lauren Feiner, “Appeals court grants Uber and Lyft a temporary reprieve following threats to shut down in California,” CNBC, August 20, 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/20/appeals-court-grants-uber-and-lyft-a-temporary-reprieve-in-case-over-driver-classification.html; Hastings College of the Law, “UC Hastings Professor, Academic Leaders Call for Support of AB5,” August 26, 2019, https://www.uchastings.edu/2019/08/26/uc-hastings-professor-academic-leaders-call-for-support-of-ab5/; Andrew J. Hawkins, “California seeks to force Uber and Lyft to reclassify drivers as employees within weeks,” Verge, June 24, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/6/24/21302140/california-ag-uber-lyft-drivers-classify-employees-preliminary-injunction; Andrew J. Hawkins, “California labor commissioner sues Uber and Lyft for alleged wage theft,” Verge, August 5, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/8/5/21356096/uber-lyft-california-labor-commissioner-lawsuit-driver-classification; Therese Poletti, “Uber and Lyft’s ‘day of reckoning’ is finally here,” MarketWatch, August 12, 2020, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/uber-and-lyfts-day-of-reckoning-is-finally-here-2020-08-11; San Jose Mercury News, “CPUC rules Uber, Lyft drivers are company employees,” Sacramento Bee, June 11, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/business/article243464631.html; Faiz Siddiqui, “Uber and Lyft must make their drivers in California full employees, judge rules,” Washington Post, August 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/08/10/uber-lyft-ab5/; Jonathan Stempel, “Judge rejects Uber, Lyft bids to delay California driver injunction,” Yahoo!, August 13, 2020, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/uber-lyft-lose-bid-delay-184959283.html

The new quests for a(n) (un)holy grail

I haven’t been on the road much lately—I’m waiting for a new car to arrive, hopefully now around July 9th—but judging from the news, I’m guessing those Trump flags continue to fly high around southwestern Pennsylvania.

Some Pennsylvania legislators are exploring the possibility of following Arizona’s footsteps in “auditing” last November’s election results. Even so, activists pushing the idea are unsatisfied:[1] Read more

  1. [1]Stephen Caruso, “Pa. election audit a ‘very real possibility,’ top Pa. Senate Republican says after meeting activists,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, June 17, 2021, https://www.penncapital-star.com/government-politics/pa-election-audit-a-very-real-possibility-argall-says-after-meeting-activists/

Veganism, race, and culture

See update for June 18, 2021, at end of post.


When I was still living in California, I went into a vegan restaurant in east Oakland. There was one other white guy in there and he asked a question of the lady behind the counter that I had felt too sensitive to broach.

“Why,” he boldly (I thought) asked, “are so many vegan restaurants in Oakland owned by Blacks?” She answered by pointing to health reasons. Not the ethical reasons preferred by animal rights activists. Not even referring to the environment. Read more