Following Alice down a rabbit hole on COVID-19 origins

See updates through March 16, 2023, at end of post.

It’s fair to say that Michael Hiltzik is not impressed by[1] the Wall Street Journal’s reporting of a Department of Energy conclusion favoring the lab leak hypothesis of COVID-19’s origins.[2] Read more

  1. [1]Michael Hiltzik, “Despite latest reports, there’s still not a speck of evidence that COVID escaped from a Chinese lab,” Los Angeles Times, February 27, 2023,
  2. [2]Michael R. Gordon and Warren P. Strobel, “Lab Leak Most Likely Origin of Covid-19 Pandemic, Energy Department Now Says,” Wall Street Journal, February 26, 2023,

Sympathy for those poor, oppressed upper classes

See updates through March 3, 2023, at end of post.

It’s difficult for me to find much sympathy for high technology workers. They typically make six-figure incomes. They drove up already high rents in San Francisco to ludicrous levels and then complained about homeless people,[1] when now, in San Francisco, you are either rich or you are homeless—there is very little in between—and for all their complaints, many continued to live there. Read more

  1. [1]Julia Carrie Wong, “‘We all suffer’: why San Francisco techies hate the city they transformed,” Guardian, July 1, 2019,

A ‘C’ grade for Ruth Marcus on abortion rights

See update for January 23, 2023, at end of post.

Ruth Marcus still wants an answer to Sonia Sotomayor’s question:[1]

“How is your interest anything but a religious view?” Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked the lawyer for the state of Mississippi during oral arguments in the case [Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization] that would later eliminate the constitutional right to abortion. “So when you say this is the only right that takes away from the state the ability to protect a life, that’s a religious view, isn’t it?”[2]

I don’t find Marcus’ op-ed especially well argued. She relies,[3] rather, on cases making their way through the courts arguing that the state abortion bans that Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization enabled infringe on other (than conservative Christian) groups’ religious rights,[4] as if the mere existence of these cases, which have yet to be decided, is sufficient. Read more

  1. [1]Ruth Marcus, “Does Dobbs violate the establishment clause?” Washington Post, January 20, 2023,
  2. [2]Ruth Marcus, “Does Dobbs violate the establishment clause?” Washington Post, January 20, 2023,
  3. [3]Ruth Marcus, “Does Dobbs violate the establishment clause?” Washington Post, January 20, 2023,
  4. [4]Jackie Hajdenberg, “5 rabbis sue state of Missouri over abortion bans on religious freedom grounds,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 20, 2023,

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey is afraid of his own police white supremacist gang

I have heard it said from time to time that politicians fear their own police white supremacist gangs. I’ve always been skeptical. These gangs act principally to protect property, especially the property of the wealthy, including politicians. Try driving a ratty old car across a wealthy neighborhood, for example, and just see how quickly you have a black and white on your tail, ready to pull you over on the slightest pretext. Read more

Functional disenfranchisement and secession movements

Fig. 1. A flag for the would-be state of Jefferson is seen along the Klamath River Highway in California. Photograph by MPSharwood, September 9, 2012, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

There are a lot of secession movements around the United States. I’ve focused on those in California, which fall broadly into three categories: 1) secession from the Union; 2) secession from the state; and 3) breaking California into smaller jurisdictions, but as Colby Galliher and Edison Forman observe in a Brookings Institution article, such movements exist all around the country.[1] A common theme is functional disenfranchisement, which Galliher and Forman fail to properly explain. Read more

  1. [1]Colby Galliher and Edison Forman, “County secession: Local efforts to redraw political borders,” Brookings, January 10, 2023,

Can Oregon help elect a Speaker of the House of Representatives?

See update for January 7, 2023, at end of post.

Of the chaos of the House of Representatives’ so-far failed attempts to elect a Speaker,[1] Molly Jong-Fast writes,

This intrinsic weakness in the GOP allowed the base to run wild, embracing everything from anti-science stupidity to paranoid conspiracy theories. Perhaps, in 2015, [Donald] Trump led the base. But by 2020, Trump had lost control of the monster he created. The base decided to reward social media stunts with small-dollar donations. Fox News and the right-wing internet ecosystem created a world of mini Trumps, little congressional bomb-throwers like [Lauren] Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Matt Gaetz. More motivated by fame than governing, these members seem to want what Real Housewives want: to build their brands. These congressional Kardashians don’t have a governing principle beyond obstruction and attention, of which they’ve all been getting amid this week’s party meltdown.[2]

Read more

  1. [1]Natalie Andrews and Eliza Collins, “Kevin McCarthy Falls Short of House Speaker Win in Three Rounds of Voting,” Wall Street Journal, January 3, 2023,; Aaron Blake, “McCarthy’s big concession — and how it could hamstring a GOP speaker,” Washington Post, January 3, 2023,; John Cassidy, “Behind the Humiliation of Kevin McCarthy,” New Yorker, January 3, 2023,; Clare Foran et al., “House adjourns after chaotic day without electing a speaker as McCarthy fails to lock down votes,” CNN, January 3, 2023,; Clare Foran et al., “House adjourns for second day without electing a speaker with McCarthy’s bid in peril,” CNN, January 4, 2023,; Molly Jong-Fast, “The Kevin McCarthy Mess Is Peak Trumpism,” Vanity Fair, January 4, 2023,; Nolan D. McCaskill, “Deadlocked House adjourns until evening after Kevin McCarthy racks up yet another defeat,” Los Angeles Times, January 4, 2023,; Tara Palmeri, “We Need to Talk About Kevin, ” Puck News, January 3, 2023,; Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, “The House hard-liners blocking McCarthy aren’t listening to Trump,” Washington Post, January 4, 2023,; Dan Zak and Ben Terris, “Does the House even exist right now?” Washington Post, January 4, 2023,
  2. [2]Molly Jong-Fast, “The Kevin McCarthy Mess Is Peak Trumpism,” Vanity Fair, January 4, 2023,

A life worth living

See updates through February 18, 2023, at end of post.

Please, if you would, and especially if you’re young enough never to have heard the song, take a few minutes to listen to Paul McCartney’s “When I’m Sixty Four,”[1] which he apparently wrote when he was 14 years old, and was included in the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1967) album.[2]

On one level, it’s a sweet and silly love song, whose protagonist is the male half of an ordinary English couple contemplating a life together ahead. Here are the lyrics: Read more

  1. [1]Beatles, “When I’m Sixty Four,” YouTube, 2018,
  2. [2]Genius, “When I’m Sixty-Four,” n.d.,

Why Uber is not merely a ‘technology platform’

This particular saga begins at a fast food restaurant in West Mifflin, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Uber has the pin for this on a particular side of the building, so that’s where I drove to and waited for my passenger. There are two doors on that side of the building.

Almost always, when I pick up at a fast food restaurant, I’m taking an employee home, and as it happens, this particular establishment has what appears to be a large workspace or office behind one of the doors, so there was absolutely no way I could rule that door out. Read more