At the point of a gun

See update for April 15, 2021, at end of post.


Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, police are offering up the same excuse for killing Daunte Wright[1] that San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police offered for the killing of Oscar Grant, specifically that the killer cop mistook her gun for her taser.[2] Read more

  1. [1]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Daunte Wright shooting: Officer ‘mistook gun for Taser,’” April 13, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-56724798
  2. [2]Erin Baldassari, “Oscar Grant: BART’s internal investigation reveals cops’ roles in fatal shooting,” San Jose Mercury News, May 1, 2019, https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/05/01/oscar-grant-barts-internal-investigation-reveals-cops-roles-in-fatal-shooting/; Matt McKinney, “Cases in which a service pistol is mistaken for a Taser are rare,” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, April 12, 2021, https://www.startribune.com/cases-in-which-a-service-pistol-is-mistaken-for-a-taser-are-rare/600045269/

In the 21st century, labor unions are in a very deep hole

Amazon managed to persuade its workers in Bessemer, Alabama, to vote against unionizing. Its tactics in doing so skirted and may have violated laws meant to ensure that workers have a right to collective bargaining and a fair shot at asserting that right.[1] I am, of course, disappointed. Amazon is one of many employers, some of which deny they’re even employers, that make low wage work abusive; this evil is vast and well-documented.[2] Read more

  1. [1]Sarah Jones, “Amazon Defeats Union Drive in Alabama,” New York, April 9, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/04/amazon-has-the-votes-to-defeat-union-effort-in-alabama.html
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Time for the gig economy to grow up,” Not Housebroken, August 30, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/30/time-for-the-gig-economy-to-grow-up/; David Benfell, “The expendable worker,” Not Housebroken, July 5, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/07/05/the-expendable-worker/; David Benfell, “A piper needs paying,” Not Housebroken, January 29, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/12/19/a-piper-needs-paying/; Johana Bhuiyan, “Amazon ends practice of dipping into drivers’ tips to meet their wage guarantees,” Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/business/technology/story/2019-08-22/amazon-flex-fares-tips; Jessa Crispin, “Amazon is a disaster for workers. Nomadland glosses over that,” Guardian, March 23, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/23/amazon-nomadland-film-jeff-bezos-disaster-workers; Daniel D’Addario, “Amazon is worse than Walmart,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/control/2013/07/30/how_amazon_is_worse_than_wal_mart/; Timothy Egan, “The Corporate Daddy,” New York Times, June 19, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/opinion/timothy-egan-walmart-starbucks-and-the-fight-against-inequality.html; Josh Eidelson, “Wal-Mart faces warehouse horror allegations and federal Labor Board complaint,” Salon, November 19, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/11/18/breaking_wal_mart_faces_warehouse_horror_allegations_and_federal_labor_board_complaint/; Josh Eidelson, “Tens of thousands protest, over 100 arrested in Black Friday challenge to Wal-Mart,” Salon, November 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/11/30/tens_of_thousands_protest_over_100_arrested_in_black_friday_challenge_to_wal_mart/; Josh Eidelson, “Finally paying for Wal-Mart’s sins: Wage theft settlement yields millions,” Salon, December 16, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/12/16/finally_paying_for_wal_marts_sins_wage_theft_settlement_yields_millions/; Josh Eidelson, “Freezing for Wal-Mart: Sub-zero warehouse temperatures spur Indiana work stoppage,” Salon, January 14, 2014, https://www.salon.com/test/2014/01/13/freezing_for_wal_mart_sub_zero_warehouse_temperatures_spur_indiana_work_stoppage/; Josh Eidelson, “Amazon Keeps Unions Out By Keeping Workers in Fear, Says Organizer,” Alternet, January 22, 2014, https://www.alternet.org/2014/01/amazon-keeps-unions-out-keeping-workers-fear-says-organizer/; Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed (New York: Owl, 2001); Nichole Gracely, “‘Being homeless is better than working for Amazon,’” Guardian, November 28, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/nov/28/being-homeless-is-better-than-working-for-amazon; Steven Greenhouse, “The Changing Face of Temporary Employment,” New York Times, August 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/01/upshot/the-changing-face-of-temporary-employment.html; Erin Hatton, “The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy,” New York Times, January 26, 2013, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/the-rise-of-the-permanent-temp-economy/; Simon Head, “Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers,” Salon, February 23, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/02/23/worse_than_wal_mart_amazons_sick_brutality_and_secret_history_of_ruthlessly_intimidating_workers/; Paul Jaskunas, “The Tyranny of the Forced Smile,” New York Times, February 14, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/jobs/the-tyranny-of-the-forced-smile.html; Allison Kilkenny, “Ohio Walmart Holds Food Drive For Its Own Employees,” Nation, November 18, 2013, https://www.thenation.com/article/ohio-walmart-holds-food-drive-its-own-employees/; Ken Klippenstein, “Documents Show Amazon Is Aware Drivers Pee in Bottles and Even Defecate En Route, Despite Company Denial,” Intercept, March 25, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/03/25/amazon-drivers-pee-bottles-union/; Paul Krugman, “The Plight of the Employed,” New York Times, December 24, 2013, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/24/the-plight-of-the-employed/; Paul Krugman, “The Fear Economy,” New York Times, December 26, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/27/opinion/krugman-the-fear-economy.html; Danielle Kurtzleben, “Read McDonald’s workers’ shocking harassment and discrimination complaints — and why they’re so important,” Vox, January 22, 2015, https://www.vox.com/2015/1/22/7873661/mcdonalds-lawsuit-harassment-discrimination; Colin Lecher, “How Amazon automatically tracks and fires warehouse workers for ‘productivity,’” Verge, April 25, 2019, https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/25/18516004/amazon-warehouse-fulfillment-centers-productivity-firing-terminations; Edward McClelland, “You call this a middle class? “I’m trying not to lose my house,’” Salon, March 1, 2014, https://www.salon.com/test/2014/03/01/you_call_this_a_middle_class_i%E2%80%99m_trying_not_to_lose_my_house/; Mac McClelland, “I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave,” Mother Jones, March/April 2012, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/mac-mcclelland-free-online-shipping-warehouses-labor/; Patrick McGreevy and Suhauna Hussain, “California demands that Amazon comply with COVID-19 investigation,” Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-12-14/california-lawsuit-amazon-workplace-conditions-covid-19; Nathaniel Mott, “From Amazon warehouse workers to Google bus drivers, it’s tough working a non-tech job at a tech company,” Pando, October 9, 2014, https://pando.com/2014/10/09/from-amazon-warehouse-workers-to-google-bus-drivers-its-tough-working-a-non-tech-job-at-a-tech-company/; Ari Rabin-Havt, “Wal-Mart flunks its fact-check: The truth behind its sarcastic response to the Times,” Salon, June 25, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/06/25/walmart_flunks_its_fact_check_the_truth_behind_its_sarcastic_response_to_the_times/; 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; Lia Russell, “The Silicon Valley Economy Is Here. And It’s a Nightmare,” New Republic, January 16, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/156202/silicon-valley-economy-here-its-nightmare; Michael Sainato, “‘I’m not a robot’: Amazon workers condemn unsafe, grueling conditions at warehouse,” Guardian, February 5, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/feb/05/amazon-workers-protest-unsafe-grueling-conditions-warehouse; 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/; Alex Seitz-Wald, “Amazon is everything wrong with our new economy,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/07/30/amazon_is_everything_wrong_with_our_new_economy/; Alana Semuels, “As employers push efficiency, the daily grind wears down workers,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-harsh-work-20130407-story.html; Alana Semuels, “How the relationship between employers and workers changed,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2013-apr-07-la-fi-mo-harsh-work-history-20130405-story.html; Alana Semuels, “Tougher workplace makes home life worse too,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2013-apr-07-la-fi-mo-harsh-work-history-20130405-story.html; Faiz Siddiqui and Andrew Van Dam, “As Uber avoided paying into unemployment, the federal government helped thousands of its drivers weather the pandemic,” Washington Post, March 16, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/03/16/uber-lyft-unemployment-benefits/; Spencer Soper, “Inside Amazon’s Warehouse,” Lehigh Valley Morning Call, September 18, 2011, https://www.mcall.com/business/mc-xpm-2011-09-18-mc-allentown-amazon-complaints-20110917-story.html; Matt Stieb, “Amazon Called Out for Denying Workers Go to Bathroom in Bottles,” New York, March 25, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/03/amazon-called-out-for-denying-that-workers-pee-in-bottles.html; Lindsay Wise, “Report: Temp jobs at all-time high in U.S.,” McClatchy, September 2, 2014, https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/economy/article24772543.html

I do not mourn Hans Küng alone

This is a loss. Hans Küng died Tuesday (April 6, 2021).[1] At least one[2] of the unread books on my shelves is by him. Another, his work on Islam,[3] featured in the comprehensive examinations for my Masters’ degree (in lieu of a thesis). Read more

  1. [1]Times, “Hans Küng obituary,” April 8, 2021, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/hans-kueng-obituary-qvfd5wprl
  2. [2]Hans Küng, The Catholic Church (New York: Modern Library, 2003).
  3. [3]Hans Küng, Islam: Past, Present and Future, (Oxford, UK: Oneworld, 2007).

Hate, Pittsburgh Style

Something that caught my eye in Nan Levinson’s absolutely outstanding article on white supremacy in the military was this: “As an Army captain emailed me, ‘The military recruits heavily from the same population that extremist organizations do — socially isolated, downwardly mobile, and economically vulnerable young men.’” She also notes “a larger ‘cultural project’ that, however unexamined, is aimed at creating an ever-more-militarized (which also means an ever-more-extreme) society,” in which “war is sold, not just as acceptable, but as necessary to maintain the vaunted American way of life.”[1] Read more

  1. [1]Nan Levinson, “The Far Right in Uniform,” TomDispatch, April 6, 2021, https://tomdispatch.com/the-far-right-in-uniform/

In service to a psychotic delusional raging narcissist

Sadly, Bandy Lee’s The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump[1] is one of many books that sits on my shelf, unread, because I’m so busy trying to keep my head above water driving for Uber and Lyft that I cannot take time to catch up on reading that I’ve thought important.[2] Read more

  1. [1]Bandy Lee, ed., The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump (New York: Saint Martin’s, 2017).
  2. [2]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/

The faith of zealous skepticism

Some things are just weird.

There could only be two possibilities. One is that there is something genuinely paranormal happening, and if that is true, that would be amazing. Or, alternatively—which is more the line that I do favor—it tells us something very interesting about human psychology. So either way, it’s worth taking seriously.[1]

Read more

  1. [1]Christopher French, quoted in Rebecca Nathanson, “The Hard Science of Reincarnation,” Vice, March 31, 2021, https://www.vice.com/en/article/jgqygg/hard-science-of-reincarnation-past-lives

On ‘vaccine passports’

See update for April 3, 2021, at end of post.


Note: I am aware of concerns that ‘vaccine passports’ may be unfair to those who are unfairly disadvantaged in accessing vaccines. This post does not address those concerns, which are diminishing within the U.S.,[1] nor the problem of medical apartheid and vaccination resistance,[2] but rather the conservative objection to such ‘passports.’

According to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, “[i]t’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society.”[3] 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/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Medical apartheid and COVID-19 vaccinations,” Not Housebroken, March 30, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/03/26/medical-apartheid-and-covid-19-vaccinations/
  3. [3]Laurel Wamsley, “Florida Gov. DeSantis Rejects Vaccine Passports As ‘Completely Unacceptable,’” National Public Radio, March 30, 2021, https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/03/30/982837517/florida-gov-desantis-rejects-vaccine-passports-as-completely-unacceptable

The thin logic of gun nuttery

Lindsey Graham says he “needs his own AR-15 . . . in case disaster strikes and he needs to defend his home against a roving ‘gang.’”[1] Let’s be clear about what this says. Read more

  1. [1]Tim Elfrink, “Lindsey Graham says he needs AR-15 for defense: ‘My house will be the last one that the gang will come to,’” Washington Post, March 29, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/03/29/lindsey-graham-ar15-defense-disaster/

Medical apartheid and COVID-19 vaccinations

See updates through April 4, 2021, at end of post.


I go in today for my second shot of the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19. I had symptoms, all pretty much on the list of side effects, with the first shot, and I’ve heard that the second shot is worse,[1] so I’m taking this one seriously, expecting to take the day off sick.

I hadn’t really considered the vaccine a matter of white privilege. Read more

  1. [1]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Possible Side Effects After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine,” March 16, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/expect/after.html