To a Pennsylvania House Minority Leader: When cops profile you, they don’t actually need an offense

Silly me, I’d just put all the drivers yacking on their phones around Pittsburgh down to the general lack of traffic enforcement. Assuming a bill passed by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives becomes law, it’ll be a secondary offense, still a step behind places like California, due to fears of racist policing.[1]

Minority Whip Jordan Harris, D-Philadelphia, voted for it after speaking about how black drivers could be exposed to racial profiling stops if the language had not been amended to make it a secondary violation. Read more

  1. [1]Associated Press, “Pennsylvania House votes to stop drivers’ use of hand-held phones,” TribLive, January 15, 2020,; Stephen Caruso, “After years of trying, Pa. House finally passes handheld cell phone ban,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, January 15, 2020,

Equal Rights for women in the U.S. Maybe. Someday.

My mother had to send me this. Virginia has nearly (formalities remain) ratified the long-stalled Equal Rights Amendment.[1] Until this morning, this story appeared nowhere in my feeds, even on Twitter, all of which remain obsessed with an utterly and disgracefully bogus impeachment[2] and with a mostly annoying and entirely boring food fight between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Which has to say something almost on par with continued Republican opposition to the amendment, an opposition that continues to draw on arguments that seem positively antique.[3] Read more

  1. [1]Gregory S. Schneider, Laura Vozzella, and Patricia Sullivan, “‘A long time to wait’: Virginia passes Equal Rights Amendment in historic vote,” Washington Post, January 15, 2020,
  2. [2]David Benfell, “The whiteness of impeachment,” Not Housebroken, December 15, 2019,; David Benfell, “The least violent solution,” Not Housebroken, December 16, 2019,; David Benfell, “The sham (pick your partisan flavor) is on,” Not Housebroken, December 19, 2019,; David Benfell, “The asterisk,” Not Housebroken, December 21, 2019,
  3. [3]Gregory S. Schneider, Laura Vozzella, and Patricia Sullivan, “‘A long time to wait’: Virginia passes Equal Rights Amendment in historic vote,” Washington Post, January 15, 2020,

‘The ugly premise that one group of humans had the absolute right to rule over another group of humans’

In a letter to the editor of the Los Angeles Times, Gary Vogt notes that

While the surviving monarchies are primarily ceremonial, no one can deny that, similar to slavery, most such institutions were originally established and existed for centuries based on the ugly premise that one group of humans had the absolute right to rule over another group of humans. Like slavery, royal dominance was historically maintained by force as every king and queen had their own army.[1]

I’m always rather perplexed to see arguments like this. Read more

  1. [1]Gary Vogt, “Letters to the Editor: Royals everywhere should follow Meghan and Harry into obscurity,” Los Angeles Times, January 12, 2020,

Our new Satan: artificial idiocy and big data mining

This is what we are increasingly trusting our future to:

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The perniciousness of kyriarchy

Human beings have lots of ways of discriminating against each other. Simone de Beauvoir asserted, too obviously correctly, that if it weren’t for sexism and the other forms of discrimination we already have, we’d find others,[1] and it’s not hard to see how this works when we see people lobbing accusations of “white privilege” or “male privilege” or “straight privilege” or any other form of “privilege” at each other.
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  1. [1]Simone de Beauvoir, “Women as Other,” in Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings, ed. Charles Lemert, 4th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2010), 345-347.

These disunited states

Update, January 10, 2020: Added citations to the article by Annalisa Merelli. It seems that most Amerikkkans, still believing in the “Amerikkkan Dream,” really don’t care about income inequality.[1] I have also modified some text in my description of exchange systems to recognize that coercion or manipulation may be means of “persuasion.” Coercion can, of course, include slavery or, as Max Weber recognized, the depravations of poverty;[2] and manipulation can, of course, include deceit.

When I look at the United States and its problems, I reduce these to two fundamental issues:

  1. The political system is foundationally structured to protect the wealthy from the poor and not to protect anyone else.[3]
  2. The population does not share a common set of values. George Lakoff understands these as metaphors, but the metaphors, especially “equality,” “fairness,” and “freedom,” often do not mean the same things to all people and different people rank them differently in terms of importance. A principal issue is, to what extent do we exist for ourselves as individuals and to what extent do we exist as members of a group with responsibilities to other members to that group?[4]

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  1. [1]Annalisa Merelli, “New study finds most Americans don’t really care about inequality,” Quartz, January 9, 2020,
  2. [2]Max Weber, “Class, Status, Party,” in Social Theory, ed. Charles Lemert, 6th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2017), 94-101.
  3. [3]James Madison, “Federalist No. 10,” in The Federalist Papers, ed. Garry Wills (New York: Bantam, 2003), 50-58.
  4. [4]George Lakoff, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2002); George Lakoff, Whose Freedom? (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006).

Every bit as stupid as World War I, if not more so

Anyone with one brain cell to rub up against the next knows that, whatever your political predilections, going to war with Iran is a fuck-up beyond belief. This isn’t about the rightness or wrongness of colonial attitudes or of capitalism. It’s not even about the humanity or inhumanity of our actions or intentions. It’s about a delusion heaped upon delusion that we can successfully impose our will.[1] Read more

  1. [1]See my blog post from yesterday: David Benfell, “Tit for tat and the path to war, raging narcissist-in-chief style,” Not Housebroken, January 5, 2020,

Tit for tat and the path to war, raging narcissist-in-chief style

So Donald Trump ordered a drone attack which killed a Iranian general, Qassem Suleimani, in Iraq,[1] in response to a siege of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad[2] that had ended, likely with the promise of an expulsion of U.S. troops from Iraq.[3] Read more

  1. [1]Julian Borger and Martin Chulov, “Iran general Qassem Suleimani killed in Baghdad drone strike ordered by Trump,” Guardian, January 3, 2020,
  2. [2]Luke Harding, “Trump accuses Iran over storming of US embassy compound in Baghdad,” Guardian, December 31, 2019,
  3. [3]Isabel Coles, “Iraqi Parliament Votes in Favor of Expelling U.S. Troops,” Wall Street Journal, January 5, 2020,; Erin Cunningham, “Iran announces it is suspending its commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal,” Washington Post, January 5, 2020,; Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Supporters of Iranian-backed militia end siege of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad,” Washington Post, January 1, 2020,

The problem of non-vegan restaurants

On the one hand, it’s a better time to be vegan than ever before. The advent of the Beyond and Impossible Burgers have led even fast food places embrace plant-based meats whether by those producers[1] or even of their own design.[2] I even saw Beyond Burgers being flogged on the digital sign outside an Eat’n Park near my apartment.
Read more

  1. [1]Kate Taylor, “Evidence is mounting that fast-food chains from Chick-fil-A to McDonald’s will be forced to add vegan menu items — or face the consequences,” Business Insider, May 13, 2019,
  2. [2]Jenny Kirkham, “‘Hands up this isn’t great’: KFC admits selling chicken instead of vegan burger to vegetarians,” Liverpool Echo, January 3, 2020,