Apparently, it’s ‘thoughts and prayers’ for the dying in Pittsburgh

Fig. 1. “Ed Gainey poses with CeaseFirePA during the 2020 Women’s March in Downtown Pittsburgh.” Photograph by Megan Gloeckler, undated, via Pittsburgh City Paper,[1] fair use.

Are we at the “thoughts and prayers”[2] stage yet? Because I’ve already explained what needs to be done[3] about a surge in violence in Pittsburgh.[4] (The short version is that Mayor Ed Gainey needs to follow through on his campaign promises.[5]) Read more

  1. [1]Charlie Wolfson, “Neighborhood groups try to curb shootings as Pittsburgh’s mayoral campaign puts political focus on gun violence,” Pittsburgh City Paper, October 20, 2021,
  2. [2]Abdullah Shihipar, “The Kind of Prayer That Could Make a Difference,” Atlantic, June 1, 2022,
  3. [3]David Benfell, “To Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey,” Not Housebroken, October 30, 2022,
  4. [4]Justin Vellucci, “Pittsburgh’s soaring homicide rate leaves officials baffled,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 27, 2022,
  5. [5]David Benfell, “To Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey,” Not Housebroken, October 30, 2022,

What if, indeed, it comes to civil war?

Fig. 1. “‘Masterly inactivity,’ or six months on the Potomac; caricature of inactivity of Confederate and Union soldiers on both sides of the Potomac River between summer 1861 and winter 1862, published in Frank Leslie’s illustrated newspaper, vol. 13 (1862 Feb. 1), p. 176. Cartoon satirizing the extended military standoff between General McClellan’s Army of the Potomac and Confederate General Beauregard’s Army of the Shenandoah during the fall and winter of 1861.” Cartoon by Albert Berghaus, 1862, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

I did not write this:

Once a political culture embraces the path of the dark triad—narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy—negative end products are not simply possible, but inevitable. There’s only one chance to stave off the worst potential outcomes in the United States: Recognize our 50-state partnership as a failed marriage and, like adults, move on.[1]

Though it’s an idea I’ve advocated for some time—honestly, to me, nothing else makes sense—I also regretfully recognize it as enormously problematic,[2] and in fact, the idea of divvying up red and blue states, that B. Duncan Moench reifies,[3] barely scratches the surface of the problem.[4] Read more

  1. [1]B. Duncan Moench, “How the Next Civil War Begins,” Tablet, November 29, 2022,
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Pure poison,” Not Housebroken, September 15, 2021,
  3. [3]B. Duncan Moench, “How the Next Civil War Begins,” Tablet, November 29, 2022,
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Pure poison,” Not Housebroken, September 15, 2021,

Elon Musk embraces Donald Trump’s playbook

Fig. 1. “Elon Musk shared a video of his entrance on his Twitter account.” Photograph attributed to Elon Musk, October 26, 2022, via the New York Post,[1] fair use.

Philip Bump brings together themes[2] I visited in a couple of my recent blog postings:

It’s not clear whether [Elon] Musk understands that Twitter polls are not particularly meaningful. In discussing his polls with users on the platform, for example, Musk embraced ideas that would plaster a veneer of accuracy on top of the fundamentally unscientific process.[3]

I, of course, addressed Elon Musk’s methodology on November 21. There’s nothing radical here. It’s basic to survey methodology that you’re supposed to use a representative sample and that what Musk or anybody else is relying on with Twitter polls is not, and cannot be, a representative sample.[4] Read more

  1. [1]Thomas Barrabi, “Elon Musk barges into Twitter HQ as deal nears: ‘Let that sink in,’” New York Post, October 26, 2022,
  2. [2]Philip Bump, “Hey, Elon Musk? Twitter polls are not the ‘voice of the people,’” Washington Post, November 28, 2022,
  3. [3]Philip Bump, “Hey, Elon Musk? Twitter polls are not the ‘voice of the people,’” Washington Post, November 28, 2022,
  4. [4]David Benfell, “About Elon Musk’s Twitter poll and about Twitter polls generally,” Not Housebroken, November 21, 2022,

On COVID-19 mitigation measures, we should be listening to Chinese protesters

Fig. 1. “In Beijing, people hold white sheets of paper – a symbolic protest against censorship – at a demonstration against Covid restrictions.” Photograph by Thomas Peter for Reuters, undated, via the Guardian,[1] fair use.

The protests [against China’s zero-COVID policy] erupted on Friday in Urumqi, the regional capital of the far west Xinjiang region, after footage of a fire in a residential building that killed at least 10 people the day before led to accusations that a Covid lockdown was a factor in the death toll.

Urumqi officials abruptly held a news conference in the early hours of Saturday to deny Covid measures had hampered escape and rescue. Many of Urumqi’s 4 million residents have been under some of the country’s longest lockdowns, barred from leaving their homes for as long as 100 days.[2]

Read more

  1. [1]Helen Davidson and Verna Yu, “Clashes in Shanghai as protests over zero-Covid policy grip China,” Guardian, November 27, 2022,
  2. [2]Helen Davidson and Verna Yu, “Clashes in Shanghai as protests over zero-Covid policy grip China,” Guardian, November 27, 2022,

Information, information cynicism, disinformation, and misinformation

Fig. 1. Archive photograph of Joseph Goebbels by an unnamed photographer, 1942, Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1989-0821-502, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE.


I have mostly been critical of white Christian nationalists for their abuse of so-called “free speech” to promote conspiracy theories, particularly regarding COVID-19.[1] But it hasn’t just been the right wing. And it hasn’t just been about COVID-19. See, for example, Ukraine, where both left-wing (see, for examples, the Green Party and the Democratic Socialists of America) “tankies.” and the paleoconservative right wing support Vladimir Putin, because any imperialism is just fine and dandy as long as it isn’t U.S. or North Atlantic Treaty Organization imperialism.[2] And of course, a major concern with Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has been that he will encourage disinformation, that is, when not posting it himself.[3] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Free speech, COVID-19, and responsibility,” Not Housebroken, January 28, 2022,
  2. [2]David Benfell, “The desperate attempt to blame anybody else for Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine,” Not Housebroken, October 16, 2022,
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Elon Musk’s ‘free speech,’” Not Housebroken, November 2, 2022,; David Benfell, “Elon Musk’s Achilles’ heel,” Not Housebroken, November 22, 2022,

The rent is too damn high. But politicians wonder why violence is increasing.

Fig. 1. Photograph by author, November 25, 2020.

Pittsburgh enjoys a reputation for being a relatively affordable place to live.[1] But the pattern of landlords “upgrading” apartments and raising rents dramatically is taking a toll,[2] and not just in housing. Read more

  1. [1]Leslie Cook, “This U.S. City Is the Most Affordable Housing Market in the World,” SFGate, April 21, 2022,; Matthew Yglesias, “What’s the Most Affordable City in the World?” Slate, January 28, 2014,
  2. [2]Kimberly Rooney, “How rising rents and renovations have displaced Pittsburghers and added to the city’s ongoing issues with gentrification,” Pittsburgh City Paper, April 28, 2021,

About Elon Musk’s Twitter poll and about Twitter polls generally

Portrait of Elon Musk. Photograph by Debbie Rowe, July 13, 2018, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

The first thing to understand about Elon Musk’s poll on Twitter, asking whether Donald Trump should return to the platform, which is true of any poll on Twitter, is that it does not rely on representative sample. It is rather what is called a “snowball” sample. Musk has his followers, many of whom saw and responded to the poll, some of whom retweeted it, so that others, including his non-followers might respond. As word spreads, some other folks on Twitter looked on Musk’s timeline and found the poll, responding and retweeting in turn. Read more

Move along, folks, nothing to see here

See update for November 24, 2022, at end of post.

It is almost always a bad idea to look at opinion pieces of any sort in the Wall Street Journal, and this[1] is no exception. Read more

  1. [1]Joseph C. Sternberg, “Orbán and the Collapse of the Trump Intellectuals,” Wall Street Journal, November 17, 2022,

Means to wealthy ends

Fig. 1. Drawing attributed to Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, 1874, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

If ever you were looking for evidence that government has been captured by capitalism, consider this formulation:

The prime minister [of the United Kingdom] and the chancellor have attempted to prepare the ground for a bleak autumn statement, saying that everybody should expect higher taxes and arguing that financial markets were expecting deep cuts to public spending.

Speaking en route to the G20 in Bali, Rishi Sunak told reporters that the reason financial markets were no longer in turmoil was because they expected the government to clamp down on borrowing and squeeze spending.[1]

Read more

  1. [1]Aletha Adu and Jessica Elgot, “Sunak says higher taxes and spending cuts needed to satisfy markets,” Guardian, November 13, 2022,

The conundrum for white Christian nationalism

See update for November 13, 2022, at end of post.

Fig. 1. “The battle of Gettysburg, Pa. July 3d. 1863, depicting the Battle of Gettysburg, fought July 1—3, 1863. The battle was part of the American Civil War and was won by the North. Hand-colored lithograph by Currier and Ives.” Nathaniel Currier and James Merrit, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain

I’m still picking up the pieces here, but it is clear that I was right to point to a couple wild cards, namely the right to an abortion and Donald Trump, at least in this election and, perhaps, in 2024.[1] It is also clear that Republicans have overstepped with white Christian nationalism[2] and that Donald Trump’s grievances aren’t the winning campaign argument he assumed they were.[3] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “The really, really, really wild wildcards in the 2022 and 2024 elections,” Not Housebroken, November 10, 2022,
  2. [2]Natalie Andrews, Siobhan Hughes, and Lindsay Wise, “Frustrated Republicans Try to Explain Lack of Midterm ‘Red Wave,’” Wall Street Journal, November 9, 2022,
  3. [3]Natalie Andrews, Siobhan Hughes, and Lindsay Wise, “Frustrated Republicans Try to Explain Lack of Midterm ‘Red Wave,’” Wall Street Journal, November 9, 2022,; Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey, “One likely 2024 GOP contender triumphed on election night. It wasn’t Donald Trump,” Washington Post, November 9, 2022,; Jonathan Freedland, “The winner of the midterms is not yet clear – but the loser is Donald Trump,” Guardian, November 9, 2022,; David Lauter, “The midterm’s big loser: Trump suffers multiple defeats,” Los Angeles Times, November 9, 2022,