An essential first step

I am unlikely to endorse Bernie Sanders. He’s still too conservative for me, seeking to work within an economic and political system that rather than being part of the solution to humanity’s existential crisis, foundationally exists in contradiction to that solution.

That said, the dilemma Democratic Party primary voters face should now be excruciatingly familiar to progressives. An old but memorable Blue Texan post should jar the memory: Read more

Walking off a cliff

As I work my way through the final steps to the conferral of my Ph.D., expected on January 8, 2016, it isn’t surprising that my thoughts turn to the question of well, what next?

When I returned to school in 2003, and chose a mass communication major, I did so recognizing two things: First, I have bounced out of high technology three times now, landing really, really hard, with severe financial and psychological consequences. I don’t recover well from being laid off. Because I am not in any way a salesperson, job-hunting has always been very difficult and I need a career path that offers security as well as a livable income. The idea of more or less continuously searching for work in a world where jobs are increasingly temporary is a fate worse than death. I hoped that returning to school might open some doors. Read more

As the world fumbles toward another world war, the U.S. fumbles toward a Trump presidency

After Donald Trump made a particularly egregious series of “fact-free” claims, the question of “truthfulness” in the Republican primary campaign for the presidential nomination has come to the fore. At the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza worries about the implications of all this for “democracy”[1] (he means a “republic”). At the Wall Street Journal, Gerald Seib argues that Trump’s and Carson’s support comes from voters who are too angry to care about “facts.”[2] Indeed, Republican voters are reportedly three times as angry at government as Democrats.[3] Meanwhile, it is increasingly apparent, as I have previously remarked,[4] that Trump may well be the Republican nominee,[5] which if true, certainly raises questions about what happens when somebody who doesn’t care much for facts becomes president. Read more

  1. [1]Chris Cillizza, “Donald Trump is leading an increasingly fact-free 2016 campaign,” Washington Post, November 23, 2015,
  2. [2]Gerald F. Seib, “Why Donald Trump Survives the Waves He Makes,” Wall Street Journal, November 23, 2015,
  3. [3]Nick Gass, “Poll: GOP three times as angry at government,” Politico, November 23, 2015,
  4. [4]David Benfell, “The populist party in the U.S. is not Democratic,” Not Housebroken, November 22, 2015,
  5. [5]Paul Krugman, “Thinking About the Trumpthinkable,” New York Times, November 22, 2015,

The populist party in the U.S. is not Democratic

Joan Walsh might be able to say she told us so. In September, she wrote of Donald Trump’s prospective “loyalty” pledge to the Republican Party, “Why would anyone expect that of Trump? His three marriages and four bankruptcies indicate a rather loose bond to his own word.”[1] He did indeed sign that pledge, on the very day that Walsh wrote that.[2] But now, less than three months later, he’s back to refusing to rule out a third party run.[3] Read more

  1. [1]Joan Walsh, “Donald Trump’s empty loyalty vow: Man with three marriages, four bankruptcies reportedly pledging fidelity to GOP,” Salon, September 3, 2015,
  2. [2]M. J. Lee and Chris Moody, “Donald Trump signs RNC loyalty pledge,” CNN, September 3, 2015,
  3. [3]Bradford Richardson, “Trump refuses to rule out third-party run,” Hill, November 22, 2015,

Regret comes only later

I am recalling an episode of Dr. Who, which I have been binge-watching recently while I wait to defend my dissertation,[1] in which the Doctor commands some humans in a very small Welsh town to be the best of humanity in protecting a captured Silurian warrior. The Silurians had captured a few humans, including a protagonist in the series, and this warrior had grievously wounded another with some sort of toxin.[2] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Defense seems scheduled,” November 16, 2015,; David Benfell, “Summary of dissertation work: For my oral examination (the defense),” November 17, 2015,
  2. [2]Chris Chibnall, “Cold Blood,” Dr. Who, television show, May 29, 2010.

Squatting on the University of Missouri quad

Note, November 11, 2015: This post has been updated and corrected in line.

So here’s a problem. It occurs in a context which, admittedly, I have not been paying much attention to. I’m still waiting—yes, still waiting all these months later—for a proper explanation for the Black Lives Matter movement disrupting Bernie Sanders’ campaign appearances.[1] And no, I’m not satisfied by an apparent belief that, as important as the killings of Blacks are, they are the only grievance that anyone should be concerned with.[2] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “#BlackLivesMatter and the wrong target,” Not Housebroken, August 9, 2015,
  2. [2]Jamie Utt, “Interrupting Bernie: Exposing the White Supremacy of the American Left,” Change From Within, August 9, 2015,

In truth, we couldn’t care less: On the surprising link between suicide and poverty

“Something startling,” writes Gina Kolata for the New York Times, “is happening to middle-aged white Americans. Unlike every other age group, unlike every other racial and ethnic group, unlike their counterparts in other rich countries,” she continues, “death rates in this group have been rising, not falling.” She’s referring to a study “by two Princeton economists, Angus Deaton, who last month won the 2015 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science, and Anne Case,” who suggest, admitting they lack sufficient evidence, that the cause may be related to the economic fortunes of whites with no more than a high school education, a group in which deaths due to suicide, drug overdose, and alcohol poisoning are concentrated, and whose inflation-adjusted incomes have dropped by nineteen percent (apparently, but this is unclear, since the 1990s).[1] A corresponding article in the Wall Street Journal tries to blame drug addiction instead by first emphasizing the uncertainty of the relationship between economic distress and the rising death rate. It then concludes, “prescription drug addictions may be causing economic challenges by depressing labor-force participation, rather than economic forces like deindustrialization causing prescription-drug addictions. But either way, an urgent health and economic crisis is at hand.”[2] Read more