The Disunited Kingdom

So, recently, I wrote:

[Boris] Johnson affirmed a commitment to the Good Friday agreement, which mostly brought an end to “the troubles,” sectarian violence between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.[1] But “no deal” may mean Johnson is compelled to shred that agreement by restoring direct rule in Northern Ireland[2] and the Irish prime minister said that the question of Irish unification would inevitably arise.[3]

Scottish politicians, who came up a long ways short in their first attempt,[4] are seeking a second referendum on independence.[5] [Gwynne] Dyer notes of Scots that “TWO-THIRDS [emphasis in original] . . . voted Remain.”[6]

Scottish and Northern Irish secession would leave England, Wales, and, apparently, a very disappointed queen.[7][8]

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  1. [1]Heather Stewart, Lisa O’Carroll, and Daniel Boffey, “Brussels repels Boris Johnson’s quest for new Brexit deal,” Guardian, July 25, 2019,
  2. [2]Peter Foster and Camilla Tominey, “Boris Johnson warned that ‘no deal’ Brexit will require return of ‘direct rule’ in Northern Ireland,” Telegraph, July 26, 2019,
  3. [3]Peter Foster and Camilla Tominey, “Boris Johnson warned that ‘no deal’ Brexit will require return of ‘direct rule’ in Northern Ireland,” Telegraph, July 26, 2019,
  4. [4]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Scottish referendum: Scotland votes ‘No’ to independence,” September 19, 2014,
  5. [5]Anna Mikhailova et al, “Michel Barnier rejects Boris Johnson’s ‘unacceptable’ Brexit plan,” Telegraph, July 25, 2019,
  6. [6]Gwynne Dyer, “Boris Johnson is quite possibly the last prime minister of the United Kingdom,” Hamilton Spectator, July 24, 2019,
  7. [7]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Scottish referendum: Scotland votes ‘No’ to independence,” September 19, 2014,
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Ramifications,” Irregular Bullshit, July 27, 2019,

Watching the ridesharing shit go down the toilet

My intuition might be right or it might be wrong, but a Wall Street Journal article on shakeups at Uber and Lyft[1] provoked a sense of deja vu in me. I can’t help but suspect we’re seeing the beginning of the end for these companies. Read more

  1. [1]Eliot Brown and Sarah Nassauer, “Uber Cuts Third of Marketing Staff; Lyft Chief Operating Officer Exits,” Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2019,

A sociological and sociopathic magical thinking

Magical thinking is the belief that one’s ideas, thoughts, wishes, or actions can influence the course of events in the physical world. It is something people all over the globe engage in, and many religious and folk rituals center around it. While magical thinking can be a very normal human response, and there are aspects of it that can have psychological benefits, it can also be counterproductive at times and even be a sign of a mental health concern.[1]

When I write or speak of “magical thinking,” I’m usually referring to something a little different. My emphasis is more sociological than psychological, so when I think of magical thinking, I’m thinking of something that is often weaponized against others. Read more

  1. [1]Lisa Fritscher, “Magical Thinking Benefits and Concerns,” Very Well Mind, June 14, 2019,

Dear Google Maps (@GoogleMaps), you are intolerable in Pittsburgh

Update, November 28, 2019: I found and have finally made note of the location of physical references to Crosstown Boulevard. These are on three highway signs, at some distance from the actual street, and immediately adjacent to each other, on westbound Boulevard of the Allies immediately before the ramp to Interstate 376. As near as I can tell from Google Maps usage, it refers to a connector from the Liberty Bridge to Sixth Avenue. On the ground, at the actual location, it is marked with a street sign that says “Liberty Br.”

Due to my inability to find a real job, even with a Ph.D.,[1] I’ve been stuck driving for Uber and Lyft for much of the last three years.

I’ve driven in California, where the problems with Google Maps were noticeable but sporadic and generally tolerable. I’ve recently moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where they are at least an order of magnitude worse. Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d.,

Okay, so really now, assuming they choose to do so, how do the British avoid a hard Brexit?

A while ago, I wrote that Parliament couldn’t solve Brexit, that the British people would have to.[1] It didn’t seem likely that changing prime ministers would change anything and it hasn’t.[2] Now I think it’s too late.
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  1. [1]David Benfell, “About Brexit,” Not Housebroken, May 7, 2019,
  2. [2]Peter Foster and James Rothwell, “Tepid Barnier welcomes Boris Johnson as EU takes ‘wait and see’ approach to Brexit talks,” Telegraph, July 23, 2019,; Jack Maidment, “Brexit latest news: Theresa May’s deal defeated again by
    58 votes – PM hints at general election to break deadlock,” Telegraph, March 29, 2019,; Anna Mikhailova et al, “Michel Barnier rejects Boris Johnson’s ‘unacceptable’ Brexit plan,” Telegraph, July 25, 2019,; Heather Stewart, Lisa O’Carroll, and Daniel Boffey, “Brussels repels Boris Johnson’s quest for new Brexit deal,” Guardian, July 25, 2019,; Rajeev Syal, “‘Summer’s day massacre’ may spell backbench trouble for Boris Johnson,” Guardian, July 24, 2019,; Ishaan Tharoor, “Boris Johnson’s rise could be a preamble to his fall,” Washington Post, July 23, 2019,; Peter Walker, “Could parliament’s latest amendment stop no-deal Brexit?” Guardian, July 18, 2019,

Heil Trump

Update, July 24, 2019: HTML cleaned up and added citations for YouTube videos. It is possible that one or more videos appear below that did not appear when this was first published. My apologies for any such screw-ups. Regular readers will know this entry is different from how I usually compose posts.

It’s time for a comparison. On the left, Nazi Germany. On the right, the United States: Not all of the latter is from Donald Trump’s presidency, which is actually an important point: What we see today has been developing for a while and might not yet be a culmination. Read more

Not the final frontier

Space: the final frontier.
These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilisations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.[1]

I’m a Star Trek fan. Even as I am disturbed by the militaristic organization; the series’ frequent reliance, especially in Deep Space 9 and Voyager on battle as something a lot more than just a plot device; and its authoritarian, earth-centric, human-centric, seemingly based on the U.S., approach to galactic political organization, well, I’m hooked. Read more

  1. [1]quoted by Clive Banks in his Star Trek introduction page, n.d.

Radicalism and pragmatism

To be a radical is to look at the world about you, and to see it not through the lenses of what you have been told it should be, but rather to attempt to see it as it actually is.

We are told a bunch of things, like we have a democracy, when in fact it is—importantly different—a republic.[1] We are taught the “American Dream,” when in fact the ladder of social mobility is really quite steep for an allegedly affluent “democracy.”[2] We imagine that people get what they deserve, that merit is rewarded,[3] when in fact so-called meritocracy amounts to the powerful protecting their own positions and for the benefit of their own children.[4] The list goes on but ultimately, the only improvement these beliefs can offer over magical thinking is that they carry moral force. To believe them, however, simply because they are how things ought to be, is to commit the naturalistic fallacy.[5] Read more

  1. [1]James Madison, “Federalist No. 10,” in Kelly Kyuzawa with Robert Brammer, eds., “The Federalist Papers,” Congress, May 3, 2016,
  2. [2]Claude S. Fischer, Michael Hout, Martin Sanchez Jankowski, Samuel R. Lucas, Ann Swidler, and Kim Voss, “Why Inequality?” in Great Divides: Readings in Social Inequality in the United States, ed. Thomas M. Shapiro, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005).
  3. [3]Thomas M. Shapiro, “Introduction,” in Great Divides: Readings
    in Social Inequality in the United States
    , ed. Thomas M. Shapiro, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005).
  4. [4]Christopher Hayes, Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy (New York: Crown, 2012).
  5. [5]Kwame Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in A World of Strangers (New York: W. W. Norton, 2006).

A retraction: I now support impeachment

Gee, this didn’t take very long at all.

On the very night that the House of Representatives failed to pass an impeachment resolution[1] that would have been a substantive response[2] to his racist tweets,[3]

Goaded on by the president, a crowd at a Donald Trump rally on Wednesday night chanted “send her back! send her back!” in reference to Ilhan Omar, a US congresswoman who arrived almost 30 years ago as a child refugee in the United States.[4]

Credit the neoliberal party for this. Moving forward with impeachment might not have been the smart strategy—indeed, I have argued just that in entries I am now retracting[5]—but sometimes you just gotta move.[6] Because now we’re right there with Adolf Hitler and his rallies in Nazi Germany.[7]

And don’t make me defend that comparison. Because I know I can.[8]

As for Nancy Pelosi (oh, yes, I’ve seen her house in Pacific Heights in San Francisco) and her neoliberal ilk, send them back to their comfortable fucking mansions and build high concrete walls around them with concrete domes over them so they are never heard from again. They are every bit as toxic as Chernobyl and every bit as stupid. Let them starve in the darkness with all their love of power and all their love of fucking money.

Oh, and be sure to remind me of this if I ever again make the mistake of placing any faith whatsoever in a fucking neoliberal.[9]

  1. [1]Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis, “House votes to kill impeachment resolution against Trump, avoiding a direct vote on whether to oust the president,” Washington Post, July 17, 2019,
  2. [2]Rachael Bade, “Rep. Green files articles of impeachment against Trump despite pushback from Democratic leaders,” Washington Post, July 16, 2019,; Eric Cortellessa, “Liberal US Jews say Trump is weaponizing Israel to defend his racist tweets,” Times of Israel, July 16, 2019,
  3. [3]Jeremy Herb and Manu Raju, “Democrat says House likely to vote on impeachment resolution Wednesday,” CNN, July 17, 2019,; Michael Luo, “Trump’s Racist Tweets, and the Question of Who Belongs in America,” New Yorker, July 15, 2019,; Adam Serwer, “Trump Tells America What Kind of Nationalist He Is,” Atlantic, July 15, 2019,
  4. [4]Tom McCarthy, “Trump rally crowd chants ‘send her back’ after president attacks Ilhan Omar,” Guardian, July 17, 2019,
  5. [5]David Benfell, “It might actually be a good thing that Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House right now,” Not Housebroken, January 12, 2019,; David Benfell, “Why Nancy Pelosi is right about impeachment,” Not Housebroken, May 22, 2019,; David Benfell, “Calls for impeachment are the latest displays of the naturalistic fallacy and system justification,” Not Housebroken, May 23, 2019,
  6. [6]The evolution of my thought here has been rapid. It can be traced in previous entries: David Benfell, “Shunning as the human condition,” Irregular Bullshit, July 16, 2019,; David Benfell, “Accreditors going wild,” Irregular Bullshit, July 17, 2019,
  7. [7]Indeed, this is an example of why we cannot exclude structural violence in a definition of fascism. David Benfell, “A simple definition of fascism,” Not Housebroken, July 6, 2019,
  8. [8]To begin (only the barest of beginnings): David Benfell, “It’s time to be clear: Migrant children are being held in concentration camps and the Trump administration is fascist,” Not Housebroken, June 24, 2019,; Christopher Brauchli, “Trump and Hitler: A Juxtaposition,” Common Dreams, June 29, 2019,
  9. [9]David Benfell, “It might actually be a good thing that Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House right now,” Not Housebroken, January 12, 2019,

The conundrum of higher education accreditation

A few decades ago, Paulo Freire proposed a radical approach to education[1] which is integral in critical theory, where inquiry (research) is intentionally conflated with instruction,[2] and was a forerunner to the action research and participatory action research methodologies.
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  1. [1]Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 30th Anniversary Edition (New York: Continuum, 2006).
  2. [2]Raymond A. Morrow with David D. Brown, Critical Theory and Methodology (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1994); Norman K. Denzin, Yvonna S. Lincoln, and Linda Tuhiwai Smith, eds., Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008).