How am I to respond?

Update, December 31, 2019: The artillery round I mention in the caption to the map in figure 1 has now been added.


Having moved to Pittsburgh, I find myself in a society that does not merely tolerate, but enables white supremacism. And this is not merely white supremacism of a rhetorical sort.
[googlemaps https://www.google.com/maps/d/embed?mid=1K1CjgWPOH71L1UsUSHs00ubbu-jYnWux&w=640&h=480]
Fig. 1. Locations of gratuitous weapon displays. At this writing, it does not yet include an artillery round on display outside the Carrick High School (Update, December 31, 2019: This has now been added). Map of photographs taken by the author. Read more

Freedom of religion

Update, December 31, 2019: In a New York Times op-ed, Katherine Stewart and Caroline Fredrickson embrace a term ‘religious privilege’ for what I describe here as evangelical Protestants’ claim to religious freedom rights that impede other human rights. They define the term as referring to “the freedom of people of certain conservative and authoritarian varieties of religion to discriminate against those of whom they disapprove or over whom they wish to exert power.”[1] I hesitate, more from instinct than any articulable reason, to adopt this term myself though it appears apt.

Notably, their definition includes important elements: The ‘privileged’ sects are arbitrary, but typically “conservative and authoritarian,”[2] for which we may reasonably read conservative Christian, a term which also includes Roman Catholicism. The latter is typically represented by traditionalist rather than by social conservatism in my scheme of conservative tendencies, but they share considerable ideological ground.[3] They refer to this ‘freedom’ as being “to discriminate against those of whom they disapprove or over whom they wish to exert power,”[4] which is substantially consistent with my view that they seek to constrain the human rights of others.


Social conservatives (mostly evangelical Protestants) are particularly prone to the belief that they are being persecuted for their religion.

A huge problem here is that evangelism intrudes on other people’s beliefs or absence thereof. It is explicitly about proselytizing, spreading an evangelist’s faith.[5] Which means that for an evangelist, “freedom of religion” means the freedom to impose it on other people.
Read more

  1. [1]Katherine Stewart and Caroline Fredrickson, “Bill Barr Thinks America Is Going to Hell,” New York Times, December 29, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/29/opinion/william-barr-trump.html
  2. [2]Katherine Stewart and Caroline Fredrickson, “Bill Barr Thinks America Is Going to Hell,” New York Times, December 29, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/29/opinion/william-barr-trump.html
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  4. [4]Katherine Stewart and Caroline Fredrickson, “Bill Barr Thinks America Is Going to Hell,” New York Times, December 29, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/29/opinion/william-barr-trump.html
  5. [5]Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Baile, “After Trump and Moore, some evangelicals are finding their own label too toxic to use,” Washington Post, December 14, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/after-trump-and-moore-some-evangelicals-are-finding-their-own-label-too-toxic-to-use/2017/12/14/b034034c-e020-11e7-89e8-edec16379010_story.html

The bipartisan system

It is a curious and ironic thing that the bipartisan political system in the United States consists of two parties, the Democrats and the Republicans.

On the one hand, the Republicans more openly uphold the system as James Madison intended. Madison distinguished between a republic and a democracy, preferred the former, and was concerned to protect the minority rights, not of any subaltern group, but rather those of wealthy white slave-owning males.[1] Read more

  1. [1]James Madison, “Federalist No. 10,” in The Federalist Papers, ed. Garry Wills (New York: Bantam, 2003), 50-58.

The place where I live

Update, January 1, 2020: The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Right Stuff as a white nationalist group in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In itself, this doesn’t mean much. Their list also includes Counter-Currents Publishing, Identity Evropa, and Right Stuff in San Francisco, and the Patriot Front and WeSearchr as statewide in California.[1] I have lived in San Francisco and in a few places in California, mostly around the San Francisco Bay Area, without ever encountering any of these groups.


A few days ago, I pulled into my usual gas station. Behind me came, if I recall correctly, a Buick.

Pennsylvania doesn’t generally issue front license plates so people can put what they want there. This man, whom I’d judge to be in his sixties, had a plate including emblems of the National Rifle Association and the Confederate flag. He left just before I did. I saw his back bumper included a sticker which read, “Secession: It’s the right thing to do.” Read more

  1. [1]Southern Poverty Law Center, “White Nationalist,” n.d., https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/white-nationalist

The asterisk

At National Public Radio, Ron Elving writes,

It has been said the president will always carry the impeachment as a mark. Some call it a stain, some a mere asterisk. Whichever it is, it would be substantially erased by re-election.[1]

Which the neoliberal (Democratic) party is doing everything possible to make happen.[2]
Read more

  1. [1]Ron Elving, “Trump Is Impeached, But There’s No Endgame In Sight,” National Public Radio, December 21, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/12/21/790313280/trump-is-impeached-but-theres-no-endgame-in-sight
  2. [2]David Benfell, “How the neoliberal (usually known as Democratic) party may well lose in 2020,” Not Housebroken, December 7, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/07/how-the-neoliberal-usually-known-as-democratic-party-may-well-lose-in-2020/

The limits of game theory in U.S. politics

Responding to an Intercept post apparently on the neoliberal (Democratic) party endorsing yet another so-called “centrist” (neoliberal) candidate, I posted,

I first encountered game theory in Robert Harms’ Games Against Nature in which he deployed game theory to explain a competition for resources among indigenous people, the Nunu, in equatorial Africa.[1] I was ill at ease with game theory but had to accept that it might well have had applicability in this case. Read more

  1. [1]Robert Harms, Games Against Nature (Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University, 1987).

The sham (pick your partisan flavor) is on

Whether you believe with Republicans the impeachment itself is a sham or with neoliberals (Democrats) that the trial will be a sham, it is on. For me, the Republican denial that Donald Trump did anything wrong is pathetic,[1] but I am increasingly convinced that the principle involved here is not the Constitution but rather neoliberalism,[2] which disgusts me to no end. Read more

  1. [1]Colby Itkowitz et al., “Trump becomes third U.S. president to be impeached as House approves both articles against him,” Washington Post, December 18, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-impeachment-live-updates/2019/12/18/237147e8-2110-11ea-bed5-880264cc91a9_story.html
  2. [2]David Benfell, “It’s still a smoke-filled room,” Not Housebroken, December 6, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/06/its-still-a-smoke-filled-room/; David Benfell, “How the neoliberal (usually known as Democratic) party may well lose in 2020,” Not Housebroken, December 7, 2019, How the neoliberal (usually known as Democratic) party may well lose in 2020