Donald Trump’s ‘brown shirts’

See updates and errata through October 16, 2020, at end of post.


I previously wrote of Pittsburgh,

For me, the over-the-top patriotism of a sort that makes me wonder what the flag-wavers are compensating for, the guns, and the white supremacism are indeed all part of a vicious package, an identity that some whites perceive as under siege. They cling to their flags, their guns, their intolerant form of Christianity, and their whiteness,[1] as they have lost their jobs[2] and live with the decay that is everywhere to be seen (figures 8 through 11). We might call it post-industrial, but post-apocalyptic seems more appropriate.[3]

This was somewhat speculative, but at the cost of human lives, I am being proven right.

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  1. [1]Ben Smith, “Obama on small-town Pa.: Clinging to religion, guns, xenophobia,” Politico, April 11, 2008, https://www.politico.com/blogs/ben-smith/2008/04/obama-on-small-town-pa-clinging-to-religion-guns-xenophobia-007737
  2. [2]Jason Togyer, “Fear and Loathing in the Time of Coronavirus,” Columbia Journalism Review, March 25, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/special_report/mckeesport-year-of-fear-covid-19-pandemic.php
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Pittsburgh, race, and a threat to appropriated identity,” Not Housebroken, May 30, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/17/pittsburgh-race-and-a-threat-to-appropriated-identity/

Don’t just defund the police. Abolish them.

See the updates for August 27, 2020, and August 29, 2020, at end of post.


Yet another Black man, Jacob Blake, has been shot in the back, this time in Kenosha, Wisconsin. And we see yet again, a president of a local police union whining about a “rush to judgment” by those who condemn police shooting an unarmed human being in the back,[1] demonstrating yet again a categorical rejection of even the most minimal accountability.[2] Read more

  1. [1]Stephen Maturen, “Wisconsin calls out National Guard after unrest over police shooting of Black man,” Reuters, August 24, 2020, https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-global-race-usa-wisconsin/wisconsin-calls-out-national-guard-after-unrest-over-police-shooting-of-black-man-idUKKBN25K0CP
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Time to take the guns away,” Not Housebroken, January 6, 2015, https://disunitedstates.org/2015/01/04/time-to-take-the-guns-away/; David Benfell, “Defunding the police is, at best, a baby’s first step,” Not Housebroken, June 20, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/06/15/defunding-the-police-is-at-best-a-babys-first-step/

Off with their heads

See update for August 19, 2020, at end of post

Pittsburgh has not been at the forefront of racial justice protests, but they’ve been happening here nonetheless, and so in a sense, this city makes a better candidate for a case study than an outlier like Portland.[1] Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto initially responded like an thoroughly contemptible asshole,[2] then improved a bit.[3] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “On sending in the troops,” Not Housebroken, June 2, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/06/02/on-sending-in-the-troops/; David Benfell, “The authoritarian populist president embraces neoconservatism–to advance his own tyranny,” Not Housebroken, July 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/07/21/the-authoritarian-populist-president-embraces-neoconservatism-to-advance-his-own-tyranny/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “The reason the status quo is not the answer is that the status quo cannot be the answer,” Not Housebroken, June 4, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/06/01/the-reason-the-status-quo-is-not-the-answer-is-that-the-status-quo-cannot-be-the-answer/
  3. [3]Andy Sheehan, “Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto Proposes Creation Of New Office That Would ‘Allow Public Safety To Step Back’ And Get People Longer-Term Help,” KDKA, June 12, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/06/12/pittsburgh-office-of-community-health-and-safety/; Teghan Simonton, “Peduto gives statement on George Floyd and Black Lives Matter movement,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 11, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/peduto-gives-statement-on-george-floyd-and-black-lives-matter-movement/

Blaming the victims, capitalist-style

As a society, we’re awfully fond of blaming the poor for their own misfortune. As Thomas Shapiro put it,

A core element of the American credo is that talent, skill, hard work, and achievement largely determine life chances. We believe that everyone has a fair shot at whatever is valued or prized and that no individual or group is unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged.[1]

The ‘credo’ Shapiro critiques overlooks all the ways that we, as a society, actively persecute and prosecute the poor,[2] not least through an economic system that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer with every transaction.[3] Instead, and as an excuse for not doing more for the poor, we righteously demand that the poor take “self-responsibility.” Read more

  1. [1]Thomas M. Shapiro, “Introduction,” in Great Divides, ed. Thomas M. Shapiro, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005), 3.
  2. [2]Herbert J. Gans, The War Against The Poor (New York: Basic, 1995); Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004); Dan Simon, In Doubt (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 2012).
  3. [3]Max Weber, “Class, Status, Party,” in Social Theory, ed. Charles Lemert, 6th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2017), 94-101.

The capitalist libertarian solution to the COVID-19 pandemic: Kill the poor

Pennsylvania state representative Jim Cox, of Berks, thinks it’s time to get government out of the business of keeping us all safe, but of course, he thinks the military and the police are just fine. It’s just diseases the government shouldn’t protect us from.[1]
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  1. [1]Stephen Caruso, “Pa. Lawmaker: It’s not government’s responsibility to ‘try to keep us safe,’” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, August 12, 2020, https://www.penncapital-star.com/covid-19/pa-lawmaker-its-not-governments-responsibility-to-try-to-keep-us-safe/

On police

See update for August 12, 2020 at end of post


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here: Police are the only people in our society authorized to use even lethal force against others. The fact of this authorization means that any other approaches they may apply in the course of their duties ultimately reduce to the potential of lethal force: The officer might seek to persuade you by other means, but if you don’t comply, s/he can charge you with disorderly conduct (pretty much a catch-all for not doing whatever the nice officer tells you to do[1]), and if you resist arrest for that conduct, s/he may shoot you and kill you. This is force of the most brutal sort and the threat of this force is implicit in every interaction the police have.

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  1. [1]Consider for example, the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts: Lowry Heussler in Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Arrest of Henry Louis Gates,” Atlantic, August 12, 2010, https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/08/the-arrest-of-henry-louis-gates/61365/

Regarding the planned ultimatum by southwestern Pennsylvania bar and restaurant owners

See update for August 7, 2020, at end of post

Dear Governor Tom Wolf,

Since learning yesterday morning—I woke up to this news—of the planned ultimatum by restaurant and bar owners in southwestern Pennsylvania against the restrictions on capacity you’ve imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic,[1] I’ve been trying to wrap my head around their sheer gall.
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  1. [1]Dillon Carr, “Restaurants and bars banding together to give Gov. Wolf an ultimatum,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 4, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/restaurants-and-bars-banding-together-to-give-gov-wolf-an-ultimatum-thursday/

A neoliberal crackdown at the Postal Service should support all our suspicions about the November election

See updates for August 18, 2020, and August 21, 2020, at end of post

The delusional raging narcissist-in-chief sure looks like he’s intentionally handicapping the Postal Service to ensure that mail-in voting will not be reliable even as the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to mean many more people will be voting by mail than ever before.[1] Read more

  1. [1]Jessica Dean, Jessica Schneider, and Caroline Kelly, “Postal Service says it has ‘ample capacity’ to handle election after Trump casts doubt,” CNN, August 3, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/03/politics/postal-service-ample-capacity-election-trump/index.html; Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Jacob Bogage, “Postal Service backlog sparks worries that ballot delivery could be delayed in November,” Washington Post, July 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/postal-service-backlog-sparks-worries-that-ballot-delivery-could-be-delayed-in-november/2020/07/30/cb19f1f4-d1d0-11ea-8d32-1ebf4e9d8e0d_story.html; Veronica Stracqualursi and Jessica Dean, “New postal policies that are slowing service may affect 2020 mail-in voting, union leader says,” CNN, July 31, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/31/politics/usps-mail-in-voting-2020-election/index.html

The mysterious expectation that elites give a damn

See updates through October 15, 2020, at end of post.


It’s not like it hasn’t been quite well known we have been approaching a cliff at full speed. We went over it yesterday [July 31] because the elites can’t agree on further economic relief for the pandemic. Which means a whole lot more people are going to have trouble paying their bills, paying their rent, buying groceries.[1] Which in turn means that a lot of people won’t be spending money and a lot of people will lose their jobs permanently.[2] Which means we are no longer talking about a recession. We are talking about a depression. Read more

  1. [1]Eli Rosenberg, Erica Werner, and Jeff Stein, “30 million unemployed lose extra jobless benefits, as talks between Congress and the White House are at an impasse,” Washington Post, July 31, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2020/07/31/congress-bailout-unemployment-insurance/
  2. [2]Heather Long, “This recession is already deep. If Congress fails to act, a lot of damage could be permanent,” Washington Post, July 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/07/30/economists-favor-big-stimulus/