Failing to answer the question: Why you should care about other people

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything on Twitter that hits the nail on the head more than this:

The question approaches that of psychopathy or sociopathy in which

People like this [with antisocial personality disorder] have a poor inner sense of right and wrong. They also can’t seem to understand or share another person’s feelings. . . . Someone with this personality type sees others as objects he can use for his own benefit.[1]

Indeed, this is another reason for regarding capitalism as criminal,[2] as this economic ideology inherently reduces some human beings to means to others’ (the rich and powerful) ends.[3] Read more

  1. [1]Kara Mayer Robinson, “Sociopath vs. Psychopath: What’s the Difference?” WebMD, 2014, https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/sociopath-psychopath-difference
  2. [2]David Benfell, “We are reaping what we have sown,” Not Housebroken, November 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/11/21/we-are-reaping-what-we-have-sown/
  3. [3]Lawrence M. Hinman, Contemporary Moral Issues, 4th ed. (Boston: Pearson, 2013).

When it’s over but it isn’t

See update for November 29, 2020 at end of post.


Over three weeks after the 2020 presidential election (on November 3), Donald Trump continues to allege electoral fraud even as he has failed to muster any evidence whatsoever to support his claims and the courts reject them.[1] He continues to pursue a failing, indeed flailing,[2] and predicted strategy of attempting to subvert the electoral college process.[3] Read more

  1. [1]Miranda Bryant, “Trump faces pressure from Republicans to drop ‘corrosive’ fight to overturn election,” Guardian, November 22, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/nov/22/trump-republicans-pressure-fight-overturn-election; Josh Dawsey, “Trump commits to stepping down if electoral college votes for Biden,” Washington Post, November 26, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-says-he-will-leave-if-electoral-college-votes-for-biden/2020/11/26/7883351c-303b-11eb-96c2-aac3f162215d_story.html; Pam Fessler, “Led By Giuliani, Trump Campaign Effort To Stop Certification Falters In Pennsylvania,” National Public Radio, November 17, 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/11/17/936027693/led-by-giuliani-trump-campaign-effort-to-stop-certification-falters-in-pennsylva; Toluse Olorunnipa, Amy B. Wang, and Chelsea Janes, “Trump’s quest to overturn election runs into quiet resistance from local and state Republicans,” Washington Post, November 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-michigan-georgia-pennsylvania-certify-votes-state-lawmakers/2020/11/21/1f410296-2b9e-11eb-8fa2-06e7cbb145c0_story.html; Philip Rucker, Amy Gardner, and Josh Dawsey, “Trump uses power of presidency to try to overturn the election and stay in office,” Washington Post, November 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-uses-power-of-presidency-to-try-to-overturn-the-election-and-stay-in-office/2020/11/19/bc89caa6-2a9f-11eb-8fa2-06e7cbb145c0_story.html; Stephanie Saul, “Lindsey Graham’s Long-Shot Mission to Unravel the Election Results,” New York Times, November 17, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/17/us/politics/lindsey-graham-georgia-trump-biden.html; Jon Swaine, “In scathing opinion, federal judge dismisses Trump campaign lawsuit in Pennsylvania,” Washington Post, November 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/us-judge-dismisses-trump-campaign-lawsuit-in-pa/2020/11/21/cc097fbe-2c50-11eb-9b14-ad872157ebc9_story.html; Paula Reed Ward, “Federal judge to consider whether to dismiss case filed by Trump campaign in Pa.,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 17, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/federal-judge-to-consider-whether-to-dismiss-case-filed-by-trump-campaign-in-pa/
  2. [2]Toluse Olorunnipa, Amy B. Wang, and Chelsea Janes, “Trump’s quest to overturn election runs into quiet resistance from local and state Republicans,” Washington Post, November 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-michigan-georgia-pennsylvania-certify-votes-state-lawmakers/2020/11/21/1f410296-2b9e-11eb-8fa2-06e7cbb145c0_story.html
  3. [3]Max Boot, “What if Trump loses but insists he won?” Washington Post, July 6, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/07/06/what-if-trump-loses-insists-he-won/; Rosa Brooks, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Washington Post, September 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/09/03/trump-stay-in-office/; Marjorie Cohn, “Trump’s Frivolous Lawsuits Are the Tip of the Iceberg in His Refusal to Concede,” Truthout, November 11, 2020, https://truthout.org/articles/trumps-frivolous-lawsuits-are-the-tip-of-the-iceberg-in-his-refusal-to-concede/; Eric Lach, “What Happens if Donald Trump Fights the Election Results?” New Yorker, August 21, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/campaign-chronicles/what-happens-if-donald-trump-fights-the-election-results; Robert McCartney, “Here’s one way Trump could try to steal the election, voting experts say,” Washington Post, August 17, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/heres-one-way-trump-could-try-to-steal-the-election-voting-experts-say/2020/08/16/b5bf0c2a-de66-11ea-b205-ff838e15a9a6_story.html; Timothy E. Wirth and Tom Rogers, “How Trump Could Lose the Election—And Still Remain President,” Newsweek, July 3, 2020, https://www.newsweek.com/how-trump-could-lose-election-still-remain-president-opinion-1513975

We are reaping what we have sown

See update for November 28, 2020 at end of post.


A lot of people actually like capitalism, mainly because they think it can make them rich, and they see ‘freedom’—when you see this word, always, always, always, ask “for whom, to do what, to whom?”—in the power that relative wealth offers them over others. Accordingly, they believe “they should be ‘free’ to exploit workers and the environment for personal gain, externalizing the associated costs, and thus burdening society at large with the costs they incur but should not have to pay for.”[1] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “On ‘freedom,’” Not Housebroken, September 13, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/09/13/on-freedom/

Dual sovereignty in the not-quite post-Trump era

The U.S. constitutional oligarchy[1] faces a threat that is probably unlike any in history.[2]

First, a bit of background: Any authoritarian system of social organization (yes, this includes the U.S. and most of the world) relies on the acquiescence of the mass population. This ‘legitimacy’ means that the government does not need so often to use force to impose its will.[3] To be clear, the violence remains implicit—indeed, Max Weber noted that sovereignty uniquely enables whoever holds it a ‘legitimate’ use of force[4]—and anarchists accordingly regard such rule as based on violence and illegitimate. Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “A constitutional oligarchy: Deconstructing Federalist No. 10,” Not Housebroken, November 3, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/22/a-constitutional-oligarchy-deconstructing-federalist-no-10/
  2. [2]Fred Hiatt, “Trump is putting this country through something unprecedented. Here are three scenarios,” Washington Post, November 15, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-wants-to-overturn-the-results-of-a-free-and-fair-election-theres-a-word-for-that/2020/11/13/cb94b77e-25b6-11eb-952e-0c475972cfc0_story.html
  3. [3]Gerhard Lenski, Power and Privilege: A Theory of Social Stratification (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966).
  4. [4]Max Weber, “What is Politics?” in Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings, ed. Charles Lemert, 4th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2010), 114-116.

A Pyrrhic victory

The Democrats don’t care about the poor and, Mike Davis argues in the London Review of Books, it showed up in the election results from, among other places, the Rio Grande Valley of Texas:[1]

As the fantasy of great gains in Texas dissipated, Democrats were stunned to discover that a high turnout had instead propelled a Trump surge along the border. In the three Rio Grande Valley counties (the agricultural corridor from Brownsville to Rio Grande City), which Clinton had carried by 39 per cent, Biden achieved a margin of only 15 per cent. More than half of the population of Starr County, an ancient battlefield of the Texas farmworkers’ movement, lives in poverty, yet Trump won 47 per cent of the vote there, an incredible gain of 28 points from 2016. Further up river he actually flipped 82 per cent Latino Val Verde County (county seat: Del Rio) and increased his vote in Maverick County (Eagle Pass) by 24 points and Webb County (Laredo) by 15 points. The Democratic congressman Vincente Gonzalez (McAllen) had to fight down to the wire to save the seat he won by 21 per cent in 2018. Even in El Paso, a hotbed of Democratic activism, Trump made a six point gain. Considering South Texas as a whole, the Democrats had great hopes of winning the 21st Congressional District, which connects San Antonio and Austin, as well as the 78 per cent Latino 23rd Congressional District, which is anchored in the western suburbs of San Antonio but encompasses a vast swathe of southwest Texas. In both cases, the Republicans won fairly easily.[2]

Albeit probably in part due to Barack Obama’s record as a neoliberal (these policies help propel northward migration[3]) and as “deporter-in-chief,”[4] Joe Biden couldn’t even get the Latinx vote in the river valley that divides the United States from Mexico. Even when Donald Trump and the Republicans have been relentless in their demonization of human beings from south of the border.[5] Even when Trump locked migrants and their kids up in concentration camps.[6] Read more

  1. [1]Mike Davis, “Rio Grande Valley Republicans,” London Review of Books 42, no. 22 (November 19, 2020), https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n22/mike-davis/short-cuts
  2. [2]Mike Davis, “Rio Grande Valley Republicans,” London Review of Books 42, no. 22 (November 19, 2020), https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n22/mike-davis/short-cuts
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  4. [4]Cornel West, “Pity the sad legacy of Barack Obama,” Guardian, January 9, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/09/barack-obama-legacy-presidency
  5. [5]Mike Davis, “Rio Grande Valley Republicans,” London Review of Books 42, no. 22 (November 19, 2020), https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n22/mike-davis/short-cuts
  6. [6]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, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/06/24/its-time-to-be-clear-migrant-children-are-being-held-in-concentration-camps-and-the-trump-administration-is-fascist/

Intellectual respectability for psychopaths

I came into a fair amount of contact with the Stanford University campus and its students while driving cab in Palo Alto—this, on a weekly lease, was a way to keep myself in a vehicle while I was finishing my B.A. in Mass Communication at California State University, East Bay, in Hayward, across the Bay, and commuting over forty miles each way from the Santa Cruz Mountains in the South Bay. Palo Alto, you should know, is a very liberal, albeit very wealthy, area with pretensions to being progressive; the population there will largely be entirely comfortable with Barack Obama’s legacy and Joe Biden’s presidency. Read more

On the likely departure of Donald Trump

With the Associated Press having called results in all but Alaska, Georgia, and North Carolina, it very much appears that Joe Biden has won the presidency.[1] Certainly the celebrations I saw yesterday (November 7) in Pittsburgh suggest that people think this black hole presidency is over. And I will set aside for now that, to borrow a fat-shaming colloquialism, the fat lady hasn’t sung, that is, that Donald Trump is still desperately attempting to cling to office and may yet attempt further nefarious schemes to do so.[2] Read more

  1. [1]New Yorker, “Election 2020,” November 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/election-2020/live-2020-presidential-election-results
  2. [2]Max Boot, “What if Trump loses but insists he won?” Washington Post, July 6, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/07/06/what-if-trump-loses-insists-he-won/; Rosa Brooks, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Washington Post, September 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/09/03/trump-stay-in-office/; Will Bunch, “Trump’s diabolical plan to blow up democracy, get reelected and avoid jail just might work,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 5, 2019, https://www.philly.com/opinion/commentary/trump-wants-impeachment-2020-reelection-strategy-blame-democrats-ignore-subpoenas-20190505.html; Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, “Trump team eyes legal, political Hail Marys as options for comeback fade,” Politico, November 6, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/11/06/trump-legal-political-lawsuit-election-434786; Chris Cillizza, “What happens if Donald Trump refuses to admit he lost in 2020?” CNN, May 6, 2019, https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2019/05/06/politics/donald-trump-2020-election/index.html; Democracy Now!, “What If Trump Refuses to Accept a Biden Victory? A Look at How Electoral Chaos Could Divide Nation,” August 3, 2020, https://www.democracynow.org/2020/8/3/nils_gilman_2020_election_scenarios; Barton Gellman, “The Election That Could Break America,” Atlantic, September 23, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/11/what-if-trump-refuses-concede/616424/; Mehdi Hasan, “Yes, Let’s Defeat or Impeach Donald Trump. But What If He Refuses to Leave the White House?” Intercept, March 6, 2019, https://theintercept.com/2019/03/06/donald-trump-impeachment-2020/; Colby Itkowitz, “Trump won’t commit to a ‘peaceful transfer of power’ if he loses,” Washington Post, September 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-transfer-of-power/2020/09/23/be6954d0-fdf0-11ea-b555-4d71a9254f4b_story.html; Ed Kilgore, “How Trump Is Trying to Ensure an Early Election Night Lead,” New York, August 13, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/08/trump-voters-could-vote-in-person-and-give-him-early-lead.html; Eric Lach, “What Happens if Donald Trump Fights the Election Results?” New Yorker, August 21, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/campaign-chronicles/what-happens-if-donald-trump-fights-the-election-results; Robert McCartney, “Here’s one way Trump could try to steal the election, voting experts say,” Washington Post, August 17, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/heres-one-way-trump-could-try-to-steal-the-election-voting-experts-say/2020/08/16/b5bf0c2a-de66-11ea-b205-ff838e15a9a6_story.html; Peter Nicholas, “Trump Could Still Break Democracy’s Biggest Norm,” Atlantic, June 16, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/06/when-does-trump-leave-white-house/613060/; Greg Sargent, “On Hannity’s show, Trump reveals his corrupt, panicky endgame,” Washington Post, October 9, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/10/09/hannity-trump-reveals-his-corrupt-panicky-endgame/; Felicia Sonmez, “Trump declines to say whether he will accept November election results,” Washington Post, July 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-declines-to-say-whether-he-will-accept-november-election-results/2020/07/19/40009804-c9c7-11ea-91f1-28aca4d833a0_story.html; Isaac Stanley-Becker, “Claiming two years of his presidency were ‘stolen,’ Trump suggests he’s owed overtime,” Washington Post, May 6, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/05/06/claiming-two-years-his-presidency-were-stolen-trump-suggests-hes-owed-overtime/; Timothy E. Wirth and Tom Rogers, “How Trump Could Lose the Election—And Still Remain President,” Newsweek, July 3, 2020, https://www.newsweek.com/how-trump-could-lose-election-still-remain-president-opinion-1513975