Who shall determine our fate?

See update for January 9, 2021, at end of post.

Nearly two months after the fact, Donald Trump’s surrogates are still trying to overturn the election. Still. The latest is a lawsuit claiming that the Electoral Count Act unconstitutionally ties the vice president’s hands in choosing which electoral college votes to count.[1] Read more

  1. [1]Kyle Cheney, “Gohmert suit may force Pence’s hand in effort to overturn Trump’s defeat,” Politico, December 28, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/12/28/gohmert-suit-pence-overturn-trumps-defeat-451485

Underestimating the gravity of the situation, as Donald Trump faces a White House exit

See updates through January 14, 2021, at end of post.

I remember, out in California, talking to a psychologist friend about Donald Trump. Neither of us could imagine he would last a full four years in office.

My friend noted, correctly as it turned out, that Trump wasn’t actually interested in being president so much as in the attention that winning the presidency had gained him, but thought Trump would find a way to resign or step aside. Read more

Imagine a malicious elite

See updates through December 30, 2020, at end of post.

Imagine you have a pandemic. Imagine that lockdowns meant to limit the spread of that pandemic cause millions to lose their jobs. Imagine that these people have lost their health insurance.[1] Imagine that many of these millions of people remain unemployed, face eviction and homelessness.[2] Imagine that many of these people will move in with relatives and friends, increasing housing density, increasing the opportunity for the virus to spread.[3] Read more

  1. [1]Amy Goldstein, “First, the coronavirus pandemic took their jobs. Then, it wiped out their health insurance,” Washington Post, April 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/first-the-coronavirus-pandemic-took-their-jobs-then-it-wiped-out-their-health-insurance/2020/04/18/1c2cb5bc-7d7c-11ea-8013-1b6da0e4a2b7_story.html
  2. [2]Heather Long, “Millions of Americans are heading into the holidays unemployed and over $5,000 behind on rent,” Washington Post, December 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/12/07/unemployed-debt-rent-utilities/
  3. [3]Michelle Conlin and Christopher Walljasper, “Time’s up: After a reprieve, a wave of evictions expected across U.S.,” Reuters, October 19, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-housing-eviction-insight/times-up-after-a-reprieve-a-wave-of-evictions-expected-across-u-s-idUKKBN27415U

Pure poison

See updates through January 9, 2021, at end of post.

Over the years, indeed since my public speaking class, back when I first returned to school in 2003, I have repeatedly argued that the United States is beset by irreconcilable differences, that as difficult as it is to conceive, a national divorce is the only sane way out.[1] In that time, polarization has only intensified.[2] This now culminates in a sometimes violent[3] disagreement over who won an election that occurred a month and a half ago. It’s not even seriously that the fact of the outcome is in dispute,[4] but rather what the outgoing president and his followers desperately want to believe.[5] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “A divorce for the United States,” Not Housebroken, December 14, 2009, https://disunitedstates.org/2009/12/14/a-divorce-for-the-united-states/; David Benfell, “What might a U.S. divorce look like?” Not Housebroken, December 14, 2009, https://disunitedstates.org/2009/12/14/what-might-a-u-s-divorce-look-like/; David Benfell, “A national divorce,” Not Housebroken, September 8, 2015, https://disunitedstates.org/2015/09/08/a-national-divorce/; David Benfell, “A single set of values,” Not Housebroken, October 8, 2018, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/10/08/a-single-set-of-values/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Why divorce when you can instead disintegrate in the most painful way possible?” Not Housebroken, September 7, 2010, https://disunitedstates.org/2010/09/07/why-divorce-when-you-can-instead-disintegrate-in-the-most-painful-way-possible/; David Benfell, “‘Progress’ and the Union,” Not Housebroken, December 24, 2012, https://disunitedstates.org/2012/12/24/progress-and-the-union/; David Benfell, “The ‘arc of the moral universe’ and the undefeated South,” Not Housebroken February 24, 2015, https://disunitedstates.org/2015/02/24/the-arc-of-the-moral-universe-and-the-undefeated-south/; David Benfell, “The illegitimacy of the opposing party,” Not Housebroken, February 23, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/2016/02/18/the-illegitimacy-of-the-opposing-party/; David Benfell, “The Left may be about to claim a Pyrrhic victory,” Not Housebroken, August 20, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/2017/08/20/the-left-may-be-about-to-claim-a-pyrrhic-victory/; David Benfell, “The theory of the morality of polarization,” Not Housebroken, December 23, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/23/the-theory-of-the-morality-of-polarization/; David Benfell, “Epistemology in the present U.S. political crisis,” Not Housebroken, November 27, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/11/12/epistemology-in-the-present-u-s-political-crisis/.
  3. [3]Rod Dreher, “Eric Metaxas’s American Apocalypse,” American Conservative, December 10, 2020, https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/eric-metaxas-trump-bloodshed-american-apocalypse-live-not-by-lies/; Peter Hermann, Marissa J. Lang, and Clarence Williams, “Pro-Trump rally descends into chaos as Proud Boys roam D.C. looking to fight,” Washington Post, December 13, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/proud-boys-protest-stabbing-arrest/2020/12/13/98c0f740-3d3f-11eb-8db8-395dedaaa036_story.html; Hannah Knowles, Annie Gowen, and Tom Hamburger, “‘A dark, empty place:’ Public officials face personal threats as tensions flare,” Washington Post, December 13, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/public-officials-threatened-covid-election/2020/12/13/680bd380-3be7-11eb-bc68-96af0daae728_story.html; Sophie Lewis, “Arizona Republican Party asks followers if they’re willing to die to overturn election results,” CBS News, December 10, 2020, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/arizona-republican-party-twitter-election-results-death-overturn/; Ciara O’Rourke, “How Oath Keepers Are Quietly Infiltrating Local Government,” Politico, December 9, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/12/09/oath-keepers-far-right-group-infiltrate-local-government-texas-443773; Katie Shepherd, “Armed protesters alleging voter fraud surrounded the home of Michigan’s secretary of state,” Washington Post, December 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/12/07/michigan-sos-benson-armed-protest/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “When it’s over but it isn’t,” Not Housebroken, December 16, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/11/27/when-its-over-but-it-isnt/
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Doubting the ‘Fox News bubble,’” Not Housebroken, December 13, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/09/07/doubting-the-fox-news-bubble/

About the Iowa Democratic Caucus fiasco and the Iowa Democratic Party audit

I don’t know if anybody even remembers the Iowa Democratic Caucus fiasco, in which folks wondered if we were ever going to get a count. It stirred a lot of suspicion at the time.[1]

Read more

  1. [1]Michael Biesecker and Brian Slodysko, “Maker of glitchy Iowa caucus app has Democratic Party ties,” Associated Press, February 4, 2020, https://apnews.com/5232ce5601996c1de440806ad30fa4fb; Rod Dreher, “DNC Sandbagging Bernie?” American Conservative, February 6, 2020, https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/democrats-dnc-sandbagging-bernie/; Reid J. Epstein et al., “How the Iowa Caucuses Became an Epic Fiasco for Democrats,” New York Times, February 9, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/09/us/politics/iowa-democratic-caucuses.html; Andrew Gumbel, “Iowa and the grand tradition of election tech mishaps,” Guardian, February 5, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/feb/05/iowa-election-tech-issues-florida; Natasha Korecki, David Siders, and Alex Thompson, “‘It’s a total meltdown’: Confusion seizes Iowa as officials struggle to report results,” Politico, February 4, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/03/iowa-caucus-2020-election-110600; John McCormick and Ken Thomas, “Democratic Caucus Results in Iowa Thrown Into State of Confusion,” Wall Street Journal, February 4, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/iowa-caucuses-to-kick-off-democratic-nominating-contest-11580731200; Isaac Stanley-Becker, “DNC chair calls for recanvass in Iowa,” Washington Post, February 6, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/dnc-chair-calls-for-recanvas-in-iowa/2020/02/06/0ec4dc4c-4906-11ea-9164-d3154ad8a5cd_story.html

The modern Scrooge

When I was a kid, the holiday season was a time for displays of generosity. We knew who the villain was, even if the story was about his redemption, in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.[1]

This year, millions face homelessness, hunger, destitution.[2] The politicians do nothing.[3] They omit the “Bah, Humbug!” But like Ebenezer Scrooge, they say, keep working.[4] As if those millions had jobs.[5] Read more

  1. [1]Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol,” Project Gutenberg, March 4, 2018, https://www.gutenberg.org/files/46/46-h/46-h.htm
  2. [2]Heather Long, “Millions of Americans are heading into the holidays unemployed and over $5,000 behind on rent,” Washington Post, December 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/12/07/unemployed-debt-rent-utilities/
  3. [3]David Benfell, “The mysterious expectation that elites give a damn,” Not Housebroken, December 9, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/08/01/the-mysterious-expectation-that-elites-give-a-damn/
  4. [4]Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol,” Project Gutenberg, March 4, 2018, https://www.gutenberg.org/files/46/46-h/46-h.htm
  5. [5]Heather Long, “Millions of Americans are heading into the holidays unemployed and over $5,000 behind on rent,” Washington Post, December 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/12/07/unemployed-debt-rent-utilities/

We’ve let a horrible year go to waste

It seems like more people have more Christmas decorations up this year, as if they are trying desperately to lighten the mood of an utterly foul year, in which we have been beset by a pandemic that Donald Trump tried to minimize[1] but is afflicting more people than ever and overwhelming more hospitals than ever,[2] in which Trump lost an election but is desperately attempting to overturn the results,[3] and the Black Lives Matter movement which seemed to hold such promise[4] has simply sputtered out. Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “On wishing the delusional raging narcissist-in-chief well,” Not Housebroken, October 16, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/10/03/on-wishing-the-delusional-raging-narcissist-in-chief-well/
  2. [2]Lenny Bernstein, “With hospitals slammed by covid-19, doctors and nurses plead for action by governors,” Washington Post, December 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/doctors-demand-covid-restrictions/2020/12/03/88c1afc6-34e1-11eb-8d38-6aea1adb3839_story.html; Antonia Noori Farzan et al. “U.S. surpasses 64,000 new coronavirus infections two days in a row for first time since late July,” Washington Post, October 16, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/10/16/coronavirus-covid-live-updates-us/; Elliot Hannon, “Trump Says “We’re Rounding the Turn” the Same Day the U.S. Approaches Record Number of New Coronavirus Cases,” Slate, October 23, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/10/u-s-record-coronavirus-single-day-cases-trump-debate-declares-country-rounding-the-turn.html; Karen Kaplan, “U.S. deaths are about 300,000 higher than expected since the coronavirus arrived,” Los Angeles Times, October 20, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2020-10-20/excess-deaths-in-united-states-since-coronavirus-arrived; Hannah Knowles and Jacqueline Dupree, “Full hospitals, talk of rationing care: New wave of coronavirus cases strains resources,” Washington Post, October 25, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/10/25/coronavirus-cases-hospitalizations-surge/; Betsy McKay and Erin Ailworth, “Covid Is Resurging, and This Time It’s Everywhere,” Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/new-covid-surge-u-s-restrictions-11605466754; Derek Thompson, “The COVID-19 Fall Surge Is Here. We Can Stop It,” Atlantic, October 12, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/10/how-keep-fall-surge-becoming-winter-catastrophe/616674/; William Wan and Jacqueline Dupree, “America hits highest daily number of coronavirus cases since pandemic began,” Washington Post, October 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/10/23/covid-us-spike-cases/
  3. [3]David Benfell, “When it’s over but it isn’t,” Not Housebroken, December 10, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/11/27/when-its-over-but-it-isnt/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Time for somebody and something new,” Not Housebroken, July 27, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/07/27/time-for-somebody-and-something-new/

When the Sword of Damocles hangs instead over the powerless

In what has to be seen as a desperate bid to become profitable—“[t]he company has promised to be profitable on an adjusted basis before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization by the end of next year”—Uber has sold its self-driving car unit.[1] I don’t know any accountants myself, but of course that promise, with those exclusions, has to have them rolling their eyes hard, if not howling on the floors in laughter, because all of those are real costs and there is no rational basis for excluding them. Skepticism that the company will ever be profitable is longstanding.[2] Read more

  1. [1]Heather Somerville, “Uber Sells Self-Driving-Car Unit to Autonomous-Driving Startup,” Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-lyft-face-a-no-sharing-economy-11603710180
  2. [2]Rich Alton, “Basic economics means Uber and Lyft can’t rely on driverless cars to become profitable,” MarketWatch, August 12, 2019, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/basic-economics-means-uber-and-lyft-cant-rely-on-driverless-cars-to-become-profitable-2019-08-12; Eliot Brown, “Uber Wants to Be the Uber of Everything—But Can It Make a Profit?” Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-wants-to-be-the-uber-of-everything-11556909866; Richard Durant, “Uber’s Profitability Problem Is Structural,” Seeking Alpha, August 21, 2019, https://seekingalpha.com/article/4287055-ubers-profitability-problem-structural; Edward Helmore, “Will Uber ever make money? Day of reckoning looms for ride-sharing firm,” Guardian, August 4, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/aug/04/uber-ride-share-lyft-ipo-earnings; Megan McArdle, “Uber can’t keep bleeding money, can it? It apparently thinks it can,” Washington Post, November 5, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/uber-cant-keep-bleeding-money-can-it-it-apparently-thinks-it-can/2019/11/05/4aa4fec0-000b-11ea-8501-2a7123a38c58_story.html; Tom McKay, “Surprising No One, Uber Continues to Hemorrhage Cash,” Gizmodo, November 4, 2019, https://gizmodo.com/surprising-no-one-uber-continues-to-hemorrhage-cash-1839625062; Stephen Wilmot, “Uber’s Long Road to Profits,” Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/ubers-long-road-to-profits-11566471068

On social movement theory

An aspect of Human Science I discuss less often is a notion that, as human scientists, we are supposed to be not just scholars, but scholar-activists. And to this end, a part of my Ph.D. program curriculum, involved social movement theory. Bill Moyer’s (yes, this is the correct spelling for the name of a different fellow from the the Public Broadcasting System celebrity) “MAP model” describes a circuitous, iterative method for social movements in which a need is identified, stated, and rebuffed; something happens that compels change; and elites grudgingly allow a minimal change in that needed direction. Getting to where we actually need to be can take a very long time—decades or centuries—involving several iterations and requiring infinite patience.[1] Read more

  1. [1]Bill Moyer with JoAnn McAllister, Mary Lou Finley, and Steven Soifer, Doing Democracy (Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada: New Society, 2010).