‘Us’ versus ‘them’

Something that has troubled and puzzled me for a long time, going back at least to when I first began my Ph.D. work—this would be the program that was not the right program for me and not the one I ultimately received my doctorate from—is the question of in-groups versus out-groups, more colloquially, the “us” versus “them” mentality that I associated with the hierarchically invidious monism of authoritarian populism in my dissertation.[1] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).

In Texas, some deaths are real and some, I guess, are not

Those folks who lost power in Texas in the recent winter storms?[1] They were the lucky ones, it turns out.

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  1. [1]Will Englund, Steven Mufson, and Dino Grandoni, “Texas, the go-it-alone state, is rattled by the failure to keep the lights on,” Washington Post, February 18, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/02/18/texas-electric-grid-failure/; Andrew Exum, “I’m Freezing Cold and Burning Mad in Texas,” Atlantic, February 17, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/02/freezing-cold-and-burning-mad-texas/618048/; Greg Sargent, “The latest GOP nonsense on Texas shows us the future Republicans want,” Washington Post, February 18, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/02/18/texas-republicans-abbott-power-shortages/

How neoliberalism ruins primary school education

In Britain, some well-educated folks are learning what primary school education in their fields is like, which is sometimes to say, really awful. The article raises a couple examples, one being of the failure to properly teach fractions, and the other of a “practically Dickensian in its pointlessness” dissection of sentences into parts of speech.[1] I’d take it to the bank that this isn’t just a British problem and, oh yeah, this isn’t just during COVID-19 lockdown: I remember the conundrum of fractions myself. Read more

  1. [1]Donna Ferguson, “Home schooling: ‘I’m a maths lecturer – and I had to get my children to teach me,’” Guardian, February 20, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/education/2021/feb/20/im-a-maths-lecturer-and-i-had-to-get-my-children-to-teach-me

Having already fucked up in ousting an ethics researcher, Google doubles down

See update for April 5, 2021, at end of post.

Google’s ouster of an artificial idiocy[1] ethicist, Timnit Gebru, likely for saying something other than that artificial idiocy is wonderful,[2] stunk to high heaven. Today, the ouster stinks even more. Read more

  1. [1]“Artificial intelligence” is a misnomer. David Benfell, “Our new Satan: artificial idiocy and big data mining,” Not Housebroken, January 13, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/01/13/our-new-satan-artificial-idiocy-and-big-data-mining/
  2. [2]Jeremy Kahn, “Google’s ouster of a top A.I. researcher may have come down to this,” Fortune, December 9, 2020, https://fortune.com/2020/12/09/google-timnit-gebru-top-a-i-researcher-large-language-models/

Why we won’t defang right-wing extremism

Ronald Brownstein relies on surveys,[1] whose methodology should be at this point be considered entirely discredited,[2] but his conclusion that the Republican Party has been captured by Trumpsters’ verbal and physical bullying and their white nationalism,[3] is in line with what I see around southwestern Pennsylvania. Read more

  1. [1]Ronald Brownstein, “Is the GOP’s extremist wing now too big to fail?” CNN, February 14, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/14/politics/republican-extremism-trump-impeachment/index.html
  2. [2]Mona Chalabi, “The pollsters were wrong – again. Here’s what we know so far,” Guardian, November 4, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/commentisfree/2020/nov/04/the-pollsters-were-wrong-again-heres-what-we-know-so-far; David A. Graham, “The Polling Crisis Is a Catastrophe for American Democracy,” Atlantic, November 4, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/11/polling-catastrophe/616986/; Courtney Kennedy and Hannah Hartig, “Response rates in telephone surveys have resumed their decline,” Pew Research Center, February 27, 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/02/27/response-rates-in-telephone-surveys-have-resumed-their-decline/
  3. [3]Ronald Brownstein, “Is the GOP’s extremist wing now too big to fail?” CNN, February 14, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/14/politics/republican-extremism-trump-impeachment/index.html

The second farce

So Democrats chickened out of calling witnesses and let the Republicans acquit Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial.[1] Honestly, I don’t know how it gets any more pathetic than this. I mean, seriously, is a president inciting a coup[2] a threat[3] to the constitutional oligarchy[4] or isn’t it?

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  1. [1]Burgess Everett, Heather Caygle, and Marianne Levine, “Inside Democrats’ witness fiasco,” Politico, February 13, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/02/13/senate-democrats-impeachment-witnesses-468992; Jennifer Haberkorn and Evan Halper, “7 Republicans vote guilty, but Senate acquits Trump in attack on Capitol,” Los Angeles Times, February 13, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2021-02-13/senators-to-continue-questioning-likely-to-vote-on-impeachment-today
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Riot or insurrection? Lies or madness?” Not Housebroken, January 22, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/01/12/riot-or-insurrection-lies-or-madness/
  3. [3]Amy Davidson Sorkin, “What’s at Stake in Trump’s Second Impeachment Trial,” New Yorker, February 7, 2021, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/02/15/whats-at-stake-in-trumps-second-impeachment-trial
  4. [4]David Benfell, “A constitutional oligarchy: Deconstructing Federalist No. 10,” Not Housebroken, December 20, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/22/a-constitutional-oligarchy-deconstructing-federalist-no-10/

The California nightmare

See update for February 19, 2021, at end of post

There are a few reasons I left California. One was that I hadn’t been able to find a real job since 2001, the year of the dot-com crash, even as I returned to school, finished a B.A., an M.A., and a Ph.D., all to no avail, and my frustration has long since morphed into fury.[1] Whatever it is I’m looking for, and at this point, I honestly don’t even know what that is, I wasn’t finding it in California, where I’d lived for over fifty years. Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/

It’s fine to highlight other people. But don’t cite historical falsehoods when you do.

See updates through April 7, 2021, at end of post.

On January 30, 2021, my mother sent me an article about a controversy over the San Francisco Board of Education deciding to rename some schools due to white supremacist associations, including that of my old high school, George Washington, which I never actually graduated from, and Abraham Lincoln.[1] I read the article and replied that yeah, I’d heard of the controversy and that San Francisco was grappling with the fact this country has been fascist from its beginning.[2]

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  1. [1]Fernando Martinez, “San Francisco school board considers renaming a school after the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia,” SFGate, January 29, 2021, https://www.sfgate.com/sf-culture/article/San-Francisco-School-Board-considers-renaming-a-15909103.php
  2. [2]David Benfell, “A simple definition of fascism,” Not Housebroken, July 7, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/07/06/a-simple-definition-of-fascism/

‘Free’ helicopter rides

See update for March 14, 2021, at end of post.

There’s a passage from Kim Messick, a few years ago, that I have quoted repeatedly, even in my dissertation,[1] because Messick expresses so clearly how authoritarian populists, then the Tea Party,[2] now Trumpsters or MAGAts, who represent a tendency of conservatism that goes back 1,000 years,[3] view the rest of us: Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  2. [2]Kim Messick, “Modern GOP is still the party of Dixie,” Salon, October 12, 2013, https://www.salon.com/2013/10/12/modern_gop_is_still_the_party_of_dixie/
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Barack Obama asks, ‘Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?’ Not Housebroken, November 4, 2018, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/11/04/barack-obama-asks-why-is-it-that-the-folks-that-won-the-last-election-are-so-mad-all-the-time/