On Memorial Day, remembering Muhammad Ali

It’s Memorial Day in the U.S. and I’m seeing the pathetically predictable parade of elite tweets honoring those who lost their lives fighting this country’s wars. And there have been a lot of wars. At one point I calculated that this country had been on some sort of killing expedition, when not more than one, in all but sixteen calendar years of its existence.[1] And so a lot have died, not to mention the deaths on the other side, not to mention civilians. Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “U.S. Wars,” Google Drive, n.d., https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1bdIfIobiH1A7NZItE3FUI6zy0oh-D6eCK64t__5wBO4/edit?usp=sharing

Agnosticism, Atheism, and Theodicy: Yours truly the blasphemer

So here I am on Twitter, yet again, explaining the difference between agnosticism and atheism. And yes, there are authoritative definitions of the terms that go beyond conventional dictionaries, which can lean too heavily in favor of popular misunderstandings (for example, anarchy). (Sigh.)

atheism. Conventionally defined as ‘disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a GOD’ (Oxford English Dictonary), the meaning of ‘atheism’ is, in reality, context-specific, determined by the dominant forms of religious BELIEF in any particular time and place. In the ancient world, the charge of atheism was levelled [sic] against the philosophical and theological opponents of polytheistic orthodoxies, including Jews and Christians, but it is their theism which constitutes the semantic background to most forms of atheism in the modern world. Read more

Yes, people of color and other subaltern groups should go vegan

This is right:


Aditya Prakash has his own further debunking here, which I have not watched and therefore will not intentionally address. Read more

In the wake of Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds’ marriage, Catholics need to get their story straight

Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds have, I guess, had their ups and downs[1] and I remain suspicious of any relationship with significant discrepancies in power between the participants. That said, Johnson and Symonds’ marriage in an Anglican Catholic Church raises not just[2] a Roman Catholic Jesuit’s eyebrows:[3] Read more

  1. [1]Edward Malnick, Patrick Sawer, and Steve Bird, “Left-wing neighbours admit to taping Boris Johnson row with partner Carrie Symonds,” Telegraph, June 22, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/06/22/left-wing-neighbours-admit-taping-boris-johnson-row-girlfriend/; Gordon Rayner, “Police called to home of Boris Johnson and partner Carrie Symonds after reports of loud altercation,” Telegraph, June 21, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/06/21/police-called-home-boris-johnson-girlfriend-reports-altercation
  2. [2]Lizzie Roberts and Hayley Dixon, “Catholics question how twice-divorced Boris was allowed to marry Carrie Symonds in church,” Telegraph, May 30, 2021, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/05/30/boris-johnson-carrie-symonds-catholic-church-wedding-married/
  3. [3]James Martin, [Twitter thread], Thread Reader App, May 30, 2021, https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1398997771609325568.html

That very small part of the story

One problem with conversations I get into as an Uber and Lyft driver is that I am rarely prepared for them.

Take the conversation I had yesterday with a woman I picked up in Homestead: She said that it was not enough for Blacks—she claims a mixed ancestry including Irish but appears Black—to complain to whites that the latter need to change. This wasn’t, at least that I can be sure, about “respectability,” the invidious notion that to escape prejudice and discrimination, Blacks need only emulate whites.[1] She pointed to Black-on-Black crime and said that Blacks aren’t doing enough to change themselves. Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Holding Blacks to white standards,” Not Housebroken, December 25, 2014, https://disunitedstates.org/2014/12/25/holding-blacks-to-white-standards/

Range anxiety, Uber and Lyft style

See update for May 22, 2021, at end of post.


So a funny thing has happened.

You might be aware that Uber and Lyft have both promised that 100 percent of their rideshare fleets will be electric vehicles by 2030.[1] Now California has called the companies on it, mandating that 90 percent of rideshare miles must be in electric vehicles by 2030. I haven’t looked at the order myself, but it looks like this includes “deadhead” miles, that is, non-revenue miles without a passenger.[2] Read more

  1. [1]Andrew J. Hawkins, “Lyft vows ‘100 percent’ of its vehicles will be electric by 2030,” Verge, June 17, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/6/17/21294040/lyft-electric-vehicle-ev-100-percent-2030; Andrew J. Hawkins, “Uber pledges to shift to ‘100 percent’ electric vehicles by 2030,” Verge, September 8, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/9/8/21427196/uber-promise-100-percent-electric-vehicle-ev-2030
  2. [2]Dale Kasler, “Your Uber and Lyft driver must go electric. California’s latest climate change mandate,” Sacramento Bee, May 21, 2021, https://www.sacbee.com/article251574748.html

The Transport Workers Union is about to stab gig workers in the back

See update for May 28, 2021, at end of post.


The Transport Workers Union is about to betray gig workers in the state of New York:[1]

The potential to offer political cover for the companies’ business models has given some labor advocates concern about potential deal-making. “There are reasons to be deeply skeptical about a ‘sectoral bargaining bill,’ brokered by the same app companies behind Prop 22, that locks workers out of universal employment protections,” said Brian Chen, an attorney at the pro-labor nonprofit National Employment Law Project. “It suggests that this isn’t really about allowing workers to build power together. It’s about employers bargaining down labor standards and undermining workers’ rights.”[2]

Read more

  1. [1]Josh Eidelson and Benjamin Penn, “Labor, Gig Companies Near Bargaining Deal in N.Y.,” Bloomberg, May 17, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-05-18/labor-gig-companies-are-said-to-be-near-bargaining-deal-in-n-y
  2. [2]Josh Eidelson and Benjamin Penn, “Labor, Gig Companies Near Bargaining Deal in N.Y.,” Bloomberg, May 17, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-05-18/labor-gig-companies-are-said-to-be-near-bargaining-deal-in-n-y

Factory farmed humans

I’m trying to imagine how it could be any more blatant.

In the United States, we have a minimum wage that has not even remotely kept pace with productivity,[1] does not pay rent anywhere in the country,[2] that the political order refuses to raise.[3] Even as capitalists have raked in massive profits during the pandemic,[4] and resisted providing personal protection equipment (PPE) for “essential” expendable workers,[5] they now scream that they face a “labor shortage” when what they mean is that they object to having to pay anything at all, let alone more than they do now.[6] The U.S. stands among a mere four countries in the entire world to refuse to ratify[7] the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which, in article seven, requires minimally decent pay and benefits for workers.[8] Read more

  1. [1]Dean Baker, “This is What Minimum Wage Would Be If It Kept Pace with Productivity,” Center for Economic Policy and Research, January 21, 2020, https://cepr.net/this-is-what-minimum-wage-would-be-if-it-kept-pace-with-productivity/
  2. [2]Kate Gibson, “Minimum wage doesn’t cover the rent anywhere in the U.S.,” CBS News, June 14, 2018, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/minimum-wage-doesnt-cover-the-rent-anywhere-in-the-u-s/
  3. [3]Burgess Everett, “8 Democrats defect on $15 minimum wage hike,” Politico, March 5, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/03/05/democrats-15-minimum-wage-hike-473875
  4. [4]Molly Kinder and Laura Stateler, “Amazon and Walmart have raked in billions in additional profits during the pandemic, and shared almost none of it with their workers,” Brookings, December 22, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2020/12/22/amazon-and-walmart-have-raked-in-billions-in-additional-profits-during-the-pandemic-and-shared-almost-none-of-it-with-their-workers/; Molly Kinder, Laura Stateler, and Julia Du, “Windfall profits and deadly risks: How the biggest retail companies are compensating essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Brookings, November 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/essay/windfall-profits-and-deadly-risks/
  5. [5]Emily Stewart, “Essential workers still lack basic safety protections on the job,” Vox, May 7, 2020, https://www.vox.com/coronavirus-covid19/2020/5/7/21250387/essential-worker-ppe-amazon-walmart-employees-protection-hazard-pay
  6. [6]Sven Beckert, “Slavery and Capitalism,” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 12, 2014, https://www.chronicle.com/article/SlaveryCapitalism/150787/; Eric Levitz, “5 Explanations for April’s Bad Jobs Report,” New York, May 7, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/05/jobs-report-explained-ui-childcare-seasonal-adjustment.html; Heather Long, “It’s not a ‘labor shortage.’ It’s a great reassessment of work in America,” Washington Post, May 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/05/07/jobs-report-labor-shortage-analysis/; Jon Schwarz, “The Business Class Has Been Fearmongering About Worker Shortages for Centuries,” Intercept, May 7, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/05/07/worker-shortage-slavery-capitalism/
  7. [7]United Nations, “Ratification Status: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” January 15, 2019, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-3&chapter=4&lang=en
  8. [8]International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, December 16, 1966, United Nations, General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI), https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cescr.aspx

About that alleged ‘labor shortage’

See updates through June 10, 2021, at end of post.



Fig. 1. Diogenes, seeking an honest man. Also, me, seeking an honest job market. Attributed to Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein – Nagel Auktionen, 2005, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

My long-failed job hunt[1] took an interesting turn when I signed up for Medicaid in Pennsylvania. Read more

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