Functional disenfranchisement and secession movements

Fig. 1. A flag for the would-be state of Jefferson is seen along the Klamath River Highway in California. Photograph by MPSharwood, September 9, 2012, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

There are a lot of secession movements around the United States. I’ve focused on those in California, which fall broadly into three categories: 1) secession from the Union; 2) secession from the state; and 3) breaking California into smaller jurisdictions, but as Colby Galliher and Edison Forman observe in a Brookings Institution article, such movements exist all around the country.[1] A common theme is functional disenfranchisement, which Galliher and Forman fail to properly explain. Read more

  1. [1]Colby Galliher and Edison Forman, “County secession: Local efforts to redraw political borders,” Brookings, January 10, 2023,

Can Oregon help elect a Speaker of the House of Representatives?

See update for January 7, 2023, at end of post.

Of the chaos of the House of Representatives’ so-far failed attempts to elect a Speaker,[1] Molly Jong-Fast writes,

This intrinsic weakness in the GOP allowed the base to run wild, embracing everything from anti-science stupidity to paranoid conspiracy theories. Perhaps, in 2015, [Donald] Trump led the base. But by 2020, Trump had lost control of the monster he created. The base decided to reward social media stunts with small-dollar donations. Fox News and the right-wing internet ecosystem created a world of mini Trumps, little congressional bomb-throwers like [Lauren] Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Matt Gaetz. More motivated by fame than governing, these members seem to want what Real Housewives want: to build their brands. These congressional Kardashians don’t have a governing principle beyond obstruction and attention, of which they’ve all been getting amid this week’s party meltdown.[2]

Read more

  1. [1]Natalie Andrews and Eliza Collins, “Kevin McCarthy Falls Short of House Speaker Win in Three Rounds of Voting,” Wall Street Journal, January 3, 2023,; Aaron Blake, “McCarthy’s big concession — and how it could hamstring a GOP speaker,” Washington Post, January 3, 2023,; John Cassidy, “Behind the Humiliation of Kevin McCarthy,” New Yorker, January 3, 2023,; Clare Foran et al., “House adjourns after chaotic day without electing a speaker as McCarthy fails to lock down votes,” CNN, January 3, 2023,; Clare Foran et al., “House adjourns for second day without electing a speaker with McCarthy’s bid in peril,” CNN, January 4, 2023,; Molly Jong-Fast, “The Kevin McCarthy Mess Is Peak Trumpism,” Vanity Fair, January 4, 2023,; Nolan D. McCaskill, “Deadlocked House adjourns until evening after Kevin McCarthy racks up yet another defeat,” Los Angeles Times, January 4, 2023,; Tara Palmeri, “We Need to Talk About Kevin, ” Puck News, January 3, 2023,; Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, “The House hard-liners blocking McCarthy aren’t listening to Trump,” Washington Post, January 4, 2023,; Dan Zak and Ben Terris, “Does the House even exist right now?” Washington Post, January 4, 2023,
  2. [2]Molly Jong-Fast, “The Kevin McCarthy Mess Is Peak Trumpism,” Vanity Fair, January 4, 2023,

A life worth living

See updates through February 18, 2023, at end of post.

Please, if you would, and especially if you’re young enough never to have heard the song, take a few minutes to listen to Paul McCartney’s “When I’m Sixty Four,”[1] which he apparently wrote when he was 14 years old, and was included in the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1967) album.[2]

On one level, it’s a sweet and silly love song, whose protagonist is the male half of an ordinary English couple contemplating a life together ahead. Here are the lyrics: Read more

  1. [1]Beatles, “When I’m Sixty Four,” YouTube, 2018,
  2. [2]Genius, “When I’m Sixty-Four,” n.d.,

Why Uber is not merely a ‘technology platform’

This particular saga begins at a fast food restaurant in West Mifflin, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Uber has the pin for this on a particular side of the building, so that’s where I drove to and waited for my passenger. There are two doors on that side of the building.

Almost always, when I pick up at a fast food restaurant, I’m taking an employee home, and as it happens, this particular establishment has what appears to be a large workspace or office behind one of the doors, so there was absolutely no way I could rule that door out. Read more

Revisiting Philip Slater’s Chrysalis Effect in the post-Donald Trump era

See updates through December 12, 2022, at end of post.

Fig. 1. Philip Slater. Photograph by Benjamin Wheeler, 1980, via the New York Times,[1] fair use.

Before I was in the Ph.D. program that I ultimately completed, there was another Ph.D. program, one that was the wrong program for me, but one nonetheless that I learned a great deal from. I’m thinking of one of the professors, there, now deceased,[2] Philip Slater, who wrote a book in which he applied the metaphor of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly to human society.[3] Read more

  1. [1]Paul Vitello, “Philip E. Slater, Social Critic Who Renounced Academia, Dies at 86,” New York Times, July 2, 2013,
  2. [2]Paul Vitello, “Philip E. Slater, Social Critic Who Renounced Academia, Dies at 86,” New York Times, July 2, 2013,
  3. [3]Philip Slater, The Chrysalis Effect (Brighton, UK: Sussex, 2009).

Republican politicians out of touch?

See updates for December 7, 2022, at end of post.

Fig. 1. “Jake Angeli (Qanon Shaman), seen holding a Qanon sign at the intersection of Bell Rd and 75th Ave in Peoria, Arizona, on 2020 October 15.” Photography by TheUnseen011101 [pseud.], October 15, 2020, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

I don’t advocate oxygen for the bizarre,[1] but Republican Party politicians seem increasingly out of step with their constituents:

“That’s a remarkable statement. You’d support a candidate who’s come out for suspending the Constitution?” the host [George Stephanopoulos] pressed, with [David] Joyce replying, “You know, he says a lot of things—you have to take him in context,” before trailing off. Joyce ultimately closed the interview by shrugging off [Donald] Trump’s comments as a “fantasy” that should not be taken seriously.[2]

Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “To condemn a delusional raging narcissist or to ignore incitement to rebellion. That is the question,” Not Housebroken, December 5, 2022,
  2. [2]Caleb Ecarma, “Republicans Apparently Have No Red Line With Trump—Not Even His Desire to Terminate the Constitution,” Vanity Fair, December 5, 2022,

To condemn a delusional raging narcissist or to ignore incitement to rebellion. That is the question.

Our story today begins with Donald Trump being Donald Trump:

Former President Donald Trump called for the termination of the Constitution to overturn the 2020 election and reinstate him to power Saturday [December 3] in a continuation of his election denialism and pushing of fringe conspiracy theories.

“Do you throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION? A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” Trump wrote in a post on the social network Truth Social and accused “Big Tech” of working closely with Democrats. “Our great ‘Founders’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!”[1]

Read more

  1. [1]Kristen Holmes, “Trump calls for the termination of the Constitution in Truth Social post,” CNN, December 4, 2022,

Why ‘being reasonable’ doesn’t work and why violence is sometimes unavoidable

Were I a better communication scholar, I would have understood sooner that three principles of argumentation interact with each other. This is largely about clichés, but it is crucial in understanding a difference between Left and Right, because epistemologically, the left wing is more amenable to arguments and reason than the right.[1] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “A theory of conservative epistemology,” Not Housebroken, November 19, 2022,

Apparently, it’s ‘thoughts and prayers’ for the dying in Pittsburgh

Fig. 1. “Ed Gainey poses with CeaseFirePA during the 2020 Women’s March in Downtown Pittsburgh.” Photograph by Megan Gloeckler, undated, via Pittsburgh City Paper,[1] fair use.

Are we at the “thoughts and prayers”[2] stage yet? Because I’ve already explained what needs to be done[3] about a surge in violence in Pittsburgh.[4] (The short version is that Mayor Ed Gainey needs to follow through on his campaign promises.[5]) Read more

  1. [1]Charlie Wolfson, “Neighborhood groups try to curb shootings as Pittsburgh’s mayoral campaign puts political focus on gun violence,” Pittsburgh City Paper, October 20, 2021,
  2. [2]Abdullah Shihipar, “The Kind of Prayer That Could Make a Difference,” Atlantic, June 1, 2022,
  3. [3]David Benfell, “To Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey,” Not Housebroken, October 30, 2022,
  4. [4]Justin Vellucci, “Pittsburgh’s soaring homicide rate leaves officials baffled,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 27, 2022,
  5. [5]David Benfell, “To Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey,” Not Housebroken, October 30, 2022,

What if, indeed, it comes to civil war?

Fig. 1. “‘Masterly inactivity,’ or six months on the Potomac; caricature of inactivity of Confederate and Union soldiers on both sides of the Potomac River between summer 1861 and winter 1862, published in Frank Leslie’s illustrated newspaper, vol. 13 (1862 Feb. 1), p. 176. Cartoon satirizing the extended military standoff between General McClellan’s Army of the Potomac and Confederate General Beauregard’s Army of the Shenandoah during the fall and winter of 1861.” Cartoon by Albert Berghaus, 1862, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

I did not write this:

Once a political culture embraces the path of the dark triad—narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy—negative end products are not simply possible, but inevitable. There’s only one chance to stave off the worst potential outcomes in the United States: Recognize our 50-state partnership as a failed marriage and, like adults, move on.[1]

Though it’s an idea I’ve advocated for some time—honestly, to me, nothing else makes sense—I also regretfully recognize it as enormously problematic,[2] and in fact, the idea of divvying up red and blue states, that B. Duncan Moench reifies,[3] barely scratches the surface of the problem.[4] Read more

  1. [1]B. Duncan Moench, “How the Next Civil War Begins,” Tablet, November 29, 2022,
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Pure poison,” Not Housebroken, September 15, 2021,
  3. [3]B. Duncan Moench, “How the Next Civil War Begins,” Tablet, November 29, 2022,
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Pure poison,” Not Housebroken, September 15, 2021,