About Brexit

United Kingdom voters, you’re getting it wrong.

You’re not to blame for that. Hell, I got it wrong. When I wrote that “I’d seen enough of the arguments in the campaign leading up to the United Kingdom referendum on remaining in or leaving the European Union, often labeled ‘Brexit,’ to conclude that this was largely a race between neoliberals against authoritarian populists and paleoconservatives,”[1] I hadn’t contemplated that part of the Leave campaign could in fact be an attempt to enable further deregulation, beyond what the European Union, itself under the control of the ordoliberal flavor of neoliberalism, would ever allow. The signs were there: I missed them. This, of course, is only one of several factions in the argument over Brexit, which is why your parliament can’t agree on any one plan, be it Theresa May’s or anyone else’s.
Continue reading “About Brexit”

  1. [1]David Benfell, “The ‘Brexit’ vote may signify the end of the illusion of ‘progress,’” Not Housebroken, June 26, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/2016/06/26/the-brexit-vote-may-signify-the-end-of-the-illusion-of-progress/

If you don’t like homelessness, here’s an idea: Make it possible to rent an apartment.

Don’t get me wrong. Western Massachusetts is beautiful and the people I encountered were entirely nice, at least on a stranger-to-stranger level of interaction.

And driving down the road here is a balm for a California driver: There are trees, lots and lots and lots of trees. Often there will be houses on both sides of the road but you can barely see them for all the trees. There is space, lots of space, between houses and you can see that the backyards often open up into woods. There are lots of woods, just scattered about all over the place. Continue reading “If you don’t like homelessness, here’s an idea: Make it possible to rent an apartment.”

Farewell, California, I’ll miss you and I won’t miss you

“He has three fewer children and one million [dollars] less. Do you,” my young male passenger asked his female companion, “still want him to call you?” He was, I assume, joking, but even as I kept my mouth firmly shut, I wasn’t laughing. Continue reading “Farewell, California, I’ll miss you and I won’t miss you”

Joe Biden blows his #MeToo moment

To summarize, a number of women have come forward to say that Joe Biden made physical contact without consent. He says he intended no offense:[1]

Former Vice President Joe Biden said Friday that he’s not sorry for his past actions that some women have said made them uncomfortable, but that he’s sorry he didn’t understand more at the time.[2]

But he mocks affirmative consent,[3] “referenc[ing] the controversy with a pair of jokes, telling attendees that he had received permission to hug the union leader and put his arm around a child he invited up on stage.”[4] Continue reading “Joe Biden blows his #MeToo moment”

  1. [1]Brett Samuels, “Biden: ‘I’m not sorry for anything that I have ever done,’” Hill, April 5, 2019, https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/437582-biden-im-not-sorry-for-anything-that-i-have-ever-done
  2. [2]Brett Samuels, “Biden: ‘I’m not sorry for anything that I have ever done,’” Hill, April 5, 2019, https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/437582-biden-im-not-sorry-for-anything-that-i-have-ever-done
  3. [3]See Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti. eds., Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape (Berkeley, CA: Seal, 2008).
  4. [4]Brett Samuels, “Biden: ‘I’m not sorry for anything that I have ever done,’” Hill, April 5, 2019, https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/437582-biden-im-not-sorry-for-anything-that-i-have-ever-done

I share the poet’s rage

I got suckered tonight on Park Presidio Boulevard in San Francisco.

I was taking somebody someplace from Marin County when I saw a motor home in the right lane. It’s the sort of motor home one might expect a homeless person to be living in and I noticed writing that I couldn’t make out until I’d actually pulled up behind it (there was less traffic in this lane for some reason):IMG_20190402_192922
Photograph by author, April 2, 2019.

It reads:

I who write on walls,
pull my shit in little balls,
and those who read these words of wit,
eat those little balls of shit!!!

Yup and yuck. Got me. And not in the way I want to be gotten. Continue reading “I share the poet’s rage”

The web site at parts-unknown.org has shut down

Trouble has been brewing for a while.

When I was laid off from my last real job in 2001, I assumed I would eventually find work in high technology, the career I started with (as a computer programmer) when I left college the first time (with an A.A. in Business Data Processing), burned out on in 1985, returned to (as a computer operator, ironically better paid than I ever had been as a programmer) in 1986, wound up leaving again in 1990, and got sucked back into at the the tail end of the dot-com boom in 1999. Continue reading “The web site at parts-unknown.org has shut down”

The Status Quo

There is a fallacy in which the speaker says, in essence, that this is the way we’ve always done it, therefore, it is the way we must continue. It’s the fallacy of appeal to tradition or antiquity.

The fallacy I want to address today moves from past tense in the fallacy of appeal to tradition to present tense in system justification of the status quo. Where with the appeal to tradition, we asserted that something has ‘always’ worked in the past, with system justification, we allege that it works in the present. Continue reading “The Status Quo”

Mister Banker

Mister Banker

Mister please, how much does money mean
Won’t you reconsider mister
Won’t you do this thing for me
Ain’t got no house
Ain’t got no car
All I got, Lord, is my guitar
But you can have that mister banker
Won’t you bury my papa for me
Oh mister banker please
Listen to how that sound

I would not be here on my knees
But hey mister banker
It means so much to me
Oh won’t you reconsider mister
Won’t you do this thing for me

I told you mister
I ain’t got no house
Ain’t got no car
I got me a 1950 Les Paul guitar
Won’t you take it mister banker
Won’t you bury my papa for me
Oh mister banker please[1]

It’s a little before my time and maybe it only ever existed in the movies, but I distinctly remember that it was a sin—a sin—to let a man (I can only hope: or a woman) go without a “Christian burial.”

I’m leaving aside, for now, any issues with religious association and internment practices. Because these aren’t really at the heart of that particular notion of sin. Instead, we have an obligation to a dead man (or, maybe, I hope, a woman), perhaps even one who received little respect in life. They have to be buried (or something). We don’t just leave bodies in the desert for the vultures and the buzzards to pick at.

I was listening to that Lynard Skynyrd song, “Mr. Banker,” the lyrics to which open this essay, tonight as I drove home.

When I got home, I took a final crack at email. And there was the Wall Street Journal editorial page being hysterical about “socialists.”

There’s a self-righteousness to the so-called “center.” Mainstream politicians of both major parties run more or less on a promise that Donald Trump merely made explicit: a claim that they [pause for effect] alone can [fill in the blank]. And as neoconservative—and therefore neoliberal—policies became the governing consensus,[2] they became patriotic.

Which was to marginalize everyone who isn’t wealthy and white. The rest of us—all of the rest of us—live to some degree in the shadows, the frontiers between respectability and the ordinary—or worse, the cheap. And all of it in material terms, such as money.

When money is the object, we are inherently alone. The project for each of us is an accumulation, most obviously at the expense of others.[3]

And then there’s Ronnie Van Zant, in character, belting out those blues with no one to pay for his poppa’s burial. How alone can we be?

  1. [1]Edward C. King, Gary Robert Rossington, and Ronald W. Van Zant, “Mr. Banker,” AZLyrics, n.d., https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/lynyrdskynyrd/mrbanker.html
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  3. [3]David Benfell, “They must pay,” Not Housebroken, February 21, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/02/21/they-must-pay/

Dear rich (mostly) white people (regardless of political affiliation)

We see through your pretense.

Your true feelings about us appear in your agents’ (police) use of lethal force against us, especially our brothers and sisters of color. We know they are your agents because these things never happen in your neighborhoods to you—only in ours to us.

And when we protest, you respond with military equipment and poison gas. You know, even when we do not, that we are your enemy. Continue reading “Dear rich (mostly) white people (regardless of political affiliation)”

They must pay

Let’s think about money.

Maybe you like money. It buys things. It in fact offers power: Would the lady who brought me my breakfast sandwich and coffee this morning in fact have done so if she were not being paid by another lady whom I paid? She did it and she did it with a smile on her face. (I tip well, too, so I guess that helps.)

The “smile on her face” part is an issue on its own: There is something very weird about being required to smile as part of a job, smiling regardless of whether one is happy. There is no glamour in a breakfast sandwich, coffee, or any of the other offerings at this cafe. She derives no direct benefit from my nourishment. Why should she be so happy? The fact she’s a young woman and I’m an old (nearly 60) man introduces its own additional issues which I’m just not taking on right now. But yeah, something’s up and a proper power relationship analysis (I’ll return to this) would probably wipe away that smile and maybe even take away my breakfast in short order. Continue reading “They must pay”