The binary between “Black” and “Blue” Lives

On a site that is now off line, most likely in 2011, I reacted to graffiti I’d seen along San Pablo Avenue in Oakland, California. It said, “Kill Cops Not Neighbors.”

I noted that police are the only people in our society who are authorized to use even lethal force against other people and that they do so largely in service to propertied interests. I would, now, if I did not then, add that police rarely become police because they want to be told to obey the speed limit and that police must at least be comfortable carrying weapons. Read more

Is veganism a protected class?

Update, January 3, 2020: A brief item in the Telegraph reports that the judge has accepted that veganism is indeed a “philosophical or religious belief” subject to protection.[1] That would be a necessary but insufficient condition for the sacked employee, Jordi Casamitjana, to prevail, however, and the piece makes no mention of any disposition on the employer’s claim that he committed “gross misconduct.”

So here’s an interesting case: A man discloses to fellow employees, not the public, but fellow employees, that his employer, the League Against Cruel Sports, “invested pension funds in firms involved in animal testing.” Said employer fires his ass, alleging gross misconduct.[2]

Which seems to me to be a rather extreme overreaction. Read more

  1. [1]Telegraph, “Veganism is a philosophical belief and is therefore protected by law, judge rules,” January 3, 2020,
  2. [2]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Sacked vegan brings landmark discrimination case,” January 2, 2020,

An unhealthy relationship with guns

It is difficult for me to imagine a stupidity in a population so great as to require the cops to warn people against shooting their guns in the air. But according to a local television station,

There it is, in all caps, STUPID! Read more

How am I to respond?

Update, December 31, 2019: The artillery round I mention in the caption to the map in figure 1 has now been added.

Having moved to Pittsburgh, I find myself in a society that does not merely tolerate, but enables white supremacism. And this is not merely white supremacism of a rhetorical sort.

Fig. 1. Locations of gratuitous weapon displays. At this writing, it does not yet include an artillery round on display outside the Carrick High School (Update, December 31, 2019: This has now been added). Map of photographs taken by the author. Read more

Freedom of religion

Update, December 31, 2019: In a New York Times op-ed, Katherine Stewart and Caroline Fredrickson embrace a term ‘religious privilege’ for what I describe here as evangelical Protestants’ claim to religious freedom rights that impede other human rights. They define the term as referring to “the freedom of people of certain conservative and authoritarian varieties of religion to discriminate against those of whom they disapprove or over whom they wish to exert power.”[1] I hesitate, more from instinct than any articulable reason, to adopt this term myself though it appears apt.

Notably, their definition includes important elements: The ‘privileged’ sects are arbitrary, but typically “conservative and authoritarian,”[2] for which we may reasonably read conservative Christian, a term which also includes Roman Catholicism. The latter is typically represented by traditionalist rather than by social conservatism in my scheme of conservative tendencies, but they share considerable ideological ground.[3] They refer to this ‘freedom’ as being “to discriminate against those of whom they disapprove or over whom they wish to exert power,”[4] which is substantially consistent with my view that they seek to constrain the human rights of others.

Social conservatives (mostly evangelical Protestants) are particularly prone to the belief that they are being persecuted for their religion.

A huge problem here is that evangelism intrudes on other people’s beliefs or absence thereof. It is explicitly about proselytizing, spreading an evangelist’s faith.[5] Which means that for an evangelist, “freedom of religion” means the freedom to impose it on other people.
Read more

  1. [1]Katherine Stewart and Caroline Fredrickson, “Bill Barr Thinks America Is Going to Hell,” New York Times, December 29, 2019,
  2. [2]Katherine Stewart and Caroline Fredrickson, “Bill Barr Thinks America Is Going to Hell,” New York Times, December 29, 2019,
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  4. [4]Katherine Stewart and Caroline Fredrickson, “Bill Barr Thinks America Is Going to Hell,” New York Times, December 29, 2019,
  5. [5]Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Baile, “After Trump and Moore, some evangelicals are finding their own label too toxic to use,” Washington Post, December 14, 2017,

The bipartisan system

It is a curious and ironic thing that the bipartisan political system in the United States consists of two parties, the Democrats and the Republicans.

On the one hand, the Republicans more openly uphold the system as James Madison intended. Madison distinguished between a republic and a democracy, preferred the former, and was concerned to protect the minority rights, not of any subaltern group, but rather those of wealthy white slave-owning males.[1] Read more

  1. [1]James Madison, “Federalist No. 10,” in The Federalist Papers, ed. Garry Wills (New York: Bantam, 2003), 50-58.

The place where I live

Update, January 1, 2020: The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Right Stuff as a white nationalist group in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In itself, this doesn’t mean much. Their list also includes Counter-Currents Publishing, Identity Evropa, and Right Stuff in San Francisco, and the Patriot Front and WeSearchr as statewide in California.[1] I have lived in San Francisco and in a few places in California, mostly around the San Francisco Bay Area, without ever encountering any of these groups.

A few days ago, I pulled into my usual gas station. Behind me came, if I recall correctly, a Buick.

Pennsylvania doesn’t generally issue front license plates so people can put what they want there. This man, whom I’d judge to be in his sixties, had a plate including emblems of the National Rifle Association and the Confederate flag. He left just before I did. I saw his back bumper included a sticker which read, “Secession: It’s the right thing to do.” Read more

  1. [1]Southern Poverty Law Center, “White Nationalist,” n.d.,