The autumn of our discontent

Today, I feel I’ve turned a corner with this protracted move (I have two months of overlap—still a month and a half—between the old and new apartments) into a much smaller apartment, albeit in a much safer neighborhood.

I finally got correctly sized blackout curtains for my bedroom. I have a shower caddy that looks like it will actually work (the one from my old apartment didn’t). And perhaps most important of all, I bought a stud finder so I could properly hang my Ph.D. diploma.

Fortunately, there was a well placed stud so my diploma hangs nicely centered on a north-facing wall in the front room between the entry way to the kitchen and a bookshelf.

The other day, I began unpacking books. At this writing, I’m half way through. Oh yeah, try not to roll your eyes too hard: I’m still hoping I might actually be able to find books I’m looking for with this organization.


Charlie Mitchell, “Texas abortion ban: Salesforce helps staff leave state,” Times, September 13, 2021,



A Washington Post article on Joe Biden’s defiance of Republican governors’ lawsuit threats[1] covers little new ground in itself, but it does point to a month-old article in Lawfare in which the authors suspect “religious exemptions may well be constitutionally required under a future Supreme Court ruling.”[2]

In practice, this is likely to be a massive loophole. One thing Donald Trump did was to effectively unify[3] the authoritarian populist, social conservative, and paleoconservative tendencies of conservatism I identified in my dissertation,[4] erasing, as near as I can tell, the already-fuzzy distinctions between them. A great many pastors in evangelical Protestant churches have already offered faith in preference and opposition to medical mitigation measures. Capitalist libertarians who prize individualist ‘freedom’ even when it endangers others will likely think themselves clever—expect membership in the Universal Life Church and similar organizations to skyrocket—for exploiting this loophole. Traditionalist conservatives will likely find anti-vaccination bishops.

All pastors will have to do is to declare the vaccines un-Christian or blasphemous and their entire congregations will be exempt.

I do not know how many conservatives will avail themselves of such an exemption and, with ludicrously low response rates[5] and ongoing failures,[6] I distrust the methodology for determining this. But we can expect that a significant portion of Trump’s base to do so, possibly preventing the U.S. from vaccinating a sufficient proportion of the population to achieve ‘herd immunity.’


It’s a funny thing about Julia Felton’s article.[7] Early in August, I had started noticing the first early tinges of autumn. Just yesterday, I was noticing some trees definitely turning. And, to be fair, we did have some relatively cool temperatures a few days ago. But today and yesterday have felt warm enough again that I’ve turned on the air conditioner when I got home.

Julia Felton, “No fall yet: Warm temperatures persist in Western Pa.,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 13, 2021,

Harrisburg Patriot-News, “Forecast: Pennsylvania’s fall foliage expected to bring vibrant colors in 2021,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 13, 2021,

  1. [1]Annabelle Timsit, “GOP governors threaten to sue over mandates; Biden says, ‘have at it,’” Washington Post, September 10, 2021,
  2. [2]Lindsay F. Wiley and Steve Vladeck, “Why Carefully Designed Public Vaccination Mandates Can—and Should—Withstand Constitutional Challenge,” Lawfare, August 12, 2021,
  3. [3]David Benfell, “The seven tendencies of conservatism,” Irregular Bullshit, n.d.,
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  5. [5]Courtney Kennedy and Hannah Hartig, “Response rates in telephone surveys have resumed their decline,” Pew Research Center, February 27, 2019,
  6. [6]Dan Balz, “2020 presidential polls suffered worst performance in decades, report says,” Washington Post, July 18, 2021,; David Byler, “Polling is broken. No one knows how to fix it,” Washington Post, July 22, 2021,; Mona Chalabi, “The pollsters were wrong – again. Here’s what we know so far,” Guardian, November 4, 2020,; David A. Graham, “The Polling Crisis Is a Catastrophe for American Democracy,” Atlantic, November 4, 2020,; Steven Shepard, “Dem pollsters acknowledge ‘major errors’ in 2020 polling,” Politico, April 13, 2021,
  7. [7]Julia Felton, “No fall yet: Warm temperatures persist in Western Pa.,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 13, 2021,

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